NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi has released his annual list of blue-chip and red chip-players, which is always a good read for football fans. Despite the bias you may feel Lombardi holds for the Browns organization, his evaluation criteria is concise and tried at the NFL level. Lombardi is also a regular guest on Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report podcast and refers to the list throughout the season.
The 2012 edition features two Browns players on offense: left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack. Both made the list as blue-chippers last season as well. Some other interesting tidbits from the piece:
- Wide receiver Victor Cruz’s shocking rise continues. He’s now a blue-chip wideout after going undrafted a year ago. What a find he’s been for the defending champs.
- Wide receiver A.J. Green of the rival Cincinnati Bengals also made the list of blue-chippers after a successful rookie season. Ouch.
- Speaking of rivals, the Browns’ two listed players still slots them last in the AFC North, as both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bengals have three blue-chip/red-chip players apiece, and the Baltimore Ravens have four.
- With Mack and Thomas, the Browns are one of two teams with two blue-chippers on the same unit. The New England Patriots’ two-headed tight end monster of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are the other.
- The Steelers have two red-chippers at receiver and the Ravens and Bengals both have two red-chippers on the offensive line.
- The Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers each have a blue-chipper and red-chipper on their offensive lines.
- Carl Nicks is the highest listed blue-chip guard, and he was signed as an unrestricted free agent. I tend to agree with the Browns’ non-aggressive philosophy regarding free agents, but Nicks was an exception this year. I wonder if the Browns made him an offer, and along with that, would their approach have been different had Jimmy Haslam III owned the team back in March?
- It’s against Lombardi’s rules to throw rookies on these lists, but it will be bad news if Trent Richardson is not one of the featured running backs after this season.
As for the defensive players, Joe Haden earns high praise here as a blue-chip corner, and D’Qwell Jackson earns a nod as a red-chip inside linebacker. Some other bites:
- Ahtyba Rubin is called out in the article as just missing the cut for defense tackles. Interesting, as this New York Times Browns preview nails Rubin as the most overrated tackle in the NFL.
- It feels like the Steelers should have more than three total players listed. They are linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu. Maybe they are on the decline? Woodley is the only one in the bunch under 30 years old.
- Linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed are still on this list. It’s no coincidence the Browns’ decade-long struggle has coincided with the careers of two Hall of Famers in their division.
- Did you see Joe Thomas getting handled last Friday? Don’t worry, defensive end Trent Colt is also a blue-chipper for the Philadelphia Eagles. His teammate, defensive end Jason Babin, is a red-chipper on the same unit.
- The San Francisco 49ers had the best defense in football last year, and as a result, Lombardi has named a whopping six players from their unit as either blue- or red-chip players.
- Brodrick Bunkley made the list as a red-chip defensive tackle. It’s a shame his trade to the Browns last year for a fifth-round pick didn’t work out.