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NFL Draft 2012: First-Round Review


The NFL ran its own version of the no-huddle on Thursday night as the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft was completed in three hours, a record in the modern draft day era according to the league.

Part of the reason for this is that the first two picks had already been decided before either Indianapolis or Washington were officially put on the clock. After that, however, was where things got interesting as the first round played out in Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Eight trades involving 12 teams and a total of 25 picks were made last night alone, with the first pick traded being the third overall selection. In the end, three different picks ended up switching hands a second time before the night's events were finished.

Here's a summary of all that took place last night.

Colts, Redskins, Dolphins AND Browns Get Their Quarterback
Everyone knew that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were going to the Colts and Redskins, respectively, with the first two picks. It was widely assumed that the Dolphins would select Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M with the eighth overall pick. What wasn’t necessarily expected, however, was that Cleveland would also join the party, but that’s just what the Browns did when they took Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick.

Make no mistake, the jury is still out on how both Tannehill and Weeden will fare in the NFL. In Tannehill’s case, the converted wide receiver has started a total of 20 games under center at Texas A&M, so it’s fair to say he is still learning how to play the position.

On the other hand, Weeden was the Cowboys’ full-time starter the past two seasons and threw for more than 9,000 yards and 71 touchdowns in that span. Weeden, however, is already 28 years old having spent five seasons in the New York Yankees’ minor league system as a pitcher.

The good news for Tannehill is that the Dolphins appear to present the ideal situation for him to continue his development as a quarterback. For one, Miami’s offensive coordinator is Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s coach at Texas A&M. Secondly, the Dolphins’ new head coach is Joe Philbin, who served as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator from 2007-11. So not only will Tannehill be reunited with his former college coach, he also gets the chance to play for and learn from Philbin, who helped develop Aaron Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP.

Despite the skeptics and critics, it’s clear that the Dolphins liked what they see in Tannehill enough to make him the first quarterback the team has drafted in the first round since 1983. That was the year they took a quarterback from Pittsburgh by the name of Dan Marino with the 27th overall pick.

The last time the Browns drafted a quarterback in the first round was 2007 when they took Brady Quinn at No. 22. Just three years later, however, the Browns drafted Colt McCoy in the third round, and that is who Weeden will learn the ropes from, and presumably take over for at some point in the future. That is provided the Browns don't decide to trade McCoy to another team.

Of course, the irony here is that McCoy, the apparent mentor, is nearly three years younger, than Weeden, the student. How quickly the student passes the teacher remains to be seen, but given the first-round pick Cleveland used to get a 28-year-old quarterback, the Browns seem to think it won’t be too long.

Follow the Moving Draft Picks – Part 1
The Redskins were able to take Griffin at No. 2 because in March they agreed to swap places with St. Louis. Although that was more than a month ago, it turned out to be a precursor to what was to come.

Of the first eight picks in the draft, only two of them – the Colts at No. 1 and the Dolphins at No. 8 – were made by the teams that originally held that pick. Before the first round officially started last night, word broke that Minnesota and Cleveland had swapped places at Nos. 3 and 4.

Even though it was only one spot, the Browns did the deal to ensure that they got their guy – Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Minnesota made it known early that it would be willing to move out of the third spot, and reportedly had discussions with several interested teams. One of those teams was Tampa Bay, who also showed serious interest in Richardson, so Cleveland decided to make the deal with Minnesota to prevent the Bucs from getting ahead and taking the coveted back.

The Browns entered the draft with a total of 13 picks, so they had more than enough inventory to use to make the deal. The Vikings were still able to get one of the players they wanted, USC left tackle Matt Kalil, and netted three more picks in return.

The Vikings received a fourth-round pick, which was one of the picks the Browns got last year in their trade with Atlanta when the Falcons traded up to take wide receiver Julio Jones, along with a fifth and seventh-rounder. Minnesota increased their total of picks to 13, which is just what a team like the Vikings, who went 3-13 in 2011, need to try and fill multiple needs in one draft.

Before Kalil walked across the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City to shake NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand, the next trade had occurred. Tampa Bay and Jacksonville agreed to swap first-round picks with the Buccaneers receiving a fourth-round selection from the Jaguars in return for moving down two places. The Jaguars then took Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the player new Jags’ owner Shahid Khan reportedly coveted.

St. Louis and Dallas were next up on the NFL’s version of “Let’s Make A Deal” as Jerry Jones made yet another first-round trade. This time Jones moved up eight spots from No. 14 to No. 6 so he could take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

The Rams, who already had gotten the Redskins’ third-round selection this year along with their first-round picks the next two years in the Griffin deal, received the Cowboys’ second-round pick in addition to moving down to No. 14. With those two trades, the Rams now have three (Nos. 33, 39 and 45) of the first 13 picks in the second round.

Los Angeles Rams

The reshuffled top 10 continued to play out with Tampa Bay selecting Alabama safety Mark Barron with the seventh pick. Miami took the aforementioned Tannehill at No. 8, finally restoring “order.”

Bruce Almighty?
Seattle switched places with Philadelphia in the first round, moving down from No. 12 to 15. The Eagles moved up to take Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who was expected to be taken at some point in the first round.

The Seahawks moved down and selected West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin, who was certainly NOT expected to be taken in the first round. Irvin was the top outside linebacker prospect according to some scouts and received high grades and praise for his pass-rushing ability. In two seasons with the Mountaineers, Irvin registered 22.5 sacks, 14 of those coming in 2010.

However, in terms of overall ability, Irvin was not considered to be on the same level as fellow linebacker prospects Luke Kuechly from Boston College, who Carolina took with the ninth overall pick, Boise State’s Shea McClellin, who went to the Bears at No. 19, Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower, who the Patriots moved up to No. 25 to take, or Nebraska’s Lavonte David. There also were question marks about Irvin's character, as he has had some issues off the field, including one right after scouts came to see him at his pro day in Morgantown.

While Seattle bypassed the others not named Kuechly is anyone’s guess, but the Seahawks are no doubt hoping Irvin will have the same impact on their pass rush that he had with the Mountaineers. Seattle finished tied for 19th in 2011 with 33 sacks, 11 of those coming from defensive end Chris Clemons.

Let’s not forget that the Seattle also received the Eagles fourth- and sixth-round picks as part of the deal, but for all intents and purposes this trade will be considered a success or mistake based on one thing – whether Irvin ends up being Bruce Almighty or Bruce Not-So-Mighty.

Getting Defensive
The first five players to go off the board Thursday night were offensive – two quarterbacks, a running back, a lineman and a wide receiver. After that it was the defense’s turn to dominate.

Starting with the sixth pick, 17 of the next 24 selections were used on defensive players. Eight defensive linemen, five defensive backs and four linebackers were taken with those picks.

Three defensive backs – Claiborne, Barron and South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore to Buffalo at No. 10 – were taken in the first 10 picks. The others selected in the first round were Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick by Cincinnati at No. 17 and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith by Minnesota, who traded back into the first round to do so, at No. 29. The Bengals got Kirkpatrick with the first-round pick they received from Oakland as part of the package they got from the Raiders last season for Carson Palmer.

Memphis’ Dontari Poe, who many, including me, predicted would fall, ended up being the first defensive lineman taken, going to Kansas City at No. 11 overall. The Eagles moved up to No. 12 to take Cox, and St. Louis selected LSU’s Michael Brockers two picks later at No. 14.

North Carolina’s Quinton Coples was the next DL to come off the board to the Jets at No. 16, followed by South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, who the Chargers took with the 18th pick.

New England did what the Patriots do best – move up to get the player they want – this time swapping spots with Cincinnati to grab Syracuse’s Chandler Jones at No. 21. Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus (Houston – No. 26) and USC’s Nick Perry (Green Bay – No. 28) rounded out the first-round defensive linemen selections.

