10 Thoughts on the NFL Draft Winners and Losers
The NFL did a great thing this year by getting great players to announce some of the picks at this year's NFL draft, and from a PR standpoint the NFL hit a home run because it moved the draft to prime time. I loved it. Plus, I love Drew Brees, and this guy was the biggest winner of all this year.
The thoughts to follow are my gut reactions to the draft, they are very much open for debate. Onward!
Biggest Winner: Seattle Seahawks
There were several teams who could lay legitimate claim to this title, and remember that we can't actually judge for sure until three years from now. But as a gut reaction, the Seattle Seahawks hit home runs this weekend.
Oklahoma State's Russell Okung, in the minds of many, was the best left tackle available in the draft, and he fills a gaping need created by the likely retirement of Hall of Famer Walter Jones. He is a polished prospect, and there was talk of him going as early as No. 2 to Detroit. To get him at pick No. 6 is a coup.
The 'hawks also picked Texas safety Earl Thomas at No. 14 overall, when there was talk of him going as early as No. 7 to Cleveland. He was rated higher than Eric Berry on some draft boards, and not only is he talented, but he also fills a huge position of need in Seattle. It's hard to argue with either of these picks; they should be stalwarts for years to come.
Not only did the Seahawks hit home runs in the first round, they landed running backs LenDale White from Tennessee and Leon Washington from New York via trade. Washington, especially, should be a big-time playmaker that they might have been hoping to get from C.J. Spiller.
Great weekend for Seattle.
Second-Biggest Winner: Oakland Raiders
I can't believe I'm saying this, but what a great draft the Raiders had. There was rampant speculation about taking Bruce Campbell from Maryland with the 8th overall selection, but wow, what a great pick taking Rolando McClain, the Alabama ILB. He's a tough, physical guy that was the leader of the Tide's defense this past season and should be a star in this league for many years to come.
The Raiders also landed DT Lamarr Houston from the University of Texas in the second round. These two picks addressed Oakland's biggest problem on defense: their inability to stop the run. It's about time they went with solid football players- and I admit, I was holding my breath when the Raiders picked because I had no idea what they were going to do. But let's give Al Davis credit- he picked good football players, but also made some classic height-weight-speed picks, landing Bruce Campbell anyway in the 4th round, and also getting speedy Clemson WR Jacoby Ford.
And oh yeah, they also got Jason Campbell from the Redskins for a 2012 4th round pick. I've always believed that teams can win with him if he stays upright- could be a challenge in Oakland, but he's a legit NFL quarterback, as much as Dan Snyder felt otherwise.
Biggest Loser: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars took a huge gamble on Tyson Alualu, the California DL, with the 10th overall pick. Now, nothing against Alualu—he was a solid second round pick with the potential to sneak into the back end of the first round. It's not like the Jags had a bad draft otherwise, but they weren't able to make any big moves. Furthermore, if Alualu was their guy, that's fine- but they very likely could have traded back- WAY back- and still gotten him, remember that we saw trades at picks 11, 12, and 13.
The Jags are losers because they surely could have used another playmaker from an extra pick that they didn't actually acquire.
Second-Biggest Loser: Minnesota Vikings
I couldn't in good conscience leave the Vikings off of the biggest losers list. They had a solid draft- their top overall pick, Virginia CB Chris Cook, is a fit in the Vikings' defense. They also drafted Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, and I love the guy- a hard worker who will punish defenders. There were other picks, too, that I liked.
The problem? They didn't draft this guy on the slide: Jimmy Clausen. He was still available at pick No. 30, and then again when the Vikings picked Cook at No. 34. Look, I know that they want Brett Favre to come back. But a guy like Clausen just doesn't fall to the back of the first round very often. I get that the Vikings are built to win now, and that they didn't want to piss off Favre by taking a QB. But come on, the guy has 1 year left on his contract, and a guy who was a projected top-10 QB was there for the taking. Character concerns be damned, it was worth a flier on a guy with this kind of talent. Passing on him- twice- was utterly foolish.
Highway Robbery: Baltimore Ravens
Look at this picture. Just look at it. Then laugh as you realize that Javier Arenas is a Division I FBS football player- a corner, but still a hell of an athlete. Terrence "Mount" Cody is basically two of Javier Arenas.
The Ravens lost their third and fourth round picks in the Anquan Boldin trade- robbery in and of itself to get a player of his caliber for that price- and then on draft day Ozzie Newsome did it again. The Broncos traded second, third, and fourth round selections- all of which were higher than the Ravens' original selections in those rounds—to Baltimore for the No. 25 overall pick- don't worry, the guy they picked makes an appearance in this slide show.
With the pick they got from the Broncos in round 2, the Ravens picked Texas OLB Sergio Kindle, who was projected to go in the first round. He's a classic tweener who the Ravens will rotate with Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, and a great athlete. Don't forget the Ravens also have last year's second round pick, Paul Kruger, still waiting in the wings. The pass rush should be much improved this year.
And then the Ravens selected this mountain of a man. They already are one of the best run defense teams in the league, in large part thanks to Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata on the line. The Ravens did lose Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan in free agency, so adding depth along the DL was a priority- and in fact they likely added a starter at NT. This was a statement pick by the Ravens: you will not run the ball against us.
To get two guys like this in Round Two is a classic Ozzie Newsome draft and yet again and I couldn't be more excited to be a Ravens fan right now.
Patience Is a Virtue: Green Bay Packers
Maybe it was a case of overvaluing certain players, but for the Green Bay Packers to get Iowa OT Bryan Bulaga at No. 23 overall was a huge boon for this franchise. The only thing that they couldn't do last year was protect Aaron Rodgers- the polished Bulaga should help with that immensely.
And the guys at ESPN got one thing right during the telecast- this dude LOOKS like a Packer, doesn't he? Good things DO come to those who wait sometimes.
Biggest Shock: Tim Tebow goes in Round One
Right when I thought I'd seen the best Round 1 had to offer, Denver traded up to get Florida QB Tim Tebow. It was a huge gamble to take this guy in round 1- his intangibles are off the charts and he's a great athlete, but he has an unorthodox throwing motion and a lot of people doubt his ability to play QB in the NFL. Josh McDaniels is famous for developing quarterbacks, and he got his man. If anyone can overcome all the scrutiny, though, it's Tim Tebow.
I know for a fact that I'm not alone when I say, I hope this guy has a monster career and goes to the Hall of Fame. He is a great person, a guy who makes it happen on sheer force of will, and in my opinion the best player ever to play college football.
I was shocked he went in Round One, but I couldn't be happier for the guy.
Best Trade: Chargers trade up for Ryan Mathews
It wasn't the biggest trade, but in my opinion it was the best one. Ryan Mathews completes the San Diego Chargers' offense and fills a gaping need left by the decline and departure of running back LaDainian Tomlinson. If Mathews is close to Tomlinson, then the Chargers will have maybe the best offense in the entire league this season. It was a bit surprising to see San Diego go get him so high, but it wasn't a reach and he fits what San Diego wanted to do on offense. Great move.
Worst Trade: Patriots pass on Dez Bryant... twice
I am not usually one to criticize Bill Belichick. But the Patriots didn't need more picks here as much as they needed a WR. Dez Bryant had huge character concerns entering the draft, but for him to be available at No. 22 and then again at No. 24 was somewhat surprising. I got trading back to No. 24 with Demaryius Thomas also on the board, but when the Broncos took Thomas, the Patriots should have taken the best player left. Instead, they traded with Dallas—to their credit, an NFC team—but they have concerns at wideout going forward. I think they might regret passing on Bryant later.
Worst Hair: Mel Kiper, Jr.
Needs no explanation.