Some Offseason Updates

Every offseason brings some weird stories but this year. With all the coaching changes and what was possibly the most analysed draft of all time, due to the lack of an elite quarterback and the presence of Manti Te’o (No-one’s quite sure if his girlfriend is moving to San Diego as well,) this offseason has set a new bar for crazy. So here are quick highlights of some of the strange goings on as we head into a new NFL season.

Everything Eagles.

Everyone knew Chip Kelly was going to bring something new to the NFL, but no-one was really expecting the weird combination of protein shakes and Nicki Minaj filling practices during the OTAs. However, perhaps one of the stranger stories involves potential starting quarterback Michael Vick. When the hiring of Chip Kelly was announced, every NFL fan felt this was Vick’s second, second chance as his ability as a dual threat quarterback seemed like a perfect fit. One big problem though was Vick’s problem with turnovers, particularly fumbles. Then Vick said something that shocked the world in an interview by revealing the Chip Kelly taught him how to hold a football properly when running. How have 2 teams and a head coach as experiences as Andy Reid not addressed this problem earlier? Vick’s path to the starting job is far from easy but if he can prove he isn’t a liability to turn the ball over, he could have a big year.

Flynn losing to Wilson again?

Two times in the last two seasons Flynn has entered a season as the presumptive starter. Last year however he lost out to third round pick Russell Wilson, and this year he may lose out to another Wilson. Tyler Wilson was apparently the star performer at the Oakland Raiders mini-camp and speculation is mounting that if he keeps this pace up he may start ahead of Flynn come week 1. Don’t expect history to repeat itself though, personally I would be shocked if Flynn doesn’t start in the first game of the season but if he fails to deliver better quarterback play than Carson Palmer immediately he may wind up spending another season holding a clip-board.

Madden geek goes in the first round.

Now, I would never call Bjorn Werner a geek to his face, but how often do you hear of players who haven’t played in the pee-wee, high-school and college systems going in the first round. Usually NFL players learn the game from a very young age and while Werner had spent time practicing in Germany before his collegiate career, when asked he admitted he picked up most of what he knows from playing Madden. Now Werner will get the chance to play alongside one of his idols, and if the real game proves as easy to come to terms with as Madden, I may declare for the 2014 NFL draft as a running back!

Now this final story isn’t exactly a strange one but it’s my attempt to comfort any Patriots fans out there who have watched their team’s receiving unit erode this offseason and now face the prospect of Gronk needing more surgery.

Tom Brady’s feeling it.

When Tom Brady comes out and says he’s throwing the ball better than ever before teams all over the league start to worry. Just when it seemed like New England was starting to slip back in terms of offensive talent, the team’s best player is hitting peak form and it’s only May. Sure there’s always the chance he’ll regress a bit before the season starts but it’s probably more likely that the Indianapolis Colts trade Andrew Luck to the Jaguars for Blaine Gabbert and a 7th round pick. Te 13 teams playing the Patriots this year had better be doing everything they can to get their defences sharp.
As usual if you think I’ve missed out on a story that’s shocked you get commenting, or even better attack me on twitter at @aldworth_barry!

Draft Day Trades

So after having my old twitter account hacked I’ve been forced to set up a new one aldworth_barry, so for random musings, sports tid-bits and whatever else comes into my head follow me. Now onto more pressing matters! With less than 7 days to the 2013 NFL Draft, rumours are beginning to circulate of teams looking to make trades to either move up the board, or surprisingly the more common option this year, move down. As John Elway pointed out, this year’s draft doesn’t have many stand out players, but it does have plenty of depth. So when you’re considering your own draft predictions, take these possible trades into account.

Oakland Raiders: Down from No. 3

The Raiders are where the Indianapolis Colts were last season, in a re-building phase. However this year is one of the worst years in a long time to have a top draft pick, and with so many holes on their roster I expect Oakland to trade down for some extra picks. The big question though is whether any team will be interested in trading up this year, and even if the Raiders do find a partner the trade will be nowhere near the level of the RGIII trade from last year’s draft. One potential partner could be the Chargers who seem desperate to get one of this year’s top 3 left tackles. Trading up should leave San Diego with a choice between Fisher & Johnson, both of whom could become a better player than consensus top pick, Luke Joeckel.

San Francisco 49ers: Up from 31

With so many picks in this year’s draft, the 49ers will likely trade up in multiple rounds. San Francisco doesn’t have many holes on the roster, but in last year’s Superbowl the secondary was shown up. Combine this with the negative press that Chris Culliver seems to court and the 49ers are desperate for a cornerback or a safety. If the 49ers do trade up in the first round I would expect Miami to be the partner. Miami needs a tackle but at number 12 will likely miss out on the one of top 3. Sure they could trade up, but if the Dolphins move down they will likely be able to take Fluker or Watson with the 31st pick and address the cornerback concerns with pick 34.

Indianapolis Colts: Down from 24

The Colts have been one of the most difficult teams to mock a pick for this year as most of their areas of need received a fix, albeit in some cases only a temporary one, in free agency. Indianapolis is running quite low on picks this year and would love to turn their first round pick into a late first and a second or possibly two seconds. Colts fans by and large would love for the team to pick up Offensive Line star Barrett Jones, but pick 24 is too high to take the injury prone player and he likely will not be available by pick 86. If the 49ers can’t make a trade with the Dolphins they could turn to the Colts, but this will likely be a difficult pick to shop.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 13th Pick for Darrelle Revis

While this trade seems to be on ice for the moment, come draft day I expect the Jets and Bucs to get it done. Ultimately the Jets will have to realise that they need to take what they can get now for a player who will otherwise leave in the 2014 Free Agency. Revis’ comeback is going well and a trade here would also suit the Jets who could strike luck twice and see Geno Smith fall to the 9th pick and then take Revis’ replacement with the 13th.

