Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summation, hopes, and possibilities


First post originally to this blog!

Looks like Barkley is going back to school, and Landry Jones is expected to as well (I didn't really want him, but it still hurts us that he's going back given supply and demand). As such, in the first round where we will be picking, it's really just Luck (not that he'd be there outside the top 5) and RG3.

That said, we lost today. The Eagles are also looking decent so they should be the favorites against us next week. If we lose, we'll finish at 5-11. If we do, that leaves the Colts, Rams, and Vikings as definitely finishing with a higher pick than we will, the Bucs, Jags, and Browns as teams that could finish with a higher pick or could be tied with us (haven't looked into tiebreakers), and the Dolphins as a team that could be tied with us or could have a better record. For reference, current 6-9 teams (ie, ones which could be tied with us if we win next week and finish 6-10) are the Bills, Panthers, and Chiefs. The only interplay between any 2 of those teams for week 17 is Colts/Jaguars. More on that later.

Ergo, if we, as I posited, do indeed lose to the Eagles and finish 5-11, we could be drafting anywhere from 4th (behind only the Colts, Rams, and Vikings) to 8th (actually, probably 7th since I believe that beating us earlier in the season would cause Miami to lose the tiebreaker for higher draft positioning, but I said I wasn't taking tiebreakers into account).

Now, that established, teams who are primary threats to our QB drafting ability are Seattle, who will want to move away from the TJax/Whitehurst fiasco, Miami, unless they decide to try and stick with Matt Moore for a little while, and possibly the Colts (particularly if they end #1 overall and have Luck there, as so many people have been projecting ad nauseum; I'm not necessarily sold on that), the Browns (hard to say if they give Colt McCoy another shot), and the Jaguars (just took Blaine Gabbert at 10 last year, but he's been so abysmal that many people expect a new coach will want a new QB, even with GM Gene Smith still in place).

Now, I think the Jaguars probably don't go QB. Gabbert has indeed been atrocious, and it's true that the new CBA's draft pay structure doesn't put you on the hook for 70 million dollar contracts a la Sam Bradford that handcuff you to that player for at least a few years, but I still think it's hard to justify giving up so quickly on a guy you gave up so much for (they traded up-- with the Redskins-- to get the pick they used on Gabbert) when you have so many other needs. Similarly, while Colt McCoy wasn't as high a pick, he has shown some ability so I think the Browns might do well to continue building their other team (they need a receiver opposite Greg Little, for instance-- their WR corps leads the league in drops this season-- and a RB since it is looking like Peyton Hillis has pre-empted any future there) around him before they rush to replace him. Especially given that Barkley and probably Jones are both staying in school and will be in next year's draft.

Colts Digression:
I doubt the Colts take a QB if it isn't Luck. Even if it is, I'm not convinced they take one as so many people are. Memories are short, but Peyton Manning, even if he is old, is for my money the best quarterback in the NFL provided he heals. The fact that he single-handedly takes a team from 2 wins to double-digits is unbelievable. However, his injury has already shown what I've been saying for years: the vast majority of that team around him is utter crap (sans perhaps Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and maybe Robert Mathis, all of whom are 30+, off the top of my head). Peyton is too valuable to let go for nothing, and with his bonuses due (just under 30 million this spring) they can't really trade him unless it is somewhere he wants to go, so he'll renegotiate his contract. He doesn't really want to have Luck sitting behind him with his days numbered, and Luck is considered to valuable and ready to sit for long.

Furthermore, Luck will be getting good money for going first overall, and Peyton has an enormous contract, which they just gave him prior to this season, so it's hard to justify that much of the salary cap going to one spot on the field. Jim Irsay said earlier on that they have the flexibility to do so, but that is mostly talk, I think; if they do that, they'll have a very hard time finding money to improve other areas of the team which is desperately, desperately needed. In short: while it's possible, I have a hard time seeing the Colts sit with both Luck and Peyton on the roster, and I have a hard time seeing Peyton get cut. That fundamentally leaves only finding a place to send Peyton where he wants to go, who wants him, and who gives up something significant (obviously his price will be very large) or not drafting Andrew Luck. Irsay has expressed interest in "a young QB" (ie, Luck) if they pick at 1, but he's also said he expects that, if healthy, Peyton will be playing for them next year.

If they don't pick first overall (which would require them beating the Jaguars next week and the Rams losing to San Francisco, the latter of which should happen at least), I think they absolutely do not take a QB. If they do pick first overall, I think it depends what people are willing to offer. Saying they will take him could easily be a smokescreen by Irsay to drive up the price. I would hope that is the case because the Colts woul dbe fools to go QB rather than trade down for the king's ransom that pick will fetch when they have such a plethora of needs. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but it would be foolish.

All that said, if Peyton does not look like he'll be able to return to form and play like Peyton next year, this is all moot and the Colts go QB.

/End digression

Anyway, to be safer, I'm hoping that the Rams lose and Colts win, giving the Rams the first pick because they definitely won't be taking a QB and thus we'll have a better chance of trading up fro Luck, which I still hold as my ideal. That will additionally probably eliminate the Colts as competitors for a QB if they otherwise would have been. Given their better record, the Seahawks are only a threat to us at all if they trade up, leaving the Dolphins (whom we are likely to pick ahead of), and the already-addressed Browns and Jaguars. That said, with the level of our need at QB and only Luck and Robert Griffin as the top prizes, we need to be ready to maneuver in the draft to make sure one of them is ours.

Looking at the schedule for next week, here's my prognostication for the draft order of the top few (obviously a very unsafe and tentative prediction)

1. Rams (some wishful thinking, maybe, but they should lose and given that they're coming off two wins and playing the Jaguars, the Colts have a pretty good chance at a win)
2. Colts
3. Vikings
4. Bucs (Atlanta should beat them)
5. Browns (Steelers should beat them)
6. Jags (Colts winning means they lose)
7. Redskins
8. Dolphins

Or something thereabouts. All the teams ahead of us in present draft order (except one of the Colts/Jags) are pretty likely to lose. I need to investigate the tiebreakers to see who would go where if we lose and the Jaguars beat the Colts (giving us the same record).

Rams probably look to trade the pick, Colts need literally everything, Vikings would probably go with either Matt Kalil (OT) or Justin Blackmon (WR), and Bucs have a lot of ways they could go. As such, if we don't trade up, I expect Luck is gone but RG3 survives through the top 5, meaning which way they Browns and Jags choose to go determined whether he would still be there for us. There's a pretty good chance he would, but maybe a better chance he wouldn't and we need to be sure, in my opinion, so I advocate us trading up unless some of those teams win and we end up picking higher than expected. Ideally, trading up to 1 and getting Luck, but if that is too expensive then trading up 3 or 4 spots and taking Griffin.

Our situation was better when Barkley (and Jones) were expected to come out as I would've been fine with any of the three. Given how draft positioning is looking now, chances are very good one of the three at least would've fallen. As is, things are tighter. Normally I might advocate building elsewhere or even trading down, but I did that last year and I think this is the year we need to strike. We have a few other needs, as my other posts have mentioned, but our present team with a healthy offense, a good QB, and maybe one new player on the OL would be pretty formidable, I think.  I said last year that we should wait it out, not take a QB simply because we need one, and build elsewhere and we did, extremely effectively. But I think we need a new one now so I want to give up what we need to give up to make that happen, if that is how it turns out.

To note, I'm not particularly interested in Foles or Cousins or any of the other 2nd/3rd/4th round type guys. Some may be kind of promising, but the team has had too many years of maybe and think we need to draft a guy to be the QB of the future and the face of the franchise. Our roster is primed for it, the fanbase is certainly looking for it, and I think Shanahan wants a guy he can mold.

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