We are 11 days away from the 2012 draft.
Starting at 8 p.m. on April 26, NFL fans will dream big, looking for immediate starters to plug into the lineup and carry their team to the Super Bowl.
The reality is that a huge number of rookies - even those taken in the first round - have a very limited impact in their first seasons. The best you can really hope for is for a rookie to provide some solid depth and deliver when called upon.
Teams, at least those that are run smartly, expect draft picks to contribute heavily in their second seasons - after they get a year of experience and, most importantly, an entire offseason in the team’s developmental program.
With that in mind, let’s start to get into the draft swing by taking an early stab at a mock draft, with the picks being culled from league sources and personal analysis.
1. Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford - He might be the best prospect at the position to come out since Peyton Manning, the man Luck would be replacing. Luck does not have the biggest arm, but his smarts and anticipation are off the charts.
2. Redskins (trade with St. Louis): QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor - There isn’t anything he can’t do with the ball, and his athletic ability makes him the perfect quarterback to run Mike Shanahan’s offense, which relies on pocket movement through play-action and bootlegs.
3. Vikings: LT Matt Kalil, Southern Cal - General manager Rick Spielman would love someone to jump in and make a big trade offer, but I don’t see it happening. Kalil is as safe a pick as they come.
4. Browns: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama - Selecting running backs this high is normally foolish because the shelf life is so short at the position, but Richardson is an elite prospect and is worthy.
5. Buccaneers: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU - New coach Greg Schiano would love to get his hands on Richardson to be the workhorse he loved to have at Rutgers, but that might take a trade.
6. Rams: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State - The Rams desperately need some weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford, and Blackmon is the best of a deep bunch.
7. Jaguars: DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina - The Jaguars re-signed former Patriot Jeremy Mincey but the pass rush still needs a lot of help since Aaron Kampman has not worked out.
8. Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M - They aren’t going to move up to get Tannehill, but if he’s the pick, then their offseason makes a lot more sense.
9. Panthers: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame - He’s every bit the prospect that Blackmon is, and seems to be past some of the character issues that have followed him. Cam Newton gets his running mate.
10. Bills: LT Cordy Glenn, Georgia - With Demetress Bell now in Philadelphia, the Bills really need some help at tackle. Glenn seems to have a slight edge on Iowa’s Riley Reiff.
11. Chiefs: DL Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State - Don’t be surprised if this impressive prospect goes much higher. Cox is a bit raw, but he possesses elite tools in a 6-foot-4-inch, 295-pound package.
12. Seahawks: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College - General manager John Schneider could go in many directions, but Kuechly could drop right in at a very thin position.
13. Cardinals: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa - The Cardinals need to revamp the tackle position to give their quarterbacks a chance to be successful.
14. Cowboys: S Mark Barron, Alabama - Jerry Jones could go with Barron’s teammate, Dre Kirkpatrick, but Barron makes more sense given Dallas’s problems at safety.
15. Eagles: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis - There are a lot of questions about how hard Poe plays. Line coach Jim Washburn worked wonders with Albert Haynesworth, so this should be easier.
16. Jets: LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama - The Jets let their linebacker position get old real quick. Hightower can play anywhere and be an upgrade for Rex Ryan.
17. Bengals (from Oakland): DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina - Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer plays a lot of players up front, and Coples can replace Jonathan Fanene, who signed with the Patriots, in the rotation.
18. Chargers: OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama - Upshaw would give the Chargers some much-needed youth on the outside of their 3-4 defense.
19. Bears: OG David DeCastro, Stanford - Every year the Bears say they like what they have on the offensive line, and then the group is terrible. New general manager Phil Emery finally gets some help.
20. Titans: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin - The Titans wouldn’t make a financial investment in any of the veteran free agent centers, so they get a real good one in the draft.
21. Bengals: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina - If the Bengals can pull off a Coples-Gilmore double in the first round, people will be raving about the job owner Mike Brown did this year.
22. Browns (from Atlanta): WR Kendall Wright, Baylor - Scouts were stunned at how slow his 40-yard time was at the combine, but he plays much faster and fits with the Browns.
