2012 NFL Draft: Predicting Every NFL Team's Worst Nightmare
The best laid plans of managers and coaches...often go awry.
Draft day can be a highly unpredictable occasion. Trades have been happening with increasing frequency in the 1st round of the NFL Draft, almost as if general managers feel the pressure of the event's prime time television coverage and wish to give the audience the excitement and unpredictability it craves.
In the 2004 NFL Draft, armed with the No. 20 overall pick and a fixation on Miami Hurricanes offensive tackle Vernon Carey, the Miami Dolphins were told by the Minnesota Vikings, who picked No. 19 overall, that the New England Patriots (who picked No. 21 overall) were attempting to trade ahead of the Dolphins for the right to select Carey.
The Dolphins, believing they simply could not afford to lose Carey, paid the extraordinarily steep price of a 4th round draft pick just to move up one space. There have since been strong implications that the Patriots intended to draft Vince Wilfork at No. 21 overall the entire time.
Sometimes things just do not go your way.
Trades are not the only unpredictable event. Teams go to great lengths to disguise their Draft needs and intentions.
Prior to selecting Jared Odrick in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland kept a tight lid on already-laid plans to move defensive end Randy Starks to nose tackle, so as to keep other teams guessing that the Dolphins would target a true nose rather than a player in Odrick that was always destined for a 3 or 5 technique position.
Even after selecting Odrick, Ireland remained coy about the plans in his post-1st round press conference, for no other reason than to keep teams guessing about any potential day two plans.
This kind of secrecy is designed to create nightmare scenarios for teams picking below you. But sometimes, the nightmares are self-inflicted.
In the 2007 NFL Draft, the entire Miami Dolphins' war room was given the impression that if Brady Quinn had slipped to the No. 10 overall pick, he would be the selection of Head Coach Cam Cameron and General Manager Randy Mueller. Only they and Team President Bryan Wiedmeier knew the truth, that the pick was destined to be receiver and return specialist Ted Ginn, Jr. regardless of Quinn's availability.
The secrecy worked. The pick did not. The Dolphins passed on All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis, who would have filled a need at that time.
Let's take a look at some nightmare Draft scenarios for all NFL teams.
#1. Indianapolis Colts
Admittedly, when you have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, circumstances are usually not going to work against you. The only draft day wounds you may suffer would tend to be self-inflicted.
Let us take for granted that the Colts are not going to engage in self-destructive bad behavior.
One nightmare scenario would then involve the Luck family deciding to pull an Eli Manning on the Indianapolis Colts, forcing the Colts to either choose the flashier dual-threat quarterback Robert Griffin instead of Andrew Luck, or to trade down with a team where they will have to take Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M.
Some believe that taking Griffin may be better than selecting Luck, regardless. I do not share that belief. Andrew Luck is legitimately the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL Draft since John Elway in 1983.
Griffin does not have a significantly better pure physical skill set, and is not the same caliber passer as Luck. He is also far behind Luck in his mechanics, grasp of pro style schemes and especially in pocket presence. I question Griffin's ability to stay healthy, given his thin base and tendency to hold onto the ball too long.
The Colts found themselves in this position once before.
The man every general manager knew would be the 1st overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft—had he come out early—had entered the 1998 NFL Draft as a graduating senior and was taking criticism relative to a flashier, more physically impressive passer playing runner-up.
The Colts made the right decision then, and I expect them to make the right decision now, as well.
#2. Washington Redskins
For the Washington Redskins, the team's nightmare scenario is a virtual lock to happen. This is of their own doing, as they traded away two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick in order to move up from No. 6 overall to No. 2 overall.
I say virtual lock, because until the Colts sign Andrew Luck to a contract, there is always a possibility that the team has a sudden change of heart and decides to take Griffin while Luck falls in the lap of Mike Shanahan and the Redskins. That would be a dream scenario.
What is more likely to happen is a nightmare.
#3. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings have very few realistic possibilities for a nightmare draft scenario.The first two picks in the draft are already known, as the Colts seem destined to select Andrew Luck while the Redskins made it clear they traded with the Rams in order to select Baylor's Robert Griffin.
Put simply, the Vikings do not pick low enough for their ideal players to end up unavailable to them.
The team has needs in the defensive secondary, where it could easily use a talent like Morris Claiborne of LSU.
