Draft King Analysis|
January 7, 2013
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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There are still plenty of moving parts in play when it comes to NFL coaching and management vacancies, but some things are starting to shift into place. And, while free agency will impact the draft like it has every year since 1993 (save for 2011), here are some thoughts to consider about the top 24 spots in the draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: The baffling move by the Chiefs to not fire GM Scott Pioli on Black Monday made sense once they hired Andy Reid for a GM/HC dual role and then dumped Pioli. Had the Chiefs not landed Reid, it's entirely possible that they might not have found a suitable candidate to fill both jobs. Reid faces some immediate tough decisions: does he try to keep WR Dwayne Bowe in house? The threat of the franchise tag is some high stakes poker considering that Bowe was tagged in 2012 and 120% of his $9.5M+ salary would be north of $11.4M. Personally I think Bowe is worth it, though a long-term contract would definitely be the way to go if at all possible, but I'm not Andy Reid.
More important: who will Reid get to play quarterback? West Virginia QB Geno Smith is the best of what's around, and absent a trade or suitable free agent signing (good luck with the latter), Reid hitching his wagon to Smith makes the most sense at this point. It's still way too soon to tell though, but given the strong core of defensive talent on the team, going defense here would seem unlikely. Jarvis Jones would be fun to see in a KC uniform as a 3-4 OLB pass rushing menace, but the team has more pressing needs.
If it's not Geno Smith to KC, it's entirely possible that the Chiefs would snag Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel if he ends up turning pro, particularly if former first-round OG/OT tweener Branden Albert leaves as an unrestricted free agent. Also, if South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney wasn't required to spend another year in the NFL's free minor league system (aka college football) thanks to a corrupt and unjust system that is passively accepted by the masses, he would be a strong favorite to go #1 overall, even with the Chiefs having so many other needs. But since society in the United States has become used to allowing restrictions of the freedoms of young adults in all kinds of arbitrary ways over the past several decades, and more importantly because Maurice Clarett's 2004 court challenge of the NFL "three years removed from high school" rule failed, Clowney can't and won't be in the mix here. It's a shame for all involved.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Until the team hires a new GM it will be tough to know much other than what can be deduced from team need. It will take some time to repair the damage done by some of Gene Smith's quixotic (and I'm being kind when I used that work) choices, and while Geno Smith would be a nice fit for the Jags, I don't think that's going to be in the cards for them. The sad reality for Jacksonville is that they were dead last in the NFL in sacks last year with 20, shockingly five less than the second-worst team, Oakland with 25. To be sure, whether it's Jarvis Jones or Damontre Moore or another playmaking pass rusher, they would be well-advised to target a top-tier defensive end with elite pass rush skills here.
3. Oakland Raiders: Since the Raiders don't have a second-round pick thanks to the Carson Palmer trade, it would make sense for them to trade down from here, even if they really like Star Lotulelei or Johnathan Hankins at this spot well above other DT prospects. Replacing the almost-certain-to-leave pending UFA Richard Seymour at defensive tackle should be a high priority for the Raiders, but just as important is acquiring additional picks -- if the right suitor comes along, of course. Note that most teams in the top four this year would likely benefit strongly by trading down, and the 2012 Draft proved to any doubters that the financial challenge of trading into or out of the top five is no longer the burden it was under the previous CBA.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: There are a number of possibilities for the Eagles here. I personally am leaning toward them going 4-3 DE here based on the talent likely to be available and the stretch that taking any cornerback at #4 would be. Luke Joeckel could be a consideration if he's on the board, but with OT Jason Peters returning from a ruptured right Achilles tendon suffered last April that caused him to miss all of the 2012 season, that might not be the most desirable option here for the Eagles.
5. Detroit Lions: DE Cliff Avril is gone after this season and almost for sure won't be franchised for a second consecutive season, not with the tag making much more sense to be used on FS Louis Delmas. Luckily for the Lions, this draft is loaded with 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB talent, and they should have several options for that here.
6. Cleveland Browns: It's hard to know what the Browns will do without a GM or head coach on board, but there is a serious need in Cleveland for a top-flight pass-rushing threat. The team has more quality parts and pieces in place than many realize, and with a key additions and proper coaching they could be poised to make a playoff run sooner as opposed to later.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Much like Cleveland, what Arizona decides to do is contingent in many ways on who the team brings in to run the show. But clearly there is a major need at quarterback and offensive tackle (and the offensive line overall) which will need to be fixed by whoever ends up taking over the team's management.
