It was a first round of the NFL Draft on Saturday that opened with Eli Manning getting booed by the New York crowd and ended with the New England Patriots drafting an athletic tight end in a bit of a reach.
In between there were several happenings of note. Among them:
- The University of Miami continues to be a college football factory. With six players going in the first round this year, following five last year, Miami continues to be an NFL player factory. No wonder why they're always good.
- So much for this move toward the running game. Teams obviously want weapons outside, and seven receivers went in the first round, including five in the first 15 picks. That was somewhat expected considering it was such a strong position. The first running back selected was Oregon State's Steven Jackson at No. 24 by the Rams.
- The teams at the back end of the first round were more than willing to move out and get picks. The Cowboys, Titans and Chiefs all moved out of the first round to pick up extra picks.
- Pocket quarterbacks are in again as four of them went in the first round.
|The Chargers get the QB they coveted, Philip Rivers, and a haul of draft picks from the Giants.(AP)|
That left Manning happy since he didn't want to play for the Chargers and it left the Chargers happy because they got the quarterback they wanted and picked up a bounty of picks.
With the first round complete, and it being the marquee round of the draft even though the second, third and fourth rounds are vital to the success of any team, it's time for a knee-jerk reaction grade for all 32 picks.
We say knee-jerk so that any owner, front-office exec or fan who doesn't like the grade should remember it was made as the draft rolled along. So relax, and exhale before letting the anger flow.
These grades aren't meant to offend, even if it sometimes seems that way.
For all the garbage they took in the weeks leading up to the draft, they had a great draft day to silence the critics. They got the quarterback they wanted in Philip Rivers and extra picks (including a first-round pick next year) by trading with the Giants. General manager A.J. Smith deserves kudos for the way this all played out. Rivers will be a great quarterback. Yes, great.
They listened to trade offers, considered taking receiver Roy Williams, but settled on tackle Robert Galley. He is a clean, can't-miss player at a premium position. This is a good pick, a player who will start 10-plus seasons at left tackle.
The Giants ended up with the quarterback they wanted in Eli Manning, thanks to the trade with the Chargers. But did they give up too much? You bet. Manning will be a great player, but they should never have included their first-round pick next year in any deal. Giants fans will be happy, but come next year when they don't have a first-round pick they might regret this.
The Redskins sat there with a choice of two Miami players, tight end Kellen Winslow and safety Sean Taylor. They ended up with Taylor, who will be an impact player. But Winslow would have really made that offense deadly. Taylor is needed, and is going to be a great player. One has to wonder if Winslow's choice of agents -- the Poston brothers -- had an impact on this decision.
The Browns wanted Gallery, but when they couldn't get up to get him, they made a move to get another impact player in Winslow. They moved up one spot to get a premier tight end, the best overall player in this draft, and that should be music to Jeff Garcia's ears. But giving up a second-round pick is a high price to move up one spot. He's a great player, but too expensive.
The Falcons sat in the eighth spot hoping like heck corner DeAngelo Hall would be there. When he was, they were thrilled. They get a player who has great cover skills and can team with Jason Webster to form a solid corner duo. Hall was a fast riser in this draft in part because of his blazing speed.
They tried to get up to get Winslow or Roy Williams, but ended up staying put and taking Reggie Williams. Some will say this is a reach, and perhaps it is a bit. They considered moving down, but were scared somebody would go up and get Williams. The Jaguars had Williams ranked just below Roy Williams and Larry Fitzgerald. They need deep speed, and Williams gives them that. Byron Leftwich is happy.
They tried to move up to get Taylor, but when they couldn't, they opted for a cover corner with outstanding speed in Dunta Robinson. That will allow them to move Marcus Coleman from corner to free safety, which gives them an upgrade at two positions. There were a lot of teams interested in Robinson, clearly the second-rated corner on most boards.
They wanted Rivers, Hall or Robinson, but they end up with a franchise passer in Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers clearly are not happy with Tommy Maddox and now they have a legitimate prototype passer. It might take the rookie a year or so, but that will be fine with the Steelers as they play 2004 with Maddox.
This is a team that wanted one of the top corners, but when they went off the board, they took middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma out of Miami. He is a perfect player for what the Jets want from their middle linebacker. Although small at 230, he is instinctive and reacts well to the football. He can also play the pass. We love this guy.
This was the first major shocker of the day. Buffalo does need deep speed, but taking Wisconsin receiver Lee Evans at 13 might be a bit high. He had major reconstructive knee surgery two years ago, which scared some teams. That means the Bills have now taken a player the past two years with a major knee problem, taking running back Willis McGahee last year. This is a boom or bust pick, but it does fill a major need.
The Bears badly needed help in the interior of their defensive line and Oklahoma's Tommie Harris fits. He is a smaller tackle, but that's perfect for the way the Bears play defense under new coach Lovie Smith. Harris will be an immediate starter and should be effective in this scheme.
There was some talk the Bucs might go for a running back, but the late word coming the past couple of weeks was Jon Gruden wanted a receiver, and he got one in Michael Clayton from LSU. This is a big-time player who could be better than some of those receivers taken ahead of him. Clayton joins Keenan McCardell and Joey Galloway, giving the Bucs a quality group.
