NFL Draft 2012: Best, Worst Scenarios for Every Team's First Draft Pick
The NFL draft is such an exciting event partly because of its unpredictability. Everyone hopes that their team's top choice ends up developing into an All-Pro player, but the truth is some will fail to meet expectations.
This typically happens when a player is selected based on his potential. Those high-ceiling/low-floor prospects make for some interesting drama. The upcoming slideshow breaks down the best- and worst-case scenarios for each prospect.
Let me tell you, not everyone has a great best-case scenario or terrible worst-case scenario.
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Pick: Morris Claiborne, Cornerback
Morris Claiborne is an elite talent who has the potential to develop into a Darrelle Revis-type cornerback. His quickness, fluidity and toughness allow Claiborne to match up with any wide receiver in the NFL. Claiborne's competitiveness and instincts also factor into his effectiveness.
The Dallas Cowboys were very aware of his talent level, and that's why they decided to move up the draft in order to add him. Dallas needs him to immediately become an impact player if it hopes to make a run at the playoffs. The closing Super Bowl window for the Dallas Cowboys means that it'll be a disappointment if he isn't an instant-impact player.
Rob Ryan's highly aggressive defense puts defensive backs in a lot of one-on-one situations, and this could be an issue for a first-year player. Claiborne won't only be adjusting to the speed of the game, but he'll also need to adjust to complicated offensive attacks.
NFL offenses are much more diverse than those he faced at LSU. This means putting him on an island could result in early struggles.
As I mentioned, the Cowboys need Claiborne to find early success. The worst-case scenario is that Claiborne's confidence is shaken and it takes him a majority of the season to become fully comfortable. He will be an excellent NFL cornerback, but it's a matter of the length of the adjustment period.
New York Giants
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Pick: David Wilson, Running Back
David Wilson's explosiveness and tough running style could really help the overall effectiveness of the New York Giants offense. They struggled last season when Ahmad Bradshaw was out of the lineup with injury, and it's safe to question Bradshaw's long-term durability.
The fact that the Giants made Wilson their first-round pick shows their concern with the position. Where they selected in the second round, most of the top-tier running back prospects would have already been off the board. Making the move to add Wilson ensured them of having a starting-caliber talent to back up Bradshaw.
Wilson's immediate impact is key, but he also has long-term value. He has a chance to become an excellent playmaker in the NFL.
Because of his running style, Wilson has a tendency to take a lot of big hits. The more hits a running back takes, the more likely he's to be forced out of the lineup. New York can't afford to have two running backs who struggle to stay healthy.
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Pick: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle
Fletcher Cox's versatility means the Philadelphia Eagles can rotate him all across the defensive line. His quick burst and high motor will allow him to disrupt the timing of the offense. The addition of Cox gives the Eagles an opportunity to feature a lineup with four pressure players.
Look for a formation of Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Cox in passing situations.
The addition of Cox also has a long-term impact, as he could be the eventual replacement for Jenkins. Shedding Jenkins' contract could help with the Eagles' future cap situation.
The depth along the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line could make it tough for Cox to get into a rhythm. He's going to have to split time with Jenkins and Mike Patterson at defensive tackle, while also rotating with Cole, Babin, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp and Vinny Curry at defensive end.
Rotation along the defensive line is a great way to keep players fresh, but it also means fewer reps and inconsistent playing time. If the Eagles want to see Cox develop into a star, they'll need to ensure he gets the snaps needed to succeed.
We don't see star players like Ndamukong Suh spending a ton of time on the sideline.
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Pick: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback
Robert Griffin III has the talent level and drive to quickly transition to the NFL game. He'll use his athleticism and arm talent to help overcome the learning curve. Expect to see Mike and Kyle Shanahan develop a game plan to ensure their young quarterback feels comfortable.
The amount of assets the Washington Redskins gave up to land Griffin III and media attention means there will be pressure to immediately succeed. It's a good thing he has a great attitude and the ability to handle pressure, because it will help him deal with the inevitable rookie mistakes.
In order to receive a strong evaluation, Griffin III must win football games, make explosive plays and show development. Keeping a positive vibe is one of the more important tasks for the season, as this is more about long-term success than instant impact.
