Grading a draft immediately after it concludes is akin to giving your compliments to the chef before the meal has been served. Sure, the food might sound good (or bad) based on the ingredients listed on the menu, but the true review can't be done until after the product has been tested.
It will take at least three years before the 2010 draft can be accurately assessed. But what was readily apparent were the different approaches that many of the NFL's 32 teams took, from going for the best available talent to focusing on team needs to gambling on character concerns and long-term potential.
The Bills might be lacking at the other offensive skill positions, but with the addition of running back C.J. Spiller, they boast one of the more talented and explosive backfields in all of the NFL. Spiller's great speed and elusiveness make him a big-play threat, but there were other, bigger needs for this club. With their need for a playmaker filled, the Bills focused on adjusting their defensive line personnel. The Bills are moving to a 3-4 scheme and added two prototype players for the scheme in nose guard Torrell Troup and defensive end Alex Carrington. Both could become starters this season. The Bills might be too optimistic in thinking they can get immediate help from fifth- and seventh-round picks Ed Wang and Kyle Calloway at offensive tackle.
By trading for Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins eliminated their primary need, but lost a second-round pick in 2010. They were able to get back into the second round in a deal with the Chargers. The Dolphins were still able to reinforce their defensive line with the selection of the steady and versatile Jared Odrick of Penn State, who some teams felt might go in the top 15. The Dolphins also might have landed one of the gems of the draft in pass rusher Koa Misi in the second round. Massive OL John Jerry is a mauler and fits the typical Bill Parcells prototype. Iowa OLB A.J. Edds could surprise as a third-day find.
No one gets better value in the draft than the Patriots. They masterfully move back in the draft, pick up extra picks and then add players who should have been taken earlier. As the Patriots did last April with the selections of defensive backs Patrick Chung and Darius Butler, they traded down in the first round (twice) and found steady cornerback Devin McCourty still on the board. McCourty isn't as flashy in man coverage as Kyle Wilson or Patrick Robinson, but he's a sound overall defender and could be a force on special teams. The Patriots gave QB Tom Brady downfield targets with arguably the best all-around tight end in the 2010 draft in Rob Gronkowski and speedy Ohio WR Taylor Price in the third round. Gronkowski slipped due to questions about the health of his back, but he'll provide the team with a quality security blanket in the middle and, unlike most tight ends in today's NFL, is a physical blocker. The Patriots addressed their need for young linebackers with a pair of former Florida Gators in the second round -- Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham. Spikes' poor speed in workouts won't matter as an inside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 scheme. Cunningham might have a more difficult time adjusting. He'll be making the transition from defensive end to rush linebacker and has only marginal overall agility. A pair of SEC defensive linemen, Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston address the Patriots' concern for depth.
The Jets M.O. has been aggressively chasing the talent they want. They dealt up to land QB Mark Sanchez and RB Shonn Greene in the 2009 draft. They traded for veterans Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes in the offseason. But the Jets simply took the best available player in cornerback Kyle Wilson with the 29th overall selection of the first round. The Jets know that to get past Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs, they need to be athletic in the secondary. With the addition of the big-play specialist Wilson, the Jets should be even better against the pass. That's a scary thought, considering they led the league by a wide margin last year. Intriguing small-school talent Vladimir DuCasse could be pushed into immediate duty with the release of offensive guard Alan Faneca. RB Joe McKnight gives the team an explosive back who could take over Leon Washington's role. The Jets' surprising decision -- despite signing Jason Taylor -- to not add a young pass rusher might come back to haunt them later.
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The Ravens dropped out of the first round to allow Denver to pick Tim Tebow and in doing so, added second-, third- and fourth-round picks in a spectacularly deep draft. The Ravens lost valuable depth along the defensive line through free-agent defections, but added massive NT Terrence Cody (Alabama). Considering Todd Heap's durability is a constant question, the third-round selection of Oregon TE Ed Dickson could pay the more immediate dividends. The Ravens could also win big on their fifth-round gamble on versatile defensive lineman Arthur Jones (Syracuse).
The Bengals invested a third-round pick last April in tight end Chase Coffman but were disappointed with his inability to make an impact as a rookie. This year's first-round pick, TE Jermaine Gresham, gives the club a big-play threat down the seam that Carson Palmer can exploit when defenses attempt to load up to stop the Bengals' powerful running game. The Bengals were impressed enough with the toughness of former Texas' receiver Quan Cosby, an undrafted free agent, that they drafted a faster version of him in another former Longhorn, Jordan Shipley. Shipley isn't an elite athlete, but could develop quickly into a reliable slot receiver and returner for the Bengals. The Bengals gambled on athleticism with defensive end Carlos Dunlap and cornerback Brandon Ghee, two players with terrific upside, but only mediocre performances in the SEC. Of their third-day picks, Texas linebacker Rod Muckleroy and Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe fill needs.
