- It’s moves exactly like this that explain why the Steelers have consistently been one of the most competitive teams in the league for going on five decades. Jones will be a much younger, much cheaper replacement for James Harrison and this couldn’t be a more perfect fit. After Jones disappointed at his Pro Day workout I said that smart organizations were hoping others would overreact so he’d fall to them and that is exactly what happened. All Jones did was dominate elite SEC competition for the past two years but because he ran 15/100 of a second slower than anticipated in the forty yard dash people started jumping off the bandwagon. This is one of those cases where you have to trust the tape because the eye in the sky doesn’t lie. Jones may not be the greatest athlete in the world but he is a good football player. A decade ago Terrell Suggs slid in the draft for similar reasons and a lot of teams sure regret that decision now. Don’t be surprised if Jones ultimately winds up having a better pro career than the enigmatic Barkevious Mingo of L.S.U., who went eleven picks earlier to the Browns.
- While everyone else was talking about Matt Elam of Florida and Johnathan Cyprien of Florida International I’ve consistently had Reid as my second rated safety behind only Kenny Vaccaro of Texas. I just couldn’t understand why a well-rounded player with a nice mix of physical tools and intangibles from a big-time program known for producing a lot of pro talent wasn’t generating more buzz. Apparently at least one team saw what I did, with the Niners sending Dallas a third round pick to move up thirteen spots. Safety was one of the few glaring holes in San Francisco’s starting lineup after losing Dashon Goldson in free agency. With a bunch of extra picks to use as ammunition the 49ers were aggressive and did what was needed to make sure they addressed the problem. Reid will step right into the starting lineup and should make an already stout defense just that much better. There is a reason why San Francisco is one of the premier teams in the leagues and it’s shrewd Draft Day maneuvers such as this.
- My biggest regret with the final mock draft was being unable to find a spot in round one for Pugh. I was told well in advance that he would be a first rounder and could definitely see it, but I just couldn’t find an obvious landing spot. Even with the Giants he doesn’t appear to fit the mold of the bigger, physical blockers that they usually target. With that said Pugh absolutely possesses the type of top-notch intangibles that New York covets. In fact, there may not be a more intelligent, mature prospect in this entire draft. It will be interesting to see where the G-Men wind up playing Pugh as he is capable of seeing action at tackle, guard or perhaps even center. One way or another rest-assured they will find a spot for him and he’s going to help the team win a bunch of games. If you haven’t seen it yet check out the video of Pugh getting mauled by his friends and family after getting off the phone with Giants brass. It’s what Draft Day is all about!
- Whoa! Did not see this one coming. It’s been a meteoric rise for Long, who was only a starter for less than one full season with the Ducks. Once upon a time there was speculation that Long could be a top left tackle but a lack of ideal arm length dampened that enthusiasm. Even so there was plenty to be excited about with Long as a guard prospect, most notably an impressive blend of size and athleticism plus considerable upside. Those NFL bloodlines don’t look bad on the resume either. Long had some issues off the field a few years ago but the Bears obviously felt as though he has matured and put those youthful indiscretions behind him because GM Phil Emery is known to value character. Chicago has actually done a nice job of shoring up their leaky offensive line this offseason. Finally. If the Bears can just manage to keep Jay Cutler upright and healthy they should be a legitimate contender this season. Long will have to compete with the likes of Gabe Carimi, Matt Slausen and Eben Britton for a starting job but they clearly didn’t just select him in the first round to stand on the sidelines.
- For the past year I’ve been comparing Eifert to Jermaine Gresham so it’s ironic that they are now teammates. Cincinnati definitely has a type! This choice was a little perplexing though. In terms of value selecting Eifert was a great move because he could have very easily come off the board much earlier. I guess the Bengals are going to try and emulate what the Patriots do with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? A trio of A.J. Green, Gresham and Eifert is sure to induce a multitude of headaches for defenses in the redzone. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincy lined Eifert up out wide at times and essentially used him like a big receiver similar to the way Brian Kelly did in college. In many ways this was a luxury pick and the Bengals probably had more pressing concerns than tight end but Eifert was most likely just too good to pass up. I am sure excited to see what the Bengals youthful, high-powered passing attack has in store for us this Fall!
ATLANTA FALCONS (f/WAS/SEA): DESMOND TRUFANT, CB, WASHINGTON
- Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little) but I actually had the Falcons trading up for Trufant in my final mock draft. After parting ways with both Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson this offseason it was pretty apparent that they were targeting a cornerback and Trufant was absolutely the apple of their eye. Atlanta has a track record of being aggressive and trading up for guys they like in the draft too, whether it was Sam Baker, Julio Jones or now Trufant. Not only does Trufant have the prerequisite physical tools that you look for, not to mention pro bloodlines, but the thing that intrigues me most about this choice is the personality fit. Trufant is a feisty, aggressive, confident cover guy who will relish the opportunity to start for a contender. Trufant won’t be phased the challenge of matching up against elite wideouts in big games. The Falcons could have held their ground and still gotten a good cornerback like Jamar Taylor of Boise St. at the end of round one but you have to admire the way they identified a player they wanted then went and got him. That is what smart, successful organizations do.
