Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

With just hours until the 2016 NFL draft it seems like the perfect time to put out my first and final mock draft. To keep things simple there will be no trades in this mock, and I will explain my reasoning for each pick. I’ll be honest, I get a little tired of seeing the same names to the same places mock after mock, so expect plenty of surprises. Like a pick? Hate a pick? Let me know in the comments. Without further ado, let’s get the Los Angeles Rams on the clock.

 

With the first pick, Los Angeles Rams select: Jared Goff, QB, California

It took a lot to move up, but I like this move for the Rams. Goff doesn’t have the measurables nor the athleticism of Carson Wentz, but I think he can be a special player at the next level. Watching Goff’s tape his ability to read the defense really stands out. He has the ability to move through progressions mentally while nimbly avoiding would be tacklers in a collapsing pocket. Goff excels at threading the needle on short and intermediate passes and while he’s face some criticism for his deep ball he does a good job of keeping the ball away from defenders; either his guy is coming down with it or no one will. Given the talent the Rams have on defense and at running back this ability to minimize turnovers is crucial.

 

With the second pick, Philadelphia Eagles select: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The Eagles are collecting quarterbacks this offseason and Wentz looks like he’ll make a fine addition. With both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel on the roster Wentz will have plenty of time to get up to NFL speed, and more importantly continue working out the kinks in his game. As far as measurables and work ethic Wentz checks all the boxes, he’s a big, super athletic film junkie, but his on field performance leaves something to be desired. The North Dakota State product still has major strides to make with his footwork and decision making. He still looks a little to eager to run when things breakdown, and has a nasty habit of trying to force balls into double coverage. The tools and the desire are there making Wentz an ideal project for new coach Doug Pederson as Philadelphia looks to rebound from a lackluster 2015.

 

With the third pick San Diego Chargers select: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

The Chargers re-signed right tackle Joe Barksdale as well as back-up swing tackle Chris Hairston, which has me thinking they pass on the top tackle prospects and go right for my favorite player in the draft, Jalen Ramsey. I don’t love the idea of Ramsey as a ‘replacement’ for Eric Weddle as they are two different people, I’d also expect Ramsey to transition to cornerback at some point as pairing him with Jason Verrett could create a devastating combo on the outside.

I also love Deforest Buckner at this spot, he’d bring a much needed pass rushing presence and fit perfectly into the Chargers scheme, but this is a deep year for defensive lineman and Ramsey is too good to pass up.

 

With the fourth pick Dallas Cowboys select: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

If the Cowboys want to sell jerseys Ezekiel Elliott makes more sense. But I think it would be a mistake to pass on Lynch, if the team sees him as a future franchise quarterback. Even before the Rams and Eagles made their respective trades the word around Dallas was that the Cowboys believed Lynch had the highest ceiling of the top 3 quarterbacks, and they’re not alone in that thought. Lynch is an impressive athlete, who can sling it all over the field. He looks like Brock Osweiler with Colin Kaepernick’s running ability. Lynch needs time to develop, and he’ll have it in Dallas. Give him two years under Romo and when the cap number becomes untenable and the Romo era ends Lynch can take over without the team skipping a beat. And if you really want another running back to add some excitement, why not add Georgia’s Keith Marshall in the mid rounds?

 

With the fifth pick Jacksonville Jaguars select: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

I wouldn’t rule out one of the top tackle prospects, but between Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum they likely hope their franchise left tackle is already on the roster and can use this pick to continue their ambitious overhaul of the defense. Floyd may not be as highly rated as Joey Bosa or Shaq Lawson, but he has been climbing draft boards and could bring much needed speed to the pass rush. I envision Floyd as a longer Bruce Irvin, starting out as a role player before growing into a three down pass rushing linebacker hybrid. At 6’6 and 245 pounds he’s rail thin, but that’s why teams employ dieticians and strength coaches. If Gus Bradley believes he can get Floyd to reach hi impressive upside this is a great pick…if not I like Vernon Hargreaves as a sneaky pick. He’s a baller who can slot in at nickel to start and bump outside if Prince Amukamara can’t stay healthy or struggles to live up to his one year contract.

 

With the sixth pick Baltimore Ravens select: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State 

Would the Ravens really pass on Laremy Tunsil, let alone Ronnie Stanley, Joey Bosa and Myles Jack? Probably not, but it’s hard to ignore the fit. Baltimore is at it’s best with workhorse running back who plays all three downs, and right now I don’t think they have that. Justin Forsett is coming off an injury and has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, Buck Allen showed promise, but can he carry the load? Talliafero has struggled to see the field and the team was desperate enough at the position to bring in Trent Richardson. Elliott is an immediate upgrade at a position the team has struggled to fill since Ray Rice was kicked out of the league. Elliott is a talented pass catcher, and willing pass protector with good burst and vision. Eugene Monroe can hold down the Left Tackle spot as long as he stays healthy and help can be found at guard and on defense in the later rounds.

 

With the seventh pick San Francisco 49ers select Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame:

After hiring Chip Kelly as their head coach the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to draft a highly athletic tackle to play on the right side and serve as an insurance policy for their pro bowl veteran left tackle, I expect the 49ers to do the same. Laremy Tunsil is the higher rated prospect, but Stanley has experience at right tackle from his days playing opposite Zack Martin and is considered the better run blocker. Anthony Davis has said he plans to apply for reinstatement, but he hasn’t yet and there’s no accounting for what sort of shape he’ll be in when he does arrive. Stanley is ready to step in and reinvigorate an offensive line that has hemorrhaged talent the past couple seasons.

 

With the eighth pick Cleveland Browns select: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss:

The Browns have vowed to go best player available, though honestly if Tunsil drops this far the Titans will be chomping at the bit to trade up and snag him. But in this scenario Cleveland keeps the pick and locks down the right tackle spot vacated by Mitchell Schwartz. There might be a learning curve as Tunsil has never played on the right side before, but he’s exceptionally athletic and excels in pass protection. Top end protection will be especially crucial for a Browns team looking resurrect Robert Griffin III’s career. If Tunsil does end up off the board I would love to see them take Joey Bosa. If neither fall as they did here, another trade back could be the best course of action.

 

With the ninth pick Tampa Bay Buccaneers select: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Tampa Bay is surprised to see Bosa still on the board, but they will gladly take the Ohio State product. There’s been a lot of speculation that Vernon Hargreaves could be the pick, and he might, but the defensive line, specifically the defensive end spot seems like the biggest area of concern. Shaq Lawson should get some consideration, but in the end Bosa’s talents are too much to pass up. While Bosa is a better run stopper than pass rusher he’ll command attention away from stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and take some of the pressure of a secondary that was forced to try and pick up the slack for a poor pass rush in 2015.

 

With the tenth pick New York Giants select: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

Similar to the Ravens drafting Elliott this is less about what the team might do and more about what the team truly needs. After an offseason spending spree that saw the Giants fortify their offensive line and secondary with the likes of Jared Odrick and Janoris Jenkins, the cupboard remains uncomfortably bare across the board at linebacker. Ragland has been pushed down most mock draft because he struggles in pass coverage, but his ability to chase down running backs sideline to sideline and what he can bring as a leader to a defense that’s brought in a lot of new faces, far outweighs whether or not he can match up with TE’s in the pass game.

 

With the eleventh pick, Chicago Bears select, DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Buckner’s talent says he should be a top 10 pick, but due to some scheme issues and more pressing issues with the top teams he falls to 11 where the Bears will be all too eager to take him off the board. Buckner is a perfect fit as a five technique in Vic Fangio’s defense. At 6’7, 291 pounds Buckner is a force to be reckoned with and will have an instant impact for a Bears defense still seeking playmakers.

 

With the twelfth pick, New Orlean Saints select, Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Given how deep this draft class is along the defensive line it might be wise for the Saints to take advantage of a weak receiver class by grabbing one of it’s top prospects. Brandon Coleman was never able command a high snap count, and with Marques Colston retired and Coby Fleener seeming to be a poor replacement for Jimmy Graham (or even Ben Watson) the Saints need another big bodied pass catcher to help Drew Brees. Doctson is still a little thin, but he’s more explosive, and a little taller than Laquon Treadwell. Doctson has hands like steel traps and excels at high pointing the ball making him a terror in the red zone, and a perfect compliment to Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead.

