We here at Real Football know — and you've heard it before — that you can't honestly grade a draft for at least three years. But the initial reaction to any draft class is about three things: needs, value, and … PR!
Did you get the guy you "wanted," at a position of need, at the spot where you were supposed to get him? That's all most fans (and some prognosticators) have to go by. We've been watching our share of video dating to the fall, however, so we feel fairly confident in our assessment of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Here's our initial view of some of the winners and losers of this year's selection meeting.
Kansas City Chiefs — In a thousand mock drafts this winter and spring, there wasn't an expert in sight who thought Glenn Dorsey would fall to No. 5. That trade of Jared Allen doesn't hurt quite as bad right now because Dorsey can be a disruptive force from the inside, making any edge player who plays next to him instantly better.
With the run on OTs late in the first round, the move up to get Branden Albert, a top-10 talent on some boards, was a shrewd move. Some people, including Mel Kiper, had Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers listed as one of the top corners on the board, so he was a great value in Round 2, and third-rounders RB Jamaal Charles, TE Brad Cottam and S DaJuan Morgan are all potential future starters who had values higher than where they were selected.
The Chiefs added secondary depth with Brandon Carr, and Gardiner-Webb DE Brian Johnston has all the skills to become a top pass rusher, like Allen, if he can make the transition from small school to NFL, like Allen.
The team is still in need of a QB, but with 12 picks, they may have found six to seven starters. It was a nice haul for Herm Edwards and company.
Minnesota Vikings — When evaluating this draft, you have to consider the move for Allen. Did the Vikes give up too much? It's hard to say, but they would have had to give up a second-rounder to move up in the first round for a chance at someone like Derrick Harvey, an unproven commodity. Allen is 26 years old and still in his prime as one of the top pass rushers in the league, at a position of absolute need in Minnesota.
Second-rounder Tyrell Johnson was thought by many to be the best safety on the board and worth the trade up. He has the speed and range to play free safety, is a physical presence who can play down in the box as a strong safety, and may even have the cover skills to contribute as a corner. With their late-round picks, the Vikings found a QB in John David Booty whose decision-making and accuracy complement Tarvaris Jackson's strong arm and athleticism, and John Sullivan could be the heir apparent to Matt Birk at center.
Cincinnati Bengals — The plans didn't work out for DT Sedrick Ellis, but his Southern Cal teammate Keith Rivers will make an immediate impact at LB, both as a run stuffer and a pass-rush presence. Second-round WR Jerome Simpson is a small-school star who has big hands, long arms and speed.
DT Pat Sims, WR Andre Caldwell and OT Anthony Collins were all very good middle-round values and all could develop into starters in the next two years. Sixth-round S Corey Lynch is a playmaker with great athletic ability.
Carolina Panthers — First-round RB Jonathan Stewart and OT Jeff Otah could both be starters this year. Otah is raw but he will need to learn quickly if this draft is going to be a success for the Panthers. We're surprised CB Charles Godfrey and LB Dan Connor slipped to the third round — both were great values and are good football players who will likely contribute this season.
Don't tell anyone, but you could see Pick No. 250, Bentley G Mackenzy Bernadeau, starting for Carolina sooner than later. The Cats still need a QB, but expect some action on the trade market to bolster that position. They met all their other needs.
New Orleans Saints — Despite no third- or fourth-round picks, we like what the Saints did. The move for Sedrick Ellis, the guy everyone knew they wanted, immediately upgrades their front four. CB Tracy Porter will fit well in the Cover-2 scheme once he improves a bit as a tackler. For now he's a good third corner for the team that ranked among the worst in the league against the pass in 2007.
DT DeMario Pressley is a good value in the Round 5 and is in the same mold as former N.C. State stars Mario Williams and Manny Lawson — quick, fast and athletic. OT Carl Nicks took a while to find a home at the collegiate level and has some off-field concerns, but based on talent alone he should have been a sure second-rounder. He's a future starter if Sean Payton and company can keep his head straight.
There's no TE in this group, but the Shockey thing isn't dead yet. Expect him or another veteran to be added to the roster before camp.
Tennessee Titans — We don't get it. With Vince Young at QB, where is the breakout receiver to put some pop in this offense? Fourth-rounder Lavelle Hawkins, the No. 2 WR at Cal, isn't that guy in our eyes. Chris Johnson is fast, no doubt, and the Titans may have felt a need to develop a "Thunder & Lightning" backfield with LenDale White, but Johnson is a Reggie Bush-type player who will struggle to be effective anywhere but out in open space, and he was a reach in Round 1.
Second-rounder Jason Jones was rising up boards late and will get a chance to play because of the losses of Travis LaBoy and Antwan Odom, but he will need time to develop. Third-round TE (did they really need another one?) Craig Stevens looks the part but wasn't used much as a receiver at Cal. This guy is Anthony Becht, Jets fans — solid but not spectacular.
Chicago Bears — Yes, the Bears needed an OT, but Chris Williams wasn't the guy in our eyes. Williams is more of a finesse tackle who would fit better in a zone scheme at a place like Denver or Houston. He's not a mauler in typical Bears fashion.
Second-round RB Matt Forte is a power runner who can push Ced Benson, but WR Earl Bennett, OT Marcus Harrison and S Craig Steltz may not contribute right away, and TE/DE Kellen Davis is a great Day Two value and a super athlete but only makes sense if the Bears can find him a home.
Denver Broncos — OT Ryan Clady was a good pick, and expected. But WR Eddie Royal, despite his speed and return ability, is no Javon Walker when it comes to providing a deep threat for this offense. In this offense, fifth-round RB Ryan Torain could become a star, like many others, and FB Peyton Hillis could blossom, but no one else in their nine picks does much for us.
Houston Texans — Here's a team that appeared to address all its needs on paper, but we wonder about the quality of their catch. OT Duane Brown is a good player who will start for a long time, but CB Antwaun Molden is raw out of Eastern Kentucky and a reach, even in Round 3. He's an athlete who looks the part, but it doesn't necessarily translate to the field.
West Virginia RB Steve Slaton is a product of the spread offense who will have to prove he can handle the game between the tackles, Xavier Adibi is going to try to play LB at 220 pounds, and DT Frank Okam has been wildly inconsistent throughout his Texas career.