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NFL Draft Preview - Part 1 of 2
by Jermain Baker, Posted: April 17, 2010
The NFL Draft is impossible to predict. NFL Draft “experts” have access to coaches tape, every NFL GM’s phone number on speed dial, and an army of ex -NFL players and coaches on stand by to have their brains picked like so much low hanging fruit. Still they sit well below the mendoza line when it comes to figuring out just what the hell is going to happen when the commish steps up to the podium with each team's draft card in hand. The purpose of the “NFL Draft Fantasy Preview” is to handicap the draft with a lot more emphasis on the potential FANTASY possibilities, plausibility’s, and potentialities not just for your favorite NFL franchise but for the franchise that really matters your fantasy team.
1.) St. Louis Rams
The Rams have the ignominious honor of possessing the annual scarlet letter of NFL futility, the number one overall selection. The fact that Steven Jackson was still able to bulldoze his way into the top ten fantasy backs despite being the ONLY legitimate option on a 15 loss team speaks volumes about the back's talent and competitive fire. With Marc Bulger no longer viable, the Rams need a serious infusion of talent under center to resuscitate to their lifeless passing attack, as well as take some pressure off of Jackson or risk grinding him down. After a reportedly impressive showing at his pro day, all signs point to former Oklahoma standout quarterback Sam Bradford being completely healed from his injury and the Rams choice here.
Team Spin- I don’t expect the recent success that rookie quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, or Mark Sanchez have had to be duplicated here. Bradford will be surrounded by a marginal receiving corps, and a very porous defense. Most concerning however could be Bradford himself. While he certainly seems to have all of the physical tools as well as the oft mentioned intangibles , quarterbacks who have recently entered the NFL coming from spread style offenses have faced a steep learning curve. If Bradford is indeed the pick, the Rams would be wise to tailor they’re offensive scheme around Bradford’s skill set and not the other way around.
Fantasy Spin- We’re not expecting much in the way of fantasy production at this point. Bradford is reported to be very smart. If he can transition to the pro game quickly it could go a long way towards opening up this offense and at the very least provide more scoring opportunities for Steven Jackson. Right now Bradford should be considered as nothing more than a waiver wire addition if he shows signs of life at some point during the season.
2.) Detroit Lions
The Lions signed Kyle Vanden Bosch early in free agency . Vanden Bosch is 31 and on the downside of his career but the Lions signed him to a four year 26 million dollar deal. This demonstrates clearly how desperate the Lions are to upgrade their 32nd ranked defense.
We’ve been hearing a lot of talk recently about the Lions using this pick on the top offensive lineman, but it’s had for us to imagine them passing on Ndamukong Suh, the phenom from Nebraska. You could make an argument that Gerald McCoy could be a better fit for Detroit’s 4-3 scheme, but the rare blend of power and agility that Suh brings to the table might be too much for the Lions to pass up.
Team Spin - If Suh lives up to the hype he’ll provide an immediate boost to the Lions awful run defense. Defensive tackles have been riskier selections at the top of the draft historically, so there is a chance the Lions could get skittish and go for a offensive lineman instead.
Fantasy Spin - Defensive tackles aren’t big time producers in standard IDP formats. Although Suh flashed pass rush ability at times in college, don’t expect big time sack numbers, especially not in his rookie season. The Lions D/ST unit clearly they won’t be worth consideration on draft day, and even though Suh will help, the Lions need upgrades everywhere on defense. Opposing offenses should still expect to put up nice fantasy numbers when matched up against Shwartz’s still work in progress defense.
3.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs had the 27th ranked defense in the NFL last year. Rest assured that head coach Raheem Morris and GM Mark Domenik will address their defensive shortcomings before they look for any fantasy relevant players. Gerald McCoy seems to be the sure fire choice here as he is super talented and fills an immediate need. The Bucs have two picks in the top half of the second round and with the departure of Antonio Bryant to the Bengals in free agency a glaring hole exists in the No. 1 receiver department. Golden Tate, Mardy Gilyard, or Damien Williams should all be in play.
Team Spin - Morris knows that he barely escaped the post season coaching purge, the pressure to improve his team this season will be intense. He and Domenik would be wise to focus on improving both sides of the line of scrimmage. Even the sexiest of additions at the skill positions will not be able to keep Morris employed if they aren’t surrounded with grunts in the trenches to do the dirty work.
Fantasy Spin - The Bucs ranked even lower on offense than they did on defense at 28th in the NFL. Free agent running back Derrick Ward was a complete bust, there was instability at the quarterback position , and the only legit receiving option is gone. It’s going to be almost impossible to get all of the problems this team has on the offensive side of the ball fixed in one off-season. Whichever receiver is drafted will be given every opportunity to become the no. 1 option in what will almost certainly be a very pedestrian passing attack. Don’t count on big numbers or consistent production from anyone in this offense. If Gerald McCoy is indeed the pick, the hope is that he will be able to provide Warren Sapp-type production from the DT spot. Fantasy production from the defensive tackle in IDP leagues is spotty at best even from elite players at the position. McCoy is being billed as one of those players and will probably be over drafted based off of the hype.
