Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Post-Draft NFL Lineup Rankings

Monday, May 06, 2013



9. Atlanta Falcons

QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Steven Jackson*
FB: Bradie Ewing
WR: Julio Jones
WR: Roddy White
TE: Tony Gonzalez
LT: Sam Baker
LG: Justin Blalock
C: Peter Konz
RG: Garrett Reynolds
RT: Lamar Holmes

Offensive Overview: An in-flux line will be Atlanta's biggest question mark entering camp. The skill-player corps is truly elite as Ryan and Jones return from career-best years while ageless White and Gonzalez enter their age-32 and 37 seasons still playing at very high levels. Although Jackson's yards-per-carry averages and touchdown totals were largely pedestrian in recent years with the Rams, he's never played in an offense as high powered as this. S-Jax adds physicality and burst to a Falcons backfield that lacked the latter entirely in 2012. It's no surprise predecessor Michael Turner has generated zero free-agent interest. To say he was running on fumes would be generous. Line play is a potential roadblock, but if the Falcons get even serviceable run and pass blocking their offense can be as good as any. They can now beat defenses in a variety of ways.

RE: Osi Umenyiora*
LE: Kroy Biermann
DT: Jonathan Babineaux
DT: Corey Peters
MLB: Akeem Dent
WLB: Sean Weatherspoon
SLB: Stephen Nicholas
LCB: Asante Samuel
RCB: Desmond Trufant*
FS: Thomas DeCoud
SS: William Moore

Defensive Overview: The 2012 Falcons ranked eighth in offense and 24th in defense. The former has improved but the latter could continue to be Atlanta's Achilles' heel. Umenyiora was a worthwhile addition, but represents a pass-rush downgrade from outgoing John Abraham. If Abraham is willing, GM Thomas Dimitroff would be smart to strongly consider begging him back to book end Osi. The rest of the Falcons' front seven is mediocre, and will rely on Mike Nolan's scheming to put pressure on quarterbacks. Samuel is still going strong at age 32 and Atlanta's safety play is among the finest in football, but they're putting an awful lot on Trufant's plate. As a right cornerback in the NFC South, he will regularly draw Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, and Marques Colston in pass coverage. Samuel never moves off his left corner island.

10. Indianapolis Colts

QB: Andrew Luck
RB: Vick Ballard
WR: Reggie Wayne
WR: T.Y. Hilton
TE: Dwayne Allen
TE: Coby Fleener
LT: Anthony Castonzo
LG: Hugh Thornton*
C: Samson Satele
RG: Donald Thomas*
RT: Gosder Cherilus*

Offensive Overview: GM Ryan Grigson attacked Luck's line in free agency and the draft, continuing to assemble one of the NFL's top young offenses. At 6-foot-3, 320 with 34-inch arms, Thornton is a plug-and-play left guard out of Illinois. Thomas and Cherilus shore up a right side that regrettably trotted out Mike McGlynn, Jeff Linkenbach, and Winston Justice last season. It's a good sign for Indy's long-term outlook that Grigson showed such urgency to upgrade after identifying those liabilities. Under new coordinator Pep Hamilton, the Colts will play West Coast offense with regular two-tight end packages. Hilton will be the field stretcher while Wayne relies on crisp route running to get open on the first and second levels. Luck is a lock to be more efficient in terms of completion rate and passer rating in Hamilton's system. The Colts' offensive weak spot is still tailback, where Ballard can get what's blocked and pass protect but does not create on his own.

LE: Cory Redding
RE: Ricky Jean-Francois*
NT: Josh Chapman
ILB: Jerrell Freeman
ILB: Kavell Conner
OLB: Robert Mathis
OLB: Bjoern Werner*
RCB: Vontae Davis
LCB: Greg Toler*
FS: Antoine Bethea
SS: LaRon Landry*

Defensive Overview: Defense was the Colts' 2012 downfall, ranking 26th in yards allowed and 29th versus the run. Most memorably -- and most embarrassingly -- Indy was shredded for 232 yards and three touchdowns by Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight on 35 carries (6.63 YPC) in a Week 6 loss to the lowly Jets. Greene is now a backup in Tennessee, while McKnight is a third- or fourth-stringer in New York. Grigson upgraded his defense's physicality by signing Landry and Jean-Francois, and a competitive bookend for Davis in underrated Toler. Big things are expected of 2012 fifth-round pick Josh Chapman, an early-round talent who fell in the draft due to college injuries. He's healthy now. Although not quite elite, Chuck Pagano's pass rush should improve with first-rounder Werner playing opposite Mathis, and Erik Walden working in as a rotational rusher. This defense is not going to be great, but should be quite a bit better than last year's.

