NFL Draft Advent Calendar-Door #32: The Chiefs

We’re finally done opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar!  (Goddamn you, you 24/7/365 league.)  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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Door #32-The Chiefs

Chiefs

2012 finish: 2-14; missed playoffs

TOTAL PICKS: 7

ROUND 1

1

ROUND 2

no selection

ROUND 3

1 (63)

ROUND 4

2 (99)

ROUND 5

1 (134)

ROUND 6

2 (170)

36 (204) (compensatory selection)

ROUND 7

1 (207)

Oh, the Chiefs.  What positives were there last season?  For starters, Kansas City never got started.  In fact, it took a TD by running back Jamaal Charles in Week 10 against the Steelers before the Chiefs had even held a lead in a game in 2012.  Week Ten!  (KC actually beat the Saints in Week 3, but the win came in overtime, so they never held a lead during a game.)  Put differently, it took 489 minutes of regulation time for the Chiefs to be on top.  Even Ron Howard’s brother, Clint has an easier time getting on top than that.

Clint Howard

http://www.celebremix.com

Strange, Ron is so damn attractive…. At any rate, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the 1929 Buffalo Bisons – no, not the minor league baseball team that Buffalo goes ape shit over, but an old NFL team – went until their ninth and final game of the season to hold a lead in a game.  That is the all-time longest such streak record, and had Kansas City not lead during the Steelers game they would have set a new…standard?

The Bisons folded after that disastrous season.  The Chiefs seem to have risen anew after hiring Andy Reid to head coach the team – and likely as much input in the personnel decisions as he did in Philly, when he was considered the de facto GM.  But before that could happen, the franchise had to go through even tougher times.  To start off December, linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, then drove to the team practice facility and shot himself in the head – in front of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel.  And then there was the time the home crowd cheered when starting QB Matt Cassel got concussed out of the game.  In came the backup, Dr. Brady Quinn, Medicine Woman, and things kept sucking.  Hard.  Pioli and Crennel were both fired, but in a certain sense no one could blame them for wanting out anyway, having to drive to work every day and park in the same lot that they saw Belcher die in.

Former Eagles head coach Andy Reid had his share of suitors after his impressive tenure in Philadelphia ended last season, but he chose Kansas City.  Shortly after that, the franchise started making waves, dealing their second round pick in this year’s draft and a conditional third round pick in 2014 for Niners QB Alex Smith.  The writing was on the wall in San Francisco for Smith when, after he went down with a concussion, Colin Kaepernick started taking the NFL by storm.  The moment Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh went with Smith, he became the darling of the available/possibly available quarterbacks this offseason.

If you ask me, there’s only one reason that this move works for Andy Reid, and that’s if he can work his typical magic and make yet another pivot seem better than he actually is.  (Ty Detmer, A.J. Feeley, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick – c’mon.)  Harbaugh isn’t such a bad QB whisperer himself; he took the most disappointing top quarterback drafted this century other than JaMarcus Russell and made him a SERVICEABLE starter.  Consider: in Smith’s first 5 seasons, he threw 53 picks – an average of 10.6 per season.  That doesn’t sound too bad, except for the fact that Smith played in more than 11 games in a season just once during that span (16, in 2006; 16 interceptions).  In just 25 games with Harbaugh (roughly one and two-thirds of a season), Smith threw just ten picks.

Can Reid divine the same results from Smith?  Probably.  But the Niners depended on the best all-around defensive roster, a great running game and solid special teams to help cover up the fact that Smith either can’t make the precise intermediate-to-deep throws needed of a quality QB, or he doesn’t have the proper mental makeup to pull the trigger.  Good luck with that, Reid.  The NFL has no patience; there is always pressure to win now.  The Chiefs likely took Smith because this season’s quarterback draft class isn’t a strong one, and as such they were never going to spend the first overall pick on one.  Pressure: Teams are virtually unwilling to go a season with a bad starting quarterback if they can help it.

Because of the Smith trade, Kansas City has to sit on their hands and watch 61 more players get taken after using the first overall pick.  That’s a long, agonizing time to wait in a draft loaded with talent around the range of picks 20-60 while you’re pseudo-rebuilding.  I use the term “pseudo” here because not only did the Chiefs address several issues already this offseason – Smith, WR Dwayne Bowe’s new contract, and the additions of role players like TE Anthony Fasano via free agency –Pioli also left his replacement John Dorsey and Reid with a much better roster than the team’s 2-win record in 2012 would indicate.  In other words, this team doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel now that it has already filled so many holes, namely the head coaching position.  (Let’s be honest – did anyone really, truly believe that Crennel would turn out to be much more than a babysitter until a bigger name was lassoed?  It didn’t help that the babysitter lost the kids in the dryer.)

