Assuming we have a 2011 NFL season, this year's rookie class will shake up the football world just like any other year. As much homework as teams do on these prospects, there's always going to be winners and losers in the draft, so let's look at each first round selection and see which players will do well and which ones won't do so hot.
We all know that, to put it nicely, the Panthers could have been better last year. Clausen and Moore were both put in situations that were unfair and borderline impossible, but neither of them are capable of leading a team to a Super Bowl anyways. Enter Newton, a Super Bowl caliber talent.
That is absolutely not to say that Newton is a sure thing. He has all of the intangibles to become an elite franchise quarterback, but he also possesses many traits of a prototype bust player. He has obvious character questions, he's a one year wonder who ran a very collegiate spread offense and he's very cocky.
Skip all of the over analyzing of his character, size and combine numbers, though, and just look at his track record. The guy is a winner wherever he goes. He got run out of town in Gainesville, but rebounded to win a JUCO championship at Blinn College, which he followed up with quite the encore at Auburn last year.
All of this has definitely led Newton to be very full of himself, but that should also play in his favor on the next level. He's just too confident to fail, and he'll keep bouncing back until he's achieved an elite quarterback status. Once the Panthers roster is good enough, he'll win consistently on the next level and wind up wearing NFC blue in Honolulu at least a couple of times.
It says a lot about the guy when he is the rookie representative for the players in all of this lockout legal stuff. Miller is a passionate player with a great personality to boot, and that's not to mention his amazing knack to wreak havoc in the backfield. He recorded an impressive 27.5 sacks on top of 111 tackles in his last two seasons at Texas A&M.
Unfortunately for Miller, though, Denver is the last place he wanted to go. He's joining a 4-3 defense that will limit his ability to get to the quarterback, especially as the SAM (strong side) linebacker, which is apparently where they want him. Miller is a good enough all-around player to be a fixture at OLB across from Williams, but his production won't be as good as it could be if he was in DJ's spot or if the Broncos stuck with the 3-4.
Result: Not a bust but underwhelming for No. 2 overall
Some might think that Nick Fairley was the best DT in this draft based on his National Championship performance. There's no doubt he was a monster in that game, but what about the previous title game? There was that guy who played for the Tide who took out Colt McCoy and had a pick 6 which ended the game before halftime. That was Marcell Dareus, Alabama's big bad No. 57.
Dareus blasts off of the line and transforms into a wrecking ball, oftentimes giving linemen more than they bargained for.He played both NT and DE in Alabama's 3-4 defense, so he should fit right in to Buffalo's predominantly 3-4 scheme very well. He only recorded 11 sacks in two seasons, but as a defensive lineman in a 3-4, that's still impressive.
ESPN's Sports Science showed Dareus outperformed both LaMarr Woodley and Ndamukong Suh, and while it was only in a lab, you can still tell that Dareus is just nasty. He's had a troubled past but still ended up number 3 overall despite it, and he'll be a fixture on the Bills D-line for years to come.
The three year starter out of Georgia will be the next elite receiver in the NFL. Julio Jones may have outperformed him at the combine, but when you look at Green's game film, it's hard to keep your jaw off of the floor.
A key indicator of a great receiver is natural catching ability, and Green has it. He makes circus catches that only a few NFL receivers can make, and he makes them with ease. He isn't thinking about his catching mechanics when he makes plays; he just goes up and beats the defender to the ball no matter what it takes.
He isn't exceptionally fast, but his natural ability overcomes the fraction of a second difference between speed receivers and himself. The 6'3" playmaking acrobat is the type of receiver that is a quarterback's best friend, and he may just make Andy Dalton's career.
Result: KABOOM, Offensive ROY
The Cardinals somehow managed to nab a steal with the number five pick. Peterson has the heart of the lion, top end speed and amazing field vision to boot. There's just really not much to criticize about him unless you really nitpick.
Making the transition to the NFL for a cornerback is a very difficult process, but Peterson is ready to get after it. Patrick was always pumping up the crowd at home games and feeding off the energy while at LSU, and that passion for the game will be what carries him to the next level.
His footwork is suspect at times, but he has the speed to make up for it while he learns. Peterson won't enjoy too much immediate defensive success, but unless the Cards play it safe, he has electrifying return skills which will make him useful right away. He'll be good to start the year and finish off 2011 strong, which will carry over into the following year. By 2013, Peterson will be a unanimous Pro-Bowler every year.
Result: 2011-Good, 2012-Better, 2013-Best corner in the league
This year's first, second and fourth round picks PLUS next year's first and fourth round picks, what a bounty! And all for Bama's best pass dropper. It's well documented that Jones stole the show at the draft, but come on, the combine is an unnatural setting. Film doesn't lie, and the film says that Jones is a guy who can be a low end No.1 receiver at the very best. He drops the ball coming over the middle when he takes big hits, and in the NFL, the hits will only be harder. He has all of the athleticism needed to thrive and then some, but it's consistency that is too lacking.
Now you've got to hand it to Dimitroff for resurrecting the Falcons in just a couple of years, but this time, he slipped up. There are whispers that the Falcons went after the Bengals pick for hometown hero A.J Green, and that would have been worth it, but Jones just isn't in the same league as him.
It doesn't matter how well Jones did at the combine; he can't make the big catches, and Matt Ryan won't be able to trust him. Defenses will figure it out and White will remain heavily covered, making Jones a huge waste of picks. Jones won't be a bad overall player, but for a number 6 pick to be a decent number 2 wideout hovers just above bust status.
Result: Near Bust
If the draft was a grocery store, then Harbaugh would've came home with a big juicy marinated steak. Unfortunately, Aldon Smith is like one of those steaks that looks good at the store, but turns out to not look as good on the bottom when you open it up.
Aldon is not big enough at 6'4", 273 lbs. to handle NFL offensive linemen, so he'll have to put on weight or he'll get thrown around by the much larger tackles lining up across from him. On top of that, he doesn't quite explode off of the line the way top notch NFL defensive ends tend to do. His 10 and 20 yard dash times were 1.66 and 2.70 respectively, very pedestrian numbers for a pass rushing defensive end.
Smith plays hard, though, and he has the football skills necessary to become a great player. Maybe Harbaugh can mold him into a sack artist, but odds are he was drafted too early.
Result: Not a bust, but not worth the pick
Going No. 8 overall after a poor showing during his senior season was a fortunate outcome for Locker. After a stellar junior year, Locker posted slightly worse numbers during his senior year and the Huskies just couldn't win. His game against Nebraska was so bad it dropped him out of the first round in many mock drafts immediately afterwards. To be fair to Jake, though, he lost a lot of his supporting cast after his junior campaign.
Locker has an interesting skill set, as he is a natural leader who works hard and throws better on the move than he does in the pocket. While throwing on the run is fine and dandy, Vince Young proved to Tennessee that it can only get you so far. Locker will have to develop a pocket game, and the Titans staff will have to surround him with more weapons before he comes truly dangerous. In a couple of years, though, Locker will be a scary player to face. There's a reason Locker was projected to be the number one pick before the season started. He's a gamer, but it'll be awhile before he reaches his potential.
Result: Delayed Boom
Maybe now we'll actually see Romo suit up for a whole season. Tyron Smith is a monster of a man who has the size and strength to become a decent O-line anchor for the next decade or longer in Dallas.
There is an interesting debate as to whether he'll stay on the right side or bump over to Tony's troublesome blindside, but it's logical to bet that he'll stay on the right. Typically in the NFL, you see the bigger, bulkier tackles man the right side, and the quicker, more agile ones who can keep up with sack specialist defensive ends on the left. Smith actually fits the bill of a left tackle on paper, weighing in at only 307 pounds with quick feet, but he still played RT at USC because Kalil was dominant on the other side. If the Cowboys had better line depth, he could probably be developed into a solid LT, but the Cowboys need help at RT right now. Smith knows the position and that's where he'll make an impact.
He'll need a year to adjust to the NFL, and an extra 15 or so pounds wouldn't hurt, but he'll be alright as a rookie anyways. Smith won't be an elite player this year, but he'll be an upgrade over Colombo.
Result: Solid contributor but not quite a boom yet.
Talk about a guy who came out of nowhere. Blaine Gabbert cut in line to consensus No. 2 in the rookie QB rankings despite having very little hype coming into last season. He has pretty good accuracy and a charming personality, but he's being over hyped just like J.P Losman was a few years back.
