It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the present becomes the past in today’s high speed tech world. The Draft is still less than a month ago and yet to many folks it is a distant memory. Now that I have caught my breath I want to revisit how that event has affected rosters around the League.
Because of frightening developments in a Bayou murder case that caused every NFL team to avoid drafting LA’EL COLLINS/OL/LSU, the COWBOYS were able to turn around their entire 2015 Draft process last week. Once COLLINS was essentially tested and questioned and seemingly cleared in the murder of an ex-girlfriend the JONES Boys jumped on the phone and invited COLLINS and his agents to JERRY’s World for a whirlwind courtship that ended in him signing as the most valued URFA in history. It allowed the ‘BOYS to basically end up with 3 Round 1 talents for the price of 1: CB/BYRON JONES. They took a character gamble in Round 2 on Round 1 talent ER/RANDY GREGORY. In fact, I might argue that the least talented of the 3 big names (JONES) might have been their first pick.
I initially felt the JONES BOYS had outsmarted themselves once again with their overall Draft effort, which seemed to cry out of picks that often did not seem to yield quality commensurate with their Pick number. CHAZ GREEN/OT/R3 and DEMIEN WILSON/MLB/R4 both seemed to be taken a couple of rounds sooner than their talent dictated. Round 5 on seemed like reaches and/or big developmental projects to me.
And the signing of COLLINS as an URFA was not the end of the quality Day 4 work done by the COWBOYS. Dallas signed 3 URFA WR and i will be greatly surprised if one of those 3 isn’t fighting for the No. 4 WR slot on the roster behind BRYANT/WILLIAMS/BEASLEY. In my rank order the 3 combatants are ANTWAN GOODLEY, DEONTAY GREENBERRY & GEORGE FARMER. Overall, I still can’t rank their Draft Class at the top, but let’s leave it at the level of contributing nicely to added roster quality… even though they simply refused to draft a quality RB. When it comes to the draft process the JONES BOYS are clearly kindred spirits to GM/RAY FARMER/BROWNS.
Speaking of FARMER a couple of observations on the BROWNS 2015 Draft. It could be that FARMER and/or that franchise is just plain snake bitten at this point in their existence by any attempt to solidify their WR group. Despite the umpteenth suspension for JOSH GORDO5N, FARMER still insisted their Draft Board did not include a WR available at their Pick to be worthy of taking until Round 4, when they finally called the name of VINCE MAYLE, a strapping receiver out of Washington State and a Top 100 prospect to a lot of folks. Now MAYLE may be gone for the season with a hand injury which has required surgery. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t RAY FARMER! Overall, it looks as though the 2015 Draft effort in Cleveland was a serious upgrade over 2014. Getting HAYES PULLARD/LB & IFO EKPRE-OLOMU/CB in Round 7 was excellent work by the BROWNS personnel people.
I have been a very harsh critic over the years of the roster building of the TAMPA BAY BUCS, going back a very long way. And this year started off much the same for this club, as they cut players who they had spent mega-bucks for last year as VFA, like MICHAEL JOHNSON/DE, DeSHON GOLDSON/S, ANTHONY COLLINS/OT. This year JASON LICHT may have come close to hitting a walk-off homer. For starters he avoided throwing big bucks around at unworthy VFA players. The team singed low key, but serviceable players such as DE/GEORGE JOHNSON, LB/BRUCE CARTER, S/CHRIS CONTE & DT/HENRY MELTON. Combined they may have cost less than GOLDSON alone last year. Then in the Draft LICHT took JAMEIS WINSTON/QB and all the good pub that comes with a high profile ex-Seminole in sunny Florida. Then they proceeded to surround WINSTON with players at positions of need such as OL in ALI MARPET & DONOVAN SMITH. IMO, LB/KWON ALEXANDER, in Round 4 has the potential to deliver like a former BUC named BROOKS in a couple of seasons. Also count me in as a guy who thinks KAELIN CLAY/Round 6 could be one the best Return Men in the League right away.
But perhaps best of all was the solid effort at adding URFA to the mix as bottom of the roster improvement candidates. I had 4 of their URFA ranked as draftable on my Big Board: #178/CHRIS HACKETT/S; #203/RANNELL HALL/WR; #246/CAUSHAUD LYONS/DE; #251/DOMINIQUE BROWN/RB. I also think DT/QUAYSHAWNE BUCKLEY, DE/RYAN DELAIRE, CB/DESHAZOR EVERETT & LB/JOSH KEYES will make positive noise in Training Camp this summer.
Credit where credit is due to LICHT and the Personnel People. Now methinks the pressure switches over to HC LOVIE SMITH and his coordinators, DC FRAZIER/OC KOETTER, to get the train rolling down the tracks. In a mediocre, at best, NFC South jumping to just over .500 could secure a Play-Off spot.
There is one more team I want to cover a bit today and that team is the SAINTS. Given their disappointing season in 2014 and then the trade of TE/JIMMY GRAHAM to the SEA HAWKS before the Draft, it was clear that 2015 was going to be a major roster retooling year for the SAINTS. I have been surprised at the lukewarm reception their efforts seem to have generated down along the Bayou. MICKEY LOOMIS/GM has not excited me with his roster work in general. He and his personnel guys seem to be too much in luv with their perceived ability to mine URFA finds and don’t concentrate enuf effort on their actual drafted players. Not so this year I think.
After the bitterness of the last contract negotiation with GRAHAM he had become a cancer for that team and had to go. DREW BREES is getting up there in years and can’t pull out every game with a TD pass late an more. Their Draft was solid and perhaps yielded BREES replacement in GARRETT GRAYSON a couple years down the road. The addition of ANTHONY/LB, KIKAHA/ER, WILLIAMS/CB, TULL/LB, DAVISON/DT & SWANN/CB provide ROB RYAN/DC with some athletic new toys to blend into his existing D troops. ANDRUS PEAT/OT is a much needed anchor for their OL group. A also believe that MARUS MURPHY/RB/RS will bring back some of the explosiveness they missed without SPROLES in the return game last season. And per usual they did a fine job signing URFA who should indeed infiltrate the roster in significant numbers come September. I ran my legit draftable list out to 351 this year. Here are the URFA the SAINTS signed off my list:
#146/SEAN HICKEY/OL; #218/TRAVARIS BARNES/DE; #226/KALEB EULLS/DT; #304/DONIEL GAMBRELL/OT; #308/HAROLD SPEARS/TE; #315/BOBBY RICHARDSON/DL.
At least from my perspective that’s a nice talent haul. Throw in veteran additions like MAX UNGER/C, DANIEL ELLERBE/LB, CJ SPILLER/RB & BRANDON BROWNER and this looks like a solid roster upgrade which should allow the SAINTS to make a serious run in the NCF South division in 2015.
That’s it for today, but I will be looking at divisions around the League to see who made progress, and who did not in the coming weeks.