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…
AFC West - Round 1
Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers
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Denver – Derek Wolfe is a hard pick for me to really digest. I think he’s a talented player and he fits one of their biggest needs. I liked what Wolfe showed in college and feel that he can make an instant impact on a defense. My problem is that there were so many talented defensive tackles and drafting Wolfe with their first pick, led to a draft where they didn’t get a lot of elite talent. Brock Osweiler was a horrible pick to me. I don’t think he’s an NFL caliber quarterback. This is John Elway falling in love with his son’s friend. Jack Elway went to Arizona State to play quarterback before walking away from the game. His best friend there was Brock Osweiler and now Brock is a second round draft pick that paid a ton of money for Peyton Manning and brought in a better back up than Brock this off-season in Caleb Hanie. So, Denver lacks talent but they use their second pick on a developmental third stringer? Ronnie Hillman can play in the NFL but he won’t ever be a special player. I don’t think he’s a much better prospect than Mario Fannin, who they got last year.
Omar Bolden is another guy that Elway is familiar with due to his Arizona State ties. But, I really like Bolden. He’s a physical corner that can learn a lot from Champ Bailey. It’s crazy that the Broncos got most of their overall value from the fourth round and later. Besides Bolden, I also loved the fourth round pick of Philip Blake. Blake is a talented center/guard from Baylor that could push to start immediately. Malik Jackson was Denver’s steal of the draft. In their 43 defense I could see him spend time at left defensive end, opposite of Elvis Dumervil and on the interior at defensive tackle. I had him graded out above Derek Wolfe actually. Danny Trevathan is the equivalent of lightning striking twice for Denver. Much like Wesley Woodyard, who went undrafted, they found another quality linebacker from Kentucky late that will contribute on this team. Sticking with the theme of finding hidden talent late, the Broncos snagged a few intriguing undrafted prospects in S, Duke Ihenacho, another ASU product in 6’5 WR, Gerell Robinson, CB, Coryell Judie, WR, Eric Page, LB, Jerry Franklin, and OL, Wayne Tribue.
San Diego - Melvin Ingram is a player that I disagree with 99% of the other draft analysts on. Everyone else saw his college film and viewed him as an athletic pass rusher. I saw a guy that benefited from playing with Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney on the outside and being forced into one on one matchups on the inside. In these matchups he used his stellar spin move to beat the less athletic guards and centers. He had explosion off the snap but it was as a three technique. He was slow off the snap when standing and loss balance trying to get the edge on the outside. He won’t fit with what the Chargers have planned for him. He needed to go to a 43 team and add 20 pounds so that he could play the three technique. Kendall Reyes was a good pick and will contribute immediately. I like him better in a 43 front as well but he has the ability to play well as a 5 technique.
Brandon Taylor benefited from playing with all of the defensive talent around him at LSU. I didn’t see anything on film that led me to put a draftable grade him. I would have taken a shot with him after the draft but I would have never used a third round pick on him. Ladarius Green is a risk / reward guy. He’s extremely raw but has good size. They got him at a point in the draft where his risk made sense. San Diego had two quality seventh round picks in running back Edwin Baker and center David Molk. Molk will be asked to compete immediately and has the talent to do so. Baker was an under the radar guy that will be a better pro than college prospect. He’ll mesh well in the backfield with Ryan Matthews. The Chargers added a huge undrafted class and found some guys that I think will make the team. A few of those talents were, WR, Jason Barnes, WR Phillip Payne, RB, Michael Hayes, and DE, Logan Harrell.
In a low scoring battle, Denver was able to pull it out with what they did in the 4th quarter & overtime. Denver advances to face the winner of Oakland and KC.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
Kansas City - Dontari Poe was probably the worst pick in the entire draft. I say probably as an attempt to be nice. He couldn’t win one on one battles in conference USA but now the Chiefs envision him taking on two talented athletes down after down. I didn’t like him as a prospect at all but I did feel that he would have a chance of being molded into something, if he got with a talented defensive minded head coach and was asked to just shoot the gap in a 43 system. Kansas City is switching to a zone running scheme this year and they used their 2nd and 3rd picks on offensive tackles Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson. Allen can compete right away but Stephenson has some work to do on his technique.
Both players will be in the long term plan of this new scheme. The Chiefs still didn’t answer the quarterback question but whoever they are most comfortable with, did get some more weapons in this draft. I really liked the move to add Cyrus Gray to the backfield of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. I don’t view Gray as a home run guy like Charles but more as an undersized power back like Maurice Jones-Drew. The trio of backs will be highly successful in the new zone scheme. Wide receivers Devon Wylie and Junior Hemingway will make a position that was considered weak just a few short seasons ago, a position of strength now. DeQuan Menzie was another one of those players that benefited from playing on a top unit. I think he will struggle to make an active roster. The only player they signed after the draft that interested me was WR, Josh Bellamy.
Oakland - Obviously, most of the Raiders draft picks were already on the team. Their first actually selection was Tony Bergstrom. Just like Kansas City, the Raiders are going to a zone and feel that Bergstrom can fit in this scheme. Miles Burris was a good fourth round pick up for the team. In college he seemed over matched when he was asked to just rush the passer exclusively. When he was able to play more like a linebacker and mix up looks, he looked like a completely different athlete. If Oakland uses him wisely, this would be a great value pick for a team that was limited in selections. Jack Crawford looks the part of a Raider. He’s a good sized defender that is rarely over-matched. By far the Raiders best selection was Juron Criner. It seemed like I was in an alternate universe when every team kept passing on Criner due to a less than desirable forty time but Oakland actually stepped up and made the selection.
The Raiders have always gone for the flash type receivers and have lacked the sure handed possession guy for years. Criner has the biggest hands of the receivers in this draft and immediately looks to aggressively get up field after the catch. He’ll be a perfect fit with Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. Oakland was also able to make up for the lack of picks by adding several players that would have been worthy of draft picks. A few of those guys were S, Aaron Henry, WR, Thomas Mayo, OG, Lucas Nix, and CB Conroy Black.
Oakland didn’t have much to work with but thanks to the Chiefs wasting their first rounder, the Raiders didn’t have to come back from as much as expected. The Raiders were able to overtake the Chiefs at the last second, due to the group of undrafted players.
The Oakland Raiders face the Denver Broncos to decide who wins the AFC West Draft Championship. Oakland was able to find some key pieces to their team as a whole but had too much to overcome. While I didn’t like Derek Wolfe getting selected where he did, adding him and Malik Jackson to plug the hole that’s been in the front of the Denver defense is huge. Oakland stayed in the game with the pick that gave Carson Palmer his new TJ Houshmanzadeh, but it wasn’t enough as they fell further behind over the sixth and seventh rounds. The Raiders stayed competitive after the draft with a good undrafted group but what the Broncos did after the seventh round was insane.