By: BUCKEYES for LIFE
The time is now! The NFL season started at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. With fans filling up the hall with anticipation of whom their teams will get in the 2012 NFL Draft. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked to the podium and opened the 2012 season with the Indianapolis Colts on the clock. With all the speculation, the Colts (to no one’s surprise) picked quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford. Since the exit of Peyton Manning, Luck will have to take a team with a losing record and do a complete 180. Luck, however, does have some big weaknesses that will need to be worked on. His arm strength and finishing games are keys. During the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State, Luck had the Cardinal ahead, but in the end the Cowboys of Oklahoma State came out victorious. Luck had his chances, but was unable to lead his team on top. It will be a while before the Colts have a strong team again, but they are headed in the right direction.
Mike Shanahan traded with the St. Louis Rams to get Robert Griffin III, or RG3. The Heisman Trophy winner really shined at Baylor, and was one of the top (if not the top) talked-about quarterback in college football (FBS) this past season. Griffin will give the Washington Redskins pass and run threats, which the ‘Skins never had. Shanahan has two Super Bowl victories with the Denver Broncos and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. Griffin will be a great fit for the Redskins and Shanahan’s offense. This should push the ‘Skins in the right direction, and give the NFC North a run for its money.
Cleveland traded a spot and the 22nd pick with Minnesota (for the third pick). With the third pick, the Browns picked running back Trent Richardson from Alabama, and the 22nd pick was quarterback Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State. The past season showed nothing new for the struggling Browns. Quarterback Colt McCoy was throttled during the season, and will most likely be traded. The new kids on the block should help the Browns in the backfield. The workhorse for the past few seasons, Peyton Hillis, was up and down the entire year. He had everything from head injuries to sprains. With a rookie backfield, the Browns will grow, and become a better communication team. Watch for the Browns to have a better season, and in a few years make the playoffs.
In the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Vikings picked up Matt Kalil, an offensive lineman from the Men of Troy (University of South California), and Harrison Smith (pick 29) from Notre Dame. The Vikings have been heading in a downward spiral. It will take a while for the Vikings to get where they need to be. With Matt Kalil on the line, Adrian Peterson should be able to rely on him to open holes a bit longer. That is, if Peterson can stay healthy. The Free Safety Smith has no fear, and is not to get in his team’s face about errors or what they missed. If Jarred Allen can bring pressure, Smith should be able to grab an interception or two. That is, if they are playing a softer team like the Jags.
With the fifth pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars got wide receiver Justin Blackmon from the Fiesta Bowl Champion Oklahoma State Cowboys. Blackmon and Brandon Weeden helped the Cowboys to one of OSU’s greatest seasons in years. While Weeden is in Cleveland, Blackmon should help out quarterback Blain Gibbert. The second year QB from Missouri led the Jags to only five wins in the 2011 season. The Jags never had the strongest team in the NFL, and there are also talks of getting rid of the team by moving to L.A. However, Blackmon will give them a good deal of speed and reliable hands, even if the Jags defense is not there at all. Look for maybe a sixth win this year, but that’s all.
With the sixth pick, the St. Louis Rams once again traded with the Dallas Cowboys. No Rams fan wanted to see that. The Cowboys went with LSU Cornerback Marcus Claiborne. Dallas has not had a great CB/S since Deion Sanders. For a while now, Dallas has had some up and down seasons. Will Claiborne help? Yes, however are they going to rely on him too much? Dallas is a team that relies on one guy, and one guy only. It’s not like the ‘70s through ‘90s, when the Cowboys clicked from the very first meeting of every season. Claiborne should give them the speed to make big plays, but that does not help an offense that can’t find the magic playing as a team.
