Breaking Down Every NFL Team's Draft Tendencies
The 2013 NFL draft will feature the debuts of seven new general managers around the NFL, in addition to eight new head coaches lending their opinion on which players they would like to draft. With all of these new additions, it will difficult to predict the draft tendencies of some teams.
Salary cap management issues have forced a number of teams to release starters that they couldn't afford to carry any longer. Those type of transactions has created gaping holes in depth charts around the league, which tests the nerve of general managers faced with drafting the best available player or drafting for need.
NFL Network's draft analyst Mike Mayock held a two-hour conference call this week answering questions from beat reporters around the league. Two statements from Mayock were worth repeating for this presentation:
The best general managers have a plan, and they stick to that plan. The more often you reach, the more often you dilute your roster. Amen.
Today we will review the draft tendencies for all 32 teams around the league and, if the team in question has somebody new in charge, look at how they were influenced by their prior employers.
We will also look at some recent results over the past few drafts to see if any kind of trend has been developing that is worth noting. What can we expect in 2013?
According to this report from NFL.com, in the 2012 NFL draft, out of the grand total of 221 draft picks (excluding the compensatory picks that aren't allowed to be traded), 101 of them wound up being traded. That is a whopping 45.7 percent. Expect the 2013 draft to be somewhat tamer, but not much.
For the 2013 draft, the Arizona Cardinals have new head coach Bruce Arians and new GM Steve Keim working in concert. Since this is the first time the duo will have worked together, there is no firm track record to speak of regarding draft tendencies.
In an article by Darren Urban on azcardinals.com, the Cardinals are expecting tackle Bobby Massie to show improvement this year. If Massie improves combined with the trade for Carson Palmer, that allows Arizona to go in different directions with the No. 7 overall pick.
As for Keim, he paid his dues by working in the front office for Arizona for 14 years. We are still learning more about Keim, but he has certainly been active since taking over the reigns.
Dan Bickley at azcentral.com wrote that Keim has changed the way the Cardinals do business, starting with free agency. Whereas Arizona used to be a place where agents would send their free agents to get an offer to use for leverage, Keim put an end to the practice.
He made offers to free agents, but told them if you get on the plane without signing, we are pulling the offer and going to the next guy on our list. That strategy allowed him to sign seven of their top nine free agents that they identified.
What will Keim do at the draft? We have no way of knowing, but based on his results in free agency, and the expertise that Arians brings to the table with over 20 years of NFL experience, they should wind up with a decent draft class.
Atlanta Falcons FM Thomas Dimitroff is no stranger to making bold moves when it comes to NFL drafts. The big move the Falcons made to trade up in the first round to acquire Julio Jones paid handsome dividends for the Atlanta offense.
Now in 2013, Dimitroff is hoping to repeat history. Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported on Twitter that Dimitroff is looking to trade up from the No. 30 overall pick in hopes of landing one of the top corners in the draft class.
He has plenty of ammunition to work with, as the Falcons have a total of 11 draft picks this year. When you have an aggressive general manager, and provide him with plenty of extra draft picks, you have the recipe for some dynamic moves and trades.
Besides corner, the Falcons have to prepare for the loss of John Abraham and the eventual retirement of Tony Gonzalez, whenever he really intends to call it a career.
Super Bowl XLVII champions. Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has once again led his team to the promised land. Having reached the pinnacle, Newsome knows that his work is cut out for him in 2013, if he wants to keep the Ravens atop the AFC North division.
Bill Barnwell at Grantland.com studied the history of Newsome to determine how the GM was able to keep the Ravens competitive for the long haul. After all, the Ravens are the only current NFL team that has won at least one playoff game in each of the last five years. That doesn't happen by accident. It is a tribute to the intelligence and patience that Newsome uses to complete the roster.
According to Barnwell, this is the key thing you need to know about Newsome:
Newsome's tenure is defined by how many different ways the Ravens try to acquire talent and improve their organization. They do some things that are absolutely worth noting, but in the long run, they get the most important thing right: The Ravens truly understand how valuing players has to work in tandem with evaluating players.
When you look at how many key veterans have left the organization since winning Super Bowl XLVII, you have to wonder what kind of a team will be left to pick up the pieces in 2013.
Gone are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, Matt Birk, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard and Cary Williams. It will be difficult to overcome losing that much experience, leadership and all those playmakers.
But then you look at the moves Newsome has made in free agency. He took advantage of the Elvis Dumervil situation with the fax machine in Denver to sign a premiere player. He took a calculated risk on troubled Rolando McClain. There were other shrewd moves, like adding free agents Chris Canty and Michael Huff.
When you combine all the moves made in free agency (subscription required for full ratings) with the upcoming draft, it won't be a major surprise that Newsome has once again orchestrated another competitive team in 2013. They might struggle to win the AFC North, but nobody wants to make the claim that the Ravens won't be in the playoffs again in 2013.
Newsome still has some work to do at the 2013 draft. There are some holes he hasn't addressed yet, but taking care of team needs is one of the things that Newsome does best in the war room. That is why the Ravens have been able to stay at the top for so long.
The Buffalo Bills have been reeling for years without having a franchise quarterback on board capable of taking on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. General manager Buddy Nix was fooled into thinking that a hot start from Ryan Fitzpatrick warranted a big contract, but he was clearly not the answer.
So Nix is now back to the drawing board. He released Fitzpatrick and signed veterans Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson in the offseason, giving the Bills two veteran quarterbacks to bring in for competition at the key position. A third candidate will undoubtedly be added to the mix at the upcoming draft.
Nix will rely on his scouting department and their subsequent grades that dictate who the best available athlete is when the Bills are on the clock. In his first draft in 2010, Nix selected Clemson RB C.J. Spiller with the No. 9 overall pick. In 2011, it was Alabama DL Marcel Dareus with the No. 3 pick, and last year it was South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore with the No. 10 pick.
This year the Bills have the No. 8 pick. With quarterback being such a critical need, Nix may be forced to trade back into the bottom-half of first round, since it would be a huge reach to draft any quarterback in this draft class at No. 8.
Nix loathes giving up draft picks, and prefers to stay with whatever picks that were originally assigned to him. He might not have that luxury this year, or he could miss out on the quarterback they really value once again.
From a historical perspective, Nix places a much higher priority on players coming out of the SEC and ACC conferences. Nix might have the most "tunnel-vision view" of any GM in the NFL when it comes to ignoring the majority of the country and focusing on just a small portion of the available talent.
In the 2012 draft for an example, each of his first six draft picks came from either the SEC or ACC. That is more than a mere coincidence. In 2011, it was more of the same. Out of the first seven picks, three picks again came from the SEC and three from the ACC. The lone exception was Texas CB Aaron Williams.
In his first draft in 2010, Nix again went back to the ACC for Spiller, but after that selection, it was a myriad of smaller schools off the beaten path; Arkansas State, James Madison, South Dakota State and Troy.
From a philosophical view, Nix talked about his drafting strategy in this article from BuffaloBills.com with the following quote:
We have added a quarterback so there’s some stability there. Then we’ve added two linebackers which lessens that value here in the draft. What we’ll do is like we always do, we’ll try to take the best player. We’re not going to reach, even for need. We’ll take those guys if there are two or three positions with the same grade then we’ll take the need position.
The Bills' pick in the first round will be the best player available. But, don't be surprised if he happens to come out of the SEC or ACC. Some habits are harder to kick than others.
The Carolina Panthers' 2013 draft will be the debut for new GM Dave Gettleman. Gettleman learned the ropes while working for the New York Giants as a player evaluator under Jerry Reese.
Since we don't have any significant track record to go on, we can only assume that Gettleman will adopt the style he learned from the Giants, which is a combination of best value and best player available. You should expect him to demonstrate patience and wait for the Panthers' turn to come up, rather than panic and feel the need to trade up.
In the offseason, Gettleman brought in a few players from other teams, but it shouldn't come as a major surprise that he signed two ex-New York Giants players to join him in Carolina. Those two were WR Domenik Hixon and LB Chase Blackburn.
The Chicago Bears' 2013 draft class will be general manager Phil Emery's second chance to come up with a solid draft. It is the first time he will be working with new head coach Marc Trestman. Since Trestman is an offensive-minded coach, it will be interesting to see which unit will receive most of the attention at the draft.
Emery has been in the headlines due to the decision to part ways with free agent LB Brian Urlacher. The Bears have basically told Urlacher to find a new team in 2013, which placed tremendous pressure on Emery and his convictions.
As for the draft, I came across an article by Adam Hoge of ChicagoCBSlocal.com, where Hoge attended the Bears pre-draft press conference. As for draft tendencies, Hoge covered the key things that Emery highlighted for the Bears' draft strategy:
The Bears will operate with take a three-category approach for every draft pick.
First approach: Identify the players the Bears would be willing to sacrifice picks to trade up for. If a trade can't be worked out, the Bears would not pass any of those players up.
