A few thoughts from last night's proceedings from Radio City Music Hall:
1. Atlanta's trade up with Cleveland to select WR Julio Jones cost them five picks in addition to the one they traded out of (27). I like Jones' potential as a playmaker for QB Matt Ryan across from Roddy White, but it's tough for me to see one player (especially a non-quarterback) worth that sort of value. Giving up 2011 and 2012 fourth-round picks isn't a king's ransom in and of itself, and Atlanta's late second-round pick this year is not as valuable as some believe. Adding the 2012 first-round selection, however, could come back to bite the Falcons--especially if injuries or other unexpected occurences cause the team to become mediocre (or worse) in 2011.
2. Jacksonville found out the hard way about giving up a lot of picks in the 2008 to get Derrick Harvey (some of which helped Baltimore find starting quarterback Joe Flacco), but they made a shrewd move giving up just a second to get their own potential signal-caller in Blaine Gabbert. Though there's no guarantees about Gabbert, just like any other pick, the Jaguars could not assume David Garrard or Trent Edwards is the future of the franchise.
3. Alabama running back Mark Ingram may have had knee issues, but he's one of my favorite players in the draft due to his vision and toughness. But again, the Saints' trade to give up their current second-round selection as well as a 2012 first-round selection to New England (like they need more talent) appears short-sighted-- especially considering the success the team had with undrafted running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory in the recent past and the relative depth at the position this year.
4. I'm guessing New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan saw a lot of former Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Sam Adams in Muhammad Wilkerson. Ryan had a star defender in Adams during the team's Super Bowl run in the early 2000's, and Wilkerson's athleticism, size, and upside give him a chance to be very good in that role.
5. In radio interviews leading up to the draft, I thought the rumors of New England moving up to Cleveland's number six selection made a lot of sense. It was easy to see them coveting pass rusher Aldon Smith in that spot, and they had plenty of extra picks to work with. As it turns out, Bill Belichick would have needed to make that move to get Smith, as the 49ers picked Smith with the next selection. Smith's upside is undeniable, and he had violent hands like few others in this class, and there's no doubt some in the league view him as the next Demarcus Ware. He seems a little stiff-hipped and straight-line to me, and he needed to move inside to get a fair number of his sacks, which is always a flag to me.
6. Tennessee found their anti-Vince Young in Jake Locker in terms of perceived character and leadership, but it is tough to find any game tape that says he deserved to be a top ten pick. His mobility, toughness, and accuracy on the run are easy to see but NFL quarterbacks make their living in the pocket--something he hasn't proven able to do. I've made the argument all year that his surrounding cast is less than ideal, and the Titans may believe a strong offensive line and better receiving corps will give him a chance to succeed.
7. I thought Phil Taylor's past issues may keep him out of the first round, but Cleveland's willingness to give away one of the picks they received in the Julio Jones deal showed teams were willing to overlook his dismissal from Penn State and average film prior to the 2010 season. Marvin Austin, however, wasn't so lucky. The fact the North Carolina defensive tackle was suspended independently of Robert Quinn (who went 14th to St. Louis despite his suspension and the brain/spinal tumor) and others involved in the NCAA investigation was a major red flag. And his 2009 tape simply wasn't good enough to mitigate the risk. A team could get a good value in Austin in the second round, however, because he has potential to be an explosive 4-3 defensive tackle.
8. TCU Andy Dalton was a winner at TCU, is an outstanding young man, and may turn into a starting NFL quarterback in time. But the rumors going out about his landing in the first round make little sense when evaluating his game tape. His arm strength is simply not enough to earn that sort of consideration, and his decision-making and accuracy are not top-shelf, either. As a second-round pick, though, a coach like Jim Harbaugh may believe he could be worth a shot--though the success rate of top 64 passers John Beck, Kellen Clemens, etc, does not portend great success as a starter. A solid back-up and spot starter worth looking at in the top 75? Absolutely.
9. I think it's fairly clear that Philadelphia/head coach Andy Reid would not have taken Baylor OL Danny Watkins without new offensive line coach Howard Mudd (who came over from the Colts) whispering in his ear. Watkins is simply not the sort of lineman Reid coveted in the past. Although Watkins is 26 years old, it's been clear to me for quite some time he's worth a first-round pick. Whether playing inside or at tackle, the Eagles should be able to count on his presence on the field until he's 34 or 35 years old--and eight or nine seasons is more than acceptable from a late first-round pick.
10. Most of the first round picks went in the general area in which they were expected to fall. The closest thing to a "steal" would have to be Detroit getting Nick Fairley at 13. I think Fairley's "dominant" play has been overblown a bit, especially in the BCS Championship Game, but to get that sort of player in the mid-first could be a fine investment. He has the potential to be a Kevin Williams-like disruptor inside because of his length and quick first step. Minnesota's new quarterback, Christian Ponder, as well as Chicago's mercurial Jay Cutler, may have a hard time staying healthy when facing Fairley and Suh twice a year.
11. James Carpenter proved to be the Duane Brown of this draft, as the Alabama left tackle went to Seattle at the 25th overall pick partially because of the lack of depth at tackle in the middle-rounds. Brown was picked 26th by Houston as the eighth offensive tackle selected in the first round in 2008. Carpenter's toughness and versatility are difficult not to like, however, and his work ethic is unquestioned. There will undoubtedly be comparisons between Carpenter and Derek Sherrod, who went 32 to the Packers and was generally considered a better prospect. Coaches will tell you that "it all starts up front", so getting a technically-sound, aggressive, and surprisingly athletic player like Carpenter (whose overall intensity probably put him above Sherrod on Seattle's board) is preferrable to me than reaching for a quarterback or taking a player at another position with some upside but also headaches. That's why the pick is not the "reach" some will paint it as--in fact, I'm fairly sure Green Bay would have looked strongly at Carpenter if he were available to them at the end of the round.
12. New Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith should change his name to Chris McAlister, Jr. Look for Smith to be a valuable playmaker with size that makes that defense even stronger than it already was--but don't be surprised if Smith's character concerns flare up during his career with the Ravens. Baltimore's "passing" on their pick brought up memories of their botched first-round trade with Minnesota in 2003, which caused the Vikings to be late on their pick. Kansas City, who jumped up to get WR Jonathan Baldwin when the Ravens stalled Thursday night, ended up winning a battle for DT Ryan Sims the previous year as the Vikings tried to submit their pick of Sims ahead of the Chiefs when it appeared their time had run out. The NFL ruled the Chiefs maintained their selections (though Sims' lack of success meant the Vikings got the better end of that deal). Although the administrations in place in those two teams were different then, it was just ironic how they were involved yet again in these sort of strange circumstances.
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter