32 Thoughts on the 2013 NFL Draft
- The Bills, Bucs, and Jets were the only teams that took quarterbacks in the top three rounds because they were the only three teams to self identify the position as an immediate need. There were other teams worse off at the position who are still worse off, but because they were more comfortable with their current situation, those teams didn’t pull the trigger quite as early as these teams, which caused the QB class as a whole to slide.
- I really liked the Patriots moving down and starting off with a cornerstone-if-inconsistent player in DE/LB Jamie Collins, but I thought the board quickly got away from the Patriots in spite of their high number of selections. I’m a big fan of CB Logan Ryan, but the Pats kept going back to the same wells over and over without getting much value on their picks. The fact is, there are other teams out there like the Seahawks and 49ers who do the same thing the Pats have done in the draft for years. While you need to credit Bill Belichick for continuing to find the teams who will play the sucker, it doesn’t matter much if the Pats continue to come away with unremarkable drafts.
- Time will tell if the Bills were wise to be the lone wolf in the first round, taking quarterback EJ Manuel, and in most ways, he’ll be on a level playing field with Geno Smith in the AFC East — meaning we may not have to wait very long to have a pretty good idea. But I’ll go on record saying that EJ Manuel was really the one highly rated QB in this draft that I really didn’t like on tape (his statistical profile is moderately positive). There is no obstruction to the throne in Buffalo, so Manuel will sink or swim right away.
- The Jets got three, perhaps four starters in this draft. That’s about what you would expect from a team that acquired another first round pick in the Darrelle Revis trade, but Jets fans need to view this draft as the cornerstone draft in the rebuilding of the franchise and not as a draft that attempts to fill in the missing pieces. Purely stylistically, the draft is a poor, inefficient vehicle for filling needs anyway. The bust rate of prospects is too high to check off positions like a mere checklist. Anytime you can get a quarterback like Geno Smith in the second round, that’s a pretty good draft to be a cornerstone of the future.
- The Colts got a player in DE Bjorn Werner who was very different than the type of player than any other team in the division was focusing on. He was really in many ways the only pass rusher drafted by this entire division. The rest of the division of course was focusing on…something. There was not a ton of talent added at premium positions to a very weak AFC South this year. The Colts didn’t exactly light up the draft board on days two and three either.
- The Jaguars had pretty safely the best draft in this division: they also had the highest average selection, so that’s not too much of a surprise. Luke Joeckel “fell” to them with the second pick, so that’s pretty easy. Drafting Denard Robinson in the fifth round gave them a lot more options than drafting a running back or a receiver there. That kind of flexibility is really valuable late in the drat.
- Reportedly, the Jags were discussing Jon Cyprien and CB Johnthan Banks at the 33rd pick, and I think they’ll be a lot better off with Cyprien than they would have been with Banks. I’m not sure we have a great read yet on David Caldwell as a talent evaluator, given how high he was selecting, but his first draft receives high grades across the board. He just didn’t address premium positions: QB, DE, CB1, and elite TE remain weaknesses after year one, and it’s going to take a lot of years to fill all those positions.
- Tennessee picked G Chance Warmack with the 1oth pick. The pick is certainly not too high for Warmack, but the Titans have a line full of relatively lean athletic guys who can get up on defensive players on the move. Warmack can play this style of offense, but if they continue to be the Titans on offense, Warmack is always going to look a bit out of place trying to engulf and stalemate guys at the second level. Overall, I thought the Titans got good value in their draft.
- It all starts with the Ravens, who are kind of good at this draft thing. They did trade up to get Arthur Brown, so this isn’t purely a case of 31 teams asleep on the job; the Ravens worked actively to beat the other 31 teams. The Ravens and teams like them remain the standard for the argument that draft position is overrated.
- The whole AFC North did quite well in the draft, and solidified its reputation as the best division in the AFC. Matt Elam, Tyler Eifert, Arthur Brown, Barkevious Mingo, and Jarvis Jones all have star potential.
- The Steelers have had issues with their skill talent (RB, WR) in the past, and the 2013 draft represents the Steelers last chance to replenish that talent and win with the current core. No pressure, Markus Wheaton and Le’Veon Bell.
- As far as instant impact goes, how about RB Giovani Bernard being the piece that completed the Carson Palmer trade? The Bengals received the picks that became CB Dre Kirkpatrick and Bernard for Palmer, which is a great haul for a player who simply isn’t going to play for you. However, I don’t know if the Raiders look at Kirkpatrick and Bernard wondering what could have been. The Bengals made some luxury picks in the 2013 and 2012 drafts because of the number of picks they had relative to the needs they had, and 2013 is the year they’ll need to make good on the field. If not, quarterback Andy Dalton could take the fall.
