I just did a post yesterday on linebackers, but I’m curious again this afternoon so I figured what the heck. In today’s post we’re going to play pretend. Pretend it’s April 15th. Oh wait, that’s tax day. Pretend instead that it’s finally April 28th (had to look it up), draft day. Denver is on the clock. Champ hasn’t been released or extended, meaning he’s still unable to talk to other teams and we’re still negotiating with him. There’s been no new CBA and no free agency. Elway and Xanders each have a phone in both ears but are unable to trade the pick back. Goodell’s at the podium and says, “With the second pick in the 2011 draft, the Denver Broncos pick, Defensive Tackle, ______________”.
The name doesn’t matter. We’ve beaten this pick to bloody death.
Yeah, some readers still want Peterson and some want Bowers, but the vast majority of you want a DT. So if you’re one of them, feel free to pretend we just picked the guy you want. Dream of Fairley stepping on chins or Dareus wrecking pockets, whatever your little heart desires. Point is, we just drafted an elite run stuffer that can also collapse pocket and rush the passer. So where do we go from here? Well, let’s discuss…
Some of you want a tight end and would maybe make that the pick here. Don’t feel bad, I actually advocated once that we should take a young buc TE in free agency and make that our major expenditure. Boy was I wrong. One day, last week I think, I decided to learn a little about the echo of Fox not using TEs much. And for once, the echoes were true. Fox drafted lots of TEs, but only one time did he ever draft a TE prior to the 5th round. And he’s never taken a big name TE in free agency either. Panther TEs include;(a) Jeff King, who’s started all but two games over the last four years and has only passed the 200 yard mark one time in his career, (b) Gary Barnidge, who’s played in all but one game for the Panthers over the last three years and has a grand total of 242 career yards, and (c) Donte Rosario, who’s played in all but four games for Carolina over the past four years and barely passed the 300 yard mark just once. All these guys are between 6’3 and 6’5 and weigh between 247 lbs and 260 lbs. Fox drafted all three of them in the 5th round and all three played in a substantial majority of games in their first season.
So there you have it. If somebody says we need a TE in the 2nd round. Tell them I said it’s not going to happen. I’m sure that should carry some weight. No? Well anyway, we might take a TE in the 5th (even if we have to steal a pick to do so), or we might grab a Johnny Nobody out of free agency. Or we might just pay Daniel Graham (or get him to take less money). In any event, we’re not going to draft Kyle Rudolph in the 2nd round. It’s just not happening. In fact, Richard Quinn might turn out to be a God for Coach Fox, so maybe we stand pat, just adding a little camp fodder. Next…
Sure, maybe. We’re going to want a controlled offense with a lot of running the ball. If Harris is gone, we’re going to need a replacement. That could go a lot of directions, though. If we want Beadles to stay at RG, then this is the spot to take a tackle. Moving Beadles to tackle and drafting a guard that has a good chance of starting can be done in round three. But if you want a tackle and a decent shot of him starting immediately, this is pretty much your point of no return. So like I said... maybe. As to running back, I could easily see one taken somewhere between rounds 2-4. Fox drafted eight backs in his nine years in Charlotte and four of those were taken in the first two rounds. Personally, I say it’s too early for a RB here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we took one in the 3rd or 4th. So RB, no. OT, maybe. Moving on..
Nope. Too early. I just wrote a post the other day giving the opinion that we need to add three keepers to the linebacker roster. I love me some Greg Jones this year and recommend that you check up on him if you don’t know him. He’s projected anywhere from the 2nd to the 4th and I expect us to take him with 2b. Yeah, that’s what’s up. I’m more confident in our pick of Greg Jones than any other player… by far. Anyway, there are exactly zero OLBs that fit our scheme and are in range of this pick. Martez Wilson at ILB, on the other hand, is within range here and is on half of your mocks. I don’t not like Wilson, and if you want him, this is the spot to take him. Let me tell you more about what to expect from Coach Fox, though..
