After analyzing the teams drafting 1-5 in 2014, the time has come to check out the teams drafting 6-10 in May’s NFL Draft. From the highly hyped Atlanta Falcons, to the second half collapse of the Detroit Lions, these teams had interesting seasons to say the least. Three of these five teams contributed to Black Monday by releasing their head coaches the day after the regular season culminated.
If only four of those coaches knew that beating Jacksonville potentially could have allowed them to keep their jobs:
FACT: Every team that lost to the Jaguars this season fired their head coach. #Wow
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 4, 2014
Anyway, it’s time to get down to brass tax.
Here’s the full list of teams who failed to make the playoffs and know where they’re drafting in 2014:
|2||St. Louis Rams (from Redskins)|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|12||New York Giants|
|13||St. Louis Rams|
|17||New York Jets|
And here is the updated rankings of recruits compiled by CBS Sports:
|RANK||PLAYER||POS.||POS. RANK||SCHOOL||CLASS||HT.||WT.||PROJ. ROUND|
|1||Jake Matthews||OT||1||Texas A&M||Sr||6-5||305||1|
|2||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||1||South Carolina||Jr||6-5||274||1|
|7||Darqueze Dennard||CB||1||Michigan State||Sr||5-11||197||1|
|8||Johnny Manziel||QB||2||Texas A&M||rSo||6-0||210||1|
|10||Mike Evans||WR||2||Texas A&M||rSo||6-5||225||1|
|13||Cameron Erving||OT||4||Florida State||rJr||6-5||320||1|
|15||Cedric Ogbuehi||OT||5||Texas A&M||rJr||6-5||300||1|
|16||Eric Ebron||TE||1||North Carolina||Jr||6-4||245||1|
|17||Marqise Lee||WR||3||Southern California||Jr||6-0||195||1|
|18||Derek Carr||QB||4||Fresno State||rSr||6-3||218||1|
|20||Stephon Tuitt||DE||2||Notre Dame||Jr||6-6||312||1|
|22||Zack Martin||OG||1||Notre Dame||rSr||6-4||308||1|
|23||Ryan Shazier||OLB||3||Ohio State||Jr||6-2||230||1|
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
What a disappointment 2013 was for Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Just one year ago, the Falcons were the best team in the NFC with a 13-3 record. Now they are drafting 6th overall. What a difference a year can make.
Losing Julio Jones for the season in early October and Roddy White missing some time as well certainly didn’t help the 2012 NFC South champs in 2013. Despite the loss of two of his primary targets, as well as having an ever-changing offensive line, Ryan had an elite year in terms of accuracy. Ryan was sacked 44 times (3rd most in the NFL) and still completed 67.4% of his passes, fourth in the NFL behind only Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, all of whom quarterbacked a playoff team. The 67.4% completion percentage was not a career high for Ryan, however, his 651 passing attempts were the highest of his career.
In other words, Atlanta’s offense should be fine ok once healthy. It’s their defense that needs help.
The Falcons had one of the worst defenses in the NFL at sacking the quarterback with 33 sacks in 2013 (28th in the NFL) and in 379.4 yards allowed (tied for 27th) per game. At 6th overall, selecting the draft’s best pass rushing linebacker could certainly be an option. 6’4″, 248 lb. OLB Anthony Barr from UCLA just might be the perfect piece in Atlanta’s puzzle. The extremely fast Barr (4.48 second 40 yard dash) posted 10 sacks and 22 tackles for loss in his Senior campaign. He will be a hybrid DE/OLB in the NFL, and it seems Atlanta sure could both a DE and OLB.
7. Tampa Bay Bucaneers (4-12)
Tampa Bay had their share of hype entering the 2013 season. Free agent signing Darelle Revis joined Mark Barron and Vernon Gholston, and was supposed to move Tampa’s secondary into an elite level. Second year running back Doug Martin was supposed to expand upon his excellent rookie season, yet he was out for the remainder of the season after a torn left labrum in Week 8.
Tampa Bay proceeded to start 0-4. Then starting quarterback Josh Freeman was shipped out of town in an ugly scenario between him and then head coach Greg Schiano. Freeman apparently wasn’t the problem, as Tampa Bay didn’t win a game until Week 10 in 2013.
All in all, it’s safe to say Tampa had a disappointing season. Since Schiano was canned on Black Monday, Tampa has announced the hiring of Lovie Smith as their next head coach. Smith is definitely a more defensive minded head coach, and has the aforementioned secondary that can be used as the cornerstone of a top five defense in 2014.
In 2014′s draft, I predict that the Bucs will try to give rookie quarterback Mike Glennon another weapon to use in accordance with Vincent Jackson and Doug “The Muscle Hamster” Martin. I can not see Sammy Watkins slipping out of the top 5, especially after his performance in Friday’s Discover Orange Bowl. The next best wideout in the draft is Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. The 6’5″, 225 lb stud has a nose for the endzone, snagging 12 touchdown passes in 2013 from Johnny Football. Evans quieted critics in 2013 that said Evans wouldn’t be successful as the primary target in the Aggies offense after the departure of Ryan Swope. Evans had a career year after being the primary focus point for defenses nationwide. He is ready for the NFL, and Tampa certainly could use a solid No. 2 WR.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1)
After Adrian Peterson’s super-human season and a playoff appearance in 2012, head coach Leslie Frazier seemed to have the right plan in place for 2013. After a tough start to the season, doubt started to creep in surrounding starting quarterback Christian Ponder and his ability to lead the anemic Vikings offense. Subsequently, the Vikings claimed Josh Freeman off waivers once the Bucs released him, with the hopes that Freeman would be a slight upgrade at the position than Ponder.
