Nick's 2013 NFL Draft First Round Round-Up
The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft is in the books, and boy, was it one for the ages! Lots of excitement, lots of trading, and lots of selections worthy of reacting to. Let’s get this started, shall we?
Rams add Austin, Ogletree
The Rams were active in the first round, as many expected they would be. They traded with Buffalo, moving from the sixteenth pick to the eighth pick, and drafted West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. Some Rams fans, myself included, previously expressed concerns about trading away extra picks in order to draft Austin, but the Rams were reportedly “smitten” with him and made him their top priority and the first wide receiver off the board. One report even went so far as to say Austin was the Rams’ top player on their draft board.
It’s obvious the Rams loved what Tavon brought to the table, so even with fan concerns over how he’ll be utilized with Jared Cook already eating up some slot time, the Rams clearly have a plan for this dangerous weapon. As a West Virginia alum, I’m very excited to once again have the opportunity to cheer on a Mountaineer while he’s wearing horns!
The Rams gave up a second and seventh round pick to move up and take Austin, but they recouped those losses by trading down from the 22nd overall spot with Atlanta, gaining an additional third and sixth round pick. Their remaining pick total was back up to seven, with one pick at 30th overall, two in the third round, and some Day Three selections to look forward to.
With the 30th pick, the Rams selected Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree. Many consider Ogletree to possess Top 15 caliber talent, but various off the field issues caused him to slide to the bottom of the first round (Ogletree did not appear in my final first round projection). Personally, I was apprehensive about Ogletree as a possible selection with the 16th or 22nd pick, but by moving down to the end of the first round and taking him with the 30th selection, the Rams gained some additional picks and lessened their risk to a degree.
While my preference for a 4-3 Will linebacker is Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, that has as much to do with Ogletree’s off the field transgressions as it does anything else. Jeff Fisher is a coach who isn’t afraid of a prospect with some character red flags, so this likely didn’t make him pause as much as it would me. If Fisher can keep Ogletree’s head on straight, and get him to react a bit faster, he’ll make an excellent weak side ‘backer beside Laurinaitis.
First Round Reactions
Here are some random thoughts about how things went down during the first round.
Chiefs & Jags make Fisher, Joeckel first two picks: The Chiefs going with an offensive tackle wasn’t a surprise, and if you’ve been paying attention to draft coverage the last 24-48 hours, the Jaguars doing the same shouldn’t have been either. I’m still not convinced Jacksonville wouldn’t have been better off going with a pass rusher like Dion Jordan (who went one pick later to Miami, more on that in a moment), but the Jaguars were determined to make a low risk selection, and they certainly got one in Luke Joeckel.
Miami trades up for… a pass rusher? There had been a lot of talk about Miami possibly making a deal for Branden Albert, the Chiefs offensive tackle who is now out of a job thanks to the Eric Fisher pick. But when Miami traded up from 12th to 3rd overall, the immediate reaction appeared to be, “Well, Miami is getting their tackle in Lane Johnson instead.” The first big surprise of the night was the Dolphins trading up not to find Jake Long’s replacement but instead to draft Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan, whom they will likely slot into the defensive end spot opposite of Cameron Wake or stand up as a pass rushing SAM ‘backer.
Picks 4-7 Mostly As Expected: The Eagles, Lions, Browns, and Cardinals followed conventional wisdom with their selections. Philadelphia added Lane Johnson, a perfect fit as a left tackle in Chip Kelly’s offense. With the fifth pick, the Lions took the best pass rusher on the board in BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah, who should have a lot of opportunities to get to the quarterback with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley beside him on the line. With the sixth pick, the Browns took Barkevious Mingo, whom they were rumored to like so much that they could trade up for him. He’ll start immediately across from Paul Kruger in Cleveland’s new 3-4 scheme. Finally, the Cardinals went with the best offensive lineman on the board in North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, whom Cardinals fans can pencil in immediately next to Levi Brown at left guard.
Bills Move Down and Get Their QB: Buffalo had been the rumored landing spot for a trade partner seeking Tavon Austin’s services, and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. In moving down to 16, the Bills found themselves in a place where a quarterback made much more sense. Most expected it to be Ryan Nassib, reuniting the Syracuse signal caller with his college coach. Some suspected Geno Smith, the West Virginia passer anxiously playing Angry Birds in the green room. But the Bills pulled a fast one and took Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, surprising many viewers at home and in attendance. The Bills profess that Manuel was their guy all along, and while I think it was a very odd pick, one Twitter user made an interesting point: had the Bills drafted Nassib, head coach Doug Marone would have been viewed as the catalyst behind the pick. His tenure is tied to Manuel now, but it won’t be because of a college connection that outweighed value.
