The cap looms.
The prospect of an uncapped year looms over the NFL landscape, even as the playoffs approach. Now may be a time of excitement and intensity for 12 teams, but for the other 20, next season is already here. I guarantee each and every one of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs has been in the office making tough decisions and laying the groundwork for next year.
Anyway, in honor of the end of the regular season and the birth of Big Boards throughout the country, here’s my own meager 2010 NFL Mock Draft, as of 1/7/2010. I’m just gonna do the top 10 at first, because…well, because I’m lazy. Either way, I’ll do the rest of the first round in a day or so.
1: St. Louis Rams – Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson has gotten a fair bit of press lately for being only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000+ yards in a single season (the other five are O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis & Jamal Lewis, so…not the worst list to find yourself on), and rightfully so; it’s a hell of an accomplishment. Interesting tidbit, though – the number 2 rusher on the year? Rams RB Steven Jackson, who rumbled for 1,416 yards (but only 4 TD’s, oddly enough). In terms of things that went well for St. Louis this season, that is it. The Rams were failures in nearly every aspect of the game, ranking 29th both in total offense/defense, and their special teams were nothing to smile about either. Their sole win was a lackadaisical 17-10 affair against the Detroit Lions, and just to get that Jackson had to run for 150 yards, including a 25-yd TD with less than two minutes in the game. In other words, the Rams are not so good.
The Pick – Over the 2008 season, Rams QB’s were sacked 38 times. Turns out it’s hard for your QB to lead a team while he’s on his back or injured and riding the pine, so St. Louis used the #2 pick on Baylor OT Jason Smith. This year? 44 sacks. Now, I know this is a very gross stat that fails to take numerous factors into account, but the basic truth is that the leaky offensive line has played a huge role in the destruction of QB Marc Bulger, who has battled numerous injuries since signing that huge 6-year contract extension in 2007 and desparately needs a change of scenery at the very least. I know everyone is talking about Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh, but the writing is on the wall for Bulger and everyone in the organization knows it. Despite a spotty win/loss record, Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen has posted impressive stats in Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense, with some people even calling him the most NFL-ready junior QB ever. For a front office and coach that badly wanted NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez in last year’s draft, but couldn’t get out from under Bulger’s contract, the 6’3, 217 lb. Clausen represents a great opportunity to possibly start a new era in St. Louis football.
Season Lowlight – A person could easily make the argument that the entire season was a lowlight for the hapless Rams…that person would also be right. However, in terms of sole crappy moments, the brightest standout in a crowded field is St. Louis’ 20-23 OT loss to Jacksonville in Week 6. It was a confluence of painful shots that pushed this game to the top of the list; the Jaguars threw up nearly 500 yds of offense, as QB David Garrard threw for over 300 yards, RB Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 133 yds and 3 TD’s, and former Rams WR Torry Holt posted five catches and 101 yds on his former team. In spite of all that, the Rams led twice in the fourth quarter, only to watch as their defense wilted down the stretch. The Jags won the coin toss, marched down the field, and extended the NFL’s then longest running losing streak to 16 games.
2: Detroit Lions – Brace yourself…the Lions may be a few pieces away from being decent. I know, I know, it felt like Matt Millen’s stewardship was so woeful as to be literally radioactive, turning the Lions into an inhospitable wasteland fit only for the most godforsaken of mutants, and the stats (26th ranked offense, 32nd ranked defense) would seem to back that up. But rookie QB Matt Stafford impressed, posting solid QB numbers at 2200+ yds and 13 TD’s (the 53% completion rate and 20 picks are worrisome, but he was a rookie) and seemingly making a connection with beastly WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, who nearly had a 1,000-yd season. But two wins in a season ain’t gonna cut it…on the plus side, though, they did double their win total from a year ago.
The Pick – A lot of jokes have been made about Millen’s receiver lust, but while the offense only looks one or two guys away from being able to hang with anyone a la the Houston Texans…oh man, is that defense porous. This was a D that was almost completely unable to both pressure the opposing QB or defend against either the air or the ground game, leaving it up to a rookie QB and an unbalanced offense to try and steal away games. So the pick is probably Nebraska T Ndumakong Suh, right? Wrong. While Suh would obviously be a fantastic pickup for the Lions D-line (Tennessee S Eric Berry could also be a Polamalu/Reed type player for a pathetic Detroit secondary that only managed 9 INT’s this season), I think the Lions end up grabbing Oklahoma State Russell Okung to shore up an offensive line that gave up 44 sacks this season. Stafford is the hillbilly face of that franchise now, and you can’t have him getting smacked around like that over the course of a season. ESPN’s Todd McShay says the 6’8, 299 lb. Okung is the “most complete offensive tackle prospect in this class,” and even if he isn’t as otherworldly as some people are starting to convince themselves he is, current Lions T Jeff Backus gave up eight sacks all on his lonesome. That is way too many from a team’s designated “blindside” protector (I’m not going to have to pay Sandra Bullock royalties or anything, right?). Check out this interesting quote from Detroit O-line coach George Yarno:
“I think he’s at the very top of his game right now…he has done a tremendous job for us this year. I think he’s very comparable to some of the upper-echelon tackles in this league”
Some might say those are the words of something who has no idea what actually constitutes “upper-echelon” in his field. I’m willing to give Yarno the benefit of the doubt, and say Detroit’s front office is just testing the ground for a possible trade.
Season Lowlight – Did you know the last time the Lions won a game in their division was October 28, 2007? The Kitna-led Lions defeated the Chicago Bears 16-7 in Soldier Field, and ever since then it’s been bupkus. But hey, at least they broke that 19-game losing streak! (Yeah, I know it’s not really from this season, but still…)
3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – It’s hard to imagine another team in recent years having as chaotic a year as the Bucs. It wasn’t as though the team had great expectations; after getting rid of head coach Jon Gruden, watching defensive coordinator and NFL legend Monte Kiffin leave to work with his son Lane at the University of Tennessee, and releasing a ton of veterans (Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and Warrick Dunn), Tampa Bay made 33-year-old defensive backs coach “Radio” Raheem Morris the youngest HC in the NFL, and decided to let the rebuilding begin. But then new OC Jeff Jagodzinski, who was brought in to replace Kiffin’s famous “Cover 2” defense with a new zone-blocking scheme, was abruptly dumped less than two weeks before the season opener. The Bucs seemed to wilt from all the attention, suffering through an 0-7 start before finally placing rookie QB Josh Freeman at the helm. Despite letting go of DC Jim Bates in week 10, Tampa Bay seemed to improve over the second half of the season, winning 3 of their last 9 and playing hard every week, probably saving Morris’ job as well…at least, until Bill Cowher shows some interest.