Mike Holmgren is known for his ability to build an offense, but he started the draft working on improving the defensive side of the ball, securing the draft's best cornerback in Joe Haden (Florida) and following that with the hardest-hitting safety in the country in T.J. Ward. The pick that will get all of the attention -- quarterback Colt McCoy, who has enough arm strength, accuracy and intelligence to perform well in the West Coast offense. Running back Montario Hardesty (Tennessee) could emerge as the team's most impactful rookie on offense if he can duplicate his 2009 season and remain healthy. Shawn Lauvao (Arizona State) is a tough, versatile lineman who could become a valuable swingman in Cleveland. WR Carlton Mitchell (South Florida) and DE Clifton Geathers (South Carolina), who each left after their junior seasons, have the size and athleticism worthy of being development picks.
To compete against the physical defenses of the AFC North, the Steelers needed to repair their offensive line. The first step in becoming stout up from was drafting Florida's Maurkice Pouncey in the first round. The reigning Rimington Award winner as the nation's best center, Pouncey can step in as an immediate upgrade over Justin Hartwig or could slide outside to guard. OLB Jason Worilds has the burst as a pass rusher to play outside and some 3-4 teams viewed him as a potential inside 'backer. That versatility has to intrigue the Pittsburgh coaching staff. Speedy receiver and return specialist Emmanuel Sanders (SMU) gives the team a big-play threat. Of Pittsburgh's seven Day Three picks, pass rusher Thaddeus Gibson (Ohio State) is most likely to make an immediate impact.
Many forecasted that the Texans would take a cornerback in the first round to replace free-agent defection Dunta Robinson, but the team surprised by adding Alabama's Kareem Jackson over other highly touted prospects. Jackson is a good fit for Houston's scheme. He possesses similar physicality in coverage and against the run that made Robinson a franchise player. RB Ben Tate (Auburn) gives the club the big back they've been chasing. He possesses enough lateral agility and explosiveness to jump ahead of Steve Slaton as the team's primary ball carrier. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (Arizona) was brought in to push former first-round pick Amobi Okoye. The Texans might be worried about Owen Daniels' rehabilitation from a torn ACL, electing to invest in undersized tight ends -- and pass-catching specialists -- Garrett Graham and Dorin Dickerson after picking James Casey last year.
For all of the talk that the Colts might change their defensive style under Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis made a very Tony Dungy-like pick with TCU's undersized pass rusher Jerry Hughes with the second-to-last pick of the first round. Hughes has an explosive first step as a pass rusher, but at only 6-2 is considered a bit of a tweener. The tweener label hasn't seemed to hurt Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis' production. Instinctive middle linebacker Pat Angerer (Iowa) was a reach in the second round, but Polian's ability to plug in middle-round picks at linebacker is well documented. Cornerback Kevin Thomas (Southern Cal) gives the team some much-needed size outside. Polian's only picks on offense came in the middle rounds with reaches for offensive guard Jacques McClendon (Tennessee) and tight end Brody Eldridge (Oklahoma).
In terms of value, Tyson Alualu was a reach. The Cal defensive lineman likely would have been available at least 10-15 picks later. However, considering the number of first-round busts we've seen in recent years, spending a high pick on a versatile, blue-collar player that fits your scheme very well shouldn't be questioned. Alualu might never go to the Pro Bowl, but he'll earn a starting role immediately and won't give it up for a decade. The Jaguars made a similar reach to draft considerably less consistent D'Anthony Smith (Louisiana Tech) a round later. Austen Lane (Murray State) is a quality developmental prospect. Running back Deji Karim (Southern Illinois) might not have many opportunities with the similarly built Maurice Jones-Drew starring in front of him, but he could surprise if given an opportunity.
The Titans had to be pleased to see Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, rated by many as the best end in this class, still on the board at No. 16 after three other pass rushers had already been selected. Tennessee needed to boost its pass rush after the loss of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth in successive years. The pro-ready Morgan is an ideal fit. The Titans also got excellent value in the third round, adding Southern Cal WR Damian Williams, one of the draft's better route-runners, and ultra-productive linebacker Rennie Curran (Georgia) in the third. Curran, if two inches taller, might have been a first-round pick and addresses a key area of concern. The Titans took great advantage of their late-round picks, adding quality depth in the secondary with Alterraun Verner (UCLA) and Robert Johnson (Utah). Watch out for quarterback Rusty Smith (Florida Atlantic) and Montana wideout/returner Marc Mariani to at least make the practice squad.
The mystifying direction of the Denver Broncos under the guidance of head coach Josh McDaniels continues to baffle. The puzzling aspect about the Broncos' selections is that they didn't find players likely to make an immediate impact. Considering the many holes on the current team and the fact that the Broncos got very little out of two (Robert Ayers, Alphonso Smith) of their top three picks last year, finding players who could help this season was a must. That didn't happen with either of the Broncos' first-round picks, WR Demaryius Thomas and QB Tim Tebow. Both have starting NFL potential, with Thomas potentially becoming a star, but are considerable projects. To their credit, the Broncos were more conventional on the draft's second and third days, addressing concerns along the offensive line with tough-guys Zane Beadles (Utah) and J.D Walton (Baylor) and in the secondary with talented CB Perrish Cox (Oklahoma State) and underrated zone corner Syd'Quan Thompson (California). Walton is likely to be the team's starting center this season. The team might get more immediate dividends out of third-round receiver Eric Decker than they will their first-round picks.
|Picking former Tennesee safety Eric Berry helps the Chiefs earn a 'B-'. (Getty Images)|
The Raiders surprised many with their selection of Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain with the eighth pick because, quite simply, the perpetually irrational club made several stunningly logical additions. McClain has the bulk and speed the team is missing inside and will help to shore up a run defense that finished 30th in the NFL last season and has allowed more rushing touchdowns over the past seven years than any other team in the league. The team continued their reinforcements to the run defense with gutty defensive tackle Lamarr Houston in the second round. They filled one of their greatest needs with offensive tackle Jared Veldheer in the third round and workout warrior Bruce Campbell in the fourth. Campbell, along with fellow third day additions Jacoby Ford, Walter McFadden and Travis Goethel make Oakland's draft one of the league's best this year.
In typical A.J. Smith fashion, the Chargers were hunters in the draft. They traded up 16 spots to land their replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson with Fresno State's Ryan Mathews, who wore the number 21 at Fresno State in honor of the former Charger great. Mathews, who led the nation in rushing average with 150.67 yards per game last year, is an early Rookie of the Year candidate based on his fit in this offense. The Chargers made a surprising selection in the third round, taking inside linebacker Donald Butler (Washington), who is talented, but will be fighting an uphill battle considering San Diego's depth at inside linebacker. Fifth-round pick Cam Thomas, a nose tackle from North Carolina, will likely make more of an immediate impact.
Jerry Jones was known to be very high on Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, and as suspected he traded up to get him when the talented wideout began to slip. Bryant is the playmaker the Cowboys thought they were getting when they traded for Roy Williams, but in trading up to get a weapon for Tony Romo, the team may have lost its chance at getting a tackle who could protect their Pro Bowl quarterback. The Cowboys relied on aging free agents Zach Thomas and Keith Brooking at inside linebacker the past few years, but did add the steady Sean Lee in the second round. Of the Cowboys' third-day selections, small schoolers Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (cornerback) and Sean Lissemore (defensive tackle) have the athleticism worthy of developing.
No team believes in building through the defensive line like the New York Giants, and they reinforced this mantra with the selection of talented but raw defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round and massive defensive tackle Linval Joseph in the second. Pierre-Paul only started seven games at the D-I level, but has a tantalizing combination of size and explosiveness and can be developed slowly on a team that already features a strong rotation up front. Chad Jones in the third was another depth pick who won't crack the starting lineup as a rookie, but has legitimate upside. The Giants' one pick on offense came in the fifth round in strongman Mitch Petrus, a guard who led the combine with 44 repetitions of 225 pounds.
An indication of just how active the Philadelphia Eagles were on draft day is that of the 13 picks they made, only the 121st overall, outside linebacker Keenan Clayton, was an original Eagles selection. A year after spending great resources on improving the playmaking ability of their offense, the Eagles spent their first two days of the draft re-stocking their defense. First, they aggressively traded up to land defensive end Brandon Graham with the 13th overall pick and added another try-hard pass rusher in Daniel Te'o-Nesheim in the third. The team landed one of the draft's better cover safeties in Nate Allen in between. While the 6-2, 270-pound Graham is a proven pass rusher who led the country in tackles for loss and won the Senior Bowl Defensive MVP honors, his selection was a surprise for the Eagles, considering the team had previously traded for another undersized pass rusher in former Seattle Seahawk Daryl Tapp. The Eagles had 10 picks on Saturday, most prominently addressing the need for depth at quarterback (Mike Kafka), linebacker (Ricky Sapp, Jamar Chaney). For a team that some believe is as deep as any in the league, however, wouldn't packaging some of those lower round picks for top-tier talent have been a better use of them?
Though there was plenty of speculation that the Redskins might go in another direction, in the end the team took offensive tackle Trent Williams. Williams' athleticism makes him an ideal fit in Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme. Williams will need to play with a greater sense of urgency in the NFC East, however, where he'll be going up against the NFL's best division of pass rushers in an attempt to protect the newly arrived Donovan McNabb, who, of course, has to be considered one of the Redskins' "draft picks." That fact should be some consolation to Redskins fans, as the team won't likely get much from a ho-hum group of Day 3 selections.
With their picks already used in the trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and the late Gaines Adams, the Bears could only be spectators until the 75th pick, which they used on safety Major Wright. With only one interception from their safeties last year, finding a true center fielder was a primary concern. The Bears landed quality defensive line prospect Corey Wootton in the fourth round. While Wootton was a shadow of his former self in 2009 -- his first season after tearing his ACL in the bowl game his junior season -- he could reward the Bears for their gamble. Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour was quite the value selection in the sixth round, as well.
The Lions made the easiest selection in the draft when the best player in the country, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, fell into their lap. He'll provide an immediate difference up front for head coach Jim Schwartz, a man who knows the value of a dominating defensive tackle considering his background with Albert Haynesworth. The team filled a need at running back with Jahvid Best by trading back into the first round. Best offers an explosiveness that Detroit lacked with incumbent Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris. The club added an underrated cornerback in Amari Spievey in the third and offensive tackle Jason Fox in the fifth. Each could contribute immediately. The Lions finished with six picks, but no team did more with less.
The first round couldn't have worked out better for Ted Thompson and the Packers, as the team needed help up front and got one of the safer offensive tackles in the draft in Iowa's technically refined Bryan Bulaga to fall into their lap. Bulaga's short arms might have scared off some, but he'll provide immediate depth at all four exterior positions for the Packers and will eventually take over the starting role for either left tackle Chad Clifton or right tackle Mark Tauscher. The Packers continued the re-building of their defensive line into a true 3-4 unit with the addition of strongman Mike Neal in the second and added playmaking safety Morgan Burnett in the third. Versatile offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse was the highlight of an otherwise ho-hum third day of the draft.
Just as the Baltimore Ravens were able to take advantage of the aggressive Denver Broncos and gain several valuable picks in a trade down, Minnesota added picks in the second, fourth and seventh rounds by letting Detroit move up to take running back Jahvid Best with the 30th overall selection. They used the Lions' pick, the 34th overall, on cornerback Chris Cook, a player who fills a significant need for depth considering the injury to Cedric Griffin and age of Antoine Winfield. The more immediate impact will likely be made by running back Toby Gerhart, whose power and underrated lateral agility could make him an ideal short-yardage fill-in for star Adrian Peterson. Workout warrior Everson Griffen has a chance to wreak havoc on a team already blessed with great defensive line talent.
The Atlanta Falcons struck gold a few years ago with the selection of undersized linebacker Curtis Lofton in the second round. They went back to the Big 12 for another speedy playmaker with Sean Weatherspoon in the first. Expected to take over the weak-side position, Weatherspoon is an ideal in Atlanta's cover-two scheme, as is third-round pick Corey Peters, an underrated defensive tackle who several teams were targeting. Offensive guard Mike Johnson and center Joe Hawley provide solid depth. Cornerback Dominique Franks slipped to the fifth round, but has the length and straight-line speed to be effective in this scheme.
Having traded their first-round pick of the 2010 draft away last April for the right to take defensive end Everette Brown in the second round, the Panthers had to just sit and observe until the 48th pick, but were fortunate that Jimmy Clausen was still on the board. Clausen doesn't have elite physical traits, which is one of the reasons he slipped to where he did, but he is pro-ready and a good fit in offensive coordinator's Jeff Davidson's scheme, as Davidson had worked with Charlie Weis when both were with the New England Patriots. Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Panthers added help for him in physical possession receiver Brandon LaFell in the second and versatile threat Armanti Edwards in the third. While neither is sure to duplicate his success from college, the Panthers could win big with their gambles on SEC pass rushers Eric Norwood and Greg Hardy on the draft's third day.
