According to ESPN, if the season ended today, this is what the top-15 would look like:
#1 Houston Texans
#2 St. Louis Rams (via Washington)
#3 Oakland Raiders
#4 Jacksonville Jaguars
#5 Atlanta Falcons
#6 Cleveland Browns
#7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
#8 Minnesota Vikings
#9 Buffalo Bills
#10 Tennessee Titans
#11 New York Giants
#12 Pittsburgh Steelers
#13 New York Jets
#14 St. Louis Rams
#15 San Diego Chargers
It’s easy to forget the Texans started the season 2-0. They’re currently on a 12 game losing streak.
Anyone concerned the Rams will end up with the #1 pick can breathe easy (although in fairness, the #2 pick looks like a shoe-in). Houston hosts Denver and then goes to Tennessee to close out the year. The Redskins seem a little more competitive with Kirk Cousins under center — and face two divisional games against Dallas (H) and the New York Giants (A).
Without wanting to go over old ground, I still think the Rams would’ve been better off drafting Robert Griffin III in 2012. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. So is an opinion on the NFL draft. Mine is that they should have found a way to move on from Sam Bradford and built around their new quarterback.
Sure, RGIII is having a tough time right now. And it’s almost all down to the way Dan Snyder runs his franchise. Without his presence in St. Louis — and with a genuinely good coach in Jeff Fisher — I think he would’ve really thrived with the Rams.
Multiple first round picks look great on paper, but they have to turn into a winning formula on the field.
Michael Brockers, Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree were all solid picks, but they haven’t had a major impact for the Rams. They’re still a 6-8 team — and how much better would they truly be with Bradford healthy? It’s still early, but compare those early picks to Seattle’s deuce in 2010 — Russell Okung and Earl Thomas. Both players became franchise cornerstones almost immediately.
It’s interesting that there’s been talk Les Snead, the Rams GM, could be in trouble after just a couple of years on the job.
This really is St. Louis’ last chance to prove they did make the right call. If they end up with two top-15 picks, they’ve got to make it count. What do they do with Bradford? Do they finally cut loose? Or keep the faith?
If they do replace him, there’s going to be a lot of pressure to get it right. It’s one thing to bring in the much vaunted, Heisman winning RGIII as the replacement. But is Teddy Bridgewater any better than Bradford? Arguably not. That’s a big call for the Rams, who know they’ll have to either re-sign or cut Bradford sooner rather than later.
With the #1 pick I still think the Texans will struggle to justify picking any of the 2014 quarterbacks ahead of Jadeveon Clowney. Yes — quarterback is their biggest need. It’s why they’ve struggled this year. But you can’t force this.
There will be guys available later in the first round that they can move up and select. Maybe they just sit tight at #33? For me they should take Clowney, put him next to J.J. Watt and enjoy.
It’ll be really interesting to see what Cleveland and Minnesota do. The Browns will get an extra first round pick from the Colts via the Trent Richardson trade. They’ll almost certainly take a quarterback in round one. But will they do it in the top ten? Or will they wait until later, leading to a possible mid-to-late first round rush on QB’s?
The Vikings will have to decide whether to make coaching changes before choosing their next move at the same position. Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel aren’t the answer. If they aren’t stashing Josh Freeman for the long haul, why is he even on the roster? Freeman’s presence in Minnesota makes me think they might give him a shot in 2014, despite a disastrous debut against the Giants earlier this season.
The Jets are also an interesting case. I genuinely think Rex Ryan is a great defensive coach, but the way that team has run its offense the last two years has been shambolic.
Drafting Geno Smith looks like a complete waste — he just doesn’t look good enough. They have no weapons to build around. And what is it they’ve tried to do schematically? Any ideas?
This could be a landing spot for Darrell Bevell next year, with a brand new offensive vision. They have the defensive personnel to be very, very good. But they have no identity on offense. They won’t compete properly in the AFC East until they get it.
If they do go the route of a Bevell (and remember, NYJ’s GM is John Idzik — formerly of the Seahawks) then for me they have to be prepared to draft a quarterback early. A better quarterback. And then they need to get him some weapons.
Can anyone else see Bevell coaching Johnny Manziel in New York? That comes across as suitably dramatic enough for the Jets.
And Manziel can have plenty of fun — just like this — in NYC.
Here’s a quick top-15 projection… just for the hell of it and to bring some different ideas to the table…
#1 Houston Texans — Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
#2 St. Louis Rams (via Washington) — Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
#3 Oakland Raiders — Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
#4 Jacksonville Jaguars — Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
#5 Atlanta Falcons — Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
#6 Cleveland Browns — Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
#7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
#8 Minnesota Vikings — Re’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
#9 Buffalo Bills — Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee
#10 Tennessee Titans — Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
#11 New York Giants — Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
#12 Pittsburgh Steelers — Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
#13 New York Jets — Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
#14 St. Louis Rams — Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
#15 San Diego Chargers — Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
So here I’ve got Clowney going at #1 as discussed. Jake Matthews is the Rams pick — purely to try and max out the value there. Replacing Bradford with Bridgewater looks like a sideways step. It could happen, it really could happen. But not in today’s projection. They could start Matthews at left or right tackle, depending on how they view Jake Long. They need to solidify that offensive line for the long haul — although Fisher isn’t really one for drafting O-liners in the first round.
The Jaguars — I just have a hunch that they’ll keep building rather than jumping feet first into a non-spectacular quarterback who won’t have any weapons. I could’ve given them Bridgewater here, but I’m brainstorming (I think?). So in this scenario I have them taking Mike Evans as a reliable, jump ball specialist in the mould of Vincent Jackson. For Evans to go this early he’d have to run well at the combine, but it’s not impossible. He ran away from Alabama.
The Jags mimic the Bengals in 2011 by going dynamic receiver early, then quarterback in round two (A.J. McCarron?).
I have Bridgewater dropping to #10 with teams like Oakland and Cleveland going in different directions. This possibility doesn’t get discussed too often, so let’s talk about it here. Teddy hasn’t had a 2013 season that cements his place among the top 2-3 picks. So here he drops to Tennessee, who will likely make major coaching changes, cut Chris Johnson and possibly move on from injury-prone Jake Locker.
The Jets go for Manziel at #13, potentially usurping the Rams if they do want to move on from Bradford.
Just some scenarios. Discuss away.