1. Sam Bradford, QB—St. Louis Rams
This is the pick the Rams had to make. The Rams need to start over, and Sam Bradford will become the new face of the franchise. Bradford has an adequate arm, but he possesses tremendous accuracy and makes good decisions. St. Louis has a long way to go, but Bradford has the tools to be a very productive NFL quarterback.
2. Ndamukong Suh, DT—Detroit Lions
Suh is a dominating presence in the middle of the defense. Detroit has been at or near the bottom of the league in total defense for far too long. This pick can change that. Like the Rams, Detroit still has a number of holes to fill, but GM Martin Mayhew has stayed true to his "best player available" strategy, and in doing so has raised the talent level of his team.
3. Gerald McCoy, DT—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
McCoy is a disruptor on the defensive line, and he can do a lot to help Tampa regain their defensive reputation. The Bucs see him as the next incarnation of Warren Sapp and the assessment may not be far off. In addition to what he can bring on the field, McCoy is a tremendous young man.
4. Trent Williams, OT—Washington Redskins
Trent Williams has a chance to become an incredible professional football player. Credit Mike Shanahan for believing in his program, selecting a player that has commitment questions, clearly with the idea that he can get the most out of him. Still, at the beginning of a new regime, the Redskins may have been better served to make the safe pick, Russell Okung.
5. Eric Berry, S—Kansas City Chiefs
If I were running the Chiefs, I would have done the same thing. Berry is a tremendous football player, and can change the entire complexion of a defense from the back end. He is a dynamic playmaker, but there simply has to be a small penalty for positional value. Nonetheless, you would be hard-pressed to call this the wrong pick.
6. Russell Okung, OT—Seattle Seahawks
As of today, Russell Okung is the best tackle in this draft. You could argue that his ceiling isn't as high as Williams's, but he does not have any of the same commitment questions as his counterpart from OU. Tackle is one of the safest positions in the draft and Okung looks like one of the safest tackles in a long time. He will be the perfect replacement for Walter Jones.
7. Joe Haden, CB—Cleveland Browns
With the acquisition of Sheldon Brown there were some who believed Cleveland would look to add to their front seven, but Haden had a solid college career and looks great on film. The biggest knock on Haden has been some less than stellar times in the 40-yard dash, but Haden should give Cleveland strength in the defensive backfield that they simply would not have without him.
8. Rolando McClain, ILB—Oakland Raiders
You can certainly question the value the Raiders got by selecting McClain with such a high pick, but if he is the guy they think fits their system and makes them a better team, in the absence of a serious trade partner the best thing to do is make the pick. The most important thing for the Raiders is they got a good football player.
9. C.J. Spiller, RB—Buffalo Bills
Spiller is a gasher that figures to be a playmaker on offense and on special teams. The trouble for Buffalo is that they have larger needs. They may have been better served to take a tackle, even if a running back makes a bigger impact on the running game. With a weak line and no passing game to take the focus off of Spiller, putting such a heavy focus on moving past Marshawn Lynch is a questionable move.
10. Tyson Alualu, DT—Jacksonville Jaguars
Alualu is a fine football player, but I do not believe any other team had him graded anywhere near where Jacksonville apparently did. The Jaguars don't pick again until the third round, and they apparently felt that Alualu would make the best addition to their defensive line, but reaching is not an effective way to compensate for previously gutting your draft. I really hope the front office at least tried to make a move down before making this selection.
11. Anthony Davis, OT—San Francisco 49ers
The only reason I can come up with for the 49ers trading up two spots for Davis was the threat of another team leapfrogging them to take him. Davis has some question marks, but the Niners are clearly committed to giving Alex Smith every opportunity to succeed.
12. Ryan Matthews, RB—San Diego Chargers
The Chargers filled a big need by selecting Matthews. Darren Sproles is nothing resembling an every-down back, and an effective running game would only make Phillip Rivers that much more effective. There seem to be some cracks appearing in the Charger defense, but no one is going to argue with filling the hole left by LaDanian Tomlinson first. Matthews is not a complete pro back right now, but he has the tools to get there in time. The only big question is whether San Diego had to trade up this far to fill this need.
13. Brandon Graham, DE—Philadelphia Eagles
Graham was a productive player at Michigan, but he strikes me as more likely to become an Alan Branch than a Lamarr Woodley, at least in Philadelphia, a team with a spotty record of developing defensive linemen. The Eagles traded up to get Graham despite a noticeable void left at safety by Brian Dawkins. I know I'm not alone in believing this pick would have been better spent on Earl Thomas.
14. Earl Thomas, S—Seattle Seahawks
After watching Philadelphia leapfrog them, Seattle must have been ecstatic when Thomas was still available. Seattle was thin at safety and Thomas, despite his lack of size, is solid against the run and can make a real impact in coverage. In short, Seattle nailed their first two picks.
15. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE—New York Giants
Pierre-Paul is similar to the pass rushers New York already has on the roster, a group that severely underachieved last season. He has little football experience and a slight frame, but he is incredibly athletic. He could develop into a great player, though he doesn't seem likely to become a top-notch run defender, but it seems as though this pick would have been better used to address more urgent needs.
16. Derrick Morgan, DE—Tennessee Titans
Morgan is the best defensive end in this draft today, and it's surprising that he was not the first one off the board. He is great against the run and a good pass rusher. He should give the Titans defense an edge it lacked last season and will provide a great replacement for the departed Kyle Vanden Bosch.
17. Mike Iupati, G—San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers continued to build a competent offense around QB Alex Smith by giving him the best guard available in this draft in addition to one of its top tackles. If Iupati had experience at tackle he would have been a top 10 pick; that's how talented he is.
18. Maurkice Pouncey, C—Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh had to be disturbed by how much the absence of Troy Polamalu affected their performance last season. They had to be worried about the decision-making of their embattled quarterback. They had to be concerned with their depth at wide receiver. But when the lines start to break down it is of the utmost importance to address the situation. Their interior offensive line is aging, and the team gave up 50 sacks last season. Pouncey can help to improve that.
19. Sean Weatherspoon, OLB—Atlanta Falcons
I believed that Michigan DE Brandon Graham and the Atlanta Falcons were made for each other, but Graham was no longer available at this point. They could have opted for a wide receiver, but the offense is solid all around and their biggest defensive need is pass rushing. With a dearth of value at defensive end at this point, Weatherspoon was one of the top options available.
20. Kareem Jackson, CB—Houston Texans
After losing Dunta Robinson in free agency, cornerback was a primary need for the Texans. If Jackson is what some scouts think he can be, the Texans won't have to worry about the half of the field he is defending.
21. Jermaine Gresham, TE—Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati's top goal in this draft was to get targets for Carson Palmer to throw to and Gresham will provide exactly that. He missed significant time this past season, but that seemed to be the norm in Norman and he looked good in his workouts. He should be able to occupy the middle of the field and open things up for Chad Johnson and newcomer Antonio Bryant on the edges.
22. Demaryius Thomas, WR—Denver Broncos
I believe that Dez Bryant is the best wide receiver in this draft, but so soon after resolving their long-running ordeal with Brandon Marshall it is understandable that the team would pass on another receiver of questionable character. Thomas needs some polish, but he provides a receiving threat that Denver simply doesn't have right now.
23. Bryan Bulaga, OT—Green Bay Packers
The Packers scored big with Bulaga falling this far. Many had the Iowa tackle as a top ten, even top five pick, but tackles were not in demand at the anticipated level, and not only did the Packers not have to reach to fill a need, they actually got tremendous value. Whether he fits in on the right side or left isn't of great concern to Green Bay, because they have serious needs at both spots.
24. Dez Bryant, WR—Dallas Cowboys
Whether or not this is an admission that Roy Williams has been a failure is really of no consequence. Even if Williams picks his game up Dallas at least had an under-the-radar need at wide receiver. Owner Jerry Jones was dead set on not repeating his Randy Moss mistake of twelve years ago, so he pulled the trigger on the supremely talented Bryant, and his team will be better for it in the long run.
25. Tim Tebow, QB—Denver Broncos
I would never have made this move. I do not believe Tebow, for all his work ethic, possesses the skill set to succeed as an NFL quarterback. Nonetheless, McDaniels is clearly running his own show in Denver, and he believes he can work with Tebow to turn the Broncos around. Maybe he is wrong and I'm right. If I grade this pick based on what I think of Tebow it would get not only an F, but a flat zero. But, there is obviously a chance that I'm completely wrong about Tebow. Josh McD sees something in him, so I'll give him and Tebow a chance to prove me wrong.
26. Dan Williams, DT—Arizona Cardinals
This is an easy A for the Cards. Williams was expected to go somewhere around the 10th pick but slid all the way down to the bottom of the first round. Anything that gets the disastrous Gabe Watson out of the starting lineup is to be hailed, but Arizona is also getting an immovable object to solidify their defensive front.
27. Devin McCourty, CB—New England Patriots
New England could have gone any number of ways with this pick (or the picks they held before acquiring this one), but McCourty is a solid choice. The Patriots have seen a drain of talent at the corner position over time, and while it might not be their most obvious need, a fluid coverage guy like McCourty could make a world of difference.
28. Jared Odrick, DT/DE—Miami Dolphins
I had Odrick graded solidly as a second-rounder and still feel that he may have been there when Miami picked next at 40th overall. That doesn't mean Odrick isn't a nice fit for the Dolphins; he looks like a prototypical 3-4 end, but the greater need seemed to be at nose tackle. If Miami uses that 40th pick to fill that need, the grade on this pick could improve significantly.
29. Kyle Wilson, CB—New York Jets
You could question exactly how much need the Jets have at corner, but it is impossible to question the value Wilson represents at this spot. Like their division rival the Patriots, the Jets could have gone in several directions with this pick but chose to get the best value available. Wilson provides an excellent option for three-receiver sets and provides excellent insurance if Antonio Cromartie is unable to regain his form.
30. Jahvid Best, RB—Detroit Lions
I love this pick. Having watched Best since he was a freshman at Cal I have no doubt about the impact he can make on games. His feet never stop moving, unlike current Lions RB Kevin Smith, he has tremendous vision, and he is every bit as nimble as C.J. Spiller. Durability concerns about Best are overblown as his concussion occurred on a freak play, and there was little talk about the two serious knee surgeries Detroit's first pick, Suh, has undergone. There is still a gigantic need to address the offensive line, but Best represents great value and should make every aspect of the offense more effective.
31. Jerry Hughes, OLB—Indianapolis Colts
You might not even notice that Hughes is on the Colts over the next few years, because he will blend in so perfectly with what their defense does. He represents an excellent value for the Colts at this point and gives them yet another pass rushing option. They certainly could have looked at a defensive tackle like UCLA's Brian Price, but Hughes has every chance to be an impact player at the next level, especially in a place like Indy.
32. Patrick Robinson, CB—New Orleans Saints
I thought Taylor Mays might be the pick here as the heir apparent to Darren Sharper, but overall the defensive backfield was the Saints' biggest weakness (if they have one). Given that they had to pick up Mike McKenzie mid-season last year, adding a young corner with skills like Robinson's is not a bad idea.