Besides Kuechly (Carolina – No. 9) and Irvin (Seattle – No. 15), the other linebackers taken in the first round were Boise State’s Shea McClellin, who the Bears took at No. 19, and Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower, the fourth ‘Bama player taken in Round 1, who the Patriots selected with the 25th overall pick.

Follow the Moving Draft Picks – Part 2
There were a total of eight trades on Thursday night alone, and if you include the St. Louis-Washington deal that went down in March, that would make nine that impacted the first round.

And that’s just this year, don’t forget about last season’s Cincinnati-Oakland deal involving Carson Palmer, and 2011 first-round draft deals between Cleveland and Atlanta, and New England and New Orleans. In other words, there were a lot of moving picks this year, both early and then later on.

Following the flurry of trades involving picks Nos. 3-7 and the Seattle-Philadelphia swap, four more trades went down, starting with the 21st pick. New England made a deal with Cincinnati to move up from No. 27 so they could take Jones at No. 21. Cincinnati moved down six spots, selected Wisconsin offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler at No.27, and also received the Patriots’ third-round pick (No. 93 overall).

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But wait, the Patriots weren’t done, this time hooking up with Denver to get the 25th pick, which they used to select Hightower. Denver moved down to No. 31 and also acquired New England’s fourth-round (No. 126) selection in the deal.

Denver didn’t hold on to either of the picks they got from New England very long, however. The Broncos and Buccaneers made the final trade of the night, with Tampa Bay getting back into the first round at No. 31, sending the Denver its second-round pick (No. 36) in return.

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The teams also swapped fourth-rounders, which, ironically enough, were picks that neither team owned prior to the start of the draft. Tampa Bay sent pick No. 101, which they got from Jacksonville earlier in the evening, to Denver for pick No. 126, which the Broncos had just received from New England.

The Broncos’ double-header was sandwiched by the evening’s other trade, where Minnesota got back into the first round by acquiring the 29th pick from Baltimore in exchange for the Vikings’ second- and fourth-round selections.

Got all of that? Good, but it’s probably best to write all of this down in pencil. Because if the first round is any indication, chances are these picks could be on the move once again as the rest of this draft plays out.

Offense Comes Off the Board Late
After Tannehill went to the Dolphins at No. 8 the next offensive player to be selected was Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, who Arizona took at No. 13. The Cardinals now have a young, athletic receiver to team with All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald to form a potentially lethal duo, provided they can figure out their quarterback situation.

Tennessee also went the wide receiver route, taking Baylor’s Kendall Wright with the 20th overall pick. The Titans could have their own deadly duo in Wright and Kenny Britt, provided Britt makes a complete recovery from the ACL tear he suffered last season.

After Weeden went to the Browns at No. 22, the next three offensive players selected were linemen. Iowa’s Riley Reiff, who at one time was projected as a top-10 pick, “fell” all the way to Detroit at No. 23. The Steelers followed that by taking Stanford’s David DeCastro with the 24th pick. DeCastro fills an immediate need for the Steelers, who struggled mightily in protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last season.

The final offensive lineman to go in the first round was Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler, who Cincinnati chose at No. 27, the spot they ended up after swapping places with New England.

The final three picks of the first round were of the skill-position variety, starting with Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins going to the 49ers at No. 30. Jenkins may not have been a projected first-rounder, but he clearly fills a need as San Francisco looks to develop an offense that ranked 26th in the NFL in 2011.

The first round ended with back-to-back running backs coming off the board, the first being Boise State’s Doug Martin, who Tampa Bay took at No. 31. That was the pick that the Buccaneers got from Baltimore.

The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants then brought the evening to a close by tabbing Virginia Tech running back David Wilson with the 32nd and final pick of the first round. Like Jenkins, Wilson wasn’t necessarily expected to go in the first round, but the explosive back who rushed for more than 1,700 yards last season will bring a new element to the Giants’ running game and should also have an impact as a kick returner on special teams.

— by Mark Ross, published on April 27, 2012

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