No division in football needs to make more improvements this offseason than the AFC South, which is coming off a terrible 2013 season. Let’s take a look at the offseason needs for the four teams in the AFC South.
Houston Texans – The Texans are going to need a new quarterback next year, and they may use the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft to get one. However, a majority of their other needs are on the defensive side of the ball. Houston needs a complete makeover at linebacker, especially when it comes to pass rushers, which could be something they target in free agency, unless they use the first overall pick on Jadeveon Clowney instead of a quarterback. The Texans also need to make improvements in their secondary, which is an area they can’t ignore. Back on the offensive side of the ball, the Texans will also need to get better along the offensive line, which was a huge problem in 2013, unless they want their new quarterback running for his life.
Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck took the Colts to the second round of the playoffs, doing so almost single handedly, and now the team needs to give him more support so he doesn’t have to do everything himself. Indianapolis has a nice set of skill players, although they could use more depth at wide receiver, especially after Reggie Wayne’s injury. The offensive line is their biggest issue on that side of the ball, as they need to do a better job of protecting their franchise quarterback. On defense, the Colts may need to start from scratch in their secondary, although re-signing Vontae Davis would help their rebuilding effort. Elsewhere, the Colts need to find a middle linebacker that can be the leader of the defense. They should also try to add a pass rusher to work in tandem with Robert Mathis so that they can do a better job of getting pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Obviously, quarterback is at the top of Jacksonville’s list, as they can’t continue with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, so the Jaguars are likely to use the third overall pick on a quarterback. However, that won’t solve all of the problems Jacksonville has on offense. Maurice Jones-Drew is on his way out of town, so Jacksonville needs to pick up a young running back that can step into the starting lineup right away. The Jaguars also have a few holes to fill on the offensive line, specifically at center after the retirement of Brad Meester. Of course, even though there’s a lot to fix on offense, the Jaguars can’t ignore their defense. Jacksonville needs some help at linebacker, as they need to bring in one or two guys that can play alongside Paul Posluszny to boost that unit. The Jags also need some more talent on the front line to help protect its secondary, which is young and continuing to get better, but remains vulnerable.
Tennessee Titans – There’s a new head coach in Nashville, but there’s not necessarily a lot of time for Ken Whisenhunt to turn things around, so changes have to be made to make the Titans a competitor in 2014. The most important thing the Titans were missing last year was a pass rush, and finding one or more players that can get after the quarterback will be their biggest priority, whether it happens through free agency or with their first round pick in the draft. If Tennessee can’t re-sign cornerback Alterraun Verner, they’ll have to fill that void in their secondary, but most of their other needs are on offense. Running back Chris Johnson is unlikely to be back next season, so the Titans will need to find a suitable replacement. The Titans will also want to continue building up their offensive line after drafting Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke last year. With those two guys on board, Tennessee will want to focus on drafting or signing offensive tackles this offseason.
Before we start making a big deal about all of the new head coaches in the NFL who are receiving that title for the first time, let’s take a look at all of the rookie head coaches in the NFL during the 2013 season. Of the eight head coaching vacancies last offseason, seven were filled with coaches who had never been a head coach in the NFL before, with Andy Reid being hired by the Chiefs being the lone exception. Let’s take a look at how each coach did during their rookie season and how their future looks as a head coach in the NFL.
Bruce Arians, Arizona – It helped that Arians had experience as the interim coach of the Colts in 2012, but he wasn’t exactly set up for success, as he found himself in the toughest division in the league with a quarterback past his prime. However, Arians made it work and led the Cardinals to 10 wins, making them arguably the best team to get left out of the playoffs. Arians’ coaching job was one of the most impressive in the NFL this year, and while it won’t be easy for Arizona to compete in the same division as Seattle and San Francisco in the years to come, but with Arians the Cardinals at least have a fighting chance. Grade: A.
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville – Bradley walked into a tough situation in Jacksonville, and things got even tougher when the Jaguars lost their first eight games. But Bradley weathered the storm and Jacksonville finished the second half of the season with a 4-4 record. There’s still a lot of work left to do and a lot working against them, but Jacksonville showed some promise at the end of the season and they don’t play in a great division, so Bradley has a real chance to make them a respectable team in 2014. Grade: B-.
Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland – Admittedly, losing the final seven games of the season and 10 of the last 11 did not bode well for Chudzinski, but it was a rash move by the Browns to fire him after one season, especially since the Browns have struggled to find his replacement. As unfair as it may have been to fire Chudzinski after one year, he’s ultimately responsible when the team keeps finding ways to losing close games, and the Browns did plenty of that the second half of the season. Chudzinski should land on his feet as an offensive coordinator somewhere, even if it means taking a year off, but he probably won’t get a chance to be a head coach in the NFL anytime son. Grade: D+.
Chip Kelly, Philadelphia – We weren’t too sure what to expect from Kelly as a head coach in the NFL, but after a mid-season slump his innovative offense was spectacular the second half of the season, carrying the Eagles to a division title. His opponents will now have a full offseason to study his offense and figure out how to stop it, but Kelly is smart enough to make adjustments right back. He seems comfortable with Nick Foles as his quarterback, and Foles looks comfortable standing behind a strong offensive line, which puts the Philadelphia offense in great shape moving forward. As long as he doesn’t get tempted to return to the college game, Kelly appears to have a bright future in the NFL. Grade: B+
Doug Marrone, Buffalo – Marrone’s first year in Buffalo was a combination of frustrating moments that Bills’ fans are accustomed to seeing and flashes of brilliance that offer a glimmer of hope for the future. The season was plagued by injuries to rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel that hindered his development and prevented the team challenging for the final wildcard spot late in the season. Marrone is smart enough succeed as a head coach in the NFL, but his fate his largely tied to the success of Manuel, and whether or not he lasts longer than most of the head coaches in Buffalo’s recent past depends on the development of Manuel and a collection of young skill players. Grade: B.
Mike McCoy, San Diego – McCoy led the Chargers to the second week of the playoffs, which is better than any other rookie head coach this season. He did wonders to help Philip Rivers have his best season in years, which helped to reaffirm his reputation of adjusting well to the personnel he has to work with. San Diego has a nice collection of young players, including offensive rookie of the year Keenan Allen, and it looks like Rivers will be a viable quarterback for a few more seasons, McCoy is in good shape moving forward to make the Chargers a playoff-caliber team on a yearly basis. Grade: A.
Marc Trestman, Chicago – Trestman had a rather challenging season, as he had to deal with an atrocious defense that put a lot of pressure on his offense, as well as an injury to starting quarterback Jay Cutler that made the second half of the season difficult to manage. In the end, the Bears would have made the playoffs had they been able to win the final week of the season, which should be a good sign for Chicago after such an up and down season. Trestman knows that he’ll have Cutler to work with for several more years and for at least one more season he’ll have an elite wide receiver tandem with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, which puts he and the Bears are in good shape moving forward. Grade: B.
Here are some AFC news and notes for week 12:
- Are the Chiefs overrated? Well, their defense now has 0 sacks in their opponents last 90 drop backs and they didn’t even manage to hit Peyton Manning on Sunday. Also, Alex Smith, despite winning games, is putting up his worst numbers in 4+ years.
- The Patriots offense is BACK. Since Gronk came back—along with Amendola and now Vereen—the Pats are averaging over 32 points a game and Tom Brady completed over 70% of his passes against the top ranked NFL defense last week.
- The Broncos defense has forced the 6th most punts in the NFL. This group has continued to get a bad rep despite playing pretty well the last 4/5 weeks. The last 3 games (during which the Bronco’s offense has been solid, but not great) the Bronco’s defense has given up less than 20 points per game.
- The Bengals (or should I say Andy Dalton) still have a lot to prove. 1 conversion on 3rd down and passing for less than 100 yards will not usually result in a 41-point performance. Not to mention it won’t get it done come playoffs.
- Gary Kubiak is not handling the QB situation in Houston very well. After pulling Case Keenum in favor of veteran Matt Schaub in the middle of the game on Sunday, Kubiak has announced that Keenum will again be the starter in week 12. These are the kind of desperate spur of the moment moves that get you in the hot seat.
- Only the Jaguars have a worse point differential than the Jaguars, yet the Jets are currently in line for a wild card spot.
- The Titans are the only team with a losing record to have a positive point differential.
Tell me how wrong I am on twitter @Cole_Stevenson
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens will have their season opener on Sunday as they look to get into the win column against the visiting Browns, after being completely dismantled by Denver last Thursday night. Meanwhile, despite a very disappointing opening game, the Browns will look to make a splash in what appears to be a wide-open AFC North. The Browns, just like every other team in the North lost in week 1. During which Trent Richardson only ran the ball 13 times. That HAS to change if the Browns want to win on the road. The same can also be said for the Ravens, who once again, put way too much faith in Joe Flacco and failed to feed Ray Rice the ball in week 1 (only 12 carries).
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
This could be a possible blowout in favor of the Texans. I know that the Texans looked miserable the 1st half against San Diego, and yes, the Titans pulled out a gutsy win against the Steelers in week 1, but Houston is better in virtually every facet of the game, and especially in the trenches. Nothing against Jake Locker, but if the Titans want to have any chance to win this game, it will have to be by controlling the tempo and running the ball. Also, crazy stat that most people might not realize, Andre Johnson has the most 10+ reception games in NFL history.
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts will get their second home game of the young season, while the Dolphins will try to find a way to win on the road for the second week in a row. This could be a game that has a lot of importance down the stretch. After all, both of these teams probably won’t win their division and will be challenging each other for Wild Card spots. One thing to pay attention to, the Colts top two rushers last week averaged 4.8 and 6.3. While Miami’s top two rushers averaged 1.8 and .3.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders
The only reason to watch this game is if you’re interested in the #1 overall pick, because this game will most likely decide it. Hard to see anyone from Jacksonville putting up more offense than Terrelle Pryor at this point, but we’ll see.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
It couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Steelers in week 1 and the Bengals lost a tough road game to a solid Bears team. Hard to see the Steelers being able to protect Big Ben enough to keep up against A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. Actually, after last week, it’s hard to see the Steelers scoring at all.
Denver Broncos at New York Giants
Don’t want to say too much here, mainly because every sports show in the United States is going to hype this game more than Yasiel Puig. However, I would be extremely surprised if Eli wins a shootout against this Peyton Manning/Older brother led offense. Sorry little brother, know your place. Although, I am interested to see if the Giants even try to run the ball at this point after hitting the panic button this past week. Peyton might not give them time though.
San Diego Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles
Well, after the week 1 debacle, you have to wonder who is on the hot seat in San Diego, because someone has to be. Giving up 24 unanswered at home is inexplicable no matter who the opponent. Although, I do hope the Chargers can keep it close so we can see the speed of the Eagles offense for a longer period this week.
Tell me how wrong I am on twitter @Cole_Stevenson
Our NFL preview continues today with the preseason power rankings of the AFC South:
1. Houston – The Texans have become consistent leaders of the AFC South, and there are a lot of reasons to think that trend will continue in 2013. Matt Schaub hasn’t proven to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but he’s good enough with the supporting cast he has around him, which includes running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson. Tight end Owen Daniels is also a big part of the offense and the addition of rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins should give Schaub plenty of options in the passing game.
On defense, Houston has the reigning defensive player of the year in J.J. Watt, as well as one of the league’s top linebackers in Brian Cushing. They’ll have to find a way to make up for the loss of Connor Barwin, whose absence could hurt their pass rush; however, the Texans are hoping that Ed Reed will give their secondary a boost, and give them a pass defense that’s above average. Houston has the most balanced roster in their division, with big-time playmakers on both sides of the ball, so they should be able to stay atop the AFC South, but if they want to move closer to reaching a Super Bowl, both sides of the ball will have to show improvement from last season.
2. Indianapolis – The Colts made incredible progress last season, winning 11 games and going to the playoffs, doing so mostly on the back of quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck could be even better this year, but Indianapolis is going to need to become a more balanced team if they expect to continue that success. They’ve added Ahmad Bradshaw and Darrius Heyward-Bey on the offensive side of the ball to put more weapons around Luck, but the offensive line remains a place of concern. Defensively, Indianapolis made wholesale changes, hoping to fix a unit that was atrocious last season. Nearly half of the starters on defense weren’t in Indianapolis last season, which means there was a great infusion of talent on that side of the ball, but little continuity, which could mean a period of adjustment.
