This post is originally from March.
With NFL free agency winding down to a close, fan and media eyes are naturally starting to turn towards the upcoming 2012 NFL draft. Teams cannot fill every need through free agency; indeed, the one constant among most winning franchises is that they can build the majority of their roster through the draft. Draft picks are young and cost-controlled, two commodities that are at a premium in a league where the unofficial motto is "not for long."
Mohamed Sanu is a really good football player and prospect. That makes him coveted by NFL teams, just as a number of other good potential draftee hopefuls are. If there were no consequences to adding him, every team in the league would be lining up for Sanu tomorrow. The thing is though, there are only 53 spots on a roster, and those draft picks have a high marginal cost. If a team is drafting Sanu, by definition they cannot draft another player in his stead with that same pick. Odds are, he will probably be picked somewhere in that late first, early second round range.
These factors limit the pool somewhat of his possible suitors. If a team is rich at receiver and has plenty of other needs, then they are seemingly less of a contender for his services. That is with the caveat that the best-run franchises (Giants, Ravens, Steelers, etc...) always have a penchant to go for the best player available, regardless of need. The present draft order has to be taken into consideration too, but realistically, any team could trade into those spots. You just have to hope that he lands with a good franchise. So with that being said, let's take a quick look at every NFL franchise to see what the chances are that Mohamed could be wearing their jerseys come the fall.
- Dallas Cowboys - You know, they could be an interesting sleeper. They still have Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, but lost Laurent Robinson to free agency. Tight end Jason Witten is currently the guy who would fill the Sanu role of converting tough third and long plays, but he is growing a little long in the tooth. You never know with Jerry Jones calling the shots. Does Arkansas have anyone good this year?
- New York Giants - The Giants have lost starting receivers (Steve Smith and Mario Manningham) in successive years now. That would seemingly open up an opportunity to take another pass catcher, but Big Blue already has Jerrel Jernigan and Ramses Barden waiting in the wings, along with a returning Domenik Hixon. They took Hakeem Nicks in the first a few years back, but also found Victor Cruz off the scrap heap, and therefore might be more inclined to fill other needs.
- Philadelphia Eagles - Andy Reid may have cut his teeth with the West Coast offense, but between Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin, this franchise has turned into one of the premier deep threat teams in the league. The Eagles will be far more intent on shoring up both of their lines in the draft, and likely won't have much interest in Sanu due to already having another possession WR on the roster in Jason Avant.
- Washington Redskins - Speaking of crazy owners, it probably wasn't the best idea in the world to give away a fortune to unproven Pierre Garcon. The Skins also signed Josh Morgan, and don't exactly have a lot of draft ammunition left with the bounty they gave away for Robert Griffin III. It's safe to say that Mohamed Sanu won't be the second coming of Art Monk in Washington.
- Chicago Bears - Sanu actually does fit with what they are trying to do on offense in moving away from the Mike Martz era back into a more physical attack. Earl Bennett has been a big disappointment opposite Johnny Knox, but they did just sign Bennett to a decent extension. The Bears certainly should give strong consideration to Sanu, but that does not mean that they will.
- Detroit Lions - Oh man, just imagine Sanu lining up next to Megatron. Sanu could be a sneaky long-term replacement for Nate Burleson as the #2 in this offense, filling the role as Matt Stafford's security blanket with Calvin Johnson and Titus Young streaking downfield on most plays. This would definitely be a lot of fun.
- Green Bay Packers - Donald Driver is already growing a bit long in the tooth, but they already have James Jones to fill that role. Oh, and Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings are entrenched as starters. The odds are very slim that the Pack have strong interest in Sanu considering their needs on defense.
- Minnesota Vikings - Barring a trade, Minnesota has to be considered a heavy favorite should Mohamed slip into the early second. Their receivers essentially consist of Percy Harvin along with a motley crew of castoffs and veterans. The question is though - would you want to see Sanu end up in purple? The Vikings are rebuilding, and Adrian Peterson's status for 2012 is questionable after a serious injury. They have the misfortune of being down when everyone else in the NFC North is up.
- Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons already have Roddy White, and drafted Julio Jones (surrendering a ton of picks in the process) very high last year. Even for teams that believe in taking the best player available, that is quite a bit to invest in the wide receiver position, especially considering that Harry Douglas isn't chopped liver either. Plus, why would you want Sanu playing on the same team as Matt Ryan, the man with the world's most punchable face?
- Carolina Panthers - hmmm. They have Cam Newton, plus still a lot of decent young talent on the roster. Sanu's game is very similar to Muhsin Muhammad's, who was a cornerstone with the Panthers for years. The thing is that they just drafted Brandon LaFell though. If Steve Smith isn't in their long term plans, they would probably opt for more of a burner than Sanu.