The team has a need at the left tackle position, where it could make use of the draft's one elite tackle prospect, Matt Kalil of Southern California.
The team could also use a wide receiver to catch passes from young quarterback Christian Ponder.
Coming up with a team's nightmare scenario does not just involve picking any player in the draft you do not like, plugging him in at the team's pick, and remarking how awful it would be if things panned out that way. Trent Richardson is a legitimately elite level player in this Draft. He is the best tailback prospect since, coincidentally, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings.
Which brings me to why this would be such a nightmare scenario. The fact of the matter is, Peterson is already in Minnesota and has a large contract. The team already drafted a complimentary back in Toby Gerhart.
The best tailback prospect since Adrian Peterson does not need to share a bunk with Adrian Peterson.
#4 & #22. Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are lucky enough to be selecting at both No. 4 overall and No. 22 overall in the upcoming NFL Draft.
With such ammunition, it is difficult to foresee them screwing up royally. However, it could still happen.
The Browns passed on Matt Flynn during the off season. Though they have attempted to let slip their confidence in Colt McCoy as the team's quarterback of the future, very few outside of Cleveland really believe it.
The nightmare scenario for the Browns would involve losing a crack at both Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State.
The team could lose both in any number of scenarios. Should the Dolphins decide that Cleveland intends to take Tannehill at No. 4 overall, they could move up to the Minnesota Vikings' pick at No. 3 overall. Or, the Browns could simply pass on Tannehill and hope to select Weeden at No. 22 overall.
Subsequently, a team like the Denver Broncos or Miami Dolphins could trade around the Browns, selecting Weeden and assuring that Browns fans have to deal with Colt McCoy another year.
#5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No offense to Trent Richardson, who is a fantastic player, but for me to take a tailback this high in the draft he needs to be both a truly special player, and a player that plays a position of need.
It is just too easy to find productive backs later in the Draft, as well as too difficult to predict which college backs take well to the physicality and pounding of the NFL game.
The Buccaneers have been rumored to be onto Trent Richardson at No. 5 overall, and this is the one potential pick they could make here that I do not understand, given the presence of LeGarrette Blount. Blount had a down season, however, the team lacked the kind of weapons at the receiver position that keep defenses honest with respect to defending the run.
Now that the team has Vincent Jackson signed to a very large contract, Blount should find more room to be the vicious player he was in 2010 when he averaged almost 90 rushing yards per game over the final 11 games.
#6. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams have already done well for themselves in the 2012 NFL Draft, extracting a very hefty price from the Washington Redskins in order to move up and draft an overrated player in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin.
Their true nightmare scenario, drafting Robert Griffin despite the presence of Sam Bradford, has been avoided.
However, at No. 6 overall the team should remain wary of losing sight of corner Morris Claiborne of LSU, who may be the best defensive player in the draft. Jeff Fisher may have successfully recruited his former player Cortland Finnegan in order to try and fill the massive hole the team possesses at the position, but he is simply not enough.
Therefore, the nightmare scenario for the St. Louis Rams would involve losing a crack at the likes of Morris Claiborne, while also being unable to continue trading down the board in order to accumulate more draft value.
#7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Many out there believe that the Jacksonville Jaguars' nightmare draft scenario would involve the selection of North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples.
I do not share that belief.
Rather, I believe it just the opposite. I believe the team's relative nightmare scenario would come about if, somehow, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, LSU corner Morris Claiborne as well as North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples are all off the board.
The team needs players in all three areas and all three players are legitimately elite at their respective positions.
Lucky for Jaguars fans, this scenario remains unlikely. Unlucky for Jaguars fans, it may not matter as the Jaguars take an inferior player at a position of less need, regardless.
#8. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins suffered two more very public defeats at the hands of free agent quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, both of whom were pursued by the Dolphins, and both of whom chose other teams.
When you combine that with the similarly public defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Rams in the competition for Jeff Fisher, the Dolphins need a win.
Signing veteran quarterback David Garrard does not alleviate the team of its need and pressure to fill the quarterback position with a fresh and promising player.
The Dolphins figure to be targeting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill at No. 8 overall, or Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden in a potential trade down.
Therefore, the Dolphins' nightmare scenario would involve losing Ryan Tannehill to the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 overall, and subsequently trading down in order to target Brandon Weeden—only to watch in horror as another team springs a surprise and either moves up for Weeden, or surprisingly takes him at their pick in the middle of the 1st round.
#9. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers need a defensive tackle. The rookie pairing of Sione Fua and Terrell McClain was one of the worst pairs of 4-3 defensive tackle in the league in 2012, if not the absolute worst.
The nightmare for the Carolina Panthers, to me, therefore starts and ends with the team believing that Michael Brockers of LSU is the best defensive tackle in the draft.
Having watched a lot of Brockers, I was not at all surprised by the lack of athletic ability on display during his combine tests. I saw a player that, like Kentwan Balmer of North Carolina from a few years ago, looked the part with a great frame and good strength, but too often looked very slow-footed in his technique. I did not see the power and explosion to consistently put offensive linemen on skates.
I saw a player that was overrated.
#10. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills fans should be familiar with not only nightmare draft scenarios in general, but ones involving a reach for a player in the defensive secondary that is not justified.
Many in the NFL scouting communities see Dre Kirkpatrick as a safety prospect in the upcoming NFL draft.
The Bills may not possess great players at that position, but one does have to question the value of potentially taking a corner to safety convert this high in the NFL draft.
#11. Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs just lost corner Brandon Carr to free agency.
It would make a lot of sense to target his replacement at No. 11 overall, but I believe the value just is not there for any player at that position, let alone a player with Janoris Jenkins' troubled past.
#12. Seattle Seahawks
I truly believe that the Seattle Seahawks have let David Hawthorne escape to free agency because they want to get a more complete player at that position that can be effective on passing downs.
A true three-down player like Kuechly who is at least as good on passing downs as he is on first and second down should be worth his weight in gold when you consider the way the NFL is trending in its use of the tight end position.
The Buffalo Bills at No. 10 overall are a threat to steal Kuechly away from the Seahawks.
#13. Arizona Cardinals
Truthfully, there are not many circumstances that put the Arizona Cardinals into nightmare territory, because the team has such a broad array of needs.
The team could be justified in picking any number of offensive linemen, including David DeCastro of Stanford.
It seems unrealistic that the top three receivers are all off the board by pick No. 13. The team no longer cares about the quarterback position, now that Peyton Manning has slipped their grasp, having subsequently paid Kevin Kolb his option bonus.
With aging and ineffective outside linebacker pass rushers on the defense, the team could look to begin replacing them with fresh meat from this year's draft. One such player I find to be overrated is Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, who is a one-year wonder who seemed to make plays in 2011 only one way. He is too one-dimensional and this would be a bad pick for the Cardinals.
#14. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are another team that has difficult to imagine true-nightmare possibilities. On paper, the team seems to have all its bases covered.
The team has a quarterback in Tony Romo and a promising tailback in Demarco Murray. The tackle tandem of Doug Free and Tyron Smith is not begging for replacement. Mackenzy Bernadeau is a solid addition to the interior of the line. Jason Witten is still present and accounted for at tight end. The team signed Dan Connor to play along side Sean Lee. Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are still rushing the passer. The team has added Brandon Carr as a corner.
The worst case scenario for this team would have to be to reach at a position of need rather than going for the best available players. I chose the worst case to be Devon Still of Penn State. For me, he played too upright at times, and at other times took advantage of an extremely aggressive gap penetration scheme at Penn State to make 'wow' plays that he will not have the full opportunity to make in the professional game.
#15. Philadelphia Eagles
This is a true nightmare scenario for the Philadelphia Eagles. Vontaze Burfict probably does not deserve to be selected at all in the entire NFL Draft, let alone in the 1st round.
So, the chances of this scenario happening are slim.
However, Vontaze's athletic ability is not as bad as he has shown during his combine and pro day. I believe a personality disorder may be to blame for the bulk of Burfict's woes, including his inability to train properly for the drills in which he's looked so poor this off season.
If a team starts to view him as a high risk, high reward prospect, he could go higher than people imagine. The Philadelphia Eagles have a need, and Eagles fans had better hope they are not the team to try and turn Vontaze Burfict into a reclamation project.
#16. New York Jets
The New York Jets will undoubtedly scour pass rushing prospects in order to add some more electricity to their pass rush, decreasing the need to manufacture pressure through extensive blitzing.
One guy I continue to see as overrated is Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry.
Curry is not a fast player, though he possesses a good first couple of steps off the line. He is a linear player with very little ability to stay flexible and get narrow at the bottom of his rush. He has strength and straight ahead explosion, but little else. In addition, his motor does not run high and consistent.
#17 Through #24
#17 & #21. Cincinnati Bengals - If the Cincinnati Bengals are unable to trade up high enough to claim Trent Richardson, and the team is forced to reach for one of a group of overrated second tier runners, that would be bad news for this team.
#18. San Diego Chargers - The team believes it has replaced Vincent Jackson at receiver through the combination of Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. I remain skeptical. If the team is forced to reach on an imperfect corner while ignoring a highly talented available receiver, that would not bode well for the franchise's fortunes.
#19. Chicago Bears - With Brandon Marshall in the fold, the team will no longer be sweating bullets about that position. However, the offensive line still needs massive amounts of help and guys like Jonathan Martin, Riley Reiff and David DeCastro could all be off the board by this pick, leading them to reach for someone like Mike Adams of Ohio State.
#20. Tennessee Titans - Kamerion Wimbley appears to be safely in the fold, alleviating the potential for a terrible reach at that position in the draft. However, the team is not out of the woods yet. Bobby Wagner of Utah State is a fast rising, physically impressive linebacker that many see going in the 1st round. I have not been as big a fan, and I believe if the Titans see the next Keith Bulluck in him, they may regret it.
#23. Detroit Lions - Despite my misgivings with the 1st round corner class, there is no denying that corners with NFL potential go fast. The NFL can't get enough of them. The pickings could be even more slim by the time the Lions pick, and yet the need in the team's secondary is so strong that they may feel forced to make a reach on someone like Central Florida's Josh Robinson.
#24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Despite the team's need at the position and their love for large-bodied offensive linemen, taking a player like Mike Adams in the 1st round could really set the team back. I don't like his balance, quickness or punch.
#25 Through #32
#25. Denver Broncos - With Peyton Manning in the fold and Tim Tebow sure to be traded, the temptation to select a quarterback of the future will be high. However, players like Ryan Tannehill and perhaps even Brandon Weeden could be gone by this pick. To pick Brock Osweiler of Arizona State could end up a disaster, as he seems emotionally immature on the football field, as well as physically immature in his ability to throw the football like a professional. The ball comes off his hand inconsistently.
#26. Houston Texans - The team lacks for practically nothing, therefore making it difficult to imagine any true nightmare scenarios. With Eric Winston off to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Texans will naturally look toward replacing him. I would reiterate that a team should be careful not to reach from a position like this, lest the team end up convincing itself that Florida State's Zebrie Sanders is actually a 1st round pick.
#27 & 31. New England Patriots - The team seems to believe it can get its perimeter speed threat through old and slow players like Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth. The last time Stallworth fit that bill, the New York Giants were beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl...the first time. Brandon Lloyd may be a savvy player but he still only has 4.6 speed. The Patriots have to be hoping that Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill falls to one of these picks. If they are not able to get a good receiver, that would be a worst case scenario for this team.
#28. Green Bay Packers - The Packers need a certain kind of defensive line help. They need someone dynamic, a guy that can make plays against the pass, like Cullen Jenkins once did. The defensive tackle class may be deep, but there are not many players that fit this description. If guys like Kendall Reyes and Fletcher Cox continue rising up the board as much as perceived, the Packers could be in a bind.
#29. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens need some help on the interior of the offensive line. The team re-signed Matt Birk, but let Ben Grubbs walk in free agency. Andre Gurode was never anything but a short term stop gap. Interior linemen like Cordy Glenn and David DeCastro will probably already be gone by this pick, and if Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler is also missing, the team could suffer some in 2012.
#30. San Francisco 49ers - The team desperately needed some help at wide receiver, and probably got it in the form of free agent signees Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. The only major hole on the team lies at right guard where Adam Snyder departed for greener pastures in Arizona. Yet, there may not figure to be a player available here that could fill that need. If the team were to reach a little bit on someone like Kelechi Osemele, that may not be what is in the best long term interests of the team.
#32. New York Giants - What do you get the team that has the Lombardi trophy? Unlike some of these teams in the bottom of the 1st round, the Giants have well known weaknesses, yet still won it all. The team very desperately needs offensive line help, but does not seem well placed for value at that position. Not unlike the 49ers, if the team is forced to reach here, that may not be in the best interests of the franchise, long term.