Lost in the shadow of the aspirin-craving NFL lockout is an NFL Draft filled with influence, intrigue and unfortunately individualizers. Nevertheless, a true football enthusiast and fantasy owner must prepare for those impressive Ric Flair woos, incalculable mall fountain wishes and infinite what ifs.
Yeah, that’s right, the NFL Draft will be twisting its way to you in just over a week, but are you ready for it? If you are, give yourself a baby burp pat on the back and keep reading; you may learn something new. If not, then sit back and relax like a union boss with an open mind. At the same time though, keep your recall signs to yourself.
The Nature Boy is making his rounds.
First stop: Cincinnati, when the Bengals ensure they get big play wide receiver A.J. Green. Quarterback Carson Palmer will join in on the party while happily waving goodbye to the circus known as the TOcho Show. Yep, he’ll bust open the champagne and ready himself to move on and grow with Green, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley. Woo!
From there he’ll make stops in …
San Francisco, when the 49ers select wide receiver Julio Jones at No. 7 overall. Even if Patrick Peterson is still on the board, new head coach Jim Harbaugh can’t pass up the opportunity for a potent 1-2 combo at receiver to build around for years to come. The bad news would be that fantasy owners would be faced with the tough task of sorting out 49er offensive production. Woo!
New England, upon the Patriots snagging defensive end/outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Most will brainwash you with the notion that the Patriots need to draft an offensive tackle with this pick to keep the NFL’s runway model upright. However, it’s my impression that offensive tackle will be the deepest position in this draft. The Patriots need a true playmaker at outside linebacker/defensive end. Fortunately for them, Kerrigan is also at the top of the class when it comes to character. Woo!
Kansas City, after the Chiefs swap picks with the New York Giants to select offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo. The Boston College product could be perhaps the best edge run blocker in this year’s class and would be a perfect fit as part of an improving rushing attack that features perhaps the best perimeter runner in Jamaal Charles. Besides, General Manager Scott Pioli places a lot of value on players tied to the city of Boston. I wonder why that is? Woo!
New England again. I wonder if he even left? As always, the Patriots will once again block out the draftniks shouting “fadulous” names, and will select running back Mikel Leshoure. Coach Bill Belicheck is tired of dealing with fragile runners, but also wants the best blocking running back he can find. Leshoure won’t break like a cheap piece of IKEA glass, and he can nail defenders like Lorenzo Neal. Woo!
Four quarters for four wishes.
Wish 1: Quarterback Cam Newton gets drafted by the Buffalo Bills. That way he can take his JaMarcus Russell physical skills, his Allen Iverson-like personality, and his ridiculous bodyguard Warren Moon to a city that exhausts more passion when they lose. Then after three years of Newton posting J.P. Losman numbers the Bills’ front office can wither in their mistake of valuing Newton over budding signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick, while Moon can go become an inspirational speaker at a prison somewhere.
Wish 2: Guard Mike Pouncey joins his brother Maurkice in Pittsburgh. Then all the preseason experts can hop aboard the Steeltown train like they’re the next coming of the Vancouver Canucks. At the same time maybe NFL fans will finally stop hearing all the black and gold whiners chop down the interior of their offensive line, while I enjoy the sweet straight ahead plowing running back Rashard Mendenhall will do in 2011 when he’s on my fantasy team.
Wish 3: The Raiders select the speedy DeMarcus Van Dyke with their first pick in the middle of the second round. Even though Van Dyke is a long shot to even get drafted, the former Hurricane standout did post the fastest 40 time at the combine, and is by definition a “Raiders” player. Besides, the Al Davis blunder-filled selections always seem to be the talk of almost every NFL Draft, and I would like to see that trend continue in 2011.
Wish 4: The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts let everyone have the perceived “superstar” talent. Go ahead analysts, dig away on Ted Thompson’s picks like they’re red carpet fashion disasters. Salivate over the Von Millers and Cam Newtons. Leave those James Starks, C.J. Wilson and Kavell Conner type players on the board for the smart front offices to snag in the later rounds.
Crank up some Creed, and circle your best answer to these “What ifs.”
What if the Arizona Cardinals land Blaine Gabbert?
a) Larry Fitzgerald becomes the king of receivers again.
b) Chris “Beanie” Wells becomes even more irrelevant.
c) John Skelton and/or Max Hall become preseason stars.
d) All of the above.
My guess would be “D,” all of the above. Fitzgerald has made it clear that he wants to stay in Arizona, and would immediately become Gabbert’s cushy target (every rookie quarterback needs one), even with Steve Breaston and Early Doucet ready to take their games to the next level. As it is Wells doesn’t see enough carries to warrant the type of production he has been slated for in the past. Add in a franchise-like arm, and he’ll probably skip down the same road as Leeland McElroy, if he makes it all the way. And Skelton and Hall are almost guaranteed to create controversy heading in to the regular season, especially if all the pressure is immediately put on Gabbert’s shoulders.
What if the New Orleans Saints select running back Mark Ingram?
a) Reggie Bush or Pierre Thomas will be shown the door via trade or release.
b) The Saints form a three-headed rushing monster.
c) Both Thomas and Bush stay, get hurt, and Ingram excels.
d) Ingram gets elevated to split carries as starter alongside Bush, and Chris Ivory gets cut.
I’m seeing “C” as the most logical if history repeats itself in New Orleans. It will be too hard for the Saints to cut ties with either Bush and Thomas, because in order to get any kind of value in return via trade the running backs have to actually stay on the field. If drafted by the Saints, Ingram would have to battle his way to get significant touches at the start of the season, but a couple of bad cuts may lead him to regular touches.
What if the Miami Dolphins draft Jake Locker in the first round?
a) Brandon Marshall will send a thank you to the front office and quickly develop a strong relationship with the rookie quarterback.
b) The Dolphins will file a recall of their Chad Henne pick.
c) Tyler Thigpen still won’t become a primary starter.
d) None of the above.
I say “D.” First of all, Marshall will never thank anyone who has any kind of authority over him, and will need Larry Fitzgerald boot camp and Peyton Manning study hall to put forth maximum effort. The Dolphins won’t file a recall, but Henne may find himself looking for a new home awfully quick. And Tyler Thigpen still has a shot at starting if the Dolphins continue to have bad luck in finding their franchise quarterback. Personally, if it were up to me I don’t know if I would even line up Locker behind center. I would try and wait to scoop up Colin Kaepernick in the second round.
Thanks for reading!
Eric Huber is a staff writer for fantasysharks.com.