The Schein Nine  

 

Teddy Bridgewater slides, Gus Bradley rises and more bold calls

Today is April 1. I don't believe in the April Fools' Day column. And remember, no matter what is tweeted today, the Seahawks aren't trading Russell Wilson to the 49ers for Colin Kaepernick.

But this annual celebration of idiocy provides the perfect opportunity to get a bit bold. Today, per the crack editorial staff at NFL.com, I take on the persona of "the April Fool." (I've been called worse -- and not just by Panthers fans.)

I only write what I believe, but today is the day I will stretch to include wild possibilities that I can see happening. Maybe I'm the April Fool ... or maybe I'm just ahead of the curve.

Without further ado, here are nine off-the-wall things that could happen in the upcoming NFL draft and 2014 season. Popular opinion be damned!

1) Teddy Bridgewater falls out of the first round.

The Louisville product has a problem, succinctly explained to me by an NFL general manager: "Bridgewater can't throw."

Yeah, I'd call that an issue.

Bridgewater bombed his pro day, a scripted workout that is concocted to benefit the quarterback. No, you don't skip on a player for throwing inaccurate, wobbly passes in a March workout. But you do skip on him when it confirms what you saw in the fall.

I'll stay consistent with what I've been saying for quite some time now: I don't believe there's a franchise quarterback in this draft. I think Johnny Manziel is the best of the bunch. And I'm not convinced, when you dive deep, that Bridgewater is a top-32 player in this class of prospects.

2) The 49ers trade up for Sammy Watkins.

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I've been thinking that the perfect destination for the former Clemson star is St. Louis, with the Rams holding the No. 2 overall pick. Sam Bradford needs a legit star receiver, and Watkins oozes that potential. That said, St. Louis has other holes, starting with the offensive line.

If Watkins slips past the Rams, wouldn't it make sense for San Francisco, armed with a plethora of picks, to move up and grab this ideal pass catcher? It's possible. I would do it. Watkins would be a game changer for the 49ers -- and by game changer, I mean he could represent the difference between "Super Bowl contender" and "Super Bowl champ."

Speaking of which ...

3) The Cardinals make a run at playing in the Arizona Super Bowl.

Am I delusional? Nuts? Or is this a visionary take?

Here's the truth: I don't know right now if the Arizona Cardinals are one of the top six teams in the NFC. But they are among the top seven. Of course, that's the difference between being a playoff team and staying home.

I feel the same way about this team as I felt in the back half of last season: If the Cardinals make the playoffs out of the tough NFC West, they'll be dangerous, what with that incredible, play-making defense. Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a stud. I loved the pickups of offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, receiver Ted Ginn and tight end John Carlson. And remember, guard Jonathan Cooper -- a 2013 first-round pick -- is coming back this year after missing his entire rookie season due to injury.

Meanwhile, general manager Steve Keim compared running back Andre Ellington to All-Pro stud Jamaal Charles on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports." I buy it. And so should you.

At last week's NFL Annual Meeting, second-year coach Bruce Arians openly talked about becoming the first host team to make the Super Bowl. That's the expectation. The only challenge? Getting into the playoffs.

But I do indeed love the Cardinals this season.

4) Michael Vick starts Week 1 for the Jets.

I wouldn't start him. Vick is the ideal veteran backup; he was a great teammate to Nick Foles in Philadelphia. Also, I believe in Geno Smith. I agree with Phil Simms' declaration on my radio show that Smith is better than any quarterback in this year's draft. Geno's biggest issue in Year 1? The lack of talent around him. And his play improved at the end of last season. But I think the odds are stacked against the second-year pro.

Vick can't stay healthy enough to start an entire season, but he can dazzle in practice and preseason. Also, Vick knows coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's offense from their days together in Philly. Can't you see Vick winning a quarterback competition in August? I think Vick might dupe the Jets into thinking he's the immediate answer. And that would be bad.

5) Adrian Peterson hits 2,000 yards -- again.

Peterson, of course, joined the 2,000-yard club in 2012, an exclusive fraternity of just seven members. Here's to him becoming the first member to double down on this illustrious achievement.

With new offensive coordinator Norv Turner now calling the plays in Minnesota -- and a history of backs being dominant under his watchful eye -- look out, folks. Matt Cassel is solid under center, and with the emerging Cordarrelle Patterson and veteran Greg Jennings (remember him?) at receiver, Minnesota is going to have a vertical passing attack that must be respected by opposing defenses. It's feasting time again for No. 28.

6) Peyton Manning hits 50 touchdown passes -- again.


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Perhaps this is Manning's final season, though he certainly is not showing any signs of slowing down, fresh off a remarkable campaign that saw him set NFL passing records for touchdowns (55) and yards (5,477). Eric Decker is a Jet, but Denver brilliantly replaced him with Emmanuel Sanders. I think it was the most underrated move of the offseason.

The Broncos are built to have another majestic, prolific regular season behind Manning and Co.

7) The Browns finish ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North.

I already praised the Browns for their offseason overhaul. They upgraded the coaching staff and front office, despite all the outrage from scores of Cleveland critics.

Yes, the Browns still have to figure out their future at the game's most important position, but they're expected to draft a quarterback in May. Regardless, one thing sticks out to me: Cleveland has a better defense than Pittsburgh. New head coach Mike Pettine will further mold and maximize the unit.

8) Gus Bradley becomes a Coach of the Year candidate.

The Jaguars don't currently have a playoff roster, but they have a winning general manager (David Caldwell) and a wonderful, energetic coach (Bradley).

I'm extremely impressed with Bradley, who's in just his second season as a head man. He will maximize the talent in Jacksonville, make the team fun to watch and even get the Jags into faux contention. Considering what this franchise has been in recent years, that kind of progress would make him COY material.

9) The Raiders resemble an NFL team.

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I bashed Oakland for a bizarre and bad start to free agency.

Since then, the Raiders have acquired receiver James Jones, quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. All represent major upgrades -- on the field and in the locker room -- at key offensive positions. (Don't pooh-pooh their cultural impact on this franchise.) And if the Raiders pluck a stud offensive tackle or Sammy Watkins with the fifth overall pick, they will have vastly improved on offense this offseason.

The Raiders can tip the apple cart and win some games in the AFC West.

No fooling.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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