After covering the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday, it’s time to take a look at what happened over the weekend in Round’s 2-7.
Now if you’ve never read me before, understand that I’m no draft expert. I have no qualifications to evaluate these teams and picks beyond, “I watch way too much college football, and have an opinion on everyone," to the point that when the Bears took Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle in the fifth round Saturday, I cringed and muttered to myself, “Eww, what do they want that guy for.” I’m guessing I may be the only person outside Idaho or the Enderle family that actually gave that pick more than a second of thought.
Either way, despite my limited qualifications, that would never stop me from writing another mini-manifesto on this weekend’s draft picks.
Here are some picks that I liked, some that I didn’t, and much more…
Best Draft: St. Louis Rams
Ok, so maybe Mel Kiper only graded St. Louis out at a “B.” And maybe Todd McShay questioned a handful of their picks. But honestly, what do those guys know anyway?
Starting from the top, as a reader named Arjun C. pointed out to me after Thursday’s first round, if there’s one thing we’ve learned through the years, it's that the way you win in the NFL is with great quarterback play, great protection, and a great pass rush. Well, after addressing those first two things in the last two drafts, St. Louis definitely addressed No. 3 by taking Robert Quinn in this year’s first round. Had he not been suspended this past season, Quinn may have been the No. 1 pick overall. Checkmate St. Louis.
As for the rest of the Rams draft, McShay and a handful of others questioned St. Louis taking receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas with back-to-back picks in Round’s 3 and 4, to which I would normally agree...if this were 1946 and everyone ran the Wing-T. The problem is they don’t. Nope, Sam Bradford throws the ball a lot; his 590 attempts were third in the league last year behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. And as we learned from the Colts this past season, you can never have too many receivers when you throw the football that much. If you don’t believe me, just ask Austin Collie’s neurologist.
Most importantly, don’t get caught up by St. Louis taking two receivers back-to-back, without understanding who those receivers are. For the record, I love, love, love Austin Pettis. I watched a ton of Boise games over his career, and have a self-admitted man-crush on the guy (Is it weird I sent him flowers last Valentine’s Day? Kidding). Pettis isn’t super-fast, but is a strong receiver who always seems to get open when you need him to, and catches everything thrown in his direction. I'd bet my last dollar (if I had one), that Pettis has a long and successful pro career.
As for Salas, well, he was second in college football with 119 catches last year, and first with 1,889 yards. Granted Hawaii’s system was pretty gimmicky, but ultimately who cares. If you put up stats like that, you can play.
Worst Draft: Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars
Picking between these two is like picking between the two prettiest girls at the bar…only the exact opposite. Both had crappy drafts, for two completely different reasons.
Starting with Miami, they drafted Mike Pouncey, which would be fine if they took him to play guard. Only they drafted him as a center, which could be troublesome since… HE CAN’T SNAP THE BALL!!!! I’ve gotta say, this was some brilliant scouting on Miami’s part. Hopefully next year they can follow up by drafting a quarterback who throws like a girl, or a running back with a peg leg. Excellent work.
(And to all the Mike Pouncey supporters just stop it. Stop it. I watched those Florida games and the guy cannot snap the football. He can't. At this point it isn't just physical, it’s psychological, like when a relief pitcher all of a sudden loses the ability to throw strikes. Sad but true.)
As for the rest of the Dolphins draft, the only other recognizable name is Daniel Thomas, a very skilled back, who also happens to have more miles on him than a ’97 Ford Focus. Believe me, I watched a lot of Kansas State this year (why, I don’t know), and to say that Thomas was a “big part of their offense,” would be an understatement. He was their offense. The poor guy had just under 550 carries combined in the last two years, which probably doesn't bode well to him having a long career.
Moving over to Jacksonville, they only had five picks, which, at least thankfully, afforded them less opportunity to screw up. Sadly though, here’s how they used four of those picks: On a guard from Lehigh, a wide receiver from Mount Union, a safety from Wyoming, and some guy named Rod Issac, who sounds like someone that’ll end up walking around the locker room in tight velour bell bottoms and an oversized afro. Sadly, he doesn’t sound like he’ll be much of a contributor on the field.
