Commentary

Round 1 winners, losers

Vikes push all the right buttons; Seahawks responsible for biggest head-scratcher

Originally Published: April 26, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- With money not being a factor in making first-round draft selections, Radio City Music Hall turned into a trade center.

Eight draft-day trades were executed. The surprising thing was how fast the first round moved. It was over in three hours. With so many teams talking, you'd figure the first round would have gone four hours, not three.

Who were the winners and losers in those trades?

Winners

1. Minnesota Vikings: Vikings general manager Rick Spielman proved to be the shrewdest among the wheelers and dealers. He was able to get three additional picks from the Cleveland Browns and still get the player the Vikings wanted -- left tackle Matt Kalil. The process started by getting the word out that they wanted to draft either Kalil or cornerback Morris Claiborne. The idea was to convince the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who started with the No. 5 pick, that they might be left with Claiborne if the Vikings selected Kalil and the Browns selected running back Trent Richardson. He also got word out that other teams were interested in picking No. 3. Unlike the Bucs, the Browns knew the Vikings wouldn't take Richardson; they have Adrian Peterson on the roster. Although the Vikings didn't get a second- or third-rounder, the acquisition of a fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round pick gave them even more flexibility in this draft. That upped their draft total to 13 picks. As the round developed, the Vikings were able to move back into the first round in a deal with the Baltimore Ravens to get safety Harrison Smith. The Vikings came out with Kalil and Smith, and have 10 more choices over the final two days of the draft. It doesn't get much better than that.

2. New England Patriots: Too often in past years, the Patriots got a little too cute. They'd trade a choice for a future first-rounder. They'd trade back and acquire more draft choices than they had roster spots for rookies. On Thursday, Bill Belichick made two wise trades, and finally got a pass-rusher (Chandler Jones from Syracuse) and a quality inside linebacker (Dont'a Hightower of Alabama). Those were significant and telling moves. It shows the Patriots might be moving back into a 3-4 defense, but now they can do it with two young linebackers who can rush. Jones is quick from the outside. Hightower can rush from the inside. The Patriots have only two remaining draft choices, but the two trades cost them only two fourth-round picks.

3. St. Louis Rams: Trading out of the top six is usually a bad idea. But when you have as many holes as the Rams, you have to consider it, particularly when the Jaguars traded ahead of them and took wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Of the eight trades, the Rams were the only team to get a second-round pick, and they got it from the Dallas Cowboys. They now have three second-round choices for Friday, and two first-rounders each in 2013 and 2014, thanks to the pre-draft trade with Washington. The Rams filled a key defensive need by getting defensive tackle Michael Brockers. In a deep receiver draft, the Rams now can concentrate on getting wide receiver help. If they don't use some of those extra seconds on receivers Friday, they will be placed among the losers in Friday's column.

Losers

1. Seattle Seahawks: When Luke Kuechly went to the Carolina Panthers at No. 9, you knew the Seahawks would bail on the No. 12 pick and trade back. The problem is whom they selected at No. 15. A lot of teams didn't have LB Bruce Irvin in the first round. Some didn't have him in the second round. Pete Carroll felt having Irvin along with an additional fourth- and a sixth-round pick was better than staying at No. 12. The Seahawks would have been better served by continuing to move back and get more picks. If they are right on Irvin and his motor, great. But if they are wrong, they didn't get value back for their trade.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I liked their move to trade from the second round and get into the first to grab running back Doug Martin. What I didn't like was trading down with Jacksonville two spots and losing the chance to take Claiborne. Claiborne has the look of a future Pro Bowl cornerback. Those players are hard to find. Instead, the Bucs got safety Mark Barron and a fourth-round choice. A Pro Bowl corner is worth more than a safety and a fourth-rounder. Barron should be great, but taking him at No. 7 is a little high for a safety. Barron would have to be Ronnie Lott to justify the selection. In a division that has Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, you need quality corners. Cover 2 can take you only so far these days.

3. Denver Broncos: John Elway has a win-now philosophy. That's why he acquired Peyton Manning, but Manning has only a short window. The Broncos traded back from picks No. 25 and No. 31, but they passed on some pretty good players -- Hightower, Martin, Smith and some others. This could work out if the Broncos get tight end Coby Fleener and some help at defensive tackle. The Broncos start the second day of the draft with the No. 35 pick. The net gain of two fourth-rounders might not have justified trading out of the first.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer