Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" -- and Insider -- Gary Horton, stops in to talk some football and other news from around the league.
Horton, from Scouts Inc., works year-round on ESPN's NFL-related shows, breaking down film, earning him his Caveman nickname.
Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Send your questions now and join Horton Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (4:01 PM)
Gary is here!
What will it take for running backs to be featured prominently in the first few rounds of the draft?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think we're going through an era right now where the RB position is really being devalued. We're seeing so many spread offenses with multi-receiver sets and not many teams are looking for a 3-down back. A lot of the RBs right now are being used as much as receivers as we are backs. So much shotgun looks make it hard to run the ball. And we've almost seen a disappearance of the fullback. There are just not a lot of physical offenses that run the ball, even though a case can be made that good teams like Seattle and San Francisco still have good offensive balance. I also think that as the weather deteriorates late in the season, being able to run the ball and control the clock is really important. Even an offense like Philadelphia who we think of as a wide open, pass happy scheme, they run the ball more than you think. It's just from a lot of formations and not in a traditional look.
While their need for a safety is way overblown, do you think the depth and talent available this year is a perfect situation for Ted Thompson to trade their first round pick to a quarterback needy team? It doesn't seem like many of the options available to them at 21 will necessarily fit the value of the slot.
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
That's certainly a possibility, because I know that Thompson really values his draft picks. That's how he likes to build his football team. The more the better. But I also know that this draft is so deep that they look at it and see a very good player coming to them. I'm not sure they'll move around just to get more picks. I do think they have a need in the secondary, but they could also easily take a LB, either inside or outside to bolster the run defense or help as an edge pass rush. I will not rule out the TE position. I think this is the draft that may not have as many trades as we normally see, at least early. The draft is so deep, I don't think there is a huge need by teams to move around. This could be a year where teams let the draft come to them.
What do you see the 49ers doing? Realistically, doesn't it make sense for them to package some picks and trade up a couple of times? Granted, this all takes willing trade partners. But, they can't have THAT many spots to fill with volume picks. Why not make less picks with quality players? Their window is open now as a contender.
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think you're right. They'll explore that, as they have a lot of ammunition. However, I've watched a lot of film on this team and I think there are more holes than we realize. They need a big time WR. Their OL could use upgrading. Their edge pass rush could become a problem, depending on what happens to Aldon Smith. You have an ILB in Bowman coming off a tough knee injury. And you lost some quality in the secondary, where they could really use some help at CB. While they have a lot of excellent playmakers, I don't know if this team can be as care free in giving up picks as we might have thought a month ago.
Most important thing for the Titans to come away with in the draft?
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I know a lot of people possibly taking a QB with the 11th pick. But I don't see it. I think they should stay with Jake Locker, for at least another year and not make the QB position quite as important. They could certainly look at the defensive side of the ball, maybe at LB -- a guy to rush off the edge -- or maybe at CB, because we see so many spread offenses that require sub packages in today's NFL.
bob nj [via mobile]
hi gary do the jets draft a cb or a wr in the first round?
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
I think they are both equally as important. As I watch them on film, I really think they can struggle in their sub packages in coverage. Keep in mind that Rex Ryan loves to blitz. That means a lot of man-to-man schemes behind the blitz. Right now, they don't match up very well when they put those guys on an island. Also, we know that Ryan loves CBs. Having said that, I think signing Eric Decker was a nice move, but I think he's a complementary player rather than an elite No. 1. If they can get a guy to team with him to give them two good WRs, it gives Michael Vick or Geno Smith a much better chance to have success. I would be surprised if they don't go CB or WR in the first round.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
Teddy Bridgewater a first round pick to you? And Johnny Football a top 5 pick?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
The more I look at this draft, the more I think every one of these QBs has areas of concern. I don't know if there is a perfect, clean guy among them. I might be totally wrong, but I really think that we could be really surprised early in the draft as these guys could possibly fall. I think the second group of QBs has really gained favor with a lot of NFL teams. When you see guys like Wilson and Kaepernick, who were not first round picks, having success, there is a comfort level there. I personally think that there are so many good players in the first round that a lot of these teams may wait until the bottom of the first or early second to get their QB and not pass on a guy that they have graded as a better football player. I think Bridgewater has dropped, as his pro day really hurt him, whether it should have or not. And Manziel is an absolute roll of the dice. He is so hard to predict how his game will translate to the NFL. The first hour of this draft will answer the QB questions and what teams really think.
I'm curious how much of the rumors that you hear during the week leading up to the draft are even remotely legit vs. smoke screens? Seems like most of it is simply to confuse other GMs.
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
I think a good majority of them are smoke screens, because the teams do like to release information to confuse everybody. You're going to have to keep in mind that these teams talk to each other to get a feel for the draft. When you have close friends and you're trying to figure out who is moving up, who is moving down, who might be available, you have to figure out if it's a legit conversation and what needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But you have enough guys in your draft room who knows your board and knows what you're thinking, that it's hard to keep everybody quiet and keep the secrets.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary, The Minnesota Vikings didn't pick up the fifth-year option on Christian Ponder leaving Matt Cassel as the starter for 2014. Minnesota with the 8th pick in the draft take Blake Bortles in the first round ?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
They have always been a strong candidate to take a QB, as Cassel or Ponder were basically bridges to get them to a new QB. However, I'm not so sure Minnesota will take a QB at 8. Mike Zimmer is a defensive oriented coach. This is a team that's been in a rebuilding mode that has some holes. I could easily see them taking a LB, edge rusher in the first round and possibly trying to get the QB in the second round. Or, trading down at 8 to get extra picks, which they really need. And that might make taking a QB in the first round a little easier for them. They are an interesting team to watch. There is a possibility that all of the QBs will be there for them at 8. I would guess if they took one, it might be Bortles. OC Norv Turner has a huge say at what they do at QB and Bortles has that vertical arm that Turner loves.
Marko (Backbay, MA )
Would you rather see the draft go back to its old April format or are you comfortable with this new later format?
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I understand what the NFL is doing, because spreading this out gives every month something for fans to really get excited about. But, personally, I probably like it better in April. I think teams have plenty of time to get ready, and not overthink or overscout players. I think that these extra weeks put a lot of pressure on these players to have so many visits and individual workouts that it almost seems like too much. I'm wondering if it somehow devalues the combine a little bit. Something very interesting to watch, if the draft continues in May, is if agents start shutting down their players with individual workouts the last few weeks before the draft.
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
For a lot of football fans, this may be the most exciting week of the year. We have certainly had enough time to get ready for it. It should be an exciting 3 days. We will attempt to dissect it all next Monday.