Gabbert ran a quarterback friendly spread offense and still only posted 16 touchdowns and 9 picks, not even a 2 to 1 ratio. His 3186 passing yards are a result of the total passes in the spread (475 attempts), and his numbers in clutch situations are disconcerting. He threw only two touchdowns to five interceptions when his team was behind, and his third down completion percentage was a measly 44.3 percent on third downs with five picks almost matching his six touchdowns.
Luckily for Jacksonville, they have David Garrard, one of the most underrated and under appreciated quarterbacks in the NFL. He at least gives Jacksonville a chance to win, as opposed to Gabbert getting thrown into the fire and failing every week. The Jags will let Gabbert sit on the bench, start him next year and realize they messed up.
The best case scenario is Kerry Collins like production out of Gabbert. He'll start for several years, play very streaky football, have a couple of decent seasons and never reach the potential he was predicted to as a number 10 pick.
Result: Sorry, Jacksonville
J.J Watt is a workhorse defensive end who only just found his niche at the position a two seasons ago, and he's grown substantially during the short span on the edge. His “self made man” story is well documented and a decent indicator of his dedication, which will help him transition to professional play. The Big 10 is a competitive division that yielded him all seven of his sacks last year; none of them were against any cream puff teams.
The Texans are moving towards a defense full of hard workers, as was demonstrated by their draft, and it should go well. With Mario Williams moving to outside linebacker and the intriguing Brooks Reed perhaps moving to the other side, there will be plenty of competition to get the quarterback. That's great for Wade Phillips and the Texans, but it will be difficult for Watt to post great numbers right off the bat.
He will be a very solid fixture at defensive end, a 5-8 sack per year type of guy, but never a sack monster. Number 11 might seem high for just a good player, but good is such a big upgrade from terrible for the Texans that he was worth it.
Result: Small boom
Did he really go too early? The guy played through pain, endured a coaching change, put up solid numbers healthy or not and won a lot of games at the college level in an underrated ACC conference. Ponder demonstrates great pocket presence and has frequent flashes of amazing accuracy. He won't throw as far as JaMarcus Russell, but he can actually get it down the field when he's healthy. Fans should note that he played all of last year with a shoulder injury and only then did questions arise about his arm strength.
According to Trent Dilfer, Ponder can't play in “stinky” situations, but the stats paint a different picture. Ponder's completion percentage and rating dip a little bit on third and very long (10-plus), but they should because the defenses knew he was throwing. What about his 181.85 rating on 3rd and 7-9 yards, or his 190.45 rating with 16 TD's and one INT in the red zone? In both of those more common situations where a team leans on their quarterback to make smart plays, Ponder gets it done.
Add in Harvin, Rice (maybe), Shiancoe, Rudolph and Berrian as targets, and look out for the former Seminole. Ponder will thrive off of his superior surrounding talent and rock solid running game while becoming the best rookie quarterback this year.
Result: Boom, ROY candidate
As much credit as Cam Newton gets, anybody who watched the National Championship game saw Nick Fairley win the game from the DT position. He might have only recorded one sack, but he spent the game on the other side of the center. There have been many claims that Fairley is a dirty player, and frankly he is, but you've got to be nasty to be effective at Defensive tackle.
He racked up 11.5 sacks last year despite being pinned between the tackles due to that nasty tenacity, and when a player is that mean, he'll make it in the NFL. Ndamukong Suh isn't exactly friendly, but he sure makes a mess of the interior offensive line, and with Fairley next to him, the Lions will have the best DT combo since the Williams Wall in Minnesota (in their prime, not now). Good luck stopping the entire defensive line really, because if offenses bring double teams inside, Vanden Bosch and Avril will cause problems of their own.
Fairley might not record double digit sacks, but as a unit, the Lions D-line could manage to record over 30 if the secondary improves. Fairley will grow into a powerhouse role next to Suh, and they will feed off of each other to become an unstoppable two man wrecking crew for years.
Robert Quinn hasn't recorded a sack since the 09-10 season because got suspended for traveling and building a jewelery stash on an agent's dime, but he flat out rocked the ACC the last time he played. He uses his big arms and stunning quickness to wrap up QB's and running backs before they even get a chance to escape.
While he was one of the most exciting defensive ends that year, but his athleticism is still suspect. His 4.7 40 yard dash is decent, but his 4.4 20-yard shuttle is pedestrian for a pass rusher, and he hasn't played in a whole year. Robert Quinn will never be an athletic freak DE, but he's great at his position, which could carry him.
Either way, jumping from a year off to the NFL won't go too great right off the bat, but that doesn't mean he'll be dead in the water in his first year either. He's good enough to make some plays even though he doesn't have the elite athleticism to light up the league yet. He also doesn't have enough bulk (only 265 lbs) to lock down the run game on the edges, but that can be fixed.
Steve Spagnuolo developed the dominant Giants defensive line a couple of years back, and he did awfully well with a subpar stock of pass rushers when his stars got hurt. Give Quinn a year or so under the Rams coaching staff to get in better shape and learn to adjust, and he could be a breakout star down the line.
Result: Late Bloomer
Talk about high expectations; Mike's situation isn't even fair. His twin brother left just one year ahead of him and instantly became a top five center in the NFL. Maurkice Pouncey has a very solid supporting cast at Pittsburgh which helps him look good, but the Dolphins aren't quite as adept on the O-line.
According to Jeff Ireland, the Dolphins like him at center despite 13 botched snaps last year at Florida. Still, the majority of those came early in his first year at center and he improved with time. Learning the center position in the SEC can't exactly be easy, so issues had to be expected. The Fins need help at C and RG, so if he can't handle the exchange with the quarterback, he can still bump over. Mike is just as good as his brother at blocking, so whoever ends up running the ball in Miami will appreciate him no matter where he plays.
Many positions require some learning at the pro level, but on the interior line, it's more of the same just with much stronger competition, which Mike can handle, just like his brother. Pouncey is smart enough to handle the more complex blocking schemes, so his only issue will be the exchange with Henne. Look for the Pouncey twins to each be top five centers for several years to come.
The Skins added the most proven DE in the draft, and you can't blame them. The Redskins D was abysmal last year, and Kerrigan can only make it better, so why not give him a shot? Besides, somebody who racked up 12.5 sacks last year can't be that bad.
Fans of the Big 10 know that Kerrigan rarely faced only one blocker, so that 12.5 number really starts to look good. Throw on top of it that he wrangled up Denard Robinson four times in game with slippery, rainy turf, and he starts to seem like the best DE in the draft, so look out, Michael Vick. Kerrigan has proven his consistency by posting three solid seasons on a mediocre team, and his character is raved about by his coaches. Odds are Washington won't be a very good team next year, but look for Kerrigan to be the silver lining.
Result: Boom, defensive ROY candidate
A cat like 6'8'', 318 pound moving wall will now keep defenders away from Tom Brady's blindside. Solder has the size, the work ethic, the quickness and the surrounding cast to become a top notch offensive tackle right away in the NFL. Solder was a tight end just two short years ago, so his collegiate success at OT is only the result of the surface of his potential being scratched.
The only feasible concern about him is his height, which may leave him prone to bending over his waist too much. It can also leave him especially vulnerable to speedy pass rushers and cause a plethora of injuries. Still, the Patriots staff will make sure to coach him well enough to avoid doing so, and he'll be just fine.
The Patriots running backs will benefit from his presence, and Tom Brady gets rid of the ball very well so Solder shouldn't give up many sacks. Look for Solder to keep Brady healthy, make speed backs look the best they have in a while and become the new top lineman in New England by next year.
Result: Big Boom
Liuget is an overlooked defensive tackle due to his less than startling numbers, but on tape, he's just a bull that makes offensive lines look like china shops. Corey busts through the line, even from the Nose Tackle spot, and catches running backs with his enormous wingspan.
The problem with Liuget isn't his lack of sacks and startling numbers, the run stuffing type of player he is shouldn't have amazing stats anyways. Instead, it's that he doesn't always make solid tackles. He often snags players with his big hands and rips them down just before they get away. In the NFL, where the athleticism is far superior to the NCAA, Liuget might not quite have what it takes to catch the ball carrier and instead get beat by quicker backs.
The Chargers might play him outside at defensive end, but he's just not quick enough to succeed there either. Liuget is a very good football player, so he won't be a bust, but he isn't quick enough on his feet to be a great defensive lineman in the NFL.
Just as Tom Coughlin's ends up on the chopping block again, he gets an absolute gift in the draft. Patrick Peterson has the most potential at the cornerback position in this draft, and Jimmy Smith will be the best right away, but Amukamara can be just as good as both. Of course he'll need time to adjust and polish his skills, but with good coaching, the Giants will be able to flaunt a lockdown tandem of Webster and Prince soon enough.
He already has strong ball hawking skills, he's aggressive against the run and he has top-end speed to keep up with the best receivers in the league. His tackling could use more authority sometimes and he will get beat on occasion, but he's a playmaker, so you take the good with the bad. Corners rarely play very well their first year, so they rarely get thrown into the fire, and luckily for the Giants, they can afford to let him learn in his rookie season. Amukamara should find himself third on the depth chart in 2011, and he'll be able to ease into the game from the nickel spot.
His huge problem is getting beat by receivers with a strong first step (like Justin Blackmon), but that will be fixed in time. Starting in 2012, he'll become a starting corner, and in 2013, he'll be the Giant's feature corner.
Result: Boom later
For being so highly touted coming into the year, Iowa's D-line sure underperformed. Adrian Clayborn was the poster child for that line, and he dropped off the face of the earth in terms of production. He went from 63 tackles and 11 sacks in '09 to 52 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2010. Clayborn is pretty fast and has great reflexes, but the lack of production by the entire Iowa defensive line begs the question of whether or not they were over-rated to begin with.
The 2009 Iowa team was better than the 2010 squad, which allowed them to play from ahead more often. When opposing teams play from behind, they throw more, which allows more sack opportunities for the defense. Adrian recorded 9.5 of his 2009 sacks in wins, and 7.5 of his sacks came against unranked teams. Two and a half of his three and a half total sacks last year came against unranked teams as well.
Clayborn makes plays when his team is ahead and or against low-end teams; he doesn't make big plays in big games or situations. With the inconsistent numbers, the lack of success against top talent and a unique case of Erb's Palsy, Clayborn has trouble written all over him.
Granted, any first round caliber pick should improve the Browns defense, the Phil Taylor choice was initially a bit of a head scratcher. That's not to say Taylor isn't a good player, he is, just not in the Browns 4-3 defensive scheme. Phil Taylor is a huge man at 6'4" 337 and he's a natural nose tackle, which isn't an actual position in the 4-3.
Taylor's weight used to be 350-plus, which means he's slimming down, though. The Browns must view him as a DT who can help against the ground attack. Taylor is a run stuffer who recorded a whopping 62 tackles at Baylor from the defensive tackle spot, a huge number for an interior lineman, and even got seven of them for a loss.
There's no doubting Taylor's ability to take down the ball carrier, but sacks won't be his forte. That's no big deal though for a defensive tackle that could record upwards of 50 tackles in a season. If Taylor can keep his weight down, he should be everything Shaun Rogers was supposed to be and keep opposing teams' inside running game in check.
The Colts, like the Patriots, really just need to focus on keeping their franchise QB on the field. So the logical pick was Castonzo, a highly successful OT from Boston College. He started all four years at BC and played a key role in keeping defenses off of Matt Ryan as a true freshman.
At 6'7", 311, he's big enough to not get pushed around by defenses, but a little bit more weight wouldn't hurt him, either. At the college level, Castonzo wasn't perfect and occasionally got beat by a first quick step. At the NFL level, that will prove problematic for Peyton Manning, but Castonzo has the athleticism (4.43 20 yd shuttle and 7.25 3 cone drill) to overcome his inconsistencies with practice.
It won't hurt that Manning will tell him exactly who to block almost every play. Manning's guidance and the championship minded locker room full of other strong leaders will only further his development. Castonzo will struggle early on, but as long as he stays dedicated, he could be the OT steal of the draft.
Yes, this guy is several years older than his 2011 draft class peers, and many draft analysts have heavily criticized the Eagles for picking him. Still, the guy could make an impact before his second season, since the Eagles line needs all of the help that it can get.
That's not to say that Watkins was worth a first round selection, because at 27 years old, nobody is unless they are fully polished and amazing at their position. At least he has a solid attitude and a good motor, but that still isn't enough.
Watkins is not extraordinarily strong, fast or agile, but he has a high football I.Q and he seems tough as nails when mixing it up with feisty defensive lineman. Although Watkins is a versatile offensive lineman, his 310 pound stature won't hold up too well at guard, so he should be limited to tackle.
Unfortunately, the Eagles could really use a right guard, as they don't have a viable starter on the roster for the spot and Watkins will get thrown in there. Danny will hold his own, but his lack of athleticism, size and youth will limit him to mediocrity.
The Saints championship roster is still largely intact, but they really needed a solid pass rusher or two to bolster their defense on the edges. Cameron Jordan is a great option from out west at Cal who brings supreme athleticism to the table.
His combine numbers were only above average, but on film, he plays like an athletic freak of nature. His tackles are violent and he is very cunning when he comes from the outside by throwing whoever is blocking him off to the side and allowing quarterbacks to step into his tackles.
Sean Peyton hasn't built a team full of highly professional hard workers as much as he's put together a team of high energy, exciting to watch hard workers. Cam Jordan plays with more passion than any other DE in this year's draft, and he will absolutely thrive in the Superdome's electric atmosphere.
With Will Smith, Sedrick Ellis, Shaun Rogers and company, teams won't try to consistently double team Jordan in his first year. Look for Cameron to record double digit sacks and have more of them followed with “Who Dat” chants in New Orleans than moans from other team's home crowds.
Result: Boom, Defensive ROY
No matter who Nick Saban marched out on the offensive line, the Crimson Tide running game would have made them look good. James Carpenter is no exception to this rule, and he will be disappointing for the Seahawks.
First, he'll have to bump over to RT, as Russel Okung has the left side locked down. This transition shouldn't be too difficult, and the pass rushers on the right side aren't nearly as tough, but Carpenter won't make a huge impact on the right side either. At the same time, his move to the easier right side will at least allow him to be a starter right away.
There aren't really any big issues with Carpenter's form, and he does just fine on tape, but he just isn't an intimidating presence. He doesn't play with the same type of tenacity and never say die attitude that great offensive linemen play with. Watch for Carpenter to be good on the right side, but never great, which will classify him as a disappointing first round selection.
Result: No bust but lackluster
How does a 6'4" receiver who can get all of his 228 pounds 40 yards downfield in 4.5 seconds (and get it 42 inches off of the ground) not make a huge splash at the collegiate level? Sunseri and Stull weren't amazing quarterbacks to catch balls for, but they definitely weren't bad either. Anyone as athletic as Baldwin should be able to beat 53 catches for 822 yards and only five touchdowns, especially in the Big East.
Those aren't the only red flags, either. A receiver with Baldwin's frame should be a huge Red Zone target, but he only had four catches for 17 yards and no TD's there in his two years as a starter. The lack of production in the red zone hints at another interesting statistic for Baldwin. Four of his five touchdowns and 728 of his 822 yards came outside of the opponents 40 yard line last year. Elite receivers produce on the opponents side of the field, and first round receivers like Baldwin are supposed to be elite.
Jonathan also only produces on first and second downs, with only 138 receiving yards and one score on 3rd and 4th down in his two starting years combined. Baldwin is an bonafide athletic super-specimen, but his lack of big down production and poor work ethic/attitude scream bust.
Result: Epic bust
Who cares about character concerns; any sketchy history shy of a string of felonies should be forgiven for a player of Smith's magnitude at Pick 27. Without his colored past, Smith could've easily gone top five.
On paper, Smith bears a stunning resemblance to Nnamdi Asomugha, and there's no reason to believe he can't be as good. He won't record many interceptions at all, and as he gains experience, not even too many batted balls. Not for lack of talent, though, but lack of opportunities. Smith has such good coverage skills, especially when pressing, that any throw to his man will be ill advised.
Take that kind of talent and throw it into Ray Lewis' locker room, and it will shine. Smith still has some very rough edges, though: three failed drug tests, two abortions, an assault charge and two alcohol-related charges being evidence enough. All of this has led to inevitable comparisons to Aqib Talib, Tampa's mega talented corner who couldn't stay out of trouble, but Smith has what Talib didn't in Baltimore's strong veteran roster to guide him. The Ravens locker room is one of the few Smith could make it in, which is why he slid so far. Still, look for Smith to put the Ravens over the hump in his first year and take a rookie ride deep into the playoffs.
Result: Boom, Defensive ROY candidate
It sure was hard to watch Ingram keep getting passed on in round one, but his long wait will work out in his favor.