Baylor's offensive attack is nothing like the offense he'll be asked to run in Washington. He'll need time to learn how to read a defense and make proper decisions. This could lead to a high turnover rate early in his career. Interceptions tend to result in losses and criticism from the media.
A long stretch of struggles will quickly bring a discussion surrounding the amount of assets used to acquire Griffin III. He's the future of this franchise, and a failure to develop will really hurt the future of this organization.
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Pick: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback
The keys for Stephon Gilmore will be to avoid mental mistakes and take advantage of opportunities. His toughness and consistent play will allow him to immediately hold his own in coverage. However, he'll need to take advantage of the turnover opportunities presented by the strong pass rush of the Buffalo Bills.
Players like Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson will create a lot of pressure on the quarterback, resulting in mistakes. Gilmore will have an opportunity to use his ball skills and create turnovers.
There's a chance that he could approach the five-interception mark.
While very talented, Stephon Gilmore is more of a quiet contributor. He won't take many gambles and will settle to keep the play in front of him. With the potential mistakes created by the Bills' pass rush, it'll be a disappointment if Gilmore doesn't make impact plays.
Top-10 picks are expected to be difference makers, and there's a chance that Gilmore is more of a passive contributor. Don't get me wrong—he'll provide very good coverage and routinely be in the right position.
However, expectations might be a little high for what he can provide.
New England Patriots
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Pick: Chandler Jones, Linebacker/Defensive End
The New England Patriots need to get more out of their pass rush this season. That's why they made a move up the draft to land Chandler Jones. Jones' quick burst off the line and nonstop motor make it tough for opposing offenses to keep him out of the backfield.
A lack of pass-rush options means the Patriots are counting on Jones to make an instant impact. He's going to receive plenty of opportunities to rush the passer; look for Bill Belichick to move him around the field. The Patriots offense should also give Jones pass-rush opportunities, as their high-scoring average forces opponents to try to match their point total.
Jones' athleticism and motor alone should ensure he reaches the six-sack mark.
Opponents will quickly identify Jones as New England's top pass-rushing threat. This means he can expect to receive extra attention in the form of double-teams, tight ends to his side of the field and running backs giving him a chip.
It's not easy getting after the quarterback in the NFL, and it's even tougher for a rookie facing pressure and extra attention.
I also have concerns about where Belichick plans to line Jones up. Most of his experience has been at defensive end, but Belichick runs multiple defensive fronts. Jones will see time at both defensive end and linebacker, which could make for a tough transition.
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Pick: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback
Ryan Tannehill is very talented but is unlikely to have immediate success. He needs time to develop, and the best the Miami Dolphins can hope for is some flashes during his rookie season.
A scenario where Tannehill is rushed into the lineup could hurt his ability to develop.
Tannehill will benefit the most if he's allowed to sit, learn and get a chance to play towards the end of the season. He needs to get some game experience, but throwing him out there too early may be a mistake.
This pick is more of a long-term hope rather than an instant gratification selection.
His decision-making skills and feel for the position were my biggest concerns surrounding Tannehill's ability. During his college career, he struggled to make quick and correct decisions. Too often, he forced the ball to heavily covered targets while missing open targets.
A lot of those mistakes came in late-game situations, costing his team a chance at victory.
Successful quarterbacks are those who make sound decisions, especially in pressure situations. The Miami Dolphins' decision to open up the quarterback competition means there's a good chance Tannehill begins the season as the starter. A rookie quarterback who struggles with decision-making could be a recipe for disaster.
A recent article by Cian Fahey discusses how the mishandling of Mark Sanchez might be what's to blame for his struggles. There have been plenty of rookie quarterbacks who were able to immediately succeed as a starter, but if they're not ready, it could stunt their development.
New York Jets
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Pick: Quinton Coples, Defensive End
Quinton Coples is extremely talented and has the potential to develop into a double-digit sack producer. The utilization of Coples will be key to his production, and it seems like the New York Jets have a game plan.
Rex Ryan and company plan on using some 4-3 alignments where Coples will be featured at defensive end.