- New Orleans Saints - It's not impossible given Robert Meachem's departure, but more on the unlikely side. There is just too much uncertainty here at the moment given the recent bounty scandal to venture any kind of guess right now what happens in New Orleans.
- Tampa Bay - On paper, you would think no. They already had Mike Williams and a few other wideouts, and just happened to give a huge contract to a truly elite receiver in Vincent Jackson. They also have a glaring hole in the secondary that is seemingly earmarked for Morris Claiborne or Dre Kirkpatrick. Then again, Greg Schiano practically loves Mohamed like a son, and saw firsthand for the past three years how Sanu's play can bail out a green quarterback time and time again.
- Arizona Cardinals - Evaluating their other receivers behind Larry Fitzgerald is a little tricky given Kevin Kolb's play, and all of their assorted holes and bad luck that continue to pop up. This is a franchise that has been forever snakebit absent the Kurt Warner years, and all indications are that misfortune should continue for the foreseeable future. It's not a disaster if Sanu goes here, but far from ideal.
- San Francisco - This is why mock drafts before free agency commences are silly. The Niners were a wideout away from a NFC championship in January (Josh Morgan was out injured.) They lost Morgan, but re-signed Ted Ginn, took a gamble on Randy Moss, and found a nice buy low opportunity on Manningham. Those guys are deep threats, but Michael Crabtree returns as a constant.
- Seattle Seahawks - They were sneakily competitive last year, despite having middling quarterbacks. Given that, it's hard to determine whether or not their receivers really are the steaming pile of "meh" that they appear to be. Sidney Rice definitely isn't living up to his contract, although Doug Baldwin was a nice rookie find. Mike Williams fell back to Earth last year, and Golden Tate (a Notre Dame player being a colossal draft bust? Nooooo) isn't winning anyone over.
- St. Louis Rams - Sam Bradford needs weapons! Well, yes, but he also needs just about everything, including linemen who can keep him from kissing the turf on every down. They have an injury-ravaged Steve Smith and not all that much else at the position, having lost Brandon Lloyd to free agency, and cutting bait on Laurent Robinson a year too quickly. Remember when Donnie Avery (now a Colt) had some promise before his knee exploded?
- Buffalo Bills - This is one odd team. It's like the island of misfit toys, and suddenly Mario Williams is signing there? Ah, the persuasive power of the dollar. They could definitely use another WR to complement Stevie Johnson, all protestations that Naaman Roosevelt is this close to breaking out aside. Ryan Fitzpatrick sure did play crummily down the stretch though. Maybe he just needs another target who is ready to step in on day one?
- Miami Dolphins - This will happen in Rutgers athletics spokesman Jason Baum's dreams. The Miami Dolphins badly need someone to catch passes after trading Brandon Marshall. The bigger problem is not having anyone better than Matt Moore around to try to get Mohamed the ball. Right now this is a bad situation with far too much negativity. What is important in this process is to not only receive a good opportunity for playing time, but also to land with a good team, or at least one headed in the right direction.
- New England Patriots - Cue the Belichickian conspiracy theories of double reverse fakeouts. Bill planted his son on the Rutgers team as a special teamer to convince the world that he was only feigning interest in him, even though Belichick really does want Sanu. Or, only wants us to think that to throw off the Jets! Okay, my head hurts. You figure the Pats are set with Welker and Edelman in the slot, and just signed some speed with Stallworth and Lloyd (Tiquan Underwood might have trouble making this roster, although he probably has a better shot than Chad Ochocinco.) Deion Branch has been around a while otherwise, so the Pats in theory could be in the market for a younger model. Of course, their defense is also pretty bad. Odds are that New England will just trade a bunch of times again, and somehow end up with 200 additional picks over the next five years.
- New York Jets - They definitely need someone to replace Plaxico Burress in the offense, unless you really believe in Chaz Schi;ens or Patrick Turner or something. Sanu looks like a great fit on paper - a guy who could easily bump up Mark Sanchez's completion percentage a few points. They are not situated well in the draft to get him though, and more importantly, still have big holes at linebacker and on the offensive line to fill as well. Jet fans seem to want him, so it's probably start buying jerseys for this year's version of Kyle Brady.
God, I love that video. It was just as fun watching that live on television as a kid.