I’m not going to opine on what the Chiefs will do with their third round pick.  There are worlds of drama and ripple effects that will happen before that.  Their first pick is almost sure to be an offensive tackle – either Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.  This won’t be an eve-of first draft pick – the Chiefs are going to sit on this pick to entertain trades.  They’re also rumored to be working on a deal to move OT Branden Albert to the Dolphins.  If that goes through, they might get all giggly and take Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd – lord knows they need serious help on the interior of the D-line.  But it will most likely be either Fisher of Joeckel.  I admit – I fell in love with Fisher during Senior Bowl practice.  He was that kind of sit-up-in-your-chair, “who the fuck is that?” guy.  He’s got great feet, balance, and demeanor in interviews.  There’s no realistic way to say that Kansas City would go wrong with Joeckel either.  I just really like Fisher.  He makes things look easy.  Then again, we’ll see if things look easy against opponents the likes of which Central Michigan never sees.

It’s not much, but there’s more intrigue on the first pick leading up to Thursday than there has been in a while – fitting, because this could turn out to be a very interesting draft.

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THIS CONCLUDES OUR NFL DRAFT ADVENT CALENDAR FOR 2013!  HOPE YOU ATE SOME CHEAP-ASS CHOCOLATE EACH TIME, LIKE WHEN WE WERE KIDS WITH OUR OWN ADVENTS.  FOLLOW US @TFQuarter DURING THE FIRST ROUND FOR LIVE TWEETS.

NFL Draft Advent Calendar-Door #31: The Ravens

We’re almost done 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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Door #31-The Ravens

Ravens

2012 finish:10-6; won Super Bowl

TOTAL PICKS: 12

ROUND 1

32

ROUND 2

32 (62)

ROUND 3

32 (94)

ROUND 4

32 (129)

33 (130) (compensatory selection)

ROUND 5

32 (165)s

35 (168) (compensatory selection)

ROUND 6

31 (199) from 49ers

32 (200)

35 (203) (compensatory selection)

ROUND 7

32 (238)

41 (247) (compensatory selection)

Let’s start with three numbers:

1: Super Bowl won by Baltimore after backing into the playoffs with a 4-1 finish to the 2012 regular season.  Ironically enough, the only team that the Ravens beat during that stretch was the defending champion Giants – who also know a lot about divining momentum from nowhere to make a playoff run.

126 million: the dollar value of QB Joe Flacco’s new 6-year contract, making him the highest paid player in NFL history.  Move over, John “Hot Rod” Williams (the highest paid player in the NBA for a good part of Michael Jordan’s career) – there’s a new hilarious king of a pro league’s contract race.  I’ve read all sorts of attempts to justify Flacco’s contract.  He had a historic four playoff games, throwing eleven touchdowns and no interceptions.  The front end of the contract isn’t as expensive as the overall number(s) make it look.  My opinion: Who gives a fuck?  This is a guy who hasn’t thrown for 4,000 yards.  Over the last two seasons, he has had 15 regular season games with a passer rating below 80.  In 2012 Flacco’s played like a seesaw – he had six games with a rating above 100, and five below 70.  He finished with just 22 TD passes, in no small part because he had TEN games with one touchdown or less.  I don’t see how it matters how important it is these days to secure a franchise quarterback, because Flacco hasn’t even proven that he is a franchise quarterback yet.  It’s impossible to prove how many players have to be let go directly because of Flacco’s deal, but one has to wonder….

297:  The total amount of tackles made last season by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger  – all of whom are no longer with the team.  The Hall Of Fame-bound Lewis has retired, and GM Ozzie Newsome had to watch all of the rest join other teams as free agents for more money.  The trade of disgruntled WR Anquan Boldin to San Francisco didn’t exactly impress Ravens fans either.

According to Elias Sports, the Ravens are the first Super Bowl champions to lose more than five starting players from the roster the following season.  In fact, when Reed left for Houston, he became the eighth such player.  Left tackle Bryant McKinnie still hasn’t re-signed with the team yet either.  If I were a Ravens fan, I’d feel like Jimmy McNulty of HBO’s The Wire – a disgruntled detective who grows tired of watching the city of Baltimore misallocate its resources.

tv_the_wire_dominic_west_1

“Who the fuck else has to leave the unit because the cash flows up?”

