With all the focus being on the four top ranked QBs in this years draft it is easy to forget that drafting one in the first round is no guarantee of finding a franchise QB, and sometimes a future starter is lurking way down the rankings. A great example of this is Tom Brady who was largely overlooked in the 2000 draft – ending up as pick 199, a compensatory pick at that. So who could be worth a punt in 2014?
One worthy of consideration if you are prepared to forgive his youthful indiscretions is Zach Mettenberger. who at 6-5 has good height and is quite powerful. This LSU career has been steady and despite his earlier arrests he has kept out of trouble for the last couple of years which hopefully indicates he has learned from his mistakes. We think due to injury worries he will be on the board in round three, and this could be good value if he can be placed behind a veteran QB for a season or two.
Jimmy Garoppolo may have been ranked higher if he had played for a higher profile college team that Eastern Illinoi, however all he could do was lead his team to victory, and in 2013 the Panthers recorded 12 wins. In what was probably his highest profile game v Northern Illinoi he outshone fellow QB prospect Jordan Lynch by putting up 450 yards and 6 TDs. Ok they lost but it showed they could compete against a ranked team, and he was instrumental in their win. Is he a starting QB? probably not in week one, however if he was to slide towards the end of round two someone should take a chance.
Its hard to assess just how good AJ McCarron is, given he played behind one of the best offensive lines in the SEC for much of his college career, and he got plenty of playing time thanks to the Crimson Tide’s formidable defense. Still you can’t knock his achievements and again if he drifts down into the third or fourths rounds then he would be worth a punt.
Finally any franchise willing to take a late round punt could do worse than pick up Logan Thomas out of Virginia Tech. He is a big guy who impressed us at the combine with his speed and agility, showing well in the dash, cones and shuffle. He was a bit of a late comer to the game not playing until the 8th Grade, and even then he spent a good proportion of his time at WR. He was not drafted into the College game as a QB, however this hasn’t stopped him from putting up some good stats, and anyone who watched him in the Hokies win over Miami last season will have seen he has potential. OK the thumping in the Sun Bowl means he ended his career on a loss, however he only played for part of the game (it was 7-7 when he played his last down) and the collapse only came in the 4th Quarter against a good UCLA team. Over the season they beat the teams they should have and losing to the likes of Alabama & Duke was no disgrace. He is prone to throwing interceptions, however he has room for improvement given his late start in the QB role. Overall we like Logan Thomas and in our opinion any team getting him in the 6th or 7th round will have got a bargain (Packers please note).
Logan Thomas at the Combine
Logan Thomas Game Highlights
Like most people (outside of die hard Carolina fans) we were a tad surprised at the tremendous showing they put on in 2013, however success does come at a cost and in 2014 they will pick 28th in the 1st round of the draft. The problem they face is that they have glaring needs on Offense going into the new season and this begs the question – should they trade up to plug one of their needs or wait and hope that a suitable candidate slides?
In our opinion their biggest need is a stud OT to protect their most important player Cam Newton, however with a number of teams also in the market for one, they may need to jump up to secure one of the better ones. The top two Greg Robinson & Jake Matthews will probably require a move into the top 10 at least to be sure, however ex Michigan prospect Taylor Lewen should be around by the time the Rams pick at 13 (despite really impressing at the Combine) and here in lies the trade opportunity. The 13th Pick will not prove prohibitively expensive, especially given the Rams already have the No 2 pick thanks to some judicious trading in the past, and filling the vital left tackle position with a player of such potential must be viewed as worth the cost.
Taylor Lewen Dazzles at the Combinbe
The other alternative is waiting to see if Cyrus Kouandjio slides to 28 (by no means certain), however given he has had some injury worries, it is a BIG risk going into the new season with a potentially injury prone rookie protecting Cam Newton’s Blind Side.
Other options which are more risky include trading out of day one and hopefully picking up the likes of Morgan Moses who might slide into the early part of round two or seeing if they can grab Cameron Fleming later in the second round. A move such as this may allow them to pick up a sliding WR such as USC’s Marqise Lee or a quality TE such as Jace Amaro or Troy Niklas who should be around deep into the second round.
So with a little bit of trade juggling Carolina could easily address their main need, or look to fill all of their offensive needs either with an aggressive move up or by drifting down and taking slightly more of a chance on some second round prospects.
It is no secret that Cleveland intends to improve their offence in the 2014 draft, however with the signing of Nate Burleson the decision as to whether Wider Receiver or Quarterback will be addressed at pick number four has changed.
We have the Browns picking WR Sammy Watkins with their first pick, however, picking up Burleson on a one year deal from Detroit does give them the option of looking to day two to address this need or even waiting until 2015 where (with no offence intended) they are likely to be picking early again.
Burleson may be coming up 33, however he is far from washed up, and his release by the Detroit Lions was purely a salary cap move. He finished the 2013 with 39 catches for 461 yards and a single touchdown. However this needs to be viewed against a backdrop of Megatron being the no one target for Matt Stafford, and the fact that the last two seasons have been blighted by injury. He only played in nine games for the Lions in 2013 and in 2012 he missed the final 10 games of the season. It is also worth noting that he had one of the highest reception rates in the NFL last season catching 73.6% of the passes thrown to him. As for the injuries, well 2012 was ended due to a broken leg which is one of those things and not a nagging chronic problem, while in 2013 he suffered a somewhat self-inflicted injury when he broke his arm in a car crash, caused when he tried to grab a falling Pizza box! Shame he didn’t show his on field catching skills here, however he did somehow manage to parlay the accident into a year’s free supply of DiGiorno Pizza’s.
He should be a popular addition to the locker room (not just because of the free pizzas) being a bit of a spokesman and a leader, and the Browns could easily choose a worse mentor for Josh Gordon.
Whether this leads Cleveland to pass on Sammy Watkins is debatable, however it has probably increased Jonny Manziels stock in their scouts eyes.
Deshawn Jackson’s spell as a free agent was as short lived (as expected) and he has signed with the Washington Redskins; a move which has made theirs one of the most potent in the NFC. Given he is coming of a career best season the move seems a little ill timed, however a combination of off field rumours and money probably led to Chip Kelly deciding his hurry up offence could live without him.
On the field he will team up with Pierre Garcon, who led the NFL in receptions last season to give one of the most potent WR sets in the league. Combine this with explosive running in the form of Alfred Morris and the QB Talents of RGIII and you have a team who will rightly be considered as playoff contenders. This seems a bold statement to make about a team who went 3-13 and lost their last 8 games. However seven games were against teams who made the playoffs and their heavy losses were against the Chiefs, 49ers and Broncos so no disgrace there. Further Eight of the losses suffered were by 8 points or less. If they can stiffen up their Pass Defence they could surprise a lot of people in 2014 and it will be a big surprise if they don’t improve significantly on last seasons record.
It is reported that ex Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel is having a pre draft meeting with the New England Patriots this week, however its not clear what the purpose is other than him getting a free lunch. It is no secret that they will have to eventually find a replacement for Tom Brady (big shoes to fill), however given they pick 29 in this years draft, Johnny would have to have an Arron Rodgers style slide to reach that deep and its hard to see Bill Belichick trading up dramatically to take a player who would only start in the most extreme of circumstances , and in any event Ryan Mallett whom they picked up in the 3rd round in 2011 looks like he has some potential, and will know the system given he has carried the clip board around for a while now. Overall we think this is more of a polite meet and greet and that JM will be plying his trade with one of the other 31 teams in 2014.
DeSean Jackson may have been cut by the Eagles, however he wont be without a team for long and it looks strongly possible he will end up facing them this season wearing a Washington Redskins Shirt. Presently the reports are based on a number of Tweets from those supposedly in the know, however the deal does make sense for the Skins, who need to give RGIII more weapons if they are to compete in an admittedly below par NFC East.
DeSean Jackson is coming off of his best season ever and played his part in helping the Eagles to the Playoffs last season, where they lost narrowly to the Saints. If he can repeat his production from 2013 (1332 yards and 9 TD’s) then teaming him up with Pierre Garson and Alfred Morris will give Washington a nice attacking option, which will allow new Coach Jay Gruden to focus on other areas in the draft. This is important for Washington, given they are still suffering here from the Blockbuster RGIII trade up.
