OT Gabe Carimi
The Chicago Bears pick twenty-ninth in this April’s draft and are a team that is looking to shore up its team to make another title run. The Bears were the NFC’s most unlikely title contender, making it all the way to the NFC Championship Game before the Green Bay Packers stopped them short.
The Bears success was largely on their solid defensive play, coupled with a steady offense. Additions on defense like Julius Peppers, Chris Harris, and Tim Jennings solidified their pass defense, which jumped from 24th ranked in 2009 to 5th ranked in 2010, according to Football Outsiders efficiency ratings.
Their offense didn’t really light it up, but they were able to run the ball more effectively, and Jay Cutler reduced his propensity to turn the ball over made a the Bears a good, but not great team. Now it’s time for them to try and find some greatness to put them over the top and be a challenger for Green Bay’s top spot in the division and conference.
The player that they think will provide that will be Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi.
OG Danny Watkins
According to this mock draft, with the seventeenth overall selection the Patriots nabbed California defensive end Cameron Jordan, helping to solidify their front. Now they get a second shot to improve their team and try and find the pieces that will get them back to the Super Bowl.
As stated before, the Pats need most of their help on the defensive side of the ball, but if they can get a good player in their front seven with their top pick, it frees them up to go more with best player available at this point in the draft. And that might become an offensive prospect.
I think that player will be Baylor guard Danny Watkins.
If the Patriots don’t draft a defensive end with their top pick, they could still have the potential to draft one here. Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson is still on the board, as is Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward. Both of those players could be solid additions to their front.
DE Justin Houston
It’s time for the moment you’ve been waiting for, one that has been three weeks in the making. It’s now time that I break down what prospects the Falcons will be looking at in the first round of this year’s draft with their twenty-seventh overall selection.
I won’t pretend this will be a brief read, but I’ll try to keep this as brief as I can possibly make it without leaving you dissatisfied. I’ll try not to spend too much time re-hashing concepts that have already been discussed before. So if you haven’t already then you should go ahead and read my thoughts on why the Falcons taking an offensive linemen with their first pick is a long shot, as well as Stacking the Draft Board series at running back, wide receiver, and defensive end.
And don’t worry, this will not be the last time I discuss the Falcons thought process. I’ll definitely be getting into the nitty gritty of the Falcons options next week once I’ve completed this exercise and discussed all thirty teams approach to the draft.
But without further ado, I think the Falcons will use their top pick on Georgia defensive end Justin Houston. Please keep reading for an explanation why and who else the Falcons will be looking at.
As previously discussed, the Falcons top need this off-season is their defensive end position. John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, and Jamaal Anderson are all free agents after this season. Chauncey Davis is a one-dimensional role player, and Lawrence Sidbury is an unproven youngster. When you project that unit into 2012, the only player that is a strong bet to still be a Falcon is Biermann. And while I’m personally hopeful that Biermann will ascend to the level in 2011 that many expected him to be in 2010, it’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll be capable of anchoring the unit. And the Falcons could be looking at a situation in 2012 where their defensive end position is dire.
WR Torrey Smith
We are getting close now with the Baltimore Ravens now on the clock with the twenty-sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. Just one more day until I breakdown the Falcons, but we have to get through the Ravens first.
The Ravens are a team in a similar conundrum as the Falcons. They have a promising young quarterback and several pieces around him to make them a formidable team in their respective conference, but are looking for those last bits to push them over the top.
Fortunately for the Ravens, their defense is a lot further along than the Falcons. But there was one glaring issue in 2010 that held them back, which was their secondary play. But with the Ravens defense being considered one of the best in the league, they may decide that it is offense which is in need of the biggest improvement. And their main area of weakness is trying to generate explosive plays in the passing game, likely requiring them to address their old, slow wide receiver corps.
With that in mind, I think the Ravens will take Maryland wideout Torrey Smith with their top pick.
QB Jake Locker
Thanks to their weak division coupled with their first round upset of New Orleans, the Seattle Seahawks are probably picking much later in this draft than they care to. They are a team that talent-wise and in terms of need should be picking in the Top 15, but will have to find a way to settle for lesser talent near the end of Round One.
The Seahawks have plenty of needs, most of them occurring on the offensive side of the ball. If there was a strength to the Seahawks team last year, it was their defense. But that’s mostly relative. Football Outsiders’ DVOA-based efficiency ratings have them ranking 29th both on offense and defense. But at least on defense, they can say they have the 17th best run defense, while on offense they are ranked 29th and 28th passing and running the ball, respectively. So there is a bit more hope on defense than there is on offense going forward.
The Seahawks may be an interesting team in how this draft and the first round shapes up. They are one of the few teams outside the Top 12 picks that should be in the market for a quarterback. Which means trades could certainly be involved around their selection, resulting in them trading up or trading back in the draft. But it also means teams that do not address their quarterback issues at the top of the first round could move back into the first round to get ahead of the Seahawks to take whatever quarterback they desire.
Because of this and other factors, I think the Seahawks will wind up selecting Washington quarterback Jake Locker with their top pick.
