We all love the brackets that come with college basketball in March, so I’ve decided to carry it over to a different sport. The madness started this past weekend with the 2012 NFL Draft and was shortly followed by a wild array of phone calls to undrafted NFL prospects. After all the dust had settled, fans were left asking, “Who had the best draft”?
I’ve decided to not label every team with a letter grade, but to instead give you my take on their picks, needs, and value of where they selected prospects. I’ll then put them head to head with a team in their division and let them fight it out. The better draft advances for a shot as the divisional championship. Let the NFL madness begin…
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AFC East - Round 1
New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
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New York - Quinton Coples is best suited as a defensive end in the 34. I actually would have looked some other options with the 16th pick but Coples is still a good pick. He was my third ranked 5 technique, defensive end, behind Michael Brockers and Fletcher Cox. I felt that getting an outside linebacker to pass rush would probably be a top priority. After using first round picks on the defensive line last year and this, Rex Ryan should be all set up front. Ryan will get the most out of Coples and he will be highly effective. Stephen Hill is a complete risk. I won’t say it’s a bad pick but I will say that there were many safer wide receivers that the Jets didn’t have to trade up for and could have got a few rounds later. Obviously, the potential of Hill was worth the risk for the Jets. Hill was already a shaky prospect, but putting him in an offense with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow will only increase his risk. Demario Davis is another one of these Arkansas State kids that have put the school on the map this year. Davis is a talented player that provides much needed depth on the Jets interior.
Terrance Ganaway is a Rex Ryan running back. That’s not a good thing by the way. The Jets always seem to look for the same traits in running backs and it’s the reason that they still don’t have an every down producer. Ganaway benefited from playing with Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright. When Griffin was out, Ganaway turned in to a pedestrian running back. He’ll be a short yardage back in the NFL at best. Antonio Allen may have been the best value pick in the whole draft. This is a 6’2, lengthy safety that can play physical in the box but also has solid coverage ability. He held Georgia’s Orson Charles without a catch when they faced. This is a Rex Ryan guy…but this time in a good way. I doubt any team gets more contribution from a seventh round pick this year, than what the Jets will get out of Allen. Jordan White will catch everything. That’s the best part of his game but nothing else he does will WOW you. He will struggle to get open in the NFL but if he can find creases, he would be beneficial to the Jets’ quarterbacks as he can make the crucial catches on must have downs. The Jets added a few guys after the draft that could fight for a roster spot as well. TE, Brian Linthicum, QB, GJ Kinne, CB, Ryan Steed, LB, Marcus Dowtin, and DE, Brett Roy.
Buffalo - Stephon Gilmore was a guy that we didn’t see as a special cornerback, if asked to play press, but loved him as a safety. After the Bills selected him 10th overall, I questioned the motive. Reports came out that the Bills planned to use him to cover athletic tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. This is exactly how I outlined the best way to use Gilmore as a safety. It makes perfect sense for them to make stopping the Patriots tight ends their number one priority. Cordy Glenn is a mammoth human being that’s athletic and fully capable of being a franchise left tackle. I’ve had him going to the Bills with their first round selection since January.
I felt that he was the second best left tackle in this class and would remind the Bills of Jason Peters. They actually were able to get Glenn in the second round and have said that they plan to make him their left tackle. TJ Graham was the first snap that I saw in their draft. He’s an explosive return man and a decent slot guy. They could have filled another need here and got a better prospect later. They obviously loved his speed and his ability to stretch the field. Nigel Bradham is a tackling machine. He’ll allow the defensive line to pursue and wreck havoc and he will be responsible for cleaning up anything that leaks through. Ron Brooks played in a talented secondary and was able to make plays based off his teammates effort and skills. Due to making the occasional play and running fast at the combine the Bills overvalued him. Zebrie Sanders was such a smart pick.
They drafted Cordy Glenn to play left tackle and they picked up Chris Hairston last year. Hairston can be a swing tackle and start at or provide depth on the left or right side. Thanks to having Hairston on staff from last year, it allows the Bills to experiment with a guy like Sanders that has to become a consistently better tackle. He has the ability to become a better right tackle than Hairston but if he doesn’t, CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Ryan Fitzpatrick will still be comfortable behind a line with Glenn and Hairston. Tank Carder is a guy that should have never been available in the fifth round, based on talent. He’s had some injury concerns but if he can stay healthy, the Bills linebacking corps is set as far as depth and talent for the future. I wasn’t that high on their free agent pickups. OLB, Garrick Williams is interesting.
The Jets came out and had some early success but then tried to get too cute with their offense. The defense looked like it may have straightened things out but then quickly became questionable as well. The Jets played much better and consistent late. Buffalo had a well thought out plan of attack and executed it early. They had a couple of bumps along the way but managed to stick with their big picture plan. They got a little too comfortable with their decision making late and weren’t as precise but by that point they had already inflicted their will.
