Titans' Cecil fined $20,000

From Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean:

The NFL fined Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil $20,000 for prohibited verbal abuse of a game official during last Friday’s 42-17 loss to the Chargers at LP Field.

Titans defensive end William Hayes had just been flagged for roughing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers when an official flagged Cecil for saying something. The Titans were penalized another 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“It’s something between me and the league,’ Cecil said after Thursday’s practice. “Obviously it was a misunderstanding and something we’ll get cleared up.’


Bills find a GM, now they need a coach

Now that the Bills have hired Buddy Nix as their new general manager, something we reported on earlier here at the National Football Post, the obvious next step is to hire a head coach.

Yes, we can speculate all we want about Nix and the Bills’ decision to hire from within the organization — which, if anything, was melodramatic — but moving on and finding the next coach is a monumental step for a franchise that has a great fan base but is stuck in a terrible stage of mediocrity.

Names. There are plenty when it comes to the coaching rumor mill and Buffalo. Owner Ralph Wilson first reached out to Mike Shanahan, who politely took his name out of the hat and will most likely land in Washington with Dan Snyder. Then it was Bill Cowher over the weekend, another power coach who’s been linked to just about every team with a question mark on the sidelines.

But are there any “real” candidates?

At the NFP, we’ve heard that Wilson is looking to go the offensive route, with names like Charlie Weis (who would come cheaply thanks to his Notre Dame money), former Ravens coach Brian Billick and former Rams head coach and Lions and Niners offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Big names, for sure, but names that would come into town and take control of a team — and, more important, an offense — that needs some work.

There’s no answer at the quarterback position right now in Buffalo. None. Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and yes, Brian Brohm aren’t going to win the Bills an AFC East title any time soon.

Terrell Owens, the big name who actually came to Buffalo last season, was a bust as a product of this system. And a defense that has Tampa 2 personnel will have to be changed with a new coaching staff. Nix, and whoever is the new coach, will have a lot of decisions to make, starting with free agency and then the draft, because this Bills team will have to be built from the ground up once again.

Yes, hiring Nix as GM is a first step, and an “average” move based on the people I’ve talked to. But there is still so much more to do along the shores of Lake Erie before this team can compete with and beat New England.

Because to win the East, the Buffalo Bills are going to have to build a team that can beat Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

Redskins' Gray: 'No comment' on interview for head job

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — No confusing answers from Jerry Gray this week. The Washington Redskins’ secondary coach instead stuck to “no comment” when asked about his interview for the head coaching job.

Gray stayed mum on the subject Thursday – even though the Fritz Pollard Alliance confirmed earlier this week Gray has interviewed for the position currently held by Jim Zorn.

Gray said he understands the situation doesn’t look good, but he stuck to no comment. Last week, he appeared to deny interviewing for the job before changing his answer.

Gray says he maintains a close relationship with Zorn and that the two rode to the team hotel together before last weekend’s game. He said if the relationship was bad, Zorn would have told him: “Naw, Jerry don’t come this week.”

Bruschi has his say, now let’s move on

Come on, more comments about the Colts and their loss to the Jets?

If you’re like me and have an interest in the NFL, you’re ready to drink a few beers tonight, get ready for the Rose Bowl tomorrow and settle in for NFL action on Sunday. With two AFC spots still up for grabs — and plenty of storylines involved — do we still have to go back to coach Jim Caldwell’s decision to rest his players in the second half last Sunday?

Tedy Bruschi, the former Patriots linebacker who was a part of a 16-0 regular season, offered the latest in a long line of opinions that have sprouted out of the ground. Bruschi, who now works for ESPN, said of the 14-1 Colts: “When you compare the ‘09 Colts to the ’07 Patriots, I am going to say something that a lot of people are thinking but aren’t saying: At least the ’07 Patriots had the guts to go for it. That’s what they did, that’s what the Indianapolis Colts didn’t do, and that’s their problem.”

Now, I was never part of a 16-0 team, nor do I have multiple Super Bowl rings, but I do know that you play the regular season to get into the playoffs and get the best possible seeding you can. The Colts, well, they did that, and now every media outlet is crucifying them.

