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Free Agency and NFL Draft Predictions


As a writer and analyst who takes great pride in the work I do, I have often wondered if it makes more sense to play it “safe” instead of going out on a limb time and again.  Of course, it’s a fleeting thought because in the end, what’s there really to lose?  And where’s the fun in playing it safe?  I’ve put in countless hours of research and analysis into our favorite past-time and am committed to a degree that many would qualify as ridiculous.  I’m also very happy to share the stage here at DLF with a growing number of equally dedicated inviduals, not to mention those of you that make up our ever-growing community.  We most certainly have the most talented and knowledgeable group of fantasy coaches on the planet!

I bring up “safety” because with regard to what we do here, it’s something that frustrates me greatly when I see it.  In fact, we make a concerted effort to steer away from safety when performing our due-diligence, labeling players, analyzing would-be rookies or simply trying to uncover next year’s sleepers or off-the-radar players.  That’s not to say that the safe play isn’t highlighted or recommended on occasion.  Oh to be sure that there is safety in playing it safe.  You cannot have thin skin in this field of work.  For every golden nugget uncovered, many more will never pan out.  It’s the nature of the game.  And most of us are prepared to be called out for it when it occurs.  But there is also great value in digging deep, being bold and staring ridicule in the face in an attempt to find that diamond in the rough for you in such away that allows YOU the chance to act before others in your league.

This isn’t one of those pieces.  At least, not by direct design.

Sometimes you just have to have a little fun, make a statement and go against the grain.  What follows are some of my own expectations that are in direct contrast to what the “experts” are saying based on my own research, theories, logic and reasoning.  I’ve never been fond of blindly following the herd so I suppose it’s fortunate that I have this virtual pulpit from which I can spew these lunatic ravings.  Perhaps some of these predictions will help you with decisions facing your own team.  I don’t promise that all that follow are extremely “bold” and I’ll gladly accept any and all criticism given.

1.  Peyton Manning signs with the Arizona Cardinals.  From the moment it was obvious that Manning would be released, it was also obvious that Miami is the safe choice.  In Miami, there’s familiarity, warm weather, the AFC and a capable offensive line.  It all makes perfect sense.  But at the same time, don’t think for a second that Manning is thinking comfort and familiarity first.  Brother Eli has two rings and Peyton will be driven to get fitted for his second.  In a division with Tom Brady and the New York Jets, there’s anything but a clear path to the big dance.  Arizona also has warm weather, a great facility with rectractable grass, a substantially less competitive division, a young and capable defense and Larry Fitzgerald.  From the very beginning, Arizona has been my favorite to land Peyton Manning.  It’s not the safe destination, but it makes the most sense.

2.  Tampa Bay will NOT be drafting Trent Richardson.  The Bucs were ranked 30th in overall defense and dead last, by a wide margin, in points allowed.  Nothing has changed with the state of the running back position in the last decade other than the continued transition to multiple-back backfields.  There is no argument from me that Tampa Bay needs a true bell-cow back, but 2012 offers other such names as Lamar Millier, David Wilson and Doug Martin, one of which is almost certain to fall to 2.04.  LeGarrette Blount is not an every-down back but he’s capable enough to provide options for the Bucs when considering a pairing via the draft’s 2nd round or free agency.  Tampa Bay would be much better served tapping CB Morris Claiborne or DE Quinton Coples.

3.  Matt Flynn is signed in Cleveland.  I feel bad for Colt McCoy, but the NFL isn’t a place for fragile egos.  McCoy has a great heart but it’s obvious he doesn’t have the needed “it” factor to take a team upon his shoulders and lead them to prominence – and certainly not the Browns.  The jury is still out on Matt Flynn but he’s shown as much, perhaps even more, than last year’s overly-hyped Kevin Kolb to get a big payday and his shot under center from week one.  Flynn fits Cleveland’s system well and with the addition of one or two playmakers on offense, the Browns could be a team to watch in 2012 with Flynn at the helm.

4.  Trent Richardson falls out of the first ten.  Truth be told, now that the Rams have traded back to 1.06, I’d like to see them trade it to Cleveland and move back to 1.22, picking up even more draft picks while still being able to take a higher profile receiver.  Cleveland would then be in position to draft Richardson at 1.04 and Justin Blackmon at 1.06, but I do not expect that to happen.  Instead, I fully expect Richardson to fall out of the top ten in the draft, which is a scary proposition for fantasy owners.  At 1.11 sits Kansas City and while it would be a surprise to see the Chiefs select Richardson, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  Once Richardson begins to fall, expect phones to heat up as teams look to move up.  Could this be the year that the Patriots finally move UP to take a running back like Richardson?  Nah.

5.  New England signs Mario Manningham.  Bill Belichick saw first hand what Manningham is capable of during the Super Bowl.  He’s not a true WR1, but he’s a great role player with upside at the position, just what the Patriots love in free agency.  He may be more pricey than the typical Patriot addition, but it’s getting obvious that Tom Brady needs a big go-to receiver to pair with Wes Welker.  It’s very possible that Vincent Jackson or even Randy Moss end up in New England but I expect the Patriots to stick with what has been working recently by steering clear of super-sized contracts.

6.  New England signs Brandon Lloyd.  The surprise here isn’t that Brandon Lloyd signs in New England, but that Lloyd is one of two higher profile receivers to sign in free agency with the Patriots.  Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels has a relatively long history with Lloyd and after playing in both Denver and St. Louis, he’ll finish out his career receiving passes from Tom Brady.  The Patriots will be able to land Lloyd for less than other teams could/will offer due to their level of competitiveness and their revamped receiving corps. will pay great dividends for Tom Brady in 2012.

