While draft analysts and media outlets are busy focusing on how Manti Te'o and Geno Smith weren't selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, I think we need to put our hands together for the notable players who were taken on Thursday night.
Three NFL teams—two of which missed out on the 2012 postseason—significantly increased their odds of contention this season by making smart picks in the first round of this year's draft.
Sorry New York Jets, Chicago Bears and New York Giants, but you failed to make this list.
Let's examine three of the smartest picks from the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
I'm still in shock that a defensive talent like Jarvis Jones slipped all the way to No. 17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but regardless, Dick LeBeau's defense just got one heck of a player.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio had already told us that Jones was more than interested in playing in Pittsburgh, and with the Cincinnati Bengals claiming stake to James Harrison, the Steelers got the playmaker on defense they needed.
Jones covers the entire field and is one of the best wrap-up tacklers at linebacker in the draft. His production at Georgia was second-to-none and only further supports the fact that he has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL.
ESPN's Scott Van Pelt certainly approves.
Saw Georgia beat Florida & never once wondered how fast 29 could run the 40.Because...who cares? Jarvis Jones + Pittsburgh feels perfect— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) April 26, 2013
After an 8-8 campaign in 2012, the bolstering of Pittsburgh's defense with Jones should have fellow AFC North teams worried entering the 2013 season.
Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
I had consistently mocked former Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Houston Texans for practically the entire offseason. It just made too much sense in my mind for Houston to pass him up.
The fact that Andre Johnson was recruiting Chad Johnson to the Texans certainly highlighted Houston's need for a wideout, and with the No. 27 pick, I figured Hopkins to be the best available receiver at that point in the first round.
The 6'1" wide receiver was an absolute beast at Clemson—hauling in 82 receptions, 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2012—and will be an enormous complement to Andre Johnson in the Texans' passing game.
One Texan already welcomed Hopkins with open arms, as defensive star J.J. Watt tweeted shortly after Hopkins was taken by Houston:
Welcome to the team DeAndre.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) April 26, 2013
If you're looking for evidence of just how good Hopkins is, take a look at the Chik-fil-A Bowl game tape, when Hopkins went for 13 receptions, 191 yards and two touchdowns while seemingly taking the game over in the fourth quarter.
Mark my words: watch out for the Texans this season.
St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The St. Louis Rams had one of the best first rounds on Thursday night and they did it by trading up into the top 10 so they could snag dynamic wide receiver Tavon Austin.
The Rams traded their 16th pick as well as a second and seventh-round selection for the Buffalo Bills' No. 8 overall pick to assure themselves of being able to draft Austin, whom St. Louis desperately needed.
Here's a look at why the Rams desperately needed a wide receiver of Austin's caliber.
|Avg. yards per rec.||11.4||T-18th|
Austin is exactly the type of weapon Sam Bradford needs to establish himself as a mainstay in St. Louis. Not only is the 5'8" wideout a threat in the passing game, but Austin is versatile enough to make plays in the rushing game and as a kick returner.
After losing Danny Amendola, the Rams went out and bolstered their offense with the best wide receiver and offensive playmaker of the 2013 class.
You can't beat that.
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