11. New York Giants

QB: Eli Manning
RB: David Wilson
FB: Henry Hynoski
WR: Hakeem Nicks
WR: Victor Cruz
TE: Brandon Myers*
LT: Will Beatty
LG: Justin Pugh*
C: David Baas
RG: Chris Snee
RT: James Brewer

Offensive Overview: It's also possible first-rounder Pugh winds up at right tackle with Kevin Boothe at left guard. The starters will be sorted out in camp, but New York's offensive line looks deeper than it's ever been during coach Tom Coughlin's tenure. Understandably so due to his explosive and physical running ability, the Giants are putting great faith in 2012 first-rounder Wilson to be their new bellcow back, letting Ahmad Bradshaw wallow in free agency and adding only seventh-round flier Michael Cox in the draft. While Wilson upgrades New York's big-play potential, Nicks' scoped left knee and Cruz's contract stalemate are the two biggest concerns for this offense. Cruz is likely to cave, but the G-Men need a healthy Nicks to execute Kevin Gilbride's vertical passing attack. As Gilbride's X-iso receiver, Nicks is the most critical player in the system.

LE: Justin Tuck
RE: Jason Pierre-Paul
DT: Linval Joseph
DT: Cullen Jenkins*
MLB: Mark Herzlich
WLB: Jacquian Williams
SLB: Keith Rivers
LCB: Corey Webster
RCB: Prince Amukamara
FS: Stevie Brown
SS: Antrel Rolle

Defensive Overview: Giants coordinator Perry Fewell is lucky to still have a job after his unit's ranking plummeted to 31st in 2012, ahead of only the historically porous Saints. The G-Men ranked sixth in total defense the year before. In fairness to Fewell, many veteran starters fell off a cliff simultaneously. Unfortunately for Fewell as it pertains to 2013, the Giants are counting on several (Tuck, Webster, Mathias Kiwanuka) for bounce-back years. Draft picks used on second-round tackle Johnathan Hankins and third-round end Damontre Moore infuse talented youth onto the second-team defense, but the first string appears no better than above average on paper. All three linebacker positions are concerning. Left and slot cornerback should be open to competition.

12. Houston Texans

QB: Matt Schaub
RB: Arian Foster
FB: Greg Jones*
WR: Andre Johnson
WR: DeAndre Hopkins*
TE: Owen Daniels
LT: Duane Brown
LG: Wade Smith
C: Chris Myers
RG: Ben Jones
RT: Derek Newton

Offensive Overview: The offensive skill-player corps looks solidified with Hopkins added at Z receiver. The Texans still have major question marks on the right side of their line, where run blocking was a serious 2012 problem. Newton is recovering from patellar tendon surgery, and third-rounder Brennan Williams would almost certainly be stretched as a rookie starter. Although Houston has stockpiled competent depth in Ben Tate and UDFA steals Cierre Wood and Ray Graham, Foster's mounting workloads are an increasing concern. No NFL player has touched the ball more over the past three seasons. That's going to catch up to Foster at some point, probably sooner rather than later. Schaub is 32 years old and showing signs of decline. Johnson isn't, but he's 32 too with a closing window. All in all, this is a middling to slightly above-average offense.

LE: J.J. Watt
RE: Antonio Smith
NT: Earl Mitchell
ILB: Brian Cushing
ILB: Darryl Sharpton
OLB: Whitney Mercilus
OLB: Brooks Reed
LCB: Johnathan Joseph
RCB: Kareem Jackson
FS: Ed Reed*
SS: Danieal Manning

Defensive Overview: Internally, the Texans fumed when Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome leapfrogged them to select Arthur Brown with the 56th pick. Houston GM Rick Smith settled for third safety D.J. Swearinger at No. 57. Defense remains this club's strong suit with All-World Watt as the anchor, and Pro Bowlers Cushing and Joseph back healthy. The Texans will experience no slippage replacing Connor Barwin with Mercilus and Reed. Overrated and ultimately overpaid, Barwin had generated just three sacks across his previous 21 games. Reed and Manning are going on 35 and 31 respectively, but can form a rangy, ballhawking safety duo assuming Reed's surgically repaired hip cooperates. If not, rookie Swearinger will be forced into a starting role. Sharpton and Mitchell can be serviceable if average starters. This defense lacks glaring liabilities.

