Disclaimer: If you don't like reading turn back now. For those of you who do but feel it's too early to talk about the 2013 NFL Draft and for good reason as it's entirely impossible to predict how not only the NFL season will play out but how the stock of the college players will fluctuate, then simply stop reading now. For those of you who don't mind a long article and, like me, feel it's never too early to start thinking about the next NFL Draft and want to discuss next year's prospects or our draft position then continue reading and enjoy the article.
With the 2012 NFL Draft only recently behind us I couldn't help myself from looking ahead to the upcoming NFL season and wondering to myself where the Vikings might end up by the end. While it's way too early in the process to start predicting wins and losses you can generally get an idea for who's going to compete for their division, who's going to the playoffs, and who's a legit Super Bowl contender. I can honestly say the Minnesota Vikings will do none of those things in 2012. It's not that I'm predicting they won't improve from a 3-13 record but chances are the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions are all going to be pretty good next season, certainly each of those teams look better off right now, and so it just leaves no room for the Vikings to win the division or make the playoffs next year. And that's okay. If we're not legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl I'de rather them lose more games then win and give me false hope. I still want to see the team contend but at the end of the day a higher draft pick helps the team out more than putting up an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs. While I don't condone this kind of thinking from the coaches or players, they better be giving it their all, I am not one of them. I'm just a fan. I'm just looking at what's most likely to happen.
As soon as I came to that conclusion I begun to shift my attention to the other teams in the NFL to see who's better off and worse off then we are in order to come up with a list of who's likely to get the number one overall pick in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft. I started off by eliminating teams from the list that I thought we're going to win their division because that's where it starts.
In the NFC North I have Green Bay, Chicago, and Detroit all contending for the division title so I wasn't able to start thinning the herd within our own division. A lot of talent is coming into the NFC North after four solid drafts by each of the teams. While some of the picks made me scratch my head like how the player the Bears took fits into their defense. Is Shea McClellin going to stand up and play OLB or put his hand in the dirt and play DE? As for the Packers' pick of Nick Perry he had more of a 2nd round grade to me. I laugh when draft analyst give the Bears and Packers better draft grades then the Vikings. The Lions did good by me with drafting Riley Reiff to keep Stafford healthy. They all did good in the mid rounds, especially the Packers with Jerel Worthy replacing what they lost with Cullen Jenkins and Casey Hayward being a future star at corner. Bears took Alshon Jeffery which irked me a little bit because that a player I wanted but equally as dangerous is the Lions selection of Ryan Broyles. I don't want to see a healthy Broyles out on the field at the same time as Calvin Johnson.
If I had to guess I'de say Chicago wins the division, Green Bay's defensive rookies keep them in contention until the end though, and Detroit isn't far behind but they fall short. It's just too tough to tell this early as we have one of the most competitive divisions in all of football but the thing that stands out to me is Brandon Marshall reuniting with former QB Jay Cutler. Only three players have had at least 1,000 yards receiving each of the last five seasons: Larry Fitzgerald over in Arizona, Roddy White down in Atlanta, and Brandon Marshall despite switching teams from Denver to Miami. For Marshall, his first two 1,000-yard seasons came when he was paired with Cutler with the Denver Broncos. From 2007-08, Marshall had 206 receptions (only Wes Welker had more) and his 2,590 yards in that span ranked third behind only Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne when Peyton Manning was still throwing passes. In 2008, Cutler targeted Marshall a league-high 179 times, 33 more than any other QB-receiver combination. That’s the most times a QB has targeted a player in a single season in the last four years. Jay Cutler's got his favorite target back and I think it's going to pay off in a big way. A division title.
I move on to the NFC South. While New Orleans will likely take a hit due to the bounty scandal repercussions I still have them contending for the division with the Atlanta Falcons. I do like what Carolina did in the draft this year though. Everybody had the Panthers taking a DT in round one but they correctly took the best defensive player on the board in Luke Kuechly and then got a mauler in Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State in the second round. I thought they should've addressed DT at that position but they did take some help along the defensive line with Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma. They got some value late in Coastal Carolina CB Josh Norman and joined the Vikings in drafting a Arkansas receiver with Joe Adams. I like what they did and am excited to see what Kuechly can do. I knew he would be the pick because Ron Rivera saw first hand what kind of impact Brian Urlacher had on the Bears team he was defensive coordinator of from 2004 to '06. Their offense was explosive last year with Cam running the show but I don't quite see them contending for the division or making the playoffs yet. Their a quickly rising team for sure though. Same with Tampa Bay.
The Bucs are quietly building a contender and had a very underrated draft this year. I love the move to trade down from the fifth spot, though the 4th round pick (101st overall) as their only compensation was a bit weak, and take the star Mark Barron, SS, Alabama. Barron is a safe pick and someone you know you can plug in and expect a high level of play out of right away. This pick is a direct response to Saints' TE Jimmy Graham and his breakout season in 2011. Defenses generally have no idea how to match up with New Orleans tight end Graham and Sproles. With the pick of Barron and their later round pick of the linebacker the Bucs might now have the personnel to do that. While they couldn't make a deal to leapfrog Cleveland for Trent Richardson they got the next best thing in Doug Martin, RB, Boise State. He's arguably the drafts best pass blocking back and he's a three down player who can catch out of the backfield as well as run. Think Ahmad Bradshaw. Plus like I mentioned above they got Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska and he's going to be a player now in this league! He is really good actually and sort've an underrated prospect. Despite the good drafts this year by Carolina and Tampa Bay I'm going to have to say Atlanta edges out them all and wins the division. New Orleans despite all that punishment will contend for the division but I don't think they will do enough to hold off a hot Atlanta team that's ready to win a Super Bowl now. They could surprise me though.
Two divisions down onto the third. The NFC East is always one to watch out for. The New York Giants are defending champs, the Dallas Cowboys always got tons of talent, the Philadelphia Eagles always seem to play well regardless, and even the Washington Redskins are not as bad as you might think, especially now that they got RG3. Honestly I'm not going to pick against the defending Super Bowl champions to win this division but I would like to go over their teams draft picks. Starting with the team I feel had the best draft among them. Philly had one helluva draft. Look at this part of their draft;
1. (12) Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
2. (46) Mychal Kendricks, ILB, California
2. (59) Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
3. (88) Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
4. (123) Brandon Boykin, CB/R, Georgia
5. (153) Dennis Kelly, OT, Purdue
6. (194) Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
Trading up for Cox is a great move. Taking a future star linebacker in Kendricks is even better... but trading up to get Vinny Curry (who's a huge Eagles fan by the way) at the end of the 2nd is a GREAT! move. I couldn't believe the Jaguars passed on him for Clemson's Andre Branch in the top half of the 2nd because Curry is the drafts best pass rusher arguably. The Eagles tied us last year for most sacks in the NFL with 50. This pick will put them over the top! Eagles have always done a good job at developing QB's so Foles could be their future starter. Brandon Boykin is tremendous value in the 4th and Marvin McNutt is an absolute STEAL! in the 6th. I really like what they've done in this draft. Eagles fans should be ecstatic.
Onto the Dallas Cowboys. While the media darling is sure getting a lot of praise for their draft, mainly centered around Mo Claiborne, I just don't feel they had a very good draft. Outside of trading up for Claiborne, which will obviously have a major impact on their team, they didn't really get anyone to me that stood out. Yes the Claiborne pick will be huge but one player doesn't fill all their needs. They lost a pretty good WR to Jacksonville in Laurent Robinson. Though I hear Claiborne might actually be thinking about playing both sides of the ball for Dallas, cornerback and receiver. If he can do that it would be impressive to say the least. He has the hands to do it and was a star wideout in high school. He even began his career at LSU doing alternating practices at cornerback and wide receiver. The last time the Cowboys had a two-way player with a star cornerback moonlighting as a wide receiver was Deion Sanders. If Claiborne can become half the player he was Dallas just might be going to the Super Bowl next year. Can't wait to see what transpires down in Dallas.
Watch out for Washington too though. They could surprise some people. I think RG3 has the best rookie year out of all the rookie quarterbacks including Andrew Luck. Similar to Cam Newton's rookie season in numbers, ability to change a lackluster offense around, and ignite the fanbase, although that doesn't always relate to wins, like Cam Newton can attest to. They got an okay defense and some new receivers for RG3 to work with but I don't think it's enough this year. They'll be better for drafting RG3 but I still feel they are a year or two away from competing for the division yet.
That leaves only the Giants. The New York FOOTBALL Giants that is. The G-Men got some help on offense taking David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech in the first round and Rueben Randle, WR, LSU in the 2nd round and some defensive back depth with Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech. Three solid picks, back to back to back, especially their 2nd rounder because he wasn't suppose to fall to the end of the 2nd, so I feel they're still the team to beat. I know they have a tough schedule and Dallas and Philly are good enough to win the division but I believe in the Giants. They got enough talent and leadership on their team that will carry them through the hard times, and their three rookies should be able to replace what they lost in Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham, who came up big in the playoffs for them, and Aaron Ross who departed for Jacksonville.
As for the NFC West I think the 49er's got it locked down. They're returning all of their starters on the 4th-ranked defense, and even though I think they did an underwhelming job overall in the draft they did bring in some talent. They did get two fast, explosive players and that appears to be their approach to the offseason this year with the signings of Mario Manningham & Randy Moss. It's true the 49er's were only a few plays away from playing in the Super Bowl last year but it's not like they would've won it. No team has won it all with a 26th-ranked offense. The closest team is Tampa Bay under the offensive-minded Jon Gruden, who beat the Raiders 48-21 with the league's 24th-ranked offense. With the additions in free agency and in the draft they'll hope to put a dent in there sluggish offensive output and be able to hold off Arizona who quietly had a very solid draft. Arizona stole Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame from St. Louis by 1 pick and I LOVE IT! They stopped their division rival St. Louis Rams from getting a impactful receiver and now you pair him with Larry Fitzgerald (two MN boys mind you) and whoever you got at QB now (hopefully John Skelton gets his chance) suddenly looks a whole lot better. Getting Bobby Massie, RT, Ole Miss in the 4th round and 5th rounder Senio Kelemete, G/OT, Washington are both great picks for a team in need of some offensive line help. Heck 7th rounder Nate Potter, OT, Boise State could be a good player for them.
I don't like what the St. Louis Rams did in the draft this year but they did walk away with some talented players. I just don't like what they got considering where they started out at. They didn't get a blue chip player in the 1st round. Yes, I know Jacksonville stole Blackmon from them and forced their hand to then trade down where Arizona once again stole Floyd and they ended up selecting Michael Brockers, DT, LSU but they passed on Morris Claiborne and Fletcher Cox. True, in some circles Brockers was rated higher plus by trading down they got an additional 2nd round pick. They did make up for it with their picks in the 2nd a bit. I like the upside Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State has and both Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama and Trumaine Johnson, CB/S, Montana have 1st round potential so I guess they did pretty well after all. Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati, Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest, and the best kicker to come out in years Greg Zuerlein of Missouri Western are all solid picks too. I don't thnk they did enough to compete for the division though in 2012.
