The draft is over and the rosters that various teams will take to camp are starting to take shape. So is the future of the draft and the types of players we can expect to see in the NFL in coming seasons.
Clearly, the new three-day format for the draft was a huge hit, and we can expect to see it continue for the foreseeable future. The other big change in the draft spectacle was the amount of trading going on throughout the three days of the event. That is a result of the lack of a salary cap, which freed teams up from having to match money on deals. Instead, league personnel people were able to just go out and address needs, almost regardless of the player's financial situation.
The other thing we learned is that teams are getting back to basics in terms of personnel, and that means building from the lines out. In the first round alone, there were four offensive tackles, one guard, one center, four defensive tackles and three defensive ends selected. That's 40 percent of the first 32 picks spent on linemen.
Some of that has to do with the dearth of top-tier talent at the QB, RB and WR positions, but we're thinking it also has a lot to do with teams realizing where their bread is really buttered. Despite the notion that this is a QB-driven league, you still have to block and tackle.
The Jets were certainly busy, as they have been for much of the offseason. The selection of CB Kyle Wilsonin Round 1 gives the team three man-cover corners and really opens things up in the blitz package. Wilson will be the nickel corner on passing downs and give Rex Ryan and his defensive staff eight players to pick from when dialing up the pressure.
In Round 2, the selection of Vladimir Ducasse, a massive (6'4", 332) offensive lineman out of UMass has been met with positive commentary. We're a little skeptical that he can step in and start right away. Alan Faneca was a nine-time Pro Bowler. Ducasse has extremely limited experience, and while he earned All-America honors in college, he will have to prove he can step up his play to the consistently high level necessary to play in the NFL. He has all the physical tools and all the intangibles you could ask for. He will work hard, but he will take time to develop.
Fourth-round pick Joe McKnight carries a similar skillset to the departed Leon Washington. Built like a wide receiver, he has 4.4 speed and is excellent in open space. Though there are some concerns about his lack of strength and bulk, he can, like Washington, change the game in a single play. He and fifth-round pick John Conner, a devastating blocker, will be part of the new guard, along with Shonn Greene, that takes the vaunted Jets running game into the future.
Top of the Heap
There were several teams who we think did a very good job of upgrading their rosters this weekend, including the entire NFC West. But here are three teams that we thought outdid the rest of the league:
Seattle Seahawks — The Hawks filled two major needs and picked up two full-time starters in Round 1 with the selection of T Russell Okung, who will replace retiring Walter Jones, and S Earl Thomas, who has the smarts, speed, range and ball skills to play free safety in Pete Carroll's scheme. The selection of Notre Dame WR Brandon Tate at the end of Round 2 could yield another starter, and fifth-round SS Kam Chancellor is a big, physical tackling machine who could compete for time. Veteran newcomers LenDale White and Leon Washington will bring added pop and competition to the RB position, and former Titan Kevin Vickerson and seventh-rounder Dexter Davis could provide some added pass rush ability.
Oakland Raiders — Al Davis picked up two potential defensive starters in MLB Rolando McClain and DT Lamarr Houston. WR Jacoby Ford will need some refinement, but he has excellent hands and tremendous speed. He won the 60-meter dash at the NCAA Indoor Championships last March and had seven career TDs of 50-plus yards at Clemson. Tackles Bruce Campbell and Jared Veldheer are projects, but at least the Raiders are thinking about developing a line for the future, which is more than they've done in recent seasons.
Cincinnati Bengals — First-round TE Jermaine Greshamis an instant starter and the vertical threat on the seam that the Bengals have been missing. In Rounds 2, 3 and 4, DE Carlos Dunlap, T Geno Atkins, CB Brandon Ghee and LB Roddrick Muckelroy can all contribute in year one, and WR Jordan Shipley can play on special teams and in spread sets working out of the slot — he's Wes Welker reinvented.
Denver Broncos — We like WR Demaryius Thomas, but Tim Tebow is a risky pick, particularly as a tradeup pick late in Round 1. They also passed on Boston College's Matt Tennant in their search for a center, and they did nothing to address their sizable needs at linebacker.
Jacksonville Jaguars — The Jags got caught completely unprepared when Oakland took their guy, Rolando McClain. Tyson Alualu is a good, solid player but not a top-10 talent. They could have picked up a Derrick Morgan and gotten Alualu in Round 2 instead of unproductive tweener D'Anthony Smith. We like fifth-round DE Austin Lane, but that's it.
New York Giants — The Giants just took too many projects for our liking. Jason Pierre-Paul, despite great physical tools, started just seven games of major-college ball. He'll be part of a long rotation, and he could develop over time, as some scouts believe, but those are not the qualities we generally look for in a top-15 pick. Second-round DT Linval Joseph is a pick we like — a big man with the size (328 pounds) to hold up against the run and the quickness to shoot gaps and get upfield. After that, Chad Jones is a limited run-support safety, LB Phillip Dillard has durability issues and had one good year protected behind DT Ndamukong Suh, and Adrian Tracy is a converted DE trying to make the switch to OLB.