We've already tackled the top of the standings in our week-long season preview. Now it's time to turn our attention to the bottom. Which team will win the Matt Barkley sweepstakes and pick first in the 2013 NFL Draft?
Brutal division will sink the Vikings, but Barkley's not the automatic No. 1 pickThe Minnesota Vikings, for reasons that include -- but aren't limited to -- playing in the redwood forest that is the NFC North. At this point, Minnesota is miles behind Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit, and is in the process of rebuilding a roster that's paying the price for the all-in mentality of the Brett Favre era. I'll need to see more to be convinced Christian Ponder's the answer. Not to mention, Adrian Peterson is coming off ACL surgery; it will take a bit for him to get his burst and timing back. The offensive line still needs work and the defense isn't there yet.
But beyond all that, the point should be made that Matt Barkley isn't the slam-dunk No. 1 pick yet. Like Robert Griffin III, he's a great prospect, but he's not Andrew Luck, who was considered by many evaluators to be a once-in-a-generation talent. By April, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma's Landry Jones or other prospects could well be in the discussion, based on what happens during the college season.
That said, one exec I talked to the other day did compare Barkley to Troy Aikman, and if he leads USC to a big year and delivers like most expect, it could put a team like the Vikings in an interesting situation. There's been such a glut of quarterbacks drafted early of late that sooner or later some team will be faced with the dilemma of whether or not to take another dip into the QB pool with a top pick.
Just try to find a win on the Browns' schedule -- seriously, give it a crack!The Cleveland Browns are the worst team in the NFL. Look at their schedule. Try to find a win.
Their rookie running back has undergone two knee surgeries before taking a single snap for the franchise. The receiving corps is paper thin. Joe Haden got thrown out of practice and could be facing a suspension. They have a new owner and sweeping changes are coming.
Quarterback-starved Cardinals could finally get their manI believe it will be the Arizona Cardinals. At this point, I have concerns with their QB position. The loss of OT Levi Brown will hurt them a lot. On defense, I have concerns about their outside pass-rushing ability.
If the Cards can get Matt Barkley, it would be good for the franchise. I know no one wants to think about having the first pick in the draft before the season even begins, but the reality is someone will be getting it!
Chargers will draft first ... and could replace Rivers with Barkley"With the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft ... the San Diego Chargers select Matt Barkley."
If the Colts can get rid of Peyton Manning, the Chargers can get rid of Philip Rivers. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Rivers was drafted to replace Drew Brees.
The first half of the season will be challenging without wide receiver Vincent Brown, who broke his ankle and is hoping to return after Week 8. Running back Ryan Matthews could miss some time, too. The AFC West is a more competitive conference than in prior years, and San Diego is on a sharp decline with no major roster upgrades from last season. Consider the Chargers on the clock.
Kevin Kolb or John Skelton in Arizona? Hello, Barkley!Eleven of the league's 32 teams have used a first- or second-round pick on a signal-caller in the past two drafts, cutting down the number of franchises looking for, well, a franchise quarterback.
Arizona doesn't have great expectations for the 2012 season, though, and the battle between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton for the Cardinals' starting quarterback job is not likely to produce a long-term answer at the position.
Wouldn't it be fitting for the Rams to announce a move to L.A. and then take Barkley?When the Minnesota Vikings are careening out of control and things look bleak, there will be calls for Adrian Peterson to be "Sat for Matt." The Vikings will have the first crack at taking Matt Barkley next April, but could the New York Jets also be in the mix for the vaunted quarterback, too? You would have to wonder if the Jets would want to take a risk on another quarterback from USC.
When the Washington Redskins post the league's third-worst record, the St. Louis FC will inherit the third pick of the draft (remember: RG3 trade) and could have the option of taking Barkley. And wouldn't it be fitting for the team to announce a move to Los Angeles and end up with the USC signal-caller under center.
Browns vs. Vikings: A season-long battle for ultimate ineptitude!It will be a season-long battle between Cleveland and Minnesota. But take a look at the Browns' schedule. How many games can you mark "win" next to? They play Indianapolis and Washington, but you can only put those games in the "maybe" column. Outside of that, how many games can they win?
At least Minnesota can make plays with Percy Harvin and hope Adrian Peterson eventually returns to form late in the season -- which could equal some December wins.
I don't see that for the Browns. Get the Weeden/Barkley QB derby ready!