Neil's NFL Daily: April 29, 2013
As I mentioned on Friday, I (and obviously my other colleagues at PFF) spend a vast amount of time watching NFL tape (over 6,500 hours as an organisation by conservative estimate) but only a tiny fraction of that looking at college games. As a believer that subset information in such an unpredictable sport is inherently flawed, don’t expect much by way of drafted player analysis just yet — it would be hypocrisy of the highest order. That said, what each team did, if you make the assumption they all believed that the players they picked would help their team, should give some clues as to their thinking going forward. Over the next few days I’ll take a tour of each team in draft order (eight each day) and pick up any other news as an addendum as we go.
Monday, April 29th
This is a team that should never have had the first pick in the draft. I’ve heard so much rubbish about how bad their roster is from “experts” who judge such things on — you guessed it — record. What they forget is you can have the most talented players in the league but questionable coaching and a hole at quarterback can see anyone winning two games. Obviously the Chiefs did have holes, the majority of which they did a reasonable job of fixing in free agency, so when it came to the draft it screamed a need for impact. Unfortunately that’s the last thing a tackle will give you — just ask the Dolphins how many wins Jake Long accounted for and he, in his first few years, was close to the premier player at his position. What’s even more troubling is this is a position at which KC already had a Top 5-10 player in Branden Albert — the chances of significant upgrade are slim to none.
This team had a clear strategy of what they wanted even before free agency began and stuck with it. Despite having the worst roster in football, and enough cash to sink a canal barge (and very few players to lock up in future years) their wallet rarely opened in March. Last week they stuck with the plan of upgrading where they felt the draft depth warranted. Sure they have quarterback concerns, but it’s obvious they didn’t feel anyone here was worth the effort and instead concentrated on their secondary. Five of eight picks came at corner and safety and while that will likely take some time to come together, David Caldwell is building for the long term. The choice of Luke Joeckel at No. 2 overall is interesting because it may either say something negative about the team’s view of Eugene Monroe, or (more hopefully) that they place a bigger emphasis on right tackles than a lot of other teams.
It’s currently fashionable to think the Raiders blew it — and maybe they did — but on my theory that the whole thing is 50/50 anyway, isn’t there always risk? So D.J. Hayden had a heart problem, think Oakland didn’t take medical advice? I know Menelik Watson has only a year of action under his belt, but right tackle is a big issue for them and it’s not like he has to perform immediately. Look, on the basis of his work in free agency I’m on the Reggie McKenzie bandwagon until he fixes the salary cap, and hopefully beyond. I like what he’s done with next to nothing and while I don’t think they win many games this year, I think the logic employed to date is laudable.
The general consensus about the Eagles seems upbeat, so who am I to naysay? I guess I have a nagging worry that the biggest issue is on defense, but the big dollar picks went with the “O”. With Todd Herremans and Jason Peters (good as they are) both getting on in age, it’s difficult to criticize the selection of Lane Johnson too much, but it’s still high for that position with so many questions at OLB, DE and CB. It’s possible the theory is “let’s bed in the 3-4 for a year and give incumbent players an opportunity to succeed before we write anyone off”. If that’s indeed the case, then it does make sense.
For a team with Jason Jones (who plays far better inside) and Willie Young (who regressed markedly in 2012 after a strong sophomore year) currently manning the two defensive end positions, a stud DE is a perfect need pick. That concept continued with early help brought in at corner, right guard and again at DE. However, after help outside Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the loss of two long-standing tackles at the same time shouted to be addressed. Outside his penalty count, Riley Reiff did a creditable job as an additional lineman for 336 snaps so deserves a shot, but if he fails and Corey Hilliard performs like he did in Weeks 2 and 3 of 2011 (his last substantial action) it could be a long year for Matt Stafford.
Overall this team looks improved post free agency and the draft, but perhaps not by as much as a team with cap space could have achieved. However, there is a real dichotomy between what’s happened on defense and offense. Outside of losing Usama Young and Kaluka Maiava to Oakland, the changes defensively look solid. However, in terms of helping Brandon Weeden, they’ve done little. Although they made an effort to help in the slot with both Davone Bess (draft-day trade) and David Nelson being added, wide receiver remains a concern. While the incumbents all showed talent on occasion, no one played consistently and tight end also looks thin.
My colleague, Sam Monson, said after the Cardinals pick, “how can a team make possibly the biggest potential positional upgrade of the draft and I still feel unimpressed?”. Such is the limited appeal within PFF towers of taking guards so early. That statement also presupposes first-rounder Jonathan Cooper will replace Adam Snyder, but I have a feeling they may do the unthinkable and use him at left guard instead. Despite being dreadful for half a year, when Snyder returned from injury he actually had an acceptable run through to the season’s end — nothing great, but markedly better than anything seen from him before. Daryn Colledge on the other hand, after playing well for 75% of the year, had a poor last quarter. Watch this space.
Credit the Bills’ conviction. The only team to take the early QB plunge, they sent a clear signal to Kevin Kolb that his time might be limited if he doesn’t make early strides. Given last year he took a beating beyond what most people have ever seen, I actually think he performed well and I hold out hope that behind a better line he may keep E.J. Manuel holding a clipboard for some time. That comes with the caveat that his leash will likely be shorter than ideal — it may take only one shocker for the new team to go with “their selection”, and even Peyton Manning had one of those last year.
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