2011 NFL Offseason Grades – NFC West

ST. LOUIS RAMS

2011 Draft Class:  Robert Quinn, DE (1-14); Lance Kendricks, TE (2-47); Austin Pettis, WR (3-78); Gregory Salas, WR (4-112); Jermale Hines, S (5-158);  Jabara Williams, OLB (7-228); Jonathan Nelson, CB (7-229)

 

 

Lance Kendricks is a big, strong, athletic tight end who should make an immediate impact for the Rams.

The Rams had a lot of impact rookies in 2010 and they have some guys in this year’s class who could also make an immediate impact.  I love the pick of Robert Quinn for the Rams.  Had he not been injured this past season he would have probably been a top 5 draft pick so for the Rams to get him at number 14 (with both top wide receivers off the board) was a great value.  Lance Kendricks, also looks to be a tight end who could have an immediate impact for the Rams.   He is a strong athletic tight end and in that offense, I really believe he could have a huge year.   Pettis and Salas could help bolster an ailing receiving corps and so overall I really like what St. Louis accomplished with their draft.  The only major problem is that the Rams failed to address issues on their offensive and defensive lines.

KEY ADDITIONS: Quintin Mikell, S (Eagles); Harvey Dahl, G (Falcons); Jacob Bell, G (Rams); Mike Sims-Walker, WR (Jaguars); Mark Clayton, WR (Rams); Ben Leber, LB (Vikings); Daniel Muir, DT (Colts); Justin Bannan, DT (Broncos);  Al Harris, CB (Dolphins);  Cadillac Williams, RB (Buccaneers);  Jerious Norwood, RB (Falcons); Mark Clayton, WR (Rams)

KEY LOSSES: John Greco, G;  Daniel Fells, TE; Laurent Robinson, WR

Quintin Mikell is not a name that gets a lot of attention BUT he is without a doubt one of the best safeties in the league.  It is going to be really interesting to see how the great defensive mind of Steve Spagnuolo utilizes him in this Rams defense.  Dahl was a great move that the Rams had to make to help improve their offensive line.  I really do like the addition of Al Harris, Cadillac Williams, and Jerious Norwood to this team but the pick-up Rams fans should be excited about is Mike Sims-Walker.  Sims-Walker is a good wide receiver and now with Josh McDaniels at the helm of the offense and a better quarterback than he had in Denver – don’t be shocked if Sims-Walker has a big year.  It’s a contract year for Sims-Walker so he is going to be motivated to perform.  I think that he should become the number one wideout in that offense. Bradford’s favorite target was Mark Clayton at the beginning of last season and so bringing him back is a definite credit for this receiving corps.   Of course the loss of John Greco is a major blow to that line but that was really the one downer in the Rams free agency period.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

2011 Draft Class: Patrick Peterson, CB (1-5); Ryan Williams, RB (2-38); Robert Housler, TE (3-69); Sam Acho, DE (4-103); Anthony Sherman, FB (5-136); Quan Sturdivant, ILB (6-171); David Carter,  DT (6-184); Demarco Sampson, WR (7-249)

The Cardinals drafted who I believe to be the best overall player in the draft in Patrick Peterson

With the 5th overall pick, the Cardinals may have very well selected the best overall player in the draft (although Von Miller is on that same level).  Peterson was a force to be reckoned with while he was at LSU and provided the Cardinals with potentially the best young cornerback tandem in the NFL (until the Kolb trade).   They followed that up by getting the 2nd best running back in the draft in Ryan Williams.  Ryan Williams is a physical runner who can also catch balls out of the backfield.   The Cardinals draft was not so much about addressing needs but in most cases, they took the best possible player on the board regardless of position and in my opinion that’s how championship teams are built.