There will certainly be other suitors waiting in the wings if a deal is not reached, however we are sure that Jackson will want the chance to play against his old team, and show them they were wrong to release him.
Green bay have announced that B.J. Raji will move back to Nose tackle this coming season, from Defensive End, a position he has been used in for much of the last 2 seasons. Whether the arrival of Julius Peppers has influenced this is anyone’s guess, however in our opinion Mike McCarthy’s experiment in moving him out there didn’t work and we are looking forward to seeing him play in his more orthodox role. There was rumours that he would be on his way but he recently signed a $4M one- year deal.
With Free Agency nearing its end, now is the time to begin the age old tradition of trying to guess who will be making moves in the draft. Here is our initial thoughts on picks 1-5.
Pick 1 Houston Texans QB Blake Bortles
With Matt Schaub now at the Raiders the most obvious pick for the Texans would be a top QB, and there are a few promising ones to choose from this time round. However as we have already discussed its not a foregone conclusion in our opinion. The reason briefly is that there is a lot of QBs with potential this year and spending the coveted no 1 pick on a QB where there could be the chance to pick up a starter deep in the 1st or even in the 2nd round is high risk.
If they do go QB then Blake Bortles would be a good choice, however both Teddy Bridgewater and Jonny Manziel are worth considering. If they decide to wait and fill the QB need in round two, then the options would be DE Jadeveon Clowney OT Greg Robinson or WR Sammy Watkins in that order. At this stage we feel they will probably go with Bortles however we think that Clowney would be the best choice.
Pick 2 St Louis Rams OT Greg Robinson
The Rams continue to benefit from Washington’s blockbuster trade to get RGIII and if they don’t decide to trade this pick (a strong possibility if the Texans don’t take Bortles at No 1) then they will probably look to the OL in an attempt to keep Sam Bradford healthy. OT’s Jake Matthews & Greg Robinson would be the obvious picks here, although both Jadeveon Clowney & Sammy Watkins would be considered. Given the physicality of the NFC West we think that OT is the way to go and just give the edge here to Greg Robinson due to his strength and bulk (he came in at 332lbs at the Combine).
Pick 3 Jacksonville Jaguars DE Jadeveon Clowney
The Jags need a QB and if as we think is possible the Texans have passed on Blake Bortles they will snatch him here if no one has already traded up with the Rams. However assuming things have gone as predicted they will take Jadeveon Clowney here. Jake Matthews & Sammy Watkins would also be one on their radar, however a class WR is not much use without the ball and when you have a roster full of holes taking the best available is always the safest way to go.
Pick 4 Cleveland Browns WR Sammy Watkins
The Browns have made no secret of the fact they are going to draft a QB, however with 2 1st round picks they can afford to take a chance and see who drops to them at 26 so unless Blake Bortles is by some miracle still on the board, we think they will strengthen their receiver corp with Sammy Watkins. Then when they get the latest in their conveyor belt of rookie QBs he will at least have Watkins and the equally talented Josh Gordon to target. If as is possible both have gone then they would probably take the best OT left or Clowney if still on the board.
Pick 5 Oakland Raiders OT Jake Matthews
The Raiders need a franchise QB and although the likes of Teddy Bridgewater and Jonny Manziel will be tempting the fact they have traded a 6th round pick for Matt Schaub would indicate that they intend to start him. Even the Raiders are unlikely to use the No 5 pick on a back up QB especially when there is likely to be ones with potential floating around in the 2nd and 3d rounds. Thus taking a top OT who will start and serve you well (injuries allowing) for at least 5 years makes sense. Other options here would be picking up a quality OLB and Khalil Mack & Anthony Barr would both be considerations here. Another option would be trading down and trying to replace that 6th round pick they spent on Schaub in the process.
So we have a QB two OTs, a DE and a WR going in the first 5 picks. This could lead to a flurry of trades for the top QB’s, and a few quality CB’s and Safeties slipping further than expected. We will give our best guesses for picks 6-10 over the weekend.
