Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions

Tonight is opening night for Major League baseball.  Thus begins another season of ninth inning rallies, no hitter chases, and other memorable moments.  Here are my predictions (* = wild card).

American League

1 – Blue Jays
2 – Rays*
3 – Orioles
4 – Yankees
5 – Red Sox

I see this as the toughest division to predict this year.  Toronto went out and made the big moves and now have a deep, playoff caliber roster.  Tampa Bay will again rely heavily on their rotation and may still have one the best 1-4 starters even with Shields being dealt to KC.  Baltimore was 29-9 in one run games last year, so I’ve got to think the law of numbers will hold them back a bit this season.  New York and Boston are headed in the wrong direction.  New York is old, experiencing one injury after another, and has no pitching depth.     Boston’s hopes hinge on healthy and dominant Ellsubry and Pedroia and for a consistent Jon Lester.  Not high odds. 

1 – Tigers
2 – Royals
3 – Indians
4 – White Sox
5 – Twins

Last year’s World Series runner up looks even better on paper this year.  Adding Torii Hunter and a healthy Victor Martinez to a lineup that was basically just MVP and Triple Crown stud Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder should mean even more wins.  Is this finally Kansas City’s year?  They’ve been on fire this spring, and I really like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas.  Their pitching will be the key.  In Cleveland, I like Nick Swisher, but I don’t think they’re a lot better losing Shin-Soo Choo.  Their pitching worries me.  I think the White Sox take a tumble this year.  They’re going to be bad at best behind Chris Sale in the rotation, and I’m not a fan of that lineup.  Losing Denard Span and Ben Revere makes Minnesota worse, and saying that they’re #1 Scott Diamond would be a good #2 is being generous. 

1 – Angels
2 – A’s*
3 – Rangers
4 – Mariners
5 – Astros

Los Angeles is the clear favorite out west after again stealing from the Rangers.  Josh Hamilton slides into the cleanup spot behind Albert Pujols, and Jered Weaver should be a Cy Young finalist.  I worry a bit about Mark Trumbo protecting Hamilton in the lineup and how shaky Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas, and Joe Blanton can be.  I don’t think last year’s success was a fluke and that Oakland will be in the race again.  I like Yoenis Cespedes to have a big year.  The Rangers will struggle without Hamilton and may be in big trouble if Nelson Cruz is suspended for his role in the steroid case.  I don’t see them slugging their way to as many wins this season.  Seattle has a chance to be this year’s Oakland.  I really like Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales in the middle of that lineup, especially with the fences moved in a bit.  Start getting ready for Cowboys training camp if you’re a Houston fan.  This team looks destined to set records for futility with an anemic roster in a tough division.


MVP – Mike Trout
Runners up – Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols

Cy Young – Justin Verlander
Runners up – Jered Weaver, David Price, Felix Hernandez

Rookie of the Year – Wil Myers

Manager of the Year – Joe Maddon

National League

1 – Nationals
2 – Braves*
3 – Phillies
4 – Mets
5 – Marlins

Washington should be even better this year than last.  They’ve added leadoff hitter Denard Span, veteran starter Dan Haren, cloer Rafael Soriano, and won’t have any restrictions on Cy Young candidate Stephen Strasburg.  I like what Atlanta did in adding the Upton brothers to a lineup bolstered by Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. Philadelphia has lineup questions, and Roy Halladay is struggling.  Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee may need to carry this team more than they anticipated.  New York should regress this year.  David Wright and Daniel Murphy are the only hitters I trust, and while like Matt Harvey, adding Shaun Marcum doesn’t make up for losing R.A. Dickey.  To hell with the Marlins.  Their owner doesn’t care about them, so why should I?

1 – Reds
2 – Cardinals
3 – Pirates
4 – Brewers
5 – Cubs

I like Cincinnati to win this one rather handily.  Choo is a massive offensive upgrade over Drew Stubbs, but there are questions as to how well he’ll do in CF.  Aroldis Chapman will stay at closer, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities with a lineup led by a healthy Joey Votto.  Rafael Furcal is a big loss for St. Louis, and I worry about their ability to consistently manufacture runs.  Their starters are more questions than certainties which isn’t common with this club.  Milwaukee has the biggest question of all – will Ryan Braun avoid a lengthy suspension for a second time?  They’re hopeless without him, and Yovani Gallardo doesn’t have much behind him in the rotation.  Will Pittsburgh again flop after the All Star break?  Andrew McCutchen is one of the game’s top talents, but he must get more support.  Anthony Rizzo, and Jeff Samardzija are two of the shrinking reasons to watch Chicago.  This team is a long way from contending and will likely get more press for players they trade away than their on-field play. 

