We haven’t had a ton of NFL Draft coverage here on VFT this year (though Rahim’s Raiders work has been very good). However, I am a huge draft nut and have been following the process, so I’ll try to coalesce my opinions on the Draft into this post. As a general rule, I don’t grade teams’ drafts, but I do rank them, so that serves as a good general idea of where teams fall.
1. Kansas City Chiefs– Simply put, I was blown away by what they did. Instead of getting jumpy and making big moves to dump some of their excess picks, they made smart moves when they had to and produced a very important class for their long-term success. Dorsey was one of my favorite guys in the draft, and Brandon Albert’s versatility on the line will work wonders for a team with as much in flux there as the Chiefs. He can play Guard or Tackle and will be put in the best place to help the team. Beyond the First Round, KC got players I really like in Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles, Brad Cottam, and a few intriguing guys in Brandon Carr and Barry Richardson. Fantastic, fantastic draft.
2. Cleveland Browns– This will surprise alot of people, considering the Browns didn’t pick until the Fourth. However, it is only fair to consider trades involving their draft picks as relevant to the draft, and their moves were spectacular in that context. In effect, they walk out of the 2008 Draft with Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers to go along with their underrated Day 2 haul in Beau Bell, Ahtyba Rubin, and Martin Rucker (among others). Cleveland didn’t need developmental talent as much as they needed ready to roll players and they used the draft to do exactly that.
3. Dallas Cowboys– While I stand by my assertion that they could have gotten Felix Jones with their second First and just picked Mike Jenkins there instead of trading up, Jerry Jones did a very good job. Those two guys will be put in the right situations for them, and Orlando Scandrick could end up being a difference-maker in the long term as well. Guys like Martellus Bennett and Tashard Choice were solid selections as well. Some are criticizing them for not drafting any WR’s, but this year’s class is terrible and I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be a few bigger contributor WR’s available down the line who fit the profile a little better….
4. Pittsburgh Steelers– They were put in a fantastic situation because they have the personnel to make taking the Best Player Available a valid strategy, made much easier when guys like Mendenhall and Sweed are up for grabs in R1 and R2. Both should be significant contributors and natural fits, and I really like Bruce Davis, Tony Hils, and taking a flier on Dennis Dixon.
5. Philadelphia Eagles– This starts first and foremost with the Panthers trade. Regardless of how it turns out (my projection: Panthers are one of the best non-playoff teams), having that extra first rounder next year will pay dividends. That could be in the form of the pick itself or possibly as a great piece in a potential WR trade. From there on, they made smart picks from Trevor Laws and DeSean Jackson (who fills both the slot WR role and the PR necessity) to the underrated Andrew Studebacker and the risky but talented Jack Ikegwuonu.
6. Denver Broncos– They know what they want and they did a reasonably good job of getting it. Ryan Clady is a perfect fit for their blocking scheme, and while I hate them taking Eddie Royal over DeSean Jackson, players like Josh Barrett and Peyton Hillis drafted late could be cogs in this team for the long term.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs– Similarly to the Broncos, they filled spots with players who seem to be great fits for what they run. Aqib Talib should be a phenomenal Cover 2 corner and I like Jeremy Zuttah considering their O-line woes over the past two years. Also, they took two compelling guys late in my favorite late-round QB (Josh Johnson, a former Jim Harbaugh QB) and Geno Hayes. It would have been nice to get an impact WR, but there simply were not any in this draft class.
8. New England Patriots– I would give them the benefit of the doubt anyway, but I really like what Pioli and Co. did this year. Jerod Mayo is a fantastic LB for what they run, Shawn Crable fills an immediate niche, and Matt Slater will become a fan favorite among Pats fans because of his special teams prowess and effort on the field. They don’t need a ton of players, but who they got should contribute, which makes it a very good draft for them.