That leaves only the Seattle Seahawks to talk about in this division. The team that I feel did the worst though is by far the Seahawks. I'm still a bit dazed over their selection of West Virginia DL/LB Bruce Irvin in the first round. I did not see that one coming AT ALL and I have that as my biggest reach in the 1st round by far. At least they attempted to trade down and were able to do so (with Philly) because I would've laughed even harder if they had taken him 12th overall. Their fans will defend the pick, I'm sure, after having listened to them back Tarvaris Jackson and say Minnesota didn't develop him properly (yeah.. right.) They'll say it was their number one priority that they needed to address this year. I can't disagree but still Irvin that high up? All jokes aside, that was one of the Seahawks' main issues -- their lack of pass rush -- and it could easily be argued that Irvin is the best pass rusher in the draft. Seattle's defense actually played pretty well this past season, with the back two-thirds of the Seahawks defense growing up rapidly in the second half of the season, but another threat up front was needed to balance out the unit. Seattle now has a pretty solid defensive line.
The real reason I have them as my worst draft among all 32 teams is because of what they did after that 1st round reach. The only pick I really like for them in all their remaining selections is Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin who they took in the 3rd round. I think he's their future starting QB and it was a solid selection. I can get behind the pick of Bobby Wagner in the 2nd round because they needed linebacker help but overall they had a pretty lackluster draft. The thing that will stands out is that 1st round reach due to their need for a pass rusher. I've said all along teams that draft strictly to need tend to miss on more picks than those who take the best player available. After all it's better to find an impact player at a position you may already have a starter at then to reach and miss on a player all together.
Now onto the AFC. Starting with the AFC North. Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. Out of those four teams I think three could make the playoffs and battle it out for divisional supremacy. I'll let you guess which is the odd one out. The Pittsburgh Steelers' draft this year might just give them enough of a boost to take back the division. Their first pick was just about as solid as you can do with David DeCastro, G, Stanford but they followed that up with another good o-lineman in Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State and at good value towards the end of the 2nd round. Big Ben ought to be happy that he's going to get some protection but he's going to need it because the Ravens first pick of the draft they finally got Terrell Suggs some pass rush help with their selection of Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama. Like Suggs, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year (should be Jared Allen), Upshaw can can put his hand in the dirt and get after the passer or he can be a stout run stopper and break down and tackle. Same could be said for Sean Spence, OLB, Miami who will be joining the Steelers already deep core of linebackers.
Back to the Ravens they got another solid second round pick in Kelechi Osemele who will replace the departed Ben Grubbs. Arguably the best pick of all though for either team was the Steelers selection of Alameda Ta'amu, NT, Washington which was a absolute STEAL in the 4th round. Did the Steelers really just get the draft's best NT in the fourth round? Can't believe he fell to them. Plus I'm sure their fans are excited to see what kind of electric plays Chris Rainey, RB/WR/R, Florida can bring to the team. Keep in mind they've done a good job developing similar talent before with Emmanuel Sanders. With all these talented rookies coming in to these two teams you start to see why the Steelers and Ravens have dominated the division for so long. That being said last year the AFC North had three teams in the NFL playoffs and the one team we haven't talked about yet is the team I feel had the best draft of all the teams in the NFL.
The only real teams that I would give an A grade to is the Cincinnati Bengals. Just look at this part of their draft.
1 (17) Dre Kirkpatrick - CB - Alabama
1 (27) Kevin Zeitler - OG - Wisconsin
2 (53) Devon Still - DT - Penn State
3 (83) Mohamed Sanu - WR - Rutgers
3 (93) Brandon Thompson - DT - Clemson
4 (116) Orson Charles - TE - Georgia
5 (156) Shaun Prater - CB - Iowa
5 (166) Marvin Jones - WR - Cal Berkely
5 (167) George Iloka - S - Boise State
WOW! Their first four picks, all impactful starters. That WR they selected with the first of their two 5th round picks is also a starter more than likely for them. Jones is one of the most pro-ready players available and might be able to become an immediate contributor in the league. All of them will come in and contribute at some point throughout the season making an already dangerous, playoff team even more dangerous. They get my only A because I think they walk away with the most starters. While the Bengals had the best draft and will continue to build a dangerous young team the Ravens did go 6-0 in the division and 8-0 at home and came one dropped/knocked down touchdown catch and a miss field goal by Billy Cundiff away from making the Super Bowl last year. I have the Ravens as my division champs again but the division could easily go to Pittsburgh this year.
On to the AFC South. The Houston Texans won that division last year and made their first playoff game. They're looking like early favorites to do it again in a pretty weak division if you ask me. With Schaub back healthy, a hungry to win now Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster one of the leagues best, not to mention one of the more underrated defenses in the entire NFL under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips -- they could make it as far as the Super Bowl in 2012.
The second best team in the division I'de have to say are the Jags. I know their QB play stinks but I LOVE the move to trade up and take Justin Blackmon because they weren't content to sit back at the #7 and let all the six blue chippers go in front of them. In the second round they took Andre Branch, DE, Clemson and well quite frankly I felt Vinny Curry was the better pass rusher and would've offered the bigger impact. Then they did the unthinkable. Taking Bryan Anger, P, California in the 3rd round. Yes he had a 4th round grade on him and I hear they have a need for a punter but really I think there was too much talent out there still and you can find a serviceable punter in free agency or undrafted rookies. Yeah Anger is going to be more than just serviceable but he may never reach Shane Lechler level of play and if not this is a bad pick. They had a good defense last year though and if Blackmon can come in alongside free agent receiver Laurent Robinson and spark this offense, and if Gabbert can actually manage to keep his eyes downfield when the pressure is on, they could surprise some people.
