As we slowly but surely move through this year’s NFL playoffs, less fortunate teams that weren’t able to make the cut this time around get another chance to do right by their fans with the looming draft. After all, when you’re at the helm of a franchise that couldn’t make the postseason and are desperately seeking something to rejuvenate your fan base with, few things are as efficient at pumping up the ticketholders as shiny new rookies that you can hang your hopes and dreams on.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the teams with picks Nos. 6-10 will do. The second five picks of every NFL draft are always fascinating because once you’re out of the top five, you typically feel less pressure to do things you don’t want to do. Whereas teams that have picks Nos. 1-5 constantly have to walk a tightrope between getting the player they want and not taking anyone too high, the second five generally have more room to operate. The lone exception to this rule is when a quality player experiences an Aaron Rodgers-esque drop in the draft. At that point, all bets are off.
Here is how picks Nos. 6-10 should turn out:
6. Washington Redskins – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. Clearly the Redskins could use a quality quarterback here, but the likelihood of Robert Griffin III slipping all the way down to this point is slim. Mind you, this is where the fact that Matt Barkley and Landry Jones decided to stay in school starts to come into play. Trent Richardson will probably still be on the board at this spot, but running back isn’t a major need for Washington right now. The Redskins can either boost their offensive line, or they can fill out their biggest defensive weakness at cornerback. I’m betting on the latter. Kirkpatrick is one of the two best corners who will still be on the board by the sixth pick, and he’ll make for a nice addition to Washington’s secondary.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DE, UNC. The Jags have too many holes to count. Fortunately, the blueprint for winning in the AFC South has been created by the Houston Texans. Fill the holes on the defensive line, have young and athletic guys who can pressure the Peyton Manning/Andrew Lucks of the world, and then build your offense through free agency. Coples fills a major need, he’ll be a good piece to build around for years to come, and he’ll most likely fall right into this team’s lap at No. 7. The maturity concerns won't amount to a sack of beans come draft day.
8/9. Miami Dolphins – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. The Dolphins need a number of things too, but they don’t need them as desperately as the Jags do. There is a lot of talk about Miami doing something crazy in an effort to move up to No. 1 and nab Andrew Luck but, at this point, it’s all rumor. Given how disastrous the squad currently is at right tackle, shoring up the offensive line seems to make a lot of sense. Reiff is a stud, and he'll help out regardless of who the quarterback is next year.
8/9. Carolina Panthers – Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford. The Panthers have a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball, but appeasing Cam Newton is priority No. 1 in Carolina right now. In an effort to keep their guy from having a sophomore slump, you have to figure they’ll load up the offensive line with sturdy, reliable pieces. Martin is a beast and a consummate professional. He’ll be great as a much-needed replacement for the always-hurt Jeff Otah, and someone the team will be able to count on for years to come.
10. Buffalo Bills – Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama. The Bills have a porous offensive line and Jonathon Martin would be perfect here if the Panthers decide to let him drop. Since they probably won’t, though, look for Buffalo to shore up the team’s other big need at outside linebacker. Upshaw has proven to be great against the rush and good enough at pass rushing. Some question how he’ll do when offensive lineman stand him up in the pros, but his hard-hitting nature and smart way of playing should silence the doubters relatively quickly.