Chuck Klosterman of Grantland was embedded with the Cleveland Browns on draft day, and the quote that stuck out to me came when the Browns’ decision makers were talking about another unnamed player where there was some disagreement, while the Browns were locked in on Barkevious Mingo as their target with the sixth overall pick.
The main reason this deficient lineman is even being considered is because he happened to play his best game against an opponent from the Southeast Conference, the most secure pedigree any potential pick can offer. That partially explains why the Browns are so enamored of Barkevious Mingo. “The SEC is a whole different animal,” says Lombardi. “If all we did was take guys from Alabama and LSU, we’d be fucking great.”
This got me thinking, just how great would a team built only with Alabama and LSU players be? (My second thought, of course, was “Is that you, Scott Pioli?” followed by fond memories of the Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey era in KC) Last year, the silly talk emerged of Alabama being able to beat a NFL team, right before they lost to Texas A&M. It’s a more interesting question, at least, to wonder if you somehow got some agreement with the league, where you could only use players from Alabama and LSU, and the rest of the league got everyone else, how would you do?
My guess: a league average team in 2013, and not a favorite to make the playoffs, though I could not rule it out. I mean, anything could happen and it would likely depend on close games and how quickly the loaded 2013 draft class emerged.
If you think that is ridiculous, let’s start with this. There were 65 players drafted from either Alabama or LSU who were active in the NFL last year, plus a few others who were undrafted free agents (Ryan Clark and Nate Livings probably being the most notable). Guess how many were named first or second team all-pro last season.
Julio Jones was probably the closest, but no player from either school was selected. Not only that, but if we look at the careers of all active Alabama and LSU players, only two have ever been selected first team all-pro. One as a special teams player (Patrick Peterson) and one as a fullback, which is the most dubious of awards (LeRon McClain).
How likely would a team with no all-pros be truly great? My good buddy Chase Stuart of Football Perspective forwarded me a list of all teams since 1990 to win 10 games while having no first or second team all pro selections. Here you go: 2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2011 Atlanta Falcons, 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 New York Giants, 2003 Philadelphia Eagles, 2001 New England Patriots, 1996 Philadelphia Eagles, 1992 Kansas City Chiefs, 1991 San Francisco 49ers.
Two Super Bowl champs interestingly show up on that list, but those teams and the Eagles in 2003 had Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and Donovan McNabb at quarterback. Our Alabama/LSU team would have Matt Flynn starting and Greg McElroy as the backup. My guess is that a 2012 version of Alabama/LSU would have had a losing record, but if we get all the draft picks this year, would move to a projection of more wins than losses.
On offense, we would have Flynn, a pretty good running back situation, and an elite receiving group, with Julio Jones and Dwayne Bowe as the starters. The depth would be merely okay, and it would have no tight end. Okay, it would have two seventh round selections at tight end, Brad Smelley and Michael Williams, drafted by Detroit this year. The offensive line would be a mixed bag. Cincinnati Bengals would occupy the tackle positions (Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith), the interior line would be aging (Center Todd McClure, Guards Stephen Peterman, Evan Mathis, and Nate Livings). The addition of Chance Warmack could provide a big boost.
On defense, there are some areas of strength, but also some question marks. The interior defensive line would have plenty of depth and plenty of guys who could play in either system. We would probably want to run a 3-4 to take advantage of the inside linebacker depth, where we probably wouldn’t have to even mess with Rolando McClain, going with Hightower, Ryans, Minter, James, and Nico Johnson. The edge rush would be a question mark. Courtney Upshaw would need to emerge. Barkevious Mingo would need to live up to his draft status right away. If Jarret Johnson is still seeing significant time at OLB/edge rusher, we are in trouble.
The secondary has plenty of depth, and upside to be one of the better units in the league, especially at corner. There are enough bodies at safety that between veterans like Landry and Harper, and young guys like Barron and Reid we can piece something together. We would have a punter (Donnie Jones) but no kicker, and be set otherwise on special teams with Trindon Holliday and plenty of other return options.
Overall, the potential on defense is pretty good, subject to getting a pass rush. The offense will be highly dependent on Bowe and Julio staying healthy, because the rest of the offense would struggle without them. This team could withstand injuries in most areas, but some true elite stars would have to emerge to really push into the playoff picture. I’d set the win total at 8.5.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]