23. Lions: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama - Fits what Jim Schwartz likes to do on defense in physical traits and in attitude. The secondary was torn up by the Packers.
24. Steelers: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State - The Steelers need to revamp both lines, so a defensive lineman wouldn’t surprise. However, tackle has been neglected for far too long.
25. Broncos: DT Michael Brockers, LSU - A big, physical body in the middle is needed immediately to help John Fox run his type of defense.
26. Texans: WR Rueben Randle, LSU - General manager Rick Smith will take the highest-rated receiver, offensive lineman, or outside linebacker. Randle wins out.
27. Patriots (from New Orleans): S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame - Figure the Patriots to trade one of their two picks to continue collecting draft picks in perpetuity. Smith fits everything the Patriots look for in a safety and they need the depth this season and beyond.
28. Packers: DL Jerel Worthy, Michigan State - General manager Ted Thompson will let the draft play out and, barring a trade, he’ll try to find a big body to pair with B.J. Raji before looking at outside linebacker.
29. Ravens: OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin - With Ben Grubbs in New Orleans, and Matt Birk nearing the end, the Ravens need a versatile interior lineman.
30. 49ers: TE Coby Fleener, Stanford - Everybody else is going crazy with tight ends, why not Jim Harbaugh with his former player with the Cardinal? A nice combination with Vernon Davis.
31. Browns (from New England): QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State - Just like last year, when the Patriots traded their second pick with the Saints, the Browns come calling for their quarterback. Patriots get the Browns’ first-round pick in 2013, and the fourth pick in the third round in this draft. If the Patriots decide to stay put, then jumbo, quick-footed Penn State end/tackle Devon Still is the pick.
32. Giants: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford - He underwhelmed at his pro day workout, but Martin would give the Giants much-needed help at tackle. Eli Manning needs to be protected better.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING DISAGREEMENT
Shelf life of flat cap a point of contention
Last week, I took a look at how NFL owners were talking about a flat cap at least through 2014 - ESPN’s John Clayton reported that the NFL Management Council told owners the cap would be flat through 2015 - and compared that to the final offer the owners gave the players’ union before the collective bargaining agreement expired last year.
Those are really the only two sets of numbers that have been reported, and a simple comparison shows a shortage of about $652.8 million from 2012-14 before even getting into 2015 possibly being another flat-cap year.
Obviously, the NFLPA disagrees with my numbers. It is expected, at some point, to reveal what it thinks the economics are in the coming weeks. And I look forward to reporting those.
One valid point that I did not raise that enhances the union’s view of the deal is that starting in 2013, NFL teams must spend to 95 percent of the salary over two four-year periods (2013-16 and 2017-20). That is certainly a win for the players in this deal, and will likely enhance their bottom line. Every year, some teams fall far short of spending to the cap. So the numbers will crunch better there than I anticipated.
That being said, there is still a lot of angst in the agent community about the NFL’s contention that the cap will remain flat through 2014, let alone 2015. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told agents in February that, yes, they were going to have to do with a flat cap through 2013. But starting in 2014, the players would reap the benefits of the new media deals, of which they get 55 percent.
Everyone will be waiting to see what actually happens in 2014 and 2015. The gains the players were expecting to make there were the backbone of the new CBA.
SECOND TIME’S A CHARM
Former coach believes Ochocinco will be OK
He took a pay cut to stick around the Patriots for another season, and Chad Ochocinco has at least one surprising person in his corner who believes the receiver will turn it around in his second season: Marvin Lewis, his former coach with the Bengals.
Yes, the same guy who remarked to reporters at the 2011 Senior Bowl that Bill Belichick was too smart to trade for Ochocinco.
“Having an offseason, having an opportunity to learn things, I think is going to make a big difference,’’ Lewis said at the league meetings. “Chad’s a very prideful guy. He wants to do things right and be successful.’’
It’s just taking much longer than people, especially Belichick, imagined.
Team sources said that Ochocinco showed little improvement over the course of the season. He certainly tried to make it work, as did the team, but he kept making the same mistakes over and over again in practice.