KEY ADDITIONS: Kevin Kolb, QB (Eagles); Vonnie Holliday, DE (Redskins);  Richard Marshall, CB (Panthers);  Jeff King, TE (Panthers);  Daryn Colledge, G (Packers);  Lyle Sendlein, C (Cardinals); Deuce Lutui, G (Cardinals); Nick Eason, DT (Steelers); Chester Taylor, RB (Bears)

KEY LOSSES: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB; Derek Anderson, QB; Tim Hightower, RB; Steve Breaston, WR;  Ben Patrick, TE; Gerald Hayes, LB

If Kolb becomes the quarterback the Cardinals clearly believe he can be, then he was a bargain.

Arizona’s offseason is about Kevin Kolb.  On paper it does appear that the Arizona Cardinals overspent for Kevin Kolb by giving up a 2nd round pick and former 1st round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  However if Kolb can develop into the franchise quarterback that the Cardinals believe he can be than it is well worth it.  The trade already gave Larry Fitzgerald the confidence in Arizona he needed to sign a long term contract with the team so that trade has already began to pay dividends.  Re-signing Lutui was key for the Cardinals and I like the signing of Todd Heap with the assumption that Arizona plans to incorporate the tight end even more into the passing game.  Chester Taylor had a terrible year in Chicago last year but if he can return to Minnesota form, this is going to be a great bargain signing for the Cardinals.

Rodgers-Cromartie was a huge loss and I am curious to see who steps up into the number 2 receiving spot with the departure of Steve Breaston.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

2011 Draft Class: James Carpenter, G (1-25); John Moffitt, G (3-75); K.J. Wright, OLB (4-99);  Kris Durham, WR (4-107); Richard Sherman, CB (5-154); Mark LeGree, S (5-156); Byron Maxwell, CB (6-173); Lazarius Levingston, DE (7-205); Malcolm Smith, OLB (7-242)

James Carpenter can be a good tackle in this league but Andy Dalton would've been less of a reach

Seattle definitely had one of the worse drafts in the NFL.  Their largest need going into the draft (later solidified by the departure of Matt Hasselbeck) was quarterback which they failed to address.  I believe that taking Andy Dalton at this pick would have been less of a reach than James Carpenter was.  In the second round the Seahawks got a good guard in Moffitt but with greater needs in the receiving corps, quarterback position, and along the defensive line this pick did not make much sense either.   While their later picks addressed some key needs in the Seahawk secondary, I have to question whether any of these players will have much of an impact.  Overall, a rather unimpressive draft.

KEY ADDITIONS: Sidney Rice, WR (Vikings), Brandon Mebane, DT (Seahawks); Zach Miller, TE (Raiders); Robert Gallery, G (Raiders); Tarvaris Jackson, QB (Vikings); Alan Branch, DT (Cardinals); Leroy Hill, LB (Seahawks); Michael Robinson, RB (Seahawks)

KEY LOSSES: Stacy Andrews, OT; Chris Spencer, C; Lofa Tatupu, LB; Matt Hasselbeck, QB

If Tarvaris Jackson cannot have success in Seattle, he will never be a successful starter anywhere

I love what the Seahawks did in the offseason.  I have long been a believer that Tarvaris Jackson has the talent to be a starting QB in this league.  I can honestly say that if he doesn’t succeed in his current situation (with his favorite receiving target in Rice and the same offensive coordinator he has had his whole career in Bevell) then he will never succeed.  The Seahawks made a splash by grabbing the 2nd best wide receiver on the free agent market and then by signing a great tight end in Zach Miller and getting Robert Gallery from Oakland to help their offensive line.  The big signing of course for the Seahawks was bringing back Brandon Mebane who may have been the best defensive tackle available in free agency.  The question remains though as to whether Jackson or Whitehurst can emerge as a viable starter for Seattle.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

2011 Draft Class: Aldon Smith, DE (1-7); Colin Kaepernick, QB (2-36); Chris Culliver, CB (3-80); Kendall Hunter, RB (4-115); Daniel Kilgore, G (5-163); Ronald Johnson, WR (6-182); Colin Jones, S (6-190); Bruce Miller, DE (7-211); Michael Person, OT (7-239); Curtis Holcomb, CB (7-250)