Oh, and of course we can’t forget Blaine Gabbert at No. 10 overall, a player whose own fans in college didn’t even like that much. It’s always fun when a team spends a Top 10 pick on a quarterback simply because they need one, rather than evaluating whether he can actually be a star or not. As far as I can tell, Gabbert’s ceiling is “an adequate starter,” while his basement is “Will be selling instructional videos out of the trunk of his car in five years.” Not a good sign if you're a Jacksonville fan.
Most Underrated Draft: Buffalo Bills
After last year’s unimpressive C.J. Spiller pick (Don’t get me wrong, I love Spiller. But is his skill-set really best suited for Buffalo??), it’s good to see the Bills get back to the basics here. Essentially, to win in Buffalo it’s got to start on defense, and the first four picks all addressed that.
Obviously, I already wrote about Marcell Dareus the other day, so I won’t get too much into it here. Just know the guy is a freak. Nick Fairley may be the better athlete of the two, but Dareus is more Ndamukong Suh-ish in his body type, strength and sheer size. Unless he suffers some catastrophic injury, I just cannot see Dareus being a bust. Some people (McShay included) had him as the No. 1 player overall on their draft board.
After that though, Buffalo didn’t try to hit any home runs, and instead hit a whole of doubles in the gap. They got a first round talent in the second round with Aaron Williams, and followed it up with one of my favorite selections, LSU’s Kelvin Sheppard. If you’ve never seen Sheppard play, just know that he’s one of those cerebral guys who might not make a ton of huge, standout plays. Yet look at the box score at the end of the game, and he’s always one of the leading tacklers. Finally, Da’Norris Searcy from North Carolina is a lot like Williams; someone who easily could’ve gone a round or two higher than he did.
Best Value Pick: Ryan Mallett, Patriots
For starters, anyone who read my Friday column knows that the real “best value pick,” is Nick Fairley to Detroit. Unfortunately, I got so over-excited about that pick that the Lions have threatened to issue a restraining order against me if I ever mention it again. So instead, let’s look at Mallett and the Pats.
Let me start by going on the record and saying that as much as loathe Bill Belichick (and I do), nobody is better on draft day than this guy. Last year he killed it with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and the year before he got Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman in the later rounds too. The guy knows what he's doing.
Well old Billy Boy was at it again this weekend, when he straight hijacked Mallett with the 74th overall pick.
For those of you who don’t watch much college football, understand that while Cam Newton was the most complete quarterback in the game last season, nobody had a better arm than Mallett. The guy can sling the rock, is accurate, and reads defenses well. Plus, for all the talk about Newton, Gabbert and others having to adjust to a pro-style offense, Mallett played in one for the last three years under a former NFL head coach in Bobby Petrino. Simply put, his learning curve will be much less drastic than either Newton or Gabbert’s. There’s a reason that a lot of people projected him as a first rounder all season.
As for all the off the field crap, well, that’s exactly what it is…crap. From everything I can find, Mallett is a guy who has never been arrested for anything other than public intoxication, and that was three years ago. For all the rumors about the illegal drug use, I have yet to see anything that tells me he’s ever been found in possession of, under the influence of or attempting to sell them. They’re all just rumors, no different than if I went out tomorrow and told everyone I was dating one of the Kardashian sisters. Don’t get me wrong, that’d be a fun rumor to start. But it wouldn’t mean there’d be any validity to it.
Finally, let’s remember that unlike every other quarterback taken in the first few rounds, Mallett comes to New England with absolutely no pressure on him. Ever heard of that Tom Brady guy the Patriots have been trotting out under center for a few years now? The guy with the goofy hair and all those Super Bowl rings? Well, he isn’t going anywhere for awhile, which should afford Mallett plenty of time to get comfortable and confident in New England.
Mallett to the Patriots was the steal of the draft.
Most Indefensible Pick: Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Again, I’m not ashamed to admit that I watch a lot of college football. And I’ve got to be honest 49ers fans, of all the times I saw Kaepernick, not once did I watch him and thought to myself, “Now THAT is an NFL Draft pick.” Quite frankly if you’d given me even odds in January on whether he would be selected in this draft at all, I’d have probably said no.