The Vikings couldn’t have been further from the truth. Ponder and Freeman’s miscues opened the door for backup Matt Cassel. Cassel had the best season over Freeman and Ponder, but that’s not saying much. Cassel was the only one to throw more touchdowns than interceptions (11 TD’s, 9 INT’s) and posted the best quarterback rating (81.6) of the bunch.
Frazier was fired on Black Monday, and the search for Minnesota’s new head coach is still underway.
Minnesota’s defense had an average season and can be improved upon in the later rounds of May’s draft. The 8th overall pick should be used to draft the Vikings a franchise quarterback. If they want a typical pocket passer with solid arm strength, they should select Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. If they want a player that can extend the play with his legs, they should select Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M. If neither of them are available, other quarterback options will be available.
The Vikings management could be firm believers in selecting best available, regardless of positions, so don’t be surprised if they don’t select a quarterback, that is, if both Manziel and Bridgewater are off the board.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
After 14 seasons without reaching the playoffs, the Bills are no strangers to drafting in the top 10. Rookie signal caller EJ Manuel had his ups and downs throughout his first NFL season. The first quarterback selected in 2013, Manuel is considering undergoing surgery to repair his left LCL that caused him to miss the final two games of the season. He already missed four games earlier in the season, and underwent surgery on his left knee in August before his first NFL snap. Critics are beginning to call Manuel injury-prone, and it’s hard to argue against that point after three knee injuries after just one season.
First year head coach Doug Marrone improved upon a team that also went 6-10 a season ago under head coach Chan Gailey. First, the Bills defense improved vastly under direction of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine left the Jets after three seasons and 2013 was his first year in Buffalo. Pettine’s defense had 57 sacks (2nd in the NFL) and held opponents to 333.4 yards per game (10th in the NFL). Pettine caught the eye of GM’s across the league with his control and defensive scheme execution in 2013.
NFL newcomer Nathaniel Hackett had a tough time in 2013, after tagging along with Marrone from Syracuse. The Bills had the second best rushing offense in the league, with 144.2 yards per game. However, their passing offense ranked 28th in the NFL with 193.9 yards per game. Granted, Hackett was without his starting quarterback for six games, yet Thad Lewis threw for a better completion percentage, 59.2% (to Manuel’s 58.8%) and more yards per game at 218 through five games (compared to Manuel’s 197.2 yards per game over 10 games).
With Manziel and Bridgewater most likely selected at this point, the Bills may have to choose from the next best available QB’s. Even though Marrone and GM Doug Whaley have both said that Manuel is their starter heading into Week 1 of 2014, the Bills should think about drafting an insurance policy. Whether Manuel is injury-prone or not, there is no denying his injuries to LCL’s in both knees. Plus, a new quarterback to compete against Manuel probably wouldn’t hurt him. UCF’s Blake Bortles and Fresno St’s Derek Carr could be potential selections.
If the Bills don’t go the quarterback route, they will most definitely select either an offensive linemen, wide receiver or inside linebacker. If I had to guess, the Bills will select a linebacker of those three positions, in order to be able to move stud rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso to his natural, outside linebacker position. The best inside linebacker in the draft is C.J. Mosley out of the University of Alabama. Mosley won the Dick Butkus Award in 2013, which is handed to the nation’s best linebacker every season. Mosley combines athleticism and instincts like no other linebacker in the draft, writes Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL.com. If the Bills don’t pick a quarterback, they could very easily go down the linebacker path.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9)
Jim Schwartz was fired on Black Monday after starting the 2013 season 6-3 and having one of the worst second half collapses in Lions history, finishing 7-9 on the year. After five seasons in Detroit, Schwartz posted a 29-51 record with one playoff appearance in that span.
Of the teams to fire their coach this week, the Lions easily have the most desirable head coaching vacancy. If they can bring in a head coach that can maximize Matthew Stafford’s talent then they will be successful in Detroit. In 2011, the 2009 1st overall pick appeared to have a breakout season throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. Stafford and the Lions followed that 10-6 2011 season with a huge step backwards, posting a 4-12 record in 2012.
It seemed Schwartz and Co. had it figured out in the first half of the 2013 season, yet it was all for nothing.
Taking a step back and looking at this Lions team carefully, it is almost obvious to see that they are right on the cusp of being a playoff ready. Stafford has an impressive arm and just needs the right coach and offensive coordinator to get him back to his 2011 form. Calvin Johnson is called Megatron for a reason. Add the dual threat of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to Detroit’s backfield, and this Lions offense is right there.
Don’t sleep on the Lions D-line either. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are as ferocious as any pair of defensive tackles in the league. A solid foundation has been established over the years in Detroit, and the Lions just need to find the right man for the job.
The 6th pick provides a lot of options for GM Martin Mayhew and whomever the new head coach is. Adding to the 28th ranked defense in sacks (33) this season might not be a bad way to address one of their main problems. Insert OLB Khalil Mack from the University at Buffalo. Mack has numerous NCAA records under his belt, including; 16 forced fumbles and is tied for the most tackles for loss (75) in a NCAA career.
The 6’3″ 248 lb. linebacker is considered by many to be a top 10 pick and was dubbed the most sure thing in the 2014 draft by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah on ESPN’s “The Dan Patrick Show.” “Mack is a stud. He is a big time guy,” Jeremiah said. “He can rush the passer, he can cover, he can do everything.”
Be sure to check out Part III, analyzing teams drafting 11-15 in May’s NFL Draft.
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