13. New Orleans Saints

QB: Drew Brees
RB: Darren Sproles
WR: Marques Colston
WR: Lance Moore
WR: Joe Morgan
TE: Jimmy Graham
LT: Charles Brown
LG: Ben Grubbs
C: Brian De La Puente
RG: Jahri Evans
RT: Zach Strief

Offensive Overview: New Orleans' biggest camp battle will take place at left tackle, where the Saints aren't sold on 2010 second-rounder Brown and rookie Terron Armstead will compete. In the past, the Saints have gotten away with average left tackle play due to Brees' lightning-quick decision making and release. This offense should be as explosive as ever with Sean Payton back from his Bounty Scandal suspension. Perhaps an even bigger plus will be Graham's return at full strength, after ankle and wrist injuries contributed to last year's career-worst 15 drops. Sproles also missed three games with a fluke in-practice hand injury. As Payton intends to pursue offensive balance, the Saints may lean on Mark Ingram more. Ingram quietly racked up 468 yards and four touchdowns on 109 carries (4.29 YPC) over last season's final nine games. Ingram has been a disappointment thus far in his career, but he's not remotely the bust some have portrayed.

LE: Akiem Hicks
RE: Cameron Jordan
NT: Brodrick Bunkley
ILB: Curtis Lofton
ILB: Jonathan Vilma
OLB: Victor Butler*
OLB: Junior Galette
LCB: Jabari Greer
RCB: Keenan Lewis*
FS: Kenny Vaccaro*
SS: Malcolm Jenkins

Defensive Overview: Transitioning from Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 to Rob Ryan's 3-4, the Saints have jobs to sort out at every defensive level. Jordan and Hicks are probable starters, but not necessarily at the positions they're projected here. Declining Vilma will be pushed hard by two-down thumper David Hawthorne. Will Smith and Martez Wilson will challenge Butler and Galette for rush 'backer snaps. 31-year-old Greer will have nothing handed to him by Ryan, and the safety spots are subject to change. Vaccaro is a good enough cover guy to play slot corner in the nickel, with Jenkins and Roman Harper back deep. The Saints' defense was abominable under Spags, due largely to an inability to pressure quarterbacks. Fixing the pass rush must be Ryan's priority.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB: Josh Freeman
RB: Doug Martin
FB: Brian Leonard
WR: Vincent Jackson
WR: Mike Williams
TE: Luke Stocker
LT: Donald Penn
LG: Carl Nicks
C: Jeremy Zuttah
RG: Davin Joseph
RT: Demar Dotson

Offensive Overview: Martin's rookie season was impressive by any measure, but keep in mind he lost road-grader Joseph to a torn left patellar tendon in the preseason and All-Pro Nicks to a year-ending toe injury in Week 7. They're both back healthy now, reenergizing what could be a top-two or three power run game. With a potentially dominant ground attack and receivers who win vertically in V-Jax and Williams, the Buccaneers would rank higher on this list if Freeman's ball placement wasn't so scattershot and his performance so maddeningly inconsistent. He has a tendency lose confidence and tank for long stretches. The Bucs' management and coaching staff have acknowledged their long-term concerns with Freeman by letting him enter a contract year without an extension and drafting big-armed NC State passer Mike Glennon with the No. 73 pick. If Tampa Bay is going to take a step forward offensively, it will have to be because of Freeman.

RE: Adrian Clayborn
LE: Da'Quan Bowers
DT: Gerald McCoy
DT: Akeem Spence*
MLB: Mason Foster
WLB: Lavonte David
SLB: Jonathan Casillas*
LCB: Darrelle Revis*
RCB: Eric Wright
FS: Dashon Goldson*
SS: Mark Barron

Defensive Overview: I went through every NFL roster and offseason addition and concluded the Bucs have the most improved defense in football. The Revis acquisition will mask a suspect front four because of the Island Factor, where Revis covers No. 1 receivers one-on-one while Wright, Johnthan Banks, or Leonard Johnson -- whoever wins the right corner job -- draws opposing No. 2s with constant safety help. This will result in increased sacks, give coordinator Bill Sheridan more blitz options, and decrease enemy quarterbacks' efficiency. The Buccaneers aren't quite elite yet -- question marks abound at defensive end, nose tackle, strong-side linebacker, and the other cornerback position -- but Revis alone can morph this defense from bad to quite good.

