NFC West: First Round Mock

It was just less than five years ago that the NFC West was thought to be the toughest division in football.  Every team had a tough defense, and the division games were grueling matches, usually decided at the line of scrimmage.  Now a days, it’s more like a Seahawks team with a lot of bark, an under achieving Cardinals team and two of the most poorly run franchises in the league in the Rams and the 49ers.

Here we will discuss the best option for these squads and what they should do with their first round pick.

San Francisco 49ers: 2nd Overall Pick
Finished 2016 with a 2-14 record
Def Yards: 32nd Off yards: 31st

Talk about a complete disaster.  The San Francisco 49ers were once considered one of the most cherished franchises in the league, but last year further cemented the “bottom feeder” persona that they really are.  The team’s best player is an above average running back in Carlos Hyde and a veteran left tackle in Joe Staley.  They went out and signed wide receiver Pierre Garcon but at quarterback they are looking at Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  The “woes” don’t stop there either.  Defensively they are led by two veteran linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Navorro Bowman – but as 2016 showed, that isn’t scaring anybody. . .


Automatically, people may say: “You need to build this team around a quarterback,” and if that’s the case, have your pick with these “maybe-average-at-best” options, in Deshaun Watson and Mitchel Trubisky.   But just what can a rookie quarterback do with this team?  Exactly.  The only real option for the 49ers here is to auction off this pick to the highest bidder.  There is no shame in trading back and getting more picks, when you have one of the worse rosters in the NFL.  Since nobody has been able to get a clear feel on how teams feel about these quarterbacks, trading back may still ensure the Niners securing Watson or even maybe a Pat Mahomes or Brad Kaaya (Kaaya in maybe the 4th round).  But aside from the quarterback position, the Niners can benefit by getting multiple picks in rounds as last as the 4th or 5th and start plugging in players in positions of need. . . which will be easy because the 49ers need everything.

Los Angeles Rams: 5th Overall Pick
Finished with a 4-12 record
Def Yards: 9th    Off Yards:32nd

The draft helps bad teams like the Rams, get a good early pick to bolster areas needed.  Defensively, they were in the NFL’s top ten of yards given up, but finished dead last in offensive yardage.  They have a potential bust in their quarterback selection last year, have a weak offensive line and no real receiving threat.  .  . They most likely would’ve went on the offensive side of the ball, but unfortunately this pick is owned by the Tennessee Titans, so. . . that’s it for the Rams, who will continue to be a brutal on the offensive side of the ball.

Arizona Cardinals: 13th Overall Pick
Finished with a 7-8-1 record
Def Yards: 2nd    Off Yards: 9th

This Arizona team confused just about everybody.  Even I touted them as the best team in the league last year and was left looking as if I had no business talking football ever again. . . keeping that in mind, let me continue to talk about this sport of football. . .  The Cardinals lost two safeties in the off-season, but at the start of 2017 they’ll have a healthy Tyrann Mathieu back there, and he is possibly the best at the position.  Patrick Peterson is the lone corner on this team, so expect the Cardinals to go after Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey. BleedingGreenNation.com referred to him as “a tone setter in the secondary,” and his aggressiveness proves this to be true.  The issue is, he’ll probably be scooped up by Buffalo with the tenth pick, because they just lost Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots in free agency.  This leaves them with options though at corner, and the versatile  Adoree’ Jackson of USC comes to mind.  Not only is he a great athlete at the position (11 passes defensed and five interceptions) – his versatility as a kick returner and a wide receiver can open the door for a mad-scientist-head-coach like Bruce Arians.

The Cardinals, lacked a “spark” or “energy” last season, Jackson is the kind of electric player who can provide that to this franchise. It may be a bit of a stretch at the 13th spot, but I just believe he’s a better corner than Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and way better than Washington’s Sidney Jones.  Jackson is a player, who loves the spotlight and his kind of attitude would fit in great with Mathieu and Peterson.

Seattle Seahawks: 26th Overall Pick
Finished with a 10-5 record
Def Yards: 5th  Off Yards: 12th

The Seahawks are the one team in this division that seem to take winning seriously.  Even with that being understood, their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson has a tough go the last few years when it comes to not being sacked.  Some of it may be attributed to his inability at times of trying to do more than he can, but the sack numbers since 2013 to 2016 are: 44, 42, 45 and 41 — and last year he coupled that forty-one with his lowest number of touchdown passes, 21.  Seattle “helped” Wilson by signing tackle Luke Joeckel to a one year deal. . . Joeckel has been more of a “joke-el” after being selected with second pick overall in the 2013 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Seattle will most likely address this offensive line issue, although this draft doesn’t really have any standouts – at least not too many ‘first-round’ standouts.  The minds at Pro Football Focus ranked this unit as the worst in the league, and although my pick for them is somewhat of a gamble, the selection here is LSU guard Ethan Pocic. He can play both center and guard, but it is likely when drafted he would start out at guard.  LSU’s offensive line is one of the more dominant in college football, it didn’t matter if Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice ran the ball – the ground game was able to pick up yards in chunks.  He is a patient player, who was trusted to make adjustments from the line.  He finished 2016 as a First-Team All American and SEC player. Some folks have him as a late second round talent, but I have him as one of my top three offensive linemen in the draft.

