So far in our football series leading up to the season, we’ve discussed Phil Steele’s Top 25 college football teams, and I shared some quick fantasy football picks with you last week. This week we’ll cover the AFC, some quick blurbs about each team’s offseason and how I think the season might shake out.
I referenced Foxsports.com for all of the free agent signings (accurate as of July 4), Backseatfan.com for all the trades (accurate as of June 19), and fftoolbox.com for the draft picks. I did my best to keep all the meaningful additions up to date as they happened, please forgive me if I missed some for your team. My team ratings after the jump.
Signed: QB Marc Bulger, K Shayne Graham, DB Walt Harris and DE Cory Redding.
Re-signed WR Derrick Mason.
Acquired via trade: WR Anquan Boldin.
Drafted: 2.11 Kindle, Sergio, DE, Texas, 2.25 Cody, Terrence, DT, Alabama, 3.06 Dickson, Ed, TE, Oregon, 4.16 Pitta, Dennis, TE, BYU, 5.25 Reed, David, WR, Utah, 5.26 Jones, Art, DT, Syracuse, 6.25 Harewood, Ramon, OT, Morehouse
– My Thoughts: The perennially best defense gets younger, with some great defensive players early in the draft, and then grabbed a few offensive guys to help the other side of the ball. The big deal in this offseason though is Anquan Boldin. Giving young QB Joe Flacco a target like that, somebody that will go up and get the ball no matter what, will make a huge difference in this offense. Oh, and watch out for Ray Rice, he might lead the league in rushing this year. With Big Ben being suspended for the beginning of the season, and Cincy a bit up in the air, I like the Ravens to win the division.
Signed: LB Andra Davis, DE Dwan Edwards, OT Cornell Green, WR Chad Jackson, TE Michael Matthews, RB Chad Simpson and LB Reggie Torbor.
Re-signed: DBBryan Scott, LB Jon Corto, LB Keith Ellison, DB Cary Harris, WR Felton Huggins, TE Joe Klopfenstein, DB Jonathan Stupar, S George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.
Drafted: 1.09 Spiller, C.J., RB, Clemson, 2.09 Troup, Torell, DT, UCF, 3.08 Carrington, Alex, DE, Arkansas St., 4.09 Easley, Marcus, WR, Connecticut, 5.09 Wang, Ed, OT, Virginia Tech, 6.09 Moats, Arthur, DE, James Madison, 6.23 Batten, Danny, DE, South Dakota St., 7.02 Brown, Levi, QB, Troy, 7.09 Calloway, Kyle, OT, Iowa
– My Thoughts: Umm, yeah. One of the leagues most boring teams found a way to get worse. Sure, Spiller will be a home run hitter, and might make some big plays every now and again, but this team is going to really struggle, especially in that division. After a 6-10 season last year, I think they’ll be hard pressed to win that many games this season.
Signed: WR Terrell Owens, WR Antonio Bryant, WR Chris Davis, WR Matt Jones, K Mike Nugent and K Dave Rayner.
Re-signed: LB Abdul Hodge, S Kyries Hebert, TE Dan Coats, C Kyle Cook, CB David Jones, LB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, DT Tank Johnson, TE Reggie Kelly, G Nate Livings, G Evan Mathis, QB Jordan Palmer, OT Dennis Roland, DE Frostee Rucker, RG Bobbie Williams and S Roy Williams.
Drafted: 1.21 Gresham, Jermaine, TE, Oklahoma, 2.22 Dunlap, Carlos, DE, Florida, 3.20 Shipley, Jordan, WR, Texas, 3.32 Ghee, Brandon, CB, Wake Forest, 4.22 Atkins, Geno, DT, Georgia, 4.33 Muckelroy, Roddrick, LB, Texas, 5.21 Hudson, Otis, OG, Eastern Illinois, 6.22 Briscoe, Dezmon, WR, Kansas, 7.21 Stephens, Reggie, OL, Iowa St.
– My Thoughts: Not a bad offseason for Cincy. TO and Antonio Bryant will hopefully produce, unlike WR Laveranues Coles (last year’s signing that was a huge disaster). However, with Cedric Benson getting into trouble again this offseason, Cincy might fall back into that ‘big talent with no production’ that they were for the previous few seasons. All of that said, I think they find a way to get into the playoffs this year.