Lewis said that surprised him.
“I think Chad has the ability to do and learn whatever Chad wants to do and learn,’’ Lewis said. “He has the ability to learn things and grasp things, but I really can’t speak to [that]. He’s not my player.’’
According to two league sources, former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer had similar issues with Ochocinco. The difference was Palmer might not have known precisely where Ochocinco was going to end up, but he knew Ochocinco would get open somehow because of his outstanding agility.
Lewis didn’t entirely agree with that assessment.
“That wouldn’t be fair,’’ said Lewis. “That’s not necessarily fair.’’
In the Patriots offense, everyone must be in the exact position that’s called for. It is precise. There’s little room for improvisation when Tom Brady is directing the show.
Perhaps with an offseason, Ochocinco can get on that same page with the rest of the offense.
1. The Patriots were indeed prepared to move on without Dan Koppen at center, it’s just that he got next to no interest on the free agent market. It’s not just the leg injury Koppen is coming off, either. Koppen’s tape wasn’t great, according to two league sources. His play slipped in 2010, and he didn’t have a very good training camp.
2. Expect Koppen’s situation to be like Matt Light’s - a two-year contract that is in reality a one-year deal, unless someone suffers a big injury - without a definite starting job. Koppen is smart and tough, so he’ll bring peace of mind at least as a backup. But center is Dan Connolly’s to lose.
3. Hey, Rob Gronkowski, you know we love you and your goofy antics. We know you don’t have a malicious bone in your body. But there’s such a thing as overexposure, and you’re right up against it. Time to chill out and lie low, bro.
4. Get your wallets ready: Expect the NFL to release the full schedule Tuesday. Last year it was released on Tuesday, April 19, the week prior to the draft.
5. This is the time of year when Patriots fans get all riled up and think this will be the year Bill Belichick drafts a receiver and/or outside linebacker in the first round. And he has never done it in his 12 previous drafts. Lucky 13 anybody? Could the streak finally end?
Saints offensive coordinator and Medway native Pete Carmichael Jr. didn’t get a crack at the interim coaching position - assistant head coach Joe Vitt will likely cede to offensive line coach Aaron Kromer during his six-game suspension - but expect Carmichael to get more job interviews after the season. Giants coach Tom Coughlin knows the family well. Pete Carmichael Sr. was on Coughlin’s staffs at Boston College and with the Jaguars. “I’ve been very, very impressed with the rise of his career,’’ Coughlin said. “Young Pete kind of came out of nowhere from my perspective, because he didn’t work for me and I didn’t follow him exactly the way I would have been able if it was just through his dad. I still see him hitting balls in the backyard with his dad pitching to him, because they did that forever. Young Pete was a heck of a baseball player. From his experience in San Diego when Drew Brees came over to the Saints and Pete came with him, there’s no question, he’s done a great job. Any time you have an outstanding quarterback who’s a record-breaker in our league that has his coach go along with him, that’s pretty significant.’’ . . . One reason I prefer to speak to personnel executives and coaches off the record about players is that they’ll give more accurate information. On the record, they seem to find no fault in players. Take Jets coach Rex Ryan on cornerback Marquice Cole, who signed with the Patriots: “Another good football player. Fast. He’s got some cover skills. A good teammate. Really a good guy. Did a nice job as a flyer on the punt team. Contributor on almost all your special teams. And they’re getting a guy that will push for probably a starting job there. I could see that.’’ Sounds like a player the Jets could probably use, considering he received a one-year minimum offer from the Patriots. Why didn’t the Jets sign him? “I think you’d like to keep everybody on your team,’’ Ryan said. “You’ve got to do what’s in the best interest of your football team.’’ OK, Rex . . . Patriots defensive captain Vince Wilfork is again hosting his draft day fund-raiser against diabetes on April 26 at Pinz Bowl in Milford. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the event, which includes a buffet and an autographed photo with Wilfork, are $50 for adults, $25 for children 12 and under. For more information and tickets, go to vincewilfork75.com.