The 2012 NFL Draft is in the books, and it was an exciting one, with a lot of action from the third pick, straight through the final pick on Saturday. You have all seen the draft grades from multiple sources, and I am not going to go that route, but I will break down my thoughts on how teams fared in the draft, discuss some strategy that jumped out at me, and let you know which teams excelled and which struggled.
The Best of the Best:
Cincinnati Bengals: Very impressive draft by the staff in Cincinnati. The Bengals loaded up on extremely talented players with nearly every pick, and found great value throughout the 2012 NFL Draft. While Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was not a steal at seventeenth overall, he will be a versatile defender in the NFL who is a nightmare matchup against bigger receivers in the red zone due to his size and length, plus he is an excellent run defender. Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler is a stud offensive guard who is a huge upgrade in the trenches for the Bengals. The Bengals got excellent value in the second round by grabbing Rutgers wideout Mohammed Sanu, who should be a great possession receiver on the opposite side of the field for quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals also got great value along the defensive front by grabbing Penn State DE/DT Devon Still in the second round and Clemson DT Brandon Thompson in the third round, both talented players who can line up in multiple spots on Cincinnati’s hybrid defensive front and should crack the rotation as rookies. Georgia tight end Orson Charles was also excellent value in round four, he will never be a blocker, but can stretch the field from the tight end spot or line up in the slot as another target for Dalton. In the first four rounds the Bengals landed two players I had graded as first round picks (Kirkpatrick and Zeitler), three players I had graded as second round picks (Still, Sanu, Thompson) and one that I had graded as a third round pick (Charles, who would have been graded even higher, if not for character concerns). That is how you draft! The Bengals even landed nice value in the middle and late rounds, selecting Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater and Boise State safety George Iloka in the fifth round, both players with developmental value who can immediately provide depth and special teams ability. They even signed troubled but extremely talented linebacker Vontaze Burfict as an undrafted dree agent, a player who was once considered a first round pick, but was dropped off every team’s draft board due to multiple red flags (both on the field and off the field). My only knock on Cincinnati’s draft was the fact that they brought in several players with character issues (Kirkpatrick, Charles, Burfict) to a team that already employs several players with character issues. However, from strictly a value standpoint, this to me is easily the best draft of 2012 and one of the best drafts I have ever seen. As long as Andy Dalton avoids a Josh Freeman-esque sophomore slump, the Bengals should be a legitimate contender for the AFC North crown and a tough out of the playoffs in 2012.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If I am former Bucs head coach Rahim Morris, I am shaking my head and thinking “Why didn’t the front office give me players of this caliber during my tenure?” Tampa grabbed Alabama safety Mark Barron, who will be an immediate upgrade to their safety position, which was a huge weakness for this team. I really liked the addition of Boise State running back Doug Martin, who runs with a low base and showcases power and burst, he should start quickly and become a nice tandem with LeGarrett Blount and you know new head coach Greg Schiano will be running the ball a lot. Lavonte David is a great fit as a weakside linebacker who will make plays from sideline to sideline and cornerback Keith Tandy should contribute on special teams and provide depth. Tampa Bay had some major holes going into this offseason, but between the draft and free agency, I am not sure anyone did a better job of filling them than the Bucs. The one big question that remains is can Josh Freeman step up and recover from the brutal sophomore slump of 2011?
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles had a very strong draft, and it seems they are successfully going away from the ill-fated dream team mentality of the 2011 season and focusing on football again. Obviously defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was an excellent selection in the first round, he is the typical Eagles one-gap defensive tackle with an explosive first step that they missed last season and should be an immediate starter. Cal middle linebacker Mychal Kendricks also fills a major need, he should make a ton of tackles from sideline to sideline, and he combined with Cox should sure up the middle of the Philadelphia defense which was a major issue last season. I am not the biggest fan of Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry (I thought getting him late in the second round where they did was about the right spot for him, but others are considering him a steal), but he should immediately become part of the rotation behind Trent Cole and Jason Babin, and could develop into a starter down the road. My favorite pick of the Eagles draft, however, was selecting Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin in the fourth round. I said going into the draft process that Boykin was likely a fourth round pick, and he would likely never be a starter, but he will immediately contribute as a nickel back and on special teams and will make any team better so obviously I like this selection. I am not the biggest Nick Foles fan, but was not surprised that Andy Reid took a developmental quarterback, he always does. Loved the value the Eagles got in the late rounds, Miami guard Brandon Washington should provide immediate depth and has the potential to develop into a starter down the road. Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt has a shot to stick as a developmental possession receiver, and Kansas State tailback Bryce Brown is a former top recruit who is loaded with talent and will be an intriguing big back prospect when the Eagles report for camp. This draft class should be a nice complement to the Eagles current veterans and they should make a quick impact this coming season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: I really liked what the Steelers did on draft day, as they addressed serious needs which have plagued the organization for years, especially the offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger needs protection in the offensive trenches, and due to injuries the Steelers have been forced to start a plethora of marginal players along the offensive line over recent years, which has yet to gel. Pittsburgh changed all of that when they drafted Stanford guard David DeCastro, who is probably the safest player in the draft, in the first round and massive Ohio State tackle Mike Adams in the second round. I think that both of these players will start from day one in Pittsburgh and might make up the right side of the Steelers offensive line for the next ten years, and DeCastro should be a All Pro caliber player quickly. I did not love Pittsburgh’s selection of Miami linebacker Sean Spence in the third round, because I do not see how he fits the system, as he is a smaller linebacker I thought would fit best on the weakside of a 4-3 defense. The Steelers recovered nicely, drafting massive nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu of Washington and dynamic playmaker Chris Rainey out of Florida in rounds four and five, two players that should make immediate contributions. Pittsburg added bulk in the trenches in this draft, which was a huge need, and Big Ben should have more time to make plays downfield in the future due to this draft.
Detroit Lions: I really liked what Detroit did during this draft, and I think that they really improved their young team going forward. Getting offensive tackle Riley Reiff out of Iowa in round one was a no-brainer with the twenty-third overall pick, he will help protect quarterback Matthew Stafford and keep their impressive young quarterback upright in the future. I loved the Lions taking a gamble on Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles in the second round, he was easily a first round talent before tearing his ACL last year, and should eventually find success as a number two wideout opposite Calvin Johnson as long as he recovers from this injury. Throughout the rest of the draft, it was clear what the Lions were targeting, as they drafted all cornerbacks and linebackers (three of each) with the rest of their draft picks as they tried to plug their atrocious back seven on defense from 2011. Cornerback Dwight Bentley out of Louisiana-Lafayette could turn out to be a good one, the Lions got him in the third round, and I had him graded as a second rounder. Fifth and sixth round cornerbacks Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green will have a chance to provide depth at a thin position. Detroit selected two other Oklahoma players, both linebackers, Ronnell Lewis (who will be more of a situational edge rusher) in the fourth round and Travis Lewis (who I had graded as a fourth rounder) in the seventh round. Add in Temple linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who was drafted in the fifth round, and Detroit had an excellent draft. Detroit did a nice job of mixing immediate impact players and filling holes, I could see many members of this draft class making key contributions quickly.
Buffalo Bills: I absolutely loved the Buffalo Bills draft, I think they did an excellent job of identifying and filling needs starting with the selection of South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gillmore in the first round. It has been a while since the Bills plugged the holes in their offensive line, and the addition of massive Georgia offensive guard Cordy Glenn in round two should immediately upgrade the line and open up bigger holes for the running game. Third round pick wide receiver TJ Graham has a chance to be a factor, he has a nice combination of size and speed, and both fourth round picks FSU linebacker Nigel Bradham and LSU cornerback Ron Brooks should upgrade depth and special teams immediately. The Bills even grabbed a nice developmental tackle in Zebrie Sanders in the fifth round, he slid and I had him graded as a third round pick, even fifth round linebacker Tank Carder out of TCU should contribute down the road. Really nice draft for the Bills, capping out an excellent offseason, which should see them vastly improve entering the 2012 season.
Indianapolis Colts: The team with the first overall pick kicked off the draft by selecting franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, who will eventually become a superstar in the NFL, he is the most complete quarterback prospect to enter the league in a decade. However the Colts also made excellent picks with the rest of their draft picks, starting with the selection of Luck’s best friend and former Stanford teammate tight end Coby Fleener at the top of the second round. The Colts then decided to give Luck more weapons, by selecting Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen and explosive Florida International receiver/return man T.Y. Hilton in the third round. The Colts also grabbed wide receiver LaVon Brazill out of Ohio and running back Vick Ballard from Mississipi State in the later rounds, showing a commitment to providing Luck help on offense early. They also grabbed tough Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman, who slid due to a torn ACL, in the fifth round and he will have a chance to become the starting nose tackle in the middle of head coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense. The Colts are still a few years away from contending with Luck at the helm, and will need to hit home runs in the next few drafts to move along the rebuilding effort, but I feel like they got off to an excellent start in the 2012 draft.
St. Louis Rams: Excellent draft by the Rams, who traded down in round one and grabbed the player that I projected them to draft sixth overall, and that I new Jeff Fisher loved throughout the entire draft process in LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers. When Fisher looks at Brockers, he is reminded of a young Albert Haynesworth (before he gave up) and although Brockers is a few years away I think he had a higher ceiling than any defensive player in this draft. With a trio of picks in the second round, the Rams grabbed an excellent group of players: wide receiver Brian Quick, who might develop into a monster with some experience, due to his size (6’4 22olbs) and excellent speed. Next they grabbed cornerback Northern Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins, possibly the best cover corner in the draft, who slid due to character concerns, followed by Cincinnati tailback Isaiah Pead, who should lighten the load on Stephen Jackson. Third round pick, cornerback Trumaine Johnson from Montana and fourth round pick wide receiver Chris Givens should both make immediate contributions to the roster as well. I think the Rams added a lot of depth to their roster in this draft, and remember, they also added two first round picks in each of the next two drafts due to their trade of the second pick to the Redskins (where they drafted RGIII) and by the time they use all of those picks, the rebuilding effort should be complete in St. Louis.
Solid, but Unspectacular Drafts:
Houston Texans: I think the Texans get a really nice player in Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, who should be a terror coming off the edge for them in years to come, he reminds me of a poor man’s Aldon Smith (49ers) in the 3-4 defense. I thought Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey was a reach in the third round, and I liked the value of fourth round receiver Keyshawn Martin much more. I really liked the interior offensive linemen that the Texans got in the middle rounds, both guard Brandon Brooks (3rd round) and center Ben Jones (4th round) should eventually be starters and will fit well in Houston’s zone blocking scheme. Defensive linemen Jared Crick can find the consistency he once displayed earlier in his career at Nebraska, he could be a steal in the fourth round, he will be one of the hardest workers on the team for sure. I liked the draft overall, solid by the Texans, however I would have liked them grab a different wide receiver than Posey when they did and a right tackle with some upside.
Baltimore Ravens: I loved the Ravens first three picks, they traded out of the first round and still managed to draft Alabama OLB/DE Courtney Upshaw in the second round, a player that should immediately produce in their defensive system. They followed that up by drafting offensive guard Kelechi Osemele out of Iowa State (round 2), who should start quickly in the hole that Ben Grubbs left when he headed to New Orleans in free agency and Temple running back Bernard Pierce (round 3), who has a nice blend of speed and power as Ray Rice’s backup. I also loved the value that the Ravens got in the late rounds, by drafting Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter in the (round 6, I had him graded as a 3rd rounder) and Georgia defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson (round 7, I had him graded as a 5th rounder.) Those made up for the Ravens mid-round selections, of Gino Gradkowski (guard, Deleware), Christian Thompson (safety, South Carolina State) and Asa Jackson (cornerback, Cal Poly), all of which I did not like at all, and I had much better grades on several available players at the same positions. They did address need though and found some great value late, so overall I liked their draft.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs had a philosophy in this draft, and it was an obvious one, bulk up. They did just that, when they selected massive nose tackle Dontari Poe in the second round, but they need him to prove he is more than just a workout warrior for this draft to be considered a success. After studying Poe’s game tape I question if he will be able to translate his impressive NFL combine results into play on the field. The Chiefs then targeted the trenches on the other side of the ball by picking offensive linemen Jeff Allen (who has a chance to start at guard right away) and Donald Stepehson in rounds two and three respectively. I also liked the additions Kansas City made in the later rounds, Fresno State wide receiver Devon Wylie will contribute as depth and can help in the return game, Alabama corner De’Quan Menzie can add depth to the secondary and help on special teams and Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray could turn out to be a nice developmental back. I think Kansas City finally upgraded their offensive line this offseason, which has been a huge concern in the past, and if Dontari Poe can prove to me more than a workout warrior, this could be a great draft for the Chiefs.