Aldon Smith was a good choice and satisfies a need, but another Missouri Tiger may have been the better choice

Unlike many, I don’t believe Aldon Smith was a reach at 7th overall.  He is a fast, physical pass-rusher that satisfies an obvious need for San Francisco and was not going to fall outside of the top 10 picks.  However, I believe that San Francisco drafted the wrong Missouri player.  The obvious need for San Francisco was quarterback and with every quarterback except Cam Newton still on the board,  Gabbert or Locker would have made a lot more sense than Smith.  However, Harbaugh found his developmental project in the second round in Kaepernick.  However, considering that Mallett fell all the way to the 4th round – I though this was not the wisest of picks.  I look at the entire San Francisco draft and pretty much every player they took is a project but the problem is that the 49ers need impact players now.  Maybe Harbaugh is just mailing it in so he can grab Andrew Luck next season.

KEY ADDITIONS: Braylon Edwards, WR (Jets); Alex Smith, QB (49ers); Madieu Williams, S (Vikings); David Akers, K (Eagles); Donte Whitner, S (Bills); Ray McDonald, DT (49ers); Carlos Rogers, CB (Redskins); Jonathan Goodwin, C (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Aubrayo Franklin, NT; Nate Clements, CB; Manny Lawson, LB; Eric Heitmann, C

49ers fans hope Harbaugh can do for them what he did up the road in Stanford

The first big thing that the 49ers did was go out and get one of the biggest coaching names available in Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh.  His brother Jon has had success in Baltimore and Jim took Stanford from nothing to being a legitimate national football power.  I really like the Braylon Edwards pick-up for the 49ers because, despite his drops, Edwards is a player with “homerun” ability.  Whitner is a player who made giant steps last year and is a risk worth taking in my mind.  Goodwin should come in and solidify that offensive line and I really like the addition of David Akers who I believe was the best kicker available in free agency.  I really did expect the 49ers to make a splash in either the quarterback or cornerback market but unfortunately, they really did not do anything to improve either position.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

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2011 NFL Offseason Grades – AFC North

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

NFL DRAFT

2011  DRAFT PICKS: Cameron Heyward, DE (1-31); Marcus Gilbert, OT (2-63); Curtis Brown, CB (3-95); Cortez Allen, CB (4-128); Christopher Carter, OLB (5-162); Keith Williams, G (6-196); Baron Batch, RB (7-232)

 

 

Cameron Heyward is big strong defensive end that fits the Steel Curtain's great tradition

The Pittsburgh Steelers did the most important thing you can do in a draft, they covered the majority of their needs.  Sure there weren’t  a lot of big names here but I do like the Cameron Heyward pick a lot for Pittsburgh.   He is a versatile player that can play either the end or tackle position in a four man front.  He is a relentless pass rusher with a quick first step and the ability to stay low and get the advantage on an offensive line.  Gilbert fills a hole on their O-line and should be able to step in and contribute immediately.   I really like the Carter pick-up late.  He is not the most explosive player but he is strong and is a great tackler and could develop into a good OLB against the run.  The biggest flaw that I can find in the Steelers’ draft is they really needed to find a way to bolster their receiving corps and did not do so in this draft.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Ike Taylor, CB (Steelers); Willie Colon, OT (Steelers); Jonathan Scott, OT (Steelers);  Mewelde Moore, RB (Steelers); William Gay, CB (Steelers); Jerricho Cotchery, WR (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Antwaan Randle El, WR; Flozell Adams, OT; Max Starks, OT

Re-signing Ike Taylor was a priority for the Steelers.

For the Steelers, free agency was largely about making sure they continue to have a great offensive line.  Their line has been a big part of their three Super Bowl appearances in the last 7 years and with the Steelers, they seem to believe that Scott and Colon are preferrable to Adams and Starks.   The Steelers did the most important thing that a team can in free agency which is re-sign your key guys.  Additionally, the Steelers were in desperate need of a wide receiver if they plan to repeat as AFC Champions and were able to pick up Jerricho Cotchery this week who should fit into their offensive scheme perfectly.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Jimmy Smith, CB (1-27); Torrey Smith, WR (2-58); Jah Reid, OT (3-85); Tandon Doss, WR (4-123), Chykie Brown, CB (5-164); Pernell McPhee, DE (6-165); Tyrod Taylor, WR (6-180); Anthony Allen, RB (7-225)

 

Like Percy Harvin & Randy Moss, Jimmy Smith looks to make other teams regret letting him slide

I feel like Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens find good value late in a draft better than anyone else.  In the first round they got the shutdown corner they needed in Jimmy Smith.  I feel that Jimmy Smith should not have fallen past the 15th pick but character issues (much like Percy Harvin a few years ago) caused him to slide and Baltimore gets a great value here.  Torrey Smith is a wideout who has blazing speed and will be popular with the fans being a Maryland Terrapin and all.  I am really curious to see the path that Tyrod Taylor’s career take as I am always intrigued by college quarterbacks who are drafted as wide receivers (Brad Smith, Joe Webb, Antwaan Randle El, Julian Edelman, etc.).  Overall I really like this draft because the Ravens got the most bang for their buck and did feel some immediate needs.  However they ignored their gaping need in the safety position which I see as this draft’s biggest failure.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Lee Evans, WR (Bills); Bernard Pollard, S/OLB (Texans); Vonta Leach, FB (Texans); Marshall Yanda, G (Ravens); Chris Carr, CB (Ravens)

KEY LOSSES: Derrick Mason, WR; Willis McGahee, RB; Le’Ron McClain, FB; Todd Heap, TE; Kelly Gregg, DT; Fabian Washington, DB; Josh Wilson, DB; Dawan Landry, S

In Lee Evans, the Ravens get a guy who can stretch the field for Joe Flacco

Before yesterday, I would’ve graded Baltimore’s free agency period and trades in the C+ range because while I do like their additions – I feel like the team lost a lot.  However, I have them sitting higher because the 4th round pick for Lee Evans may be a better value trade than McNabb for a 6th round pick to Minnesota.  Now I am not promising 23 touchdowns for Evans, I am just saying ask Bill Bellichick what happens when you give up a 4th round draft pick to get a talented receiver out of an unfavorable situation.  I think that Evans is an upgrade over Derrick Mason and will pair nicely with Boldin and Smith.  The upgrade of the receiving corps over the last two seasons should make this a career year for Joe Flacco.   Leach is a bruiser of a fullback and an upgrade over McClain and re-signing Carr was necessary.  I still feel they lost a lot though with the departure of Dawan Landry, Todd Heap, and Josh Wilson.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: A.J. Green, WR (1-4); Andy Dalton, QB (2-35); Dontay Moch, OLB (3-66); Clint Boling, G (4-101); Robert Sands, S (5-134); Ryan Whalen, WR (6-167); Korey Lindsey, CB (7-207); Jay Finley, RB (7-246)

 

A.J. Green has the tools to be an elite receiver in the NFL

I really liked Cincinnati’s approach to this draft.  They had a lot of needs going in and as opposed to panicking – they simply adopted a B.P.A. (Best Player Available) approach and in doing so were able to fill many of their holes.  They used the 4th overall pick to take the best wide receiver prospect I believe we have seen since Calvin Johnson.  A.J. Green will be a star in this league.  The Bengals foresaw the departure of Ochocinco and Palmer and used their first two picks to address that.  Considering that 4 quarterbacks were drafted in the first 12 picks, I consider the Bengals finding someone as good as Andy Dalton in the 2nd round an absolute steal.   If I had to declare a draft winner right now, it would be a toss up between Detroit, Cincinnati, and the next team I’m going to discuss.  I love the Robert Sands pick in the 5th round – he is an intelligent player who plays aggressively.  He has a great awareness about him and his long arms and great hands have me believing he could develop into quite the ballhawk.  He reminds me of a larger Darren Sharper.   I also think that Jay Finley was a great 7th round pick, he’s a running back who could be a solid number 2 in this league.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Nate Clements, CB (49ers); Manny Lawson, LB (49ers); Thomas Howard, LB (Raiders); Cedric Benson, RB (Bengals); Brian Leonard, RB (Bengals)

KEY LOSSES: Johnathan Joseph, CB; Chad Ochocinco, WR; Carson Palmer, QB; Antwan Odom, DE; Evan Mathis, G


Re-signing Benson was necessary if the Bengals were going to have any success this year

The biggest departure of free agency for the Bengals was not Chad Ochocinco or Carson Palmer .  In my mind, it was Johnathan Joseph who many overlooked in free agency in light of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes.  Nate Clements was a good effort to replace Joseph but he is nowhere near as good.  The Bengals anticipated Palmer’s retirement and the Ochocinco trade and in my opinion, upgraded at the wide receiver position when they drafted Green.  Cedric Benson was necessary to bring back and I really like the Gradkowski pick-up.  Gradkowski is a quarterback who has never gotten his due, similar to Jeff Garcia, but he does find ways to win games for bad teams and provides good competition for Dalton.   I like the Thomas Howard signing as well but to me the retirement of Carson Palmer and departure of Johnathan Joseph severely set the Bengals back for this season.


CLEVELAND BROWNS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Phil Taylor, DT (1-21); Jabaal Sheard, DE (2-37); Greg Little, WR (2-59); Jordan Cameron, TE (4-102); Owen Marecic, FB (4-124); Buster Skrine, CB (5-137);  Jason Pinkston, OT (5-150); Eric Hagg, S (7-248)

 

Phil Taylor was the best run-stopper available in this year's draft

You know what I have always admired about Mike Holmgren?  He is a realist who knows what he wants.  In my mind, when Cleveland landed the 6th overall pick there were only 3 players worth them taking with that high of a pick – Georgia WR A.J. Green (went 4th overall to Cincy), LSU CB Patrick Peterson (went 5th overall to Cleveland), and Missouri DE Aldon Smith (went with the 7th overall pick to San Fran).  When Cleveland’s turn came up, Holmgren decided Aldon wasn’t the way to go with that pick and so instead of taking a player too high or one he had no interest in – he got Atlanta to pay him a king’s ransom so they could draft Julio Jones.  Later on they were able to get the big run-stopping D Tackle they needed in Phil Taylor and with the Falcons’ 2nd round pick they got a big target who can stretch the field for McCoy in Greg Little.  Overall I like this draft, not just because of who they grabbed this year but because of how it prepares them for future drafts to truly rebuild this team.   Holmgren is very realistic about where the Browns are as a franchise and as someone who has 3 conference championships and one more Super Bowl ring than the entire Browns franchise, knows the personnel he needs to get them there.

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Pat Shurmur, Head Coach (Rams’ Offensive Coordinator); Jon Greco, G (Rams);  Usama Young, S (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Eric Wright, CB; Abram Elam, S

Pat Shurmur did a great job with Sam Bradford and now has Andy Dalton to develop.

When it came to the free agency period, the Browns did a couple of things right – they hired a great offensive mind as their new head coach in Pat Shurmur; they traded for Jon Greco, a strong offensive lineman who should solidify the right side of the line; and they signed Usama Young from the Saints who I believe upgrades their safety situation over the departed Abram Elam.   When I look at Cleveland’s free agency period though, for me it will always be about what they did not do.  They had the most cap room of any NFL team and did not even make a run at defensive end Ray Edwards, or wide receivers like James Jones, Malcolm Floyd, Michael Jenkins, or Mike Sims-Walker.  There was no upgrade to their pass rush, no addition of difference-makers, and the Browns had more capacity to do that than anyone.  In a short free agency period, the fact they could offer more money with less time to decide worked in their favor.  As a result, I believe they were the biggest losers in free agency.