9.Baltimore Ravens– I liked Joe Flacco when he was an underrated Round 2 guy, but I’m worried that they put too much into getting him (even though not losing a 2009 pick makes it much better than the Boller deal). The strength of their draft, like so many Ozzie drafts, is getting players like Ray Rice, Oniel Cousins, and Haruki Nakamura beyond the first round. Also, they got Allen Patrick, who was my #1 value (Player Quality / Spot taken) in the entire 2008 Draft- he’s a downright steal in Round 7.
10. New York Jets– Another team which had such a great draft that it buoys them despite a shaky R1 guy. For them to be this high despite my distaste for Vernon Gholston says a ton about the rest of their draft. Dustin Keller and Marcus Henry could both be used very well if their Offensive Coordinator is creative enough with them, and I simply love Dwight Lowery and Erik Ainge, both players I wanted the Niners (my team) to draft.
11. Seattle Seahawks– While I’m still a little puzzled by taking Lawrence Jackson in Round 1 considering the money they’ve put in at that position, he’s a good player and the rest of their draft was simply impressive. John Carlson and Red Bryant will both fill valuable roles, and I simply love taking Owen Schmitt, Justin Forsett, and Brandon Coutu late- all could help this playoff team.
12. St. Louis Rams– I absolutely love Chris Long (my #1 player in this year’s draft) and Justin King, but the rest leaves too much to be desired for them to go higher in this ranking. Don’t get me wrong- the other players (Avery, Greco, et al) aren’t bad, but they weren’t the slam dunks the Rams needed to shore up and make a good run at the division. That said, they got contributors and long-term starters, which is why there are at this slot.
13. Indianapolis Colts– One of the hardest teams to rank because they essentially drafted Tony Ugoh last year with this year’s First. That was a good move, but they don’t get credit for it in my book this year. Still, drafting good depth along the o-line and the unadulterated steal of Mike Hart put them in the top half of teams this time.
14. Chicago Bears– They need a QB more than anything (besides o-line), but they did a great job filling other needs. Guys like Matt Forte, Marcus Harrison, Zack Bowman, and the criminally underrated Marcus Monk could all have significant roles sooner than most think. Don’t sleep on Earl Bennett or Craig Steltz either- both have spots as well.
15. Minnesota Vikings– I think they gave up too much to get Jared Allen (considering KC’s lack of leverage), but he makes their line that much more formidable and was assuredly more valuable than their first rounder would have been. While I would have put the petal to the metal and drafted Brian Brohm to compete with Tavaris Jackson, Tyrell Johnson should be good for them, and John David Booty and John Sullivan could help them out.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars– Unlike most, I 100% understand their logic on getting Derrick Harvey. He may not be the a top-10 guy in this draft, but he should be important on the line in both the short term and the long term, which makes sense considering the Jags don’t have a ton of needs and should be shooting for both time frames (as opposed to getting a guy like Jason Taylor for the short term). I also really like Quentin Groves and Trae Williams for them, though getting some more depth with the picks they traded would have helped.
17. Green Bay Packers– Let me first say that I LOVE both Jordy Nelson and Brian Brohm for the Packers. Each fits their system very well and should be given a fair shot to contribute. The rest of their draft was solid but unspectacular, with guys like Patrick Lee and Jeremy Thompson hopefully helping out.
18. New Orleans Saints– Sedrick Ellis is a fantastic player (my #3 overall) and Tracy Porter could end up being a great cover corner in the league. I wish they would’ve gotten better value in the middle rounds, especially considering how much some depth could mean for them on the field. However, I did like the Adrian Arrington pick and Carl Nicks could end up paying dividends.
19. San Diego Super Chargers– Sweet sassy molassy I was high on Antoine Cason. I saw a ton of him (he’s a Pac-10 guy) and he consistently impressed. Jacob Hester is a gamer (though he was drafted a little too high), but they really needed to get some o-line depth and possibly a little more d-line help as well. Also, signing Ryan Leaf’s little brother as an undrafted Free Agent was my favorite roster move of the entire two-day period, though that wasn’t for on the field reasons.
