The 2012 season is over, and for a few teams the offseason couldn't come quick enough. With multiple teams in the top ten of the 2013 NFL Draft having made coaching and front office changes, and no alpha quarterback available, the top 10 is certainly going to be have lively debate as to who should go where.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2012 record: 2-14
Team needs: QB, LT, C, CB
In the history of the NFL draft, there may have never been a team with more talent picking in the leadoff spot. The Chiefs have five Pro Bowlers — Jamaal Charles (RB), Tamba Hali (OLB), Derrick Johnson (ILB), Eric Berry (S), and Dustin Colquist (P) — and blue chip players at key positions. But there's a black hole at the most important one: quarterback. In 1999 Andy Reid and the Eagles “reached” and took Donavan McNabb over Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, and Torry Holt. Don't be surprised if he does it again with West Virginia's Geno Smith. However, reports coming out of Kansas City are that Reid might be intrigued with the idea of resurrecting Matt Cassel's career. More likely than not the Chiefs will shop this pick to Cleveland or perhaps Jacksonville if those teams target Smith or Jarvis Jones as the top player on their boards.
Pick: Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
2012 record: 2-14
Team needs: QB, OT, OLB, S, DE
In the previous four seasons the Jaguars have been stuck not in futility, but probably the worst of all places — mediocrity. Mike Malarkey is gone why ownership doesn't just pull the trigger on signing Tim Tebow to at least put asses in the seats of home games is beyond me.
Blaine Gabbert ranks 30th in ESPN's QBR standings and really didn't show much a step forward in his second year, albeit in a different system. Maurice Jones-Drew wants a new deal and will either be granted one or traded this offseason. While QB and offensive line are their biggest needs, what the Jags really need to do is get stronger up the middle on defense, as the Jags ranked 30th in the league against the run. Defensive linemen like Tyson Alualu, C.J. Mosley, and Terrance Knighton aren't bad, yet when a team gives up 141 yards per game on the ground, a switch may be in order.
There will be few players more dissected and analyzed than Damontre Moore at this point. He's similar to Bruce Irvin in that he can flat out get after the QB, yet plays with good enough leverage to hold up in the running game as well. It's all about moving the ball in the air and stopping your opponent's ability to do the same. Moore finished the season with 13 sacks and 86 tackles, and with a defensive-minded head coach like Gus Bradley, it might further add to the campaign for Moore as the second player off the board.
Pick: Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M
3. Oakland Raiders
2012 record: 4-12
Team needs: CB, S, ILB, OLB, G
Remember the Bull Durham scene when the manager reams out the team while they were all in the shower, and says “What's our record, Larry? Eight…and sixteen. How'd we ever win eight?” Raider fans could have that same conversation. Oakland needs plenty in the way of talent — an improved secondary, a better pass rush, and a better offensive line. Yet what the Raiders are really desperate for is a culture change. While Jarvis Jones might be the best player left on the board, Oakland is starving for a guy who can walk into the building on day one and change the culture around the franchise.
The Raiders finished with a -153 in point differential last season and even Tim Tebow looked like he could complete 60 percent of his passes against Oakland's pass rush. The AFC West over the next few years could witness a power change, as Peyton Manning can't play forever. Make no mistake Jones is the best prospect who solves a major need for the Silver and Black, but at this point the Raiders need help up the middle, which Star Lotulelei can do. He can play the 3-technique in a base 4-3 front and can also kick out to a 5 technique in 3-4 hybrid scheme. While the Raiders do have talent up the middle and Tommy Kelley and Richard Seymour are making a small fortune (by defensive lineman standards), some new blood on a cheaper contract might be in order.
Pick: Star Lotulelei, DT Utah
4. Philadelphia Eagles
2012 record: 4-12
Team Needs: LT,OLB, QB, G, TE
Nick Foles looked competent in Andy Reid's spread offense, yet whether or not he is Chip Kelly's guy is something yet to be seen. What plagued the Eagles all year — aside from Michael Vick turnovers — were injuries mainly on the offensive line. And with Jason Peters coming off a back-to-back torn Achilles, whether he can return to being an elite left tackle certainly can be questioned, and King Dunlap isn't a bookend left tackle to build a line around.
Despite all that, Philly's defense was once again their biggest flaw. The Eagles yielded 444 points this season and their Defensive DVOA of 9.4% ranked them 26th in the NFL according to FootballOutsiders.com. What the Eagles have failed to do in several years is land an impact linebacker in the draft. Therefore, left tackles like Syracuse's Justin Pugh, Alabama's D.J. Fluke, or LSU's Chris Faulk could can wait until the second round.
