The final rounds of a draft can make or break a team. Many owners get in a rush and pick the first name at the top of their lists. Then after the draft you see these same owners scouring through the Free Agent pool trying to fill holes they didn’t address in the draft when they had an opportunity. I am a strong believer in building a well rounded team from my starters to my bench. Therefore, if my starters ever fail me, I have a chance to pull someone off my bench to produce.
Here is a list of players to keep in mind during the finals rounds:
RB Kendall Hunter, SF:An explosive back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. He is one Frank Gore injury away from being a top 10 back.
WR Greg Little, CLE: He is the #1 reciever for the Browns, and is not even getting drafted in a lot of leagues. Played all 16 games last year and had over 120 targets. If the Browns can get a decent QB to throw to him I could see 70+ catches and 900+ yards which is a steal in the late rounds.
WR Kevin Ogletree, DAL: With all of the injuries and problems that surround the top 2 Wideouts in Dallas, Ogletree has a chance to shine. Even if Bryant and Austin are healthy, I could see Ogletree grabbing 60-70 balls.
WR Nate Burleson, DET: Played all 16 games. He was targeted 110 times. He caught 73 balls. He is also goes undraft in over 50% of fantasy leagues. Go figure…
RB Felix Jones, DAL: Had a 5.0 YPC in the 2nd half last year. A nice change of pace back and backup if he can stay healthy
TE: Dallas Clark, TB- Yes he has a lot of injury issues. Before he was hurt, he was on pace for 60+ receptions, 5 TDs in 2011. That was with Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins throwing to him.
QB Carson Palmer, OAK-He showed lots of improvement as the season progressed last year. In the 2nd half- completion rate of 63.2, 17 TDs, and 5 of 8 quality starts. Also had three of his four 300 yard passing games in the 2nd half.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Cameron Heyward, DE (1-31); Marcus Gilbert, OT (2-63); Curtis Brown, CB (3-95); Cortez Allen, CB (4-128); Christopher Carter, OLB (5-162); Keith Williams, G (6-196); Baron Batch, RB (7-232)
Cameron Heyward is big strong defensive end that fits the Steel Curtain's great tradition
The Pittsburgh Steelers did the most important thing you can do in a draft, they covered the majority of their needs. Sure there weren’t a lot of big names here but I do like the Cameron Heyward pick a lot for Pittsburgh. He is a versatile player that can play either the end or tackle position in a four man front. He is a relentless pass rusher with a quick first step and the ability to stay low and get the advantage on an offensive line. Gilbert fills a hole on their O-line and should be able to step in and contribute immediately. I really like the Carter pick-up late. He is not the most explosive player but he is strong and is a great tackler and could develop into a good OLB against the run. The biggest flaw that I can find in the Steelers’ draft is they really needed to find a way to bolster their receiving corps and did not do so in this draft.
KEY ADDITIONS: Ike Taylor, CB (Steelers); Willie Colon, OT (Steelers); Jonathan Scott, OT (Steelers); Mewelde Moore, RB (Steelers); William Gay, CB (Steelers); Jerricho Cotchery, WR (Jets)
KEY LOSSES: Antwaan Randle El, WR; Flozell Adams, OT; Max Starks, OT
Re-signing Ike Taylor was a priority for the Steelers.
For the Steelers, free agency was largely about making sure they continue to have a great offensive line. Their line has been a big part of their three Super Bowl appearances in the last 7 years and with the Steelers, they seem to believe that Scott and Colon are preferrable to Adams and Starks. The Steelers did the most important thing that a team can in free agency which is re-sign your key guys. Additionally, the Steelers were in desperate need of a wide receiver if they plan to repeat as AFC Champions and were able to pick up Jerricho Cotchery this week who should fit into their offensive scheme perfectly.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Jimmy Smith, CB (1-27); Torrey Smith, WR (2-58); Jah Reid, OT (3-85); Tandon Doss, WR (4-123), Chykie Brown, CB (5-164); Pernell McPhee, DE (6-165); Tyrod Taylor, WR (6-180); Anthony Allen, RB (7-225)
Like Percy Harvin & Randy Moss, Jimmy Smith looks to make other teams regret letting him slide
I feel like Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens find good value late in a draft better than anyone else. In the first round they got the shutdown corner they needed in Jimmy Smith. I feel that Jimmy Smith should not have fallen past the 15th pick but character issues (much like Percy Harvin a few years ago) caused him to slide and Baltimore gets a great value here. Torrey Smith is a wideout who has blazing speed and will be popular with the fans being a Maryland Terrapin and all. I am really curious to see the path that Tyrod Taylor’s career take as I am always intrigued by college quarterbacks who are drafted as wide receivers (Brad Smith, Joe Webb, Antwaan Randle El, Julian Edelman, etc.). Overall I really like this draft because the Ravens got the most bang for their buck and did feel some immediate needs. However they ignored their gaping need in the safety position which I see as this draft’s biggest failure.
KEY ADDITIONS: Lee Evans, WR (Bills); Bernard Pollard, S/OLB (Texans); Vonta Leach, FB (Texans); Marshall Yanda, G (Ravens); Chris Carr, CB (Ravens)
In Lee Evans, the Ravens get a guy who can stretch the field for Joe Flacco
Before yesterday, I would’ve graded Baltimore’s free agency period and trades in the C+ range because while I do like their additions – I feel like the team lost a lot. However, I have them sitting higher because the 4th round pick for Lee Evans may be a better value trade than McNabb for a 6th round pick to Minnesota. Now I am not promising 23 touchdowns for Evans, I am just saying ask Bill Bellichick what happens when you give up a 4th round draft pick to get a talented receiver out of an unfavorable situation. I think that Evans is an upgrade over Derrick Mason and will pair nicely with Boldin and Smith. The upgrade of the receiving corps over the last two seasons should make this a career year for Joe Flacco. Leach is a bruiser of a fullback and an upgrade over McClain and re-signing Carr was necessary. I still feel they lost a lot though with the departure of Dawan Landry, Todd Heap, and Josh Wilson.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: A.J. Green, WR (1-4); Andy Dalton, QB (2-35); Dontay Moch, OLB (3-66); Clint Boling, G (4-101); Robert Sands, S (5-134); Ryan Whalen, WR (6-167); Korey Lindsey, CB (7-207); Jay Finley, RB (7-246)
A.J. Green has the tools to be an elite receiver in the NFL
I really liked Cincinnati’s approach to this draft. They had a lot of needs going in and as opposed to panicking – they simply adopted a B.P.A. (Best Player Available) approach and in doing so were able to fill many of their holes. They used the 4th overall pick to take the best wide receiver prospect I believe we have seen since Calvin Johnson. A.J. Green will be a star in this league. The Bengals foresaw the departure of Ochocinco and Palmer and used their first two picks to address that. Considering that 4 quarterbacks were drafted in the first 12 picks, I consider the Bengals finding someone as good as Andy Dalton in the 2nd round an absolute steal. If I had to declare a draft winner right now, it would be a toss up between Detroit, Cincinnati, and the next team I’m going to discuss. I love the Robert Sands pick in the 5th round – he is an intelligent player who plays aggressively. He has a great awareness about him and his long arms and great hands have me believing he could develop into quite the ballhawk. He reminds me of a larger Darren Sharper. I also think that Jay Finley was a great 7th round pick, he’s a running back who could be a solid number 2 in this league.
KEY LOSSES: Johnathan Joseph, CB; Chad Ochocinco, WR; Carson Palmer, QB; Antwan Odom, DE; Evan Mathis, G
Re-signing Benson was necessary if the Bengals were going to have any success this year
The biggest departure of free agency for the Bengals was not Chad Ochocinco or Carson Palmer . In my mind, it was Johnathan Joseph who many overlooked in free agency in light of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes. Nate Clements was a good effort to replace Joseph but he is nowhere near as good. The Bengals anticipated Palmer’s retirement and the Ochocinco trade and in my opinion, upgraded at the wide receiver position when they drafted Green. Cedric Benson was necessary to bring back and I really like the Gradkowski pick-up. Gradkowski is a quarterback who has never gotten his due, similar to Jeff Garcia, but he does find ways to win games for bad teams and provides good competition for Dalton. I like the Thomas Howard signing as well but to me the retirement of Carson Palmer and departure of Johnathan Joseph severely set the Bengals back for this season.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Phil Taylor, DT (1-21); Jabaal Sheard, DE (2-37); Greg Little, WR (2-59); Jordan Cameron, TE (4-102); Owen Marecic, FB (4-124); Buster Skrine, CB (5-137); Jason Pinkston, OT (5-150); Eric Hagg, S (7-248)
Phil Taylor was the best run-stopper available in this year's draft
You know what I have always admired about Mike Holmgren? He is a realist who knows what he wants. In my mind, when Cleveland landed the 6th overall pick there were only 3 players worth them taking with that high of a pick – Georgia WR A.J. Green (went 4th overall to Cincy), LSU CB Patrick Peterson (went 5th overall to Cleveland), and Missouri DE Aldon Smith (went with the 7th overall pick to San Fran). When Cleveland’s turn came up, Holmgren decided Aldon wasn’t the way to go with that pick and so instead of taking a player too high or one he had no interest in – he got Atlanta to pay him a king’s ransom so they could draft Julio Jones. Later on they were able to get the big run-stopping D Tackle they needed in Phil Taylor and with the Falcons’ 2nd round pick they got a big target who can stretch the field for McCoy in Greg Little. Overall I like this draft, not just because of who they grabbed this year but because of how it prepares them for future drafts to truly rebuild this team. Holmgren is very realistic about where the Browns are as a franchise and as someone who has 3 conference championships and one more Super Bowl ring than the entire Browns franchise, knows the personnel he needs to get them there.
KEY ADDITIONS: Pat Shurmur, Head Coach (Rams’ Offensive Coordinator); Jon Greco, G (Rams); Usama Young, S (Saints)
KEY LOSSES: Eric Wright, CB; Abram Elam, S
Pat Shurmur did a great job with Sam Bradford and now has Andy Dalton to develop.
When it came to the free agency period, the Browns did a couple of things right – they hired a great offensive mind as their new head coach in Pat Shurmur; they traded for Jon Greco, a strong offensive lineman who should solidify the right side of the line; and they signed Usama Young from the Saints who I believe upgrades their safety situation over the departed Abram Elam. When I look at Cleveland’s free agency period though, for me it will always be about what they did not do. They had the most cap room of any NFL team and did not even make a run at defensive end Ray Edwards, or wide receivers like James Jones, Malcolm Floyd, Michael Jenkins, or Mike Sims-Walker. There was no upgrade to their pass rush, no addition of difference-makers, and the Browns had more capacity to do that than anyone. In a short free agency period, the fact they could offer more money with less time to decide worked in their favor. As a result, I believe they were the biggest losers in free agency.
Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!