That’s really the only opinion I have about the situation. I can’t compare anything I did in my own lackluster career with Bruschi and his pedigree, but I do know that we need to move on to more important topics.

And I’m starting to wonder what the opinions will be next week if New England and Cincinnati — both playing teams in the AFC with playoff hopes — decide to shut it down. Because it probably will happen as they have done their work. They’re in the dance, right? Do we pile on them, or do we start pointing fingers at the Jets because they got in playing against second-team guys?

Let’s be honest here. As great a player as Bruschi was, it’s now his job to make those comments, just as it’s my job to react to the nonsense that’s following this story.

No guts? I don’t know. Sounds a little overblown for a meaningless football game if the Colts don’t win it all, like Bruschi’s 16-0 Patriots.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

Report: Broncos' Marshall expected to play

From ESPN.com:

Despite injuring his hamstring in practice Wednesday, Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall is expected to play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Having Marshall available to play greatly aids the Broncos (8-7), who need to beat the last-place Chiefs in their regular-season finale and get some assistance if they’re going to qualify for the playoffs.

Marshall was seen grabbing the back of his right leg during the portion of practice open to the media. He later spent some with the team’s trainer. In Wednesday’s team injury report, Marshall was listed as participating in the practice on a limited basis.


Source: Bills to name Buddy Nix as GM

A Buffalo Bills source has confirmed to the National Football Post that the team will announce Buddy Nix as its new general manager at a news conference this afternoon.

Nix is the Bills’ director of college scouting and was formerly the assistant GM and director of player personnel for the San Diego Chargers.

Rumors have been circling around the league about a possible GM move in Buffalo since an announcement was made earlier today that a news conference was scheduled.

Check back with the NFP as this story develops.

The 2009 NFP Fantasy Awards

With the 2010 Pro Bowl rosters being announced on Tuesday, now seems like the perfect time to release the 2009 NFP Fantasy Awards.

After sifting through emails, text messages and comments, I’ve put together a deserving class of first-team fantasy stars and award winners. Some of these picks you’ll agree with, some you won’t. But that’s what the comments section is for, so feel free to let me know what you think when you realize that Colts quarterback Peyton Manning did NOT make first team all-fantasy.

And remember, next week I’ll be releasing the all-bust team and 2009 Bust Awards, so stay tuned.

Drum roll, please…


Chris Johnson Running Back Tennessee Titans

How do you define value? The most popular argument is to see what happens if you take the player in question off the fantasy team. Does the team sink or does it survive? While quarterbacks such as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning brought a high level of value and consistency to your squads this season, an injury to either player could have led you to Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton or Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, both of whom finished in the top 18 in scoring among fantasy quarterbacks.

But what would have happened to your team if Johnson had gone down with an injury? I’ll tell you what: You would have lost one of the greatest single-season statistical performers in the history of the NFL. At the running back position, losing a star like Johnson is what leads to an offseason of ridicule from the other members of your league because you failed to make the playoffs.

Through 16 weeks, Johnson is the fantasy world’s highest scoring running back and is currently holding a 46-point lead on second-place rusher Adrian Peterson (standard scoring), who many experts (us included) had ranked No. 1 to open the season.

With a rare combination of open-field speed, burst and vision, Johnson is 128 rushing yards away from 2,000 for the season, has ripped off 10 consecutive games with 100-plus yards on the ground, has 47 receptions and has racked up 14 total touchdowns, 11 in his last nine games.

The guy is a beast, and after Sunday’s performance against the Seattle Seahawks, many of us will be targeting Johnson No. 1 overall next August.


Miles Austin Wide Receiver Dallas Cowboys

The fourth-year veteran out of Monmouth (N.J.) opened the season behind Roy Williams on the depth chart and battled Patrick Crayton for the No. 2 spot. After four games, Austin had caught just five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Then came a Week 5 date against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Austin went off like a nuclear bomb against the Chiefs, hauling in 10 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns for a staggering 37 fantasy points. Roy Williams continued to tell the media that he was the No. 1 wideout in Big D, but it fell on deaf ears as fantasy owners scrambled to the waiver wire in the hopes of landing the next big thing.

Through 16 weeks, Austin ranks fifth in receiving yards (1,230), fourth in touchdowns (11) and third in receptions of 40 or more yards (7). He’s found the end zone in eight of his last 11 games and is currently a top-five fantasy wideout in standard-scoring leagues.


Beanie Wells Running Back Arizona Cardinals

You can make the case for Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (who has scored more fantasy points than Wells this season) or Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (who leads all rookie wideouts in fantasy points), but Wells is getting the nod from the NFP.

Why? Because he got the job done when it mattered.

In a year that featured several solid performances from a variety of rookie skill players, Wells won the award because of his numbers during the most important weeks of the season (14, 15 and 16) — the fantasy playoffs.

In his last three outings, the rookie bruiser from Ohio State amassed 319 total yards and three touchdowns for an average of 16.3 fantasy points per week. He’s scored seven touchdowns on the season and is averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry.

Like I said, you can make the case for several other rookies, but in a year when there was no clear-cut leader, Wells won the hardware because he stepped up in the clutch.


Jamaal Charles Running Back Kansas City Chiefs

Through the first seven weeks of the season, aging malcontent Larry Johnson was running the show in the Kansas City backfield. And I use the term “running the show” loosely because he was averaging only 2.8 yards per carry with zero touchdowns through seven contests.

For those of you who subscribed to the Total Access Pass, you know I was calling for Johnson’s head and Charles’ promotion by roughly Week 3 when it became apparent the former Penn State running back no longer had the speed or power to get out to the second level and make defenders miss.

Then, fantasy owners got their wish. L.J. went on a homophobic twitter tirade that led to his dismissal from the Chiefs. Charles stepped in and became fantasy gold as the second-year back out of Texas racked up 890 total yards and six touchdowns in just eight games.

Kansas City may be a bad football team, but Charles was a fantasy stud. Owners who were quick on the trigger picked up a rock-solid fantasy option who’s currently ranked 19th among running backs in standard-scoring formats.


Vincent Jackson & Brandon Marshall Wide Receivers San Diego Chargers/Denver Broncos

I’m going to keep this one short because bragging is something I don’t like to do (although I end up doing it anyway).

There’s no fantasy publication on the planet that can tell you they had Vincent Jackson rated higher than we did heading into 2009. Why? Two reasons: First, everyone thought the return of a healthy L.T. would be the end of the Chargers’ high-octane passing attack. And second, because San Diego is the least talked about football team in the country, which leads to superstars like V-Jax being overlooked.

As far as Marshall is concerned, owners hit the panic button the second he got suspended from the team during the preseason, prompting a flood of emails asking why we hadn’t dropped him further down our draft rankings.

The reason? Because the guy is a stud wideout playing for a new contract, that’s why.

Through 16 weeks, Jackson is ranked seventh in scoring among fantasy wideouts with 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns. Marshall is ranked eighth and is headed to the Pro Bowl.

And I bet neither one of them was drafted before Roddy White or Steve Smith (Carolina), both of whom trail Jackson and Marshall in fantasy points.


Ray Rice Running Back Baltimore Ravens

According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Rice’s average draft position in a 10-team league entering the 2009 season was 5.01, which means he was usually selected at the start of the fifth round.

Things might be a little different next season.

The second-year running back out of Rutgers burst onto the scene in 2009 as Rice has piled up 1,952 total yards and seven touchdowns through 16 weeks. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry and leads all NFL running backs in receptions (74) and targets (94).

The epitome of a dual-threat back, Rice possesses great balance and excellent lower-body strength. He’s currently ranked fourth in scoring among fantasy running backs in standard-scoring formats and is a sure-fire top-five pick come next August. For those of you who play
in a keeper league, this guy will be the cornerstone of your team next season.


Chris Johnson Running Back Tennessee Titans

Week 2: Sept. 20 vs. Houston Texans

I remember exactly where I was when this game went down.

