Who had the best NFL draft ?
It wasn't one of the prognosticators who spent hundreds of hours preparing tens of mock drafts.
They were all wrong. Most of them were wrong numerous times. It wasn't the teams; all of them came away saying "We were hoping he'd slide to us and we're just lucky to blah, blah, blah" at some point.
It was probably Matthew Stafford and the other underclassmen. The NFL again opted for potential over dedication. The experts cheered. The teams cheered. The agents cheered, and the young got richer. There's nothing wrong with that.
I have a couple of questions for NFL General Managers, draft experts, and anyone else who cares to chime in.
1. How does a player drop from a sure first-round pick to a third pick from January to April?
I'm pretty sure Michael Johnson didn't play any games during that time. No one can blame his combine workout. Maybe it was because he was a senior—too old. I heard the esteemed analysts say it was because Johnson took plays off.
Give me a break; the guy played outside in the ACC. It's hot and muggy most of the season. He played at Georgia Tech, and there was no one really rotating in at his spot. As a team captain, maybe Johnson stayed on the field and tried even when exhausted, maybe not.
And let us not forget another important fact: Michael Johnson blocked kicks. The All-American with nine sacks and 17.5 tackles for losses was playing special teams.
He dropped in selection for taking plays off. Brilliant.
2. How did we not hear the names Brian Toal and Ian Johnson called as teams were filling out the bottom thirds of their rosters on day two ?
I kept hearing every expert refer to things like versatility, special teams, leadership, character and blah, blah, blah. Then on day two, when all of those things supposedly mattered, we saw more players chosen with legal issues (note to Percy Harvin whether I agree or not testing positive for marijuana is a legal issue) than degrees, or captains C's.
Sure, both Toal and Johnson have had injuries. They've both come back from injuries. McGahee got drafted coming out early, Adrian Peterson too, but guys who stayed in school for four years—forget about that. There seems to be something suspect about that.
Toal was frosh defensive player of the year at BC ahead of Raji. They called him "First and Toal" for his ability around the goal line. I never saw him miss a tackle.
Character? There's a picture of Johnson that defines character in one way: he's the kid making beanies and selling them to fill in the gaps of his scholarship. That's character.
Then there's the picture of Johnson that defines character in another way: he's kneeling in the end-zone proposing to a cheerleader. That Johnson, what a character! (hopefully, Johnson makes the Vikings and he can tell Adrian Peterson what it was like winning that Fiesta Bowl game).
Finally, my favorite picks.
Round No. 1 - Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns
For months—beginning in January or earlier—I've been calling Mack the best offensive lineman in the draft. He fills a need for the Browns (sorry, Hank Fraley), and Mangini seems to like the idea of building around a center.
Runner-Up - Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens
I watched tape on Oher. He seemed like a good player. Very athletic for a tackle, but in the run game, Ole Miss' other tackle, John Jerry, always got better push.
So I down graded Oher. (I love the Maclin pick in Philly at the spot too, but Oher won me over.)
I was wrong. When a man comes out of the green room last, and among his first words are "I need to work on..." there's room for growth.
Round No. 2 - Ron Brace, New England
There weren't many nose tackles in the draft, and there were a lot of 3-4 teams. One of those teams probably should have gone ahead and taken a chance on Brace earlier. He's the perfect fit behind Vince Woolfork. Imagine 650-700 pounds of nose tackle rotating in on AFC east centers.
New England wins for another reason, too. Brace was one of four second round picks fr the Pats. He won't be counted on to start like some of those first round picks. The Patriots passed on the flashy, expensive, and unproven.
They'll probably pay about one-half of a Stafford-contract for all 12 of their picks, then spend the money on some proven free agent—they wing. Brace is another reason why they win, even if he never plays a down.
Runner-Up - William Beatty, New York Giants
Beatty jiggles a little. He's not perfect. He doesn't have to be. He has to be better than Kevin Boothe or Guy Whimper. He just has to step in for a Dave Diehl or a Kareem McKenzie often enough to keep them fresh and let the Giants keep running the ball now that Plax is gone.
Round No. 3 - Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
If the Bengals stay in a 4-3 scheme—with Maulaga at MLB and Johnson at DE they should—then he could be the best pick of the draft.
Runner-Up - Kraig Urbik, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers needed help on the O-line. Urbik is my favorite guard, and standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 320-pounds, he can line up at tackle, too.
He's also familiar with playing a power running game, which should suit a more Mendenhall-oriented offense. Over 300 knock-down blocks in his career should also be a selling point to consider.
This round was tough; I love the Bears' selection of Jarron Gilbert
—high risk, high reward—the Lions' choice of Derrick Williams, who will only need to be a slot WR/RS in Detroit, and the Giants' choice of Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum.
Round No. 4 - Gerald McGrath, Tennessee Titans
There's something about Southern Miss linebackers: they get to the ball. McGrath has a lot of Michael Boley in him.
Runner-Up - Vaughn Martin, San Diego Chargers
I never heard of Vaughn Martin prior to the draft, but he's 6'3", 330-pounds, runs under a 5.0 40-yard dash, and threw up 44 reps at Michigan's pro day. He can play end in a 3-4. San Diego lost Igor Olshansky, and Vaughn fills a need.
(I like DJ Moore, who was listed as a first-round pick based on game film, but a fourth-round pick on his 40 time and Lions pick Sammie Lee Hill. The Lions had to do something about that huge hole at DT.)
Round No. 5 - Marcus Freeman, Chicago Bears
I hate the idea that the Bears will be the only team still running the Tampa Two, but if you're gonna run it, get players that fit. Marcus Freeman fits the system perfectly.
Runner-Up - Johnny Knox, Chicago Bears
Full disclosure: I AM A BEAR FAN. I AM NOT a Jerry Angelo fan, nor am I a Lovie Smith fan, nor am I a fan of the Tampa Two. Knox, I could grow to be a fan of because he's one of the fastest wide recievers in the draft. He catches with his hands. I watched the Texas vs All-Star game and Knox blew away some more higher-drafted competition.
Round No. 6 - Matt Slauson, New York Jets
Slauson can play anywhere on the line. His college coach for thee years is the new line coach in New York. He's a versatile-character guy. Let's hear it for the J-E-T-S!
Runner-Up - Ra'Shon Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harris may never play a down, but he's 6'4" and 300-pounds and quick enough to play end in a 3-4 set. Travis Kirschke is 35, Aaron Smith is 33, and Brett Keisel is 31. Seems like a good gamble.
Round No 7 - AQ Shipley, Pittsburgh Steelers
He's too short. So WHAT? Shipley can play football. He's got some attitude. He'd probably fight through the Bengals, Browns, and Ravens just to get suited up.
Runner-Up - Rickey Jean Francois, San Francisco
College wasn't for Rickey—seventh round.
We're talking about a guy who'd been the MVP of a Bowl Game. Long arms, strong enough to play DT, and quick enough to be a 4-3 end. The thing I like best about Jean-Francois is his background as a shot putter. You have to have great strength and explosion to put the shot. Jean-Francois is a very good shot putter. As a seventh-round pick, he was worth it.
Yup, my draft is a little heavy. It's full of maulers. Big D-linemen—bigger O-linemen. Not a lot of flash.
Get the trenches taken care of and those free agents will want to play behind the big guys. Get them taken care of in the middle of the draft and you'll have the money to spend on those free agents.