The heaviest linebacker on the panthers roster is 241lbs. Fox’s heaviest linebacker in nine years was 251 lbs. This guy Wilson is 250. I’m not going to try and talk you out of this guy any more than that, just gotta say though, my guy’s better. My guy can be had later and has twice as many tackles as your guy. Way more sacks and more TFLs. Not just due to more starts, mind you, but because he hits everything that moves and has an insane per game average of like 8.9 tackles throughout his college career. He has more tackles and more tackles per game than any LBer in this draft, more than last year’s draft too. Jones is a better leader than Wilson. He’s more durable, more experienced, and I think he would probably take Wilson’s lunch money just to show him he could (then give it back because he’s got great character and no red flags).
Seriously, though, Martez Wilson is the perfect size NFL teams prefer in 4-3 MLBers. He’s 6’4, 250 lbs – pretty much the same size as last year’s Rolando McClain. Martez isn't the prospect Rolando was last year, but he is being pushed up the board due to those same measurables. Greg Jones would likely be a top ten pick if he weighed the same as those two guys, but as it stands, we can have him with our pick at 2b. Greg’s size is pretty much identical to Jon Beason, whom Fox drafted at starting Mike in Carolina.
Anyway, I guess even with my best sales pitch there, there’s still no consensus here. Quite a few of you still want Wilson so I’ll list him in the poll. There aren’t any other LBers (inside or outside) that are within reach at this point. So now we move on to the bigger question, D-Line…
Those who favor taking a DT at #2 most often times seem to advocate another DT at #36. There is some real validity to this thinking. These smart people understand that our junior varsity run defense has been embarrassing over the last 4-5 years and they’re tired of getting laughed at. These fans are rightfully tired of getting clock-killed out of the game. They’re tired of having to see smug running backs look forward to having career days in Denver like a 6th grader looks forward to Disneyland. True that! I’m with ya, my brothers!
We just drafted an elite DT in the first round. We added an elite DE from what we had last year in Dumervil. So the score there is one to one on repairing the inside and outside of our biggest weakness. Pass rush and run defense have both been improved, and now it might be time to add some depth to one of them. Behind Bannan and Fairley/Dareus at DT our main depth is probably Vickerson and Marcus Thomas. That could certainly be improved (not necessarily meaning we have to release one).
Taking a guy like Paea here would actually give us competition for Bannan as the starter. Bannan is making about $4M this year (most of that is guaranteed), and if Paea eventually overtook him, we could replace Bannan’s high salary next year. If Paea doesn’t beat out the very solid Justin Bannan, then we’ve at least got some truly solid depth and rotation, and hopefully some additional insurance and confidence in our ability to put smug running backs in their place. After all, this still is our MF House, right?!
I should note here that there are other viable options at DT in this position. Phil Taylor’s name, for example, gets thrown around here like a football. But it’s not my football. He’s within reach with this pick… perhaps. According to most draft rankings, he should be anyway. Taylor is the top NT in the draft, though, and I think it’s easily as likely that a 3-4 team reaches ahead for him. More importantly, Phil Taylor doesn’t figure in as being a penetrating DT in our scheme.Take that word and swirl it around for a minute. We need penetration from our front four. That's how John Fox's conservative defense works. You drop seven in coverage on pass plays and rush the QB with four. If those four don't get pressure, your system is broken.
Taylor weighs 337 pounds and is far better at creating a pile than scaring the QB. He’s good, great even, so don’t get me wrong here. Could he play 4-3 DT? Sure, just like Jamaal Williams could... but that doesn't make it right. They could, doesn't mean they should. The easiest way I can paint that picture is to go back to Foxy. There isn’t a player on Carolina’s entire defense that weighs even 300 lbs. And while that number certainly isn't a literal cut off -and we’re obviously not going to copy every trend and every move Fox made - but 337 lbs just goes way, way in an entirely different direction. We’re not talking about an exception here - drafting Taylor would represent a different scheme and a different philosophy entirely.
