We end our divisional post-draft rankings today with the NFC West, which had one of the best drafts in the NFL, with all four ending up with good draft classes. It was a tight race for the top spot, and the other two teams weren’t far behind, so let’s take a look at how the four NFC West teams rank in this year’s draft:
1. San Francisco – As if the 49ers needed it, the Super Bowl runners up had one of the best drafts in the NFL, utilizing over a dozen picks to perfection. More than anything San Francisco needed a safety, and so they traded up to take Eric Reid in the first round. Their second biggest need was on the defensive line, where they came away with Cornellius Carradine, Corey Lemonier, and Quinton Dial. Carradine and Lemonier are both great pass rushers, while Dial will help stuff the run.
Offensively, San Francisco added a quality receiving tight end in Vance McDonald during the second round and a polished wide receiver in Quinton Patton, who could end up being a steal in the fourth round. Also, their allotment of picks allowed them to take a chance on running back Marcus Lattimore, who could become one of the best backs in the league if he ever gets healthy. From top to bottom, it’s tough not to be impressed with the amount of talent San Francisco added in the draft to an already talented roster.
2. St. Louis – The Rams weren’t as successful as San Francisco in the draft, but they’re still among the best in the league. St. Louis did three things in the draft that stood out: added speed, drafted needs, and got value from their picks. In the speed department, the Rams drafted West Virginia wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who should give the St. Louis offense plenty of speed, especially on their turf field. The Rams also did well to address their needs, taking Austin at wide receiver and Alec Ogletree at linebacker in the first round, and then taking T.J. McDonald at safety with their next pick in the third round, quickly taking care of their three biggest needs.
Finally, the Rams got a lot of value for their picks. Ogletree was far better than the 30th best player available, offensive lineman Barrett Jones is far more valuable than a fourth round pick, and running back Zac Stacy is much better than a fifth round player after being the most consistent runner in the SEC over the past two years. All seven picks the Rams made in this draft were quality selections, significantly improving the makeup of their entire roster and giving them one of the best draft classes in the NFL.
3. Seattle – The Seahawks couldn’t compete with the 49ers and the Rams on this list because they didn’t have a first round pick, but they did have a lot of picks late in the draft, which they used wisely. Without a lot of pressing needs, Seattle was able to pick the best player available much of the time. On the offensive side of the ball they added running backs Christine Michael, one of the most talented backs in the draft, and Spencer Ware, a versatile back with great ball skills. Both players should find roles in Seattle’s offense, as will wide receiver Chris Harper.
Defensively, the Seahawks will add third round pick Jordan Hill and fifth round pick Jesse Williams to their rotation at defensive tackle, and Tharold Simon at cornerback; all three players fit in well with what Seattle is looking for on defense. The Seahawks also used their late-round picks on unknown players from small schools that they hope will pan out. This draft class may not look like much compared to San Francisco and St. Louis, but it’s a solid collection of prospects.
4. Arizona – The Cardinals added plenty of quality players in the draft, but they finish last in the division because of some mistakes they made during the draft. The first mistake was drafting offensive guard Jonathan Cooper when they really needed an offensive tackle. Cooper is a great player and will help them, but he’s not quite what they needed. The second mistake was using their third round pick on Tyrann Mathieu. The Honey Badger won’t help on defense, and so using a third round pick on a player who’s nothing more than a kick returner may not have been a wise choice.
The third mistake was not drafting any defensive backs outside of Mathieu, when the secondary was a huge area of need. On the plus side, linebacker Kevin Minter and defensive end Alex Okafor will both be immediate assets to Arizona’s defense, and the Cardinal’s offense should be helped by running backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington and wide receiver Ryan Swope. However, a few nice picks in the middle and late rounds of the draft don’t make up for a draft full of critical mistakes, and that puts the Cardinals last in this division and among the bottom third in the league as far as the draft is concerned.
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.
Arizona Cardinals, DT Darnell Dockett: To say Dockett’s best days are behind him is a bit of an understatement. He simply hasn’t been the same player since signing his 6 year $56M contract extension with Cardinals in the September of 2010 and is now heading into the more costly years of said contract. His cap hit for this season is set at a ridiculously high $7.7M - not exactly bang for your back. The one thing that could save Dockett is the fact the Cardinals won’t exactly be saving much of that against the cap if they do cut him. At least for the first two years afterwards.
San Francisco 49ers, WR Mario Manningham: Manningham was part of a largely unsuccessful attempt at beefing up San Francisco’s receiving corps, due in large part to injuries, and now could be the odd man out. This offseason the Niners have added Anquan Boldin and will surely look to get last year’s first round pick A.J. Jenkins more snaps. If Jenkins is to get more snaps, they’re going to have to come at somebody’s expense. My money’s on Manningham. If the Niners were to cut Manningham they would save $1.8M against the cap this season, which could land a veteran free agent desperate for work come training camp. If such a move were necessary.
Seattle Seahawks, OG Paul McQuistan: Word coming out of the Seahawks OTAs is that JR Sweezy is taking the first team reps at right guard and that McQuistan is taking the second team reps. This move isn’t all that surprising. Sweezy was given more playing time towards the end of last season and for the most part was impressive. If Seattle can get away with starting Sweezy at right guard, no point keeping McQuistan when you can save $3M against the cap. Could be kept around for depth though.
St.Louis Rams, C Scott Wells: Wells is rarely healthy, and doesn’t play all that well when he is. Combine that with the addition of Barrett Jones through free agency and Wells’ time in St.Louis could be nearing an end.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
Today, we wrap our series on undrafted players that have a chance to make an impact in the NFL. Last, but not least, are the defensive backs that didn’t have their names called in New York, but could be playing on Sunday’s this fall and for years to come:
Adrian Bushell – It was a long and strange journey for Bushell during his college years, starting out at Florida, and then going to junior college, before finishing up at Louisville, and it must have been disappointing for him not to get drafted, but that won’t stop him from playing in the NFL. The main knock on him is that he’s a little undersized, but he has good length to help make up for it, as well as fluid hip movements that allow him to keep up with receivers, even on double moves. He also has good ball skills and a knack for swatting balls away. He can play outside, he can cover slot receivers, and he also does well on blitzes, and plays special teams. All that makes him far too valuable not to be a key contributor for many years in the NFL. He signed with the Raiders, which is a good fit, as they need all they help they can get.
Greg Reid – It’s not surprising that Reid went undrafted after missing last season with an ACL tear. Also, getting kicked out of Florida State for off-field issues didn’t help either. Reid’s far from a sure thing, but when he’s healthy he’s talented enough to contribute to an NFL roster. He’s probably the best kick returner in this year’s class outside of Tyrann Mathieu, while his coverage skills are far less questionable than the Honey Badger. His size will prevent him from starting at corner, but as a nickel back that can cover the slot and be a dynamic kick returner, there will be a spot waiting for him in the NFL if he can get healthy and get his act together.
Melvin White – White is one of the bigger cornerbacks in this year’s draft class, which will help him to defend some of the bigger wide outs in the league. He’s also a physical corner, who is a strong tackler and a big hitter. He fits in best with teams that play press coverage, or teams that drop back into zone, as he can cover a large area with his big frame and make bit hits on receivers. If he doesn’t make it as a cornerback in the NFL, a move to safety should be easy to make because he’s such a good tackler, so there will be a spot for him somewhere in the league. White signed with Carolina, who failed to address the needs in their secondary during the draft, so he’s in a good spot at the start of his career, which will help him establish himself as a reliable player for many years.
Robert Lester – How in the world does a three-year starter on Alabama’s defense go undrafted? Somehow that happened to Lester, who clearly has an NFL body, with size, strength, and a lot of range. He does well to control the middle of the field and is opportunistic when it comes to intercepting errant throws. Lester also isn’t shy about coming up into the box to help in the running game or even blitz the quarterback. He also signed with Carolina, so he should have an opportunity to make a roster as a rookie, and compete for a starting spot. He’s had some problems with inconsistency, but he’s been well taught in college and has the body and skill set to be a good NFL safety.
