NFL Draft 2013: Best Landing Spots For Each Style of Prospect

Where would strong-armed quarterback Tyler Wilson prefer to be?

At this stage of the draft process, every single prospect is starting to let his mind wonder about where this portion of his life is going to project his career. Who will take him in the draft and allow him to wear their jersey?

Undoubtedly each prospect will have their personal preferences, but since it’s impossible to ask every single one and get an honest answer, I instead decided to look through the different styles of players available and where they would likely be best fit for their careers.

OFFENSE

West Coast Quarterbacks

In Chip Kelly’s offense, intelligence and the ability to make quick decisions will be valued higher than any deep ball. Kelly’s offense should be able to knock defenses off balance on the NFL level if it is executed the way it’s designed to. Because of the up tempo approach, it may be difficult for a rookie to instantly start for the Eagles, however Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Dennis Dixon aren’t great obstacles to a starting spot.

Once on the field, any rookie quarterback would have not one, but two very impressive running-backs to rely on, Bryce Brown and LeSean McCoy. Surpassed that, he would also have a dynamic chess piece in James Casey, a proven tight end in Brent Celek, a very talented offensive line when healthy and one of the more talented wide receiving corps in the NFL.

Developmental: New York Jets.

The Jets are not built to win now, so any developmental quarterback won’t be under pressure to get on the field. Couple that with the presence of Marty Mornhinweg to guide his development and anyone landing in New York can actually be happy about it.

Orthodox/Deep-Ball Quarterbacks
Pro-Ready: Buffalo Bills.

Doug Marrone is a proven offensive coach at this level and the Bills are in need of a quarterback. That opens the door immediately for a day-one starter, while the Bills also have a strong running game to ease the pressure on the quarterback position.

Andy Levitre may have left in free agency, but the Bills still have a young, franchise left tackle, Cordy Glenn, and young, upcoming interior offensive linemen in Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik. Although a second receiver would be a big need, the impact of Scott Chandler at tight end and CJ Spiller coming out of the backfield would allow the rookie to keep the chains moving with easier throws.

Developmental: Pittsburgh Steelers.

Although Ben Roethlisberger is 31 years of age, he has endured the career of a quarterback who is physically closer to 35. Roethlisberger can’t continue to play the game the way he has to this point without getting injured often, but he proved last year that he also cannot be 100 percent effective in Todd Haley’s scheme. A scheme that requires him to be a pocket-passer and throw more timing routes.

No matter who the Steelers take this year, Roethlisberger will be the starter and Bruce Gradkowski will be the backup. Any young quarterback will be under no pressure to develop in a hurry, while a young group of offensive linemen and two young stud receivers await his arrival.

Read-Option Quarterbacks
Pro-Ready: Tennessee Titans.

Jake Locker may be the starter for the Titans, but his performances to this point have been underwhelming to say the least. Locker is a good fit as a read-option quarterback and could flourish in that role. However, the Titans have been reluctant to use him in that role to this point. A better quarterback could supplant Locker and convince the coaching staff to run the scheme however.

In that scenario, the Titans would have excellent pieces to make the quarterback’s life easier. Kenny Britt, Nate Washington(although he may be traded) and Kendall Wright are all strong receivers who can go deep, meaning they can keep the defense honest and be effective blockers. Chris Johnson would have easier reads and is electrifying enough to consistently gain chunks of yardage. The Titans’ offensive line is being revamped on the interior, but appears set to be much better next year along with the best blocking tight end in the league, Craig Stevans, and Delanie Walker.

Developmental: San Francisco 49ers.

If the quarterback competition in Washington wasn’t decided by Kirk Cousins last season, the Redskins could have been listed here. Instead, the potential for playing time with the best supporting cast in the NFL would be an ideal audition for any developmental quarterback trying to find a starting job elsewhere. All they would need is a Colin Kaepernick injury or some dead-rubber games at the end of the regular season.

Every-Down Running-Backs
Pro-Ready: Cincinnati Bengals.

With Andre Smith now looking like he is going to return to the Bengals, they once again can expect to have one of the best offensive lines in the league this season. Last year the unit was outstanding, so much so that they should receive nearly all of the credit for BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ production.

Green-Ellis is a laborious back who lacks the explosion to be a full-time starter in today’s league. There is no real successor currently on the roster who can be trusted in every facet of the game and Jay Gruden is committed to running the football as a foundation of his offense.

Developmental: Atlanta Falcons.

Signing Steven Jackson as a free agent gave the Falcons a clear feature back for this season and maybe next. However, behind him Jacquizz Rodgers hasn’t shown enough to be guaranteed of the backup role. He is obviously a talented player, but expecting him to be an every-down back for the Falcons at any point during his career is unrealistic.

Any back looking to learn from one of the best in the league while he develops in the background for a season or two has to have Atlanta atop his list of prospective new teams.

Short-Yardage Running Backs
Pro-Ready: St. Louis Rams.

The Rams offense is set to alter it’s philosophy this off-season. Either of DeAndre Hopkins or Tavon Austin are expected to land with the Rams in the first round of the draft, while Jake Long’s addition has a ripple effect on the offensive line, making it better suited to be a pass-blocking unit. The Rams have moved on from Steven Jackson and replaced him with smaller backs who fit the ideal of being a pass-first unit.

However, even with the offense moving in a different direction, the Rams will still need someone to run between the tackles as a situational contributor. Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead can do it, but wouldn’t be suited to convert a third and one when the defense has 10 defenders in the box.

Developmental: Denver Broncos.

The Denver Broncos offense is at the point where the St. Louis Rams are looking to reach. The Broncos have similar backs in Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno to fill the receiving/third down roles, while Willis McGahee still offers the team a short-yardage back, even if his time as the feature back has come to an end. McGahee has at least one year left, meaning that any back with aspects of his game that need to be refined before he sees the field could develop a nice role in Denver from 2014 onwards.

Third-Down Running Backs
Pro-Ready: Green Bay Packers.

A combination of Dujuan Harris and Cedric Benson carried the Packers through last season at the running-back position. Although Benson is in Green Bay this week to potentially re-sign and Harris showed a lot of potential last season, a proper receiving running-back could be what pushes the Packers’ offense over the top. Without Greg Jennings on the roster, the Packers won’t be as willing to shift Randall Cobb into the backfield next season, so there will be opportunities for a receiving running-back as a rookie.

Developmental: New Orleans Saints.

It may be hard to believe, but Darren Sproles is going to be 30 before next season. He likely still has a lot left in the tank, but it’s never easy to predict how fast running-backs will decline. With Chris Ivory expected to be on his way out, the Saints should have an open roster spot to carry a developmental running-back. Even though Ivory was a tough, between-the-tackles type of runner, the Saints don’t have to replace him with a similar running-back because he was often inactive on gameday.

Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Sproles will be the Saints’ top three backs entering this season and both Ingram and Thomas are younger than Sproles. As a receiving running-back, there is no better place to be in the NFL than New Orleans.

Explosive Outside Receiver
Pro-Ready: New England Patriots.

After swapping out Wes Welker for Danny Amendola, as well as releasing Brandon Lloyd and missing out on Emmanuel Sanders, the Patriots’ only real need on offense comes outside the numbers. Ever since Randy Moss left, the Patriots have been unable to find a legitimate deep threat who could continually take the top off of the defense.

Outside of playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, any wide receiver landing in New England would also benefit from playing alongside Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Amendola to draw coverage away from him.

Developmental: Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers are in need of a better complement to Steve Smith right now, but Smith is still capable of being the big-play receiver on the edge for his offense. He doesn’t need to be complemented with a similar receiver, but the fact that he is going to be 34 before this season means that he will have to be replaced at some point within the next two seasons.

Possession Outside Receiver
Pro-Ready: Baltimore Ravens.

With Anquan Boldin leaving for pastures new and Tandon Doss leaving much to the imagination at this point, the Ravens are in need of a wide receiver to complement big-play contributors Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Although they need a new receiver, that new receiver will be in an excellent spot to succeed immediately.

Joe Flacco may not be worth $120 million, but he is still a good quarterback who has proven himself capable of creating a good rapport with a polished possession receiver. Although Dennis Pitta alleviates some of the pressure that will be on whoever carries out that role in 2013, he alone can’t be expected to replace the loss of Boldin.

Developmental: Indianapolis Colts.