LB Akeem Ayers
The New Orleans Saints had a disappointing 2010 in the season that they were in a position to repeat as world champions but were surprisingly upset by an inferior Seattle Seahawks team in the first round of the playoffs. The Saints overriding goals in this year’s off-season, including what to do with their twenty-fourth overall draft selection, will be directed at trying to add the pieces to get them back to that point atop the NFC South and the conference overall.
Under the leadership of Drew Brees, the Saints offense is among the strongest in the league. So it’s likely their primary focus will be on improving the defense. Their pass rush was fairly weak a year ago, and that is probably their most pressing need. They’ve already address it somewhat with the signing of Shaun Rogers, strengthening their defensive tackle position.
Their defensive success and it’s opportunistic play in 2009 was critical to their Super Bowl run, and I think they will try to get back to that by selecting UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers with this pick.
CB Jimmy Smith
As usual, because it’s the weekend, it brings a double dose of primers. Earlier today I posted who I thought the Colts would take, as well as a recap of the previous twenty-one picks. Now it’s time to move onto the Philadelphia Eagles, who hold the twenty-third pick in the first round.
Unfortunately for my soul, the Eagles had a strong season due to the play of quarterback Michael Vick. What many expected to be a rebuilding year with Kevin Kolb at the helm turned into a potential Super Bowl run with Vick. The Eagles offense was super explosive with Vick under center, and arguably the fastest pair of starting receivers on the outside in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, as well as having the super-charged LeSean McCoy in the backfield.
With their skill positions seemingly set, the Eagles will likely focus their attention on the defensive side of the ball with their top pick. And because of that, I see them taking Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith with this selection.
Okay, it’s been over two weeks now since I started this little exercise of what I would call in-depth analysis of what each team is looking at for this Aprils’ draft. So I guess it’s time to recap the first twenty one selections before I get to the Indianapolis Colts:
OT Nate Solder
And surprisingly with two weeks worth of reflection, there isn’t any early decision that now seems far-fetched to me or silly. Green and Dareus seem too good to last that long, but none of the seven guys drafted ahead of them seem likelier to last that long either. Quinn is probably the lone exception, not due to skill, but due to lingering questions about the brain tumor that he has managed to play with for the past 4 years. And with the current buzz that Watt and Jordan are getting as potential Top 10 picks, them falling out of the Top 15 doesn’t seem likely. But at the same time, if they don’t go in the Top 10, none of the teams picking between No. 11 and No. 14 have almost no need for them. So if Dallas or Washington don’t pull the trigger, then it does seem fairly likely they will slip out of the Top 15 picks.
But now it’s time to move on with the Indianapolis Colts, who pick twenty second in this year’s draft. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the last six times the Colts had their first pick in the Top 25 of the first round, they wound up selecting Dallas Clark (2003), Dwight Freeney (2002), Edgerrin James (1999), Peyton Manning (1998), Tarik Glenn (1997), and Marvin Harrison (1996). There’s a combined 33 Pro Bowl appearances between those six guys.
Luckily for the Colts despite their relatively higher draft pick, they are still a pretty solid team. The thing that plagued them in 2010 was injuries and inconsistency at wide receiver and shoddy offensive line play. The latter of the two was not a new development, as it was blamed for one of the reasons why the Colts could not pull out a victory over the New Orleans Saints a year ago in the Super Bowl. Because of that, I think the Colts will wind up taking Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder with this pick.
OT Anthony Castonzo
Despite the Chiefs success in 2010, with their playoff appearance, they have a lot of issues at several positions. They are still early in their building process under GM Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley, and while they have made serious strides in the past two years, they have more work to do before they can be expected to compete at an elite level with teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Colts, and Ravens in the AFC.
The things that went right for the Chiefs in 2010 was the solid play of QB Matt Cassel, a strong running game helmed by Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, and Cassel hooked up numerous times with Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki. Up front, the additions of veterans like Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja solidified their front. Defensively, they were young but Romeo Crennel got solid production from them. Rookie safety Eric Berry had a strong first year. Corners Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are arguably the best pair of under-25 year old starters in the league at that position. Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are Pro Bowl-caliber linebackers and Glenn Dorsey is now emerging as a gamer.
All of these things in conjunction mean that the Chiefs are headed in the right direction. But they still have their issues at most of the other areas that were not named. I think the Chiefs will choose to address their needs up front on the offensive line by taking left tackle Anthony Castonzo out of Boston College with this pick.
DE Ryan Kerrigan
Due to the emergence of Josh Freeman and several other young players on offense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ future is looking bright. Rookies LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams give the team a pair of triplets on offense that they are optimistic can be assets going forward in the tough NFC South division.
On the defensive side of the ball, their key pieces include defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and cornerback Aqib Talib.
This means that the Bucs can approach the top of this year’s draft thinking they can continue to supplement the pieces around Freeman on offense, or try to bolster their young defense with more pieces with their twentieth overall selection. It’s hard to argue with either path, especially on offense where offensive line seems to be the more pressing area. But their needs on defense seem a bit more pressing and thus why I think they will go on that side of the ball and take Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan with this pick.