Second approach: If the players identified in first approach are already gone, then the Bears will go to Plan B. That calls for a group of players that their research identified that were the next tier to the desired player. The expectation is that they will have a group of five or six players available to them with the No. 20 overall pick that fits this approach.
Third approach: This group of players will be available if your only recourse is to trade back and pick up additional picks. Call them the safe option picks. May not be great players, but solid choices. Based on who is left, you might need to trade back multiple times until you have proper value to draft.
Emery has a background that includes being a scouring director (Atlanta and Kansas City) as well as serving as a strength coach for a number of college programs.
The Cincinnati Bengals' draft tendencies start and end with owner Mike Brown. He also serves as the main say in the draft picks, but at least he is now willing to listen to whatever opinion that head coach Marvin Lewis wants to share.
The combination of Brown and Lewis have come up with a number of solid drafts over the years, which has allowed the team to have a solid core of young and talented players. The draft that netted A.J. Green and Andy Dalton was one of Brown's better results.
The Bengals tend to draft according to team needs, since they rarely rely on free agency to fill their roster holes. Signing LB James Harrison to a new deal is more the exception than the normal rule. It will be interesting to watch Harrison going after Ben Roethlisberger in a Bengals uniform.
The Bengals' needs are minimal since they were able to retain such a large percentage of their own free agents from the 2012 team. It would be a nice move if they can somehow convince tackle Andre Smith to sign prior to the draft. If not, then that may be a direction the Bengals will have to focus on at the draft.
Michael Lombardi is back with the Cleveland Browns, this time as the general manager. Lombardi had previously been in Cleveland back with Bill Belichick, as the Pro Personnel Director (1987-1996). Since then, he's worked with Philadelphia, St. Louis and Oakland.
Lombardi has been a scout, evaluated talent and headed up scouting departments. He has handled player contracts. He was an analyst for NFL Network and Inside the NFL on Showtime. He founded the National Football Post and was a writer for Sports Illustrated and NFL.com. In short, he is as well-rounded as they come.
As for the draft tendencies, Lombardi will have to come up with a strategy that coincides with Joe Banner, who is the CEO in Cleveland. The 2013 draft will be the first time that Lombardi is basically able to call his own shots. We will learn together what style he operates with and then see if there are any trends that continue in 2014.
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones takes the credit and all the blame for whatever the team winds up with during the draft. Jones enjoys the spotlight, so the attention somehow seems to be just as important as the final product, because as a GM his track record of producing drafts that lead to playoff wins leaves plenty to be desired.
What is the best way to describe the Dallas Cowboys' draft strategy and tendencies under Jones? The first thing that leaps to mind is that if Dallas can find a marquee name that helps them sell tickets, that is a good start. If the players turns out to be actually good, then that is an added bonus. If the player has roots or ties to Texas, Oklahoma or even Arkansas, all the better.
Seriously, the Cowboys do add plenty of talent through the draft, but they are hampered by trying to cram so much on the roster that they are constantly running into salary cap management issues. These cap problems force the team to release talented players because they can't afford to keep them.
If Jones feels that there is a player that he has to have, he will pay whatever the going rate is. If the trade keeps his Cowboys in the headlines, then mission accomplished. There is a reason that the Cowboys have won only one playoff game in the last 16 years. The common denominator for all those years is talent evaluator/GM/owner Jerry Jones.
John Elway has the Broncos set to be viewed as one of the preseason favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. Elway took control of the team in 2011 as the Executive VP of Football Operations.
Whatever tendencies or strategies that Elway wanted to employ for the NFL draft, everything changed the minute that he signed Peyton Manning during free agency in 2012. The new motto was "Win Now or Bust."
The Broncos have done as much as they could to surround Manning with a combination of talent and familiar faces. That strategy has continued in the 2013 offseason with the addition of Wes Welker at wide receiver.
After the fax machine incident that cost the team Elvis Dumervil, the team will hope to get an outside linebacker in the draft. If not, the Broncos have lined up Dwight Freeney as a fallback option.
Due to how efficient Manning is, the Broncos can either take the best athlete available at the draft, or package some picks to grab a talented pass-rusher to replace Dumervil. It is amazing how much better your draft class can become when you have a quarterback like Manning to work with.
The 2013 offseason is going much better for Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew than it was one year ago. In 2012, Mayhew was reeling due to how many players were getting arrested around the country for making poor decisions off the field. This year they can focus on getting the team back to the playoffs.
If you follow Mayhew over the years, you know that he is an advocate of taking the best player available. Who is the best available player for Detroit in 2013? That depends on their grades assigned to this class, but you can be sure they have a solid handles on this draft class due to their week of coaching in the Senior Bowl.
If that best player available turns out to be a position that the Lions are currently set at, Mayhew will still pull the trigger, which is consistent with why they took Nick Fairley and Riley Reiff in the last two draft classes with their top pick.
If the Lions have similar grades for two players, and one of them happens to be a cornerback when they are on the clock at No. 5, it would make sense that they will draft the corner.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson once again focused on taking care of his own players, rather than bringing in free agents to address any holes on the roster. That places more importance on coming up with a solid draft class, as the Packers aren't going to overwhelm anybody with their current running game personnel.
The trends that Thompson has employed over the years is to avoid free agency for the most part, by focusing the lion share of their financial resources on extending the contracts of their own core players. The Packers just took care of Clay Matthews, and you can be assured that they will take care of Aaron Rodgers and B.J. Raji before the season starts.
Thanks to the presence of Rodgers, it allows Thompson the freedom to address team needs at the draft, which is another reason they aren't an active player in free agency.
It would be a surprise if the first-round pick this year doesn't wind up addressing one of the Packers' needs. If there is a running back that they believe in, that could very well be the direction they address.
Houston Texans GM Rick Smith doesn't get a ton of press from a national standpoint. Smith has been building the Texans roster since 2006 and has been able to keep the team in contention despite a number of free agency defections in the past two years.
The 2013 offseason was no different, as James Casey, Justin Forsett, Glover Quin, Alan Ball, Kevin Walter and Connor Barwin will all be playing elsewhere next year.
But the big deal that Smith pulled off was signing Ed Reed in free agency. That one move instantly improves the entire Houston secondary and makes them an even bigger threat in the AFC.
The team has won at least one playoff game in the last two years, so they might be able to take it at least one step further in 2013. That will likely depend on what Smith does at the draft.
One of the biggest problems is finding a wide receiver that can take pressure off of Andre Johnson. Since Smith tends to draft according to need, it would not be a surprise if he targets a wide receiver with their first-round draft pick. The offense will be featured in the draft as they need more weapons to take some of the pressure off Johnson and Arian Foster.
Indianapolis Colts GM Ryan Grigson did a remarkable job during his debut as GM in the 2012 season. He was rewarded for his efforts by winning the NFL Executive of the Year award from the Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly.
The 2013 draft will no doubt he tougher for Grigson to execute since he won't be drafting at the top of every round, nor will he have a franchise player sitting there with the first pick to fall in his lap. But Grigson rose up through the ranks as a scout, so he will be falling back on his ability to evaluate talent, which will help him this year.
As part of the reconstruction of the Colts roster last year, Grigson wisely added many skilled rookies to learn on the job with Andrew Luck. They will be able to grow up in the league together, continuing to develop their chemistry.
As for draft tendencies, Grigson came to Indianapolis after working for Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Grigson will huddle with owner Jim Irsay to figure out what needs they have to address this year, which seems to be on the defensive side of the ball. Keeping Luck protected from the physical beating he was asked to endure last year would be another smart use of resources at the draft.
Who has the worst roster for overall talent right now in the NFL? You could make a case for the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Oakland Raiders, but certainly those two teams would have to be in the conversation. For Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell, things can't get much worse, so there is only direction left to go, and that is up.
Caldwell earned this job due to his work with the Atlanta Falcons. That doesn't mean that he will need to be making bold moves like his former boss, Thomas Dimitroff, because the Jaguars just have so many needs on both sides of the ball. Caldwell's background included scouting and talent evaluation, so that foundation should serve him well at the draft.
If Caldwell sticks to the best athlete available, that will be the safest way to ensure that he isn't reaching. Whoever they draft will have a chance to contribute right away in 2013, because the Jaguars are just that bad.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are turning their fortunes in 2013 over to new GM John Dorsey and new head coach Andy Reid. The duo has already had a solid offseason, beginning with their upgrade at quarterback by trading for veteran Alex Smith from San Francisco.
Dorsey has a solid background in scouting, where he worked for Mike Holmgren in both Green Bay and at Seattle. The latest news on the Brandon Albert situation is that the Dolphins are looking to finalize a contract offer with Albert. Mike Juricki of XTRA Phoenix sent out a Twitter update that the Dolphins are now in negotiations with Albert.
That means the Chiefs should wind up with an extra second-round pick that Dorsey and Reid can invest in other areas of need.
As for the No. 1 overall pick, the Chiefs have shown signs of being willing to trade down a few spots, but so far nobody is biting.
If they wind up making the pick on their own at No. 1, it will be a tackle to replace Albert. Whether they opt for Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher depends on who Reid and Dorsey prefer. The Chiefs have the chance to make some major headway in this draft, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.
This draft should demonstrate a combination of drafting for need and taking the best available player.
Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland can't be accused this year of sitting on his hands. Far from it.
The Dolphins have been as active as any NFL team in the 2013 season by signing Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, Brandon Gibson, Lance Louis, Brent Grimes and Dustin Keller.
As for the draft and the apparent urgency in winning now or else, if there is any team that would seem to be prepared to trade away their first-round draft pick in 2014 this year, it is the Miami Dolphins. With the way that Ireland has back-loaded the contracts of the free agents he signed to longer deals, the Dolphins will be very talented this year.
However, with each successive year, they will start entering the kind of "salary-cap hell" that is plaguing the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. If Ireland is gone by then, it will be somebody else's problem.
As for the 2013 draft, the Dolphins have addressed quite a few of their issues in free agency. They would like to add a solid tackle to replace Jake Long, and if Ireland needs to trade up and give away some of their future to make it happen, he will pull the trigger. At this point, he might as well go all in.
It didn't take Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman very long to make a splash on the job. Spielman was the Player Personnel Director before he got the promotion to GM in 2012. He immediately went to work on doing what he could to improve the Vikings.
In the 2012 draft, Spielman gave up a second- and a fourth-round draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens in order to move back to the first round and draft safety Harrison Smith.
Now in 2013, Spielman made another bold move by trading disgruntled wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for another first-round draft pick. According to this report by Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Spielman is looking to aggressively move up in the first round of the draft.
After trading Harvin away, the Vikings need a playmaker like Tavon Austin to take some of the defensive focus off of Adrian Peterson. The Vikings will likely find a willing partner that will require multiple picks in order for Minnesota to move up high enough to get the receiver they covet.
With his ability to make bolder moves, Spielman will soon rival Thomas Dimitroff as one of the most aggressive general managers in the game.
New England Patriots
The 2013 draft will undoubtedly be frustrating for New England Patriots head coach and GM Bill Belichick.
Belichick is accustomed to having a plethora of picks at his disposal every year, which he can spin out and turn them into a higher draft pick the following year. The rest of the league has either caught on to his shenanigans or he ultimately decided to cash all his chips in.
As for 2013, Belichick has only five draft picks to work with, which puts him in a strange new place come draft day.
According to this article by Nick Underhill of MassLive.com, Belichick has orchestrated 50 trades during the draft. Belichick has mastered the art of polishing up his draft picks or knowing the right time to swoop in and offer a team that pick that they just can't live without.
So now what will Belichick do this year? Belichick will work to find that combination of best athlete that fits a need as the Patriots continue to plug people in to stay competitive from one year to the next.
Thanks to the coaching skills of Belichick, he has the ability to quickly break players in to their system and plug and play them in. One of the topics worth following in this draft is to see how many deals Belichick is able to swing.
New Orleans Saints
Nobody is looking forward to the 2013 draft more than the duo of New Orleans Saints GM Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton. The 2012 nightmare of a season is now a thing of the past, and rebuilding the Saints and getting back to their winning ways is their main mission.
In regards to draft tendencies, the Saints don't really have much of an option of drafting the best available athlete. They have to focus on finding the best defensive personnel available that can be plugged in to Rob Ryan's new scheme.
When you have the worst defense in the history of the NFL, fixing that takes precedence over everything else. If the Saints don't spend the majority of their draft picks on defense, something is wrong. Keep in mind that they are already operating without their second-round draft pick, thanks to the fine levied by commissioner Roger Goodell.
New York Giants
New York Giants GM Jerry Reese has seen his share of highs (two Super Bowl championships) and lows (failing to reach the playoffs the following season). The mission of course in 2013 is to get back to the postseason, so Reese will do what he can to make that happen.
Has there ever been a player drafted by the Giants that head coach Tom Coughlin hasn't personally timed at the Indianapolis scouting combine? His annual seat up front to time every prospect is as much a part of the week in Indianapolis as Rich Eisen running the 40-yard dash in his suit.
The draft tendencies of the Giants start with Reese and Coughlin putting their heads together to build their draft board. They stick to their board to draft the best player available when they are on the clock.
By not veering from this philosophy, the Giants don't wind up reaching for players and are able to retain a talented team from one year to the next.
This style of not reaching and being solid talent evaluators has allowed the Giants to win two Super Bowl titles with the duo. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.
New York Jets
We have to wonder how well New York Jets GM John Idzik is sleeping these days. Let's provide a brief overview of what is on his plate right now.
He is trying to coax Darrelle Revis' rehab along so that he can become healthy enough so that Idzik can trade him to Tampa Bay. He needs to extract as many high draft picks from the Buccaneers as he can to save face.
Idzik is trying to see if he can find a trade partner for either Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow or both. He has to find a way to replace a number of holes due to veteran starters that were released because of the brutal salary-cap scenario that his predecessor Mike Tannenbaum left behind.
Don't forget that Idzik had to promise to put up with lame duck head coach Rex Ryan for this year, whether he wanted to work with him or not. No wonder so many people backed out of interviewing for the job.
We would be wise to appreciate that Idzik was hired out of the Seattle Seahawks organization. So that automatically makes you wonder if he will be prone to making draft picks that will result in Jets fans jumping off the balcony at the Radio City Music Hall. Then after they have played for a year or two, you realize that the picks were true genius.
Even though that worked in Seattle, New York City media might not give him the necessary amount of patience to let things play out. If the Jets wind up with two first-round draft picks, Idzik will be heavily scrutinized with whatever decisions he makes. It goes with the territory.
We just detailed some of the many issues that are confronting Jets GM John Idzik. If he ever needs to commiserate with somebody that has been there and done that, he should talk directly to Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.
McKenzie is now in the second year of remaking the Raiders organization. With a salary-cap mess if there ever was one, McKenzie had no choice but to release a number of veteran starters for two straight years to meet the league salary cap requirements.
To give you an idea of how bad it is, the highest-paid player is Darren McFadden, and he is only earning $5.8 million. Why so little? According to the Raiders 2013 salaries and cap break down on Spotrac.com, out of the $120 million figure for the salary cap, over $46 million of that amount was already gone due to dead money. That means that over 38 percent of the salary cap was blown before a single player was signed to a contract.
That is the nightmare that McKenzie is faced with cleaning up. As such, the Raiders are lacking top-flight talent at a key number of positions on both sides of the ball.
At the 2013 draft, McKenzie should just focus on drafting the best player available the whole way through, because whoever he drafts will be badly needed.
Whatever undrafted rookie free agents McKenzie can sign will also have a chance to make the squad. Veteran players willing to play for the league minimum will also have a chance to make the roster after the draft is concluded. The cheaper, the better, as far as 2013 goes.
Once we get to 2014, the salary cap will start becoming better and the front office will be able to breathe. For now, the focus of McKenzie is to draft
Terrell Pryor was asked about his observations of the Raiders transformation under McKenzie. He shared these comments with Paul Gutierez of CSNBayArea.com.
I think Mr. McKenzie and Coach Allen are getting guys in the locker room…like this -- that love football, love team first and they want to be here to win. If it’s anything else, it doesn’t matter. We want to have guys that love to be around, the guys who love football and compete. "You can tell from the guys he brought in. We don’t want guys, like coach says all the time, we don’t want guys that are about women, fast cars, cars. We don’t want any of that. It’s all about competing, being a team player first and loving the game of football.
The Raiders are attempting to break their old image, and McKenzie will be leading the charge in that regard. Gone are the days when the most important quality was how fast a player ran the 40.
The Chip Kelly show has landed in Philadelphia, and Eagles GM Howie Roseman now is in charge of finding the players for Kelly that will allow his schemes to flourish. As the Eagles start to file out of their initial minicamp, it is sounding like Eagles games will be closer to track meets than they will football games.
Speeding up the pace, gassing the opposition and keeping the pedal to the metal seems to be the direction for the Eagles in 2013.
From a trend perspective, you can automatically look for athletic players that have a high motor and that stay in great shape. That will be the same for both the skilled players and the linemen, because if you can't keep up, you will have to be sitting it out.
In a segment of ESPN's NFL 32 last week, it was revealed that the average NFL team ran 64 plays per game in 2012. New England led the league with an average of 74 plays per game. The Eagles only ran 67 plays per game last year.
At Oregon, Kelly's offense cranked out 84 plays per game, which seems like it would be too lofty of a goal for NFL players to reach. He can try pushing them as hard as he wants to get above 75 snaps per game.
Keep all of that in mind as you are observing the type of athletes that Kelly and Roseman are assembling in their first draft together.
Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has been tasked with transforming the aging Steelers team into a younger version that is still capable of contending in the AFC.
The transformation hit a bump in 2012 as the team failed to qualify for the postseason. What will happen to Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin if they fail to reach the playoffs for a second year in a row?
The 2013 edition of the Steelers will be without key players like James Harrison, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Willie Colon, Will Allen, Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Mundy.
Then you factor in that some of the recent draft classes put together by Colbert have been less than stellar. For example, if you combine the draft classes of 2008 and 2009, the only player left on the Steelers roster is Ziggy Hood. That is it; everybody else is gone.
Please understand we aren't saying that Colbert hasn't come up with some good draft classes or draft picks over the years, because he has. It is just that the inability to come up with a strong draft year in and year out has finally caught up to Pittsburgh. The results were visible last year, and they might be painful to watch again in 2013.
As Ben Roethlisberger admitted in an interview on sportsinterviews.com, the team will really miss the impact that Wallace made on opposing defenses. Here is what Big Ben shared:
People don’t realize how important it is to have a guy with his ability on the football field and the guy who is probably going to notice it the most right from the get-go is Antonio Brown. Safeties have to respect Mike’s speed. Cornerbacks and the defense are scheming to stop Mike Wallace going deep. It opens up other receivers, so to lose a guy like that is really going to be tough for all of us.
The Steelers have been contenders for a long time, but the 2013 season could prove to be another major challenge. Somebody will have to take over for Harrison and provide that leadership and attitude on the defensive side of the ball that he brought to every game.
Pittsburgh's salary cap issues forced Colbert's hand in some of those key decisions. Expect him to take a stance of drafting to fill specific needs at the 2013 draft, as they still have some major holes to address.
San Diego Chargers
We will see what San Diego Chargers GM Tom Telesco is all about fairly early in the 2013 NFL draft. Everybody knows that the Chargers offensive line is in shambles, and it is up to Telesco to find a way to land at least one of the top-tier linemen of this draft class.
Anything short of that will serve as a rather ominous beginning to Telesco's tenure as GM for San Diego. As the first three or four picks play out, he will have a better idea of how many offensive linemen are flying off the big board. By the fifth overall pick, he will need to have a plan in place if he has any designs on grabbing one of the key left tackles that are available.
If the Chargers aren't able to draft anyone from this group of five linemen (Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper), you would have to consider that to be an epic fail. It would also signify that 2013 would be another long year for Phillip Rivers.
For those not very familiar with Telesco or his background, he began as an intern with the Buffalo Bills during their Super Bowl years. He continued his relationship with Bill Polian, as he worked his way up the ladder with the Indianapolis Colts, putting 15 years in with the organization. His journey ranged from scouting to gaining a promotion as the Director of Player Personnel.
Polian was running the Buffalo Bills when Jim Kelly decided to leave the USFL for the NFL. He also was responsible for drafting Peyton Manning. So, it will be interesting to see if Telesco drafts a quarterback to start grooming, as the last few years from Phillip Rivers have been concerning to Chargers fans.
At the draft, Telesco will no doubt have to target some offensive linemen from a need perspective, while looking to draft some best athletes available to help the overall roster.
San Francisco 49ers
Every other NFL general manager will undoubtedly be harboring some sort of jealousy towards San Francisco GM Trent Baalke at the draft.
For starters, the 49ers have one of the most complete rosters of talent in the league. Then you factor in that San Francisco has a total of 14 draft picks to work with, which is the most of any team, and you realize why his colleagues are envious of his situation.
If you can't beat them, then join them. If you can't join them, then trade with them and convince Baalke to give up multiple draft picks in the deal. He probably will be more than happy to oblige.
The 49ers do need to replace safety Dashon Goldson in the draft. They can literally sit back and wait for an ideal trading spot to open up higher in the first round and overwhelm any trade partner they want with their plethora of draft picks.
There are plenty of teams that are more than happy to trade down, so Baalke may not have to work the phones very hard to find a willing partner.
When the dust has settled on the 2013 draft, Baalke should emerge from this draft with at least three future studs. They might be asked to contribute to the team this year, or they could be asked to observe for the first year like A.J. Jenkins was in 2012.
Another possible outcome is that Ballke could surrender some of his surplus of draft picks this year in order to start setting up the 2014 draft for next year. Baalke could then keep the 49ers in position to keep bringing in fresh talent that prevents the team from getting old overnight.
If he isn't able to accomplish either one of these outcomes, then something turned out horribly wrong at the draft. We doubt that will happen.
Is there any NFL organization that doesn't give a flip what the draft analysts have to say about a prospect more than the Seattle Seahawks? The Seahawks almost go out of their way to draft players against the grain, and you have to sit back and observe the results and conclude that they are mad geniuses.
