By Jeff Risdon
For one time every draft season, I do a different kind of mock draft. Instead of trying to forecast what players are going to what teams at what picks, this one is all about personal preference.
In this edition, I get to play GM for every team. The picks are my personal choices for each slot.
A lot goes into determining each pick. While I tend to be a “best player available” guy, team needs do matter too. However, in some cases it’s more about future need than the more obvious immediate needs. If a key player is coming up on a free agent year, or if the incumbent starter at an impact position can be upgraded with higher potential, that will impact the decision.
I went through four rounds. There are no trades, because it just complicates the picture too much.
Again, this mock in no way attempts to predict what will actually happen in May. If your comments indicate that you failed to read this admonition, I will publicly flog your lack of reading skills. Don’t be that guy!
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville--he’s the highest-rated QB on my board, and he’s also the most NFL-ready. If I’m GM Rick Smith, I know I have the chance to establish a new offense with new coach Bill O’Brien and a new franchise quarterback. The only other player I considered here is Jadeveon Clowney, but this team cannot progress unless it prominently addresses the most important position in pro sports.
2. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OL, Texas A&M--this is a tricky one, because the Rams already have a lot ($65M) invested in Jake Long and Rodger Saffold at tackle. Yet Matthews immediately projects better than either, and he offers positional versatility. He could even play guard or center for a year, if needed. That’s not the best value for the No. 2 pick, but three years from now he very well might be the best player in this entire draft class. I strongly considered Sammy Watkins here.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, South Carolina--another tough call, because this franchise desperately needs a legit quarterback. But they also desperately need an impact defender, and Clowney’s potential as a game-changing pass rusher trumps any upside that any QB in this class can dream about. I’m confident enough that at least one of the second tier of QBs will be available in the second round. Khalil Mack is tempting, but Clowney’s upside is so much higher it’s worth the greater risk. Johnny Manziel got some consideration.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M--perhaps no other team is in as favorable a position to roll the dice on Johnny Football. The fans are so hungry for a dynamic franchise QB, and given the never-ending chaos of the front office and coaching staff turnover, the bar of expectations is pretty low. Manziel is unorthodox and very difficult to project to the NFL, but he has that je ne sais quoi that cannot be coached, or easily defended. If it’s going to work anywhere for Johnny Football, it’s Cleveland.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo--the Raiders are in a fairly unique situation: they need upgrades at just about every position on the field. Signing Matt Schaub bought them a little time at quarterback, though relying on him long-term is foolish. Prudent signing of James Jones makes Sammy Watkins less of a priority, though he’s still a strong consideration. GM Reggie McKenzie has a chance to land a versatile, premium defensive weapon in the draft in Mack. The Raiders have to go after the best available impact talent with every pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn--this is an absolute no-brainer. The Falcons do not have a starting-caliber offensive tackle on the roster. Lamar Holmes might (might!) be a worthy third tackle, that’s it. Robinson can step right in at either tackle spot and immediately provide outstanding run blocking. His pass protection needs some technical work, but the potential for Larry Allen-type domination is there. With Mack and Clowney both off the table, there really is no other option.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson--the most explosive and dynamic playmaking wideout in the draft would make an awesome fit with Vincent Jackson, diversifying the offense and giving the QB, Glennon or otherwise, a much better chance to succeed. I toyed with the idea of both Anthony Barr and Eric Ebron here, but Watkins is too highly-rated to fall any further in a draft I control.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State--he’s a do-it-all linebacker with athleticism that goes off the charts. His nose for the ball and ability to quickly attack gaps are an ideal fit for Mike Zimmer’s defensive style. This is a bit of a reach on my board, but Shazier has the ability to make it worthwhile quickly. A little too early to tap into the QB market.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina--last year Buffalo’s leading receiver was Scott Chandler, and now he’s gone. Adding a speedy seam threat like Ebron will augment E.J. Manuel’s skills and help open up the rest of the young receiving corps. Even though I like Jace Amaro as my top TE, Ebron fits better schematically here with his superior speed.
10. Detroit Lions: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU--Detroit played with just two LBs almost 70 percent of the time in 2013, but that looks to change under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. With the new regime’s public desire to add a versatile, pass-rushing outside linebacker, I’m more than happy to grant that wish with Van Noy. The fact he can play all three downs right away wins out over the higher-end pass pushing potential of Anthony Barr. No defensive backs were even remotely considered for this pick.
11. Tennessee Titans: Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame--it’s not a sexy pick, but with both starting tackles over 30 and showing signs of wearing down, Martin is the top choice. Many project him as a guard, but I’m plenty confident he’ll be a very good left tackle. With the interior of the line overhauled last offseason, Martin can become an integral part of a new line with great potential. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted Darqueze Dennard here to replace Alterraun Verner. That need will be addressed by the end of the draft’s second day.
12. New York Giants: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA--XSF is an XL force in the run game. He has enough athleticism to play right tackle but projects best as a guard. I rate him higher than I did Jonathan Cooper a year ago. For a Giants team in need of an OL overhaul, he’s a perfect fit. That gets him the nod over Aaron Donald or an edge rusher.
