Draft Snap Judgments (cont.)
For a team known through the years for its penchant of making some dubious choices early in the draft -- see Frostee Rucker, Odell Thurman, and Chris Perry -- the Bengals impressed me in 2009. Offensive tackle Andre Smith in the first round, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga in the second round, and defensive end Michael Johnson in the third round strike me as great value in just the right draft slots.
It's laughable when NFL personnel men say the first round of the draft is all about taking the best available player, because everybody knows it's really about taking the best available player that fits your need. Case in point: Name the three teams that entered this year's draft with the most desperate need for a starting quarterback?
Any reasonable analysis would have listed the Jets, Bucs and Lions, probably in that order. Guess who took the three first-round quarterbacks, with two of them trading up to do so, and the other club owning the first overall pick? Yep. The Jets, Bucs and Lions. The teams that really needed quarterbacks went after them, aggressively. The teams that didn't need a passer took a pass on them and instead filled one of their most critical holes.
No matter what anyone says, it's always about need in the NFL Draft. Every year.
Speaking of quarterbacks, I love that the Dolphins went after West Virginia's Pat White in the top half of the second round as a quarterback -- not just a "Slash''-type gimmick. After four record-breaking seasons as the Mountaineers quarterback, White has earned the right to either succeed or fail on his own merit as an NFL passer.
White's arrival isn't good news for Dolphins quarterback John Beck. The ex-BYU standout, a second-round pick of former head coach Cam Cameron's in 2007 is pretty much toast in Miami at this point. Miami's quarterback depth chart will feature Chad Pennington as the starter for today, Chad Henne as the starter of the future, and White as an intriguing option that gives Miami a hedge bet (or potential trade bait some day) should Henne not develop as expected.
And the rich get richer. New England on Sunday somehow wangled a 2010 second-round pick and another seventh-rounder this year (No. 252) from Jacksonville in exchange for the first of the Patriots' three third-round picks, No. 73 overall. The Jags used the pick to select the little-known Derek Cox, a cornerback from William & Mary who most draft analysts didn't have among their top 50 prospects at the position.
Later in the round, New England was at it again, shipping its No. 89 pick to Tennessee for a Titans second-rounder in 2010. Tennessee took South Carolina's Jared Cook with the pick, a player many considered the draft's second-best tight end prospect.
How'd you like to pay New England's phone bills on draft weekend? But nobody works the draft process any more effectively than Bill Belichick, who seems to be doing just fine this year without his right-hand man, Scott Pioli, around. By constantly parlaying picks into even more picks, that's how the Patriots seem to be loaded for bear each and every year in the NFL Draft.
I'd like to say a hearty thanks to cross-bay rivals Oakland and San Francisco for giving us a no brainer of a story line to follow as the years go by -- a head-to-head battle of first-round receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, who shockingly went seventh to the always-puzzling Raiders, and Michael Crabtree, who "fell'' to the seemingly fortunate 49ers at No. 10.
Early on, of course, everyone's money seems to be on Crabtree leaving the faster Heyward-Bey behind.
What would the NFL Draft be like if juniors weren't eligible? The top of it would play out very, very differently. Fifteen of the first round's 32 picks (47 percent) were juniors this year, including seven of the top dozen names off the board.
Between picks 5 through 12, teams took six juniors out of a possible eight selections: Sanchez, Andre Smith, Heyward-Bey, Crabtree, Aaron Maybin and Knowshon Moreno. Overall in the opening two rounds, 23 of the 64 picks were juniors, a cool 36 percent.
How did I fare in my final, 7.0 mock draft of the year? Glad you asked. Not bad, but I believe I've had more prescient years. I had seven direct hits of player and team in the first round, and eight instances where I had the right player in the right draft slot (I had Josh Freeman going 17th overall, but to the Jets rather than the Bucs, who traded up with Cleveland for the slot).
I had 27 of the 32 players who wound up going in the first round in my final mock's first round (84 percent), with my misses being Larry English to San Diego at No. 16, Alex Mack to Cleveland at No. 21, Percy Harvin at No. 22 to Minnesota, Vontae Davis to Miami at No. 25, and Eric Wood to Buffalo at No. 28.
I guess I was a tougher evaluator than the Vikings and Dolphins because I had Harvin and Davis falling out of the first round due to their character issues.
So many thoughts flood to mind at the news that the Patriots traded cornerback Ellis Hobbs to Philadelphia today for two fifth-round draft picks:
-- First off is the strange reality that the two cornerbacks who started Super Bowl XLII for New England against the Giants less than 15 months ago are now Eagles -- Asante Samuel and Hobbs.
-- Secondly comes the natural question of whether the Eagles are trying to have something to do with every cornerback in the league who happens to be unhappy with his contract? Philly already traded the disgruntled Lito Sheppard to the Jets in February, and in recent days they've had to deal with the displeasure of cornerback Sheldon Brown, who also wants a new deal. You can add Hobbs to that list, because in his introductory conference call with Philadelphia media members, he said he believes he's underpaid and called his contract "frustrating.'' It's all rather puzzling, given that the Eagles went out and got Hobbs as something of a checkmate move in regards to Brown trying to force the team into a new deal.
-- And lastly, New England clearly means business about fixing the problems in its secondary. The Patriots finished 26th among the NFL's 32 teams on third downs last season, and they've already this offseason signed veteran cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden in free agency, traded away Hobbs and drafted Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler in the second round.
NFL Truth & Rumors