But this is Newsome who’s calling the shots, and he has had a steady career in the Ravens front office, defined by going against the grain and unearthing great rosters with a number of players no one saw coming.  Obviously this offseason represents his biggest challenge yet, but he’s earned the benefit of the doubt until hindsight proves otherwise.

Newsome’s response to the player exodus has been typically Ozzie: Sensible moves that don’t overextend the franchise, especially against the salary cap (which is what makes Flacco’s contract all the more frustrating, but whatever).  DT Chris Canty for $8 million over three years, CB Michael Huff for $6 million over three aren’t sexy signings, but they are two players that could contribute well beyond the price of their contracts.  Newsome also brought in troubled LB Rolando McClain.  If McClain can realize his potential, he’ll be the best bargain of the offseason, at 1 year for $1.1 million.  If he implodes – this is, after all, the guy that fired off a handgun around cops not too long ago – then the cost is minimal.  (UPDATE: Citizen McClain is at it again, this time he’s cursed out some more cops.)  The most impressive move the Ravens made was inking DE Elvis Dumervil to a five-year deal that is reportedly worth up to $35 million.  That’s less money than the three-time Pro Bowler was offered from Denver before his agent fell asleep at the wheel and failed to fax the agreement in on time.  Dumervil has 37.5 sacks over the last three seasons, and could team with LB/DE Terrell Suggs to create a formidable duo for offenses to have to worry about.

By my estimation, these moves leave a few glaring needs that could be part of Baltimore’s draft strategy.  On offense, their need on the line will depend upon what ends up happening with McKinnie (that, or we’ll know how much they want to retain their tackle, should they draft another later this week).  Boldin’s departure puts a lot of responsibility on TE Dennis Pitta to become Flacco’s primary possession receiver.  Wideouts Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are both field-stretchers, not disciplined route runners that can work the whole route tree.  This need feels more like a second-to-fourth round priority, and could en up being either a wide receiver or another tight end since Pitta and Ed Dickson could both hit the free agent market next year.  Stanford’s Zach Ertz comes from a college program that featured his position – something Newsome prizes – but the Ravens would likely have to trade up in Round 2 to get him.

The McKinnie situation notwithstanding, defense is where this team will spend their 32nd overall selection.  There are two huge holes left in the middle of the defense by the departure of Reed and Lewis.  Most scouts have the higher-ranked safeties slated for the bottom of Round 1, so Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien could work.  He can cover huge amounts of space in the passing game, but also plays the physical style that Baltimore covets.  But in my eyes, Cyprien is the second-highest-ranked safety in the draft (after Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro) and I’ll be shocked if two teams don’t opt for that position before Baltimore can.  As far as linebacker goes, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown is someone I can really see Newsome going for if he’s there at 32.  No one can replace Lewis – and Brown’s style isn’t exactly like Sugar’s – but he could be the hard-nosed and strong leader that could lead the next generation of the Baltimore defense.  Kevin Minter (LSU) and Matt Elam (Florida) are also possibilities.

There’s also the good possibility that Newsome could use his dozen picks in this year’s draft to trade up at numerous spots.  Whatever he does, the pressure is officially on to avoid becoming one of the many recent champs to miss the playoffs the following season.  Lord knows this team’s started off in a roster hole.

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NFL Draft Advent Calendar-Door #30: The Browns

We’re almost done 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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Door #30-The Browns

Browns

2012 finish: 5-11; missed playoffs

TOTAL PICKS: 6

ROUND 1

6

ROUND 2

selection exercised in supplemental draft

ROUND 3

6 (68)

ROUND 4

7 (104)

ROUND 5

6 (139)

ROUND 6

5 (173) (from Eagles)

7 (175)

ROUND 7

no selection

What an eventful start to the first year of new owner Jimmy Haslam’s tenure with the Browns.  He took over official ownership of the troubled franchise in mid-season last October.  To say he didn’t waste any time putting his fingerprints on the team is a huge understatement, like saying Clevelanders “kinda” want a winning sports team.  The sale didn’t officially close until October 25th, but by then he had already announced that team President Mike Holmgren would not be returning for 2013.  Joe Banner, who had been overseeing the Eagles, replaced Holmgren.  A quizzical move by Haslam, given that former Eagles head coach had been widely understood as the architect behind the success in Philadelphia….  This is a photo of Banner…. Guru.

