Yes, I ripped that off. Thanks Conan.
I will stare deeply into my crystal ball and uncover the 5 most valuable 1st rounders of the 2012 NFL draft. Call this a Rookie of the Year primer. Except that even the forgotten positions will get some love.
Yes, Andrew Luck is the greatest thing since John Elway taught Colorado how to slice bread. Unfortunately, The Colts are basically an aging Dwight Freeney, a 2nd tier tight end from Stanford, Andrew Luck, and 50 other guys. Oh, and a proficiently tweeting owner. So, needless to say, Andrew Luck will not have the greatest impact on his franchise in his 1st season under center.
In no particular order:
Yes, Brandon Weeden. No, I did not mean his highly touted, and deservingly so, 1st rounder partner, Trent Richardson. Brandon Weeden. Why, you ask? Because it’s a Quarterback driven, pushed, pulled, dragged, shoved and centric league. If you don’t have one, you want one. And if you do have one, you are winning football games. Weeden might be older than dirt, and come from a spread offense. He might have a troublesome supplemental draft, WR as his only real target, but his value is more than throwing slants and outs. Brandon Weeden is an unknown. Teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore won’t (immediately) be able to stack the box to stop Richardson because, for the first time since Bernie Kosar and his nose, Cleveland has a QB who might just be worth a spit. Average QB play can do wonders in this league. Just ask San Francisco and, conversely, Arizona. Brandon Weeden should be the team MVP, not because he will put up gaudy fantasy numbers (I wouldn’t draft him), but because he opens up opportunities for those around him, namely the next big thing in running backs.
Doug Martin will be the next Ray Rice. Expect a serious number of carries, and more than a few receptions. Double-digit touchdowns are not out of the question. He’s quick, agile, and most importantly sure-handed. He might not be the wreaking ball that Blount was, but all that mass racked up the 30th ranked rushing attack in 2011. Having this type of dangerous backfield threat will allow Josh Freeman to regain some of his lost luster. Tampa still needs serious help on defense, but the NFC South is a wide-open division, with all the troubles at the top, and the division’s best running back, Michael Turner, heading downhill. Fast, the stars could align for Tampa Bay. Now that Doug Martin is on their horizon.
Pittsburgh is already a pretty darn good football team. The stars of the defense might be getting older, and less dominant, but they still have all the pieces necessary to compete for the AFC title, year in, and year out. While Dick LeBeau’s defense is always stellar. The offensive line hasn’t always been so. The addition of Stanford standout David DeCastro will help solidify the Pittsburgh line for the next decade. Sliding quickly into place next to 3rd year pro, Maurkice Pouncey, the interior of the line is near otherworldly. Running lanes will be interstates, and Ben Roethlisberger will have a perfect view of all the cash falling out of Antonio Brown’s pockets as he strides downfield, not to mention the dejected face of Mike Wallace searching the sidelines for another lonely nickel to rub together with his. David DeCastro might end up being the most important piece of the Steelers Franchise for this decade, because he will help keep Big Ben performing at a “Just-outside-of-the-top-5-QBs-in-the-NFL level”.
While it pains me to type this, adding a much needed pass rush, could transform the Seattle defense into something that should be feared. Like trying to find parking near Skillet on Capital Hill on a Saturday night. The offense, outside of Marshawn Lynch’s grill, is, entirely, another matter. Bruce Irvin is one thing: A blazing fast force to the quarterback. And over-drafted. Okay, that’s two things. (Nice work, Pete) He doesn’t provide all that much in coverage or against the run, but if you need to put a quarterback on his back, Irvin might just be the best option in the 2012 draft. While I don’t think Seattle is ready to take the next step (Seth), if Bruce Irvin can make the most of his ability, Seattle might just shock the world.
Potential. That’s all Dallas is. Potential and DeMarcus Ware. Every year is Dallas’ year and every year is another excuse. Poor, Tony Romo. Can’t catch a break. Dallas has all the pieces to be, by far, one of the best teams in the NFC. Except when it actually comes to playing on Sunday (or on too many Monday Nights. I’m talking to you, ESPN.). Morris Claiborne has the best CB ball skills to come out of college in the last few years. He might just be the shutdown corner that Dallas has so desperately needed. This newly discovered knee strain worries me, but when it comes to coverage ability, LSU might produce the best 3-year (Patrick Peterson, Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu) prospect run in the modern era. Perhaps Claiborne will finally give Jerry Jones a reason to shut his mouth and let his team do his talking for him.
Honorable Mention: Robert Griffin III
Bob is the next installment of what the NFL QB might become. In my mind, his is the right mixture of Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Roger Staubach. His team is rebuilding, to be sure. And the Swiss Bank account that the Redskins gave up to draft him, will make it difficult to fill in the missing pieces in upcoming drafts, Dan Snyder has show a willing to spend what is needed to improve his team. Just as Cam Newton showed in Carolina, an incredible athlete, and a few surrounding pieces can make the football world go ‘round.
Hopefully these glimpses of the NFL future are as entertaining as the Late Night Version. And as accurate.