The process of building a championship team reminds me of playing a hard-fought game of dominoes in the park.
A player must be able to react quickly to the moves executed on the table and make an effective counter to stay one step ahead of the opponent. And in football, general managers must be able to gauge the free-agent market and the draft pool to determine which transactions are needed to field a championship roster.
After watching the flurry of moves executed on the first day of free agency, I believe we can read the board and project which dominoes are set to fall as draft day approaches. Here's my take on how free agency could shape the draft-day plans of the following big spenders:
The Texans made a huge splash in free agency by adding Osweiler, Millerand Allen on opening day. The addition of Osweiler, in particular, addresses the Texans' biggest need and gives the team a franchise quarterback to build around. Although the skeptics will question whether a signal caller with only seven career starts is worth Osweiler's lofty price tag ($72 million over four years, with $37 million guaranteed), the Texans are willing to hang their playoff hopes on a young player with tremendous potential. Miller steps in to replace Arian Foster, who was released early this month, as the feature back in the backfield. He has scored 16 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons and sports a 4.6 yards-per-carry mark for his career.
The draft domino: Wide receiver.
With quarterback and running back locked down, and with a receiver in DeAndre Hopkins who carried the passing game as a "one-man show" on the perimeter (111 receptions for 1,521 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 192 targets) in 2015, the Texans should be determined to add another perimeter playmaker to the mix. The team could use a speedster like Baylor's Corey Coleman or Notre Dame's Will Fuller to stretch the field, but a big-bodied pass catcher like Mississippi's Laquon Treadwell or TCU's Josh Doctson would give them a tough tandem on the perimeter.
New York Giants
The Giants are writingbigchecks to upgrade a defense that offered little resistance in 2015. The revamped defensive line not only features a pair of dynamic edge rushers (Pierre-Paul and Vernon) capable of wreaking havoc off the corner, but it also includes a rock-solid run-stuffer (Harrison) at the point of attack. Jenkins signed a blockbuster deal to occupy the CB1 role opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Granted, Jenkins is susceptible to double moves, due to his aggressive nature, but he also has a knack for creating turnovers on the perimeter.
The draft domino: Linebacker.
After addressing their defensive-line woes, the Giants could look to upgrade their linebacker corps with an active "run and chase" player on the second level. UCLA's Myles Jack would appear to be an ideal fit, based on his athleticism and versatility, but the Giants typically avoid linebackers in the first round. Thus, they could cast their eyes toward Georgia's Leonard Floyd, Ohio State's Joshua Perry and USC's Su'a Cravens as Day 2 possibilities. Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith is a wild card, between his freakish talent and questionable prognosis following the ACL and MCL tear he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Eagles moved past the Chip Kelly era by dumping several of his marquee players via trades that became official Wednesday. Though they didn't get any players back, they did move up in the draft, swapping fourth-round picks with the Titans in the Murray deal and acquiring the eighth overall pick from the Dolphins in exchange for Maxwell, Alonso and the 13th overall pick. The makeover continued in the marketplace, as the team concentrated its efforts on adding players familiar with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's system. Bradham, Ron Brooks and McKelvin played under Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014, and their scheme knowledge should help the Eagles make a seamless transition. McLeod gives the team a versatile center fielder to pair with Malcolm Jenkins in the middle of the field. Daniel will jump into the quarterback competition after serving as a backup to Alex Smith in Kansas City under the direction of new coach Doug Pederson. Despite his modest deal, Daniel could push or supplant Sam Bradford if the former No. 1 overall pick doesn't play up to expectations this fall.
The draft domino: Running back.
The Eagles dumped their RB1 (Murray) and have dangled their RB2 (Ryan Mathews) as trade bait. If they're looking for a feature back to build around in the backfield, Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott is an explosive three-down player who seems like a logical fit, based on his versatility, toughness and durability. If the Eagles wait until Day 2, Notre Dame's C.J. Prosise, UCLA's Paul Perkins and Alabama's Kenyan Drake will jump on the radar as solid possibilities.
The Jaguars are finally providing coach Gus Bradley with enough ammunition to build a dominant defense in the AFC South. Jackson gives the unit an athletic interior defender with pass-rush skills and a high-revving motor. He will move quarterbacks off the spot with his inside penetration, which will create opportunities for Dante Fowler and others off the edges. Gipson is the ball-hawking playmaker the Jaguars needed between the hashes to eliminate the deep balls down the field. Nortman will help the Jaguars win the field-position battle with his superb ball-placement and extraordinary hang time.
The draft domino: Cornerback.
The Jaguars need a dynamic CB1 to solidify a secondary that's struggled containing explosive aerial attacks. Florida's Vernon Hargreaves and Florida State's Jalen Ramsey are certainly considerations as rangy cover corners with terrific ball skills and polished technical abilities. With each guy capable of playing on the outside or in the slot, the Jaguars would have tremendous flexibility with the lineup.
The Raiders reached into the free-agent bin to pluck a playmate for Khalil Mack on the edges. Irvin's skills as a frenetic speed rusher complement Mack's power game, giving the Raiders a deadly 1-2 punch off the corner. Smith gives defensive coordinator Ken Norton a long, bump-and-run corner with the potential to snuff out top receivers with his smothering coverage tactics. Osemele is a rugged blocker capable of playing offensive tackle or guard with the kind of tenacity and toughness needed to take the Raiders' running game to the next level.
The draft domino: Cornerback or safety.
The Raiders need to upgrade their coverage on the perimeter with a host of long, rangy playmakers. Ohio State's Eli Apple, Houston's William Jackson III and Clemson's Mackensie Alexander fit the bill as sticky cover corners with superb man-to-man skills. At safety, the Raiders would love to add a center fielder like Ohio State's Vonn Bell or West Virginia's Karl Joseph. The team could also find a "thumper" like Florida's Keanu Neal or Southern Utah's Miles Killebrew, who intrigue as potential box safeties with run-stopping potential.