So with that as our context, how the hell can San Francisco justify taking him in the second round? Understand that Kaepernick isn’t a physical freak like Cam Newton, wasn’t under the tutelage of a pro coach like Mallett and wasn’t incredibly efficient like Andy Dalton. This was a guy who played in a gimmicky run-first offense, has a quirky throwing motion, and never completed a high amount of his passes (his 64 percent this year was a career-high). Not to mention that a big part of his effectiveness at Nevada was running the ball, which, as we’ve learned, never translates well at the next level.
I enjoyed watching Kaepernick quite a bit in college these last few years. But I can’t think of one good reason this pick should’ve been made.
As we begin to wrap up, here are some more things I liked, and others I didn’t…
Thumbs Up: New York Jets Late Round Picks
I don’t have a ton of strong opinions on their early round picks, but thought Rex Ryan crushed the late rounds. Jeremy Kerley is a guy who can help in the receiving and return game; Bilal Powell will chew up big yards on the cheap; and Greg McElroy? Well, at the very least he’s got the best side-part in this draft.
Thumbs Down: Atlanta Falcons
Matt Elder and I spent 15 minutes talking on my podcast yesterday talking about the Julio Jones trade, so I won’t get into too much of it here. Just know that much like the time my sister dated a guy with a neck tattoo, I don’t approve.
As for the rest of their draft, it’s a great big, “Ehh.” Akeem Dent and Cliff Matthews were solid defensive players in a great conference, but never seemed to do anything that made you jump out of your seat and take notice. And Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round? I’ll always root for any guy in the NFL who is the same height (5’5) as my 95-year-old grandma. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s a good pick.
Thumbs Up: Carolina’s Seventh Round Pick, Lee Ziemba
Nate Solder and Gabe Carimi may have been at the top of everyone’s Big Board for offensive tackles. But I’d venture to say that Ziemba was as dominant as either, against better competition in the SEC.
Thumbs Down: Jay Cutler’s Fiancée
Kristin Cavallari, who decided to take to Twitter after Cutler’s Bears took Carimi in the first round. Apparently she likes the selection of an offensive lineman with Chicago’s first pick.
Kristin, you’re a doll, seriously. But you’re not helping your future husband’s street cred one bit. Sorry.
Thumbs Up: Seattle’s First Two Picks
By now you’ve probably picked up on my affinity for offensive line play. So you can guess why I like the selections of James Carpenter (Alabama) and John Moffitt (Wisconsin) so much. Two solid linemen, who both proved it week in, and week out in two of the best conferences in the country.
Not to mention that Moffitt's a Connecticut guy who grew up just about an hour from where I did. And us Connecticut guys gotta stick together.
Thumbs Down: Seattle’s Late Picks
Malcolm Smith? Hmm, I watched a lot of USC games, and he never once stood out to me.
Same with Lezarius Levington at LSU.
And Georgia’s Kris Durham? Well, he never really played until this year, and pretty much stopped putting up numbers once A.J. Green came back from suspension.
If Pete Carroll was putting together a flag football team I’d be ok with this pick. But putting Durham on an NFL roster? Not so much.
Thumbs Up: Philadelphia
Nothing spectacular, just a whole hell of a lot of value picks.
Give me Casey Matthews (brother of Clay); Alex Hendry (the best kicker in the draft); Dion Lewis (a former 1,000 yard rusher); Brian Rolle (a non-athletic but super instinctual and well-coached linebacker); Greg Lloyd (son of a former All-Pro) and Stanley Havili (Ok I can’t lie, I just love his name), any day of the week.
You win in football with depth throughout your roster, and the Eagles added a whole bunch here.
Wait, is it too late to give them the best grade of any team overall?
Thumbs Up: Chimdi Chekwa
Really, I just wanted to put him on this list because it’s been far too long since I’ve had the opportunity to type the words, “Chimdi,” and “Chekwa,” onto my computer screen. And honestly, that just never gets old.
Plus, with Nnamdi Asomugha likely headed for free agency, Chekwa gets to replace him as the Raiders token, “Shutdown corner with a super hard name to pronounce.”
Good times had all around.
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