1 – Dodgers
2 – Giants*
3 – Diamondbacks
4 – Padres
5 – Rockies

Will this finally be the year?  Will the deep pocket Dodgers finally return to postseason relevance?  Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp may be the best pitcher and offensive player in baseball, but as a fan, I’m skeptical about how well this rock star lineup will gel.  Hanley Ramirez is already out with a thumb injury, and Zack Greinke was limited this spring with an elbow issue.  Good thing they’re deep.  They run eight deep at starter and have phenom Yasiel Puig waiting in the wings should Carl Crawford not hold up.  Even at full strength the Dodgers will have their hands full with the defending champs (it really hurts to type that).  San Francisco is just as tough this season as last.  Former Nole Buster Posey is the unquestioned leader of the team and was handsomely rewarded with a large extension this spring.  I like Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt to have strong seasons and for the rotation to once again be one of the game’s best.  Arizona will head into the season under the radar, but they need to be monitored, even without Justin Upton.  Not having Adam Eaton to start the season may slow them early on, but I think there’s enough quality in the lineup and the rotation to make some noise in a division expected to be dominated by the Dodgers and Giants.  San Diego was thought to be a surprise team in ’13 at the end of their ’12 step forward season.  That may be stifled with team MVP Chase Headley’s broken thumb and a very shaky rotation.  Third place may be a victory for the Padres.  I’m a huge fan of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but there’s just not much behind them.  Their pitching was pathetic last year, and they need to be dramatically better for the Rockies to be mildly relevant this season. 


MVP – Bryce Harper
Runners up – Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw
Runners up – Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels

Rookie of the Year – Adam Eaton

Manager of the Year – Bruce Bochy


Wild Card Games
Braves @ Giants – Giants
Rays @ A’s – Rays

Division Series
Tigers v. Rays – Tigers
Angels v. Blue Jays – Angels
Nationals v. Giants – Nationals
Dodgers v. Reds – Dodgers

League Championship Series
Tigers v. Angels – Angels
Nationals v. Dodgers – Nationals

World Series
Angels v. Nationals – Angels

Friday, March 29, 2013

2013 NFL Mock Draft & All Buccaneer Selections

First let me say that this is probably the hardest draft I’ve ever tried to predict.  There are next to no elite talents, and when we look back on this class in five years, you’re likely to see as many good picks in the third round as you will the first.  I think the player parity throughout the draft as well as evolving offensive and defensive philosophies across the league will lead to a lot of surprise selections. 

Tampa Bay has been pissin’ around with the Jets who want the 13th overall pick and more from the Bucs for Darrelle Revis.  While I’m not game on handing over multiple picks and a large chunk of the salary cap to a guy coming off an ACL injury, I’m not married to this year’s first rounder.  If I’m forced to trade for Revis I’d rather utilize this year’s first pick than next year’s when the Bucs may be looking for a new QB and in position to land one. 

With less than a month until what should be a real crapshoot of a draft, here’s my best educated guess as to how the first 43 picks will play out as well as what I think and hope the Bucs will do with all of their draft choices.

1) Kansas City Chiefs
Primary needs – OT, QB, ILB

They could still surprise everyone, but I believe Eric Winston’s release gives us the clearest indication as to where the Chiefs are going with this pick.  Branden Albert spouted off on Twitter about not moving to right tackle, and then his account was quickly shut down.  Hmmm… I’d be surprised if they took Floyd here due to how the Dorsey and Jackson experiments of moving a 4-3 tackle to the 5-techniqure worked out, or didn’t. 

The pick – Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)

2) Jacksonville Jaguars
Primary needs – QB, DE, CB, RT, OLB

Blaine Gabbert is awful, but I don’t think their interest in Geno Smith is sincere.  I expect new head coach Gus Bradley to focus on finding his Leo with his first pick.  Here he gets possibly the most complete edge guy in the draft and a sorely needed defensive difference maker.    

The pick – Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)

3) Oakland Raiders –
Primary needs – QB, DT, CB, OLB, MLB, DE

Carson Palmer is likely to be released, and I have a hard time accepting Terrelle Pryor as a legit starter.  Do they take one here?  I’d like to give a team a little credit.  Just because they don’t have a QB or a second round pick doesn’t mean that they have to take Smith.  I’m not high on him and think they’ll again be picking in the top five next year regardless of who’s under center.  If that’s the case wouldn’t it make sense to wait on a QB until next year when they’ll be worth taking this high?  Losing Desmond Bryant, Tommy Kelly, and Richard Seymour leaves a big hole in the middle of a weak defense, and I think they’ll take the highest rated tackle on their board.  Signing Vance Walker and Pat Sims shouldn’t prohibit them from going DT with this pick. 

