Tue Apr 22 02:00pm EDT
Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.
Carolina Panthers: Assuming Carolina does not plan to run a wing-T offense this season, the Panthers will need to draft more than one receiver. Carolina released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith, who signed with Baltimore. Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon each signed with other teams during free agency. Carolina replaced those receivers with Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh), Jason Avant (Philadelphia) and Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay) ... not necessarily the second coming of Washington’s “Fun Bunch.”
Carolina could use its first-round pick on USC receiver Marqise Lee, who won the 2012 Biletnikoff Award with a breakout season (1,721 yards, 14 TDs) before nagging leg injuries led to 791 yards and four TDs last season. He would be an instant upgrade to Carolina’s roster, but the same could be said about Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, who is similar to Smith. Carolina could justify selecting receivers in the first two rounds. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high
Oakland Raiders: With all due respect to James Jones and Rod Streater, there is not a game-changer on this roster. Jones signed a three-year deal with Oakland this offseason. He played through nagging injuries last season, but still had a career-high 817 receiving yards. He led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions in 2012, but Aaron Rodgers was his quarterback, not Matt Schaub. Oakland could add Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and have a threat in the passing game. Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is a top-10 talent too, and he would be an instant upgrade as well. NEED LEVEL: Medium high
Tennessee Titans: Nate Washington, Dexter McCluster and Kendall Wright are a good group of receivers, but Jake Locker still does not have a reliable No.1 option. Tennessee was hopeful Kenny Britt would emerge into a standout, but he made more noise for his off-the-field antics. Tennessee may not need a receiver in the first-round, but LSU’s Odell Beckham can stretch the field and would give the Titans more options. NEED LEVEL: Medium high
St. Louis Rams: Most teams try to build around their franchise quarterback, but St. Louis has failed to give Sam Bradford some much-needed help. Tavon Austin excelled as a rookie last season, but Chris Givens took a step backward, while Stedman Bailey is still developing. St. Louis should address pressing needs in the first-round, but Penn State receiver Allen Robinson, LSU’s Jarvis Landry or Beckham could make Bradford feel better about his options. NEED LEVEL: Medium
Dallas Cowboys: After Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, things gets really shaky. Former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin remains unsigned because of his annual hamstring difficulties, and considering Tony Romo is 34 and recovering from back surgery, Dallas’ window of opportunity is closing. Of course some might say the window has been closed for years, and that is a fair assessment, too. Dallas needs help defensively, but players such as Clemson’s Martavis Bryant, Fresno State’s Davante Adams, BYU’s Cody Hoffman, and UCLA’s Shaq Evans are realistic possibilities for Dallas after the first-round. Adding a tight end, such as Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, is another solid option for Dallas. NEED LEVEL: Medium
Other teams in need: N.Y. Jets, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco
NFL Draft Needs series
April 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back
- - - - - - -
Tue Apr 22 11:08am EDT
We’ve taken the next step here. Although our mock drafts this past year might outnumber our visits to the gym, this will be the first time we project trades. Are they going to happen just like we see them? Of course not. But it's fun to envision scenarios that are not immediately evident, and yet we know that trades are a huge part of the draft landscape.
There were nine trades involving first- or second-round picks on the first two days of the 2013 NFL draft. In this scenario, we project a pedestrian three — enough to get our creative juices flowing and start the plate tectonics a bit, but not too many to cloud and skew the picture dramatically. But it's no coincidence that two of the three deals involve trades up for quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. That sort of thing tends to happen on the clock when teams get antsy.
We’ll check in the night before the draft — 16 agonizing days from now — with our final first-round predictions from the Shutdown Corner contributors. But here’s how the first 64 picks look right now.
1. Houston Texans — South Carolina DE-LB Jadeveon Clowney
We’ve had him in this spot for months and haven’t wavered much from it. Clowney’s pro day performance displayed what we suspected: that he’d have no trouble going in reverse, if asked to. The Texans might be in their base defense only 30 percent of the time, so Clowney will be quite comfortable rushing the Andrew Lucks of the world from a right-end spot — or wherever else coordinator Romeo Crennel wants to play him. That said, a trade down wouldn't be out of the question — something we hadn't considered previously.
Shaun King's take: Major question marks and concerns
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) — Auburn OT Greg Robinson
The Rams’ offense must marry the power run game with the rhythm passing game, and Robinson can step in and help give it a boost. He’s already an NFL-caliber run blocker, and his athleticism and work ethic should allow him to be a plus pass blocker in time. Jeff Fisher’s ties to Jake Matthews aside, this is the right fit. Robinson should dominate as a second-level blocker on the turf.
Shaun King's take: Best run blocker in a decade
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Buffalo LB-DE Khalil Mack
Coach Gus Bradley now has the makings of a deep and skilled front seven that can make the Jags contenders. They face a slew of good quarterbacks, but they also face a handful of teams that could be starting rookies at the position, so the m.o. in Jacksonville will be to attack and force turnovers to give the offense as many chances as possible. Mack was a turnover machine in college and is the perfect fit as the “Leo” linebacker in this scheme.
Shaun King's take: Best pound-for-pound player in the draft
4. Cleveland Browns — Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews
General manager Ray Farmer has been on the job a little over two months now, and he’s weighed his options at No. 4. Knowing he has two more picks coming in the subsequent 30 slots, Farmer likely will want to make as safe a selection as possible here and maybe not tie himself to a quarterback in this spot. If they need to — foreshadowing alert — the Browns can trade up for a QB later. Here, they take their starting right tackle for a decade.
Shaun King's take: Most polished player
5. Oakland Raiders — Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
Watkins would be a huge upgrade over the inconsistent and unreliable Denarius Moore at the “X” receiver spot and give Matt Schaub a run-after-the-catch threat. The Raiders would be in decent hands with a top three receivers of Watkins, James Jones and Rod Streater. Ideally, they’d find their quarterback of the future here, but this is a good alternative assuming they do not.
Shaun King's take: Unquestionably No. 1 receiver in draft
6. Atlanta Falcons — Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
Too soon? The Falcons were soft up front last season. Way too soft. Mike Tice is the new OL coach, and he likes players such as Lewan, who carry a nasty streak. The Falcons can keep Sam Baker at left tackle for now and put Lewan on the right side, but it would not be surprising to see Lewan slide over to the left at some point. He’s exactly the guy to add a little vinegar to their recipe up front.
Shaun King's take: Has potential, but not refined
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
Prior to the trade of Mike Williams, the Bucs had depth problems at receiver. Now they have a talent deficiency, too. Evans and Vincent Jackson have some overlapping skills, but that’s OK. So, too, do Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and new Bucs QB Josh McCown might feel like he’s back in Chicago when he sees these two physical freaks running patterns.
