Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Looking Back at Notable Draft Moves: Part Two

Picking up where I left on in my previous post about draft day moves, let's take a look at the next few years for the notable moves up the board and what the result was.

I stopped with judging such moves with the 2012 draft, as it remains to be seen what will happen with the 2013 and 2014 draft classes. I will briefly touch upon a couple of moves, though, to see what direction they might be heading.

As we will learn, there were more moves up the board which either offered a mix of good and bad, or didn't really set the franchise back (at least not as much as other moves, anyway).
2009: The Jets trade up for the sixth overall pick.

The New York Jets finished 9-7 in 2008 and just missed the playoffs, so the belief was that they were just the right coach and the right quarterback away from making such a trip. So Mike Tannebaum made the move up the board to select quarterback Mark Sanchez. To get the sixth overall pick from the Cleveland Browns, the Jets sent their first- and second-round picks, along with three depth players (Abram Elam, Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff) to make the move up the board.

The Jets went to the AFC conference championship in back-to-back seasons, but then became a mediocre team. Sanchez didn't show much improvement as a passer, and thus wasn't worthy of being the No. 6 overall pick. With that said, what really hurt the Jets was their lack of depth, as the Jets made just three selections in the 2009 draft, trading away three of their remaining picks to move up in the third round to select running back Shonn Greene.

Honestly, the move is a bit hard to judge, because the Jets didn't trade away their whole draft for Sanchez, and the move up to select Greene probably did more harm. Also, the players the Jets traded away never became impact players. On the other hand, Sanchez didn't pan out and the Jets became mediocre in the long term.

Honestly, there's a mixture of good and bad that came out of the deal to draft Sanchez. It's understandable if one calls it a bad move because of what happened to the Jets in the long term, but it wasn't just that move that proved costly, and it's not necessarily the most costly. Indifferent.

2009: The Packers trade up for the 26th overall pick.

Before we get to the Green Bay Packers, a little backstory: The Ravens moved up from the 26th spot in a draft-day trade with the Patriots. The Packers then acquired the 26th overall pick from New England -- a trade back into the first round as Green Bay already had the ninth overall pick -- by sending a second-round pick (42nd overall) and two third-round picks. To complete the trade, the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to the Packers. Then comes the player the Packers selected: linebacker Clay Matthews. Green Bay finished the draft with eight total selections.

Packers GM Ted Thompson doesn't trade up like this often, but this move paid off for him. Matthews is Green Bay's top defensive player and considered one of the best in the game. Green Bay also got mileage out of two other selections: B.J. Raji and T.J. Lang. And after missing the playoffs in 2008, the Packers have not missed the playoffs since and have won a Super Bowl.

This is another move up the board in which it's easy to make the call: Good move.

2010: The Chargers trade up for the 12th overall pick.

The San Diego Chargers were emerging from the mediocre AFC West as a team considered to have a good shot at going to the Super Bowl. That might have prompted them to make the move up the board, in which they got the 12th overall pick from the Miami Dolphins. To make the trade happen, the Chargers sent the 28th overall pick, plus their second- and fourth-round picks, and linebacker Tim Dobbins, while the Dolphins sent their fourth- and sixth-round selections along with the 12th pick. San Diego tabbed running back Ryan Mathews with the 12th pick, and finished the draft with six selections.

Mathews was a frustrating player, as he had a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but missed too many games with injuries. Linebacker Donald Butler has been a solid starter, and cornerback Darrell Stuckey was a solid depth player, but over the long term, the Chargers never did reach the Super Bowl. Instead, they slid into mediocrity and both general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner lost their jobs in 2012.

It's another draft-day trade up the board that's tough to judge. Again, you could lean toward it being a negative, as Mathews didn't live up to expectations, but it wasn't exactly a move that massively set the franchise back. Indifferent.

2010: The Broncos trade up for the 25th overall pick.

The Broncos' 2010 draft was interesting, as they twice moved down the board, before moving up a couple of spots for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Then comes the trade that got far more people talking: To get the 25th overall pick from the Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos dealt a second-, a third-, and a fourth-round pick. The player they chose: Tim Tebow.

We all know the story about Tebow, who provided anything ranging from excitement to frustration, depending on the week and whoever you talked to. In the long run, though, the coach who drafted him (Josh McDaniels) was gone after the 2010 season and the Broncos traded Tebow to the Jets in the 2012 offseason for fourth- and sixth-round picks.

