The draft has come and gone, much to the relief of draftniks? wives across the country. I don?t issue immediate draft grades anymore, because the full impact of this draft cannot be judged until two or three seasons have passed. But I do harbor some definite opinions about what each team did over the weekend.
Arizona Cardinals: They got bigger and more physical across the board. Beanie Wells is a thumping RB and should be the best RB in this draft if he can stay healthy. Cody Brown is a great schematic fit as a rush OLB. Trevor Canfield and Herman Johnson are good value picks up front, though they?re probably fighting for the same roster spot. I know one other team was privately disappointed Greg Toler didn?t fall a few more picks.
Best pick: Cody Brown at #63, though getting a top-5 caliber talent at #31 in Wells can?t be overlooked.
Atlanta Falcons: Hard to argue with their plan of attack. They desperately needed help in the defensive front and the secondary, and their first five picks all addressed those areas. I?m not a William Moore fan, but their scheme will help him, and he has a knack for forcing turnovers. Owens and Sidbury represent excellent value potential for their slots.
Best Pick: Peria Jerry at #24, instant starter up front who will toughen the run defense.
Baltimore Ravens: This draft is certainly not one to judge quickly, as most of the players are unlikely to see much time until 2-3 seasons from now. They built depth at positions of strength, positions which are integral to their success. Not taking a WR or a developmental DL could come back to bite them. They passed on some players I had rated much higher than whom they took in the first two rounds, but I will always give Ozzie Newsome the benefit of the doubt. I love their mid-round trade with the Patriots; they picked up a solid ILB in Jason Phillips for two practice squad players. Their locker room atmosphere is perfect for Michael Oher.
Best Pick: Cedric Peerman at #185, provides quality depth and offers punch in the return game. 3rd-4th round talent in the 6th is always worth the pick.
Buffalo Bills: I?m no Aaron Maybin fan, but in Buffalo he will only have one task--rushing the passer, the only thing he can do. I like Eric Wood, but it makes the Hangartner signing look superfluous. Trading up to get Levitre is questionable, though he could start right away and provide toughness. Shawn Nelson and Cary Harris were both great value picks. Nelson compares well to Greg Olsen of the Bears, an above-average starter, and they got him in the 4th round.
Best Pick: Shawn Nelson, the passing game threat at TE the team has lacked for years.
Carolina Panthers: They traded next year?s 1st for Everette Brown and Mike Goodson, a real questionable move. Brown provides insurance against Peppers leaving, but he appears to be a better fit as a 3-4 OLB and not a 4-3 end. Goodson is the #3 RB, though he brings versatility. Taking Tony Fiammetta makes for a very crowded backfield for a team that had far more pressing needs elsewhere. Sherrod Martin is the big nickel back they wanted, and Duke Robinson in the 6th is tremendous value; Robinson was in the first round of some mock drafts within the last month.
Best Pick: Duke Robinson, replenishing their depleted OL depth with serious potential.
Chicago Bears: GM Jerry Angelo had the fan base fuming after trading out of Saturday?s action, but he sure appears to have redeemed himself with a very strong Sunday. Jarron Gilbert is a fantastic pick, the upfield complement to Tommie Harris they?ve lacked along the DL. Angelo correctly gambled that WR Juaquin Iglesias would fall. Their 4th and 5th round picks can all contribute right away in some fashion and bolster the depth at some very thin positions. Keep an eye on Derek Kinder, their 7th round pick. They did not get a true #1 WR that they desperately need, but they got Jay Cutler some capable help. Potentially.
Best Pick: Jarron Gilbert, great value where they got him, and they didn?t reach for a wideout.
Cincinnati Bengals: Nobody had a better Saturday than the Bengals. Andre Smith and Rey Maualuga bring size, snarl, and skill to a team in need of all those attributes. Maualuga gets reunited with Keith Rivers, and the Bengals won?t ask him to do much but kill the ballcarrier, which he does better than any LB in recent drafts. They didn?t reach for Michael Johnson and Coach Lewis knows how to bring him along slowly. Jonathan Luigs is ready to start at C, good value for a 4th round pick at a major position of need. They lose points for taking a punter (Keith Huber) and yet another player (Bernard Scott) with serious character concerns. Their 6th and 7th rounders are all practice squad fodder with long-term backup potential at best.