 

Cleveland Browns: Down from 6th

Browns’ fans are desperate for the team to take Dee Milliner. However with no second round pick, a trade opportunity may come up which the Browns cannot refuse. The Cardinals, Bills and Jets are all being licked to Geno Smith (despite the Cards and Bills signing Palmer and Kolb) and if the Browns can entice one of these teams to make a trade they could pick up an early second rounder and still get Dee Milliner as their cornerback for the next ten plus years.

Mocking anything to do with the draft, be it picks or trades, is difficult for anyone outside of a team’s front office. However with such a deep level of talent this year numerous teams will be looking to trade down. Think I’ve missed something or gotten something wrong, well then get commenting and let me know. And if you really want to argue with me then follow aldworth_barry on twitter!!

 

The “Sophomore Slump”

Following their first year in the NFL, most players are forced to contend with what’s become known as the Sophomore Slump. No. 1 overall picks and 7th rounders who just make the roster alike, when NFL teams gain more film on you it is very difficult to continue producing. Despite this certain players break the mould and truly break out in their second year so which players from the 2012 Draft Class have this potential.

Michael Floyd WR Arizona Cardinals
For the first time since Kurt Warner, the Cardinals have a quarterback who can put together some good plays. Carson Palmer is not perfect but he’s a big improvement on the Kolb/Skelton/Lindley combination from last year. While most people think that Larry Fitzgerald will benefit most from the Palmer trade, Michael Floyd could be a big surprise this year. Unlike Fitzgerald he won’t be dealing with double coverage too often so while his stats may not match Fitzgerald’s, expect Floyd to greatly improve on his rookie campaign

David Wilson RB New York Giants
With Ahmed Bradshaw gone, Wilson should assume the role of number 1 running back for the Giants. Unlike Richardson, Morris and Martin, Wilson did not get the majority of snaps last year meaning NFL teams will have less film on him. Wilson has already shown great explosiveness in the return game and if he can transfer those abilities into the Giants backfield New York could return to the playoffs.

Justin Blackmon WR Jacksonville Jaguars
Blackmon was definitely a contender for the title of Bust from last year’s class as he only began to break out in his last few games. However as he settles into his new role, Blackmon will likely see this form continue. However, while his stats can’t fall too far realistically, his ability to exceed in 2013 will largely fall on who’s throwing him the ball. If Gabbert is given one more year, Blackmon may have to wait til 2014 to live up to his potential.

Bruce Irvin DE Seattle Seahawks
Bruce Irvin is far from being the complete NFL player, but in 2012 he outdid what most pundits felt he could achieve in his rookie season. With more time to practice and gain experience, Irvin could become an every down player as opposed to a pass rush specialist. If he can achieve this everyone who questioned his first round selection will be forced to eat their words.

T.Y. Hilton WR Indianapolis Colts
Hilton is probably the biggest question mark on this list, as most writers believe that the Colts signing of DHB will relegate Hilton to a lesser role in the offence. However Hilton has always been at his best in the slot and with the new offense that Indy will be using this year, things are looking up for Hilton. While the West Coast system favours short passes, Hilton has the ability to turn quick passes into big gains. Reggie Wayne won’t be around forever and Hilton could use this year to stake his claim as Wayne’s potential successor.

While much of the “Sophomore Slump” attention will focus on the big names of 2012 such as Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson, these 5 players have the potential to slip under the rade while putting together a big 2nd year campaign. Got any opinions on players who’ll struggle or succeed in their second year? Then get commenting!

2013 NFL Draft Shocks

Tyler Eifert and Manti Te'o

Every year the NFL Draft throws up some surprises. We’ve seen 6th round guys become greats of the games and sure things flame out almost as quickly as they arrived. The Draft is many things but predictable is not one of them. With that said what are the potential shocks we could witness between the 25th and 27th of April.

Chance Warmack is not the first guard off the board.

Throughout the pre-draft build up many people, myself included, have claimed that Warmack is the best player in this year’s draft. Fact is, if he was as dominant at any other position he’d be a sure thing for the number 1 pick. However despite his talent, Jonathan Cooper may have his name called ahead of Warmack because of one funny little word, upside. Not only does Cooper’s athleticism make him a better fit for many NFL schemes, many scouts have reported that while Warmack is the better prospect now, Cooper may be the better long term pick. A number of teams need an offensive guard this year so both will likely be off the board in round one. However Warmack’s position as the top guard in the class is not as safe as many would think.

Buffalo Bills don’t take a QB in the first 2 rounds.

GM Buddy Nix has repeatedly stated that the team will aim to find their qb of the future in this year’s NFL draft. Only problem is, we’ve heard all this from Nix before. Having recently signed Kevin Kolb it’s much more likely that the Bills take a QB in the later rounds of the draft and wait for a better talent crop next year. The Bills have big needs all over the field but don’t rule them out as a contender for one of the 2 previously mentioned guards. Cooper would be the better fit here, and having lost Andy Levitre in free agency, the Bills will need to find their future quarterback some protection. Especially if it’s the ultra brittle Kolb.

Manti T’eo falls to the second round.

T’eo impressed at his pro day by managing to take a tenth of a second off his 40 time, something which many fans believe has assured his status as a first round pick. Chicago, Minnesota & Baltimore could all use an inside line backer but speed wasn’t the only question mark over T’eo’s head coming into this year’s draft. Coverage is a central part of the position and T’eo’s are average at best. Ogletree, Minter and Brown are all far better in coverage than T’eo and this may be enough to push him into the second round.

Geno Smith isn’t drafted in the top 10.

This one may seem a little out there but given the number of qb trades occurring in the NFL at the moment, most of the teams who we assumed would be going after a quarterback in round 1 may leave the position until round 2. Arizona and Oakland were the most likely teams to take Smith, but it seems that Oakland will attempt to move forward with Matt Flynn and should his trade go through Arizona could pounce on Carson Palmer. The Eagles and the Jets could still take Smith if he falls to them, but it appears Geno’s two most likely suitors have asked someone else to the dance.

A running back is taken in the first round.

Most mock drafts contend that none of this year’s running backs carry a first round grade. However you will have to go all the way back to 1963 to find a back-less first round. While there are no sure-thing talents at the position, team needs may force Green Bay or Denver to take a second glance at Eddie Lacy or Giovani Bernard come draft day.

Very few things in the NFL are predictable and many of this year’s draft class will learn this the hard way. One mistake, one fault, one piece of information can ruin a player’s draft stock (Such as Chris Polk last year who went from 1st rounder to undrafted.) or drastically change a team’s draft selection. All of the suggestions I made here could happen, or none of them could but on April 25th something will occur that will make the Footballing word, in unison, go “Huh!”

JaMarcus Russell on the comeback trail?

Given the weak quarterback group in this year’s draft class, it’s a good time to be a free agent qb. However one of the more interesting stories from this year’s offseason is that Jamarcus Russell is attempting a return to the NFL. BleacherReport has been following Russell’s comeback attempt and their videos appear to show a player with a new found love for the game and a drive to return. However will a team be willing to take a shot on the “biggest” draft bust of all time? What are the challenges facing Russell? What are the odds that the one time LSU star Quarterback will get one more chance to live up to his potential?

Having watched the videos the major problem for Russell right now is his weight. This comeback attempt came about due to Russell’s belief that he could work well in a read option style system, however when he began the return practices, he looked more like an offensive lineman that a quarterback. As time has progressed Russell has shed some of the weight but in the latest video it looks like he still has a long way to go. However weight issues are not the only problems Russell is facing. Despite the work of Jeff Garcia, Russell is still turning his body too much when making throws to the right. This will be a major warning sign for NFL teams as they need to know that not only can their quarterback make all the necessary throws but also that he can disguise who his target is until the last minute.  Accuracy was always a big problem for Russell in his NFL days and that problem still remains. While the balls are leaving his hands with plenty of zip they are very often underthrown, thrown too high or just off target. Of course with the length of time that exists until Russell’s pro day there is still plenty of time for Garcia to fix this. Also it has been reported that Larry Fitzgerald will be on hand for Russell’s pro day and if anyone can make this one time college star look good, Fitzgerald can.  However even if all these problems are solved, will there be even a market for Russell? After all, following his abysmal first attempt to play professionally Russell burned a lot of bridges and given his failed comeback attempts in the past he will face a huge amount of questions about his commitment.

If Russell can continue to progress like he has been so far and is able to prove that he can stay the course than I guarantee some team will take a shot on him. Don’t expect it to be a starter but some team will bring him in as a back up and who knows, maybe in time he will get a chance to start. So what teams could be in the market for Russell.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills recently released Ryan Fitzpatrick and announced that an open competition would be held for the Quarterback position. The team will likely select a qb in the Draft (My prediction is for them to take Ryan Nassib in the second or third round) but they will likely be looking for someone to come in and test the rookie. Russell could find a role for himself in this competition but I feel it is more likely to see Ryan Nassib/Geno Smith or Matt Barkley as the number one quarterback in Buffalo next year, possibly backed up by someone like Jason Campbell.

New York Jets: The Jets are, for the moment anyway, the only team who have publically expressed some sort of an interest in Russell. Seemingly anyone who even knows how to spell quarterback is in with a shot for the starting job in New York as the team begins to move away from Mark Sanchez. With 5 qbs already on the roster it is unlikely that a 6th is added, but with Tim Tebow likely on the way out don’t be surprised if Russell is invited in on, at least for a trial run.

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians loves guys who can throw the ball a long way. This coupled with the fact that there is no clear starting quarterback in Arizona will at least give Russell a shot here. However whether he is invited in for a trial run or not will likely be decided by his pro day. This franchise will do whatever it can to keep star player Larry Fitzgerald happy. (As seen by the drafting of Michael Floyd last year) With Fitzgerald committed to playing wide receiver for Russell’s pro day, Russell will have one more man to impress. If he can get Fitzgerald to believe in him, it may be enough for Fitzgerald to whisper in the ears of the right people in Arizona. This team was reduced to asking reporters if they could play qb last season so don’t rule them out as a potential bidder for Russell.

Russell still has a lot of bridges to cross if he’s to return to the NFL. However the high number of qb hungry teams coupled with the weak draft class will likely lead to him being brought in somewhere, at least for a work out. Russell has all the tools to be a good quarterback, the question that still remains however, is if he can actually use them!

NFL Combine 2013 Summary

Every year 32 NFL teams face the same problem after the Combine. How do you differentiate between an elite prospect and a workout warrior? Matt Jones, Vernon Gholston and Tye Hill are just a few examples of players who showed up at the combine but not really anywhere else. So what exactly did we learn from the 2013 NFL Combine.

Geno Smith might actually suit any offence!

Smith showed off a surprising level of speed in his 40 yard dash while also separating himself from the rest of the QB crop. Don’t count on him going number 1 however as reports broke that the Chiefs are actively seeking a trade with the 49ers for Alex Smith. Geno Smith will likely be the first quarterback selected but he will still be on the board by the time the Oakland Raiders pick.

Honey Badger no more!

Tyrann Mathieu has had more than his fair share of off the field problems. Had he avoided these we would be talking about him as a first round pick. Instead prior to the combine many felt the Honey Badger wouldn’t be drafted. However, despite a poor bench press performance Mathieu showed that he belongs in the NFL. While he may no longer wish to be known as the Honey Badger, his solid speed and safe hands will lead to someone taking him but it won’t be before the 3rd round. In the right system he could become one of the steals of the draft. Look for Mathieu to get consideration from the Colts, Buccaneers and Falcons in the third or fourth rounds.

Wide Receivers for everyone!

While this draft is severely lacking a top quarterback, the wide receiver class is amongst the best we’ve seen in years. While Allen was unable to work out at the combine he will still draw some consideration on day one of the draft but will likely have to wait until day two to hear his name called. However while Allen will likely wait, Tavon Austin may have cemented his place as a first round pick. This draft class is not short of elite speed with Austin, Goodwin and Ryan Swope so it’s a good year to need a field stretching wide receiver.

Barkley sneaks back into round 1??

A lot of people have been disappointed with Matt Barkley this year. While no one could question his character, his production on the field left much to be desired. However the Arizona Cardinals have fallen in love with Barkley and if he can deliver on his pro day he may find himself off the board in the top 10 picks. Will he be the next Kurt Warner? Well that remains to be seen but he can’t be worse than the Kolb-Skelton-Lindley-Hoyer combo that started throughout the 2012 season.

Let the negotiations begin!

While the combine is meant to be all about the college players, it also serves as an arena for contract negotiations between teams and agents. While at least two teams made inquiries about Alex Smith, it was the Ravens and Joe Flacco’s agent who got the negotiation ball rolling. It is unlikely that Flacco leaves in free agency but the main question which exists is; will he get tagged or will he get elite money?

Star Lotulelei: What happens now?

Many aspects of the combine are horrible for the players to go through. Players have their sexuality, drug use, family history and basically everything questioned. And that’s before the true prodding of the medical exam starts. However this year the medical exam, instead of diagnosing a damaged ligament or tendon may well have saved a life. While it remains to be seen if Lotulelei will ever be able to step onto the field in an NFL game, this diagnosis has likely prevented the worst case scenario of Lotulelei dying on the pitch from an undiagnosed condition.

These are not the only stories which emerged from the NFL combine and over the next few weeks I’m going to be putting together a post combine mock draft. With free agency and pro days still to come before draft day many players will likely see their stock rise, fall and even rise again but get commenting or tweeting and let us know what you thought of the 2013 NFL Combine!

UPDATE: Reports are breaking that an unofficial deal between the Chiefs and 49ers for Alex Smith. The deal can’t be official until March 12th when Free agency begins but it seems certain now that Smith will get a fresh start, Geno Smith won’t be the number one pick and that Luke Joeckel will likely go number one to protect the Chiefs’ newest acquisition.

Who’ll be the Number 1 Pick in the 2013 Draft

In the build up to last year’s NFL draft there were only 2 possible choices for the number 1 pick. However as time progressed, and following RGIII’s decision to decline an interview with the Colts, the speculation faded out until it ultimately disappeared. 2013 is proving to be totally different however as each week seems to bring us a new possible number one pick. While Matt Barkley was originally projected to be the number 1 pick following his decision to return to school, his chances are now negligible with many claiming he will still be available in the second round. We now know that the Kansas City Chiefs will pick first but who they will take is still in question. So who are the contenders for the number one pick and how likely are they to be off the board first.

Tyler Wilson. Quarterback. Arkansas
Wilson has emerged as a shock number one pick on many mock drafts due to a belief that he will suit Andy Reid’s offence much more than Geno Smith. I do believe this is true but Wilson is a 2nd round prospect at best and the Chief’s would be much better off taking an offensive line player with the 1st pick and then taking Wilson in the 2nd round, or maybe even taking a shot that he’ll still be available in round 3.

No. 1 Chance: 5% Wilson is a better leader than Smith is but if the Chiefs take him here they will be wasting the number one pick on a second round talent. If they like Wilson so much then use the number 1 slot to find him some protection.

Geno Smith. Quarterback. West Virginia
Having been forced to watch Matt Cassell and Brady Quinn pretend to be quarterbacks the fans in Kansas City were originally crying out for the team to take Smith. While Smith is, for the time being anyway, the top quarterback in this class he is far from being the elite prospect that both Luck and RGIII were last year. While his short throws and accuracy stand out, his struggles with the deep ball will be a source of discontent among scouts. A good combine performance and Smith could find his way back to the number one spot but at the moment the gap between Smith and the round 2 quarterbacks is too little for Kansas City to justify taking him with the number one Pick.