Just like Steve Smith in Carolina, Reggie Wayne is entering this season at 34 years of age. He signed his last NFL contract before last season, for three years, before proceeding to be Andrew Luck’s go-to-receiver all season long. Wayne should be a very good option for Luck again this season, but it’s unrealistic to expect the same quality when he is 35 turning 36.

Possession Slot Receiver
Pro-Ready: Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers have one of the most quarterback-friendly offenses in the NFL, but they are lacking a true presence at tight end and a reliable slot receiver. With Mike Williams, Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson providing big-plays on a consistent basis, Josh Freeman is in need of a possession receiver who he can rely on to make tough receptions in situational football.

Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Steve Smith will all provide relatively tough competition for whatever rookie could land in this situation, but none should prove to be immovable atop the depth chart.

Developmental: Denver Broncos.

The Broncos only signed Wes Welker to a two-year contract and they don’t have any obvious replacement on the roster. Presuming that Peyton Manning plays through the next four years at least, the Broncos will have an opening at the position. Without a true fourth receiver on the roster, Andre Caldwell being the best option, any rookie would have an opportunity to see the field early on in four receiver sets if he could beat out Joel Dressen or Jacob Tamme.

Two-Way Tight End
Pro-Ready: New York Giants.

With the loss of Martellus Bennett and Jake Ballard over the last two off-seasons, the Giants have been left with Brandon Myers and Bear Pascoe as their two top options at the position. Myers and Pascoe are both decent role players, but can’t fill the void lost by Bennett or be a real threat to the offense on a consistent basis.

The Giants offensive scheme doesn’t spread the field a huge amount with multiple receivers, so any rookie tight end atop the depth chart would see the field early and often in their careers. Time on the field with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a team that is committed to running a balanced offense is exactly what any two-way tight end could want.

Developmental: Atlanta Falcons.

Tony Gonzalez is coming back for one final season, giving the Falcons a year to find and prepare his replacement. Whoever replaces Gonzalez will be filling very big shoes, but he will also be landing in an offense with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and one of the best wide receivers in the league to draw coverage away from him.

Pass-Blocking Tackle
Pro-Ready: Detroit Lions.

After Jeff Backus finally called it a day for his career and Gosder Cherilus left in free agency to join the Indianapolis Colts, the Lions were left with Riley Reiff and Corey Hilliard atop their tackle depth chart. For a team that set a record for passing attempts last season, that is not an ideal scenario. However, it is an ideal scenario for any tackle who is ready to show off his pass-blocking skills.

In a division with Jared Allen, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, the Lions also offer any offensive tackle the opportunity to go up against the very best on a regular basis.

Developmental: Denver Broncos.

The Broncos slapped the franchise tag on Ryan Clady this off-season, but they haven’t signed him to a long-term deal as things currently stand. Instead of giving him massive money, the Broncos could keep him for a season while grooming his replacement from this draft class. Being Peyton Manning’s blindside protector comes with only one down-side, it’s a massive responsibility that is only recognized when something goes wrong.

Run-Blocking Tackle
Pro-Ready: Carolina Panthers.

Byron Bell is not the worst tackle in the league, but he’s not as far from it as the Panthers would like. In an offense with so many running-threats, a mobile quarterback and a head coach who has been happy to use that quarterback on designed runs, the Panthers are one of the few NFL teams who wills till be attracted to a high-quality run-blocking offensive tackle.

Developmental: Tennessee Titans.

Right tackle David Stewart will be 31 entering this season and he is entering what could be the final year of his contract. Stewart’s contract comes up after the 2014 season, but the final year is voidable. The Titans’ investments on the interior of their offensive line this off-season says that they want to run the ball better, so philosophically a run-blocking tackle is a fit.

Pass-Blocking Guard
Pro-Ready: Buffalo Bills.

The Bills lost Andy Levitre this off-season, arguably the best pass-blocking offensive guard in the NFL. The interior of the Bills’ line was it’s strength for much of the Chan Gailey era. If they can find an adequate replacement to start over David Snow, then the unit could return that strength with Cordy Glenn, Kraig Urbik and Eric Wood already installed on the line.

Developmental: Baltimore Ravens.

With the Ravens looking to keep Michael Oher at right tackle, their logical next move should be to re-sign Bryant McKinnie. McKinnie would only be back on a one-year deal, but he would allow the team to keep Kelechi Osemele at left guard, where he is better suited to play. A developmental pass-blocking guard would allow the Ravens to move Osemele back to right tackle the next year if Oher doesn’t return in free agency.