On the one hand, it’s hard to envision the Colts being able to improve upon their 11 wins from a season ago, but on the other hand, there’s no denying that their roster is much stronger, and that they have a quarterback with almost limitless talent. While they begin second in the AFC South in the preseason power rankings, they should be considered a threat to challenge the Texans for the division crown.
3. Tennessee – It’s an important year in Tennessee: for head coach Mike Munchak, starting quarterback Jake Locker, and the Titan’s franchise. The Titans have done their best to surround Locker with what he needs to win games, improving the offensive line in front of him, replacing the departed Jared Cook with Delanie Walker at tight end, and drafting Justin Hunter to give him another big receiving target. Tennessee also brought in Shonn Greene to give their running game a boost. Those additions should be enough to give Locker adequate support, and the rest will be up to him.
Defensively, there could be some problems, especially among the front-7 and when it comes to stopping the run, but the secondary got an upgrade with the addition of safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson. Tennessee’s roster appears to be stronger than it was last season, so there should be some improvement from last year’s 6-10 record, but there is a big gap between where they are and where Houston and Indianapolis are, and the responsibility for closing that gap falls on Locker’s shoulders; whether he’s capable of doing that remains to be seen.
4. Jacksonville – The Jaguars are not only deep in the basement of the AFC South, but also deep in the basement of the NFL, as new head coach Gus Bradley takes over and begins what could be a long rebuilding process. Jacksonville wasn’t able to re-sign many of its top free agents during the offseason with the exception of Brad Meester, who should lead a solid offensive line that will get help from first round pick Luke Joeckel. Once Justin Blackmon returns from suspension, the Jaguars will have an intriguing group of skill players with guys like Cecil Shorts, Denard Robinson, Ace Sanders, and of course Maurice Jones-Drew as a workhorse running back.
However, Jacksonville still doesn’t have a suitable quarterback in place unless Blaine Gabbert surprises everyone, which is unlikely. If Gabbert plays well, it would make the offense interesting to watch, but that won’t matter too much because the defense is a mess. Jacksonville was terrible on defense last year, and they could be even worse this season, as they could be starting two or three rookies in the secondary with no stand out pass rushers to help out up front. Jacksonville actually has a good group of rookies and a promising set of offensive skill players, which means Bradley could have them pointed in the right direction. But there may not be too many signs of improvement this season, and if there’s a team out there that could benefit from winning the top overall pick in next year’s draft and getting Jadeveon Clowney, it’s probably the Jaguars.
The AFC South had one of the more mediocre drafts in the league this year, as none of the four teams graded out too high or too low. That’s made it tough to rank the teams on their performance during the draft, but here it goes:
1. Jacksonville – Although they didn’t take a quarterback, which many thought they needed to do, the Jaguars came out of the draft looking pretty good. The quarterback that will play will feel more secure with Luke Joeckel protecting his blindside, and he’ll also have a couple of dynamic lighting-quick playmakers in Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson. Both Sanders and Robinson were mid-round picks that will be able to help Jacksonville in the return game and turn short easy passes into big gains with their ability to run after the catch, giving the Jaguar’s offense much-needed speed.
Outside of those offensive improvements, the Jaguars focused on their secondary, which needed a lot of help. Safety John Cyprien, taken in the second round, and cornerback Dwayne Gratz, picked in the third round, should step in as starters in Jacksonville right away. Taking safety Josh Evans in the 6th round and a pair of big cornerbacks in the 7th round will also give Jacksonville depth in the secondary. While they didn’t address all their needs, the Jaguars did well to fix their biggest deficiencies from last year, which should make them noticeably better than last year at those positions.
2. Houston – The Texans didn’t blow anybody away with their draft class, but they added solid players in several key areas. The first thing they did was get a second outside receiver that can play alongside Andre Johnson, picking DeAndre Hopkins in the first round. They didn’t need to pick a safety so early after acquiring Ed Reed earlier this offseason, but they got a good one in the second round when they took D.J. Swearinger. After that, rather wisely, it was all about the line of scrimmage.
Both Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams will be good pass rushers for Houston, and both Brennan Williams and Davis Quessenberry will be assets on the offensive line. Houston didn’t get too many game changers in this draft, but with the picks they made there should be noticeable improvement for them at several positions all over the field.
3. Tennessee – Like the teams above, the Titans were solid but unspectacular in the draft. The biggest need Tennessee had was on the offensive line, and they addressed that need early with Chance Warmack, one of the top players in the draft, and they also addressed it later with center Brian Schwenke, who’s as quick and agile as any center in the NFL. They didn’t necessarily need a wide receiver, but when Justin Hunter fell for to them in the second round it was an easy decision to take him, and it can’t hurt to have a big target like Hunter with a quarterback that’s still trying to establish himself.
While the offense got a nice boost, the Titan’s defense wasn’t improved significantly. The top defensive player they took was cornerback Bildi Wreh-Wilson, but he may not be a full-time starter. Linebacker Zaviar Gooden and defensive end Lavar Edwards are nice additions as well, but nothing to get too excited about. The Titans also added some necessary depth to their secondary in the late rounds. All in all, it wasn’t a bad draft for the Titans, but they just didn’t do anything to stand out.
After having such a great draft a year ago, the Colts weren’t so impressive in this year’s draft. First round pick Bjoern Wener is a good fit for them and will fill the void left by Dwight Freeney, but without a second round pick, it was tough for Indianapolis to find another potential difference maker. They needed help along the offensive line, but Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes may not be anything more than average players.
In the later rounds the Colts were able to land a talented but under-rated defensive tackle in Montori Hughes and an athletic tight end in Justice Cunningham, both of whom are nice additions to their draft class. However, outside of Werner, the Colts didn’t add any difference makers in this draft, which is why they end up last in their division, although they’re close to the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league.
With the draft finished and all of free agency’s biggest and best names off the market, each team’s roster is, more or less, set. Until, of course, training camp. When training camp and the pre season rolls around there are always a series of cuts to every roster; most expected, others not so much. Predicting the obvious cuts won’t be much fun, what with them being obvious and all, and often requires absurd amounts of research as they aren’t generally what I’d consider “household” names. For a look at some of the less likely - yet, still all too possible - names that could be hitting free agency in August, division by division, take a gander down yonder.
Houston Texans, CB Kareem Jackson: I don’t see the Texans making any big cuts in training camp, but if they were to make one, my money’s on Kareem Jackson. For right or wrong - and I’m of the opinion, wrong - Jackson has a pretty bad rep as a cornerback. The optics aren’t very kind to Jackson, as he is almost always the guy getting beat in highlight packages and what not. The statistical reality on the other hand suggests he is a fairly good cornerback in coverage, as he grades out with a +12 rating in pass coverage on PFF who only missed 4 tackles. My money’s on the Texans hedging their bets on the stats; they never lie.
Indianapolis Colts, RB Donald Brown: Donald Brown just isn’t a good running back. Plain and simple. He doesn’t block well, he doesn’t run well and he’s not particularly adept in the passing game. There’s only one year remaining on Brown’s contract and it carries a cap hit of $2.7M, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Colts kept him around to play out his contract. Then again, why take away from snaps that could be going to Vick Ballard?
Jacksonville Jaguars, CB Marcus Trufant: The Jags have no real reason to make any big cuts in training camp, but if I had to pick one guy to be so unfortunate, it would be Marcus Trufant. The reason I chose Trufant has little to do with his very affordable one year deal, that counts for less than a million against the cap. This is purely a football move if it happens. Thing is, Marcus Trufant isn’t good. Not anymore. Injuries and age have taken their toll on Trufant and it’s reflected in his play.
Tennessee Titans, WR Kenny Britt: There were so many options for the Titans, so I went with the most well known of them all, Kenny Britt. What makes Britt a likely candidate is a combination of things both out of and in his control; it’s sort of the perfect storm. The factors in Britt’s control have to do with several off-field issues, maturity and inconsistent performance. It’s also worth noting that he’s done nothing to indicate he’s half as good as the Titans thought he would be. Tennessee has also invested two high draft picks over the past two seasons in wide receivers, both of which are capable of starting this season. Factor in the drafted wide receivers, with the free agency addition of Kevin Walter and the fact that they still have Nate Washington, who is vastly more dependable than Britt and things aren’t looking so good for Britt’s future with the Titans.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
You are the Jacksonville Jaguars. You won two games last year, and five in 2011. The last time you made the playoffs was 2007. You've won one playoff game since the 1999 season. When fans around the league talk about your franchise it usually has to do with when and where you will be relocated. After neither drafting nor signing a quarterback of note this off-season, you will begin 2013 with some combination of Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Scott, and Jordan Palmer under center. Why would adding Tim Tebow be such a bad idea?
Jags owner Shad Khan expressed fascination with the continued questions about Tebow when he talked to the media at Tuesday's NFL Career Development Symposium. Khan wondered why of the roughly 3,000 players in the league he continues to get questions about mainly one guy, Tebow.
The answer is clear. Khan's team hasn't been very good and most observers don't think the quarterbacks on his roster are the long term solution. Even if Tebow isn't the answer, wouldn't he be worth adding?
New Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell, who has said the team is not interested in Tebow, added corner Marcus Trufant on Tuesday. Trufant is a capable if not spectacular player who is familiar with Jags coach Gus Bradley from their time together in Seattle. Trufant will probably start for the Jaguars but will likely not change the team's fortunes significantly. He is unlikely to sell any tickets.
Tebow might not win any games either, but the Jacksonville native will certainly sell tickets. This is important for a team that has struggled to generate buzz and give fans a reason to attend games. Furthermore, Tebow will help generate interest in local team television and radio shows plus he will help sell apparel.
The notion that Tebow would become a distraction is ridiculous. First, he didn't seem to distract anybody when he was winning a playoff game for the Broncos two years ago, and second, distract them from what? Is his presence going to be so negative that they fall from two wins to one?
At worst, Tebow plays poorly, or sits on the bench, the team struggles, there is mild support from the fan base about his presence, and the team loses enough games to be able to draft Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota. At best, he plays well, the team and community rally around the forgotten franchise, and there is a ray of sunshine around the Jaguars for the first time since Mark Brunell, James Stewart and Jimmy Smith were around.
I recognize that most people don't think Tebow can play quarterback. In Jacksonville's case, what difference does it make? The goal is to win in the long term and whether it be Tebow or Henne under center, the likelihood is neither will do a lot of winning. If getting a top draft pick is the means to the end, sell a bunch of uniforms and concessions with Tebow doing the losing in the interim. At least the team would be relevant and more profitable that way.
We spent all last week evaluating the players that were drafted, but there are so many players in the NFL that went undrafted that it’d be foolish not to look at the undrafted players that still have a chance to make it. We’ll start with the quarterbacks, where Tony Romo and Warren Moon are the poster boys for undrafted players. Here’s a look at some of the undrafted quarterbacks that still have a chance to find a home in the NFL.
Tyler Bray – It’s rare that the most talented quarterback in a draft class goes undrafted, but all 32 teams had good reason for passing on Bray, who clearly should have stayed at Tennessee for his senior season, despite a coaching change in Knoxville. Bray has the size and arm strength that NFL teams love, and he’s great at throwing the ball deep, but there are still questions regarding his leadership abilities and his dedication. After going undrafted, Bray signed with Kansas City, which is actually a good situation for him.
Andy Reid has taken far less talented quarterbacks, like A.J. Feely and Kevin Kolb, worked with them and given them a chance to play in the NFL, so he’s definitely a guy that can help to develop Bray. If Bray can improve his work ethic and learn a few things from Reid, then a couple years from now he could be in position to take over for Alex Smith in Kansas City. He has all the talent in the world, but he needs to get it together above the shoulders if he wants to have a career in the NFL.
Matt Scott – Scott going undrafted was a bit of a surprise, as most had him as one of the 10 best quarterbacks available. Nevertheless, he signed with the Jaguars, which may end up being a better outcome for him than getting drafted by someone else. With Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne as the only other quarterbacks on Jacksonville’s roster heading into the draft, Scott could have a realistic chance to compete to be the starter or backup right away. He has the mobility that NFL teams are beginning to covet and his arm is strong enough to hold up in the league. He has the skills, and in Jacksonville he’ll have the opportunity, and so Scott has as good a chance as any undrafted quarterback in this year’s class to make it in the league.