Jarvis Jones might be the best player in the draft this year, and if he falls to the Eagles at No. 4 it would be a godsend. The Georgia product can stand up and rush off the edge in 3-4 scheme, but can also play a more traditional WILL linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He's a tremendous pass rusher, but has motor that doesn't seem to quit and can make plays from sideline to sideline.
Pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia
5. Detroit Lions
2012 record: 4-12
Team Needs: CB, S, LT, OLB
In 2011, the Lions finished ninth in weighted defense according to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics. This season that number plummeted to 24th, and their pass defense ranked in the bottom third of the league in the same metric. While the Lions have spent the last three seasons trying to bolster their defensive line, in 2011 they ranked 18th in Adjusted Sack rate (6.5%). This season their sack rate dropped like a rock to 5.0%, ranking them 29th. As we know, sacks and quarterback pressure are a combination of two simple variables: the defensive front end's ability to pressure the quarterback, and the back end's ability to defend the receiving routes to allow more time for the rush to impact the quarterback.
So for all the talk of the Lions having elite players along the defensive line, they just simply aren't playing like the highly touted players they were pegged to be. Still, the Lions secondary in 2012 were a mess. When Louis Delmas had to leave the field they were even worse.
Reily Reiff could turn into a solid left tackle, and moving Jeff Backus to guard makes good sense, Detroit needs more depth along their offensive line, to protect the meal ticket that is Matthew Stafford.
Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel would be a great fit to help protect Matt Stafford and one the most potent passing attacks in the NFL. Joeckel isn't an all world tackle like Matt Kalil was last year, yet he's good enough for the Lions to take with the fifth pick in the draft, while addressing their need for more secondary help by targeting corners like Xavier Rhodes (FSU), Sheldon Price (UCLA) or Greg Reid (FSU), or safeties such as Shamrko Thomas (Syracuse), Duke Williams (Nevada), and Bacarri Rambo (Georgia) in later rounds.
Pick: Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M
6. Cleveland Browns
2012 record: 5-11
Team Needs: OLB, DE, WR, CB, G, S
Short and sweet — the Brown need playmakers on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line finished ranked12th in advanced pass protection (per FootballOutsiders.com), but Brandon Weeden wasn't RGIII, Andrew Luck, or Russell Wilson in his rookie season. He finished 35th in total QBR (only Mark Sanchez finished with a poorer rating), but wasn't a complete nightmare by the end of the season. Each month his completion percentage increased incrementally, and as his splits show his numbers were better in the last eight games then they were the first half of the season. Forget the fact he'll turn 30 next October and Cleveland will likely adopt a new offensive system, what are their other options?
Defensively the Browns weren't atrocious, and former head coach Pat Shurmur had them playing far above the talent they actually had on their roster. They could trade up to grab with the hopes to land Jarvis Jones or they could trade back to try and grab one of the top-ranked receivers in the draft. However, if they stay put then beefing up their secondary could be an option.
Dee Milliner has played in an NFL-style defensive system in college and has shown great ability to diagnose routes, is physical at the line, and has good ball skills. Safety Kenny Vaccaro from Texas is another possibility. Yet Florida State's outstanding defensive end Bjoern Werner is most likely going to be the best player on the board that fills a need for the Browns.
Pick: Bjoern Werner, DE Florida State
7. Arizona Cardinals
2012 record: 5-11
Team Needs: OT, G, C, QB, RB, TE
Despite getting off to a torrid 4-0 start the Cardinals managed to win just one of their last 12 games and replaced Ken Whisenhunt with Bruce Arians. Beanie Wells' career in the desert is most likely over, and the offensive line was atrocious. No team gave up more sacks, and whether it was Wells, Ryan Williams, or whomever was carrying the ball, they finished as the league's worst line in adjusted line yards.
If Luke Joeckel is off the board at this point then the choices are slim at tackle. Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Eric Fisher (Central Michigan), and Taylor Lewan (Michigan) all grade out as great to good prospects at the next level. It ain't sexy, but Alabama guard Chance Warmack is probably the best player that will be on the board. Teams have come around on drafting guards higher in the last couple of years, and Warmack excels in both pass protection and the running game, and is a film junkie who learns opponents' tendencies quickly.
It's an unpopular opinion, but Warmack, despite being only 6'2”, could make the switch to tackle similarly to Matt Light (New England) and Brandon Albert (Kansas City) did prior.
Pick: Chance Warmack, OG Alabama
8. Buffalo Bills
2012 record: 6-10
Team Needs: MLB, OLB, QB, DE, S
There aren't that many teams in the NFL that are in desperate need of culture change quite like the Buffalo Bills. They shelled out over $100 million this offseason for Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and while Anderson couldn't get off the injury report, Williams once again found a way to finish the year with double digit sacks. The problem in the Buffalo? Even a pre-lap band Rex Ryan could have managed to rush for over 100 yards against the Bills this season.
