Draft King Analysis|
January 20, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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We're just two days away from the NFL conference championship games: Ravens/Patriots and Giants/49ers. The losing teams this weekend from will draft in the #29 and #30 slots. As for who gets #29, it's the Giants (9-7) ahead of the Ravens (12-4) ahead of the Patriots (13-3 with a .453 opponent win percentage) ahead of the 49ers (13-3 with a .488 opponent win percentage).
If you missed it, the NFL has confirmed the list of players who are leaving school early for the 2012 NFL Draft. The way the league words it is a bit strange, referring to them as "players granted special eligibility" (perhaps to mollify the NCAA), but it confirms no eleventh-hour reversals by any of the elite guys. There's no going back now.
On the docket for tomorrow are a pair of games featuring college talent looking to impress NFL scouts. First up is the East-West Shrine Game, which will air live at 4 p.m. EST on the NFL Network from St. Petersburg, FL. There will likely be some overlap between it and the late game, the AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, airing live on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) beginning at 6 p.m. EST.
The NFL confirmed today that the Rams and Patriots will play in London in 2012. If you aren't sure which team will be the designated home team, you haven't been paying attention to how it typically works. It's the Rams who will be the "home team", which screws their loyal fans in St. Louis out of a once-every-eight-year opportunity to see the Patriots at the Edward Jones Dome against the Rams. As if season ticket holders weren't tough enough in this economy, the move rips a huge draw from the Rams' 2012 home schedule.
What's more, not only will the Rams lose a home game for 2012, but also for 2013 and 2014. Did Jeff Fisher know this was in the works before he took the Rams' head coaching gig? The Rams will be at a competitive disadvantage for the next three seasons as a result of the decision.
The Rams are one of the teams I'm watching closely, since what they do at #2 will impact everyone below them. St. Louis gave QB Sam Bradford $50 million guaranteed in 2010, and the Rams would be wise to provide him help on the offensive line and at wide receiver. The prohibitive favorite for the spot appears at this point to be USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, the near consensus top offensive line prospect in the 2012 Draft.
According to reports that came out on Wednesday, the Rams are insisting that right offensive tackle Jason Smith lower his $10 million base salary for 2012. Smith received $33 million guaranteed from St. Louis as the #2 overall pick out of Baylor in the 2009 NFL Draft out of Baylor, but he has never come close to the potential he showed at Baylor and in pre-draft workouts. He's also been plagued by concussion-related problems, which is no small issue.
Two spots down from the Rams in the 2012 NFL Draft order is Cleveland. If it goes Andrew Luck #1, Matt Kalil #2, and LSU CB Morris Claiborne at #3, which is my current projection as of this writing, Cleveland will have all sorts of choices with the #4 spot. Last year they traded down, with Atlanta offering multiple draft picks (including their first-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft) to move up and select Julio Jones.
It would seem unlikely that Cleveland would be inclined to trade down for a second consecutive year, though that might depend on what they're looking for from that top spot. If they want Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, they probably can't afford to move down very far. If they want Alabama RB Trent Richardson, there is a certain risk/reward to trading down, though with this draft being so deep at RB it would be foolish to use a high pick on any running back. That's not a knock on Richardson -- it's the reality of the modern pass-happy NFL product and the options that will be available in later rounds from a very deep RB draft class.
It would be easier to project what the Browns will do if there was a clear answer about what management thinks about Colt McCoy as a long-term prospect at QB. This article about Cleveland's 2012 plans is rather vague, and Mike Holmgren's politician-style answers don't clear up very much.