The pick – Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)

4) Philadelphia Eagles
Primary needs – QB, T, ILB, CB

Chip Kelly’s QB of the future isn’t on his roster, but taking one here would be a bad move in my opinion.  Instead I think they’ll look to stabilize their offensive line with someone they can line up at right tackle until Jason Peters leaves or gets hurt again.

The pick – Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)

5) Detroit Lions
Primary needs – T, DE, CB, OLB

Dee Milliner is a popular pick here, but I think Detroit already has their starters at corner with Chris Houston and Chris Greenwood.  With Joeckel and Fisher off the board, I have them looking at either Lane Johnson or a pass rusher.  For now I’ll assume they won’t take the third player at his position with the fifth overall pick.

The pick – Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU)

6) Cleveland Browns
Primary needs – QB, WR, CB, RG, ILB

This is about as high as I think Chance Warmack could go.  The Browns figure to rely heavily on Trent Richardson this season, so adding his collegiate blocking mate would be one way to go.  I think the more likely option is for them to find a corner opposite Joe Haden.

The pick – Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)

7) Arizona Cardinals
Primary needs – QB, T/G, OLB

Another team linked to taking a QB.  Another time I pass on one.  I think drafting a QB here will set the Cardinals back another 3-5 years, and call me crazy but I’m actually a little intrigued to see what Drew Stanton can do.  There’s also talk that they’ll pounce on Carson Palmer when the Raiders release him.  Their line is awful, regardless of who’s under center, so I think they’ll go that route.  They’re showing no signs of giving up on Levi Brown yet at LT and could help him and Stanton at the same time with this pick.

The pick – Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)

8) Buffalo Bills
Primary needs – QB, WR, ILB

They’re not taking an inside linebacker here, but they could go after a pass rusher like Jarvis Jones.  I think this is too high for Cordarrelle Patterson, but he’s my second choice with this pick.  If you’ve been paying attention to anything Buddy Nix has said, publicly or recorded privately, he desperately wants a QB.  I don’t think any in this draft are worth this pick, but QBs are overdrafted more than any other position. 

The pick – Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)

9) New York Jets
Primary needs – QB, OL, OLB, S, RB

Part of me would like to see Smith still on the board here and watch fans react to the Jets passing on him.  What if they passed on him to take Warmack?  Rex Ryan has to show a pulse next season if he want to have any chance of being around in 2014, and getting a pass rusher here would likely make the biggest impact. 

The pick – Jarvis Jones (OLB, Georgia)

10) Tennessee Titans
Primary needs – CB, G, DE

With Milliner off the board, I don’t see them going corner here.  I’ve got it down to a lineman or pass rusher, and even after adding Andy Levitre, they need more help in the interior.  Here I’m giving them someone to plug in at RG with center versatility.

The pick – Jonathan Cooper (OL, North Carolina)

11) San Diego Chargers
Primary needs – OL, CB, LB

If the Chargers want to give Philip Rivers any chance this year, they must upgrade his protection.  I think a worst case scenario has one from Warmack, Cooper, and Lane Johnson on the board when they pick.  Guess who I’m taking? 

The pick – Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)

12) Miami Dolphins
Primary needs – T, CB, DE, RB

After losing Sean Smith in free agency, the Dolphins must find a replacement.  Do they take Rhodes or Trufant here or look elsewhere?  Despite all the smoke about the Dolphins being interested in Rhodes, I don’t see him as a fit in their heavy zone coverage scheme.  I’m going with the first shocker of the draft. 

The pick – Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
Miami appears to be going as “all in” as they can this year, and I like the aggressiveness.  I expect it to continue in the draft.  Yes, I realize they signed Mike Wallace and re-signed Brian Hartline, but I see them going even further to give Ryan Tannehill the best chance to succeed. 

13) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Primary needs – CB, TE, DL

It certainly has been a frustrating free agent period.  The Buccaneers went into the new year with huge needs at CB and TE and room for improvement on the defensive line, yet their big move was to make Dashon Goldson the highest paid safety in football.  Corner after corner signed elsewhere, and Michael Bennett went to Seattle on a very affordable one year deal.  What’s going on in the front office?  If I can rule out insanity, it’s safe to assume that the process of finding “Buccaneer men” requires adherence to a very strict set of criteria.  Yes, I’m going with roster philosophy over a return to the dollar store days.  Dominik and Schiano were well aware of the available corners and saw the relatively inexpensive contracts they were signing yet still didn’t get in the game.  Why not?

