Draft King Analysis|
March 13, 2015
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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The wheeling and dealing in the NFL didn't show any signs of slowing today, with swaps and signings taking place more than 72 hours beyond the official start (wink wink) of unrestricted free agency.
Miami dealt WR Mike Wallace to the Vikings this afternoon along with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fifth-rounder. If that seems like minimal compensation, that's because it was minimal compensation. The value for the Dolphins came in dumping Wallace's big contract, one of the big spending signings of former GM Jeff Ireland's final year in power in south Florida.
The whirlwind of signings remained difficult to track with the sheer volume of it all. Some of the major moves included the Saints signing RB C.J. Spiller, the Rams signing DT Nick Fairley, RB Darren McFadden signing with the Cowboys, the Titans signing DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, and the Bills reaching a deal in principle with WR Percy Harvin.
There is still plenty of maneuvering to be done prior to the draft, but some things are beginning to become a bit clearer in relation to the top of the draft.
• Tampa Bay at #1 is almost for sure drafting a QB, either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota. The smart money is on Winston. There had been a rumor that the Bucs might trade their #1 overall pick for Saints QB Drew Brees, but as Bill Barnwell explained it would provide the Saints with almost zero cap relief to unload Drew Brees now. In 2016? $20 million. So keep that in mind for next year.
• Tennessee at #2 looks even more likely now to target USC DL Leonard Williams. They could go QB, but Williams is an elite talent at a spot (3-4 DE) the Titans desperately need to fill with a top-level guy. And while the strong DE/OLB prospects in the draft could have also been tempting, the team signing both Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo to four-year deals that each have $10 million plus guaranteed would seem to strongly indicate Tennessee isn't looking in that direction in the draft.
• Jacksonville at #3 didn't go after any of the big Edge (DE/OLB) defenders, and they haven't been linked with Greg Hardy's name. Their signing of DL Jared Odrick suggests they don't think they'll have a shot at landing Leonard Williams. They should be in a spot to pick their favorite from the Edge guys: Donte Fowler Jr., Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, etc.
• Oakland at #4 signing DL Dan Williams to a big-money deal, as mentioned earlier this week on here, suggests (just like Jacksonville) that they don't think Leonard Williams will be on the board when their pick comes up. The presence of Khalil Mack would make it seem that DE/OLB won't be targeted here, and it's looking more and more like wide receiver makes the most sense in this spot. That should hold even if the Raiders sign a second-tier free agent wideout. Adding receiving weapons for Derek Carr is a must.
• Washington at #5 helped its secondary situation today by signing former 49ers CB Chris Culliver to a major deal, not that the Redskins would have realistically looked at a corner at this spot. Defensive line needs were filled with the one-year deal inked with Terrance Knighton along with the interesting signing of Ricky Jean-Francois after he was cut by the Colts. With Brian Orakpo signing with the Titans, it seems reasonable to think the Redskins would target an Edge defender here. They could also go with Alabama safety Landon Collins with this pick, and they could shock the world by taking Mariota here, though I still think they're trying to bring potential trade partners out of the woodwork with those whispers.
• The New York Jets at #6 started putting the band back together, so to speak, signing cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to big-money deals. They kept ILB David Harris off the free agent market, traded with the Bears to get WR Brandon Marshall, and filled an interior offensive line need by signing OG James Carpenter. Mariota going here makes all kinds of sense -- provided the Jets like him as a franchise QB, of course. That's true even with the team trading with the Texans to get QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
If they like Mariota and get him here? Great. If not? They could go best player available, trade down, perhaps target an offensive tackle like Brandon Scherff, etc. Plenty of options here, and there are some teams below I'm guessing would love to trade up and draft one of those elite Edge defenders at this spot.
• Chicago at #7 would seem unlikely to target a safety after signing Antrel Rolle, though at 32 he's on the wrong side of 30. But safeties can be landed later, and while the Bears could be in the running for an Edge defender, they signed former Raven Pernell McPhee to help with that. They could go wide receiver, though signing former Charger Eddie Royal to replace Brandon Marshall alongside Alshon Jeffery would seem to limit their need there.
It's within the realm of possibility to think the Bears could take Mariota if he slides to this spot, but they'll have plenty of options and could take the best player available approach. This is the point where projecting the draft is going to become considerably more uncertain.
• Atlanta at #8 is in a curious spot. They paid big money to land LB Brooks Reed, but he's a run-stopper at linebacker. They also landed former Buccaneer DE/OLB Adrian Clayborn, but it was only to a one-year "prove it" contract. He was snake-bitten with injury problems in Tampa, and expecting him to be a huge pass-rushing threat would be rather reckless by the Falcons. Going with an Edge defender would seem sensible, but that is obviously going to depend on which top DE/OLB guys are still around at this spot.
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