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Chiefs Revive Niners’ QB Pipeline with Trade for Smith

By: — March 1, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

Throughout their history, few teams have shown more disregard to developing quarterbacks through the draft than the Kansas City Chiefs. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only three quarterbacks drafted by the Chiefs – Mike Livingston (1969-79), Steve Fuller (1979-82) and Todd Blackledge (1983-87) – won a game for the franchise. Put another way, Blackledge – in 1987 – was the last quarterback selected by Kansas City to win a game for the Chiefs.

Alex Smith

Another San Francisco QB is headed to Kansas City.

Over that time, one trend has developed: Kansas City typically has a need for a quarterback and the San Francisco 49ers typically have a signal-caller to spare. Even though the transaction cannot be made official until March 12, the teams essentially wrapped up a deal on Wednesday to send Alex Smith to the Chiefs in exchange for a second-round pick in the upcoming draft (the 34th pick) plus a conditional third-rounder in 2014 that can escalate to an additional second-rounder. Smith is the latest Niner-turned-Chief quarterback on a list that includes Steve DeBerg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac. Shockingly, former San Francisco quarterbacks have accounted for 95 of the franchise’s 404 wins – 34 more than the aforementioned trio of KC-drafted field generals.

But that is enough of the historical significance. New HC Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey had little choice but to pursue the most established veteran quarterback on the market in a year where the incoming rookie class doesn’t appear to possess a single must-have talent at the position. Combined with Reid’s history of developing quarterbacks and the fact he holds Smith in high regard, the Chiefs can make the case their new employee is a battle-tested quarterback that is a proven winner. Furthermore, the overall compensation for Smith wasn’t quite what it was for Matt Schaub or Kevin Kolb – other veteran quarterbacks less accomplished than Smith when they were traded.

Reid stated in his opening press conference the Chiefs needed to find the next Len Dawson, who incidentally was another quarterback the franchise did not draft (selected and traded by the Steelers to the Browns, who later released him). Few Kansas City fans will argue that Matt Cassel needed to go and Smith is an upgrade – even if he has earned a reputation as a “game manager”. (Anyone who watched the Chiefs’ offense last season should be able to appreciate a quarterback who can manage a game.) Whether the “game manager” tag is an appropriate one is a discussion for another day, but what Smith does have for the first time in years is a front office that is invested in him and a coach that has publicly stated that he has long been a Smith fan.

Fantasy Impact
So the question becomes: will fantasy owners join Reid aboard the Smith bandwagon? Just as importantly, how does his arrival affect the fantasy fortunes of players such as Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe (if he returns to the team)?

Smith was in the midst of a career year in 2012 before a Week 9 concussion effectively ended his 49er career and gave birth to the rise of second-year stud Colin Kaepernick. How much of his “late development” stemmed from the fact he worked under seven different offensive coordinators and how much of it was the coaching and confidence he received from HC Jim Harbaugh and OC Greg Roman? It’s a fair question. In fact, I think most people would agree that after seven seasons and 75 NFL starts, we still really don’t know who Alex Smith is or what he could become. If only for that reason, the soon-to-be 29-year-old Smith is about as much of a wild-card as there is entering the 2013 season.

Fortunately, we do know that Reid has admitted on several occasions he can’t help himself when it comes to the passing game. As a result, there is a very good chance Smith will set career highs across the board. Another factor in Smith’s favor is that Reid has consistently received a lot of production from his quarterbacks, even taking a strong-armed option quarterback out of Syracuse in Donovan McNabb and molding him into an efficient West Coast passer. Therefore, I think that while learning yet another system isn’t likely to yield immediate results, most of us can agree Smith is transitioning from one quarterback-friendly offense to another.

In regards to his new supporting cast, it’s hard to believe the biggest beneficiary from the Reid-Smith marriage will not be Charles. While the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher this season is a bit more reliant on speed and a bit less reliant on elusiveness than Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy, all of them are accomplished receivers. Given the fact that the 2013 Chiefs would look a lot like Reid’s early teams (without DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin) if Bowe leaves via free agency – and more like the Eagles prior to Maclin’s arrival if Bowe stays – there’s every reason to believe Charles will be a 50-60 catch player either way. Charles’ fantasy outlook was going to be better than in 2012 because of the way Reid utilizes his backs, but a solid Smith can only help his week-to-week consistency.

Bowe makes the most interesting fantasy case. In this whole San Francisco-Philadelphia dynamic, he compares most favorably to Michael Crabtree. When focused and properly motivated, however, Bowe could be the most dominant wide receiver that Smith has thrown to in his career and the second-most dominant one Reid has coached. I can only assume Reid received some kind of assurance from management that Bowe would remain a Chief – be it via a new contract or the franchise tag – before he took the job or else the new coach is open to the idea of seeing his new quarterback start out the same way McNabb did (with the likes of Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, James Thrash and Todd Pinkston serving as the main receivers). Since I doubt the latter is the case, Bowe has a chance to be the first high-volume receiver Reid has coached since Terrell Owens. While that level of production is unlikely, it could happen – Bowe has already flashed that kind of ability.

In closing, the Chiefs either made a savvy move in trading for a “proven” veteran in a year where the rookie quarterback talent pool appears to lack a clear-cut “franchise quarterback” or severely overpaid because need trumped common sense. If Smith’s last two seasons were a sign that he was just a late bloomer that needed someone to believe in him, then Kansas City took a significant step forward with this move. While the price was to acquire was a bit steep in my opinion, I have little doubt that Smith will be at least serviceable in reality and fantasy, pending any improvements the Chiefs make at receiver this offseason. Assuming Bowe returns, Smith should be a viable QB2 in 12-team leagues in 2013 while a happy Bowe could easily return to top 10 WR status.

What We Learned at the Combine – Quarterbacks and Running Backs

By: — @ 10:22 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL Combine Quarterback Geno Smith performed well participating in all the drills, and his 4.59 speed was better than expected. He did enough to maintain his status as the draft’s top quarterback but didn’t overwhelm enough to make the case to be the first pick overall.

Mike Glennon and Tyler Bray displayed the best natural arms among quarterbacks. Bray really impressed with his throwing and may have inserted himself in the discussion to be the second quarterback selected. Teams will weigh his Combine performance against the inconsistency he showed on the field and his immaturity off of it. Glennon showed off his big arm but also his problems with accuracy and mechanics. His performance was as expected, which doesn’t necessarily hurt his stock but seems to push him from consideration as a first-round prospect. Glennon also needs to fill out his Olive Oil frame. The first hit he takes in the NFL may be his last.

His throwing isn’t as natural as the quarterbacks mentioned above, but E.J. Manuel also showed off a strong arm. He’s the most physically impressive also, standing at just under 6’5” with big hands and turning in the expected strong performance across the board in athletic tests, including a 4.65 40 time—second to Smith among quarterbacks. Manuel built off the momentum of a great Senior Bowl with an impressive Combine and, to me, has made the best case to be considered the second quarterback off the board, with potential to become the top quarterback picked if Smith slips in the next two months. His upside is that of a faster Daunte Culpepper with more accuracy on shorter throws.

A growing favorite of many pundits and draftniks heading in to the Combine, quarterback Ryan Nassib, was generating plenty of buzz before hitting Lucas Field. On it, he was solid but unspectacular. He had a few good throws, but his sudden media-generated reputation far exceeded his skills. Slow and shorter than ideal without a great arm, it’s hard to project him as more than a backup or placeholder.

Quarterback Collin Klein didn’t help his NFL future by declining to work out as a tight end. At best he’s a No. 3 quarterback on an NFL roster, but as he isn’t really a developmental prospect to be a future starter, he would be more appealing if he could bring some other things to the table.

Teams will be digging up old tape on running back Knile Davis to learn more about him. The former Arkansas runner broke out as a true sophomore in 2010, garnering All-SEC honors after leading the conference with 1,322 yards in Bobby Petrino’s offense. His collegiate career was derailed after a broken left ankle in a preseason scrimmage cost him the 2011 season. Davis returned a shell of himself in 2012. He couldn’t hold on to the ball, battled hamstring problems, appeared to run tentatively, and lost his starting spot when he struggled to find his place in the offense of new head coach John L. Smith. He had been tumbling down the running back rankings until the Combine. He ran a 4.37 40, the second fastest among running backs, and a ridiculous time for someone at 227 pounds. Davis was solid in the other tests, including 31 reps on the bench, and looked very good in the drills. The explosion and decisiveness he lacked during the season were back. A hard worker who was respected enough to be voted a team captain in 2011 despite not playing, he likely impressed in interviews too, which teams will have to weigh against his injury history. In addition to his hamstring problems last season and the broken left ankle that erased 2011, dating back to high school he has also broken his right ankle twice and his collarbone twice.

Building on the momentum of a strong Shrine Game performance, running back Christine Michael put together a portfolio of the best all-around test results among running backs and looked good in drills. However, he undid some of his work on Lucas Field by reportedly missing a couple of team interviews by oversleeping. As an isolated incident, it might not have been a big deal, but maturity and attitude questions linger after a poor relationship with his head coach last season. Considered one of the top prep runners coming in to college in 2009 (generally third behind Trent Richardson and Bryce Brown), Michael exploded as a true freshman for Texas A&M before injuries impeded his upward trajectory. A broken right leg after eight games in his sophomore season ended a strong encore, and a torn left ACL ended his junior year after nine games. In 2012, he struggled to get on the same page with new head coach Kevin Sumlin. Michael was relegated to a reserve and goal-line back role, while overshadowed by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Combine showed that his talent clearly remains, but at what round does it outweigh attitude and injury concerns?

For a smaller back whose main upside was as a home-run threat, running back Andre Ellington tested poorly, including a disappointing 4.61 40 time. I really like what I’ve seen on the field through his career, but between a hamstring knocking him out of Senior Bowl week and now with this Combine, he is having a rough road to the draft since the season ended. I expect he’ll improve some of his numbers at his Pro Day, but this is very disappointing for a guy who I thought could come out of the Combine locking up a place among the top five running backs.

Running backs Montee Ball was solid, but unspectacular. He didn’t have to demonstrate pass protection, a weakness that could limit him to a two-down role early in his career. I appreciate the kids who decide to stay in school, but from a pure football decision standpoint, it is clear Ball should have come out last year. He put more wear on the tires without helping his draft stock. I had a similar solid, but unspectacular opinion of running back Giovani Bernard, but he appears to have impressed others more. Multiple sources report comparison of Bernard to Ray Rice by NFL scouts and execs. I don’t know if he made the case to pass the injured and absent Eddie Lacy as the top running back in the class, but he appears to have separated himself from Ellington and Ball as the number 2 back in this class.

While the consensus top-rated running backs in this class either ran in place or hurt themselves at the Combine, Johnathan Franklin climbed draft boards. He tested well and looked great in drills. After flying under the radar at UCLA most of his career, despite being a four-year starter, he overcame fumbling problems and put together his best season last year under new head coach Jim Mora Jr., who has heaped effusive praise on Franklin over the last year. Also significantly helping their cases were Le’Veon Bell and Kenjon Barner. The biggest pure running back at 230 pounds, Bell surprised with more speed than expected (a 4.6 40) and by catching the ball extremely well. He flashed more ability than the typical punishing, between-the-tackles runner, thus raising his ceiling. Barner tested well, but he really stood out in the receiving drills, running crisp routes and showing good hands. On the flipside, running back Stepfan Taylor failed to take advantage of the lack of separation by the other top-rated running backs. No one expected him to be a burner, but his 4.76 40 was worse than expected and he lacked explosion in drills.

The best all-purpose back looked like small-school running back Kerwynn Williams, who turned in one of the best all-around performances. The WAC record holder in all-purpose yardage tested well and turned heads in drills.

Defensive Players to Watch at the Combine (And a Couple of Offensive Linemen)

By: — February 23, 2013 @ 10:50 am
Filed under: IDP, NFL Draft

For the IDP enthusiast, and anyone who has read his share of articles about skill players, here are the defensive players I’m looking forward to watching at the Combine starting this weekend. Also included are a couple of offensive linemen…keeping with the non–skill player coverage.

Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State
After 8 sacks as a freshman and then a breakout 13.5 sacks (third in FBS) and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2010 on a FSU defense that tied for the FBS lead with 48 sacks, Jenkins was a favorite to lead the nation in sacks in 2011. It ended up his numbers dipped (8 sacks and 12 TFL) as he battled some injuries, but Jenkins was learning to play with his hand on the ground more often and faced frequent double teams, which freed up opportunities for others, particularly Björn Werner, to make plays. With hard work in the weight room over that offseason, Jenkins also significantly improved his play against the run. The NFL Advisory Board gave him a late first-round to early second-round grade. He had his mind made up to declare early and informed head coach Jimbo Fisher shortly after their victory in the Champs Sports Bowl. Fisher reportedly asked Jenkins for a few days to investigate more with his NFL contacts, and after a two-hour meeting with his family and Fisher, Jenkins still seemed set to go. He changed his mind later that evening, however, and informed Fisher he would return for his senior season. Unfortunately, his decision to return didn’t work out. Jenkins suffered a season-ending broken left foot in the second quarter of their first game. In 40 career games, Jenkins was credited with 22.5 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss.

I appreciate that Jenkins was able to graduate by returning, but I feel he got some bad advice from Fisher, regardless of his injury, and should have left after 2011. There was a report prior to last season that Fisher told him to stay focused only on defensive end in the offseason. While Jenkins doesn’t have elite speed around the corner, he has great quickness off the ball and an excellent spin move. I think his development for the next level would have benefitted from more opportunities to play in space with his hand off the ground and not exclusively at right defensive end, as he may end up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Jenkins could have petitioned for an extra year, and likely would have gotten it, but instead enters the draft with Werner. The duo join the lineage of outstanding pass rush specialist tweeners from FSU (Andre Wadsworth, Peter Boulware, Reinard Wilson, Kamerion Wimbley, et al). While Werner now looks likely to be the first-round pick, Jenkins could climb back to become a late second-round pick with an impressive Combine.

Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
A phenomenal athlete, Taylor was a varsity basketball player and state triple-jump champion in high school. As a 3rd year sophomore in 2010, he showed in addition to his ability to penetrate from the edge (7.5 sacks and 13 TFL) that he was fluid enough to drop into coverage. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson successfully mixed him into that role and Taylor led the team with 8 passes defensed and an interception returned for a touchdown. He stood out on a talented D-line that led the SEC in sacks with versatile defensive end Melvin Ingram and tackle Travian Robertson anchoring the interior, both of whom would be drafted. Taylor earned first-team All-SEC honors and most draftniks had him pegged to leave early and be a first-round pick. However, he didn’t deliver the dominant encore that was expected as the 2011 season began. He drew more attention from opposing offenses and disappeared at times. Instead, it was Ingram and blue chip freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney who racked up the big plays. Taylor adjusted and began to string together stronger showings as the season wound down, including an impact performance in the Capital One Bowl, but finished the year with just 6 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He said the NFL Draft Advisory Board told him he wouldn’t go in the first three rounds, so he decided to return. Clowney was the story again last season, while Taylor managed just 3 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He regained some draft stock momentum with a dominant week of practice prior to the Shrine Game and a great game as well, posting a sack, a forced fumble, and 2 tackles for loss.

