Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Late, But Obligatory Huge NFL Draft Wrap

Michael Sam was the story of this year's draft, but what can he actually bring on the field?
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

This past weekend's NFL Draft was one of the most intriguing and eventful in recent memory, so of course I spent my entire Sunday… Sunbathing with my wife on the roof.

Yeah, sorry, it was a long winter here in Boston, and I was grabbing the sun while it was there.

Consequently, this massive NFL Draft recap was pushed back a bit, but have no fear. I'm still here to tell you what to think about your favorite team's draft.

Let's get to it.

The Best Drafts

St. Louis Rams

Pittsburgh Steelers

Cleveland Browns

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Is it just me, or did the Browns and 49ers own half the picks in this year's draft? Amassing a ton of picks is the way to go, because the NFL Draft is essentially a crap shoot, and the more guys you draft, the more likely you are to hit on SOMEBODY.

Specifically, I really liked Cleveland's first round (more on that later), and San Francisco's fifth round flyer on pass rusher Aaron Lynch.

As for the Rams, they got a franchise left tackle (Greg Robinson), a disruptive defensive tackle (Aaron Donald) and a potentially great corner (LaMarcus Joyner). Not much else to say, the Rams added pieces to an already stellar defense, and began the process of getting younger along their offensive line.

I thought I may have been a homer liking the Steelers' draft so much, but I talked to some people, and it turns out I'm not the only one in love with Pittsburgh's picks. They injected some much needed youth and athleticism into their defense with Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier (reported 4.41 40 time), got great value at a position of need in Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt, added the fastest player in the draft (Dri Archer), and a 6'4'' receiver with speed (Martavis Bryant).

Finally, could Oakland actually be turning things around? The Raiders got an absolute steal at No. 5 when Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack fell into their laps, and Oakland may have found its franchise quarterback in the second round in the form of Fresno State's Derek Carr. Add in the fact that guard Gabe Jackson may be an immediate starter from the third round, and this looks like the best Oakland draft in a decade.

The Worst Drafts

Washington Redskins

Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots

The Redskins and Colts mostly suffered because they didn't have a first round pick (Washington via the RGIII trade, Indy via the Trent Richardson disaster), but it's not like they maximized their picks later on. Washington did a nice job of trading down in the second round with Dallas, but then used their pick on Stanford OLB Trent Murphy. It's not that Murphy isn't a good player, he is. It's just that he plays the only position Washington is currently stacked at, and will most likely spend the first two years of his career sitting behind Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

The Colts, meanwhile drafted a few guys that will need to develop, including Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief. Not that Indy is short on time, but when you don't have a first round pick, you'd like to at least see some immediate contributors, if not stars, selected in rounds two and three.

The Patriots… Where to begin. Maybe Bill Belichick is just so much smarter than everybody else that his genius looks like lunacy to us commoners, but New England's first two picks don't make a whole lot of sense.

Don't get me wrong, Dominique Easley, when healthy, is well worth a first round pick. The problem is, he's had major reconstructive surgery on BOTH his knees the last three years. We'll get to the odd selection of a third string quarterback in the second round later, but adding a solid running back (James White) and pass rusher high on potential (Zach Moore) doesn't make up for those first two head scratchers.

Best Move: Cleveland Navigates the First Round Masterfully

The Browns wanted a franchise quarterback and an impact defensive player. Thanks to some savvy moving, they got both, and set themselves up for success in next year's draft. After trading down from No. 4 with Buffalo, in exchange for Buffalo's pick at No. 9 pick, along with a 1st and 4th round pick next year, the Browns traded their pick at No. 26 (acquired via the Trent Richardson trade with Indianapolis last year) and a third rounder to Philly for the No. 22 pick.

They used that pick on Johnny Manziel, and addressed their two biggest needs in the first round.

Now, in true Cleveland fashion, it came out later that All Pro receiver Josh Gordon may be suspended for all of next season after failing another drug test, but let's focus on the positives: Cleveland is making moves.

Worst Move: Miami Trades Up in the Third Round

A bit of an under-the-radar move, but the Dolphins sent away a fourth round pick to move up 14 spots in the third and draft North Dakota State OT Billy Turner.

Now, I know next to nothing about Billy Turner, except that I watched NDSU twice this year, and both times they just ran over people. So, I'm sure he's a fine player, but Miami effectively gave a valuable fourth rounder away to move up just over a dozen spots and take a small school player at a position of great depth in this year's draft.

Hey, if Billy Turner is a stud, fine, but it just seems like there were enough tackles on the board that this move was essentially giving away a pick.

Biggest "Boom or Bust" Move: Buffalo Goes All In for Sammy Watkins

The Bills mortgaged their short-term future on Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, trading their first round selection next year, plus a 4th rounder for the right to move up four spots and draft the star wideout.

On pure trade value, it looks like a coup for Cleveland, and it certainly worked out for the Browns, as I outlined above. But, this move could end up being a win-win. That is, if Watkins becomes an All Pro caliber wide receiver.

That part isn't exactly likely, but the Bills sent away Stevie Johnson, are investing in a young quarterback, have options at running back and have an intriguing young defense. The only thing missing, seemingly, is a star receiver to tie things together.

If Watkins is that guy, this trade makes perfect sense.

If he's just another "pretty good" receiver, this will haunt Buffalo for a few years.

Best Pick: Michael Sam, DE/OLB, Missouri. Taken by St. Louis in Round 7, 249th overall.