In a four-man front, Coples will have a better opportunity to rush the passer. Conversely, his main responsibility at the 5-technique position is to set the edge and hold up against the run. Using a multiple-front attack is the best way to get the most out of Coples' skill set.
Leading up to the draft, Coples got a lot of criticism because of a perceived lack of effort. He'll need to give 100 percent if he hopes to make an impact in the NFL. This is a concern because of the defensive adjustments I mentioned above. If the Jets plan on using more four-man fronts to feature Coples, they'll expect him to create pressure.
Expect to see a lot of criticism thrown Coples' way if he's unable to get after the quarterback, especially if the issue surrounds effort.
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Pick: Shea McClellin, Defensive End
The attention demanded by Julius Peppers and athleticism of Shea McClellin should provide the rookie with a chance to make an immediate impact. He's being counted on to help bolster the pass rush of the Chicago Bears defense, a unit that ranked 19th in the NFL in sacks last season.
McClellin is expected to start the season as part of a rotation, with Israel Idonije playing in obvious running situations. This should keep McClellin fresh while bringing a change-of-speed factor when replacing Idonije. Opposing offensive linemen might struggle adjusting to the different pass-rush styles of McClellin and Idonije.
This is the type of player capable of changing the outcome of the game. The Bears recognized this playmaking ability, and that's why they made him their first-round pick.
During his college career, McClellin played both defensive end and outside linebacker. However, he generated most of his pressure from the linebacker position.
This could be a real problem for the Chicago Bears, as he's being asked to play defensive end in this defense. Making this type of adjustment isn't easy.
Rushing from a two- or three-point stance is very different. There's a different view of the ball, burst out of stance and leverage ability. The inability to adjust to a different position could result in McClellin failing to meet expectations.
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Pick: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle
The age of Jeff Backus and inconsistency of Gosder Cherilus open the door for Riley Reiff to make an impact as a rookie. In order for the Detroit Lions to build on last season's success, they need a healthy and effective Matthew Stafford. This relies heavily on the ability of the offensive line to protect the quarterback.
Reiff has the quickness and balance to provide strong protection from either the left or right side. His sound technique will help him overcome some rookie mistakes. It won't take long for the Lions to realize Reiff is a better option than either Backus or Cherilus.
I anticipate Reiff will replace Cherilus in the starting lineup. However, the best scenario would be for Reiff to convince the Lions his future is at left tackle. The quicker he proves this, the quicker they could move Backus to the right side of the line.
Finding a top-notch left tackle is much harder than finding an effective right tackle. The Detroit Lions need Reiff to show signs that he's capable of developing into a winning left tackle. If he ends up as a right tackle only, it'll make the left tackle spot a major area of concern.
Green Bay Packers
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Pick: Nick Perry, Outside Linebacker
The Green Bay Packers need someone to take advantage of the one-on-one situations created by Clay Matthews, or at the very least draw some double-teams away from his side of the field. Nick Perry is the man Green Bay is counting on to fill this role.
Perry is an athletic and tough football player who shows the ability to rush the passer. He possesses a good short-area burst that allows him to close on the quarterback. His snap awareness helps him get a good jump as he attempts to reach the edge.
He's absolutely talented enough to force opposing offenses to account for his positioning. It's possible he'll provide Matthews with better pass-rush situations. However...
When I scouted Perry, I felt that he really didn't have the explosiveness to consistently generate pressure on the quarterback. He's a good athlete, but he just didn't show enough quickness off the line to reach the edge and flatten out.
Perry will make some plays, but the Packers need a consistent threat.
There are also concerns about his ability to make the adjustment to outside linebacker. The majority of his time at USC was spent playing defensive end. He'll need to work to improve his coverage skills and rushing from a two-point stance.
An inability to make a quick adjustment could result in another disappointing season for Clay Matthews and the Packers defense.
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Pick: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle
The Minnesota Vikings selected Matt Kalil to improve their offensive line and help the development of Christian Ponder. Kalil's main responsibility will be to protect Ponder's blind side and ensure he has enough time to find open targets.
A quick shuffle and balance are what help Kalil keep pass-rushers out of the backfield. He'll have his share of rookie mistakes, but providing consistent protection is the key. It's also important to note that the addition of Kalil allowed Charlie Johnson to shift inside to guard. Johnson struggled at left tackle but is capable of contributing winning guard play.
Best case: Kalil protects Ponder, and Johnson proves to be steady at guard. However, Kalil's run-blocking ability should also open running lanes for Adrian Peterson.
There's no doubting Kalil's overall athleticism, but when evaluating him for the draft, I noticed some issues with his change-of-direction ability. At times, he appeared to adjust slowly to a rusher's counter move and allow pressure.
NFL pass-rushers are very talented and smart. They know how to take advantage of an offensive lineman's weakness.This could force the Vikings to provide Kalil with help against specific opponents.
Being a top-four pick means Kalil is expected to develop into an elite left tackle. Elite players don't need help when faced with a tough matchup.
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Pick: Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker
There's a lot of pressure on Courtney Upshaw to replace some of the loss of the Baltimore Ravens defense. An injury to Terrell Suggs and the loss of Jarret Johnson to free agency has left a major hole at the outside linebacker position. The team isn't only looking to Upshaw to fill one of those spots, but also to play a part of both players' roles.
Upshaw's snap awareness and initial burst allow him to generate pressure on the quarterback; he'll be asked to pick up some of the slack with Suggs out of the lineup. However, his best skill is his ability to stack and shed against the run. Upshaw is similar to Johnson in that he holds at the point and does a good job setting the edge.
The Ravens are lucky to have such a versatile player who can help defray some of their losses. However, Upshaw's maturity level will play an equally significant role as his playmaking ability.
While Upshaw has pass-rush ability, he isn't nearly as explosive as Terrell Suggs. He's not going to be the type of rusher who consistently threatens the edge. If he's unable to pick up any of Suggs' missing pressure, it could cause trouble for the Ravens.
The only other options to replace Suggs are Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle, who have a career total of 6.5 sacks between them.
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Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback
Dre Kirkpatrick's toughness and willingness to play the run make him a versatile defender. It allows the Cincinnati Bengals to use him at either cornerback or safety. Ideally, he shows enough to earn one of the starting cornerback spots, but it'll also be beneficial if he could prevent Taylor Mays from starting at safety.
This season especially, the Bengals have good depth at cornerback with Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Jason Allen and Adam Jones. However, the safety position isn't quite as secure with Mays and George Iloka battling for one of the starting spots.
Kirkpatrick's long-term value is greater at cornerback, but he could make a great impact starting his career at safety.
The veteran depth at cornerback could force Kirkpatrick into a backup role. Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer might prefer to let experienced players like Hall, Newman, Allen and Jones get the majority of playing time. Having your first-round pick not make an immediate impact tends to stir some negative discussion in the media.
Kirkpatrick is young and talented and needs consistent playing time to develop.
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Pick: Trent Richardson, Running Back
Trent Richardson is a highly talented and explosive running back who's expected to receive a heavy workload. In order for the Cleveland Browns to have any offensive production, Richardson needs to average around 4.5 yards per carry. Luckily, he has the balance and strength to pick up yards after contact, while also possessing that home-run ability.
Richardson isn't just a strong runner; he also does a good job protecting the quarterback and catching balls out of the backfield. The fact that he's multidimensional gives him a better shot at fulfilling such high expectations.
Being the team's top and only legitimate playmaker could cause problems for a young running back. The Browns are going to give Richardson a ton of work, which carries the risk of injury and overuse. Without Richardson, Cleveland's offense would look a lot like last year's 29th-ranked unit.
Another terrible offensive season would sting, but it would also jeopardize Richardson's future. The more hits and carries he has as a rookie, the chances increase that he'll have a short NFL career.
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Pick: David DeCastro, Guard
Over the past few seasons, injuries and inconsistent play put the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line in a state of flux. This problem led to the Steelers using their first two draft picks to add more talent to the unit.
David DeCastro has the look of a 10-year All-Pro player. His consistency and toughness immediately improves the interior of the offensive line.
Adding DeCastro should help Pittsburgh get back to its power-running roots. The long-term health of Ben Roethlisberger and effectiveness of the offense depend on their ability to reestablish a running attack.
There isn't much of a downside possible with such a safe and solid player. However, the ankle injuries to Maurkice Pouncey could hinder what could be a dominant interior. The future of this Pittsburgh Steelers team looks much brighter with these two developing together.
It also might hurt a little if the Steelers don't plan on increasing their running attempts. DeCastro is a solid pass protector, but his real impact will come in the running game.
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Pick: Andrew Luck, Quarterback
Obviously, instant team success is the best-case scenario for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. However, it might be more important that Luck shows consistency and doesn't get outperformed by Robert Griffin III. In this media age, players are always compared and heavily scrutinized.
There's no doubting Luck's talent level and that he was the hands-down top player in the draft. However, we might see his impact come more in the win column than in the stat book. This Colts team needs to continue filling holes, but any glimpse of success will go a long way.
It's hard to imagine a scenario where Andrew Luck doesn't have a good NFL career. This is a guy who's very talented and highly intelligent. Injuries are the only thing that can stop him from developing into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Luck was very durable during his college career, but there are serious concerns about the Colts offensive line. The unit consists of castoffs like Winston Justice, Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn. Anthony Castonzo is talented, but he missed a lot of time with injuries last season.
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Pick: Whitney Mercilus, Linebacker
Whitney Mercilus is going to have time to learn and transition to his new position with the Houston Texans. The presence of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed means that he won't be rushed into an uncomfortable situation.
However, that doesn't mean he won't have opportunities to rush the passer.
Mercilus uses a quick first step and excellent hand placement to work his way to the quarterback. He boasts the ability to employ either a power or rush move. Look for the Houston to work Mercilus in on passing situations or to rest one of the starters. Wade Phillips is creative, so expect to see him use different formations to feature all his top pass-rushers.
It's typically a good situation when a rookie enters the league with little pressure and expectations. Eventually the Texans need Mercilus to produce, but he'll have time to learn his role. His true value comes as a long-term asset who generates a ton of pressure off the edge.
Barwin and Reed combined for a total of 17.5 sacks last season. This is a good number for two players who figure to continue improving. However, it isn't all positive for Mercilus, who could struggle to earn snaps.
The biggest concern might be it takes longer than expected for him to become comfortable at outside linebacker. At that point, it might be too late and he'll be buried deep on the depth chart.
Wade Phillips will look to get him involved, but not at the expense of defensive production.
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Pick: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver
Justin Blackmon's off-field issues have become a distraction. However, this last incident might be the wake-up call he needed to turn things around.
The Jacksonville Jaguars need a focused and highly productive season from Blackmon. Without his production, it could be another long and poor season for their offense.
This is a player with the talent and toughness needed to exceed. He isn't afraid to go across the middle and does a good job picking up yards after contact. His playmaking ability is exactly what Blaine Gabbert and the offense needs to develop.
Heading into the draft, Blackmon received criticism about his overall speed and explosiveness. Some felt that didn't have the ability to develop into a No. 1 receiver. It would be a disaster if his lack of elite explosiveness limited his ability to create separation.
Defensive backfields in the NFL are full of elite athletes, which makes it difficult for wide receivers to create space. Blackmon will need to show he has enough quickness and savvy to get open.
Of course, more off-field problems could also derail his career. He must really improve his decision-making and maturity level.
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Pick: Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver
Kendall Wright's versatility will allow him to line up in the slot or on the outside. This helps the Tennessee Titans create mismatches and increase the production of their passing game. Adding a playmaker like Wright alongside Kenny Britt and Jared Cook really helps the development of Jake Locker.
Tennessee's future depends on whether or not Locker can develop into a top-notch quarterback. That development relies heavily on the weapons surrounding the young quarterback. Having more weapons forces opposing defenses to adjust their game plan and potentially make reads easier for the quarterback.
So while Wright's individual production will be important, it's his contribution to the team that will be of most value.
The Baylor offense ran a wide-open offensive attack that created a lot of matchup problems. Opposing defenses struggled to properly defend the spacing generated by the formations. This allowed Wright to get open without running clean and crisp routes.
There's less space in the NFL, and Wright will need to run disciplined and precise routes.
It won't take long to determine whether or not Wright has the balance to create separation in the NFL.
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Pick: Peter Konz, Center
Peter Konz has the physical tools and football IQ to develop into an All-Pro center for the Atlanta Falcons. He does a good job using proper technique to gain position in both the running and passing game. His strong lower half and nastiness help him generate a push off the line.
Too often, the center position is overlooked and not given credit for its importance. Having a leader and strong communicator is essential to run an efficient offensive attack.
As it stands, Konz is slated to begin the season as the starting right guard. His ability to adjust to the position will have an impact on the Falcons' season. This is a team that likes to run the football and needs a strong push from the interior of the line.
Konz battled ankle injuries in each of the last two seasons. Lower-body injuries are not good for any athlete, but especially for interior linemen. Konz needs a strong lower half to generate a push off the line and anchor against the pass rush. Lingering issues with an ankle will limit his effectiveness in the Falcons offense.
The Falcons really need him to be healthy and help open running lanes for Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers.
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Pick: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker
Luke Kuechly's football IQ and instincts consistently put him in the proper position to make plays on the football. The entire Carolina Panthers defense will benefit from Kuechly's presence on the field. Combining him with Jon Beason gives the Panthers one of the better young linebacker duos in the league.
The hope is that this linebacker group will be able to overcome the shortcomings along the defensive line. Kuechly and Beason must attack the line of scrimmage and make sound tackles in order to improve the Panthers' 25th-ranked rush defense.
An improved defense could potentially propel this team into playoff contention. The offense ranked seventh in total yardage and is more than capable of making a playoff run.
The defensive tackle rotation featuring Ron Edwards, Terrell McClain, Sione Fua and Frank Kearse struggles defending the run. They don't only have a hard time making plays on the ball-carrier; they also struggle occupying blockers. Kuechly doesn't have a great anchor and could struggle taking on blockers.
Carolina's run defense won't improve much if Kuechly is constantly engaged with a blocker. He needs space to cleanly flow to the football. Either Kuechly needs to greatly improve his stack-and-shed ability or the Panthers' defensive line must improve.
New Orleans Saints
Pick: Akiem Hicks, Defensive Tackle
Akiem Hicks is a very raw football player with excellent physical tools. He needs time to develop before he makes an impact in the league. However, a lack of depth along the New Orleans Saints defensive line gives him a chance to see some early playing time.
If put in the right situation, Hicks could provide some good penetration from the tackle position.
Looking at the roster depth, New Orleans has Brodrick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis penciled in as the starters. Neither of those two offers great quickness off the ball or penetration. Steve Spagnuolo may look to Hicks to bring some explosiveness to the interior.
At this point, any playing time should help his development, but it's important they don't overwhelm such a raw rookie.
This is a player with zero experience against top-level competition. It's going to be a challenge for him to adjust to the quickness of the NFL game. His greatest experience came in Canada playing for Regina, where he really didn't dominate the competition.
It's possible this guy just has some good workout numbers and will never develop. The talent level in the NFL may be too much for him to make an impact.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Pick: Mark Barron, Safety
Mark Barron's best-case scenario is also an extremely likely scenario. He's talented enough to end his rookie season as the Defensive Rookie of the Year and with a Pro Bowl selection.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan on playing Barron at strong safety, where he'll be able to support the run and drop in coverage.
Greg Schiano should use Barron in a role similar to Troy Polamalu and watch the game-changing plays happen. The entire Buccaneers defense will get a lift from Barron's presence on the field. Linebackers have another capable tackler, and the secondary has someone that can match up with tight ends.
A lot of expectations come with being the No. 7 pick in the draft. Other highly drafted safeties like Michael Huff and LaRon Landry haven't really lived up to their draft position. The problem is that not all safeties have the range and instincts to hold up in coverage. They're often asked to either cover a deep zone or match up on tight ends.
Players like Barron are much better playing in the box and supporting the run. It's possible that Barron could struggle adjusting to the speed of the game and have a hard time in coverage. Even being average in coverage isn't enough to justify his draft position.
The pressure is on for Barron to do well in coverage, support the run and create turnovers. This is a lot to live up to.