- The Broncos picking Sylvester Williams and the Raiders picking Menelik Watson brought to the forefront of the discussion the topic of draft prospect age. Both Williams and Watson will be 25 this season. Neither’s age quite sticks out like Brandon Weeden did last year, but these are potential great picks that could look bad when they get on the field against players who are their seniors. The Raiders might get off the hook with Watson because he played just one season at FSU and didn’t know what he was doing all the time, so he’s a pick purely on his boxing-based attributes, not his production. But Williams was one of the more efficient college players this year…its very notable that he was 24 as a senior going up against players 3-5 years less developed on the other side. You need to factor that in when projecting a players productivity — I’m not sure the Broncos did.
- The Chiefs had a plan from day one which they executed on draft day — and it’s really not any more likely to succeed now that we see it completed than it was in the partially completed stage (post-Alex Smith trade). I really like the Chiefs QB depth chart right now, and it’s one place where the team is unquestionably improved, and they were able to address that without using a single draft pick (adding UDFA Tyler Bray after the draft). But I don’t love their offensive line; Eric Fisher is already the best player on it. I wouldn’t just write in Brandon Albert as a lock to perform among the top ten tackles in the league this year. TE Travis Kelce and RB Knile Davis will find homes on offense, but we’re talking luxury picks for a 2-14 team here. Not having a second round pick…matters. And just as a note w/o comment: the Chiefs defense finished thirtieth in the NFL last year in DVOA. It could be the worst unit in the league this year. That’s possible.
- Conversely, I thought the Raiders knocked it out of the park this year. CB DJ Hayden is a defensive cornerstone type player regardless of whether he was taken at 3rd overall or 12th overall. I feel more confident about that than I do that the Dolphins got a cornerstone defensive player in Dion Jordan, although that’s clearly why they pulled the trigger. The side of the story I’ve gotten from those in the War Room comes from Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who says that his team called the Raiders offering a second round pick to move up, got rejected, then the Raiders called back and demanded the higher of the two picks to drop down nine spots. It was great work by the the Raiders and the rest of the draft went pretty smoothly. They got beat to the punch on Matt Barkley in the 4th round, but if Barkley was a cornerstone player for the Raiders, they had three picks to get him. If Menelik Watson can play at all, we’re looking at a cornerstone draft for the Reggie McKenzie Raiders: they can go from a ton of needs to just a handful of them by next draft, pending player performance.
- The Chargers got really good value in this draft, but what I’m going to say isn’t much a unique thought, it comes from Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth. The Chargers got good value selecting LB Manti Te’o in the second round and coming back for WR Keenan Allen in the third. They are players with excellent instincts. But of all the players I had first round grades on, they were two of the slower players I had rated in that round. It’s one thing to get a team full of intelligent, bigger, stronger players who have strong character and football IQ’s. It’s an entirely different thing if you build your team full of reverse Al Davis types who can’t move at all. I think Te’o and Allen specifically can overcome their lack of long speed, but if they were available a bit later because what they did well is undervalued, it stands to reason that the Chargers will have shots at the same kind of player next year…at which point we may look at the Tom Telasco Chargers as a team that’s just too slow. The roster he took over…it wasn’t fast to begin with.
- I think it’s probably safe to start doubting Howie Roseman as compared to his predecessors in Philadelphia. Andy Reid had this unparalleled run of success with GM Tom Heckert and the front office he had come in with, but then that situation became untenable and Roseman rose to the top seat in Philadelphia. In his second draft, he took Danny Watkins in the first round and (back the the age thing) Watkins will be 28 this season and isn’t slated to start. Again, the problem isn’t that 28 is too old (it’s prime years for a guard), but is that the skills got him picked in the first round amounted to a 25 year old physically beating up 20 year olds in the Big XII. Now with Lane Johnson at the fourth overall pick…this may very well work out, but Chip Kelly’s pro system is in its infancy and is in fact not a defense of rating Johnson as a top four player in this draft. Johnson may end up a great NFL player, but this pick looks like a major question mark. Roseman’s 2012 draft looks great, but his 2011 draft looks like a complete washout at this point, and his 2010 draft looks like Brandon Graham and otherwise a total wash. If you are keeping track, Roseman was in his third draft before he found his second starter — and Graham bloomed at maybe the last second before the Eagles would have given up on him.
- Jerry Reese might have a little bit of a Jerry Angelo/Bears thing going on, because his offensive draft picks have lagged behind his defensive draft picks. This is obscured by the fact that Reese’s offenses have consistently outperformed his defenses, but the Giants find value every single year in the defensive front seven. This year is no exception: Johnathan Hankins can play either inside or outside for the Giants on the defensive line and Damontre Moore can play defensive end or linebacker in the 4-3, making him the perfect backup for Mathias Kiwanuka. And outside of the front seven, they really, really struggle. Will Beatty was a really good pick five years ago, and Justin Pugh may end up being the same for them, but the track record on value outside of the front seven has eluded the Giants since Jerry Reese took over.
- Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley aren’t going to unseat the players in front of them as third rounders in a weak class of QBs, but for the Giants, Nassib is a diversion from the previous way the Giants have done things, which is to say that the backup quarterback was no one of note in pretty much any year. The Eagles have always promoted strong depth at the quarterback position, and they have it again this year regardless of the direction they decide to go with their starter.
