“Around the Ben”: Draft Day Winners…And Losers (Part 1 of 2)
Now that the draft has been completed, let’s examine which teams had the best and worst drafts. I’ll start with the losers, because I like to end on a high note and not a sour one. When examining teams and the drafts they had, there are a number of variables to look at: teams needs, state of the franchise, value of the player relative to where other players of the same position were drafted, the fit of a player on a team, and personality traits of players. Teams appearing on today’s segment of this post are the ones that did any of a number things wrong on draft day. The teams either made a bone-headed picks, didn’t address team needs, took risks on players that seem more trouble than they’re worth, or never really got their heads in the draft.
1. New York Jets – I’m not sure whether Rex Ryan has more brains or quarterbacks on the team, and unfortunately it looks like the latter. When your team is in disarray and the only direction the team has been going is in reverse the past few seasons, things need to change, and it should have started with the firing of Rex Ryan. Provided, the new management did make a couple good picks (Milliner and Geno Smith), but on the whole the Jets are still at ground zero, and it may be a while before they return to relevancy. I have nothing against the Sheldon Richardson picks, but honestly, they should have drafted offense with the pick from Tampa Bay, with the realization that Ground and Pound is finished. After the second round, I’m not sure what happened, but they did not help the team at all. They needed WR, RB, TE, and more, but drafted guards and a fullback. Overall, I’d give the Jets a D+ grade, and that’s being more than generous, as their draft did not address key needs, but instead continued the same pattern of defense, defense, defense in drafts while merely glancing at offense.
The team’s most glaring holes are at running back (RB), wide receiver (WR), and tight end (TE) where their current starter at RB, Chris Ivory, is more of a 3rd down back, and their number 2 RB, Bilal Powell is more of a goal line back. Realistically, expecting any more than 900 yards rushing and 7 TDs from the two combined is a stretch, as the team has no true WR1 (Holmes who is injury-prone), and no real weapons on offense. And has anybody seriously ever heard of Jeff Cumberland? He’s the team’s starting tight end. At least Dustin Keller (TE last season), or the team’s best receiver, could move the chains, and get yards and a handful of TDs. Combine all this with a quagmire at QB, though I am expecting Geno to be the starter (Please not Sanchez), and you get what the Jets offense will be this season: bad.
2. Cleveland Browns – Probably a bit of a surprise here, but here’s why I have them on this list: they need a QB and WR (Josh Gordon is WR1), and failed to draft either one. Brandon Weeden (29 this season) is not the answer at QB, and the team should have drafted a QB to groom as heir apparent, possibly as soon as this season. Not only that, the team traded away their 2, 4, and 5 picks, leaving much to be desired from the draft. Their best pick, Barkevious Mingo (DE), should be an impact player for them, and rack up sacks because the defense will be on the field a ton. While I also like the cornerback (CB) they drafted, Leon McFadden, as it addressed a need, the team’s better course of action would have been to draft offense. Either RB, WR, TE, QB, or possibly bulk up the offensive line with a top O-lineman or guard from the draft, to give Trent Richardson more running lanes and Weeden more protection to pass. I expect a handful of sacks, tackles for loss (TFL if your league counts those), and forced/recovered fumbles from Mingo, and passes defensed (PD), interceptions, and healthy tackle totals for a CB from McFadden. On the flip side, offensively, they will be a shade better than the Jets this season, as after Trent Richardson (stud RB) the team has nobody on offense that can hurt opposing defenses, making it easy to stack the box against the Browns, as Weeden’s arm is suspect. Weeden will have another 15 TD/19 INT season with around 3700 yards passing, and their leading receiver will go 750/5-6 depending on the QB situation/maturity of Weeden. The one silver lining with this team is that they are headed in the right direction, and, behind a young, solid defense and Trent Richardson’s emergence, could improve upon last season’s record of 5-11.
3. New England Patriots – New England is an aging team that after losing Welker to the Broncos, did not address WR, a weakness they currently have, with very little experience after Amendola at WR. Couple that with the fact that both their starting tight ends, Gronkowski and Hernandez are currently dealing with injuries and surgery, and the Patriots need Aaron Dobson (2nd round pick) to step in and contribute immediately, opposite Amendola. However, even with the flux at WR and the injury concerns at tight end, offensively, the Patriots should still be alright considering they proved they can establish the run game (Ridley, Vereen), and still have Tom Brady at the helm. Looking on the flip side of the ball, defensively, New England’s biggest concern was DE. After Chandler Jones, the team lacks any depth, much less talent, where Rob Ninkovich is slowly fading into the rear view mirror. Fourth round pick Jamie Collins should hopefully help fill the void there for the Patriots, but it will be a transition as he played LB in college. While he should see the field a good bit this season, unless he is able to complete the transition to DE, he likely won’t be of any value in fantasy leagues. In general, the Patriots don’t have very many fantasy-friendly defensive players, but the few that I do like are LB Jerod Mayo (147 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles (FF)), Devin McCourty CB (5 INTs, 13 PDs, 82 tackles), and Vince Wilfork DT (48 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 FF, and fumble recoveries (FR)).
4. Denver Broncos – I hate putting them here after all they have done to improve the team since last off-season, but they really didn’t do much good in the NFL draft. Going into the draft, they were arguably one of the most complete teams, poised to make another Super Bowl push, yet lacking at key areas (RB, TE, and S). On paper, it would appear that they did a pretty good job filling needs at RB and CB, and solidifying WR (Tavarres King), yet there are concerns at RB and CB. First, Montee Ball was overused his final two seasons at Wisconsin, and has Clinton Portis in him (as in injury concern), and may not be suitable as an every down back like Denver was hoping. Add this concern to the injury concerns of Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, and the Broncos may have only addressed RB in the short-term. For this season, the backfield should be led by Ball (850 yes/7 TDs), but they should also keep McGahee and Moreno in the mix to give Ball a break if they truly do see him as their future back. Defensively Denver needed a CB, as Champ Bailey is aging, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is suspect in coverage at best; leaving Chris Harris (3rd season, S also) as next top CB, drafted Kayvon Webster. Third round draft pick Kayvon Webster (3 INTs, 8.5 TFL, 4 FF at USF last season) should help some, should he start opposite Harris, as the team may move Bailey to safety, but they would still be weak at CB given the inconsistencies and lack of physicality of Rodgers-Cromartie. Overall, the Broncos should be able to make another Super Bowl push, but their secondary could determine how far they go.
5. Dallas Cowboys – Needs-wise and value-wise their draft stank, leaving the team with the same needs. Not only did they draft a 3rd round prospect in the first round (Travis Frederick), the Cowboys made a mistake by drafting a TE (Gavin Escobar) in the 2nd, instead of filling their need for a backup RB. Murray is proving to be an injury-risk, though very productive when healthy. Jason Witten might be aging, but he still has a few good seasons left, and the Cowboys could have nabbed a tight end in the later rounds and probably gotten a TE nearly as good as Escobar, and addressed more glaring needs (LB, DE, protection for Romo). Finally, in the 3rd round, Jerry Jones seemed to outgrow his Alzheimer’s and drafted an extremely raw, yet talented WR in Terrance Williams. He could see significant time on the field this season, given the off-field issues with Dez Bryant, the health and contract status of Miles Austin, and lack of depth after Bryant and Austin. Seeing Williams go 600/5 this season would not be surprising given the teams receiving core questions, but their best pick was arguably Joseph Randle (RB, 6th round), who could step in immediately if Murray gets sidelined again, or if Randle impresses in training camp. The only concerns with Randle are fumbling issues, and a lack of break-away speed. Keep an eye on him though, as any injury to Murray (almost seems inevitable) would mean starter status for Randle, and a base line of 500/5 seems easily within reach, with potential to be a top 5 rookie RB.
6. Seattle Seahawks – Though they look good on paper, their problem is lack of depth at almost every defensive position, especially DE and LB. While they addressed DT in the draft (Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, and Jared Smith), unless the Seahawks plan on moving one of the 3 DTs they drafted to DE, or one or more of their rostered DEs to LB, they loaded up on DT, and are shallow talent-wise at DE and LB. Of the currently rostered DEs, 2 of them (Red Bryant and Chris Clemons) have injury concerns with torn ligaments, leaving Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin as next best options, with virtually no depth behind those 2. Linebacker-wise, they seem to have their starters, and then players that look like career backups behind them. The rest of the team seems solid, but questions about TE may crop up as Zach Miller has been very inconsistent, and may not be the team’s future at the position. However, if Miller can at least maintain his production from over the past few seasons (big IF), he could open up opportunities for newly acquired Percy Harvin to continue his emergence by wreaking havoc against opposing defenses. Seattle seems poised to be a playoff contender, and the winner of the division between the Seahawks and the 49ers could very easily represent the NFC in the Super Bowl again.