Ray Ray Armstrong – No one really expected Armstrong to get drafted, but almost no safety that got drafted has his physical abilities. He has the kind of size that few NFL safeties have and he can run and hit as well as any current NFL safety. With Armstrong, it’s just a matter of getting him to stay out of trouble and focus on playing football, which is a lot easier said than done. The St. Louis Rams are going to give him a chance, which is actually a smart low-risk high-reward move for them. The Rams drafted T.J. McDonald in the third round, so they aren’t relying on Armstrong to give them anything, but in the event they can get through to him, they’ll have one heck of a player on their hands.
We all know the story of Victor Cruz, as well as countless other wide receivers that were ignored on draft day, but went on to become significant contributors. Here are some wide receivers from this year’s class that went undrafted, but have the skills to be impact players in the NFL.
Da’Rick Rogers – The Buffalo Bills hit the jackpot when they signed Rogers as an undrafted free agent. Rogers has a wealth of character issues to be concerned about, which is why he was kicked off the team at Tennessee and forced to transfer last season, but Rogers has as much talent as any wide receiver that was drafted in the first three rounds of the draft. He has the size and physical attributes that NFL teams drool over, and if he can get his head on straight and put forth effort and dedication, he could become a starting wide receiver in the league for a long time.
Emory Blake – Blake has NFL genes and stood out in college football’s best conference early in his career, but his team lacked a proficient quarterback late in his career, and the lack of production hurt his stock, which caused him to go undrafted. He has enough size to play outside and enough speed to push the defense vertically, as well as the quickness to be used on short passing routes. That skill set will make Blake a useful fourth or fifth receiver if he’s able to play well on special in order to hold a roster spot. He signed with St. Louis, who appears to be overhauling their corps of wide receivers with the drafting of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Blake is a nice complement to those two receivers, as he can help stretch the field vertically and open up the middle of the field for Austin and Bailey to attack with their speed. This gives Blake an opportunity to not only stay on an NFL roster, but also become an integral part of the Ram’s passing attack.
Alec Lemon – Don’t pay attention to his measurables, just look at his production. Just as he did in high school, all Lemon did in college was catch the ball, breaking Rob Moore’s record for career receptions at Syracuse. He has one of the strongest sets of hands of any wide receiver in this year’s class and will catch anything thrown his way, catching all the close-range fastballs Ryan Nassib threw at him for the past three years. Lemon’s not afraid to go across the middle, which makes him perfect to play the slot position in the NFL. He signed after the draft with the Texans, who have plenty of size on the outside, but need someone to play in the slot, which could make Lemon the perfect fit for them.
Brandon Kaufman – An injury his senior year of high school kept the 6’5’’ Kaufman from playing BCS football and drawing more attention. Even 93 catches for 1,850 yards at Eastern Washington wasn’t enough to get him drafted, but it got him a free agent deal with the Bills, a team that’s in dire need of wide receivers. He’s tall and long with an NFL body, and he knows how to use it in order to catch the football. He’s dangerous in both the red zone and on vertical routes. The things Kaufman lacks like route running are all skills that can be taught by NFL coaches, while Kaufman has a lot of natural ability that can’t be taught, and if he can put the two together he’ll be a starter in the NFL.
Ryan Spadola – Spadola comes from Lehigh and signed with the New York Jets, who could have another Wayne Chrebet on their hands, as Chrebet also came from a small school. He has great pass-catching abilities and a surprising amount of vertical speed. Spadola will probably end up playing the slot, but he has the skills to do a lot of damage from that position and become an impact player.
