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Happy spring, everyone! Welcome to the first edition of the Brew Crew Corner for the 2011 NFL season. That is if there is a season at all. I have faith that a deal will get done. After all, there is just too much money on the table for both sides not to come to an agreement. So I will keep pushing forward as if the season is still on track to start when it should. This means many of you shouldn’t get sidetracked and forget that there are drafts for which to prepare. This year you need to pay closer attention to the details, starting with the NFL draft next week. With the status of free agents undecided, you have to look at the teams that are able to address their needs through draft picks.
For the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks that are drafted, I look at which teams they are drafted by and if they are entering a situation where they will step into a system that is already in place or if they are going to a team that will have a new coach or new offensive scheme. Another factor you have to consider is if the player is taken by a team that will make him the starter right away or will he have to compete with an established veteran. This year teams are not meeting for organized team activities, mini camps or rookie camps, which will hurt the development of players that are entering a new system, have a new coaching staff or are drafting quarterbacks.
These teams are at a great disadvantage compared to teams that are returning to a more familiar environment. A team like the Carolina Panthers, who will have the league’s toughest schedule, is already behind the eight ball because they have a new coach and may draft a quarterback with the first overall pick. Throw in the possibility that DeAngelo Williams may become an unrestricted free agent and things could get worse for this team before the first preseason game. On the other hand, a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the fourth-easiest schedule, has the key players in place and will be able to recover from the lockout better then a team like the St. Louis Rams, who will have a new offensive coordinator and quarterback Sam Bradford entering his second season but unable to work with his new coach due to the lockout.
Below is the strength of schedule for the 2011 NFL season.
At a glance, the teams that are immediately affected by the tough schedule are the Carolina Panthers, the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions. I list the Lions because they always seem destined to take the next step and become a playoff team but then something happens to prevent them from reaching that next level. The lockout really hurts them with a coach entering his second year, and Matthew Stafford coming off of an injury. Facing a really tough schedule just adds to challenges they face. For teams that can weather the lockout storm and have a favorable schedule include the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears. I look at a team like the Cincinnati Bengals with the fourth easiest strength of schedule but have big question marks at the quarterback position. If they don’t get Carson Palmer back for at least one more year, they might have to take a quarterback with the fourth overall pick. If they do, this team will go to the back of the line in the division and have to start from square one.
When you’re preparing your draft board, don’t follow the model of years past because there are going to be tougher draft decisions for you to make in 2011. Your preparation should begin with the draft next week.
I’ll be looking forward to the NFL draft and to read the forum post on Friday, April 29.
Thanks for reading, follow me @BrewCrewCorner.
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