The NFL draft for many of us like Christmas morning for children. The anticipation builds up as your team is picking soon, kind of like that present over by the tree that has your name on it… but there’s still a few in front of it. And then finally, it comes. You’re either elated when your team picks that stud or disappointed when the present is undersized sweatsocks from grandma.
Shaun and I have a different perspective on football. He’s a Patriots fan, so he expects playoff football every Winter, and not to have a consistently good draft position. Not that it matters particularly in New England, they consistently draft good value there. No better example is Tom Brady in the sixth round, ten years ago.
I’m a Rams fan, so I have gotten used to perpetual sucking, despite a brief three year period of reprieve during the Kurt Warner best show on turf era. I’ve also gotten used to perpetual awful drafting by a front office whose collective IQ wouldn’t scare a new mother looking at her new baby’s thermometer. Until, of course, last year. Billy Devaney is the new front office boss, Sam Bradford is in town, and things are looking up.
So it only makes sense for me to rant as our two teams are the ones who clearly had the worst drafts. I’ll start with Shaun’s team, as they didn’t do quite as horribly as mine.
Patriots: Nate Solder in the first round was eye-opening. At 6 foot 9, his size no doubt had scouts drooling at a bookend tackle for years to come… except that he’s not strong and lacks technique. He may be a good offensive lineman one day, but for now he’s a project, something the Pats could ill afford to take on as they try to milk as many remaining good years out of Tom Brady’s increasingly rickety body as they can. They also inexplicably picked Ryan Mallett. I actually think he’s pretty good, but they don’t need an heir apparent or someone to motivate Brady. If they figured he was the best player available there, and he might have been, why not trade the pick and get more picks? I don’t see Shane Vereen or Stevan Ridley adding anything to the running game that isn’t already there. And Marcus Cannon, who is a nice player, is currently undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. Not saying he shouldn’t have been drafted by someone, but not a team who needs more immediate solutions to impending line issues. They did little to address a poor pass rush, something in the AFC East you can’t get away with for long, until the end rounds. Never heard of either of these guys and they might turn out to be good, but for now, the whole thing just looks dubious to me. The NFL works cyclically when it comes to runs of success or futility (unless you’re the Lions and even they are showing signs of improvement) and the Pats are sneaking up on the end of theirs. Because they’re well coached, cheat shamelessly, and the players are committed to the system (evidenced by continual overachieving from guys like BenJarvus Green Ellis and Danny Woodhead), it won’t be as obvious when their success comes to an end because it won’t happen rapidly, but after this draft, that’s the direction they’re headed.
Rams: I haven’t done the research, but I would venture to guess that never in NFL history has a team ended up with zero measurable contributors to success of any kind out of a draft class. Until possibly now. The three most glaring needs on this team were secondary, outside linebacker, and a viable backup to Steve Jackson who may assume the full time role in a couple of years. Bet you thought I was going to say receiver, right? More on that later. First round pick Robert Quinn has some ability but has a (currently benign) brain tumor and missed a year for NCAA misconduct. Do you really need to take a guy with two glaring red flags to address a pass rush when the one you had wasn’t bad to begin with, and Prince Amakamura was still on the board to address a dreadful secondary? Neither Boise State’s Austin Pettis nor Hawaii’s Greg Salas even resemble upgrades over what they already have (Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, et al) and what can easily be retained (Donny Avery, Mark Clayton) Both Pettis and Salas were passable college players but had numbers seriously inflated by their schools’ ridiculously aggressive offensive schemes. If either or both make the team, it will only be because they were drafted. They aren’t good. The ONLY redeemable pick is Stephen F. Austin linebacker Jabara Williams in the 7th round, who may be another London Fletcher one day. Worst case scenario, Quinn’s medical issues worsen and he never sees the field, all the aforementioned players are as bad as I think and they never see the field (special teams aside) and Williams isn’t as good as I think he may be. On the bright side, the third string tight end they used their second round pick on is named Lance. I’ve always thought that was a cool name.
Grade: F I would put it lower but all my research and three bud lights later, I haven’t found a letter grading system that goes lower than F.
Not everyone can draft horribly, right? They didn’t. Two teams stood out to me. And it’s basically because they drafted to fill needs with good players. I don’t buy the “best player available” philosophy because, if Atlanta for example went that direction, they may have taken Blaine Gabbert so he could rot behind Matt Ryan. Nobody, in my opinion, made out better than these next two teams:
Houston Texans: They used their first five picks to address a cataclysmic defense that has been their constant undoing. J.J Watt will start immediately on the defensive line opposite Mario Williams, giving them an immediately improved pass rush that will mask other deficiencies that still exist. Arizona OLB Brooks Reed was the perfect in the second round, and all three defensive backs that followed in the ensuing rounds project to be viable NFL contributors. Admittedly, I know little if anything about their end round picks but who cares? If your first five pan out the way your hoped, nobody is going to care what happened with the last three.
San Francisco 49rs: Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick were two of the best players in the draft. It appears the organization is finally ready to admit they screwed the pooch with Alex Smith and Kaepernick is in my opinion the quarterback who will have the most success out of this whole draft. I just don’t see Cam Newton and his gigantic ego succeeding, and I think Kaepernick will be better than Gabbert. And they nabbed him in the SECOND ROUND! Kendall Hunter was also a great pick to offset Frank Gore’s punishing running style with a little lightning quickness. Again, don’t know too many of the late round guys, but when the talking heads who are instructed to come up with flaws about guys and talk about things like, “doesn’t have the makings of a superstar,” who in the 5th round does? At that point, you want to fill needs. Quarterback was the only glaring hole which they filled, and they got help at practically all other spots. It kills me a little inside to say this because the niners are my hated rival but they had the second best draft this year.
Grade: A minus
Moving on, what the hell is going on in Atlanta? Bobby Cox retires and all of a sudden it’s idiot season? Within a week, Derek Lowe gets busted for DUI, probably the stupidest thing for any athlete to do because they can ALL AFFORD CABS, and pitching coach Roger McDowell threatens a fan? WTF!?