Joe Banner Duh

By Coke Whitworth, AP

Okaaay.  I personally thought that Browns head coach Pat Shurmur had done a very good job with the brutal roster he had, and the injuries his team suffered – especially on defense – during his first two years as a pro head coach.  His players never quit on him, which is a big step for that team.  But as is often the case when new owners and/or GMs come to town, they aren’t committed to people their predecessors brought in, so Shurmur got the pink slip too.

During this offseason, Rob Chudzinski has been brought on as the new head coach.  So, a new era is rising from the Cleveland sewers!

CHUD

© Anchor Bay Entertainment

 

–“They have the power to shut the sky!”

Hey – don’t blame me – it’s the guy’s nickname.

Anyhow, “Chud” will do the opposite of what “four living creatures with eyes in front and behind” could do: He’ll open op the skies.  Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator in Carolina the last two years, helping QB Cam Newton fill the air with footballs.  How he manages the Cleveland attack will depend on what the new general manager can massage out of the existing roster and this year’s draft.  Haslam hired Mike Lombardi away from the NFL Network studios to be the GM.  Lombardi has helped run the Raiders and Eagles in the past.

(If you don’t get the film reference, it’s your loss, not mine.  See C.H.U.D.  Classic Daniel Stern.)

Oh – how could I forget?  Recent news has also indicated that Haslam’s truck stop company was involved in serious fraud, and that the owner was aware of it.  Haslam hasn’t been able to say/admit/deny much due to the possibility of him being charged in the investigation, but he did issue this statement on Monday.

To set up his draft strategy, Lombardi got busy in free agency.  The problem is, that it was a whole lot of moves for not a whole lot of progress.  The biggest addition by far is Ravens LB Paul Kruger.  Kruger’s stock rose drastically during Baltimore’s Super Bowl run, when he racked up 12.0 sacks over the last 12 weeks of the 2012 season – including the playoffs.  However, Kruger had just 8.0 sacks in his previous 31 games, and has just 6 career starts under his belt – 5 of which came last season.  Somehow this is “worth” the 5-year, $40.5 million contract that the Browns inked him to.  I guess that’s what need and a raging market will do.  That this is Cleveland’s biggest roster move so far this offseason speaks to the relative ho-hum effect of the rest of their transactions.

So, how to inject some talent via the draft?  Well, one front office move I haven’t mentioned yet is the addition of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator.  Horton isn’t a household name, but in just two years he turned the Cardinals D into the force to be reckoned with that is was last season.  He’s changing the Browns defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, which always means a need for new skill sets on the field.  If they don’t add more playmakers on the outside, Cleveland will find out pretty quick that Kruger can’t be a one-man pass rush that his contract might indicate.  If they keep the 6th overall pick (I’ll get to that in a second), maybe a gamble on BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah is in the works.  Ansah is about as raw as they come, having only played football since 2010 – in his whole life.  But this is the kind of zany-but-should-suck move we’ve come to expect from a cursed sports city.

The more sensible pick used to be Alabama CB Dee Milliner.  Having another cover corner to bookend with Joe Haden would make a huge difference to the transition the front seven will be undergoing.  But somehow all sorts of injuries to Milliner are coming out of the woodwork during this week leading up to the draft.  Is that smokescreen?  Who knows?  My theory is that the bad press on Milliner pushes the Browns in a more sensible direction.

That direction would be to trade the sixth pick to add more selections, and move down to a place in the first round where it makes more sense to take a safety – which the Browns also sorely need, with Dennis Pitta (BAL), Jeremy Gresham (CIN) and the rehabbing Heath Miller (PIT) ranking highly in the passing games of the AFC North – or an outside linebacker to pair with Kruger.  If the top of Round 1 sees a run on offensive lineman, which most people are predicting, Cleveland sits in a prime trade spot.  Arizona sits at No. 7, and there’s no NFL team in more need of a starting tackle than them.  So, any team that covets the top-rated player left on the board at that position once the Browns go on the clock (Chargers, Dolphins, I’m looking at you) might get antsy and deal with Lombardi, knowing that the Cardinals are a virtual lock to take said player.

The Browns have so many needs that it isn’t far-fetched to think of them taking an offensive player either.  Wider receiver would be a great position to address, but as it is with a safety it doesn’t make much sense to take one at No. 6, so a trade will likely have to happen in order for Haslam’s team to look in that direction.

Whatever direction they choose, one thing’s for sure – Cleveland is being steered that way by a whole slew of fresh faces.

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STAY TUNED FOR THE FINAL TWO DOORS ON THE DRAFT ADVENT CALENDAR PRIOR TO THE 2013 NFL DRAFT.  WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT, SO FOLLOW US @TFQuarter