The 2013 NFL Draft is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. The general consensus among personnel people and media members alike is that the real value will be in the middle rounds, and, as such, the rumors are flying that most top-10 teams are interested in trading back. If everyone stands pat here’s a look at how the picks might unfold:
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher OT Central Michigan- It’s no secret that Andy Reid is looking to trade Branden Albert and Eric Winston was already released. Therefore, it’s down to Joeckel and Fisher, and most are now leaning towards the latter.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Luke Joeckel OT Texas A&M- The Jaguars have very few “building block” players and Joeckel has the potential to be just that. Expect a safe pick from a franchise that needs it.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd DT Florida- The Raiders lost both of their starting defensive tackles this off-season so Floyd makes a lot of sense here.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan OLB Oregon- This pick makes too much sense for the Birds. There’s the obvious Oregon connection with Chip Kelly, and the transition to the 3-4 will require a legitimate pass-rusher. The 6’6” Jordan fits the bill.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekial Ansah DE BYU- This kid might be the biggest question mark of the draft, but he could also become the biggest star. There’s the obvious Pierre-Paul comparison but Ansah might take longer to develop.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner CB Alabama- Having a corner duo of Joe Haden and Milliner is a tantalizing fantasy. It’s hard to predict where Cleveland will go, as they have plenty of needs, but Milliner definitely warrants consideration.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson OT Oklahoma- This is a dream scenario for the Cards. They desperately need help on the offensive line and Johnson is the last blue chip tackle available. Match made in heaven.
8. Buffalo Bills: Tavon Austin WR West Virginia- Some might scratch their heads when looking at this pick, but there has been a lot of buzz lately around Austin. Most experts consider him a top-10 talent. He’s a versatile gamebreaker and the Bills need someone with big play potential.
9. New York Jets: Star Lotulelei DT Utah- There’s no question the Jets have more pressing needs but Star is the best prospect available here. This kid compares favorably to the Ravens Haloti Ngata and I’d imagine most Jets fans would like that kind of presence on their defensive line.
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack G Alabama- Warmack might be the most dominant lineman in this class and the Titans need help up front. He could clear massive holes for Chris Johnson for years.
11. San Diego Chargers: D.J. Hayden CB Houston- Hayden has skyrocketed up draft boards of late. He’s even garnered consideration as the top corner in this class. The Chargers need a difference maker in the secondary and Hayden is an instant starter.
12. Miami Dolphins: Bjoern Werner DE Florida State- The Dolphins have been able to have an up close and personal view of this kid since he was a freshman with the Seminoles. Werner has a high motor and will provide the kind of pass-rush this franchise has been missing since Jason Taylor was in his prime.
13. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo OLB LSU- Considering the Jets consistent struggles on offense it may seem strange that their two first rounders are on the other side of the ball. But it was the Jets defense that carried them to back-to-back AFC Championship appearances, and Rex Ryan wants to get his D back to that level. Mingo provides the pass-rush they’ve sorely lacked.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson DT Missouri- The Panthers desperately need a difference maker in the middle of their D-line, and Richardson fills that hole. He’s a top-notch athlete with some pass-rush potential.
15. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Vaccaro S Texas- The Saints had a historically bad defense a year ago and the secondary deserves a lot of the blame. Most draftniks agree that Vaccaro is the top safety so he fills a major need in New Orleans.
16. St. Louis Rams: Cordarelle Patterson WR Tennessee- The Rams are a long time removed from “The Greatest Show on Turf”. And since the heyday of that dynamic offense they have sorely lacked playmakers on the outside. Patterson is a physical specimen at 6’3” and will immediately upgrade a major weakness.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones LB Georgia- It‘s amazing how far a poor Combine workout can drop your stock. Heading into the Combine, Jones was considered a surefire top-10 pick. Now there are questions about his speed (and his health) but the tape should provide enough evidence for the Steelers to confidently make this choice.
18. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Fluker OT/G Alabama- Fluker is an absolute mountain of a man who’s physical appearance might remind some Cowboys fans of the great Larry Allen. Dallas desperately needs help on the offensive line and Fluker could be the answer. May be a little bit of a reach but he’s got the potential to dominate.
19. New York Giants: Datone Jones DE UCLA- The Giants love versatile defensive lineman and Jones fits the bill. With New York’s penchant for rotating ends, coupled with the loss of Umenyiora, don’t be surprised to see this UCLA standout go here.
20. Chicago Bears: Jonathon Cooper G UNC- The Bears terrible offensive line has been a major detriment over the past few seasons so expect a “big ugly” here. Some consider Cooper to be the best guard in this class so I’m sure Jay Cutler wouldn’t mind having him up front.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Eric Reid S LSU- Some have argued that Reid is a better prospect than Vaccaro, so the Bengals would be happy to add this guy. Tall, athletic player with the skills to be an instant starter.
22. St. Louis Rams: Tyler Eiffert TE Notre Dame- Going along with the theme of improving the Rams air attack, the addition of a playmaking Tight End could go a long way. With Patterson and Eiffert, Sam Bradford would finally have two big, legitimate targets.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Xavier Rhodes CB FSU- The Vikings are desperate for help at corner. Rhodes has excellent size and a high-ceiling. Solid value pick at #23.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Eddie Lacy RB Alabama- It’s been a longtime since the Colts had a true workhorse in the backfield (Edgerrin James). Enter the stud back from ‘Bama, Eddie Lacy. His ability to pound the ball in the trenches should take a lot of pressure off of Andrew Luck and the potent passing attack.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Alec Ogletree LB Georgia- Ogletree is unbelievable athlete at the linebacker position. Being a converted safety he has excellent closing speed and is a tackling machine. The Vikings are thin at this position and Ogletree is the remedy.
26. Green Bay Packers: Barrett Jones C Alabama- This is the typical Packers “unsexy” selection. They have a need in the middle of their line and Jones is the best Center in the class. He’s one of the most decorated lineman in college football history. And he’s tailor made for this franchise.
27. Houston Texans: Geno Smith QB West Virginia- This is easily the biggest shocker of my entire mock draft but don’t rule it out. Although Matt Schaub signed an extension recently he has proven to be somewhat injury-prone. And with the Texans Super Bowl aspirations you can never have enough Quarterbacks. After sliding through the draft (a la Aaron Rodgers) the Texans could snatch him up and develop him for a few years behind Schaub (a la Favre).
28. Denver Broncos: Matt Elam S Florida- Elam is a short, compact Safety that can absolutely bring the wood. He may be the best tackler of this years safety class. The Broncos need help in the secondary and Elam could provide that intimidating presence that they had with Brian Dawkins.
29. New England Patriots: Jesse Williams NT Alabama- With Vince Wilfork getting up there in age, Jesse Williams would be the heir apparent in the middle. He’s a huge body, at 6’4” 320lbs, with surprising athleticism. Solid value at #29.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Ertz TE Stanford- The Falcons managed to convince the great Tony Gonzalez to return for one more season but they manage to nab his replacement here. Ertz has prototypical size, 6’6”, and speed for the position. Another dynamic weapon for Matt Ryan to work with.
31. San Francisco 49ers: John Cyprien S Florida International- The loss of safety Dashon Goldson leaves a large void in the secondary. Enter the unheralded John Cyprien. This kid is an in-the-box type safety with the ability to knock a ball-carrier off his feet. There’s not much hype surrounding this kid but he certainly has potential.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Manti Te’o LB Notre Dame- This would be the perfect fit for both sides. With the retirement of Ray Lewis and the loss of Ellerbee, Te’o could slot into the middle immediately. Plenty of people are questioning this kid (rightfully so) but I think he has the ability to be a 10-year starter. Especially with the supporting cast he will have around him in Baltimore.
When it was announced that Juan Castillo had been hired as Andy Reid’s new defensive guru, a collective “huh?” could be heard round the league. A man who had spent his entire NFL coaching career teaching offensive lineman, was suddenly in charge of matching wits with the likes of Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick. So it came as no surprise (to literally anyone) that Castillo’s tenure lasted a mere twenty-two games. But it’s hard to blame Castillo for his failures, as he was ill-equipped for the job to begin with. It took Andy Reid, on the other hand, almost a season and a half to realize what the fan base had been clamoring about since Castillo’s hiring had been announced. In fact, the entire league, all of the media, and every NFL player could have predicted this outcome. But not our fearless leader. Andy Reid is the true problem, and the devil’s in the details.
Coach Reid, the man that the national media praises as a genius and an innovator, was the only person in America arrogant enough to believe he could turn a lifelong O-Line coach into Jim Johnson. And therein lies the true issue with ‘Big Red’, something that we Philadelphian’s have watched for far too long. This regime, which has had 14 years to bring us to the promise land, is too “smart” for its own good. The condescending arrogance that Coach Reid exudes with his stereotypical “I gotta do a better job” is nothing more than an insult to our collective intelligence. So while Juan Castillo is aimlessly wandering the streets, waiting for some other team to throw him a bone, we’re still stuck with a Head Coach that is unable or unwilling to get out of his own way.
I will not deny that Juan Castillo’s vanilla play-calling was a major issue, and it most likely cost the Eagles wins against the Lions and Steelers, but it is Reid (and his mini-me, Marty Mornhinweg) that have put this squad in position to fail. Reid’s handpicked offensive line has been an overflowing sieve in every game of the 2012 season. Granted, the team is without All-World Tackle Jason Peters and the up-and-coming Jason Kelce, but there was no planning ahead for possible injury issues. Demetress Bell has been worse than Winston Justice playing Osi Umenyiora on every snap. Danny Watkins, Andy Reid’s handpicked 26-year old Canadian firefighter, has regressed to the point where he looks like a poor mans Stacey Andrews. Evan Mathis, who looked like a world beater playing next to Peters in 2011, is getting exposed and consistently dominated. As a result, Michael Vick, all 6’0” 200 lbs of him, is taking more hits Rihanna (uncalled for, I know). When there is constant pressure, and I mean literally CONSTANT, there is no chance for your Quarterback to succeed. I don’t care if you have Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Joe Montana under center.
Now is it fair to blame Andy Reid for the offensive lines’ severely ineffective play? YES. Why you ask? First, because he is supposed to have a keen understanding of the offensive line position. Yet he completely overlooked the need for any quality backups during the off-season. Oh, you say it’s Howie Roseman’s responsibility? Well, you’re half right. But it’s naive to think that Andy Reid doesn’t hold sway in all personnel decisions. Secondly, when your Quarterback is getting nailed every single time he drops back to pass is it logical to continue calling for five to seven step drops? Forty-plus times every game?! Even when opposing defenses are keeping safeties over the top on every play to prevent the long bombs that Andy seems so fond of. Even when you have arguably the most talented back in the league, in LeSean McCoy. This is the illogical logic that has come to define Andy Reid’s tenure as Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Let’s take a brief look at the talent on the offensive side of the ball: LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, and Michael Vick, the greatest running Quarterback in NFL history. And yet the team is averaging 17.2 points per game. That is absolutely pathetic. And the major reason is the play-calling. The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles have not scored a single point on their opening possession. In fact, they have scored a grand total of 7 points in the first quarter of games this season. One touchdown. And that is a direct correlation to Andy Reid’s first fifteen scripted plays that he prepares every week. He never deviates from those scripted plays, no matter the down nor distance, no matter the flow or feel of the game. It has become so predictable that where teams used to fear the Eagles offensive weapons, they now enter contests knowing exactly how to contain their supposedly explosive weapons.
For 14 years, Andy Reid has followed the same template: 1st down- attempt a deep/intermediate pass (usually incomplete), 2nd down- attempt a draw, dive, or end-around (usually for minimal gain), and then voila, it’s 3rd and long and the defense knows exactly what the Birds are going to do. The twenty-five percent of the time that Andy/Marty deviate from that formula is when they manage to produce big plays (or atleast first downs) and points. This offense has become so predictable that defenses no longer bring safeties into the box, they simply leave them in center field to keep Jackson from making a big play. But Reid doesn’t bother to adapt, he simply keeps telling Vick to just chuck it up. Play-action has become completely obsolete in this offense as no defense in their right would actually expect Reid to give the ball to this generations Barry Sanders. Andy Reid’s biggest issue, and this was Castillo’s as well, is that he refuses to, or is simply unable to adapt.
Now, despite all the horrendous play by the 2012 Eagles, there is still hope. This team sits at 3-3, one game behind the Giants (who they’ve beaten) for first place in the NFC East. After the Bye week the Birds take on the undefeated Falcons. The silver lining here is that Falcons seem to never be the world-beaters people expect outside of the Georgia Dome. And Reid has never lost the week after the Bye. The only way this Eagles squad pulls off the upset, however, is if Reid and Mornhinweg can magically morph into different play-callers. New Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles should have the defense ready to play, but it’s up to the offense to establish the run with McCoy and employ quick three-step drops for Vick. Quick underneath passes to Maclin, Jackson, and Celek should help to take pressure off the inept offensive line and keep Michael Vick upright for once. If the Birds can implement a logical game-plan then the pressure falls squarely on #7 to make sure he limits his turnovers.
Reid told all of Philadelphia at his press conference this week that he is in the process of evaluating every aspect of his football team, including himself. So if the Eagles come out next Sunday neglecting McCoy and continuing to have Vick throw 40-plus times, then we will know the season is, most likely, over. But if he truly examines his shortcomings and implements the necessary adjustments this team has the offensive firepower to score with anybody. If this squad can put together a complete team effort they will be contenders. Unfortunately, it’s Andy Reid we’re talking about here, so it looks like one more year as the ultimate pretenders.