13. St. Louis Rams: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State--read this for exactly what it is: a vote of no confidence in Sam Bradford. With the former #1 pick entering the last season of his outrageous rookie deal, it’s time for the Rams to find his successor. Carr has a lot to work with, and I rate him higher than Blake Bortles. One year of getting his feet wet with an offense that challenges him to attack all parts of the field should make Carr ready to take over in 2015, or whenever Bradford suffers his next multi-game injury.
14. Chicago Bears: Anthony Barr, Edge, UCLA--the Bears are off to a flying start in overhauling their toothless defense, adding help up front while trimming away some fat. With Barr, they upgrade the outside linebacker spot with a high-end pass rushing prospect. He’s not ready to contribute much more than as a nickel rusher right away, but has the athleticism and potential to be a force down the line. Safety is the biggest remaining need, but this is too high for any of the available talent in my book.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech--Amaro is a great weapon for the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, a big, strong target over the middle with presence and attitude. His size and toughness are ideal fits to help foil the physical defenses of the AFC North. It was hard to not go defense here, but the fits just aren’t that strong. Jason Verrett was the alternate choice.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh--what do you get a team with a decimated defensive line? How about a disruptive interior force that can collapse the pocket and make opposing quarterbacks stress. Donald is a perfect fit. Zero hesitation in running to the podium with this pick.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU--Verrett fits the Ravens mold of player, a naturally gifted talent with strong work ethic and no fear. He’s not the biggest corner, but his feistiness and sound fundamentals will help shore up the secondary. I pondered an offensive lineman like Brandon Thomas or a safety, but I’m just not crazy about their current corner situation.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU--to quote Jim Miller from Sirius NFL Radio, “the 2013 New York Jets had the worst set of offensive weapons in the entire Super Bowl era”. They still need to add talent all over the offense. Eric Decker is a nice start, and a player like OBJ complements him perfectly. His hands, ability to separate, and creativity after the catch would stand out for New York. I wanted Amaro here.
19. Miami Dolphins: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State--the offensive line still needs major work, but this is a grey area for linemen; any here would be a significant reach on my board. Instead, the Dolphins get one of the quickest players I’ve ever scouted to help bolster the passing attack. I had Brandon Thomas here before his unfortunate ACL injury. Can’t use a 1st round pick on a player that can’t play in 2014.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Scott Crichton, Edge, Oregon State--one of the qualities I like in my pass rushers is the ability to win in more than one way. Crichton can press the edge, but he also thrives at getting inside. He can play 5-technique as a rusher or out on the edge in base defense. Quarterback is tempting, though I am higher on Carson Palmer than most.
21. Green Bay Packers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech--this is one of the few picks that might actually happen come May, and that’s for a reason. Fuller has the length, speed, and instincts to contribute right away, and the Chargers sorely need corners with those attributes. I chose his probability of recovery from injury as greater than the chances Bradley Roby extricates his head from his butt, though Roby does have a higher ceiling.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota--he’s an extreme boom/bust prospect with tantalizing athleticism but a fuzzy grasp on technique. I like that Hageman brings versatility across the line. I thought about Dee Ford or Jimmie Ward.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC--Lee offers the potential to create yards after the catch and to get open quickly on hitches, crosses and slants. His knee issue in 2013 does give me pause, but I believe he can be this draft’s Keenan Allen, another talented playmaking Pac-12 wideout who suffered thru a substandard final college season before exploding in the NFL.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida--I’m racked with indecision here. I really like Kyle Fuller or Bradley Roby to help at corner. C.J. Mosley would fit great as a round-em-up linebacker next to Burfict. Dee Ford offers more speed and sizzle off the edge. Yet I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I’m far more cautious with Bortles than most, but the best situation for him is to sit and learn for a year or two before taking over for an ineffective starter. That’s the exact “help wanted” sign hanging in the Bengals locker room.
25. San Diego Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State--the savvy reader will note that Dennard is my #1 overall corner, yet I purposely selected two others in front of him. Why? Schematic fit. His lack of long speed means the team had better have a rangy, heady safety already in place. Eric Weddle checks that box here.
26. Cleveland Browns: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois--the first safety to come off the board is not the one most expect, but Jimmie Ward has the potential to make the biggest impact of any safety in this class. He’s already a strong all-around talent capable of playing either spot. It’s also seamless to replace TJ Ward with a player of the same last name but far better coverage instincts. Mike Evans sure would look nice too, but again, the depth at wide receiver makes me look elsewhere.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, Edge, Auburn--chalk this up as another pick that could actually happen, as the Saints sorely need more depth and skill on the edge. Ford can scream around the corner, but he’s also good at handling back-side duties and chasing down the run. This one did not take very long.
28. Carolina Panthers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M--so many needs for such a successful team... I really like that Evans has lots of experience playing with an improvisational QB and working free on broken plays. That’s Cam Newton at his best, and Evans’ size can help bail him out when he forces balls. Taylor Lewan is tempting, but I’m not sure he’s a great locker room fit. Ha Ha Clinton Dix was also strongly considered.
