Green Bay. The Pack bought what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was saying -- that the 2009 season of left tackle Bryan Bulaga, idled for three weeks by a thyroid condition, was nothing like his 2008 season, when he was a monster. Bulaga will be ready when either of the old Packer tackles goes down this year. James Starks, nice value in round six, could be a good complement to Ryan Grant. The one that got away: pass-rusher Sergio Kindle would have been good value at 23, but Ted Thompson did right in picking the tackle because of the age on the O-line.
Houston. Watch the development of Kyle Wilson with the Jets. That's always going to be the guy I'll compare in terms of impact to Kareem Jackson, the corner the Texans preferred instead. I'd have rather have had Wilson because of his experience, intelligence and versatility, plus scouts say Wilson is more physical in bump coverage. But getting Ben Tate (58) to challenge Steve Slaton and Darryl Sharpton (102), a 5-11 Zach Thomas-type tackling machine, helps the Texans' quality depth.
Indianapolis. I know why Bill and Chris Polian took Jerry Hughes over Rodger Saffold at 31; Hughes has the size and speed to rush the passer like the classic fast rushers the Colts have in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and those guys are aging, so it's a good pick. But I think this team has a crying need for a left tackle of the future. I would have gone with Saffold.
But the thing about Colt drafts is they pick guys they know who will fit their scheme, like blocking tight end Brody Eldridge of Oklahoma; he was in Jermaine Gresham's shadow, obviously, but the Colts know he'll be able to be the goal-line and short-yardage tight end they've been looking for.
Jacksonville. A few things in the wake of my Thursday night conversation with well-respected GM Gene Smith of the Jags, after he made a pick I thought was the reach of the draft, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu of Cal with the 10th pick. I thought Smith could have dealt down and still gotten Alualu, valued as a second-rounder by most teams, even if he didn't get very good value for the pick. Choosing a player later, even if he gets a low pick to do so, will save the franchise money because of picking in a lower slot.
Smith said he's fine with taking the slings and arrows from people in the media who would criticize him for this, because he has the courage of his convictions to take players where he feels they should be taken. And though he didn't say it, I could tell he felt this way: if he watches every snap of 25 games that Alualu played in the last two years and he gets criticized for reaching for him, just who is doing the criticizing? People -- other than the Mayocks and Kipers, I'm assuming -- who might have seen a highlight or two, and have gotten everything they know about the draft from personnel people or coaches they talk to at this time of year. That resonated with me all weekend.
Here's a guy who picked two starting tackles in the first two rounds last year, Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, and then on consecutive picks in the third round took two immediate defensive starters, tackle Terrence Knighton and corner Derek Cox, both of whom had very good rookie seasons. The moral or the story to me is simple. For a guy who had such a strong draft last year and is widely respected (though mostly unknown because the Jags have been recently invisible on the NFL landscape) by his scouting peers, Smith deserves a light rap on the wrist for not getting a little something by trading down. But I'll wait 'til midseason, until we all see how disruptive (or not) Alualu is after a career at every position on the defensive line with Cal.
Kansas City. Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, who devotes three months of his life buried in this stuff (and whose charts and notebooks look like something a nuclear physicist would keep), is not an easy grader in his annual post-draft grading. He gave the Chiefs an A+ for picking the best defensive back in the draft (Eric Berry), a nightmarish matchup problem out of the backfield and slot (Dexter McCluster) and the twin threat of a good corner and best return man Goose rated in the draft (Javier Arenas). He didn't mention this: The top five Chiefs picks were captains of their college teams (Tennessee, Ole Miss, national champ Alabama, Illinois and Iowa) last season. The last one of those, tight end Tony Moeaki, has a little Bavaro in him. Very nice job.
Miami. You can see where the Dolphins thought they were weak, and old. They had eight picks and used seven on defense. What I found interesting is I gave the Dolphins Ryan Mathews in my mock draft; he's a running back Miami liked a lot but didn't think was worth the 12th pick in the draft. So the Dolphins traded the 12th pick to San Diego for the 28th and 40th picks overall ... and the Chargers then chose Mathews. In lieu of the back, Miami fortified its line with defensive tackle Jared Odrick at 28 and end Koa Misi of Utah at 40. Meat-and-potatoes draft -- and remember, wideout Brandon Marshall's got to be part of the draft too. He came for a two in 2010 and two in '11.
Minnesota. Leslie Frazier's going to have his work cut out for him. Minnesota chose USC defensive end Everson Griffen -- a supposed top prospect bypassed by his college coach, Pete Carroll, three times -- with the second pick of the fourth round. He has some issues with desire, and he's probably not going to be a good edge rusher. Good value at pick number 100. Toby Gerhart, chosen 51st, looks like a quality replacement for Chester Taylor. Cool pick: Penn State tight end Mickey Shuler, the son of Penn State tight end Mickey Shuler.
New England. Love what the Belichicks did at tight end in the last five weeks, signing free-agent filler Alge Crumpler (maybe a one-year bit of glue), then drafting Rob Gronkowski at 42 and Aaron Hernandez at 113. Hernandez was thievery; watching Florida four or five times on TV in the fall and on tape last week, I thought he looked like a bona fide NFL tight end right now.
The Patriots again got great volume, and even set themselves as the power brokers of the 2011 draft; they already had the Raiders' 2011 first-rounder, then pilfered the Panthers' second-round pick next year by dealing them the 89th pick in this draft -- way at the end of the third round. But I don't know whether they got the playmaker on defense they needed, and there's going to be tremendous pressure on a receiver with only average quickness, Taylor Price of Ohio, to come in and play right away because Wes Welker's injuries could keep him out much of the year.
New Orleans. Cornerback Patrick Robinson seemed like a reach at 32, but the Saints had a big corner need. The whole world loves neophyte athletic tight end Jimmy Graham from Miami with the 95th pick. "Best pick in the draft,'' one AFC coach told me. "Give him time, and in that offense, he'll be better than [Jeremy] Shockey by the start of next year.''
NFL Truth & Rumors