Run-Blocking Guard
Pro-Ready: Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders are moving away from the zone-blocking scheme after it’s failure last season. That should revitalize the running-game if Darren McFadden can stay healthy. The Raiders actually have a talented offensive line when it comes to individual players, but need to upgrade the left tackle spot. Putting a rookie in between the very impressive Stefan Wisniewski and Jared Veldheer would create an area of strength for the team to rely on, while also making the youngster’s transition to the NFL easier.

Developmental: New York Giants.

Chris Snee is soon to be 32, well January next year, but he has had multiple injuries to endure as of late. The Giants have Kevin Boothe as their other starter and David Diehl can play inside if need be, but they are in dire need of finding some talented youth to push the veterans and provide a long-term answer at the position.

Center
Pro-Ready: Cincinnati Bengals.

The only weakness on the Bengals’ offensive line is at center. Kyle Cook is an underwhelming veteran who relied too much on Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler last year, while Trevor Robinson is still developing after being an undrafted rookie last year.

Developmental: St. Louis Rams.

The Rams signed Scott Wells from the Green Bay Packers last of-season, however Wells suffered on the field and with injuries last year. His production was such that Robert Turner, his backup, performed better when on the field. Turner left for Tennessee, and even though Wells will return as the starter, he needs competition to push him and potential take his place either this year or next.

DEFENSE

Star Lotulelei leads the defensive class.

3-4 Defensive End
Pro-Ready: Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles are expected to transition from a 4-3 front to a 3-4 front under Chip Kelly. Many of their pieces were brought in to be 4-3 players exclusively, but many of those same players also translate well to a 3-4 scheme. Fletcher Cox, Iasaac Sopoaga, Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans give the Eagles a strong starting six, with any potential rookie in place to split time with Cedric Thornton as the final piece at defensive end.

Developmental: Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers are starting probably the worst 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, Evander Hood, with Brett Keisel a returning veteran across from him. This is likely going to be Keisel’s last year with the team and Cameron Heyward is in line to take his place. Hood is going to hit free agency next year, but he shouldn’t be re-signed as anything more than a backup. That would afford any prospect a year to develop within Dick LeBeau’s scheme before becoming a starter on what is typically one of the better defenses in the league.

4-3 Defensive End
Pro-Ready: Denver Broncos.

The Elvis Dumervil debacle has left the Denver Broncos without a starting defensive end and their most important pass-rusher outside of Von Miller. Losing Dumervil came at the worst possible time for the Broncos because they were just about to round out their defense with the off-season additions of Terrance Knighton and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Those two additions addressed the Broncos’ only real needs, before Dumervil left a void on the defensive line.

Any pass rusher who lands in Denver will have plenty of opportunities to pin his ears back, because Peyton Manning’s offense will continually put their opposition in losing situations. He will also get to play with Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers and a strong secondary.

Developmental: New York Giants.

With Osi Umenyiora departing for the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants have one pass-rusher spot role left to fill in the draft. The Giants are known for stock-piling raw talents who can get to the quarterback and for using them in bit-part roles. It’s the perfect way for a young pass-rusher to make an immediate impact and accelerate his development.

3-4 Nose Tackle
Pro-Ready: Green Bay Packers.

The Packers have a wealth of defensive linemen, but that refers more to quantity than quality. The unit has never really replaced the impact of Cullen Jenkins and could desperately do with a nose tackle who can provide a pass rush. Nose tackles don’t always have to be space eaters. The Packers tried to sign a pass-rushing nose tackle this off-season in restricted free agency, at leas they visited with one, before Steve McLendon re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jerel Worthy was drafted last year in the hope of being a difference-maker at defensive end, while BJ Raji can move between both nose tackle and defensive end moving forward.

Developmental: New York Jets.
The Jets’ hybrid defense may move further away from a 3-4 front than they have in some time, but the need for a nose tackle is still obvious. Rex Ryan always wants to shut down any running-game and losing Sione Pouha is going to hurt. Kenrick Ellis and Antonio Garay are viable contributors to create a starter, but the Jets need to be developing a future starter behind them. Learning from Rex Ryan should be a desire of any defensive rookie. Especially anyone playing in the front seven.