 

With the thirteenth pick, Miami Dolphins select, Myles Jack, LB/DB, UCLA

With reports that Jack’s knee injury may be worse than initially reported it’s tough to say where he’ll land or how far he might fall. The injury is said to be similar to the one suffered by Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, so perhaps the Miami medical staff will have some added insight or better understanding of what a worst case scenario could be. Jack would certainly bring some excitement to a defense that promises to be more exciting under new coordinator Vance Joseph. Whether Jack would line up as a linebacker or in the secondary will be for the Dolphins to decide, but his name has the splash that Mike Tannenbaum seems drawn to, and a versatile skill set that should please fans and coaches alike.

 

With the fourteenth pick, Oakland Raiders select, Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

After some solid drafting, and making good use of their ample cap space the past couple years, the Raiders are in position to take the best player available at number 14. In this case, that’s Florida cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves has the ball skills to go much higher, but his measurables (5’10, 4.50 in the 40 yard dash) could see him drop in as the league that favor taller defensive backs. The Raiders went out and signed Sean Smith, and have DJ Hayden and David Amerson on the roster, but Hargreaves is a bonafide playmaker with sticky coverage skills who should have little trouble snagging a starting spot and solidifying the back end of a defense no one will want to see in 2016.

 

With the fifteen pick, Tennessee Titans select, Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

While Conklin was a left tackle at Michigan State he’s expected to make his living on the right side in the NFL. In this case he makes the perfect bookend to compliment Taylor Lewan, who will get to stay on the left side if Tennessee is unable move up for Laremy Tunsil. Conklin is a big bodied hard noser blocker who will excel in the run game, which should be music to the ears of both DeMarco Murray and Marcus Mariota. As an added bonus, if in the future the Titans do want to shuffle Lewan to the right tackle spot, or Conklin struggles on the outside, his mean streak and running blocking prowess should allow him to excel inside as a guard.

 

With the sixteenth pick, Detroit Lions select, Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

The latest buzz on Rankins is that he won’t make it out of the top 10, though most recent projections see him going to the Saints at pick 12. The Louisville product has plenty of appeal as a scheme versatile, interior pass rusher who can create havoc in the backfield. The Lions keep him from falling out of the top half of the draft and put some fear back into the hearts of the rival NFC North quarterbacks. Rankins can have an Aaron Donald-like impact for the Lions if he’s available when they go on the clock.

 

This is a waiver wire pick-up column of sorts. Seeing as many fantasy football leagues have already processed their waiver claims for week 2, and nearly all others will have by the time this is published I’m putting these 5 names that exceed my threshold of >30% ownership to qualify for my weekly pick-ups column but are still out there in some leagues. These are guys who’s week 1 success should carry through the rest of the season and as such deserve to be owned in all leagues regardless of size. The numbers I’ve posted are accurate as of Wednesday night, but will likely have changed once Thursdays waivers post. I’ll do my best to update in the morning.

Percy Harvin, WR, Bills (33.6% on NFL)(57.5% on ESPN) – Coming into the season the lack of buzz around Percy Harvin confused me. This is the same guy who was a mid-season MVP candidate a few years ago with Christian Ponder throwing him the ball. He’s the guy who rejuvenated the Jets, Geno Smith led, offense the second half of last season. He followed Rex Ryan to Buffalo. Oh, and he made his young QB look good with a diving touchdown grab. He won’t always score and the numbers won’t always pop off the screen, but defenses will continue to key in on Sammy Watkins ensuring that Harvin maintains fantasy value as a risk/reward flex play.

Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys (39.7% on NFL)(66.1% on ESPN) With Dez Bryant out for what could be 6 to 8 weeks, Williams takes over as number 1 on the Cowboys wide receiver depth chart. Williams likely won’t see as many targets as Dez would, and certainly should not be expected to put up top 5 fantasy numbers, but he should see enough targets to make him a solid starter. Williams is a talented young player who disappeared into the shadow of Dez Bryant and the power running game last season, so expect him to capitalize on his time in the spotlight, starting in week 2 against the Eagles (though after getting torched by Julio Jones, Byron Maxwell has plenty to prove as well.)

Stevie Johnson, WR, Chargers (13.1% on NFL)(43.2% on ESPN) The difference in ownership on the two sites is a bit staggering, but likely mostly related to bench size. In any case Johnson was targeted 6 times, caught all 6 passes and scored a TD, and that was in a game that saw Keenan Allen catch an absurd 15 passes. Like with Harvin there’s sure to be some games that disappoint, but Johnson is a big bodied target with reliable hands who can move around the formation. He should continue to be a favorite for QB Philip Rivers at least until Antonio Gates suspension ends and even beyond, though a reevaluation may be necessary following week 4. 

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals (47.0% on NFL)(70.5% on ESPN) In 2013 it was Marvin Jones, last year it was Mohamed Sanu, and at least through week 1 of the 2015 season it appears that Eifert will claim the role of Andy Dalton’s preferred #2 pass catcher. Actually, Eifert topped even the newly resigned AJ Green, leading the team with 9 receptions on 12 targets for 104 yards and 2 TDs. While it’s possible we’ve already seen Eifert’s best fantasy output of the season he should continue to be a reliable target in the middle of the field and finally have the breakout season analysts predicted for him last year, before his season was wiped out by injury.

Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots (11.5% on NFL)(31.7% on ESPN) A bit borderline for the ‘must own in all leagues’ category, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Lewis. He benefitted big time from the absence of LeGarrette Blount in week 1, but given his versatility and Bill Belichick’s penchant for messing with fantasy owners who think they’ve figured out the backfield, I’d expect Lewis to see his share of snaps going forward. Of course I’d be remiss not to mention that Lewis did have a red zone fumble and repercussions may still be to follow.

 

One month ago today I wrote a post about how comparisons between Johnny Manziel and Hall of Fame QB Steve Young were not the compliment they might seem to be at first glance. I’ll give you the short version: Young was drafted by the Buccaneers where he struggled as a starter for two years due to his scrambling tendencies and a talent poor roster. Of course he was then traded to the 49ers where he would sit behind Joe Montana for a few seasons before going on to said Hall of Fame career.

Recently the Buccaneers have been linked to Manziel, possibly at the #7 pick should he fall to them. For Mike Glennon’s sake I’m hoping it’s a smokescreen, but after spending the day reading mock drafts and scouting reports on WalterFootball.com I’ve come to the realization that Mike Evans, who I’ve had as the Bucs no brainer pick at no. 7 could well be gone before they pick (specifically to Oakland at #5.) If Watkins and Evans are both gone it creates an interesting situation for the Bucs. Eric Ebron would be the best offensive weapon available, and while I like the fit, Ebron isn’t the top 10 lock that Evans is (in my opinion anyway.) There would likely be one of the big 3 OT available, but with the ink still drying on Anthony Collins’ deal and a deep class at tackle it feels like a luxury.

That brings us to Manziel. It’s possible that, like Jerry Rice, the Buccaneers view Manziel as a young, raw version of Steve Young and the number 7 pick as their re-do at a future hall of famer. With Josh McCown on board, and the coaching staff very much enamored with him, Manziel could take his rookie season to get his game up to NFL speed. (Something Tampa never had the chance to do with Young) While I don’t think Manziel would be too spend his rookie season on the sidelines, he can be convinced. After all, he’d be under the tutaledge of renowned QB whisper, Jeff Tedford, who seems to work wonders with mobile QBs with big arms (he’s the reason Kyle Boller went 19th in 2003 draft) Spending year one holding a clipboard and learning from a seasoned veteran in McCown and a QB guru in Tedford makes this the ideal situation for Manziel. And of course if Manziel ends up looking like the better QB by the time week 1 rolls around he could skip the waiting and start right away having won the job from a capable veteran.

