The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the most active teams in free agency thus far. But will any of these moves affect their draft strategy?
With the 5th pick the Bucs are likely to target one of the top two players expected to be on the board, Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson.
Obviously their recent moves won’t affect anything if Richardson is their choice. LeGarrette Blount is still on the roster, but there’s nothing wrong with having two starting-caliber running backs and Richardson is the type of talent that is tough to pass up.
If the Bucs had been entertaining the idea of drafting Claiborne, however, the addition of Eric Wright may lead them in another direction.
By no means should Wright be viewed as an elite cornerback, or even on the same level as Claiborne as an incoming rookie. However, the Bucs gave Wright a substantial five-year contract with $15M guaranteed, indicating that their front office thinks more highly of him than the rest of the league (and definitely more than the fan bases in Cleveland and Detroit).
I certainly wouldn’t endorse passing on Claiborne due to the acquisition of Wright, but it shouldn’t come as a shock if the Bucs now view their cornerback situation as settled – especially if they can talk Ronde Barber into sticking around for another year.
The Buffalo Bills made the biggest free agent signing in franchise history today, officially inking Mario Williams to a six-year $96M deal. But one man cannot turn a 6-10 team into a playoff contender, so GM Buddy Nix still has plenty of work to do this offseason.
The next order of business for Nix, is to sort out his draft board and determine what area to address with the 10th pick in the draft.
Could Dre Kirkpatrick be the Bills target at No. 10?
Throughout the offseason, I’ve assumed the Bills would target a defensive end at No. 10 (Melvin Ingram and Nick Perry have each been matched with Buffalo in my mock draft at various points). But the signing of Williams means the Bills may chose to address another area of concern in the 1st round.
The next most glaring hole is at cornerback, where Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence are both coming off disappointing years. The Bills could potentially fill this hole with Dre Kirkpatrick, the consensus second-best corner in the draft behind Morris Claiborne.
The offensive line is another area which could be addressed. Left tackle Demetrius Bell is a free agent and does not appear headed back to Buffalo. Chris Hairston may step into Bell’s role, but the Bills may still be looking for an upgrade over Erik Pears on the right side. Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin would both be nice fits at right tackle.
The St. Louis Rams have received a nice little package of draft picks from the Washington Redskins. And while it certainly looks like a great trade, rookie GM Les Snead’s work is far from done.
While the trade certainly looks like an easy win for the Rams, they still have make the right selections with the picks they acquire – and a lot can still go wrong.
Just ask the Denver Broncos.
In 2009, the Broncos traded Jay Cutler to the Bears for a very similar package. But here’s what they ended up with: Kyle Orton, Robert Ayers, Richard Quinn, Demaryius Thomas.
That’s not exactly a crew to build around.
The Rams need to be smart with their picks and recognize that they still have holes all over the field. The Broncos tried to get cute, gambling on one-year wonder Robert Ayers and then using a pick they acquired from the Bears to trade up for Quinn, a blocking tight end. Even Demaryius Thomas, who is beginning to blossom into a quality starter, was a very risky selection for a team with so many holes.
To avoid similar mistakes, the Rams should use these picks wisely and play it safe. There’s no need to reach for a specific area of need, and there’s no need to trade up to land someone they covet. Instead, Snead should stay put and let the draft board come to him. Add talent – at any position – and the rebuilding process will slowly work itself out.
One of the most notable combine snubs, Miami Ohio’s Brandon Brooks, took the stage on Thursday morning. According to Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline,
Brooks displayed rare athleticism for his size
Brooks was measured at 6’5″ and weighed in at 346 pounds. He than ran an impressive 4.98 40-yard dash with a 10-yard split of 1.71 seconds.
Perhaps most impressive was Brooks’ 4.52 short-shuttle time, which was faster than any offensive lineman at the combine.
After this strong showing, Brooks should be viewed as a strong candidate to come off the board in the top 100 picks, and could potential slide into the late 2nd round. This isn’t a particularly strong class for interior lineman, and Brooks’s display of athleticism – especially considering his size – could potentially put him in the running to be the third guard off the board following David DeCastro and Cordy Glenn.
The Miami Dolphins are a longshot in the RGIII sweepstakes, which has led to speculation that they could reach for Ryan Tannehill with the 8th overall pick. Adding further fuel to the fire is the fact that Tannehill was coached by current Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M.
But is Tannehill really a good fit for the Dolphins?
Obviously Tannehill will be familiar with parts of Sherman’s offense, but coach runs the exact same system in college and in the pros. While parts of the playbook will certainly be similar, Tannehill will be asked to do far more at the next level.
Much of Sherman’s offense at Texas A&M, at least during Tannehill’s one-and-a-half years as the starter, focused on taking advantage of Jeff Fuller’s ability as a possession receiver. Tannehill primarily threw a variety of outs and comeback routes to Fuller and Ryan Swopes, which are more difficult at the next level due to the smaller hash marks which essentially widen the field.
While these routes will be a part of the Dolphins offense in 2012, Sherman will need to expand the playbook, and Tannehill has yet to demonstrate the ability to throw to a full complement of NFL routes.
Additionally, it should be noted that Tannehill wasn’t exactly Mike Sherman’s hand-picked protégé. It was Sherman who initially moved Tannehill from quarterback to receiver, and then only turned to him as his starting quarterback once Jerrod Johnson began to struggle during his senior year. Obviously Sherman saw some flaws, and it’s entirely possible that his familiarity with Tannehill will actually make him less likely to want him as his quarterback at the next level.
Sherman has praised Tannehill publicly, but those comments should be taken with a grain of salt. Very few coaches (especially ones who may be interested in returning to the college ranks at some point) would ever speak ill of their former players for fear of the impact it could have on recruiting.
