Analysis By ColdHardFootballFacts.com
Even if lightning strikes twice and Luck proves to be the second coming of Peyton Manning, he'll have his work cut out for him. The 2011 Colts were just as bad on defense as they were on their Manning-less offense: No. 28 in scoring in each category. Talent around Luck may be sparse: Indy has drafted just four wide receivers over the past 10 years, easily the fewest in the NFL. The NFL is all about the QB and Indy will struggle for years if Luck doesn't live up to the hype. No pressure, Andy.
Carolina's Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, set the bar high with a rookie record of 4,051 passing yards last season. The Redskins have similar dreams for the equally talented RGIII. Oh, for what it's worth: Newton completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,854 yards, 30 TD and 7 INT in his 2010 Heisman season at Auburn. Griffin completed 72.4 percent for 4,293 yards, 37 TD and 6 INT in his 2011 Heisman season at Baylor. Dream big, D.C.
Richardson played behind Mark Ingram at Alabama, a 2011 first-round draft pick (New Orleans). But the consensus is that Richardson is a better, more muscular and more athletic ball carrier. Richardson ran for 1,679 yards and 21 TD last season; Ingram 1,658 and 17 in his Heisman campaign of 2009. The lowly Browns desperately need the help. They averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt on the ground last year (31st). But it's a high-risk pick: Cleveland traded away its first-, fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks to Minnesota this year to move up one spot to get Richardson.
The Vikings struggled badly in pass protection last season, surrendering 49 sacks, and need to rebuild the offensive line, especially after releasing former Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson. Kalil offers the potential for a classic blind-side left tackle for a team that needs to protect its young quarterback. They also pick up more than half a draft (four picks) from Cleveland and still land a player they need and want. Minnesota is sitting at the precipice of a huge draft.
The Jaguars ranked dead last in passing yards per attempt, offensive passer rating and real quarterback rating last season. So Blackmon, a potential game-breaking stud WR, makes sense on the surface. But the Jags have been down this road before: they've drafted 11 wide receivers over the past 10 years, among the most in the NFL. Blackmon will do little to change Jacksonville's offensive fortunes if Blaine Gabbert doesn't show dramatic improvement from his rookie season.
Claiborne was the source of chatter after word leaked of his embarrassing score of 4 on the Wonderlic test. But he was also the best defender on one of the nation's top defenses last year at LSU. He represents a good, solid needs-based pick for the Cowboys, who struggled badly on pass defense last season. The 'Boys ranked 25th in defensive passer rating, surrendering more than 4,000 yards through the air and 7.6 yards per attempt.
The Bucs and rookie head coach Greg Schiano had no choice but to go defense with their first-round pick: they surrendered 349 points over their last 10 games of 2011, each one a loss and most of them ugly. Barron led a national title-winning defense last year at Alabama that surrendered just 106 points in 13 games. He has the potential to make an instant impact for the NFL's worst defense.
The Texas A&M is the first quarterback drafted No. 1 by the Dolphins since Dan Marino way back in 1983. Marino was a gem, the sixth QB taken that year. Tannehill could prove a reach for the desperate Dolphins. He largely struggled last season against top-tier competition and appears overvalued in a weak year for QBs. Reigning Miami starter Matt Moore, meanwhile, went 6-3 over the final nine games of 2011 with 15 TD, 5 INT and an impressive 97.8 passer rating. QB controversy?
The linebacker was a playmaking superstar at Boston College: 16 tackles per game while earning the Dick Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. He proved to be a workout warrior at the combine, too. Carolina needs a game-changer on defense to complement its exciting upstart offense. The Panthers were 5th in scoring offense last year, but just 27th in scoring defense. This pick has the potential to be exactly what they needed.
You can't win in the NFL when you can't stop the pass. And the Bills were consistently awful in that area last year: No. 26 in defensive passing yards per attempt, No. 26 in defensive quarterback rating and No. 26. in defensive passer rating (90.4) -- the last a very reliable indicator of overall team success. Gilmore has the size (6-0, 190) and athleticism to be a game-changing corner for the Bills.
The Chiefs love their defensive tackles. Poe is now the ninth DT the team has drafted since 2002. Only the Titans have drafted more interior defensive linemen over that period. This pick is loaded with question marks, too. Kansas City's problems last year were on offense (31st in scoring), not on defense (12th in scoring). Poe could be largely overvalued, as well: a small-school guy who impressed more in workouts than he did on the field against quality competition.
Cox is a very athletic big man (300 pounds, 4.7 40) who could prove to be an impact player inside. Big problem, though: Philadelphia's strength last year was its defensive line: No. 8 on the Cold, Hard Football Facts Defensive Hog Index and best in the NFL at pressuring the passer: No. 1 in both sacks (50) and at forcing negative pass plays (11.4 percent of opponent dropbacks ended in sack or INT). Cox does little to help this team's other issues.
Floyd is a big receiver (6-3, 220) with game-breaking skills. He set a Notre Dame record last year with 100 catches and owns most of the career receiving marks in the school's storied history. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were weighed down with one of the worst passing attacks in football last year. But without a legit QB, even the terrific tandem of Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald may struggle to terrorize defenses. Arizona would have been better served shoring up an OL that ranked No. 31 on CHFF's Offensive Hog Index last year.
Brockers is a big, rangy and athletic interior lineman who anchored the middle of LSU's great defense last year as a redshirt sophomore and also has the potential to play at defensive end, too. The pathetic Rams need help everywhere, including on the defensive front: they were gashed for 4.8 yards per rush attempt last year (28th). St. Louis is sitting pretty overall: stockpiling picks by twice trading down out of their original No. 2 overall pick.
Irvin is a high-risk pick on three fronts: he is undersized and looks mostly like a one-dimensional pass-rushing specialist; he has a checkered past, dropping out of high school and bouncing around to several colleges; and, on the field, Seattle had many more pressing issues than its defensive line. The Seahawks were No. 4 last year on our Defensive Hog Index.
Coples has the tall, rangy appearance of another standout North Carolina defensive end: Julius Peppers. If Coples pans out like Peppers, it could be a home-run needs-based pick for the Jets: they forced just 35 sacks last year and were in the bottom half of the league in scoring D (20th, surrendering 22.7 PPG).
The Bengals have a lot of potential on their young offense and needed to go defense. They were 0-8 last year against teams that reached the playoffs and surrendered an average of 24.4 points in those games. Kirkpatrick was a shutdown corner rated on many boards as 1A behind No. 6 overall pick Morris Claiborne. Great potential for the Bengals with this pick.
The Chargers have been desperate for playmakers on defense. Last year, they simply couldn't get off the field, allowing opponents to convert 49.2 percent of third-down attempts (last in the NFL). And they've drafted just three defensive ends over the past decade, among fewest in the NFL. Ingram could change the character of the defense: the athletic DE chalked up 10 sacks last year and produced three defensive and special teams scores for one of the nation's toughest defenses.
The run on defenders continues: 12 of the last 14 picks have gone to the defensive side of the ball (after five offensive players to launch the first round). McClellin is a speedy and versatile outside pass rusher who could play down or upright. Potential solid needs-based pick: the Bears forced just 33 sacks last year and were 28th in the NFL at creating negative pass plays.
Put the Titans high on the list of teams that never learn. Wide receivers have a high bust rate and Wright is the 16th WR the team has drafted since 2002, most in the NFL over that period. Few have panned out. Even 2009 first-round pick Kenny Britt has caught only 101 passes with 15 TDs over three seasons. Meanwhile, the Titans have huge holes to fill elsewhere, including a pathetic defensive front. History says the Titans will regret this pick.
The Patriots have been desperate for a pass-rushing playmaker since the Willie McGinest-Mike Vrabel Super Bowl-winning glory days. Like those two players, the versatile Jones could play standing up at OLB or down as line-of-scrimmage edge rusher. Huge potential to be the game-changer New England needs to get back to the championship level, but some questions pop up: he missed much of last season with an knee injury.
Colt McCoy's career is officially on the clock. Cleveland's current quarterback has failed to impress in his two seasons (20 TD, 20 INT, 74.5 passer rating) and the offense was an embarrassment last year, scoring just 13.6 PPG. Weeden has huge upside and an impressive track record. Last time he took the field, he outgunned overall No. 1 pick Andrew Luck in Oklahoma State's 41-38 win over Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
The upstart Lions have fully matured. After embarrassing themselves by drafting wide receivers No. 1 year-after-year back in the Matt Millen days, they've now drafted building-block offensive or defensive lineman No. 1 in four of the past drive drafts. Two potential problems, though: Reiff is the best OL prospect out of Iowa since ... Robert Gallery, a pick that never lived up to potential. Meanwhile, Detroit's biggest needs were on defense. That unit couldn't stop anybody over the second half of the season.
The Steelers have a habit of making un-sexy picks in the draft, and that strategy has worked brilliantly for them over the years. Pittsburgh's offensive line has struggled since losing All-World guard Alan Faneca after the 2007 season and DeCastro has the potential to be an earth-moving interior lineman in his mold.
The Crimson Tide defense might have fared well in the NFL last season. Hightower is Alabama's third defender taken in the first round. The Patriots have consistently frustrated fans, trading down on draft day for value picks. They traded up twice in the first round this year to grab much-needed potential playmaking defenders. Hightower was the captain of the best defense in college football last year, a starter as a freshman in 2008 and a key member of its 2009 national title team, too.
The Texans focused on defense last season, picking defenders with their first five picks. The result was the NFL's most improved and perhaps best defense. They doubled down in Round 1 of 2012. Mercilus was a mega-playmaker for the Illini last year, with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles. Houston's Super Bowl-caliber defense should be deadly once again.
The Bengals, on the cusp of being a legit contender, could have a game-changing draft. They landed a potential shutdown corner at No. 17 then lulled the Patriots into trading away their first- and third-round picks to move up to Cincy's No. 21 spot. Zeitler, meanwhile, was the top lineman for Wisconsin's unstoppable run game last year. He could prove a great needs-based pick. The Bengals struggled badly to run the ball last year, averaging just 3.9 yards per attempt (27th).
It was a huge round for defensive lineman: Perry was the 10th DL, and seventh defensive end, taken in the first round alone. He led the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks last year and Green Bay desperately needs him to shore up its pass rush. The Packers D was No. 1 in the NFL at forcing negative pass plays in their Super Bowl-winning season of 2010; but plummeted to No. 20 in 2011 -- a weakness readily apparent in the playoff loss to the Giants.
The Vikings traded their second- and fourth-round picks to Baltimore to land one of the best defensive backs available and, more importantly, fill a critical need. The Vikings last year fielded one of the worst pass defenses in the history of the NFL, allowing 34 TDs, grabbing just 8 INTs, and surrendering a 107.6 defensive passer rating. Only one team in history was worse on pass defense: the 0-16 Lions of 2008 (110.9 DPR).
Grabbing wide receivers in the first round is almost always a bad move. They bust at a high rate and rarely improve a team's overall fortunes. Note Julio Jones in Atlanta last year. The Falcons declined offensively by almost every measure. But the 49ers were in an ideal spot to grab a potential game-breaker at wideout: they were solid everywhere else last year and need a little help to open up the passing game for Alex Smith.
The pathetic Bucs had plenty of problems last year. Running the ball was not one of them. The team averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per attempt on the ground. Tampa did address defense with its first pick (safety Mark Barron at No. 7). But one first-round pick will not shore up all the problems on D. Martin, meanwhile, could prove to be the second coming of Emmitt Smith (career 4.2 YPA). It would do little to help the Bucs solve their immediate problems.
The Giants have a rep as a classic old-school offense that pounds away with an array of ball carriers to open up the passing lanes for its quarterback. But on draft day the team has devoted very few resources to the ground -- just four draft picks over the past 10 years went to RBs, fewest in the NFL. With that said, Wilson could prove to be a smart pick. The Giants won the Super Bowl last season despite a pathetic rushing attack. They averaged just 3.5 yards per rush attempt, worst in the NFL. Great needs-based pick for the champs.
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