1. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck QB Stanford After the Week One ass-kicking from the Texans (which wasn’t even as close as the 34-7 score would indicate), Jim Caldwell announced that his teams’ problems are “correctable”. They’re not. I really believe that what you saw from the Colts in that game is pretty much what you’ll continue to see. There are enough prideful veterans on this team for me to predict a bounce-back victory at home against the sorry Browns this Sunday, but I can also see a 1-13 finish from there.
Because of Manning’s 227-game streak, the idea of the Colts without Peyton Manning was always comparable to the idea of a giant meteor hitting Earth…you knew it would be completely devastating, but never really paid it much thought because of the seemingly infintesimal odds of it actually happening. Now that the scenario has come to pass, we’ll see the offensive line (featuring the likes of Jeff Linkenbach and Joe Reitz) exposed without Manning’s savvy and hair-trigger release keeping the sack totals down and making the unit appear better than it actually is. No longer will the defensive unit’s two best players, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, be afforded the luxury of simply pinning their ears back and doing their thing after the inevitable, Manning-led, 14-0 first quarter lead. Instead, we’ll see two aging and very undersized defensive ends playing on their heels and exposed as liabilities against the run. More than any player in recent memory, Manning is the foundation of his team, so the only way that these problems, along with the Colts’ laundry list of other problems (impotent running game, awful rushing defense, lack of talent and depth at linebacker and in the secondary), can be “corrected” is the return of Manning…or a QB of similar quality. Amazingly, there’s actually a QB of similar quality available at the top of the 2012 NFL Draft in Andrew Luck.
The Colts could avoid paying Manning the $28 million bonus he’s due in 2012 by simply releasing him by late February, making him a free agent. While it’s nearly impossible to picture Manning without the horseshoe hat, it could be the Colts’ best option from a business standpoint. Sentimentality aside, a soon-to-be 36-year old with serious neck and back issues is a poor investment, especially if the Colts have a shot to secure the best QB prospect since Manning and begin a fresh, decade-long run of AFC South dominance.
2. Seattle Seahawks- Matt Barkley QB USC Tarvaris Jackson’s Week One performance in the loss to the 49ers (78.3 passer rating, 3 turnovers) was about what everyone expected. The worst 7-win team in history in 2010, the Seahawks lost team leaders Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu during the offseason and are now pinning their hopes on the second-worst starting QB in the NFL (congrats, Donovan McNabb), who’s operating behind an unsettled O-line and has no running game to lean on. Disaster looms. We’ll probably see Charlie Whitehurst and maybe even rookie free agent Josh Portis under center before the season is up, and that should be more than enough motivation for Seattle to be hellbent on finding a new QB in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Opinions vary on USC’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Both are highly-skilled Juniors and potential franchise QBs who should be top ten prospects should they declare, but which one emerges as the second signal-caller off the board may ultimately come down to their Combine performances and a team’s schematic or personal preference. If given the choice, I think that the Seahawks will opt for Barkley. Not necessarily because of the Pete Carroll/Barkley connection, but because offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell prefers a mobile QB. Jones is no stiff, but Barkley has vastly improved his mobility and pocket awareness over the last few seasons and has an advantage over the more mechanical Jones in those departments. Barkley’s fiery leadership, ability to move around the pocket and even his tendency to force the ball into tight spots is reminiscent of a young Brett Favre, which could intrigue Bevell, who had success with Favre in Green Bay and Minnesota.
3. Cleveland Browns- Quinton Coples DE North Carolina After a promising preseason that had some hailing the Browns as a potential darkhorse Wild Card contender, they promptly stunk up the joint in the Week One “Battle for Ohio”. It looks like there will be some harsh growing pains in 2011 as this young team adjusts to new schemes and philosophies on both sides of the ball.
The pass rush produced only 29 sacks in 2010. In new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s 4-3 scheme, athletic ends who can shave the edge are crucial. Rookie RE Jabaal Sheard shows promise, but LE Jayme Mitchell, while athletic and imposing (6-6/285), has stuck around the NFL for six seasons because of his upside, not his production. He seems to be a terminal “project”. Coples offers the same size as Mitchell and is an infinitely better pass rusher. With Coples and Sheard attacking the QB and the gargantuan Phil Taylor/Ahtyba Rubin combo clogging up stuff in the middle, Cleveland would have (potentially) the best, young D-line in the AFC. Coples is arguably the best defensive prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft, would fill a need and represents great value at #3. Read the rest of this entry » «Profetta’s 2012 NFL Mock Draft – September 18 Update»