Monday, April 19, 2010

State of the AFC: Q&A with Mike Kranzler

April 19, 2010

The last time we spoke with Mike Kranzler he gave us his perspective on the Dolphins' draft projections earlier in mid-February. A few months and some key offseason moves later, he's back to talk about the Dolphins and the state of the AFC. Having covered the San Diego Chargers for quite some time now, he's offered his journalistic commentary through sites like, the San Diego Union-Tribune and Bleacher Report. Here's his take on the latest happenings in the NFL as the draft nears in our Q&A session.

Miami Sports Generation: Having covered the AFC through your writings on the San Diego Chargers, what do you think this offseason has done to the power rankings of the conference?

Mike Kranzler: The biggest change has to be the balance of power in the AFC East. The Jets and Dolphins have both made significant improvements through free agency, and the Patriots have done little to keep up with them. If Mark Sanchez proves himself to be a quality starting quarterback (which at this point remains to be seen), the Jets could be the class of the division for a long time due to the young stars on this team.

Dolphins fans should really be breathing a sigh of relief right now, because Brandon Marshall came dangerously close to becoming a Jet before he signed with the Dolphins. Apparently, the Jets were set to sign him to an offer sheet that would have sent their first-round pick (No. 29) to the Broncos in exchange for Marshall, but they couldn't agree on a contract. That would have been a disaster scenario for DolFans, but it couldn't have worked out better for them in the end.

Additionally, the Baltimore Ravens took a big step forward in signing Anquan Boldin, and could be the team to beat this season in the North.

On the other side, I expect the Broncos and Steelers to take a tumble down the power rankings this year. A year after trading their franchise QB, the Broncos unloaded their star wide receiver to the Dolphins in a move that I personally think will be very beneficial to both sides.

One of the most under-reported aspects of Brandon Marshall's attitude issues in Denver seems to be his guilt over his role in the death of teammate Darrent Williams in 2007. Mike Klis of the Denver Post had a great story in February about his troubles (, and I think that a change of scenery will be more than enough to straighten him out.

As for the Steelers, they've just traded their star wide receiver for a 5th rounder, and their franchise quarterback could soon be out the door due to his frequent brushes with the law (along with the two widely-reported accusations of sexual assault, there have been grumblings of at least two or three more cases where the victim chose not to press any charges). The Steelers are one of the classiest organizations in the NFL, and I don't think many would blame Art Rooney for making a statement and cutting ties with Big Ben. They will likely struggle this year without Santonio Holmes and possibly Big Ben, but should be set up to draft one of next year's star QBs such as Jake Locker (Washington), Andrew Luck (Stanford), or Ryan Mallett (Arkansas).

MSG: Having lost two "big name" players from the Chargers to the Jets, who do you see as the team that benefited the most?

MK: I would have to say that the Chargers benefited the most, although we will not be able to know for sure until after the draft next season. Tomlinson is one of the greatest running backs of all time, but there's no denying (unless you're LT) that he's past is prime. I would have really liked to see him stick around for one more year to mentor whatever young running back (my money is on Fresno State's Ryan Mathews or Auburn's Ben Tate) the Chargers pick up in the draft, but he obviously felt like he was no longer welcome in San Diego.

As for Cromartie, he is an incredibly talented athlete, but he has some major attitude issues. I've watched him loaf through practice for several years in training camp, and his play on the field often reflected that. He has a tendency to gamble in coverage, and lately has been beat more often than not. Outside of his standout All-Pro campaign when he notched 10 interceptions, he's only had five over the rest of his career. He also is a surprisingly unwilling tackler for a cornerback of his size, and his performance against the Jets in the playoffs ( was the last straw for the Chargers.

Along with his off-field exploits, I think the Chargers were the big winners in the Cromartie deal, especially if he plays enough to net them a 2nd rounder next year.

Additionally, the Jets have made several big-name moves at the risk of destroying their locker room chemistry. Cromartie and Holmes both have had multiple run-ins with the law, and even Tomlinson wasn't the best influence for the younger players in San Diego. If the Jets add Jason Taylor this week, they will be adding another veteran who has made his feelings for the Jets and their fans very well-known, and this team could very easily implode from all these moves.

Rex Ryan, while quite controversial, is a great coach, but I think it will take his best job yet in order to keep this locker room intact.

MSG: Since the last time we spoke, many factors have changed the landscape of the upcoming draft, do you have any new and different perspectives now?

MK: With the offseason additions of Marshall and Karlos Dansby, the Dolphins are likely no longer targeting my original possibilities of Rolando McClain and Dez Bryant. However, I could see them going for a pass-rushing outside linebacker like Sergio Kindle of Texas or a run-stuffing defensive tackle like Tennessee's Dan Williams. Since the Fins are much more likely to find a capable OLB with one of their later picks, I would suggest that they go with Williams if he is available.

Another route that a lot of Miami fans have been clamoring for lately is Clemson stud C.J. Spiller, but I don't see him lasting until No. 12.

In terms of the rest of the draft, I think the two big possibilities are Tim Tebow and/or Colt McCoy sneaking into the end of the 1st round or very beginning of the 2nd round. There have been grumblings of QB-needy teams like the Buffalo Bills trading back into the end of the 1st for Tebow, and Colt McCoy reminds me a lot of Drew Brees. Those two, while nowhere near as highly rated as Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen, have what it takes to be successful pros if put in the right situations.

The only other surprise could be the possibility of Clausen suffering an Aaron Rodgers-like freefall if he makes it past the Bills at No. 9, but I think the big news will be the start of Round 2, now that the 1st round has been moved to primetime on Thursday. With a whole day to reevaluate their draft boards and hit the phones, the first few picks on Day 2 are going to be in very high demand for teams looking to trade up to grab the players they covet.

It's going to be a very exciting draft with the combination of the new format and one of the deepest groups of prospects in years, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. The NFL Draft is already the best weekend of the year for many football fans, and I think this is a great idea to make it even more exciting.

No comments:

Image Disclaimer

The photos used on this site are not the property of Miami Sports Generation, unless otherwise defined by our logo. The rightful owners of these photos deserve all the credit for their work.