Joining us for this week’s Thursday Q & A is NFL Draft Guru Chad Reuter.  Chad currently writes for CBSSports.com so as we approach the NFL Draft we’ll get his take on a wide range of topics as it relates to the upcoming event.

To call this a little known fact would be an understatement, as only you & I mostly likely know it, but we attended UW-Eau Claire at the same time & also sang together in The Singing Statesmen. So the first question out of the gate is, was I as cool as I thought I was back then?  Actually, scratch that, I don’t think I want to know.  In all seriousness though, how did you get from Eau Claire, WI to writing for CBSSports.com?

Though I was only in the Statesmen with you for a couple of semesters, I remember spending some time in a certain house on Water Street singing Jimmy Buffet’s “Volcano.” :)

The short story is that in December of 2000, I combined the skills I learned at Eau Claire (B.A. in Economics) and UW-Madison (M.A. in Public Policy Analysis) with my interest in football to create an analysis-based fan site called packerdraft.com.

I started the site as just something fun to do, but a year later, a couple of NFL teams contacted me about some of the analyses I published. Then I started sending my information, including player evaluations, to all of the teams throughout the league. Eventually, networking with various organizations and media outlets at the Senior Bowl and other all-star games connected me with NFLDraftScout.com.

Now NDS partners with CBSSports.com on their draft coverage–I take no credit for that deal coming together, though.

What’s the biggest difference between working for yourself on your own site vs working for or being part of a larger organization?

Perceived credibility is the main difference. NFL/CFL/AFL teams have worked with NFLDraftScout.com  for years, and working with CBSSports.com opens some additional doors. Running my own site was really rewarding, but it’s truly an honor to be able to work with NDS and CBS.

I was asked told by one of the PocketDoppler.com people that I was supposed to ask you about Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick. What is your general opinion of Kaepernick and where do you see him going?

Kaepernick’s an intelligent, well-spoken young man with very good athleticism and arm strength. His experience as a pitcher (he was drafted by the Cubs in 2009) shows that arm strength, but has also given him a longer, wider delivery than scouts prefer. He also relies on that arm too often, throwing flatfooted, and lacks great accuracy on intermediate and deep routes. Like Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, Kaepernick is also working on his footwork, and ability to read defenses, while coming out from under center.

My opinion is that he has a chance to be a good quarterback if given a chance to develop. Teams would get the best value in the third round, where they could use first and second round selections to get players more able to immediately contribute–that’s less about Kaepernick’s ability than about the difficulty of playing quarterback in the NFL.

Teams that I’ve spoken to are split on whether Kaepernick will go in the second or third round, but the need for signal-callers (and inability to have signed a veteran free agent before the draft) could cause his name to be called in the second.

Towards the end of the college season, Auburn’s Nick Fairley was a hot name, some even thinking he could be the number one pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  Interest now though seems to have significantly cooled, why has Fairley’s stock dropped so much?

NFL teams really don’t get a chance to check into underclassmen like Fairley until after the season is over. Once they start talking with coaches and digging into backgrounds, scouts get the answers to questions about his work ethic, why he attended junior college coming out of high school, and why he made a much smaller impact in 2009 than he did in 2010.

And, frankly, his performance in the BCS Championship Game was not as dominant as people believe (he went unblocked on two of three tackles for loss, played against 280-285 linemen of a caliber he won’t often see in the NFL). The footwork he showed at the Combine and his pro day, as well as the fantastic tape he put together against SEC competition this fall, still make him a potential difference-maker as a top 15 pick.

Somewhat on the opposite side of the spectrum, interest in Cam Newton seems to be creeping up.  In your mind, is Cam Newton a Top 5 pick & if so, who should pick him.

The interest in Newton has always been there. Quarterbacks rule every draft, simply because it’s the most important position on the field. Ones with arm strength, athleticism, toughness (mental and physical) should be coveted, especially when coming off two national championships — one at Blinn Junior College, sure, but the other leading a team though an undefeated season in the SEC.

If Auburn coaches told me Newton put in the work to succeed and worked well with his teammates, and if my coaches were willing to build an offense around his specific talents (which all good coaches do), it would be tough to pass up a guy with his physical talents in the top five.

Unfortunately, we don’t have access to what coaches told teams in the top five. Some scouts have bad opinions of Newton’s personality, but others have pointed out positive examples to me about his work ethic, responsibility, and leadership abilities.

I’ve had Newton going number one to Carolina for some time, but whether he goes there or to Buffalo with the number three pick, teams will have something to work with in the future. He won’t be Peyton Manning, but if he makes enough plays in the Ben Roethlisberger mold, a team can win a lot of games with him under center.

If there is a player that free falls through the first round, who might that be?

Typically, a workout warrior falls out of the first round if teams aren’t sure about his fit. Remember when Bruce Campbell and Taylor Mays were assumed to be first round picks due to their athleticism? Florida State defensive end Everette Brown was supposed to be a first rounder a couple of years ago, too; but his fall into the second round probably portends the same for similar Georgia’s DE/OLB Justin Houston. Houston can be really quick off the snap, but his average flexibility and instincts remind scouts too much of Vernon Gholston.

Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn could go in the mid-first because scouts still like his effort and strong hands, but depending on how the board falls, it is possible teams will be worried enough about the strength of his right arm (and relative lack of production in 2010) that he may drop. Baylor’s Phil Taylor also has also had weight, stamina and off-field issues potentially pushing him into Friday night’s festivities.

When it comes to Wisconsin Badgers in this draft, most of the focus is on Gabe Carimi & JJ Watt.  Someone that seems a little forgotten is TE Lance Kendricks. Where would you rank Kendricks in this year’s crop of tight ends and in what round would you expect him to be picked?

Kendricks is in the mix in the third or fourth round with guys like Nevada’s Virgil Green, USC’s Jordan Cameron and Florida Atlantic’s Rob Housler. He doesn’t have the speed teams usually require to take a 245-lb H-back in the second round. In fact, there may not be a tight end picked in the second round this year if Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph is picked up in the first–as most expect given his clean bill of health and pro day workout. Former Badger tight end Travis Beckum went to the Giants with the 100th pick in 2009, and I expect Kendricks to fall within plus-minus 20 spots from that point this year.

I think Wisconsin guard John Moffitt actually has a chance to be picked before Kendricks. Some teams love his versatility as a guard/center, toughness and quick feet (don’t worry about 5.5 40) enough to consider him in the third round.

Any insight to workouts or visits that draft prospects have done with the Green Bay Packers in recent weeks?

It’s interesting to see Arizona linebacker Brooks Reed visiting the team, because not only does he have Clay Matthews’ haircut, but also similar athleticism (just a shade less) and superior strength. Reed’s performance as a stand-up pass rusher at the Senior Bowl (after barely playing that role for the Wildcats) also opened eyes.

Two later-round picks that went to Green Bay are very intriguing. Cal’s Jeremy Ross is a very good return prospect who could provide depth at receiver. Southern Miss NT Anthony Gray is only 5-11, but has the stout build, pure strength and surprisingly nimble feet for a 330-pound lineman.

Ted Thompson isn’t shy about taking a shot at a player he’s enamored with, no matter what level of college ball they played. Who are a couple of Division II (or even III) players you could see the Packers showing some interest in.

Will Rackley from Lehigh (FCS) is a potential second round pick as a guard/tackle combination player who plays strong and should fit in well in the Packers’ blocking system. Defensive end Markell Carter from Central Arkansas (FCS) is a draftable player who made a visit to Green Bay. The 6-4, 248-pound Carter doesn’t have ridiculous stats, but is a good athlete, is quick off the snap, and has length to become an interesting rush linebacker with coaching.

D2 receivers Edmond Gates and Ricardo Lockette would both fit into the Packers’ offense, as probably give them a good kick return option, as mid-round picks. D3 star Cecil Shorts III from Mount Union is another mid-round receiver/returner prospect. All three guys have good speed, though they all showed some average hands on the all-star game circuit. Shorts also didn’t play to his speed at the East-West Shrine Game, Lockette reportedly failed a test for high testosterone (though he denied it in some interviews) after winning the 200 meters at the 2009 Division II meet, while Gates lacks experience and will turn 25 years old this summer. As mid-round picks, though, the potential outweighs the risks.

Rather than ask who the Packers take, let’s expand that to the division. Which players are drafted in the first round by each NFC North team?

There are three options for each team. This draft is so wide open, even at the 12th and 13th spots where the Vikings and Lions respectively pick, that it’s tough to have a lot of confidence nailing them down. And of course, the Bears and Packers will be waiting for any talented players to slip through the cracks later in the round.

Chicago Bears: OT Marcus Cannon / DT Marvin Austin / OT Derek Sherrod
Detroit Lions: OT Anthony Castonzo / OT Nate Solder / DE Da’Quan Bowers
Green Bay: OLB Brooks Reed / DE Cameron Heyward / RB Mikel Leshoure
Minnesota Vikings: DE Da’Quan Bowers / DE Cameron Jordan / OT Tyron Smith

…and now for the lightening round.

Your all-time favorite professional athlete is:

The only jersey for which I ever paid full-price was #92, Reggie White. His decision to go to Green Bay revitalized the Packers franchise, and in a way, helped me on the road that has led me to where I am now. Honorable mention goes to Tiger Woods and Barry Sanders, whose highlight reels I could watch over and over again in total amazement.

Your favorite sports blog to read that you don’t contribute/write for is:

I honestly don’t read any sports blogs…I have enough trouble getting done what I need to get done every day! Reading Twitter is my window into others’ opinions.

If there was no NFL Draft, you would have a blog about:

I would love to have a general sports blog; I follow the four majors plus golf and European soccer. Classic rock is another topic I love to discuss/review.

If you were a professional athlete, your sport & position would be:

I’d definitely be a Scott Wells-type center. Short arms, small hands, but I’d bring it every week.

Should I ever run into you at a bar, I should buy you a _____________ for taking the time to answer these questions.

Coca-Cola on the rocks. I’d love some cheese curds from the Camaderie, but alas, my favorite Eau Claire hangout burned down a while back.

Thanks to Chad for taking time out of his busy schedule this time of the year to be our guest and talk NFL Draft today.  You can find more of Chad’s thoughts at CBSSports.com and also on Twitter , a must follow this time of year.

Would you like to be the guest for a PocketDoppler.com Thursday Q & A? Let us know!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Jason

    Chad Reuter made this statement on Draft Scout Radio last September and has been very reluctant to every get too positive on Kaepernick: “Colin Kaepernick is not a QB at the next level. He’s a TE or WR possibly but not a QB”

    Make what you want of it, but he said it pretty emphatically to his colleague at the time.

    He’s never been high on him.

  • foundinidaho

    Well, I’m the one who asked/told Wally to ask this question. He beat Boise State. That’s more than anyone else could do. I seem to remember that QB1 was a pretty fair baseball player too…