The Philadelphia Eagles were hosting the New Orleans Saints and I was sitting next to author and movie producer Alan Donnes in the Philadelphia press box at Lincoln Financial Field. It was a sunny autumn day and the Birds were trailing the Saints 10-7 in the first quarter.

From the press box at the Linc, you can look through the windows to the other side of the field and see the big scrolling scoreboard which keeps fans updated on what’s going on around the league. The Houston-Tennessee score kept lighting up, with touchdowns being scored at an alarming pace.

Then, from the back of the press box, you heard a member of the media say, “Chris Johnson is ridiculous.”

Instantly, I — and everyone around me — brought up the game on our computers to see what was going on. With 2:13 left in the first quarter, the Titans led the Texans 14-7 behind a 57-yard touchdown run and 69-yard touchdown reception, both from Johnson.

Tennessee ended up losing 34-31, but not before Johnson left his mark on history. The second-year running back rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns and chipped in 87 receiving yards and one score en route to a 45-point fantasy performance for the ages.

When the dust settled, Johnson had racked up 284 total yards and three scores on just 25 touches, for an eye-popping average of 11.3 yards per touch.

Oh yeah. That third touchdown he scored? It was a 91-yard run in the third quarter. Check out Johnson’s burst in this video:


Brian Cushing Outside Linebacker Houston Texans

Before you get your panties in a bunch and start screaming about Jared Allen and Patrick Willis, you have to understand that this award isn’t just about stats. It’s also about value. Allen and Willis were studs this season, but you had to use a higher draft pick to get them. Cushing, on the other hand, was probably sitting on waivers.

The rookie linebacker out of USC produced in a big way, ranking fifth in the NFL in tackles (128) and racking up four sacks, 10 pass deflections, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

His addition to the Houston dark side improved their rushing defense from 23rd in 2008 to 13th in 2009. In addition, the Texans ranked 27th in points allowed last year and rank 15th this season.

And it isn’t just me who thinks this kid is nasty. Cushing was voted into the Pro Bowl as a starter.



Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers: You expected Peyton Manning or Drew Brees? Sorry, but neither of those guys has scored more fantasy points (standard scoring) than Rodgers. The Green Bay signal-caller ranks fifth in passing yards (4,199), third in passing touchdowns (29), first in rushing yards among quarterbacks (302) and first in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks (4). The Packers are headed to the playoffs, Rodgers is going to the Pro Bowl and fantasy owners are gearing up to select the Green Bay quarterback a lot quicker in 2010 than they did in 2009.

Second Team: Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)


Chris Johnson Tennessee Titans: We’ve already talked about him enough in this article, so you get the idea.

Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings: You drafted him first overall for a reason and he didn’t disappoint (well, maybe a little bit lately). All Day has rushed for 17 touchdowns (first) and 1,335 yards (third) this season. Shockingly, he’s only topped 100 rushing yards three times in 16 games, but the Vikings workhorse is still averaging 16.3 fantasy points per week, which ranks second in the NFL among running backs. He’s even added a new dimension to his game, catching 42 passes (13th) for 435 yards (fifth).

Maurice Jones-Drew Jacksonville Jaguars: A dynamic weapon who possesses the power to grind out the extra yards and the burst and explosiveness to hit the home run, MJD delivered the goods in his first year as a full-time workhorse. The former UCLA Bruin has rushed for 1,309 yards (fifth) and 15 touchdowns (second), while catching 52 passes (fourth) for 368 yards (11th). What’s most impressive is that he pulled off those numbers while running behind an offensive line anchored by two rookies (Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton).

