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$.05 On NFL Free Agency

By Jeff Risdon

We’re almost a week into the NFL free agency period, and many teams have been prominent for one reason or another.

Here are some thoughts on a few of the moves.

*All salary info is courtesy of Spotrac.com

$.01--The best move of the first day, when by and large the pricing was wildly out of control, was when the Chicago Bears signed former Oakland Raiders DT Lamarr Houston. This was a great marriage of fit and opportunity, and it kicked off a strong week for the Bears.

The Chicago defense realistically needs to replace nine starters from a year ago within the next two offseasons. Signing the most effective interior pass rusher on the market to a five-year/$35 million deal, which will really be for no more than four years before a rework or release, is a savvy and cap-friendly move. Chicago’s defensive line was downright awful last season, and Houston immediately makes them much better.

Chicago also added former Detroit Lions DE Willie Young to help replace overpriced, overrated end Julius Peppers. While Young isn’t much of a finisher (just six sacks in four seasons), he is a good disruptor and progressed nicely against the run a year ago. He’s also an upgrade over 2012 first-round bust Shea McClellin, who still does not have a position. Bringing back corner Charles Tillman was a worthwhile gamble, too. While he very well may be done with age and injuries, it’s worth the shot to bring him back.

$.02--Rodger Saffold initially agreed to terms with the Raiders for an ungodly sum of $42.5M for five years, an astronomical figure for a slightly above-average offensive lineman. That harsh reality slapped them in the face the next day, when the team failed the former St. Louis Rams tackle on his physical exam. That voided the contract, but not the shame.

The Raiders are a complete train wreck. General Manager Reggie McKenzie has tried to clean up the anachronistic mess left behind by the senile final years of Al Davis, and he’s done a fine job of clearing cap room. But his choices are downright ponderous.

Instead of signing, or using a franchise tag on either the aforementioned Houston or stud offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, McKenzie let both walk despite having tens of millions in cap room. These are arguably the two best players on the team, and certainly are part of a positive future more than a wretched past.

But McKenzie let them both depart, instead choosing to shower an absurd amount on Saffold. The two recognizable free agents they did sign, Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, are both declining veterans purposely let go by significantly better teams. This comes on the heels of a draft class where McKenzie risked the 12th overall pick on a CB who nearly died and couldn’t make it through his rookie season. His second round pick, Menelik Watson, barely even practiced and was considered a major reach by many. His fourth-round pick, quarterback Tyler Wilson, didn’t make it through the preseason before being cut despite a massive black hole at QB.

McKenzie needs Tuck and Woodley to both turn back the clock to 2009 and for every draft pick to not only stick, but make a significant impact. Otherwise, his era of mismanagement will end up being compared to the Ted Stepien-era Cleveland Cavaliers, arguably the biggest disaster in modern pro sports history (as well as unfortunately being the team of my youth). 

$.03--The Dallas Cowboys released defensive stalwart DeMarcus Ware, ending the potential Hall of Famer’s career in Dallas. Ware is the latest, and most prominent, victim of the salary cap hell that owner/GM/majordomo Jerry Jones has created for his franchise.

How badly will they miss Ware, even though he’s coming off injuries that have definitely slowed him down?




Ladies and gentlemen, the Cowboys just had the worst defense in NFL history and they had to let go of the two best players on the defense in Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (a nice signing by the rival Ethnic Slurs).

Interestingly, Ware quickly resurfaced in Denver, where the Broncos are trying their best to emulate Jones’ willful obliteration of the salary cap. Take a look at what Denver has done in the last week:

- DeMarcus Ware, three years/$30M, $23M guaranteed

- Aqib Talib, six years/$57M, $26M guaranteed

- T.J. Ward, four years/$22.5M, $14M guaranteed

- Emmanuel Sanders, three years/$15M

The Broncos now have over $160M in salary committed to the 2015 season. While the cap is going to rocket upwards, John Elway is clearly spending to win now. It’s a smart strategy with Peyton Manning’s advancing age, but it could result in a Lakers-like cratering once Peyton hangs up his cleats. Broncos fans would happily accept that for another Super Bowl title or two in the meantime.

$.04--Speaking of Emmanuel Sanders, his agent is a despicable sleazebag.

That’s unusually harsh language, but I do not parse it without merit. Steve Weinberg is a complete embarrassment to the agent profession, a vocation already commonly associated on the level of private used-car dealers and Congress.

Weinberg initially negotiated a deal for Sanders with the Kansas City Chiefs, and they agreed in principle to terms. That should be the end of the story; once a deal is agreed to, the only remotely acceptable other course of action is to go back to the player’s original team (in Sanders’ case the Steelers) and give them a chance to match.

But Mr. Weinberg cares not for professionalism or ethics or common decency. After agreeing to a deal with the Chiefs, Weinberg then went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and tried to negotiate a deal for Sanders with the Bucs. He never hinted that he already had a deal in his pocket.

He wasn’t done. Weinberg also went to Kansas City’s rival, the Broncos, and agreed to terms with Denver as well. Apparently Denver’s offer was better, because that’s the deal that Sanders ultimately signed. In the process, he also blew off a scheduled visit with the 49ers, who could have desperately used Sanders’ skills. For the in-depth story, check out Ian Rapoport’s initial piece on NFL.com.

Weinberg was barred and decertified back in 2003 for some shady dealings with his clients’ funds. Sanders is his vehicle back into the game, but he drove that off a cliff with a trunk full of TNT. NFL teams operate on a certain level of trust and good faith in negotiations. No team in its right mind will ever consider dealing with Weinberg again. Granted some teams (hello Oakland and Dallas!) are not of sound mind, but given the very public hullabaloo over what happened here it’s hard to see Weinberg having any future as a NFL agent. I hope the $900K commission check was worth it for Weinberg to napalm any bridge back into the NFL’s good graces. Beware football karma with Sanders too, Denver fans…

$.05--Quick analysis on deals I liked and deals which I did not like…

The dislikes:

--Tight end Dennis Pitta staying in Baltimore for five years, $32M. The next-best TE on the market, Brandon Pettigrew, re-signed in Detroit for half of that on one less year…and the Lions overpaid for him.

--Offensive tackle Branden Albert fills a major hole in Miami, but at 5 yr/$46M he’s the sixth-highest paid tackle in the league. You’d have a hard time finding anyone who ranks him as a top-15 tackle.

--Denver paid a fortune for Aqib Talib, a talented but troubled corner who hasn’t played more than 13 games in a season since 2009. High risk/reward.

--Jacksonville paid guard Zane Beadles, the weak link on Denver’s line, for $30 million over five seasons. I understand struggling franchises need to overpay to lure free agents, but that’s ridiculous money to go from lousy to merely not good at a position.

--Green Bay showed its desperation for filling gaping holes on the defense by showering Julius Peppers with the same contract Ware got: three years and $30 million. Ware is two years younger and generated more QB hits and hurries while playing the exact same position in the same base defense as Peppers, and he did so with a bad leg. Now the Packers are going to ask him to play a new position (3-4 OLB), where his aging legs will be more relied upon, not less. They also overpaid to keep CB Sam Shields, who would not have received four years and $39 million on the open market. By way of comparison, Brent Grimes is a better player and he got $7M less from the equally desperate Dolphins.

--Indianapolis had a pair of awful signings on the first day. While defensive end Arthur Jones (from Baltimore) and corner Vontae Davis (a re-signed player) are quality players, the Colts lavished ridiculous sums of money upon them. Jones got five-year, $33 million deal for producing 8.5 sacks in four seasons playing inside Terrell Suggs. Davis, who is indeed one of the better cover men in the league, got the same deal Shields did at four years and $39 million. Davis is a better player--he was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked corner, Shields was 52nd in 2013--but he’s battled injuries and inconsistencies throughout his career. Colts GM Ryan Grigson continues to make ponderous decisions with player acquisitions.