The flipside is that the move up the board didn't really jeopardize the Broncos' draft situation. Earlier in the first round, when they twice moved down, they gained two third-round picks and one fourth rounder, and when the draft was finished, they made nine total selections. Of those selections, they got mileage out of Thomas, offensive guard Zane Beadles and wide receiver Eric Decker.

There will be those who point to Tebow's fans as not worth the headache, but they aren't relevant to my criteria. What's relevant is that Tebow wasn't the long-term solution at quarterback, but he had his moments and the Broncos didn't hurt their overall draft in moving up for him. Indifferent.

2011: The Falcons trade up for the sixth overall pick.

The2011 offseason was mostly quiet because most time was spent getting a new collective bargaining agreement settled. The draft took place as usual, though, and the Atlanta Falcons made headlines with a bold move up the board. To get the sixth overall pick from the Cleveland Browns, the Falcons dealt the 26th overall pick, a second-round pick, two fourth-rounds picks, and their 2012 first-round pick. For all this, the Falcons drafted Julio Jones. They finished the 2011 draft with six total selections.

Here's yet another move up the board that's difficult to judge. Jones is a talented receiver, coming off his best season as a pro, with 104 receptions for 1,593 yards. But while the Falcons were coming off a 13-3 season, and made the playoffs the next two seasons, they followed with back-to-back losing seasons. The lack of a first-round pick in 2012 may have cost them a chance to get an impact player then. And the rest of the 2011 draft didn't generate much, other than backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers and depth player Cliff Matthews.

Jones has been a quality player, but his presence hasn't been the difference between the Falcons simply making the playoffs, and reaching the Super Bowl. It's a move up the board that definitely falls right in the middle in terms of its impact. Indifferent.

2012: Washington trades up for the second overall pick.

You should be familiar with what happened on March 24, 2012. That's the date when the St. Louis Rams found a taker for the second overall pick. The Washington franchise came calling, dealing their first-round picks for the next three seasons (the 2012 pick was sixth overall), plus a 2012 second-round pick. The player Washington wanted: quarterback Robert Griffin III. Washington made nine total selections in 2012.

Again, I imagine everyone knows the story here. RG3 delivered plenty of excitement as a rookie and Washington made the playoffs, but RG3 tore his ACL down the stretch and tried to play through it. The result was an awful 2013 season that cost head coach Mike Shanahan his job, and since then,RG3 has struggled, with some doubting he really has what it takes to be a worthy starter.

Washington didn't hurt its overall 2012 draft, getting a good starting running back in Alfred Morris and decent depth players such as offensive lineman Tom Compton and linebacker Keenan Robinson. On the other hand, the other two first-round picks Washington sent to St. Louis could have come in handy in finding additional impact players.

Washington did pick up the option year on RG3's rookie contract, but that may be less because they think he can revive his career, and more because they aren't convinced they can find a better option in the draft or free agency next year. I lean towards the negative here, because losing those first-round picks from the past two seasons hasn't helped the team. But maybe it's not too late for RG3 to turn it around. Bad move, at least for now.

2012: The Browns trade up for the third overall pick.

When the first day of the draft started, everybody knew Andrew Luck and RG3 would be the first two players off the board. The buzz now focused on who would be next, and rumblings surrounded one player drawing interest from multiple teams, to the point that Cleveland swapped picks with the Minnesota Vikings to move up one spot. To get the third overall pick, the Browns sent the fourth overall pick, plus fourth-, fifth-, and seventh-round selections to Minnesota. Cleveland selected running back Trent Richardson, and finished the draft with 11 selections.

On the surface, this would appear to be a bad idea, given what we know about Richardson. But looking a little deeper, Richardson ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season, which gave Browns fans some hope. The Browns then appeared to give up quickly on him the next season, sending him to the Colts for a first-round pick in 2014. That was when we saw Richardson go downhill in terms of production, and Browns fans who were frustrated felt some relief in getting a high pick for him.

As far as the 2012 draft overall went, the Browns found a starter in offensive lineman Mitchell Stewart, and decent depth in defensive linemen John Hughes and Billy Winn, and wide receiver Travis Benjamin. So it wasn't like the move to get Richardson put the Browns in a bad draft position.

The truth is, the Browns' issues with failing to make the playoffs have less to do with the move to get Richardson, and more to do with constant turnover in the front office, and an owner that has done such a haphazard job of overseeing the team. Richardson may not have been an impact player, but the move to get him was far from one of the worst draft moves ever made. Indifferent.