Second Team: Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens), Thomas Jones (New York Jets)


Andre Johnson Houston Texans: An absolute beast in every sense of the word, Johnson dropped jaws and broke ankles for 16 weeks on his way to the top of the heap among fantasy wide receivers. His 2009 stat line is nothing short of amazing: first in targets (163), fourth in receptions (95), first in receiving yards (1,504) and seventh in touchdowns (9). The guy can beat you on the outside with speed, down the field with balance or in the red zone with pure power. Still not sold? Check out this video and then tell me this guy isn’t for real:

Randy Moss New England Patriots: He’s not a Pro Bowl starter this season and his work ethic has been called into question, but numbers don’t lie. And in the world of fantasy football, numbers are what matter. Moss may have caught only 78 passes through 16 weeks, but he leads all NFL wide receivers in touchdowns (13) and ranks seventh in receiving yards (1,189). You can call it a down year if you want, but the guy still ranks second in scoring among fantasy wideouts in standard-scoring formats. And I’ll bet you Moss owners really appreciated the three touchdowns he scored on championship weekend.

Miles Austin Dallas Cowboys: Several of you may not agree with this selection since Austin was irrelevant during the first four weeks of the season. And some of you may feel that Colts wideout Reggie Wayne is more deserving. But look at it this way: Wayne scored only one touchdown in his final four games and topped 100 receiving yards just once in his last six contests. Not the way you close out a season, especially during the fantasy playoffs. Meanwhile, Austin finished third in scoring among fantasy wide receivers despite little action over the first month of the season. He found the end zone four times in his final five games while topping 100 yards receiving in three of those five contests. That’s what you call clutch.

Second Team: Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts), DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals)


Vernon Davis San Francisco 49ers: I know, I know. You thought this one was going to be Dallas Clark, right? Well, despite the fact
Clark edged out Davis by four fantasy points for the top spot in scoring among tight ends, Davis came at a MUCH better value and had to play with Alex Smith and Shaun Hill — not Peyton Manning — at quarterback. And that, my friends, is why Davis is on the NFP first team. He posted career highs in receptions (72), yards (876) and touchdowns (12). In addition, no tight end in the league found the end zone more than Davis this season. When Alex Smith took over at quarterback for the Niners, Davis caught six or more passes in five of his final 10 games.

Second Team: Dallas Clark (Indianapolis Colts)


Philadelphia Eagles: Longtime defensive coordinator/mastermind Jim Johnson passed away, Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos and starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley blew out his knee…all before the start of the regular season. Before you start firing the emails, check out where the Eagles D/ST ranks this season in some of fantasy’s most important categories:

Interceptions (24): First

Sacks (42): Third

Fumble Recoveries (13): Third

D/ST Touchdowns (6): Second

Safeties (2): First

Fantasy Points Scored (230): First

Second Team: New Orleans Saints


David Akers Philadelphia Eagles: Just like last year, I’m keeping this one short. Akers scored the most fantasy points among kickers, so he wins. End of story.

Second Team: Nate Kaeding (San Diego Chargers)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

Rumor Nation

Let’s check out what we are hearing from our network of connections throughout the league: rumors, chatter and speculation.

…We’re hearing that veteran defensive end Trevor Pryce isn’t likely to be back with the Ravens next season.

…We’re hearing that the Bills are looking offense. They want someone who can identify and develop a franchise QB and work cheap, and not be concerned about having a 91-year-old owner and a team that could be moved anywhere at any time. That leaves Billick, Martz and Weis as the three people who fit those criteria. Buffalo tried to hire Weis six years ago and couldn’t afford him. Now ND is paying him so it doesn’t matter.

…We’re hearing that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis still bristles at how owner Mike Brown runs the organization, especially the lack of spending in the scouting department.

…We’re hearing that there’s very little chance that Shawne Merriman is back with the San Diego Chargers next season with GM A.J. Smith ready to move on.

… We’re hearing that Ralph Wilson is focusing on a GM hire first since he now realizes he’s going to need more help in finding a coach.

…Don’t be surprised if former Dolphins and Saints GM Randy Mueller, currently working for the Chargers — specifically for AJ Smith — gets some serious consideration to get back to a GM post. He was the executive of the year in 2000 for the Saints, but he was submarined by Nick Sabin in Miami. He was the only other GM who aggressively pursued Drew Brees. Holmgren is a Randy Mueller fan.