New England Patriots: Great work by the Patriots in the first round, as they upgraded their offense in free agency, then upgraded their defense on draft day. Freak athlete edge rusher Chandler Jones out of Syracuse should instantly be a factor, and he will only get better in time, as he is long and lean with the frame to add bulk. Middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower should be a terror in the middle of the Patriots defense, racking up tackles from sideline to sideline. Both of these players were selected in the first round, and both should be immediate starts and upgrades to the Patriots linebacking corps from day one. I understand the Pats needed a safety, but I thought Illinois safety Tavon Wilson was a major reach in the second round, I had a fifth round grade on him. The rest of the Patriots draft focused on deep roster defensive depth, except for the selection of Nebraska cornerback Alphonzo Dennard in the seventh round. I had a late second round grade on Dennard, but he slid due to an arrest the week before the draft, and he should pay dividends quickly in New England if he can get his act together. Really a two player draft for the Patriots (Jones and Hightower), but I love both players, and think they have star power and provide and immediate upgrade to New England’s defense.
Arizona Cardinals: I really liked what the Cardinals did in this draft, with all of the attention that superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald draws, first round pick wide receiver Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame should find immediate success opposite him and will become the second option that Arizona has missed in the passing game since Anquan Boldin left for Baltimore. The Cardinals offensive line was horrible in 2012 and they addressed this area in the draft, as they added Mississippi tackle Bobby Massie in the fourth round, a nice prospect who I had a late second round grade on. They also added tackles Senio Kelemete in the fifth round out of Washington who will likely become a guard in the NFL and Boise State tackle Nate Potter in the seventh round. The quarterbacks in Arizona will no longer have lack of protection as an excuse for poor play, as the Cardinals should have a decent offensive line based on their moves in free agency and the draft. I also liked the addition of depth cornerbacks Oklahoma’s Jamell Flemming in the third round and Justin Bethel out of Presbyterian in the sixth round. The Cardinals had specific need ares on draft day, which they agressively addressed, and I give them credit for attacking those areas.
New York Giants: The Super Bowl Champions had another nice draft, but I cannot help but wondering if the Giants were targeting Boise State running back Doug Martin, who Tampa Bay traded back into the first round one pick ahead of the Giants and selected at 31st overall. The Giants drafted another running back, explosive David Wilson out of Virginia Tech with the next pick, 32nd overall. The Giants also considered drafting LSU wide receiver Reuben Randle with the 32nd pick, and were thrilled when he was available with their second round pick, they hope he can immediately fit in as the third wide receiver behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. The Giants also had a nice player fall into their laps in round three, when they selected talented Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley, who is small but should make an immediate impact. The Giants then drafted athletic standouts Cincinnati tight end Adrien Robinson and Auburn offensive tackle Brandon Mosley in the later rounds, both physically gifted, developmental players. Solid draft for Big Blue.
Tennessee Titans: I thinkt he Titans did a prety good job filling needs, the team clearly needed a explosive wide receiver opposite Kenny Britt for yound quarterback Jake Locker, and they got one in the first round in Baylor receiver Kendall Wright. I am also high on the rest of their draft picks, I think UNC linebacker Zach Brown (2nd round) could be a solid weakside linebacker if he gets more physical and I expect Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin (3rd round) to make an immediate impact in the defensive line rotation. Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh out of Clemson might be a steal in the fourth round, and versatile and athletic tight end Taylor Thompson out of SMU could be a find in the fifth round. I even liked the pick of Oklahoma State safety Markelle Martin in the sixth round, I had a fourth round grade on him. The Titans may not have found any All-Pro caliber players in this draft, but I think they found a quantity of quality players in each round who should see the field early and contribute in an improving young core of players.
San Diego Chargers: I thought the Chargers got an excellent fit and an absolute steal with the eighteenth pick when they landed South Carolina pass rusher Melvin Ingram, who I could have seen coming off the board much earlier, he is exactly the type of explosive player and emotional leader that the Chargers have lacked for years and he should have a major impact on the team’s defensive mentality. The Chargers were clearly very focused on their defense as they used their next two picks on UConn defensive tackle Kendall Reyes and LSU safety Brandon Taylor, both players should see the field quickly in the fall. I doubt either player turns out to be a superstar, however both were safe picks who should develop into starters. I liked the pick of tight end Ladarius Green in the fourth round, the Louisiana-Lafayette product will have a chance to learn under Antiono Gates, one of the best tight ends ever who is in the tail end of his career. I think San Diego should have addressed the offensive line earlier, however they did grab two nice Big Ten prospects at the tail end of the draft with Penn State guard Johnnie Troutman (round 5) and Michigan center David Molk (round 7) . I also like Michigan State running back Edwin Baker, who the Chargers grabbed in the seventh round, and could see him sticking as a backup tailback. The Chargers only drafted one player with star power in Mevlin Ingram, however they did come away from the draft with a lot of depth and guys who should make the team, which was important because their roster lacked depth.
I’ve Got Issues/Questions:
Chicago Bears: I loved what the Bears were doing this offseason, but I have some serious questions about their draft, starting with first round pick Shea McClellin. I like McClellin, but think he is a much better fit as a 3-4 rush linebacker than a defensive end, which is where the Bears will play him. I would have probably selected Whitney Mercilus, who is a much better fit at pure 4-3 defensive end or gone for some offensive line help with this pick. The Bears, in fact, decided to totally ignore the offensive line in this draft which was shocking to me. Their offense could be very special if they can keep the pass rush off Jay Cutler, but they may struggle to do so by not addressing the offensive line in this draft. I liked the pick of South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round, he is a big target for Jay Cutler in the red zone, but I felt they reached on every other pick in the draft.
Carolina Panthers: I think the Panthers made a really nice selection with the ninth overall pick when they took Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is very instinctive and plays both the run and the pass well and should instantly upgrade their linebacking corps as Jon Beason returns from a torn Achilles tendon. The Panthers also found a future starter at guard, Amini Silatou out of Midwestern State, who I thought was a bit of a reach that early in round two and will need some development before he can start. Third round defensive end Frank Alexander from Oklahoma has a chance to develop into a solid edge rusher, and fourth round wide receiver Joe Adams should step in right away as an electrifying return man. I think that the Panthers really could have used another starting caliber wide receiver to aid the growth of quarterback Cam Newton and a defensive tackle, and they landed neither of these in this draft. I think they did alright in the draft, and fifth round cornerback Josh Norman might develop into a starter down the road, but this team still has some clear holes on the roster that could have been closed with a different draft approach.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys made the first real power move on draft night, as they traded up to the sixth overall pick, and selected LSU stud cornerback Morris Claiborne. I’m not saying that Claiborne is not an excellent player, he is great, but I think I would have selected Alabama safety Mark Barron there. The team signed cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency and have other capable cornerbacks (Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick) on the roster. Their safety play has been terrible over the past few seasons (I doubt fourth round pick Matt Johnson is the answer) and I think Barron would have been a bigger upgrade. Moving up for Claiborne cost Dallas their second round pick, and I like the fit of Tyrone Crawford for their 3-4 front in round three, but the rest of the draft was pretty weak. Dallas also chose to ignore the offensive line, which has been suspect recently, and I would not be surprised if the only player who will be a regular starter for Dallas in this draft class is Claiborne. Feels like a one player (although a good one) draft for me by the Cowboys.
Minnesota Vikings: A lot of experts seem to love the Vikings draft, but I just do not see all of the value. Obviously first round pick, USC left tackle Matt Kalil is an absolute stud and should be a ten year starter at a need position in Minnesota. That pick is not the problem. The Vikings traded back into the first round to select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, who was the second best safety prospect in an extremely weak class, and who I had graded as a third round pick (although I knew he would be drafted earlier due to the brutal lack of depth at safety in this class). In the third round they drafted UCF cornerback Josh Robinson, an extremely fast (ran fastest 40 time at the combine) athlete, who is just not that good of a football player yet. They grabbed two receivers who were teammates in high school and at Arkansas by grabbing Jarius Wright and Greg Childs in round four, both players I think can stick as receiving depth, and I liked the selection of Notre Dame cornerback Robert Blanton in the fifth round. I just think, in a roster that lacks talent, too many of these players will be forced into action early and I expect all of them to struggle to adjust to the NFL game, save Kalil who is a huge upgrade at left tackle.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos have to be in “Win Now” mode with the addition of three time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning this offseason, and while I like what I did, I do not see the immediate upgrades. The Broncos traded out of the first round, and selected Cincinatti defensive linemen Derrick Wolfe in round two, a high effort player who should instantly enter their defensive line rotation. Also in the second round they selected Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, who is a project and Manning’s understudy. During the rest of the draft, Denver selected a plethora of defensive players, who have a chance to compete for playing time, however I do not see a lot of immediate impact players which is a problem for a team that needs to win now.
Washington Redskins: I have the same question as everyone else on the planet regarding the Redskins draft, you trade up to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III as the future of your franchise second overall, why on earth do you draft Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins to be his backup in round four instead of providing him weapons or protection? Listen I like Cousins a lot, he is a smart kid who is a natural leader and I think he will stick in this league as a backup quarterback for ten years, despite his lack of arm strength. However, the Redskins should have looked for a veteran quarterback who knows the ropes of the NFL to be Griffin’s backup, not bring in another rookie. It makes zero sense, and the Redskins could have used the fourth round pick that was seemingly wasted on Cousins to solidify the team around Griffin (remember, the Redskins have no first round picks the next two years, they traded them to the Rams in exchange for Griffin). I would have drafted a developmental wide receiver in the fourth round instead of Cousins, but I do commend the Redskins for focusing on the offensive line in the middle and late rounds, because their line has been terrible over recent years and they need to protect Griffin. I feel bad for Cousins too, give the kid a chance to be a developmental starter for another team and have a chance to compete down the road, it’s a shame such a quality kid is now penciled in as Griffin’s clipboard caddy for the foreseeable future.
New York Jets: I like Quinton Coples, but I really question what the heck the Jets are planning on doing with him. Coples is a massive (6’6 285lbs) defensive lineman who I thought would be a perfect fit in a 4-3 defensive front as an end who could slide inside to tackle on passing downs (like how the Giants utilize Justin Tuck), however the Jets drafted him and Rex Ryan says he plans on using him as a defensive end in his 3-4 defense. To draft Coples, the Jets passed on South Carolina pass rusher Melvin Ingram, who was then scooped up by the San Diego Chargers. I thought that Ingram would have been the perfect fit for the Jets, he is an explosive edge rusher and an emotional leader, the Jets defense could really use him. I am not sure how Coples will perform taking on blockers in the front of the Jets defense, and if he feels he is underutilized, I think he could mentally check out quickly. I really liked the Jets selecting Stephen Hill in the second round, he is a big wideout who can stretch the field, which the Jets have lacked. Third round pick Arkansas State linebacker Demario Davis has a chance to become the edge rusher the Jets have sorely lacked. The rest of the Jets draft yielded some prospects that I think can produce, such as running back Terrence Ganaway (6th round) safeties Josh Bush (6th round) and Antonio Allen (7th round) and massive developmental guard Robert Griffin (6th round) however I would have liked to seen the Jets really address the right side of their offensive line, as this was a major weakness last season.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are another team that really uprgaded in free agency, adding players such as wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and running back Brandon Jacobs, so I found it strange that they addressed these same positions in the NFL draft. In the first rounf they reached for Illinois receiver AJ Jenkins, and in the second round they added explosive Oregon tailback LaMichael James, I liked the picks but am having trouble seeing how these players see the field. The way I see it, both players are currently fourth on the depth chart, and I think the 49ers should have found players that could provide immediate impact or depth. They loved Wake Forest guard Joe Looney and selected him in the fourth round, he has a chance to fill a hole and become the starting left guard. The rest of the draft seems to be deep roster defensive depth, to a unit that returns every starter from 2011. The 49ers got some nice players, however I am just not seeing the value, they could have used rotational defensive linemen or versatile offensive linemen instead of fourth recievers and tailbacks in my opinion.
Green Bay Packers: Another team that it seemed every analyst and draft expert loved their draft, except I did not share this view, and have several concerns with their draft class. For starters I did not think that USC OLB/DE Nick Perry was a good fit for Green Bay’s scheme in the first round, he is a gifted athlete who lacks football instincts and I think he will struggle standing up opposite Clay Matthews in their 3-4 defense. In the second round Green Bay selected Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, a player that can be dominant if motivated, but he takes plays off and I think he fits much better at 4-3 defensive tackle than 3-4 defensive end. Green Bay’s first two picks had be wondering if the Packers would be playing a more of a hybrid defense, with Perry at end and Worthy at tackle in the future. My favorite pick was whent he Pack grabbed Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward in the second round, he fills a need and should play immediately as a nickel back. I also liked the pick of Iowa defensive tackle Mike Daniels in the fourth round, he is a productive and tough player who should be in the defensive line rotation quickly. In the fifth round, Green Bay had a steal with NC State linebacker Terrell Manning, a nice player who may challenge first round pick Nick Perry for playing time at outside linebacker. I think that Green Bay got players who could contribute, I just can’t see how some of them fit their defensive scheme, and I think that we could see them experimenting with more four man fronts and three linebacker sets in the future.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags had direct hits on their two biggest needs in the first two rounds of the draft, by trading up to the fifth overall pick and selecting Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon and then drafting Clemson defensive end Andre Branch in the second round. I commend them for this, they are both players that should help Jacksonville right away, and should fill major holes. However anytime a team drafts a punter in the third round, you have to question them, and Jacksonville did just that when they drafted Cal punter Bryan Anger. I also actually liked the selection of Florida State cornerback Mike Harris in the sixth round, he has a chance to contribute on depth and special teams, however I would have liked to seen the Jags draft a defensive tackle at some point. Loved the first two picks, not a fan of the rest of Jacksonville’s draft.
Atlanta Falcons: If I am the Falcons, I am trying to swing a trade for unhappy Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora right now, because they were unable to address this huge need on draft day. The Falcons did not have a lot of picks, and they did draft a pass rusher eventually by selecting Jonathan Massaquoi out of Troy in the fifth round, but I would have targeted one with much higher upside earlier in the draft. The Falcons did take the best center in the draft when they selected Wisconsin’s Pete Konz in round two and were clearly decided that the offensive line was a priority when they drafted tackle Lamar Holmes out of Southern Miss in round three, but I would have rather seen them target another position with one of these picks. Uneventful draft for the Falcons, a team that needed to find some contributors to push them over the hump and turn them into a contender, not a one and done playoff team.
Miami Dolphins: I actually think the Dolphins had a decent draft, but clearly this all depends on how quarterback Ryan Tannehill develops, after they selected the Texas A&M product eighth overall. The Dolphins got nice value in the subsequent rounds, drafting Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin to play the right side in round two, then landing Miami defensive lineman Oliver Vernon in round three, Missouri tight end Michael Egnew in round three and Miami running back Lamar Miller in round four. I would have liked to have seen the Dolphins draft a wide receiver earlier, as they have no playmakers on the roster, and I am not sure who Tannehill will be throwing to during his career. They did draft Michigan State’s BJ Cunningham (round 6) and Nevada’s Rishard Matthews (round 7) late, but neither one of these players has a ton of potential. I did find it interesting that the Dolphins signed one of Tannehill’s favorite targets at Texas A&M, Jeff Fuller as an undrafted free agent. I think the Dolphins got better long term during the 2012 draft, and although they need Tannehill to develop, I was impressed with some of the value they found in the middle rounds. I just wonder what happens if Miami is terrible in 2012, as I assume they will be in a tough division, and they end up with an early draft pick. Do they stick with Tannehill, or select another quarterback?