Maybe I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here, but few things are more fun than making predictions for events that are little under a year away in the world of sports. Maybe I’m just ahead of the curve? Whatever the case, I’m going to hypothetically kickstart the newly drafted rookies careers by projecting who will win each of the two annually awarded honours, courtesy of the Associated Press. Not only will I project the winners of the AP Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year winners, but I’ll even make up an award of the player I deem most likely to be most valuable to his team on special teams. As a rookie. For a look at these bold predictions take a look down yonder.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Terrance Williams: Before you get too skeptical of this selection, you have to remember a lot can be said for opportunities. Williams will get no shortage of those in Dallas. Their offense lives, and more frequently, dies by Tony Romo. That means they are bound to throw the football. A lot. Another thing worth mentioning is that Dallas’ receiver depth is a little suspect and all the more shaky when you take into account the fact that Miles Austin is perpetually injured. If Austin does get hurt, and that’s more or less a question of when, Williams becomes the second best option in the passing game. Expect big things from Williams.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Dion Jordan: Sometimes the obvious pick is the right pick. This one is less obvious than most obvious entities, but by that same token he was the first defensive player taken in the draft. There’s a reason the Dolphins traded up for Jordan. This kid has unreal talent and lining up on the opposite side of Cameron Wake will give him a great chance to show it.
Special Teams Rookie of the Year: Tavon Austin: If you were a little upset about his not getting the offensive rookie of the year award, consider this his consolation prize. Austin is at his best with the football in his hands, and since he’s most likely to be the punt and kick returner for the Rams, he’ll have it in his hands very often. Expect Austin to show up in highlight reels on a nearly weekly basis.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
So the draft is over and the dust has settled. It was one of the more exciting drafts in recent history, to say the least. A lot of trading up and down and some picks that just came way out of left field made for three days of white knuckle television. For a look at some of the best draft performances in those exciting four days and who in my mind is a winner, take a look below.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings found a way to address nearly of all their needs and best of all they did so in the first round. Sharrif Floyd will be an excellent addition to their rotation on the defensive line, Xavier Rhodes will be a week 1 starter and Cordarrelle Patterson could very well become the next Julio Jones. Who needs picks in the second or third round when you have three in the first? Clearly not the Vikings.
Vikings Picks: 23rd Overall DT Sharrif Floyd, 25th Overall CB Xavier Rhodes, 29th Overall WR Cordarrelle Patterson, 120th Overall LB Gerald Hodges, 155th Overall P Jeff Locke, 196th Overall G Jeff Baca, 213th Overall LB Michael Mauti, 214th Overall G Travis Bond, 229th Overall DT Everett Dawkins
St.Louis Rams: The question on everybody’s mind this offseason has been who exactly is Sam Bradford going to throw the ball to after the departure of Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola in free agency. The trade up and subsequent pick of Tavon Austin with the eighth overall pick was a great start and the addition of Stedman Bailey in the third added even more stability at wide receiver. That they were also able to add Alec Ogletree in the first round makes this draft made their weekend nothing short of amazing. Even in the ultra competitive NFC West I have a hard time not considering the Rams as a threat for a Wild Card spot.
Rams Picks: 8th Overall WR Tavon Austin, 30th Overall LB Alec Ogletree, 71st S T.J. McDonald, 92nd Overall WR Stedman Bailey, 113th C Barrett Jones, 149th Overall CB Brandon McGee, 160th Overall RB Zac Stacy
Green Bay Packers: After losing out on the Stephen Jackson sweepstakes I had to think they were going to target running backs in this year’s draft. That they were able to land the two best ones available in the second and fourth round is just great. The much anticipated addition of Datone Jones will also help the Packers get pressure on the quarterback without relying solely on Clay Mathews.
Packers Picks: 26th Overall DE Datone Jones, 61st Overall RB Eddie Lacy, 109th Overall T David Bakhtiari, 122nd C J.C. Tretter, 125th Overall RB Johnathan Franklin, 159th Overall CB Micah Hyde, 167th Overall DT Josh Boyd, 193rd Overall LB Nate Palmer, 216th Overall WR Charles Johnson, 224th Overall WR Kevin Dorsey, 232nd Overall LB Sam Barrington
San Diego Chargers: With only 6 picks in this year’s draft, the Chargers somehow found a way to address nearly all their needs in a big way. The selection of D.J. Fluker with the 11th pick in the draft is just a little bit of a reach, but he was also the best tackle left on the board. Can’t complain about that pick too much. How Keenan Allen was still available in the third round is beyond me, but good on the Chargers for taking advantage of the situation.