15. Minnesota Vikings

QB: Christian Ponder
RB: Adrian Peterson
FB: Jerome Felton
WR: Greg Jennings*
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson*
TE: Kyle Rudolph
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Charlie Johnson
C: John Sullivan
RG: Brandon Fusco
RT: Phil Loadholt

Offensive Overview: Patterson won't be handed the X receiver job, but I penciled in the rookie because it would be a major disappointment if he didn't wind up playing more snaps than incumbent Jerome Simpson. Peterson, Felton, Jennings, Rudolph, Kalil, Sullivan, and Loadholt are all quality to elite NFL starters and the calling cards of Minnesota's offense. In order for the Vikings to crack the top 10-12, they'll need Ponder to join that group. With all five offensive line starters back and gobs of talent added to the receiver corps, Ponder's supporting cast isn't an excuse. Another concern is Minnesota's shaky depth. They're a Ponder injury from starting Matt Cassel, and a Peterson injury from Toby Gerhart. Either would be a crippling blow to this unit.

RE: Jared Allen
LE: Brian Robison
DT: Kevin Williams
DT: Sharrif Floyd*
MLB: Erin Henderson
SLB: Chad Greenway
WLB: Gerald Hodges*
LCB: Chris Cook
RCB: Xavier Rhodes*
FS: Harrison Smith
SS: Jamarca Sanford

Defensive Overview: The additions of Floyd and DE Lawrence Jackson give Minnesota impressive up-front depth and rotation possibilities that could keep the starters fresh and make all of the members more effective. The Vikings boast one of the NFL's top front fours. Floyd is written in as a starter here, but he and Williams actually play the same three-technique position. Letroy Guion may continue to start on the nose, but I anticipate Floyd and Williams playing the most snaps. The big camp battle will take place at middle linebacker, where Henderson is preparing to play but may give way to Audie Cole if Cole has a big August. The Vikings look imposing on the backend. Cook (6'2/212) and Rhodes (6'2/210) are massive, long-armed cornerbacks, and neither is speed deficient. As a rookie, Smith flashed upside to emerge as one of the better safeties in the league.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Le'Veon Bell*
WR: Antonio Brown
WR: Emmanuel Sanders
WR: Jerricho Cotchery
TE: Heath Miller
LT: Marcus Gilbert
LG: Ramon Foster
C: Maurkice Pouncey
RG: David DeCastro
RT: Mike Adams

Offensive Overview: The pass-catching lineup here is conservatively projected. There's every chance speedster rookie Markus Wheaton unseats aging veteran Cotchery at third receiver, adding a spark to Big Ben's weaponry. Todd Haley's offense is famously easy for newcomers to learn, so Wheaton could catch on fast. Miller is unlikely to be season-ready coming off multiple knee ligament tears. His backups include David Paulson, ex-fullback David Johnson, and blocker Matt Spaeth. So the Steelers are likely to open the year without a receiving threat at tight end. Although Bell's run talent is average, he is excellent in the passing game as both a blocker and checkdown receiver. He'll upgrade on Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. A sleeper for 100-plus catches, Brown will likely be the featured player in Haley's pass-first, completion-friendly attack. The line looks young and talented but inexperienced. Gilbert is playing left tackle for the first time. DeCastro is coming off an injury-plagued rookie year. Adams was highly inconsistent in 2012.

LE: Ziggy Hood
RE: Brett Keisel
NT: Steve McLendon
ILB: Lawrence Timmons
ILB: Larry Foote
OLB: LaMarr Woodley
OLB: Jarvis Jones*
RCB: Ike Taylor
LCB: Cortez Allen
FS: Ryan Clark
SS: Troy Polamalu

Defensive Overview: Pittsburgh's shortage of proven offensive playmakers is a much bigger concern than Dick LeBeau's defense. Even with the departures of James Harrison, Casey Hampton, and Keenan Lewis, this will be a stout run-defending group that keeps opposing pass games contained. Timmons plays fast and physical in the middle and has developed into the heart and soul of Pittsburgh's front seven. Woodley is coming off a career-worst year, but can combine with Jones to give the Steelers persistent outside-edge rush on par with any 3-4 team in the league. Taylor remains a borderline shutdown corner at age 33 -- just ask A.J. Green -- while Allen can be every bit as good as Lewis on the left side. Safety starters Clark, 33, and Polamalu, 32, are aging, but Pittsburgh can now back them up with impressive rookie Shamarko Thomas.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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