|Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press|
|Christian Ponder and the Vikings had a tough go of it in 2012 and could find the sledding even rougher in 2013.|
Yes, it's impossibly early in the process. But with the 2012 NFL Draft now in the rearview, attention already has begun to shift to 2013. Last season, the Indianapolis Colts came out of nowhere (thanks to Mr. Manning's neck injury) to earn the No. 1 pick. Who is the early "favorite" to earn the first selection next season?
Browns will edge out Vikings for No. 1 spotThere are two front-runners at the moment and they were partners in a top-four trade this draft: The Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns.
In honor of this early projection of dubiousness, I give the edge to Cleveland to be picking first overall in 2013 because it doesn't know if Colt McCoy or rookie Brandon Weeden will be the starting quarterback. At least the Vikings know Christian Ponder is their guy. The rest of the roster remains rather devoid of playmakers, although Trent Richardson and wideout Greg Little in his second season could add a little hot sauce to the otherwise unseasoned dish the Browns are offering up.
In addition, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens aren't going anywhere in the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals, if they can avoid the typical bottoming out after a good season that usually transpires, are on the come up.
The system has caught up to the ColtsI know the percentages are against it a bit, but I am going with the Colts.
They have a long way to go in transitioning from the blueprint they had before on offense and defense. When you are as successful as the Colts had been, it is hard to keep drafting late and stay on top. The system caught up with them. They will need a couple of years to complete the changeover.
Also, as good as Andrew Luck will be, he is still a rookie. Rookies have trouble with turnovers.
With the first pick in the 2013 draft, the Vikings select...Let me be the first to extend my condolences to Vikings fans for the atrocious 2012 season their team is going to endure.
GM Rick Spielman is being praised in some corners for taking LT Matt Kalil, but I think he should've taken a corner -- namely, Morris Claiborne. Sure, protecting the quarterback's blindside is important, but providing premium protection for the thoroughly mediocre Christian Ponder is like installing a $50,000 car alarm in your used Kia Sorrento. Instead, the Vikes should've addressed their longstanding need for a shutdown corner, especially considering the team's six annual games against Megatron, Brandon Marshall and Greg Jennings. Speaking of those division foes, the NFC North may be the toughest in the whole NFL this season.
Here's the good part, Vikings fans: About one year from the time you read this, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will step to the podium in Radio City Music Hall and say, "With the first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select ... Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC." Hmm, I wonder if Ponder will give up his No. 7 jersey to the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner?
Rebuilding Colts are the clear answerThe easiest answer is the right one. The Colts are the favorites to be picking No. 1 again in 2013 because they are the rare NFL team that has punted on an entire season.
In every statement owner Jim Irsay makes, the Colts have made it clear they are "rebuilding." They cut a number of valuable veterans off a team that was already the worst in the league. They are drastically changing their offensive and defensive schemes. They have a first-time head coach and will rely on a boatload of rookies on offense.
The Colts will be good again with Andrew Luck at the helm. It may even come in the 2013 regular season. For one year, however, Luck will take his lumps, just like Peyton Manning once did.
Vikings could get No. 1 pick and a new homeTeams who I thought would be in the running a month ago have been helped by the draft (Browns, Rams, Colts) and the schedule (Dolphins). So that leaves Minnesota as the team that is the front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, where it could be another big-time QB.
Who knows when Adrian Peterson is going to be ready to play in 2012? But that doesn't matter, because with him last year, the Vikings won three games. Percy Harvin was the best WR in the game the last six weeks of 2011. Toby Gerhart was terrific in relief of Peterson. And still, three wins. Christian Ponder is going to have to make huge leaps this season to make sure he still has a job in 2013, but I'm not convinced he can do it. They'll be 0-6 in their division because everyone else is loaded.
If they spiral early, Minnesota won't rush Adrian Peterson back and the season will take a "lost" turn where the team will be mailing it in by November. And then we'll see if Minnesota still wants a football team. This will be a bad season to be bad for Vikings fans who want to keep their team from moving West like the Lakers.