Cleveland Browns: I have similar questions when it comes to the Cleveland Browns as I do with the Miami Dolphins. If I was the Browns, I would have gone about the 2012 NFL Draft differently, except I still would have traded up and drafted Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Although it is not a position that I advocate trading up for or drafting early, Richardson’s talent is undeniable and it was the right move for the Browns to make. However, there is absolutely no way I draft Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick of the first round. The Browns are still pretty far away from contending in the AFC North, and I have little doubt that they will again be picking early in the 2013 draft. Why draft a 28 year old quarterback in the first round, when you could give incumbent starter Colt McCoy another year, and if he does not develop target a quarterback next year? I would have gone in a different direction and developed the supporting cast around McCoy and Richardson with the 22nd pick. The rest of the Browns draft was decent, I like second round right tackle Mitchell Schwartz out of Cal if he can stay healthy and there are some other players that have a chance. I liked the Browns drafting speedy Miami wide receiver Travis Benjamin in round four, but the Browns lack a big time wideout on the roster to help Weeden grow. I will not be shocked if the Browns are drafting another quarterback in the 2013 draft, which would make drafting Weeden at #22 overall a complete and utter waste.
Oakland Raiders: I am not going to kill the Raiders for the guys they drafted, but I will say this, HEY OAKLAND, STOP TRADING AWAY ALL YOUR DRAFT PICKS. Anyway, I actually thought the Raiders got decent value with the picks they had, and were able to land a few players who have a chance. With their first pick (in the 3rd round) they drafted Utah guard Tony Bergstrom, who has a chance to be a solid starting guard, and fourth round pick linebacker Miles Burris has a chance to be a starter down the road. I actually really like both fifth round picks, Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford could be a nice player with more experience and coaching and Arizona receiver Juron Criner could quickly develop into a nice possession receiver, because he knows how to get open underneath. Just please take my advice Oakland, you will never be a great team until you stop trading away all your draft picks for aging veterans, so stop it.
New Orleans Saints: Despite the suspensions and penalties from “Bounty Gate” and the ongoing contract dispute with star quarterback Drew Brees, I actually liked the Saints offseason. I might be the only person on earth who feels this way, but they did a nice job bringing in linebacker Curtis Lofton and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley in free agency, along with signing former Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Grubbs to replace the hole left when guard Carl Nicks defected to the divisional rival Tampa Bay Bucs, for a fraction of the cost. Then in the draft, the one deep round pick that all the mock drafters nailed was big defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (out of Regina College, formally of LSU) to the Saints with their first pick (round 3). I also liked the selections of Wisconsin receiver Nick Toon (round 4),w ho should develop into a solid possession receiver and Syracuse guard Andrew Tiller (round 6). The Saints did okay this offseason, and I really think they will survive this whole mess, once they do the right thing and pay quarterback Drew Brees.
Seattle Seahawks: What can I say, the Seahawks current regime deserves some credit for targeting a specific player, and sticking to them regardless of the value that player has at their draft slot. They did this last year, and man, did they do it again this year. I have every one of Seattle’s impact draft picks as a major reach. I think that edge rusher Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia has a chance to be a good one, but think he was a major reach at the fifteenth pick overall, and I would have rather picked several other more well-rounded prospects at the same position in that slot. I like Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner, but also considered him a slight reach in the second round. Quarterback Russell Wilson was also a reach in the third round, and it was a puzzling pick based on need, because the Seahawks just signed quarterback Matt Flynn to a lucrative contract to be the starter. In my opinion, most of Seattle’s draft was spent reaching for defensive depth, they have proved me wrong before but I have serious questions regarding this draft.