Draft King Analysis|
March 27, 2013
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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What can you sell me on in the 2013 NFL Draft at this point here at the one month out mark? Let's take a look.
1. Kansas City: All signs point to Texas A&M OT OT Luke Joeckel. If it wasn't going to be him or Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher, the Chiefs wouldn't be shopping franchised OL Branden Albert. Don't believe any smokescreen attempts that the team might be seriously considering going with a defensive lineman here. While it makes sense for the Chiefs to do their due diligence, barring something truly surprising happening, offensive tackle is the smart move.
As for the Geno Smith smokescreen coming out *after* the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith (the non-Harbaugh version), I don't understand it. At all. If you're going to smokescreen at least make it plausible.
2. Jacksonville: My belief is that the Jaguars are fishing for the best possible deal to trade down and that they believe the best way to do that is to strongly sell interest in West Virginia QB Geno Smith. New GM David Caldwell indicated in January that 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert (whom the Jags took one spot before Houston drafted J.J. Watt) is still in the running for the team's long-term QB plans. This won't preclude them from taking Smith at this spot, but I suspect the goal is to see what the market will bear at the spot.
Absent a trade or Smith, other options include Alabama CB Dee Milliner and most of the 4-3 defensive end prospects, particularly guys with more size (meaning less Jarvis Jones and more Ezekiel Ansah). One funny thing with Ansah is that he is actually a few months older than Gabbert, but because Gabbert has been in the NFL for two seasons the perceptions about the two are drastically different.
3. Oakland: Thanks to the Carson Palmer trade, the Raiders don't have a 2013 second-round pick, so trading down for tbe right offer would make a great deal of sense. Geno Smith is a possibility if he is on the board at this spot, particularly depending on how the team evaluates the long-term prognosis for Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor. Defensive tackle is a huge need at it would make sense for the Raiders to go with Utah DT Star Lotulelei or Florida DT Shariff Floyd. Defensive end makes sense, ditto for Milliner, but particularly with the free agent cornerback market being so soft, defensive line makes sense over defensive back.
4. Philadelphia: With a new head coach (Chip Kelly) and a new 3-4 defensive scheme in place, there are all kinds of options for the Eagles here. There is plenty of speculation that Kelly will look to reunite with a player he coached at Oregon, DE/OLB Dion Jordan, and that could happen. Defensive line is an interesting situation since the Eagles drafted DT Fletcher Cox at #12 overall as a good fit as a 4-3 interior line pass-rush threat, but in a 3-4 he will likely be asked to kick outside to play defensive end in a J.J. Watt type role. To me, 3-4 OLB makes more sense to me than 3-4 DE or nose tackle at this spot.
But perhaps the best option is Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher, who has been on a meteoric rise over the past 7-8 months. The beginning of the end for the Eagles last season was losing OT Jason Peters to an achilles injury in his right leg (which he then re-injured), which was a huge blow considering he was coming off a span of being an All-Pro four out of the previous five seasons. But the reality is that Peters is 31, he'll make $10.4 million this year and then be slated to earn $9.65 million in 2014 in the final year of his contract. But even if Peters can return to 90% of the form he had pre-injury, it makes sense to provide Michael Vick or Nick Foles or whoever is under center for the Eagles this fall with as much protection as possible. Any team wanting Fisher would be well-advised to trade up to #2 or #3 to ensure having the chance to get him, since it's a distinct possibility he won't fall past this point.
5. Detroit: There are three huge needs for Detroit: cornerback, offensive tackle and 4-3 defensive end. The nice thing for Detroit though is that, even in a worst-case type scenario where Geno Smith is still on the board and they can't find a willing trading partner (which seems unlikely but not entirely implausible), they should be able to fill one of those three needs for a top-level guy. I would think the desired scenario for Detroit would be to land Fisher at this spot since there will be quality CB and 4-3 DE talent on the board when they pick again at #36, something that won't necessarily be the case at offensive tackle.
6. Cleveland: Here's where it starts to get tricky. Trading down makes all kinds of sense for Cleveland, which forfeited its second-round pick to take WR Josh Gordon in the 2012 NFL supplemental draft. Going with a 3-4 OLB like Dion Jordan or Jarvis Jones could make sense given the team's reported expressed desire to add multiple top-level pass rushing threats under new GM Mike Lombardi and assistant GM Ray Farmer.
I plugged West Virginia WR Tavon Austin into this spot in my last mock, but my next one will almost for sure instead reflect the Browns going with either a playmaker on the defensive line to kick out as a 3-4 DE (e.g. Florida DT Sharrif Floyd or Lotulelei) or a pass-rushing 3-4 OLB pass rushing threat like Jordan or Jones. With the J.J. Watt effect in play and with the Browns already spending big to sign OLB Paul Kruger from Baltimore in free agency, I would lean more toward the team going DL over OLB unless both Floyd and Lotulelei are off the board here.
7. Arizona: This is a tough spot to work from for a team with such desperate need at QB and OT. The Cardinals make a great deal of sense to be a trading partner with one of the aforementioned teams looking to trade down. It's also possible that they could stretch to take Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson here and opt to look for a QB at #38. But if the Cardinals want Geno, they would be making a huge roll of the dice to hope that things just randomly work out to where he falls to him at this spot. I've seen some mocks that have linked USC QB Matt Barkley to the Cardinals at this spot, which in my estimation is laughable and would be a colossal mistake at this point in the evaluation process.
8. Buffalo: The most likely team to be looking to trade up, the Bills are ripe for the picking if they are interested in Geno Smith. I've already written about Buddy Nix being on the hot seat and the factors playing into what the Bills might do, though at this point that is all speculation. But the ghost of Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract will haunt Nix until he finds a true franchise QB, and time is running short, so the pressure is on to find that guy, wherever he may be. This situation is why Jacksonville kicking the tires on Geno Smith makes so much sense from a strategy standpoint. Why not see if the Bills will hit the panic switch and give up a huge bounty to move up to #2?
Also, easy for me to say, but the smarter move might be to wait until the second round where there could be better value to be found at QB and instead fill another need here. With the Bills ping-ponging yet again to a new defensive scheme (notice how this back-and-forth approach seldom works), this time purportedly going with a hybrid 4-3/3-4 approach, Jordan or Jones could make sense here depending on how the Bills envision using DE/OLB Mario Williams.
9. New York Jets: It's hard to know what angle the Jets will take until when/if CB Darrelle Revis is traded, presumably to Tampa Bay. Alabama OG Chance Warmack is a strong possibility, ditto for the 3-4 OLB pass-rushing types mentioned above if one happens to fall or a wide receiver like the University of Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson. I'm a big-time fan of Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes, though the Jets would be rolling the dice if they took Rhodes here even if a Revis trade netted them in part the #13 pick presently held by the Buccaneers.
10. Tennessee: Hopefully, for the sake of Titans fans, the team has learned its lesson from last year and will locate and acquire a quality cornerback. The team's secondary suffered considerably after the Titans lost CB Cortland Finnegan to St. Louis in free agency last off-season. Rhodes would be solid here, and I'm a noted fan of his potential, though there are a bevy of other strong cornerback prospects in the next tier who could be acquired later. With the Titans filling needs at guard and safety via free agency, going with a cornerback would make the most sense, though depending on what defensive linemen are on the board they could look in that direction as well.
11. San Diego: It makes all kinds of sense to think that the Chargers would go for Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson here, but at the same time he is at best the #3 prospect at offensive tackle on most draft boards at this point. San Diego must weigh their own evaluation of Johnson relative to the options likely to be available later in the draft starting with their next pick at #45 overall and other team needs. You could also see them go for a 3-4 OLB talent (notice a trend here?) or possibly Texas FS Kenny Vaccaro.