7.  Michael Bush signs in Cleveland.  The easy choices for Bush’s eventual landing spot are Denver and Cincinnati.  While Bush fits the mold of what Marvin Lewis likes in his running backs, and Cincinnati has a tremendous amount of room below the salary cap, they also have two first round selections in 2012 and my feeling is that that they’ll address the position via the drafts first or second round.  Bush would be a great repalacement for Peyton Hillis in the power run-game and, like Hillis, he’s very capable out of the backfield in the passing game.  The Browns have enough under the cap to make a small splash in free agency and now that they won’t be trading up for the rights to Robert Griffin III, expect them to retool on offense, especially in the skill positions.

8.  Pierre Garcon signs in Cincinnati.  Garcon is a talented receiver, but not at the level he’ll be seeking for his next contract.  It’s no secret that Peyton Manning can run an offense and make any receiver look capable.  Garcon’s value may suffer due to this fact and he’ll be a high-risk addition to any team that signs him because of the contract he’ll carry.  The Bengals have enough cap flexibility in 2012 to take a few chances and prior to addressing their need at running back with their second pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, they’ll sign Garcon as the perfect complement to A.J. Green.

9.  Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill is selected in the first round.  In my estimation, there’s been no greater story from the combine than the out-of-nowhere ascent of Tech’s Stephen Hill.  Credit to some in that Hill was expected to run a fast forty, but he wasn’t expect to show as well as he did.  He’s got size, athleticism, speed and the hands that remind me of Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green … all but the college productivity.  He’s an extremely risky selection in the first two rounds of the draft but his combination of skills and attributes will be impossible for GM”s and head coaches to ignore late in the first round.  New England at 1.31 anyone?

10.  Marshawn Lynch is suspended six games.  If you’ve been following the news on Denver’s D.J. Williams this weekend, you know that he’s been suspended six games for allegedly supplying league drug testers with a “non-human specimen” for his most recent test.  In a stunning turn, I expect that after further investigation and testing, this “non-human specimen” will be identified as belonging to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who will then in-turn be suspended six games himself.  Lynch pleads it was a “beast mode” sample taken shortly after his playoff run vs. the Saints in early 2011 and is unsure how it ended up in the hands of Williams but is suspended nonetheless.

 

Jeff Haverlack
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Greg G.
10 years ago

With Washington now owning the number two pick, are the chances that Cleveland goes with Trent Richardson greater?

Greg G.
Reply to  Greg G.
10 years ago

Is is that 1.04 is too high?

Greg G.
Reply to  Jeff Haverlack
10 years ago

In a rookie only draft, where would you take him?

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Greg G.
10 years ago

This is one of those drafts where if you need a QB, you take Luck at 1.01. If you need WR, you take Blackmon at 1.01 … and if you need RB, you take Richardson. All of them are easily first in their respective positions … although the Luck/Griffin argument is a good one.

When ranking the players irregardless of position, I have them ranked as: Luck, Richardson, Blackmon and Griffin currently, but I may be changing that order with Griffin moving up.

Greg G.
Reply to  Greg G.
10 years ago

Thanks!

ray
10 years ago

The Cards may want Manning but they have NO cap space. They just signed Kolb last year to big money. To even get under the cap they’ll have to dump their left tackle and other players. I see Miami as front runner for Manning and Denver as #2.

It’s hard to see Richardson drop out of top 10 unless he runs a 4.5 or worse 40 at pro day.

Solid article. thanks!

Josh G
Reply to  Jeff Haverlack
10 years ago

Trent out of the 1st round seems unlikely to me. Just cant fathom a legit Heisman candidate, the consensus top RB, the only star offensive player on the National Champion, highly favorable comparisons and projections across the board..blah blah blah…to drop out of the first with no legit reason why other than he isnt AP and it isnt necessarily prudent to take him in the top 10. I just dont see him sliding past Cincy at 17 or 21.

Josh G
Reply to  Jeff Haverlack
10 years ago

My bad..I read it wrong and thought you wrote he falls out of the first round..instead of first 10.

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Josh G
10 years ago

Actually, I think you read it correctly … Ken Kelly fixed it. I had inadvertently put out of the first round instead of “out of the top 10”. MY bad.

tebow
10 years ago

if t-rich goes to kc i would strongly consider miller as the number one dynasty rb if he lands in a better situation

Greg G.
Reply to  tebow
10 years ago

Tough to sell that one. T-Rich in KC could garner excellent playing time, goal line carries all while saving his body from excessive wear and tear. I don’t mind time shares…Despite Charles’ glaring talent, they still provided Jones with opportunities. Even when he didn’t deserve them. Richardson will and then some.

Bigcsr67
10 years ago

You cant be banned for Skittles!

Josh
10 years ago

Your the first person that’s said TB might take Coples. I agree with this and think they would have a young trifecta of pass rushers which would make them a formidable defense in a league with many good QB’s and emerging offenses.

Jeff Haverlack
Reply to  Josh
10 years ago

I actually think it is ludicrous for TB to be thinking offense with their first selection. They can easily address either WR or RB with their second round selection.

I prefer Claiborne for TB but Coples is right there.

TB MUST address defense before thinking offensive skill position.

Jeff Haverlack
10 years ago

Awesome

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