- For my money this was the biggest shock of round one. I can’t imagine anyone anticipated Floyd falling this far. Most had him in the Top 3 overall to Oakland! I have never been quite as high on Floyd as most and couldn’t understand all the adulation and praise being heaped upon him by some members of the media. I had Floyd as the third defensive tackle in my rankings and was on the record as saying that I didn’t think he was as good of a pro prospect as Fletcher Cox, who went #12 overall a year ago. However, even though I was skeptical about Floyd as a Top 5 pick it’s nearly impossible to argue with the tremendous value he offers at this point. Kevin Williams is about to turn 33-years-old and only has one year left on his contract so Floyd will be groomed as the heir-apparent. North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams, who I had pegged for Minnesota in my final mock draft, would have been a nice fit as well but when Floyd unexpectedly fell into their laps this decision must have been a relatively easy one.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: BJOERN WERNER, OLB, FLORIDA ST.
- I felt Werner was getting a bad rap in recent months. It seemed as though all of the focus had turned to his former teammate Tank Carradine and Werner became somewhat of an afterthought. Werner might not be a great athlete or physical freak but there is a lot to like about “The Germinator”. It’s easy to forget that Werner has only been playing the game of football for five years after coming to the United States from Germany as an exchange student in high school. This guy was very productive for the Seminoles and his best football is still ahead of him. Many doubted Werner’s ability to play outside linebacker in an odd front but those same concerns were raised with Ryan Kerrigan, who is doing pretty darn well for the Redskins. Robert Mathis is still effective but at 32-years-old will start winding down sooner rather than later. Meanwhile the two guys who were slated to compete for the other starting spot, Erik Walden and Jerry Hughes, have averaged just 1.4 sacks combined over ten seasons. I’m not so sure a cornerback such as Xavier Rhodes of Florida St. wouldn’t have been a better move but Indy needed some additional front seven help so the decision is understandable.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (f/SEA): XAVIER RHODES, CB, FLORIDA ST.
- Many assumed the Vikings were targeting Manti Te’o of Notre Dame with this choice. After all, they needed a middle linebacker and have a clear affinity for Fighting Irish prospects. Something tells me they fully expected to go with Te’o but were surprised when Floyd, Rhodes or perhaps both were still available and just couldn’t pass. I felt Rhodes was being overrated by some due to his outstanding blend of size and speed but that was when he was being talked about as a potential Top 10-12 overall pick. It’s a different story late in the first round though and Minnesota was in the market for reinforcements at corner after parting ways with Antoine Winfield. Rhodes will most likely step right into the starting lineup, leaving a couple of other former early round picks in Chris Cook and Josh Robinson to battle for the other spot. The Vikings definitely have some talent at the position, now it’s the coaches job to get them to play up to their potential. If it were me I still would have gone with Te’o because there undoubtedly would have been good corners available in rounds two and three.
- It was no surprise to see the Packers go with size on defense after the way the 49ers ran up and down the field on Green Bay at will in the playoffs. Jones flew under the radar to a degree throughout much of the scouting process but people who really know football loved the guy. At just a shade under 6-4 and weighing in at 283 pounds, Jones is a versatile prospect who is capable of playing either defensive end or defensive tackle at the next level. While Jones is probably best-known for being stout against the run he is also an underrated playmaker behind the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by the 36.5 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks that he racked up during his college career. Ryan Pickett is heading into the last year of his contract and will be 34-years-old this Fall so reinforcements were needed up front. This wasn’t necessarily a sexy pick but Jones will be a great fit as a five-technique in the Packers odd front and should earn a starting job in short order. Many thought that Green Bay might go running back with this selection but GM Ted Thompson was smart enough to know that there would be good runners available later, which is why he's undeniably one of the absolute best in the business.
- As expected the Texans went with a wideout, which was clearly their most glaring concern since Andre Johnson is beginning to lose a step and the cupboard is otherwise relatively bare. There were plenty of rumblings that Hopkins was the apple of Houston’s eye, although I personally thought they might go with someone that offered a little more upside such as Cordarrelle Patterson or Justin Houston of Tennessee. Hopkins will be a nice fit too though and is probably better suited to step in and contribute immediately, which is an important factor since the Texans window to win a championship may be closing in just a few more years. Hopkins may not be as physically talented as Patterson or Hunter but is a more polished and well-rounded pass catcher at this point. In short, Houston went for a sure double rather than swinging for the fences. There is no reason why “Nuk” shouldn’t be able to step directly into the starting lineup and provide a consistent compliment to Johnson that the Texans had been searching for.