Owner Daniel Snyder has spent millions of dollars trying to return the Redskins to their former glory. Unfortunately for Skins’ fans several of those millions have been spent on overpriced and under producing free agents. Mike Shanahan is the new football czar in the nation's capital. He brings a lot of experience, a Superbowl pedigree , and his son Kyle Shanahan with him. The younger Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of Houston’s fourth ranked offense last season. Sadly for father and son Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson won’t be tagging along. The Skins have been very active this off-season as Shanahan works to fill out the roster with his kind of players. In a blockbuster trade, Donovan McNabb has been brought into Washington in the hopes of delivering the strong veteran leadership from the quarterback position that Jason Campbell was never able to provide. Historically, the zone blocking scheme under Shanahan has almost always led to big fantasy numbers for whoever was carrying the rock. Fantasy owners must tread lightly though as Shanahan will ride the hot hand from week to week in the absence of a true feature back. Incumbent running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts are both coming off of serious injuries and aren’t getting any younger, the team has also added former fantasy flash in the pans Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. The Skins could also address the RB position during the draft. Bringing McNabb in virtually eliminates Jimmy Clausen as a possibility with the fourth overall pick. GM Bruce Allen and co. will almost certainly take one of the behemoth offensive tackles to anchor this offensive line for the next decade or so. Russell Okung the tackle from Oklahoma State would probably be the safest selection. A high upside running back prospect like James Starks out of Buffalo could be targeted late to add some youth to the backfield.
Team Spin - The Skin’s roster isn’t stacked with a lot of young talent. Players like WR’s Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have only shown the briefest of flashes thus far. Shanahan believes in a strong running game and has already made moves to upgrade this area immediately. If nothing else, Shanahan will be able to provide some stability and a sense of direction for the offense. Jim Haslett takes over a defense that ranked 10th in the league last year and does have some talent. Albert Haynesworth and London Fletcher provide a strong, if aging foundation.
If the team can add another young playmaker like rookie sensation Brian Orakpo, from last year's draft, a good defense could become great. The Skins should also target a later round QB prospect like Colt McCoy or Dan LeFevour to groom if Campbell stumbles.
Fantasy Spin - Clinton Portis was shipped out of Denver by Shanahan while in his prime. It’s far from a sure thing that he’ll return. Okung will plug a gaping hole at left tackle with Chris Samuels unlikely to resume his career. If a James Starks, or Monterrio Hardesty developmental-type back is drafted at some point they’ll get dumped into a sure fire time share situation with whatever backs remain on the roster. Orakpo tallied 11 sacks last season and will have value in IDP formats. Steady performers like Santana Moss and Chris Cooley will be back although both could see younger players like Thomas, Kelly and TE Fred Davis cut into their numbers.
5.) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs haven’t been a factor in the AFC west in years. Second year GM Scott Pioli is understandably trying to duplicate the formula for success he used in New England. To that end, former Patriot offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel have been hired to fill their old roles. Matt Cassel, Pioli’s hand picked franchise quarterback under whelmed last season, but not enough for the Chiefs to consider a quarterback here. In four out of their last seven drafts the Chiefs have selected a defensive player in the top fifteen picks. The result? 30th in total defense in 2009. If the Chiefs go back on the defensive, it’ll be for Tennessee safety Eric Berry, an elite talent who projects as an Ed Reed-type game changer on defense. If not, then they’ll opt for an offensive tackle like Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga or Oklahoma’s Trent Williams.
Team Spin - Dwayne Bowe hasn’t done much to endear himself to 2nd year head coach Todd Haley. No one can deny Bowe’s talent but he’s going to have to work harder to stay on the field, off suspension, and out Haley’s doghouse. Pioli and Haley didn’t draft Bowe and probably wouldn’t hesitate to move him if a better option presented itself. Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant looked like one of those options until he knuckle headed himself out his entire season and potentially millions of dollars in bonus money by lying to NCAA investigators. The Chiefs will try to upgrade their receiving corps in this draft but there isn’t anyone worthy of the number five overall pick. Eric Berry has unilaterally been named the best defensive back prospect of this class. Safeties like Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders and Ed Reed are catalytic playmakers wreaking havoc and creating turnovers all over the field. If Berry can live up to his billing, he’ll make the entire defense better.
Fantasy Spin - Jamaal Charles seized the reigns of the Chiefs rushing attack at the end of last season and didn’t look back tallying almost 1000 yards rushing in the final eight games. There was a lot of excitement in the fantasy community to see what Charles could do with an entire season in a non RBBC situation. Sadly (for fantasy fans) the Chiefs brought in former Jets running back Thomas Jones, cutting the fantasy projection of both backs off at the knees. You would imagine that Jones would be the short yardage and goal line back, but we won’t find out how the carries and goal line looks will be divided until after the season begins. Haley and Weiss have had their most success in coaching by orchestrating precision, high powered passing attacks. The temptation to open things up will be strong but this team doesn’t have the personnel to get cute. Offensive line and wide receiver will need to be addressed at some point. USC WR Damien Williams, LSU WR Brandon LaFell, or ILL WR Arrelious Benn could all be available at pick 36. Then USC tackle Charles Brown or Ole Miss tackle John Jerry could be attractive with Chiefs 2nd pick in round two. Ball hawking safeties in the Berry mold won’t produce consistently in IDP leagues because of their unpredictable tackle numbers. The big plays they make in games wont translate into fantasy points unless the scoring system your league uses has been modified to put more emphasis on interceptions, and forced fumbles etc.
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