Jets Go Heavy on Defense: With Tavon Austin off the board, the Jets turned their attention to replacing a key cog of their defense. The hole left by Darrelle Revis is a large one, but the Jets acquired the draft’s best cornerback in Dee Milliner in hopes that the SEC standout can replace Revis Island. With the 13th pick, the Jets made what I consider a surprise pick by taking Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. The Jets had needs for an offensive weapon or a stand-up linebacker, but they went with a player widely regarded as a three-technique defensive tackle, apparently planning to convert him to a five technique end in their 3-4 alignment. For a team like San Francisco, who plays a one-gap 3-4 scheme, Richardson may have made more sense. But the Jets surprised more than a few by taking him here, and so far have failed to help out their quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Titans and Chargers and Raiders, oh my! Tennessee found itself in an interesting position, choosing between the falling Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, and Alabama guard Chance Warmack. They rightfully pulled the trigger on the latter. The Chargers may have reached slightly for ‘Bama tackle D.J. Fluker, who should start at right tackle ahead of Jeromey Clary, unless the Chargers are one of the few teams who believe Fluker can play on the left side. The Raiders suddenly found themselves on the clock at twelve, and were staring Sharrif Floyd in the face. He was projected to them in numerous mocks at the three-spot. But instead, they took Houston’s D.J. Hayden, believing he can become an outstanding playmaker for them in the secondary. So much for strengthening the front four fist.
The Teens: Carolina had a no-brainer selection in Utah’s Star Lotulelei, a player who fit the exact kind of interior lineman they were looking for. The Saints made Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro a Top 15 pick and the first safety off the board, valuing his versatility as they look to improve their defensive backfield. It’ll be fun to watch Vaccaro line up against Tony Gonzalez twice this season. The Steelers surprised no one when they took Jarvis Jones, an outstanding fit for them as a 3-4 pass rushing outside linebacker to replace James Harrison. With the top linemen and safety off the board, Dallas moved down (a move I saw as a possibility in my final mock), trading with the ***** so that San Francisco could get into the Top 20 to take LSU safety Eric Reid, who should start immediately in Dashon Goldson’s old spot. The Giants threw out a little bit of a curveball, passing on defensive line help to take Syracuse’s Justin Pugh, a ‘tweener lineman that did not appear in my first round projection at all. Pugh’s short arms could force him inside, but the Giants may initially try him at right tackle, perhaps allowing David Diehl to slide inside.
From 20 to 32: There was talk pre-draft that Oregon’s Kyle Long could sneak into the first round, and he did a little more than that by being drafted by Chicago with the 20th pick. The Bears appear set to enter the 2013 season with Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and Kyle Long at right tackle, with J’Marcus Webb rightfully serving as a back-up. The Bengals selected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert with the 21st pick, perhaps a sign that they’re souring on former Sooner tight end Jermaine Gresham. Slowly but surely, that Bengals offense is looking dangerous. I expect them to add another weapon on Day Two. The Falcons moved up to take sliding cornerback Desmond Trufant, even though Xavier Rhodes remained on the board. I had this pick pegged in my final mock, minus the trade up. Sharrif Floyd’s freefall would finally end at 23, as Minnesota couldn’t resist taking the defensive tackle. They came right back two picks later and grabbed another falling player, Rhodes, to help ease the loss of Antoine Winfield. Between those two selections, the Colts made an unsurprising pick of Florida State defensive end/linebacker Bjoern Werner. Green Bay passed on a running back and safety help to take a 3-4 defensive end in Datone Jones, improving their physicality on the defensive line. Houston made Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins their #2 option behind Andre Johnson in what appears to be a great fit for them. The Broncos grabbed a much needed defensive tackle in North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams, a great value at this point in the draft. The Vikings nearly gave away the farm to move back into the first round, with most assuming Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o the target. Instead, they nabbed Tennessee wideout Cordarrelle Patterson to help ease the loss of Percy Harvin. The Rams were finally back on the clock, making Ogletree their selection. Dallas was next, with some thinking Geno Smith could be the pick as the heir to Tony Romo. But the Cowboys reached for Wisconsin center Travis Frederick. I like Frederick, but I didn’t envision him sneaking into the first round. Supposedly the Cowboys were ecstatic though. The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens closed out the first round with a predictable pick, taking Florida safety Matt Elam to start next to Michael Huff at safety.
As always, there were some surprise fallers on the first night of the draft. I feel terrible for West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, whom in my opinion has a stronger case to be this draft’s first and only first round quarterback. He shouldn’t last too long on Day Two. Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson has yet to hear his name called; I wonder if Detroit or Arizona are interested. Jonathan Cyprien was a hot name for amateur draftniks all offseason, but couldn’t crack the first round and was beat out by Eric Reid and Matt Elam before him. Tank Carradine, Eddie Lacy, Ryan Nassib, Keenan Allen, Arthur Brown, and Robert Woods remain strong Day Two selections for teams in need of their services. Oh, and apparently there’s some guy named Te’o still available…
Stat of the Night: The SEC had twelve first-round picks, setting a new NFL Draft record.
Stat of the Night II: The RGIII trade has yielded eight players for the Rams. They include Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Rok Watkins, Alec Ogletree, a third and sixth round pick in this draft, and a 2014 first rounder. Looking better by the day for the Rams.