Apr 6, 2011
Today is April 6th, and it is a big day in the NFL. Today is the day the injunction hearing in front of Judge Susan Nelson in Minnesota commences, so we should finally get some news related to this labor strife in the coming days. Granted, we won’t get a resolution, but we’ll get news as soon as this week.
I’ve grown very weary of following all this, but lately I haven’t been all that concerned. I may be misguided, but I’m still 99% convinced there will be a season. To me it’s just a question of how much more of the off-season will be interrupted. Right now, it’s 99% there will be no free agency before the draft, so things have been interrupted already, and significantly so. My initial prediction around the first of the year was that this thing will be settled in mid-to-late May, and that could happen if the players win this first round of the courtroom battle and also win the appeal, which could come down 4-6 weeks after the initial ruling. We’ll see if I’m correct, and no one knows how this thing will play out, but with the off-season already being adversely affected, my focus is on which teams will be able to handle the lost time and which teams won’t. I did a post almost two months ago about how continuity will be a huge factor for all 32 teams this year, but I felt the need today to cover all 32 teams and break down how equipped they are to handle what still could be an extremely ugly and harmful off-season.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cards are likely screwed no matter what, but they’re definitely hurt by this lockout because they would have been a good bet to grab a veteran QB in free agency by now. Were it not for the lockout, for example, they could own the rights to Marc Bulger by now. So that hurts. But otherwise, there is at least continuity on the offensive side of the ball. One more note: WR Steve Breaston could be an UFA, and that’s a key story for this team.
Atlanta Falcons – Continuity is king right now in Atlanta, so they are well-equipped to handle this lockout. It doesn’t help, but I’d argue they’re at an advantage over half the league because there are a plethora of teams with all kinds of problems that are seriously compounded by this lockout. If they can grab a speedy receiver in this month’s draft, and possibly a complementary back, they’ll be in good shape.
Baltimore Ravens – There is definitely good continuity here, so they should be okay. But the loss of QB coach Jim Zorn is a slight concern. But if they can get a speed receiver in the draft and get a couple of months of workouts in before the season, they should be fine.
Buffalo Bills – They’re a bad team, and bad teams need all the time they can get to get their stuff together, so this lockout is not good for the Bills. But unless they draft a QB very early (very possible), they’re actually in decent shape, as there is continuity here. By the way, I’m rooting for QB Colin Kaepernick to end up here (more on that in today’s Pre-Draft Rookie Report).
Carolina Panthers – There are a lot of problems here, obviously. They’re breaking in a new coaching staff, may draft a new QB #1 overall, and have their team’s franchise back staring at unrestricted free agency. Oh, and they could potentially trade WR Steve Smith and start from scratch at that position. This would be a situation to avoid in 2011, other than stud RB Jonathan Stewart, who admittedly will have his work cut out for him.
Chicago Bears – These guys are actually in pretty good shape, thanks to the continuity they will have on their side. They may improve in their second year in Mike Martz’ offense. I’m hoping for an offensive lineman in the 1st round, and then a sleeper WR like Vincent Brown in the 3rd or 4th round. If they can upgrade the line and receiving corps, these guys should be in solid shape.
Cincinnati Bengals – They’re an absolute mess. They’re rolling with a new offensive coordinator and offense, might not have their franchise QB (and they have no replacement), and their starting RB will be an unrestricted free agent. They may also have to rely on Chad Ochocinco, who is a serious front-runner. Things probably won’t go well, so that means #85 will have a bad season. Also, they’re the Bengals. I’m intrigued by wideout Jerome Simpson, but he’s still very unproven. I would think TE Jermaine Gresham needs to be the foundation of this passing game.
Cleveland Browns – They have a new head coach and a new offense, so they have issues. But there is some continuity with Mike Holmgren running the show, and the new offense is perfect for QB Colt McCoy, plus they should have a good running game. This lockout will stunt their growth, but they could still be okay.
Dallas Cowboys – They’re actually in great shape, with lots of continuity. They have some issues on the OL, but I expect them to address that in the draft, likely in the first round. Otherwise, QB Tony Romo is reportedly good to go, and they have solid depth at the skill positions. The biggest concern I have is the rocky off-season WR Dez Bryant has had, but that could all be nothing.
Denver Broncos – They have some major issues. It’s a new coaching staff, a new scheme on both sides of the ball, and also questionable talent throughout their roster. They also have an unsettled QB situation, if not a controversy. I will be avoiding this team this year.
Detroit Lions – It figures there would be a lockout this year, since the Lions are looking good and poised to take the next step and challenge for a playoff spot. Still, things could be a lot worse for this team. Thanks to Twitter, we’ve been able to learn that QB Mathew Stafford’s been throwing the ball and he’s feeling good. Obviously, the durability issue is huge, but I love Stafford’s potential this year. While he hasn’t had the needed time on the field to work through his (relatively insignificant) issues, he’s certainly progressed simply being in the NFL for parts of three years now. He will be THE guy to get as an upside backup in 2011. I’d like to see them get a bigger back in the draft, but I’m also high on RB Jahvid Best, who is healthy now and has regained his blazing speed.
Green Bay Packers – There are few concerns here, obviously. No team in the NFC and perhaps the entire NFL is better-suited to handle this lockout than the Packers.
Houston Texans – This team has been a bit of a nightmare in NFL terms, but the fact is there aren’t many serious issues to be concerned about from a fantasy perspective. There is continuity here.
Indianapolis Colts – They do have some issues, like on the OL and with their WRs corps, but comparatively speaking, they’re in great shape because of, like, Peyton Manning and stuff.
Jacksonville Jaguars – The good news is our guy Maurice Jones-Drew said this week that he’s ahead of schedule on his knee rehab. Of course, he is. Otherwise, they are in decent shape, all things considered, because there is some continuity. But WR Mike Sims-Walker appears to be as good as gone, so their receiving corps is hurting.
Kansas City Chiefs – Things could be a lot worse. They did lose OC Charlie Weiss, and I do think that’s a key loss because I’m not a big Todd Haley fan, and Haley will call the shots. Once he started to in 2010, their offense kind of sputtered. But all things considered, they have all the key pieces in place offensively – other than a viable #2 WR, which they can get in the draft.
Miami Dolphins – They are working in a new OC, so the lockout will hurt them, plus they will likely have a new featured back this year, possibly rookie Mark Ingram. So while the lockout won’t be devastating for them, it’s probably going to hurt as much or more than most teams in the league.
Minnesota Vikings – I’m hoping Minnesota-based Judge Susan Nelson isn’t a Viking fan because no Viking fan should be excited about this upcoming season. This team has needs all over the place and no QB. They can’t trade for one right now, and they can’t sign one via free agency, so this is a big problem. They’ll draft one, for sure, but whoever that is won’t be ready to play this year. They may also eventually lose WR Sidney Rice. Their OL is mediocre, their D-line is looking thin, and their safety play is shaky. The Vikes had their chance in 2009, and they choked, so it’s back to the drawing board.
New England Patriots – If you’re envious of the Patriots, prepare to cringe. They are in fantastic shape. Leave it to the Pats to be loaded with draft picks in a year in which the draft will be more important than ever.
New Orleans Saints – They’re in good shape, and they even signed some guys before the lockout (RB Pierre Thomas, DT Shaun Rodgers). No worries here.
New York Giants – Things aren’t rosy here, but things could be a lot worse, and there is fine continuity. But there are some free agency questions that need to be answered, and we’re very concerned about WR Steve Smith’s recovery from his knee injury.
New York Jets – They have some issues to address, but overall there should still be fine continuity here. But they are being held hostage a little with no free agency, since their two starting wideouts could be UFAs.
Oakland Raiders – They certainly have some issues, but I’m actually okay with the Raiders, thanks to some continuity with new HC Hue Jackson, and QB Jason Campbell. The OL needs help and they have to find a go-to wideout, but as long as free agents Zach Miller and Michael Bush are back, they are in decent enough shape all things considered.
Philadelphia Eagles – It’s a shame for them that they can’t seriously entertain pre-draft offers for QB Kevin Kolb, and I am concerned that QB Michael Vick will lose some valuable off-season time (he regressed later in the year in 2010), but overall, as usual, there is excellent continuity here, and they should be able to weather the lockout storm in fine fashion.
Pittsburgh Steelers – When you’re one of the top-3 franchises in the league year-in and year-out, you can handle a work stoppage, and the Steelers are certainly set up to be just fine. If anything, they’ll have an even greater advantage over their opponents than usual.
San Diego Chargers – They have some free agency issues at receiver, and they lost their defensive coordinator, but for the most part, they should be able to withstand the lockout with no serious issues. But it would be nice for RB Ryan Mathews to get a full off-season in to work on the mental aspects of the game.
Seattle Seahawks – They have a new OC, and they’ll be reverting to a West Coast system, so the lockout won’t help that cause. They may also be drafting a QB who has a good chance to play in 2011, and any time lost in terms of OTAs and the like will hurt. This is not a very good football team, and the lockout certainly won’t help.
San Francisco 49ers – While they have some talent to work with, the bottom line is it’s a new regime in SF, with a new system, and the issue is compounded because they don’t really have a QB (and Alex Smith isn’t even under contract). I have it on good authority that they are not very high on Smith, so that’s a problem. If the lockout ends in the next 6-8 weeks, they may be able to put things together, but right now they look like one of the top-5 teams adversely affected by the lockout.
St. Louis Rams – On one hand, they have some solid continuity, but there’s no question that the transition to new OC Josh McDaniels will be tough due to the lockout. It’s a new and complex system, and when I talked to Sam Bradford the week of the Super Bowl, he was a little disappointed in having to learn a new system, but also chomping at the bit to get with McDaniels. Well, he hasn’t gotten with McDaniels. If the lockout goes deep into the summer, we’re going to have to be wary.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – They have a lot of things in place after 2010, which is good, but this is still a very young team, so they will be hurt by the lockout more than the established teams like the Packers, Saints, and Eagles. We also don’t know much about the recovery of WR Arrelious Benn (ACL).
Tennessee Titans – It’s a new coaching staff all-round, and they don’t know who their QB will be, so this is a concern. Most likely, it will be Kerry Collins to open the season, so they have a chance to pull things together relatively quickly.
Washington Redskins – As if the lockout weren’t bad enough, right now their opening day starter at QB appears to be Rex Grossman, which is scary. They also have a weak receiving corps, and don’t have a RB on their roster they can rely on. The benefits of having veteran (and the very good) Mike Shanahan is offset by this lockout.
Top-10 teams hurt by the lockout:
1. Carolina Panthers
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Denver Broncos
5. Minnesota Vikings
6. Washington Redskins
7. St. Louis Rams
8. Cleveland Browns
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Tennessee Titans
Top-10 Teams not effected by the lockout:
1. Green Bay Packers
2. New England Patriots
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. New York Jets
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. San Diego Chargers