And briefly looking at moves the last two years:

2013: The Rams trade up for the eighth overall pick -- The St. Louis Rams got that pick from the Buffalo Bills, along with the Bills' third-round pick, for the 16th overall pick, a second-round pick, the Rams' third-round pick, and a seventh-round pick. They selected wide receiver Tavon Austin, who has been a fine return man, but has yet to become an impact player at receiver. Perhaps 2015 could be the year?

2013: The Falcons trade up for the 22nd overall pick -- The Atlanta Falcons got this pick, plus a seventh-round pick in 2015, from the St. Louis Rams, for the Falcons' first- (30th overall), third-, and sixth-round selections. Atlanta selected cornerback Desmond Trufant, who has emerged into a pretty good player. So far, so good.

2013: The Vikings trade up for the 29th overall pick -- The Minnesota Vikings traded back into the first round to get this pick from the New England Patriots, sending their second-, third-, fourth-, and seventh-round selections. The Vikings selected wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson, who was fine as a rookie, but seems to fall out of favor with the coaching staff last season. He'll need to break out this year for the Vikings' move to pay off.

2014: The Bills trade up for the fourth overall pick -- The Buffalo Bills got the pick from the Cleveland Browns, who got from the Bills the ninth overall pick, and first- and fourth-round picks in 2015. Buffalo selected wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who had a solid, but not spectacular, rookie season. Watkins still has plenty of upside, but only time will tell if the move was worth it.

Looking Back at Notable Draft Moves, Part One

Something that always generates buzz on, or just before, NFL draft day is when a team makes a move up the board. Every time the likes of Chris Berman or Rich Eisen announce that somebody has traded up in the first round, the talk starts to focus on the top players still on the board and who everyone expects to be the pick.

When a team makes a move up the board, it can have different reasons for doing so. The trick, though, is to ensure you don't give up too much in return to move up the board for a particular player, because you don't want to chase after a player at the risk of hurting chance to improve your depth.

Generally speaking, the best time to move up the board is when you enter the draft with a lot of picks and your depth is in good shape going into the season. And in such cases, it doesn't matter if some of those picks are compensatory picks that can't be traded, because you are most likely using those for depth, anyway. An example: You enter the draft with nine total picks, your regular seven picks you get each year, plus two compensatory picks in the fifth round. Your depth is good, but you have a strong need at one position. So it makes sense to deal your own fifth-round pick -- or even your own fourth-round pick -- to move a few spots up the board in the first or second round, because those two compensatory picks you have in the fifth round still give you the chance to further help your depth.

It becomes riskier to make moves up the board when you don't have many picks, or when you are depleting your depth. Enter the draft with six picks, for example, and trading away two of your later picks to move up the first round can come back to haunt you, because you miss the chance to improve your depth.

Let's take a look back at some of the most notable moves up the board, on or before draft day, in recent years. We'll start by going back 10 years ago, to 2005. I kept the focus on the first round of the draft, and graded moves as either a good move, a bad move, or indifferent, based on the following factors: What the player in question did for the team, how much the team who drafted gave up to move up the board, how many picks the team had when the draft was completed, and what became of the team from that point.

2005: Raiders make multiple draft moves for the 23rd overall pick.

An important point to make first: The Oakland Raiders entered the draft with no first-round pick, having sent that to the Minnesota Vikings the year before to acquire Randy Moss. So they had to do plenty of wheeling and dealing to get back into the first round. They made two trades, two days prior to the NFL draft, to do this.

The first trade was with the New York Jets, in which the Raiders sent their second-round pick, a pair of sixth rounders, and tight end Doug Jolley, to get the Jets' first-round pick (26th overall) and a seventh-round pick. Next, the Raiders took the 26th overall pick they just acquired, sending it and a fourth-round pick, to the Seattle Seahawks to get the 23rd overall pick. After all those moves, they selected cornerback Fabian Washington. When the draft was over, the Raiders had made seven draft selections.

The 2005 season was not a good one for the Raiders, as they finished 4-12, and it wasn't until 2010 that they finished with at least a .500 record. Washington lasted three seasons before being traded to the Ravens, and while Washington was a solid player, he was far from being an impact player. 

Although the Raiders made seven draft selections in 2005, the only one who panned out was linebacker Kirk Morrison. So it's hard to argue that the moves benefited the Raiders to any degree. Thus, there's only one to grade this wheeling and dealing: Bad move.

