By Ron Jumper
This was an odd NFL draft, as it seemed to offer unique twists and turns throughout the three day weekend. It stayed predictable for basically only the first three picks of the first round and, from there, the madness began. I’ll be detailing some of the bigger surprises and who my big winners and losers were now that all the dust has settled. Here goes:
-The Raiders playing it safe. There were those of us that thought the Raiders might take a “Workout Warrior” like OT Bruce Campbell with the 8th overall pick. However, they were patient and drafted him in the fourth round. By taking Campbell that late, the risk-reward is much more favorable. As for who they did take in the first round, I am a huge supporter of Alabama LB Rolando McClain. This is a safe, smart pick and they got a player who can likely make an impact on opening day. It still wasn’t as good a draft as some of the other clubs, but it was much better than a typical Al Davis draft.
-The Jaguars taking Cal DT Tyson Alualu with the tenth overall pick was a shock. If the Jaguars decided he was the guy they really wanted, fine. However, there were plenty of teams trying to move up into that range, as evidenced by picks 11, 12, and 13 all being successfully shopped. If the Jaguars had traded down for an extra pick or two and took him in the 20s, then this would be a positive discussion about their draft. As it is, the Jaguars have put an awful lot of pressure on Alualu to emerge as a cornerstone of their franchise.
-The Broncos have seemed to get a little too creative. Basically, they’ve gotten rid of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall to build around Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos weren’t a bad team last year, with an 8-8 record. If they had just instead used the collection of picks they’d stockpiled on specific needs like finding the proper personnel to help assist the transition to a 3-4 defense then they could have put themselves right in the mix of the AFC playoff race. As it is now, they have taken more of a long-term investment approach. If Tebow doesn’t develop into an NFL starter in 2-3 years, this could very well be the end of the Josh McDaniel era in the Mile High City.
-I was not only surprised that Tebow went to the Broncos at pick 25, but that Jimmy Clausen fell down the board to 48. This could be a pick we look back at in a few years and say it was the turning point in the Carolina Panthers franchise. Remember, this team was in desperate need of a quarterback and is also a team that has some nice pieces around it on offense to build around. Clausen will benefit from an excellent running game behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart, plus having a big time weapon on the outside like Steve Smith. All in all, this is a great spot for a rookie QB to come in and lean on the running game until he has learned the ropes. It reminds me of the Jets in 2009 with Mark Sanchez and the Ravens in 2008 with Joe Flacco.
Everything seemed to fall Pete Carroll’s way in his first draft back in the NFL. Just as Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones retires, top left tackle prospect Russell Okung falls to them at 6. Then at 14, they were able to land Texas safety Earl Thomas. Some considered Thomas to be as talented as Eric Berry. Interestingly, this did infuriate former USC standout Taylor Mays, who was expecting his former coach to draft him in that spot.
(I do feel for Mays though, as he could have come out last season and been a top 10 pick. Staying for his senior year cost him millions of dollars. Not that Carroll is losing any sleep at night over it…)
The good fortune didn’t stop there for the Seahawks, as Notre Dame WR Golden Tate fell down the board to them as well. While these aren’t draft picks, they did make some nice trades for a pair of veteran running backs: Lendale White and Leon Washington. If Matt Hasselbeck is able to hold up at QB, this team could be competitive sooner rather than later.
While no one agrees with me, I think this was a HUGE draft for the Panthers. I’ve mentioned how great I think the Clausen pick was already, so I’ll focus on the rest of their draft. Besides inconsistent QB play, not having a second wide receiver to compliment Steve Smith has been an area of weakness. LSU WR Brandon LaFell should be able to come in and contribute. Also, I love the late round value in South Carolina OLB Eric Norwood (round 4) and Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy (round 6). In addition, Armanti Edwards adds a nice element in the return game and possibly as a “Wildcat” package quarterback. Landing Cincy QB Tony Pike in round 6 was a great pick, as he provides a nice “Plan B” just in case Clausen doesn’t pan out. Whether it is Clausen or Pike, the Panthers should have their QB of the future. Keep in mind when valuing this draft, they added all of this to their roster without a first round pick. In my opinion, they did a wonderful job of getting maximum value out of the picks they had and this will pay dividends to their roster in the years to come.
Baltimore Ravens: OLB Sergio Kindle and DT Terrence Cody will keep that defense nasty.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Biggest position of need was DT, McCoy and Price should fill void.
Philadelphia Eagles: Added a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
I’ve already harped on the Alualu pick, but the rest of their draft was even worse. Now, I won’t pretend to know a lot about the FCS level players, but I can’t believe that drafting four in a row was the smart way to go. There are going to be exceptions but, on average, there is usually a reason these guys played at a small school besides just bad luck. I just think in some cases, scouts can over think and over evaluate to the point they don’t make the quality, value pick and try to make the home run pick instead. In a deep draft like this one, why not just go ahead and take the more established players still on the board?
I didn’t like anything about the Bills draft. Their most glaring area of need was at left tackle, a position they did not address until round 5 when they took Ed Wang out of Virginia Tech. Taking C.J. Spiller was more of a want than a need, even with Marshawn Lynch on the trading block. I also don’t see why they didn’t take Clausen when he was still on the board at 41. Instead, they reach on UCF DT Torell Troup. I have to think addressing one their needs at either QB or LT would have better served them. DE Alex Carrington and WR Marcus Easley were their best picks in my opinion, but neither of those should be impact players in the near future.