With the NHL preparing for the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft, theScore’s Jack Browne, along with David P. Woods, Daniel Wilkins, and Mitch Sanderson, imagines what a 33rd NFL team would look like – but with some added twists and turns to the league’s expansion draft formula.
Imagining NFL Expansion
- Part 1: London Spitfires are born
- Part 2: Unprotected players are chosen
- Part 3: Spitfires fill roster, make shock FA signing (June 21)
The expansion draft is nearly upon us. The London Spitfires are almost ready to enter the NFL.
The rest of the league’s 32 teams have spent the last few weeks scrambling to decide which five players to leave unprotected, and their submissions are in a day before the draft, leaving the Spitfires time to assess their options.
Let’s take a look at who’s available, why, and if they could be a fit.
Check out Part 1 for a reminder of our revised expansion draft rules.
V = veteran player with 7-plus years experience
PB = player with a Pro Bowl nod in their career
DP = player who was drafted in 2016 or 2017
|WR Matthew Slater (PB-V)||RB Matt Forte (PB-V)|
|DT Vincent Valentine (DP)||LB Jordan Jenkins (DP)|
|WR Andrew Hawkins||OL Jonotthan Harrison|
|C James Ferentz||CB Darryl Roberts|
|RB Brandon Bolden||LB Julian Stanford|
|G Jermon Bushrod (PB-V)||DT Kyle Williams (PB-V)|
|WR Leonte Carroo (DP)||DT Adolphus Washington (DP)|
|LB Mike Hull||TE Charles Clay|
|WR Jakeem Grant||LB Carl Bradford|
|TE MarQueis Gray||WR Rashad Ross|
The only reason Matt Forte remains on the tanking Jets is his $4-million salary is guaranteed for 2017. New York jumps at the chance to get him off its books and take another step toward the first overall pick in 2018. The Patriots, as usual, find an easy out for the Pro-Bowl rule, though giving up special teams standout Matthew Slater does sting.
The Bills attempt to entice the Spitfires into taking Charles Clay‘s terrible contract, but even without considering the cap, the tight end would be a risk due to his injury history. Kyle Williams, on the one hand, is an intriguing fit thanks to his leadership skills and affordable contract. Though, at 34 years old, he won’t be around for long.
The rest of the AFC East’s offerings aren’t that appealing, with few young upside players to steal, though Jordan Jenkins might be an option if no stronger pass-rushers are available and Vincent Valentine has the bulk to play nose tackle in the Spitfires’ 3-4.
|OLB James Harrison (PB-V)||OLB Terrell Suggs (PB-V)|
|CB Cameron Sutton (DP)||OLB Kamalei Correa (DP)|
|QB Landry Jones||OT James Hurst|
|WR Justin Hunter||RB Javorius Allen|
|DL Leterrius Walton||WR Vince Mayle|
|CB Adam Jones (PB-V)||CB Joe Haden (PB-V)|
|ILB Nick Vigil (DP)||OT Shon Coleman (DP)|
|DE Michael Johnson||QB Brock Osweiler|
|RB Cedric Peerman||C Marcus Martin|
|TE Tyler Kroft||DE Nate Orchard|
The AFC North is bringing some star power to the draft, though not by choice. James Harrison, Terrell Suggs, Adam Jones, and Joe Haden are all still crucial to their respective teams’ success, but they were smartly made available instead of giving up younger Pro Bowlers.
Unless the Spitfires want to be the quickest expansion team in history to fold, they should pass on the quarterback options available by the AFC North – Landry Jones and Brock Osweiler. Both moves make sense for the Steelers and the Browns, as the former drafted Joshua Dobbs and the latter can get rid of Osweiler’s ridiculous $16-million cap hit in 2017. But unless the Spitfires are desperate, they should look elsewhere.
In limited action, Shon Coleman showed some potential in his rookie season. The Spitfires are looking for established veterans for the offensive line, but Coleman might be an option if those level of players don’t appear.
|RB Frank Gore (PB-V)||CB Johnathan Joseph (PB-V)|
|S T.J. Green (DP)||WR Braxton Miller (DP)|
|DT David Parry||ILB Brian Peters|
|CB Chris Milton||DT Brandon Dunn|
|TE Brandon Williams||TE Ryan Griffin|
|RB Chris Ivory (PB-V)||OLB Brian Orakpo (PB-V)|
|DE Dawuane Smoot (DP)||OLB Kevin Dodd (DP)|
|TE Marcedes Lewis||OT Dennis Kelly|
|G Jeremiah Poutasi||DT Angelo Blackson|
|DB Brian Dixon||WR Harry Douglas|
The AFC South is teasing the Spitfires with some veteran running backs, but the pass-rushers are where the real value lies.
