We said it before and we’ll say it again: next to the first eight or so picks, this is the most consequential segment of the entire draft. Whereas everyone can see and understand the impact that guys like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will have on downtrodden teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, it’s a little tougher to see the immediate effects from guys going over the course of the final eight picks. We get it. But trust us, it’s huge.
Just take a gander at the franchises that landed in this portion of the proceedings. Before getting robbed of what seemed like inevitable postseason success by injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans were legitimate contenders last year. Imagine what a little extra depth could have done for both clubs. Similarly, the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens all had fairly legit campaigns this past year; a single stud prospect probably could have a made a huge difference on the final outcomes of their seasons.
Here are some interesting team-related storylines to watch for in this portion of the draft: the Steelers defense will still be fierce in 2012-13, but they need some youth. Which position does the team widely-regarded as one of the best when it comes to scouting college talent ultimately end up addressing? The Texans lost a very important piece of the defense this past offseason. Do they address that or try to shore up the holes on offense? The Packers hid a lot of their defensive holes by leading the league in interceptions last year. Will they be able to find the defensive tackle they desperately need by the time they’re up to bat? The Giants don’t have a need, really, so what direction do they go in with the final pick of the first round?
And in terms of interesting player-related storylines: Mark Barron has been the hype-driven chart-climber of the week. Most people see him going in the first half of Thursday’s show. We don’t. Where do the less-heralded defensive difference-makers like Jerel Worthy, Devon Still and Michael Brockers ultimately end up? Could Peter Konz be the surprise selection of a team with more first round picks than it knows what to do with? Where will David Wilson’s flips ultimately land him?
We analyze all that and more in our final projections for picks 24-32.
Note: Tune in today to the Bottom Line Sports Show as they talk all things NFL and have one lucky NFL Draft prospect on to discuss what the future holds.