No. 1 Chance: 10% Smith will go in the top 10 but the lack of a gap in standard between him and the likes of Barkley and Nassib will prevent him going number 1.

Chance Warmack. Guard. University of Alabama
Guards usually don’t go in the top 10 let alone go as the first pick but the more tape I watch the more it shines through that Warmack is the best player in this year’s draft. Sure Alabama had an all star offensive line which took some pressure of Warmack but he was absolutely dominant. If Kansas are smart the team should be looking at fixing its offensive line with this pick and find their quarterback in free agency or even the later rounds of the draft. Warmack is a player who can start from day one and dominate but ultimately the position he plays will lead to him being unlikely to wind up in Kansas City.

No. 1 Chance: 20% Best player in the draft by a good distance but Chiefs’ fans will riot if the team “wastes” the number one pick on a guard.

Eric Fisher. Tackle. Central Michigan.
Like I said when discussing Wilson the team would be best served finding some O Line players with the first pick and then finding their qb in later rounds or free agency. While the Chiefs may be unlucky with the crop of qbs available this year, the offensive tackle group is the best it has been in a long time. Eric Fisher shot up most draft boards with a big senior bowl week and if he continues that pace at the combine may climb all the way to the number one slot.

No. 1 Chance: 25% Fisher is the second best tackle in the draft at the moment but with a big combine performance could easily find himself being taken number 1.

Luke Joeckel. Tackle. Texas A&M
In the last few weeks Joeckel has fallen down in some mock drafts, with some feeling he may not even go in the top 10. At the moment I don’t believe this and I feel Joeckel will use the combine to cement his standing as the number 1 pick. While Joeckel may not have all the tools that Matt Kalil had when entering the draft last year but he is a far more polished and safer pick. Unless one of the previous 4 players step up big time at the combine Joeckel will be the first player to hear his name called on April 25th.

No.1 Chance: 40% Joeckel faces some stiff competition but with no elite quarterback available this year the Chiefs should take a Joeckel-Wilson duo with their first and second round picks.

With the combine still to go all this could change drastically. Players can climb and fall down boards based on one poor performance or interview. If you feel I left someone out leave a comment and tell me who you think the Chiefs should take.

Post Senior Bowl 1st Round Draft Preview

To the winner go the spoils, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. However the only downside to winning the SuperBowl is the fact that you wind up picking at the bottom of each round of the draft. What’s even worse is if you lose in the SuperBowl, no silverware, no glory and still you have to pick at the bottom of every round. With the Senior Bowl, the first of the pre draft preparations, now said and done I’m going to offer my views on what each team should do with their first round pick. With the Combine and various pro days still to come players have to chance to climb into and drop out of the first round, so this piece is only step one on what is still a long journey.

1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel OT
With this draft class devoid of a true franchise quarterback, many teams will look towards veteran qbs in free agency. The best case scenario for this Chiefs team would be to sign a veteran Michael Vick, or Alex Smith who seems to be on his way out of San Francisco. If the team is unable to pull off a big signing, they would be best served by taking Joeckel on day 1 and following this up by taking Tyler Wilson or the next best qb available on day 2.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bjorn Werner DE
While it seems as if Tebow won’t be returning to Florida in free agency, I don’t see the Jaguars going with Smith here. Frankly by not playing in the Senior Bowl Smith missed out on a great chance to separate himself from the rest of the pack. Instead Jacksonville will fill its next biggest need and take someone who can get to the quarterback. Not only can Werner get the sack but he can also break up plays by getting his hands on the ball. Werner could, in time, become a poor man’s J.J. Watt, hopefully though with less Justin Bieber concerts.

3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei NT
Given that most of Carson Palmer’s yardage this year came when the Raiders were well and truly beaten, the team could go quarterback here. However I think those garbage time stats will save Palmer’s job for one more year and instead the Raiders will seek to shore up their run defence. Lotulelei, however, can make the plays in the passing game also, so think of him as Ndamukong Suh, but with less groin kicking.

4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fisher OT
Fisher’s position this high in the draft is far from secure but if he can continue the form he showed at the Senior Bowl, some feel he may even go before Joeckel. The Eagles would have been hoping for either Joeckel or Werner to be available here but in Fisher they get a player who can start from day one and will simply get better over time.

5. Detroit Lions: Damontre Moore DE
The Lions could go two ways here. Either they take Moore or they take the best cornerback this draft has to offer in Dee Milliner. With Avril likely to leave in Free Agency and Vanden-Bosch getting old, Moore will fill the larger need for this team and also bring some youth into their aging defensive line.

6. Cleveland Browns Jarvis Jones OLB
It looks as if the Brandon Weeden experiment will get one more year. The Browns’ front office have said they will bring in some competition, but competition isn’t exactly what you spend a first round pick on, especially with so many qbs likely to be available early on day two. Jarvis Jones fills the next biggest need for this team and gives them a quality pass rusher. Jones is a big risk due to his Spinal Stenosis, but the Browns aren’t adverse to taking risks in the draft. If the Browns can’t get pass Jones’ health problems Dee Milliner will likely go here giving the Browns the second cornerback they need.

7. Arizona Cardinals: Geno Smith QB
While the offensive line in Arizona needs some major help, new head coach Bruce Arians will be looking for a qb with a big arm to allow the offence to stretch the field. Arians loves passing the ball deep, and isn’t overly worried about letting the quarterback take some hits. Also as we saw last year, Larry Fitzgerald seemingly has a big say in who the Cardinals drafts and given that his talents are not being best used in Arizona, he will push this team to take a quarterback here.

8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib QB
New head coach Doug Marrone would love to be reunited with Nassib in his new job. Luckily for Marrone, this would also fill the Bills’ biggest need as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s grip on the football in Buffalo may soon be replaced by a grip the play chart. Buffalo wants competition for the qb role and given his performance in the Senior Bowl practices Nassib will be a great pick here. Picking Nassib here will likely mean passing on Dee Milliner so it’ll be interesting to see if Marrone gets his way.

9. New York Jets: Dee Milliner CB
This Jets team has bigger needs than cornerback but as the weeks go by rumours of a potential trade involving Darrelle Revis become more and more realistic. While quarterback is a huge need for this franchise, the amount of money owed to Sanchez will prevent a 3rd quarterback coming off the board in as many picks. If the Jets decide not to trade Revis then they need to find a top quality pass rusher. If Jones is off the board by the time the Jets pick, I expect them to take Barkevious Mingo as he is a more complete player than Ezekiel Ansah.

10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack OG
For the second year in a row the Titans will likely miss out on an elite cornerback which they sorely need. While this would be an exceptionally high pick to take a guard with, there’re no other prospects as strong or as dominant in the running game as Warmack. If the Titans continue to run hard with CJ2K and make use of Locker’s mobility this could be a great pick.

11. San Diego Chargers: Ezekiel Ansah OLB
With the top left tackles off the board, the Chargers will look to find a top quality pass rusher with this pick. Ansah is far from complete. He is a similar pick to Bruce Irvin last year. Does he really deserve to be taken this high? No, but with some good coaching and a chance to get some more experience he could look like a top 5 pick in a few years. However Ansah could drop down the board after the combine interviews because he is a boom or bust prospect.

12. Miami Dolphins: Lane Johnson: OT
The Dolphins would have been hoping for Fisher to still be available here as a replacement for Jake Long. Bad news, he isn’t. Good news, another tackle stepped up in Senior Bowl week and made a name for himself. Johnson will needs to keep the performances up during the combine and pro days to hold onto this spot in the draft, but at the moment he looks like a good and cheaper alternative to Jake Long

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnathan Banks CB
Last season this team decided against taking Morris Claiborne and then traded away Aqib Talib. Bad idea if you face Julio Jones, Roddy White and Marques Colston twice a year. Banks isn’t a consensus pick here with many feeling he’s more of a second round talent, but given his position and the fact that Milliner will be off the board, there’s a good chance Banks is taken here.

14. Carolina Panthers: Johnathan Hankins DT
The position that the Panthers will seek to fill here is pretty clear. While they have a great group of linebackers, too often they failed to get to running back. So far Hankins hasn’t shown the penetrating ability that other DTs have, but his size and sheer strength allow him to take on double teams with ease, something that could really help Carolina’s rush defence.

15. New Orleans Saints: Dion Jordan DE
After an atrocious defensive showing this season, the Saints have announced that they will look to change to a 3-4 defence. This won’t do much unless the team is able to find a speedy pass rusher to help take the pressure of their secondary. The Saints will likely think about taking Kenny Vaccaro here to fill the safety position, but Jordan’s speed as a rusher will likely be what sways the balance in his favour.

16. St. Louis Rams: Keenan Allen WR
With Warmack and the top 3 offensive tackles off the board here, the Rams will likely turn to a position they were hoping to fill with their second pick of the first round. Allen does not have elite speed and won’t get behind the defence for deep plays that often. With some concerns about injuries Allen is not a safe pick, but his size and ability to gain yards after the catch will be enough to entice the Rams here.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Manti Te’o ILB
Having missed out on Hightower in last year’s draft, the Steelers finally get the linebacker they need. Manti Te’o has fallen a long way down the board since my last draft preview and if he is still here at this pick the Steelers won’t hesitate in taking him. For what it’s worth, the hoax girlfriend scam won’t affect Te’o’s stock in the draft but what will is the face that he lacks elite speed and will need some conditioning if he’s to become more than a two down player at the next level.

18. Dallas Cowboys: Sheldon Richardson DT
With a change to defensive scheme because of the arrival of Monte Kiffin the Cowboys will need to find a pass rushing DT. There are two options here with Richardson and Shariff Floyd both likely to be available. While the team has other needs the recent arrest of Jay Ratliff for drunk driving will likely lead to his release. Keeping him would be a terrible PR move by Jerry Jones following the death of Josh Brent, and also Ratliff has failed to justify his big contract signed in 2011. Either Floyd or Richardson will provide a better and more intelligent player for the Cowboys.

19. New York Giants: Barkevious Mingo DE
The Giants love drafting guys that can rush the passer and would be very happy for Ansah to fall this far in the draft. That however is very unlikely and as a result the team will turn to Mingo who isn’t as quick as Ansah but has a better technique and is the more complete of the two players. The Giants seemingly have the ability to make good pass rushers even better so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a Mingo who many feel has limited upside.

20. Chicago Bears: Zach Ertz TE
Both Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer love to use tight ends in the passing game. The Bears, however, targeted their tight ends on only 12.3% of all passing attempts. This will likely change in 2013 and both Ertz and Eifert will come strongly recommended. While Eifert is the better all round player, Kromer will likely prefer the superior athletic abilities of Ertz and with two excellent tight ends already on the roster, Ertz won’t be needed to play every down.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Sam Montgomery DE
How the Bengals’ front office handles the five free agents on the roster will dictate who they pick here. However for the time being at least a DE is a safe bet. Both Okafor and Ansah are likely to be gone at this stage, but with Montgomery, the Bengals will get a player who can make an immediate impact and help to improve this defence. While he doesn’t have as much upside as Ansah, Montgomery is a more polished and complete prospect that could be featured in the discussion for next year’s defensive rookie of the year.