The likes:

--New England landing Darrelle Revis for one year and $12 million after he was dumped by Tampa Bay, which had no use for the best corner east of Seattle. It’s a “prove it” deal that gives the Patriots control over Revis Island for the next two years, as they can franchise tag him. Revis is perennially demanding new contracts, so putting him on a one-year deal places the full emphasis on him to prove he deserves it. Brilliant move by the Patriots. They overpaid for fellow corner Brandon Browner, however.

--The Eagles landed safety Malcolm Jenkins for three years and $15.5 million, a great move for Philly. He’s a perfect fit for what they needed, a rangy coverage safety with ball skills and playoff experience. He came at almost half the rate six years and $54 million that the Saints paid Jairus Byrd to replace him in New Orleans. I like Byrd a lot, but that’s pretty steep in comparison.

--Tampa Bay replaced Revis with former Titan Alterraun Verner on a four-year, $25.5 million deal. He’s a definitively better player than Shields or Grimes, both of whom got millions more. He’s not Revis, but that’s not what new coach Lovie Smith wanted for some reason.

--Cleveland replaced ILB D’Qwell Jackson, who went to the Colts for a fairly reasonable (for them) four years and $22 million, with Karlos Dansby at a rate of four seasons at $24 million. While Jackson is a good player and his presence will be missed in the locker room, Dansby is a much better schematic fit and has more sacks, turnovers forced and passes defended over the same time frame as Jackson. The Browns also fared well in importing RB Ben Tate from Houston for two years and $7.5 million. He’s the back they drafted Trent Richardson to be…if he can stay healthy.

--Detroit paid a premium to get former Seahawks WR Golden Tate at a five-year, $31 million deal, but given some other prudent moves (Darryl Tapp, Joique Bell, Vaughn Martin and the impending budget-friendly deal with safety James Ihedigbo) it works. They filled their biggest need with the best available fit and didn’t kill a limited budget to do so.

--Houston smartly kept young tight end Garrett Graham in the fold while jettisoning aging Owen Daniels. Their new QB--I still strongly believe it will be Blake Bortles with the #1 pick--will need a reliable tight end that can work the seams and make catches in traffic. Graham does that well enough that three-year, $11.25 million deal might seem cheap next offseason.

--Arizona lured away Jared Veldheer from Oakland to fill their longstanding chasm at left tackle. He’s healthy once again and his five-year, $35 million deal is a fair market rate for a 26-year-old pass blocking specialist.

2014 NFL Mock Draft, Version 5.0 (Post Combine Edition)

By Jeff Risdon

Now that the Combine is over, it’s time for a slightly more educated mock draft. It’s still way too early to accurately project targets (free agency will have a BIG say in that), but it’s now easier to place players into more proper draft ranges.

In order to try and make this more realistic, I added some trades to the mix. Some of these are purely products of my imagination, while others do have a root basis in whispers I believe in. All trade projections are marked with an asterisk (*).

Round 1

1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. I know, I know, he’s not going to be even the No. 1 quarterback on many team boards, let alone the top-rated player. But the Texans hired a QB guru as their head coach and Bortles has the ideal athletic traits the NFL is looking for, and Bill O’Brien is already on record for really liking him.

2. *Minnesota Vikings from St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Minnesota seizes the opportunity to move up and select their franchise QB in Bridgewater. They give the Rams the No. 8 and No. 40 picks this year and their 2015 third round pick in compensation. I don’t believe they move up for any other QB.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. Tough decision here for the Jaguars, and they go with the impact pass rusher. Clowney has rare ability, though some question whether he really wants to be great.

4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. I’ve said this before, but Cleveland is the ideal spot for Mr. Football and his unconventional style that will either equate to NFL brilliance or spectacular failure. Browns fans have had enough of “safer” QBs that have flopped.

5. *St. Louis Rams from Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn. The Rams package their booty from the earlier trade, sending #8 overall and their own second round pick at #44 to the Raiders to move up and take the tackle with the highest ceiling since Joe Thomas.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo. Mack is much more than just a pass rusher, but he’s also quote adept at doing that too. He is a nice, perhaps even better, consolation prize for Falcons fans who covet Clowney.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. His ability to get open down the seam and impressive Combine workout should strongly appeal to the Bucs, who are set at outside receiver but need better targets in the middle half of the field.