Jordan Rodgers – Like Scott, Rodgers signed with Jacksonville after the draft, which means he’ll have a fair shot to compete to be the starter or the backup for the 2013 season. He doesn’t have as much talent as his brother, but he has enough arm strength and mobility to draw interest from NFL teams, as will the fact that his brother was a late bloomer, and Jordan could be as well. He was also a key part of Vanderbilt’s miraculous resurrection over the past two years, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s smart, knows how to play the position, and won’t be intimidated by NFL defenses, and that’ll be enough to keep giving him chances in the NFL, even if his first shot with the Jaguars doesn’t work out.
James Vandenberg – The former Iowa quarterback has the skills to hang around the league awhile and carve out a niche for himself as a NFL backup. Vandenberg is a consistent thrower that can make quick decisions and move the ball down field when he gets in a rhythm. He signed with the Vikings, which is a team he might be able to stick with, despite the presence of Matt Cassell and Joe Webb as backups. He won’t impress anybody too much, but he also won’t drive coaches crazy with horrible decision-making and wild inconsistency, and that steadiness could help Vandenberg keep a job in the NFL for several years.
Collin Klein – If Tim Tebow can have success in the NFL, albeit for a brief period of time, why can’t Klein as well? He’s a great athlete and a powerful runner that is also capable of making quality throws in the right situations. If he’s not as stubborn as Tebow, he could consider changing positions and find a team that’s willing to use him as a running back, fullback, and quarterback, and get creative with ways to use him. He was a Heisman finalist, so he can play the game; it’s just a matter of finding the best way to utilize him. He signed with the Raiders, which may not be the best organization for him to go to, but then again, Oakland may be desperate enough to give him a shot at playing quarterback.
One of the more exciting aspects of the NFL Draft isn’t which players get picked when, but who does the picking. Especially with so much uncertainty at the top of the draft and where the quarterback position is concerned. Some teams who are desperate for that final piece that they feel will get them to the Super Bowl, are likely to trade up and make that big splash. Others in the more developmental aspect of their team building will look to trade down; especially since there’s a lot of talent to be found in the second and third rounds of this year’s draft. For a look at who are the most likely players to draft up or down, check below.
Most Likely to Trade Up
Jacksonville Jaguars: I don’t necessarily see them jumping from the number two spot to first overall, but I do see them getting two first round picks out of this draft. This will depend entirely on whether they draft Geno Smith with the second overall pick, or if the Bills do at the eighth. If neither is the case and he’s still available in the mid to late twenties, expect the Jags to jump and grab him.
Buffalo Bills: Similar situation to the Jaguars. They won’t need to move ahead to land one of either Ryan Nassib or Geno Smith, but could compete with the Jags to land one of the two with a jump back into the first round towards the end of it.
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers need help at offensive tackle and they need it badly. Then again, so do the Cardinals and Titans ahead of them. If Lane Johnson is still available after the Cardinals make their pick I could see the Chargers jumping a few spots to land him.
Houston Texans: The Texans window is starting to shrink. Not by a lot, but the process is starting. They are in compete-now mode and need a second receiving option to get the job done. Could see them moving up to land one of either Cordarrelle Patterson, Tavon Austin or Justin Hunter.
Most Likely to Trade Down
Cleveland Browns: The Browns would like to recoup a second round pick after losing this years due to their second round selection of Josh Gordon in last year’s supplemental draft. They’ve also been deploying quite the smokescreen about their want for Dee Milliner. Any corner hungry team could pounce on their 6th overall pick.
New York Giants: Have a lot of places on the depth chart that could use tweaking but none more so than linebacker. They just so happen to never draft linebackers in the first round.
Atlanta Falcons: Thomas Dimitroff likes to make a big splash in free agency and has a big need at corner. I could definitely see him moving way up to land either Xavier Rhodes or Desmond Trufant.
Baltimore Ravens: They have a lot of draft picks and could probably use every last one of them to fill all the departed roster spots. Then again, they’re looking pretty weak at wide receiver as of right now.
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