NFL Draft Advent Calendar-Door #7: The Jaguars

We’ve already started opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar!  This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.

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OVERALL

Our Draft Advent Calendar is basically a (over)simplified way to appraise each team’s offseason moves to this point, and what roster needs still remain that could be addressed via the draft.  We’ve all had those years when nobody, fucking nobody buys what we put on our list.  We’ve all also experienced that shitty moment when we realize that the gift we want to get is no longer available in stores.  As such, we’re not going to predict which college players will go to which team.  Rather, we’re appraising each NFL team to this point, and what position(s) they might want to address when the last advent door is opened and the wise men start going off like a bunch of gun lobbyists.

Door #7 – The Jaguars

Jaguars

2012 finish: 2-14; missed playoffs (no shit)

TOTAL PICKS: 7

ROUND 1

2

ROUND 2

1 (33)

ROUND 3

2 (64)

ROUND 4

1 (98)

ROUND 5

2 (135)

ROUND 6

1 (169)

ROUND 7

2 (208)

There’s a reason this analysis will be shorter than usual.  It’s because Jacksonville sucks.  Stuck in a toe-to-toe battle with the Jets for the worst roster in the NFL, the Jaguars have done this so far in the offseason to change that:

Signed C Brad Meester, RB Justin Forsett, LB Geno Hayes

Re-signed (slot)WR Jordan Shipley

Cut the newly concussion-prone (and widely overpaid by the Jags) WR Laurent Robinson

This is the type of uninspiring, patronizing and shitty offseason one would expect from a basement dweller.  But in this franchise’s defense, the front office is in a transition period.  Owner Shad (Shaka) Khan is new to the cutthroat NFL ownership game, and GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are entering the first season at their respective jobs.  After rumors abounded that Khan’s son, Tony, might take over general manager duties for the team, reason prevailed for once in Jacksonville and the sabermetrician is staying in his place while Caldwell brings his savvy from being the tutelage of Atlanta’s trendy GM, Thomas Dimitroff.  Bradley comes over from Seattle, where he was the coordinator of a defense that went from below average to elite in just a few seasons.

Bradley has his hands full, to say the least.  Sure, this defense is young – only LB Paul Posluszny and D-linemen Jason Babin and C.J. Moseley have seven years of experience or more – but it’s just as awful.  The Jags ranked near the bottom of the league in many statistical categories, and could benefit from serious upgrades at almost any position.

However, I expect Jacksonville to draft West Virginia QB Geno Smith with the second overall pick.  Blaine “Blame” Gabbert has been in the spotlight recently, calling out anonymous sources for calling him out on his poor play.   There are many – including myself – who think that drafting a quarterback just two years after having spent a first round pick on one is overkill.  But this is a league so horny to find the next franchise QB that Buffalo dropped Ryan Fitzpatrick after giving him a $59 million-dollar contract over 6 years (with $24 million of that guaranteed, no less), Oakland is trying to avail themselves of Carson Palmer after hamstringing themselves in the next few drafts to trade for him, and Seattle essentially paid Matt Flynn starter money to ride the pine.  Oh – and there’s a hot market for Flynn and that contract, now that Seahawks starter Russell Wilson blew it up during his rookie campaign.  In this sense, a team that is grappling for a foothold while it tries to build some sort of decent reputation will have a tough time resisting the top-rated QB in this year’s draft – especially since pivots usually see their stock rise leading up to draft day.  (Case in point: a QB has been taken in the top 2 in each draft since Matt Ryan was drafted third overall in 2008.)  As laughable as the Jacksonville offense seems, they have some good skill players in place, with RB Maurice Jones-Drew coming back from surgery, and WRs Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III.  In fact, without a good quarterback, one could argue that Blackmon will regress and MoJo will be wasted yet again.  Shaka Khan is a hard-working entrepreneur.  He knows he needs to tell his fan base something good soon.  Taking a defensive tackle, even though it might be the most sensible idea, likely won’t do it.

After the first round, the Jags are best served taking the route most shitty teams should: Taking the most talented player available with each selection.  That comes down to scouting, which will sorely test the new staff.  Sorely.

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NFL Draft Advent Calendar-Door #6: The Cowboys

We’ve already started opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar!  This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.

LIKE us on facebook

OVERALL

Our Draft Advent Calendar is basically a (over)simplified way to appraise each team’s offseason moves to this point, and what roster needs still remain that could be addressed via the draft.  We’ve all had those years when nobody, fucking nobody buys what we put on our list.  We’ve all also experienced that shitty moment when we realize that the gift we want to get is no longer available in stores.  As such, we’re not going to predict which college players will go to which team.  Rather, we’re appraising each NFL team to this point, and what position(s) they might want to address when the last advent door is opened and the wise men start going off like a bunch of gun lobbyists.

