It’s only 32 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.
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.
We’ll say one thing overall: Parity is often an illusion, and the allocation of this year’s draft picks are an example of this. Of the nine teams with more than eight draft picks in this year’s draft, seven of them are teams that made the playoffs, and the two teams with the most selections in 2013 are last season’s Super Bowl participants – the Ravens and Niners, with 12 and 14, respectively. One glaring exception: The normally pick-hording Patriots, who have just four selections. (But they have parlayed higher picks into numerous low ones in the past, so we’ll see. The Bears only have 5 themselves, but they’re not exactly known as a strong personnel-decision team.) Despite the fact that it runs contrary to the more widespread notion that there are no power imbalances in the league anymore, this trend makes sense because this isn’t just the era of the quarterback – it’s also the era of the general manager. Good front offices don’t just drum up quick success; if they do so they also tend to build for the future at the same time, while the have-nots convince themselves they have to take bigger risks in order to close the competitive gap. (Oakland, we’re looking on your general direction.)
But, there’s also the odd team that starts to benefit from years of stinkitude, like the Dolphins, who have eleven picks to use after a free-agent spending spree. But, as Redskins owner Daniel Snyder can verify from past experience, big spending guarantees nothing.
(The Eagles also have 10 picks, but that total is somewhat misleading since five of them come in the seventh and final round.)
The Niners have become that sly fantasy league manager, when when the dust settles, the other fantasy GMs are all mumbling amongst one another, exasperated: “How the fuck did we just let them do that?”
So here we go – keep your receipts. It’s prezzie time, come April 25th! Here’s how today’s hopes for that proverbial living room look right now, going into that festive weekend:
DOOR #1 – The Bengals
2012 finish: 10-6; lost Wild Card
TOTAL PICKS: 10
5 (37) (from Raiders)
29 (197) (from Patriots)
34 (240) (compensatory selection)
45 (251) (compensatory selection)
After decades of almost-management, Cincinnati’s front office seems to have figured out how to mesh personnel moves with the philosophy of their coaching staff. (And they’ve slyly stockpiled draft picks, in part thanks to the Carson Palmer trade, which has allowed them to have two second-round picks this year.) Head Coach Marvin Lewis & Co. are enjoying the same sort of steady, almost-there success that this club had going back in the Carson Palmer, Chad JOHNSON days. The difference? They’re doing it by establishing a young base that they can build around. The offense doesn’t need to add pieces so much as it has to have its star players ascend to the next level. (Get big in big games, QB Andy Dalton.)
As far as free agency goes, Cincy’s main decisions involve tough calls concerning questionable players at key positions. OT Andre Smith showed marked improvement last season – a contract season. Given that Smith had discipline/weight issues until last season, any suitors – and the Bengals – have to decide how much to pay a lineman whose focus might be inversely related to his income. The same can’t be said for CB Terrence Newman, but his career is far too underwhelming to justify investing a sizeable contract in a player who is entering his mid-30s.
With this in mind, the Bengals could look to take a cornerback and/or DB with one of their higher draft picks. Last year’s first round selection, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, may not be at full strength come the season opener. Newman and his bookend, Leon Hall are quality cover men, but they’re both likely past their physical primes. What’s more, many teams look for three quality corners so that they can put one of them on the slot receiver, against the increasingly fashionable spread offense formations.
Cincinnati resigned LB Ray Maualuga, but he hasn’t looked nearly as rangy to me as people seem to be saying. Manny Lawson is another solid-but-meh ’backer in their system – and their best player at the position last season, Vontaze Burfict, is reminiscent of Smith, in that he shows inconsistent commitment to a quality training and diet regimen. So, it would appear that defense is a needed focus for the Bengals in the draft. Oh – and it might be a good idea to extend the contract of DT Geno Atkins. The defensive tackle is entering the last year of his contract, and is by far the best up-and-coming defensive tackle in a league that is going to see the value of that position rise after a productive draft at that position. So far, Atkins has looked Hall Of Famer John Randle-good.
Clearly, we lean towards defensive draft picks for Cincy, but if they see a solid understudy to Dalton in the lower rounds, it might not be a bad idea to spend one of their many picks on the position. They let the very serviceable Brad Gradkowski go during this offseason, and if Josh Johnson or Zac Robinson are the only thing standing between a Dalton injury and total disaster, it might be wise to splurge when one has a surplus of selections.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
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.