One of the few holes on the Giants roster is at tight end – an area of need which GM Jerry Reese has confirmed. They’re likely to consider addressing this position in the 1st or 2nd round of the draft, so let’s examine who might fit their needs.
The Giants are one of the few teams in the league still clinging to the traditional tight end. They expect their tight ends to be an extension of the offensive line.
This past season the Giants used their tight ends in pass protection on 24 percent of their passing plays – the 6th highest average in the league. But unlike the teams ahead of them on this list, they don’t bring in pure blockers in these situations. Instead, all of their tight ends are expected to contribute as both blockers and receivers. In 2011, all three tight ends were used to block on 18 percent of pass plays or more, led by Jake Ballard’s 25.6 percent (6th highest in NFL).
And this isn’t a new trend. In 2010, the Giants also used their tight ends in pass protection 24 percent of the time, led by Kevin Boss’ 27.9 percent (5th highest).
So which tight ends in the 2012 draft class fit the Giants mold?
Dwayne Allen is a perfect fit for the Giants
For starters, Coby Fleener, Orson Charles and Ladarius Green are not good fits. All three are deficient blockers and lack the physical qualities to improve in that area.
So if they’re going to address this need early, that leaves them with one option: Dwayne Allen.
Allen isn’t a dominant blocker, but he gives a solid effort and has the frame to add some weight and improve. He’ll probably never be elite in this area, but he compares favorably to Kevin Boss both in his blocking ability and his potential to contribute as a receiver in the passing game.
Allen is definitely an option for the Giants with the 32nd pick.
According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, the Baltimore Ravens have a “large number of wide receivers” on their official draft interview list and could be considering one as early as the 1st round.
Two of the Ravens interviewees were Rueben Randle and Stephen Hill, both of whom are potential late 1st-round prospects.
It may come as a slight surprise that Ravens would be targeting a receiver a year after drafting Torrey Smith in the 2nd round, but Smith’s long-term upside is limited. While he has the speed to stretch the field, he’s basically a one-trick pony and probably always will be. Randle and Hill, on the other hand, have the size (both over 6’4″) to be the perfect compliment to Smith.
This could be the year the Ravens go all-in with Joe Flacco, and attempt to surround him with the talent he needs to take their offense to an elite level.
The Tampa Buccaneers have holes everywhere you look, but one glaring need stands above the rest.
Based on ProFootballFocus.com’s grading system, 11 of the 12 Buccaneers defensive backs to see the field in 2011 performed below average, the lone exception being former 1st-round pick Aqib Talib. But Talib has his own issues off the field, and who knows how long the new coaching staff will put up with his antics. Additionally, the two veterans of the group – Ronde Barber and Sean Jones – are set to become free agents.
If possible, the Bucs should wipe the slate clean and bring in a brand new batch of defensive backs. Realistically, they should aim to bring in at least one veteran free agent and add some prospects in the draft.
The best case scenario on draft day would be for Morris Claiborne to fall to them at No. 5. He would immediately give the Bucs a true No. 1 cornerback, allowing them to gradually fill in the holes around him.
If Claiborne is gone, things get more complicated. While there should be a number of quality prospects available at the beginning of Round 2, none would have a dramatic immediate impact. The Bucs would be left to chose one of two paths: select a guy with the upside to develop into a shutdown corner (Stephon Gilmore for example) or add a more polished product who can contribute immediately, but may have less long-term upside (such as Chase Minnifield).
According to Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft, the Washington Redskins have been showing some interest in offensive linemen at the combine.
The fact that the Redskins may consider an offensive lineman is not a surprise, but Martin and Adams are both 1st-round prospects. This interest could indicate a chance coming at right tackle.
Jamaal Brown is coming off another disappointing season and he hasn’t been himself since a hip injury in 2008. And despite signing a five-year contract last offseason, there is no guaranteed money remaining on the deal.
While there is no question that quarterback is still their main concern, this could be an alternative route if they can’t land Robert Griffin.
1. Alshon Jeffery – WR – South Carolina
Jeffery has been battled weight issues throughout his career and, as a result, some believe he lacks the explosion to separate from coverage at the next level. He’s had plenty of time to get into shape since the season ended, so if he fails to demonstrate adequate athleticism and agility at the combine, it will raise some red flags which could send him tumbling down draft boards.
2. Janoris Jenkins – CB – North Alabama
We know Jenkins can play – we saw that at the Senior Bowl – but can will anyone be willing to take a chance on his character? He’ll be high on the list of guys teams are most interested in speaking with at the combine and he will need to be prepared to answer some difficult questions about the issues which led to his dismissal from Florida.
Floyd's injury history and alcohol issues will be under scrutiny in Indy
3. Michael Floyd – WR – Notre Dame
While Floyd is coming off a strong senior year, he has a long history of both character and injury concerns. He missed time in 2008 (knee injury) and 2009 (collarbone) and was involved in multiple alcohol-related run-ins with the law during his collegiate career. As a result, his medical check-up and his interviews will be crucial in determining his place on draft boards.
4. Quentin Coples – DE – North Carolina
From the standpoint of pure athleticism, Coples may be the most talented player in this year’s draft class. But his production on the field rarely showed that ability, especially during his senior year. Teams will be interested to hear his explanation for his disappearing act. Does he take responsibility for his failures? Or does he blame it on others?
5. Vontaze Burfict – LB – Arizona State
Like Coples, Burfict clearly has the raw talent to play at the next level. However, he consistently found himself struggling to handle the mental side of the game. Burfict should be prepared for some difficult questions during the interview process. Teams may try to rile him up to see just how he reacts under pressure. Teams will also be interested to hear him explain away his numerous unsportsmanlike conduct penalties over the years, and will be hoping to hear him take responsibility for his actions.