Chargers Picks: 11th Overall T D.J. Fluker, 38th Overall LB Manti Te’o, 76th Overall WR Keenan Allen, 145th Overall CB Steve Williams, 179th Overall LB Tourek Williams, 221st Overall QB Brad Sorensen
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
You can’t have a draft without the long and drawn out post-draft evaluation. First, the good; here are 10 teams, in no particular order that made good use of their draft picks last weekend:
Baltimore – The Super Bowl Champions didn’t pick early, but they had a lot of picks and they used them wisely. Baltimore’s two biggest losses in the offseason were Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and they wasted no time replacing them with safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown. Addressing those two needs in the first two rounds was great to see.
Their other eight picks don’t stand out as much, but they added a lot of depth at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which never hurts. Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore could end up being quite a steal in the sixth round and wide receiver Aaron Mellette from little known Elon College could be an interesting guy to watch as well.
St. Louis – The Rams were maybe a little too proactive by trading up to get Tavon Austin, but they clearly wanted him, and drafting him along with his West Virginia teammate Stedman Bailey conjures up memories of “the greatest show on turf” with the amount of speed they added on offense with those two players.
Getting Alec Ogletree 30th overall is going to be a very valuable pick if he’s able to clean up his act and stay out of trouble away from the field. St. Louis was also to take advantage of a deep group of safeties at grab T.J. McDonald in the third round. It’s hard not to like the addition of Barrett Jones, who is extremely valuable with his versatility along the offensive line. Also, don’t sleep on former Vanderbilt running back Vac Stacy, as he was 3rd in the SEC in rushing in 2011 and 5th in 2012.
San Francisco – The 49ers entered the draft with 13 picks, and they made good use of them. The biggest need they had was at safety and they took care of that right away by trading up to take Eric Reid. San Francisco also did well to improve their defensive front with a pair of great pass rushers in Cornellius Carradine and Corey Lemonier, as well as run stuffer Quinton Dial. Linebacker Nick Moody was also a nice pick up late in the draft to help their front seven. In terms of offensive playmakers, the 49ers made some real nice additions as well. With so many picks at their disposal, taking a chance on running back Marcus Lattimore was a brilliant move. They don’t have to rush him back from injury and if he ever returns to full health he can be a difference maker. Wide receiver Quinton Patton didn’t get a lot of publicity, but he’s a great sleeper out of Louisiana Tech. The same goes for Rice tight end Vance McDonald, who will pair up well with Vernon Davis.
Detroit – The Lions were the final team to sneak onto this list, as taking cornerback Darius Slay in the second round, before Mississippi State teammate Johnthan Banks, was a questionable choice, as was going after a punter in the fifth round. But the rest of their draft went well. Ziggy Ansah has a high ceiling at defensive end, and getting Devin Taylor, a seasoned veteran of the SEC, to pair with him was a smart move. They couldn’t find an offensive tackle, but Larry Warford was a real nice pick up at offensive guard, especially in the third round. Detroit couldn’t get Matthew Stafford any game breakers to get the ball to, but the three offensive skill players the Lions found late in the draft should be able to help out. Wide receiver Corey Fuller is a solid pick in the sixth round and versatile running back Theo Riddick could end up being a steal that late in the draft. Alabama tight end Michael Williams should also be a useful player for them going forward.