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Pick: Derek Wolfe, Defensive Tackle
Derek Wolfe has the luxury to play on a Denver Broncos defense that features playmakers like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Those two players command a lot of attention, which should provide Wolfe with plenty of one-on-one opportunities.
Wolfe's snap awareness, athleticism and motor allow him to work his way into the backfield. His addition could be the missing piece to take this Broncos defense to the next level. Miller and Dumvervil's pressure off the edge will force the quarterback up into the pocket, where Wolfe can make a play.
While he had a productive college career, Wolfe didn't exactly dominate against weaker Big East competition. He'll face stronger and more athletic offensive linemen in each game as a pro. There's a chance he struggles to penetrate the pocket as he did in college.
Wolfe is a decent athlete but isn't elite in any area. I have concerns that he just won't be able to make enough impact plays.
Kansas City Chiefs
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Pick: Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle
Dontari Poe's size and strength allow him to hold at the point of attack and occupy blockers. Being asked to play nose tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs is a perfect fit for his skill set. He'll have Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey to help him stuff the opponent's rushing attack.
The role of a nose tackle is pretty cut and dry, as his main responsibility is occupying space so the linebackers can cleanly flow to the football. This is perfect for a young player who needs to work on his technique and feel for the game.
Poe's stellar combine greatly increased his draft stock and expectations. The quickness he showed led some to believe he can develop into a disruptive force.
However, based on game evaluation, I determined that Poe doesn't have great penetration skills. If people expect him to make a ton of plays in the backfield, they are mistaken.
Failure to meet expectations can bring media criticism, which could hurt the confidence of such a young player.
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Pick: Tony Bergstrom, Guard
A series of moves resulted in the Oakland Raiders not making their first pick in the 2012 draft until the third round. This really limits the amount of expectations for this Raiders rookie class.
However, Tony Bergstrom has a chance to see playing time this season. The Raiders moved him inside to guard, where he'll compete with Cooper Carlisle for a starting spot.
While Bergstrom could see the field early in his career, there's little chance that he develops into a Pro Bowl-level guard. However, that doesn't mean a team can't win with Bergstrom starting at one of the guard spots. Not every position needs to consist of elite talent; solid contributors often play a key role in a team's success.
As I mentioned, Bergstrom isn't an elite talent and has limited upside. He'll get plenty of opportunities to start during his career but will struggle to find a consistent home. He's the type of player that's good enough to win with but is always facing replacement in the offseason.
Bergstrom is a classic low-ceiling/middle-floor type. This means the worst-case scenario isn't really terrible, as he'll give you solid production.
San Diego Chargers
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Pick: Melvin Ingram, Linebacker
His tenacity and athleticism make Melvin Ingram one of the top pass-rush options on the San Diego Chargers. He is a versatile player who lined up at defensive end, outside linebacker and defensive tackle during his college career. The Chargers plan on using him at outside linebacker as a complement to Shaun Phillips.
His value as a first-round pick will come from his ability to rush the passer. Ideally, he'll rotate with Jarret Johnson and see most of his snaps in passing situations. However, to make a major impact, the Chargers must feel comfortable using him at multiple positions.
Ingram should have plenty of one-on-one situations with Shaun Phillips lining up on the other side. It's even possible that he tops Antwan Barnes' 11 sacks from last season. This could be a very strong rookie campaign for Ingram.
If Ingram is unable to get off to a strong start, it's possible he could struggle to see the field. Both Johnson and Phillips are four-down players. The only way Ingram earns a heavy number of snaps is if he proves he's more of a pass-rush threat than Johnson.
There's also the concern about adjusting to playing linebacker in a full-time capacity. His experience at the position isn't very extensive. The transition time could be the setback that limits Ingram's first-year impact.
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Pick: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver
During his career at Notre Dame, Michael Floyd proved that he's capable of making plays all over the field. His size and speed make him an excellent deep threat. Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald will benefit from each other's presence in the Arizona Cardinals receiving corps. Opposing defenses will struggle to develop a game plan to neutralize both targets.
Fitzgerald is the proven commodity, so it figures that he'll receive most of the extra coverage. This will leave Floyd with plenty of one-on-one opportunities where he's more than capable of making the defense pay.