8. *Oakland Raiders (from STL via MIN): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. The Raiders fall back a few spots and land the consensus top wideout in the draft while picking up an extra second-round pick. The depth at WR causes the teams near the top to address positions with scarcer top-tier talent.

9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M. His ability to play all over the OL gives him great value to the Bills, who are looking to solidify the protection in front of EJ Manuel. He’s the most NFL-ready left tackle in the draft in a long time.

10.  Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. The prospect of pairing the 6’5”, 230+ pounds Evans across from Calvin Johnson has to appeal to new OC Joe Lombardi, who comes from working in New Orleans’ vertical passing attack.

11.  Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan. One of the big winners of the Combine, Lewan offers outstanding athleticism and snarl to a team in the process of overhauling the offensive front.

12.  *New York Jets from New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU. The Jets trade with their stadium mates, giving up the No. 18 pick as well as QB Mark Sanchez and the No. 69 overall pick, which they previously acquired in the Darrelle Revis trade. They move up to take the dynamic Beckham, one of the biggest winners of the Combine and instantly their No. 1 receiver.

13.  St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. A body-rocker with great size and decent range, Pryor helps shore up the back end of an inconsistent pass defense. Another big Combine winner.

14.  Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. He’s shorter and lighter than ideal but has proven to be a lethal interior rusher with great quickness and functional strength. The Bears are terrible up the middle at all three levels of the defense, and taking Donald here is a great start to remedying what ails them.

15.  Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA. Barr is not a finished product, as he’s only played defense for two seasons. His exceptional ability to flatten around the edge and close on the ball should immediately help the fading Steelers defense while he learns to be a more all-around player.

16.  Dallas Cowboys: Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama. A relatively safe pick is a good pick for the Cowboys, coming off one of the lamest defensive efforts in NFL history. Ha Ha is smart and has shown he can make plays at the back end.

17.  Baltimore Ravens: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State. The unquestioned winner of the Combine at CB, Gilbert has a lot of inconsistent game tape that waters down the enthusiasm. The Ravens pounce on his potential here.

18.  *New York Giants (from New York Jets): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. After falling back, the Giants still get an immediate impact starter along the line in Jernigan. He’s an active anchor that can make those around, and behind, him a lot better.

19.  *San Francisco 49ers from Miami Dolphins: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. The 49ers package several of their picks (#30, #55 from KC, and #77 from TEN) and send them to Miami to move up and select the giant but enigmatic wideout from the national champs.

20.  Arizona Cardinals: Zach Martin, T, Notre Dame. Many project him to kick inside to guard, but Martin showed during Senior Bowl practices he’s pretty darn good at tackle too. The Cardinals need both, so he makes a great fit.

21.  Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. Mosley offers outstanding instincts, great power, and all-around versatility to play all three downs in any of Dom Capers’ unusual personnel packages.

22.  Philadelphia Eagles: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri. The versatile end didn’t set the Combine on fire, but he can rush the passer from the edge as well as inside. Philly needs a player with his talents.

23.  Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC. I originally had a QB here, but Lee is too tempting to bypass. He’s the forgotten stud in this deep wideout class, and the Chiefs have to get more dynamic at receiver.

24.  Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn. Cincy has a number of solid options here, and in this scenario they opt to go with the dynamic edge rusher. He fills the Michael Johnson role and offers more juice than Margus Hunt.

25.  San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. The Chargers get the dogged cover man they sorely lack in Verrett. He lacks size but might be the most instinctive cover man in the draft.

26.  *New England Patriots from Cleveland Browns (from IND): RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. The Patriots send the Browns No. 29 overall, a seventh rounder this year and a 2015 second round pick in order to move up and select the giant but inconsistent Hageman. Don’t forget that new Patriot draft consigliere Mike Lombardi was running the Browns draft room just two weeks ago; expect at least one trade between these two franchises. 

27.  New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State. His ranginess and attacking mentality fit well in the Saints defense, and he showed his outstanding athleticism in what Combine workouts he participated in.