20. Washington Redskins– Taking three pass-catchers in the second round sure takes a great amount of guts (and they were all solid to great values), but they completely ignored their DE need, which could come back to haunt them and I don’t like Colt Brennan for the offense they run.
21. Oakland Raiders– I like McFadden as much as most, but this “draft” hinges on how DeAngelo Hall does in silver and black. As an admitted hater of Mr. Hall, I am constitutionally obligated to have them around here, though I like both McFadden and Tyvon Branch. Also, they need a ton more depth at various positions, but gave up the necessary picks previously to do it.
22. Miami Dolphins– Some people have them substantially higher than this, but I think Jake Long was taken far too early for a natural RT that they’ll inevitably try to play out of position, and I’ll never understand why a QB that consistently underwhelmed like Chad Henne got the hype from the media he recieved. However, they did get a number of good players with other picks, with Phillip Merling, Shawn Murphy, and Lionel Dotson being my favorites.
23. New York Giants– Your Super Bowl Champions had a relavitely mundane draft, and it says a lot for how well teams did that a draft like this is in the bottom third. Phillips and Thomas should do fine in the secondary and Manningham was a substantially better college player than his stock would indicate (thanks for lying about drug use!), but the Giants could’ve helped themselves with a legit Day two, and it didn’t come besides Jonathan Goff.
24. San Francisco 49ers– They made solid picks, but I’ll always ruminate on the ones they didn’t make. Passing on a guy like DeSean Jackson for Chilo Rachal and not adding potential contributors like Erik Ainge, Owen Schmitt, and others at skill positions may end up haunting a team with so little at those spots.
25. Arizona Cardinals– Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a good player, but it was simply shocking that they passed on RB’s throughout the draft (Rashard Mendenhall? Ray Rice? Allen Patrick?) and took decent but not great players, though I like Early Doucet if they end up moving Boldin.
26. Detroit Lions– By far the hardest team for me to peg. I like a decent portion of their picks (Jordon Dizon, Cliff Avril, Andre Fluellen to name a few), but there’ just a bitter taste in my mouth because they ended up with Gosder Cherilus while looking Mendenhall in the face with such a glaring need for a RB and so few other opportunities to fill it. I really hope Kevin Smith and Caleb Campbell succeed- both deserve it.
27. Carolina Panthers– Honestly, this all hinges on how well Jeff Otah works out. I’m not a big fan and to me he definately wasn’t worth the dramatic price they paid to get him. What redeems them is a fantastic job getting Dan Connor and Charles Godfrey, both of whom should have been Day 1 players. Johnathan Stewart should do very well for the Panthers and their late round picks could end up playing a part long-term.
28. Buffalo Bills– The type of draft that could work out for them, but I feel like they reached on every early pick besides Leodis McKelvin. Their late guys may work out, but this year that puts them closer to the bottom of the pack.
29. Atlanta Falcons– I’m not remotely sold on either Matt Ryan or Sam Baker for the spots they were taken and the necessary resources given up to procure them, but they made some smart picks in Harry Douglass, Thomas DeCoud, Thomas Brown, and Chevis Jackson later on .
30. Houston Texans– They drafted decent players, but it just feels like they could have done so much more with their picks and made it more competitive with Jacksonville and Indy for the top of that division. That said, I like the potential of Steve Slaton, Xavier Adibi, and Dominique Barber on this squad.
31. Tennessee Titans– There was plenty to like in the later rounds (Lavelle Hawkins and Stanford Kelgar as the two biggest hits), but taking Chris Johnson in the first round given the fact that every WR was on the board was simply baffling. Another team that horribly missed a key opportunity to make up ground.
32. Cincinnati Bengals– Let’s see. We have a team with a terrible defense and a decent offense. What do we do? Oh, I know: let’s take all offensive players! While I do like most of the guys they drafted (though Keith Rivers was notoriously overrated), it is appalling to take a majority of offensive players, especially three WR’s in a terrible WR draft. There’s a reason they underachieve and it starts at the top.