Thursday, April 26, 2012
ESPNBoston's take on the draft
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts on each pick in the NFL Draft (will be updated after each pick):
1. Colts -- QB Andrew Luck (Stanford) -- Looking forward to Nov. 18 when the Colts come to Gillette Stadium. Could envision him having the same type of impact as 2010 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton did with the Panthers last year.
2. Redskins -- QB Robert Griffin III (Baylor) -- Exciting day for the Redskins' franchise, because they finally have someone to build around at the game's most important position. A few months ago, thought this would be the Browns.
3. Browns -- RB Trent Richardson (Alabama) -- They move up one pick to secure Richardson, the feature back they need to help spark the offense. Still wonder if they will regret not going up to No. 2 when they had the chance to deal for franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, especially when they had the ammo from last year's Julio Jones trade.
4. Vikings -- OT Matt Kalil (USC) -- There was some buzz over the last few days that cornerback Morris Claiborne could be the pick, but this one makes more sense to me. This gives second-year quarterback Christian Ponder the best chance to succeed.
5. Jaguars -- WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) -- The Jaguars trade up for the second year in a row (quarterback Blaine Gabbert in 2010). The offense looked anemic in 2011 and this gives them a potential game-changer, and all it took was a fourth-round pick to go up the two spots.
6. Cowboys -- CB Morris Claiborne (LSU) -- They give up a second-rounder (45th overall) to move from 14 to 6, and get a potential shutdown corner to help a secondary that struggled in 2011. That's a lot to give up for the Cowboys, as they aren't a team that is considered one player away. A lot of trades, which makes this an exciting draft so far.
7. Buccaneers -- S Mark Barron (Alabama) -- This was my favorite player in the draft. This reflects to me that first-year head coach Greg Schiano, working in concert with general manager Mark Dominik, have things going in the right direction. Difference-maker. They get their man, and pick up an additional draft pick in the process to trade down. Schiano with a Belichick-type move.
8. Dolphins-- QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) -- They have some hope. My feeling on the Dolphins is that they wouldn't get where they wanted to go until they square away the quarterback position. It's been an issue since Dan Marino retired. I'm not sure Tannehill is the answer, but I think this is the move the Dolphins had to make. Breathes important life into the franchise.
9. Panthers -- LB Luke Kuechly (Boston College) -- Up-and-coming NFL writer Field Yates, who is here at the draft assisting ESPNBoston.com, makes the great point that head coach Ron Rivera's defenses in Chicago and San Diego always were built through the linebacker position. Wish I thought of that.
10. Bills -- CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina) -- Liked him at the combine and felt he was one of the solid, safer picks in the first round. In a division with the Patriots, where the nickel defense is so important, this is a solid choice. Between free agency and now the top of the draft, the Bills' defense looks dramatically improved.
11. Chiefs -- DL Dontari Poe (Memphis) -- This surprises me. I had general manager Scott Pioli pegged for a more conservative choice, and Poe is one of the riskier picks of the draft. Shows the confidence Pioli has in head coach Romeo Crennel and line coach Anthony Pleasant to get the most out of him.
12. Eagles -- DL Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State) -- They wanted a bigger presence in the middle and Cox, who wasn't expected to be around this long, seems like a solid choice. They had a few recent misses on the line early in the draft -- Jerome McDougle, Victor Abiamiri -- but Cox was arguably the safest pick among the elite big bodies.
13. Cardinals -- WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame) -- One of their primary goals is to address pass protection, which they'll have to do later (the next pick in the third round). This is a potentially explosive addition opposite Larry Fitzgerald, but it won't matter if quarterback Kevin Kolb is running for his life next season, especially in a division with the attacking 49ers.
14. Rams -- DL Michael Brockers (LSU) -- When they traded from 6, I wondered if the Rams went down too far to get a difference-maker. This worked out perfectly for them. Brockers was one of my favorite players in the draft; he has rare size and potential. He is the type of player that first-year coach Jeff Fisher can build a line around, just like he did in Tennessee with "the good" Albert Haynesworth. If I had to pick one team that is a "winner" so far, it's the Rams.
15. Seahawks -- DE/OLB Bruce Irvin (West Virginia) -- Surprise pick. Explosive pass rusher, but not expected to go this high by many analysts, in part because of some off-field questions and whether he fits on all three downs. Seems like a reach. From a Patriots perspective, this could start a run on some pass-rushers.
16. N.Y. Jets -- DE/OLB Quinton Coples (North Carolina) -- A little surprised at this one after they whiffed on defensive end-turned-outside linebacker Vernon Gholston in 2008, but wonder if Rex Ryan sees a potential Terrell Suggs in Coples, who was considered one of the more boom or bust prospects in the first round. I think Ryan is one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL and Coples gives him an intriguing talent to work with.