22. St. Louis Rams: Johnathan Copper G
With no tackle worth taking in the first round left on the board, the Rams will look to shore up their interior offensive line. Cooper has great agility for a guard prospect and also has the size and strength to dominate at the position. Barrett Jones will likely get some consideration from the Rams because of his versatility, but a Lisfranc injury could hurt his stock as it’s a difficult injury for men over 300 pounds to recover from. Either way Cooper is a great prospect who can play at either left or right guard.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Cordarelle Patterson WR
With Percy Harvin likely to leave in free agency, the Vikings will have to find an elite wide receiver here if they’re to take some pressure of the run game. The Rams could take Patterson earlier in the draft and if so the Vikings will take Kennan Allen. However Patterson’s speed will make him highly coveted and the Vikings may be forced to trade up if they really want him.

24. Indianapolis Colts: Barrett Jones C/G
Dwight Freeney will likely be shown the door this off-season so the Colts will definitely consider any DE prospects which are available in particular Okafor. However with a switch in offensive co-ordinators comes a change in schemes. With the offence going to have more of a West Coast feel to it next year, the Colts will need to improve their offensive line. Jones’ injury will be a worry but his versatility makes him very attractive pick here as he could play guard or possibly centre which would allow him and Andrew Luck to grow together and possibly develop into the new Manning-Saturday combination.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Woods WR
While Seattle’s group of wide receivers isn’t bad, the team lacks that one stand out player who can make big plays and also draw double coverage at times to allow over receivers to make plays. With the surprise emergence of Russell Wilson, Woods (who Pete Carroll recruited while at USC) could quickly become a reliable target and dynamic weapon for an up and coming team.

26. Green Bay Packers: Shariff Floyd DT
The Packers’ defence needs a major upgrade, both in the secondary and in the defensive line. Both Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid will be available here to fill the safety position and the Packers will definitely consider both, but Floyd fills the bigger need for this team. With Jerel Worthy possibly out for the season, the Packers need to find a speedy player to line up next to B.J. Raji.

27. Houston Texans: Tyler Eifert TE
The Texans need to find someone who can take some pressure of Andre Johnson in the pass game while also being a part of the running game. Eifert is a good pass catcher and possibly an even better blocker. With a better passing game, defences won’t be able to key in on Arian Foster, who should manage more than 4.1 yards next season.

28. Denver Broncos: Xavier Rhodes CB
Champ Bailey has been one of the best cornerbacks in the game since turning pro. However against the Ravens it became clear that Bailey is lacking the speed to control faster receivers such as Torrey Smith. Bailey likely only has one more year in the tank at most and whether they like it or not, the Broncos will have to get younger at the position. The team would be best served taking Rhodes here who can begin his career as a nickel corner while learning from the best at the position and gaining some valuable experience.

29. New England Patriots: Kenny Vaccaro S
While the pass defence made some huge strides in the 2012 season, but the fact is the team still has their best cornerback playing safety. If Aqib Talib leaves in free agency then the team could consider Jordan Poyer, but a player like Vaccaro is too good for this team to pass up. Taking Vaccaro will also allow McCourty to move back to his preferred position.

30. Atlanta Falcons: Eddie Lacy RB
The first running back of the board will greatly improve the Falcons offence which suffered with the decline of Michael Turner. If Atlanta wants to go further in the play offs next season a good running game is needed and Lacy, a player who can bulldoze over tackles and also had great speed in the open field can provide this.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Eric Reid FS
Following the SuperBowl one thing is clear. This team will never be champions unless it they improve their secondary. Both the cornerback and safety slots are going to be a concern, especially with Goldson hitting free agency this off-season. The 49ers may attempt to trade up to take Milliner or Banks, but if that fails Eric Reid is a great pick, and probably the safer choice than Matt Elam

32. Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree ILB
With the Ravens having lost Lewis Ogletree will be a great replacement. Matt Elam will get a look here at safety if Ed Reed opts to leave, but the speed and hard tackling ability of Ogletree makes him a great prospect in both the passing and the running games. As a former safety Ogletree could be dominant in coverage and in time could become as good as Lewis. Well almost!

Players who came close!
With only 32 picks some guys who deserve to be taken in the first round always fall. There are some big names that didn’t make the board in my first round draft such as Tavon Austin, John Jenkins and Margus Hunt. These guys came close, but the guy who I had the most difficulty leaving off was Kevin Minter. Minter fills a big need in Baltimore like Ogletree but is just as good in coverage if not better. Ray Lewis dropped into coverage on over 80% of pass plays so performances at the combine and the pro days could be what separates Ogletree and Minter.

Players who may fall!
Most of the names in this draft deserve to be first round picks. However there are at least two players who may fall into the second round. Lacy’s stock is likely to fall due to the belief that no other running back will be taken prior to the 3rd round. With teams knowing they could still get the second best running back in the class at the end of round 2 or early in round three, Lacy may be forced to wait to hear his name. The other guy who may fall will surprise you. Ansah has the talent of a first rounder but he is really raw. He will need to be developed and teams may want to take a surer prospect in the first round, especially when you consider the depth of the players available at his position. Other players who could fall include Jarvis Jones (Spinal Stenosis), Chance Warmack (Guards tend not to go in the 1st round) and Lane Johnson (Needs to keep up the pace at the combine and pro day.)

