Free agency's impact on draft (cont.)
7. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS -- The surprise signing of veteran 4-3 defensive end Aaron Kampman in free agency saves Jacksonville from being desperate for pass-rush help in the first round, and perhaps reaching at No. 10 for either Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan or South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Both players come with something less than consensus top-10 grades, and the last thing Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio and Co. could afford this year was a risky first-round selection (Jacksonville has no second-round choice).
With Kampman secured, Jacksonville could choose to entertain any and all trade down offers, perhaps for a team eager to take Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, if he should linger. Then again, the Jaguars could be tempted by Clausen themselves, although the win-now mentality in Jacksonville probably precludes a first-round quarterback. Dropping down into the middle of what is a very deep first round shouldn't hurt Jacksonville, which has other needs at safety and linebacker, and it might be a way to reacquire a second-round pick in the process.
8. DETROIT LIONS -- Some have read Detroit's signing of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and trade for defensive tackle Corey Williams as a clear indication the Lions are headed somewhere other than defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy with their No. 2 pick. But my sense is head coach Jim Schwartz wants one of the draft's two premier prospects (my money's on Suh) more than ever, because it would only accelerate the rebuilding of his defensive line into one of the team's strengths.
Williams is open about his eagerness to return to tackle in a 4-3 formation, the position he was productive in before his two mostly lost years playing end in Cleveland's 3-4 front. If both his and Vanden Bosch's games rebounds in Detroit, the Lions could avoid placing too much of a rookie burden on Suh, instead allowing him to play alongside a pair of veterans who would only aid his development as a playmaker.
9. BALTIMORE RAVENS -- Between signing Donte' Stallworth last month and executing the Anquan Boldin trade last week, it's a safe bet the Ravens have taken receiver off their first-round radar. That leaves cornerback and tight end as the two most likely areas of need to address at No. 25. Boise State's Kyle Wilson and Rutgers' Devin McCourty are the cornerbacks who could still be available for Baltimore, and Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham figures to be the only tight end prospect whose draft grade supports a low first-round selection.
10. HOUSTON TEXANS -- It was no surprise to see Houston lose cornerback Dunta Robinson in free agency, and it'll be no surprise to see the Texans draft someone in the first round to replace him, as Glover Quin, Jacque Reeves and Brice McCain would be the team's top three cover men if it had to play a game today. The Texans have needs at running back and defensive tackle that could also merit first-round love, but if there's a cornerback who is rated highly enough at No. 20, it would likely be Boise State's Kyle Wilson.
At running back, the prospects who make sense for Houston's draft slot are Clemson's top-rated C.J. Spiller, who'll probably never last that long, and Fresno State's fast-rising Ryan Mathews. With both the cornerback and running back crop being deep in this year's draft, the Texans can follow a best-player-available approach with their first two picks and meet two needs.
11. WASHINGTON REDSKINS -- Washington failed to reel in Packers offensive tackle Chad Clifton after he made a free-agent visit, and instead the Redskins settled for Vikings backup guard-tackle Artis Hicks, signing him to a three-year deal. But the lack of getting a frontline tackle could mean the position goes back on the front burner in the first round (if indeed it ever left).
The big question, of course, is what will No. 4 Washington do if it comes down to choosing between top-rated offensive tackle Russell Okung of Oklahoma State and whichever quarterback it has rated highest, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford or Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen? If Bradford goes first to the Rams, we can see the Redskins taking Okung. If Bradford is still there, I'm guessing the tackle issue can wait until round two.
12. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS -- New Orleans wanted to keep strongside linebacker Scott Fujita around for another year or two, but Cleveland blew him away in free agency with a three-year, $14 million deal that included $8 million guaranteed. The Saints were going to be looking long and hard at the outside linebackers in the first round anyway -- because they were seeking an upgrade over weakside starter Scott Shanle -- but now the position becomes all the more pressing. At No. 32, New Orleans wouldn't mind a bit to see TCU outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, who had a great combine showing, waiting for it as the first round comes to a close.
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