2006: Steelers trade up for the 25th overall pick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers moved up seven spots in the first round, getting this pick from the New York Giants in exchange for the Steelers' first-, third-, and fourth-round selections. The Steelers finished the draft with nine selections. And the player they drafted is one you have probably heard of: wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

The rest of the story goes like this: The Steelers finished the 2006 season 8-8, but two years later, won the Super Bowl. As it turns out, the player they traded up for -- Holmes -- was the Super Bowl MVP, making headlines for keeping his toes inbounds for the game-winning touchdown. Holmes got better in each of his four seasons with the Steelers, catching 79 passes for 1,248 yards in his final year with the team. That was when Holmes made it clear he wanted a new contract, and the Steelers decided to trade him to the Jets for a fifth-round pick. Holmes might not have been an impact player, but the Steelers got plenty out of him, and as for the rest of the 2006 draft, they got a few good years out of offensive guard Willie Colon.

I lean toward this move working out for the Steelers, as they got a fair amount in return and didn't put themselves into a bad situation with the move up the board. Good move.

2007: Jets trade up the 14th overall pick.

The New York Jets were frequent draft-day moves during the Mike Tannebaum years, and 2007 was no exception. On draft day, the Jets sent their first-, second, and fifth-round picks to the Carolina Panthers for Carolina's first- and sixth-round selections. When the draft was over, the Jets made four draft-day selections, and their first-round prize is another guy you probably know about: cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Tannebaum's propensity for moving up the board didn't always work out for him (we'll get to more of that later), but the Jets finished 4-12 that year, then had three straight winning seasons, two with trips to the AFC title game. Revis turned into one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but became known for wanting to maximize his contract value, which ultimately led to the Jets dealing him to Tampa Bay for a first-round pick in 2013. Things have come full circle, though, as Revis signed with the Jets as a free agent this offseason.

As for the rest of the 2007 draft, the Jets got plenty out of linebacker David Harris, so it wasn't as if that draft really decimated the Jets' long-term prospects. So I lean toward this being a move that worked out for the Jets. Good move.

2007: Broncos trade up for the 17th overall pick.

The Denver Broncos were entering their final years under Mike Shanahan, and the longtime Broncos coach was desperate to get back into the playoffs. So he sent first-, third-, and sixth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars to move up in the first round to select defensive end Jarvis Moss. After the draft was over, the Broncos had made four selections.

The events that unfolded make this draft-day move one of the worst moves -- if not THE worst move -- up the board in Broncos history. The Broncos endured two mediocre seasons before Shanahan was fired, housecleaning ensued under Josh McDaniels (who had one mediocre and one bad season before departing), and history told everyone that the Broncos were only just a few players away from being a playoff team because the AFC West as a whole was mediocre to begin with. Moss had just 3.5 sacks in his first three seasons with Denver, and he played nine games in 2010 before being cut.

The rest of the 2007 draft didn't go so well, either, as offensive tackle Ryan Harris was the only player who became a key contributor. Marcus Thomas did provide us with this highlight as a depth player, but the long-term effects of Shanahan's draft-day move make it clear there's only one grade to give: Bad move.

2008: Jaguars trade up for the 8th overall pick.

The two draft-day moves for 2008 I'll review are related, as each involve the Baltimore Ravens. They provide an exercise of the difference between good teams and bad teams.

Let's get back to the Jacksonville Jaguars: They sent the 26th overall pick, plus two third-round and one fourth-round pick, to move up for the top-10 pick. Smith's selection was defensive end Derrick Harvey. The Jaguars finished the draft with five selections.

The Jaguars were coming off an 11-5 season, so no doubt they were thinking they were just a few players away from a Super Bowl. Instead, the Jaguars finished 5-11, and since that time, have had one .500 season and losing seasons otherwise. Harvey never became an impact player, getting just eight sacks in three seasons with the Jaguars before being waived. On top of that, they got nothing out of their other five picks, other than a fifth-round pick in a 2010 trade for 2008 second-round selection Quentin Groves.

The evidence is clear on this one: Bad move.

2008: Ravens trade up for the 18th overall pick.

So let's go back to that trade the Baltimore Ravens made with the Jaguars: The Ravens moved down from the eighth spot to the 26th spot in the first round, then made a deal with the Texans to move up to the 18th spot. The Ravens sent the 26th overall pick, one of the third rounders they acquired from Jacksonville, and their own sixth-round pick. Once again, the player selected is one you probably know: Joe Flacco. The Ravens made 10 total selections in the draft.

The Ravens went the opposite direction of the Jaguars. They went from 5-11 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008 and have not had a losing record since. Oh yeah, they also won a Super Bowl to close the 2012 season. One can argue whether or not Flacco is an elite quarterback, but he's certainly proved to be a QB the Ravens can build around. And the Ravens did get some mileage out of their 2008 second-round pick, Ray Rice.

The Ravens' wheeling and dealing in the 2008 draft is an example of how good Ozzie Newsome usually is in manipulating the draft board. He got plenty in return for a move down the board, and it allowed him to safely move back up the board for a player he wanted. This one is easy to judge: Good move.

(Note: More reviews of draft day moves in Part Two.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why Andrew Luck Won't Be Quick to Sign an Extension

Many NFL quarterbacks are up for extensions and, thus far, just one recently agreed to an extension. That this is the case is not surprising.

The Pittsburgh Steelers recently agreed to a four-year contract extension with Ben Roethlisberger, whose previous contract was set to expire after this season. Two of his 2008 NFL draft classmates, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers, both enter the final years of their current contracts.

Additionally, several young quarterbacks are up for extensions. The Panthers picked up the fifth-year option on Cam Newton's rookie deal, but as he enters that year, he will certainly want a new contract. Russell Wilson was a third-round pick of the Seahawks, and this will be the final year of his rookie deal. Meanwhile, the Colts recently picked up the fifth-year option on Andrew Luck's rookie deal, and he will be in line for a large extension. The Dolphins are said to be interested in extending Ryan Tannehill, but it shouldn't be long before the team picks up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

The quarterbacks and their agents are no doubt looking at Roethlisberger's extension, in which he received $65M in guaranteed money with a $31M signing bonus. From a practical standpoint, Roethlisberger is set to collect all that guaranteed money in the next three years, meaning he collects more than $22M per year.

Thus the bar has been set for the other quarterbacks. It's hard to see most of the QBs mentioned taking anything less than $20M per year in an extension. Their situations vary, but for some, the contracts they get will depend on what other QBs similar to them have received.

Meanwhile, there has been puzzlement over why the Colts haven't started talking to Luck about an extension. There's a reason why, and it has nothing to do with the Colts not wanting him to stick around.

To understand that reason, let's look at the most notable quarterbacks and their situations:

Phillip Rivers: We'll start with the quarterback who does not appear to be sticking with his current team after his deal expires. Rivers averaged $15.3M per year under his current deal. Unlike Roesthlisberger and fellow 2008 NFL draft classmate Eli Manning, Rivers has never played in a Super Bowl.

However, Rivers will no doubt have his eyes on the contract Jay Cutler received. Cutler averages $18.1M in his deal, and Rivers has far more playoff trips than Cutler. It's hard to see Rivers taking anything less than $19M per year in an extension, regardless of where he signs.

Setting aside the question of what the Chargers should do with Rivers now, there is the question of what he is worth for an extension. I would say an extension for him should run through 2019, as is the case with Roethlisberger. Assuming the Chargers trade him to another team this offseason, Rivers would likely get a deal averaging $20M per year, which would put him near the level of Matt Ryan. Such a deal would likely tie the team who gets him through 2017, but then be able to part ways with him if his play declines.

Eli Manning: Eli averaged $16.25M per year under his current deal, slightly more than Rivers. Once again, Eli is not likely to take less per year than Cutler received. More importantly, Eli could be in position to argue that he is worthy of a deal similar to Roethlisberger, given that he has won two Super Bowls, just as Roethlisberger has.

The flipside, of course, is that Eli has not shown the consistency that Roethlisberger has demonstrated. In 2013, Eli threw more interceptions than touchdowns, and last year, while his numbers improved, the Giants still missed the playoffs.

Whether or not one thinks the Giants need to move on from Eli after this season, the question remains as to what numbers he'll likely command in an extension. Eli is a year older than Rivers and Roethlisberger, so assuming he doesn't sign an extension until after the season, he's probably looking at four years, in which he averages $21M per year, but with only two seasons' worth of guaranteed money. That allows a team to get out of the deal after two years if he regresses.

Russell Wilson: For the young quarterbacks, we'll start with the one who is the most noteworthy candidate for an extension, given that he has appeared in back-to-back Super Bowls and won one of them. Wilson doesn't put up gaudy numbers, but is known for his work ethic and has steadily improved his play each season.

The Seahawks would certainly like to get Wilson extended, but the question is how much are they willing to spend to do it. Ideally, the Seahawks would like to keep his salary at a reasonable level to allow them to retain key defensive players. Given that Seattle is known more for how well it plays defense and how well it runs the ball, the front office probably isn't interested in putting up more than $20M per year for a quarterback.

But Seattle might not have a choice in the matter. Wilson certainly isn't taking an Andy Dalton type of deal -- Dalton averages $16M per year and could be gone after this season if he doesn't improve as a passer. Nor will Wilson take a Colin Kaepernick type of deal that hinges on incentives, given that he has been so successful in the playoffs.

Realistically, Wilson's contract could very well put him around $21M per year and his agent will likely insist on two years of full guarantees. That demand would only become stronger if Wilson isn't extended by the time the playoffs begin, and then the Seahawks win the Super Bowl again.

I suspect, when all is said and done, Wilson will get paid a healthy sum, regardless of the team. The question is whether the Seahawks ultimately concede the point and give Wilson such an extension, or if he takes his chances with another team.

Cam Newton: There will be plenty of debate about exactly how much Newton is worth in an extension. On one hand, Newton hasn't had a strong season, statistically speaking, since his rookie campaign. On the other hand, the Panthers are coming off back-to-back playoff trips, and Newton won his first playoff game last year.

Additionally, Newton was drafted at a time in which the Panthers were digging out of a bad salary cap situation, that required an overhauling of the roster that hasn't yet been finished. So one might argue that too much of a load has been put on Newton, and it's hard to assign him all the blame for not reaching the numbers he posted as a rookie.

At this point, Newton looks like a quarterback who may have to settle for a Kaepernick type of deal. With that said, that is no doubt a reason why you aren't hearing talk about an extension from the Panthers just yet. Newton and his agent are likely hoping that the young QB can increase his leverage if the Panthers make the playoffs again, and make a deep run. If the Panthers reach the Super Bowl, Newton's leverage definitely increases.

More than likely, Newton will get a deal that averages close to $20M per year, but is structured so that he gets two years, and then it remains to be seen what happens after that. The only question is whether it's with the Panthers or another team.

Ryan Tannehill: Let's get the Dolphins' QB out of the way first. Tannehill hasn't reached the playoffs yet, so he's not going to have the leverage of the other QBs mentioned so far. With that said, Tannehill has steadily improved each season. After throwing just 12 touchdowns with 13 interceptions as a rookie, he doubled his TD tally with 17 picks, then reduced his picks to 12 while throwing 27 TDs.

This will be the crucial season for Tannehill, as the next step for him to get a big payday in his next extension, is to get to the playoffs. And while there was talk that the Dolphins might already consider an extension, it would be a bit of surprise if they reached one this offseason. The Dolphins likely want to find out if Tannehill can keep improving, and I would imagine Tannehill's agent would hope for a playoff trip, so he can get more money for his client.

It does make sense for the Dolphins to pick up the fifth-year option on the rookie deal. Then, if the Dolphins reach the playoffs this season, it makes sense for them to give Tannehill a contract similar to Andy Dalton. Tannehill is a better QB than Dalton in terms of skill, but lacks the playoff trips Dalton has, so a deal that averages $16M per year, and effectively guarantees money for two years, would work out well for the Dolphins. Of course, if Tannehill shows a lot of improvement, along with a playoff trip, he might seek more money per year than Dalton got in his deal.

Andrew Luck: And thus we come to arguably the best young QB in the NFL. I think everyone is familiar with Luck's career so far, and the Colts certainly expect a Super Bowl trip this year. And that's exactly the reason why it may be in the Colts' best interest to get an extension done quickly, but it's not in Luck's interest.

Let's review: You have one QB in his mid 30s who has two Super Bowl trips and got an extension in which he should collect more than $22M per year for the next three years. You have another QB in his mid 30s with two Super Bowl trips, and who will be seeking similar money. You have a young QB with two Super Bowl trips, and who will likely want to be paid at least $20M per year. And you have two other young QBs, one with playoff trips and another without, who are likely to command contracts at least $16M per year, and could possibly approach $20M per year, depending on circumstances.

Knowing these things, if you were Andrew Luck, why would you accept a deal right away that would get you $20M per year, which is certainly a lot of money, but could pale in comparison to money other QBs receive, or is a salary that isn't that much more than QBs who may be franchise players, but aren't as talented as you are?

It's not difficult to figure out what Luck and his agent -- who happens to be his uncle -- will want: To make Luck the highest paid QB in the NFL. And they won't know what figures to ask for until the likes of Eli, Rivers, Wilson, and possibly Newton and Tannehill, will get.

