AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26: Courtney Upshaw #41 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after a defensive stop against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Continue our grand journey into the anatomy of a rebuild after the jump.Round One: Draft the best pass rusher still available, my money's on Courtney Upshaw.
Really you could go a bunch of different ways with this one, the 20th pick is neither an early nor late one, so it's hard to say who will be left on the board at that point. Especially consider that we aren't even at the combine yet, so those numbers should play a role in the selections of other teams as well. In any case, Derrick Morgan's return is no sure thing, and even if it were, you can never have too many talented pass rushers on the roster. The Colts want to draft Andrew Luck? Fine, draft someone to put him on his back every play for the next ten years.
I've seen Upshaw's stock rising like crazy lately, but I think it'll probably settle down a bit by the time we reach April. Upshaw is a good player, perhaps even a great one, but he's got some flaws in his game; he's not a top ten pick. That said, I really like the cut of this kid's jib. He's getting it done against the best in the business at Alabama and he'd be a great value at 20 overall. He would make a nice addition pair on the outside in the 4-3 scheme and his skills as a down lineman make him a pretty comparable prospect to Akeem Ayers. Quinton Coples is another name I've heard tossed around a bit. He really scares me because of the huge drop his stock has taken after a sub-par senior season that really didn't live up to the expectations. Show me Nick Perry here if Upshaw's already been picked. Coples I could definitely live with, but I'd feel safer with Upshaw. A lot safer.
Round Two: Draft Michael Brewtster.
I know that safety is a pretty big need given the likely exit of Michael Griffin and Chris Hope, but center is absolutely crucial and Eugene Amano is definitely not the answer there. Besides, I'm really not thrilled with the safeties in this years' draft outside of Mark Barron, and he'd probably be going too high at 20 overall. Brewster would likely start from day one and, given that Peter Konz will almost certainly be off the board by this point, is probably the best center prospect left. He's very well rounded as a mauling run blocker and a heady pass blocker, but what really stands out is his intelligence. Perhaps the most important man on the field, Brewtster's smarts make him very well suited for any team looking to upgrade their interior line.
If you've noticed that I still haven't taken a guard or center in round one yet, it's not because the pick isn't "flashy" enough for me, it's simply that good value at the position can and is found with mid-round picks. Brewster could easily push Amano for his job, maybe enough to get him to move back to his old spot at guard, hopefully killing two birds with one stone.
Free Agent Pickup: Steal Brandon Carr from KC.
If we're at the point where Cortland Finnegan's contract negotiations fall though, (I expect they shouldn't) it will be time to start searching for a replacement. Jason McCourty has proven himself, and to a lesser extent so has Alterraun Verner, but a veteran to hold down Finnegan's spot would be a big plus moving forward. Even though he's pegged by many as a number two corner, Carr will be a hot commodity this year and that might mean overpaying, especially given the absurd contract the division-rival Raiders gave to Stanford Routt.
In any case, I think having a reliable stable of corners is an under-appreciated aspect of today's game. If stopping the pass really is at a premium, why not sack up and spend some green trying to make sure your team is good at it? If this were 2013 and McCourty and Verner were ready to enter their primes and had proven that they could handle the responsibilities of taking the opponents' top two receivers, I'd say forget Carr, but at this point in their careers, regression is almost as likely as progression, so it's best to air on the side of caution.
Really not as big of a fan of this plan as I was of the last one. It feels very conservative. Then again, maybe that's what we need right now. One more conservative offseason before it comes time to load up.