Mocking Justin Blackmon’s possible draft destinations
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said during a national teleconference last week that there’s no way Justin Blackmon slips past the Jaguars’ No. 7 overall pick in this year’s draft.
But where’s the best fit for JB?
Here’s how I would rank the teams picking second through seventh–we already know the Colts will take Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick–based on several factors ranging from the quarterback to the city itself. These rankings could change depending on what pieces teams add or lose during free agency, and I’ll revisit them once we get closer to the draft on April 26.
1. St. Louis (No. 2 pick)
My colleague Jenni Carlson was the first to throw the Bradford2Blackmon combination my way while Blackmon was having a ridiculous performance in the Fiesta Bowl. I know Cowboy fans probably aren’t huge fans of Bradford because of his Sooner roots, but that’s got a nice ring to it, right?
Bradford struggled in a 2011 season where he was hampered by a sprained ankle. He ranked 31st in the NFL in completion percentage (53.5) and 29th in quarterback rating (70.5) and threw just six touchdown passes in 10 games.
But it is borderline silly to write Bradford off already, especially considering he was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and nearly led the Rams to the NFC West title in 2010.
Bradford and the Rams need a lot of help. No Ram played in this season’s Pro Bowl. Enough said.
That’s why it’s an attractive option for the Rams to trade down, especially with a team looking to snag Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second pick.
If the Rams stay at No. 2, adding USC left tackle Matt Kalil is the other logical choice. Bradford was sacked 36 times in 10 games last season.
Steven Jackson is still a solid running back, gaining 1,145 yards last season. But the Rams are thin at wide receiver and could use an exciting playmaker. That, of course, is why Blackmon is one of their targets.
As noted above, the Rams nearly won a woeful NFC West in 2010 but haven’t made the playoffs since 2004.
And after this past season’s 2-14 debacle, coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Bill Devaney were replaced with Jeff Fisher and Les Snead, respectively. Fisher is a proven coach and a solid hire.
Playing for the Rams would keep Blackmon in Middle America, but St. Louis is absolutely a baseball town. Having Blackmon in blue and gold, along with Bradford, would make the Rams quite popular in Oklahoma, though.
2. Tampa Bay (No. 5 pick)
What the heck happened to Josh Freeman? One season after throwing just six interceptions, he tossed 22 as the Buccaneers’ record plummeted from 10-6 in 2010 to 5-11 in 2011.
Still, Freeman is a promising young quarterback with a strong arm and great mobility.
The Bucs have some young pieces in place in running back LaGarrette Blount and wide receiver Mike Williams. Offensive lineman Davin Joseph was a Pro Bowler this season.
Tampa Bay has the cap room to add a No. 1 receiver through free agency — perhaps someone like Dwayne Bowe or Vincent Jackson. If that happens, drafting Blackmon won’t be necessary.
Raheem Morris was fired as head coach after the Bucs ended the season on a 10-game losing streak and was replaced with former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. Tampa Bay last made the playoffs in 2007.
While college football tends to dominate the state, Florida football fans are certainly knowledgeable and passionate. The beaches and sunshine in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area would be a nice perk.
3. Minnesota (No. 3 pick)
The Vikings spent the No. 12 overall pick in last year’s draft on Christian Ponder, and in 2011 he looked a lot like a rookie quarterback. He ranked 29th in the NFL in completion percentage (54.3) and 30th in quarterback rating (70.1).
It’s obviously too early to call Ponder a bust, but he needs to develop. A normal offseason, rather than a lockout-shortened one, should help that.
Minnesota has some dynamic weapons in Adrian Peterson (970 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns before the knee injury) and Percy Harvin (967 receiving yards, 345 rushing yards).
But, like the Rams, the Vikings could use a left tackle. That makes Kalil an option with the No. 3 pick, especially if the Rams trade out of the No. 2 pick with a team that takes RG3.
The Vikings last made the playoffs in 2009, when Brett Favre was slinging the ball around. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last week that the city of Minneapolis and the Vikings have reached a preliminary agreement on a deal that will divide the costs to — finally — build a new stadium.
Minneapolis-St. Paul was rated the No. 14 sports town in America by the Sporting News but is known to have fair-weathered Vikings fans.
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