The second team from the sunshine state was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They chose to help out Ronde Barber in the defensive backfield, and picked Strong Safety Mark Barron from Alabama. In recent years, the Bucs’ offense has come alive, and with fourth year starter QB Josh Freeman and RB LeGarrette Bount, the Bucs will give the NFC South a run for its money, and will most likely end up with a wild card birth (at the worst) this upcoming season. With some young blood in the DB (and coming off a National Title), Barron will learn from one of the best DBs to ever play the game. This will give the Bucs a strong defense that will work well together.
The oldest and most popular team in Florida is the Miami Dolphins. The franchise is one of the most storied programs to ever hit the gridiron. There have been Dolphins in the past that made the Hall of Fame, and Miami is still the only team to go undefeated and win a Super Bowl (during the 1972 season). From Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jake Long and who can not for get Dan Marino, comes a new hope. The Dolphins chose quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The QB from Texas A&M was talked about every now and then during last season, but flew under the radar most of the season. In the past few seasons, ex-Dolphin QBs have tried to be another Dan Marino, and struggled because of it. If Tannehill can make eye contact with his receivers 95% of the time, and make better adjustments in the pocket, the Dolphins will have a great season.
The Black and Blue of the gridiron showed up last year as the young power cats came to play with the big boys. They just can’t keep up with them yet. The Panthers of Carolina will be one of the fastest teams in the NFL. Last year they got their man from Auburn. Cam Newton showed new life in the once-caged cats. This year, the Panthers choose to go with some strength on defense with inside linebacker Luke Kuechly from Boston College. Kuechly has the ability to lead the team in tackles. Watch for him to keep his attention on tight ends and really screw up their routes.
One of the teams from the Big Apple that started off really strong only to run out of steam was the Buffalo Bills. This year they decided they needed some help in the DB field, and went with Stephon Gilmore. The South Carolina Corner Back will give depth to the Bills. The Bills need to make sure he can play and keep up with the second year and the veteran at wide receiver and slots. Going against guys like Calvin Johnson and Donald Driver will be a really bad matchup, and Gilmore will be out powered. The Bills better find some offense to help out the defense.
Kansas City got help on the offensive line by making Dontari Poe a Chief. The Chiefs have had a lot of losing seasons in the past, due to a poor offense and team leader. Matt Cassel led the Chiefs to a seven and nine season, which was good for last place in the AFC West. Poe should give Cassel more time in the pocket to find Baldwin or Hemingway, but look for another 7and 9 season.
In the city of the Liberty Bell and Rocky Balboa is the nest of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles went to find some defense in the draft. They chose Fletcher Cox, a defensive tackle from Mississippi State. Last year, QB Vince Young said to the media this is “The Dream Team!” Well, it turns out that the so-called “Dream Team” was eight and eight last season. No playoff run, and second in the NFC East. With Cox, the Eagles should have a stronger run defense, and the DBs are coming together very well. The Eagles should have a shot at the playoffs this season. I would not make another statement again on who is a dream team, though. They keep forgetting they are in one of the strongest divisions in the NFL.
Since the exit of Kurt Warner, the Arizona Cardinals have struggled on offense. Even with Beanie Wells and Larry Fitzgerald, the offense is just not cutting for the Cardinals. They were the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and they went with Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd. This should keep pressure off of Fitzgerald. Floyd has no break away speed like Fitzgerald, however. But Floyd should be a great threat for the short pass.
Finally, the fans of the St. Loius Rams can cheer! At long last, they decided to pick up a draft. The 6’5”, 322-pound defensive tackle Michael Brockers will have an impact on the run defense, and put pressure on the QB. With James Laurinaitis leading the linebackers, Brockers has the ability to take on double teams, which should help out a good safety or LB Blitz. A downfall, though, is that he runs out of steam and power fast. The Rams are on the rise, but they are still not there yet. Look for a couple more wins this year than last.
The home of the 12th man welcomes Bruce Irvin defensive end from West Virgina. The Seattle Seahawks have never had a great defense. The Big East First Team player from West Virgina has great balance and fast start-off speed. He always has a way to get a chance at the ball carrier, from extending his arms to at least trying to slow him down. He has the speed to take on pass coverage. He is not the strongest player to take on the offensive lineman, but if he uses his smarts he should be ok. I would look for an okay season for the Seahawks, but no playoffs this year.
