The NFL Draft is a weekend long binge-out that outlasts even the best-prepared football fans. This year’s first round lasted over six hours, a new record. It takes a certain kind of dedication to make it through the second day, when the excitement has dwindled to a barely-audible peep. But lucky for you, that’s where we come in. Your favorite team reloaded with prospects from around the country, and we’ve waded through the potential busts and can’t-miss picks so you don’t have to. Behold: the MF-approved NFL Draft recap.
The Bills managed to replace ex-RB Willis McGahee by drafting Cal RB Marshawn Lynch, and they drastically improve their linebacker core with Penn State LB Paul Posluszny, who reminds me of Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Thomas. They’ve also added Stanford QB Trent Edwards, who may prove to be the steal of the draft. Even after a not-so-terrible 7-9 season, patience may be wearing thin with current-QB J.P. Losman.
Most were shocked when Miami passed on Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn with the 9th pick, but Ohio State WR Ted Ginn Jr, their first round selection, may not be as terrible as some are already predicting. Ginn could stretch the field and provide a deep threat. However, nothing about Ginn makes people think #1 receiver, and they have to replace WR Wes Welker as well. Quinn would probably have been a smarter (and more popular) pick.
New England Patriots
The classically good-guy Patriots add the ultimate malcontent, Randy Moss, next year. From a football standpoint, it’s an absolute steal: getting Moss for a 4th round pick would be a coup for most teams. If, at the very least, Moss can garner some attention from the opposing defenses, QB Tom Brady will have plenty of time to get the ball to new Pats wideouts Donte’ Stallworth and Wes Welker. It’ll be trendy to say Moss won’t work out because of his famous attitude problem, but his bandwagon should be full around November when Moss catches his 10th TD of the season.
New York Jets
After making a deal to move up in the first round, many might have thought the Jets had targeted QB Brady Quinn, whom they could have selected with the 14th pick. Instead, they chose Pittsburgh’s Darrelle Revis, the best cornerback in the draft. Revis may provide some spark for last year’s effective, albeit no name, secondary. He’s a hair under 6 feet tall and a touch more than 200 lbs, so he may be asked to stay with some top-flight receivers. Going defense is a good move for the Jets: they’ve already added former Chicago Bears RB Thomas Jones this off-season.
The Ravens upgraded at running back, getting an in-his-prime McGahee from the Bills, which should provide them with more style (and substance) than the lead-footed Jamal Lewis, who looked like he was running in place last year. They got a solid offensive guard in Ben Grubbs, and also snatched Ohio State QB Troy Smith, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, in the 5th round. The problem may be mental, not physical, for many former Heisman winners who struggle in the NFL. If you’re good enough to win the Hesiman at a Big Ten school, you should have enough talent to be a productive NFL player. Perhaps QB Steve McNair can impart some wisdom on a young Smith, but don’t bet on it: you can’t teach height, and Smith’s only six feet tall.
The Bengals missed the playoffs last year, due mostly to an obscenely difficult schedule. The problem wasn’t their offense, which is as much fun to play in Madden as it was to watch on Sundays. By adding Michigan CB Leon Hall, they’ve taking steps to greatly improve their secondary. He should eventually play opposite Deltha O’Neal, who’s got a knack for making the big play, and provide some balance.
The Browns mercifully put an end to Quinn’s embarrassment and probably had the best draft in the league, even if they may have given up too much to get him. They scored with can’t-miss Wisconsin OT Joe Thomas and a potential franchise QB like Quinn, both top-5 prospects. They also added RB Jamal Lewis, which is ironic. Lewis comes over from the Baltimore Ravens, who moved from Cleveland in the mid-90s. So the Ravens got the best years of Lewis’s career, then allow him return to Cleveland to putter off into the sunset. How sweet.
You can set your clock by the Steelers draft plans - (Almost) always defense, and always aggressive. I’m bigger on Michigan DE LeMarr Woodley than I am on Florida State LB Lawrence Timmons, no matter what the scouts say. Pittsburgh makes linebackers, and Woodley’s got Greg Lloyd written all over him. It’s going to be tough to replace Joey Porter, but the combination of Timmons and Woodley should help some.
Houston drafted a teenager with their first pick. That’s not a punch line to a Texans joke, it’s a reality for their fans. Louiseville DT Amobi Okoye, who’s 19, is nonetheless a solid pick for a team who’s picking lower than they would have if they hadn’t traded for former Falcons backup QB Matt Schaub this off-season. They also added former Packer-RB Ahman Green, who may or may not have lost a step or two, but all the Texans can do is improve. Green’s experience will help their young QB get his footing next year, even if he isn’t as productive as he was in Green Bay.
The Colts just keep plugging in weapons. They grabbed Ohio State WR Anthony Gonzalez and are tabbing him as their new slot receiver, which makes sense. Gonzalez was productive and reliable at Ohio State, and QB Peyton Manning has a way of making every guy on his team better. Gonzalez joins Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, (who somehow, hasn’t aged a day in 10 years), as a part of, arguably, the best offense in the league.
The Jags drafted Florida safety Reggie Nelson, and he should immediately help them defend the Colts receiving core. They also picked up OLD Justin Durant out of D1-AA Hampton. You’ve got to root for guys who make the NFL from small schools – perhaps the most famous is Jerry Rice, who went to school at Mississippi Valley State.
The Titans are going to struggle without CB Adam “Pacman” Jones, who was probably more of a distraction than he was worth, but you can’t argue with his productivity on the field. He intercepted four balls, returned kicks, and scored one TD. They snatched Texas safety Michael Griffin to try and compensate for losing him to a behavior-related suspension.
Offensive linemen seem to over-perform on Bronco teams, mainly because of their cut-blocking scheme. While many were paying attention to DE Jarvis Moss, who’s gigantic (6’6”, 250lbs), many missed Notre Dame OT Ryan Harris going in the 3rd round. You may remember him from MTV’s True Life: I Want the Perfect Body, where the country watched him prepare to attend Notre Dame as a lineman prospect after graduating high school. After years of guarding Brady Quinn, Harris may develop into a solid pro in a system that makes bank on churning out RBs: The off-season addition of Travis Henry should prove big.
Kansas City Chiefs
LSU WR Dwayne Bowe might be the sleeper of the draft. He’s essentially a tight end in a receiver’s body, which means that pairing him with TE Tony Gonzalez should broaden the Chiefs one-dimensional offense, which is currently based on RB Larry Johnson. Whoever plays QB next year should benefit from the tandem of Bowe and Gonzalez - the Chiefs receiving core has been lackluster for the past few seasons.
We may look back on the Raiders draft as they greatest in history one day. Not only did they divorce Randy Moss, they made the right pick at #1 overall going with the freak-of-nature LSU QB JaMarcus Russell – at 6’5”, 260lbs, he could be playing defensive line somewhere if he didn’t have such a cannon for an arm. But the pick to watch for is Louisville RB Michael Bush. Before Bush broke his leg last year, he was a can’t-miss pro prospect and a top-notch Hesiman candidate. Teams were scared off by the injury, but if he rehabs hard, the combination of Bush and Russell may be truly deadly one day.
San Diego Chargers
After winning 14 games (and then bowing out to the Pats in the playoffs), the Chargers fired their coach. Fair enough. They look to give young QB Philip Rivers another weapon with a big wide receiver out of LSU, Craig Davis. At 6’2”, and nearly 210 lbs, he’s already being tabbed a sleeper by some experts.
The Cowboys look to defense once again with their first pick, choosing Purdue DE Anthony Spencer. He should compliment LB DeMarcus Ware pretty well. They also added gigantic OT James Marten, who’s nearly 6’8” and well over 300 lbs, and may just be big enough for coaching to turn him into a solid pro.
New York Giants
The Giants addressed their needs well. Not only do they get younger and more athletic at cornerback with the addition of Texas DB Aaron Ross, they found a suitable replacement for aging WR Amani Toomer with former USC WR Steve Smith. Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Burress, and second-year man Sinorice Moss provide enough weapons for the Giants to pass more this year after losing RB Tiki Barber to retirement.
The Eagles, in typical Philadelphia fashion, left many scratching their heads with their first pick. Houston QB Kevin Kolb could turn out to be a solid quarterback, but after losing WR Donte’ Stallworth to free agency, many thought they’d look to give Donovan McNabb some more help on offense. Instead, they wound up giving him a vote of no confidence, which may be the smarter business move, but also could alienate certain fans. Before going down last season, McNabb was one of the most productive QBs in the league. Drafting a possible replacement is sure to rub him the wrong way.
The Redskins drafted the best safety available with the 6th pick, LSU’s LaRon Landry, who will pair with Sean Taylor to form one of the hardest-hitting secondaries in the NFC. In a late-round move that garnered little attention, they also picked up UTEP QB Jordan Palmer, starting Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer’s little bro. He’s nearly 6’6”, but who knows if he’ll have a chance to be the next Eli – like that’s such a great thing anyway.
The Bears had to be thrilled that Miami TE Greg Olsen slipped all the way down to the last pick of the first round. He’ll provide a much-needed safety outlet for Rex Grossman (or his eventual successor). By grabbing RB Garrett Wolfe in the 3rd round, they’re not deluding themselves into thinking they found Thomas Jones’ replacement (Cedric Benson is going to have to be that), but he is a speedster who could provide Benson with a blow or two during the season: Wolfe had over 2,000 yards rushing and 19TDs last year for Northern Illinois.
Many thought there was no way Detroit would take a WR with their #2 pick because they’ve failed so famously in drafting wide receivers in the past. But they went with the best pure athlete in the draft, Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson. His freaky combination of size and speed as well as his work ethic will give defensive coordinators nightmares. He’ll compliment wideouts Mark Furrey and Roy Williams well. Michigan State QB Drew Stanton could develop into the long-term solution behind Jon Kitna with a little luck. The Lions will start camp with an absolutely phenomenal receiving core, and should score a ton of points next year, even if that doesn’t translate into wins right away.
Green Bay Packers
After losing Ahman Green to the Houston Texans, the Pack picked up RB Brandon Jackson from Nebraska, who may work out for them. Something’s going to have to, because Brett Favre is going to have to retire eventually, right? It’s not often that kickers get much publicity on draft day, but Colorado’s Mason Crosby is no normal kicker – supposedly he’s got silly range, and the Pack snatched him up in the 6th round.
The Vikes had their choice of weapons with the #7 pick, and they went for Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, who’ll team up with Chester Taylor to form a solid one-two punch in the backfield. This was sort of an odd pick. Taylor played OK last year, but they lost experienced QB Brad Johnson and somehow felt fine with unproven QB Tarvaris Jackson. Look for Peterson to be groomed into a star back in the next few years, but there’s a wait and see approach with Jackson, which may frustrate Viking fans.
The Falcons got rid of Matt Schaub, even though he could turn out to be a solid QB. There was a small pro-Schaub movement in Atlanta for a while, but now there’s no debate about who should start. They also acquired WR Joe Horn, who hopefully, for Michael Vick’s sake, will get down field and provide a deep threat. Arkansas DE Jamaal Anderson will have to develop to be considered a dominant player. Getting Arkansas CB Chris Houston is a good move – he’ll help when teams look to 3 and 4-wide offenses against Atlanta, and he went to school with 1st round pick Anderson. That should help, right?
The Panthers drafted extremely well. Miami LB Jon Beason should grow up to be a beast, and they picked up USC WR Dwayne Jarrett, who’s long, even though he may not be as fast as some would like. It’ll certainly be a diverse receiving core – Steve Smith is 5’9”, and Jarrett’s 6’5”. USC center Ryan Kalil is a monster most teams probably wish was on their roster. After adding former #1 pick David Carr as a (temporary) backup, the Panthers should be a favorite to come out of the NFC.
New Orleans Saints
After a season for the ages, the Saints picked up a couple potential weapons that they might not need for a while, if they’re lucky. They’ll look to replace Joe Horn with Tennessee WR Robert Meachem, and even though they’re obviously set at RB with Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister, they also picked up Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman.
Tampa Bay Bucs
There was a buzz around Clemson DE Gaines Adams in the days leading up to the draft, and Tampa Bay didn’t want him to slip past their #4 pick. He’ll plug in along with Simeon Rice to provide him with some relief: teams may have been scheming extra-hard for Rice in the last few years, and he’s not getting any younger. Tampa Bay’s defense has always been their benchmark, and they’re hoping it happens again for them with Adams leading the way.
The Cardinals are another team that drafted exceptionally well. The upward swing started last year when they signed RB Edgerrin James and drafted USC QB Matt Leinart. They’re biggest problem was the O-line, so Penn State OT Levi Brown was a solid choice. Michigan DT Alan Branch will hopefully be a good NFL-caliber run stopper for them on defense. Delaware TE Ben Patrick shows some promise and may work out for the birds in the future.
St. Louis Rams
The most underrated prospect of the draft may have been Rutgers RB Brian Leonard, who selflessly moved from halfback to fullback to accommodate phenomenal RB Ray Rice last year. Leonard can catch the ball out of the backfield, block, and run through tackles, and he’ll compliment RB Steven Jackson well. Nebraska DE Adam Carriker is a solid addition to the Rams defensive line.
The Seahawks grabbed Maryland CB Josh Wilson, who’s on the short side and isn’t quite 200 lbs, something of a benchmark for NFL athletes. They also drafted two wideouts to help lesson the blow from losing WR Darrell Jackson: Oregon’s Jordan Kent, who’s nearly 6’5,” and Auburn’s Courtney Taylor. Both were late round picks, however, and aren’t likely to develop into game-changers.
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners made a serious playoff push last year on the back of RB Frank Gore, who has far-surpassed expectations in San Francisco. They look to Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis with the 11th pick in the draft, in the hopes that he can bring back memories of Charles Haley and Ken Norton, Jr. It’s always smart to build around top-notch lineman, and Central Michigan OT Joe Staley has the size and skill to be a starter in the NFL. Look for the 49ers to compete for a playoff spot next season.