This is not a social commentary at all.

You can think what you will about Michael Sam's sexuality and public displays of affection, but the Rams just drafted a guy that lit the best conference in college football on fire and has the potential to become a very good pro.

From a pure value factor, they essentially got a second to third round talent that needs some work. He'll need to get better with his hands against NFL linemen, and he'll need to bulk up, but he's got the explosive first step and instincts that scouts look for in an edge rusher. If you don't believe me, take a look at his final college season and NFL Combine numbers compared to those of higher drafted pass rushers from the last decade.

He may not match up perfectly with many of these guys (he needs to get stronger, has an average vertical and wasn't as productive as some), but I think it would be a stretch to say that he deserves to be taken SIX ROUNDS LOWER than almost all of them.

Michael Sam (2014 out of Missouri): 10.5 sacks, 18 TFL, SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
6'1'', 261 lbs. 4.71 second 40-yard dash. 19 bench press reps of 225. 25.5 inch vertical.
Drafted: Round 7, 249th overall

Ryan Kerrigan (2011 out of Purdue): 12.5 sacks, 26 TFL, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
6'4'', 265 lbs. 4.71 second 40-yard dash. 31 bench press reps of 225. 33 inch vertical.
Drafted: Round 1, 16th overall

David Pollack (2005 out of Georgia): 13 sacks, 17.5 TFL, SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
6'2'', 265 lbs. 4.75 second 40-yard dash. 25 bench press reps of 225. 37 inch vertical.
Drafted: Round 1, 17th overall

Jarvis Jones (2013 out of Georgia): 14.5 sacks, 24 TFL, SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
6'2'', 245 lbs. 4.85 second 40-yard dash. 20 bench press reps of 225. 29.5 inch vertical.
Drafted: Round 1, 17th overall

Terrell Suggs (2003 out of Arizona State): 24 sacks, 31.5 TFL, Pac 10 Defensive Player of the Year.
6'3'', 260 lbs. 4.8 second 40-yard dash. 19 bench press reps of 225. 33 inch vertical.
Drafted: Round 1, 10th overall

Lamarr Woodley (2007 out of Michigan): 12 sacks, 16.5 TFL, Rivals.com National Defensive Player of the Year.
6'2'', 260 lbs. 4.74 second 40-yard dash. 29 bench press reps of 225. 35 inch vertical.
Round 2, 46th overall

Chris Long (2008 out of Virginia): 14 sacks, 19 TFL, ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
6'3'', 268 lbs. 4.75 second 40-yard dash. No bench press results. 34 inch vertical.
Drafted: Round 1, 2nd overall

If you're looking for another guy that compares favorably to this group, check out Texas' Jackson Jeffcoat, who went undrafted. Here are his numbers, and more on him later.

Jackson Jeffcoat (2014 out of Texas): 13 sacks, 22 TFL, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
6'5'', 247 lbs. 4.63 second 40-yard dash. 18 bench press reps of 225. 36 inch vertical.
Drafted: Undrafted. Signed with Seattle.

Worst Pick: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois. Take by New England in Round 2, 62nd overall.

I get it, Belichick apologists. Tom Brady can't play forever, and the Patriots needed to sign a young quarterback at some point. But come on, you're really going to use a second round pick- one that could instead be used to add a piece to a near championship team- on a small school quarterback when Tom Brady hasn't shown any signs of regression, or hinted at retirement?

For this move to even make some sense, the Patriots will need to trade current backup Ryan Mallett before the season starts, and get something decent in return. Like, uh, a second round pick.

The only problem with that is teams now know the Patriots will be looking to unload Mallett, who only has one year left on his deal, making it impossible for New England to maximize his value. If the Patriots were going to trade him and draft Garoppolo, they should have pulled the trigger on a trade BEFORE the draft.

Also consider the fact that Tom Brady is under contract for three more seasons. New England didn't need to add a quarterback this year, but if they had to, why not add one of the SEC quarterbacks in the later rounds?

Basically, the only way this works out is if the Pats are able to get a 2nd rounder back for Mallett this year, or can flip Garoppolo for a 2nd rounder in two to three years, and I wouldn't bet on either one.

If he is the heir apparent… Well, he did come from the same college as Tony Romo.

If you need an actual Patriots fan to tell you why this pick makes no sense, here is editor Jeremy Conlin's piece on why being a Pats fan sucks on draft day.

Best Undrafted Free Agent Signings: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/OLB, Texas. Signed by Seattle. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford. Signed by San Francisco.

The rich get richer with these two picks. I already outlined above how Jeffcoat compares statistically and athletically to a hand full of first-day pass rush draft selections. He may not match guys like Woodley, Kerrigan and Suggs across the board, but he's productive and quick enough that he should have been taken SOMEWHERE.

The Seahawks get another nice pass rusher to develop, and make no mistake about it, Jeffcoat and Sam both need to be developed.

Skov, meanwhile, doesn't have to move too far from Palo Alto to suit up for the Niners, and his toughness and instincts, plus familiarity with the 3-4 defense, should make him a great fit with former Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh. He does have an injury history, but the fact that a player as productive and respected as Skov went undrafted is borderline laughable.

While the 49ers already added depth at inside linebacker in the form of Wisconsin 'backer Chris Borland, Skov's intensity will provide some great training camp competition, and if he makes the team, look for him to contribute off the bench and on special teams.

No comments :