New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
New England - Chandler Jones is exciting to teams. They see the athletic bloodlines and the comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul. Projecting Jones to develop in the same manner as Pierre-Paul, is asking a bit much in my opinion. His style does fit well in a hybrid 43/34 defense if that’s what Belichick decides to do. I liked him as a 34 defensive end and also the left defensive end in a 43 system. He’ll likely see time at both spots in New England. He doesn’t have a technique, as he just slams his unorthodox body into the line and throws his long arms in the way of passing lanes. This style is more effective in college but I would be afraid that the big, athletic tackles could combat this with solid footwork and technique. Dont’a Hightower isn’t an elite linebacker but he’s elite at what he does well. He plays physical and has great short area explosion. If he has a line of sight he won’t hesitate to take the shot. He benefited from playing with Josh Chapman, as did most of the front seven. He’ll be asked to fight through traffic more in New England.
Tavon Wilson was a guy that I briefly watched on tape initially. Then I heard about all of the visits he was taking and decided to give him a second shot. I thought I missed something. I was right the first time. Absolutely nothing on his film said draftable to me. I definitely didn’t see second round talent. Jake Bequette is another guy that just screams Patriots. He fits a hybrid role as well but a different one than Jones. Bequette can kick inside in the 43 and out work guards. I also like him outside in the 34 at the 5 technique. Alfonzo Dennard was a good get in the seventh round but let’s not act like this was a top talent that slid here. Even if he didn’t punch a cop, I wouldn’t have drafted Dennard before the fourth round at the earliest. It’s a low risk move. If they get any talent out of him and he quits fighting, then it was well worth a mid seventh rounder. From the less is more department, the Patriots didn’t add many undrafted guys but the ones that I’ve seen are talented. OT, Markus Zusevics (tore pec at combine), DT, Marcus Forston, and OG, Jeremiah Warren.
Miami - Ryan Tannehill may turn out to be a great pick in a couple of years. I look at drafts in a manner to which they affect this year’s team. I don’t see this pick adding any value to the 2012 Miami Dolphins and possibly the 2013 Dolphins. He’s a huge project player. You usually don’t draft a guy in the top 10 that will hopefully develop into a talent in a few years. Jonathan Martin is a solid second round pick that will give the Dolphins a bookend tackle opposite of Jake Long. He will struggle as a rookie though.
Olivier Vernon must of impressed the team at local workouts because he wasn’t more than inconsistent on film. At times he would flash a solid pass rush but it was few and far between. I originally thought that he would go in the sixth round or later. Michael Egnew is one of the teams better picks. They’ve needed a reliable receiving tight end for years and Egnew will be that guy.
Lamar Miller is another guy from Miami that the Dolphins fell for. He has one of the worst change of directions in the backfield and NFL defenses will continuously eat him up for a loss week after week. Josh Kaddu is a solid fifth round pick that will probably be more successful than their third round pick of Vernon. BJ Cunningham is a good addition to the team but it’s too little, too late. Cunningham will be a role player and not a difference maker. The Dolphins have a few of those guys and should of concentrated on finding their premier wide receiver earlier, instead of taking a quarterback that will have great seats for two years.
Rishard Matthews is another receiver that the team added. They used a sixth and seventh rounder to find their offensive weapons. Their undrafted guy may turn out to be a bigger producer over their careers. Matthews and Cunningham would both make for nice compliments, but I doubt that either could be the focus of the offense. Kheeston Randall will fit in well with the team transitioning over to a 43 defense. They were able to find a decent talent in the seventh round due to the depth at the defensive tackle position in this draft. Miami was able to get several players after the draft that fight for a spot on the team. DE, Derrick Shelby, DE, Jacquies Smith, WR, Derek Moye, WR, Jeff Fuller, S, Kelcie McKray, RB, Jonas Gray, and OT, Dustin Waldron.
This one is a lot closer to me than I originally thought. The Patriots swung for the fences early and at worst will come up with a couple of ground rule doubles. At the same time, Miami decided to start the game with a cheerleader. Despite Miami starting from so far behind, they started putting a lot of singles together to get back in the ballgame.
The Dolphins have a long way to go before they are considered contenders in this division but the foundation pieces that they are laying may turn out to last with the organization for a lot longer than the Patriots risk / reward guys. Miami kept it close throughout but New England just seems to have added more elite talent. I understand both strategies but the draft is about getting top tier talent and New England is at a place with their franchise, that they were allowed to do so. The Patriots pull out a close one.
In the AFC East finals, the Patriots and the Bills came out blow for blow. In the middle of the game, Buffalo started getting their team together and put separation between themselves and the Patriots. The Patriots made a strong push and got close. In the two minute drill, New England’s talent came up just short as Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski saw the game fall right outside of their reach. Buffalo had just added to much strength to their offense as a whole and completed their defense.