- The Cowboys and Redskins are trying to recover from consecutive drafts in 2008 and 2009 where each team has one and two players respectively still on the roster from those seasons. The Cowboys have just Orlando Scandrick remaining, while the Redskins played the whole seven week playoff run stretch without Fred Davis and Brian Orakpo. Both teams have had an excellent draft since then to take the edge off, but the Redskins 2012 draft might end up at the top. Their 2013 draft…will not.
- The Bucs got Darrelle Revis, which was nice, because their weekend was almost a total wash. It’s a weekend that makes for a decent T-shirt: “I went to the NFL Draft and all I got was this lousy version of Johnathan Banks.” Mike Glennon in round three didn’t make any sense at all. And their third day seemed abbreviated: they focused on their defensive line and tried to get valuable reserves. Strategically, it was a fine effort by a front office that has had a ton of recent draft success, but the Revis trade and the Glennon infatuation killed any shot at a haul of players, and forces adjusted expectations for this class.
- The Saints might have grabbed one of the best defensive players in the draft when its all said and done in Kenny Vaccaro, and with Roman Harper playing as such a known weakness over the years, it’s rare to look at the Saints and suggest the safety level could be the strength of their defense. Rob Ryan will certainly be weirded out by such a thing. But ultimately, this team has the makings of a rebuilding project where a principal player, Drew Brees, is still trying to win now. The Saints broke out in Brees’ first year in town, but that was seven years ago.
- The Falcons always operate to address needs in the draft which means that they always trade aggressively so they stay true to their board. This year, that strategy landed them two bookend corners in the first and second rounds: I had Desmond Trufant rated really highly and Robert Alford rated about where the Falcons got him. Overall, players that dominated the Senior Bowl also dominated the first round and that’s not just Trufant, it was also EJ Manuel and Ziggy Ansah.
- I’m not sure if this draft did anything to change the balance of power in the NFC South. It’s a mantle that’s certainly up for grabs, and I think the Revis trade helped put the Bucs right at the top, but I didn’t really come away with the feeling that any one team had dominated the others. The Bucs pretty clearly got the least amount of help…but they got Revis, so who cares?
- Three different strategies were on full display within this division. The Lions and Packers sat tight and even traded down once, in letting the draft come to them and then capitalize on that value multiple times in the first four rounds. They tried to get a lot of good players without being too picky on the position they played or how they fit in going forward.
- The Bears played the draft passively and looked to address their needs. They didn’t give up value to move up, but they let the board come to they and then tried to get players at positions on their offensive line and linebacker, where they had lost the most over the offseason. They waited to address their holes cost-effectively rather than running out and spending a bunch in free agency (where OT Jermon Bushrod filled the biggest hole from the year before).
- The Vikings dealt Percy Harvin for another first round pick and then dealt second, third, fourth, and seventh rounders for another first round pick, becoming the first team to select three times in the round in over a decade. They, like the Falcons, drafted value at need positions, and paid the price of their best offensive player and most of their depth in the draft to do so. Since most teams with full drafts are going to average two or three quality starters in return, the Vikings are all in on all three of these players: if one doesn’t pan out, they’re not going to have a top half draft class. If Patterson in particular doesn’t pan out, the Vikes offense gets no help in a year where they lost Percy Harvin. Patterson is the player they cannot afford to be wrong on.
- This division was exciting too look at. The 49ers had probably the best draft of any team, but they were also better positioned to do so than any other team, which is why the Ravens weekend was more impressive when you compare them. Marcus Lattimore to the 49ers is the kind of thing that happens when too many GMs are risk averse. By the time Lattimore was drafted by the 49ers, they didn’t have anywhere else to go to improve their team.
- The Rams might have been a close second or third in terms of strong draft returns. I’m not the biggest Alec Ogletree fan, but he’s going to complement James Laurinaitis really well. Stedman Bailey is a flat steal in the third round, and would have been a great value from the second that Cordarrelle Patterson was selected. And Tavon Austin was the kind of move a team premeditates before the draft, but is still excited when they pull it off in real time.
- I didn’t love the drafts by the rest of the division. The Cards took Jonathan Cooper with the seventh overall pick, which you can say what you want about that pick, but this is a team that had a top seven pick and ended up with with Jonathan Cooper, no trade down. The best player they got at a premier NFL position was DE Alex Okafor in the fourth round. Tyrann Mathieu may be good enough to save this draft, but for a draft that’s getting really high grades, this draft is strangely dependent on Mathieu.
- But I didn’t really understand the Seahawks direction. They traded down in the second despite not picking in the first, which I liked, but I didn’t liked being lectured about how much I missed in my evaluation of Christine Michael. I don’t see him as an explosive player destined to be an offensive focal point in the NFL. I see him as the third string running back on the Seahawks.
- Overall the teams that did the worst (Bucs, Redskins, Seahawks) were also the teams that didn’t have first round picks, which means that the NFL Draft is getting closer and closer to an efficient market. As we get some of the old school GMs out of the game, the draft becomes much more of a sure thing early on, and much more of a scouting excursion late.