There is zero reason for Luck to sign an extension right now. The Colts aren't planning to trade him, there is no evidence his play is about to rapidly regress, and given that his $16.1M fifth-year option (which the Colts have picked up) is guaranteed for injury, Luck doesn't have to worry about a season-ending injury costing him a lot of money. (His current year salary of $3.4M is fully guaranteed.)

So Luck and his agent will sit back and wait. And when they are ready to seriously start talking about an extension, don't be surprised if Luck and his agent seek a contract averaging as much as $24M per year with at least two years of full guarantees -- especially if Luck leads the Colts to a Super Bowl win this season.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft With Projected Trades

With yesterday's overview of team needs and the likelihood of teams wanting to move up or down the board, I now present my 2015 NFL mock draft.

Before I get to it, I examined a couple of references to determine the best way for teams who want to move up, to make those moves, which are Chase Stuart's draft value chart, alongside Jimmy Johnson's draft pick values, and Over the Cap's projected compensatory picks for 2016, which plays as much a role in determining which teams might be willing to part with a pick in next year's draft (as will be the case with one team I have making a move up the board in the first round).
In most cases, I considered the biggest needs for a team, but in a few cases, I went with players teams might find too good to pass up, particularly if another need is filled.

Now let's get the party started.

1. Tampa Bay - Jameis Winston, QB
Reasoning: Every indicator is that the Bucs will go with Winston as their top choice. Quarterback is a need, as the Bucs are clearly not sold on Mike Glennon.

2. Tennessee - Leonard Williams, DE
Reasoning: I really believe the Titans should select Marcus Mariota. However, I suspect they will lean toward a player who can adapt to any scheme, which is a good thing if a regime change ever takes place. Willliams is that type of player.

3. Jacksonville - Vic Beasley, OLB
Reasoning - Sure, Dante Fowler Jr. is right there, but we've seen how Jaguars GM David Caldwell operates. Nobody was expecting him to take Blake Bortles in 2014, and that's exactly what he did. It would not surprise me to see Caldwell opt for another top-rated pass rusher.

4. Oakland - Kevin White, WR
Reasoning: The Raiders could take Fowler if they wanted him, but I think it makes more sense to get a playmaker for the offense. That's what White gives the team

Washington trades the No. 5 pick to Cleveland for the No. 12 pick, the No. 43 (2nd round) pick, and the No. 147 (5th round) pick.
Reasoning: Washington would really benefit from moving down the board, as their biggest needs are at positions at which they can get better value by moving down, plus they need additional picks for depth. Cleveland is likely trying to make that final push to the playoffs, and isn't sold on Johnny Manziel. This trades gives Washington 1,702.6 points in return. You can probably see the pick that's coming

5. Cleveland  - Marcus Mariota, QB
Reasoning: Given that the Browns aren't sold on Manziel, I expect them to make the strongest push to move up for Mariota. The Browns could then put Manziel on the trading block, seeking a mid-round pick in 2015 and a conditional pick in 2016.

6. New York Jets - Dante Fowler Jr., OLB
Reasoning: It would surprise some if Fowler fell to the Jets, but if that happens, he's an easy pick for them. Fowler gives new head coach Todd Bowles a quality pass rusher.

7. Chicago - Arik Armstead, DT
Reasoning: It might be considered a reach, but the defensive line is where the Bears need the most help. Trading down is certainly an option, but I don't know think they'll be able to make a move down the board.

8. Atlanta - Shane Ray, DE
Reasoning: It would be surprising if the Falcons didn't take a pass rusher in the first round. Ray is the best one available at this point.

The New York Giants trade the No. 9 overall pick to New Orleans for the No. 13 pick and the No. 78 (3rd round from Dolphins) pick.
Reasoning: The Giants need to move down the board to get better value at the positions at which they need the most help. With the top pass rushers going off the board, and New Orleans needing defensive help, they move up, knowing they have the picks to work with. As it turns out, the pick they deal is the one they got from Miami in the Kenny Stills trade, and the value points come out perfectly for the No. 9 overall pick (1,350 points).

9. New Orleans - Bud Dupree, OLB
Reasoning: Dupree's stock is rising and there will likely be some teams wanting to move up the board if they covet one. The Saints make the move to get a player who will help.

10. St. Louis - D.J. Humphries, OT
Reasoning: While I had considered Brandon Schrieff here, it seems more likely that the Rams will select an offensive tackle instead. Humphries is one of the top-rated tackles.

11. Minnesota - Brandon Schreff, OG
Reasoning: An offensive tackle could be considered, but the Vikings need help on the interior of the line. Schreff is considered the best overall offensive  lineman in the draft.

12. Washington - La'El Collins, OT
Reasoning: Any offensive tackle might be considered a reach in the top five this year, but Washington gets better value and immediate help up front.

13. New York Giants - Landon Collins, S
Reasoning: The best safety in the draft is exactly the type of player the Giants need, and he's better value at this point.

14. Miami - Amari Cooper, WR
Reasoning: The best pass rushers are off the board, and the Dolphins are certainly looking to make that final push to the playoffs. So I would expect them to go for the best receiver available. I imagine the Dolphins would be thrilled if Cooper fell this far.

15. San Francisco - Trae Waynes, CB
Reasoning: Cornerback is the biggest need for the Niners, and this is about the right spot to take the highest-rated corner on the board.

Houston trades the No. 16 overall pick to Baltimore for the No. 26 pick, the No. 90 (3rd round) pick and the Ravens' 2016 fourth-round pick.
Reasoning: It's not often you see the Ravens make such a move, but they are in good position to do so. They enter the draft with 10 total picks, so they are in position to part with one from this year's draft. As for next year's draft, the Ravens gained a fourth-round pick in a trade with the Broncos, and they should get two compensatory picks in that round because of free agent departures (check the compensatory draft pick chart for that info). So Baltimore can safely deal its own 2016 fourth rounder.

16. Baltimore - Breshad Perriman, WR
Reasoning: Wide receiver is the Ravens' greatest need and Perriman could be exactly the type to help Joe Flacco succeed. Again, if there ever was a year for Ozzie Newsome to make a bold move, this is the year to do it.

17. San Diego - Andrus Peat, OT
Reasoning: The Chargers no doubt have great interest in Mariota, but I'm not expecting a trade to happen unless it involves multiple draft picks. That's too risky for San Diego, so it makes more sense to draft offensive line help.

18. Kansas City - DeVante Parker, WR
Reasoning: I had considered having the Chiefs move up the board, but they really don't need to. And while defensive line help would be good, I suspect they'll want another receiver to pair with Jeremy Maclin.

19. Cleveland - Danny Shelton, DT
Reasoning: The Browns may need a receiver with Josh Gordon's future in doubt, but Shelton is too good to pass up at this spot, and fills another need.

20. Philadelphia - Jalen Collins, CB
Reasoning: Although cornerback isn't that great of a need, Collins may be too good for the Eagles to pass up.

21. Cincinnati - Danny Gregory, OLB
Reasoning: Teams may shy away from Gregory given his failed marijuana test at the combine, but his talent would be too much for the Bengals to pass up.

22. Pittsburgh - Marcus Peters, CB
Reasoning: Ike Taylor's retirement makes the secondary a major priority for the Steelers. Peters would fill that need.

23. Detroit - Eddie Goldman, DT
Reasoning: The Lions did acquire Haloti Ngata, but could use another defensive lineman, so Goldman makes sense.

24. Arizona - Melvin Gordon, RB
Reasoning: The Cardinals really need pass rushing help, but they can probably find better value in later rounds. Meanwhile, they need a running back and Gordon is the best one available.

25. Carolina - Ereck Flowers, OT
Reasoning: The Panthers need help on the offensive line, perhaps more than any other position.

26. Houston - Eric Kendricks, ILB
Reasoning: Kendricks might be thought of as an early second-round pick, but it's not that much of a reach here.

27. Dallas - Malcom Brown, DT
Reasoning: It would be tempting to take Todd Gurley, but remember that the Cowboys found DeMarco Murray in the third round. Better to get some defensive help and find a running back later.

28. Denver - T.J. Clemmings, OT
Reasoning: The offensive line is where the Broncos need the most help. Clemmings has been compared to Duane Brown, a Texans' offensive linemen when Gary Kubiak was head coach there.

29. Indianapolis - Todd Gurley, RB
Reasoning: The Colts may have signed Frank Gore, but they need a younger running back to pair with him. Gurley is a good fit.

30. Green Bay - Kevin Johnson, CB
Reasoning: Johnson has been compared to another Packers cornerback, Sam Shields. Sounds like the type of player Green Bay would want.

31. New Orleans - Jordan Phillips, DT
Reasoning: Not only could the Saints use a pass rusher, they need a defensive tackle who can stop the run. Phillips can do that well.

32. New England - Byron Jones, CB
Reasoning: Trading out of this spot is a possibility, but I'm not certain somebody will want to move up to this spot. So the Patriots fill their biggest need.