Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Winners and Losers

By Brad Oremland

Unlike the 2011 draft overshadowed by the owners' lockout, the 2012 draft was all about action, with pick-for-pick and player-for-pick trades dominating the headlines.

2012 Draft Winners

* Trigger-happy GMs — In the first round alone, nine teams traded up. All told, nearly half the league was involved in a trade involving a first-round pick. Personally, I love that. Trades are interesting, and it makes sense to target specific players rather than just "best available".

* Green Bay Packers — Loaded up on defense, solidifying their pass pressure with edge rusher Nick Perry and interior linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels. Cornerback Casey Hayward is a nice prospect to eventually replace Charles Woodson.

* Kansas City Chiefs — They figure to be a lot better in 2012 than 2011. Most of that comes just from an easier schedule and better luck with injuries, but they've also made some nice moves in free agency (Eric Winston), with a solid draft including Dontari Poe, the first defensive lineman off the board.

* Pick-for-player trades — Brandon Marshall for a pair of third-rounders. DeMeco Ryans for a fourth-rounder. Asante Samuel for a seventh. Huh? Marshall has as much pure talent as any receiver this side of Calvin Johnson. He has five straight 1,000-yard seasons and just turned 28. Surely a proven number one receiver is worth more than a couple draft choices that might yield starters. Ryans was the leader of a defense that ranked 2nd in yards allowed, a two-time Pro Bowler who's only 27. You're going to replace him with a fourth-round draft choice? Samuel has been one of the league's premier ballhawks for six seasons in a row. Even if he's slowing down, he's a starting corner, and most seventh-rounders don't even make the team, much less the starting defense.

* Cincinnati Bengals — Five picks in the first three rounds, thanks to a trade with the Patriots and the spoils of the Carson Palmer Robbery. Their early selections weren't sexy — a cornerback, three linemen, and a receiver from Rutgers — but after drafting Andy Dalton and A.J. Green last year, it was appropriate for the team to focus on less glamorous positions.

* Jacksonville Jaguars — Addressed their needs. I don't usually like trading up early in the first round, but Justin Blackmon makes so much sense for Jacksonville. The team hasn't had an elite receiver since Jimmy Smith, and it's hard to evaluate a young quarterback when he's throwing to sub-par talent. Pass rusher Andre Branch fills a huge need. The Jags ranked 32nd in sacks in 2009, 30th in 2010, and tied for 25th last year. They're moving in the right direction, but this is a long-standing problem.

* Minnesota Vikings — Another team that drafted for need without reaching for a player who could have been drafted lower. The team has high hopes for Matt Kalil as a franchise left tackle, and was even able to pick up a few extra picks by trading down and selecting him fourth. Their next two choices, DBs Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson, address the team's most vital need: pass coverage. Last year the Vikings tied for the league lead in sacks (50) but allowed the worst passer rating in the NFL (107.6).

* Quarterbacks — We've known for a long time that Andrew Luck was going to be a high draft pick, and Robert Griffin III got very hot after his Heisman win. But this was probably the best first round for QBs since 1999, with four quarterbacks taken, including three in the top 10 and both of the top two overall.

* Indianapolis Colts — Obviously their draft will turn on Andrew Luck's success at the pro level, but I like that they're putting him in position to succeed by drafting WR T.Y. Hilton and TEs Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen to give Luck some weapons besides Reggie Wayne.

* Alabama Crimson Tide — Four first-rounders, including two in the top 10, make them the most successful school in this year's draft.

* Pittsburgh Steelers — Remarkable just for the size of their draft picks. The first two went to offensive linemen David DeCastro and Mike Adams. DeCastro, the smaller of the two, goes 6'5", 316. Fourth-round nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu is listed at 348 lbs. Ta'amu alone could make this draft a success if he steps in for Casey Hampton, and at least one of the offensive linemen should help patch a perennial weakness.

* St. Louis Rams — Turned their original first-round pick into three ones, a two, and a five. They probably won't be good in 2012, but they're laying a foundation for the future.

2012 Draft Losers

* Washington Redskins — I believe they got robbed in the trade to get RG3, and I don't understand drafting another quarterback in the fourth round. This team has so many needs, and most of them haven't been adequately addressed.

* The Big Ten — Seven SEC players went before anyone from the Big Ten. Two Baylor Bears got drafted before anyone from the Big Ten. No one from this misnamed conference was drafted until the Lions chose Iowa lineman Riley Reiff 23rd overall. Twenty-two players were chosen before anyone from what is supposed to be a powerhouse conference.

* Miami Dolphins — There are some things I like about their draft, but Ryan Tannehill was probably a reach at 8th overall, and I don't see how Michael Egnew is going to replace Brandon Marshall.

* Kellen Moore — I know his size and arm strength scared teams away, but this is one of the most successful college QBs in memory, and it's stunning that no one even wanted to roll the dice on him in the later rounds.

* Seattle Seahawks — Maybe they got some good players, but they largely ignored their biggest needs. I don't understand how Matt Flynn, or anyone else, is going to succeed with those receivers and that offensive line.

* New Orleans Saints — It's hard to evaluate a team during such a tumultous offseason, with some league-imposed punishments still yet to come. But the Saints didn't have a first- or second-round draft choice, so they certainly can't be draft-weekend winners.

* Oakland Raiders — Still paying for Carson Palmer. Like New Orleans, they didn't have a pick until the third round. Palmer had better return to his 2005-07 form, or the Raiders will regret that trade for a long time.

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