4-3 Defensive Tackle
Pro-Ready: Seattle Seahawks.

The Seattle Seahawks have very few weaknesses on either side of the ball. However, on the interior of their defensive line they could do with another impact player. Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald, Jaye Howard and Michael Bennett(moving from DE) can all make plays from the interior, but the loss of Jason Jones could be felt if the combinations don’t work out. Because of their flurry of pass-rushers and outstanding secondary, being a young defensive lineman in Seattle is as good as any rookie could ask for.

Developmental: St. Louis Rams.

The Rams got great value in Michael Brockers during the first round last year. Brockers and Kendall Langford are an impressive pairing at defensive tackle, but the Rams’ depth behind them is still lacking. William Hayes re-signing with the team to be the third defensive end gives them an option who could move inside, but another impact rookie at defensive tackle would be in the perfect spot to contribute and develop.

4-3 Weak-Side Linebacker
Pro-Ready: Cincinnati Bengals.

After re-signing Re Maualuga and adding James Harrison, the Cincinnati Bengals have to have the slowest linebacking corps in the NFL. Even though Vontaze Burfict played relatively well out of position at weak-side linebacker last year, it’s not an ideal fit for him. Any weak-side linebacker landing in Cincinnati would be playing for one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, behind one of the best defensive lines.

Developmental: Chicago Bears.

The Bears let Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach go this off-season, only retaining Lance Briggs. Roach and Urlacher were replaced by James Anderson and DJ Williams, while Briggs is 32 years of age entering the year. Briggs can’t have that long left and James Anderson is only a stop-gap signing. Any addition to the Bears would be allowed to learn from one of the best in the league at the position over the past decade before taking over a starting role.

4-3 Strong-Side Linebacker
Pro-Ready: New York Giants.

Although Keith Rivers was re-signed this off-season, none of the Giants’ three starting linebackers should be considered quality NFL starters. Rivers, Dan Connor and Jacquian Williams are not going to intimidate anyone and the Giants can only consider entering the season with them as starters because of their high quality defensive line and safety play. Of course Mathias Kiwanuka will move around the defense more without Osi Umenyiora, but having him at one outside linebacker spot and a rookie at another seems like the Giants’ best answer going forward.

Developmental: Dallas Cowboys.

Justin Durant is only 27 years of age, but he has only proven himself to be an average starter after six seasons in the league. Durant should be a good fit for Monte Kiffin’s defense in Dallas this year, but the Cowboys should also be grooming his replacement to play alongside the impressive Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.

4-3 Middle Linebacker
Pro-Ready: Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings are very unlikely to start Tyrone McKenzie at middle linebacker this season. The draft is their only real avenue to explore adding a player to the position. Whatever prospect they decide to plug into the position could be in a great spot to succeed. Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are experienced players who could help guide him as his outside linebackers, while the defensive line in Minnesota still plays to a high level.

Developmental: New York Giants.

Dan Connor should only be a stop-gap signing for the New York Giants as the starting middle linebacker. If Connor can produce for two years, it would allow the Giants to develop his successor. If Mark Herzlich was going to be that guy, then they likely wouldn’t have signed Connor this off-season instead of focusing their finances on greater needs elsewhere.

3-4 Outside Linebacker
Pro-Ready: Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers typically don’t start rookies on defense, or that often on offense either, but this year a talented pass-rusher could take the job in training camp and run away with it. The release of James Harrison followed lengthy negotiations when the team tried to negotiate a new deal with him. Their attempts to re-sign Harrison says a lot about their evaluations of Jason Worilds and Chris Carter, the expected replacements at outside linebacker. Presuming the Steelers are down on Worilds and Carter, a rookie rusher could immediate start across from LaMarr Woodley for a DicK LeBeau coached team. Not to mention, the team with the best pass defense in the NFL over the past two seasons.

Developmental: Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs have Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as their starting outside linebackers. That is one of the best, if not the best combination of 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL. However, while Houston is only in the early stages of his career, Hali has been around for some time now and is a costly commodity. With a new regime in Kansas City, the Chiefs could have an eye on developing a starter behind him this year. The Chiefs’ defense should be a lot better this year because the individual talent across the board is very impressive.

3-4 Inside Linebacker
Pro-Ready: Cleveland Browns.

Most of the talk surrounding the Cleveland Browns this off-season has been about the outside linebacker position and in the secondary. However, they will likely draft a top cornerback and Ray Horton will find ways to use their current pass rushing talent. What really stands out for the Browns is Craig Robertson as the potential starter next to D’Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker. Robertson was an undrafted free agent in 2011 and has proved very little to this point in the NFL. A pro-ready prospect could quickly take his starting spot in a very good situation.

Developmental: New York Jets.

Bart Scott has departed, but his replacement, Demario Davis, is not the one who should be worried about his starting spot. David Harris has been exposed in recent seasons as a stone-age style of linebacker. He is built to shut down the running game and can’t compete with these high-powered passing offenses. If the Jets can land an athletic inside linebacker to play with Davis behind Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, they could have a dramatically improved front seven.

Outside Cornerback-Man Base
Pro-Ready: Cleveland Browns.

As has already been explored on this blog, the cornerback position across from Joe Haden is going to be pivotal for the Browns. Playing for a defensive coordinator who earned his reputation by working his way up from being a secondary coach will definitely help whoever slots into that spot.

Developmental: Pittsburgh Steelers.

Losing Keenan Lewis really hurt the Steelers this off-season, but Cortez Allen is expected to step right into his place. That doesn’t mean that Ike Taylor won’t need to be replaced within a year or two however and William Gay is not the answer. Nor is Curtis Brown. A player who can come in and develop under Carnell Lake, the Steelers’ coach who developed Lewis and Allen, could have a big role in the future for the Steelers.

Outside Cornerback-Zone Base
Pro-Ready: New England Patriots.

The Patriots definitely mix up coverages, but for the sake of this article they are being put down as a zone team. Even though Alfonzo Dennard is going to avoid jail-time and Aqib Talib re-signed as a free agent, the Patriots’ third cornerback position, ignoring Kyle Arrington as just a nickel back, is going to be very important. It can’t be guaranteed that Dennard keeps his nose clean again this year, while Talib has a track record of trouble and injury issues also.

Developmental: New York Giants.

The Giants have Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas as their starting cornerbacks entering this season, with Prince Amukamara looking to force his way up the depth chart. Thomas and Webster were an excellent pairing three years ago, but two torn ACLs for Thomas have made him a complete unknown and Webster significantly dropped off last year. The Giants could easily be looking for two new starters next year.

Inside Cornerback
Pro-Ready: Green Bay Packers.

Although the Packers still have Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward and Sam Shields, they have lost safety/nickel cornerback Charles Woodson. With the different personnel that Dom Capers likes to rotate in and out of games, being a cornerback amongst that group doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be stuck on the sidelines.

Developmental: Seattle Seahawks.

Antoine Winfield signed for just one season to be the Seahawks’ nickel back, so competition for Walter Thurmond and Jeremy Lane to be his successor is a great spot for any rookie to be in.

Free Safety
Pro-Ready: Cincinnati Bengals.

In today’s NFL the defining lines between the free and strong safety positions are disappearing. The spread out offenses are turning more strong safeties into free safeties and the more physical play from tight ends is forcing free safeties to be tougher in tight coverage. Fortunately for the Bengals, Reggie Nelson can adjust to both positions and their defense as a whole is good enough to cover any rookie mistakes from a day one starter.

Developmental: Houston Texans.

The Texans signed Ed Reed this off-season to a three-year-contract. Reed may not even last that long, but even if he does he won’t be re-signing to start as he inches closer to 30. The Texans must bring in a development prospect to be his successor. Whoever that prospect is will have a hall-of-fame safety coming off his first Super Bowl victory as a mentor…not bad.

Strong Safety
Pro-Ready: Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens have one of the better front sevens in the NFL and Michael Huff to play free safety. Bernard Pollard’s role isn’t overly taxing from an experience point of view, so any pro-ready rookie should have no fear of sliding straight into Ozzie Newsome’s blueprint for his defense.

Developmental: Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dick Lebeau turned Troy Polamalu from an athletic prospect into one of the most dynamic difference-makers in the NFL. That was during his prime. Polamalu today is struggling to stay on the field and has lost a step when he makes it that far. He cannot have that long left as a starter and the Steelers need to start preparing for his departure. Even though athlete’s bodies fail them, coaches’ minds typically last longer, so much so that the Steelers can hope to create another player close to Polamalu.

You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf

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