Danny Kelly: Field Gulls
- Round 1: QB Philip Rivers
- Round 2: WR Larry Fitzgerald
- Round 3: DT Marcell Dareus
- Round 4: OT Tyron Smith
- Round 5: DE Robert Quinn
- Round 6: RB Jamaal Charles
- Round 7: DT Darnell Dockett
- Round 8: CB Jimmy Smith
- Round 9: TE Jared Cooks
- Round 10: OT Mike Adams
- Round 11: S Thomas DeCoud
- Round 12: RB Mikel LeShoure
- Round 13: WR Denarius Moore
- Round 14: DE Olivier Vernon
- Round 15: G James Carpenter
- Round 16: OLB Sam Acho
- Round 17:
- Round 18:
- Round 19:
- Round 20:
- Round 21:
- Round 22:
Round 1, Pick 31: Philip Rivers, Quarterback
Having pick #31 in any normal NFL Draft would typically indicate that your franchise was, as of several months ago, taking part in the Super Bowl, losing, then gearing up to supplement your roster with a new crop of young role players. If you’re the GM of a Super Bowl participating franchise, it typically means your roster is stacked with several Pro Bowlers, an All Pro or three sprinkled in, and led by a near-elite or elite quarterback. In the case of the RSPWP#2 though, pick #31 came with a blank slate empty roster, and a myriad of potential philosophies to go along with on how you want to build your team.
Ultimately, as we saw at the end of the last NFL season, long-term job security in the NFL for coaches and general managers can be fleeting, and the amount of slack you get as a front office to produce a winner (‘winner’ is subjective, too) varies greatly from owner to owner and city to city. In my case, I set out to first build a core of ‘veteran’ players that have demonstrated elite talent consistently at the NFL level and then attempt to build a longer-term and young supporting cast around them. Compete now but build with an eye toward longer term sustainability.
As pick #31 rolled around, I was surprised slightly to see a 31-year old quarterback in Philip Rivers still sitting in the green room, brow furrowed and rage growing within. I looked around confusedly before I stumbled to the podium at a half-jog half-brisk-walk to hand in my selection of a formerly ‘elite quarterback’ that has seen his public perception and reputation tumble precipitously after two luke-warm seasons.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that Rivers presently belongs among the active greats and I obviously would acknowledge that his numbers have been down the past two years, which would worry any GM (including me, in this exercise). He’s not mentioned in the same breath anymore as Peyton, Brees, Brady, or hell, even Ben Roethlisberger maybe, and he’s certainly not in the ‘future superstars’ group that’s made up of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, RG3, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill.
But the fact that Rivers is being being portrayed of late as a declining quarterback with diminishing skills at 31-years old ignores the fact that from 2008-2011, (and looking past 2012 as an outlier in part due to changing/injured personnel and a lame-duck coaching staff) apart from the mystical ‘Super Bowl winning QB’ trump card, Rivers has been a top-tier quarterback in the NFL, statistically-speaking. More important, prior to 2012′s dumpster fire of a season for the Chargers, Rivers had displayed pretty much all the attributes you like to see in your franchise quarterback and team leader.
Tangibles: Accuracy/ball location, arm-strength, pocket awareness and internal clock, and willingness to pull the trigger in the face of pressure time and time again.
Intangibles: Fiery competitiveness, fearlessness, confidence, swagger. From 2008 to 2011, his numbers backed up these observations. QB Guru Greg Cosell, prior to last season, labeled Rivers ‘the toughest pocket passer in the NFL’ and said that ‘No one would dispute that Rivers is an excellent quarterback, one of the six or seven best in the league, depending on personal preferences.’ I would have certainly agreed at that time. Has so much changed in the past year?
Despite a poor year in 2012, Rivers still finished 9th in the NFL in TDs. His QB Rating of 88.6 was better than Joe Flacco and Eli Manning and just behind Matt Schaub and Tony Romo. His completion percentage (64.1%) bettered Russell Wilson, Big Ben, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill and was way, way better than Cam Newton. Rivers’ YPA of 6.8 was the same as Matt Stafford and bettered that of Ryan Tannehill and Sam Bradford, though admittedly it was down from his elite 7.9 YPA in 2011 and NFL-best numbers of 8.7/8.8/8.4 of 2008-2010.
Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA, Rivers finished 22nd among QBs in the NFL in 2012, right in the Andy Dalton-Christian Ponder-Josh Freeman-Ryan Fitzpatrick range, but when you look at where he was in 2011 (8th) and 2010 (3rd) on that metric, are we so quick to write him off? He’s 31 years old. Same age as Ben Roethlisberger and one year younger than Eli Manning; three years younger than Brees and four years younger than Brady. Did the Vincent Jackson-Mike Tolbert-Vincent Brown-less supporting cast of the Chargers, exacerbated by on-going injuries to Antonio Gates and Ryan Matthews, have anything to do with this? I’m banking on that, to some extent.
Round 2, Pick 34: Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver
That’s why, with my second pick – #34 overall – I paired Rivers, the prototypical deep-ball-fearless-pocket-passer with 29-year old Larry Fitzgerald, the prototypical all-around deep-ball-catching-1st-down-making-throw-it-anywhere-in-his-vicinity-and-he’ll-come-down-with-it receiver. It’s a match made in football heaven, but for this exercise, considering Megatron, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones are off the board, I couldn’t think of a better #1 receiver to pair with Rivers, outside of probably 30-year old Vincent Jackson, Rivers’ target for years. I considered Jackson, of course, but ultimately Fitzgerald’s play-anywhere on the field versatility - outside, in the slot, underneath or over the top - and consistent and time tested durability, won over. Plus, man, I’d just love to see Fitzgerald paired with a guy like Rivers.
Two major pieces of the offensive puzzle are now in place for my franchise and should be consistent high-level touchdown-making contributors for four to five years, at least. I can now attempt to build a supporting cast around them and of course, start putting together my defense.
Round 3, Pick 66: Marcell Dareus, Defensive Tackle
After locking down two core offensive players in QB Phillip Rivers and WR Larry Fitzgerald, I thought it would be prudent to look to the defensive side of the football and I’m of the opinion that you build from the trenches there. Marcell Dareus is a versatile, young, powerful, and talented defensive tackle that can line up at 3-technique or nose-tackle in the Seahawks-copied type of defense I intend to build. Further, in a pinch, he can even play at defensive end on the strong side – he’s that versatile and athletic. That versatility, paired with his youth and competitive fire, made it an easy decision. Dareus is somewhat under the radar still, playing for a bad team out in Buffalo, but he’s got the skill set and talent to be a future superstar.
Dareus – who already has 11 sacks and 82 tackles in two seasons, will be a long-time anchor in my D-Line and he’s a player you can build your defense around. He’s still only 23 – the same age as some in this year’s rookie class – and is hitting that age now where defensive tackles start to come into their own in the NFL. I’m confident that he’ll be a top-tier disruptor as a NT or 3-technique for my 4-3 defense and will provide my defensive coordinator the flexibility to play him at several spots with total confidence.
Round 4, Pick 129: Tyron Smith, LT
Smith has had his ups and downs thus far at the NFL level and has played on both the right and left side, but you can’t argue with his physical potential. He started out the 2012 season a bit slow but by the end of the year his play had improved enough that I felt confident picking him to become my blind side protector for Phillip Rivers.
As Smith’s consistency on the left side improves and as he builds familiarity with a position he hasn’t played since HS, I feel he’ll become one of the league’s better left tackles – he’s got prototypical size at 6’5, 307 and uses his grappling hooks for hands and long arms to latch on to defensive ends and blitzers and re-direct them. He anchors well and his elite athleticism helps to make up for his inexperience at the position. Importantly, he’s already showing flashing of dominance in the run game and because I plan to build a fairly balanced offense that rushes the ball early and often, Smith was an attractive option.
Round 5, Pick 132: Robert Quinn, Defensive End
I needed a top-tier defensive end and after watching Robert Quinn toward the end of the 2012 season, I became convinced he’ll be an elite edge rusher for a long time in this league. Quinn has the prototypical size/speed ratio at 6’4, 260 and a 4.6 40, and would fit the “LEO” role in my Seahawks-inspired defensive scheme like a glove (think Chris Clemons but nearly 10 years younger). He’s strong enough against the run but most importantly he has a great first step, a solid repertoire of pass rush moves, and has already broken into the double-digit club with 10.5 sacks in 2012.
He’s 22 years old. Locking up a 22-year old Quinn to play next to a 23-year old Marcel Dareus for the next five to seven years is an alright option in my book.
Quinn too is just entering that age area where defensive ends hit their stride at the NFL level – his third season is bound to be a breakout, and I feel totally comfortable planting him firmly at LDE and letting him get after the opposing quarterback.
Round 6, Pick 191: Jamaal Charles, Running Back
I’ve always been a big fan of Jamaal Charles though his carries and production have gradually increased over the years, it still seems like he’s the most underutilized RB in the league. Charles game is built around breakaway speed but he’s also very underrated in his patience and vision – he regularly picks up the first 5-7 yards without even being touched, and if he can get the corner on a defense, it’s game over. Further, Charles is excellent in the pass game and as an outlet is a versatile option. In my mind, this makes Charles a three-down back, and though I plan to use a running back by committee approach, if necessary, he’d be a guy that you can lean on to carry the football 18-20 times a game.
Charles is still only 26 years old and missed nearly the entire 2011 season with an ACL injury. Now about two years removed from that tear, Charles is likely to have regained all his speed and agility and his low mileage (only two seasons with 200+ carries) was a plus for me. Charles will fit well in the zone blocking scheme I plan to install – great vision and patience and is a downhill, one cut and go type of runner with burst and acceleration. With a strong offensive line (which I plan to focus on), Charles could be a top-5 running back in the NFL.
Round 7, Pick 194: Darnell Dockett, Defensive Tackle
This was a little bit of a tough choice for me but ultimately I wanted to get a veteran on the defensive line to play along side my young duo of Dareus and Quinn. Dockett had an up and down 2012 season but early on in the year, before all hell broke loose for the Cardinals, the feisty and mercurial 3-technique/defensive end was playing out of his mind. He is still very disruptive and competitive, and provides a positional versatility for my defensive coordinator, with experience in a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. Dockett is 31, but I saw value in the 7th round to be able to pick up a proven and talented DT with a nasty attitude – I’m hoping that will permeate down to the rest of the defense and set the tone.
Round 8, Pick 255: Jimmy Smith, Cornerback
This was a future potential pick, more than anything. Smith is the prototypical size, length, and speed that I wanted at the cornerback position and though his NFL road has been a bit rocky since he became the Ravens’ first round pick in 2011, I still feel Smith just oozes potential as a shutdown cornerback. At 6’2, 205 with long arms and elite speed, he’ll line up at my right cornerback spot and be used in press coverage and run support, a la Brandon Browner with the Seahawks. Smith is strong tackler and is sticky in coverage but like many young corners, is raw. He’ll need some seasoning and there may be some hiccups along the way, but I’m happy with this pick in the 8th round. With a couple of seasons in the Baltimore locker room under his belt, I’m not super worried about the maturity issues that gave him some red flags coming out, and I feel that veterans like Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, and Darnell Dockett will be strong, vocal leaders for my franchise – and not let Smith get away with too much.
If Smith can stay focused and harness his elite talents, he’ll fit perfectly in my press/man-to-man scheme.
Round 9, Pick 258: Jared Cook, Tight End
Cook is going to give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares when they face my team because they’ll already be have to worry about Larry Fitzgerald and Jamaal Charles enough. Cook will be my move tight end, a chess piece that we can move around to exploit match ups and dictate coverage. He possesses elite athleticism to go with his excellent size (6’5, 248) and everyone knows Phillip Rivers likes to utilize his tight ends in the passing game. With Larry drawing deep sideline coverage, Cook will get chances to run up the seam or sit down underneath a cover two and should be a main focus of my offense, and we won’t be afraid to flex him out to the wing as a de facto WR to take advantage of one-on-ones on the outside.
I still plan on getting an in-line, blocking tight end to pair him with in two tight end sets, but Cook’s ability to play inline or around the formation gives my offensive coordinator a multitude of options.
Round 10, Pick 318: Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle
Adams is a freak of nature at 6’7, 323 pounds, and will man the ride side of my line for the next five to seven years. He’s a bit of a project based on potential but after a disastrous Combine that helped his stock fall from the first-round into the second-round, he impressed in limited action for the Steelers in 2012. As his technique improves with some experience under his belt, I felt that Adams would make a perfect book-end on the right side of my line to pair with LT Tyrone Smith. My line will be young, but talented with a ton of upside, and there’s no one better in a muddied pocket than Phillip Rivers. Rivers will have to ride out a few inconsistencies in pass protection early but keep in mind that I’m building continuity at both tackle spots with two high-upside talented players. Also importantly, Adams is strong in the run game and that will alleviate some pressure on Rivers and allow Charles to do his thing, bouncing runs outside and downfield.
Round 11, Pick 321: Thomas DeCoud, Safety
It pains me a bit to have waited this long to draft a safety because, though I may be in the minority for this one, I feel it’s a highly underrated position in terms of importance. Regardless, I feel that I got a very good, experienced player in Thomas DeCoud and I was impressed with his play in Seattle’s Playoff loss to the Falcons this year. He’s instinctual and savvy, as evidenced by his 6 picks and 9 passes defensed in 2012, and is a force in run support as well. He’s got nice length at 6’2, 210 pounds and has the versatility to play free safety or on the strong side of the field.
Round 12, Pick 380: Mikel Leshoure, Running Back
Round 13, Pick 383: Denarius Moore, Wide Receiver
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