The Pick – SUUUUUUHHHHHHH!!! Is it possible for a #3 overall pick to be the steal of the draft? Nebraska DT Ndumakong Suh is a beast, pure and simple. A defensive lineman in the mold of Reggie White, Suh does everything you could ever want from a defender. He can rush the passer and stuff the run, he’s light on his feet even though he plays with crazy power, he’s got a high football IQ – hell, he even defends the pass. Although Tampa Bay’s defense played much better in the second half of the season after Morris took over playcalling duties, they’re still woefully undermanned; adding Suh gives this team a presence along the line it hasn’t enjoyed since the great Warren Sapp skipped his way through opposing warmups in Raymond James Stadium.
Season Lowlight – In Week 13, the Bucs essentially laid out the blueprint for ridiculous losses in a 6-16 stinker against the Carolina Panthers. It is surprisingly difficult to get inside the red zone eight times and garner a grand total of six points (unless you’re trying to suck); one thing that helps is when your rookie QB throws five INT’s, the most by a franchise QB since Vinny Testaverde threw six in 1990. P.U.
4: Washington Redskins – Let’s see here; a free-spending owner drunk off the smell of his own swollen coffers and alternately despised/tolerated by a fanbase that’s been beaten down by failure after embarassing failure, fires his emasculated coach and splurges on a flashy big-name free agent, somehow managing to once again coax his team’s weary diehards into convincing themselves that they’ve found that magical piece that will turn their poorly-assembled cast of overrated killer contracts and oft-injured bargain bin pickups into a well-oiled machine capable of making it to the playoffs. You almost said I had to be talking about the Oakland Raiders, right? Really, is there a more devastating condemnation then that in the modern NFL? Incidentally, I’m not 100% sold on Mike Shanahan being able to turn this seemingly perpetual bastion of mediocrity around in two seasons or so, which is generally how long the Snyde one gives his coaches.
The Pick – Everyone and their lost great-aunt seem to be saying that Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford is the choice here, and…I’ve gotta agree, at least as far as the Redskins taking a QB, seeing as how there’s no need for a defensive grab since they’ve got a top-10 D. Jason Campbell’s clearly on his way out, and it’s pretty much a proven fact that new regimes equal new QB’s, so new GM Bruce Allen and Shanahan are obviously going to want to get “their guy” behind center. Bradford’s spent his college career in a shotgun offense, and his arm strength is less than optimal (although Mel Kiper Jr. says his arm strength is “underrated”), and on top of all that he’s barely played over the last year after suffering numerous injuries. As a matter of fact, I’ve pegged Bradford as my “surprisingly falls out of the first round” guy; there’s one every draft. So with Bradford getting passed over, and local favorite University of Washington QB Jake Locker returning to UW for his senior season, who are the Redskins going to take? How about the forgotten QB of this year’s draft, Texas’ Colt McCoy? He’s big, strong, accurate, and he’s even mobile to a degree. Yeah, it’s a bit of a reach, but I feel like Shanahan has the offensive skills to turn McCoy into something special.
Season Lowlight – When a team goes winless over an entire season, nobody wants to be the team that finally gives up the ghost. In Week 3, that team was the Redskins, who lost in embarassing fashion to the Detroit Lions, 14-19, letting the Lions get one in the win column after a 19-game losing streak that was beginning to seriously challenge Tampa Bay’s epic 26-game losing streak.
5: Kansas City Chiefs – This is what I wrote about KC last year:
See, the problem with these crappy teams is they suck. They suck so hard, in fact, that nobody except die-hard fans want to talk about them. So when someone wants to do a mock draft, they have to sift through all this bullshit “woe is me” garbage to get the info they need. Take KC, for example. After they knocked NE QB Tom Brady out for the season, I hardly heard anything about them; just reports about their deteriorating QB situation and jokes about Herm Edwards. After some time spent on various Chiefs message boards (my advice: stay away from any team’s message boards unless they’re .500 or better, unless you enjoy seeing grown men say things like “our D-line suckz bitch nutz”), I learned the only thing anyone knows is that former NE executive Scott Pioli is the new KC GM. Beyond that, nobody’s sure of anything. Which is always a recipe for greatness.
Nothing has changed. Despite the high-priced addition of QB Matt Cassel and the extremely public exit of RB Larry Johnson, this is still a team desparately in search of an identity. Or, to put it more succinctly, this team is boring. And it’s not as though they don’t have any pieces, either – besides Cassel, WR Dwayne Bowe might be one of the most underrated studs in the league, and WR Chris Chambers isn’t exactly a slouch either, despite what production in recent years might led one to believe. Maybe new OC Charlie Weis can put something together, if he hasn’t been completely traumatized by the whole Notre Dame experience. And the rumors that Pioli wants to bring in Romeo Crennell, too? How unlikely would you say the odds are that KC turns into New England West? 100-to-1? 1,000-to-1?
The Pick – For me, this was one of the easiest picks in the draft; the Chiefs gave up a mind-boggling 45 sacks this season, after spending over $60 million luring Cassel from New England. The guy they got at left tackle now, Brandon Albert? He gave up nine sacks all on his lonesome this season, while racking up ten penalties at the same time. Just like Backus in Detroit, it’s time to make a change, and Maryland OT Bruce Campbell seems like he’d be a good choice here. A couple of negatives here; one, he has a history of injuries, and two, your odds of being attacked by a swarm of demons summoned by the Necronomicon increase dramatically with him on your team.
Season Lowlight – …I got nothing. Seriously, nothing sticks out to me about the Chiefs this season. They might as well have not even played. Let’s just move on.