28.  Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, T, Virginia. The retirement of Jordan Gross raises the imperative for the Panthers to get a new offensive tackle, and Moses presents excellent length and upside.

29.  *Cleveland Browns (from NE): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. His stock took a hit when he measured in at under 5’11” and he looked tight in drills, but game film says he can play.The Browns get their complement to Joe Haden.

30.  *Miami Dolphins (from SF): Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA. He is an outstanding guard prospect, but he also has a chance to be a very good tackle. Miami needs one of each. Perfect fit and they got extra picks to get him.

31.  Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame. Tuitt is another player who did not meet expectation in 2013 but still has enough to offer to merit first round consideration. The Broncos could take the chance on his upside.

32.  Seattle Seahawks: Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame. The Irish defensive lineman comes off the board to the Seahawks, who continue to stockpile depth and talent to keep the defense fortified.

Round 2

33.  Houston: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

34.  Washington: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

35.  Cleveland: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

36.  Oakland: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

37.  Atlanta: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

38.  Tampa Bay: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU

39.  Jacksonville: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois

40.  *St. Louis Rams (from MIN): A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama

41.  Buffalo: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State

42.  Tennessee: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State

43.  New York Giants: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington

44.  *Oakland (from STL): Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana

45.  Detroit: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

46.  Pittsburgh: Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State

47.  Dallas: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

48.  Baltimore: Joel Bitonio, T, Nevada

49.  New York Jets: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame

50.  Miami: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas

51.  Chicago: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

52.  Arizona: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

53.  Green Bay: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

54.  Philadelphia: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

55.  *Miami (from SF via KC): Jerry Attaochuo, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech

56.  Cincinnati: Keith McGill, DB, Utah

57.  San Diego: David Yankey, G, Stanford

58.  New Orleans: Dion Bailey, S, USC

59.  Indianapolis: Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford

60.  Carolina: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

61.  San Francisco: Seantrel Henderson, T, Miami

62.  New England: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

63.  Denver: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State

64.  Seattle: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin

Round 3

65.  Houston: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State

66.  Washington: Aaron Lynch, OLB/DE, South Florida

67.  Oakland: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska

68.  Atlanta: Antonio Richardson, T, Tennessee

69.  *New York Giants (from NYJ via TB): Brandon Thomas, T/G, Clemson

70.  Jacksonville: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

71.  Cleveland: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

72.  Minnesota: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton

73.  Buffalo: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

74.  New York Giants: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

75.  St. Louis: Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU

76.  Detroit: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State

77.  *Miami (from SF via TEN): Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia

78.  Dallas: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas

79.  Baltimore: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina

80.  New York Jets: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

81.  Miami: Jon Halapio, G, Florida

82.  Chicago: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina

83.  Cleveland (from PIT): Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut

84.  Arizona: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon

85.  Green Bay: Demarcus Lawrence, OLB/DE, Boise State

86.  Philadelphia: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon

87.  Kansas City: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty

88.  Cincinnati: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming

89.  San Diego: Shaq Richardson, CB, Arizona

90.  Indianapolis: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech

91.  New Orleans: Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State

92.  Carolina: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor

93.  New England: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa

94.  San Francisco: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers

95.  Denver: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming

96.  Minnesota (from SEA): E.J. Gaines, CB,Missouri

2014 NFL Mock Draft, Version 4.0 (Post Senior Bowl Edition)

By Jeff Risdon

All the postseason contests are done, and the underclassmen declaration date has passed. That means it’s time to update the mock draft!

I included a couple of trades in this one to make it a little more realistic. The Rams are not shy about putting the No. 2 pick up for sale. I also believe the 49ers use their bevy of picks to move up and selectively target a player or two.

As always, these picks represent what I think the given team might do in the given situation. It does not necessarily indicate the decisions I would make in the same situations.