New York Giants – New York didn’t make a big splash with Justin Pugh in the first round, but if he can stick at left tackle he has the quickness and athleticism to handle some of the quicker pass rushers in the league, and if not he’s still talented enough to start somewhere else along the offensive line. In rounds two, three, and four the Giants got great value with their picks. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive end Damontre Moore both had borderline first-round grades and will help the Giants up front if their pass rushers don’t bounce back from subpar seasons last year. In the fourth round the Giants picked up quarterback Ryan Nassib, who easily could have gone in the first or second round. Nassib is the ideal backup quarterback with a high ceiling to develop into something much more. One area of disappointment is that the Giants didn’t address their secondary early in the draft, although safety Cooper Taylor of Richmond is a big defensive back they took in the fifth round and could become a contributor for them.
Jacksonville – It was disappointing to see the Jaguars not take a quarterback to compete with Blaine Gabbert (especially with Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib falling so far), but the rest of their draft went pretty well. Getting Luke Joeckel will obviously help take some pressure off their quarterback, and the addition of Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson give them a pair of quick and potentially dynamic playmakers, both on offense and special teams. Other than that, Jacksonville was focused on the secondary, which was a big priority for them. John Cyprien was a good pick up for them at the top of the second round and third rounder Dwayne Gratz should start for them right away at cornerback. They also added some depth in the secondary in the late rounds, which was a necessity.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers had a lot of areas to address after a bit of a down year last year and they seemed to have taken care of them all. The first two defensive players they drafted, linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Shamarko Thomas, and both perfect fits. Jones gives them the edge rusher they needed after the departure of James Harrison and Thomas is the kind of physical and hard-nosed safety that they’re going to love in the Steel City. Second round pick Le’Veon Bell is a big and physical running back that is emblematic of the city and fits what the Steelers covet. With Mike Wallace gone at wide receiver, the Steelers picked up Markus Wheaton to give them some speed and Justin Brown to give them some size at that position. Taking Landry Jones in the fourth round was an interesting decision, but he at least gives the Steelers a young quarterback to develop, as well as a quarterback with a lot of experience in college that should be ready to fill in if Ben Roethlisberger has more problems with injuries.
Cincinnati – There’s a lot to like about what the Bengals did in the draft. Tight end Tyler Eifert is a versatile playmaker that will give Andy Dalton another big target to throw to, and sixth rounder Cobi Hamitlon is a nice and underrated addition to their corps of wide receivers. Getting Giovani Bernard in the second round gives Cincinnati the running back they needed, and their offensive line was strengthened by three late-round selections. Defensively, they addressed their biggest need at safety with the addition of hard-hitting safety Shawn Williams in the third round. The Bengals also added a lot of versatility on the outside with defensive end Margus Hunt and linebacker Sean Porter, two guys that should help the defense right away.
Minnesota – The Vikings sacrificed the second and third round to get three first-round picks, and it seemed to work out for them. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes were both guys that could have been top-10 picks and somehow Minnesota managed to get them 23rd and 25th overall respectively, which makes them incredibly valuable picks in addition to being great players that will make an impact for Minnesota’s defense. The Vikings were also lucky to take Cordarrelle Patterson 29th overall, as he has outstanding talent and potential at wide receiver. Those three picks alone give Minnesota one of the best drafts in the league, but they were also able to add depth at positions of need in the late rounds.
Miami – The Dolphins focused on defense early on, and did some really good work on that side of the ball. Trading up for Dion Jordan was a nice move, as it gives them arguably the best pass rusher available. In dire need of cornerback help, Miami picked up two players that could be potential starters for them in Jamar Taylor of Boise State and Will Davis of Utah State. In the fourth round they picked up linebacker Jelani Jenkins, a player that could have been a second round pick with another year in college, so there’s good value there. Miami didn’t do much on offense that stands out, but tight end Dion Sims fits a need and could end up being one of the better tight ends to come out of this draft, running back Mike Gillislee was overlooked by many teams, and place kicker Caleb Sturgis is extremely accurate and should have a nice NFL career.
While it’s a little early to decide winners and losers of this draft only a few days removed, something can be said for the quality of the picks to this point. If it were as simple as picking out the best picks to this point, it would be rather easy. I guess I’d just have to account for the first five picks in the draft. Job done. That’s simply not the case though. In ranking the five best picks I had to take into account the value, organizational need and last but far from least the talent of the player chosen. With all that in mind, here are the five best picks from rounds one, two and three.