G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL Free Agency, Pt. 2

Last week we discussed who should get paid, where they should land and who should be ignored.  We nailed Alshon Jeffrey landing with the Eagles, but what we didn’t see coming was his one-year price tag. For a young guy, only his fifth-season – signing a one-year deal worth $14 million seems to just short change his economic potential.  The Patriots made two moves, one in signing corner Stephon Gilmore, who we gave a “buyer’s beware” tag attached to his name, and then traded for Saints wide-receiver, Brandin Cooks – proof that the rich only get richer. . .

The move that made the most noise was the Cleveland Browns trade with the Houston Texans, and breaking it down, we’ll reveal why. The Texans traded quarterback Brock Osweiler, 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick and in return the Browns gave the Texans a 2017 fourth-round pick, and helped relieve the weight of the Texans’ purse.  The Texans are set to save about $10 million in salary-cap space this season because of the move, and are also out of a bad marriage, which was the contract they gave Osweiler.  From the onset it looks like a landslide victory for the Texans, but for the Browns it was all about the draft picks.  The Browns have more cap room than anyone else in the league (I’m not a “cap” guy, but it’s in the area of $100 million in cap space) so even if they decide to cut Osweiler, it won’t affect their plans in the off-season – it was all about the draft picks.  It’s a pretty unconventional move, but these two had to means and desire to get it done.  The Browns would be better off just cutting Osweiler instead of actually starting him, and Osweiler will most probably land somewhere as a back-up for what he’s really worth.  .  .

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This trade opens up the quarterback position for the Houston Texans now, who many feel are one-quarterback-away from at least getting to the AFC Championship game.  Currently, their quarterback position is filled with the likes of Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  The “dream” scenario would be to sign Tony Romo if he was to be released by the Cowboys.  Only problem is, that still hasn’t happened.  Romo’s relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is what’s basically holding it back.  Jones does not want to trade Romo to a team that he doesn’t want to go to – which is admirable but at the same time, teams who are interested (like the Texans and Broncos) don’t want the lucrative contract that comes with the talented, yet very injury prone veteran quarterback.  In all reality, the Cowboys could still hold onto Romo and keep him on as a back-up, and knowing Jerry Jones, that’s very much so a possibility.  . . Back to the Texans though. . .  if Bill O’Brien and Houston can’t land Romo, who’s the next best option? Nick Foles? RG3? Colin Kaepernick? Or maybe, just maybe – Jay Cutler?  Previously, in the NGSC article entitled “Where Does Cutler Go Now?” five different landing spots were mentioned (one of which was ‘retirement’ which may still happen) but the Texans were never quite entered that discussion until now.  The Jets are so far the only team rumored to be interested in the veteran QB, but if the Texans can’t land Romo – are they really going to go through another year of Brian Hoyer type (who just signed with the 49ers)?  Very unlikely.  Cutler would actually make sense, and this would be his most complete team to start for in his career.

The running back position is always an interesting one in free agency.  The league just doesn’t want to pay the big bucks to that position, which seems foul, but it’s just becoming smart business.  We discussed last week how Adrian Peterson didn’t show much last year, but his name will garner him attention,  but there are a few other backs that should be interesting, if not anything else, to follow.  Isiah Crowell is a talented, strong back with a lot of upside on the field, but got into some hot water for his tasteless take on police brutality on his twitter account last year.  He is a public relations nightmare waiting to happen, even if you were to just interview him.  BUT, in terms of business a team may be able to pay him less than what he’s worth and it can benefit them.  Seattle, might be a good landing spot for him.  They are looking to bolster their running back group and are rumored to have interest in Adrian Peterson (yikes).

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A nice addition to any team would be Mike Gillislee.  Last year for Buffalo, he averaged 5.7 yards a carry and rushed for 8 touchdowns.  He’s perfect for teams that employ a split at the halfback position, although if he was asked to carry the full load, it’s doubtful he’d disappoint.  He played his college ball at Florida and the Jaguars like spending money at free agency, it could work out nicely for him to get a job in Jacksonville.