The name that will make us all say “What!”
Last year it was the selection of Bruce Irvin which we all questioned. Pete Carroll could still surprise us and take a guy none of us expect. However I think there are two running backs in this year’s draft who are only a good combine away from being the first rb off the board. The first of these guys is Stepfan Taylor out of Stanford. While Taylor isn’t the fastest back youy’ll ever see, his versatility could cause him to jump up draft boards, similar to Doug Martin last year. Similarly to Taylor, Gio Bernard out of North Carolina, has a versatility that most teams will love. However I would expect him to be favoured over Taylor as he does possess the elite speed to run around players and also will be a huge help in the punt return game. Lacy’s grip on the title of number one running back is far from secure and a good combine showing could see Taylor or Bernard shoot up most big boards.

What about trades?
For the purpose of this draft I left out any potential trades. However that is not because I feel they won’t happen. If anything, this year’s draft could see a huge number of trades as there are so few definite prospects at key positions such as quarterback, running back, offensive tackle and cornerback. So while I didn’t include trades in my mock draft I am going to make some predictions on what trades we could see.

Kansas City Chiefs-> Arizona Cardinals: Arizona desperately needs a quarterback and may not be willing to risk Smith being taken before they pick.

Cleveland Browns-> New York Jets: If the Jets trade Revis they will be desperate to find a top cornerback to play alongside Cromartie. This may lead to them trying to trade with the Browns or even with the Lions in order to make sure they get Milliner.

New England Patriots-> San Francisco 49ers->Second Round: Last year we saw the Patriots trade up twice, something which goes against Bill Belichick’s draft philosophy. For this reason don’t be surprised if the Patriots return to their policy of stockpiling picks for the future. With the 49ers in need of help in the secondary, they could be encouraged to trade if Kenny Vaccaro begins to fall down the board on draft day. The Patriots could then either pick at the bottom of the first round or attempt to trade back even further.

St. Louis Rams-> Second Round: With 2 picks in the first round both this year and in 2014, the Rams are in a position to stockpile picks further. Tackle is a big need for this team so I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded up, but the team could easily trade down to early in round 2, take a tackle and potentially pick up a 3rd first round pick for next year.

Super Bowl XLVII: The Best and Worst

Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone, and as the only staff member to pick the Ravens to win I’m declaring myself the new senior writer for this site. (Only joking Ross!!) As ever the game came down to the performances of a few players. Some made or at least bolstered their reputations; some were left to eat their words. With that said who showed up, and who stayed at home?

The Best

Harbaugh Brothers
So you caught me, these guys aren’t players. However despite the competition that we expect to see in the SuperBowl, the brothers showed the world how family should always persevere. While the hug in the pre-game ceremonies seemed to be a defining moment, three simple words at the end of the game will go down in SuperBowl history. What else can you say to your brother after you beat him in the SuperBowl other than “I love you?”

Joe Flacco
Flacco just secured one big pay cheque following this game. A player who was sub-standard during the regular season went lights out in the postseason. Flacco tied Dan Marino’s record for touchdowns in the post-season, threw 0 interceptions, picked up an MVP award and made sure that he’ll get a big contract in the offseason. Well played Joe.

Colin Kaepernick
Sure, at times Kaepernick looked very nervous last night, but who wouldn’t be. At the end of the day Kaepernick put up a near MVP day and brought the 49ers so close to victory. Chances are he will get another chance, and next time the nerves will be slightly less. Not gone, but less.

Jacoby Jones
Jones, on any other day, would have taken the MVP award. Not only did he pick up a 56 yard touchdown, but scored again on a 108 yard kick return. With the 49ers struggling to defend the pass, they couldn’t afford to give up big plays on Special Teams and when they did give one up it came at the worst possible time.

Justin Tucker
Ok, that fake field goal run was anything but pretty, but on a day where 3 points made the difference Tucker was perfect. Many people, myself included, said all along that this game could be decided by a field goal either way and Tucker made sure things went his way.

The Worst

Chris Culliver
Days after a homophobic slur it was ironic that Culliver’s inability to touch another man cost his team. Culliver gave up too many big plays on a day where the secondary gave up 287 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Donte Whitner
Whitner was caught out of position far too often, especially on Jones’ first touchdown. This exposed the only real weakness the 49ers have on their depth chart so expect the franchise to look to fix this in the draft.

Ray Rice
In the first half the Ravens rush offence did what it needed to. They ran the ball for short gains which set up pass plays for Flacco. However in the second half the Ravens needed a lot more help from Rice and Pierce than they received. Rice’s inability to pick up first downs on the ground only added to the pressure the Ravens defence faced when trying to hold back the 49ers offensive storm.

49ers’ Pass Rush
Joe Flacco is not a mobile quarterback and should not be evading sacks as easily as he was last night. Wherever Aldon Smith was, it wasn’t New Orleans. This guy hasn’t been the same since week 13 and on the biggest night of them all his failure to show up led to an all-round poor effort by the 49ers’ pass rush

Many players shone last night and almost as many failed to show up. Think someone deserves to be on this list who isn’t, or have I been too mean or nice to one player. Well then get commenting, let me hear your views on SuperBowl XLVII