 

 

 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

 

 

Every Lockout Has A Silver Lining

I would personally like to thank Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Jamorris Warren for giving me the opportunity to interview him.

On March 11th of this year, there was a collective groan across sports nation as the NFL owners confirmed our worst fear – there was going to be an NFL Lockout.  The idea that there might not be a professional football season to look forward to in 2011 was now a possibility.  For many players it meant having to organize work outs, and for those whose names aren’t as familiar to us – it meant having to find a second job.   For some players it was an opportunity to pursue other sporting interests such as boxing, the MLS, track, and professional bull riding.  The players held their breath uncertain of what may happen next.  The sports media grew worried and were anxious to generate football-related news.  The sector of the American public who find sanctuary on their couches every Sunday afternoon and Monday night for 17 weeks a year felt as if they too had been locked out and were being deprived.   The NFL had bolted it’s doors and in that moment, a window in the small town of Warrensburg, Missouri was opened.

Six days after the lockout was announced, Jamorris Warren stepped inside the Devine Indoor Pavillion on the campus of the University of Missouri. Warren was coming off of a spectacular season for the Division II Central Missouri Mules.  In his senior year he had set school records for receiving with 109 receptions for 1,458 yards and 20 touchdowns.   This 6′ 195 pound receiver who ran a sub 4.5 40 yard dash was the favorite target of Harlon Hill winner Eric Czerniewski as Warren helped lead the Mules to their first playoff win in school history.

On this particular day, more than 125 NFL talent evaluators, scouts, coaches, and executives representing all 32 teams had descended upon Columbia, Missouri but none of them were there for the wide receiver in a red Mules football shirt standing on the edge of the field.

Some were there to see the coveted defensive end Aldon Smith and others were there for the highly touted quarterback Blaine Gabbert.   Even a quarterback prospect with as much draft stock as Gabbert had, is useless without somebody to throw the ball to.  That’s where Warren came in.

Due to restrictions imposed by the NFL Lockout, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert (above) was forced to do his workout with Division II receivers as opposed to NFL players.

Due to the NFL lockout, Gabbert would not be able to do his Pro Day workout with current NFL Players (such as Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin or Rams wideout Danario Alexander, both Mizzou alumni) as is traditional.  Since Missouri had no draft eligible receivers, that option was not available to him either.  Gabbert’s camp was charged with finding wide receivers he could work with.  The result was a Division II all-star receiving corps from colleges around the state that included, among others, Jamorris Warren and his teammate, running back Anthony Stewart.

As a senior Warren set UCM records with nearly 1,500 yards receiving, 109 receptions, and 20 touchdowns.

Everyone may have been there to watch Gabbert throw but Warren knew that the NFL lockout had given him the chance to show the NFL how well he could catch.  ” [Blaine Gabbert’s Pro Day] … was a great opportunity for me to showcase my abilities in front of all 32 teams and several GM’s.”  Jamorris took full advantage of that opportunity. Gabbert had an impressive workout for the scouts but some overthrown passes that Warren was able to reel in caught the attention of the scouts on hand.  He snagged up every pass thrown his way.  A series of acrobatic grabs turned the heads of those in attendance.  One particular catch, a one handed grab near the sideline, even garnered some applause from those at the Pavillion.

Afterwards many scouts who had, most likely, never heard the name Jamorris Warren or of the University of Central Missouri, now had this small school receiver on their radar.  The NFL Lockout had presented Warren the chance to work out with a potential number 1 draft pick and he had shown 32 teams that he was a big time talent. Coaches and GMs pulled him to the side after the display and only confirmed something that Warren had long known, “they told me that there was a place for me in this league.”

Warren's ability to catch the ball turned the heads of many NFL scouts at Missouri's Pro Day

Warren’s coach at UCM, Jim Svoboda, had previously served as the offensive coordinator for two National Championship teams at Northwest Missouri State and the quarterbacks coach at UCLA before coming to Central Missouri.  He once said of Warren’s ability to catch the ball that he had, “fabulous hands.”  “I’ve been around some kids with great hands,” Svoboda said “but he may have the best hands I’ve seen.”

While the media talked about Gabbert and Smith and speculated about where they may land in the draft, Warren took his newly found draft stock and got to work feeling like he was one step closer to his dream of playing in the NFL.

When the NFL draft rolled around in late April, Warren took it as an opportunity to spend some time with loved ones.  He watched the first night and saw Aldon Smith go 6th overall to the 49ers and his friend Blaine go 10th overall to Jacksonville.   He watched the second and third day with his family that weekend.

Warren was excited as the third day of the draft came believing that he could go in the 6th or 7th round. He saw Abilene Christian’s wide receiver Edmund Gates, who his Mules had beat in the second round of the playoffs, go in the 4th round to Miami.  And then in the 7th round, the Vikings selected wide receiver Stephen Burton from West Texas A&M (who had lost to UCM in the first round of the NCAA-II playoffs) and Warren was still on the board.

The Houston Texans announced the final pick of the NFL Draft and Warren was still without a team.  “Not getting drafted didn’t bother me,” Warren said, “because that’s been the story of my life – proving everybody wrong.”  When asked if he felt that being from a Division II school had put him at a disadvantage Warren replied, “Teams will find you no matter the level of play.  I can say it [coming from a small school] made me hungrier and more determined to be successful.”  He was complimentary of the experience he had at Central Missouri and mentioned that the coaching staff there had played a large role in his success.

Traditionally, NFL teams would have reached out to players like Warren who went undrafted to offer them rookie free agent contracts after the draft had concluded. Unfortunately, the same lockout that had created the chance for Warren to get noticed had now created uncertainty for him as to whether or not he would find a team.

After finishing his senior year at UCM, Warren returned to his hometown of Belle Glade, FL and spent the summer working out at Glade Central High School, which he had once attended, and the Test Football Academy in Boca Raton.  He knew that the lockout had to end and when the call came he wanted to be ready for play in a faster game.  He worked hard all summer with the confidence that when play resumed, some team would give him the chance to make every other team regret ever passing on him.

On July 21, the NFL officially lifted the lockout and returned to work as usual.  Shortly thereafter, teams started calling Warren and less than a week after, he signed on with the Carolina Panthers.

There are still many questions as to whether or not Warren can make it in the NFL but he has already drawn comparisons to another MIAA conference wide receiver who went undrafted – Missouri Southern’s Rod Smith who went on to become an integral part of a Denver Broncos team that won two Super Bowls.  For now, the long wait to find an NFL team is over for Warren.

Warren knows, however, that the journey that started with a rare NFL lockout opportunity is far from over. He is fully aware of how much harder he will have to work as he adjusts to the speed of the game and perfects his skill sets so that he can compete at the pro level.  He has enjoyed the opportunity to learn from established receivers like Steve Smith and Ricky Proehl in camp and he often takes advantage of the chance he has to learn as much as possible from them.  “The great thing about having guys like … [Proehl and Smith] here is that I can pick their brains.  I really utilize that.”

Many are going to talk about the disadvantages of the NFL Lockout and how the rookie class was affected by the shortened offseason training activities (OTAs).  For Warren though, the NFL lockout created a unique opportunity for him to showcase his talents before the entire NFL.  If not for the labor dispute, he may not be fighting for an NFL roster spot in Spartanburg, South Carolina this week so for him shortened OTAs are better than none at all.

While Warren  received calls from the world champion Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Rams, he is excited to be apart of a Carolina team that some believe, after a strong draft class and re-signing all of their major free agents, could come out and surprise people this year.

And maybe that’s why the Panthers make sense for Jamorris Warren – he has been surprising people his entire life.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!