1. Sharrif Floyd 23rd Overall Minnesota Vikings
Any time a player that’s projected to go third overall on just about every mock draft that was made for this year’s class drops to the 23 spot, you’re getting some pretty good bang for your draft buck. With Floyd the Vikings were able to add to their already strong defensive line and find an heir apparent to the aging Kevin Williams.
2. Alec Ogletree 30th Overall St.Louis Rams
Were it not for the usual cause of most draft stock drop offs (the infamous off-field issues) Ogletree could have easily gone in the top 15. With the amount of talent at Ogletree’s disposal, you could even have justified a top 10 selection. The addition of Ogletree is the final piece needed at linebacker to make it one of the league’s best.
3. Geno Smith 39th Overall New York Jets
It’s not very often that the best quarterback in the draft falls to the second round and for that reason alone this is a good pick. When you take into account the fact that finding Smith in the second round, rather than reaching for him in the first, allowed them to maximize the value of their two first rounders it becomes clear that this is a steal of a pick.
4. Arthur Brown 56th Overall Baltimore Ravens
I’m not as high on Brown as most are, but this is a steal nonetheless. Most had Brown projected to go in the middle of the first round, not the latter end of the second. That and the fact that this pick fills a positional need following the departure of Dannell Ellerbe in free agency and Ray Lewis in free agency makes this a great pick.
5. Eddie Lacy 61st Overall Green Bay Packers
If you’re noticing a recurring theme here, it’s that a lot of great pickups were made as a result of unexplainable drops in draft stock in days one and two. Count Lacy among the strangest drops of them all. Going into this draft it seemed like there was some consensus that he was the best running back to be found. 60 picks, 3 of which were running backs, later and Lacy finds his home in Green Bay. He’s no Stephen Jackson, but then again he’s also a hell of a lot younger.
You can follow J.D. Burke @JDBurkeOV
It has been nearly two decades since the Raiders and Rams left Los Angeles. In recent years any team that has been in a squabble with their hometown about facilities or support has been rumored to be considering their options in regards to relocating their franchise.
Last week Texas governor Rick Perry told UT San Diego that if the Chargers faced major problems at home, San Antonio would love to have them. While LA still has no facility for an NFL team to move into, speculation continues that much like the Staples Center, a stadium to house multiple teams could be constructed. If the City of Angels is on the market for a team or two, and San Antonio wants a franchise, unless the NFL expands, where will these teams relocate from?
The three oldest stadiums in the league are non-starters when it comes to a franchise moving. Soldier Field was renovated 10 years ago and the Bears are not leaving Chicago. The Packers are owned by Green Bay residents, Lambeau Field is historic in every way and has been upgraded recently, plus their support is as great as any team in the league. Candlestick Park has been a dump since it opened in 1960, but it does not matter since the 49ers are moving into a new stadium south of San Francisco in 2014.
Seventeen NFL stadiums have been built since 1997. The group includes new facilities in Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Baltimore. They are three cities that know something about franchise relocation. That trio of teams is a clear warning sign to other fan bases, if your owner has a wondering eye, and you don't step up to the plate, your team can move, sometimes under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night.
If we take Carolina and Minneapolis off our possible list of departing teams since each city recently committed to spend enough cash to keep their franchises, the list of squads poised to move narrows to nine. Kansas City has supported a mediocre franchise for a long time, and improvements to Arrowhead Stadium ensure that the Chiefs will remain in Missouri. That leaves three domes that need work, four old stadiums in dire need of improvements, and the Jaguars who need support.
New Orleans, St. Louis, and Atlanta all have out-of-date domes. The Superdome is the oldest and in the most need of repair (did you watch the Superbowl?). The Edward Jones Dome seems closest to replacing though political squabbles in St. Louis continue. The Falcons seem somewhat happy with the Georgia Dome and the stadium's owner has begun to look at the possibility of rebuilding it.
