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Top Five Fantasy Free Agents: Wide Receivers

By: — February 26, 2013 @ 9:21 am
Filed under: Free Agents
Mike Wallace

Wallace’s contract issues may have affected his play last season.

1. Mike Wallace (PIT) – Wallace is a proven deep threat with world-class speed, and he’s best when paired with a steady possession receiver. Last season, he struggled to get in sync within the Steelers offense after a lengthy preseason holdout. He contributed a few big plays, but for the most part was a major fantasy disappointment. So far, negotiations with the Steelers have been frosty at best, and the early word is that the Dolphins have made Wallace (who would command roughly $10-12 million per season in a long-term deal) their top priority this offseason. Wallace would be a low-end WR1 or top WR2 if signed by the Dolphins.

The Best Fit: Dolphins, Bengals, Chiefs

2. Dwayne Bowe (KC) – Like Wallace, Bowe totes some baggage when it comes to work ethic and character, though his athletic ability is nearly unparalleled, even among the league’s elite receivers. At his best, Bowe is a premier red zone threat, but the past few signal callers in Kansas City have been highly dubious options without the chops to take full advantage of his skills. Ideally, Bowe would sign a short-term deal for a team with a Top 15 quarterback, allowing fantasy owners to capitalize on his upside.

The Best Fit: Chiefs, Vikings, Chargers

3. Greg Jennings (GB) – Jennings could have commanded a huge payday this offseason had his previous two seasons not been marred by nagging injuries that forced him to miss 11 games. He’s 30 years old and won’t get the $14 million per year he’s reportedly demanding, but there are teams that will throw him a multi-year deal—the Vikings being one of them. Jennings could once again be a Top 10 fantasy WR, but that all hinges on his staying healthy and clicking with whatever new offense he ends up in.

The Best Fit: Vikings, Broncos, Bengals

4. Wes Welker (NE) – Welker’s racked up 672 catches for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns in his last six seasons with the Patriots, and he turned down a two-year, $16 million offer from New England last offseason. While the Pats aren’t planning on slapping the franchise tag on Welker, there’s still a chance he could get signed before he leaves for free agency and a potentially monster contract with the Bears, Chargers or Broncos—the three teams most mentioned in conjunction with the veteran slot receiver. Welker will be 32 on May 1 and still has plenty of productive seasons left, but NFL GMs—as well as fantasy owners—should be concerned that his standout numbers were partly a product of his amazing rapport with Tom Brady.

The Best Fit: Bears, Chargers, Patriots

5. Danny Amendola (STL) – If you thought Jennings had a hard time staying healthy, then I humbly offer up the sad tale of Danny Amendola, who’s missed 20 games over the past two seasons. Amendola is a PPR maven and solid possession receiver who’s right at home in St. Louis despite a rough road. The Rams will likely scoop him up for the hometown rate on a multi-year deal, but if he hits the open market, there’s a good possibility a team will spring for a large one-year contract. If Welker escapes New England, Amendola makes sense as a replacement.

The Best Fit: Rams, Patriots, Broncos

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.

Top Five Fantasy Free Agents: Running Backs

By: — February 21, 2013 @ 12:50 pm
Filed under: Free Agents
Steven Jackson

Jackson will void the final year of his contract and test the market.

1. Steven Jackson (STL) – Jackson has a player option for 2013 but has said he wants to test the free agent waters. The St. Louis brass claim they want him back in uniform, but the $7 million they owe him for next season might be better spent to relieve cap space before the NFL Draft. Jackson has a lot of mileage on his 29-year-old body, and he’s one of the more battle-tested free agents available (Cedric Benson and Brandon Jacobs are two more who didn’t quite make this list). It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Jackson comes back to the Rams, but whatever happens, it’s hard to see him reversing his statistical descent. He’s best avoided in fantasy drafts until the younger, more dynamic backs are off the board.

