We don't like the traditional "Monday morning" draft report card. We don't even like speculating on which teams picked up "good" players or got "good value" for their picks. Some of the best players in the history of the college game have flopped badly in the NFL, and value is subjective, based on each team's assessment of the draft board.
However, a good exercise is to see which teams gave the best effort in terms of addressing their roster needs. As we have mentioned in this space before, the draft has become more of a need-based enterprise as front office personnel endure an ever-growing pressure to win now from both fans and ownership.
We've identified six teams in each conference that did a particularly good job this past weekend of filling needs and upgrading their rosters.
Cincinnati —Will the person who kidnapped Mike Brown please…..keep him! The Bengals did their work last weekend with a sensibility and clarity that hasn't been seen in the Queen City in years. Despite some minor maturity issues, Andre Smith will step in at LT, a pressing need for the Cats, and start for the next 10 years. He's a dominant blocker. Second-rounder Rey Maualuga joins former No. 1 pick Keith Rivers in the LB corps, giving the defense a pair of young, athletic playmakers in the middle of the field. Maualuga's ability to play inside or outside gives coach Marvin Lewis the option to run some hybrid stuff with his defense.
DE Michael Johnson has been tagged an underachiever, but we're not buying it. The kid had 49 plays behind the LOS in 49 career games (only 15 starts). If that's underachieving, we can't wait until he gets going. He's an explosive edge player for a team that had just 17 sacks a year ago. TE Chase Coffman gives QB Carson Palmer the dangerous receiving threat on the seam that he has never had in this offense. He fell in the draft because of an injury during his senior year. And Jonathan Luigs was one of the top centers in a deep draft class who also addressed a pressing need on the O-line.
Jacksonville —The unraveling of the Jaguars' 2008 season began with a deluge of injuries to the O-line. The Jacksonville brass responded by picking up the most polished pass blocker in the draft in Eugene Monroe, and the athletic Eben Britton, who was thought to be a potential first-rounder. With two of the top five OTs from this draft on their roster, they have a pair of cornerstone tackles to build around. DT Terrance Knighton gives them a player with size and strength who is equally adept at taking on double teams and creating penetration from the interior. Meet the replacement for Marcus Stroud.
CB Derek Cox adds depth to a woefully thin secondary, WRs Mike Thomas and Tiquan Underwood are two burners (Underwood is one of the fastest guys in the entire draft), and Jarrett Dillard is a polished player with great hands and excellent route-running skills. Wideout was the Jags' most pressing need heading into the draft. RB Rashad Jennings was a steal in Round 7, a big, bruising runner who will pair nicely with the smaller, quicker Maurice Jones-Drew.
New York Jets —For a team that didn't have a lot of picks to work with, the Jets got a lot done. Mark Sanchez is the future face of the franchise and could very well be the opening-day starter. He comes from a pro-style offense at USC, can make all the throws and, maybe more important, can throw on the run without sacrificing his accuracy. He doesn't have a cannon arm but he is extremely accurate, completing over 60 percent of his passes in college. He has shown himself to be a natural leader, has handled the crush of a demanding media market and the expectations of a rabid fan base, and seems poised to take over the reins.
RB Shonn Greene is a big back in the mold of Jonathan Stewart. He missed all of the 2007 season due to ineligibility, but in 2008 he averaged 6.0 yards per carry while rushing for over 1,800 yards and 20 TDs. Big-bodied G Matt Slauson can be an inside swing guy and may even have enough athleticism to be an effective run-blocking RT. The fact that he was recruited and coached by current Jets O-line coach Bill Callahan will help him make a fast transition.
Pittsburgh — Ziggy Hood will be a good fit as a 3-4 end in the Steelers defense and addresses the age the team has at the position, which will become an issue in the next year or two. T Kraig Urbik and seventh-round C A.Q. Shipleywill improve the depth of the offensive line and gives the coaching staff some prospects they can develop into starters over time. WR Mike Wallace is a dangerous deep threat with outstanding speed and quickness and will eventually fill the vacancy left by FA Nate Washington. CBs Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett bring different skillsets to the table but could both be future contributors for a secondary that features Fernando Bryant, Deshea Townsend and Ike Taylor, all over 30.
San Diego — OLB Larry English gives the Chargers another strong pass rusher and an eventual starter who can step in for Shawne Merriman or Shaun Phillips. Fourth-rounder Vaughn Martin is a 330-pounder who can play the 5-technique in their 3-4 or move inside to the nose when needed. RB Gartrell Johnson is a physical power back who excels between the tackles and will complement LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. CB Brandon Hughes and S Kevin Ellison are both instinctive players who will contribute right away in sub packages. Finally, Louis Vasquez is a potential replacement for RG Mike Goff. Though he did a lot of pass-blocking in college, he showed the size and strength (39 reps in the 225-pound bench) to be a formidable pile pusher as well.
Tennessee —Our question for the past couple of seasons has been: Who are the receivers on this team? One answer, finally, is Kenny Britt. He's 6'3", 218, runs a 4.4 and will be a dangerous vertical threat for Kerry Collins. Defensively, prevailing public opinion has been that the Titans needed to replace Albert Haynesworth. The truth is that Jeff Fisher and company have assembled a young, aggressive and versatile stable of D-linemen. The Titans D-line recorded 31 sacks a year ago, not including Haynesworth's numbers. What they lacked was some size to plug in on run downs. DT Sen'Derrick Marks, a 306-pounder, is the answer there. They also added depth to the O-line and secondary, also areas of need.
Atlanta —The Falcons' greatest needs were on defense. First, along the LOS they added 300-pound DT* eria Jerry, who fits the 3-technique mold that Mike Smith has been looking for. He does a great job of shooting gaps and disrupting plays in the backfield and will allow Jamaal Anderson to remain at DE. *Lawrence Sidbury brings tremendous pass-rush ability to the table as well. S William Moore has excellent range and ball skills and will challenge for a starting spot this year, while depth at CB and LB were also on Atlanta's hit parade last weekend.
Chicago —Now that Jay Cutler is in town, the Bears need to add weapons in the passing game. Though they didn't pick until Round 3, they still were able to select Oklahoma WR* uaquin Iglesias. At 6'1", 210, he's a big, willing target over the middle who adjusts well to the poorly thrown ball, and he's also an excellent returner. *Jarron Gilbert will play inside in the 4-3 attacking scheme and has remarkable athleticism and quickness to penetrate the gaps.
Former Longhorn Henry Melton is an explosive pass rusher off the edge and gives new D-line coach Rod Marinelli some young meat to mold in this system. At LB, Ohio State's Marcus Freeman fell to the fifth round but may have fallen into a system that is an ideal fit for his speed and athleticism, while CB D.J. Moore adds depth to the secondary and will contribute in sub packages.
Green Bay —With the arrival of new DC Dom Capers, the Packers announced a move to a 3-4 defensive alignment. As a result, there were plenty of needs on that side of the ball, and the Pack addressed them all on some level. DT BJ Raji and LB Clay Matthews are two first-rounders who could have an immediate impact. Raji has great size and quickness and is adept at handling double-teams. He will help shore up what has been a porous run defense. Matthews can rush, tackle and cover, and is a smart and instinctive player. Former Georgia Bulldog Jarius Wynn has the ideal size and strength to develop into a 5-technique end.
On the offensive line, Mark Tauscher is coming off major knee surgery and Chad Clifton has had knee issues of his own. Tauscher is a free agent who will likely re-sign if he can prove he's healthy, but Green Bay needs to keep an eye on the future and the addition of tacklesT.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith will provide some insurance.
New York Giants —The Giants were one of the few teams in the league who, on our board, actually addressed ALL of their most pressing needs. WR Hakeem Nicks is a potential No. 1 receiver who has the size and speed to make plays anywhere on the field but will be an ideal catch-and-run guy. Third rounder Ramses Barden is a big, physical receiver who had over 4,000 receiving yards, scored 50 TDs and averaged over 20 yards per catch in college. N.C. State RB Andre Brown never should have lasted into the fourth round. At 6'0", 224, he's a punishing runner but also a valuable receiver out of the backfield and could be an able replacement for Derrick Ward.
TE Travis Beckum is a fantastic athlete with good strength who was a productive receiver, can contribute on special teams, and has also played LB. The Giants couldn't have imagined that T William Beatty would have lasted to the 60th pick. He's athletic, a good run blocker and could eventually start at either tackle spot. Second-round OLB Clint Sintim was coached by former Giants coach Al Groh at Virginia and can play inside or outside in their scheme. They also added depth players at QB and S.
Philadelphia —The Eagles were another team that answered all of its needs heading into the draft. Charged with finding more weapons for QB Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid and his scouting department scored WR Jeremy Maclin, RB LeSean McCoy and TE Cornelius Ingram with their first three selections. Maclin is a receiver with rare playmaking ability and averaged over 200 total yards per game at Missouri. McCoy didn't have stellar workouts, but he did run a 4.5 in the 40 and his production at Pitt (2,800 rushing yards, 65 receptions, 39 TDs in two seasons) makes him an ideal candidate to replace Brian Westbrook in the future. Ingram, who missed all of 2008 with an injury, is an athletic guy who played two years of basketball at Florida. He's the Eagles' answer to Antonio Gates.
Moise Fokou can compete with a young Eagles LB corps, and CB Victor Harris is a good zone cover guy who might be best suited to safety.
St. Louis —Simply put, new GM Billy Devaney and the Rams had one of the best drafts in the league. Though they had seven picks, and needs in just about every corner of the roster, the fact they addressed nearly all of them was impressive. With the second overall selection, they took T* ason Smith, filling a gaping hole in their O-line. Smith has the athleticism to protect Marc Bulger's blind side and the strength and push to be an effective lead blocker on Steven Jackson's edge runs. *James Laurinaitis is a productive, instinctive linebacker who has the athletic ability to get deep into the Cover-2 drops required at MLB, and his arrival allows Will Witherspoon to remain on the weak side, where he is at his best.
Iowa's Bradley Fletcher is a big 6'0" corner who can slide inside to play safety as well and will be an ideal sub-package player to start out. New HC Steve Spagnuolo has said his team needs to get bigger up front, particularly on the interior where DT Adam Carriker weighs in at under three bills. Dorell Scott, a DT out of Clemson, is 312 pounds and possesses a rare combination of size, quickness and strength for a big man. WR Brooks Foster is a 6'1", 215-pound passcatcher who could bolster a receiving corps that lost a lot of receptions in the off-season, and he'll excel on special teams. QB Keith Null and RB Chris Ogbonnayacould add critical depth at their positions.