12. Miami: GM Jeff Ireland spent like a madman in free agency, perhaps feeling the pressure of knowing he could be out of a job if the Dolphins fail to reach the playoffs in 2013. Trying to pin down exactly what the Dolphins will do here is where things start to get really tricky, particularly considering that Miami has an extra second-round pick (from Indianapolis in the Vontae Davis trade) and an extra third-round pick (from Chicago in the Brandon Marshall trade). The generic "best player available" option might make sense here, and even with the Dolphins dishing out a ton of guaranteed money to sign Mike Wallace and overpaying to keep Brian Hartline (erase the Arizona game from his 2012 statline and get back with me), the team was horribly deficient at wide receiver last year, hardly providing QB Ryan Tannehill with an opportunity to maximize his skills.
13. Tampa Bay: If the Bucs trade for Jets CB Darrelle Revis, this pick is expected to be part of the deal. If the Bucs end up not trading for Revis, the Bucs could very easily end up taking a corner here, and they desperately need a top-tier one. If they get Revis and keep this pick then good for them, and they could do any number of things particularly depending on what defensive linemen fall out of the top dozen spots.
14. Carolina: There are several options for Carolina, and while defensive tackle makes the most sense, it's not a lock. You might see them consider a cornerback or a wide receiver or even an offensive guard like North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper. Defensive tackle seems like the smart move here, but with the variety of needs that the Panthers have that is hardly a given.
15. New Orleans: Two things to remember: the Saints are shifting to a 3-4 defense this fall and are without their second-round pick due to league punishment for the bounty scandal. Vaccaro makes sense if he's still on the board, ditto for a 3-4 OLB, and there could be consideration given to Lane Johnson with the loss of OT Jermon Bushrod to Chicago in free agency. What might be the best move is to have a contingency plan to trade down in place, and if Vaccaro or Johnson or Jordan or Jones (or some combination of them and others) are off the board at this point, move down and pick up additional selections to help fill in some of the holes in the roster.
16. St. Louis: With the Rams signing OT Jake Long as a free agent from Miami, their massive hole at the spot has been filled, which is fortunate since trying to trade up would have been awkward. The Rams are a sleeper team that have quietly been putting together a really strong roster during the Jeff Fisher era. The $50 million man Sam Bradford needs to produce at QB this year, but he will finally have a proper supporting cast provided that the Rams can get him maybe one more quality wide receiver (potentially here or at #22). As of this writing I'm projecting North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper here since it's a need spot, but the Rams could be in great position to trade down and fill in need positions (OG, safety, OLB, RB etc.) with second-and-third round picks.
17. Pittsburgh: Defense makes all kinds of sense at this spot, probably for a front seven pass-rushing type but also potentially a cornerback. The Steelers go about things in a methodical, logical, and rational way, and I anticipate them following that template here.
18. Dallas: Offensive guard remains a need spot, but it's iffy at best to think that Warmack and/or Cooper would be on the board here, and any other guard would be a stretch. Free safety is a need but like Warmack and Cooper, Vaccaro seems unlikely to fall this far, and after that it's a free-fall. Georgia ILB Alec Ogletree would fill a need, though his recent DUI arrest would likely draw the team unwanted scrutiny. There is no shortage of talented defensive tackles in this draft, and with the Cowboys shifting to a Tampa Two style 4-3 defense, it will be imperative for Dallas to have interior defensive linemen who can pressure opposing QBs.
19. New York Giants: This screams "best player available" range to me, with offensive line being a premium but cornerback not outside the realm of possibility. Take the top 40 non QB/RB/WR/DE guys, put their names in a hat and pick one... and you might have as good of a chance as any of hitting this one correctly.
20. Chicago: Ogletree seems like a great fit here, but by the time you reach this spot in the draft opinions start to vary wildly. It's not outside the realm of possibility that the Bears would consider a QB here, not that I'm advocating it (I'm not), but don't count it out.
21. Cincinnati: Might this be the spot where Ogletree would go, allowing Rey Maualuga to revert back to his more natural strong-side OLB spot (aka the "Sam" linebacker position)? Perhaps. Ordering pancakes and taking Eddie Lacy would be interesting, and ditto for a slot guy like perhaps Tavon Austin if he falls in the draft. Cincy can afford to splurge since they have a pair of second-round picks (thanks to Hue Jackson, Carson Palmer, and team owner Mike Brown's irrational stubbornness incredibly paying off) in this year's draft, and if not Austin could be any number of wide receivers who end up going here if the Bengals are so inclined.
22. St. Louis: Very few people give the Rams their due for having a tremendous CB combo in Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. I'm not sure that I buy the concept of the Rams using one of their two first-round picks on a running back, even though I'm very high on Eddie Lacy, but I know this: I sure wouldn't bet the Rams under for 2013 regular-season wins in Vegas.
23. Minnesota: Defensive tackle makes all kinds of sense here, and while nothing this far down is a lock, I strongly doubt this pick will be used on an offensive player if the Vikings keep it barring a Warmack and/or Cooper slide. Cornerback may also be a consideration, and DT/CB here and two spots below seems as likely as anything. Since the Colts traded their 2013 second-round pick for a corner, the safer move might be to go CB here and then DT at #25 if that is the plan, though the Colts could always trade that pick to a team wanting defensive line help.
24. Indianapolis: As mentioned about, the Colts are a strong candidate for trading down. Wide receiver could be a consideration as well. If people get freaked out over Jarvis Jones and he falls all the way here, he could be a consideration as a 3-4 OLB with Dwight Freeney gone. Whatever happens, I'll be disappointed if Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn't make a bizarre post on Twitter about it with an inordinate amount of exclamation points.
25. Minnesota: I don't think many younger NFL fans truly appreciate what Adrian Peterson (and also Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles) did last year in recovering so quickly after ACL surgery. Advances in sports medicine continue to impress me, though it also takes a tremendous amount of often painful (both physically and mentally) effort by the athlete in question to do the grueling rehab required to exceed the anticipated timetable.
Note: this is about the range of the draft where the information/analysis is like a radio station in a town that you're driving away from, with static and fragmented audio interfering with your reception.
26. Green Bay: My most recent (but already antiquated) mock has Green Bay taking Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert, but that seems highly unlikely given that the team opted to keep Jermichael Finley and pay him his $3,000,000 roster bonus that recently hit. And, even though they kept him, the Finley roster bonus situation is yet another reminder of why guaranteed money in a contract is what really matters. The keeping of Finley allows Green Bay to look toward its secondary, which could easily end up being the area targeted with this pick.
27. Houston: Someone has turned on the flashing "Best Player Available" sign here, though I would lean toward the front seven on defense being the most likely area of concentration.
28. Denver: After the Elvis Dumervil contract debacle, which is almost as bad as one of those NBA trades that ends up not being turned in until past the trade deadline and thus nullified, being able to tap into the deep defensive lineman crop for a pick makes a great deal of sense for the Broncos, who are clearly building up for an "All In" move like someone sitting on pocket Aces in a game of Texas Hold 'em poker.
29. New England: If the draft is like driving away from a radio station, accurately projecting the Patriots' picks is akin to driving under a bridge trying to listen to an AM signal -- it's just not going to happen.
30. Atlanta: I had projected Alabama RB Eddie Lacy here, but the Falcons' signing of former St. Louis RB Steven Jackson would seem to suggest otherwise. Defensive end seems as likely as anything here at this point.
31. San Francisco: While it's not exactly even money to happen, I love the idea of Margus Hunt being the pick here for the 49ers, if for nothing else because I would be intrigued to see what the team would do with his very unique and special skill set. 3-4 OLB also seems viable, ditto for safety if they really like a particular guy who slides here.
32. Baltimore: My expectation is that a front seven defensive players who didn't perpetuate a hoax he knew to be untrue will end up going here. In other words, not Manti Te'o.