With free agency set to begin Tuesday, SI.com NFL experts Peter King, Chris Burke, Andrew Perloff and Tom Mantzouranis sat down with one mission: to draft teams out of the available free agents.
The rules were simple: it was a snake draft format, every starting position had to be filled, and restricted free agents were off limits. Each expert had to choose whether his team would play a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, and whether they were going to play three receivers or two with a fullback. Everything else was open to how each person wanted to build his team.
Below, Chris Burke offers an inside take on his team.
? Any team, even a fake team put together in a freeagency mock draft, with Jason Campbell as the starting quarterback cannot feel totally confident. And yet, once Matt Moore came off the board in our draft, Campbell moved to the top of my QB board.
The decision came down to this: I'd rather have an experienced Campbell than roll the dice on a Brian Hoyer, Drew Stanton or Chase Daniel, if I was trying to win right away in 2012. That's not to say that Campbell is going to sign somewhere, start and win a Super Bowl ... just that he's more capable of that in the immediate future than the non-Matt Moore options.
? My nomination for steal of the draft: Justin Durant, whom I plucked pretty near the end of the line. This team essentially fell into a 4-3 alignment based on earlier selections -- I did not necessarily head into the draft planning to lean that way, but there was much better talent and value there than for a 3-4.
And with Philip Wheeler, coming off a career year, planted at one of the outside spots, Durant finished off my linebacking corps nicely.
Durant's also coming off his best-ever season (103 tackles), and he's just 27 years of age. Whether he winds up back in Detroit or elsewhere, Durant could be a solid NFL contributor for a few seasons yet, so I was happy to find him late.
? One way to work around a weak QB is to insulate him with talent. I managed to do that by using somewhat early picks on WR Greg Jennings and RB Steven Jackson, then nabbing TE Martellus Bennett, WR Brandon Gibson and do-everything Delanie Walker. That's four legitimate playmakers, plus the versatile Walker, who can either pave the way for Jackson or split out and catch passes.
Jennings actually stayed on the board longer than I expected -- I considered taking him with my back-to-back picks at the end of Round 1/start of Round 2, then wound up with him in the Round 3/4 turnaround instead.
The tight end spot, meanwhile, might wind up being among the deeper groups in this so-so free-agent class. Tony Gonzalez was in our pot, since he technically will be an unrestricted free agent, but Bennett, Dustin Keller, Jared Cook, Fred Davis, Brandon Myers and others all were appealing.
? There's not just talent at the skill positions around Campbell, there is a steady set of linemen in front of him, too.Andre Smith was my first pick in this draft, and I followed it up by nabbing Phil Loadholt later -- because we were not required specifically to take a LT and a RT, I wound up with two right tackles; both Smith and Loadholt have played on the left, though.
I feel pretty good about the interior line here, as well. Todd McClure is one of the more underrated centers in all of football, and the same goes for Brandon Moore at guard. Ramon Foster is not an All-Pro, by any means, but he has been serviceable for the Steelers. There were a couple of linemen I had my eye on that I did not nab (Fernando Velasco and Louis Vasquez, if you must know), yet I came away satisfied with how the front five stacked up with the rest of the teams.
? There are plenty of teams in this league that would be more than happy to enter the 2013 season with Brent Grimes (assuming he's healthy) and Chris Houston manning the top two cornerbacks spots. Grimes was the Falcons' franchise-tagged player last season, while Houston held down the No. 1 CB role in Detroit. Aqib Talib was my main focus at cornerback, but with him off the board, I landed two nice consolation prizes.
I had a similar problem at safety that I did at offensive tackle -- both LaRon Landry and William Moore are better off as strong safeties. I can live with hypothetically moving one of them to the FS position. That's mainly because I think Moore may wind up being one of the top options in this safety crop. Landry's still an injury concern, but he turned in a solid 2012.
INSIDE EACH TEAM: King | Burke | Perloff | Mantzouranis | Full results
FOLLOW THE EXPERTS: King | Burke | Perloff | Mantzouranis
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