Draft Thoughts Upon Further Review

As the bard, William Shakespeare put it… “every eye forms its own beauty”.  And in analyzing how NFL teams have done in putting together their 2021 Draft Classes, that axiom is clearly true. Amidst all the smoke, and likely fire, of the pending AARON RODGERS/GREEN BAY PACKERS divorce, most analysts were quick to slap a C on the team’s 2021 Draft selections. They reached at every Pick, is how many Draftniks put it. I lived in Wisconsin for 40 years, and the luv for the Green-and-Gold wore me down during that time span. I converted and became a PACKERS fan. I have moved on from that love affair in my attempts to be a more objective observer of the NFL, but I can’t tell you that I don’t look to see what the PACKERS score is on GameDay Sundays. And yes, I yawned and called their Draft this year dull and OK. Yes, I thought STOKES was a Round 2 guy, in a perfect world, but when the RAVENS took BATEMAN/WR/Minnesota, it freed up the team to make a more pressing Pick for a CB to eventually (sooner than later, hopefully) replace KEVIN KING, who has played OK for them when he can put the pads on and actually play in a game or three. I would note than STOKES is faster than most guys on the current PACKERS roster, with at least a low 4.3?/40-time. He is also from an elite SEC football program at Georgia. Pick after Pick was passed over as “OK”, but nothing special. Well, now that we all know how Bucky Brooks, DJ, Mel & McShay feel, let me dig in a bit deeper.

While perusing the online pages of NFL.com, I discovered a couple of fellas I respect for their football acumen that had slightly different takes to offer regarding the PACKERS Draft effort. CHAD REUTER, who specializes in Mock Drafts for NFL.com , did an article that was labeled as his Final Quick Snap grades for all 32 NFL teams. If Chad were an educator, I would want to sign up for his classes. In the words we used when I was in High School and college, we would have called him an “easy grader”. Being an optimist at heart, Chad had 19 of the 32 NFL teams with either an A or A-. Most everyone else was in the B-grade group. The point here is from Chad, a glass half-full expert, the PACKERS got a solid A ranking. In particular, he ranked AMARI RODGERS as an “excellent selection”!

While still looking through Draft musings at NFL.com , I came upon an interesting article from LANCE ZIERLEIN. Zierlein is the fella who has done Prospect Personnel profiles for hundreds of players each year for the NFL’s official website. The article that I ran across was labeled Zierlein’s 3 favorite Picks by Round. So in each of the 7 Rounds, he highlighted 3 Picks that caught his fancy as good value at the Pick, and good fits for the team drafting them. In Round 3,  AMARI RODGERS/WR/RS/Clemson was one of his 3 Picks. I see a pattern here with the Rodgers Pick. Then in Round 5, he labeled SHEMAR JEAN-CHARLES /CB/App State as a potential hand-in-glove pick for new DC JOE BARRY’s Nickel CB position. What I am getting at here is that, to borrow another phrase, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

So if your favorite team didn’t get acclaim for their Drafting prowess, look around a little bit on your browser and see if you can find a couple of more encouraging recaps. Look at this as most scouts are instructed to do… think positive. Many NFL GMs and Coaches want to know what a prospect “CAN’ do, before they worry about what they can’t.

Just a side-note here… I wanted to touch on a Round 7 Draftee that I will be watching carefully to see if he has an impact on his drafting team. In Round 7, at Pick 242, PATS Head Coach BILL BELICHICK gave a brief address about the retirement of his chief aide for his entire run in New England, ERNIE ADAMS, who is now officially retired. As his last major move (perhaps) for his boss and team, ADAMS was allowed to personally make the PATS final player selection of the Draft. ADAMS promptly found and handed BELICHICK the magnetic card from the Big Board with the name of UCF WR TRE NIXON on it. I will be curious to see what kind of impact NIXON has on his new team.

NFL rosters are taking serious shape in this post-Draft month, before the entire League pretty much takes the month of June off. In general, the teams will all try to firm up the max-90 player roster before they take their last vacation for the next 11 months. Included in this juggling act is a purging, of sorts, of veteran personnel who may be considered past their prime, and/or just too expensive to keep around given a very tight Salary Cap ceiling for this NFL year, which began March 1st, by the way. Once all Rookies are signed, a team’s total payroll for their highest priced 51 players must be below the League Salary Cap limit for each team.

I have put together my list of the Top 30 Free Agents that are currently available for signing by any team with Salary Cap space going forward. In alphabetical order they are:

KWON ALEXANDER   LB

GENO ATKINS     DT

MATT BARKLEY   QB

TRE BOSTON      S

JURRELL CASEY   DT

CHANDLER COX     FB

TYLER EIFERT     TE

KAVON FRAZIER    S

B.J. GOODSON     LB

JIMMY GRAHAM     TE

JEFF HEATH      S

JUSTIN HOUSTON     OB/ER

MELVIN INGRAM     DE/ER

DUKE JOHNSON     RB

DENNIS KELLY    OT

DRE KIRKPATRICK     CB

MORGAN MOSES   OT

STEVEN NELSON    CB

BRIAN POOLE     CB

SHELDON RICHARDSON      DT

MITCHELL SCHWARTZ   OT

RICHARD SHERMAN      CB

KAWANN SHORT    DT

GOLDEN TATE      WR

TRAI TURNER     OG

KENNY VACCARO     S

OLIVIER VERNON      DE/ER

DE DE WESTBROOK   WR

K.J. WRIGHT      LB

T.J. YELDON     RB

Many of these guys are on the wrong side of 30-years old, but most, not by more than a year or two. Their availability is primarily based on teams having drafted their potential replacements and their most recent contract dollar numbers. A few have some injury questions. If they still want to play in the NFL and are willing to take pay cuts, expect most of them to be signing contracts between now and the opening of Training Camps in late July. Although not on a current roster, LARRY FITZGERALD, formerly of the CARDS, is expected to announce his retirement at the beginning of Camps, so I have NOT included him on this list.

More to come your way soon on Draft recaps by Division.

Cheers

Pigskin