Signed: QB Jake Delhomme, LB Scott Fujita, OL Eric Ghiaciuc, OLTony Pashos and TE Benjamin Watson.
Re-signed: LB Marcus Benard, LB Blake Costanzo, WR-KR Josh Cribbs, TE Greg Estandia, RB Chris Jennings, S Ray Ventrone, and G Billy Yates.
Acquired via trade: CB Sheldon Brown, LB Chris Gocong, RB Peyton Hillis, and QB Seneca Wallace.
Drafted: 1.07 Haden, Joe, CB, Florida, 2.06 Ward, T.J., FS, Oregon, 2.27 Hardesty, Montario, RB, Tennessee, 3.21 McCoy, Colt, QB, Texas, 3.28 Lauvao, Shawn, OT, Arizona St., 5.29 Asante, Larry, SS, Nebraska, 6.08 Mitchell, Carlton, WR, South Florida, 6.17 Geathers, Clifton, DE, South Carolina
– My Thoughts: Ahh, the Browns, those lovable losers. You just have to feel bad for the city of Cleveland (so much for that thought of LeBron playing for the Browns, Dolphins maybe?). I like what this team is doing. I really think Mangini can be a good NFL head coach, so I’m glad they decided to hold onto him. Bringing in Holmgren was also a good move, although I don’t think he’s the player/personnel evaluating genius they make him out to be (like Parcells in Miami). Some solid draft picks, and finally giving up on Quinn will make for an improved team, but they still need a lot of work and will find themselves again in last place.
Signed: RB J.J. Arrington, RB LenDale White, LB Akin Ayodele, DL Justin Bannan,DEJarvis Green, LB Nick Greisen, G Russ Hochstein, CB Nate Jones, WR Brandon Lloyd, DL Jamal Williams and OT Maurice Williams.
Re-signed: DL Le Kevin Smith.
Acquired via trade: QB Brady Quinn and LB Joe Mays.
Drafted: 1.22 Thomas, Demaryius, WR, Georgia Tech, 1.25 Tebow, Tim, QB, Florida, 2.13 Beadles, Zane, OT, Utah, 3.16 Walton, J.D., C, Baylor, 3.23 Decker, Eric, WR, Minnesota, 5.06 Cox, Perrish, CB, Oklahoma St., 6.14 Olsen, Eric, C, Notre Dame, 7.18 Thompson, Syd’quan, CB, California, 7.25 Kirlew, Jammie, DE, Indiana
– My Thoughts: Denver had one of the youngest, most exciting offenses in the league just a few short years ago. Then they decided to get rid of Shanahan and brought in Boy Wonder McDaniels… and watched him completely tear apart their team. They’ve got Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, and Tim Tebow as their options at QB, not a good start by any stretch of the imagination, especially considering they lost one of the most physically dominating WRs (Brandon Marshall) in the league. And seriously, 3 draft picks for Tim Tebow? I’m not sure he’s even NFL caliber, let alone 1st round talent. Let alone trading 3 picks to pick him in the 1st round. Good luck recovering from that decision, setting your franchise back 5-7 years. Oh, and let me know how it feels to finish worse than the Raiders this year.
Signed: TE Michael Gaines, K Neil Rackers and C Wade Smith.
Re-signed: P Matt Turk and WR Kevin Walter. Agreed to terms with LB Danny Clark.
Drafted: 1.20 Jackson, Kareem, CB, Alabama, 2.26 Tate, Ben, RB, Auburn, 3.17 Mitchell, Earl, DT, Arizona, 4.04 Sharpton, Darryl, LB, Miami, 4.20 Graham, Garrett, TE, Wisconsin, 5.13 McManis, Sherrick, CB, Northwestern, 6.18 Smith, Shelley, OG, Colorado St., 6.28 Holliday, Trindon, KR, LSU, 7.20 Dickerson, Dorin, TE, Pittsburgh
– My Thoughts: I think the Texas could’ve done more with their team this offseason. When you play in the same division as the Colts, as long as Peyton Manning is playing, you’ll be fighting for 2nd place. To succeed in that mission, you need to really upgrade your team each year. They will have to really hit on all cylinders to make it to the playoffs this year. I’m interested to see how they use RB Ben Tate though.
Signed: OL Andy Alleman.
Re-signed: LB Gary Brackett.
Drafted: 1.31 Hughes, Jerry, DE, TCU, 2.31 Angerer, Pat, LB, Iowa, 3.30 Thomas, Kevin, CB, Southern Cal, 4.31 McClendon, Jacques, OG, Tennessee, 5.31 Eldridge, Brody, TE, Oklahoma, 7.31 Mathews, Ricardo, DT, Cincinnati, 7.33 Conner, Kavell, LB, Clemson, 7.39 Fisher, Ray, DB, Indiana
– My Thoughts: The Colts are masters at finding late gems, and developing talent. DE Jerry Huges is the only guy in this list that really jumps out at me, but I know we’ll hear quite a bit out of this group within 3 years. I don’t think this team will be close to perfect like last season, but they’ll win their division, and probably get a bye in the playoffs.
Signed: DE Aaron Kampman and WR Kassim Osgood.
Re-signed: DE Reggie Hayward.
Acquired via trade: LB Kirk Morrison.
Drafted: 1.10 Alualu, Tyson, DE, California, 3.10 Smith, D’Anthony, DT, Louisiana Tech, 5.12 Hart, Larry, DE, Central Arkansas, 5.22 Lane, Austen, DE, Murray St., 6.11 Karim, Deji, RB, Southern Illinois, 6.34 McGee, Scotty, KR, James Madison
– My Thoughts: The Jags had a really bad draft. Didn’t have many picks, so they really needed to hit each one out of the park. Instead, they make one of the biggest reaches of the first round. I really like the Kampman and Morrison additions, but this offense has to do something. Maurice Jones-Drew can’t do it all for you guys. I expect them to finish last, and probably make some big changes next offseason, which is sad, I really like their coach, Jack Del Rio.
Kansas City Chiefs
Signed: WR Terrance Copper, LB Derrick Johnson, RB Thomas Jones, G Ryan Lilja, OL Ikechuku Ndukwe, DT Shaun Smith, WR Jerheme Urban and CCasey Wiegmann.
Re-signed: WR Chris Chambers.
Drafted: 1.05 Berry, Eric, SS, Tennessee, 2.04 McCluster, Dexter, RB, Mississippi, 2.18 Arenas, Javier, CB, Alabama, 3.04 Asamoah, Jon, OG, Illinois, 3.29 Moeaki, Tony, TE, Iowa, 5.05 Lewis, Kendrick, FS, Mississippi, 5.11 Sheffield, Cameron, DE, Troy
– My Thoughts: I really like the team the Chiefs are putting together. Starting in former coach Herman Edwards last year, and continuing through this season, they’ve been rebuilding through the draft, and they’ve done a great job. They’ve also put together a very good front office and coaching staff. We’ll soon find out if New England was so successful because of Bill Belichick or if his assistants had anything to do with it. SS Eric Berry will be a stud for the next decade, and I’m really excited to see how they decide to utilize McCluster. I don’t think the Chiefs will pass San Diego this season, but if the Chargers don’t get moving, KC will be up for the division crown in the very near future.
Signed: LB Karlos Dansby and G Richie Incognito.
Re-signed: NTJason Ferguson and QB Chad Pennington.
Acquired via trade: WR Brandon Marshall and LB Tim Dobbins.
Drafted: 1.28 Odrick, Jared, DT, Penn St., 2.08 Misi, Koa, DE, Utah, 3.09 Jerry, John, OT, Mississippi, 4.21 Edds, A.J., LB, Iowa, 5.14 Carroll, Nolan, CB, Maryland, 5.32 Jones, Reshad, SS, Georgia, 7.05 McCoy, Chris, DL, Middle Tennessee St., 7.45 Spitler, Austin, LB, Ohio St.
– My Thoughts: Getting Karlos Dansby will be huge for their defense. Adding WR Brandon Marshall, in any other division in the league would’ve solidified a division championship, but in this division, they still have to hope things bounce their way if they want to come out on top. Marshall might have to visit Revis island twice this year (depends how long this holdout lasts), so expect his numbers to drop. Nobody is talking about the addition of Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. Miami coach Tony Sparano favors a 3-4 defense, and Nolan converted the Broncos last year to that scheme. Denver improved to seventh in the NFL in defense from 29th in 2008, but the team faded badly and missed the playoffs, but they were a pretty old team. I think Miami might find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time, but just barely.
