I'll go ahead and throw a mini-disclaimer in here by saying that this could pretty much apply to every team out there, but that's not the objective here.
I've alluded to this in a few of my recent long winded comments, but this lockout really stinks. Not only does it mean no football, but it means that the team can't have any contact with the players, and we can't delve into free agency. In comparison, we signed Dunta Robinson back on March 6th of 2010. Yeah, it's hard to believe, isn't it?
That's important because of the draft strategies I've been talking about lately. Not all of you agree with it, which is perfectly fine with me, but I'm going to do my best to explain it in a little bit more detail here in the hopes that you'll understand where I'm coming from. Communication in this world is very important, after all.
Join me after the jump and I'll explain the method to my madness.
I haven't researched every team individually, as that would take forever, but I can tell you the lockout really screwed us up. I can't say whether we were more affected by it than other teams, but it sure feels like it.
Three potential free agent starting O-linemen, a potential free agent RB (Snelling), a free agent 3rd and a half linebacker, AND no idea if/when free agency will happen? Yeah, this has the makings of a disaster.
I've gone on record as saying we need to try and address every major need in the draft because we can't address what we don't get until free agency, though I've kept my focus fairly offensive. In 2009, we drafted almost exclusively on defense. Only Garrett Reynolds wasn't a defensive player, and only William Middleton isn't on the team from that draft. (That's incredible, if you ask me.)
It's certainly plausible to think we could draft almost exclusively offensively in this draft, but as to when and where we strike on defense will be very important.
The coaching staff is going to have to gauge just how badly we need a pass rushing end. If they determine it to be our biggest need, I have no doubt they'll select one at 27.
In my opinion, selecting a defensive end at 27 says that they know something about our offensive line that we don't, be it by way of knowing who is/isn't coming back or whether the backups are truly capable of starting. The only other position I see being mocked to us for the most part is OL, and that has usually come in the form of Carimi.
The opposite could also be said. If we select an OL at 27, that suggests to me that they believe the pass rush isn't an immediate need and will upgrade it later in the draft, if at all. Perhaps they feel that the defensive linemen we already have will have improved enough to be disruptive.
If we sit around and start drafting linemen in the first two rounds, we're going to miss out on players like Cobb, Jernigan, and Young, whom are all receivers who could really help their prospective teams. From then on, not only are we playing catch-up as far as trying to address things like a speed back and a speed receiver, but we're also raising the chance that we draft someone who's a total dud. Yes, I know Dimitroff's drafting tendencies are excellent, but there's always that chance.
That's why I think we're going offensive skill position early and often. I don't think we'll draft Torrey Smith or Kyle Rudolph at 27. Smith would probably be worth it, in my opinion, but I've seen some good things from other TE we can get later that would make me stray away from Rudolph, at least at pick 27.
The wild card in all this is free agency. We don't know for sure whether Clabo is going to be staying or leaving. Same goes for Dahl and Blalock. The same also goes for Snelling and Nicholas. In fact, we don't even know how RFA/UFA will work under the new CBA, which means this draft is going to have to be very broad and extremely accurate. We'll have a chance to load up on some potential picks late (those multiple late round picks are going to come in handy this year. I'm looking at you, Vidal Hazelton) but exactly what Dimitroff will do with them, I have no clue. It would be fun to discuss draft strategy with him.
We also don't know how free agency will work for people we want to bring in. Yes, Dimitroff likes to make one big splash per year, but we have no idea how that's going to work. Ray Edwards, Sidney Rice, Charles Johnson, and maybe even Lance Moore would all be nice pickups, but if we don't draft those positions in the assumption that we'll pick up a better player at that position in free agency, and then we don't pick one up in free agency, we're not doing ourselves any favors.
I realize our greatest needs may lie in a different order, but if we draft based on an in-the-trenches need again this year, we could be left watching one of those receivers/speed backs do for another team what they could've done for us. And with this team oh-so-close to having a Super Bowl caliber offense, I don't think we should pass that up.