With talented players on the defensive side of the ball, many in Buffalo are fair to point the finger at coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Marcell Dareus had a fine year, yet the problem with Buffalo is they aren't strong up the middle, finishing 31st against the run in Defensive DVOA, as only the historically awful Saints' defense was worse.
For the Bills fans who would like to see Ryan Fitzpatrick out, here's the bad news: he's still owed roughly $20 million in guarantees, so like it or not, Fitzpatrick is most likely going to be starting for the Buffalo Bills in 2013. The better news is that next year looks like it could be a more fruitful year in terms of quarterback prospects.
The Bills most likely will address defense here unless they fall in love with Geno Smith, Matt Barkley (USC), or Mike Glennon (NC State). Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins is perhaps the best run defender in this year's class of defensive tackles. He has one move in terms of pass rushing — a strong bull rush — but what the Bills need another big body who can help take pressure off Dareus and keep their linebackers clean at the next level.
Pick: Johnathan Hankins, DT Ohio State
9. New York Jets
2012 Record: 6-10
Team Needs: WR,OLB,RT, S, OG
If you're a Jets fan, it could have been worse. Not much worse, but at least this team has some talent. For the bluster and bravado that comes from the locker room, the Jets continued to regress under the Rex Ryan regime. Losing Darrelle Revis was a kick to the man region when it came to trying to devise schemes against opposing offenses, the blame was left at the feet of Mike Tannenbaum, who now is looking for a job. Despite not finding gold deep in the later rounds of the draft and inking players to retail contracts, he actually hit on many of his first round selections.
Tim Tebow isn't coming back to New York, and while his future as NFL quarterback is still in doubt he doesn't deserve to be treated like the sideshow he's been in New York. Unless the Jets can find a taker for Mark Sanchez and the close to $15 million still owed in guarantees, then he's coming back to New York next year. But he'll need better protection, as the Jets ranked 30th in the NFL in sacks allowed and had an Adjusted Sack rate of 8.6%.
So while a bona fide right tackle is probably the safe pick, the lack of elite tackles means that the pick will probably be a receiver like Tennessee's Justin Hunter or Cordarrelle Patterson, Cal's Kennan Allen, or USC's Robert Woods. Hunter has drawn comparisons to Bengals A.J. Green; he's deep threat with great body control, who can go up and get the ball at his highest point. He has big play ability on every ball thrown his way, is a threat to stretch the field vertically despite not having blazing speed, and can make defenders miss in the open field.
Pick: Justin Hunter, WR Tennessee
10. Tennessee Titans
2012 record: 6-10
Team Needs: DT, MLB, C, CB, TE
Following year two of the Jake Locker experiment, Titan fans are still wondering if they have their guy. There's really no way around it — Jake Locker really wasn't any good in 2012. He was banged around quite a bit and had to deal with a shoulder injury, which still probably isn't healed. Chris Johnson once again got off to slow start, but did come on later in the season. And while he's guaranteed $9 million in 2013 with a $12M cap hit, it's unlikely the Titans are going to just going to cut the third-highest paid running back in the NFL.
With Andrew Luck and Matt Schaub in the AFC South, the Titans need to find away to generate more disruptive plays behind the line of scrimmage. They have a solid group of linebackers on the outside with Akeem Ayers and Zack Brown, so what they need to address is their presence along their defense interior. UNC's Sylvester Williams shows a good surge at the point of attack, and has decent use of his hands to shed blocks, which he can work on under the tutelage of Mike Munchak. Texas A&M's Damontre Moore could be the best player on the board, but Williams fits a need and grades out similarly to Moore.
Pick: Sylvester Williams, DT UNC
11. San Diego Chargers
2012 record: 7-9
Team Needs: LT, WR, CB, G
Phillip Rivers has certainly been a turnover machine the last three seasons, leading the NFL over that time with 48 interceptions and 24 fumbles, yet the Chargers' offensive line has been the real disaster with only one blue chip player (Nick Hardwick) that Rivers can count on.
More often than not, Rivers has been under constant duress in the pocket, and it didn't help that he couldn't get any help from his receivers this year either. According to the advanced metrics, no offensive line in the NFL gave up sacks at higher rate than the one in San Diego.
If the Chargers are going to keep Rivers as their franchise quarterback they have to improve their offensive line. Michigan's left tackle Taylor Lewan, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews are the players to watch. Of the three, Fisher is probably the most polished pass protector. He's 6-7, and like Nate Solder of two years ago, has a lean build yet quick feet. Fisher isn't a road grader type of run blocker, yet he's good at getting to the next level.
Pick: Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan
12. Miami Dolphins
2012 record: 7-9
Team Needs: WR, G, CB, DT
The Dolphin defense finished the year as one of the league's best in the red zone, ranked 15th against the run, and Joe Philbin proved that he wasn't quite the goober he appeared to be on Hard Knocks. Miami could go a multitude of ways in the first round of the draft. Their receiving corps was barren of talent, and a player like Cal's Keenan Allen could be a great fit in Philbin's spread scheme. He's a polished route runner, and despite not having elite speed, he's still effective in the open field after the catch.
The Dolphins could also use another pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake, which means they could look to Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore. Still, Allen is what Miami needs and could flourish under Philbin, while snagging another pass rusher could be their top priority via free agency.
Pick: Keenan Allen, WR California
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2012 record: 7-9
Team Needs: DE, S, CB, WR
The Buccs got off to frigid start to the 2012 season starting the season 1-4. Josh Freeman continued to show flashes of being an elite caliber quarterback, yet finished the season ranked 18th in ESPN's Total QBR rating and 19th in quarterback rating (81.6). He threw 1.58 touchdowns for every interception, yet did surpass the 4,000-yard mark for the first time in his brief career.
Tampa finished 30th in the NFL in quarterback sacks (27.0), while teams also threw for 297.4 yards per game (last in the NFL) against Greg Schiano's defense. The Buccs spent money like drunken sailors last offseason on players, yet this year they need to address their pass rush. Barkevious Mingo had solid season at LSU and faced double teams off the edge on multiple occasions. He can help solve Tampa's need for another pass rusher from day one in training camp.
Pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB
14. Carolina Panthers
2012 record: 7-9
Team Needs: S, DT,WR
For a team who finished in the top 15 in passing yards, rushing yards, opponents' passing yards, opponents' rushing yards, and 13th in DVOA rankings, the Carolina Panthers should certainly have won more than seven games. Cam Newton regressed somewhat this season, and if Carolina is ever going to be a legit playoff contender, Superman has to be…well, Superman. Ron Rivera still has a job as Carolina's head coach, which is really perplexing. The Panthers and former general manager dished out money to not one, not two, but three running backs, yet still haven't been able to find a consistently dependable receiving option opposite Steve Smith. Brandon LaFell has shown flashes, but with 21.2 percent of the throws heading Greg Olsen's way, it's hard to stay relevant in the offense.
In 2010 the Panthers had the choice of taking Marcel Dareus or Newton. They chose Newton, and have since failed to develop a stud defensive tackle to keep Jon Beason clean. If DT is where they want to go then they will most likely have their pick of Mizzou's Sheldon Richardson, Florida's Sherrif Floyd, and Georgia's John Jenkins.
Richardson is an interesting prospect in that he isn't as big as his counterparts, but has a great first step and is repeatedly in the opponent's backfield on running plays. He hits like truck, and can play multiple positions along the defensive line, including the 5 technique as pure rusher. Here's the kicker: scouts have questioned his maturity, and he could have character concerns. Carolina could also look to address their need for another safety, as the number of passes that flew over Haruki Nakamura's head was embarrassing.
Pick: Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri
15. New Orleans Saints
2012 record: 7-9
Team Needs: OLB, CB, S, DT
The New Orleans Saints had a year everyone on the Dirty Coast would like to forget. An alleged bounty scandal resulted in one of the best coaches in the NFL being shunned away for the entire year, and then they had to watch the worst defense in the history of the NFL.
The Saints offense was still potent behind the arm of Drew Brees, yet attention has to be turned to their horrendous defense. Nola ranked 32nd against the run this season, yielding close to 147.6 yards per game. They need to get stronger up the middle, yet also need a linebacker who can play sideline to sideline, as well as get after the quarterback and drop in coverage. However, Florida's Jelani Jenkins and Brandon Jenkins might be a bit of reach. A defensive tackle who can stuff the run, play multiple positions, and show the ability to shoot the gaps would help matters quite a bit. Bennie Logan from LSU is a possibility, but if the best corner in the draft falls to the Saints at No.15, they have to jump all over it. Dee Milliner has good ball skills and is a smart corner who diagnose routes early. Let's face it —Nola needs all the help they can get on defense.
Pick: Dee Milliner, CB Alabama
16. St. Louis Rams
2012 record: 7-8-1
Team Needs: RT, G, S, OLB
The Rams made quick turnaround from last season, increasing their winning percentage by .312 points. It would appear the Rams are sticking with Sam Bradford (as they should), and so finding players to keep him upright might be Jeff Fisher's main objective during this offseason. While the Rams offensive line finished 13th in adjusted sack rate, putting another stud at right tackle wouldn't hurt.
Since every successful Jeff Fisher team has had a stud safety flying around the middle of the field, don't rule out Texas's Kenny Vaccaro coming off the board here as well.
Pick: Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M
For picks 16-32, click here.
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Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
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Maritess Lim April 28th
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mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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