I agree with the philosophy of building the core of your roster through the draft, but there simply isn’t enough time in this era of football to rely as heavily on doing so as they appear to be.  I appreciate the fiscal integrity, but I believe the plan needs to be expanded.  With the window of patience shrinking by the season in the NFL, following a philosophy like this too rigidly could lead to the demise of Dominik and Schiano.  They don’t have to sign a Jackson or Nicks every offseason, but they must to a better job of finding “mid-grade” talent to supplement the draft picks and high profile free agents.  There needs to be a better sense of urgency. 

If I can end the rant there, let’s take a position-by-position look at the Bucs’ options with the 13th overall pick. 

Not under consideration – QB, RB, WR, G, C, S
We can dream of the Bucs finding Freeman’s replacement, but it’s not happening in the first round of this draft.  Martin is the man at RB, and they’re set at safety as well as the interior of the offensive line. Tavon Austin would have been tempting, but with him off the board, I think it’s safe to assume the Bucs won’t take a receiver.

OT – Unless Lane Johnson falls to #13 (zero chance Joeckel or Fisher are there), I can’t see them taking a tackle.  A couple of quarterbacks going in the top 12 would help the chances of him falling, but I just don’t see the happening.  Would they take Fluker at RT?  He’s a beast in the run game, but he’s never going to be a left tackle and could possibly be a better guard than tackle.  Is that the best use of this pick?

DE – Jordan won’t be there, and the Bucs will need some luck to have Ansah go unselected by the first twelve teams.  Consider this – if the Bucs let Bennett walk for next to nothing and want to give Clayborn and Bowers their chance to shine, would they really be looking for a pass rusher here?  I don’t mention Mingo as I don’t think he’ll be able to be anything other than a situational rusher in a 4-3 defense. 

DT – Floyd is a top 10 pick, so that leaves Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson as the top defensive tackles in the draft.  Regarding Richardson, if we’re drafting a tackle I’d want to take someone who can play next to McCoy, not behind him, and Lotulelei would probably have a better chance of starting at the nose.  I realize that NT isn’t an impact position in this scheme, but if Lotulelei is there, he may be the personification of making your scheme fit your talent rather than the other way around.  

LB – The Bucs added Jonathan Casillas in free agency, but I’d like to think he’s depth and special teams rather than the solution at SLB.  If that’s the case, the Bucs ideally need to find either an upgrade to Watson and Goode on the strong side or a MLB who can cover and push Foster to the strong side.  Of the round one options Alec Ogletree has too many red flags, Kevin Minter isn’t a coverage upgrade, and I have zero interest in the drama queen from Notre Dame. 

TE – Tom Crabtree was a nice grab in free agency, but with just 18 catches in three years with Aaron Rodgers as his QB, he’s ideally the #2 to a pass catcher.  Like cornerback the Bucs sat idly by as tight end after tight end found a home, which may indicate their affinity for some of the draft’s talent, namely Tyler Eifert.  The Golden Domer is clearly the top player at his position and has the size, athleticism, and receiving ability of the en vogue tight ends such as Gronk and Graham. 

CB – Easily the team’s biggest weakness, the Bucs went into free agency needing to find two starters, and nearly a month later, the situation remains unchanged.  With Milliner long gone the remaining round one options figure to be Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant.  There were reports earlier this offseason that the Bucs weren’t interested in taking a corner with this pick.  Was that true, and if so, is it still the case?  Ideally they’d move down a few spots and still get one of them while gaining another pick or two since it’s unlikely that the next several teams would pursue a corner over other similar talent that would address greater needs.  A trade down to #18 with Dallas seems ideal. 

If I can’t trade down, the best available players in my opinion are (in no particular order) Star Lotulelei, Xavier Rhodes, Tyler Eifert, Shelton Richardson, and Desmond Trufant.  What do I think the Bucs will do?

The pick – Xavier Rhodes (CB, FSU)

The Buccaneers, through their inactivity, have painted themselves into a corner this offseason, and it looks like they’ll be forced to take one with their first pick.  As a huge Rhodes fan, I obviously don’t see this as a reach at all, but I’d rather not feel like I have to take a corner with the first pick.  Can’t change that now though.

I still believe Rhodes has the highest upside of all the corners in this draft and that he’s the best way for the Bucs to give their pass defense a pulse.  If they end up mortgaging future draft picks and salary cap space for Revis without losing this pick, he and Rhodes would give the Bucs two serious presences at corner.  If they don’t make a move for Revis, I’d stay on the lookout for another corner in round two. 

If they don’t go with Rhodes, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they took Eifert.  They talk a lot about needing to stop the Grahams and Gronks of the world, and you could interpret that as their desire to acquire a similar weapon for their own usage.  Their free agent move was to get Tom Crabtree, an ideal #2 to a pass catcher.  They need to find out if Freeman is their guy, and surrounding him with as much talent as possible, could help them do that.  Lastly, if ever there was a year to make a non-traditional pick, it’s this year given the overall player parity in this class. 

 14) Carolina Panthers
Primary needs – DT, CB, S, OL

Defensive tackle has been a big need of theirs for a few years, and with two of the draft’s top three still available, I’d have a hard time seeing them go elsewhere.  If I had to make a surprise pick, I’d go with a receiver. 

The pick – Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)

15) New Orleans Saints
Primary needs – T, S, DL, OLB

I’d list left tackle as the team’s biggest need, but unless they move up the board, they’re not getting one in this round.  Defensively, they’re moving to a 3-4 front under Rex Ryan, and while they’re not overloaded with pass rushers, there is a bit of quantity.  They just signed Victor Butler, a similar talent to Barkevious Mingo, so I pass on him here.    Instead I’m giving them the anchor at NT to build the defense around.

The pick – Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)

16) St. Louis Rams
Primary needs – S, WR, SLB

Fortunately for the Rams they should be able to address both of their top needs with their two first round picks.  Here I’m taking the guy most likely to be coveted by the teams picking between this selection and #22. 

The pick – Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)

17) Pittsburgh Steelers
Primary needs – OLB, WR, DE, ILB

It’s too early for an inside backer, and despite losing Mike Wallace, it’s not the Steeler way to take a receiver in round one.  They could take a pass rusher, but I’m not loving the available talent.  I’m going off the radar here and giving Big Ben a guy who could end up being his primary target for the second half of his Steeler career.

The pick – Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)

18) Dallas Cowboys
Primary needs – OL, S, DL
There aren’t any suitable offensive linemen available, and with Vaccaro off the board I think they’ll look to find a defensive lineman that can be a building block of Monte Kiffin’s defense.  This one will surprise some people.

The pick – Tank Carradine (DE, FSU)
Yes, I think Carradine has a good chance of going before his teammate Bjoern Werner since it looks like teams are starting to get with the program and realize how much potential this guy has.  With Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware anything but long term fixtures, they need to get a pass rusher that fits the scheme and will still be on the team in three years.    

19) New York Giants
Primary needs – LB, RT, CB, DE
With the way this has played out, I see three options with this pick.  Do they take DJ Fluker to solve their problem at RT?  What about Trufant to improve their pass coverage?  I’m going the linebacker route with a guy who looks like the perfect Coughlin player and whose stock has reportedly been soaring. 

The pick – Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)

20) Chicago Bears
Primary needs – OL, LB, CB

I believe in this scenario the Bears will go the best available route rather than focusing on a primary need.  Charles Tillman is 32, and Tim Jennings turns 30 in December.  Both are free agents in ’14.  Depth is needed, as is help against the Packers and Calvin Johnson. 

The pick – Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)

21) Cincinnati Bengals
Primary needs – RB, LB, S, RT

As I type, Andre Smith remains a free agent, so if he isn’t brought back, maybe they consider replacing him with another Bama tackle, Fluker.  Rey Maualuga is garbage but was brought back to play MLB.  There’s talk that they could replace him with Te’o, but that’s a headscratcher since Te’o, like Maualuga, is a two down linebacker.  They could use a #1 back, but I doubt they’d take Lacy here.  It wouldn’t shock me at all if this guy ends up being the best player at his position from this class. 

The pick – Jonathan Cyprien (S, FIU)

22) St. Louis Rams (via WAS)
Primary needs – WR, SLB

With one of the picks acquired in last year’s RGIII trade, the Rams will likely be taking their top rated available receiver. 

The pick – Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)

23) Minnesota Vikings
Primary needs – WR, DT, MLB, CB

The Vikings had a weak passing game last year and dealt away their biggest weapon behind Adrian Peterson.  Even with the acquisition of Greg Jennings, I’ve got the think they’ll look to take a receiver with one of their first two picks. The smarter move might be to take the guy they want who is most likely liked by Indy as well.  Both teams need a big presence in the middle of their defensive lines. 

The pick – Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State)

24) Indianapolis Colts
Primary needs – CB, OLB, G, DE

Andrew Luck is the franchise, and the franchise spent a lot of time on his franch-ass last year.  They’ve added Gosder Cherilus at RT and Donald Thomas at LG, so RG is currently their weak link up front.  They could address that weakness by taking DJ Fluker here and moving him inside.  They brought in a couple of pass rushers this offseason, but neither Erik Walden nor Lawrence Sidbury should prohibit them from drafting one here. 

