Looking Ahead to the NFL 2010

Joe UnderhillCorrespondent IIIDecember 4, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners drops back to pass against the Brigham Young Cougars at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


Draft class 2010, Top four picks

Admit I’m a draft junkie. I truly enjoy the challenge of trying to evaluate college kids coming into the pros. As the college season comes to a close, there is a great opportunity to evaluate players who will be attempting to go pro, play in some big games, against quality opponents.

Pro football is also entering its home stretch and the hopes and dreams of fans whose team as struggled this year often rest with the NFL draft. As a diehard Lions fan, I look at April as a chance to hopefully, maybe, get out of the NFL basement.

It’s pretty clear who the bottom four teams in the NFL will be at this point: St. Louis, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. At this point there are five teams who have 3 wins, so positions 5-9 is up in the air. In this article I want to look at the bottom four teams and look at how the top of the draft may look. (I realize trades are possible, but I am going to assume the team is unable to trade the pick).

St. Louis:

St. Louis has holes everywhere, as would be expected from a team that has only one win (against the Lions). When healthy the Rams have a pro bowl quarter back (Bulger) RB (Jackson), and FS (Atogwe). The Rams also, have a young offensive line, which will improve with time. I think with the Rams selecting in the top three they will most likely target one of the talented QB’s who will be coming out this year. If the Rams have the No. 1 pick they have three options.

Option one: Select a quarterback. Jake Locker, Sam Bradford, and Jimmy Clausen are all possibilities. I think Bradford would be the pick. Regardless of which quarterback the Rams choose, they would have the luxury of bringing them along slowly behind Bulger (assuming Bulger is healthy).

Option two: Select one of the two dominant DT’s: Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh. Either DT would bring an immediate impact and be a great selection. Both McCoy and Suh routinely beat double teams, and make plays in both the passing game and the run game.

Option three: Defensive backfield. Eric Berry has been compared to Ed Reed, and currently sits atop Todd McShay’s big board. He’s a very solid against both the run and the pass and will be a pro bowl caliber player. The other choice is DB Joe Haden. Haden is eligible to return to FL for one more year, but I think he will declare for the draft.

Summary: St. Louis has many holes on their roster; however they do have pieces to build around. I think St. Louis would love to get a playmaker at WR but there isn’t a player at that position worthy of being a top 3 pick. I think in the end the Rams decide to draft a QB to replace the oft injured Bulger.


Cleveland has struggled mightily this year. They absolutely must resolve the issue at quarterback between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. Both QB’s have had years to forget, and the Browns have invested heavily in both. The Browns have needs at WR, OL, DL, LB’s, and DB. Three options the Browns will consider at the top of the draft.

The Browns would most likely love to trade this pick to get more draft picks. Cleveland is ranked at the bottom of all major offensive categories. Unfortunately for the Browns, outside of quarterback, there aren’t offensive players really worthy of being a top 3 pick.

Option one: Select a QB. If the Browns decide neither Quinn nor Anderson is the long term answer at QB they will most likely draft one of top three young QB’s coming out this year. Because Quinn or Anderson will be on the team in 2010, the Browns could target a QB who needs some seasoning. If I were the Browns, I would target Jimmy Clausen* or Sam Bradford. Bradford or Clausen would be able to challenge immediately for playing time.

Option two: Eric Berry or Joe Haden*. The Browns secondary could use a complete overall and either Berry or Haden would be a great start in that direction.

Option three: DE Derrick Morgan or Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap has big game experience and is a big time pass rusher. Morgan also, has tremendous upside, and could provide a legitimate threat alongside NT Shaun Rogers.

Option four: The Browns could “reach” for a skill player like Dez Bryant or CJ Spiller, but I think that is unlikely.

Summary: The Browns offense is horrible. Contrary to my opinion I think they will go after an offensive playmaker, a QB, WR, or RB.


Tampa Bay: This has been a season Tampa fans would love to forget. There is good news for Bucs fans, Bryant (WR) and Williams (RB) will be back next year and Freeman will have a year under his belt. The defense in Tampa is also a plus for the future. I think the Bucs will focus on strengthening their offensive and defensive lines early in the draft this year.

Option one: I think there is a good chance the Bucs will take OT Russell Okung. Josh Freeman is the QB of the present and future in Tampa and they need to protect him. Okung is rated as the top offensive lineman in the draft and would most likely be able to start from day one and anchor the O-line for years to come.

Option two: They draft a stud defensive lineman. They could go with McCoy, Suh, Dunlap or Morgan and have the position locked down for 10 years. Tampa’s best years were built around a tough defense, so I think it would make sense to draft a player like Suh who will command double teams and create havoc along the line in a similar fashion to Warren Sapp.

Option three: Safety Eric Berry. Barry has been compared favorably to Ed Reed, and for a team known for defense, that will be hard to pass up.

Summary: I think it makes the most sense for Tampa to draft an OT with their first pick. They need to protect Freeman and give him the time to develop. There is always a possibility they will draft on the defensive side of the ball, with a player like Suh, McCoy or Berry.


The only positions Detroit doesn’t need to drastic improvement is QB (first round pick Matt Stafford), TE (first round pick Brandon Pettigrew), FS (second round pick Louis Delmas) and the line backing core. Every other position in Detroit needs improvement. One area the Lions will look to improve in the draft is their pass rush which ranks last in the league. If the season ended today Detroit would be picking 4th I’m sure the Lions would love to trade down, but I doubt they will have that option.

Option one: Draft McCoy or Suh. I highly doubt both McCoy and Suh will drop out of the top 3, so Detroit most likely won’t be picking between them. The Lions would love to inject some talent and youth at the DT position, so drafting either of these players make sense.

Option two: Berry or Haden. The Lions could use a hard hitting strong safety which Barry brings, but the Lions could also use a shut down corner which Haden brings. The Lions secondary is by far the worst in the league, so drafting either of these players would help to bring some respectability to the position.

Option three: Okung. Okung is the top offensive lineman in the draft and the Lions offensive line has been in shambles all season. The Lions really need help at the guard positions, and drafting Okung can help there as Jeff Backus (current LT) could be shifted inside to guard. Okung should be able to start immediately and improve the pass protection and running game.