So yeah, there’s that. I’ll give you Wilkerson and Paea in the poll but I’m taking Taylor away from you. He doesn’t fit what we want to do here and you can’t have him.
OK, so should I try to hide the fact that this is my favorite choice? Eh, I’m probably too opinionated to pull it off anyway. What I said earlier about the DTs also holds true with DEs; We added Dumervil on the end and Peterson/Dareus in the middle. We know both positions need depth and we’ve already talked about DT, so who do we have at depth behind Doom and Ayers? Hunter and Haggan maybe? I can’t think of anybody else off hand and these two would also represent a position change from LBer. Doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy.
Now think back to last year when you heard Dumervil went down for the season. Did you puke in your mouth a little? Sorry. Well at the time, we were all in a bit of denial, at least I was. We made ourselves believe the pass rush would come from somewhere else, that we would be OK. But it didn’t… And we weren’t. What’s changed to protect against that happening again? Nothing, nothing at all. So we’ve been warned. We know what happens if he goes down. We saw it last year and would relive it this year without additional depth. So yeah, bbe afraid; be very afraid.
DT v DE:
Without additional depth, what would make us worse off… if Dumervil went down for the 2011 season or if Dareus/Fairley went down for the season? Who would be the better upgrade… Paea over Bannan or a new DE over Ayers? These are good, tough questions. The answers aren’t incredibly clear and certainly debatable. One thing is for certain, we need depth. Another thing also, we can’t get greedy and backup both spots, too many other needs to hit up later.
Look back to the linebacker discussion just above. The reason you either take Martez there or skip the position all together is because that’s how this draft is set up at that position. Between the late 2nd and early 3rd rounds is where you can get guys like Jones and Foster. So if you’re looking for a LBer, that area is the strength of the draft. That’s where you get best value. So what’s the positional strength of the draft at #36? Well, I’m glad you asked. It just so happens to be DE. Now look, I’m not just making that up to twist opinions or help assert my own. The strength of this entire draft is widely recognized as being that there are a lot of DEs with 1st round grades. I didn't add this theory to support my opinion, this theory is what gave me this opinion. I crusade against Bowers at #2. I consider it irresponsible to skip an elite DT there and thereby ignore your biggest weakness - run defense - when we already added an elite DE over last year (Dumervil). But we need depth at both DLine positions after that pick. My mind was made up once I realized the strength of the draft falls into our lap like it does.
Depending where you look and who you listen to, there are about eight DEs with first-round grades. Bam! Lucky us. You really think one out of every four teams is going to take a DE in the first round? No. That’s not likely to happen. That means we’ll likely be able to get good value at #36 by taking one of a couple DEs that slip out of the first round. That’s good value. DT isn’t stacked like that. There aren’t going to be first-round leftovers at DT like there will be at DE. If anything, teams will reach up and grab your favorite DT early.
Oh and PS: Jabaal Sheard and Ryan Kerrigan don’t suck. I listed Sheard as my choice at DE in my first mock the other day and got beat up a little for it. Some people know football. Some people know prospects. Others just echo what they’ve heard. The reason you all haven’t heard these names isn’t because they suck. It’s because they rank like 7th and 8th in a really uncharacteristically deep DE draft class. In contrast, guys like Paea and Taylor have their names thrown around more and people get to know them more because they rank higher. Also, people consider our biggest need DT. Some want that position in the first, some in the second. So they get to know those names. But if we're not taking Bowers, there aren't many people talking about taking a DE early, if it all. And that's a mistake IMO, to ignore the strength of this particular draft. Get to know Sheard. Get to know Kerrigan. Realize they have first-round grades but could likely be taken at #36.
What are your thoughts? What position didn’t I mention that you might look at for #36 (other than CB;)? Oh, and did I mention Greg Jones is a baller? Maybe I forgot to add that he’s a better “football player” and has better instincts than Martez Wilson :D Oh and Fox drafted Will Witherspoon at MLB in early round three of his first draft... he just so happened to be, yep you guessed it... same size as the linebacker that's small in size, Greg Jones.