6: Seattle Seahawks – Every couple of seasons or so, you’ll see a team clearly and definitively reach the end of a particular “era.” That time has now come in Seattle, as it’s become pretty evident that QB Matt Hasselback, either due to his own history of injuries or the apparent fact that Seattle’s offensive line never recovered from Steve Hutchinson’s departure – the only question is whether or not head coach Jim Mora Jr. will recognize this. As a Bucs fan who watched his chosen team play against Mora’s Atlanta Falcons twice a year, I can tell you with a great deal of confidence that he will not, because he is stupid. He is the type of coach that will insist on trying to platoon RB’s Julius Jones and Justin Forsett, even though it’s obvious that Jones is just about fully washed up and Forsett is, uh, not. Still, this was a perfectly mediocre team, one that went out and beat the teams people expected them to beat and lost to the teams people expected them to lose to (with a couple of notable exceptions to the former). Incidentally, expect the number of teams people expect the Seahawks to beat to drop quickly over the next few seasons, especially with division rivals Arizona and San Francisco turning the corner. Oh well; at least there’s always St. Louis…
The Pick – OK, first of all, this team doesn’t have a GM right now, which means odds are Mora’s gonna be calling the shots this draft, or at least have the most influence in whatever committee Seattle’s front office puts together. Again, keep in mind that Mora is known for being, shall we say, un-smart. That being said, this team needs help on both sides of the ball; either an offensive lineman to keep Hasselback upright or a WR to keep opposing defenses from double-teaming WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh (since Nate Burleson and Deion Branch haven’t really worked out). On the either side of the locker room, and maybe more importantly, Seattle’s defense got scorched by opposing QB’s, giving up 7.2 ypa and just under 250 ypg through the air. That is goddamn ridiculous. Just for that stat alone, I see Seattle grabbing Tennessee S Eric Berry. Let me tell you, as a Florida Gators fan (and former student), the only player on the Volunteers that’s remotely worried me the last few years has been Berry. The guy is an absolute beast, and a perfect fit on a defense filled with underachieving talents. Wait…you know what I mean.
Season Lowlight – Losing to a one-win team like the Bucs in Week 15 is pretty bad, although I heard a couple of fans that week try and mitigate it by mentioning the whole “West team traveling to the East coast” deal. Fine – whatever. What can’t be mitigated, though, is the fact that that was the fourth time that season that the Seahawks scored less than ten points in a game, losing 24-7. That’s the most times Seattle’s scored less than ten in a game over a season since 2001, which also happens to be Hasselback’s rookie year. So how long ago does that Super Bowl appearance feel?
7: Cleveland Browns – A lot of people don’t like Browns HC Eric “Mangenius” Mangini; in fact, they seem to hate him. Me, though? I love him, in the same way that I love “Jersey Shore” and the paternity test episodes of Maury. I mean, sure, as someone who roots for a team absolutely in rebuilding mode, I can’t help but wince when I see that the Browns were ranked 32nd in total offense and 31st in total defense. But here’s the thing – the Browns, along with the Rams and the Raiders, have…moved into their own separate football category, I guess is one way to put it. Really, they’ve become the trash TV of the NFL. Everyday it seems like there’s some new dramatic storyline erupting out of Cleveland – Mangini won’t say who is starting QB is, now QB Brady Quinn’s put his house up for sale so he’s probably leaving, and the front office is repeatedly lowballing the team’s unquestionably best player WR/KR Josh Cribbs, and hey how about we trade TE Kellen Winslow and WR Braylon Edwards for half their value, and on and on and on. Let me just say this – has their been a more amusing NFL franchise to watch over the last season? I say no.
The Pick – This team has some players on offense; Joe Thomas is a rock at left tackle, and Cribbs…well, Cribbs does stuff like this. Hell, they’ve even got two quarterbacks! All jokes aside, this is a team that traded away two of its top three playmakers, and has no idea who they’re going to play at QB. New GM Mike Holmgren probably feels like he doesn’t have a lot of choices here, despite the Browns’ massive needs; you always want your first #1 pick with a team to be a standout, someone who sets the tone for your managing “era.” You want all your picks to be standouts, naturally, but the first one’s usually extra-special. That’s why I see Holmgren and Mangini taking Alabama LB Rolando McClain, who can become a top-level player in Cleveland’s 3-4 defense and help toughen up a run defense that gave up 144 ypg. I also considered the possibility of Georgia Tech DE/LB Derrick Morgan, but the situation was so similar to Mangini’s pick of Vernon Gholston a couple of years back when he was coaching the Jets that I think it would scare him off.
Season Lowlight – How to choose from a bounty of choices – nay, a plethora, even! Our survey says…Adrian Peterson completely disrespecting the entire Cleveland defense, CB Eric Wright in particular:
8: Oakland Raiders – Speaking of barely-cognizant septugenarian owners standing like naked emperors in front of their pained subjects blithely casting gold coins at the first shiny thing that catches their eye, here comes Al Davis! Just take a look at this: this is a timeline of the last 30 years of Raiders drafts (will you marry me Google?). Look at the “bust rate” from 1995 onwards. That’s freakin’ nuts! And it’s not just a terrible draft history that’s been wrecking them, either – Davis has gone through 7 coaches since the 1995 season, a whopping 4 since 2004. That’s basically one a season. Now, it would seem evident that you’re not gonna build a winner by going through a new coach each season, but apparently you can’t tell Al Davis anything. I like to think of this team as a sorta developmental league-type team; hyped-up prospects get drafted there, and the other teams keep an eye on them. If they suck, nobody has to pay the big checks but Crazy Al in Oakland. But if they’re good, then a title contender can scoop them up in the offseason when their rookie contracts expire and they’re so grateful to escape the Black Hole that they’re willing to sign anything.
The Pick – This team gave up 155 ypg on the ground, and 4.5 ypa. That’s halfway to a first down every time your running back touches the ball! The Raiders are probably going to go with the platoon route at both the RB and QB positions, so that should work out great (he said sarcastically), but it’s clear that this team should be worrying more about keeping points off the board than putting points on the boards. And look! There just happens to be a big-name prospect with a slightly checkered past who’s probably going to have a sick couple of days at the combine! Florida DE Carlos Dunlap, it’s your lucky day – hope you like old folks smell. Oh, and make sure WR Louis Murphy shows you around; you probably remember him from your Florida days together, and it looks like he’s been able to avoid the Raiders curse so far. Maybe some of his luck will rub off on you.
Season Lowlight – It’s hard to properly state just how much Raiders fans absolutely fucking despise QB Jamarcus Russell. Their eyes bulge, and bloody foam starts leaking out of the corners of their mouth, just before they go into convulsions. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video someone caught of Russell sacking himself; check out the comments. Here’s an iPhone video of fans behind the Raider’s bench screaming at Russell while his coaches try to talk to him (classic moment – one fan starting a chant of “Do not console him!”). Oh, and here’s a fan burning his Russell jersey…in the Raiders parking lot. While others gather round and cheer like Islamofascists burning an American flag. But my favorite one is this guy, who set up shop in the Black Hole after a Week 3 20-point loss to Denver, and just asked people what they thought of Russell:
There are 10 more videos like that. Enjoy.
9: Buffalo Bills – Ugh. Buffalo still has football? What’s that? They had T.O.? Weird; I thought he just wasn’t able to find someone to take him on this year. At any rate, this is a team that’s not even sure they’re going to be in the same city a couple of seasons from now, so good luck figuring out what direction they’re going in. Sideways, would be my guess; by the looks of things, this looks like a team that’s gonna be tightly secured in that 5-7 win/season range. You know the type – cannon fodder for the big boys in the conference, like the Patriots and Colts and whatnot, except for one or two games each season where their offensive line and running backs catch fire at the same time. Bo-ring.
The Pick – Speaking of O-line, when Buffalo traded excellent OT Jason Peters, everyone assumed they had a plan to replace him. Turns out they didn’t, unless you count Demetrius Bell as a plan – I don’t. That’s why, in a so-so crop of lineman, I’ve got my third big man getting drafted in the top 10: Oklahoma LT Trent Williams, a beastly tackle who can blow open paths to the next level for runners, a need for a team that only managed six rushing TD’s on the year.
Season Lowlight – How depressing must it be to have arguably the worst moment of the season come in the first game? This pain of this nut-punch, last-second 25-24 loss to local/divisional rivals the New England Patriots couldn’t be denied, though, especially when the Bills looked so dominant…until the last four minutes or so of the game:
10: Jacksonville Jaguars – Can someone explain to me how Jack del Rio is still the head coach in Jacksonville? This city is this close to losing the Jaguars over blackouts and attendance issues, and a big-time shakeup is necessary, if not a total renovation. The first step – dropping del Rio. He’s not a bad coach, per se, but it’s become more than clear that he can’t take a team to the top; he’s an 8-8 coach, essentially. Not a franchise coach, but closer to a good transition guy, the type that makes for a good hire in-between, say, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan. Otherwise, this team isn’t bad.
The Pick – The second step? Draft QB Tim Tebow. Don’t even bother trying to talk to me about how he brings his throwing hand down way too low before he throws the ball, or his lack of experience taking snaps from behind the center, or how his old-school Cornhuskers-type single-wing QB style is gonna give him problems in the pro game. Tebow playing for a Florida NFL team is damn near a license to print money in the Sunshine State, and if he contributes emotionally and in short-yard situations, the same way he did in his freshman year at Florida, all the better.
Season Lowlight – How about the second worst loss in team history, a 0-41 shellacking in Seattle? Yeah…you don’t want to watch clips from the game.
To Be Continued…
…and I couldn’t be more annoyed.
I’d like to say that I didn’t care – and to a certain degree I don’t – but the truth of the matter is I’m beyond sick of Brett Favre and the incipient drama that accompanies him. With Favre and Michael Vick both back in the league, I’m constantly scanning ESPN.com in the fear that I’ll see John Madden standing behind a podium, incoherently shouting banalities about coming back for “the love of the game” while swinging around a turducken leg.
Plus, the more I hear of this story, the more all that old ire I had for 4, that I had finally thought was safe to let go, just comes roaring back. So you’re un-retiring again, and you knew you were gonna come back, but you and management decided to just keep it quiet because you felt like skipping training camp? What about the rest of the team, asshole? What about the QB’s that you’re pushing aside? All this just so you can stick it to the Packers? How fucking petty are you?
As I’m writing this, I’m watching ESPN dive into the story like a pervert into a cheap hooker, just drooling and filthiness flying everywhere, and it’s seriously pissing me off even more. And it’s going to be like this for fucking weeks, if not months. Fantastic.
Serioiusly, fuck Brett Favre. Fuck him in his gunslinging, pick-throwing, pass-forcing overhyped scheming ass. I hope, for his sake and everyone else’s, some Bernard Pollard-player completely shreds his knee and finally ends it, once and for all. I mean, I know I said I’m a fan of zombies, but this is getting ridiculous…
P.S. – Good for a laugh:
Well, here it is; the Super Bowl. Cardinals v. Steelers. Wish it were Buccaneers v. Steelers, but whatever. There’s always next year. But before that can come, this season has to come to a close. Of course, football never really ends. People are already making up mock drafts (like this jerk here) and getting ready for the Combine. And don’t forget about the fantasy players. Personally, I love this part of football almost as much as the regular season. Almost.
What this really is, is an end to the action. No more Sunday shit-talking with your friends, munching on BBQ right of the grill. No more brand-new “ESPN Top 10” countdowns that are all football plays. No more hilarious post-game interviews that become instant Internet memes. It’s all gone, until August.
And sure, there’s other sports. I’m a big basketball fan (go Magic); in some ways, it might even be more fun that football, because it’s easier to get people together to play it. But that’s almost halfway through, too, and then it’s only baseball. Pass on that, thank you very much. Ditto on the track-and-field, hockey, NASCAR and golf. Soccer’s fun, but it doesn’t get near enough coverage here in the US. Tennis is straight.
Still, there’s nothing like the weekly life-and-death intensity in a football game. Europeans always try how rugby’s badass because they don’t wear pads and shit, and they don’t have plays. I tried to watch a couple of rugby games once. Looked like a bunch of drunk punks trying to play soccer and fight each other at the same time. Football is like a chess match played at 250 mph. There’s no comparison.
And after tonight, it’s over for six months.
11) Buffalo Bills – In the first half of the season, the Bills looked like the surprise team of the AFC, but QB Trent Edwards’ mid-season concussion caused Buffalo to go into a tailspin, and they ended up dropping eight of their last ten. Injuries certainly played a part, but the collapse can be traced back to two main issues: the inability of the offense to score points, and the total lack of a pass rush (only 24 sacks this season).
The Pick – Some people (like Mel Kiper) are saying that Oklahoma St. TE Brandon Pettigrew is the best choice, and I see the logic; with his size and speed, Pettigrew could be the shot in the arm that an anemic offense could certainly use. But how often does a rookie TE really come in and become a big-time playmaker? I see Edwards’ improving going from his rookie season to his second year, and RB Marshawn Lynch building on a solid ’08 season (1,036 yards, 8 TD’s), so there should be some improvement already. The unit that needs help is the defense, specifically the line, and with Texas DE Brian Orokpo and FSU DE Everette Brown already gone, the Bills reach for Georgia Tech DE Michael Robinson. It’s a dangerous pick; Robinson could easily become this year’s Vernon Gholston, a high pick with the physical skills who seems unable to display those talents on the field.
12) Denver Broncos – Another team that was considered extremely dangerous, the Broncos were actually able to sustain that fear almost throughout the entire season; at least, on the offensive side of the ball. The defense, however, was consistently terrible, with rankings of 29th defense overall, 27th rushing defense and 26th passing defense. It got worse as the season progressed, and was eventually the main reason for Denver’s total collapse with three games left in the season, and the shocking release of coach Mike Shanahan.
The Pick – Denver doesn’t have anyone from the Detroit Lions’ front office working for their scouting staff or anything, so expect them to do what everyone expects and take a defensive player. USC LB Ray Maualuga is an absolute beast; not only is he capable of putting up the stats, but he has the look of somebody who can step up and be the leader that this defense needs.
13) Washington Redskins – What is there to say about the Redskins? They were the last team in the NFC East. They have an average offense, and an average defense…that’s about it. The issue in Washington isn’t lack of talent, it’s underachievement. QB Jason Campbell is essentially in a do-or-die year, which more often than not translates to improved play, and his receiving core is stacked with big names all the way down the roster.
The Pick – One thing that keeps coming up concerning Washington is their susceptivity to pass-rushers coming off the edge. Current OT Jon Jansen is making his way towards the elephants’ graveyard, and while this may seem like a high spot for a team like the Redskins to be looking towards improving its offensive line, sealing off that right side could go a long way towards allowing Campbell to mature into the player the Redskins thought he would be. Virginia OT Eugene Monroe would be an excellent pick here.
14) New Orleans Saints – If you asked a 100 average NFL fans what they thought of New Orleans, they would probably all give a similar answer: “Fun to watch.” Headed by QB Drew Brees, the first QB since Dan Marino to throw for over 5,000 yards in a season, the Saints fielded the league’s most potent offense, gaining 400+ ypg., and 28.9 ppg. But weapons like RB Reggie Bush and WR Marques Colston can’t help on the other side of the ball, and it was the defense that let New Orleans down repeatedly, crumbling in the second half of games time and time again.
The Pick – In my 1.0 version draft, I said that LB Jonathan Vilma was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal defense, but that the Saints would never be able to afford re-signing him. Well, Mr. Vilma went out and got himself arrested for reckless driving; however, reports say alcohol was not a factor, so it’s impossible to say whether or not this will affect any possible deals. Either way, this slot looks right for Ohio State LB James Laurenitis, a guy whose stock has dropped a little after coming back for his senior year. Much like Maualuga, Laurenitis has the potential to be the missing piece this abused defense has been looking for the last few seasons.
15) Houston Texans – The more I look at the Texans, the more I see next season’s “Overpaid sports journalist’s sleeper team.” Admittedly, the weapons are there. QB Matt Schaub has been sidelined on-and-off with various injuries, but when he’s in there he’s been the steady hand that Houston was hoping for. Behind him, 1,200-yard RB Steve Slatton has helped to take the pressure off All-World WR Andre Johnson, who posted insane numbers throughout the season (115 catches, 1,547 yards, 8 TD’s). But I’ve seen this happen with people and Arizona every year, and just because the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl this year doesn’t mean I’m going to forget all those other times they collapsed. My point is, I’m getting that same vibe from the Texans.
The Pick – Houston’s secondary is awful. I could bring up some stats, but trust me, it’s an embarassment and every Texans fan knows it. Missouri S William Moore may not be a national name, and he’s still a little raw around the edges, but he has the potential to quickly mature, and he could become the ball-hawking defensive back that the Texans have been waiting for.
16) San Diego Chargers – When the season started, the Chargers were the trendy pick for the Super Bowl, with a team that some people claimed was the most talented in the NFL. The next few months were one of the most captivating storylines in the league, as San Diego seemed to succumb to the sudden drop-off in production from All-Pro RB LaDanian Tomlinson, the seeming lack of top-down control from head coach Norv Turner’s staff and the glut of injuries highlighted by LB Shawne Merriman going on the IR list in the preseason. But at the last second, QB Phillip Rivers put the team on his back, and the Chargers took advantage of Denver’s late-season swoon to win the AFC West.
The Pick – San Diego is in an enviable position, seemingly stacked at almost every spot on the roster. One of the lingering question marks, however, is the defensive line. DT Igor Olshanky is expected to leave as a free agent after the season is over, and there isn’t really anyone of note to pick up the slack. LSU DT Tyson Jackson has been slightly inconsistent, but he’s capable of moving a pile in the trenches, and that might be what pushes the Chargers over the top in their quest to make it to the championship.
17) New York Jets – One story that I think sums up the Jets’ season pretty well: the smaller Mike on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” was looking way ahead late in the season to the conference championship games. Noting that the Jets and Giants share a stadium, he wondered what would be done if both teams were hosting a conference championship game on the same day. Naturally, the Jets crapped the bed in epic fashion, dropping game after game late in the season until they finally conceded a postseason appearance to the Miami Dolphins. You know, it’s weird: the Packers weren’t able to maintain their hot start, but their prospects are looking up. Meanwhile, the Jets went through that same situation, but Gang Green faithful seem inconsolable. Guess being stuck waiting to find out if you have a QB or not, on top of a coaching change and a relative lack of notable talent on either side of the ball (except for eternally underrated RB Thomas Jones) tends to depress actual fans.
The Pick – When the Jets were in the middle of their season-ending swoon, it seemed painfully obvious that a big part of the reason was a lack of talent at the cornerback position. Time after time, the Jets secondary gave up big-time passing afternoons to decent-at-best QB’s. Don’t get me wrong, problems could easily be listed on both sides of the ball, but it’s really hard to win when the opposing team can essentially score at will. Illinois CB Vontae Davis is another player that may need a season or two to mature before the dividends start to pay off, but with his physical gifts and nose for the ball he could step in as a rookie as a nickelback, just to get a feel for the game.
18) Chicago Bears – It seems like the Bears have always been defined by an overwhelming defense and a powerful running game. You would think that would mean that it would be easier to replenish your roster, because it means that you already know what you’re looking for. Chicago always seems to prove that particular train of thought wrong, however, as head coach Lovie Smith finds his Bears saddled with an injury-prone, overrated defense riding mostly on reputation, and an offense inconsistent at the most important position (QB) and lacking enough playmakers to compete. After years as the de-facto power in the NFC North, the Bears suddenly find themselves looking up at the Packers and Vikings, and they’re not in a favorable position to reverse their slide anytime soon. On the plus side, at least Bears’ fans can always look down at the Lions.
The Pick – WR/KR Devin Hester was one of the most dangerous gamebreakers in the league last season, shattering return records left and right. Many onlookers’ worst suspicions were confirmed, though, when Chicago’s attempt to turn him into an equally dangerous offensive weapon backfired, rendering him less effective in both the offensive and special-teams aspects of the game. If the Bears decide to get veteran help for their defense, which would probably be the smart thing to do, they could look for a burner to act as a deep threat for QB GET NAME. In all the hubbub over the worthy Crabtree, Maryland WR Darius Heyward-Bey has been forgotten; pretty amazing for a guy who may very well be the fastest man in this year’s draft, reportedly capable of running a 4.3 40.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The last of the teams that had a late-season lead in wins, only to lose out on their positions as the final weeks approached, the Bucs had possibly the most abrupt fall of all. Losing to struggling teams like San Diego and Oakland, Tampa Bay sent legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin off to the Tennessee Volunteers on a sour note, going from “bend but don’t break” to “shatter at the most inopportune moments”. With head coach Jon Gruden being dismissed, don’t expect new coach Raheem Morris to make too many changes, save for possibly throwing downfield more often. But this offseason is crucial to the Bucs’ hopes; QB Jeff Garcia is a free agent, and at 38 he’s asking for a multi-year deal that Tampa Bay’s front office has been loathe to hand out to someone at his age. Other crucial starters like WR Joey Galloway (35), LB Derrick Brooks (36) and CB Ronde Barber (33) are only getting older as well, and with Atlanta and New Orleans rising swiftly, the Bucs may find themselves spending the next few years on the outside of the postseason looking in.
The Pick – Speedster Joey Galloway was nicknamed “White Tiger” by Gruden’s coaching staff, due to his “exotic” speed, and how rarely he played. But it is indicative of a need of an offensive playmaker that’s haunted Tampa Bay for years. Even during their Super Bowl run in 2001, they lived off of their historically good defense, and the steady offensive play of QB Brad Johnson as he connected with WR’s Joe Jurevicious and Keenan McCardell. Florida WR Percy Harvin is a special player, standing out in three superb years on the college level. He has had some injury questions, but in the right system (a la Miami WR Ted Ginn in the Wildcat) he could flourish.
20) Detroit Lions (The Pick) – Having already addressed their QB situation with the first pick in the draft, the Lions use the first of the picks they received from Dallas in the Roy Williams trade to shore up the offensive line, the same way that Atlanta did last year. For a position as important as left tackle, you would think that it would be easier to discern who’s really got the talent to make it in the NFL and who doesn’t, but whenever I try to watch highlight films of offensive lineman it just looks like almsot everyone’s doing the exact thing same, and it’s really hard for people to stand out unless they’re ridiculously good. In terms of gossip, though, I hear good things about Connecticut OT William Beatty. This feels like it might be kind of high for a lineman that hasn’t really attracted that much information, but people said the same thing about Falcons OT Sam Baker last year, and he was a huge success. Beatty could very well be the same, and either way the Lions gave up 52 sacks last season; Detroit desparately needs to address their issues on the line.
Now that the deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft has come and gone, and the Super Bowl participants have been decided, I figured now would be a good time to take another look at who’s probably going where.
1) Detroit Lions – The Lions would probably do unspeakable things for the opportunity to trade the #1 overall pick for a stable of lower picks, even though they have those two extra picks from Dallas because of the Roy Williams trade, because they have holes everywhere. Big, gaping bloody holes. But with so many sophmores and juniors opting to stay in college, this year has the look of a weak draft, which means that with a new coach, new GM and no chance to get rid of the top pick, the Lions are probably gonna go with a QB. Granted, they do have Jon Kitna, but the simple truth is that Detroit just went 0-16. Translation: nobody’s job is safe.
The Pick – Originally I had Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford here, but he’s staying in college, so I’m torn between USC’s Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford of Georgia. Both have their upsides and downsides: Sanchez is ostensibly more polished, but Stafford arguably has the bigger arm and more upside. Personally, I’m going with Sanchez. Stafford seems like he would be a project initially, and the Lions need someone capable of coming in ASAP. To me, that sounds like Sanchez.
Season Lowlight – This local sports talk radio show providing a forum for self-loathing not seen since the 2002 “Bulimic Emo Cutters of the Arctic Circle” Conference. You know it’s bad when the first thing played after your season is over is “Hallelujah”.
2) St. Louis Rams – This draft is different for a couple of reasons; one of those reasons is that traditionally, while the first team is obviously the worst, they’re only marginally worse than the #2 team, who’s only marginally worse than the #3 team, and so on and so on. However, Detroit was so terrible this year that they’re essentially in their own weight class, making the Rams look better than they were by comparison. But don’t get it twisted; yeah, St. Louis suffered injuries to key players like OT Orlando Pace and QB Marc Bulger. But every NFL team has to deal with injuries at some point. What really didn’t help was their ridiculous coaching situation, where coach Scott Linehan was fired after an 0-4 start to the season and D-Coordinator Jim Haslett was made interim coach, letting him go at the end of the season and hiring NY Giants D-Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (a great hire, in my opinion).
The Pick – Another team with hopes of trading down for more draft picks. Too bad it ain’t happening. Since they’re stuck here, the Rams might as well let fortune favor them, taking stud OT Andre Smith from Alabama. Smith missed the Sugar Bowl, and his absence showed as the Crimson Tide fell to the Utah Utes 31-17, but his suspension for improper contact with an agent doesn’t seem indicative of any larger character problems. The Rams openly lusted after OT Jake Long in last year’s draft, and there are two factors working in Smith’s favor; Bulger was sacked 38 times this season, and Pace is 34 and apparently incapable of staying on the field.
Season Lowlight – It’s Week 1 of the NFL season, and you’ve got a squad that theoretically looks like it could compete. You’re going up against the Eagles, a team considered by many at the time to be 3rd or 4th in its division. So of course you get crushed, to the tune of a 38-3 anal reaming.
3) Kansas City Chiefs – See, the problem with these crappy teams is they suck. They suck so hard, in fact, that nobody except die-hard fans want to talk about them. So when someone wants to do a mock draft, they have to sift through all this bullshit “woe is me” garbage to get the info they need. Take KC, for example. After they knocked NE QB Tom Brady out for the season, I hardly heard anything about them; just reports about their deteriorating QB situation and jokes about Herm Edwards. After some time spent on various Chiefs message boards (my advice: stay away from any team’s message boards unless they’re .500 or better, unless you enjoy seeing grown men say things like “our D-line suckz bitch nutz”), I learned the only thing anyone knows is that former NE executive Scott Pioli is the new KC GM. Beyond that, nobody’s sure of anything. Which is always a recipe for greatness.
The Pick – Let me throw a stat at you; the Chiefs only had 10 sacks this season. 10. To put that into perspective, 12 players had 10 sacks or more this season. Hell, Cowboys LB Demarcus Ware had 20! So it’s pretty obvious that KC is in desperate need of a competent pass rush. Enter Texas DE Brian “O-Sack-O” Orakpo. At 6’3 and 255 lbs., Orakpo has the physical tools necessary to be a force in the NFL, and his presence could allow DE Tamba Hali to move back the left end, where he was a beast in 2007.