Round 1

1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida--The surprise ascendant has a lot of buzz around going No. 1 overall. Notable among those is the fact that new Texans coach Bill O’Brien raved about Bortles earlier this fall. My colleague Dane Brugler of CBS Sports was ahead of the curve last year with Eric Fisher as a surprise #1 pick, and he could be poised to repeat his prescience with Bortles.

2. *Atlanta Falcons, trade with St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina--The Falcons go all-in on another premium pick, trading the sixth pick and next year’s first round pick to move up four spots to take the best defensive end prospect since Bruce Smith.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville--That sound you hear is the city of Jacksonville exploding in glorious delight. With the third pick in the draft they get the player who has a very good chance to go No. 1.

4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M--Cleveland is in a position to roll the dice on the variable that is Johnny Football. It will either be a stroke of brilliance or the most spectacular in a dubious line of failures for the Browns revolving door of management.

5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo--He’s a do-it-all defender with enough bulk to play end but enough litheness to play well in space. Mack gives the Raiders an impact presence that can force turnovers and create mismatches.

6. *St. Louis Rams, trade with Atlanta: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn--The Rams pick up an extra first round pick and still get the man many believe is atop their draft board anyways. Robinson has rare power for a tackle and showed great movement skills in Auburn’s option-based offense.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M--Forget the nonsense about moving him to center; Matthews is the most technically sound tackle prospect since Joe Thomas, blessed with truly awesome feet. His ability to play either side helps in Tampa, where the OL could be shuffling quite a bit in the next couple of years.

8. Minnesota Vikings: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama--Two reasons why I slotted Mosley here. First, new coach Mike Zimmer knows what he needs more than anyone else, a do-it-all linebacking presence to shore up a lot of weaknesses and depth issues. Second, it’s just too early for a quarterback the likes of Derek Carr.

9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina--One of the most tired clichés in football is that every good young quarterback needs a good young tight end as a security blanket. Giving E.J. Manuel a wide-bodied target with seam-stretching speed like Ebron fits the cliché, which keeps getting spouted for good reason; it’s a darn sound idea. I could see them going after Ha Ha Clinton-Dix here too.

10.  Detroit Lions: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson--If you think Jaguars fans were happy when they got Bridgewater earlier, wait until you hear the roar from Lions fans when Sammy Watkins falls here to Detroit. There might not be a better marriage of need and skills fit in this entire draft than Watkins and the Lions. If he’s gone, Kyle Van Noy is definitely in play.

11.  Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA--He’s fairly limited as a player right now, offering little else than speed rushing around the edge. But he’s exceptionally good at that one thing. The new coaching staff can use him situationally until he develops more of an all-around game. An offensive tackle would not surprise here.

12.  New York Giants: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame--The beauty with Martin is that while he’s an elite guard prospect, he’s also talented enough to handle playing tackle in the NFL pretty well. Seeing as how the Giants need both, it’s a match made in heaven. I know they’ve scouted him extensively.

13.  St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama--Adding the rangy Clinton-Dix helps mitigate the downside of having riverboat gamblers at cornerback. He’s a proven backside cog with a high football IQ. That will appeal to Jeff Fisher, a former safety himself.

14.  Chicago Bears: RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota--General Manager Phil Emery has to prominently address the massive holes all over his team’s defense, and here it starts up front with Hageman. He’s a hit-or-miss type of player who can play too tall at times, but he’s proven he can dominate for prolonged stretches too. Ask Northwestern, a game at least two Bears staffers were spotted at.

15.  Pittsburgh Steelers: Kony Ealy, DL, Missouri--Ealy brings great versatility to the Pittsburgh front. He has the physical tools to play either the 3- or 5-technique, a hand-in-the-dirt end in a four-man front, or even standing up across the formation as an attack dog linebacker. The Steelers need that type of diverse skill set as they continue to remake the defense. 

16.  Baltimore Ravens: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State--He brings a similar style to current Ravens corner Jimmy Smith, a physical press corner who does not back down from anyone. He has the highest ceiling of any corner in this draft even though he’s not the biggest. Marqise Lee or another wideout makes sense too.

17.  Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State--Big beef in the middle. It’s what the Cowboys need and it’s what Jernigan offers. His base strength and nose for the ball are a great fit for a Dallas defense that desperately needs help up the gut. If Clinton-Dix is somehow still on the board I have a hard time seeing Dallas pass on him, though. 

18.  New York Jets: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech--Getting Geno Smith some better weapons is paramount for the Jets. Amaro is a massive target but also a smooth route runner. His bull-like ability after the catch makes him more of a threat than most flexed tight ends. He’s not a great blocker, but you don’t take a tight end in the first round to have him block. 

19.  Miami Dolphins: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State--Many believe Gilbert will go higher than this, but I suspect there is enough bad game tape to make teams a little gun-shy. The Dolphins pull the trigger and get an athletic beast who also offers exceptional return-man ability. They’ll work on the offensive line a little later.

20.  Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State--This is more of a reflection on Carson Palmer’s age than his performance, which was better than you might think. Palmer gets to serve as a mentor for one year while Carr sits and learns, hopefully straightening out his awkward mechanics along the way. Offensive line is always a need too. 

21.  Green Bay Packers: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida--He has the requisite size and killer closing burst that the Packers look for in their corners. He’s also got something to prove after being overshadowed by the vastly inferior Louchiez Purifoy in the Gator secondary. Ted Thompson loves guys with shoulder chips, and Roberson has enough talent to justify it. I don’t see the Calvin Pryor hype at all, and I don’t think the Packers will either.

22.  Philadelphia Eagles: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State--Shazier is an interesting prospect for a linebacker. He’s smallish for the position but has very good skills at both blitzing and coverage. He can take over a nickel LB role right away but has enough stoutness to make a three-down backer down the road. 

23.  *New Orleans Saints, trade with Kansas City: Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA--The Saints trade the 27th overall pick and their third and sixth round picks to move up and take the massive Bruin. He can play right tackle, but Su’a-Filo is hands down the best guard prospect in this draft. The Saints sorely need reinforcements inside.

24.  *San Francisco 49ers, trade with Cincinnati: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M--The 49ers trade the 30th overall pick and the 55th overall pick, previously acquired from Kansas City for Alex Smith, to the Bengals for the right to move up and select the giant wideout from Texas A&M. His experience with an improvisational QB and massive catch radius are too much to resist for the Niners, and they are unsure if he would fall to them. 

25.  San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU--According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Chargers’ most effective corner in 2013 was Johnny Patrick. He ranked 94th among all corners in the NFL. Getting warm bodies with any sort of cover skills are a huge imperative for the Chargers. Verrett is smallish but naturally sticky and tough in man coverage.

26.  Cleveland Browns (from IND): Cyrus Kouandjio, T, Alabama--He could wind up lasting on the board a lot longer than expected, but Kouandjio offers enough potential as a right tackle to merit selection here. With Joe Thomas entrenched at left tackle, the Browns won’t need to watch him flounder there.

27.  New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, OLB/DE, Auburn--The New Orleans defense was surprisingly successful in 2013, but adding Ford’s pass rushing prowess would help ensure that it was no fluke. His ability to dip and weave between lanes is outstanding, just what a creative coordinator like Rob Ryan wants.

28.  Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC--The depth at wideout pushes down Lee, a potential top 10 pick. The Panthers don’t mind, inserting him with Steve Smith to invigorate the passing attack. Sleeper pick: Calvin Pryor. 

29.  New England Patriots: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh--Fresh off an outstanding Senior Bowl, Donald vaults himself into the first round as a dynamic interior pass rusher. He’s undersized, but Team Belichick values football players and Donald is a straight baller.

30.  *Cincinnati Bengals (from SF): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State--Roby is one of those prospects who failed to meet lofty expectations in 2013. It’s caused some folks to forget just how good he was in 2012, and his Combine numbers will help remind folks of his potential. Cincy moving down in this scenario makes him less of a reach. 

31.  Denver Broncos: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida--Had he not torn his ACL--for the second time--Easley would likely have been a top 10 talent. The Broncos take the risk that he will be even 90% of his old disruptive self. Easley’s experience playing both tackle and end help his value.