The NFC North continued to shuffle players this week with the Chicago Bears snapping up the Minnesota Vikings DE Jared Allen on a 4 year deal. He will effectively be a replacement for Julius Peppers who left the Bears for the Packers recently. Jared Allen has meetings with the reigning Super Bowl champions Seattle, however they couldn’t have offered enough so he will continue his rivalry with the NFC offensive lines to the dismay of Arron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.t this stage we don’t know who will be the QB wearing Purple but we are sure JA will have a warm welcome for them.
We are a little surprised by the move and it looks like Jared Allen would rather have the cash than a ring given the Seahawks will be more likely than the Bears to reach the Super Bowl in 2015.
The Houston Texans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace last season and now find themselves with the coveted 1st pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The general consensus is that they will pick one of the crop of promising QBs available, however with freakish defensive talent available this year will they surprise us and wait until round 2 to pick up a QB. In our opinion this is more plausible than it looks at first glance and they may like they did in the past draft a [player who will make an immediate impact like they did with Mario Williams rather than pick potential.
The reason we think there is a chance they will is that there are a few good QBs flying under the radar at the moment and the following may be available in the latter rounds and certainly late 1st or early second.
Derek Carr. Derek played at Fresno State and is the brother of one time Texan’s QB David Carr who went first overall in 2002. His profile is lower as Fresno play in the Mountain West Conference where he put up impressive numbers, although sadly he did struggle a bit in the Las Vegas bowl last season against USC. However this was a big step up from his usual opposition and with no disrespect to his team mates on then day he will get considerably better protection behind a Pro NFL line. At 6-2 and 213 lbs. he has the size and his 4.69 4o yard dash at the Combine was pretty impressive for a QB. One other advantage he has is his maturity, being married with a son he is less likely to let the sudden fame and money go to his head – something which needs considering. He should be around late in the 1st if they wanted to trade back in or may even fall to the early part of round 2.
Alabama QB A.J. McCarron may also drop to the second round and although he had the luxury of playing under a great coach in Nick Saben and of being surrounded by talent, its hard to knock a player who led his team to two national championships. Also having played in the high profile SEC will have helped prepare him for the pressure of the NFL His combine performance was adequate where his throwing raised a few positive eyebrows, and his 4.94-second 40-yard dash which not up with the leaders is good enough. If the Texans get the right offensive personnel he is god enough to start and win games for them.
Others worthy of later round consideration include Zach Mettenberger out of LSU who at 6’5” and 224 pounds has the size and strength needed by a pocket passer. He has a big throwing arm and plenty of experience of big games having played in then SEC. He has some injury worries, but put behind a veteran QB for a season could prove good value in the 4th or 5th round. He will be well versed having been coached by Cam Cameron last season who is a well respected former NFL offensive coordinator, so he could probably take the starters job if push came to shove.
One final player who we like having seen a bit of him on TV last year is Connor Shaw who was South Carolina ‘s stating QB from 2011 -2013. he would probably best be described as steady rather than spectacular, and at 6ft he is not as tall as the conventional wisdom indicates a QB needs to be. However what is undeniable is that he is one of the Gamecocks most successful QB’s in their history, leading the team to a 27-5 record as a starter in the SEC including going 17-0 at home. Last season he had 24 touchdowns and only one interception and in his final game at the Capital One Bowl he threw 3 touchdowns ran for one and caught one. his throwing stats were 22-25 for 312 yards and he was voted the game’s most valuable player. He ran an impressive 4.66-second 40-yard dash at the combine, (one of the fastest times) and was consistently in the top five in most of the field drills. With QBs like Russell Wilson showing that size is less of an issue if you have speed and consistency Conner Shaw is a player worth taking a punt on if as we expect he falls to the later rounds. The Texans could pick him up cheap and try him out behind a veteran starter and see what pans out.
Given this at this stage we are sticking with our view that the Texans will take Jadeveon Clowney with the No one pick or that they may even trade down a little if someone really wants a QB with the No 1 pick.