The most interesting thing that will happen in my world (& I’m sure many other sports fans) on Friday April 29 will definitely not be that damn Royal Wedding, rather the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The first round of this year’s draft came and went in a bit over three and a half hours and it was an interesting experience for me without a doubt. Here in Australia we were able to receive the ESPN feed on pay-tv and I chose to listen to a Patriots.com web show called PFW in Progress as opposed to hearing John Gruden tell us how every rookie will be the league MVP this year apparently. So instead of watching the balding guy & the kind of hot girl get married I’d offer some quick hits on the first round to go with Seth’s ones.
Picks 1-8: Cam Newton – CAR, Von Miller – DEN, Marcell Dareus – BUF, A.J. Green – CIN, Patrick Peterson – ARI, Julio Jones – ATL*, Aldon Smith – SF, Jake Locker – TEN.
No surprises for the first four picks with the players selected going roughly in the order that was expected. Carolina was able to talk themselves into taking Cam Newton while Denver and Buffalo got some much needed defensive help just in the reverse order that Seth and I thought they would go in. Either way they will both provide massive help for the future. Cincinnati took the player who, in my opinion is the best offensive player in the draft while Arizona passed up potential QB help in order to take a potentially brilliant corner in Peterson.
The day’s first surprise came when Adam Schefter broke the news that Atlanta was at one stage trying to trade up to Arizona’s spot for Julio Jones. Discussions fell through and they moved onto Cleveland at pick #6 and their desperation really screwed them over here. They traded their first round pick (27), second round (59) and their fourth (124) this year plus a first and fourth this year which the Falcons are hoping are towards the back end of each round at worst. Jones was a big reach here and there will be a lot of expectations as to what he can produce. Pick #7, also came as a bit of a reach with the 49ers taking 3-4 OLB Aldon Smith who was projected by many to go in the middle of the first round. Another shocker came in when Tennessee took Washington QB Jake Locker over the higher rated Blaine Gabbert. Locker could and should turn out to be a solid pick with a solid cast around him (namely Chris Johnson who will make Locker’s job much easier).
Picks 9-16: Tyron Smith – DAL, Blaine Gabbert – JAX*, J.J. Watt – HOU, Christian Ponder – MIN, Nick Fairley – DET, Robert Quinn – STL, Mike Pouncey – MIA, Ryan Kerrigan – WAS.
Tyron Smith going to the Cowboys was not a shock by any means and they addressed a definitive need for their team considering how their line played last year. The Jaguars traded up to Washington’s spot to take the sliding Blaine Gabbert killing my hopes of the Patriots trading up for Robert Quinn. Gabbert’s slide had me wondering if he had been caught with a hooker the night before or something. Jacksonville were able to address a need for their offense with their quarterback David Garrard not getting any younger or good. J.J. Watt going to the Texans at 11 strikes me as a massive reach for them and also poses questions about the future of Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye in the Texans revamped 3-4 scheme.
Minnesota definitely needed to find a new QB despite Joe Webb showing promise during the dead games at the end of last season. They decided to address that issue in the first round by taking Christian Ponder, in the words of the old SNL sketch… really? Ponder was described as the safest pick in the draft however his ceiling is going to be Trent Green or Matt Hasslebeck, sure they’re good players but at 12 overall, really? Nick Fairley went to Detroit next up to be paired with last season’s number 2 pick Ndamakong Suh. Two potential kill shots lining up over the middle causing havoc for opposing lines. Detroit could turn into a monster defense in a year or two if not this season at this rate, who cares if Matt Stafford gets hurt, they will kill the opposing QB’s anyway.
Up next came the pick that broke my & many other Pats fans hearts when the Rams picked UNC DE Robert Quinn. The only down side to this guy comes from the fact he is coming off a season long suspension for his senior year. Mike Pouncey going next to the Dolphins was what everyone expected even though many of the experts think he’s not quite as good as his brother but then again this draft class is not as good as next year. Ryan Kerrigan going to the Redskins will help the defensive line for them but there are still other glaring issues to deal with.
New England addressed a big need for their team this year with Nate Solder even though I thought Castonzo was a slightly better option for the team. Solder could potentially be an opening day starter with the declining (but still a great guy) Matt Light potentially leaving via free agency leaving the team with returning starter Sebastian Volmer who should be a future stud & the mostly useless Nick Kaczur if he isn’t cut. Corey Liuget should step right into the Chargers D-Line and provide some help while the Giants got some great secondary help with Prince Amukamara. I said before the draft I did not like Prince as a top 10 pick but at number 20 he could help the Giants big time facing receives like Desean Jackson, Dez Bryant &… well maybe Washington will get Ochocinco twice a year. Cleveland now suddenly stocked with picks had plenty of ammo to trade up and pick the player they wanted in Phil Taylor who, if I’m being harsh, maybe went a bit high but it’s not a big reach.
Indianapolis got Manning some blindside protection with my favourite OT prospect in BC’s Anthony Castonzo. Philly’s pick of Danny Watkins was a great scene for all involved as a group of firefighters gave him as a standing ovation while he came onto the stage. Finally New Orleans broke Cameron Jordan’s fall by taking him to play DE.
Picks 25-32: James Carpenter – SEA, Jonathan Baldwin – KC, Jimmy Smith – BAL, Mark Ingram – NE, Gabe Carimi – CHI, Muhammad Wilkerson – NYJ, Cam Heyward – PIT, Derek Sherrod – GB
My first question when Seattle chose T/G James Carpenter was “who the hell is that?” So without further ado I introduce this season’s Tyson Alualu, a player no one had heard of until he was picked. We did not get the NFL Network feed in Australia but apparently Nick Saban was captured on camera asking how he got selected in the first round. Chicago was trying to trade up to the next pick in order to take Gabe Carimi however the trade fell through leaving Baltimore in the lurch as time ran out on their pick. Kansas City rushed their card up to take the receiver Jonathon Baldwin from Pitt who I’m sure will be a great tight end if he puts some weight on. The Ravens still managed to get their man Jimmy Smith who will help out an atrocious group of corners.
It would not be a draft first round without Bill Belichick making a trade & robbing another team. This time the Saints who are usually quite smart with their trades sent New England pick number 57 and their 2012 first round pick which most assume will be higher than 28. Fingers crossed for the Saints sake that Mark Ingram puts up 1500 yards at some point which on that offense is entirely possible. Even with the draft snafu the Bears were able to snag Gabe Carimi who even if he plays hungover should help for the Bears O-Line.
Those damn Jets make a very good pick with Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson projecting to replace the knee-less Kris Jenkins who will no doubt wind up making a critical play in the playoffs to get them back to the AFC Championship Game. Pittsburgh take a D-Lineman Cam Heyward with great NFL pedigree who goes into a good situation where he can contribute situationally from the start. Green Bay take a luxury pick with Mississippi St OL Derek Sherrod who no one seemed to be able to place anywhere but in the first round.
Round 2 Thoughts:
- Don’t expect the Patriots to make their selection at pick 33, Bill Belichick will have a open the pick up to an auction for whoever wants one of the remaining QB’s or even pass rushers.
- The rush on QB’s may not come right at the top of the first round, Cincy may start it off by taking Ryan Mallet (which I know would make Seth very happy). Though if they do not take a QB at all it would be a pretty major F-U to Carson Palmer.
- Clearly Da’Quan Bowers’ knee is a much bigger issue than initially thought, how else can you explain his fall?