Last month John Ewing, our Manager of Research and Analytics, took a look at a few key position battles including NFL rookies, check them out here. It must be lunchtime in elementary school and its rectangle pizza day because John is going back for seconds as he continues reviewing up coming position battles around the NFL. (2012 projections for rookies are based on this analysis which projects rookie seasons for all NFL prospects as if they were starters on average NFL teams.)
Cleveland Browns – Starting RBs
Incumbent: Montario Hardesty, 2011 stats – 88 attempts, 266 yards, 0 TDs
With the departure of Peyton Hillis one might think that the starting job would be Hardesty’s. However a torn ACL ended his 2010 campaign before it began and a disappointing 2011 season leaves Hardesty fighting for playing time with a crowded depth chart.
Incumbent: Chris Ogbonnaya, 2011 stats – 73 attempts, 334 yards, 1 TDs
Ogbonnaya saw time last fall, mostly during November, when Hillis and Hardesty were injured. Against weak competition, Rams and Jaguars, Ogbonnaya rushed for 90 and 115 yards respectively. This production has given Ogbonnaya the opportunity to compete this summer for the starting job.
Incumbent: Brandon Jackson, 2011 stats – Did not play
Jackson suffered a toe injury that sidelined him for the 2011 campaign. Jackson was Cleveland’s big off-season signing in 2010 after Jackson helped the Packers win the Super Bowl. All reports have Jackson as probable for the start of training camp on July 29.
Challenger: Trent Richardson, 2012 projections – 279 attempts, 1,342 yards, 15 TDs
PredictionMachine.com’s number one ranked RB, the Browns traded up to select Richardson with the 3rd overall pick in the draft. Richardson won two national championships at ‘Bama, it remains to be seen if his winning pedigree will transfer to the pros. With uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position Richardson will be given the opportunity to prove he was worthy of his high draft selection.
Kansas City Chiefs – Starting DTs
Incumbent: Kelly Gregg, 2011 stats – 39 tackles, 0 forced fumbles, 1 sack
Gregg is a 13-year veteran out of Oklahoma who spent most of his career playing for the Ravens. In his only season with the Chiefs Gregg was a stopgap for the hole at DT in the 3-4 defense. Gregg was considering retirement after the 2011 season and isn’t currently listed on the Chiefs roster.
Challenger: Amon Gordon, 2011 stats – 23 tackles, 0 forced fumbles, 2 sacks
Gordon was the backup to Gregg last season, a journeyman player that has seen time with nine different teams in nine seasons. Gordon was a late addition to last seasons camp roster and may get the call to come try out again as he is not currently listed on the Chiefs roster.
Challenger: Jerrell Powe, 2011 stats – 0 tackles, 0 forced fumbles, 0 sacks
The second year man out of Mississippi played in one game last season. Powe was third on the depth chart a year ago behind Gregg and Gordon. If Gregg has retired Powe could see more playing time this fall.
Challenger: Dontari Poe, 2012 projections – 17.6 tackles, 0.6 forced fumbles, 1 sack
The strange thing about Poe is that he was PredictionMachine.com’s 2626 ranked defensive tackle. The Chiefs stunned those around the NFL when they took Poe with the 11 overall pick in the draft. During the NFL Scouting Combine Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said about Poe, “You guys, look at that butt…are you kidding me?!” A prospect's butt is not something that the Predictalator necessarily takes into consideration when projecting how they will fair in the NFL. Perhaps the Chiefs saw the same thing in Poe’s backside that Mayock did which would explain the selection. Either way Poe has a chance to start on the defensive line this fall.
New York Jets– Starting QBs
Incumbent: Mark Sanchez, 2011 stats – 3,474 yards, 26 TDs, and 18 INTs
Sanchez set career high marks in yards, completion percentage (56.7%), TDs, attempts (543), and QB rating (78.2). As such he was rewarded with a three-year extension that surprised many around the league. Why were some surprised? Because even though Sanchez set career highs in passing yards/TDs/completion percentage, those marks ranked him 15/9/28 among quarterbacks in the league. Mark Sanchez is a middle of the road QB at best. While the Jets might have extended Sanchez and proclaimed him their starter, they also did something even more curious. Enter Timothy Richard Tebow.
Challenger: Tim Tebow, 2011 stats - 2,497 yards, 16 TDs, and 9 INTs
There isn’t much I can tell you about Tebow that you don’t already know. He led the Broncos to the Divisional Round in the playoffs and made a highlight reel of late game heroics that were constantly featured on SportsCenter. What you might not know are these numbers, 32/27/34, Tebow’s rankings last season in passing yards/TDs/completion percentage. By all accounts Tebow is a worse QB than Sanchez, at least when looking at passing statistics. Tebow had 6 rushing TDs last season, good for 18 in the NFL. He also averaged 5.4 yards per carry which tied him for fourth in the NFL. Tebow might not be a traditional QB but he has value and the Jets are hoping to extract that value this coming season.
Challenger: Greg McElroy, 2011 stats - 0 yards, 0 TDs, and 0 INTs
McElroy injured his thumb in the final preseason game and was placed on injured reserve list on September 4, 2011. It’s just a guess but it will probably take serious injuries to Sanchez and Tebow for McElroy to see playing time.
Challenger: Matt Simms, 2012 projections - Not Available
Simms was an undrafted free agent that the Jets signed earlier this year. PredictionMachine.com did not project Simms’s stats for the up coming season because he did not make our list of top QB prospects (in other words, Simms completed just 43.5% of his 62 pass attempts last year).