Interestingly, his father is named Lawrence Taylor (no relation to the NFL HOF’er) and owns a restaurant called L.T.’s. Foreshadowing? At 6’7”, Devin seems too tall and stiff, despite his athletic ability, to play outside linebacker, and he hasn’t flashed natural pass-rush ability. He bulked up about 25 pounds since last year and seems to be adjusting to playing with the new weight. He gives great effort and has an excellent work rate on the field, which has helped contribute to the success of the Gamecocks and will appeal to NFL teams. He presents a great problem in space, and his agility and wingspan could make him an outstanding zone pass defender in stunts. However, he simply lacks a quick first step and explosiveness off the ball, which is why he isn’t a great pass rusher despite his athletic ability. Any tackle in the NFL is going to be able to get his hands on him every time. It doesn’t help that with his height he lacks a natural bend and opens himself up too quickly, giving the opponent plenty of real estate to work with. I like Taylor, and his work ethic will make him a project some team will want to take on. The athleticism he displays at the Combine will go a long way toward determining how early he is drafted.

Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
I currently have him mocked in the first round, and I write about him extensively here. However, he’ll really need to bring the “wow” in Indianapolis to go that high and live up to the mythical levels at which his athleticism is currently portrayed. He is one of the most polarizing players among draftniks, and one side of the debate over him will gain more evidence at the Combine.

Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
He has just stated he won’t work out at the Combine to focus on preparing for his Pro Day. That deprives us of a preview of a player who, talent-wise, might be the best overall prospect in the draft. However, his medical evaluations were going to be as critical to his draft stock as his Combine or Pro Day performance. As I discussed in my first mock, his mild spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) caused USC doctors to not clear him and recommend he not play football, while other doctors have cleared him and said the risk is not a major concern. While we won’t have access to the details of his medical evaluations, he is still a player to watch as rumors and reports of those evaluations emerge.

DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, CB, Alabama
The consensus top cornerback in the draft comes to the Combine with a torn labrum he apparently played with through at least some part of last season. However, he is currently planning to do everything except the bench press and then have surgery afterward. There is a talented crowd in the queue behind him at cornerback, which the Combine will help to sort out and may even provide others the opportunity to pass Milliner if he is more limited than expected or disappoints.

David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
Like most, I viewed Amerson as the top cornerback prospect after his sensational sophomore season in 2011 where he picked off an ACC-record 13 passes and was an impact player. However, this past season he got off to a horrible start before improving down the stretch. Former Wolfpack head coach Tom O’Brien offered various explanations during the year: Amerson had gotten away from fundamentals, was missing basic assignments, trying too hard to make big plays instead of doing his job, and was stressed out and distracted by off-field issues. Those issues involved his relationship to Eric Leak, a disassociated booster and former N.C. State player who was previously found by the NCAA to have been providing illegal benefits to Wolfpack basketball players. Leak was allegedly soliciting agents for Amerson. So we’ve got the effect of that situation plus the pressure to repeat his historic season, and reading his own press clippings from that season; but what does the tape of his on-field activity show? His drop in productivity wasn’t because teams were afraid to throw at him. He was beaten a number of times, his low point being his involvement in all four touchdown passes by the Hurricanes in the Wolfpacks’ loss at Miami. Amerson also struggled with his footwork—both poor technique and lack of the instinct for when to come out of a backpedal. Some of that could be attributed to the “off” coverage he excelled at in 2011, baiting quarterbacks to try for the pick. But that is still a problem because it would indicate he lacks his previous quickness and recovery speed to execute those baits successfully. He played better in the second half of the season, including a 55-yard pick six in the team’s final regular season game. He finished with 5 interceptions and 17 passes defended—respectable numbers.

My feeling is his stock took too big a hit. He had a lot of negative press early in the season that pushed draftniks and pundits to focus on other players, yet not enough notice of his improvement down the stretch or enough blame given to the atrocious pass defense the Wolfpack had overall, which is shared with his supporting cast and the since-terminated coaching staff. At 6’2”, Amerson has the size to hang with the elite big receivers. If he shows quickness, speed and athleticism at the Combine, the issues with technique he displayed will be less of a concern and viewed as correctable. As I went through my mock, he remained in the debate for the second corner after Dee Milliner, so I can see him making a huge leap with a big Combine.

Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
The Honey Badger was one of the most exciting players in college football in 2011, with an incredible knack for turning in the big play, and in a variety of ways. He was kicked off the team prior to last season for reportedly failing drug tests and was later arrested for marijuana possession. Even if you take his baggage out of the picture, there was the question of his diminutive stature (I predict he measures 5’8” and under 175) and whether he has the elite athleticism to mitigate concerns about his talent translating at the next level. He reportedly has been living with the family of former teammate, and first-round pick, Patrick Peterson and training with workout warrior Peterson.

Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern
This dominating Division II player is the top NFL prospect of D2 guru Josh Buchanan. That’s enough reason to keep an eye on him.

Zavier Gooden, OLB, Missouri
The converted safety lacks the size of former teammate of Aldon Smith but is expected to impress with his own freakish athleticism. Gooden should emerge as one of this year’s Combine workout warriors, turning heads with his speed and strength.

Michael Buchanan, DE and Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois
In each of the last two years, an Illinois defensive lineman (Corey Liuget in 2011 and Whitney Mercilus in 2012) recruited by former head coach Ron Zook has risen from the obscurity of a terrible college team to meet his individual potential and end up as a first-round pick.

Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
When you look at his skill set alone, Te’o is a no-brainer. But after his imaginary girlfriend drama, I want to hear the reports of how his interviews are going. Regardless of the girlfriend situation, Alec Olgetree and Kevin Minter emerged as threats to his preseason status as the top inside linebacker prospect, so how Te’o tests is of interest too.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
Todd McShay has him as a first-round pick, and Tony Pauline says he is hearing similar rumblings from some at the Combine. He wasn’t on my radar to go that high, so I’ll be interested to see how he performs.

Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida
It was a bit of a surprise when he declared, despite his being a redshirt junior. Prior to his injury-plagued season, he was considered a potential first-round pick.

Walter Stewart, DE/OLB, Cincinnati
After he suffered a back injury in a win over Forham on Oct. 13th, Stewart was stunned to hear from the team doctor that his football career was over. X-rays identified a birth disorder. The Bearcats’ captain was missing the posterior arch of his first cervical (C1) vertebra. Second opinions since then have varied, with some NFL doctors validating the original recommendation and others telling him it isn’t an issue. Stewart chooses to believe the latter and is expected to undergo a full workload. The underrated tweener has been a favorite sleeper of mine ever since I saw his big performance in the Sugar Bowl after his redshirt freshman year in 2009. It’s hard not to root for Stewart, who left a tough home situation on his own at age 13 to end up with an inspirational foster family that became the nurturing parents he didn’t get in the biological lottery.

Bruce Taylor, LB, Virginia Tech
Here’s another player I really like(d). After a breakout year in 2010, a Lisfranc injury on his right foot cut his 2011 season short. He didn’t have the same explosion and first step when I watched him last season. He’s now over a year removed from his injury. I’m interested to see if after some rest and training in the offseason he displays more athleticism at the Combine, or seems destined as a two-down, backup inside linebacker.

Kevin Minter, ILB, Louisiana State
I’m a bit higher on Minter than others and hope his Combine validates the high consideration he’s getting based on his athleticism.

Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Other than the bench press, offensive linemen are the least interesting to watch work out. So it isn’t that I’m looking forward to seeing Armstead in any specific drills or tests (although he is predicted to run a sub-5.0). I just want to see how well he performs overall and view the feedback about him. After a great week of practice at the Shrine Game, the small-school prospect is a hot name among O-linemen. Because their contributions aren’t measured statistically like every other position and they don’t make many YouTube highlights, there are always some unheralded O-linemen who no one but actual NFL scouts already know about that jump up draft boards after the Combine (usually going to the Patriots).

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker dropped 16 pounds since the Senior Bowl and is apparently looking to change opinions on his ceiling as a right tackle. If he impresses with his agility and athleticism and moves into the left tackle discussion, he could join the first-rounders in a draft that continues to look increasingly impressive on both sides of the line.

NFL Mock Draft – Version 1.0

By: — February 11, 2013 @ 9:58 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

Round 1
Listed by pick, team, player, position, college

Kansas City Chiefs 1. Kansas City Chiefs – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The demand for quarterbacks usually creates an inefficient market at the draft, and this year should be no different. I covered my full thoughts on this pick in this article.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jarvis Jones, DE, Georgia
Skeptics will point to his mild spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) and lack of ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end as reasons he will fall. Optimists see a beast who led the nation (FBS) in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (7). He is the best pass rusher in the draft, and Jacksonville is desperate for one. New head coach Gus Bradley worked wonders as defensive coordinator in Seattle with undersized 4-3 pass rushers in Chris Clemons and last year’s first-round pick Bruce Irvin. He could see another Von Miller in Jones.

Oakland Raiders 3. Oakland Raiders – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
If the pick isn’t OT Luke Joeckel, who some consider the top overall prospect, I fully expect Oakland to address the defensive line. Defensive tackle Richard Seymour is a free agent and a long shot to return. Fellow tackle Tommy Kelly is resting on a fat contract and should be a cap casualty. Versatile defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, a former undrafted free agent who flashed potential, is also a free agent and likely to garner interest in the market. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, another free agent, has regressed. And versatile lineman Lamarr Houston is their star up front, but his best fit is probably the interior, so that that could have them leaning toward one of the top defensive end prospects. Still, I can’t see Lotulelei falling far. He has ridiculous burst and athleticism for a man his size. He’s not the dominating pass rusher Ndamukong Suh is, but he’s a favorable comparison to Haloti Ngata.

Philadelphia Eagles 4. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Perhaps the safest pick in the draft, Joeckel is unlikely to fall much further. The team is optimistic about the return of left tackle Jason Peters, but he ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon twice last year and just turned 31. The Eagles need plenty of help up front, where the depth of the line was exposed last season.

Detroit Lions 5. Detroit Lions – DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, CB, Alabama
Defensive end Cliff Avril, who led the team with 9.5 sacks, is a free agent, and the aging Kyle Vanden Bosch just became a cap casualty. Unless Joeckel falls or they trade up for him, this pick comes down to Milliner or a defensive end. For now I lean toward Milliner because their needs in the secondary are greater. Millner’s speed is the only question, but I think he is an elite corner prospect, and momentum for his draft stock will build toward his being the first defensive back selected and a top ten pick.

Cleveland Browns 6. Cleveland Browns – Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
I considered Mingo as high as second overall. I think his tremendous potential is nowhere near its peak and he will blow teams away at the Combine. He is raw, but when he adds weight and technique, he’ll be a monster.

Arizona Cardinals 7. Arizona Cardinals – Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California
This pick should be offensive tackle Eric Fisher, because it doesn’t matter who Arizona’s quarterback is when their porous line fails to protect him. But I expect the team will cave to the pressure of dramatic change at signal caller after trading for Kevin Kolb and running out a string of later-round picks that have all been epic fails. I suppose there is hope with tackle Bobby Massie improving after a rough start and fellow rookie tackle Nate Potter showing some promise, but they can’t rely on marginal prospects to synchronize their career years.

New general manager Steve Keim has defended this quarterback class, a tactic which some see as a smokescreen. I think it’s more likely the foundation of his defense for making a pick that will be viewed as a reach. I’m not a fan of Barkley’s ceiling, but he is probably the best prepared to start in the NFL from day one, and this team needs that. They need someone to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball, and Barkley showed he can do that for stud receivers in college. His pocket presence, decision-making, and intelligence will appeal to teams in the interview process. I just think his physical potential is limited despite those skills.

Buffalo Bills 8. Buffalo Bills – Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
General manager Buddy Nix has made no secret of his desire to find a future franchise quarterback in this draft. After failing to address this in previous drafts, it has become obvious that caretaker quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken the team as far as he can and that another option is needed to move to the next level. Glennon has the size and arm that will have team’s debating at length whether his technique and decision-making can catch up. I’d be equally unsurprised to see him drafted as the first quarterback taken or fall to the third round. Nix could have visions of a future Joe Flacco.

New York Jets 9. New York Jets – Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
It should be a year of getting back to basics for head coach Rex Ryan. With his job on the line, his priority should be to get back to what he does best and rebuild a defense that no longer cashes the check on Sundays that their coach’s mouth writes during the week. The biggest need is getting someone who can get to the quarterback regularly. The Jets haven’t had a double-digit sack producer since John Abraham in 2005, a player many compare Moore to. Aging outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Bryant Thomas have been serviceable on the edges, but Pace is expected to be a cap casualty if he doesn’t restructure, and Thomas is a free agent with legal problems. Reclamation projects with Vernon Gholston and Aaron Maybin haven’t worked out for Ryan. The Jets added a great pair of bookends up front in Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples in the first round of the last two drafts; now they need a guy to clean up on the havoc they’ll create. Moore replaced Von Miller in the Joker linebacker role for the Aggies before settling in to a prototypical defensive end role after a scheme change to a more standard 4-3 last season, when he put up his best numbers. I’m a bit bearish on Moore being a high pick heading in to the Combine because I don’t think he’ll show elite athleticism. He’s the classic example of the guy who plays at a different speed with the pads on, which tends to not translate well at the Combine. Where I am optimistic is that top sack and tackles for loss producers usually play well at the next level, and Moore is among the best coming out of this class.

Tennessee Titans 10. Tennessee Titans – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
Last year David DeCastro got a lot of recognition as the next great offensive guard, and many projected him as a top ten pick. He ended up going 24th to the Steelers. This year that player is Alabama’s Chance Warmack, who many are predicting as a fit here. History says, right or wrong, interior linemen just don’t go this high. The 15th pick is typically the ceiling for the position, and the last guard to go in the top ten was Chris Naeole in 1997. Last year, then-rookie Titans general manager Ruston Webster talked about needing a difference-maker at defensive end, recalling the glory days of Jevon Kearse and speaking from his own experience in Tampa Bay with Simeon Rice. The team made a run at Mario Williams but had to settle for Kamerion Wimbley, who played well but registered just 6 sacks. Former first-round pick Derrick Morgan led the team with 6.5 and finally gave Tennessee some hope for the future, but Morgan isn’t an elite pass rusher. I can see Webster swinging for the fences here and gambling on one of the biggest enigma’s in the draft, with visions of finding his own Freak for the Titans.

There is raw, and then there is Ansah (although Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz disagrees with the “raw” label after coaching him in the Senior Bowl). To learn more about his strange path to the NFL, check out this piece by Jeff Benedict for SI. The Ghanaian who grew up dreaming of playing basketball, was converted on a Mormon mission, and came to America for the first time in 2008 to go to BYU, had to learn the basic rules of football as a walk-on before the 2010 season. His freakish athleticism and speed for his size made him a name on campus before he turned up on the football field. After failing to make it as a walk-on for the basketball team, he caught the attention of BYU’s track coach after joining the team, again as a walk-on, in the spring of 2010. He also made an impression on football players by dominating them in BYU’s intramural league. They recommended he try the gridiron. It took him a couple of years, but he began to put it together in his final season, and the expectation is that a strong Combine will see him continue to rise. Many compare him to Jason Pierre-Paul, but Ansah really has a lot more to learn about pass rush technique and translating his athleticism to an explosive first step. He was exposed against Eric Fisher in one-on-one drills during Senior Bowl practice, unable to disengage and left without a game plan when he can’t initially beat his opponent. He’ll be eaten up by your average NFL tackle if he doesn’t progress there. However, I expect he’ll have that wow factor at the Combine, and some general manager will want to be the smartest guy in the room, thinking of landing the next JPP even if scouts and coaches express concerns about him. The debate on Ansah, especially in a class loaded with defensive line talent, is one of the more intriguing ones (and fortunately not another quarterback one) for draftniks, and it should reel in the average football fan after the Combine.

San Diego Chargers 11. San Diego Chargers – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
A great Senior Bowl showing has Fisher rising, likely locked in the first round as the second or third tackle off the board. While the new coaching staff allegedly has given left tackle Jared Gaither a clean slate, many believe he’s burned bridges with most teammates last season because of his lack of effort to play with pain. He may not be back. Even if he is, the Chargers allowed 49 sacks last season, fourth most in the league, and if they expect quarterback Phillip Rivers to return to form, they need better protection up front.

Miami Dolphins 12. Miami Dolphins – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Dolphins have squeezed all the talent they could out of Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Miami fans may be satisfied with the production they got from their receivers and would rather other needs be addressed, but the Dolphins won’t sneak up on anyone this season, and defensive coordinators now have a book on sophomore quarterback Ryan Tannehill with these functional options. To really open up the offense, they need to give Tannehill a player who will be a match-up problem and a go-to weapon on days the defense seems to have everything else figured out. Similar to Cam Newton, Patterson was a JUCO stud who was off the radar at the beginning of last year before exploding on the scene with 154.8 all-purpose yards per game as a receiver, runner, and returner. An explosive athlete who just needs some polish, he is a super-sized version of Percy Harvin and will battle Keenan Allen to be the first receiver selected.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Björn Werner, DE, Florida State
I’d like to put a cornerback here, but I’m not sure of the value. Someone will separate themselves from the tier behind Milliner at the Combine and likely will change this pick. Despite spending a first- and second-round pick on Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers in 2011, free agent Michael Bennett remained the Bucs’ best defensive end. Bowers has flashed promise but can’t shake injury issues, and Clayborn is coming off a torn ACL and MCL. Neither seems to have Werner’s ceiling as a dynamic pass rusher, and the Bucs need to find someone who can put more pressure on the quarterback, especially if they lose Bennett.

At this time last year, the FSU pass rush specialist everyone expected to be a first-round pick was Brandon Jenkins. He decided to return to school but suffered a season-ending Lisfranc left foot injury in the season opener. Werner emerged from his shadow and the Berlin native, who played only two years of college football after coming to the U.S. as an exchange student, led the ACC with 13 sacks. I’ve seen a lot of people rank Werner as the top defensive end prospect in this class, but I’m a bit hesitant to rank him this high until I see him at the Combine.

Carolina Panthers 14. Carolina Panthers – Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Declared underclassmen can fall out sight and thus out of mind during this window of the draft process, where seniors get the spotlight at the various all-star games—or for their decisions not to attend them. The hype machine will crank back up for the underclassmen at the Combine, and the athletic Richardson will be one of the hot names at defensive tackle. The Panthers failed to strengthen the interior of their front four with a couple of third-round picks two years ago. In a class deep at defensive tackle, the position is a good fit for need here.

New Orleans Saints 15. New Orleans Saints – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Head coach Sean Payton has decided to switch to a 3-4 defense and is now looking for the coordinator to run it (Rob Ryan was reportedly “almost” a done deal as we went to press, but then again he supposedly was in St. Louis earlier this year). The versatile Jordan appears an ideal fit for a 3-4 and can be the pass rusher the Saints lack. There is some concern he could disappoint at the Combine and hurt his draft stock. Jordan plans to show up at 250, after playing the season at just over 225, so it remains to be seen how well he’ll carry the weight. He also will be working with a torn labrum, as he is waiting until after the Combine to have surgery.

St. Louis Rams 16. St. Louis Rams – Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Injuries and ineffectiveness had first-year coach Jeff Fisher unable to find a satisfactory combination for the offensive line as players moved around and in and out of the lineup all last year. I expect the Rams to address this issue through the draft and free agency as a significant part of their offseason plans. The choice could easily be an offensive tackle, so it depends on the value of the second or third choice here (e.g., Lane Johnson vs. the top prospect at guard). A prototypical road-grader, Warmack is a great fit for what Fisher wants and needs.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Whenever you mock the Steelers, Giants or Ravens, you need to sit back, look at your draft board, figure out the best available player (who likely fills a need) that has been overlooked where others didn’t do their homework or properly assess risk, and there is your winner. These teams are successful opportunists who regularly identify value despite usually picking in the second half of the draft. Ogletree was the top inside linebacker prospect, even had Manti Te’o won the National Championship and had a real dead girlfriend. The converted safety has the athleticism to play outside, as well—versatility that the Steelers love in their linebackers and have questions about in their current roster.

Dallas Cowboys 18. Dallas Cowboys – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
There are some great D-line prospects in this draft. With the Dallas defense converting to a 4-3 under new coordinator Monte Kiffin, there is a need for a three-technique tackle. Floyd or Sheldon Richardson should be the pick here.

New York Giants 19. New York Giants – Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The Giants haven’t been able to sort out the middle linebacker spot since Antonio Pierce left. Once discarded by the team, Chase Blackburn was brought back and has spent most of his last two years as a placeholder in the middle while other options haven’t panned out. It would be an atypical pick for the Giants in the first round, but there are some good middle linebacker candidates early in this draft, and I expect that position will be a strong consideration, along with tight end.

This spot is high for a true middle linebacker, but Minter is a player I really like. He has good instincts and technique and is a true defensive leader. I think he will flash the athleticism at the Combine that will put him in consideration for the first round.

Chicago Bears 20. Chicago Bears – Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
While the trade for Brandon Marshall was a success and second-round pick Alshon Jeffrey looks like a steal, sophomore general manager Phil Emery needs to show he can do anything besides find wide receivers. Most disappointing was his failure to address offensive line deficiencies in the draft or with any significant free agent addition. 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi looked better at guard than tackle but, either way, isn’t up to solving their blindside pass protection hole at left tackle. A high school quarterback, Johnson has the ideal agility and size for the left side but needs to pack on some weight and improve his footwork. A strong Senior Bowl moved him in to discussion for the first round, and his stock should continue to rise at the Combine, perhaps to the point that he won’t make it this far.

Cincinnati Bengals 21. Cincinnati Bengals – Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
I’ve seen inside linebacker mocked here a lot, specifically Te’o, but despite Rey Maualuga being a free agent, I think Vontaze Burfict takes over at “Mike” whether or not Maualuga returns. Ends Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers are both free agents. After not living up to his potential as a pass rusher, Johnson just had his best season in a contract year. I expect he’ll be franchised before they break the bank to resign him, and Geathers could go elsewhere. Either way, it would be smart to reload at the position. Montgomery hasn’t gotten the same hype as fellow LSU lineman Barkevious Mingo, but he has been more productive than Mingo over their careers. He doesn’t have the instincts Mingo has, is a bit slower off the snap, and appears a little stiff, but he will impress at the Combine with great speed and athleticism, which should have him climbing back up draft boards.

St. Louis Rams 22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS) – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
In a draft class with some good top-tier guard and tackle prospects, I fully expect at least one of the Rams’ two first-round picks to be used on the offensive line. As I had them taking Warmack with their earlier pick, they have some flexibility here. I can see them going wide receiver here, and in this mock Keenan Allen would make sense. However, they have a lot of young prospects in various stages of development. If they want to get quarterback Sam Bradford a top-tier wide receiver, it would make more sense getting a sure thing in a proven veteran through free agency or trade. They addressed the corner position well last year by adding Cortland Finnegan and drafting Janoris Jenkins, and bringing in Vaccaro under the tutelage of Quintin Mikell would really shore up the secondary.

Minnesota Vikings 23. Minnesota Vikings – Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen has the size and skills to be a higher pick but doesn’t appear to have the elite speed to put him in the class of recent top-ten picks at the position. The Combine will be a difference-maker for his draft position. Percy Harvin is entering the final year of his contract and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman won’t hastily commit to a long-term extension for him. An MVP candidate through the first half of the season, Harvin missed the final seven games and the team’s playoff appearance with a severely sprained left ankle. He had a confrontation with head coach Leslie Frazier on the sidelines of his last game, and there are rumors of other incidents and a poor relationship with Frazier, perhaps contributing to the IR decision for what should have been more than enough time to recover from almost any type of ankle injury. Reports say Harvin had little to no contact with his teammates and Frazier during the rest of the season, choosing to rehab at home in Florida. Harvin had previously demanded a trade prior to the season, citing ambiguous unhappiness with the Vikings but later explaining that it was his role on the team and that things had been sorted out. Beyond Harvin, the team has a patchwork collection of unreliable or unproven talent. Allen would be a smart addition. An aging defensive line is just as big a need, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them address that with this pick either.

Indianapolis Colts 24. Indianapolis Colts – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
The Colts converted to a 3-4 last year and as any team who goes through this experiences, not all the old pieces fit the scheme. A pass-rushing outside linebacker is probably their top need, as Dwight Freeney struggled with the transition and is a free agent, while former first-round pick Jerry Hughes failed to benefit from a fresh start. Robert Mathis turns 32 this month and is their only decent option. However, I’d see the value here if the draft falls this way. At nose tackle, Antonio Johnson is a free agent, but he wasn’t an ideal fit. They still have hope for Josh Chapman, but the rookie didn’t appear in a game and his season was cut short by injury. So, while there are some enticing prospects here, they might want to bring in a veteran free agent and see what they have in Chapman. At defensive end, they brought Cory Redding in last year and the veteran performed well in a scheme he is fit for, but he turns 33 and is already battling injuries. Fili Moala made the conversion well but is a free agent and has never quite lived up to expectations. To address that, Jones would be a great addition that might best fit as a five-technique end in a 3-4. Jones has been climbing draft boards after a great week at the Senior Bowl. He was promising recruit for the Bruins, but a broken right foot washed out his second season in 2010. It seemed to have derailed his college career until new UCLA head coach Jim Mora helped him live up to his potential last season in a new defense. Jones can play anywhere on the line, shows a great burst, and plays with good leverage. Cornerback will also get serious consideration with this pick.

Seattle Seahawks 25. Seattle Seahawks – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll march to the beat of their own draft board and have become as difficult to predict as the Patriots. They need help up front, particularly in the interior. They might like more of an under tackle who can get up the field opposite Brandon Mebane, but this is probably the floor for Hankins. Some like him as the second best tackle in this class. A tireless worker who would have benefitted from being rotated more in college, if they could have afforded to take him off the field, he can play any position on the front of any scheme. He even worked as a 4-3 defensive end for the Buckeyes at times. His best fit is probably at nose tackle in a 4-3.

Green Bay Packers 26. Green Bay Packers – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Packers have ridden quarterback Aaron Rodgers as far as they can the last few seasons and need to get him help in the running game. General manager Ted Thompson doesn’t try to outsmart himself and will draft for need, so running back and O-line are in play with this pick. Lacy wasn’t expected to follow in the footsteps of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson as a first-round running back out of Alabama, especially after nagging injuries hampered him to start the season. However, he caught the attention of NFL teams at the right time by having the two biggest games of his career in the last two games of the season, winning MVP of the SEC Championship and Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the National Championship. In a weaker running back class, he can move himself to the head of it with a good Combine.

Houston Texans 27. Houston Texans – DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
This pick likely comes down to whether or not the Texans feel an elite wide receiver prospect is here. Andre Johnson had a bounce-back season but turns 32 this year and remains an injury concern. Hopkins’ teammate and future first-round pick Sammy Watkins got the national attention in this receiving corps, but Hopkins has been tremendously productive over his career and should flash great hands and route running at the Combine. Of course speed is a question for him and could push him to Day Two.

Denver Broncos 28. Denver Broncos – Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Denver has largely ignored defensive tackle in the draft the last two years (considering Derek Wolfe is locked in at defensive end) partially because of the addition of Ty Warren prior to the 2011 season and the expectation that he would anchor the line. Since then, Warren has played in one game, for two plays, and had both seasons end with a torn triceps. He is now a free agent and not expected back. Kevin Vickerson, who has exceeded expectations, is also a free agent and may be back, but the team needs to address the tackle position early in the draft. “Tha Monstar,” as Williams is promoting himself, grew up in Australia but started playing American football at 15. After being discovered by, and committing to, the University of Hawaii, he was academically ineligible and went the JUCO route, where he got on the radar of bigger programs. He played as a five-technique defensive end in Alabama’s 3-4 in 2011, moving inside on passing downs, then spent most of his time at nose tackle last season. He is expected to show some freakish athleticism at the Combine, running a sub-5.0 and shooting for the bench press record. He’s still light on technique and awareness, but he could go in the first round on potential.

New England Patriots 29. New England Patriots – Johnathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
If the Patriots let Wes Welker go, they could be in the market for WVU wide receiver Tavon Austin. I’m not sure he is a first-round value, but the Patriots always have their own draft board. Depth on offensive line is a concern, particularly on the interior, as the team struggled to keep Tom Brady upright as much as usual because they were plagued by injuries up front. That makes UNC guard Jonathan Cooper another possibility. However, the secondary remains the biggest issue. After being added in a midseason trade, Aqib Talib was their best corner, and when he left the AFC Championship with injury, it gave the Ravens a boost. He is a free agent, however, and with his baggage is a risky consideration for a long-term contract. The team may franchise him for an extended trial or at least to keep him another year, but they still need to continue working on the position. Alfonzo Dennard stepped up last year, but his height is limiting against taller wide receivers. Ras-I Dowling might be the answer, if he could stay healthy and out of the dog house. Banks has the size and ball skills; speed is the question.

Atlanta Falcons 30. Atlanta Falcons – Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Even if Tony Gonzalez retires, I think defensive end is the Falcons’ top need, but I don’t see the value here. Running back will also be a consideration, but if the top tight end is available, they may not pass on the obvious. Ertz is battling Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert to be the first tight end selected.

San Francisco 49ers 31. San Francisco 49ers – John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
Nose tackles Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois are both free agents. Sopoaga turns 32 this year and didn’t have the same season he did in 2011, perhaps his career best, when the 49ers defense was historically good. Jean-Francois offers some flexibility as a five-technique end, another position of concern due to age and lack of depth, so even if they re-sign him, it will be hard to pass on the opportunity to bring in a pure nose tackle of Jenkins’ caliber.

Baltimore Ravens 32. Baltimore Ravens – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
I don’t think Te’o’s personal situation has much impact on his draft value. He’ll be grilled by teams to get the story straight—which seems to check out at this point—and reaffirm their faith in his decision-making ability. My biggest concern as a general manager would be how he’ll handle the relentless ball-busting from his teammates and inevitable revisiting of the story by the media. Regardless, I had a hard time slotting him earlier, as I think Minter is the better prospect. The Ravens could also use an offensive tackle, but with Chicago taking Lane Johnson earlier, this looks like the floor for Te’o, with general manager Ozzie Newsome once again waiting for value to fall to him.

The Decision – What Will the Chiefs do with the First Overall Pick?

By: — February 6, 2013 @ 12:41 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

For the first time in franchise history, the Chiefs have the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. With a definite need at quarterback and playing in a copycat league where 12 of the last 15 first overall picks have been just that, the decision should be obvious. However, the newly installed leadership team of head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey face the perfect storm and need to converge in a year without a quarterback clearly worthy of the No. 1 pick.

In Reid’s first meeting with the media on January 7th, after being introduced as head coach, he was asked about the quarterback situation. His response was this:

“I’m going to study the heck out of the guys that are here and have a chance to meet those guys, then I’ll have a chance to evaluate that at that point. We have some guys to be in a solid position. It might not happen this year, you never know. The important thing is you do the right thing. We have been blessed with the No. 1 pick in the draft, and you want to make sure you do the right thing and pick the right guy, not necessarily a quarterback, it has to be the right thing. You don’t want to force anything. People that do that get themselves in trouble.”

While Reid is paying the customary courtesy to the incumbent quarterbacks as a new coach must, his quarterback is not yet on the Chiefs’ roster. He isn’t invested in the success of Matt Cassel as former general manager Scott Pioli was, and new regimes often bring in new quarterbacks.

When Reid took over the Eagles in 1999, he made Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb his first pick (second overall). The pair would make it to five NFC Conference Championships and a Super Bowl over the next decade. Reid relied on the draft again for McNabb’s successor when he took Kevin Kolb in the second round of the 2007 draft with his first pick. Before the 2009 season, however, Reid signed Michael Vick, who would eventually claim the starting role the following year. Because McNabb’s service under Reid dominated his tenure in Philadelphia, we don’t have much of a sample set showing Reid’s quarterback decisions. But we can see a coach who prefers to mold his own quarterback from the draft, unless a player of Michael Vick’s ability is available. The list of free-agent, trade-available, and cap-casualty quarterbacks includes just one player with Vick’s potential, and that is Vick himself. A potential cap casualty for the Eagles, Vick could be available. However, I believe that experiment is over. The top quarterback potentially available this offseason is San Francisco’s Alex Smith. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, a friend and former teammate of Smith, has said Reid “really likes Alex” and looked in to acquiring him when he was a free agent after the 2011 season. While all this may be true, any scenario in which Smith comes to KC comes with the expectation of his being a placeholder and competition for a draft pick.

So if the assumption is that Reid would prefer to mold his own quarterback from scratch, the issue becomes who and where to draft him. Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is becoming the consensus top overall prospect, and even if the team brings back free agent left tackle Branden Albert, adding Joeckel would make sense. However, I believe Reid at this point doesn’t like the idea of surrendering the chance to have his pick of the quarterback litter. He is supremely confident he can mold talent to successfully execute his system, and until he is convinced that talent level doesn’t make remote sense this early in the draft, he will lean toward picking a quarterback.

Geno Smith

Smith will need a strong combine performance to cement his status as the top QB prospect.

There is no easy choice with the first selection, no lock like an Andrew Luck, no potential jumping off the page like there was with Cam Newton. At least that is how it seems today. Recall at this point two years ago, everyone was debating Nick Fairley and Da’Quan Bowers as the potential top overall pick. You might have also had Marcell Dareus, Von Miller, and Patrick Peterson in the discussion, but Cam Newton was embroiled in a recruiting controversy and low in the pecking order when pundits and experts where evaluating candidates for the top overall pick. This year we have West Virginia’s Geno Smith, with a wholly different set of circumstances but in a similar situation. After a 5-0 start, Smith was ascending draft boards and emerging as a Heisman favorite. The Mountaineers season was derailed shortly thereafter, however, and while Smith maintained good production, he fell out of favor. After declining to participate in the Senior Bowl, he allowed focus to move to other flavors of the month, such as Mike Glennon. Despite this, Smith remains the top quarterback prospect and should regain his status among the masses at the Combine. While his record-breaking numbers were inflated by head coach Dana Holgorsen’s high-flying offense, his accuracy, arm strength, and pocket presence are the best combination in this draft class.

The demand for quarterbacks frequently creates an inefficient market at the draft, and this year should be no different. Expect Geno Smith to regain momentum at the Combine and be the first name called in the 2013 draft.

NFL Draft – Round 1: IDP Fantasy Analysis

By: — April 27, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

1.06 Cowboys – CB Morris Claiborne, Louisiana State
The first defender selected in the 2012 draft will quickly push Mike Jenkins for a starting job and likely kicks the quicker, faster Jenkins in on the slot when their top three corners are all on the field. Playing opposite an exceptional Brandon Carr and a sporadic playmaker in Jenkins should mean Claiborne is tested early and help his numbers. He has great ball skills, but eventually should see less his way as he develops in to a shutdown corner. Not a fundamentally strong tackler, but not afraid to stick his helmet in there. One of the top returners in the draft, but the Cowboys are loaded with outstanding returners and after getting burned with a broken ankle by Dez Bryant on a return two years ago, have been more reticent to use their stars in the role, so don’t expect him to add much more value in leagues that count return stats.

1.07 Buccaneers – S Mark Barron, Alabama
Barron should step right in as the starting SS and his primary responsibility will be to improve a run defense that was last in the league. He isn’t great in coverage, but makes great reads and has an outstanding great nose for the ball, contributing to his 12 career interceptions. He has the talent and opportunity to be a top fantasy producer at DB.

1.09 Panthers – LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Despite their need at DT, the selection of Kuechly by the Panthers isn’t a surprise. The team has their top two linebackers coming off major surgery after significant injuries last season in Jon Beason (Achilles) and Thomas Davis (ACL). Assuming all are healthy, Kuechly will have a challenge early for playing time, as James Anderson has really emerged the last two years after injuries gave him opportunity. However, that seems unlikely. It would be surprising if Davis, a converted safety, remains the outstanding athlete he was after three ACL surgeries in less than two years. The Achilles is also a scary injury, there is no guarantee Beason will remain the beast he was before the injury. If I had to bet now how the Panthers field their linebackers for most of the season, it would be Beason in the middle, Anderson at SLB and Kuechly at WLB, with Davis in a swing role. For dynasty purposes, the sky is the limit for Kuechly, a tackle machine who displayed Urlacheresque athleticism at the Combine. Sooner than later he will be one of the top Mike’s in the league.

1.10 Bills – CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Similar to Morris, he immediately becomes one of the top 3 corners and should push for a starting job in camp. Nice size/speed guy with loads of potential who could also contribute as a returner with the departure of Roscoe Parrish.

1.11 Chiefs – DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
One of the picks I nailed in my final mock, while everyone else had him dropping. GM Scott Pioli and HC Romeo Crennel envisioning him as the next coming of Vince Wilfork. Not a fantasy factor himself, but the attention he draws should help the numbers of those around him.

1.12 Eagles – DL Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
The reported pre-draft love the team had for him was accurate as the Eagles joined the trade parade last night to move up to secure him. The versatile Cox is a great fit for the active rotation in Philly’s front four. An ideal penetrating three-technique, he should be the rare DT (in leagues that don’t segregate between DL positions) who offers consistent fantasy value, because of his ability to get to the QB.

1.14 Rams – DT Michael Brockers, Louisiana State
I think he would have been better off as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense, but 21 year-old is a just tapping his potential as he learns the tricks of the trade, coming out as a redshirt sophomore. New HC Jeff Fisher is hoping he landed another Albert Haynesworth in the equally super-sized Brockers to anchor his defense.

1.15 Seahawks – DE/OLB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia
GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll now rival Bill Belichick when it comes to taking the (pundit) path less traveled in their evaluations and decisions. Looking for help for their pass rush was no surprise, but tapping the undersized Irvin to do it with this pick was the biggest shock of the night. There is no doubt Irvin can get to the QB, with 22.5 sacks in 26 college games, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to do it against pro linemen. Irvin bulked up to 245 for the Combine and still ran a 4.45, but he has a very narrow and angular frame, I don’t think he can carry much more weight well. His ceiling is a situational pass rusher and was definitely better suited to do it as a 3-4 edge rusher where linemen can’t immediately get their hands on him.

1.16 Jets – OLB/DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Landing in a 3-4 as an OLB would not have been a great fantasy situation for the player who has the most potential as a 4-3 DE in this class, but it’s even worse for his fantasy value if he’s going to see work as a five-technique DE too. Expect Rex Ryan to move him around and the challenges of learning multiple positions in a new defense are even more of a concern for a player whose dedication and work ethic are already questioned.

1.17 Bengals – CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
The position choice was no surprise after an aging Nate Clements was a downgrade last season after being brought in to fill the hole left by the departure of Johnathan Joseph and having Leon Hall is coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon. Not surprisingly, the dismissed marijuana charge that might have been a red flag for some teams didn’t faze the Bengals, which I agree with. I’m more concerned that he lacks the foot speed to be the shutdown corner he was in college at this level on deep threats. He will have opportunity and be tested frequently, both translated well for his fantasy value.

1.18 Chargers – OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Plenty of discussion on where the versatile Ingram, who started as a DT, was best suited to play, but this is a great fit in a good place. I think his fantasy production will surprise some people.

1.19 Bears – DE/LB Shea McClellin, Boise State
Are we sure Jerry Angelo was fired? This pick by new GM Phil Emery reeks of Angelo’s very own self-deluded “smartest guy in the room” aura. Commenting to the Chicago media that he was happy McClellin was used as an OLB in the Senior Bowl so other teams wouldn’t see him as a pass rusher ranges from insulting his own intelligence to that of his counterparts – someone needs to let Emery know other teams employ scouts and watch film too. McClellin was a late riser, rumored to be of interest to such teams with recently better track records like the Packers and Patriots, but that was as a 3-4 OLB. It remains to be seen if he can carry the weight to be effective with his hand on the ground full time. DC Rod Martinelli moves his linemen all around the front four, but doesn’t employ exotic schemes that could have the McClellin bouncing around from side-to-side with his hand off the ground, so I’m not sure his versatility is more valuable than if they had gone with a full-fledged edge rusher.

1.21 Patriots – DE/OLB Chandler Jones, Syracuse
Yesterday’s sign of the apocalypse – Bill Belichick trading UP in the first round, not once, but twice. Great athletic genes in the Jones’ family, his brother Arthur is a DT on Baltimore and brother Jon is a UFC fighter. Jones was off the first-round radar early in the process after a knee injury cost him almost half of last season, but was a late riser who some, including such respectable evaluators as NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, believe he may be the best pure pass rusher in this class. The pass rush has lost Mark Anderson and Andre Carter hasn’t been resigned, so there is opportunity in the Elephant role for him, but Jones needs to bulk up and add some strength. I expect them to resign Carter or bring in another vet and look at Jones as more of a long-term solution who will see spot duty and get after the QB next year.

1.25 Patriots – LB Don’ta Hightower
Love the player, love the fit. Fantasy gold, I don’t care if he and Jerod Mayo will cannibalize some of each other’s tackle numbers, he will also get to the QB a few times and make other big plays.

1.26 Texans – OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
After the loss of Mario Williams, despite the emergence of Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin last year, I was pretty confident DC Wade Phillips would want another elite pass rusher for his rotation – I had Nick Perry going here in my final mock. Instead Phillips got, statistically, the best pass rusher in college last year. Mercilus led FCS with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumble, also totaling 22.5 TFL. There’s concern Mercilus is a one-year wonder, but a solid Combine affirmed the athleticism is there, and elite collegiate sack production tends to translate well. His ceiling is Terrell Suggs to me.

1.28 Packers – OLB Nick Perry, Southern California
I was higher on Perry that most, consistently mocking him in the first, and like him even more landing in a great situation in Green Bay. The team has struggled to find a partner opposite Clay Matthews at OLB and Perry should have no problem winning the starting job as a rookie. He should be used as the primary for pass rusher, freeing Matthews up to freelance more. With DC Dom Capers and OLB coach Kevin Greene, as well as former collegiate teammate Matthews as a role model, Green Bay is right up there with Pittsburgh as the best environment to learn to how to play the edges in a 3-4.

1.29 Vikings – S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame
While most have Smith as the second-best safety in this class, most also had him after the first round. I snuck him in with the Patriots’ last pick in the first in my final mock because of need and he seems like a Belichick guy. The Vikings have even more need at the position, which is clearly the primary motivator with this pick. Smith succeeds with smarts and size over talent and speed. Great fantasy potential for next year, but I don’t believe he’s the next John Lynch.

NFL Draft – Instant Fantasy Analysis: David Wilson

By: — @ 1:21 am

1.32 Giants – RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

GM Jerry Reese subscribes fully to the “best player available” theory and it is hard to fault him with this pick, in part because Wilson is the closest thing this draft has to Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw may have a bit more burst initially, but Wilson is more durable and has some sleeper fantasy potential in this situation considering the Giants want a back to split carries with Bradshaw. As a result, he should be in line for 8-10 touches/game on a regular basis right away, with the added benefit that he could easily carry the load should Bradshaw miss a game or two. Wilson should be one of the more sought-after handcuffs in fantasy for redraft purposes, but New York wasn’t his best landing spot for dynasty purposes since Bradshaw is under contract through 2014.

NFL Draft – Instant Fantasy Analysis: Doug Martin

By: — @ 1:20 am

1.31 Buccaneers – RB Doug Martin, Boise State

Despite the fact Cleveland likely stole the player they wanted the most at the top of the first round in Trent Richardson, the Bucs recover nicely by trading back into the first by selecting Martin, likely stealing him from the Giants. In the end, the draft’s top two RBs end up in two of the best fantasy situations they could have asked for. The Ray Rice comparison is apt in terms of size, although Rice wins the battle of explosiveness while Martin is slightly more powerful. Martin is a three-down back and should make LeGarrette Blount into nothing more than handcuff for fantasy purposes. Martin’s dynasty value is sky high. His redraft value is certainly on par with Richardson. Given his supporting cast and the division he plays in, one could easily argue Martin is the more desirable fantasy RB in 2012.

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