The Titans are forced to double-dip into their outside linebackers, putting up Brian Orakpo as their Pro Bowler and Kevin Dodd as their recent draft choice. Orakpo is no star, but he might be as good as it gets with available outside linebackers. While Dodd looked bad in his rookie year and has injury concerns, he was a second-rounder for a reason. He could be an upside pick.
Back to the running backs, the Colts are forced into giving up Frank Gore because of their lack of Pro Bowlers. Vontae Davis was the only other realistic option, but holds far more positional value and is significantly younger. After drafting Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars would kill to get Chris Ivory‘s bloated contract off their books.
Meanwhile, a solid selection of decent veterans and young players with upside are available. The Texans’ solid drafting over the past few seasons forces them to give up Braxton Miller, though their receiving corps can take the loss with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller atop the depth chart. Dawuane Smoot and T.J Green are interesting prospects. The Colts’ second-year safety had an abysmal rookie year, but he’s the exact type of risk the Spitfires have to take.
|S Reggie Nelson (PB-V)||RB C.J. Spiller (PB-V)|
|DT Jihad Ward (DP)||DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (DP)|
|QB EJ Manuel||TE Orson Charles|
|CB Dexter McDonald||DT Montari Hughes|
|ILB Andy Mulumba||S Marqueston Huff|
|TE Antonio Gates (PB-V)||RB Jamaal Charles (PB-V)|
|G Dan Feeney (DP)||DE Adam Gotsis (DP)|
|S Adrian Phillips||WR Jordan Taylor|
|RB Andre Williams||RB Bernard Pierce|
|DT Ryan Carrethers||DE Shelby Harris|
The Raiders are forced to offer up a tantalizing player in the form of free safety Reggie Nelson. The 33-year-old isn’t quite the player he once was, but he’s a rare breed who can man the back end of the defense – something the Spitfires need as they prioritize pass defense above all.
The rest of the AFC West doesn’t have to risk losing any significant players due to the Pro-Bowl rule, though it might be painful for the Chargers to see Antonio Gates in another jersey. The presence of Hunter Henry would ease the potential loss, however. Jamaal Charles has the dynamic playing style we want for our backfield, but is he worth the risk considering his injury history and the plethora of backs to choose from?
Two picks from the 2017 draft – Dan Feeney and Tanoh Kpassagnon – are put up, and the former in particular could be a useful addition to the offensive line. The run of terrible quarterbacks being made available continues. No thanks, Raiders. You keep EJ Manuel.
|RB Alfred Morris (PB)||WR Dwayne Harris (PB)|
|DT Maliek Collins (DP)||S Darian Thompson (DP)|
|CB Nolan Carroll (V)||ILB Jonathan Casillas (V)|
|WR Lucky Whitehead||RB Shane Vereen|
|ILB Kyle Wilber||DE Kerry Wynn|
|TE Vernon Davis (PB-V)||RB Ryan Mathews (PB)|
|CB Kendall Fuller (DP)||CB Rasul Douglas (DP)|
|RB Matt Jones||G Allen Barbre (V)|
|S DeAngelo Hall||WR Bryce Treggs|
|WR Ryan Grant||ILB Najee Goode|
The expansion draft, if nothing else, has highlighted just how expendable teams believe running backs to be, especially older ones.
Once again, the Spitfires are teased with several former Pro Bowl running backs to pick from. But Alfred Morris and Ryan Mathews, while both decent players, aren’t capable of being the featured back the Spitfires are resting their hopes on landing. Both could be solid backups, however.
The rest of the NFC East’s offerings are underwhelming. Maliek Collins and Kendall Fuller didn’t impress in their rookie seasons last year, which is why they’re here, and Darian Thompson lost most of his first year to a foot injury. However, Allen Barbre and Shane Vereen could all be useful veteran additions – the latter is the only solid third-down back available so far.
The draft hasn’t been kind to the Spitfires in terms of receiving options. Lucky Whitehead and Bryce Treggs don’t even qualify as potential starters down the line, but the Spitfires could be getting desperate.
|G Jahri Evans (PB-V)||WR Victor Cruz (PB-V)|
|G Jason Spriggs (DP)||DE Jonathan Bullard (DP)|
|WR Jeff Janis||C Taylor Boggs|
|ILB Jordan Tripp||TE Ben Braunecker|
|CB Demetri Goodson||CB Johnthan Banks|
|CB Terence Newman (PB-V)||DT Haloti Ngata (PB-V)|
|C Pat Elflein (DP)||C Graham Glasgow (DP)|
|RB Bishop Sankey||WR T.J. Jones|
|S Antone Exum||RB Mike James|
|CB Jabari Price||CB Adairius Barnes|
The over-the-hill gang is here, representing the NFC North.
