Friday, April 27, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: First-Round Analysis

I always think it's silly each year with NFL Draft "experts" try to assign grades to teams' draft selections before any of those players have even set foot on an NFL uniform. But I don't see any harm in throwing out my initial two cents on each of last night's first-round picks. I mean it's only two cents. That's not even a nickel. It's nothing.

But it's also something that you should read, and then re-read to fully take in, then forward along to loved ones so they can share in the splendor of my analysis.

1. Indianapolis Colts select QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

The Colts made the obvious choice and the best one here. There are obviously no guarantees, but Luck has everything you look for in a pro quarterback and this franchise could not be more lucky to be able to transition from arguably the best ever in Peyton Manning to a very similar prospect in Luck.

2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) select QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor

Another great pick, RG3 has premiere athleticism and scrambling ability coupled with smarts and accuracy. He's a bit riskier than Luck due to playing style and the kind of offense he ran at Baylor, but he has the tools to be a franchise quarterback.

3. Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota) select RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

Richardson is certainly the best running back in this class and he fills a need for the Browns. That being said, I would have disliked this pick at No. 4 and I certainly hate it with the trade up. The Browns gave up three picks (a 4th, a 5th and a 7th) to the Vikings to move up on spot and select Richardson. I personally do not believe anyone else would have moved up to No. 3, which means the Browns got had and the Vikings' smoke-screening was executed beautifully. Combined the traded picks with the fact that running backs simply aren't worth top-five picks, and you have a boneheaded move by the Browns.

4. Minnesota Vikings (from Cleveland) select OT Matt Kalil, USC

Brilliant move by the Vikings, moving down one spot, gaining three picks, and getting the guy they wanted all along. I could have seen Claiborne here but Kalil is a good move and should start at left tackle as a rookie.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Tampa Bay) select WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Blackmon was an obvious target for the Jaguars and is good insurance with Laurent Robinson, who is iffy as  true No. 1 receiver. I like Blackmon a lot and he should be a nice weapon for whoever ends up at quarterback in Jacksonville.

6. Dallas Cowboys (from Washington via St. Louis) select CB Morris Claiborne, LSU

It took quite a move up to do it, but I can't fault a team for landing the best shutdown corner in the draft. Teamed with Brandon Carr, the Cowboys now have quite the corner tandem.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Jacksonville) select S Mark Barron, Alabama

I'm a little surprised the Buccaneers opted to miss out on Claiborne, because that would have been a better pick. Safety was a need too, however, and he should do well in Tampa.

8. Miami Dolphins select QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

Only time will tell if this was the right move, but I'm glad the Dolphins took the risk of a first-round quarterback. If they truly believe he's the guy, then I'm on-board.

9. Carolina Panthers select LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

I'm surprised they didn't go with Cox here, but you can't fault them for taking the safest defender in the draft class. Kuechly is an excellent linebacker and should be an anchor for that defense for years.

10. Buffalo Bills select CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

It wasn't their most glaring need, but I applaud the Bills for landing a quality corner, and they are still in position to address offensive tackle in Round 2 with a handful of big names at that position still on the board.

11. Kansas City Chiefs select NT Dontari Poe, Memphis

One of my mocked picks, Poe gives the Chiefs the nose tackle they've been lacking since moving to the 3-4 scheme. If they develop him right, he's going to be a huge factor for them.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Seattle) select DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

The Eagles coveted this guy all along and didn't have to move up into the top 10 to get him. The team tends to stockpile linemen, but Cox should be featured from the start.

13. Arizona Cardinals select WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

An offensive lineman like Reiff or DeCastro would have filled a bigger need, but Floyd gives the Cardinals another weapon and he'll have a great mentor in Larry Fitzgerald. Not what I would have done, but not bad either.

14. St. Louis Rams (from Dallas) select DT Michael Brockers, LSU

The Rams beefed up their defensive line in free agency with Kendall Langford, but Brockers will give them two legitimate starters in the middle while clearing room for James Laurinaitis to make plays.

15. Seattle Seahawks (from Philadelphia) select DE/OLB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

The surprise of the first round, I'm not going to pan this pick because it seems a number of team had a first-round grade on Irvin and NFL Draft boards are typically much different than mockers expect. They think he's a Von Miller-type, but I have a hard time seeing it right now.

16. New York Jets select DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

A controversial prospect due to elite physical tools and a questionable motor, I don't like Coples for the Jets because I think it limits his ability to rush the passer as an end in the 3-4 scheme. Coples was already risky, but wasting his best talents will just make things worse.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) select CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

The Bengals needed a second corner to pair with Leon Hall and Kirkpatrick was a potential top-10 prospect before the marijuana incident. It's a good value pick for them and fills a need.

18. San Diego Chargers select OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

A mocked selection of mine, Ingram fits perfectly as a 3-4 outside linebacker and fills a hole they've had for a few years now.

19. Chicago Bears select DE Shea McClellin, Boise State

McClellin had reportedly been on the rise for a while now, but it's still surprising to see him go top 20 before Perry, Mercilus, Jones and Upshaw. He should do well opposite Julius Peppers, however.

20. Tennessee Titans select WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

A bit of a surprise with their needs at corner and on the defensive line, but Wright is a quality receiver and should solidify a group of underachievers.

21. New England Patriots (from Cincinnati) select DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse

The Patriots needs to address the pass rush with Mark Anderson departing in free agency and Jones is a fantastic addition to that line.

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) select QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Weeden was an obvious pick for the Browns and I had him mocked there at No. 37. He'll be 29 years old this season and that's a concern, but he's a much better prospect than Colt McCoy.

23. Detroit Lions select OT Riley Reiff, Iowa

The Lions needed a long-term tackle to replace Jeff Backus. Reiff is a good value here and could start on the right side before moving over to the left.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers select OG David DeCastro, Stanford

The rich get richer and this is a great pick for the Steelers. They've had some trouble keeping their line healthy and DeCastro should slide right next to Maurkice Pouncey and provide a powerful tandem.

25. New England Patriots (from Denver) select LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama

I don't particularly like this move, especially trading up to do it. Hightower might not be a three-down linebacker and they already have Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo. If their goal is the create the slowest linebacker corps in the league, they might have succeeded.

26. Houston Texans select OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

The Texans' defense really turned a corner last year and Mercilus is an excellent 3-4 linebacker prospect that will help replace Mario Williams.

27. Cincinnati Bengals (from New Orleans via New England) select OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

I would've expected Courtney Upshaw or Cordy Glenn here, but guard was a need and this is a good move for the Bengals. Zeitler is sound and should be a rookie starter.

28. Green Bay Packers select OLB Nick Perry, USC

A pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews III was the Packers' biggest need, and Perry is an excellent fit. He has all the tools to stand up and get to the passer.

29. Minnesota Vikings (from Baltimore) select S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

The Vikings basically moved up for free with the robbery of the Browns earlier, so you can't fault them for this. Smith is a good addition as the Vikes have had little luck with safeties lately.

30. San Francisco 49ers select WR A. J. Jenkins, Illinois

Another guy that most people didn't see this high, I was surprised the Niners took Jenkins with Randle and Hill on the board. But receiver was a need and Jenkins has the tools to be a good one.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from New England via Denver) select RB Doug Martin, Boise State

The Bucs were clearly looking to come out of this draft with a back and they got my second-favorite one in Martin here. Martin should start immediately and be a big producer.

32. New York Giants select RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

The Giants have the luxury of being good enough to take any position they want. It wouldn't be my first choice, but Wilson is a good prospect and should team with Ahmad Bradshaw nicely.

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