With free agency starting to die down it’s time to start looking at the next way for teams to improve their rosters. The draft is the best way to acquire talent and this is where front office people make their living. One wrong move, such as a Jamarcus Russell or Tim Couch and your franchise is set back ten years. The 3 day event starts in primetime April 26th with the first round.
The 49ers barring any blockbuster trade will have to wait a few hours before they have a chance to go on the clock, thanks to a successful 2011 campaign. Last year we grabbed Aldon Smith in the first round. Who will be the pick this year?
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Peyton Manning missing the entire football season may be the greatest thing to happen to the Colts since, well, Peyton Manning. The Colts won the “Suck For Luck” sweepstakes and with that they will be set at quarterback for the next 15 years.
There really is no question about who the Colts are going to take, if there are any questions it’s about how good the Colts can be. The team packed it in before the season even began last year and that cost a lot of veterans their jobs. The worst thing for Luck is he losses Pierre Garcon who is actually coming off his best season. The organization will look to add weapons early in the draft.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
A blind squirrel came up to me in the park and told me he saw this coming. With Luck going to the Colts, Washington didn’t mortgage 3 1st round picks to take a tackle or a corner, the pick is Griffin. It’s a quarterback driven league and the Redskins have needed one for a long time. Is RGIII the answer? That remains to be seen, but a franchise quarterback is worth every bit 3 firsts and a second.
With the weapons the Redskins were able to add in free agency, this team could become a wildcard team as early as this year. They will play a 4th place schedule and as always it will come down to division games: a division that a 9-7 team was able to win this last year.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings are showing interest in corner Morris Claiborne, but tackle is a bigger need. The Vikings allowed 49 sacks last year which was tied for 5th most. Matt Kalil is a very talented left tackle, so good he kept Tryon Smith on the right side of the line 2 years ago. Smith was the top tackle taken last year going 9th to the Cowboys.
Kalil would be able to give protection to the investment the Vikings made in Ponder and he would boost the running game that struggled last year. Adrian Peterson finished with just 970 yards which was 18th best in the league, he would be very happy with blocking help.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Browns had their chance to trade up and grab RG III. They instead choose to stay put at the 4 slot. That means they were either not sold on Griffin or they didn’t see the need of throwing 3 1st round picks in order to move up two spots.
Cleveland has a lot of needs and while Colt McCoy isn’t the long term answer at quarterback, I don’t think they can reach for one this early in the draft. Some people are high on Ryan Tannehill, but I don’t think he is a top 10 talent, and when picking in the top 5 you need to get someone who you can count on.
Trent Richardson can fill a big need at running back ( for those wondering Peyton Hillis is a Chief now), and he is the best one to come out since Adrian Peterson.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Tampa Bay made a huge splash in free agency picking up WR Vincent Jackson and G Carl Nicks. The Buccaneers still need playmakers, but the addition of Jackson gives them the chance to be versatile with this pick.
The Bucs have spent their last 2 picks on defensive line and I think the focus needs to stay on that side of the ball. They allowed the most points per game (30.9) and was only able to sack the quarterback 23 times(last in the NFL). It’s hard to say a team is going to draft the same group 3 years in a row so unless they are blown away by defensive ends Couples or Ingram I think they go secondary.
Aqib Talib is facing possible jail time if not a suspension and Ronde Barber turns 37 next month. They were able to pick up CB Eric Wright who the 49ers looked into before resigning Carlos Rogers, but you can never have too many corners.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Rams are already big winners this offseason. Not only did they nab a good head coach, but they were able to trade down 4 picks and pick up 2 extra 1sts and a second. The best part for them is they can still land the best WR in the draft with the number 6 pick.
The Rams need WR’s more than any team in the league and I fully expect them to take 2 early in the draft. Running back Steven Jackson led the team in catches, with 42. Justin Blackmon is a better receiver than his former college teammate Dez Bryant and the best part is he has no ego. QB Sam Bradford will love the addition.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Jaguars will look to build around Blaine Gabbert. With how much faith the front office has put in the young signal caller a lot of front office personnel would be out of a job if he fails. That means this pick is either an offensive linemen or a receiver.
They allowed 44 sacks last year and were dead last in the league in passing yards, yes even Denver had more than them. That has to change this next year. Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame could be the pick as the Jaguars, but I think keeping Gabbert upright will end up being a bigger priority. Riley Reiff is a big talent, but his arms are a little short for a tackle. In the end I think they still go with Riley who on the field is impressive. Talent at the receiver position can be found in the second and third rounds, starting offensive tackles usually do not.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins have swung and missed on everyone they have tried to get the last couple of years. They couldn’t land Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, then Peyton Manning, and then they couldn’t even land Matt Flynn who was with head coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay.
New head coaches tend to mean new quarterbacks, and the Dolphins will reach on Tannehill just for the fact that they have to. Matt Moore as the uncontested starting quarterback week one would be a disaster.
There is a thought that Tannehill has been the target all along and that’s why they went out and hired former A&M head coach Mike Sherman. If the target has been Tannehill the organization may have saved some money by not overpaying a veteran to come in.