Two Florida teams, Miami and Jacksonville, have issues. The Dolphins problem is a franchise that has consistently struggled since Dan Marino retired in 1999, and the largest upper bowl of any NFL stadium. Having a lot of non-premium seats and a mediocre product is not good in a 25 year old stadium. The Jags have also been weak on the field, the fan base seems apathetic, and when the Super Bowl was held there in 2005 there was widespread criticism of the city.
Three old AFL teams also need a new home. Buffalo, San Diego, and Oakland have all been well supported at one time or another, but have problems. All three are in smaller NFL markets, each team has had success but not recently, and they all play in old out-of-date facilities. They are ripe for the picking. Each has been rumored to be on the move, and any or all could depart.
Of the eight possibilities, some of the cities will step up and support a new stadium. Others will wait out the life span of an aging owner, or hope to hit the lottery with a player that brings life to the team and brings the fans back to fully support the franchise. Cities that do not step up will continue to be vulnerable to Los Angeles, San Antonio, or somebody else swooping in and luring their team to a new city.
If you are a fan of a bad franchise, it usually means decades of anguish. The Golden State Warriors, and Pittsburgh Pirates, and Buffalo Sabres just never win. Sure, there was that one time they did before you were born, or an occasion when they were so close, but then Latrell Spreewell choked the coach, or Brett Hull scored with his foot in the crease, and the rest is history.
The beauty of the NFL is the ability to go from really bad to competitive or even great in a matter of a few years. Carolina went 1-15 under George Seifert, two years later John Fox had them in the Super Bowl. The Niners stunk, Jim Harbaugh arrived, bingo. In 2013 look out for the St. Louis Rams.
Washington, Indianapolis, and Seattle were all surprise playoff teams in 2012. Two year ago San Francisco, the Tim Tebow led Broncos, and Cincinnati were all upset playoff qualifiers. As we look ahead to 2013, why not St. Louis?
When Jeff Fisher took over the Houston Oilers the team was 2-14. As an interim coach he went 1-5 during the final stages of 1994. After drafting Steve McNair, the team improved to 7-9 in his first full season. After three years at .500, in 1999, having moved from Houston to Tennessee, the franchise put together back-to-back 13-3 campaigns.
In his first year with the Rams, Fisher stumbled to a 3-6-1 start before finishing the year 4-2. They beat three playoff teams and went 1-0-1 against the NFC Champion 49ers. During the opening 10 weeks of the season the Rams scored just over 17 points a game while allowing nearly 24 points per contest. In the final six weeks they yielded 18.5 points a game while tallying nearly 21 points a ballgame. St. Louis went from 2-14 in Steve Spagnuolo's final season, to 7-6-1 in Fisher's first year. Two years ago the Rams faced the toughest schedule in the league. Last year St. Louis played the third most difficult slate in the NFL.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is not yet a star, but neither was Joe Flacco until this year's playoffs. Bradford was fair as a rookie n 2010 passing for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns while being intercepted 15 times. He took a step backwards in an injury plagued 2011 campaign. Under Fisher he threw for a career best 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns, and his 6.72 yards per completion were by a wide margin the best of his career.
Bradford should be working with a lot more talent in 2013. St. Louis already added wide receiver Titus Young, and are said to be negotiating with their talented but frequently injured top target Danny Amendola. While Amendola is a free agent, because he has missed 20 games the last two seasons due to injury, it shouldn't break the bank to retain him. That being said, when healthy, Young and Amendola are the best tandem Bradford has ever had to pass to.
Because of last season's trade with Washington, the Rams are armed with two first round draft picks this year and next. The Redskins got Robert Griffin III, and St. Louis is now well positioned to improve their most pressing areas of need immediately.
In Fisher's first season the Rams went 4-1-1 against arguably the best division in the NFL. With an extra first round pick, an improved receiving core, and time to assess and address the squads largest needs, if Bradford turns the corner St. Louis should have the supporting cast to contend.