8. Buffalo Bills: The Bills are another team that could use a franchise quarterback, and with GM Buddy Nix under pressure to find a bona fide top quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick's 2011 new contract came after the team started 5-2 and at the apex of his career. Since then it's been all downhill for him and the Bills, and with the clock ticking on Nix, I would suspect he would make a move to acquire a veteran QB this offseason as opposed to targeting a QB at this spot in the draft. We'll see.
9. New York Jets: A friend of mine asked me what I would do if it was my job to fix the Jets. My take: make a big move in free agency for a wide receiver, say Mike Wallace if he isn't franchised by the Steelers. Revamp the rushing attack. This isn't to advocate ordering pancakes, especially this high up on the menu, but something more inspired than Tony Sparano + Shonn Greene is a must for 2013. Mark Sanchez, for all of his accuracy issues, is still the same guy who led his team to back-to-back AFC Championship appearances, and the Jets are into him for enough guaranteed cash that keeping him for 2013 would seem to be logical.
And yet, despite all of this, I would think targeting one of the several elite 3-4 OLB pass-rushing types at #9 makes the most sense. Even after Darrelle Revis got hurt, the team's defense didn't crumble -- it actually remained remarkably strong. But with this draft being so top-heavy with pass-rushing talent, and with the Jets lacking any real breakout pass-rushing OLB, it would be prudent to give full consideration to going OLB at this spot. A rush OLB at #9, a solid RB in round two (e.g. Eddie Lacy, Joseph Randle, or Giovani Bernard), a quality wide receiver via free agency... maybe it would work, maybe not, but that's what I would do.
10. Tennessee Titans: Oh, my poor beloved Titans. There's a better-than-decent chance that they could have their pick of the CB crop here, and it's imperative that they target a top-tier cornerback. As much as I dogged the Dolphins for replacing Brandon Marshall with nothing in 2012, the Titans were just as egregious in their actions by not finding a suitable replacement for Cortland Finnegan, who was welcomed with open arms by former coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. It's possible that they could fill that need in free agency, but if not then this is the spot for GM Ruston Webster to fix the mistake he made in the last off-season.
11. San Diego Chargers: Offensive line has to be a serious consideration here, dependent of course of who is on the board. Cornerback might also be on the docket depending on what happens with Chris Carr, Antoine Cason, and Quentin Jammer all pending UFAs. It's hard to anticipate very much since the team needs a new GM and head coach, but OL and DB are early favorites for the Chargers at this spot.
|Dolphins WR Brian Hartline is slated to become a free agent in March.|
(Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY Sports)
12. Miami Dolphins: WR Brian Hartline is a pending UFA who has ridiculously skewed numbers thanks to his out-of-nowhere 253 yard receiving performance against Arizona in week four. Beyond him, the leading receivers in 2012 for the team: WR Davone Bess (778 yards), TE Anthony Fasono (332), RB Reggie Bush (292) and FB Charles Clay (212). No one else had more than 200 yards receiving. It's impossible to fairly judge QB Ryan Tannehill when he's had to work with such a piss-poor receiving corps -- I wasn't high on Tannehill coming out of Texas A&M, but he had the misfortune of ending up on a team that gave him almost no one viable to throw to on a regular basis and still managed to look at least decent. The Dolphins absolutely must address the wide receiver position in a major way this off-season: free agency, the draft, even a trade if necessary.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cornerback cornerback cornerback cornerback cornerback. Cornerback.
14. Carolina Panthers: Until the team hires a new GM it will be tough to make many predictions, but defensive tackle could use an upgrade. Wide receiver and cornerback are also need spots, and it will be interesting to see how Carolina's next managemet regime approaches the team's lineup this off-season. To a degree they will be limited thanks to the crazy spending spree that former GM Marty Hurney went on after the new CBA was ratified in 2011. The Panthers rolled the dice that four year players wouldn't regain their UFA status, they lost out on that bet, and then they spent copious amounts of money to keep their suddenly pending free agents in house. And, in the NFL, sooner or later you pay the price for overspending.