Best Pick: Andre Smith
Cleveland Browns: Are they still trading down? I?m not as negative on the Sanchez trade as most, because I know Mangini coveted Abram Elam as a starting safety they desperately needed and they saved signing bonus $$. Tampa Bay needlessly gave them what became Coye Francies, a game-ready nickel corner they sorely needed, in order to take a project QB that would have fallen to them anyways. Alex Mack is a puzzling pick considering their myriad defensive needs, but he will start for the next decade. Their 2nd round WRs are smart fits, but Veikune is a questionable reach. James Davis is worth the 6th round pick. Bonus points for not giving away Edwards or Brady Quinn.
Best Pick: Brian Robiskie, who can step right in and more than capably fill the Joe Jurevicius role that they really missed in 2008.
Dallas Cowboys: Their theme was long-term building and special teams/depth needs, and if you take it in that regard, Jerry Jones did well. The only players taken that look to contribute at all in 2009 are the Cincinnati DBs, Deangelo Smith (replacing Anthony Henry) and Mike Mickens, an exceptional 7th round value. Michael Hamlin is a good risk/reward safety where they took him. I love the Stephen McGee pick at the top of the 4th, but both 3rd rounders were taken at least a round too early. Jason Williams has good potential but needs some work. Not taking more help for the OL leaves them desperately thin up front, though they have not had any sort of success when they?ve tried recently.
Best Pick: Mike Mickens, who should win the nickel CB job at pick #227.
Denver Broncos: Denver fans who were already mutinous about the McDaniels/Xanders duo got more plank fodder. Knowshon Moreno is a legit starting RB, but they signed three others in free agency and their offense looks to be more pass-oriented. Robert Ayers and Alphonso Smith are great picks, though the price for Smith (2010 1st) is real steep. Trading for a #3 TE (Richard Quinn) in the 2nd round is ponderous even though I like his developmental upside. That trade cost them two higher-rated players than Quinn to Pittsburgh. They picked up a lot of potential useful parts on Sunday, though Bruton and McBath are redundant.
Best Pick: Robert Ayers fills a major void and could easily have been the #12 pick, not #18.
Detroit Lions: I forget who said it, but I completely agree with the analysis that the Lions needed, and hit, a lot of doubles instead of mixing strikeouts and homers. Stafford wouldn?t have been my choice, but I understand the need for picking him. Pettigrew is surprisingly well-received and should help keep the outside open for the Johnsons. Delmas is a great fit for a defense that needs his swagger and playmaking ability. They fleeced the Jets for an extra pick, getting a solid backup swing tackle in Lydon Murtha as well as a developmental NT to learn behind Grady Jackson in Sammie Lee Hill. Levy and Williams will help more on special teams, but that was a need too and they both have developmental potential. Zack Follett could be a real steal in the 7th round. They resisted taking high risk/reward players several times, a distinct departure from the Millen era. It can?t go any worse, so it?s a welcome change.
Best Pick: Louis Delmas, the alpha male leader the Lions D has lacked for years. He?d better be, because they took him instead of Laurinaitis or Maualuga.
Green Bay Packers: Their first three picks are as good as any team made in this draft. B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews are instant starters and give the new defense some versatility and toughness. T.J. Lang will help their weak run blocking and can play three positions. The rest of their draft doesn?t excite me, though they got good value for their slot with Jamon Meredith and Brandon Underwood. They gave up quite a bit to get Matthews, so the pressure is on him to produce right away.
Best Pick: T.J. Lang, who should start at RG and really help their running game.
Houston Texans: I was victimized by a deliberate smokescreen from a Texans insider (yes, he works inside their building), who told me they would take Clay Matthews ahead of Brian Cushing at #15 overall. Lesson learned. I?ve openly worried about Cushing?s lack of production and ability to stay healthy, but he brings a much-needed dimension of physicality and intensity at outside LB. The rest of their draft was humdrum at first impression, but looks better the more I look at it. I love Connor Barwin at #46 and Antoine Caldwell at #77--both exactly 20 spots lower than their rating on my overall board. Their secondary has been consistently dreadful, and they addressed it with some underappreciated late-round talent, Glover Quin could earn a starting job at CB with his confidence and footwork. Anthony Hill fits well as the blocking TE they?ve needed. James Casey seems superfluous as a TE, but his versatility--he has experience running the Wildcat package as a QB--and professional experience are nice value.
Best Pick: Antoine Caldwell in the 3rd, who can earn a starting spot at either G or C.
Indianapolis Colts: Before the draft I identified three players as guys who would make great Colts more than they would help other teams, and the Colts took all three: Donald Brown, Fili Moala, and Austin Collie. Not sexy picks, but all three are plug-and-play fits into their system that should answer positional questions for years. Terrance Taylor is a fair gamble who brings needed beef. Jerraud Powers reminds me a great deal of Tim Jennings, whom he appears to be replacing. I give them a pass on drafting a punter because their long-time punter, Hunter Smith, left for the Redskins.
