From this point forward it becomes increasingly clear how the playoff chase began to heat up and which teams came up tragically short. Some of them can feel encouraged about their NFL future, others feel dejected after yet another failure. Which ones will learn the lesson and continue building?
#16 – Washington Redskins – Cameron Erving – OT – Florida State
Unfortunately a lot of signs point to the Washington Redskins suffering a slight regression in 2013. Not the leach of which is the unusual feud going on between Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan. Regardless, they can’t let it distract them from continue to build for success. That means protecting the quarterback from future injuries. Washington didn’t do much this past off-season to improve their right tackle spot. Cameron Erving is a large, athletic man from Florida State who can handle speed rushers but still has the power to pave the road for running backs. If he can refine his technique there is no question he’s a nice pickup.
#17 – Miami Dolphins – Cyril Richardson – OG – Baylor
A small run on offensive linemen continue. One of the more troubling problems the Miami Dolphins haven’t solved is blocking for Ryan Tannehill. It’s already begun to show up in the preseason. Whether Tannehill makes it to 2014 healthy or not, head coach Joe Philbin can’t hope to run his offense without better talent up front. Cyril Richardson is a massive lineman with nimble feet and long arms. This will make it tough for defenders to get past him up the middle and thus allow quarterbacks to step up into the pocket with more regularity. That can only help the Fins.
#18 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Murphy – DE – Stanford
Improvement is a nice idea but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that knows they should have reached the playoffs by last season. So to come so close in 2013 must seem discouraging. Still, head coach Greg Schiano doesn’t shrink from his mission. As he did in April, he goes right after his biggest weakness. By multiple reports it figures to be his pass rush. After losing Michael Bennett the Bucs didn’t make a serious effort to replace him. So they correct that mistake by taking Trent Murphy. The Stanford defensive end had 10 sacks in 2012 and though classified as a hybrid outside linebacker, he is big enough to play defensive end in the Buccaneers 4-3 scheme. His explosion and high motor would be a welcome addition.
#19 – St. Louis Rams – Gabe Jackson – OG – Mississippi State
There is a huge temptation for Jeff Fisher to take a quarterback here. Though by draft position Sam Bradford technically improved from 2012, the St. Louis Rams are getting too good to the point where they can’t keep accepting no playoffs, regardless of how tough their division is. In this instance the team decides to give him one last shot, and looks to help out by beefing up his solid but sometimes injured offensive front. Gabe Jackson is a punishing run blocker for Mississippi State but falls behind Richardson because of his lagging pass protection. Another year in college helps and the Rams continue to feed their young offense with more talent.
#20 – Dallas Cowboys – Anthony Johnson – DT – LSU
Having invested the first chunk of their 2013 draft in the offense, the Dallas Cowboys run the risk of it backfiring as their defense shifts from a 3-4 to 4-3 under Monte Kiffin. Jerry Jones might have an itch by this point, after just missing the playoffs again, to finally draft a young quarterback but by now all the first rounders are picked. So instead he looks to fortify his defensive front. Anthony Johnson is a big, powerful tackle for LSU. He routinely showed the ability to occupy blockers and plug up the run, allowing the pass rushers to feast on opposing quarterbacks. Such players aren’t flashy, but are very necessary to an NFL defense like Kiffin’s.