An undrafted free agent, Michael Bennett is emerging as a premier young pass rusher.
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, Tom Mantzouranis offers an inside take on his team.
?About that first-round pick... With all of the name-brand talent available, why did I take Michael Bennett second overall? Going in, I made it a point to get either the best pass rusher, offensive tackle or cornerback with my first pick, especially given the lack of quarterback options. And when I looked at the options available at those positions, Bennett stood out to me as the best player. He's young and still progressing as a pass rusher, and he's a complete end; he can play the run too. Every other realistic option at that spot came with questions, in my mind, but Bennett doesn't. He put together an excellent 2012, and I expect that to continue. Another motivating factor is that when I looked at the options before the draft started, I realized that there was probably more viable talent to fit a 4-3 defense, which is why I went for a traditional end for that scheme instead of Paul Kruger.
?Yes, I'm putting my team in David Garrard's hands. And no, I don't necessarily feel great about that. But the "cream" of this crop is clearly Matt Moore, and once Peter King scooped him up in the fourth round I put the position out of my head for a while. A long while. I would have taken Jason Campbell with that pick if Chris Burke hadn't snapped him up three picks earlier. Garrard is a big risk, especially to stay healthy, but he was good enough to temporarily lead the Dolphins' quarterback competition last year.
?Knowing that the QB class is weak going in, I made it a point to stock up on offensive line talent. A clean pocket should make Garrard look a little bit better. I was a little surprised Jake Long lasted to No. 7 overall, despite his injury history, and I'll be playing him at right tackle with Jermon Bushrod playing the left. I feel really good about those bookends, but I'm especially pleased with my interior linemen. None of them are household names, but Fernando Velasco, Louis Vasquez and Kevin Boothe are all standout blockers, and I got all of them fairly late in the game.
?I love my secondary. I have two free safeties in Dashon Goldson and Kenny Phillips, but both are versatile enough that I feel comfortable moving Goldson to the strong side, where his big-hitting ability and lack of coverage skill are better suited. Phillips is another injury risk, but he should be healthy for the start of the season, and when healthy he's a versatile, underrated threat. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's stock is at a career low, but I think a lot of that has to do with the environment he was surrounded by; he's still got talent and youth at a premium position. Williams had a career year in his second season a starter, and the probability that he leaves the Ravens has a lot more to do with their cap and personnel situation and not Williams' talent. If he can make it through the season without shoving a ref, and with the pass rush I'm expecting out of my front four, I think this unit can be an absolute shutdown one.
?I've got two sleepers, and they're both on the defensive line.William Hayes and Sammie Lee Hill both suffered from playing on teams with great starters at their positions (Chris Long and Robert Quinn for Hayes; Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley for Hill). But when both got in the game, they did good things. Hayes managed seven sacks on just 378 snaps (Long and Quinn had 11.5 and 10.5, respectively, despite playing almost three times more snaps), and Hill brings an impressive pass rush push despite his size. Both are ready for a bigger role.
INSIDE EACH TEAM: King | Burke | Perloff | Mantzouranis | Full results
FOLLOW THE EXPERTS: King | Burke | Perloff | Mantzouranis
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