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The “30 and Over” crowd at the running back position usually get the raw end of free agency.  Guys like LeGarrette Blount, Tim Hightower and DeAngelo Williams can still be productive but if a team  takes them on, it will be at a discount price and in a clear number two (even three) spot on the depth chart.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL Free Agency Hype

On Thursday, 4:PM Eastern Standard Time, the NFL’s free-agency period begins.  This is when every homeless NFL player gets wined and dined by different teams or offered a chunk of money they can’t turn down to re-locate.  OR, this is when players will take a pay-cut anywhere in the league, just to be part of the league.  There is desperation on both parts actually, and maybe that’s where the intrigue lies.

On average, there are about 2-3 players in free agency that can make an immediate positive impact on any team they are added to, a handful of players that can make a different on specific teams and the rest are just. . . guys.

The players that should be on everyone’s radar defensive end Calais Campbell, guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.  For eight straight seasons, Calais Campbell had been one of the more consistent defensive ends in the league, last years his numbers took a dive – but so did the whole Arizona Cardinals team.  Not just Campbell, the entire organization – was underwhelming.  A fresh start for Campbell is just what he needs.  A team with a need at that position and known to over-pay for veteran talent, the Redskins can be a nice landing spot for Campbell – or he can opt for life in sunny Florida and sign with the Jaguars, who will once again be packed with potential next season, and maybe need a defensive veteran like Campbell to take them to that next level. . . .

Offensive linemen are never fun to discuss, so we’ll make this one quick.  NFL.COM, pretty much nailed Kevin Zeitler when they described him as “a nasty-tempered blocker who wins with strength.”  A perfect landing spot for him would be Seattle, a team that needs to run the ball better and protect their quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been sacked at least 40 times in each of the last four seasons.

Terrelle Pryor may surprise some to be on the list of my top-three free agents, but consider what he did last year. . .on the Browns.  Every week a corner would try to talk down the competition they would face in a guy like Pryor and Pryor always showed up.  He somehow managed over 1,000 receiving yards although it was obvious he was the only source of offense the Browns had.  Rumor has it, he may stay with the Browns but – why?  So many teams – in nicer locations – can use a wide out like Pryor, like the 49ers or the Rams – or he can find himself in a better situation with a team like Carolina which would make sense from an offensive side of things considering Devin Funchess turned out to be  a let down last season.

Most people have a different player as the number one receiver, and that is Alshon Jeffrey.  Like Pryor, he may return to his original team the Bears, but there will be a lot of people vying for the services of a wide-out who has the best “locating” ability of balls in the league.  Jeffrey may want to abandon Chicago’s “rebuild” days and go to a team on the up-and-up like the Titans or even a team that lacks a true number one like the Eagles.  These are the only two teams that would become instantly improved with Jeffrey added into the mix.  He’s too sloppy for my liking in terms of route-running or running in general.  Nothing is ever really smooth with Jeffrey – let it be his play on the field or his conditioning. . . .

Tony Romo will most likely be let go by the Cowboys and let the era of Dak Prescott enter it’s second season.  Romo has been tied to two teams if that happens, the Broncos and the Texans.  Both are nice options, but the Texans just make more sense.  Tony wouldn’t have to leave the state of Texas and he’ll be part of a team with an offensive head coach, with more than enough weapons around him. Add to that, he’s got a very winnable division to make it an easy road into the playoffs.  Romo’s risk doesn’t come with talent, but injury.  If the Texans can keep him upright for a whole season though – this is a team that can make the AFC Championship game, with no problem.

Buyer beware of ANY FREE AGENT DEFENSIVE BACK.  Name ’em: Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye, Tony Jefferson, Barry Church – the list goes on.  Corners are usually more a product of their system and chemistry within the entire secondary then anything else.  Even Darrelle Revis, while still in his prime, looked like a garbage signing when he was put into the Tampa Bay Bucs defensive plans.  Even if you’re running the same kind of defense, it’s always buyer-beware with secondary guys.  Too many times, we’ve seen safeties and corners, sign a huge deal and be an after thought by their second season with a team.

Don’t Touch It:  Adrian Peterson:  unless this all time great is going to play for a league minimum, don’t even bother.  Peterson was limited to only 37 carries due to injury last season and even then, he couldn’t muster even two yards a carry.

Best Buy: Pierre Garcon: He has always been a strong wide out, who blocks, runs good routes and has good hands.  He can help out a young quarterback in being that consistent piece within an offense, or he can be a deadly weapon in an already potent attack.  He’s always been under-rated because his numbers never match his talents, but he’s a guy who can really do it all.

REMEMBER THOUGH. . . this IS free-agency and quarterback Mike Glennon is a commodity who can get anywhere up to $15 million a year because of the quarterback market.

Free Agency is a time where bad teams get desperate and players get really over-paid.  Just hope that your favorite team doesn’t lose their mind come this Thursday. . .

 

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio