Now that the first two days of the draft has settled, it is now time to see which teams can come out with confidence and which teams should still be scratching their heads regarding their overall strategy.
We must keep in mind with so many trades for future picks and players being taken as projects, ideally, you want to rate a draft 2-3 years down the line after the developmental aspect of the players has passed and you can truly rate their impact on their respective teams.
Regardless, here are my thoughts on the first two days of the draft.
Minnesota Vikings: I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the stars of the first round, the Vikings. Minnesota was able to begin the draft with the 23rd and 25th overall picks and immediately filled two needs at Cornerback and Defensive Tackle. Rhodes is a big corner who can move and Floyd, who surprisingly dropped, is a terrific value pick who was projected as a top 5 pick for most of the draft. Cordarrelle Patterson was picked with the 29th pick that was acquired from New England for Vikings’ second- (No. 52); third- (No. 83); fourth- (No. 102) and seventh-round (No. 229) picks. His upside is high, but he is very raw. His athleticism will allow him to make big plays, until he polishes his route running and catching to be a more complete player. Overall, the Vikings had a terrific first 2 days filling out 3 major needs. Look for them to select an interior linebacker today. Grade: A
Kansas City: The Chiefs either wanted to give some high drama to the draft by waiting so long to make their pick, seemingly deciding between Fisher or Joeckel or they were waiting for someone to come and take that pick out of their hands. In any case, Eric Fisher was taken first overall and from all reports, the Chiefs got their guy. The differences between Fisher and Joeckel were minimal, but former Eastern Michigan offensive lineman had a higher grade due to his athleticism. This trade will allow the Chiefs to either trade Brandon Allen for a future draft pick or they may keep him and have a formidable combination of tackles. Travis Kelce, drafted in the 3rd round fits a need position at tight end with Tony Moeaki dealing with injuries. I like the pick of Knile Davis in the in the same round. He had mediocre production in 2012 and sat out for a whole season in 2011 , but he did rush for 1300 yards in 2010. His combine results were electric where he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash as a big 220 lb back and recorded 31 repetitions on the bench press. Grade A
St Louis Rams: The Rams made a trade with the Buffalo Bills to move up 8 spots and select Tavon Austin. It was a move that many felt would come to fruition considering the Rams had two first-round picks. Austin has been often called a “four-down player” and has tremendous upside as a returner and slot receiver. He fills an immediate need with the departure of Danny Amendola. Alec Ogletree was selected with their 22nd overall pick, which will give them a formidable linebacker corps of James Laurinaitis, Jo-Lunn Dunbar and Ogletree. More of a sideline to sideline guy, Ogletree will be able to run and chase which is his strength as opposed to being a point of attack and engaging linebacker. Off the field issues or not, he was going mid-to-late first regardless. In the third round, they selected free safety, T.J. Macdonald and Steadman Bailey, filling their needs further more. Les Snead is positioning this team as one of the underdogs of the NFC. Grade A-
Jacksonville Jaguars: It is hard to not be a winner two days after the draft when you have the top two picks in each of the first two rounds. The Jags were the beneficiaries of Luke Joeckel and now have two very solid bookend tackles for years to come with Eugene Monroe. The pick of Jonahan Cyprien is a very solid one and it fits a need. Cyprien could have easily been the second safety taken in the draft. Dwayne Gratz leads a UConn contingent that had 3 picks in the first 3 rounds. A smart player, he knows how to play angles and plays good coverage. A great first two days for Gus Bradley and the Jaguars. Look for them to fill glaring holes at defensive end in the later rounds. Grade B+
Buffalo Bills: I loved the Bills drafting of E.J. Manuel at 16 via the trade with the Bills. Kurt Warner, Mike Mayock and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah rated him as the second best quarterback in this draft rated Manuel. He interviewed better than Geno Smith and teams liked his decision-making and overall talent better than anyone in this class. He is adept at playing under center at FSU, which is always an asset for a quarterback entering the pro game. With their second round pick, they selected Robert Woods. I personally felt that the former USC Trojan had the most pure skill in this draft from the receiver position. Woods has terrific hands, often considered the best natural hands catcher in the draft and he also runs crisp routes. Not a speed demon, but he will be a perfect complement to Stevie Johnson. Kiko Alonson fills a need at linebacker and they selected track and football standout Marquise Goodwin from Texas. The former Longhorn dazzled scouts at the combine with a 4.27 40-yard dash. He is raw, but he can be a terrific run after the catch and special teams player. Grade: B
