Below is Part I of an extensive interview with NFL Draft guru and College Football expert Mike Detillier. In this portion of the interview, Mr. Detillier covers a great deal of ground, ranging from the Two Dat that didn't happen and some of the top prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft.
In addition to being a frequent contributor on WWL 870 AM's Sports Talk program, Mr. Detillier produces an annual NFL Draft Guide, which can be ordered from his website, www.MikeDetillier.com.
TOK: What was the key factor in the Saints not getting the “Two Dat” ?
MD: The lack of a real strong and consistent pass rush was the main reason. Bottom line. They didn’t get it most of the year and it came back to haunt them against in the playoff game against Seattle.
An inconsistent running game, and a lot of that involved injuries was a factor, but they have to get better rushing the quarterback. They weren’t talented enough to hide those weaknesses. To win it all you have to have it all. That wasn’t the case this year.
TOK: The offensive line didn’t perform up to the same level as last season, why?
MD: Part of that involved injuries to the running backs. In part more and more emphasis was placed on Drew Brees throwing the ball and opposing teams understood this. He felt more pressure, blitz wise, than ever before. Early on I felt Jahri Evans wasn’t playing even close to being the best guard in the business, but he played real well late. Jon Stinchcomb didn’t play really as well as a year ago. His pass protection skills fell off.
TOK: Jermon Bushrod struggled in 2010, why wasn’t 2nd round pick Charles Brown given an opportunity to play in his place?
MD: I thought Bushrod played better this season than in 2009. He has really improved as a pass protector. He wasn’t the weak link. He’s a good player. It shows up more on the left side because he rarely gets help. He is out on an island, like a cornerback and he can make 52 great blocks and then on play 53 he gives up a sack and people say he sucks. I like what I saw from Bushrod last season.
Now in watching Brown in the summer practices and in preseason he got much better, but he needs work improving his overall body strength. He is still a football puppy at the tackle spot. He was recruited as a tight end at USC and played that spot early on in college. He has a chance to be a real good player in this league. It wouldn’t surprise me someday down the line to see Bushrod at right tackle and Brown on the left side, but I thought Jermon played pretty well in 2010.
TOK: Was letting Bobby McCray go a very wise move in retrospect?
MD: Bobby isn’t playing anywhere. If he was a real good player someone else would have swooped him up real quick and that didn’t happen. He was a bit player, nothing more than that. People always will remember him for the big hit on Kurt Warner in the playoff game, but he was not a real consistent pass rush force for the Saints and his work habits weren’t great either. No real football loss with his release. Jeff Charleston is a better football player than McCray.
TOK: Where was the long ball with Drew Brees this year?
MD: Good question. It had to do with just missing on a few early on, especially some real deep throws to Devery and some of it was Drew just being a little off and the receivers were dropping passes more than any other year I could remember. Robert Meachem was never completely healthy also and that showed up on the deeper throws. He just wasn’t able to get the separation we saw a year ago. But the big reason is that Drew was hurt in the Atlanta game and there was a time early and into the middle of the season that they tried to protect him from sitting in the pocket longer. Some of it was that teams were giving them the short pass and guarding better against the deep throw, but it came down to early disappointments throwing deep and Drew having the knee injury against Atlanta.
TOK: Do you believe that Drew was injured more than he and Coach Payton let on?
MD: No question. It was not as serious as others made it out to be, but he fought through it. Throwing the ball is such a timing issue and he went through a stretch where the injury had an effect on his throws, but we all saw him get progressively better as the knee healed. Great competitor. Just terrific to fight through it and play through the injury, but without a real healthy wheel it has an effect on your throws because it is the set-up issue. But it was more serious than the coach made it out to be, but I understand the camouflage. I would have handled it the same way once I got the medical “good and bad” from the doctors.
TOK: Let’s jump to the draft quickly. You have said for quite some time that LSU’s Patrick Peterson is the best player in the 2011 NFL draft. Do you think he will go with the top pick?
MD: Yes and no. I have him the highest rated player in this draft and I think he is the best cover-cornerback I have seen come out of the SEC since Champ Bailey came out of Georgia, but I don’t think he will go Number One. I think Nick Fairley from Auburn or Da’Quan Bowers from Clemson will claim that top spot. Once Andrew Luck decided to stay, then Peterson vaulted to the top spot. He also adds great value as a return man.
Let me add that in my 27 years doing this Peterson is the best football player I have seen come out of LSU. Great prospect. Only one cornerback in my time evaluating college talent has graded out higher at the cornerback slot and that was Deion Sanders when he came out of Florida State.
TOK: You and Bobby Hebert have differed on thoughts on Peterson, right?
MD: A little. I like him better than Bobby does yes, but he is an old quarterback so he goes in the direction of offense. (Laughing) He would like to see him be a more physical player, but he played with Deion Sanders so he understands what they pay Peterson to do.
TOK: Let’s get back to Andrew Luck. During the summer you did a feature article on Andrew Luck, it was picked up nationally by just about everyone at the Manning Camp, and I remember you saying he was the best college quarterback you have seen since Troy Aikman came out of UCLA.
MD: The crazy thing was that he pretty much stayed sitting alone for almost the complete hour in the media room. When I walked up to ask for the interview he had no other reporter around him. There was much more attention paid to Kellen Moore from Boise State and Greg McElroy from Alabama than Luck. We did a television shot with him for the local television station, HTV, and twice he told me he was coming back for his senior season. It’s his poise, his intelligence, his accuracy skills and his ability to lift a team up not just a notch, but two or three notches that make him special. He’s the best college quarterback I’ve seen since Aikman.
TOK: I heard your reports from Mobile at the Senior Bowl and you said that defensive linemen will dominate the first round, so that is the strength of this draft class?
MD: No question…. I put out a mock draft in mid-to-late January and I have 9 defensive ends going in Round One, and three defensive tackles going in Round One and so there will be a pretty large amount of defensive tackles in Round One also. Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue and Cameron Jordan from California were the two best defensive linemen in Mobile. Both really aided their draft stock. But OLB./DE. Von Miller was the best pass rusher in Mobile.
TOK: Do you think Von Miller is a top 5 pick?
MD: Yes… no question. The guy didn’t have a huge impact in the Cotton Bowl against LSU, but he is a terrific pass rusher from the edge, outstanding football instincts, great motor and a top five pick.
TOK: I saw since your list and your mock draft came out plenty of others nationally are saying the exact same thing, but after the fact?
MD: It’s pretty obvious to see what is the real strength of this draft class is so I think you figure it out quick.
TOK: How would you rate Patrick Robinson’s performance: is he worth the first round pick or not?Will he blossom in the future or be the next Alex Molden?
MD: He has great talent, but it is the structure of his game. He minds flutters around and he needs to concentrate more on his techniques and not freelance as much. He is exactly what you would love to have in a cornerback. He has great size, quick feet, good recovery skills and he has great leaping skills. But it is the mental toughness to excel at the spot that is in question. He is an undisciplined technical guy and still is right now.
TOK: That is exactly what you said about him on draft day and why you didn’t have him ranked as a first round pick correct? You had him an early to mid 2nd round pick grade.
MD: Yes… Now Gregg Williams really was on him about his techniques and his focus all training camp and in the practices. It’s way too early to label him an Alex Molden guy. Alex had no ball reaction skills. Patrick has good ball skills. It is just the consistency part and the focus that is lacking right now.
TOK: Do you see Darren Sharper on this team in 2011?
MD: No… Age, money and injuries say he is gone.
TOK: How about Scott Shanle?
MD: Yes, he returns, but I think he moves to the strong side spot.