Best Pick: Fili Moala at the bottom of the 2nd.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The first two picks set the Jaguars at offensive tackle for the next five years at minimum. Eugene Monroe is a steal at #8, and Eben Britton brings the nastiness they?ve been missing. They saw something few others did in Derek Cox, and Terrence Knighton went at least a round too early, but I really like how they addressed the WR position with the next two picks. Mike Thomas and Jarrett Dillard are receivers who come in with defined games and roles, and those rolls are ones that Jacksonville lacked. Rashad Jennings is a great 7th round pick. A developmental QB would have been nice, but I?m proud of them for resisting the urge to reach for one early.
Best Pick: Eugene Monroe at #8. The best overall tackle in the draft and they didn?t have to move to get him.
Kansas City Chiefs: I really like the Tyson Jackson pick and don?t find it a reach, though taking Alex Magee with the next pick is puzzling as he plays the exact same spot. The rest of their picks appear destined for the practice squad, and Mr. Irrelevant is a 66% FG kicker. No linebackers, no ready-to-play WRs, and just a real reach offensive lineman. I?ve questioned Scott Pioli?s recent drafts in New England, and this sure looks like more of the same--brilliant 1st rounder and then praying for good fortune.
Best Pick: Tyson Jackson
Miami Dolphins: Bill Parcells & Co. made some curious decisions that are either going to look genius or horrific. Vontae Davis has outstanding physical potential but lots of flags. I happen to like Pat White as a QB, but this team already has a good starter and 1st rounder from last year (Chad Henne) as his backup. He?s tailor-made to operate the Wildcat package, but this is the team that pioneered it with Ronnie Brown, who was largely ineffective outside of it last year. Sean Smith offers great size but is eerily similar to the man he?s set to replace, Jason Allen--not really a corner or a safety. Brian Hartline came off earlier than expected but is the kind of player who might make a better pro than collegian, and the same might be said of Chris Clemons. They passed on several ?safer? picks that would have addressed needs on defense and took a lot of players (Davis, Patrick Turner, Hartline, Andrew Gardner) that carry the ?underachiever? label, right or wrong.
Best Pick: Vontae Davis, potentially.
Minnesota Vikings: Less than a week before the draft a Vikings scout told me there was ?no way in hell? they were taking Percy Harvin based on concerns over his injuries and character. Another team I was with took Harvin off their draft board almost immediately after working him out, finding him an arrogant, uncoachable know-it-all. For a Vikings' team with their recent history, taking a chance on Harvin is a stunning risk. Harvin does present a Reggie Bush-like dynamic to their offense, if they can properly harness him. I wouldn?t even rule out Offensive Rookie of the Year, but it?s a big gamble. They made no secret of their yearning for Phil Loadholt, and by playing him at RT they play to his strengths. Asher Allen is an excellent pickup at #86 overall, and with the QBs in their division they will play a lot of base nickel package. Jasper Brinkley is a smart depth pick, though he?s a lot stiffer than what they have in front of him at LB.
Best Pick: Asher Allen, at worst their starting nickel back, at best a very solid/streaky strongside CB.
New England Patriots: Once again they made a boatload of trades to move down and stockpile future picks, and I?m getting real tired of the almost universal praising of their draft strategy. Ron Brace and Darius Butler were good picks in the 2nd round and both should fit in well and contribute right away. But the rest of their draft is full of reaches and head-scratchers. Brandon Tate is a high risk/reward 3rd rounder, and they can afford to do that, but taking a long snapper in the 6th? Three nose tackles? Patrick Chung and Sebastian Vollmer in the 2nd round? Dealing Ellis Hobbs for two late-round picks? Every pick they made after Tyrone McKenzie (a decent value pick) in the 4th had a free agent grade from most teams, and Vollmer was at least two rounds too early. I understand they don?t need much and prefer to sign veterans to fill needs, but they?re flaunting it a bit. This is the third draft in a row where they?re not likely to have more than two players make the opening day roster.
Best Pick: Darius Butler, who they took in the late 2nd after being ready (allegedly) to take him in the first round.
New Orleans Saints: I believe Malcolm Jenkins is going to be a very good pro, but I don?t get the Saints? strategy. After signing Jabari Greer and with promising Tracy Porter coming back, they appear set to use Jenkins at safety. So what do they do with their next pick? They drafted Chip Vaughn, a safety. Thomas Morstead is going to make an excellent NFL punter, but I scoff at any team that drafts a specialist before the second half of the 7th round. When you factor in their 2nd and 3rd round picks are essentially Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma, it eases the pain--so long as those two both stay healthy. No RBs and no OL depth could be troublesome.
Best Pick: Malcolm Jenkins, the best DB in the last two draft classes.
New York Giants: ...and the rich get richer. Hakeem Nicks is a big-play receiver with the swagger to potentially replace Plaxico Burress, the only real glaring need. I love the Clint Sintim pick in the 2nd round, great value and fit. I?m not high on any of their next three selections, but they all make sense for where the Giants took them, particularly Ramses Barden at the bottom of 3rd. The next three picks demonstrate why this team will compete for the Super Bowl every year for the foreseeable future. Andre Brown is Brandon Jacobs light, but with great hands. Rhett Bomar is a developmental #3 QB that they needed, with some similarities to Eli Manning. DeAndre Wright was very well-regarded by several teams and is a great value at #200 overall. I love what the Giants do--the identify specific wants and they go out and find guys who fill those wants without reaching.
Best Pick: Clint Sintim, a rare collegiate 3-4 OLB that projects better as a 4-3 blitzer and nickel LB.
New York Jets: They shot their load early with the trade for Mark Sanchez, which was a necessary evil given the demanding fan base and the prospect of starting Kellen Clemens. I believe Sanchez will be the best QB in this draft class when all is said and done, but his growing pains are going to be magnified under the Big Apple pressure to win now. He doesn?t have a lot to work with at WR, and they failed to add help there later. The trade up for Shonn Greene was not worth it, unless they truly feel neither Thomas Jones nor Leon Washington are long-term Jets. Matt Slauson is a bone to new OL coach Bill Callahan, who recruited him to Nebraska.
Best Pick: Mark Sanchez, the new face of a franchise that needed a face lift.
Oakland Raiders: I?d like to thank Al Davis for making me more valuable. As a loud-and-proud Ohio Bobcat alumnus, I became a go-to interview for people looking for info on shocking 2nd rounder Mike Mitchell. The skinny: Al Davis sees Jack Tatum, and Mitchell sure brings the lumber with a freakish size/speed package...when he stays at home and locates the ball, two skills that need lots of work. Heyward-Bey fits the Raiders system, but they could have traded down and still taken him. Ditto the Mitchell pick, though I know of at least two other teams that saw him with third-round potential. Louis Murphy brings yet more speed outside, and Stryker Sulak is an intriguing 6th rounder. They?re the butt of most jokes, but at least they are a team with a defined identity, and it?s an identity that can cause real problems for some teams.
Best Pick: Louis Murphy, a guy I?m not real high on but who could blossom with Jamarcus Russell throwing him the ball.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy are gifts from the draft gods, plain and simple. Maclin is not a real #1 wideout, but Andy Reid?s offense doesn?t use a #1 but can definitely use his elite speed and strong hands. McCoy is just enough like Brain Westbrook to fit in well but offers just enough difference to make an effective change-up. Trading to get Ellis Hobbs from New England is a great move. Cornelius Ingram is a 2nd round talent taken in the 5th, though he has to recover fully from his nasty knee injury. Their later picks are going to be hard-pressed to make the team, though Macho Harris might make a good NFL safety.
Best Pick: Jeremy Maclin. No more excuses for Donovan McNabb, just like he wanted.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Their draft won?t win any popularity contests, but the Super Bowl champs quietly accomplished a great deal to keep that status. Ziggy Hood brings much-needed depth along the DL, and he has potential as a real disruptive force up front. 3rd rounder Kraig Urbik can capably fill in at either guard spot or RT and has good size. Mike Wallace is a similar player to the departed Nate Washington--very straight-line fast downfield targets. The two corners both went one round early but both should stick. A.Q. Shipley has freakishly short arms but nobody competes harder at center. They did an exceptional job drafting guys who play with the blue collar Steeler mentality and attitude.
Best Pick: Kraig Urbik.
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers clearly put some distance between themselves and the rest of their division with a strong draft. Some were surprised by Larry English at #16, but two different evaluators I respect think he will be Defensive Rookie of the Year. Their next two picks weigh almost 700 combined pounds and bring power and intensity as depth projects. Vaughn Martin is a freakish athletic specimen who can learn a lot from Jamal Williams, though coming from Canadian college football he?s got a tremendous learning curve. Gartrell Johnson makes a nice #3 RB, and Brandon Hughes fits their style of play in the secondary. Keith Ellison is real slow but makes up for it with savvy and hustle; I would not count him out despite some physical limitations. They added both immediate impact and solid long-term developmental potential at positions with aging starters, just what good teams do.