Jahri Evans and Haloti Ngata were among the best in the league at their respective positions four or five seasons ago, while Victor Cruz was an upper-tier receiver. Having said that, all three guys might actually be worth taking, even as depth. The Spitfires are going to need to build chemistry quickly, and their experience and leadership might be invaluable. Lumping in Terence Newman with the other veterans is actually unfair, as the 38-year-old cornerback has defied logic, managing to still be a top corner despite his age.
The NFC North also offers up little intriguing recent draft pick options. Jonathan Bullard, Jason Spriggs, and Graham Glasgow underwhelmed in their rookie seasons. The Packers’ offensive line depth could potentially take a big hit. but giving up Spriggs was preferable to losing impressive linebacker Kyler Fackrell, the only other realistic option for Green Bay. Pat Elflein was a third-round pick this year in a poor center class, but is a talented prospect, though the Spitfires might want a veteran at such a key position on the offensive line.
Also, Jeff Janis? Good try, Packers. If Aaron Rodgers can’t make him look good, whoever ends up as the Spitfires’ quarterback sure as hell can’t.
|RB Mark Ingram (PB)||QB Matt Schaub (PB-V)|
|ILB Alex Anzalone (DP)||ILB Duke Riley (DP)|
|DE Darryl Tapp (V)||G Andy Levitre|
|TE Coby Fleener||CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson|
|S Rafael Bush||DE Brooks Reed|
|CB Brent Grimes (PB-V)||RB Jonathan Stewart (PB-V)|
|ILB Kendell Beckwith (DP)||CB Daryl Worley (DP)|
|DE Robert Ayers||DE Wes Horton|
|C Evan Smith||G David Yankey|
|S Chris Conte||WR Brenton Bersin|
The NFC South is hoping to use the expansion to draft to offload some of its bad or unnecessary contracts.
Coby Fleener, Mark Ingram, Andy Levitre, Robert Ayers, and Jonathan Stewart all have deals that their respective teams would be pleased to get off their books, though all five are still at least solid contributors. The Buccaneers are the worst hit by the Pro Bowl rule, as they’re forced to give up Brent Grimes following a bounce-back year in 2016, while the Falcons cheat the system with Matt Schaub.
Ingram is being pushed out of his job by Adrian Peterson and was made even more expendable by rookie Alvin Kamara. But at 27 years old, Ingram could carry the load for the foreseeable future if selected. Andy Levitre is a shock selection, but the Falcons need to start thinking about creating money for extensions for their younger players. Levitre is good, but not irreplaceable.
Several young inside linebackers could be snatched up here, though it is a position that would likely struggle without one veteran. Having said that, Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith played together at LSU, so while they’d have growing pains as a starting pairing, their familiarity with each other could be a boost to the defense.
|DT Ahtyba Rubin (V)||TE Jermain Gresham (PB-V)|
|G Rees Odhiambo (DP)||CB Brandon Williams (DP)|
|TE Jimmy Graham (PB)||QB Drew Stanton|
|ILB David Bass||OT Ulrick John|
|CB Pierre Desir||OLB Alani Fua|
|LB Ahmad Brooks (PB-V)||DE Connor Barwin (PB-V)|
|QB C.J. Beathard (DP)||S Josh Johnson (DP)|
|RB Kapri Bibbs||WR Tavon Austin|
|ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong||ILB Bryce Hager|
|TE Blake Bell||C Austin Blythe|
The Seahawks shock the NFL world by including Jimmy Graham as their Pro Bowl selection. The star tight end was never a great fit in Seattle, and with his contract set to expire this offseason and more valuable Pro Bowlers on the roster, the Seahawks made a hard choice. Seattle’s loss is the Spitfires’ gain. With a lack of good receivers available, Graham might finally get his wish to play exclusively on the outside.
The rest of the NFC West’s offerings are less exciting but could provide some helpful depth. Drew Stanton isn’t a starter, but he’s one of the more proven backups in the league. And while C.J. Beathard would need a year or two on the bench, the Spitfires need to take chances at the quarterback position. Ray-Ray Armstrong, Pierre Desir, and Ahtyba Rubin aren’t strong starters, but Armstrong especially is intriguing thanks to his pass coverage skills.
Connor Barwin and Ahmad Brooks are both well past their primes, and there’s been a handful of superior pass-rushers made available. The Rams also provide a minor surprise, admitting how awful the contract they gave to Tavon Austin was and praying the Spitfires take it off their hands.
Check back tomorrow to see which players the Spitfires select to fill their roster.
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