2012 NFL Draft: The Good, The Bad, And The “Meh”
The 2012 NFL Draft has come to a close. Many NFL teams improved their roster over the past several day. I actually had a much harder time finding draft “losers” than draft “winners”, but trust me, there were several of both. Below are my 2012 NFL Draft Winners and Losers with analysis, plus a bonus “Meh” section, delving into the Morris Claiborne-to-the-Cowboys move.
The Eagles came into the 2012 NFL Draft needing to a solidify a defense that was soft up the middle in 2011. They sealed the deal with their first three picks in the draft. The Eagles got the man they wanted all along, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and they only had to move up three spots to get him. In the second round, the Eagles started of by grabbing the physical freak Mychal Kendricks out of Cal, one of the most versatile linebackers in the draft. Kendricks is 240 pounds and ran a 4.41 40 yard dash at the combine. He played inside and outside linebacker at Cal, and he and Demeco Ryans offer a huge upgrade to the Eagles’ linebacking corps. With their second pick in the 2nd round, the Eagles got a steal in defensive end Vinny Curry out of Marshall. Curry is a relentless pass rusher off the edge that gives the Eagles yet another weapon to go along with Jason Babin and Trent Cole. The Eagles’ front seven just went from talented to ridiculous.
You’ve got to love what the Steelers continue to do year after year in the draft. Unlike so many other teams, who get their hearts set on a certain prospect and reach for him, the Steelers let the draft come to them and they usually end up with a really good football player. The Steelers were able to nab a sure-fire Pro Bowl guard in David DeCastro at #24, which happened to be one of their biggest needs. Then the Steelers were able to add offensive tackle Mike Adams at the end of round 2, a player many projected to go in the 1st round. Ben Roethlisberger has to be a happy man. Pittsburgh added some much needed youth at the linebacker position in the 3rd round, selecting Sean Spence out of Miami. Perhaps the biggest steal of the draft for Pittsburgh was their 4th round selection, nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. Current nose tackle Casey Hampton is nearing the end of his career, and he is an integral part of what Pittsburgh does on defense. The Steelers found his replacement in the 4th round. Good things come to those who wait.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’ve seen several people criticize Tampa Bay for taking mark Barron with the 7th overall pick when they could have stayed put and taken Morris Claiborne at 5. I disagree. I think the Bucs got a player in Mark Barron who has a very good chance to play in a lot of Pro Bowls throughout his career. Although Claiborne has shutdown corner potential, Mark Barron makes more plays on the ball, which is what this demoralized defense needs. The Bucs weren’t done taking playmakers on defense, though. With the 58th overall pick, Tampa landed Lavonte David, the outside linebacker from Nebraska. David may be a bit undersized at 230 pounds, but he has a first-round skill set. David flies around the field and it seems as if he is in on every single play. He will probably be the fastest linebacker in the NFL in 2012. The Buccaneers also traded back up into the 1st round, selecting running back Doug Martin 31st overall. Martin was the 2nd rated running back in the draft. He fills a huge need for the Bucs, as he is a much more complete back than LaGarrette Blount. Martin can run inside, outside, catch passes out of the backfield, and help in pass protection. The Buccaneers may have landed three stars with their first three picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
I agree with Mike Mayock’s sentiment: “Rick Smith is quietly becoming one of the best general managers in the NFL.” Much like the Steelers, the Texans continue to let irresponsible teams in front of them destroy themselves while they sit back and wait for a quality value. This might not be the sexiest looking draft, but the Texans addressed their needs and continued to add depth to a roster that was already one of the deepest in the league. The Texans drafted OLB Whitney Mercilus, a fumble-causing, quarterback-crushing machine, with the 26th overall pick. Many projected Mercilus to go in the teens. The Texans traded out of the 2nd round, stockpiling additional 3rd and 4th round picks in exchange. To address the losses of Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel on the offensive line, the Texans drafted guard Brandon Brooks (345lbs) of Miami (OH) and Guard/Center Ben Jones (305lbs) of Geogia in the 3rd and 4th rounds, respectively. The Texans also hammered their other need position, wide receiver, selecting Devier Posey of Ohio State in the 3rd round and Keshawn Martin of Michigan State in the 4th round. If not for his suspension related to his involvement in the Ohio State memorabilia scandal, Posey could have been a 1st or 2nd round talent coming out of Ohio State. The Texans got solid value out of him in the 3rd round. Perhaps the biggest steal of the draft, however, was the Texans’ third and final pick of the 4th round. Houston selected Nebraska DE Jared Crick #131 overall. Only a year ago, Crick was projected to go in the first round of the draft. Crick suffered a torn pectoral muscle, causing him to miss most of the 2011 season for the Huskers. In his sophomore and junior seasons combined, Crick had 32 total tackles for loss. How he slid this far in the draft simply because of a torn pectoral muscle is a mystery, but the Texans aren’t complaining.
I believe the Cincinnati Bengals had the best draft this year. The Bengals were able to land value throughout the draft while addressing major needs. Cincy got the cornerback they so desperately needed, selecting Dre Kirpatrick #17 overall, followed by filling a huge need on the interior of their offensive line, taking guard Kevin Zeitler of Wisconsin at #27. The Bengals also added a pair of stud defensive tackles in Devon Still (#53 overall) and Brandon Thompson (#93 overall). Grabbing Thompson at the end of the third round was a steal, as many pegged him to go towards the beginning of the 2nd round. The Bengals also found a receiver to replace Jerome Simpson and help take away some of the attention on A.J. Green, taking Mohamed Sanu of Rutgers towards the end of the 3rd round, yet another steal. Sanu was expected to be gone by the end of round 2. The Bengals may have found a diamond in the rough in the 5th round with Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones, a very talented but raw young player. Additionally, another pass catching threat for Andy Dalton to throw to was added with tight end Orson Charles of Georgia getting snatched up in the 4th round. Nobody drafted more prospects that were expected to go higher than they actually did than the Cincinnati Bengals. This will be a deep and talented force to reckoned with for many years in the AFC North.
I’m not the only one that thinks the Seahawks had a terrible draft. I don’t care that Bruce Irvin may be the most physically gifted pass rusher in this year’s class. Taking him 15th overall, when considering the amount of legal trouble he has been in, is insane. This is a classic example of a team falling in love with a player and going into the draft with blinders on. The Seahawks were never going to consider drafting anyone else, no matter how their board looked. Heck, they may not have even had a board. If they did, I suspect it would look something like this:
Seattle Seahawks Draft Board: By Pete Carroll
- Bruce Irvin
- Bruce Irvin
- BRUCE IRVIN BRUCE IRVIN BRUCE IRVIN!!!!!!
They were locked in on Bruce Irvin. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is not a good draft strategy. Seattle also took Russell Wilson with the 12th pick in the 3rd round, despite the fact that they have other pressing needs on their roster and they just signed Matt Flynn to a big contract. Plus, Wilson is a carbon copy of Tarvaris Jackson. BRUCE IRVIN!!!
St. Louis Rams
Our second NFC West team shows up in the “Bad Draft” section. There’s a reason that division sucks, outside of San Francisco, at least. The Rams came into this draft with some great opportunities to land some impact players to surround Sam Bradford. Instead, they took a run stuffing defensive tackle with limited pass rush potential with the 14th overall pick. Don’t get me wrong, I think Michael Brockers could end up being a good NFL defensive tackle, but he’s not the type of impact player the Rams need so badly. To top all that off, St. Louis may have set a record by drafting players with the most combined arrests in NFL Draft History. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, while both very talented, are HUGE gambles. Each has been in and out of legal trouble for his entire adult life. Great idea. Let’s take two trouble makers and put them on the same team so they can hang out together. I’m sure they’ll have a great influence on each other. Cortland Finnegan isn’t exactly a class act, either. On the bright side, St. Louis, hands down, now has the most thuggish secondary in the NFL.
New York Jets
I can somewhat see the Jets’ reasoning for taking Quinton Coples with the 16th pick, but not with Melvin Ingram on the board. Why, I ask, would you take a player who’s motor runs hot and cold and admittedly takes plays off when another player who has a relentless motor and equal talent is still on the board? Not to mention, I fail to see how Coples is a good scheme fit in New York. Coples’ best value is as a 4-3 defensive end. The Jets got some pretty good value with Stephen Hill at #43 overall in the 2nd round, but again, Hill is an extremely raw prospect with a propensity for drops. It may take several years for him to develop. I’m not feeling this draft class at all.
The Broncos didn’t bring Peyton Manning to town to win three or four years from now, yet they drafted as if their roster was already stacked and they have the luxury of building for the future. Denver passed on the opportunity to take an impact player by trading out of the 1st round. They did fill a need by taking Derek Wolfe with the 4th pick in the 2nd round, but I don’t understand the scheme fit. Wolfe can play defensive tackle in a 4-3, but I believe he is better suited as a DE in a 3-4. With their second 2nd round selection, the Broncos took quarterback Brock Osweiller of Arizona State. He’ll have a great opportunity to sit and learn from Peyton Manning, but that won’t help Peyton Manning win football games in Denver. The Broncos had a huge need for impact players at cornerback and along the interior of their offensive line. They failed to address either position until the 4th round. They are going to regret it.
The “Meh” section of my 2012 NFL Draft Winners and Losers applies to any team that makes a big splash in the draft, of which I have mixed feelings about.
Nobody thought the Cowboys would trade all the way up to #6 to take cornerback Morris Claiborne. This was by far the boldest move of the night on Thursday. However, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the Cowboys landed the best defender in the entire draft. Claiborne is a potential shutdown corner who Rob Ryan can trust to leave on an island, allowing him to allocate resources to other parts of the field. On the other hand, the Cowboys basically pushed all their chips in the middle with this move. Dallas has added some big names this offseason, proving that they were serious about improving their defense. I liked the selection of 5-tech Tryone Crawford out of Boise State in the third round, who will add some depth to the defensive line rotation. However, by trading away their second round pick to move up to take Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys may have missed out on an opportunity to nab a second impact player. Dallas has obviously taken a “win now” approach heading into 2012. They have backed themselves into a corner, and they have a window of opportunity that will soon close. They may have added some serious talent for the short term, but trading away draft picks significantly hurts a team’s ability to maintain a deep roster long term.