The Best Fit: Broncos, Falcons, Rams

2. Reggie Bush (MIA) – While Bush isn’t a workhorse back, he brings a healthy dose of experience and explosiveness as a free agent addition to just about any team. As a pass catcher, Bush is nearly unrivaled, and he’s still capable of spectacular touchdown scampers. The team that corrals Bush will likely have to throw big money at the veteran scatback. There’s a good chance Miami just bites the bullet and does it themselves, but the Lions make sense for obvious reasons—Jahvid Best is done and the team, in desperation, tried out several journeymen at feature back in 2012. Bush is still a solid No. 2 fantasy RB if he lands in the right situation.

The Best Fit: Lions, Packers, Jets

3. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – The Giants recently cut Bradshaw to clear $2.75 million in cap space, signifying their confidence in 2012 draft pick David Wilson, who showed glimpses of brilliance last season but struggled with ball protection. Bradshaw has his own baggage, including a pair of brittle ankles that could always turn into multiple spans of unavailability. The 26-year-old veteran is still a solid playmaker with plenty of upside, but the pass-first team that takes a shot on him probably won’t be using him for much more than 12–15 touches per game, limiting his fantasy value.

The Best Fit: Packers, Falcons, Cards

4. Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) – Mendenhall found himself in the Steelers doghouse last season after spending the first few weeks on the PUP list recovering from a 2011 ACL tear. His first game back (Week 5 against Philly) was a nice little revelation (13 carries for 68 yards and 3-33-1 receiving), but he quickly lost luster after battling with coaches and eventually not showing up for a game. There are a handful of teams that could use a punishing back like Mendenhall, but don’t except a long-term deal until the 25-year-old, former 1000-yard rusher proves he can still handle a full season of touches.

The Best Fit: Bengals, Rams, Chargers

5. Shonn Greene (NYJ) – The much-embattled Greene will probably be moving on from the Jets, who haven’t been happy with his performance and will look to a committee spearheaded by Bilal Powell and change-of-pace back Joe McKnight. In 2011, Greene ran for 1,054 yards and six touchdowns (4.2 YPC), but he’s been a disappointment as a workhorse back. He’s still a capable fantasy option because he’s a grinder and makes perfect sense as a goal-line back—he just doesn’t break off too many big runs. In a perfect world, he’d find himself as the short-yardage back to complement Jamaal Charles in Kansas City or with another organization that could use a sturdy plodder.

The Best Fit: Chiefs, Bengals, Raiders

Top Five Fantasy Free Agent Tight Ends

By: — February 15, 2013 @ 4:04 pm
Filed under: Free Agents
Jared Cook

Do the Titans value Cook? We’ll know by March 4th as he’s a candidate for the franchise tag.

1. Jared Cook (TEN) – Aside from the turmoil he encountered in Tennessee when he believed he wasn’t being used enough, there’s not much to dissuade GMs from taking a shot at this athletic physical specimen. Cook has excellent hands and speed and a knack for stretching the field. He’s also a solid red zone target with capable blocking skills. He could easily be a 60-850-10 sort of tight end and a Top 5 fantasy TE in the right system. There are several potential landing spots for Cook, but I think his days in Nashville are done. And if certain teams are willing to spend the money, Cook could be in line for a monster 2013.

The Best Fit: Seahawks, Rams, Raiders

2. Fred Davis (WAS) – Not too long ago, there was a lot to get excited about concerning Davis, a rising star with oodles of upside. But after getting hit with the franchise tag in 2012 and then tearing his left Achilles in October, it looked like his future in Washington was over. Still, there are rumors that signing Davis, one of the top targets of 2013, is still on the Redskins to-do list. It’s rare for a player coming off a major injury to land a multi-year deal, but if anybody is going to take a long-term risk with Davis, it’s probably Dan Snyder. If not, Davis will get looks from a host of other teams but probably not anything in the way of a three- or four-year deal. If he’s back with the ‘Skins in 2013 and healthy to start the season, he’s a mid-round steal in redraft leagues.

The Best Fit: Redskins, Giants, Jets

3. Dustin Keller (NYJ) – Keller barely saw the field last year after struggling with a myriad of injuries and failing to establish a rapport with Mark Sanchez once he was healthy enough to play. The veteran isn’t quite as old as his body, and he’s never reached his full potential as a steady target or meaningful red zone contributor. I doubt he’ll get a huge payday, but the gradually increasing numbers over the first few seasons of his career (improvement that was stymied in 2012) could be a huge selling point for his agent. When he’s not battling nagging ankle and hamstring injuries, Keller is an every-down tight end with plenty of upside, and in a perfect world, he’d be a Top 10 fantasy TE. But a robust tight end market could mean he gets lost in the shuffle and ends up on a squad without a viable quarterback or plan to effectively insert him in the offense.

The Best Fit: Browns, Rams, Bears

4. Martellus Bennett (NYG) – Like Davis, Bennett has a good chance of re-signing with his current team, as he flourished in the Giants offense after years of toiling away in relative obscurity behind Jason Witten in Dallas. Bennett’s gotten some flak for dropping passes in the past, but he made sense as a tall, lanky red zone threat for Big Blue in 2012, hauling in 55-626-5 despite little preseason fanfare. Plenty of teams will be in the market for Bennett, who emerged as a viable fantasy TE and could be in line for a big payday after the one-year, 2.5 million contract he signed with the Giants last season. For many GMs, that kind of production for such a modest contract will pique their interest.

The Best Fit: Giants, Bucs, Cards

5. Brandon Myers (OAK) – Myers was one of the lone bright spots for the Raiders in 2013, catching 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll be a highly coveted free agent despite limited abilities and being taken in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL draft. Some of Myers’ emergence has been attributed to the work that former Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders put in with him, readying the young tight end for a feature role in Greg Knapp’s offense. Because the grass is always greener for the Raiders organization, there’s not much of a chance they bite the bullet and pay out Myers in 2013, even if that’s the best move. Myers will likely get a multi-year deal from one of several suitors, and he’ll be hard-pressed to repeat his numbers from last season.

The Best Fit: Falcons, Giants, Bucs

Top Five Fantasy Free Agent Quarterbacks

By: — February 12, 2013 @ 10:47 am
Filed under: Free Agents

It’s slim pickins on the free agent quarterback front…

Joe Flacco

The Ravens won’t let Flacco leave.

1. Joe Flacco (BAL) – The only big-name franchise quarterback who’s now a free agent per se is Flacco, and he’s coming off an impressive Super Bowl win that silenced many of his critics. There’s not much of a chance the Ravens let him walk after he led them to the Promised Land, but stranger things have happened. Contract negotiations might get a little testy, as the 27-year-old signal caller is rumored to be seeking $20 million per year. The Ravens are probably willing to cough up about $16–17M a season. Flacco’s recent success (and subsequent confidence boost) should spike his fantasy value, especially if he remains in Baltimore, but a desperate organization could still swoop in and provide a monster offer.

The Best Fit: Ravens, Chiefs, Browns

2. Matt Moore (MIA) – What a difference a year makes. Before the 2012 Draft, the good money was on Moore forging a career path in Miami, where he’d played moderately well under center (his best year was 2011,when he threw for 2,497-16-9) and showed he belonged as an NFL quarterback. Now, the future in South Beach is Ryan Tannehill, who had mixed results as a rookie but appears to be developing in line with the Dolphins’ expectations. Moore has good size (6-3, 216) and can make just about all the throws, but with teams having so much success in the draft, he probably won’t get a starting gig and won’t get a huge payday. Fantasywise, he’s nothing more than a late-round lottery pick in super-deep dynasty leagues.

The Best Fit: Cards, Raiders, Jets

3. Jason Campbell (CHI) – Campbell will likely end up carrying a clipboard to start the 2013 season, but he’s not without upside. For a few years, the strong-armed quarterback toiled away in Washington but never emerged as a significant contributor on the NFL stage or in the annals of fantasy. Fortunately for Campbell, he’s only 31 years old and still commands respect from NFL scouts intrigued by his prototypical body and measurable abilities. For teams seeking a quality backup with the wherewithal to stand in for their starter, the former Redskin, Raider and Bear will be an attractive option.