Seattle GM John Schneider has been pulling all the right strings lately. Schneider isn't flying solo here, as Pete Carroll has been heavily involved in transforming the Seattle franchise into a winner in relatively short order.
The 2013 offseason has been more of the same, with Seattle landing free agents Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Antoine Winfield. They traded for Percy Harvin, which adds a major new dimension for Russell Wilson to work into the offense.
The Seahawks ignored all of the physical requirements of the typical NFL quarterback and drafted Wilson anyway in the third round. Despite all of the buyer-beware warnings that he was too small to play in the league, Seattle saw something special in him and were ultimately rewarded.
It is that kind of resolve and belief in their own system that has turned the Seahawks quickly into a NFC contender.
At the draft, the Seahawks have relatively few needs, so they can afford to sit back now and draft the best available player that fits their unique system. Things should get quite interesting in the NFC West division this year.
St. Louis Rams
St. Louis Rams GM Les Snead arrived on the scene in 2012 with head coach Jeff Fisher, and things have been looking up in St. Louis ever since.
The tendency that surfaced last year was that the Rams aren't adverse to taking some risks with their draft picks, as was the case with the selection of Janoris Jenkins. Obviously, you don't want to focus on those kind of players only, but bringing in a couple is something that Jeff Fisher can easily handle.
So, if the Rams wind up drafting Tyrann Mathieu, Da'Rick Rogers or Christine Michael, you know that Fisher and Snead felt their potential talent and upside was worth the risk.
The Rams are a young team, and young players can be easily swayed. It hurts that the Rams lost a veteran leader like Steven Jackson, but they did get a key veteran in Jake Long. If the Rams opt for more of the more high-risk/high-reward types, then veteran leaders like Cortland Finnegan will have to step up and serve as a mentor.
The Rams team took several steps in the right direction last year, so this draft class will be another chance to continue building their momentum.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik has been doing a steady job of bringing in key outside talent to upgrade the roster for Greg Schiano.
Now he is charged with keeping the pipeline full via the 2013 draft and bringing in more competition to inspire everybody to raise the level of their play. One position that bears watching is what will the Bucs do about quarterback Josh Freeman, as Schiano isn't completely sold on him.
Coach Schiano wants to bring in a quarterback who can challenge Freeman for the starting job. That runs contrary to what other key personnel in Tampa Bay believe, so we don't know if the Buccaneers will draft a quarterback this year or not. If they do, you know that Schiano won that argument.
The other key development, of course, is the potential trade with the New York Jets that would allow them to acquire shut down corner Darrelle Revis. Negotiations between the two teams have been anything but smooth, as the Jets press the pause button, then say they are trading him, but aren't happy with the offers they have in hand.
Tony Pauline reported via Twitter that he believes the Jets trade of Revis has a 75-percent chance of happening in the upcoming week. You can't take that to the bank, because there are still some hurdles to clear.
This will no doubt continue to play out until the last few days before the draft. Assuming that Tampa Bay doctors give Revis the okay, his addition will clearly change the way that Tampa Bay plays defense. It will be a huge boost for how they will attack Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina in NFC South division play.
The Revis deal would also severely limit the impact of the draft, as there is only so much Dominik can do after he sends multiple picks to the Jets.
For 2013, at least, the draft looks like it will have to take a back seat to what the Bucs accomplished in free agency and via trades.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak is operating on a short leash in 2013, as the mission statement is win or else. GM Ruston Webster seemed to be on the same page, as the Titans went out and brought in some veteran talent on both sides of the ball to give Munchak more to work this season.
Whether all these moves will be enough to save Munchak's job remains to be seen.
The Titans signed three players from Buffalo during the offseason. They picked up Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Levitre and George Wilson.
In addition, they signed Delanie Walker, Sammie Lee Hill, Moise Fokou and Bernard Pollard. These additions means that Webster has fewer holes to fill and more freedom to draft the best available athlete initially. He can then target other needs later on in the draft.
Thankfully, the Washington Redskins have their franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III. That fact will have to be sufficient to pacify the team and their fans: Washington will watch in vain as 50 draft picks get called out before the Redskins are officially on the clock in the 2013 NFL draft.
Washington GM Bruce Allen sacrificed the 2013 first-round pick as part of the package required to draft RG3. So, this draft will be a test of patience. The Redskins hope that there are some immediate impact weapons still on the big board at No. 51 that can help Griffin's offense become even more dynamic.
As for Allen, he has been known to draft players according to team need. Mike Shanahan will no doubt be on top of every need he feels the team has. But since Griffin is such a valuable commodity, it is all the more reason to be smart about how quickly they try to bring him back in 2013.
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