Once again, Peyton added an electric presence for his team, this time on offense, and filled the biggest position of need. Pierre Thomas is good but can't stay healthy, Reggie Bush is a star who will never shine until he leaves New Orleans and Chris Ivory is only good, not great. Peyton and the Saints recognized this, so they went out and grabbed Ingram. Look for Thomas and/or Bush to leave town in the near future as Ingram steals the show.
If it weren't for his knee, he'd probably be a Dolphin, and once Miami sees him explode, they'll regret passing on him. If you watch him on tape, he's just almost as violent as Adrian Peterson, and he put up monster numbers with his explosive style.
It's true that if his knee is as bad as some people think, that his career is already over, but the Saints will be back in serious Super Bowl contention if he stays healthy. He's not overly quick, but neither are many of the NFL's best power runners, and he like the rest of the team will feed off of the intense energy in New Orleans. Look for Ingram to share carries this year and become the feature back in his sophomore season as he ousts the others.
As Jay Cutler sat on that bench at the end of the Packers game, the Bears realized that they were an offensive line away from being Super Bowl caliber. They had to just take the best lineman that fell to them, and Carimi was exactly that person.
At Wisconsin, he started 49 games and didn't get beat very often. He used his bald eagle sized wingspan to keep quick defenders from beating him on the outside and his decent strength (29 bench press reps at the combine) to keep stronger ones from running him over. He is pretty quick on tape, but he could use improvement with both that and his strength going forward.
Carimi's technique and size (6'7 314 lbs) are good enough to succeed at the LT position as long as he keeps improving. The Bears haven't committed to Carimi as their LT, but as ESPN's Keven Seifert pointed out, he has to play there unless they add a free agent who can. There will be growing pains, but on a line that featured the ancient Olin Kreutz as its premiere blocker last year, he will be a star by his second season.
Result: 2012-13 Boom
The Jets scored here. As long as Rex Ryan is coaching, the pass rush will come from everywhere and sacks will remain evenly distributed among players. Hate the guy all you want, but it's undeniable that he knows how to rush the quarterback from all over the field.
The one weak spot, if you can even call it that, was their run defense. Wilkerson is a huge hybrid defensive lineman who can play inside or outside, but he'll probably join the defensive end rotation since they already have Pouha and newly drafted Kenrick Ellis manning the middle.
Wilkerson is a very talented player, but he'll have to power through those NFL right tackles, as he's not the quickest player off the ball. He stands 6'4" tall and weighs an impressive 315 pounds, so offensive linemen will not be able to toss him aside.
Whether he's in the backfield or not, anybody with the ball who gets within his arms reach will get taken to the turf. Wilkerson won't be so much a sack artist in the NFL as a frequent tackling run stopper. Quarterbacks will just be able to get rid of the ball before he gets there, but he'll still be disruptive. Look for Wilkerson to solidify the end opposite Ellis and be yet another playmaking pawn in Rex's chess set.
Result: Effective but not a full-fledged boom
Cameron Heyward was a sheer annoyance for opposing quarterbacks in his three and a half seasons as a starter for Ohio State. He isn't too gifted athletically, but he has always made up for it with his tenacity and nose for the football.
The Steelers decided to go with the best player available as usual, who they thought was Heyward this time around. While Heyward is a fierce competitor at defensive end, he seems somewhat overrated.
He only recorded 15 career sacks, a decent total but not a monstrous one. His career total of 162 tackles is pretty solid for a defensive end, though, and further demonstrates his ability to find the ball carrier.
On the Steelers defense, it's hard to see Heyward starting over Ziggy or Kiesel, but he'll provide depth at least. His lack of strength will hurt him, and he'll never develop into a starter without improving on that front, but he's such a good raw talent that he has a shot. For his first year or two, only expect mild production from him off of the bench.
Result: Decent in a few years when he gets his shot
The Packers won it all, but their offensive line wasn't as good as it could have been, so Sherrod made the most sense to cap off the first round.
Mississippi State's left tackle is pretty quick on his feet (he had a top five three cone drill time among offensive linemen), and he keeps his body in front of defenders pretty well on tape. He is a bit of a project, but Chad Clifton should have another good year left in him, which will allow Sherrod to ease into the LT role.
It wouldn't make much sense for Derek to play another position since he has all of the potential of a great LT of the future. Sherrod won't make an immediate impact unless the line gets ravaged by injury, but look for him to be the anchor of the Packers future front line.
Result: 2012 Boom