San Francisco 49ers: Entering into the draft with 13 draft picks, everyone knew the 49ers would be wheeling and dealing to move up into the draft. Via a trade with the Cowboys to move up to the 18th pick, they filled a need by selecting safety Eric Reid. The former LSU Tiger has the talent to fill the role as a banger at the position that Dashon Goldson vacated when he signed with the Buccaneers. Reid is a complete safety who will be able to come in and make an immediate impact. With their second round pick, they selected Tank Carradine. A great value pick, Carradine was projected as a late first round pick in many draft boards. The former Seminole has concerns about his health but despite only starting one season, he is an accomplished pass rusher with very good technique. The 49ers can afford to be patient with him. The rest of their draft slots were filled by drafting tight end Vance Macdonald and outside linebacker Corey Lemonier in the second and third rounds. Grade: B+
Oakland Raiders: Reggie McKenzie comes from the Green Bay Packers front office where drafting is the modus operandi of running an organization. Trading down to get more picks was the right move to fill many needs. D.J. Hayden, picked at 13th via a draft day trade with the Dolphins, would have been a great pick in any regime and any slot. He was considered by many as the best corner in the draft and with the losses they incurred this off-season, this was a pick that was needed considering how bad their pass defense was last season. They also selected in the second round, Menelik Watson who is as raw as they come. Mike Mayock had the line of the draft regarding Watson: “He is so raw, he has no idea what he’s doing”. Still, he believes he can be a starting left tackle in the league because of his athleticism and ability to move laterally. This was a huge need for the Raiders as Khalif Barnes is getting up in age at right tackle. Sio Moore is a smart and physical linebacker, but lacks great speed. He is a productive player, nonetheless and will fill in nicely with the losses of Phil Wheeler and Rolando McClain. Grade B-
Cincinnati Bengals: At first glance, I felt a safety here was the pick to make for the Bengals at 21, but I have grown on the selection of Tyler Eifert for the Bengals. I understand the profilferation of teams wanting to utilize two-tight end sets with the success the Patriots have achieved. In this case, the Bengals are trying to help Andy Dalton. They want him to take that next step and become a playoff winning quarterback by filling the roster with young offensive talent to go along with A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham. I love the selection of Giovanni Bernard in the second round who is very quick and can catch passes and return picks. He will be a great compliment to Benjarvis Green-Ellis. The pick of Margus Hunt is a terrific selection as well. Hunt is a freak of a nature at 6’8, 280 lbs and ran a 4.77 40-yard dash at the combine. There is no better place in the league right now to come in as an unheralded defensive player and develop than in Cincinnati. Hunt will have to improve his pure pass rush skills and rely less on the speed rush, but Mike Zimmer will find ways to utilize his skillset. With their 4th round pick, the Bengals filled out their need for a safety by taking Shawn Williams. Grade B
Pittsburgh Steelers: Everyone in the world knew the Steelers would pick Jarvis Jones 17th overall. Burn the combine tape and forget about his measurables; you know Dick LeBeau will turn him into a solid player. I like the pick of Le’Veon Bell in the second round who is a bruising running back who can hit the hole and grind out tough hards (a staple for Steelers backs), while also having underrated pass catching ability. Markus Wheaton is a solid receiver who had a great career at Oregon State. I always side with good fundamental receivers who lack top speed and athleticism and Wheaton fits that mold. The Steelers can expect 30-40 catches from him in year 1.Grade B-
Atlanta Falcons: While they only had two picks so far, the Falcons have made good use with them selecting two athletic and physical corners in Desmond Trufant in the first round, via a trade with the Rams and Robert Alford in the second round. Trufant has the great bloodlines having two brothers in the NFL and Alford impressed at the Senior Bowl. Both picks fill out a need with the losses of Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson. Grade B-
Dallas Cowboys: The head scratcher of the first round was the Cowboys selecting Center Travis Frederick with the 31st pick, via a trade down with the 49ers. There were various reports that teams had him in a range between the 3rd and 7th round on their draft boards. While it is admirable to go after the player you feel is the best on your board from the available pool of players, it is simply bad management to not try and trade even further down and parlay that into more picks if there is a remote chance the player can be selected at a later round. The Cowboys did not address one of their biggest needs of Right Tackle and only picked a safety in the 4th round with the drafting of J.J. Wilcox. The picks of Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams are solid value selections. Escobar has terrific hands and is the best blocking Tight End of the class, but he does not possess good speed. Terrance Williams, who could have been a first-rounder, has tremendous speed and good size, but must increase his physicality. Grade C
New York Jets: What can be said about the Jets? Many pundits do not like the pick of Dee Millner as it is virtually trading a medical red flag in Revis for another medical red flag in Millner. The thought process here is that you want to get a good corner, controllable at a low cost for the next 3-4 seasons. Millner is a terrific player out of a great program and will fit in right away in a scheme designed perfectly to defend the pass. With the run on pass rushers, the Jets were not able to find an outside linebacker to fit their 3-4 schemes with the 13th overall pick. Instead, they did the next best thing taking Sheldon Richardson. While he does not fit an immediate need, he fits well in a 3-4 defense, better than the other Defensive Tackles in the first round. He has enough athleticism to be a pass rusher out of the 1 or 5-technique spot, but still stout enough to help out against the running game. He has great reaction skills and understands gaps and assignments very well. The Jets filled out the rest of their draft with Guard, Brian Winters in the third round but the head scratcher was Geno Smith in the second round. Considering Tim Tebow was not even released yet and Mark Sanchez still has a year left at a little over $8 million, the Smith pick just adds to the media circus in New York. Smith is a good value pick for the Jets, but they had more pressing needs than adding another quarterback to a team devoid of skill position talent. Ultimately, the former Mountaineer was picked where he should have been. The pressure to succeed as a first rounder is gone, but in New York, he may be thrusted in the fire very soon. Grade C+
Likes, Loves and Hates
Love the Tyrann Mathieu pick for the Cardinals in the 3rd round. It fits a need with the loss of Greg Toler to the Colts and there is a familiarity with Patrick Peterson as they both played together at LSU. Mathieu is a terrific player regardless of size. It is rare to find corners who can blitz, be physical and play great man coverage. He can supplant Peterson in the return game as well. As long as he stays drug-free, which I think he will, Mathieu will thrive in Arizona.
Love the pick of Matt Elam by Baltimore, who will be my early pick for defensive rookie of the year. His height will not matter and if you think it does, please remember Bob Sanders. Elam will make plays all over the field, can play the box or in space. A terrific haul with the 32nd pick in the draft. Dallas will be regretting not taking him the pick previously at 31.
Like the pick of Dion Jordan at number 3, but feel the Dolphins could have improved their offensive line by selecting Lane Johnson especially with the loss of Jake Long. The former Oregon Ducks defender is not close to a finished product, but has the potential to be a great player. He will need to add a considerable amount of weight, especially if he will have his hand in the dirt and play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
Like the pick of Manti Te’o to San Diego. The Chargers just released Takeo Spikes and in their 3-4 scheme, they now feature two solid interior linemen in Te’o and Donald Butler. The former Notre Dame standout is knows coverages and offenses as well as any linebacker in this draft which, despite his limited athleticism, makes him a terrifc player against the pass. San Diego is not a huge media market and location wise, is very close to his family. This was one of the better fits for Te’o. I am just wondering if D.J. Fluker should have been the only offensive lineman take in the first round, considering they allowed almost 50 sacks last season.
Hate the pick of Bjoern Werner for the Colts. He lacks the speed and athleticism to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker and is too small to play the 5-technique as a 3-4 defensive end. Datone Jones would have been a great pick here as he fits much better as a 3-4 outside linebacker and the Packers agreed with me.
Hate the pick of Ziggy Ansah for the Lions. Athletically, he is a behemoth of a player with great speed and quickness. I am worried about his low production and lack of overall experience. Ultimately, you knew some team would be too enamoured with his height, weight and speed combination, but number 5 is way too high in my opinion. It does fit a glaring need with the losses of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, but I would have went with a player with more experience in Barkevious Mingo. General Manager Mark Mayhew and Jim Schartz are banking on Ziggy being the “Ansah” or else they may be out of a job with their contracts up after this season.
With the talent in this draft being so even from rounds 1 to 3, it is truly hard to rate this draft and how teams did. Players who were drafted in the second round, could very easily have been first rounder’s. As many predicted, this was the draft to get offensive lineman (3 of the first 4 picks) and pass rushers ( 3 of the first 6 picks) in the first round.
It will be interesting to see where Matt Barkeley and Ryan Nassib go, as both are still available with the start of the 4th round, despite having both low first to second round projections.