His experience at Notre Dame also offered him the opportunity to learn pro-style concepts. This should help his transition into the NFL. All these factors make a good scenario for Floyd to have a very productive rookie campaign and possibly finish as the top rookie wide receiver.
The Cardinals' quarterback situation is anything but settled. Both Kevin Kolb and John Skelton head to training camp looking to secure the starting gig. Inconsistent quarterback play is the main obstacle in the way of Floyd having a great season.
Another issue is the offensive line, which isn't much improved from a unit that allowed 54 sacks last season. If the quarterbacks aren't provided with enough time, they'll struggle to take advantage of the talent in the wide receiving corps.
San Francisco 49ers
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Pick: A.J. Jenkins, Wide Receiver
A.J. Jenkins joins a strong organization with a good coaching staff that's coming off a very strong season. The offseason moves by the San Francisco 49ers point to the possibility of increasing the production of the passing game.
The 49ers selected Jenkins with the idea of getting him involved in the offense. Coming off the board in the first round was a surprise, as I had him rated as a third-round prospect. When a team drafts a player that's rated lower by most evaluators, it's because they have a plan.
Crabtree, Moss and Manningham all have most of their experience lining up on the outside. This means Jenkins could find his niche as a slot receiver. The fact that his competition is experienced and set in their ways might help his chances to see the field.
However, most of his value will be seen in the future. He'll have time to learn the system and develop as a route runner. I picture him as the future replacement for Moss or possibly even Crabtree.
Showing up to OTAs out of shape and underprepared isn't a good way to start your career, especially with a demanding coach like Jim Harbaugh. It's this type of stuff that will cause him to really drop on the depth chart. Jenkins isn't only competing with the three receivers mentioned earlier; he's also battling the likes of Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams.
While Jenkins is seen as more of a future contributor, it won't help his development to receive a low amount of playing time.
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Pick: Bruce Irvin, Defensive End/Linebacker
Bruce Irvin's explosiveness and speed make him a dangerous pass-rusher. He makes it nearly impossible for an offensive tackle to protect the edge in one-on-one situations. It's that athleticism that made the Seattle Seahawks pull off the first shocker on draft night.
Early in his career, Irvin will see most of his snaps in passing situations. This will allow him to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. He needs time to develop the rest of this football skills. Irvin isn't a polished cover man and struggles holding against the run.
Allowing him to develop and gain confidence will be an important part of his future success. However, this doesn't mean he can't make an impact this season. He's more than capable of approaching the 10-sack mark, despite only playing limited snaps.
Irvin's ability to hold at the point of attack is a real concern. If he's unable to develop the skills and strength to stop the run, he'll never become an every-down player. Situational pass-rushers aren't worth an early first-round pick.
An inability to develop will quickly allow people to label him a "bust."
Finding the proper position is also a concern surrounding Irvin. He's better built to play linebacker, but it appears the Seahawks are determined to line him up at defensive end. Spending too much time trying to learn that position and failing would be a disaster.
St. Louis Rams
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Pick: Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle
The St. Louis Rams have talent at the defensive end position but lack a true playmaker along the interior. Michael Brockers has the raw talent needed to develop into an excellent all-around contributor. He's a versatile defender who's capable of holding at the point and generating pressure.
Because of his rawness, it's important that the Rams' coaching staff doesn't overload him with assignments. They'd be smart to have him focus on one position this season and expand as his career develops.
It appears St. Louis plans on using Brockers at nose tackle. This makes sense, as his strong lower half and anchor are the strongest part of his game. There will be less pressure on him to generate a pass rush, which will also decrease the media scrutiny.
While evaluating Brockers, I saw a player who flashed potential but really didn't produce much. His less-than-impressive combine numbers raised concerns about his overall athleticism. Selecting a 4-3 nose tackle who doesn't generate pressure on the quarterback so early is a recipe for a bust.
There's a good possibility that Brockers never develops as a pass-rusher, which means he'll kind of resemble Brodrick Bunkley. Yes, Bunkley is strong against the run and a solid contributor, but he isn't a high-impact player.