Clayton Bashed For Saying Flacco’s Elite

John Clayton weighed in with his Ravens-related thoughts from the NFL Combine.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Friday, February 25th, 2011 at 10:44 am | Categories: 2011 NFL Combine, Mike Duffy

While at the NFL Scouting Combine, ESPN’s NFL expert John Clayton took some time to chat with about the potential work stoppage and his thoughts on some key Ravens topics.

Here’s what he had to say… You’ve been a vocal fan of Joe Flacco and have taken a lot of heat for it. What is your assessment of his 2010 season?

Clayton:  “I think at the end of the season in the Kansas City game, there was some unfair criticism.  Even in the Jets game, too, just from the standpoint that there is no speed at the wide receiver position – in certain matchups.  When they match up against teams that [use] man press with their cornerbacks, then there’s a big problem.  You saw it in the Cincinnati game, the Kansas City game, the Jets game.  All of a sudden, he’s standing back there patting the ball waiting for Todd Heap to get open and for Ray Rice to get into some sort of a checkdown position. There are only a couple of options when that happens.

“There are only three to five matchups a year currently like that, but something has to be added at receiver.  Now, it looks like he’s going to get a little bit more control over the offense, and that’s good.  In the Kansas City game, he was particularly good even though there were only two options, and he had to stand there and wait for those options to try to be open.  I still think as he grows and grows and grows, at some point everybody else around the country that is bashing me for saying he’s an elite quarterback will finally get on the bandwagon. 

“I’ll stand by the fact that as many playoff games that he’s won on the road, this guy is an elite quarterback.” How has the uncertain labor situation between owners and the NFL Players’ Association changed this particular combine?

Clayton: “It’s just so distracting, but maybe there’s hope next week in the mediation that they can extend [negotiations] and them possibly get a deal.  But, it’s distracting for everyone involved just in the standpoint that coaches can’t even get together with their new staffs and get their new players the playbook.  That kind of holds things back.

“And of course, you’ve got all these general managers and agents that want to be cheating on deals and try to get something done.  They don’t know when they can start doing this stuff.  So, it gets everything in a paralysis state.

“As far as the evaluation of players, that goes as normal.  But after 22 years of covering these combines here, this is as different of a combine as I’ve seen.” Do you expect a lot of teams to bring back their own free agents, as they did last year?

Clayton:  “We’re running out of time.  Baltimore’s brought back more than just about anybody else, but really, since the offseason, there’s only been about 13 or 14 deals.  Yeah, there’s been more franchise tags than any other time since 1993, but still, there are 470 free agents!  They’re not all going to get done by next Friday.” There has been a lot of speculation about the Ravens releasing Willis McGahee. What are your thoughts on that?

Clayton: “He would have to anticipate that. When you go through the usual list of cap casualties and you see a guy making $5 to $6 million and is not the starter and is not going to be the starter, there is a good chance in a tight economy that he’s going to be a cap casualty. 

“And then it comes down to the options out there.  I would still think there’s going to be a market, particularly for a big back who can do some things.  Clearly, it’s going to be at a reduced number.”

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