The Tennessee Titans got Kendall Wright who I find to be overrated and Zach Brown who I find to be underrated so they did okay in the draft. With Kenny Britt coming back and CJ2K taking the money and not running last year who knows what they're going to do next year. They could be good or bad. I'm not sure what kind of talent they got on their team anymore and to be honest I don't even know who their head coach is.
I'm not really a fan of what Indianapolis did either outside of Andrew Luck of course. They got him two tight ends so he can emulate what he did with Stanford. Reuniting Coby Fleener with his college quarterback just makes a lot of sense. Both players would benefit from having some familiarity on the roster, and they played flawlessly together at Stanford so there's no reason to believe they won't continue that success and only get better in the NFL together. The issue I had with their draft is they didn't really get any bodies for their defense and they need bigger defenders in their new 3-4 scheme. New coach Chuck Pagano had emphasized how he wants bigger more physical players along their defense. I guess they did get Josh Chapman who started for Alabama, one of the best 3-4 defenses in all of college football, but I just think it's going to be a rough year for Colt's and their fans. That being said I'm not sure there was much they could do about it. Bottom line though is they needed to build an offense around Andrew Luck and tight end Coby Fleener and 3rd round tight end Dwayne Allen out of Clemson is a great start. They got not only the top tight end but the second best tight end in the draft and both players were among the best receiving targets in the country last season so Andrew Luck should be able to get bye with that in his rookie season but that doesn't correlate to wins necessarily.
NFC East is up next. The AFC Champion New England Patriots will be looking to get back to the Super Bowl next year and they may have added the defenders to be able to do so in the draft. Bill Belichick sort of threw us a curve ball trading up not once but twice in the first round. They got two of my favorite players in the entire draft in Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse and Dont'a Hightower, ILB/OLB, Alabama with those picks though. Jones and Hightower really fit the team and their needs. If they hit on both those two, and I see no reason to believe why they wont, they could be back in the Super Bowl in 2012 and this time they might just win it. I've liked Jones for a long time before he started rising and eventually shot up to a 1st round grade right before the draft. I feel he has the potential, the build, and the bloodlines to become the best defensive player in this draft class. That may be a extreme billing for a player many considered a 2nd round pick not too long ago but I really believe he can live up to it.
Jones reminds me a lot of Willie McGinest. An essential member of the Patriots' defense during their three Super Bowl victories, the No. 4 pick in the 1994 draft led the Patriots six times in sacks (1995-'96, 1999-2000, 2002, 2004) and is third in franchise history with 78. The bigger the moment, the better he was -- he holds the postseason single-game record for sacks (4.5) as well as career playoff sacks (16). McGinest was that prototypical linebacker/end in Bill Belichick's 3-4 scheme, the Patriots have never really replaced him. That is until now. With an almost identical build and skill set to McGinest, Jones may just be that guy.
The other 1st round defender, Dont'a Higtower, is a versatile linebacker having played inside and outside in Alabama's 3-4 scheme and though his best fit is probably at ILB his role is very much the same. He can get after the QB. Having played at Alabama for Bill Belichick's good friend Nick Saban, who was Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Browns, he knows what’s to be expected of him. He was a member of two national championship teams, so he's already used to playing on the big stage, which is exactly where New England seeks to return to this season. In order to do so the Patriots will need that pass rusher that can be called upon to come up with a play when they need one. In those times when you need somebody to step up and get after the QB. If the Patriots had these two players last year in the Super Bowl they might have been able to stop Eli from passing the ball down the field in crunch time at the end of the game. It's not about the quantity of picks for the Patriots it's about the quality of them and I think they have two impactful rookies.
The New York Jets had a risky draft in my eyes. Both Coples and Hill have immense talent and upside but both could bust and be out of the league in three years. I think if anybody can get the most out of Coples though it's Rex Ryan, he knows defense. Hill I'm just not so sure about. As I said in my article What's the difference between Stephen Hill and Greg Childs?, "Hill is all potential and measurable hype." Could he become the next great receiver from Georgia Tech? Sure but don't compare him to Calvin Johnson or Demaryius Thomas coming out of college. Calvin Johnson didn’t play in the same system as either Thomas or Hill. He played under Chan Gailey while at Georgia Tech. Gailey who is now the head coach in Buffalo ran a much different offense. It wasn’t the triple-option. Calvin Johnson had actually shown he could run the full route tree in his time there, he put up way better numbers too. Calvin Johnson had 178 receptions in his GT career, good for 2,927 yards and 28 touchdowns. Stephen Hill had 49 receptions (yes 49!) in his GT career good for 1,248 yards and nine touchdowns. The better comparison would be to Demaryius Thomas who finished with 120 catches (still double of what Hill did) in his GT career good for 2,339 yards and 14 TDs. That's enough about the Jets and their rookies let's move on. (Like how I didn't mention Tebow even one time?)
The Buffalo Bills are my sleeper team. Not sure how much of a sleeper they actually are though because they've been quietly getting better and better every year. Mario Williams, Stephon Gilmore, and Cordy Glenn are going to give them just what they need to be able to take the next step and contend for that division.
That only leaves the Miami Dolphins. Also known as the losers of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. That's okay they got Tannehill though! (right...) The Dolphins pick of Ryan Tannehill No. 8 overall suddenly makes our choice of Christian Ponder at No. 12 a year ago look a whole lot better! It's not that I don't like Tannehill, I see him as a Jay Cutler type, but he's so inexperienced at the QB position that he cannot simply come in and start day 1. No doubt in my mind Matt Moore will open up as the starter and likely stay there for the remainder of the year. He can do okay but who's he going to throw to? Miami traded away Brandon Marshall (smooth move exlax) and then didn't target a WR until the 6th round when they selected B.J. Cunningham (They did take a TE in the 3rd round). They did take a solid player in the 2nd round with Jonathan Martin to give them two talented tackles to protect whatever QB they throw under center but who the heck are they going to throw to? They took to Miami Hurricanes in Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller in the 3rd and 4th round. I think they shouldn't have been targeting the hometown kids and instead looking for some receiver help there.
We're nearing the final stretch with our last division, the AFC West. I'm going to start with the team I like best in this division. The Kansas City Chiefs. I feel they are a team that's a good QB away from contending for the Super Bowl. So who did they take in the draft? Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis. While everybody talks about how talented this kid is and how he does nothing but hustle I'm not a big proponent of letting combine numbers determine draft status. Regardless of whether or not his team at Memphis sucked he didn't look like the 11th overall best player in the draft to me. I guess we'll find out but the fans their are going to have to watch another season of Matt Cassel playing quarterback so I don't consider these guys my favorite to win the division.
I leave that honor to the Denver Broncos.The Denver Broncos had a pretty lackluster draft too. Many Denver Broncos fans were disappointed when they traded down in the first round and eventually traded out of it altogether. Yes they were able to pick up some extra selections along the way but they didn't do much with them. I think the best player they drafted might actually be Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State in the 3rd round. They had two picks before him...
I thought for sure they would go out and get Peyton Manning another weapon on offense. If not in the first round certainly in the 2nd round. They had their choice of Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, and Rueben Randle with the 4th pick in the second round and they chose a DT. Cincinnati's Derek Wolfe wasn't even the best tackle on the board! Devon Still, Jerel Worthy, and Kendall Reyes were all still on the board. The Broncos did enter the draft with a very obvious need at DT, and while they may not have taken one that many expected, they addressed a need so I can't really hate on this pick too much.
That's okay! They got another 2nd round pick yet and a lot of the receivers are falling... When that pick came up they chose Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State and passed on talented WR Rueben Randle in order to do so. It's not that I don't like the player they took. I understand he's a talented QB that they'll look to groom under Manning to become the future starter -- though I caution fan expectations that every QB that sits behind a great one doesn't become the next Aaron Rodgers -- it's that they took the QB at 57 overall and had another pick at 67 overall in round three that they could've likely taken the QB with.
That's okay I thought, no biggie they'll just look for a WR later in the draft. Surely one of the WR's that are falling will entice them. But they never did address the position. I was shocked. Who do they have that they were so confident to not take a receiver at all in the draft? I do hold Eric Decker in high regards -- Peyton seems to have taken a liking to him as well -- and I suppose Demaryius Thomas could break out this year with better QB play but I just don't know. The Giants, who ended up selecting Rueben Randle at the end of the 2nd round, showed us why you need more than two good WR's last year when Mario Manningham stepping up (not Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz, their two starters) in that final drive of the Super Bowl to allow the Giants to win it. The Bronco's did sign two receivers in free agency in the form of underrated tight ends Jacob Tamme, who's familiar with Peyton having played together with the Colts, and Joel Dreessen, who was signed away from the Houston Texans, so maybe I'm overreacting but my gut feeling is they should've tried to get a WR at some point in the draft. Peyton is going to miss all the weapons he use to have all those years with the Colts. (though he made a lot of them the players they were.)
I'm not even going to talk about the Oakland Raiders because you know what they didn't even pick in the draft until the 3rd round. Their team isn't that good. Period.
San Diego Chargers are my last team to talk about. I think Melvin Ingram is a perfect fit for their need for a pass rusher. I think he could have a Aldon Smith type impact for them as a rookie too. They lost Vincent Jackson so who knows just how good this team can be. They could compete for the division but ultimately it comes down to Philip Rivers vs Peyton Manning and I'de take Peyton Manning every time.
Now that I've gone through all the teams briefly (Ha! yeah right..) who do I think is going to end up with the worst record?
Well first off I'm going to get us out of the way right off the bat. Yes the Vikings are the worst among the four teams in the NFC North, yes we'll finish with the worst record among those teams, but I don't think we're as bad as some of the other bottom dwellers from other divisions. Plus our schedule is fairly easy. We're not as bad as our 3-13 record showed I don't think. Next year I expect 6-8 wins and that's not bad enough to get the #1 overall pick.
The Vikings won't be picking number one overall, despite what some people think, so let's take a who I do think have a shot at the first overall pick.
Cleveland Browns, (yep you guessed it!) were the one left out of playoff contenders within the AFC North. They'll finish 4th in the division yet again and although Trent Richardson will be a great player for years to come they're still a couple years away from winning enough games where they won't have a top 10 pick. I like Weeden but even his readiness to come in and play in this league won't prove to be enough to win many games in a tough division. It's a tough bill to fill, for sure. That being said I don't think they'll have the worst record in the league overall.
What about the Oakland Raiders or as Berman would say The Raaaaaidersss! They're always in contention for worst record right? While they didn't bring in much talent in the draft Oakland has some young talent on roster and Carson Palmer could actually play pretty decent for them in 2012 (I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible here) so no I don't think they'll have the worst record overall. If Darren McFadden is back healthy he'll win them some games alone.
The St. Louis Rams then? Surely they'll finish near the bottom of the league again right? After all, they have the worst five year run in NFL history (15-65 record) over the past five years. As bad as that may be I don't think they have the absolute worst team in the NFL. I think they got enough talent in there now, from the draft and free agency, and a better head coach that's proven to be able to win so I think they will do alright actually. They play in a pretty weak division too so some easy wins. They will still pick in the top 10 but not #1 overall.
What about Miami? No receivers... Tannehill at QB? I think Miami somehow will find a way to win a couple games. Matt Moore isn't a bad QB, not that good either but he'll keep them in games and they have a good defense sorta. Reggie Bush surprised me last year too. That being said I think they're definitely in contention for worst record. They'll finish last in their division because they don't have much talent on offense. I don't think Miami finishes with the worst record overall though, maybe by as little as one win margin.
Well who then...? Who is possibly left to have the worst record in the NFL? Last season, the Indianapolis Colts came out of nowhere (thanks to Mr. Manning's neck injury) to earn the No. 1 pick. Who is the early "favorite" to earn the first selection next season? Could it be a team we're not expecting like the Green Bay Packers? (I kid I kid)
Nope the team I have selecting first again... yep. Again. In back to back years... is the Indianapolis Colts.I've come to the conclusion that the Indianapolis Colts will once again be the favorites to be picking No. 1 again in 2013 because their defense. I don't think they have the right players to fit it. It's clear they are rebuilding. They cut a number of valuable veterans off a team that was already the worst in the league. They are drastically changing their offensive and defensive schemes and I don't think they have the players or the talent to win many game next year. While they'll rely on some rookies on offense it's that defense that I'm worried about. How can they hold up? On top of all that they have a first-time head coach too so the easiest answer is the right one. Luck won't be so lucky as a rookie and he will take his lumps early but just like Peyton Manning once did he'll be fine and he has the mental fortitude to lose a lot of games and struggle even but not let that affect him in the future.
Anyways since they finish with the worst record in 2013 who do I think the Colts will pick #1 overall?
I think they'll take Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones is the most dynamic pass rusher in college football. He possesses explosive first-step quickness and burst, and flashes the balance and body control needed to blow past blockers around the corner. While he is still learning the finer points of the position in pass coverage, Jones' ability to completely dominate the game as a pass rusher makes him a valued commodity in the eyes of evaluators. The USC transfer (6-3/241) tied for second in the nation in 2011 with 13.5 sacks in his first year on the field with the Bulldogs. He boasts a rare combination of power and speed. His explosion off the snap is rare and 3-4 teams will surely covet him. If not the Colts my next best guess is the Oakland Raiders will be picking #1, possibly trading up in order to take a QB like Barkley.
Now that we know we're not picking #1 overall what does that mean for the Vikings? Let's have a look see at what prospects we might be able to get that could help the Vikings get back to doing some of those things like winning the NFC North and making the playoffs.
Even though we won't have the #1 overall pick it doesn't mean we won't pick there necessarily. Depending on how bad, or good, Ponder does one could make the argument for moving on and taking a QB in the 2013 Draft. While I wouldn't say I agree with that being the best move for the franchise let's just look at our options.
As we've saw in the 2012 NFL Draft, teams won't be afraid to trade within the top five anymore. The trading up is going to continue to happen and if since the Colts already have Andrew Luck there is a chance they'll trade out of the top pick. While I find teams like Oakland, San Francisco, or Seattle way more likely to attempt to move up and grab the top QB in the draft who knows we could always trade up for the #1 overall pick even if we don't finish with the worst record and take Matt Barkley, QB, USC ourselves.I don't see them giving up on Ponder even if he has a bad year (which I don't expect to happen in the first place.) but crazier things have happened (They traded away Randy Moss in his prime for example and don't even make me mention Herschel Walker).
I see the Vikings picking in the 9-15 range next year and being fine with that pick. There's plenty of talent in that range and maybe even a blue chip prospect could fall. I'm not okay with giving up on Ponder until we give him a true #1 WR. We could pull a trade like Jacksonville did to move up and get the draft's top WR though. Jacksonville swapped first round picks with Tampa Bay and gave up a 4th round pick (101st overall) to move up from #7 to #5 to select Justin Blackmon. Since the Vikings made that trade with Detroit this year in giving up a 5th round pick and getting in return their 2013 4th round pick we now have ammunition to offer our 1st round pick and our 4th round pick to jump up to top 5 or so range and grab Robert Woods, WR, USC .
Matt Barkley and Woods will follow in the footsteps of Brandon Weeden/Justin Blackmon and Robert Griffin III/Kendall Wright as a top aerial connection. The junior receiver (6-1/190) dominated the Pac-12 over the past two seasons, as a sophomore he became Matt Barkley's primary weapon and ranked in the top 10 in receptions and receiving yards in 2011, snatching 111 passes for 1,292 yards and also scoring 15 touchdowns. He had a record-setting game to open the season with 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota. Woods then broke his own record, against Arizona, with 14 receptions for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Few receivers can rival his extraordinary ball skills. He beats corners deep but also possesses quick enough feet to leave defenders behind when he plants his foot on a cut. That means he will be able to do everything his NFL quarterback and offensive coordinator ask of him.
Other prospects I like are;
Keenan Allen, WR, California
Few receivers have a stronger bond with their quarterback than Allen; Cal's lefty passer Zach Maynard is his half-brother. Scouts would be impressed with Allen's strider speed and agility after the catch no matter who was throwing him the ball though. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Allen looks like he could have the talent to be a big-time receiver at the next level. Allen looks like a dangerous vertical weapon, as well as a threat to break or spin off tackles on bubble screens. He caught 46 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman in 2010. Then took another giant step forward with a huge 2011 season, piling up 98 receptions for 1,343 yards and six scores last season.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
Wilson had a dynamic freshman season with 55 receptions for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns. Then a year later Wilson was one of the best wide outs in all of college football in 2011. He made 82 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 181-pounder has a big-time skill set but could wait to come out til 2014 considering the other top end talent at WR in the 2013 Draft Class.
Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Let's be honest Spielman's love for Notre Dame just may prompt him to take Te'o next year even though many feel he projects best to fit into a 3-4 defense over a 4-3. The Irish's leading tackler the past two seasons is a thick thumper between the tackles and also can track down plays to the sideline with pure hustle. Te'o was a tackling machine as a sophomore in 2010, making 133 tackles. He also recorded 9.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble. Te'o followed that impressive season with another 128 tackles (13.5 for a loss) and five sacks performance this past season. He led Notre Dame in sacks and in tackles. Te'o has the talent to adapt quickly to the NFL. He is fast enough to play the middle in a 4-3 defense, with the bulk (6-2/255) to function on the inside of a 3-4 defense as well. Given his unique skills and versatility, Te'o could emerge as a blue-chip talent by season's end. He'll need a surprising combine performance like this year's top inside linebacker, Luke Kuechly, to shoot up into the top 10 picks, but he'll be a productive player in the middle for someone.
Barrett Jones, OG/OT/C, Alabama
The Vikings can use more offensive line help. One of my favorite prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft is Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones. A massive (6-5/302) lineman who started for two years at right guard for the Tide before moving to the left tackle spot to help the team win its second BCS title in three years in 2011. Now he's slated to take over at center in 2012. That's the definition of versatility. He can play every position on the line including left tackle but since we already have Kalil and Sullivan he can kick inside to play guard or possibly replace Loadholt. Jones started 14 games in 2009 as a redshirt freshman when Mark Ingram ran his way to a Heisman. Jones stayed at right guard and started 11 games in 2010. He was also named as a First-Team All-SEC selection as sophomore. In 2011, Jones did a phenomenal job of run blocking for Trent Richardson, and Alabama had a lot of success running behind Jones. He was chosen as a First-Team All-SEC selection in 2011 and also won the Outland Trophy, as the nation's best interior lineman on offense or defense. He's as solid a first-round pick as there's going to be in 2013. An interior lineman who can slide outside in a pinch I think he's a better prospect than this year's David DeCastro [1st round (24th overall) Pittsburgh Steelers].
David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
The Vikings drafted help for their secondary early in the 2012 NFL Draft with 1st round pick Harrison Smith and 3rd round pick Josh Robinson however adding another talented coverage man, especially in the QB & WR rich NFC North, could be the final piece to the puzzle. The 6-foot-3, 194-pound Amerson has all the makings of a shutdown corner. With prototypical size, ball skills, vertical leap ability and instincts he displays game-changing skills that put the Wolfpack star square in the sights of evaluators. Big, athletic corners with the instincts and movement skills to excel in "off" coverage are rare, and that's exactly what Amerson brings to the table. Rare coverage ability and the hands to make QB's pay. After putting on a solid showing as a true freshman in 2010, Amerson started nine of 13 games as a true freshman and recorded 50 tackles showing a little of what was to come, he exploded onto the national scene with a spectacular sophomore season in 2011. He was the nation's leading interceptor making quarterbacks pay 13 times overall last season. He had at least one interception in 9 out of 13 games played, with 2 in four different contests. He also had 59 tackles with five passes broken up. His special coverage ability and ball skills allowed him to beat Dré Bly's record for the most interceptions in a season in ACC history. He was one pick from ranking in the top 10 in NCAA-FBS history. He was also named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the top defensive back in college football. He's only played two seasons of college football and needs to get stronger and work on his tackling technique before attempting to handle NFL veteran receivers on Sundays, so he could stay in school another season and wait til the 2014 NFL Draft but another productive season like last year could put him near the top of the first round giving him a legitimate shot at cracking the top three - he'd be the first corner to do so since Shawn Springs in 1997. Even if Amerson doesn't have half as many interceptions in 2012 as he did in 2011, scouts will still appreciate his size/speed combination and he'll be a definite lock to go in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
- Personally I don't like him as much as everyone else. He's good in off coverage but he got a lot of "gift" interceptions where QB's threw it right to him and that simply won't happen in the NFL. He didn't really make any breaks on the ball on any of his picks. I think his stats are inflated playing in a lesser conference vs lesser competition. Liberty and Central Michigan last year were two of his better games, I know ACC is pretty talented but he's not the corner that Mo Claiborne and Patrick Peterson were coming out of the SEC.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Vikings can still use help at cornerback despite grabbing Josh Robinson in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. By selecting Rhodes they could play Robinson in the nickel as he has the quickness to line up in cover the slot receivers in the NFL and then have too taller corners on the outside to cover the Calvin Johnson's, Brandon Marshall's, and Jermichael Finley's of the world. Xavier Rhodes (6-2, 215) has a special skill set and displays natural shutdown ability. He is big, fast and agile, all while having good hands. As a redshirt freshman, in 2010, Rhodes started 14 games and was the ACC Defensive Freshman of the Year. He recorded 58 tackles with four interceptions and 12 passes defensed. This past year, he played well against Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles [2nd round (54th overall) Detroit Lions] and was fabulous at covering up Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd [1st round (13th overall) Arizona Cardinals]. Rhodes totaled 43 tackles with an interception and four passes broken up in 2011. Teams stayed away from him this season and attacked the Seminoles’ other corners. Another solid season and he's a lock to go in the 1st round.
Eric Reid, FS, LSU
Mark Barron's ascension to the seventh overall selection in this year's draft was sweet music to Reid's ears. Next year's soon-to-be-hyped SEC safety also has prototypical size (6-2/208) for the NFL. Like Barron he acts as an intimidator laying big hits in the secondary, and has good enough hands and closing speed to be a centerfielder at the next level. After starting the final three games as a freshman, Reid earned the starting spot at free safety as a sophomore in 2011 and emerged as a team leader. He started all 12 games for LSU and finished tied with Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu for the team lead with 76 tackles last season. He also added a pair of interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. In the SEC Championship Game against Georgia he led the team in tackles with seven, including five solo stops but that was his most impressive performance of the season. The game that stands out most was against Alabama. His six tackles, including one for a six-yard loss, forced fumble and a key interception in the fourth quarter earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week recognition and he was also named the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week. Much of this was due to his Top 10 play that helped shape the college football season. In a 6-6 tied game in the fourth quarter, Reid wrestled the ball away from Alabama TE Michael Williams at the 1-yard line line for a key interception, preventing what could have been the winning score. LSU went on to win 9-6 in overtime. While he came up big with one of the plays of the year in the first go-round against Alabama his team didn't fare so well in the BCS National Championship but Reid played well regardless. Reid made 11 tackles with a broken up pass in the BCS Championship loss to Alabama. For the year he earned Second-Team All-SEC honors and will be in the running again for All-American honors in what should be the best secondary in the FBS again next year. While his play for the most part may have been overshadowed by the "Honey Badger", who is a special player in his own right, don't let that fool you. Eric Reid is a top-shelf talent a star in the making. He'll have to perform well again next year and probably stand out in the pre-draft process, including at the combine, if he wants to hear his name called as high as a day one pick but if he does it could set the stage for a classic draft riser.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
It'll be interesting to see what happens with Mathieu. He's so talented, and has made so many plays for that LSU defense but he's also so very undersized (5-9, 175) for the NFL. Is he a corner or a safety on the next level? While Mathieu may not have the prototypical size he more than makes up for it in his speed and his tenacity in the way he plays the game. Mathieu plays much bigger than his measurements, and anyone who watched LSU in the 2011 season noticed that he is a great football player. Mathieu led LSU in tackles with 76. He also had 7.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and nine passes broken up. Additionally, Mathieu served as a punt returner this past season, averaging 16 yards per return with two brought back for touchdowns. He had a knack for making game-changing plays like his fumble returned for a touchdown against Oregon in the season opener to start the season off right with a win. In a 6-3 game and right after LSU went three-and-out and punted, Kenjon Barner fumbled the return at the three and the Honey Badger snapped it up and went into the end zone for a momentum-shifting score that swung that game into LSU's favor. He would go on to make many more game changing plays throughout the season like his punt return for a touchdown that completely changed the complexion of the Arkansas game in the regular-season finale and his punt return for a touchdown a week later against Georgia in the SEC championship game that woke up a stagnant LSU offense and sent the Tigers on their way to a 42-10 rout. He made enough of those game changing type plays to earn a trip to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist, not to mention consensus All-America honors, as leader on a Tigers team that went 13-1 and finished as the BCS runner-up. If it weren't for his small stature he would likely be considered a top 10 talent in the 2013 NFL Draft. I suspect he'll go somewhere in the 11-20 range but a lot will be riding on his performance in the 2012 campaign. Mathieu has been allowed to develop into a unique playmaker, one of the best blitzers in the country, but having corners like Patrick Peterson and Mo Claiborne on hand allowed him to thrive in that nickel/dime role. This season he may be asked to play more as a true cornerback. The two most important things to improve upon for the "Honey Badger" involve A) how he continues to develop as a true cornerback, especially in coverage and B) how he continues to adjust to the spotlight. Considering how he's improved in virtually every statistical category from his first year to second, not to mention developed into a dynamic punt returner, I don't think I'd bet against him having another solid season. The 19-year-old still has plenty to prove yet and with his draft stock in flux -- he could rise to the top 10 range or he could fall out of the 1st round entirely -- it'll be interesting to watch how his season plays out. I wouldn't quite say he's a lock to be chosen in the first round at this point though I will say he has the ability and the off-the-charts instincts to play much higher then his eventual draft selection. I could see Mathieu ending up at safety in the NFL and playing a Troy Polamalu role for an NFL team.
T.J. McDonald, FS, USC
In 2010, McDonald led USC in tackles with 89, including three tackles for a loss, four passes broken up, three interceptions and a blocked punt. He was named an All-Pac-10 Second-Team selection. As a junior this past year, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder intercepted Arizona quarterback Nick Foles [3rd round (88th overall) Philadelphia Eagles] twice in their matchup. McDonald had 67 tackles with three picks, two passes broken up and a blocked kick in 2011. McDonald has good instincts and is a hard hitter. The son of former NFL Pro Bowl safety Tim McDonald, who was a part of the 49ers team that won Super Bowl XXIX. He has the flexibility to play strong or free safety with the size (6-3/205) and athleticism to handle tight ends in coverage, and makes receivers hesitant to cross the middle of the field with huge hits. He looks to be even better in his senior year. A solid final year on campus gives him a good chance at moving up this list.
- Early on in the process I thought this is who the Vikings were going to get in the 2nd round (35th pick) in the 2012 NFL Draft. He decided to return to USC though and if he has another strong season I think he's a 1st round safety next year. I think Harrison Smith lining up at strong safety and T.J, McDonald at his natural free safety position, or flip them around it don't matter, would give us one of the strongest safety tandems in the entire NFL. I'm not sure if he's a top 10 talent though.
Keep in mind players draft stock wavers greatly from year to year so any of these players could rise or fall but this is just a early look at who the Vikings might potentially draft. I can't wait to see what will happen in the upcoming season and in next year's draft. I hope you enjoyed reading or skimming through this and feel free to leave a comment.