Shaun King's take: Second-best receiver in the draft
8. Minnesota Vikings — Central Florida QB Blake Bortles
The Vikings can’t afford to mess around with their top quarterback option on the board. Yes, the Daunte Culpepper connections would arise with this pairing, but Bortles is a slightly different cat. But GM Rick Spielman watched Bortles light it up at his pro day, and you’d have to think that his skills would translate very well to a Norv Turner-called offense. The beauty, too, is that Matt Cassel can win the job, and Bortles can replace him whenever he’s good and ready.
Shaun King's take: Highest ceiling QB in draft
9. Buffalo Bills — UCLA LB-DE Anthony Barr
The Bills don’t have a ton of pressing needs, and a pass-rushing linebacker/end might not be atop the list, but there is a lack of depth behind Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. Jim Schwartz runs the wide-9 scheme and needs his edge rushers to crash down hard, yet have the athleticism to stay balanced and flexible. That’s Barr, who could more seasoning. But his upside is undeniable.
Shaun King's take: Not souring on Barr
10. Detroit Lions — Alabama S Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix
New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin knows that in order for his secondary to work, he must have good safety play. Nearly everywhere Austin has coached, he has helped cultivate talented safeties (Matt Elam in Baltimore and the University of Florida; Antrel Rolle with the Cardinals) and taught them to be ballhawks. Clinton-Dix comes from a pro-caliber college defense, and even with a slight downtick in his play in 2013, he shows the ability to be a Day 1 centerfielder in the back half of a defense. The Lions want to let their young corners develop, and having better safety play should help.
Shaun King's take: Like an Earl Thomas
11. Tennessee Titans — Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert
Not willing to pull the trigger on a quarterback here, the Titans could still address a major need by drafting Gilbert, who could start Day 1 opposite Jason McCourty and take Leon Washington out of a job on kick returns. Gilbert has the long arms and press-coverage ability to check the Andre Johnsons of the world, and the alpha-dog persona to be a perfect fit for fiery new coordinator Ray Horton.
Shaun King's take: Not aggressive enough
12. New York Giants — Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
The Giants have some interesting names at defensive tackle, but none of them are guaranteed contributors this season. They need an inside penetrator to help check blocking schemes against them and open things up for Jason Pierre-Paul, and Donald appears to be that perfect fit. Giants DL coach Robert Nunn has had to be a big motivator for all the talented but inconsistent underachievers the Giants have had up front, but that won’t be a problem with Donald, whose motor always runs hot.
13. St. Louis Rams — Louisville S Calvin Pryor
Pryor isn’t Earl Thomas, but he has some Thomas-like aggression and pursuit ability, which is a perfect fit in the NFC West, one of the most aggressive divisions going. The Rams had trouble defending the deep pass last season, and Pryor can be for them what Michael Griffin was for Jeff Fisher’s Titans teams. If Pryor can learn to play with a little more control, he could be a leader for perhaps the best young defense in the NFL. Seriously. (Oh, and don’t think I haven’t heard the Johnny Manziel rumors. I just … couldn’t.)
14. Chicago Bears — Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman
Bit of a tough spot for the Bears, who in this scenario will have seen the top defensive tackle, top corner and top two safeties go off the board. Their consolation prize is a Phil Emery special — the freakishly gifted but inconsistent Ra’Shede Hageman, who could be a monster or a bust. He has Richard Seymour-like physical traits but must grow into being that type of player. The Bears don’t have many players who can anchor inside, so Hageman would fill the bill there and try to develop on the job.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Ohio State CB Bradley Roby
Roby might never be an elite player, but he reminds me a little of Deshea Townshend, and he might look the same to Dick Lebeau as well. Roby didn’t have his best final year in college but is a better player than, say, the Wisconsin game tape reveals. He can blitz, play man or zone, outside or slot. This would be an instant-impact addition.
16. Dallas Cowboys — Notre Dame OG-OT Zack Martin
It has to kill Jerry Jones not to be able to draft an impact defender or even pull the trigger on, say, Johnny Manziel. This is a draft loaded with intriguing upside players, and yet we’re projecting them a very safe, sound pick. Why? It’s a need, with Martin able to start Day 1 at guard and kick out to right tackle next year when the team has to consider cutting Doug Free.
17. Baltimore Ravens — LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham can play all three receiver spots and return punts and kickoffs, making him a valuable piece on a team that lacked receiving weapons last season. A package of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside, Steve Smith and Beckham in the slot and Dennis Pitta would be an outstanding upgradge for Joe Flacco this season.
Shaun King's take: Like Sammy Watkins without consistency
18. New York Jets — North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
The Jets don’t have a threat to stretch the seam, so this would be a perfect match of need and ability. Ebron might not be a plus blocker in the NFL right now, and the Jets probably wouldn’t ask him to be right away. But they have to have some big plays in the passing game to fit the skills of either Geno Smith or Michael Vick, and Ebron could help achieve this. Ebron’s bombastic personality also could be a big hit with Rex Ryan, too.
Shaun King's take: As good as Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski
19. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Miami Dolphins) — Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Two years ago, the Cowboys traded the 18th pick to the 49ers for the 31st and 74th overall selections. In this scenario, we think the Browns could deal the 26th and 83rd overall picks (ones they acquired in separate trades from the Colts and Steelers) to move up for Manziel, in what would be among the more talked-about moves in the draft. The Browns go safe at the No. 4 pick, and then they move all their chips to the middle with Johnny. It’s a great way to hedge with the Matthews pick — his college teammate, no less. The Browns have done their homework on Manziel, and then some. On the flip side, it would make sense for new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey to trade down here because there is no player in this scenario he has to have, and it allows him to add a valuable pick later in the draft.
Shaun King's take: Johnny Football won't be successful in NFL
20. Arizona Cardinals — Fresno State QB Derek Carr
The Cardinals are in a strange place: They have one of the 4-5 best-looking rosters in the conference but they just happen to be the third-best team in their division. Still, there’s a strong argument to take the best non-QB available and hope he’s an instant-impact player. But short of one being here, the Cardinals might feel they have to pull the trigger on a quarterback with the positional run likely to start at this point of the draft. Bruce Arians loves confident, strong-arm passers (who doesn’t?), and Carr could be a perfect fit in this vertical scheme. He can come in to challenge Carson Palmer but can sit and marinate for a while until Palmer plays his way out of a job.
Shaun King's take: Tough evaluation; long growth process
21. Green Bay Packers — Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
This is a dream pick for the Packers, who must upgrade over Brad Jones, and Mosley does that by giving Green Bay a player who contributes on all four downs — special teams, too. His injury history is concerning to some teams, but all things being equal, the Packers would be getting one of the top 10 best pure football players in this year’s class at exceptional value at a need position.
22. Philadelphia Eagles — Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
We can’t quite pin the Eagles at 22, knowing that it could be receiver or perhaps an edge player. After all, cornerback isn’t a super-pressing need, but most of the key contributors are solid if not eminently replaceable. Dennard would give this unit some more confidence, athleticism and physicality.
Shaun King's take: Day 1 starter in this league
23. Kansas City Chiefs — UCLA OG Xavier Su’a-Filo
Andy Reid’s love for smart, aggressive, intelligent offensive linemen shows through, and Su’A-Filo figures to be a Day 1 starter. He played left tackle but probably figures best inside. The Chiefs have a huge hole at right guard, and frankly left guard might be an issue, too, unless Jeff Allen plays better. Everyone is screaming for a receiver, but that can wait. The line needs an immediate upgrade.
24. Cincinnati Bengals — Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
Fuller missed half his final season with a core muscle injury, but in his limited play, he did great work against a pair of 2015 NFL draft propspects — wideouts Amari Cooper and Justin Hardy — and showed at the combine that he’s back in great shape. The Bengals currently have some age and question marks at corner, and Fuller would give them the physical, long-armed corner they thought they were getting with Dre Kirkpatrick.
25. San Diego Chargers — TCU CB Jason Verrett
The Chargers’ two biggest needs on defense are at nose tackle and corner, and it’s likely they will address either one with this pick. We mocked them the competitive, feisty, ball-seeking Verrett, who bears some resemblance to Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. The Chargers want to keep adding these types of playmakers in their secondary, especially with at least another year of facing Peyton Manning, whom they faced three times last season.
26. Miami Dolphins (projected trade with Cleveland Browns) — Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio
Moving down would allows the Dolphins to add a starting-caliber talent, albeit a player who must answer questions about his health and some poor performances last season. Still, this is a potential anchor at right tackle and part of a continuing rebuilding job up front for the Dolphins.
27. New Orleans Saints — Auburn OLB-DE Dee Ford
Having watched the top five cornerbacks go off the board quickly, the Saints turn to their other pressing defensive need. Ford can heat up the edges as a third-down rusher early in his career while he learns the nuances of playing OLB in a “30” front. Rob Ryan knows that if he can’t get a cover guy he must find some more pressure to help make up for it.
28. Carolina Panthers — USC WR Marqise Lee
With no ace left tackle prospect still on the board, the Panthers must fill another huge void. Lee has some Marvin Harrison-like qualities but must prove that his 2012 tailspin was an aberration. He’ll be the most talented receiver on the roster, but the pressure to help replace Steve Smith and Co. will be high.
Shaun King's take: Most polished receiver in draft
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (projected trade with New England Patriots) — Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
The Jaguars are building some momentum, and their extra draft picks (two fourths, three fifths and two sixths) will allow them to feel comfortable moving up 10 spots to nab the freefalling Bridgewater. This would be a perfect marriage: Bridgewater’s dogged determination and all-around solid skills with Gus Bradley and the team’s West Coast scheme.
Shaun King's take: No. 1 QB in the draft
30. San Francisco 49ers — Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
The speed merchant fills a void and gives the 49ers a more diverse passing game, one that in theory can attack most parts of the field now. You have Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree working the sticks, Vernon Davis threatening the seam and the edges, and Cooks as a deep threat. Cooks also has a little chip on his shoulder that will play well with the hard-edged Jim Harbaugh.
31. Denver Broncos — Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier
We can’t think of too many better fits. There’s a hole in the middle of an otherwise good Broncos defense, and the confident and supremely athletic Shazier would be an instant hit, never coming off the field. He can play inside or outside, base or nickel and makes this front seven even stronger as a Day 1 starter. The Broncos have hit all the right notes this offseason, and this would be another strong play.
32. Seattle Seahawks — Nevada OG-C-OT Joel Bitonio
Don’t put it past the Seahawks to go a little off the grid with this pick, as they often do with their first choice every year. Bitonio slowly has been rising through the ranks during the pre-draft process and is exactly the kind of athletic, versatile addition this team could use. He’s probably best at guard and could earn a starting spot out of the chute (as a clear upgrade over right guard JR Sweezy), but Bitonio also played left tackle last season and has been tried in workouts at center.
33. Houston Texans — Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage
Look, we’re not sold on him, either. But the fast-rising Savage fits the mold of a smart, tough, strong-armed quarterback that Bill O’Brien will be seeking.
34. Washington Redskins — Northern Illinois S Jimmy Ward
They’re still able to nab a starter at a need position despite giving away their first-round pick.
35. Cleveland Browns — Indiana WR Cody Latimer
Physical wideout looked good in college despite subpar QB play. Imagine what he’ll do in Cleveland! (wink)
36. Oakland Raiders — LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
The ghost of Al Davis comes to life in the pick of this risky, high-upside, strong-armed passer.
37. Atlanta Falcons — Boise State DE-OLB Demarcus Lawrence
Perfect edge rusher to help them make the transition to a 3-4 defense, if that’s what they want to do.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson
Massive but athletic guard would have en excellent chance to start as a rookie — at either guard spot.
39. New England Patriots (projected trade from Jacksonville Jaguars) — Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
Remember the Patriots’ rumored interest in Larry Fitzgerald? This is their big-bodied consolation who can give Tom Brady another shot at a title.
Shaun King's take: Plays like Alshon Jeffery
40. Minnesota Vikings — Rice CB Phillip Gaines
The fast-rising (and fast-running) Gaines would be the speedier bookend to the physical Xavier Rhodes.
41. Buffalo Bills — Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief
With Stevie Johnson perhaps on the outs, Moncrief gives them an ideal replacement. Eric Moulds Jr.?
42. Tennessee Titans — Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
The slide ends for Nix, who is a perfect addition to a team transitioning to a “30” front.
43. New York Giants — Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
The Giants have needed to break out of the one-year, free-agent rental approach at tight end.
44. St. Louis Rams — Alabama QB A.J. McCarron
Brian Schottenheimer, who interviewed for the Bama offensive coordinator gig in 2012, finally gets to work with McCarron.
Shaun King's take: Back-up at best
45. Detroit Lions — Fresno State WR Davante Adams
A perfect complement to the explosive Calvin Johnson and the quick Golden Tate to give Matthew Stafford a strong three amigos.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers — Penn State WR Allen Robinson
The Steelers stay in-state to provide Ben Roethlisberger some much-needed size and skill among a smallish WR group.
47. Dallas Cowboys — Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan
This is a very good fit for a penetrating 1-technique in Rod Marinelli’s defense.
48. Baltimore Ravens — Virginia OT Morgan Moses
Long-armed project is worth the gamble and could find his way into the Week 1 right tackle mix.
49. New York Jets — Missouri OLB-DE Kony Ealy
In no way, we think, did Rex Ryan think he’d find this good an edge rusher this far down.
50. Miami Dolphins — Clemson WR Martavis Bryant
If the Dolphins are drafting him as Mike Wallace’s eventual replacement, they have a year to season Bryant.
51. Chicago Bears — Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
Granted, defense is still a huge need. But Matt Forte has two years left on his deal, and undrafted speed back Michael Ford is the only other back on the roster.
Shaun King's take: Most complete back in draft
52. Arizona Cardinals — Washington State S Deone Bucannon
Super-athletic tone setter could help give Cardinals a terrific secondary to compete with the NFC West elite.
53. Green Bay Packers — Colorado State C Weston Richburg
Blue-collar center fits in with smarts and toughness and can work with Aaron Rodgers from the get-go.
54. Philadelphia Eagles — Stanford OLB Trent Murphy
Hard-nosed, high-motor edge player can get stronger while providing depth.
55. Cincinnati Bengals — Georgia Tech OLB Jerry Attaochu
The Bengals can follow a familiar pattern of drafting a talented DL project in Round 2 (e.g., Margus Hunt, Devon Still).
56. San Francisco 49ers — Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland
The 49ers love rangy corners, and even though he’s raw, Breeland fits the mold perfectly at a need position.
57. San Diego Chargers — Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
GM Tom Telesco loves production, and Matthews did so with little around him, drawing top SEC corners.
58. New Orleans Saints — Florida State CB Lamarcus Joyner
If there’s ever a cornerback who could play for Rob Ryan, the feisty Joyner is it.
59. Indianapolis Colts — USC C-OG Marcus Martin
Martin would be a huge upgrade over Khaled Holmes (his former college teammate) or Hugh Thornton at either guard or center, and with the recent (and sudden) retirement of Phil Costa, the depth inside is painfully thin.
60. Carolina Panthers — Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson
Might be their Week 1 starting left tackle, and they can’t wait any longer to draft at this spot.
61. San Francisco 49ers — Florida DT Dominique Easley
Has played in both odd and even fronts, and the 49ers have the luxury of waiting for him to get fully healthy.
62. New England Patriots — Notre Dame DT Stephon Tuitt
Can work in at two need spots: as a base end on early downs or inside on passing downs.
63. Tennessee Titans (projected trade with Denver Broncos) — Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo
The Titans make a bold move, trading a 2015 pick (they have no third-rounder this year), to land competition for Jake Locker — ahead of the Buccaneers (who pick at No. 69 and who have met multiple times with Garoppolo).
64. Seattle Seahawks — Washington TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins
The former top lieutenant under Pete Carroll, Steve Sarkesian is sure to give a spot-on scouting report.
Auburn RB Tre Mason
Shaun King's take: Question marks for next level
- - - - - - -
Sat Apr 19 04:01pm EDT
Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.
Dallas Cowboys: Signing Henry Melton from Chicago helps, but he is coming off a season-ending injury last year and if he just replaces Jason Hatcher, who had an unbelievable year before going to the Redskins. And Dallas lost future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware at end. Maybe the team brings back Anthony Spencer, who is still a free agent, but he's coming off major knee surgery and the fact that he's still unsigned tells you he's not going to fix everything. Dallas needs a lot of help, particularly on its horrible defense, and the line is a great place to start. A good inside presence is almost a must at pick No. 16, someone like Florida State's Timmy Jernigan or Pitt's Aaron Donald. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high
Chicago Bears: The Bears loaded up at defensive end in free agency, and that was smart. That doesn't mean the line is set, because there are still holes inside. Henry Melton left to Dallas. Corey Wootton was miscast as a tackle out of necessity, but he's gone too, to Minnesota. The Bears didn't sign one natural defensive tackle, so there's a lot of work to do here. Being able to snag someone like Donald or Jernigan with the 14th pick, two spots before the tackle-needy Cowboys pick, would be a very smart move and accentuate everything they were able to accomplish in free agency. NEED LEVEL: Very high
New England Patriots: The Vince Wilfork issue has been taken care of, but it still showed how tenuous the Patriots' defensive line situation is. New England always seems to have good, versatile linemen but need an influx of young talent, especially inside, to go with depth guys like Chris Jones and Joe Vellano. It's probably a good bet they find someone that fits their scheme with the 29th pick, or sometime in the first few rounds. NEED LEVEL: High
New York Giants: The Giants have had a very good offseason, and the next step will be adding to the defensive line. The Giants don't have that dominant line we remember anymore, then lost end Justin Tuck and tackle Linval Joseph in free agency. Getting defensive end Robert Ayers wasn't bad, but he's never been a difference maker. Having the 12th pick should give them a good shot to improve on the defensive line, or perhaps they'll wait until the second or third round to grab a defensive lineman. But it would be a surprise if they don't address that position, considering their reputation of having waves of defensive line talent. NEED LEVEL: High
Oakland Raiders: The guys the Raiders added to the line, like Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, are solid players but also older veterans. While it seems the Raiders will use the fifth pick to grab a difference maker on offense, they'll still have plenty of opportunities to get a tackle or end that can basically be the young up-and-coming star they had with departed Lamarr Houston. NEED LEVEL: Medium
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks still have a fantastic defensive line, but they don't want that to slip. Losing Clinton McDonald, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons in the offseason hurts the depth on the front. There are other needs (offensive line, receiver) to address as well, but one of Seattle's biggest advantages is being very strong up front, and drafting someone to help on the line will help ensure it remains a strength. NEED LEVEL: Medium
Other teams in need: Tennessee, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Pittsburgh
NFL Draft Needs series
April 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back
More NFL coverage:
- - - - - - -
Thu Apr 17 11:43am EDT
Two of the NFL’s top free agents signed contracts this offseason that would allow them, if they so chose, to put their money in a simple savings account and in theory be set for their lives.
And yet DeMarcus Ware and Zane Beadles, who signed deals that will combine to earn them more than $32 million guaranteed with their new teams, want more.
Not more money, necessarily. But more knowledge of how best to put it to use.
We all know that the NFL deals in funny money. To wit: A five-year, $50 million deal isn’t worth 50 mil proper — how much of that is guaranteed? And also, there’s the painful truth that the majority of the players in the league will have blown most of whatever they have earned, or perhaps all of it.
Ware and Beadles were two of 28 current and former NFL players who attended last week’s NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurial Program at the University of Notre Dame. The program was designed to help players of all strata — from the Wares of the world down to league-minimum players, and even those no longer earning a league paycheck — to help better manage their funds and perhaps even invest them properly.
In fact, most of the players who attended were not on Ware’s or even Beadles’ level of fame or talent. They either were fringe players, or currently out of the league.
The pro athlete is a potential victim for myriad pitfalls when signing big-money deals: poor management, friends and relatives seeking handouts or loans they never intend to pay back, or even bad investments. But players also can get caught up in a lifestyle that drains their accounts because of bad spending habits.
Patrick Kerney was not one of these players. The former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks defensive end signed two big contracts in his NFL career but always was smart with his money and always keeping an eye not only on his own bank accounts, but also seeing how frivolous some of his teammates over 12 years in the league were. Kerney twice attended this program when he was still playing, and right after his career was over he earned his MBA in Finance from Columbia University.
“That’s what took me to Columbia: My desire to work with players,” he said. “Helping them understand the vernacular a little bit. Understanding what asset class is. But more than that, helping them not miss out on the right opportunities. I have seen too much of that over the years. It’s tough to watch.”
Kerney now serves as the NFL’s Vice President of Player Benefits and NFL Legends Operations, and his mission is to help open players’ eyes not only to the potential dangers of a large portfolio but also open their minds to the possibilities — the smarter ones — of what that money can mean for them and their families.
“The first thing is to understand appropriate risk,” Kerney said. “What kind of a cap you want to put on your investments, what your nest egg should look like. As [former NFL receiver] J.R. Tolver said as a speaker the other day, ‘Before you start this, come up with a number and how much you’re willing to lose on a venture. If you hit that number, you’ve got to walk away.’”
But for Kerney, this approach is not simply about money and investments. It’s also about securing quality of life and meaning.
“There’s the fact of, OK, you get to the end of a solid NFL career, and you’re 34,” he said. “You still need some meaning, some purpose, every day. The way I look at it is that there are multi-billionaires who still get up and go to work every day.”
That’s why for Kerney, this isn’t just a forum about how to turn a player’s $1 bill into $2. It’s about planning the next stages of their lives, and about the myriad challenges they’ll face — during and after their careers. And for him, it’s a no-brainer for any kind of player to attend the program and enrich their lives. In fact, he’d pitch every NFL player on it if he could.
“It doesn’t cost you a dime. It’s just about human capital, and the economic return you will get from that human capital is absurd,” Kerney said.
Ware said he thought about his place in football and life after it following a serious neck injury in 2009. Since then, he has been very proactive about planning out the stages of his post-football life, knowing that his time in the NFL can end in an instant.
If that reality wasn’t clear before, it was the minute the Dallas Cowboys — a team he thought he always would play for — cut him. Despite the fact he was signed by the Broncos very soon after, Ware hasn’t slowed down thinking about his next move after playing, and it could involve something in the safety field in relation to sports.
“Guys are suffering a lot of injuries these days, so I want to focus more on that at some point,” Ware said. “Not just football either. Sports in general. I am really passionate about that. I am trying to figure out what my niche might be in it.”
Ware said he hasn’t had any specific discussions about starting a business venture in that field yet, but he hopes one day to get involved in maybe forming his own line of protective sports gear.
“It’s something I have thought about a lot,” he said. “I’ve wanted to give back to the game. This is not just a money-making thing. It’s a way for me to take my personal experiences and put them to good use as well.”
Beadles still has several seasons left in his prime but imagines a post-career career that could involve assisting players with money.
“I could see myself working as a financial analyst or vetting out different investments for people,” Beadles said. “I have a passion for sports, obviously, and I enjoy the mental side of sports. I am trying to use my time in the NFL as a launching pad for my next career. I absolutely could see myself working with players on their portfolios one day.”
Beadles first heard about the program his rookie year but never had gotten involved until this year. A mechanical engineering major at Utah, Beadles certainly is smart enough to understand complex concepts, but he only really started getting a taste for business-related things the past few years. And yet he gets why the number of players attending the program is limited.
“I think it’s extremely intimidating,” Beadles said. “You’re coming in and trying to comprehend very complex things. I don’t think, even with formal training, you’re ever fully comfortable putting your money in other people’s hands and not feeling entirely comfortable. If you’re like me, you want to know where it is at all times.
“As you go on, it becomes less intimidating, but there is so much to it. But I feel a lot more enlightened [having gone through the program] now, and it’s giving me more ideas of the possibilities.”
Ware was a business information systems major at Troy, so some of the complex concepts were not entirely foreign to him coming in. But he very much knows he has a lot to learn when it comes to finance and business and understands why many players are intimidated by attending such a forum.
But both players say they also have looked around them and watched teammates waste their money or fail to come up with a post-football life plan, and it depresses them.
“You always hear the statistics, that like 75 percent of the guys are broke within five years of being out of the league,” Beadles said. “I don’t want to be a statistic. I don’t want to be that person.”
“More guys need to take advantage of this stuff,” Ware said. “It’s there for their benefit. There’s something for everyone to learn, whether it’s business or entrepreneurial or whatever. It can help players narrow their focus as far as what they want to do after their careers.”
- - - - - - -
Thu Apr 17 09:51am EDT
There are few men on earth who can understand what it's like to be Tony Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Fewer still understand what Romo is going through from an injury perspective, and one of those is a bit concerned.
Troy Aikman, a Cowboys legend, retired after 12 years in the league in large part because of back difficulties. Speaking to the Cowboys' website, Aikman was frank about his perspective on Romo's prospects: "Two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned."
Make no mistake, Aikman is firmly in Romo's corner. But he's taking a pragmatic view of Romo's injury recovery. “I’m hopeful that he’s able to come back," Aikman said. "Everybody is. This team won’t be the same if he’s not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, ‘Hey, he’s ahead of schedule and everything’s going fine,’ I’m not sure how you can really measure that here in April.”
Romo and Aikman have plenty of parallels. Romo is also entering his 12th year, and he'll turn 34 this year, the age Aikman was at retirement. Aikman didn't hint that change was on the way, noting instead that Brandon Weeden and, presumably, Kyle Orton will be suitable backups.
"It doesn’t sound like they’ll be drafting [a quarterback]," Aikman said of the Cowboys. "But if they can find a free agent to come out and at some point down the road play like Tony has played, that’s a pretty good way to go.”
You know where this ought to head, though. Johnny Manziel to the Cowboys. Make it happen, Jerry.
Tue Apr 15 07:41pm EDT
Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.
6-foot-4, 228 pounds
2013 stats: 238-of-389 passing (61.2 percent completions) for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 76 rushes, minus-208 yards, three touchdowns
40-yard dash: 4.97 seconds
The good: Who is Tom Savage and why is he perhaps the hottest mystery quarterback heading into the 2014 NFL draft? Savage stepped up with a strong final college season — his only one on the field at Pitt — and lived up to the hype he received when he was a highly rated passer in high school. Things didn't go according to plan, as he committed to Rutgers, started for parts of two years there and then transfered to Arizona but left before playing a game for the Wildcats. Savage attempted to re-enroll at Rutgers, but his hardship waiver to play immediately was denied, so he landed at Pitt and sat out the 2012 season.
Savage's stock grew again as the 2013 season wore on, and he took care of the football well (three INTs in his final nine games) after a shaky start. His arm strength rivals that of two of the draft class' best flamethrowers — Fresno State's Derek Carr and LSU's Zach Mettenberger. As one AFC offensive coordinator told Shutdown Corner about Savage, "He can really shoot it."
Savage also has an NFL-caliber frame, played in a pro-style offense under Paul Chryst (who tutored several future NFL quarterbacks, including Russell Wilson at Wisconsin) and had his stats skewed by some dropped passes. It also says something that his teammates named Savage a captain despite him transferring in.
The bad: There are concerns about Savage's lack of athleticism, as the same offensive coordinator pointed out, and ability to throw on the run. For having such a strong arm, Savage was asked to throw horizontally and short quite a bit, which was odd, and his accuracy wavered at times. Also, pressure appeared to bother him; although Savage doesn't back down from the rush, standing tough against some big hits, he can deliver some wild passes in those situations.
He turned in some real clunkers this season — there's no shame in Florida State getting the best of him, but Savage also struggled noticeably through stretches against marginal opponents such as Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion and Georgia Tech. Savage turns 24 two weeks before the draft.
The verdict: Savage bears a striking resemblance as a prospect to the Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles, Savage's former teammate for a year in Tucson. It's all there, from Foles' size to his circuitous college route (Foles committied to Arizona State, then signed with Michigan State before transferring to Arizona) to him also toughing it out and taking a beating behind a bad offensive line. That's Savage, too, although he's not quite as big as Foles, and Foles' incredible statistical success last season under Chip Kelly might skew this comparison somewhat unfairly.
Savage has enough tools to be attractive to NFL teams seeking a pocket passer with a big arm, and he appears to care greatly about football and getting better. He can make every NFL throw there is; turn on the Duke or North Carolina games this past season for proof of that.
But Savage also has enough sub-par tape to question his pro potential, especially given that he's a year or two older than most of the other prospects in this class. Savage has one full season of football to his name since 2009, and he could benefit from learning in a scheme that favors his arm strength where he doesn't have to play immediately — the Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys are a few teams that come to mind here.
But there's a good chance that Savage could, like Foles did in 2012, come off the board higher than many expect, perhaps even in the draft's first 64 picks.
Previously Under the Microscope
- - - - - - -
Fri Apr 11 08:42am EDT
Cleveland Browns fans have been through enough. This proud franchise does not deserve to be kicked again by being associated with “Draft Day."
Kevin Costner’s newest film, released nationwide on Friday, is more of a bust than Ryan Leaf ever was. Some critics compared it to “Moneyball," but at least that movie was well-written and compelling. “Draft Day” may have been written, but moviegoers will be compelled to wonder how they can salvage a bad date night.
Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the fictional general manager of the Cleveland Browns. He is an incompetent front-office executive who seemingly does not understand how to run a team (insert Browns punch line here). The film is based on what occurs during the first day of the NFL draft. However, Costner’s character is expecting a child with the salary cap manager for the Browns, who is played by Jennifer Garner, and their story adds no value to the movie. There is nothing compelling about their relationship, other than wondering how many drinks it took her to find him attractive.
The movie borders fiction and non-fiction, which makes it hard to follow. Comparing Andrew Luck to fictional characters is confusing, and the picture would have been much better if based on actual events.
A big complaint about most movies is the story was nothing like the book. Well, any person who watches this film that has a basic understanding of the NFL draft, or common sense, will continuously roll their eyes while watching unlikely events unfold.
Without spoiling the plot, which there is very little of, Costner is pressured by his team owner to make a splash in the draft. That message is relayed on draft day, the most unlikely time an owner would convey that desire. Most owners express their expectations of coaches and general managers at the end of the regular season, not at a water park on draft day morning.
Even if viewers overlook that inaccuracy, Cleveland’s coach, portrayed by Denis Leary, has zero faith in his boss' vision. Leary’s character even flashes a championship ring he won as a coach of the Dallas Cowboys at one point to prove he knows how to win.
Really? Dallas was awarded a championship ring for an 8-8 season?
As the general manager struggles to make decisions, he begins researching a top-10 pick on draft day. Any GM who does not know everything about a potential top-10 pick weeks before the draft should be immediately fired.
However, the ignorance does not prevent him from somehow making moves.
Of course, the tables eventually turn, and Costner emerges as a genius as other general managers somehow lose their ability to think. They even call Costner’s character to ask for his advice during the draft. The scouting department for those teams had to wonder why they were not working for an organization that respected their skills, like the Miami Sharks from "Any Given Sunday."
Houston Texans running back Arian Foster had a small role in the movie. It was a great acting opportunity for him, but nothing he will be remembered for. Foster was a decent actor, but his skills were wasted in this subpar film.
If “Draft Day” was an NFL prospect, it deserves the “Mr. Irrelevant” title.
And Browns fans deserve a better movie to be associated with.
- - - - - - -
Thu Apr 10 12:57am EDT
"a blessing" to play for the Lions, alongside Calvin Johnson and new No. 2 receiver (for now) Golden Tate.Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett spoke with Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, who said it would be
And now, there are indications from all over — including this follow-up report from Birkett — that the Lions' interest in Watkins is very much mutual.
There are several layers to this story.
First, Lions fans bristle at the mention, but history has a seat at this table. The team has hit the entire spectrum at drafting receivers high, with Johnson the lone high note (albeit one of the best high notes ever), middling Roy Williams (who produced one big season in Detroit then netted a draft haul from Dallas), plus all-time flops such as Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. But even the team's recent second-round swings, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles, have been misses.
Second, is Watkins really even that needed? He's great — no arguing that. But with Tate on board and this being such a deep class of wideouts, would Watkins be something of a luxury pick? Clearly, the team wants as much of a sure-thing pick as possible, and there's little doubt they are doing everything they can to help out Matthew Stafford be the best he could be. Adding another prime target would only be the latest move toward that end, and it would give new coordinator Joe Lombardi a Saints-like attack in terms of diversity and talent. The upside of the deal from that perspective is fairly obvious.
But, third, there's the cost. Consider: This was a flawed team last season that blew leads late. It had problems on all three levels of the defense, ones that only partially have been addressed this offseason. The Lions appear to want to let their young corners figure things out and develop, but that's not a position of certainty. Neither is safety. There is an outside linebacker spot open. Another pass rusher is needed.
So would trading up and giving up multiple picks be the best option?
Let's explore what it might cost the Lions. Here's a look at the draft trades the past two years involving picks inside the top 10:
|Draft year||Highest number pick (overall) traded||Team receiving highest pick||Picks traded in return (all same year unless noted)||Other trade team|
|2012||2||Redskins||6, 39, first-rounders in 2013, 2014||Rams|
|2012||3||Browns||4, 118, 139, 211||Vikings|
|2013||8, 71||Rams||16, 46, 78, 222||Bills|
(FYI: I only included trades involving the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts because I believe that the pre-CBA ramifications of the 2011 NFL draft changed the value dynamic that year that doesn't apply now.)
In order to move up to assure they land Watkins, the Lions likely would have to make a deal up to the 2nd overall pick with the Rams, who — as this chart clearly shows — are willing dealers. They have made more significant draft-related trades than any other team the past few years. Would they move all the way down to No. 10? With myriad needs (receiver, offensive tackle, safety and linebacker, for starters), the Rams just might, and it still would give them two picks inside the top 13 (they netted the No. 2 overall pick in that 2012 trade with the Redskins listed above). But then again, maybe they have eyes for Watkins, or one of the top offensive tackles. That's the leverage the Rams and GM Les Snead could use against the Lions in order to raise their price in return.
So of these trades above, we probably can throw out the Rams-Redskins deal — there's no way the Lions would give up that kind of insane bounty, and with no franchise QB as bait, the price drops precipitously. That one is out.
But if we look at the deals involving the Cowboys and Rams and Dolphins and Raiders, we might have a decent starting point for the Rams and Lions this year. The Lions have eight draft picks this year — Nos. 10, 45, 76, 111, 133, 136, 189 and 227 overall. Picks 133 and 136 are compensatory choices and can't be traded.
Would the Rams take 10 and 45 straight up for No. 2 overall? Would the Lions be willing to give that up? There would be a long wait for the Lions between Watkins and the mid-third-round choice at 76, but such would be the cost of doing business. And the Rams might say, "Hey, give us 111, too" or perhaps a 2015 pick. That might be their counter.
If you're Lions GM Martin Mayhew, Watkins is your guy and you're trying to convince beat-up Lions fans that you should be kept in your current position, do you throw in 111 as the sweetener to make the deal happen, knowing you have those two compensatory picks in your back pocket?
It's a deep draft, and it certainly would be tempting. But that would also put the onus on the Lions finding, let's say, a safety, a pass rusher and one more front-seven player in Rounds 3 and 4. Can it be done? Sure. Some defensive gems — Tyrann Mathieu and Logan Ryan — will slip into that range, and this is considered a talent-richer crop than the past few years. The Lions themselves also struck gold in Round 3 a year ago, selecting guard Larry Warford, who could anchor the interior of the offensive line for years.
The Lions' secret fear might be not making a deal for Watkins, and then also missing out on a pretty good consolation prize in Texas A&M's Mike Evans. What if he goes 5th to the Raiders, 7th to Tampa Bay or 9th to the Bills? He could fit on any of those rosters.
This is the Lions' dilemma. It has many layers. This will not be an easy decision. And as Lions fans surely know, nothing ever seems easy for their team.
- - - - - - -
Wed Apr 09 04:49pm EDT
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cannot brag about his team’s recent success in the playoffs, so he had to boast about something.
On second thought, he really could have kept those thoughts to himself.
Jones recently held a press conference to announce AT&T Stadium will host the 50th annual Academy of Country Music awards next April. Instead of just bragging about the beautiful stadium, or everything Dallas has to offer, Jones made a horrible analogy involving his football team.
"As you know, the Cowboys have not gone to the playoffs in several years," Jones said (via The Dallas Morning News). "We have not gone, yet we’re the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings. We lead, 24 of the last top 25 shows were NFL games, and any time your Cowboys play they’re up there at the top and leading. Now, what causes that? What causes that is creating some aura, creating some excitement. We want to use that as best we can to make this award show the greatest ever."
That observation should do wonders for season ticket sales.
There is a difference between being popular and good. A random search on YouTube will produce several popular videos, but that does not mean it is quality entertainment.
Jones also does not realize many people enjoying watching Dallas because of its annual collapse. Dallas has finished 8-8 the past three seasons, while quarterback Tony Romo’s record in December is 14-19.
Dallas may be a popular team, but Jones should be uncomfortable settling for that insignificant accolade.
- - - - - - -
Mon Apr 07 03:21pm EDT
Mock drafts are a blast. I write them up, and you flamethrow me after reading them. It's fun for everyone involved.
But as I see it, there often are problems when people do mock drafts. Too often they blur the lines between what they think teams will do and what they think teams should do.
So we'll solve that problem with a handy double shot: both things in one side-by-side list. Sometimes the picks will align. We realize that teams are smart, too, and often have the best idea of what they need. But we also have a few thoughts of the way this thing should go on May 8.
In this first-round mock draft, you get the best of both worlds. And that means twice the feedback of how terrible I am — at football, at life, whatever.
|Pick||Team||Who they will take||Who they should take||Explanation|
|1||Houston Texans||South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney||I know that esteemed beat writer John McClain says it's Johnny Manziel for now (and has said QB first the entire process). But I still believe Clowney will be too hard to pass up here.|
|2||St. Louis Rams (from Redskins)||Auburn OT Greg Robinson||Clemson WR Sammy Watkins||If a team is not drafting Watkins because it used a first-round pick last year on Tavon Austin and then signed Kenny Britt to a contract this season, its priorities are messed up. That said, Robinson and Jake Matthews could be great ones.|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Clemson WR Sammy Watkins||Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater||Maybe we're wrong, but the precocious Bridgewater might be the leader Gus Bradley could use for his ascending team, and there's no pressure to start him immediately. Then again, Watkins is one of our favorite players in this draft.|
|4||Cleveland Browns||Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews||Auburn OT Greg Robinson||The Browns do the right thing? Look, if you're in love with Derek Carr, then fine ... take him at 26, or thereabouts. But please, for the love of all good things, don't reach for him here. Don't believe they will. Either Matthews or Robinson would be a hit.|
|5||Oakland Raiders||Central Florida QB Blake Bortles||Buffalo LB Khalil Mack||The Raiders need a QB, so they take one. Is he the franchise savior? No. There is chatter the Raiders might go way off the grid here. I know, shocker, right?|
|6||Atlanta Falcons||Buffalo LB Khalil Mack||Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews||We actually like the Mack fit, if he's there. The Falcons were one of the worst teams rushing the passer without the benefit of the blitz last season. If Mack is not there, Matthews would add the skill they need up front.|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Texas A&M WR Mike Evans||Michigan OT Taylor Lewan||Evans might not be the receiver everyone is making him out to be, but an Evans-Vincent Jackson combo would rival the Bears' WRs as the most physical combination going and give Josh McCown two similar types of targets. Lewan would give them more blocking help and nastiness. A win either way.|
|8||Minnesota Vikings||UCLA LB Anthony Barr||Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel||We admit: We just want to see what a Manziel-Mike Zimmer-Adrian Peterson-Cordarrelle Patterson-Norv Turner situation would produce. It would be fascinating and get people pumped about the Vikings again.|
|9||Buffalo Bills||Michigan OT Taylor Lewan||Texas A&M WR Mike Evans||If you're going to support your almost-rookie quarterback (considering how much time EJ Manuel missed last season), then you need to help him out, and either a right tackle (Lewan) or a seam-stretching receiver (Evans) would achieve just that.|
|10||Detroit Lions||Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||UCLA LB Anthony Barr||We're not quite as jacked on Clinton-Dix as everyone, and this pick feels like it's a bit too needs-based. Barr fits what the Lions do not have (and actually have said they needed): a pass-rushing linebacker opposite Ziggy Ansah. Maybe they surprise and take the right guy here.|
|11||Tennessee Titans||Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert||Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert||Too easy. You lose your top corner, Alterraun Verner, to free agency and your new defensive coordinator is one of the most aggressive, blitz-happy play callers out there. The Titans need a man-cover ace, and Gilbert is the guy.|
|12||New York Giants||Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald||Pittsbugh DT Aaron Donald||Once more, fiction and reality intersect. The Giants have been big middle-class players in free agency, helping rebuild the core of the roster. Smart stuff. But they need more help on the defensive front with Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck gone.|
|13||St. Louis Rams||Louisville S Calvin Pryor||Alabama LB C.J. Mosley||We're higher on Mosley than others and not as high on Pryor as some. The Rams need a safety more than they need a linebacker, per se, and Mosley might not be best on the strong side, which is where he would play here. But he can cover tight ends and be a more disciplined answer to Alec Ogletree on the other side. The Rams could lay claim to the best front seven in football.|
|14||Chicago Bears||Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman||Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard||
GM Phil Emery might be disappointed if he was left to pick from the options on the left side of the equation. Our choice, Dennard, might not excite Emery enough, however, even though it's a need position and a good value. We say he rolls the dice on the scary — both good and bad — Hageman.
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers||Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard||Ohio State CB Bradley Roby||I think their need at corner trumps everything, but I am guessing they would not go that direction if Gilbert and Dennard are off the board. Still, Roby could be one of the 20 best players in this draft when it's all said and done.|
|16||Dallas Cowboys||Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan||Notre Dame OG-OT Zack Martin||I hate their options here but resist the temptation to force defense because Jernigan is not the 16th best player available (and because he's something of a Henry Melton clone), even with the defensive front being such a wasteland. Martin is a huge upgrade over both projected starting guards and can replace Doug Free at right tackle in a year.|
|17||Baltimore Ravens||Notre Dame OT Zack Martin||Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Martin is an Ozzie Newsome type of player and would give the Ravens their starting right tackle. Clinton-Dix would be a decent fallback and a nice SEC-proven combination at safety with Matt Elam.|
|18||New York Jets||North Carolina TE Eric Ebron||LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.||An almost can't-lose scenario for the Jets. Either way, they add a much needed target with separation ability in a unit that severly lacks it.|
|19||Miami Dolphins||UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo||UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo||We're giving the Dolphins some credit here. They almost feel obligated to upgrade their offensive line in three regards — talent, versatility and character — and this would represent all three. Best value at 19? Perhaps not, and this might be a trade-down spot for a team angling to move up for a QB. But it would be a rock-solid pick in our minds.|
|20||Arizona Cardinals||Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller||Fresno State QB Derek Carr||Fuller appeals to the Cardinals because he's big and athletic, and provides depth with Patrick Peterson a year removed from free agency. (Plus, for good measure, Bruce Arians is a Hokie.) But we'd be tempted here to roll the dice on Carr, who could sit for as long as needed behind Carson Palmer and has the arm strength Arians covets in a quarterback.|
|21||Green Bay Packers||Alabama LB C.J. Mosley||North Carolina TE Eric Ebron||We actually like the first scenario better, but having used Mosley on the "should take" list previously, we'll switch to another need, which is at tight end. Either way, one of two sore spots gets a boost.|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks||Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks||Yes, the defense needs help, but there is no need to reach here. The loss of DeSean Jackson, while necessary in Chip Kelly's mind, creates a speed void — one which Cooks would fill perfectly, keeping Kelly's Pac-12 talent scoop alive and well.|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.||USC WR Marqise Lee||We like both players, although Beckham > Lee. We might be wrong about Lee, whose 2013 season raised some questions about his NFL ceiling. But he's an ideal fit in a West Coast scheme and would be a nice No. 2 option — albeit one lacking deep speed — opposite Dwayne Bowe. Still, Lee plays faster than he times.|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Auburn DE Dee Ford||Central Florida QB Blake Bortles||OK, is Blake Bortles falling to 24? Nah, likely not. But we think that he should be a mid-to-late first-round pick based on his body of work and need of refinement, and there would be quite the intriguing situation with Andy Dalton's contract coming up. Again, likely? No. But a trade would work. Short of that, we think Ford might be the actual pick.|
|25||San Diego Chargers||Ohio State CB Bradley Roby||Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III||Either pick looks like a winner, although one that carries risk. Neither played to expectations last season, but the Chargers are so thin at both spots, that Nix or Roby would be Day 1 starters and instant upgrades. Sean Lissemore isn't a starting-caliber nose tackle. Not in the NFL, certainly.|
|26||Cleveland Browns (from Colts)||Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater||Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo||In our "should take" minds, they'd be trading up to No. 19 and snagging Bortles or Carr so the Dolphins can take Su'a-Filo here, which would harmonize the universe and not make the Browns look like they are playing out the script of "Draft Day" that the NFL likely rejected. But in lieu of that, and in dire need for a quarterback here, they'll settle for Garoppolo, in whom they have shown a lot of interest. Hey, we're not perfect.|
|27||New Orleans Saints||Missouri OLB-DE Kony Ealy||Auburn OLB-DE Dee Ford||Rob Ryan would run from Metarie to Bourbon Street and buy drinks for everyone if he could get another pass rusher such as Ealy or Ford.|
|28||Carolina Panthers||Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson||Virginia OT Morgan Moses||Taking a receiver, such as Lee, would put a lot of pressure on him "replacing Steve Smith," so the guess is that the Panthers shift to their other glaring need: left tackle. Yes, Jordan Gross will be hard to replace, too, but he wasn't the best player in Panthers franchise history|
|29||New England Patriots||Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel||Louisville S Calvin Pryor||The Internet would break. Johnny to the Patriots! Not so fast. Yes, they brought him in for a visit, and oh boy, the thought of him playing for Bill Belichick would be incredible. But the guess is that the Patriots would trade down to a team high in Round 2 that still needs a quarterback. Can you imagine Belichick and BIll O'Brien cooking this up so that the Texans get Clowney and Manziel? Oh, my beloved goodness.|
|30||San Francisco||USC WR Marqise Lee||Minnesota DL Ra'Shede Hageman||In both scenarios, we project them a highly rated "need" position that represents great value. The 49ers are set up to have a banner draft, but we expect them to consider moving up at some point along the way. A cornerback also would make sense — someone such as Fuller.|
|31||Denver Broncos||Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier||Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin||We love Shazier and could see him being a four-down player (defense and special teams) immediately for whatever team drafts him. But if he's not available, Benjamin could be a nice addition for a team that has to start thinking about WR depth with Eric Decker gone and Demaryius Thomas' contract situation unresolved.|
|32||Seattle Seahawks||Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin||Missouri DE Kony Ealy||Cliff Avril is in the final year of his deal, and Ealy is the kind of versatile, playmaking defender they love in Seattle. But Benjamin tempts the Seahawks, too, and he'd be a perfect project for a team that always could use another big, physical receiver to battle in the NFC West.|
- - - - - - -
Posted Jul 2 2012
Posted Jul 3 2012
Posted Jun 21 2012