1. Improvements at defensive tackle: We now have 2 great, young, complementary guys to develop at defensive tackle. And the bar has been so low there that anything approaching average would be a colossal improvement.
2. Overall D-line: now that we aren't fielding scrubs at DT, the play of the whole d-line should be improved. We have a chance to develop what is the most feared defensive force in football: a front 4 that is versatile and gets consistent pressure on the passer.
3. Injuries. We get pro bowl team captains back from injury this season with guys like Jon Beason and Ryan Kalil. Leadership is fun to talk about and important, but we need those guys on the field a lot this year. There respective units can't afford to lose them.
4. The young roster trending up. We have a lot of youth that has the potential to play well or has already played well. If just a few guys make an improvement, we could legitimately be a good team in this league.
1. Expectations at defensive tackle: We spent our top two picks on what are top prospects at defensive tackle. That said, the bust rate at DT is astonishing and they rarely excel as rookies. I know it sucks to say, but a healthy Ron Edwards (yeah, right) might have given us more this year than either rookie will. It takes time to add strength and technique, and it just might not come together this year.
2. Injuries: We will get good players back, but we will suffer injuries again. It just depends on where we get them. A couple blows to running back, Defensive tackle, or Defensive end? Survivable? Offensive line, Wide Receiver, or QB? Devastating. This is a factor for every team every year, and it will continue to be for us while we try to build depth in the coming years.
3. Old players trending down: Guys like Smitty and Gross have played at a high level into their mid-30's. Which is incredible. But Father Time is undefeated. We just have to hope that this year isn't THE year for them, and if it is, we are going to be in the weeds.
4. No young buck for Cam: You have to surround a young quarterback with talent, and I feel like we have, but a lot of that talent will be done by the time he's entering his prime. Lafell and Olsen are really the only receivers that will probably be with him in a few seasons. And while I think Olsen is rock solid, Lafell has flashed, good and bad, for his first three years. We need him to step up, but regardless of whether he does or not, we need more young talented guys. I feel like this is the last year we could afford to whistle through the graveyard while we set down bedrock at other positions. It has to be addressed next year, and if injuries set in with our pass catchers, we are sunk for the season.
The secondary: If this was any other team, I would openly mock this unit constantly, but because it belongs to us, I don't think it's that funny. The lack of proven talent and high level prospects is laughably bad. If they are not getting beaten quick or deep constantly, it will be because our D-line has turned into the 91 Eagles line or we got lucky and a couple guys became players. I don't even mention injuries because I'm not sure it matters. This could easily unravel our season.
We have a chance, better than any in the Cam Newton era to make the playoffs. But we are going to need luck. We have some major holes on defense and major depth issues on offense. Let's hope that we stay healthy during training camp and preseason and do something surprising like adding some veteran DBs before the season. A lot to like and a lot to cringe at, but that's the truth for most NFL teams. We just need to catch a break. . . For once.
I think these are sometimes fun to look back at later, and I know that I have endorsed a number of guys that we might pick and don't "hate" many of the prospects. That said, I do not want Cordarelle Patterson. I feel like he had virtually no production and has the highest "bust" potential.
Nice little write up, with this fun little passage:
"If Kuechly resumes the rate of development he showed as a rookie, he will supplant Patrick Willis as the best inside linebacker in football sometime around the second or third quarter of Week 1. Seriously. He’s absolutely sensational in all facets."
They seem to paint a hopeful picture overall, which is nice because they tend to be more intelligent that other sites.
I was talking on the forum yesterday, and I realized that such disparity between what we think of our own draft picks. I was talking to someone that threw out Captain Munnerlyn as a bad pick. I think Captain is a great pick because of all that he is able to do and considering the fact that we got him in the 7th round.
So I wanted to look into getting a sort of concrete evaluation process for draft picks after years after they have been made. So once a player has been in the league for a number of years, I'm looking for an across the board measureable that can be used to say a pick is a success or failure. This is where I'm sort of envious of baseball because the stats that can be used to back up an argument. But it's much more difficult in the NFL. But I think we can craft something reasonable that everybody thinks is decent.
My go to has always been games started because I believe that, relative to your draft position, if you can start a certain number of games, it justifies your pick. For first rounders I believe that threshold is 3 full seasons, or 48 starts. I don't think that any player gets that much time in a starting role unless they are somewhat competent. This criteria still has players that got multiple shots like Brady Quinn, Jamarcus Russell, and Ryan Leaf as failures. Which seems to be a good start. I think you could then go on a sliding scale by round to determine if a pick was ultimately successful, and it's a measuring stick that can be applied across the league regardless of position.
My eventual hope is to find some sort of way to evaluate the draft process and look at it across the board. See how other teams did, and finally have some common ground for evaluating what a good draft class looks like and so forth. You could have a league wide success rate for a particular draft or period of time.
So, any thoughts? I'm completely open to tweeking anything, I just ask that we not bog this down with "I hated player x" and "this person sucked at picking players". This is just about coming up with a common ground evaluation process.