Saturday, April 30, 2011

NFL Draft: Rounds 1-3 Recap

With Rounds 4-7 of the NFL Draft just underway, let's take a look at the past three rounds. With the NFL Lockout imposed, then lifed, then re-imposed the first three rounds were, to sum it up politely, chaotic. Teams traded up and down, up and down, and quarterbacks were plucked at lightning speed.

So, in all of this mess, who made the best picks and who didn't? Hit the jump to find out.

Five Worst Picks

5) TE Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame)
Minnesota Vikings: Round 2, Pick 11
Rudolph has talent, otherwise he wouldn't have been picked this high. But the Vikings have a lot of positions to fix at this point (DT, CB, DE, OL). Visanthe Shiancoe is the entrenched starter and will prove to be Christian Ponder's best friend as he learns the game. With a top tight end like Shiancoe who will be the primary checkdown for the young QB it would have made more sense to find a player who fills a need. But in today's NFL the more weapons you have, the better.

4) WR Jonathan Baldwin (Pitt)
Kansas City Chiefs: Round 1, Pick 26
I understand the Chiefs passing game was modest, at best. But they didn't need to throw for 300 yards every game last year. GM Scott Pioli had a gaping hole at defensive tackle and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson was still on the board. Wilkerson is projected to be a 3-4 lineman, and went to the Jets a few picks later where he could easily become a force. Instead, they add another weapon for Matt Cassell, but it could easily explode in their face. Baldwin has a history of character issues, and on a team with Dwayne Bowe (who isn't a gentleman himself) things could get interesting.

3) QB Christian Ponder (Florida St.)
Minnesota Vikings: Round 1, Pick 12
This pick was a reach, plain and simple. I understand that Ponder was their guy, and he's arguably the most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft, but he would have been available later. The Vikings could have done themselves a lot of good by dropping back a few picks (if they really felt uncomfortable about when Ponder would be taken) and get a few more picks on top of that. Ponder can definitely play, and he could easily be their franchise signal caller, but they wasted a pick here.

2) WR Julio Jones (Alabama)
Atlanta Falcons: Round 1, Pick 6
Jones is a baller, and the Falcons have been talking for a while about getting Roddy White a complement. Jones also gets the rare luxury of going to a Super Bowl ready team, something most top-10 picks don't get to enjoy. But for what they gave up for this pick (2 first rounders, a second rounder and two fourths) the Falcons get a bad grade. This will probably work out just fine, but regardless of how good your team is, that's a lot of picks to give up.

1) QB Cam Newton (Auburn)
Carolina Panthers: Round 1, Pick 1
I don't trust him. Simple as that. He is the ultimate high risk, high reward pick, more so than JaMarcus Russell a few years ago. But here's why he's more risk. The best quarterbacks, more often than not, had to deal with adversity on the field. They didn't have elite receivers to throw to. They didn't have an offensive line that could protect them all day long. They had to fight to win games, gut it out. Case in point, Matt Leinart of USC. The guy had Reggie Bush an an o-line to die for. When he came into the NFL he was the next Joe Montana. Five years later he's Matt Schaub's back-up. Newton is following the same path.

Five Best Picks

5) QB Blaine Gabbert (Missouri)
Jacksonville Jaguars: Round 1, Pick 10
This pick makes sense in so many ways. The Jaguars need more pieces if they have any shot at overtaking Peyton Manning and the Colts. But they may have just set themselves up to beat the Colts when Manning finally retires. Gabbert gets the perfect opportunity to learn under an established veteran for a few years with absolutely no pressure. This is how the great QBs a generation ago were born.

4) DE Cameron Jordan (Cal)
New Orleans Saints: Round 1, Pick 20
This is more of a product of luck and teams ahead of them reaching for needs, but regardless, the Saints got possibly the best situation they could ask for. Jordan fell gracefully into their lap and can instantly step in and harrass opposing quarterbacks for the next decade. Drew Brees should be thanking his lucky stars that he only has to face this kid in practice.

3) QB Andy Dalton (TCU)
Cincinnati Bengals: Round 2, Pick 3
The Bengals were one of the few teams with a huge quarterback need to be patient. They knew someone would be there in the second round, and sure enough, Dalton was. Dalton is being compared to Drew Brees (short, but gutsy and will play to the very end) and I'm pretty sure the last I checked that's a darn good comparison to have. However, the only way this works to perfection is if the Bengals find a vet (Donovan McNabb?) to tutor Dalton for a few years. He needs a little seasoning, but could turn out to be a great passer.

2) DE Da'Quan Bowers (Clemson)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Round 2, Pick 19
Bowers had one of the most sympathetic falls in draft history. A top-5 talent, injury concerns sent Bowers from elite talent to second-round question mark. But the Buccos couldn't have asked for a better situation. They need a pash rusher to rebuild a defense that once had the likes of Warren Sapp. Bowers could very easily play with a huge chip on his shoulder and terrorize all those teams that passed him up. He has the motor to be a tremendous force if he stays healthy and that's just what Tampa Bay expects.

1) QB Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)
New England Patriots: Round 3, Pick 10
What a surprise. The Patriots have yet another solid pick. But this pick is flat out perfect. One of two things will happen out of this. Option One: Malett learns for three years as Brady's successor. Brady shows enough decline that the Patriots let him walk (they don't show favoritism to any player, regardless of how much they did). Malett steps in and becomes the next Aaron Rodgers. Option Two: Malett learns for three years as Brady's successor. Brady still has the savvy to be a top-5 QB even in his later 30s so the Patriots stick with him. Malett matures enough to be a starter and teams engage in a bidding war to trade for his services. The Patriots get a few more picks and draft another quarterback of the future. Win-win situation for both parties.

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