…We’re hearing that Matt Roth may have found a permanent home in Cleveland. He actually likes his role there, likes his teammates and his teammates love his aggressive style. He’s been a small spark

…We’re hearing that Jim Haslett has been discussed as a possible candidate in Buffalo.

…We’re hearing that if Lovie Smith is canned, Ron Rivera will be a serious candidate in Chicago. He is loved, appreciated and is sorely missed. He’s doing a good job in San Diego.

…We’re hearing that for the first time that anyone can remember, Seattle’s owner Paul Allen is personally getting involved in evaluating his staff and front office from head to toe. He’s asking questions.

Follow the NFP on Twitter: @FootballPost

Thursday prospect primer

With a full slate of bowl games today, the National Football Post highlights some of the top prospects in each and breaks down which players are worth a look as we move closer toward draft season.

Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Air Force
Today, noon EST, ESPN

Prospects worth keeping an eye on:

TE Fendi Onobun, Houston (6-6, 249)
A former collegiate basketball player with a load of athletic upside. Has been a bit slow to adjust to the gridiron, but the skill set is there to make for an interesting developmental guy.

QB Case Keenum, Houston (6-2, 210)
All indications are pointing to Keenum returning to school for his senior year, but he’s an accurate passer who’s been super productive and could build some positive momentum going into next year with another strong performance today.

Sun Bowl
Stanford vs. Oklahoma
Today, 2 p.m. EST, CBS

Prospects worth keeping an eye on:

RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford (6-1, 235)
A physical, no-nonsense runner who showcases impressive instincts and better than anticipated short-area quickness at the line of scrimmage. He’s too talented not find a niche in the NFL.

OT Chris Marinelli, Stanford (6-7, 305)
Isn’t the most physical or athletic of offensive tackle prospects, but he’s the definition of a Velcro player in the run game and simply finds a way to get the job done.

DT Ekom Udofia, Stanford (6-2, 315)
A thickly built lineman who displays flashes of NFL-type play, but he’s too inconsistent holding the point of attack to be looked at as a potential starting-caliber nose tackle at this stage.

OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma (6-5, 318)
An overrated tackle prospect who looks to be a right-side player only in the NFL.

DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma (6-4, 298)
Possesses an impressive combination of power, explosion and body control off the snap, and looks like an impact-type interior lineman in the NFL. Will not last long on draft day.

CB Brian Jackson, Oklahoma (6-1, 200)
A tall, long-armed defender who displays an ability to press off the line and reroute receivers. He isn’t the most gifted of athletes, but he should be able to find a role as a sub-package press corner in the NFL.

Texas Bowl
Missouri vs. Navy
Today, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPN

Prospects worth keeping an eye on:

OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri (6-1, 245)
An explosive run-and-hit linebacker who can make plays in pursuit. However, he’s not a real physical tackler and isn’t nearly as fluid in coverage as his frame would indicate. Isn’t the type of prospect he’s being hyped up to be.

WR Danario Alexander, Missouri (6-4, 215)
A big, long-armed target who’s been one of the most productive receivers in the nation in 2009. However, he isn’t real shifty off the line and struggles to beat press coverage on the outside. Looks more like a big slot guy in the NFL who needs a free release in order to be successful.

Insight Bowl
Minnesota vs. Iowa State
Tonight, 6 p.m. EST, NFL Network

Prospects worth keeping an eye on:

FS James Smith, Iowa State (5-9, 191)
In my opinion, Smith rates as Iowa State’s best prospect. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, can tackle in space and showcases impressive range vs. the pass. He’s undersized and at times plays too out of control for his own good, but the guy is constantly around the football.

QB Adam Weber, Minnesota (6-3, 218)
An intriguing junior signal caller who showcases good athletic ability for the position and has a chance to develop into a legitimate draftable prospect with the NFL-type coaching he’s receiving at Minnesota.

Chick-fil-A Bowl
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
Tonight, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN

Prospects worth keeping an eye on:

DT Dan Williams, Tennessee (6-2, 327)
A powerful interior force who can overwhelm opposing linemen on contact and consistently push the pocket. Looks like an eventual starting-caliber defensive tackle at the next level.

RB Montario Hardesty, Tennessee (6-0, 215)
Runs with bad intentions inside and isn’t the kind of guy you want to bet against in the NFL. He’ll find a way to produce.

S Eric Berry, Tennessee (5-11, 203)
Has all the physical tools needed to warrant a high selection in the upcoming NFL draft. However, it’s his instincts and anticipation skills in the secondary that make him the elite safety prospect he is.

OL Chris Scott, Tennessee (6-4, 346)
A powerful offensive line prospect who possesses good footwork and coordination in space. Lacks the range to play on the blind side at the next level but has the ability to carve out a niche as a starting right tackle or guard.

OG Sergio Render, Virginia Tech (6-3, 313)
One of the nation’s more underrated offensive guard prospects. Plays with a low base, can create a push off the snap in the run game and is surprisingly athletic for his size. Looks capable of developing into a starter down the line.

DE/OLB Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech (6-2, 252)
An explosive pass rusher who showcased more of a physical element to his game off the edge this season. However, he still looks more like a 3-4-rush linebacker at the next level.

SS Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech (6-3, 230)
A big, physically strapping safety who possesses some intriguing straight-line speed but struggles to redirect and will likely have a tough time holding up vs. the pass game in an NFL secondary.

Follow me on Twitter: WesBunting

Williams is a Cowboys afterthought

Roy Williams’ comments Wednesday were not the type of thing you’d expect to hear from a Cowboys WR — or any wide receiver for that matter — in the NFL.

Instead of bitching and complaining that the ball was not coming his way from QB Tony Romo (sound familiar?), Williams shot us straight and basically told us the truth.

Williams, who was without question the team’s No.1 receiver in training camp, told the Dallas Morning News, “If I continue to do the things I’ve been doing, I’m going to mess around and be on the sidelines playing special teams. I didn’t get a look in the second half, so that’s telling me my quarterback has lost that confidence in me and so has the coordinator in calling the play for me. That’s not on them. I don’t blame them. I’ve brought it on myself. I’ve got to get my stuff together and help this team win some games in the playoffs.”

Beyond the fact that it’s abnormal for an NFL receiver to admit that he alone is the reason for a lack of productivity, there’s something here I want to talk about — because it tells a story about how a season progresses in the NFL.

We have to remember that the Cowboys’ biggest question mark heading into Week 1 of the season was the lack of a playmaker on the outside. Williams was supposed to be the answer, but as the season progressed and the development of Miles Austin continued, Williams, like many players in this league, faded. He became an afterthought, a guy you could go to as a second read in the route. And with an on-field relationship already existing between Romo and TE Jason Witten, Williams essentially became the third option for Romo when he dropped back to pass.

A long cry from training camp in August.

And that’s just it. He hasn’t been consistent, and outside of what I think is a pretty reliable weapon in the red zone, he can’t be counted on at this point in the season. This isn’t a case of trying to beat down Williams; instead, it’s a case of a player like Austin showing the quarterback, the offensive coordinator and the head coach that he’s the one who’s accountable — and the one who can win games for this team.

This it how it works, just like a game plan that’s put together on Wednesday and torn up by the second quarter of Sunday’s game. Teams don’t have time to wait for a player to produce. Either you make plays or you step aside and assume your new role — which can’t be too appealing to Williams.

Quarterbacks know this. Tony Romo knows this. He knows when he drops back to pass that Austin and Witten are the guys who are going to catch the ball, break tackles and make plays in the open field. I saw it all the time during my own career with QBs like Warner, Favre, Brunell, etc. They ride the hot hand and go back to the guys who go across the middle or go up and get the football.

For Williams to admit this — especially publicly — is just stating what we already know. He’s become a second option, the runner-up, the prom date left standing alone at the dance.

But there are still games to play, and a possible postseason run for Williams and Dallas.

There will be another opportunity at some point in January — and he’ll have another chance to show Romo, Jason Garrett, Wade Phillips, Jerry Jones and all of us that he can deliver.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41