Door #6 – The Cowboys

2012 finish: 8-8; missed playoffs

TOTAL PICKS: 6

ROUND 1

18

ROUND 2

17 (47)

ROUND 3

18 (80)

ROUND 4

17 (114)

ROUND 5

18 (151)

ROUND 6

17 (185)

ROUND 7

no selection

 It’s not hard to argue that the two most important things needed to build a solid NFL roster are a quality quarterback and salary cap space.  The third thing – and perhaps most important – is a good general manager to make these things happen.  Alas, Dallas doesn’t have one.

Much was made last November of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones responding to Bob Costas’ question about whether Jones would fire himself as his team’s GM.  It’s all too likely that Jones – the man whom I often refer to as The Emperor, as in Palpatine – won’t zap his own job security with lightning bolts until he’s too senile to run the franchise himself.  Until then, the team that is outdated-ly known as America’s Team is stuck with The Emperor as its personnel…guru?

Which brings us to the two other aforementioned aspects of roster building.  It’s no surprise that those factors are currently defined by the same brash and single-minded approach of Dallas’ owner and the venue he recently financed.  Cowboys Stadium is sadly emblematic of its namesake franchise: Texas-sized in reputation, a symbol of opulent spending, and once you see in on the inside there’s a LOT of space and money being wasted.

To be sure, the ’Boys’ roster is replete with overpaid players, and as such the team is gasping for breath with little space under the cap to address a myriad of needs.  Dallas was, in essence, stuck in a corner they’d painted themselves into – unable to sign any good upgrades at any position – until yesterday’s widely debated contract extension for their star QB, Tony Romo.

It’s no secret to TFQ readers that I consider Romo even more overrated than his team.  NFL analyst Donovan McNabb feels strongly that Romo’s new deal – 6 years, $108 million, with $55 million of it guaranteed – is a bad idea.  McNabb said this on twitter yesterday: “Tony Romo 6 yr 55 million dollar extension.  Wow really, with one playoff win.  You got to be kidding me.”  The former Eagles QB has a point, but as is often the case in these situations, a thorough assessment of a huge contract goes beyond its solitary dollar value.

Let’s make one thing clear: Contracts like Romo’s or Baltimore’s Joe Flacco’s shouldn’t be assessed by the full duration of their contracts.  It’s a widely unspoken rule that deals like those will get reworked after three years or so, once time comes to reevaluate the players’ worth as it figures into the grater salary cap picture for the respective franchise.  So let’s look more closely at the first three years, which, according to Michael Rappaport on NFL Network’s Total Access is about $57 million or $19 million per year.  After that Romo will be 35 years old, and he and his team will have to think things over again.  The three-year salary still keeps him in Flacco territory – translation: paid like an elite QB, while not having played like one yet.  Is Romo worth more than Flacco?  The former is five years older than the latter, and has more of a body of work in the regular season.  However, Romo doesn’t have a sterling championship run with an NFL-record 11 TDs to 0 INTs in a single postseason campaign.  (Not that such a run justifies $100-plus millions either, but that’s another story for another day.)

I don’t think that either Flacco or Romo is worth nearly as much as they’ve been signed to.  But there are two important factors in the Romo situation: 1) Romo’s previous deal had a clause in it that prevented the Cowboys from applying a franchise tag to him after that deal was up following next season, and as maddeningly inconsistent as Romo is, this team needs him (boy, what a genius of a GM Jones has working for him, to allow that sort of clause….); 2) As mentioned above, Dallas was in an awful position in this free agency period, with almost no room under the cap.  According to Rappaport during the same broadcast, Romo’s new deal give Dallas “about $5 million” more to spend this offseason.

So how should the Cowboys spend that money, and/or use their draft picks?  What needs to they have?  On offense, it’s safe to say that the line is in shambles.  For all the credit Romo gets for being a mobile, improvisational thrower, he flat out sucks and makes dumb decisions when he’s in those situations.  (In other words, he’s no Aaron Rodgers – the best at throwing at awkward angles.)  Cincinnati’s LT Andre Smith is still on the market, but a player who has had discipline/fitness issues fits all too easily into the tendencies Dallas players have had since the departure of head coach Bill Parcells – a reputation they need to outgrow.  Kansas City’s Eric Winston is also possible, but the Cowboys don’t really have enough of a future to trade away to get the talented tackle.  They can address the need at O-line via the draft; Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper should still be available at #22 in the first round.  This need is serious enough that Big D had better spend at least two of their six selections there.

Speaking of D, the team cut coordinator Rob Ryan loose, and replaced him with the venerable Monte Kiffin, the godfather of the famed Tampa 2 (aka Cover 2) defense.  The problem is, Dallas is perilously weak up the middle of the defense – defensive tackles, inside linebackers, and safeties.  LB Sean Lee fits the mold as a pass protector, but he’s very slight and weak against the run to play the vaunted role in that scheme, which players like Derrick Brooks, London Fletcher and Brian Urlacher have defined over the last two decades.  Hmmm…. Urlacher, you say?  He’s still on the market, waiting for himself to come to grips with his low value so that he can play a lesser role than he’d like.  Urlacher’s old, and even he has admitted his knee is a shadow of what is once was, but I thought he still looked very good at times last year.  He could be a useful mentor to the younger players on the defense, too.  Just sayin’.  As far as the draft goes, Texas S Kenny Vaccaro could be a great pick if he’s there in the first round, and for once the Cowboys have serendipity on their side, this being a draft that is very deep with defensive tackles, and they need to beef up there – to increase the talent level and add depth.  (Typically the Tampa 2 depends on a rotation of middle linemen to stay fresh.)