The pick – Damontre Moore (OLB, Texas A&M)

25) Minnesota Vikings (via SEA)
Primary needs – WR, MLB, CB

Te’o is getting some talk here, but I really question how productive a three down backer he’ll be in the pros.  I have a hard time seeing them pass on a receiver here to pair with Jennings, and I’m a big fan of this player. 

The pick – DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)

26) Green Bay Packers
Primary needs – C, RB, OLB, OT, WR

I don’t see the first two positions of need being the pick, and I don’t see immediate impact by the available pass rushers.  You don’t think of receiver being a big position of need for the Packers, but with the loss of Greg Jennings and how often they run multiple receiver sets, they’re not terribly deep.  This guy is my favorite receiver in the draft and would make things nearly unfair lined up with Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. 

The pick – Quinton Patton (WR, Louisiana Tech)

27) Houston Texans
Primary needs – WR, ILB, RT, RG, OLB

I feel like I mock a receiver to these guys every year.  Maybe this time they’ll actually do it.  Their need for a viable target opposite Andre Johnson was highlighted this past season, and I doubt they continue to ignore it.  I keep reading about an emphasis on speed, but I’d rather have the well-rounded receiver.

The pick – Keenan Allen (WR, California)

28) Denver Broncos
Primary needs – DE, S, RB, MLB

Eddie Lacy might be a popular pick, but I think Denver will first look to upgrade the other side of the ball.  They lost Elvis Dumervil in that weird contract deadline situation, and here they’ll get really good value in attempting to replace him.

The pick – Bjoern Werner (DE, FSU)

29) New England Patriots
Primary needs – WR, DT, DE

I think they’ll focus on defense with this pick, and finding a versatile athlete to pair up front with Vince Wilfork would be a nice move in my opinion.

The pick – Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)

30) Atlanta Falcons
Primary needs – DE, LB, DT, CB

Even after landing Osi Umenyiora they’ll still be really thin at DE. 

The pick – Datone Jones (DE, UCLA)

31) San Francisco 49ers
Primary needs – FS, CB, OLB, NT
The 49ers own two of the next four picks, and I’ll look to address the defense with both of them.  I’m very intrigued with the idea of making this guy a part of that unit.

The pick – Margus Hunt (DE, SMU)

32) Baltimore Ravens
Primary needs – ILB, WR, LT, FS
The champs have been hit hard by free agency, and no position more so than inside linebacker.  I think this guy would help them start to make up for losing Ray Lewis to retirement and Dannell Ellerbe to the Dolphins.

The pick – Kevin Minter (ILB, LSU)

Round 1 position breakdown –
QB – 1
RB – 0
WR – 5
TE – 1
OT – 3
G/C – 2
DT – 5
DE – 6
OLB – 3
ILB – 1
CB – 3
S – 2

It’s not often that you see 1 combined QB and RB go in the first round of a draft, but I really don’t see how that number is higher unless teams start forcing it.  No, it’s not a terribly top-heavy-talented draft, but overall the QB class is simply shoddy. 


33) Jacksonville Jaguars
Primary needs – QB, CB, RT, OLB

The Jags appear to be committed to a Gabbert-Henne battle for some reason, but if every QB other than Smith is still here, I wouldn’t put it past them to use this pick on one.  If they don’t, I think Bradley will look to find his second Seattle reproduction – a tall, aggressive corner.  Johnthan Banks is my fallback pick here.

The pick – Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)

34) San Francisco 49ers (via KC)
Primary needs – CB, OLB, NT

After netting Hunt with their first choice, I think they’ll focus on the back end of the defense with one of the picks acquired in the Alex Smith trade.

The pick – Jonthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)

35) Philadelphia Eagles
Primary needs – QB, ILB, CB

I think this could be where Chip Kelly rolls the dice on a QB, and I’ve got him taking the guy he tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit to Oregon five years ago. 

The pick – EJ Manuel (QB, FSU)

36) Detroit Lions
Primary needs – T, CB, OLB

After missing out on a tackle in the first round, I think the Lions will look to pounce on one here should the opportunity present itself.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see this guy go in the top 25. 

The pick – Menelik Watson (T, FSU)

37) Cincinnati Bengals (via OAK)
Primary needs – RB, LB, RT

As I touched on earlier, I think the Bengals are better off in the long run without Maualuga, so I’ll look to find a guy who can play on the weak side, allowing Burfict to slide inside. 

Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)

38) Arizona Cardinals
Primary needs – QB, OLB

I was set to slot a different passer here, but the Cardinals appear to be smitten with this guy.  They’re fools if they take him with their first pick because I strongly doubt he won’t be on the board at #38. 

The pick – Mike Glennon (QB, NC State)

39) New York Jets
Primary needs – QB, RB, S

Would the Jets really take another Trojan QB with a questionable arm?  As much as I’d love to see them take Matt Barkley and watch the calamity ensue, I’m going to address their safety deficiency.

The pick – Matt Elam (S, Florida)

40) Tennessee Titans
Primary needs – S, CB, DE, TE

Zach Ertz might make a good Jared Cook replacement, but I think they’ll look to improve their secondary. 

The pick – Jamar Taylor (CB, Boise State

41) Buffalo Bills
Primary needs – WR, ILB

If they’re going to invest in Geno Smith, they’ll also need to invest in someone for him to throw to other than Stevie Johnson.

The pick – Robert Woods (WR, USC)

42) Miami Dolphins
Primary needs – T, CB, DE, RB

As they move to a 4-3 front, the Dolphins could use a true strong side end, but with the way this one has played out, I’ve got to go with the guy who has fallen much further than expected.  I think he’s more likely to go sooner, but since he’s either a RT or RG I don’t see a lot of teams picking late in round one seeing that as their top priority. 

The pick – DJ Fluker (OL, Alabama)

43) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Primary needs – TE, CB, DL, LB

I’ve got this one down to two players – a tight end and another corner.  Zach Ertz is the #2 tight end in the draft, and like Eifert, would give the Bucs a presence that’s missing in the middle of the field.  He would be the pass catcher to Crabtree’s blocker.  The corner I’m considering is Darius Slay.  I had him listed just below Logan Ryan in my list of corner to consider in my offseason previous, but Slay is probably an even better fit, is soaring up draft boards, and I’d proffer that he’ll end up a better professional than his collegiate boundary mate.    

The pick – Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Ertz is a move tight end that and could take advantage of coverage mismatches.  He’s a true hands pass catcher who would give Freeman another big target to heave it up to.  I like the thought of him creating more looks/formations for the offense.  Ertz isn’t a slippery or speedy guy, but has impressive agility for a big guy.  Combine that with his excellent hands and wide catch radius, and this is a guy who can be a difference maker.  He’s got a long way to go as a blocker from strength and leverage points, but the effort is there.  


Round 3

After taking Rhodes and Ertz, the positions I don’t think will be considered here are RB, TE, G, C, and S.  That leaves possibilities at QB, WR, T, DE, DT, and LB.  Who’s available?  The third round is no man’s land at QB for the Bucs.  My favorite QB for the Bucs in this draft is EJ Manuel, and I have him going in the second round.  The Bucs will want whoever this pick is to play right away. 

Stedman Bailey is my favorite receiver for the Bucs.  I believe that he’s horribly underrated having played in Tavon Austin’s shadow at West Virginia, and is going to be a huge steal for someone.  The guy is a terrific route runner and has two of the best hands in this draft.  The knock on him is size, but give me a guy with an extensive route tree who consistently racks up yards after the catch.  I think Bailey has a really bright future as a professional.  Remember how successful the Bucs offense was with Ike Hilliard in the slot? 

Big Brandon Williams is a small school guy who I think would provide an attractive, stout presence next to McCoy.  If they go defensive line, he’s the guy I want to them to take.  From what little I’ve seen of him, he has the size, strength, and hands to be a contributor in multiple positions up front.  He has quick feet and does a good job occupying blockers, making them work.  I’d like to see him play with a little more control, and that can be coached. 

The pick – Stedman Bailey (WR, West Virginia)
I pleaded for Randall Cobb as a second round pick in the ’11 draft, and Bailey, while not as explosive, would abuse defenses in open the open field just as Cobb does. 

Round 4

The Bucs have two selections in this round and so far have gone:
Xavier Rhodes (CB, FSU)
Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Stedman Bailey (WR, West Virginia)

With the remaining five picks I’d focus on QB, T, DL, LB, and CB.  Also, if the Bucs have yet to draft a tight end, I’d spend one of these picks on Dion Sims.  If Brandon Williams is still available he’d be at the top of the list here.  If he’s not, I have five players in mind with these two selections.  Here they are:

QB – Zac Dysert
What stands out most to me with him is his confidence and how he looks to have some of that “it” factor that everyone wants in a quarterback.  He’s far from complete as a quarterback, but I think he’s got a lot to work with.  Dysert is an athletic guy who throws well on the run.  He also threw a lot of timing plays in college, but he does a nice job of seeing the whole field.  If I’m going to pick on something, he puts too much air under a lot of his passes which is correctable.  He’s not a dual threat guy but can pick up yards with his legs; doesn’t look like Tom Brady when he tucks it and runs.

RB – Christine Michael
Michael has plenty of talent, but his baggage is the reason he won’t get drafted high.  Based on skill he’s one of the top three backs in the draft.  To me I think he’s worth the risk this late as a well-rounded compliment to Martin.  He runs with authority and effort, something Martin’s current backup does not. 

WR – Ryan Swope
If Bailey isn’t the third round pick, I want them to seriously consider Swope.  He has tremendous concentration, catches the ball in any spot in the field, and has more long speed than he’s given credit for. Welker is the lazy comparison for Swope, but I’d argue that Swope is the more aggressive receiver. He has a large catch radius due to skill not arm length, which is something I look for. The ball doesn’t have to be in his chest in order for him to catch it. The guy is simply a football player.

LB – Ty Powell
Schiano is very active with his linebackers, and I have someone in mind that I think would be a perfect fit.  Ty Powell played DE at Harding but has the skill set to shine at SLB in this scheme.  I’m very impressed with his agility and footwork for a guy who’s 6-2, 250.  He has experience as a safety, and it shows with his impressive change of direction in coverage.  Powell had 8.5 sacks as a senior and would give the Bucs another needed pass rushing presence.    

CB – Will Davis
Davis isn’t a large corner, but I really like his coverage skills and the way he tracks the football.  He uses his aggressiveness and plus speed to stay with receivers downfield; good recovery speed as well.  The two things I believe he needs to work on most are play recognition and tackling technique which are both coachable.  Tons of upside here.

The picks –
Ty Powell (LB, Harding)
Will Davis (CB, Utah State)

Rounds 5 & 6

The Bucs have three picks in these two rounds – their two and the extra sixth they picked up in the Arrelious Benn deal. 

The picks –
Kenjon Barner (RB, Oregon)
Montori Hughes (DT, Tennessee-Martin)
Armonty Bryant (DE, E Central Oklahoma)

I see Barner as the Buccaneers’ version of Darren Sproles.  He’d be an electric compliment to Martin, carrying and catching the ball out of the backfield and helping out on returns.  In my offseason preview I mentioned Danny Woodhead as an option in free agency and how attractive he’d be as a no-huddle / fast break option.  Barner is that guy too, and like Woodhead is a tougher runner than he’s given credit for. 

Hughes moves well for a big guy and shows a good get-off.  He has a big wing span to go with a large frame and occupies a lot of space.  Hughes does a nice job of holding up against double teams; doesn’t give ground.  He’s a handful in one-on-one matchups.

Bryant would occupy a Bennett-type role as a strong side end who has the ability to movie inside on passing downs.  I like his size at the position, but I think he will be much better off when he adds another 10-15 pounds of upper body in the weight room.  He gets stoned a little too much when he can’t use his speed to get around blockers, so strength and hands stand out as things to work on.  Still, he’s a true lottery pick at this point, and you could make worse gambles than an athletic pass rusher in the sixth round. 


R1 – Xavier Rhodes (CB, FSU)
R2 – Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
R3 – Stedman Bailey (WR, West Virginia)
R4a – Ty Powell (LB, Harding)
R4b – Will Davis (CB, Utah State)
R5 – Kenjon Barner (RB, Oregon)
R6a – Montori Hughes (DT, Tennessee-Martin)
R6b – Armonty Bryant (DE, E Central Oklahoma)

A Rhodes/Ertz or Eifert/Slay one-two is how I’d start this draft.  In all the Bucs add three offensive players and five defensive players.  They get their ‘now or never’ QB immediate impact dynamic talents at TE and slot receiver.  Ertz is a matchup nightmare, and Bailey can break big plays in the open space that Ertz creates.  Barner is an explosive compliment to Martin. 

On defense, they double down at corner and defensive line while adding a potential gem SLB.  Rhodes is an instant starter, and Davis is extremely raw but shows plenty of potential as a boundary corner.  Powell is a multi-dimensional linebacker that could shine opposite Lavonte David.  They finish up by taking two high upside defensive linemen who could contribute right away. 

I waited a while to take a defensive lineman for a couple of reasons.  Judging by their handling of the Bennett situation, the Bucs are committed to Clayborn and Bowers at end.  I don’t see them spending a high pick on a pass rusher when they could have retained a versatile, proven commodity rather inexpensively.  Again, with NT not being a huge impact position in this defense and the fact that they’re soon going to have to commit a lot of money to McCoy makes me think they’ll wait a while on a DT.  Look at the Bucs draft history of offensive linemen under Dominik.  They haven’t drafted one since Xavier Fulton in 2009.  Why think that will change this year? 

It’s been a frustrating offseason thus far, but if the Bucs put together a draft like this they’ll be addressing some urgent needs as well as adding high upside depth throughout the roster. 

Go Bucs!