The Best Fit: Texans, Vikings, Jets

4. Tarvaris Jackson (BUF) – Jackson hasn’t been a fantasy superstar, but he’s won a few games in his career and is capable of handling the rigors of the NFL pace. With teams looking for Kaepernick-like diamonds in the rough they can polish and insert should their starting quarterbacks not work out, Jackson will get extended looks and could find a scheme in which he flourishes. Like Vick, Jackson doesn’t have the elite chops to manage a game with incisive audible protection, but his mobility within the pocket and relatively conservative approach serves him well. If he can shake some of his old habits of taking too many sacks and not getting the ball downfield enough, there’s an outside chance he could have a fantasy impact in 2013 and beyond.

The Best Fit: Jets, Cards, Chiefs

5. David Garrard (MIA) – While there’s some chatter about Drew Stanton following Bruce Arians to Arizona, Garrard could be a solid veteran presence on a Cards team that desperately needs some. After beginning the 2012 preseason as the front-runner for the starting gig in Miami, Garrard injured his knee but now remains an eye-catching option for several organizations dealing with quarterback woes. Garrard won’t be a 30-touchdown stud, but there’s definitely some upside should he land a spot atop somebody’s depth chart in 2013. The Jets will probably add another quarterback to the crowded, confused mix they already own, and it’s a fair assumption that a non-threatening but capable veteran with the athleticism and smarts of Garrard could push Mark Sanchez and be a positive influence.

The Best Fit: Cards, Jets, Chiefs

Honorable Mention: Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson

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.

2013 Strength of Schedule

By: — February 7, 2013 @ 6:47 pm
Filed under: Other

I’ve just posted the 2013 Strength of Schedule report based on wins and losses from the 2012 season.

As you can see in the chart below, the Panthers have the toughest schedule thanks in large part to home and away games with the Falcons (13 wins in 2012) and a matchup with the Patriots (12 wins in 2012).

The Broncos have the easiest schedule due to the putrid performance of the remaining AFC West teams. The Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders were a combined 13-35 last season.

 2013 Strength of Schedule
Rk Team Percentage Win/Loss Record Games vs. Quality Opp.*
1 Carolina Panthers 0.543 138-116-2 7
T-2 Detroit Lions 0.539 138-118-0 10
New Orleans Saints 0.539 137-117-2 6
St. Louis Rams 0.539 137-117-2 8
5 Baltimore Ravens 0.535 137-119-0 8
6 Green Bay Packers 0.533 136-119-1 10
T-7 Arizona Cardinals 0.520 131-121-4 7
Miami Dolphins 0.520 133-123-0 6
San Francisco 49ers 0.520 132-122-2 7
T-10 Minnesota Vikings 0.516 132-124-0 9
Seattle Seahawks 0.516 130-122-4 7
T-12 Cincinnati Bengals 0.508 130-126-0 7
Jacksonville Jaguars 0.508 129-125-2 7
New England Patriots 0.508 130-126-0 5
15 Atlanta Falcons 0.504 128-126-0 5
16 Chicago Bears 0.502 128-127-1 8
17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0.500 127-127-2 5
18 Washington Redskins 0.498 127-128-1 8
T-19 New York Jets 0.496 127-129-0 5
Philadelphia Eagles 0.496 127-129-0 8
T-21 Cleveland Browns 0.492 126-130-0 8
Pittsburgh Steelers 0.492 126-130-0 8
23 Tennessee Titans 0.488 124-130-2 7
T-24 New York Giants 0.480 123-133-0 7
Dallas Cowboys 0.480 121-134-1 8
T-26 Buffalo Bills 0.473 121-135-0 5
Houston Texans 0.473 120-134-2 7
Kansas City Chiefs 0.473 121-135-0 6
29 Oakland Raiders 0.469 120-136-0 6
30 Indianapolis Colts 0.461 117-137-2 7
31 San Diego Chargers 0.457 117-139-0 7
32 Denver Broncos 0.430 110-146-0 6

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.

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