29. New England Patriots: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama--this is one of those cases where the “best player available” tile is so much higher than any others left…Mosley does everything at an above-average level, yet he’s not quite the dynamic athlete to go higher than this. A coach like Belichick can maximize what he does well and find roles to make the Bama stud shine. I really wanted either Marqise Lee or Mike Evans to fall here.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State--Adams has the ideal traits to make an outstanding #2 wideout across from Michael Crabtree. He’s big and physical, with strong hands and determination. His game lacks consistency and polish right now, but his upside is high. Adams has the ability to succeed Anquan Boldin’s role in the offense.
31. Denver Broncos: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State--the Broncos stay close to home in shoring up their center position for the next few years, bringing in the heady, technically proficient Richburg. He’s ready to start at either guard or center and has the kind of intelligence and personality that will remind Peyton Manning of Jeff Saturday. Richburg has that kind of ceiling. He beat out Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or the next tier of corners.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Morgan Moses, T, Virginia--somebody on Draft Twitter compared Moses to Texans left tackle Duane Brown, and I really like that comp. Like Brown, Moses flashed occasional dominance but needs the occasional kick in the pants to play to his potential. His length and strength are outstanding on the edge, and he almost never gets beat inside. He can help on either side right away. He’s a safer pick that the more athletic but volatile Taylor Lewan.
33. Houston: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
34. Washington: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
35. Cleveland: Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
36. Oakland: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
37. Atlanta: DeMarcus Lawrence, Edge, Boise State
38. Tampa Bay: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
39. Jacksonville: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
40. Minnesota: Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
41. Buffalo: JaWuan James, T, Tennessee
42. Tennessee: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
43. NY Giants: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
44. St. Louis: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
45. Detroit: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
46. Pittsburgh: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
47. Dallas: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
48. Baltimore: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
49. NY Jets: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
50. Miami: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
51. Chicago: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
52. Arizona: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
53. Green Bay: Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
54. Philadelphia: Trai Turner, G, LSU
55. Cincinnati: Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
56. San Francisco: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
57. San Diego: Brandon Thomas, OL, Clemson
58. New Orleans: Dion Bailey, S, USC
59. Indianapolis: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
60. Carolina: Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
61. San Francisco: Jeremiah Attaochu, Edge, Georgia Tech
62. New England: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
63. Denver: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
64. Seattle: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
65. Houston: Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina
66. Washington: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
67. Oakland: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
68. Atlanta: Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
69. Tampa Bay: Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State
70. Jacksonville: Billy Turner, T, South Dakota State
71. Cleveland: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
72. Minnesota: A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
73. Buffalo: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
74. NY Giants: Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt
75. St. Louis: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
76. Detroit: Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
77. San Francisco: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
78. Dallas: Jon Halapio, G, Florida
79. Baltimore: Cameron Fleming, T, Stanford
80. NY Jets: Shaq Barrett, OLB, Colorado State
81. Miami: Seantrel Henderson, T, Miami FL
82. Chicago: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
83. Cleveland: Dakota Dozier, G, Furman
84. Arizona: Preston Brown, LB, Louisville
85. Green Bay: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
86. Philadelphia: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
87. Kansas City: T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame
88. Cincinnati: Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
89. San Diego: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
90. Indianapolis: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
91. New Orleans: Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina
92. Carolina: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
93. New England: Marcus Martin, C, USC
94. San Francisco: Terrance West, RB, Towson
95. Denver: Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
96. Minnesota: Chris Watt, G, Notre Dame
97. Pittsburgh: : Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
98. Green Bay: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
99. Baltimore: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
100. San Francisco: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
101. Houston: Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
102. Washington: A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
103. Atlanta: Jackson Jeffcoat, Edge, Texas
104. NY Jets: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
105. Jacksonville: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
106. Cleveland: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
107. Oakland: Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State
108. Minnesota: Boseko Lokombo, LB, Oregon
109. Buffalo: Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama
110. St. Louis: Trent Murphy, Edge, Stanford
111. Detroit: Khyri Thornton, DT, Southern Miss
112. Tennessee: Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State
113. NY Giants: James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
114. Jacksonville: Keith McGill, CB, Utah
115. NY Jets: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
116. Miami: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, T, McGill
117. Chicago: Dontae Johnson, S, North Carolina State
118. Pittsburgh: Philip Gaines, CB, Rice
119. Dallas: Craig Loston, S, LSU
120. Arizona: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
121. Green Bay: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
122. Philadelphia: Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State
123. Cincinnati: Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
124. Kansas City: Brent Urban, Edge, Virginia
125. San Diego: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
126. New Orleans: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
127. Cleveland: Justin Britt, T, Missouri
128. Carolina: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
129. San Francisco: Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
130. New England: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
131. Denver: Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB/FB, Coastal Carolina
132. Seattle: Tre Boston, S, North Carolina
133. Detroit: Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
134. Baltimore: Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
135. Houston: Howard Jones, OLB, Shepherd
136. Detroit: Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest
137. NY Jets: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
138. Baltimore: Adrian Hubbard, Edge, Alabama
139. Atlanta: Michael Schofield, T, Michigan
140. New England: David Yankey, G, Stanford
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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…
--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.
--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.
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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 (*).
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.
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
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
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