As hilarious as Romo’s new deal looks on the surface, it might be the only thing this team could have done to improve substantially in the offseason beyond the draft.  Now it’s up to Jones to tell Jones to take his head out of his own ass and make some savvy long-term moves on draft day.  As Jones told Costas last fall, that’s easier said than done.

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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT.  WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR.  

NFL Draft Advent Calendar-Door #5: The Falcons

It’s only 30 days away, so it’s time to start opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar!  This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.

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OVERALL

Our Draft Advent Calendar is basically a (over)simplified way to appraise each team’s offseason moves to this point, and what roster needs still remain that could be addressed via the draft.  We’ve all had those years when nobody, fucking nobody buys what we put on our list.  We’ve all also experienced that shitty moment when we realize that the gift we want to get is no longer available in stores.  As such, we’re not going to predict which college players will go to which team.  Rather, we’re appraising each NFL team to this point, and what position(s) they might want to address when the last advent door is opened and the wise men start going off like a bunch of gun lobbyists.

Door #5 – The Falcons

Falcons

2012 finish: 13-3; lost in Divisional Championship

TOTAL PICKS: 11

ROUND 1

30

ROUND 2

30 (60)

ROUND 3

30 (92)

ROUND 4

30 (127)

36 (133) (compensatory selection)

ROUND 5

30 (163)

ROUND 6

30 (198)

ROUND 7

30 (236)

37 (243) (compensatory selection)

38 (244) (compensatory selection)

43 (249) (compensatory selection)

Atlanta finished last season just a fourth-and-4 on San Francisco’s 10-yard line away from a trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.  What hurts even more is that they lost by giving up a 17-point lead in that game.  (That, after narrowly avoiding letting Seattle overcome a 20-point deficit in the Divisional Round.)  Some could argue that the collective psyche of the Falcons has taken a blow, and they might be mindfucked next season when they have to protect leads in big games.

However, this team is unbelievably talented.  So much so, newly acquired defensive end Osi Umenyiora called this edition of the Falcons the most talented team he’s ever seen.  By the way – this is a two-time Super Bowl champ from his Giants days.  Umenyiora has set his sights on the modest goal of Defensive Player Of The Year.  As far as intangibles, he brings two Super Bowl rings with him to Atlanta, which could help motivate a roster that made it to the cusp of the big game last season.  One thing is for sure: He has ample cause to be motivated.  At 31 years of age with a new contract that is for only 2 years (worth up to $12.2 million), he’s basically playing for his career at this point.  Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has a slew of different ways to get rushers to the quarterback.  However, Umenyiora has never been great against the run – an overall issue for the Dirty Birds.

Come to think of it, defense is an overall issue for this elite team.  Last season it held teams out of the end zone, allowing a league fifth-lowest 18.7 points per game – but Atlanta also gave up yards in bunches.  (They ranked 23rd against the pass, and 21st against the run in 2012.)  Sure, GM Thomas Dimitroff added Umenyiora – and he is an upgrade from DE John Abraham, who is too long in the tooth.  But the defense lost free agent CB Dunta Robinson and still might lose their other starting corner from 2012 opening day, Brent Grimes.  They re-signed S William Moore, who is a leader on D, even though he has trouble guarding the league’s top tight ends (no small issue in the TE-rich NFC).  Moore needs a lot of help in the defensive backfield, and the team needs to address long-standing problems at the linebacker position as well.  With 11 picks in this year’s draft, the Falcons would be wise to spend at least 6, 7 of those on defenders.  Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (Washington) or D.J. Hayden might be available late in the first round, but word is that Hayden’s stock is on the rise.

The offense is in great shape, especially after two enormous free agent signings.  Hot-lanta heated right back up after getting oh-so-close to Super Sunday when surefire Hall Of Famer TE Tony Gonzalez decided to come back to play after initially announcing his retirement.  (Using a draft selection to prepare for his imminent departure would be smart too.)  Atlanta’s second offensive signing was the best value of the offseason so far.  They upgraded at running back by letting Michael Turner go and replacing him with Stephen Jackson for a bargain, at $12 million over three years.  Despite what the naysayers think, Jackson could still have a fair amount of gas in the tank, and he’s now playing with the motivation of being on a title contender for the first time in his career as a starter.  He’s bound to improve the offense – in the running game, and as a pass catcher.

If Jackson and Umenyiora can play to the value of their contracts, and some rookie draft picks can contribute defensively, expect Atlanta to be as good or better than last season.

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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT.  WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR.