NFL After-Draft Aftermath
The big excitement is over now. What has happened has happened, and all that remains is interpretation and analyzation. There's a lot more to winning football games than a good draft, but it certainly serves as a marker on where you team stands, and where it's going.
The NFL Draft, as I believe Mark Purdy once said, "forces teams to be honest and open about their needs." And it was a weekend of brutal honesty.
So what happened? A couple huge surprises, an early run on pass-rushers, and every team trying to get a piece of possibly the most talented class of defensive backs ever. Trades out of nowhere, Al Davis not making mistakes, and a bunch of first-round talent available in the second and even third rounds. An affirmation that pro days speak louder than combines and you can't fake a highlight reel.
The most eye-catching acquisitions remain branded into my cerebral cortex...
Buffalo—the Bills looked for the best player available in the first round, and found a game-changing runner with super speed who can also receive out of the backfield in C.J. Spiller. Oh, and he also returns punts and kicks, and never learned how to fumble. They were also brutally honest about their pass rush, taking three defensive ends down the board.
Miami—the Dolphins addressed needs to fit Bill Parcells' style. The Fins drafted for defense, defense and more defense. They also drafted a couple defensive players and a defender. In fact, the only offensive player they picked up was lineman John Jerry.
New York—the Jets had very limited needs coming in, especially on their pass defense, so naturally they drafted corner Kyle Wilson in the first. They also added a tackle and two running backs to the NFL's best ground game.
New England—the always-a-threat Patriots came away with 12 players selected. Among the many notable picks were two tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) linebacker Brandon Spikes, and defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick.
Baltimore—the Ravens' defense somehow got better? Yes, it did. The biggest big man on defense, Terrence Cody, and lion-hearted pass rusher Sergio Kindle found their ways onto Baltimore's epic defense, and in the second round, no less. Their passing game also got a boost from talented tight end Ed Dickson and quicker-than-he-is-fast golden receiver David Reed out of Utah.
Cincinnati—Carson Palmer got a couple new toys with the draft's best tight end (Jermaine Gresham) and do-it-all receiver Jordan Shipley. Their pass rush should also be reasonably improved by the arrival of Florida's Carlos Dunlap.
Cleveland—the Browns had swagger going into this year's draft on the Mike Holmgren train, and rightfully so. Beyond addressing needs, the Dawg Pound got presents like it was Christmas Day. A future starter at quarterback (Colt McCoy), a serious running back (Montario Hardesty), a good chunk of a bona fide secondary (Joe Haden, Larry Asante, T.J. Ward), and a whopper of a late-round defensive end in Clifton Geathers. They also picked up a decent tackle late (Shawn Lauvao).
Pittsburgh—in spite of the Big Ben rumors that flew around, the Steelers stood pat at QB, and just did their thing. Notable pickups include center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker Jason Worilds, and running back Jonathan Dwyer.
Houston—the Texans' draft pallet had a sweet beginning with corner Kareem Jackson and running back Ben Tate. The finish was nice and spicy, though, with specialist Trindon Holiday and undersized tight end Dorin Dickerson.
Indianapolis—you don't mess with a system that's working, and the Colts' system is working just fine with Peyton chucking the pigskin all over the place. Linebacker Pat Angerer heads the Colts primarily defensive draft.
Jacksonville—Tyson Alualu. Um... Lets just say I was as surprised, if not more (I did a Budweiser-spit-take), when the Jaguars called his name in at No. 10. Austen Lane, however, is among three other defensive linemen who made this an almost successful draft for the Jags.
Tennessee—not creative, but effective, the Titans took pass rush monster Derrick Morgan in the first. In fact it was again mostly defense with a couple wide receivers thrown in the mix. Oh, and they took a big, uncooked quarterback in Rusty Smith and a giant brain by the name of Myron Rolle.
Denver—the Broncos made this draft very hard to follow. Granted, I had more than a couple boozy beverages, but these guys were impossible to keep up with. They traded all over the place and came away with a receiver and a quarterback in the first round. The quarterback, who was the second picked at the position, happened to be Übermensch Tim Tebow. This is either genius or retarded. The verdict will be out for a couple years. The Broncs also got some decent O-line beef in Zane Beadles and Eric Olsen.
Kansas City—the first sign of another ridiculous draft came when the Chiefs ignored their offensive-line needs and took super safety Eric Berry at the No. 5 overall. In fact, the only offensive lineman Kansas City took was guard Jon Asamoagh, who's good but not everything the Chiefs are going to need. Dexter McCluster might do a little damage in the open field, if he can ever find it.
Oakland—the Raiders' drafts have normally been confusing, disturbing, or just downright sad recently. This time, however, it was just solid. Rolondo McClain anchored a solid defense in the first, and they still got their man Bruce Campbell in the fourth, along with Jared Veldheer in the third. It true Raider fashion as well, they plucked speedster Jacoby Ford in the fourth as well.
San Diego—the Chargers got pretty weird with it, trading up to the No. 12 spot to get a running back they desperately need. This cost them a bit for a back most assumed would be available later. They did little else over the weekend.
Dallas—the Cowboys landed themselves a potential new diva. That's about it, although Sam Young could be a beast in a couple years.
New York—the Giants grabbed defensive talent with pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul in the first, defensive tackle Linval Joseph in the second, ballhawk Chad Jones in the third and Phillip Dillard in the fourth. Combine strongman Mitch Petrus adds a potential beast at guard.
Philadelphia—thirteen picks. Yes, the Eagles selected 13 players, and although most are probably headed for the practice squad next year, Brandon Graham will almost certainly be a Week 1 starter. Another pick of interest was the athletic Clay Harbor. Linebacker Keenan Clayton and defensive end Ricky Sapp could be of interest down the line as well.
Washington—the Shanahan era has begun for the 'Skins, and although the only real pick of interest was top tackle Trent Williams, fans should consider the addition of Donovan McNabb a wisely spent second rounder. They did also come across jumbo pick Selvish Capers in the seventh round.
Chicago—In spite of the Bears not picking until the third round, they did all right. Safety Major Wright joins the secondary, Corey Wooten joins the newly bolstered pass rush and Jamarcus Webb becomes another big bear on the line. Oh, and Dan LaFevour is now poised to be the next Bears quarterback when Jay Cutler trades in his playbook for a baby bottle.
Detroit—If ever a team needed a good draft more desperately than last year's Lions, it's this year's Lions. The lucky Lions (formerly the unlucky Lions) received a gift from the football gods as St. Louis passed on the best defensive tackle in recent history. It's almost impossible to have a bad draft if it includes Ndamukong "House of Spears" Suh, who is 95 percent likely to be a force in the NFL for some years.
On top of Suh, Detroit gave quarterback Matt Stafford another toy on Day 1 with dynamic back Jahvid Best. What was almost a franchise-changing weekend was only weakened by a lack of offensive line recruitment. Project tackle Jason Fox was taken in the fourth.
Green Bay—The Pack's picks got a little boring after top-10 projected tackle Bryan Bulaga fell to them at No. 20, but Marshall Newhouse was added to solidify the offensive line in the fifth.
Minnesota—Quiet after trading their Day 1 pick, the Vikings made two solid stabs in the second round. Speedster Chris Cook adds a potential shutdown dimension to an already blazing pass defense. Late bloomer turned Heisman candidate Toby Gerhart adds even more black and blue to the purple's bruising running game.
Atlanta—The Falcons kept the motor running on defense with blitzer Sean Weatherspoon in the first and road block Corey Peters in the second. Two decent interior offensive linemen were acquired in Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley.
Carolina—The honesty was exceptionally brutal to any quarterback in the Panthers' system, as they walked away with three quarterbacks when it was all said and done. Rusher Greg Hardy and receiver Brandon LaFell highlighted decent plugs for a team that's been leaking free agents.
New Orleans—What do you get the team that has everything? Maybe more of everything. Fast Florida State corner Patrick Robinson leads the way, but the big fellas follow. Tackle Charles Brown and center Matt Tennant join a Super Bowl champion O-line. Drew Brees was a good boy this year, so he gets a huge red-zone target in Jimmy Graham. While we're at it, lets just throw in a big defensive tackle from LSU, since he's already in-state.
Tampa Bay—The Buccaneers picked up the other big defensive tackle and then another big defensive tackle, which isnt a bad strategy. Aside from rebuilding the defense from the inside-out, they also grabbed corner Myron Lewis, receiver Arrelious Benn and linebacker Dekoda Watson.
Arizona—The Cardinals went for a defensive tackle early with Dan Williams, and stuck with defense. Darryl Washington joins the linebacking corps, and quarterback John Skelton has an outside shot to be a factor in a couple years.
San Francisco—"Go big or go home" were words actually mentioned by pseudo general manager Trent Baalke. And go big they did. Two offensive linemen in the first round should shore up the right tackle and guard position for a while with Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati. The next day they went ahead and grabbed the biggest and fastest safety in the draft (Taylor Mays) and a bruising linebacker (Navarro Bowman). They finished the draft with punishing power back Anthony Dixon and blocking beast Nate Byham at tight end.
Seattle—The Seahawks draft has been ranked as the best, but really? Sure they got possibly the best pass blocker in the draft when Russell Okung fell to them at No. 6. Earl Thomas was there at No. 14, and they grabbed Golden Tate in the second, Kam Chancellor in the fifth and Anthony McCoy in the sixth and...oh, is that enough already?
St. Louis—And then there's the Rams. The Bighorns should feel pretty sheepish when Sam Bradford doesn't pan out, and Ndamukong Suh surpasses all expectations over the next few years. The offensive line was lightly addressed with Rodger Saffold, but that was about it. So who's going to help keep Bradford healthy? I'll get back to you with that one. In the mean time, Rams fans can imagine that receiver Mardy Gilyard and tight end Fendi Onobun will be adequate targets for Young Mr. Bradford. Can Michael Hoomanawanui bolster their run game? The defense, however, might be a bit bolstered by the wise addition of George Selvie in the seventh.
So what does it all mean? Everything and nothing at once—some say. Here's me being only slightly more specific, and much more metaphorical.
Think back to playing football in the street, park or backyard as a kid. Remember picking teams? Which team who was on meant something, but in the end, winning always comes down to having the best game plan and execution.
Specifically, it comes down to who wants it more.
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