Most people tend to break down NFL Drafts based on players, and where those players will end up going. The far more apt way to analyze NFL Drafts, though, is by defining moments and intriguing storylines.
Certain defining moments, every year, impact not only how selections ultimately pan out, but also how those selections will alter a given franchise’s gameplan going forward.
The first defining moment of the 2012 NFL Draft will undoubtedly be at the fourth pick, where all eyes are on the Cleveland Browns. By opting to not move up to No. 2 for Robert Griffin III, in theory, Cleveland seemingly committed to Colt McCoy as its quarterback of the future. If that’s the case, then the Browns selecting Justin Blackmon, superstar wide receiver out of Oklahoma State, would make a lot of sense.
There are murmurs out there that Mike Holmgren is contemplating picking up Ryan Tannehill, but that could just be standard pre-Draft misinformation. The darkhorse pick here would be Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who could go as high the fourth pick or completely fall out of the top 15 based on what Cleveland does.
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Once the Browns make their pick, it will basically be a domino effect all the way down the entire rest of the first round. (Except in the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will be largely unaffected no matter what.) The St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs will be just a few of the multiple squads who may have to go back to the drawing boards and re-work their picks if Cleveland nabs someone they wanted.
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Another key defining moment in this draft will be when the first pass rusher is selected. The first round is absolutely loaded with talented pass rushers this time around, and when the first one goes will play a huge role in what rate they’re all gobbled up at by teams in need of a defensive boost. The quality teams with low first round picks would absolutely love it if the squads with high picks randomly opted to reach for offensive players instead of taking not-flashy defensive studs, but whether or not that will actually end up happening remains to be seen.
The other noteworthy thing to watch for in this one is when Alabama’s Richardson will end up going. Because of how unsure NFL executives are of how to value running backs these days, this pick will ultimately answer several questions.
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One, it will give us all a ballpark estimation of how running backs are viewed in the here and now. Two, it’ll let us know whether lower-ranked guys who should go in the second round will ultimately go at the end of the first. And finally, it’ll let us know what the free agent market for running backs will be like in the foreseeable future.
With all that in mind, here is how we envision picks 1-32 shaking out: