Biggest Offensive Upgrade (this is an award you shouldn’t get too boastful of, because it probably indicates an offense that isn’t good)
1. Jacksonville (QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Cecil Shorts III).
2. Atlanta (WR Julio Jones, RB Jacquizz Rodgers).
3. Miami (RB Daniel Thomas, WR Edmond Gates).
Best Job Addressing Needs
1. Washington. Ryan Kerrigan is a hard-working player some think was taken out of position (DE being asked to stand up in Washington’s defense). He’s a dynamic, physical player who they’ll figure out how to use. They won’t lack explosiveness on offense this year, with 3rd and 6th round steals Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson (a favorite of NFL Films’ Greg Cosell).
2. Buffalo. I thought the Dareus pick was an unfortunate one. I think Dareus will be great but it’s easier to coach a defensive tackle picked later into eventually contributing to a Super Bowl-contending team than it is to find a guy like Patrick Peterson. You can’t teach closing speed, instincts, and hand-eye coordination. That said, the Bills addressed every need and could be a contender soon. I would have liked another receiver for them but they got one in last year’s draft – Marcus Easley – who could be good but hasn’t played yet.
3. Houston. So many defensive picks for a team whose offense generally only fails in big moments or because of injuries or lack of rhythm coming back from injuries.
Worst Job Addressing Needs
1. Detroit. One late-round LB, no OL, no CB, no FS. Amari Spievey + Alphonso Smith + Brandon McDonald + Lions pass protection = last place. This isn’t Madden, this isn’t two-hand touch with some friends. At some point after the second round, you have to stop taking BPA if your team has monolithic weaknesses. When you pick players for a casual game of football, you are looking at who the biggest athletes are. In the NFL, you can only play so many players at one position. Are the Lions intending Nick Fairley to drop into coverage when teams go max protect and neutralize him and Suh?
2. Arizona. Even if they aren’t the worst offensive line in football, all the other bad ones (Dallas, Denver, Buffalo, Chicago, Minnesota, Washington, Baltimore) except Detroit addressed theirs at least by the 5th round. Arizona drafted zero.
3. Chicago. No WR. No CB. Are the Bears going to convert another cornerback to wide receiver (still waiting for that Devin Hester breakout season)? Did Jerry Angelo know he could draft wide receivers, he just wasn’t allowed to trade them? The Bears didn’t get substantially better. Tim Jennings will continue his “pull on the handwarmer” technique of guarding top receivers like Jordy Nelson.
Most Predictable Draft
1. Oakland (speed).
2. Chicago (ignoring WR and CB).
3. Tampa Bay (multiple edge rushers).
Most Underrated Draft
1. Minnesota. Every other team that took a major risk did it at the expense of their needs (Detroit taking Fairley and LeShoure, Atlanta trading away picks, New England taking Ryan Mallett instead of a corner or safety which was a good pick but still neglecting a need in favor of grooming a potential star). Minnesota got destroyed by some in the media for their big risk but it was the aggressive move to fix the most important position with the only guy left they felt comfortable fixing it with. It would have been a bigger risk to trade down and try to get Ponder, but I don’t think they would have gotten him much later so that would have been a stupid risk. The lack of teams trading up for Dalton tells me that Spielman wasn’t lying when he said no one would trade with him and it also tells me that other teams wanted to trade up for Ponder because they also thought more highly of him than Dalton.
2. Kansas City. The Chiefs got offensive and defensive playmakers and a solid back-up QB in Ricky Stanzi. OG Rodney Hudson and CB Jalil Brown were steals. Their pass rush should be upgraded now with Justin Houston and Allen Bailey.
3. (tie) Cleveland. Tom Heckert – with Holmgren – started out by beefing up the D-line (DT Phil Taylor and DE Jabaal Sheard), then took the most Boldin-esque receiver since Q himself in Greg Little. The Browns’ last four picks featured some of the most intriguing and famous players on the board (OL Jason Pinkston is a guy some were high on, CB Buster Skrine ran a 4.29 40 at the Combine, former Stanford Cardinal FB-LB Owen Maricic, S Eric Hagg).
Seattle. Many in the media blasted the Seattle draft. They drafted for need. If they had picked up a size-speed receiver, they would have been #2 on this list.
Most Overrated Draft
1. Detroit. See above.
2. Carolina. Some in the media applauded the Panthers for making the “pick they had to make”, QB Cam Newton. I would have rolled the dice with another QB because of Matt Barkley, Case Keenum, Brandon Wheeden, and Andrew Luck next year. They should have taken Patrick Peterson.
3. Tampa Bay. It’s not that it’s bad but the way the analysts reacted was as if they got incredible value for Da’Quan Bowers when, in reality, his injury justifiably knocked him down the draft. I think that it was a great pick but it wasn’t early or late to take him and the Bucs were the non-playoff team with the fewest holes.
Biggest Surprises (I don’t want to call them reaches, it’s surprising who took them AND where)
1. RB Alex Green to the Packers in the 3rd.
2. WR Julio Jones to Atlanta for that many picks.
3. RB Stevan Ridley to the Patriots in the 3rd.
Greatest Steals (avoiding guys with major injury concerns)
1. The Cowboys’ WR Dwayne Harris: Round 6, Pick 176.
2. The Steelers’ DE Chris Carter: Round 5, Pick 162. The Ravens wanted him.
3. (tie) The Browns’ OL Jason Pinskston: Round 5, Pick 150.
The Bengals’ SS Robert Sands: Round 5, Pick 134.
The Broncos’ S Rahim Moore: Round 2, Pick 45. It’s not that he fell much, it’s that he’s a nearly surefire impact player mid-way through the second round.
1. Blaine Gabbert and Dirk Koetter’s Jaguars offense. I predict that in his second year of starting, Gabbert will throw for close to 5000 yards. There are so many young weapons and – aside from Derek Cox, Tyson Alualu and an aging Mathis – their defense will have them always playing catch-up.
2. Mark Ingram and Sean Payton’s Saints offense. Mark’s underrated receiving ability will serve him good. His lack of fumbling and his ability to bust through tackles and shimmy his way for extra yardage makes me think he’ll be scoring a lot at the Superdome.
3. Julio Jones and Mike Mularkey’s Falcons offense. They’re going to score a lot of touchdowns and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones gets more than White. I think Randall Cobb is an excellent match in Green Bay, given his work ethic and athleticism, for the Packer offense – maybe replacing Driver eventually – but the offense spreads the ball around too much for him to be a fantasy star. Jermichael Finley may have taken a hit in this draft when they picked up receiving TE D.J. Williams.
1. A.J. Green and Jay Gruden’s Bengals offense. He plays in the AFC North, with a first-time coordinator, likely with a rookie quarterback and no legitimate running back. This offense will be stopped outside the red zone and will be groaning through growing pains too much for Green to have a big impact.
2. Taiwan Jones and the Raiders. The most explosive cornerback-turned-running back in the draft ends up on a team that already has two great running backs. It’s not a bad fit as much as I don’t think he’ll get carries.
3. Jonathan Baldwin and the Chiefs. Without Charlie Weis, I don’t think this offense will be as dynamic. Todd Haley struggled calling plays for Arizona (Kurt would often call them).
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