DENVER BRONCOS: SYLVESTER WILLIAMS, DT, NORTH CAROLINA
- There was little doubt that Denver was going defense with this choice and they could have legitimately opted for help at any of the three levels. The decision probably got a lot easier when Williams fell into their laps. In fact, had Florida DT Sharrif Floyd not fallen further than expected Williams may have been selected by the Vikings at #23. Even though the Broncos signed free agent Terrence Knighton this offseason reinforcements were still needed on the interior and “Sly” will undoubtedly offer a considerable upgrade over journeyman Kevin Vickerson. You can’t help but wonder if John Elway was at least tempted by Florida St. DE Cornellius Carradine though. Beyond Derek Wolfe there are basically a bunch of question marks at defensive end and “Tank” might have been a Top 10 overall pick if not for a knee injury suffered late in the year. Williams is an excellent, underrated player and was a good value at this point but Carradine may have offered more impact potential despite requiring some patience.
- The Vikes are already being singled out as one of the big winners of the 2013 NFL Draft. Then again it’s hard not to do well with three first round picks. Everyone fully anticipated the Vikings grabbing a wideout in the first round to help replace Percy Harvin but when Florida DT Sharrif Floyd unexpectedly fell into their laps those plans were likely altered. However, when Patterson continued to slide Minnesota just couldn’t resist moving back into the first round. Some feel the Vikings gave up to much in this deal but in reality second, third and fourth round picks was proper value to move all the way up from #52. When the trade was first announced it seemed as though Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o would be the target but Minnesota reportedly had Patterson graded as a Top 15 value on their board. Patterson will require some development and patience but has the potential to be one of the leagues most dynamic playmakers in time. This is also a terrific situation for Patterson because he won’t be counted on to be “The Guy” right away and can learn how to be a pro from veteran Greg Jennings. There is a high “Boom or Bust” factor with Patterson but the upside is seemingly unlimited.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (f/ATL): ALEC OGLETREE, OLB, GEORGIA
- In recent years the Rams haven’t seemed to place a high priority on the outside linebacker position but they finally saw fit to bring in an upgrade. This is the second year in the row where St. Louis took a chance on a Top 10 talent who fell due to character concerns. So far Janoris Jenkins looks like a steal but the Rams have to be careful because you can only have so many of those guys on the team without things turning sour. Just ask the Detroit Lions. At this point Ogletree was probably worth rolling the dice on though and he could be the first impact weakside ‘backer the organization has had in a very long time. An argument could have been made for a safety such as Matt Elam of Florida or Johnathan Cyprien of Florida International, both of whom came off the board shortly afterwards, or even a running back to replace Steven Jackson but there is no doubt Ogletree was the best player available. Now they have to keep Ogletree on the straight and narrow and maybe not let he and Jenkins go out on the town together.
- The Cowboys opted to move down after all the players they had been targeting at #18 (Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson, Texas S Kenny Vaccaro and Alabama OT D.J. Fluker) were already off the board. It is kind of odd that they passed on Florida DT Sharrif Floyd though, who would have addressed the need for a difference-maker in the middle of their new 4-3 scheme. Dallas has been criticized for this choice but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some have made it out to be. Frederick was the top rated center in this class by most and there had been rumblings that he could sneak into the latter part of round one for months. In fact, most felt Frederick was a better prospect than his former teammate Peter Konz, who was a second rounder a year ago and started for the Falcons as a rookie. Teams know exactly what they are getting with Badger offensive linemen and Frederick certainly fits that blue-collar mold. Frederick is limited athletically but is is a big, tough, powerful blocker with a nasty temperament and the type of blocker Dallas looks for on the interior. So just to recap, the Cowboys chose a player in the proper range who addresses a need and profiles as a ten-year stalwart. Perhaps I'm missing something but what’s not to like aisde from the sexiness factor?
- GM Ozzie Newsome had his work cut out for him this year after losing six starters on the defensive side of the ball of his Super Bowl winning squad. From a glass half-full perspective having that many needs does give a team options in the draft and the Ravens were essentially free to simply tab the best defender available. Baltimore already signed Michael Huff to replace Ed Reed at free safety, or at least try, but they were still in the market for a strong safety to take over for Bernard Pollard. Elam is a Donte Whitner clone who is at his best in the box but also fast and rangy enough to hold his own in coverage. Elam is a player with top football intangibles who a lot of smart talent evaluators were fans of and the stamp of approval from Newsome certainly carries a lot of weight. Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o would have made sense as well and seemed like the perfect heir to Ray Lewis both on as well as off the field. However, the Ravens were able to steal Arthur Brown of Kansas St. in round two so the decision to go safety with this choice and wait on a linebacker now looks even better in hindsight.
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