Best Pick: Larry English, though three years from now it could very well be Vaughn Martin.
San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree at #10 is a no-brainer that will do more to help their passing attack than a new QB ever could. He?s a legit #1 wideout that will command lots of defensive attention. They dealt their 2nd and 4th rounders for an extra first next year--good value to be sure but it stunts the forward momentum this year. Scott McKillop is a Mike Singletary type of player, as is Bear Pascoe, who will really help on special teams. Nate Davis was worth a 5th round pick, so long as they don?t rush him. I?m not high on either LSU player they took, but they didn?t reach for them and both could be pleasant 7th round surprises.
Best Pick: Michael Crabtree, arguably the best overall pick in the entire draft.
Seattle Seahawks: My excitement over drafting Aaron Curry at #4 overall is tempered by the fact that it forced them to make Leroy Hill a free agent. They can still bring Hill back and sport the best LB corps in the game, but if he departs it blunts Curry?s impact. I?m not a Max Unger fan and he?s a bad fit for a team with lots of 3-4 defensive fronts inside their division. Deon Butler is an excellent fit for their offense with good promise to succeed fellow Nittany Lion Bobby Engram. Their late rounder picks are not really developmental players as much as they are good system fits who can perhaps provide more immediate depth. Courtney Greene has the best shot to make an impact.
Best Pick: Aaron Curry, almost universally regarded as the best overall player in the draft, at #4 overall.
St. Louis Rams: Their first two picks are great value, and they chose wisely to match up with the rest of the NFC West. I?m not as high on Jason Smith as most, but he has the athletic potential to fill Orlando Pace?s shoes. James Laurinaitis steps in as the field general this defense badly needs, and his skills in coverage and blitzing will come in handy in their division. Dorell Scott was a nice value pick, and Brooks Foster and Chris Ogbonnaya both made a lot of ?sleeper pick? lists before the draft. It?s time for their last two draft classes to step up more than they need immediate contributions from this group.
Best Pick: James Laurinaitis at #34 overall.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They needlessly traded up two spots to take a long-term project QB, Josh Freeman, with their first pick. With all the offseason changes, that move clearly signifies this team is in full rebuild mode in 2009, That makes sacrificing a later pick all the more pointless, having already dealt their 2nd rounder for high-priced, chronically injured sore thumb TE Kellen Winslow. Roy Miller and Kyle Moore are both very good value picks on the DL with starting potential, and I like the long-term potential of Xavier Fulton, though he?s likely to spend 2009 on the IR. I watched every WMU game over the last two years, and I saw very little that said ?NFL corner?, though he?ll certainly fight for his spot. Stroughter is a KR with some Wildcat package potential, if he can stay clear medically.
Best Pick: Roy Miller in the 3rd round. He doesn?t look like much but dude can flat-0ut play.
Tennessee Titans: Titans fans finally get in Kenny Britt the 1st round WR they?ve begged for since the last one (Kevin Dyson) failed to pan out. His size and toughness are real problems for their divisional opponents. Their next two picks, Sen?Derrick Marks and Jared Cook, are uncharacteristically boom/bust players, and they traded a 2nd next year to take Cook in the 3rd this year. Ryan Mouton and Gerald McRath are aggressive, undersized competitors, and Javon Ringer and Troy Kropog were good value picks that might be more than just depth players at some point. None of the other picks look like more than practice squad fodder, though Ryan Durand could surprise.
Best Pick: Ryan Mouton at the bottom of the 3rd. This team consistently finds and develops underrated secondary talent, and Mouton looks like the latest find.
Washington Redskins: They got exactly who they wanted in Brian Orakpo at #13, and he fills a giant need. He should more than capably fill the role Jason Taylor could not, and the addition of Albert Haynesworth inside will give him room to operate. Owner Dan Snyder didn?t get overly excited and sacrifice future picks for once, but if the later rounds are an indication, perhaps he should have. Kevin Barnes has potential if his shoulder holds up, but the rest are in need of practice squad time. Marko Mitchell was a nice late pick, though he?s unlikely to make much of an immediate impact. Not addressing the OL with their 5th and 6th rounders is a major mistake.
Best Pick: Brian Orakpo.
Via Jeff Risdon/RealGM
Draft, Draft Misc
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