- Baltimore Ravens - Now you're talking. Perennial winning franchise? Check. Late first round pick? Check. Needs a receiver? Check. (Lee Evans is gone, and Anquan Boldin is starting to slow down.) Sanu would be a great stylistic replacement for Boldin, as they already have a speedster in Torrey Smith. Just thinking about it, Sanu and Ray Rice in the same offense, wow. Be still my beating heart.
- Cincinnati Bengals - Playing next to A.J. Green sure would be a blast. Hey, how come they haven't re-signed Jerome Simpson yet? Could this actually have a chance of happening? T.J. Houshmandzadeh was productive here for a long time as a similar player.
- Cleveland Browns - It was the best of times, and now it is the worst of times. Baltimore is the team I most want to see draft Sanu, while Cleveland, being the worst franchise in the NFL, has to be at the bottom of anyone's list. Worst still? They need a receiver. After seeing them ruin countless careers in recent memory, this is the last place you want to see Mohamed go. Unless you have a thing for mutant staph infections with the capacity to become sentient of course. If that happens to be your thing, then by all means, root for this. Sanu's muscled physique would provide the perfect incubation chamber for all sorts of horrors of 18th century medical science that roam through the locker rooms in Cleveland. If there is any consolation, their thin roster has few positions that do not warrant an upgrade.
- Pittsburgh Steelers - In theory, this could happen with Hines Ward calling it a career. The Steelers do have some good young receivers, but they are more of the burner types. Ward was phased out as his body started to break down. However, Pittsburgh canned their offensive coordinator with the notion that he had become too pass-happy and willing to kowtow to Ben Roethlisberger. If they want to get back to their traditional smash mouth ways, the physical Sanu would be a strong first step in that direction. That strategy actually playing out remains to be seen though considering the uncertain status of back Rashard Mendenhall.
- Houston Texans - There has been some buzz about possibly wanting to upgrade over Kevin Walter. He's okay, but even with injuries to Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, any starter really should put up big numbers in this offense. Odds are probably against it though given that Houston has lost a few productive players (Mario Williams, Eric Winston, DeMeco Ryans) over the offseason that they will need to replace.
- Indianapolis Colts - They kept Reggie Wayne as a security blanket for Andrew Luck, but drafting Sanu as Luck's new best friend isn't the worst idea in the world. Indy basically needs everything, so you can count on them going for the best available players available regardless of position.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - They need a receiver, but wow, I really hope not. What a horrible franchise, with the only possible upside that they could be in Los Angeles a few years down the line. They signed Laurent Robinson to a huge deal, which probably was not the best move considering their recent track record. Stay away Mohamed. Stay far, far away.
- Tennessee Titans - Kenny, Kenny, Kenny - wherefore art though, Kenny? Britt was poised to break out after a monster start, before being felled by an injury that will be very difficult to come back from. In his stead, Nate Washington did pretty well, and there are a few other guys here with promise. Quarterback (a battle between Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck) is a pretty big question mark though.
- Denver Broncos - You never know if Peyton Manning truly is calling the shots. However, they already had Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (who plays a similar role as Sanu), and just brought in Andre Caldwell. This isn't impossible, but would be a bit of a longshot.
- Kansas City Chiefs - Is there a more non-descript, misshapen, ill-fitting roster in the league? The Chiefs aren't horrible mind you, but they seem to be content to wallow in mediocrity in lieu of either getting to the next level, or bottoming out enough to rebuild. That's what tends to happen when you invest in the likes of Matt Cassel.
- Oakland Raiders - They would have never drafted Sanu if Al Davis were still alive, given his obsession with the 40-yard dash. Now, he could make a bit more sense, depending on what kind of scheme they are looking to run. The Raiders don't have ton of picks to work with though due to radically overpaying for Carson Palmer's trade rights. Considering that limitation, and their numerous other needs, this seems like an unlikely fit.
- San Diego Chargers - Does anyone even recognize this roster any more outside of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates? Vincent Jackson, Shawne Merriman, LaDainian Tomlinson - it seems like all of their other big name players are gone. They still have Malcom Floyd, and signed Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem in free agency. Between those pickups, and their other roster holes, making a move for Sanu seems unlikely.
In summary, most of the teams that are likely to take receivers high are not in the greatest shape. Likely suitors include the Vikings, Rams, Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Browns, Colts, and Jaguars - two good-to-respectable teams, one or two that have some reason for optimism, and otherwise the complete dregs of pro football. This is certainly not enviable. The odds are that Mohamed could end up on a rebuilding team. If that were to happen, we can only hope that it's somewhere with any sort of promise over the next few years like the Rams or Colts, with the Browns being the worst possible destination under any scenario. Does anyone have a Jobu statue lying around that could be of use at a time like this?