17. Bengals -- CB Dre' Kirkpatrick (Alabama) -- Fills a top need for them as top cornerback Leon Hall if coming back from an Achilles injury. The Bengals have had success drafting the position in the first round in recent years and this looks like a 5-iron down the middle of the fairway -- nothing spectacular, but solid, which fits well for the Bengals. The cornerback crop dips from here.
18. Chargers -- DE/OLB Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) -- Ingram's size and arm length concerned some teams, which likely led to him dropping, but I think this is the right time type of 3-4 scheme to maximize his skills as he projects to play opposite Shaun Phillips. The Chargers didn't get the first-round pop with first-round small-school rusher Larry English in 2009. Ingram has more upside and seems like a nice pickup here.
19. Bears -- DE Shea McClellin (Boise State) -- Statement pick by first-year general manager Phil Emery as it represents the type of player he wants to bring to Chicago -- tough, hard-working, no-frills. McClellin will line up opposite Julius Peppers to provide a nice set of rush ends.
20. Titans -- WR Kendall Wright (Baylor) -- Gives them a speedy option on offense opposite Kenny Britt, giving them more diversity in their offensive attack. They leave some good defensive players on the board, but with Chris Johnson at running back, and now Wright/Britt at receiver, this will put more stress on opposing defenses.
21. Patriots -- DE/OLB Chandler Jones (Syracuse) -- Patriots trade the 27th overall pick, and a third-rounder, to move up here. One scout told me that Jones was one of the cleanest prospects at the outside linebacker/defensive end spot, although he rated him as a third-round pick because of limited production. He projects to the defensive end/outside linebacker spot -- DE in the four-man line, OLB when the Patriots have more of a 3-4 look.
22. Browns -- QB Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) -- This tells us how the Browns truly feel about quarterback Colt McCoy. Not much else needs to be said.
23. Lions -- OT Riley Reiff (Iowa) -- With starting left tackle Jeff Backus nearing the end of his career, and starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus entering the final year of his contract, the Lions pick up a blocker they thought would be long gone at this point. With a vertical passing game under offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, quarterback Matthew Stafford needs more time to operate and this is a good match between need and value.
24. Steelers -- G David DeCastro (Stanford) -- They struck gold with center Maurkice Pouncey in 2010 and now they get another solid interior presence to address one of their biggest weaknesses, protection of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. No frills, but exactly what they needed. DeCastro is viewed as one of the safest picks of the draft.
25. Patriots -- LB Dont'a Hightower (Alabama) -- Trading up for the second time in four picks, the Patriots add an injection of athleticism to the front seven with a versatile player who can do a lot of things. Bill Belichick has to be thrilled -- his front seven just got bigger, more athletic, and has tremendous promise.
26. Texans -- DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) -- They are collecting rushers in Houston, where they already have Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin, and have hit on some nice young defenders in recent drafts. After losing Mario Williams in free agency, Mercilus adds another piece to soften the blow. Some questions on him being a one-year wonder, but seems to be worth a gamble at this point of the first round.
27. Bengals -- G Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) -- They wanted to come out of this draft with help up front, and not only do they do it, but they pick up a third-round pick in the process from the Patriots. Solid work from the Bengals in this first round, getting Dre Kirkpatrick at corner, and then coming back and picking up a Day 1 starter in Zeitler.
28. Packers -- DE/OLB Nick Perry (USC) -- Too much of their pass rush fell to Clay Matthews, so the Packers hoped to come out of this draft with more help at the position, and they do so with Perry, who said at the combine that he prefers a 4-3 scheme. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will find a way to tap his athleticism in the 3-4, and playing opposite Matthews should help.
29. Vikings -- S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) -- The Vikings trade into this spot in a deal with the Ravens, and pick up a Day 1 starter in Smith, a player I thought could interest the Patriots at this point in the draft (if they stayed put). Between offensive tackle Matt Kalil and Smith, the Vikings have to feel good about what they've done. Both were viewed as safe picks.
30. 49ers -- WR A.J. Jenkins (Illinois) -- Not a player many had going in the first round. They obviously want to give quarterback Alex Smith more weapons to work with, having signed Randy Moss in free agency. Some might say this is a reach, but with the 49ers not picking until the end of the second round, they obviously felt like they had to make the move.
31. Buccaneers -- RB Doug Martin (Boise State) -- Another trade-up, as Martin is the first running back off the board. Impact player who should take some of the pressure off quarterback Josh Freeman. Solid work of the draft board by the Buccaneers to get a player they obviously felt strongly about.
32. Giants -- RB David Wilson (Virginia Tech) -- Thought they might add to the defensive line, which is part of their identity, but this fills an immediate need as Brandon Jacobs is now in San Francisco. He is a different type of back than Jacobs, adding more of a speed element to complement Ahmad Bradshaw. He also adds an explosive element on in the return game.