Season Lowlight – This loss to the Raiders pretty much summed up the Chiefs entire season: “Hey we’re doing good! Oh wait, we suck. Wait, are we gonna make a comeback? No, no, never mind.”
4) Seattle Seahawks – In coach Mike Holmgren’s last season with Seattle, the Seahawks imploded under a cavalcade of issues. QB Matt Hasselbeck’s back injury. An O-line that couldn’t protect the quarterback or open up running lanes. A defense that 260 passing yards per game, the worst in the NFL. But the situation that arguably caused the most trouble, and inarguably received the most media attention, was the Biblical plague that struck the receiving core. Deion Branch, Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Logan Payne, Billy McMullen; it seemed like everytime the ‘Hawks would sign a receiver to shore up the injury-depleted WR unit…that person would get injured immediately.
The Pick After the WR apocolapyse this season, nearly everyone has assumed that Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree is at the top of Seattle’s board – and nearly everyone would be right. Crabtree was a man amongst boys this year, and adds an instant big-play capability to a team that was hamstrung by a lack of ball-catchers (giggity).
Season Lowlight – In their first meeting since Cowboys QB Tony Romo fumbled the snap against the ‘Hawks in the ’07 playoffs, the ‘Boys busted out the turkey baster on Thanksgiving, working Seattle over to the tune of 34-9.
5) Cleveland Browns – Bar none, the biggest disapointment in the NFL this season, and by a fairly wide margin. After a breakout year in ’07, the Browns took a huge step backwards on all levels; offensive (ranked 31st overall), defensive (26th overall) and on special teams (only 18 points after touchdown all season). Is Cleveland going to move former Pro Bowl QB Derek Anderson? What about struggling WR Braylon Edwards, who had 12 dropped passes this season (tied for most in the NFL with TE Dallas Clark)? Or embittered TE Kellen Winslow Jr., who’s staph infection led to a public dispute over Browns management’s treatment of the players? The talent is there, for once, but the chemistry is a nightmare.
The Pick – Former NY Jets coach Eric “Mangenius” Mangini was recently hired to be the new head coach, after Cleveland let go of Romeo Crennel, and with so many well-known names lining up on the offensive side of the ball, Mangini should be aware of the fact that the defense needs a serious upgrade immediately if the Browns want to hang with the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Mangini will most likely retain the Browns’ 3-4 defense, which means that he could easily move towards grabbing a DE. But the most glaring issue, in my personal opinion, has been the absolute lack of top-level players in the secondary. Hometown wonder Ohio State CB Malcolm Jenkins would be an inspired pick here, as a local star who can raise interest in the team and a talented athlete who can improve them drastically as well.
Season Lowlight – Not exactly a lowlight, but certainly a painful blow, this last second loss to the Denver Broncos summed up the season for the Browns; even on a night when everything was clicking and the other team was struggling to move the ball, Cleveland couldn’t close it out.
6) Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals were neck-and-neck with the Lions in the race for “Biggest embarassment to a group of sports fans”, going winless until week 9, when they edged the Jacksonville Jaguars 21-19. During that 8-week stretch, they lost QB Carson Palmer to an elbow injury, LB Keith Rivers to a broken jaw, and WR Chad Johnson to general don’t-give-a-fuckery. They somehow managed to gather up 4 wins and a tie, but seeing as how those wins came against teams that averaged 5 wins a piece, it doesn’t exactly bode well for the future.
The Pick – What does bode well for the future is that all reports say that Palmer is expected to return for the 2009 season. But, if the Bengals O-line doesn’t make some serious improvements before then, he shouldn’t be out there too long. Fact: in 2008 the Bengals gave up 50 sacks. I don’t care who you got back there, they’re not going to last long against that type of punishment. Add to that the fact that the Bengals’ running backs only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, and the O-line suddenly becomes a glaring hole that needs to be filled (giggity). This would be a great time to grab someone like Michael Oher, a beast (6’6, 320 lbs.) with a lot of agility who could upgrade the line immediately.
Season Lowlight Remember when I mentioned that Rivers ended his season early with a broken jaw? Yeah, here’s how it happened. Steelers WR Hines Ward is a baaaaad man.
7) Oakland Raiders – What a godawful mess. This team has enough talent to at least compete with most teams out there, but instead it seems like every year they completely implode. It’s not like the reason for that is rocket science or something. Owner Al Davis is essentially the lunatic running the asylum; firing coaches just as soon as he’ll look at them, calling the sidelines from his luxury box and advising plays like he was Richard Nixon, throwing huge amounts of money at names rather than talent. Mark my words, the Raiders will not be truly relevant until Davis either gives up the reins or dies; whichever comes first.
The Pick – Now Davis’ constant interference is throwing a monkey wrench into my shit. If I was thinking merely in terms of “What would a competent GM and coach do with this pick”, than I would be tempted to say that Oakland would most likely take someone like Virginia OT Michael Oher to lock down the left side of the line. But Davis is crazy, and what’s more, he’s been enamored with the idea of creating a speedy, Florida Gator-esque receiving core, and with Florida WR Percy Harvin declaring for the draft and having an impressive game during the BCS Championship, I think the Silver and Black post the first surprise of the season, taking Harvin.
Season Lowlight – This absolutely surreal press conference where Davis introduced interim replacement head coach Tom Cable. Any explanation I gave of the situation couldn’t do it proper justice; just watch.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars – When OT Richard Collier was shot before the regular season started, it cast a long shadow on the entire year. QB David Garrard, who only threw three interceptions last season, threw all of 13 this year, and was knocked down more than any other QB this season. At the same time, the running game was completely stuffed, with the two-headed beast of RB’s Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew held to 110 y.p.g., well below their usual average.
The Pick – As much as the Jags would love to pick a WR like Harvin or Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin to act as a deep threat that Jacksonville has never really had, or even a stud LB like Ray Maualuga of USC to replace Mike Peterson after he leaves during the off-season, it’s patently clear to everyone that the left tackle position is in desparate need of an upgrade. Baylor T Jason Smith is relatively new to the position, having only played it for two seasons, but as a former tight end he has an impressive wingspan, and extremely agile feet, which allow him to slide more easily than many lineman.
Season Lowlight – First play of the game against Minnesota, the Jags screw up the handoff, and Vikings LB Napoleon Harris scoops up the ball and scores. Whoops.
9) Green Bay Packers – Those poor, poor cheeseheads. When the season started, they looked like a playoff team, but they seemed to get worse and worse as the season went on, and they finished the season by going 1-5 in their last six games, with their lone win barely coming over the 0-16 Detroit Lions. No matter how you feel about the whole Brett Favre situation, GM Ted Thompson has done some of his best work on draft day, putting together a nice collection of young talent on either side of the ball.
The Pick – One serious area of concern for the Packers, one that very well may have directly contributed to a number of this season’s losses, is the total lack of a pass rush. The Pack ranked 25th in sacks, with 27 total this season. The remedy? Hopefully FSU DE Everette Brown, arguably the second-best defensive lineman on the board.
Season Lowlight – Brett Favre press conference; ’nuff said.
10) San Francisco 49ers – The Niners had a crazy year, one in which they saw their head coach change (from Mike Nolan to Mike Singletary), their QB change (from Alex Smith to Shan Hill), and their fortunes change (from a 2-6 start to a 6-2 finish). With everything that’s occured since the last draft, it seems as though San Fran could go in almost any direction without fault.
The Pick – Every struggling team can use help in the trenches; in the Niners’ case, it happens to be on the defensive side of the ball, where a lack of pressure on the QB leads to big pass plays. Enter B.J. Raji, a monster DT out of Boston College who can come in right away and produce.
Season Lowlight – Since we’re moving away from the dregs of the NFL, and towards the not-quite-ripe heart of the league, this “Ultimate Highlight” of the 49ers isn’t as embarassing as the other videos may have been.
11)Buffalo Bills – After their blistering 5-1 start, the Bills looked like the surprise team of the AFC. After QB Trent Edwards went down temporarily with a concussion, the Bills were never able to recover, dropping 8 out of their last 10 games.
What They Should Do: Buffalo’s defense was ranked a respectable 14th overall, but they were only able to collect a paltry 24 sacks as a team, giving far too many opposing quarterbacks enough time to pick apart a talented, but young secondary. Orokpo and Brown are already off the board, so Buffalo should go with the next best DE on the board, LSU’s Tyson Jackson.
What They’ll Actually Do: Edwards’ concussion was due to the lack of strength on the line, so the Bills will probably go for California C Alex Mack, deciding that the 11th overall pick is too high for Jackson.
12)Denver Broncos – Another team that was an early favorite before succumbing to a late-season collapse, Denver’s fall from grace was so shocking (with only 3 games left in the season), that venerated head coach Mike Shanahan was summarily deposed as a consequence.
What They Should Do: Let’s look at the stats. 29th defense overall, 27th rushing defense, 26th passing defense. Right now I could go into Ralph Wilson Stadium with a squad of midgets and blind people and still put up at least 10 points. Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy would be a great grab here, but really any defensive player would be a boon for Denver’s nightmare D.
What They’ll Actually Do: They will actually grab a defensive player; it just might be someone different, like Boston College DT B.J. Raji or Ohio State ILB James Laurenitis. But defense is the obvious move.
13)Washington Redskins – Washington was the last team in the NFC East, and as such needs more help than anyone in that division. The best word to describe this team would be “average”: decent offense, decent defense.
What They Should Do: If this team has any dark spots, it’s the tackle position, where they’ve been getting consistently burned by pass-rushers coming off of the edge. A good team addition would be Arizona OT Ebon Britton, a monster right tackle who could be a consistent lineman for years to come.
What They’ll Actually Do: We’re talking about Dan Snyder here, so think flashy playmaker. Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin is still developing, but he was probably neck-and-neck with Florida WR Percy Harvin for the title of “most electric player”, and he’ll probably have a great combine, so Snyder will probably fall hard for him.
14)New Orleans Saints – The southern version of Denver; prolific offense, terrible defense. QB Drew Brees, the NFL’s first 5,000-yard passer since Dan Marino, heads an offense loaded for bear, with heavyweights like RB Reggie Bush and WR Marques Colston. But in a division like the NFC South, noted for defensive monsters Tampa Bay and Carolina, the other side of the ball needs a serious upgrade if the Saints are going to compete on a consistent basis.
What They Should Do: One of New Orleans’ few defensive bright spots is LB Jonathan Vilma, but he’s going to be near impossible for the Saints to resign. If he’s still on the board, and it’s very likely he will be, Laurinitis is the logical choice for New Orleans, as the big, physical linebacker will be able to come in and play immediately.
What They’ll Actually Do: See above (so I’m lazy, sue me).
15)Houston Texans – Believe it or not, this team looks like it might actually be coming together. I know, I know, it seems like almost every season people say that the Texans are getting ready to turn the corner. But with 1,200-yard rusher Steve Slaton in the backfield, and QB Matt Schaub firing off at stud WR Andre Johnson, the Texans have the offensive pieces in place to at least compete deep into the season.
What They Should Do: The Texans secondary has been a complete embarrassment for years, with no visible leader to speak of. Missouri S William Moore isn’t a national name, and he’s not quite there yet, but at 6’1 and 215 lbs., he’s got the physical gifts, and could easily blossom into the ball-hawking DB this team has desperately needed.
What They’ll Actually Do: See above.
It’s undeniable. It’s inarguable. When you get 2 national championships in 3 years, and they’ve been in your second and fourth year, that means you’ve won with your predecessor’s players and your players. That means, even if you’ve recruited effectively enough that your players match your system as well as humanly possible (Tim Tebow is essentially an evolutionary version of Alex Smith, and Percy Harvin, Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey et al. are all gamebreakes), that the perception is that the cause of the success is you. I’ll have video later, when it’s available, but I just wanted to mention how the Gators delivered a superlatively steady and driven performance. If Tim Tebow went into the draft right now, he’d probably be a 2nd-3rd round pick, and I don’t understand why. He’s a big, effective quarterback that wins – I could see him being another Ben Roethlisburger. But it would be partially dependant on who drafted him; if it’s Detroit, kiss that sorry bastard goodbye. But if he goes into a situation where he could flourish, like Chicago, or Minnesota or even San Francisco, he could be an immediate impact player, just from his running aspect alone. Maybe I’m just overly impressed because I’ve had many beers, but Tebow’s the man. And Percy Harvin, I am so sorry, but you just caught crazy Al Davis’ eye. It was fun watching you, and I’ll have fond memories, but once you put on that silver and black you might as well be playing the Canadian League for all the national coverage you’ll be getting. Huge win for Urban Meyer, but now the constant naysayers have a new question: who’s going to take Tebow’s place when he eventually moves on the NFL? Cameron Newton looked like he might be the one, until he got arrested for stealing a teammates laptop, and then throwing it out the window in an attempt to avoid being caught. So, he wasn’t particularly smart. But backups Andrew Blaylock and John Brantley are untested, and either will arguably be a drop-off from Tebow’s spectacular play. But that’s a question that can wait.