15. New Orleans Saints: This is a team without any overwhelming needs, but one that could benefit from upgrades at a variety of positions. Trading down makes sense, but so does going with the "best player available" at this spot. They have some options, to be sure, and with Sean Payton returning from coaching exile I expect the Saints to be competitive in 2013.
16. St. Louis Rams: The Rams could very well be one top-flight wide receiver and cornerstone offensive tackle away from doing some great things. The CB combo of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins is great, the 50 million dollar man at QB (Sam Bradford) is about to enter a key fourth season, and with a few deft moves, the Rams could be ready to make things *really* interesting in the NFC West in 2013. Note: if Bradford has a mediocre 2013, there might not be a 2014 for him in St. Louis, not with a base salary of $14M+ that he'll be due if he's on the 2014 opening day roster without a reworked deal.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Much like the Patriots, it seems that the Steelers are very good at finding guys who fit their system especially well. How they choose to handle pending UFA WR Mike Wallace will be interesting. Cornerback almost for sure needs to be addressed; I'm an admitted homer for Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes, but I say take him here, especially if Alabama CB Dee Milliner and Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks are both off the board. But with veterans like Casey Hampton and Larry Foote pending UFAs and LB James Harrison a likely salary cap casualty, breathing new life into that vaunted 3-4 front seven will also likely be a pressing concern for the Steelers. GM Kevin Colbert has shown he knows what he's doing, but this will be a challenge for even him.
18. Dallas Cowboys: What happens with pending UFA OLB Anthony Spencer this off-season? How much patience does Jerry Jones have left for Tony Romo, who is due $11.5M in the final year of his contract in 2013 and turns 33 in April? Can Jones manage to avoid running his trap and exposing the team's draft plans? Will the team stretch to take "the next J.J. Watt" here, overlooking that Watt's incredible quickness combined with his long arms makes him a freak ideal fit as a pass-rushing 3-4 DE? We'll find out those answers in due time, as we always do.
|Cowboys OLB Anthony Spencer (right) tried to tackle Panthers QB Cam Newton (left) in Charlotte.|
(Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports)
19. New York Giants: You could present a dozen plausible scenarios for the Giants here, if not more. The biggest points of interest involve pending free agents, including RFA WR Victor Cruz (Mike Wallace 2013?), UFA Martellus Bennett, and what the team will do to fill the need that the likely departure of UFA OG Kevin Boothe will create. There is also the subplot of the pending departure of UFA DE Osi Umenyiora and the need to replace him, which the team could choose to do in a variety of ways.
20. Chicago Bears: There will be teams willing to pay a premium to trade for Smokin' Jay Cutler, but if the Bears deal him away... then who plays QB? There is also the issue of MLB Brian Urlacher's status, with him a pending UFA and turning 35 but also saying he wants to finish his career with the Bears. Lovie Smith got the shaft, losing his job despite his team going 10-6, but that is a secondary issue at this point with personnel decisions needing to be made quickly by GM Phil Emery.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: With the former Pacman Jones and Terrance Newman both pending UFAs at cornerback, that might be a consideration in this range. Handling potential free agency departures (including other starters on defense like SS Nate Clements and OLB Rey Maualuga) will be a tricky path for owner/GM Mike Brown, though they have the last bit of the Carson Palmer trade from Oakland to enjoy with the Raiders' 2013 second-rounder belonging to them. Can the Bengals strike gold on defense in the 2013 NFL Draft like they did on offense in 2011? Or might they let Andre Smith walk and instead target an offensive tackle here?
22. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Something tells me that this isn't what the Rams expected to get from the Redskins as part of the trade they made when the Redskins moved up to draft Robert Griffin III last year. Caveat emptor. The Rams going OL/WR between the #16 pick and this one is entirely possible, though best player available could also come into play for them.
23. Minnesota Vikings: This is the range where the Vikings could look to land a wide receiver, or perhaps they'll look for a cornerback here. Defensive end is also a possibility... really, the Vikings can do any number of things in this spot, though what they do in free agency will shape that to a large degree. Adrian Peterson can only do so much for them in the modern pass-happy NFL.
24. Indianapolis Colts: DE/OLB Dwight Freeney is as good as gone, likely to bolt for a team running the 4-3 set that he thrived in for so many years. GM Ryan Grigson traded the team's 2013 second-rounder for CB Vontae Davis, so they need to find something of value here, either by using the pick or perhaps trading it for several selections.