New England Patriots
Signed: TE Alge Crumpler, WR Torry Holt, DT Damione Lewis, LB Marques Murrell and DT Gerard Warren.
Re-signed: LB Tully Banta-Cain, CBLeigh Bodden, RB Kevin Faulk, OL Stephen Neal and NT Vince Wilfork.
Drafted: 1.27 McCourty, Devin, CB, Rutgers, 2.10 Gronkowski, Rob, TE, Arizona, 2.21 Cunningham, Jermaine, DE, Florida, 2.30 Spikes, Brandon, LB, Florida, 3.26 Price, Taylor, WR, Ohio, 4.15 Hernandez, Aaron, TE, Florida, 5.19 Mesko, Zoltan, P, Michigan, 6.36 Larsen, Ted, OL, North Carolina St., 7.01 Welch, Thomas, OL, Vanderbilt, 7.40 Deaderick, Brandon, DE, Alabama, 7.41 Weston, Kade, DT, Georgia, 7.43 Robinson, Zac, QB, Oklahoma St.
– My Thoughts: New England did what New England does. Traded high picks for more picks in the quality rounds 2-4 and for next year’s draft picks, they acquired Carolina’s 2nd round pick in 2011. Alot of really solid football players in their draft, and some quality veterans to round out their roster. I still feel their season will come down to how healthy Wes Welker is for the majority of the year. I think New England finds their way into the playoffs, but I’m not sure they get a bye this season.
New York Jets
Signed: LB Lance Laury, S Brodney Pool, LB Jason Taylor, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and DE Rodrique Wright.
Re-signed: TE Ben Hartsock and FB Tony Richardson.
Acquired via trade: WR Santonio Holmes and CB Antonio Cromartie.
Drafted: 1.29 Wilson, Kyle, CB, Boise St., 2.29 Ducasse, Vlad, OT, Massachusetts, 4.14 McKnight, Joe, RB, Southern Cal, 5.08 Conner, John, RB, Kentucky
– My Thoughts: The Jets were able to steal WR Santonio Holmes from the Steelers after he got suspended for the beginning of the season. If they can keep him out of trouble, that should be a big boost to their offense. RB Shonn Greene will be huge this year getting the bulk of the carries, LT will be there to teach him, and to provide leadership come playoff time. As long as they can get this contract situation figured out, having the best CB in the league in Revis makes for and interesting situation with Cromartie now on the other side. Although he hasn’t done much lately, at the beginning of his career he was one of the most dynamic defensive backs in football. Not necessarily a shut down corner like Revis, but he could go up and get the ball, and was always a threat to take it back all the way. If he can get anywhere close to that status again, this could be a scary good team, but in the end, comes down to QB Mark Sanchez and how he handles defenses in his sophomore season.
Signed: RB Michael Bennett, QB Kyle Boller, RB Rock Cartwright, DT John Henderson and G Daniel Loper.
Re-signed: OL Khalif Barnes, DT William Joseph, OT Langston Walker and LB Sam Williams.
Acquired via trade: LB Kamerion Wimbley and QB Jason Campbell.
Drafted: 1.08 McClain, Rolando, LB, Alabama, 2.12 Houston, Lamarr, DT, Texas, 3.05 Veldheer, Jared, OT, Hillsdale, 4.08 Campbell, Bruce, OT, Maryland, 4.10 Ford, Jacoby, WR, Clemson, 5.07 McFadden, Walter, DB, Auburn, 6.21 Goethel, Travis, LB, Arizona St., 7.08 Ware, Jeremy, DB, Michigan St., 7.44 Brown, Stevie, DB, Michigan
– My Thoughts: What’s this? The Broncos throw away their draft trying to get Tebow and the Raiders have a good draft? McClain was far and away the best LB in this rookie class, they got rid of QB JaMarcus Russell and brought in QB Jason Campbell, which I think will be a step up. I’m in the minority here, but I think Campbell can be a solid QB in this league, he’s nearly averaged a new offensive coordinator for every season he’s played in the league. Nobody can be productive in those circumstances. He not an all-star by any means, but I think he could QB a playoff caliber team. It’s really hard to say that about the Raiders, but with another offseason like this (or 2) they’ll be right in the mix.