32.  Seattle Seahawks: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan--The pugnacious Wolverine barely hold on to first-round status, as the Seahawks add him to the fold. He has a chance to be a very good right tackle, but he needs technical refinement and maturity.

Round 2

33.  Houston Texans: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

34.  Washington Redskins: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame

35.  Cleveland Browns: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

36.  Oakland Raiders: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame

37.  Atlanta Falcons: David Yankey, G, Stanford

38.  Jacksonville Jaguars: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU

39.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

40.  Minnesota Vikings: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois

41.  Buffalo Bills: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

42.  Tennessee Titans: A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama

43.  New York Giants: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington

44.  St. Louis Rams: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

45.  Detroit Lions: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor

46.  Pittsburgh Steelers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

47.  Baltimore Ravens: Antonio Richardson, T, Tennessee

48.  Dallas Cowboys: Dion Bailey, S, USC

49.  New York Jets: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State

50.  Miami Dolphins: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

51.  Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

52.  Arizona Cardinals: Jerry Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech

53.  Green Bay Packers: Christian Jones, LB, Florida State

54.  Philadelphia Eagles: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

55.  San Francisco 49ers (from KC): Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford

56.  Cincinnati Bengals: Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford

57.  San Diego Chargers: Morgan Moses, T, Virginia

58.  New Orleans Saints: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

59.  Indianapolis Colts: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas

60.  Carolina Panthers: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska

61.  San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

62.  New England Patriots: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

63.  Denver Broncos: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

64.  Seattle Seahawks: Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State

Round 3

65.  Houston Texans: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU

66.  Washington Redskins: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

67.  Oakland Raiders: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

68.  Atlanta Falcons: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State

69.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State

70.  Jacksonville Jaguars: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State

71.  Cleveland Browns: KaDeem Carey, RB, Arizona State

72.  Minnesota Vikings: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State

73.  Buffalo Bills: Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida

74.  New York Giants: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

75.  St. Louis Rams: Jack Mewhort, G/T, Ohio State

76.  Detroit Lions: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State

77.  San Francisco 49ers (from TEN): Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State

78.  Dallas Cowboys: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech

79.  Baltimore Ravens: Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane

80.  New York Jets: Keith McGill, CB, Utah

81.  Miami Dolphins: Billy Turner, T/G, North Dakota State

82.  Chicago Bears: Terrance Brooks, S, Florida State

83.  Cleveland Browns (from PIT): E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri

84.  Arizona Cardinals: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

85.  Green Bay Packers: Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn

86.  Philadelphia Eagles: Taylor Hart, DE, Utah

87.  Kansas City Chiefs: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming

88.  Cincinnati Bengals: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

89.  San Diego Chargers: Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA

90.  Indianapolis Colts: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas

91.  *Kansas City (from NO): Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming

92.  Carolina Panthers: Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina

93.  New England Patriots: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin

94.  San Francisco 49ers: Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU

95.  Denver Broncos: Jon Halapio, G, Florida

96.  Minnesota Vikings (from SEA): Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State

$.05 After Championship Weekend

On the convincing win by the Broncos, the epic physical battle between the Seahawks/49ers, Cleveland's mess, a quick mock draft, and an ungainly scouting 5th cent. 

$.10 For NFL Wild Card Weekend

On wins for the Colts, 49ers, Saints and Chargers, the coaching carousel, draft notes and more.

Football Meteorology For NFL Wild Card Weekend

Why the 49ers are a bad matchup for the Packers, how Colts/Chiefs will be different this time, Andy Dalton's playoff demons, and why the temp will doom the dome team.

$.10 For Week 17

On the big wins by the Packers/Eagles, losses by the Bears/Cowboys, Peyton's historical season, the end for Chud, college notes and more.

NFL Team Rankings, Week 17

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks finish the season ranked first, with the other top-11 teams all in the playoffs and the Packers at No. 14.

Football Meteorology For Week 17

Predicting the final 16 regular season games of 2013 while also handing out MVP and the unsung player for all 32 teams.