Tracy Porter may have made the Super Bowl winning interception, but the Saints aren't about to limit the competition in their secondary. Patrick Robinson's footwork and speed rival any cornerback in this class, though some teams were concerned that he's not as interested in run support. Like Porter, who had similar knocks on him coming out of Indiana, Robinson's best assets are being used in New Orleans -- where opponents are often attempting to throw the ball to keep up with Drew Brees. The Saints added to Brees' offense on the second day, stopping Charles Brown's slide in the second round and adding an intriguing developmental tight end in Jimmy Graham. The Saints could get surprising help with each of their third-day selections. Defensive tackle Al Woods, in particular, offers size that the Saints have lacked up front. New Orleans clearly didn't rest on its laurels after winning the Super Bowl; this was one of the league's better all-around drafts.
The Bucs had an easy choice at No. 3 with Gerald McCoy, as he fits in nicely with their attacking scheme. The team wasn't through at the position, pairing McCoy with UCLA tackle-for-loss specialist Brian Price. Young quarterback Josh Freeman got big-play wideout Arrelious Benn in the second and Mike Williams in the fourth round. If both are able to harness their unique athleticism, the Bucs may be able to ignore this position for years. Versatile defensive back Myron Lewis, a third-rounder, and underrated seventh-rounder Cody Grimm fill needs in the secondary. This group isn't likely to earn the acclaim of other, flashier drafts, but this was an impressive haul for a young Tampa squad. Only the inconsistencies of Williams and Price drops the grade slightly.
With concerns about the development of recent picks Gabe Watson and Alan Branch, the Cardinals had to be pleased to see Tennessee's Dan Williams still on the board at No. 26. Williams was the most dominant defensive tackle in the SEC this past season, but some teams were nervous that he only elevated his game to this level as a senior. If the Cardinals can keep him motivated, they will have found a true steal in Williams. The Cardinals found value and excellent scheme fits in the second and third rounds, as well, with athletic linebacker Daryl Washington (who some have compared to free agent defection Karlos Dansby) and underrated small school receiver Andre Roberts. If the Cardinals were worried about the transition from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart (or Derek Anderson), they didn't show it on draft day. John Skelton is an intriguing developmental prospect, but he's a year or two - at least - from competing at this level.
The Rams were on the phones talking trade up until they made the pick, but in the end they filled the need for a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. The club has to be concerned with Bradford's inability to stay healthy in 2009, but there is no denying his talent. When protected, he's shown the accuracy of an All-Pro. The Rams got good depth along the offensive line and secondary in Day 2 picks Rodger Saffold and Jerome Murphy. Saffold, a collegiate tackle, likely steps in immediately at guard. The Rams found a Donnie Avery-clone in Mardy Gilyard and two Leonard Little-like pass rushers in Hall Davis and George Selvie on the draft's third day. Electing not to address the defensive tackle position was a surprise considering they traded starter Adam Carriker only days before the draft.
With an established star in Frank Gore, many casual fans might have thought the 49ers were among the best running teams in the league, but an inability to gain an inch on short-yardage plays made addressing the offensive line a huge concern for coach Mike Singletary. Trading up to No. 11 to get Anthony Davis might have been an unnecessary move, as he likely would have been available to the 49ers at their original No. 13 selection. He provides the 49ers with a quality athlete in tandem with current left tackle Joe Staley. Having athletic tackles will help in Mike Iupati's adjustment to the NFL's speedier pass rushers. Few, if any, prospects in this draft presented Iupati's power as a drive blocker. The 49ers may as well have had a third-round pick by getting Taylor Mays in the mid second. The intimidating presence over the middle fills a big area of need. Third-round pick Navarro Bowman, on the other hand, was an odd choice, given that he lacks the size most teams are looking for in a traditional edge rusher. Sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon could surprise as a goal-line back to spell Frank Gore. Sticking to their philosophy of controlling the line of scrimmage, the 49ers may have emerged as the NFC West favorite with this draft.
The Seahawks entered the draft with a built-in advantage, as they, along with the 49ers, were the only team to enter Thursday with two first-round picks. They didn't waste them, eliminating their biggest needs immediately with Russell Okung, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated offensive tackle, and ballhawk Earl Thomas only eight picks later. Notre Dame playmaking receiver and returner Golden Tate fell to them with the 60th pick. All three could start immediately. If possible, Seattle's draft got even better on the third day, however, as the team found a potential fourth future starter in cornerback Walter Thurmond, as well as one of the better all-around tight ends in the class in former USC standout Anthony McCoy. The team also addressed concerns at running back in trading for the explosive Leon Washington and powerful LenDale White. White will be reunited with former Trojans coach Pete Carroll and will be plenty motivated, as he's entering his contract year. In terms of immediate impact, as well as long-term potential, there wasn't a better draft in 2010 than Seattle's.
Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.