The NFL definitely lucked out in the first year of its new primetime format. As a longstanding draft aficionado, I can't remember the last of the annual meat markets that generated more intrigue and astonishment than 2010. The first round alone produced way more than its fair share of "what the hell?" moments:
- As usual, the Raiders did the unexpected. Ironically, that actually meant going the conventional route.
- The Jaguars nabbed a defensive tackle at 10 who no one had ever heard of.
- Three picks in a row, from 11 to 13, yielded trades and head-scratching choices.
- Denver hopscotched around the first round, all so enfant terrible head coach Josh McDaniels could make saintly signal caller Tim Tebow the third quarterback the Broncos have acquired via trade in less than two years.
Watching the befuddled experts melt down as teams dared to defy their mock drafts with pick after pick might have been the most entertaining part of the ESPN broadcasts. By the middle of the second round on Friday night, you would have thought that Mel Kiper owned free-falling Jimmy Clausen stock.
Now that the dust has settled, it's time for the Kipers and Peter Kings of the world to start handing out their infamous draft report cards. Grading a draft before the ink is even dry on the players' $30 million contracts strikes me as a waste of time to start with. And what about all the circumstances surrounding each pick? Apparently it doesn't matter.
So, allow me to pass judgment instead. Based on what I observed during lots of hours spent watching college football in the last few years, there were a couple of teams that I thought did pretty well. Others not so much.
Drafts I Really Liked
Historically, no one does the draft better than Ozzie Newsome, and 2010 was no exception. Get-after-it pass rusher Sergio Kindle and space eater Terrence Cody fit perfectly into the Ravens' cutting-edge defensive schemes. Todd Heap's time for the NFL isn't long, and between Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Baltimore should be able to find a capable replacement. Best of all, Newsome sniffed out a hidden gem in the fifth round, Syracuse defensive lineman Arthur Jones. Jones may have to wait a while to get his shot, but he has what it takes to be an effective NFL nose tackle for years to come.
Cincinnati has to pump up one of the league's worst passing games, and Mike Brown used this draft to get Carson Palmer some reinforcements. Oklahoma's own Jermaine Gresham looks like a potential All-Pro at tight end. Sixth-round pick Dezmon Briscoe out of Kansas is a big, fast receiver with lots of promise, so long as he stays healthy. Jordan Shipley can be a bitch to cover in the slot and could be be a special teams demon. On the defensive side of the, character concerns dropped versatile Florida Gator Carlos Dunlap to the second round; I'd take him over any of the guys drafted in the first.
(One question for Cincy, though: Isn't Mardy Gilyard a no-brainer ahead of Shipley in the third round?)
Drafts I Liked
Seattle's draft was all about the first three picks. Russell Okung probably isn't the next Anthony Munoz, but he'll start for Pete Carroll from the jump. Earl Thomas gives the 'Hawks the kind of playmaking safety that is hard to come by. In my opinion, Golden Tate was one of the best players in the entire country last year. The rest of Seattle's draft didn't blow me away, but it really didn't matter.
Jimmy Clausen drew the headlines, but Carolina scored on some under-the-radar selections. Back-to-back third-round picks Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards should improve the Panthers' offensive explosiveness. Hometown hero Edwards could even play some wildcat quarterback. Linebacker Eric Norwood will make a push to start within the next year. Having lost Julius Peppers in the offseason, Greg Hardy will provide some depth at defensive end. Tony Pike in the sixth round? Sounds like a steal.
Drafts I Didn't Like
I don't see one pick in this group to get excited about. Seriously–give me one.
I definitely see the potential people talk about with Trent Williams. Having watched him stumble through 2009, I would have some reservations about picking him at No. 4. With surefire safety Eric Berry on the board, there wasn't a decent offer on the table? With no picks between the first and fourth rounds, the 'Skins needed either a home run pick or a worthwhile trade. Didn't happen.
Drafts I Really Didn't Like
Dr. Wang's reaction to Buffalo sixth-round selection of Troy's Levi Brown: "Not the splash at quarterback that I had hoped for." The only explanation for Buffalo's draft class is that the Bills are angling for the No. 1 pick next year. Maybe they really like Ryan Mallett? And the C.J. Spiller selection in the first round made zero sense to me. This will be the worst team in the NFL this year.
Pat Bowlen will rue the day he gave Josh McDaniels the keys to the castle. I just can't get on board with the Tebow move. After dealing for two relatively young quarterbacks already, I don't get the point of adding a third in the first round. Plus, seeing as Denver was pretty close to the playoffs last year, it's not like the Broncos couldn't have used a guy who can contribute immediately.
If there is a silver lining for Bronco fans, McDaniels won't make it much longer at this rate. Two years should be enough time for Mike Shanahan to figure out he hates working for Daniel Snyder. I envision a heart-warming reconciliation.