Another team from the Big Apple, and it’s the only team that can fly (not high) that had the sweet 16th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. You could have Ryan and the Jets or Tebow and the Jets, or how about their new draft pick Quinton Coples and the Jets! This does not mean, however, that the Jets can’t soar to Number One in the next few seasons. In addition to adding Tim Tebow to the roster, head coach Rex Ryan found his guy for the defense. Coples – a defenive end from North Carolina – has the massive capability to be both the run and pass rushers and really put a damper on QBs. This should help the Jets to a possible AFC East Division title. That is, if Coples can get to Tom Brady!
Time next for the stronger team from the birthplace of football: The Cincinnati Bengals. They took Dre Kirkpatrick, a cornerback from National Champion Alabama. Kirkpatrick is not a very strong player, but is very smart in zone defense. He brings confidence when he comes against veterans like Fitzgerald or Driver. The Bengals were able to grab the 27th pick in the draft, as well. Instead of sticking with more help on defense, they went with Kevin Zeitler, an offensive guard. This move was made to obtain more help for second year QB Andy Dalton. The Bengals made the playoffs last year and should make another run for the playoffs, as well as possibly win the AFC North title – if they can escape the defense of the Baltimore Ravens.
A team that had really good players drafted and yet could not get over the hump was the San Diego Chargers. The death of the great linebacker Junior Seau put the Chargers back on the map in the 1990’s. Now with Philip Rivers still trying to lead the offense, who is going to lead the defense? They went to the University of South Carolina and picked Melvin Ingram, a defensive end that can play linebacker as well. Will he be another Junior Seau? No, that will never happen. Having a player like Ingram who can play a double position should put in a confusion element for opposing teams. He does have trouble with the double team, and does not have the arm length to take them on, though. The Chargers have been a .500 club (give or take two wins). Look for the same thing this year.
Da Bears, Da Bears, Ditka, Ditka, Bears! No need to add more introductions for that team, but the 19th pick went with Shea McClellin, a west coast player from the school of upsets, Boise State. The Bears are looking to give help to Urlacher. The Bears were always know for the term “the monsters of the midway” (Midwest), and just adding a defensive end. He is a great pass rusher and can give the tight ends trouble with their routes. The down side is that he has trouble adjusting to new teams, and is not the quickest at his spot, which will make it easier for a tackle or end to take him down and make room for Forte.
The team that is always in the run for a playoff spot and an AFC South title is the Tennesee Titans. The Titans grabbed Kendall Wright, a WR from Baylor. Wright is a great fit for the Titans with his ability to make big plays down the field and his smarts with the ball. A very big plus for the Titans, Wright has the vision to escape would-be tackles and separate from Corners and safeties. This will make for a great deep threat with Nate Washington. A problem that he comes with him is that he has trouble with his blocking down the field and would probably cause the Ref to throw a flag for holding. Look for the Titans to have a strong year this season.
The New England Patriots took in help for their defense, as well. The Patriots was once a team that no one could get through. When they won Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXIX, they had the defense that every team wanted. Now they are going back to it. From the Big East, they went with defensive end (pick 21) Chandler Jones of Syracuse, and inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower from Alabama (pick 25). Jones has the ability to win at defeating blocks, and has a long stride. A downside is that if an offensive lineman gets to him he is done for. He needs to make sure that long stride and wingspan are very trustworthy. For Hightower, he does not quit, and the angles he takes are a key to success at making great tackles. His area of defeat is that he won’t run down any players in a time of need. The Pats have the power and the players to get in the playoffs once again.