Signed: S Will Allen, WR Arnaz Battle, LB Larry Foote, WRAntwaan Randle El and OL Jonathan Scott.
Re-signed: QB Charlie Batch, S Ryan Clarkand DE Nick Eason.
Acquired via trade: CB Bryant McFadden.
Drafted: 1.18 Pouncey, Maurkice, C, Florida, 2.20 Worilds, Jason, DE, Virginia Tech, 3.18 Sanders, Emmanuel, WR, Southern Methodist, 4.18 Gibson, Thaddeus, DE, Ohio St., 5.20 Scott, Chris, OT, Tennessee, 5.33 Butler, Crezdon, CB, Clemson, 5.35 Sylvester, Stevenson, LB, Utah, 6.19 Dwyer, Jonathan, RB, Georgia Tech, 6.26 Brown, Antonio, WR, Central Michigan, 7.35 Worthington, Doug, DT, Ohio St.
– My Thoughts: The Steelers are one of the most consistent organizations in the league. They just extended the deal for head coach Mike Tomlin (one of my favorite coaches in the league) and they are always proficient in identifying and developing talent through the draft instead of bringing guys in via free agency. It’s going to be hard to bounce back from not having Big Ben to start out the year though. Depending how they fare through that early bumpy road will go a long way in determining how they finish the year. They could be a playoff team, they could finish sub-500. It’s going to be close, but I’d put my money on them being in the playoff hunt at season’s end.
San Diego Chargers
Signed: TE Randy McMichael, WR Josh Reed, CB Donald Strickland, OT Tra Thomas and CB Nathan Vasher.
Re-signed: DE Alfonso Boone, DT Ian Scott and TE Kris Wilson.
Drafted: 1.12 Mathews, Ryan, RB, Fresno St., 3.15 Butler, Donald, LB, Washington, 4.12 Stuckey, Darrell, FS, Kansas, 5.15 Thomas, Cam, DT, North Carolina, 5.37 Crompton, Jonathan, QB, Tennessee, 7.28 Epps, Dedrick, TE, Miami
– My Thoughts: In case anybody doubted it, this is now QB Philip Rivers’ team, and his alone because LT is gone. I think RB Ryan Mathews can step right into the role that LT has played over the last few seasons, and he might even do it a bit better because LT has dealt with so many injuries lately. Watch out for Mathews to be in Rookie Of The Year contention at seasons end, as long as he can stay healthy, he really couldn’t have ended up in any better of a situation. TE Antonio Gates got his long term deal wrapped up, but there are a number of veterans waiting to get theirs, that might end up being a big problem in the locker room, and carry out onto the field. This is such a bad division though, I think they could nearly sleepwalk their way to the playoffs, but they need to watch out for the Chiefs and Raiders.
Signed: DE Jason Babin, CB Tye Hill, CB Rod Hood, QB Chris Simms and LB Will Witherspoon.
Re-signed: LS Ken Amato and DE Dave Ball.
Drafted: 1.16 Morgan, Derrick, DE, Georgia Tech, 3.13 Williams, Damian, WR, Southern Cal, 3.33 Curran, Rennie, LB, Georgia, 4.06 Verner, Alterraun, CB, UCLA, 5.17 Johnson, Robert, DB, Utah, 6.07 Smith, Rusty, QB, Florida Atlantic, 6.38 Rolle, Myron, SS, Florida St., 7.15 Mariani, Marc, WR, Montana, 7.34 Howard, David, DT, Brown
– My Thoughts: This is another interesting team. Playing in this division, wins are going to be hard to come by, but it always helps to have the leagues most dynamic RB. Not sure if Johnson can eclipse 2000 yards again this season, but the Titans might need him to if they want to stay in playoff contention. There’s probably 4 or 5 teams that will be fighting for those wild cards, and the Titans should find themselves in that mix. Ultimately though, it will come down to their QB play. If only they could find something at QB to pair with Chris Johnson…
And that’s it boys and girls, your AFC quick hits. Next week we’ll do the same for the NFC.