Just like last year, draft-day trades trashed everyone’s mock draft but mine…because I didn’t DO a mock draft this year! What I DID do was play “predict the pick” over on NFL.com and wound up with 1020 points….good enough for 3,174th place. Since they don’t tell you how many participants there were, you’re left guessing as to how you did overall unless you click around and look at the leaders (1820 points).
Here’s a hint: with all the trading, rank your picks more in terms of best available and throw in a dash each of positional need and positional value and make your list disregarding the teams who are slated to draft there.
The Miami Dolphins first demonstrated why mock drafts are rapidly becoming antiques. There were 4 trades, with the Dolphins trading up to the #3 spot, after the top two LTs, Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, went 1-2. People assumed they were going up to get Lane Johnson and they took Oregon’s Dion Jordan, a lean and tall defensive end with blazing speed. They still need an offensive tackle (look for that Branden Albert trade to go through today) and a cornerback. They’ll grab those guys early rather than later I’m sure.
The second trade was more predictable in a way. It was widely known the New York Jets wanted WR Tavon Austin, the diminutive speedster from West Virginia. So, the Rams traded up to #8 – Buffalo’s pick – and grabbed him there.
Even the first round went a little oddball. UNC guard Jonathan Cooper went #7 overall. A guard going 7th is a story in itself, but it’s also about the fact that Alabama’s stud, Chance Warmack, wasn’t the first guard taken. He went tenth.
When the Panthers’ turn was about to come up and we were waiting for the Jets to pick their second choice while fans drooled over the choices remaining. Sheldon Richardson, Sharrif Floyd, or Star Lotulelei?
The Jets made the decision a little easier when they took Richardson #13 overall. The question then became Sharrif or Star?
Thankfully, Gettleman and Rivera chose Star.
He’s a more versatile guy than Floyd, Floyd is more raw with upside, but I’d rather take a more polished player if possible in Lotulelei. He was considered a top-3 LOCK a few months ago until some mysterious “heart issue” came up at the combine, forcing him off the drills. Turns out he had a virus, is long over it, and that’s that.
The ONLY player I can think of I wanted more – reasonably speaking – is Chance Warmack. I’ve made my feelings about him clear over the past 2 months – a road-grading guard that would really put some punch into the running game up the middle – but we also needed help in front of 2012 DROY Luke Kuechly. While the run defense got better over that 5-1 6-game stretch to wind up 2012, Lotulelei (that’s low-too-luh-LAY) is one of those players whom you would take even if you had a deep defensive line to rotate in at least – he’s that good.
Star’s choice means the front seven of the defense is all set. My only worry is about the health of our OLBs, but Thomas Davis managed to stay healthy on a trick knee last year so maybe it’ll hold up again. The defense really needs Jon Beason to be healthy, however, as there’s some depth of experience behind the duo, but a drop-off in talent.
Hopefully today the Panthers can address one of the safety spots or the offensive line. FS, OT, and OG are still “need” positions, but that front seven on defense is now looking to make a push for elite status.
The Panthers have the pass rush from the ends, even from back-up ends. D’wan Edwards can pressure the “A” gap inside at times and Lotulelei has the most talent of any Panthers’ DT in years. He’s both a run-stopper and a gap penetrator and could play end if needed as well, so he’s likely a career keeper. But what else stood out over the draft?
Pass-rushers highly sought after
Again, the Dolphins vaulted up to #3 overall not for an offensive tackle but for the most physically-gifted edge-rusher in the entire draft. I think Denver showed everyone what a top duo of pass rushers can do last year with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Thank goodness for Faxgate or Dumervil would still be a Bronco.
3 pass rushers went in the top six picks and we knew going in that LTs would likely go 1-2…and they did. After the Dolphins took Jordan at #3, the Detroit Lions added BYU tackle Ziggy Ansah, one of the two “physical freak/raw talent” guys in the draft. Barkevious Mingo went to the Cleveland Browns at #6 instead of CB Dee Milliner, who many had “mocked” to them to pair with CB Joe Haden. It was not to be.
Cornerbacks are still devalued
Alabama CB Dee Milliner has the size at 6’3″ 215 lbs. and the speed at 4.37, 4.31 in the 40-yard dash to be a dominant force against the larger and larger wideouts the NFL is seeing these days, but was eschewed in favor of an elite pass rusher. The Dolphins, who need a starting corner in the worst way, traded up for a pass-rusher, not a corner. They could have stayed PUT and had Xavier Rhodes or D.J. Hayden, but did not.
QB still rules
While “only” one QB went in round one, and not the QB everyone thought it would be, the Buffalo Bills did reach in the first round for their QB, E.J. Manuel from FSU as Geno Smith sat through the entire evening. However, the fact that a QB was drafted in the first round out of THIS class tells me the QB position is still number one. Hardly a shock, but you know, I’d think that an E.J. Manuel would’ve been around in round 2 if he’s “your guy.” If you’re worried, just wait until Geno Smith goes away then trade up to get Manuel, or just wait and see if he falls to you in round 2. He was by far the biggest reach in round 1…other than center Travis Frederick at #31, who had a 3rd-round grade.
Talent trumps need
From what little more than the average fan I do know from the talent-evaluation angle, well, see paragraph 2 of this post. Teams aren’t stupid; they do tend to draft “best available” unless they are just completely stacked at a particular position. With free agency and different players’ contracts rolling off each year, it shouldn’t take long to absorb an “extra” body, if he’s a great prospect, at the expense of an older, pricier veteran at the end of the season. Sure, sometimes a team will take need over talent if the talent levels are close to even, but much more often than not they’ll take the higher-rated guy.
Look at the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South: they let their LT go in free agency to DA BEARSSSSS and need a replacement to protect the franchise. They took Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro (the entire Saints defense is a ‘position of need’) at #15 over say a Justin Pugh, the LT from Syracuse who went at #19 to the GeeeEEEEeeeee-men in New York. With LT having a higher positional value than a safety, the Saints still took the player they thought had the most potential at his position. You can’t protect Drew Brees with a safety!
Round one is done. Two and three are tonight with the rest on Saturday so there will be plenty more coming up.