Now comes the team of the Future: The Detroit Lions. This team has seen the worst and not the best. It has always had strong supporters and fans, though. For years before the Super Bowl era, the Lions won Championships, and in the 1990s (or the Barry Sanders Era) it made the playoffs. Then it was left for dead. The time has come for the Lions to find the roar that it once lost. Every player on this team is now a threat on both sides of the ball. From Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson (a.k.a. Megatron) to Suh to Van Den Bosch, that does not even make a dent into the overwhelming threats. Now add to the offensive line to help out Backus Riley Reiff (an offensive tackle from Iowa). His power to keep blockers at a standstill will give Stafford more time in the pocket. The only thing that Reiff has to work at is to keep the DE from attacking. The Lions are stronger and I would say a possible first Super Bowl appearance.
The Steel City and the Steelers gave Big Ben some help on the offensive line. With a lot of veterans on this team, they need to find a strong spot once again. David DeCastro, a guard from Stanford, might be the strongest player on that offensive line. Big Ben has been beat up a lot last season, and the Steelers lost in the playoffs in overtime. There really is no big weakness to DeCastro, and he has the ability to shuffle his feet and make key blocks. The Steelers again will have a strong team and it will put up a fight until the end of the season.
The new team that is on the rise is the Houston Texans. The Texans grabbed Whitney Mercilus from Illinois. Mercilus has the speed to fly by the offensive line and pursuit on the line of scrimmage. The Texans made their first appearance in the playoffs last year, and won their Division. Their real threat will be the Titans this year. With Mercilus, this will help Cushing to stun the inside run, giving him time to use his speed on the outside. The problem is he gets caught looking into the backfield and hesitates. I would say this will be another playoff year for the Texans, and maybe more.
The Packers had yet another good run in the playoffs, but came up short to the Saints. The Packers received help on the defensive end, as they brought in Nick Perry. The ex-Trojan from Southern California was the quickest on the defensive line and carries 12 sacks. The problem is he must use his momentum to control the line of scrimmage and break away. This will help out the powerhouse defense with A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, and Charles Woodson. Perry will make for a quick release and put real pressure on the offense. If he gets to the offensive line, this will make a break for Hawk or Matthews to attack the backfield. Again the Packers have a strong team and will most likely have another playoff run.
The once powerful and untouchable San Francisco 49ers had a great year with first year head coach Jim Harbaugh. Leading the way were Alex Smith and Vernon Davis. This year Smith got some extra power with the draft of WR A.J. Jenkins, the Big Ten native from Illinois. With firepower from the get go, Jenkins will be another threat to corners. He has great hands and is a great runner. He does not have the greatest breakaway speed, but will keep corners and safeties from doubling teaming Davis and Ginn. He will be a great short pass catcher. The Niners have the talent and the leadership to have a great run to the playoffs and should have no problem winning the NFC West Division.
The second to last pick in the first round was Kevin Zeitler. He is the new running back for the Tampa Bucs. Zeitler has the speed to break away from wannabe tackles, and can twist the defense around. With the help of Blount in the backfield, these two will make for a power run offense. It will have to make the defense play both a fast and a power runner. For the next few years it will be hard for defenses to put a stop to their two-power combo. As long as Zeitler can hold onto the ball and is smart with it, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Now comes the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. This team last year shocked the world again as they defeated the Patriots. The team has the leadership and has the power to have another great year. Early in the season they struggled, but worked all the kinks out and made their way up to Number One. This year they added David Wilson, a running back from Virginia Tech, and the last draft pick from the first round. This will give Bradshaw and Ware help and keep them fresh. Wilson will make for a three-deep running game to keep the defense on their feet. Wilson is not the greatest back or the most powerful but he can move. The Giants are still loaded and will again fight to the very end. Look for them to have another good season. The Super Bowl, however, might be harder due stronger teams that are on the rise.
That completes the First Round of the NFL Draft Recap. It will be another great season, and a season where lower teams are on the rise and the powerhouses are falling like the Patriots. New Bloods are moving up and making a comeback, like the Texans and the Lions. I would look for a new team to be leader of the pack this year and stand out.