The NFL draft is nearly upon us and that means two things. The first thing is we get to see what direction teams are going in terms of improving themselves for 2013, and the second thing is the fact that football is almost here. Sure technically the season doesn’t start for a good four months, but for us football die hards, the draft is the real start of the season. We begin to see how all the teams are going to look like, and of course the speculation and predictions ensue after that. Normally, everybody starts to put out ‘power rankings’ and Super Bowl predictions after the draft, but I am going to change it up a little bit and give a ‘Pre Draft Top 5′. Here they are.
The Falcons were seven yards away from being in the Super Bowl in 2012, and so far this offseason they have done nothing but get better. The move I really liked was they dumped running back Michael Turner in exchange for Steven Jackson. I am a big fan of Jackson, and I think if you combine him with their two stud receivers, their offense is going to be in the top five in the NFL. Matt Ryan is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and his two main targets, Roddy White and Julio Jones are both top ten receivers in the NFL. Last year their offense was not very balanced, but Turner is now gone and I think Jackson is going to be one of the top rushers in the league in 2013. The only thing that concerns me with this team is their defense still is not very good. Their secondary needs help and that is where I anticipate they will go in the draft.
Most people would have the Broncos higher than four at this point, but this is as high as I am going to put them. My problem with this team is the fact that their defense is pretty bad, and they have no running game whatsoever. This showed up as a problem in last years playoff loss to the Ravens. Joe Flacco tore apart that “vaunted” defense and led them to that victory. They also could not run the football in that game, and put way too much pressure on Peyton Manning’s shoulders. He is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, but he can’t do it all alone. With that being said, this passing attack is going to be special to watch. They have Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside, with Wes Welker on the inside. Tell me how teams are going to be able to cover that. It is going to be near impossible. I think that Peyton is going to once again have a record breaking year, and he may very well win MVP. I believe that the Broncos will again be near the top of the AFC, but because of their lack of balance offensively, and their bad defense they will fall short.
3. New England Patriots
The Patriots may not look like that elite team we see every year right now, but I think the Pats will be very good this year. Their offense is going to be fine, they have the best quarterback in the NFL in Tom Brady, they have a very good running game behind Steven Ridley, and I have confidence that Gronk and Hernandez will be back in time for the opener. They still have some work to do at receiver, as Danny Amendola is the only solid option they have right now but I am confident that Belichick will fix it. The main reason why I like this Pats team is because of that defense. They have made some great acquisitions this offseason to boost the talent on that side of the ball. They resigned cornerback Aqib Talib to a one year deal, they signed safety Adrian Wilson to a three year deal and they agreed to a two year deal with defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. All three of those signings make the Pats defense significantly better. Kelly brings a solid pass rushing presence to the middle of the defense, Wilson brings a physical presence at safety that fits perfectly opposite Devin McCourty, and Talib can be a lock down corner on the outside. You put all of these thing together and I think you are looking at a top ten Patriots defense in 2013, and when you put that with a Tom Brady led offense, watch out.
The only reason I have Seattle at number two instead of number one, is because of their quarterback. Russell Wilson is a great young quarterback, but he is heading into his second year in the league. This is where a lot of rookie quarterback sensations really stink up the joint. Cam Newton is the perfect example, and although I think Wilson is much better than Newton, I just have a feeling that Wilson may have a sophomore slump. That is the only thing that is holding back the Seahawks, because they are absolutely loaded everywhere else. Their defense is going to abuse opposing offenses with their physical secondary, and their pass rush will be much improved with the signings of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. They also filled their one need on offense at receiver with their acquisition of Percy Harvin from the Vikings. Just looking at this roster is scary, and if Wilson can play at the level he played at as a rookie, then their is nothing stopping this team from going to the Super Bowl.
1. San Francisco 49ers
They have the defense, they have the offense, so therefore the 49ers are the pre-draft number one in my opinion. We know what their defense can do, it is an old school, punch you in the face defense that has the ability to stifle any offense. But what is different now, is the fact that the 49ers have the offense to go with it. With Kaepernick under center on offense, they may have the most versatile offense in the league. As Patriot fans know all too well, Kaepernick can beat you with his arm and his leg, and if you combine that with all the weapons he has, the 49ers offense is very tough to defend. This 49ers team is ultra talented, and barring any big injuries I think we are headed for a Niners-Seahawks NFC Championship game in January.