Philadelphia Eagles (from San Francisco)
This is the strangest pick of the day. The Eagles traded up to get an offensive tackle in Shawn Andrews of Arkansas. He is a good player, but they have Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan at their tackle spots. Andy Reid mentioned Andrews playing guard, which makes this an even stranger pick. Trading up for a guard? Worst pick of the day. Not because of the player, but because of the team getting him and the way it did.
The conventional thinking was the Broncos would take a running back in this spot, but they needed defensive help more. Getting Miami outside linebacker D.J. Williams will help ease the potential loss of Ian Gold and the uncertain status of John Mobley coming back from injury. Williams is a speed player who will be able to put that on display in Larry Coyer's scheme. We would have taken Kevin Jones, but this makes sense.
This team wanted one of the top two corners, but with both of those guys long gone and Williams and Vilma also off the board, the Saints take Ohio State defensive end Will Smith. He will join Darren Howard and Charles Grant in giving the Saints a heck of a three-man rotation. If coverage is a concern, make sure you get to the passer. This should also put pressure on Grant to show a better commitment to the game.
Miami Dolphins (from Minnesota)
The Dolphins had to get a right guard or right tackle and they got a player in University of Miami lineman Vernon Carey who can do both. They had Carey rated higher on their draft board than Andrews, so this is a good pick. They did have to move up one spot to get him because of a fear Minnesota would take him, but at least now they have a potential starting right tackle. John St. Clair wasn't the answer.
This is a team that needed pass-rush help, and got it with Southern California defensive end Kenechi Udeze. There were a handful of teams that took Udeze off their board because of shoulder injury concerns, which had him fall. At this spot, it's a good pick for the Vikings. They need the outside pressure in the worst way.
Grade: I (based on shoulder concerns). A (if he's healthy).
The rich keep getting richer and richer. Getting Miami defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in this spot is a major steal for the Patriots. He is a dominant player who fits perfectly in what they want to do. He will take over for Ted Washington inside and become a force. This is a charmed team, and good things keep happening for it. Maybe, just maybe, luck comes from hard work.
Buffalo Bills (from Dallas)
The Bills have quarterback issues with Drew Bledsoe's contract situation being a problem, and age also a factor, so they traded up with Dallas to get Tulane's J.P. Losman. He is a big-armed player who played in a wide-open offense, but he is raw. It will take time for him to be an effective player. Giving up a first-round pick in next year's draft to get him is a risky move. It could be a huge payoff, but it also could be a bust. But remember, the Bills might have used a first-round pick on a passer next year, so they just moved up the process a year.
The Seahawks needed help inside, and they got it by taking Texas defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs. He is a powerful inside force at 325 pounds who will be an immediate starter for a Seattle defense that was hurt against the run. This is a player who might get better on the next level.
St. Louis Rams (from Cincinnati)
The Rams obviously think Marshall Faulk is coming to the end of his career. Getting a back of the caliber of Steven Jackson this far down in the first round is a steal. They had to trade up two spots to get him, but he is perfect for what the Rams want to do with their backs, his ability to catch passes making him an effective weapon in that part of the offense.
The Packers have some uncertainty at the corner position with Mike McKenzie wanting out, so Ahmad Carroll gives them a nice security blanket here in case McKenzie gets traded or holds out. Carroll is solid cover player who ran well at the combine. This pick makes sense.`
Cincinnati Bengals (from St. Louis)
They traded down and got a back in Chris Perry from Michigan. They need a backup to Rudi Johnson, but why not Kevin Jones? He is the better home-run threat, while Perry is the more workmanlike of the two. Perry will be a solid player, but not a great one. This is a so-so pick for the Bengals.
Houston Texans (from Tennessee)
The Texans are in need of a pass rusher from the outside in their 3-4 scheme, so they moved up to take Jason Babin from Western Michigan. He is perfect for their scheme, a guy who can attack the passer. The question will be how well he can adjust to the coverage aspect of playing linebacker. Don't know about giving up what they did to move up is worth getting Babin. It seems like way too much.
Carolina Panthers (from Philadelphia through San Francisco)
The Panthers were in desperate need of a corner with the loss of Reggie Howard to the Dolphins. In getting Chris Gamble from Ohio State, the Panthers are getting a player that has tons of upside. Gamble is raw, but he has outstanding skills. Some say it will take time for him to play. Here's betting he's an opening-day starter.
Atlanta Falcons (from Indianapolis)
The Falcons wanted to add a deep threat to go with Peerless Price and they opted for Ohio State's Michael Jenkins. He is a player who has risen lately on most boards because he ran better than expected. The Falcons now have a dynamic pair of outside receivers for Michael Vick. This was a good move.
Detroit Lions (from Kansas City)
The Lions desperately needed a back, and after passing on one earlier in the round, they made a bold move to go up and get Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones, the top back on our board. We love this move by the Lions, especially after they added Roy Williams earlier in the round. Joey Harrington has to be one happy quarterback.
San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina)
The 49ers wanted to come out of this draft with a receiver and they did so by moving down and getting Rashaun Woods late in the first round. Woods is a big-time player who should step in and be an immediate starter. We like the move down by the 49ers to get extra picks and still get this player. Good work.
The Patriots don't really need a tight end with Daniel Graham on the roster, but they decided to take Ben Watson of Georgia, which some might think is a reach. Watson is a great athlete but there are some teams who don't think he's tough enough to be a first-round pick. New England will obviously use him a lot in their two tight-end sets, but Ben Troupe might have been a better choice.