The Buccaneers went out and spent money in free agency on young talent, Michael Johnson and Alteraun Verner helped round out a stout defensive unit that seems poised to shine under Lovie Smith’s leadership. And on the offensive side of the ball Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah were replaced by Anthony Collins, and Evan Dietrich-Smith. The running games is solid with Doug Martin leading the charge and Mike James and Bobby Rainey proving their merit last season when Martin was injured. The passing game needs work but there’s plenty of depth at WR, so I’d look for Tampa to add at least two pass catchers who can contribute right away. Allen Robinson or Davonte Adams could be intriguing second round options. In any case, the Bucs have the making of a very good team. If they believe in Johnny Manziel’s talent they might offer the best combination of young talent, veteran leadership and strong coaching to make Manziel a star.

But what about Mike Glennon? I have some ideas that I’ll be revealing in another post, but like I said Tedford seems to work best with mobile QB’s and it’s possible Glennon just doesn’t fit the system. They won’t get rid of him until there’s a clear replacement, and even then Glennon salary as a second year player taken in the third round would allow them to hold on to Glennon as insurance, McCown is 34 and there’s concerns about Manziel’s durability or until they get a trade offer they think is fair…but that’s a matter for another post.

Johnny Manziel has seen his stock rise from a number of draft analysts following an impressive performance at Texas A&M’s pro day, and that has the media outlets buzzing about his potential. Specifically, Manziel has drawn what seems like high praise from two very respected names in the world of football. Former Head Coach and QB Guru Jon Gruden, and Hall of Fame Receiver Jerry Rice have both compared Manziel to hall of fame QB and Super Bowl champion Steve Young. Why do I say that only seems like high praise? Well, because they aren’t comparing Manziel to the finished product, but rather the fresh out of BYU brimming with potential Steve Young who saw his professional career begin in the USFL, before being picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a supplemental draft. It always seems to be lost in the legend, at least to the casual fan, but Steve Young was not an overnight success. Young had a record of 3-16 as a starter in two years with a struggling Buccaneers squad before being traded to the 49ers where he would serve as Joe Montana’s back-up for a few years before claiming the starting job.

For what it’s worth I think the comparisons are accurate. Manziel is a few inches shorter shorter than Young, but both were considered undersized and used their legs to get out of trouble often. Young didn’t become a truly great QB until he learned to throw from the pocket, and it’s no secret that Manziel will have to do the same. There is a lot of potential and raw talent in Manziel, but the trouble with any team drafting him in the first round, particularly in the top 10 is that there will be pressure to start him right away and that could be a mistake. Teams need to be willing to take the Aaron Rodgers approach to Manziel, let him learn from the sideline for a bit. Or, if the talent is just too tantalizing, at least settle for a Russell Wilson approach, let him come in and compete for a job, just don’t feel pressure to make him the day one starter if he’s not coming along as quickly as you hoped.

The NFL is littered with draft picks who were rushed into a bad situation and suffered because of it. The Jaguars Blaine Gabbert serves as the most recent glaring example. Gabbert had all the physical tools to succeed, but coming from a spread offense had trouble picking up blitzes. Given a year on the sidelines to study and adjust he may have learned enough to protect himself. Instead he was rushed into the starting line-up and a porous O-Line mixed with a tendency to hold on to the ball too long lead to sack after sack. Gabbert never looked comfortable in the pocket after that…something the 49ers are hoping to fix this season after acquiring the passer for a late round pick.

In short, if Manziel really is the next coming of Steve Young it’s not the Jaguars, Texans, or Browns that should be looking at him, but rather the Saints, Patriots and Manziel’s childhood favorite team the Cowboys that should be looking to Manziel as a Superstar to be groomed behind an aging franchise QB.

Forgive me for the awkward title, but it’s got to be the question on a lot of fans minds after an odd start to free agency for Oakland. If you haven’t been following along the Raiders seemed to make little effort to retain two of their young talents in LT Jared Veldheer and DE Lamarr Houston, both immediately became top free agents at their positions and signed quickly (Veldheer with the Cardinals and Houston with the Bears.) While it seems odd that Oakland didn’t even seem all that interested in negotiating with these players, despite having an abundance of cap space, I wouldn’t be surprised to find negotiations stalled because the players or more accurately their agents sought bigger contracts from the Raiders because of the franchises instability and aforementioned cap space (reminder: this is pure speculation on my part.)

What happened next was baffling, as the Raiders quickly signed Rams versatile lineman Roger Saffold to a big 5 year deal. Maybe the Raiders thought Saffold’s versatility to play inside at guard or outside at tackle was worth the money? They do have the 5th pick in this year’s draft, and Saffold would allow them to take a QB if the right one fell to them without prohibiting them from taking a tackle if an early run on QB’s took their guy off the board. but ultimately it wouldn’t matter as Saffold failed his physical and the contract was voided. (Saffold quickly resigned with the Rams.) In the end the Raiders saved money, and are in good position to land either Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews at #5 if they choose to draft Veldheer’s replacement. Both prospects are touted as future franchise stars at the position, so maybe this was all just some clever ruse to distract people from the need at QB and land a player more suited to the 5th spot in the draft than a QB who could end up as a reach, playing for a team with limited weapons.

On the defensive side of the ball the Raiders at least seem to be faring better. It always seemed that Lamar Houston would be allowed to test the market (unlike Veldheer, Houston made no proclamation that he wanted to be a Raider for life.) Oakland was prepared to lose him and it has shown. The Raider’s quickly set up visits with Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley, both former feature players in feared defenses coming off bad years. The signing of former pro-bowlers near the end of their careers generally doesn’t pay off, but I think at least from a leadership standpoint this move made a lot of sense. Tuck and Woodley both come from winning programs and can hopefully bring some swagger to a locker room of mostly younger guys who have had to deal with a lot of defeat. Hopefully their winning attitude translates to the field.

I think this also helps explain the signings of Tarell Brown and Antonio Smith. I should clarify that I’m not trying to reduce the impact that these players can have on the field, but I think specifically these players can help change the attitude in the Raiders locker, as well as the product they put on the field. Tarell Brown was drafted to the 49ers in the midst of their Head Coach carousel, he was a 5th round draft pick who worked his way up from a small time contributor on a 5-11 team in 2007 to a starter on a team that has lost 11 regular season games in the past 3 years combined. Smith contributed to a similar turnaround with the Houston Texans after joining the team in 2009. In short I think Oakland has done a good job selecting the right players to fill holes on their defense, even if does add a few years to the team’s average age.

I suppose what’s curious in this is that Reggie McKenzie is signing an awful of veterans to a team that isn’t expected to compete any time soon in the AFC West. While you never know what can happen during the course of the season the Raiders were the only AFC West team to miss the playoffs last season, and the Broncos don’t look ready to give up their hold on the division just yet and the Chiefs still loom as the #2, so why spend money to compete for 3rd place at best? Well, because he wants to keep his job. Mark Davis basically issued an ultimatum to stop making excuses and start winning, but that’s easier said than done. So, I it seems McKenzie’s strategy has been to bring in media friendly names like Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley, while plugging in Tarell Brown and Antonio Smith for the more avid fan. Next up is a strong draft class where he hopes to be commended for trading out of the #5 spot to gather picks and plug holes while still managing to get a promising young signal caller, similar to what the Bills did last year trading out of #8 and still landing their guy in EJ Manuel as well as hitting on Kiko Alonso and Robert Woods in day 2 of the draft.

I’m not going to predict anything wild for the Raiders, but I do think they’ll be improved. McKenzie is betting on his free agent acquisitions to start a culture change and shift the thinking of players in the locker room. He let two young players looking for big paydays get their money elsewhere and brought in veterans who have something to prove. It’s a gamble, betting on aging superstars reclaiming form, but they might just strike the right balance of youth and experience to make some noise in 2014.

First a disclaimer, I get most of my information from NFL.com and my mock is based off reading there analysts mocks and adjusting to what I think a team will (or should) do with their first round pick.

UPDATE 4/12/14: With the combine down, and free agency underway I’m making some changes to my top 10.

1. Texans select DE Jadaveon Clowney
Maybe it’s just a smokescreen, or media fabrication, but it seems like no one in the Texans organization has anything bad to say about Clowney, including the team’s owner. Clowney’s got a ready made support system, and the Texans have a hole to fill opposite J.J. Watt. They could use upgrades along the offensive line, but I’m inclined to agree with Bill O’Brien on the QB’s in this year’s class; there just isn’t enough separation between the guys you can get at No. 1 and No. 33 to justify passing on a top defender.

2. Rams select OT Greg Robinson
Ultimately the Rams could trade out of this pick, but it seems like most teams are trying to move back this year, not up. If the Rams do make their pick Robinson can be a big bodied bookend to pair with Jake Long, and eventually take over on the left side, much like last year’s top picks Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel.

3. Jaguars select OLB Khalil Mack
Mack’s draft stock has exploded during this offseason and I think he finds his home in Jacksonville. Jacksonville isn’t ready to support a franchise QB and taking one at #3 is setting them up to fail. WR Sammy Watkins has made a pretty strong case for himself, but ultimately Gus Bradley is defense guy and I think the Jags look to lock up their primary pass rusher here, and add a QB and WR in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

4. Browns select WR Sammy Watkins
Josh Gordon had a breakout season, but let’s not forget that it started with a 2 game suspension, and the Browns are thin at WR behind the former Baylor star. Pairing Watkins with Gordon on the outside, newly signed Andrew Hawkins in the slot and Jordan Cameron at TE would give the Browns one of the more fearsome aerial arsenal’s in the league. Which is good because new Brown’s OC Kyle Shanahan loves to pass.

5. Raiders select OLB/DE Anthony Barr
The Raiders wanted to put themselves in position to take the best player and I think Barr is it. There are still some questions about what his best positional fit is, as he’s currently a little light to play at DE and struggles a bit in pass protection for a true OLB. But, I think he can be used effectively as a situational pass rusher during his rookie campaign while adding some weight and learning to play better in coverage and against the run. This is essentially the same strategy used by the 49ers when they drafted Aldon Smith, and that seems to have worked out.

6. Falcons select OT Jake Matthews
After last season’s offensive collapse item number 1 on the Falcons agenda has to be better protection for Matt Ryan. Matthews is an elite tackle prospect who can play on either the left or right side of the line depending upon what Atlanta wants to do with current left tackle Sam Baker.

7. Buccaneers select WR Mike Evans
Mike Williams is on a short leash with the new coach staff, and he’s also coming back from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss most of last season. Vincent Jackson posted his 3rd consecutive 1,000+ yard season (the past 2 in Tampa) but he’s 31 years old, and saw his production dip last season. Evans would be able to learn the game from someone with a similar skill set in Jackson, and eventually take over his role as the team’s #1 option.

8. Vikings select DT Timmy Jernigan
With Barr and Mack off the board I think the Vikings continue their youth movement along the defensive line, pairing the former Seminole with Shariff Floyd and Everson Griffin. Jernigan is a bit undersized, but that’s never been a problem for Mike Zimmer before. Jernigan is strong, has a good motor and plays well against the run. He’s also proven versatile after playing all over in both 3 and 4 man fronts at Florida State. Inside linebacker CJ Mosely could also be in play here, but there are some injury concerns that might make him too risky to take this high. Cornerback is deep enough to wait on after signing Captain Munnerlynn, and with no QB’s off the board I’m not convinced the Vikings will be the first to blink.

9. Bills select S Haha Clinton-Dix
With Jarius Byrd gone and the in-house replacements a bit scarce the Bills opt for the Alabama standout safety to sure up the back end. I still like Eric Ebron’s talent, but I’m still not convinced he’s earned a top 10 pick, and while the argument for LT Taylor Lewan is compelling on paper Cordy Glenn has proven more than capable holding down that job, and sliding him to RT hardly feels like a just reward for the player most analysts had pegged as a guard at the NFL level.

10. Lions select CB Justin Gilbert
Cornerback has been a position of need for awhile. I think Mike Evans could still be in play, but it looks like they’ll have to trade up to grab him. If the Lions do decide to stay put at #10 Gilbert could go a long way towards helping the Lions shut down the high powered aerial attacks of their NFC North rivals.

In a bit of a head scratching move the 49ers have traded wide receiver AJ Jenkins for Chiefs wide receiver Jon Baldwin. Jenkins has struggled to gain a foothold in a surprisingly crowded group of receivers in San Francisco. Baldwin on the other hand seemed set to start opposite Dwayne Bowe in the Chiefs line-up, but the 3rd year receiver has struggled with drops and clearly failed to impress new coach Andy Reid.

While at first glance this deal seems to favor the 49ers (who also looked like early winners in the Alex Smith trade with these same Chiefs) I think it’s a matter of addressing a need for both teams. I have a draft saved of a post that called out the 49ers on having too many receivers that seemed to fit the same role. Perhaps I’m painting with too broad a brush but Jenkins, Manningham, and even Kyle Williams all struck me as slight variations of the same guy: good speed, good hands, some positional versatility, but lacking elite size and not true #1 talents. Jenkins was the least developed and with Williams recovered and Manningham progressing on schedule Jenkins was a spare part. Not to mention I think the coaching staff has been impressed with Chad Hall, who can also contribute on special teams.

Here’s a breakdown of each guys measurables from their NFL combine performances:

Jenkins
Height: 6’0
Weight: 192lbs
40 yard dash: 4.39 sec.
Vertical: 38.5 in.
Hand size: 9 1/2in.
Pick: 30th Overall (2012)

Baldwin
Height: 6’4
Weight: 230lbs
40 yard: 4.50 sec.
Vertical: 42 in.
Hands: 10 1/8
Pick: 26th overall (20110

By adding Baldwin the 49ers get a guy who can be a huge red zone threat given his height and leaping ability. He’s not a fluid route runner, but the 49ers have plenty of those and likely envision Baldwin as more of a deep threat (something else they have been in dire need of) anyway. The 49ers also have Anquan Boldin to act as a mentor to the young receiver and hopefully help him harness some of that raw ability. San Francisco also has the ability to bring Baldwin along slowly this year if need be, something the Chiefs never really were able to do. Ultimately what it comes down to is Baldwin no longer fit the Chiefs offense, and the drops made him a liability in Andy Reid’s high efficiency West Coast attack. It just so happened however that he was exactly the type of receiver the 49ers have been looking for, a big target for Kaepernick to target deep and in the endzone.

And while you might not know it from gut reaction of some fans, this trade should work out equally well for the Chiefs. Jenkins is smaller, but a more fluid route runner. He struggled to break through in San Francisco, but I can’t help but think that was largely due to his aforementioned lack of ability to contribute on special teams and the overload of receivers with similar skill sets and more experience. It’s also worth mentioning that Chiefs QB Alex Smith, spent last season with Jenkins and likely became more familiar with the young receiver after losing the starting QB job to Colin Kaepernick midway through last season. It’s hard to imagine that the Chiefs didn’t at least run the trade by Smith given his prior knowledge of the second year wide receiver. It seems possible that Smith and Jenkins clicked in practice and Jenkins just failed to catch on the same way with any of the other QBs.

Bottom Line: This trade was all about acquiring players who better fit each teams scheme, and honestly could pay huge dividends on both sides, or end with both players out of work by this time next year, only time will tell.

Fantasy Impact: Minimal. Jenkins gains sleeper status if he can prove he’s got chemistry with Alex Smith, but unless he’s a starter it’s hard to expect much and even then WR is deep this year. Baldwin faces about the same deal. His value drops as he was mostly assumed to be a starter in KC, but likely won’t be higher than #4 in SF unless he really impresses them in the next few weeks. If Baldwin does, somehow find himself starting in San Francisco his size and speed make him very appealing, but until then his ceiling is having a few big games where he catches a deep touchdown.