Five best, worst matches of the draft
Which players landed in great situations, and which players weren't so lucky?
The biggest complaint going into this year's NFL draft was that it lacked serious buzz. There weren't enough skill players to excite fans in the first round, and too many of the top picks were offensive and defensive linemen. (Never mind that the best teams build within the trenches.) This made-for-TV event needed something to spice it up, critics said.
But there have been plenty of entertaining storylines in this year's draft. After the first day, we still didn't know where top quarterback prospects like Geno Smith and Matt Barkley were heading. The first round also went by without the selection of a single running back, and only two wide receivers were taken. Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher scored a huge win for the Mid-American Conference when Kansas City selected him first overall. That's the first time that mid-major conference has ever produced such a high draft pick.
We can't forget the most basic question: Which players landed in great situations and which will be cursing their rotten luck? Here's how we see the best and worst draft marriages:
Happily Ever After?
1. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis: Austin was the most dangerous offensive player in this year's draft, and he joins a team starving for a game-breaker. It's not a stretch to think he'll have the same impact that Cincinnati's A.J. Green or Atlanta's Julio Jones had as rookies. The Rams turned Danny Amendola into a good enough slot receiver that New England signed him as Wes Welker's replacement this offseason. Austin is far more talented and likely to become an instant favorite of quarterback Sam Bradford. If you're looking for an early front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year, this is your man.
2. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit: On paper, this looks like the biggest risk of the first round. Ansah played only nine games at BYU and didn't even discover the sport until 2010. On the flip side, he's 6-foot-5, 271 pounds, freakishly athletic and going to a team loaded with coaches who know a thing or two about developing pass-rushers. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham (who coached Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas in Kansas City) and defensive line coach Jim Washburn (who had a young Jevon Kearse in Tennessee) will work wonders with Ansah, who has already proved to be a quick study and drawn comparisons to New York Giants star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
3. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh: Jones is the most dynamic pass-rusher in this year's class, a one-man wrecking crew who created fits for opponents while at Georgia. The Steelers have a long history of outstanding rush linebackers, and one of their best ever, James Harrison, was released this offseason. Jones has the most explosive first step in this year's class, and he will play in the same 3-4 system that made him a college star. If neck problems caused by spinal stenosis -- which concerned some teams -- don't hinder him, he should become an immediate standout.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston: The Texans had been searching for somebody to take the pressure off Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson. They couldn't have asked for a better option than Hopkins. He has everything an offense wants from a second receiver: impressive speed, strong hands and precise route-running ability. Hopkins also has proved that he can handle being Option B in an offense (as he did at Clemson in 2011, when freshman Sammy Watkins was the star) or the go-to guy (as he was last year, when he produced 18 receiving touchdowns). The Texans offense certainly needed a jolt in the passing game. It got exactly that with the decision to take Hopkins in the first round.
5. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay: The Packers scored plenty of value here. Lacy has first-round talent, but concerns about an offseason hamstring injury -- and an unimpressive workout -- dropped him to the second round. At 5-11 and 230 pounds, he has everything teams need in a running back these days: power, speed, agility and versatility. The Packers haven't had a 1,000-yard runner in their backfield since Ryan Grant was their primary ball carrier in 2009. Lacy has the potential to be that every-down back.
1. Dion Jordan, DE, Miami: It didn't take long for the draft to offer its first shocker. It's hard to know what made less sense: the Dolphins' trading up to snatch Jordan or the hype that followed this player the last few months after an impressive combine showing. Was anybody really talking about Jordan when the college season ended? The lack of buzz then -- caused by a late-season shoulder injury and a drop in productivity -- creates concern now. Jordan has great physical skills, but he could struggle to live up to the heavy expectations that came with this pick.
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota: There's a lot to like about Patterson's potential. The only problem is that he's taking it to a team that has an unsettled quarterback situation. Starter Christian Ponder is still learning how to play the position, and there's no guarantee that he'll make a huge leap in his third season. It would be more reassuring if Patterson were going to a team with a proven, experienced veteran who could help him grow. Instead, he'll have to learn plenty of tricks from veteran wideout Greg Jennings and pray that he can get on the same page with Ponder sooner than later. The good news is that Patterson is a strong return specialist. That may be the only place he consistently impresses in his rookie year.
3. Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets: Smith was good enough to be a first-round talent. Now he's landing in what looks like a potentially ugly situation. People will say this is a great opportunity for Smith to oust embattled starter Mark Sanchez, but it's not going to be that simple. First, the Jets have to decide how to play this situation. They could let Smith compete for the job or sit him while Sanchez keeps the spot for another year. There's also the real possibility that the team could dump coach Rex Ryan if he produces another losing season, and Smith could find himself in two offensive systems in his first two years. And the Jets have a horrible supporting cast. The only good news for Smith: People will never spend as much time talking about him as they did Tim Tebow.
4. Manti Te'o, ILB, San Diego: It's nice to know the focus on Te'o will not be his private life. The big challenge for him is overcoming the physical limitations revealed during the pre-draft evaluation process. Te'o wasn't nearly as athletic as today's linebackers need to be -- especially quickness and straight-line speed -- and that's going to be problematic in the AFC West. If he was embarrassed to run a 4.8 40-yard dash at the combine, just wait until he faces Kansas City's Jamaal Charles or Oakland's Darren McFadden in the open field. It won't be pretty.
5. Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay: We all understand now that Josh Freeman is in a precarious situation with the Bucs. Tampa Bay wouldn't have used a third-round pick on Glennon if it felt comfortable with its starter. It's hard to know how strong a message the franchise is sending. If the Bucs really believe Glennon is a potential starter, then he's going to have to fight his way past Freeman for the job. If Glennon is there only to push Freeman, then this is a waste of a pick. Either way, Glennon is walking into a poor environment for a rookie quarterback. He won't know what lies ahead until the team determines what it wants to do with the player who is ahead of him.
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