BD: Barry with the first round in the books, it definitely did not disappoint with intrigue and drama. Looking over the first 32 selections, several teams hit on big time players that fill big time needs. With that being said, what selections do you think were the best in terms of value of the pick and team fit?
BK: There were three picks that stood out as being the best, and all of them came in the final third of the NFL Draft. In a night filled with trades and uncertainty, three teams got significantly better with their selections.
The bronze goes to the Carolina Panthers, who selected Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th overall pick. Benjamin is a big target (6’5″, 240 lbs) that Cam Newton will love throwing the ball to. With Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn Jr. no longer with the team, wide receiver was a clear position of need. While Penn State’s Allen Robinson or Indiana’s Cody Latimer may have been safer selections, I appreciate the Panthers’ willingness to take Benjamin, who can reach his high ceiling for a team that will give the opportunity to lead the team in targets and touchdowns.
My silver medal goes to the Minnesota Vikings for their second selection, nabbing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with the last pick in the first round. The Vikings engineered a trade with the Seahawks to grab Bridgewater, who was a favorite to be the number one overall pick when the draft process began. This pick was outstanding for a number of reasons. The Vikings did not reach for a quarterback with their first selection (9th overall after trading back with the Cleveland Browns), presumably because Blake Bortles was off the board. Instead, the Vikings jumped back in to the first round at the appropriate time. There is little doubt that the Houston Texans would have taken Bridgewater with the first pick in the second round today, which would have given the Texans a franchise quarterback to go along with Jadeveon Clowney. Despite a shaky Pro Day, many NFL draft scouts still had Bridgewater as their number one overall player. To get that kind of player with the last pick in the first round is a very good get.
There is no debating who gets the award for the best pick of the night, and it comes from a team that will host the Baltimore Ravens this season. The New Orleans Saints trading up to take former Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The Saints had to make some difficult roster decisions this offseason, parting company with WR Lance Moore and trading away another offensive weapon in Darren Sproles. In Cooks, the Saints get a faster and stronger version of DeSean Jackson, without the off-field issues. Need I say more? The Saints kept their two big targets in Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, and the diminutive Cooks will fit in nicely as a slot receiver. For a team that loves to throw the ball, Cooks should find himself as the early favorite for Rookie of the Year.
On the other hand, there were some selections in last night’s first round that weren’t so good. Brett, which picks stood out to you as being the worst?
BD: Per usual, there were certainly some head scratches in the first round. Though each team’s evaluation for each player is completely different, there has to an understanding of a prospects value. Selecting someone that could be available 15-20 picks later is a reach and we saw several teams do that.
The obvious choice for biggest reach is the Philadelphia Eagles selection of Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith. They did make the smart decision by acquiring an extra 3rd round pick by moving down four slots to 26 overall. As the clock ran down, the feeling was they were trying to move down again, but couldn’t get a deal in place. So the team obviously went with the player they were targeting all along. And though he does fill one of their biggest needs, while be a natural scheme fit, Smith would have likely been available in the middle of the second round. Hence making it the worst pick in the first round.
Now the pick directly afterwards left a similar feeling, when the Arizona Cardinals took Washington State safety Deone Buchanon with the 27th pick. Another team that moved down to add extra picks, who drastically reached for on the guy they wanted. Most notably about this pick, Northern Illinois S Jimmie Ward was rated much higher by almost everyone, yet went three picks later.
Another pick that was somewhat confusing did not involve a reach, but major questions with the position the team targeted. The Dallas Cowboys selection of Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin had everyone shocked, especially the Baltimore Ravens, who were reported to be highly interested in him. The Cowboys play in a high octane offensive division, against the Eagles, Redskins and Giants, while having the worst defense in football in 2013. Electing to improve the offensive line, instead of upgrading any number of needs on the defensive side of the ball makes little sense.
Finally, it is always nice to take a jab at the Pittsburgh Steelers and it seems like a big miss for them with the 15th overall pick. Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier is a nice prospect, but was certainly a reach, while also not filling any of their long list of needs. The Steelers selected an edge rusher last year in Jarvis Jones, while paying Jason Worilds a lot of money at the same position as well. With other prospects with better value to a team retooling, Shazier seemed like a luxury pick the team could not afford to take this early.
In the end, we will not really see the whole plan in place until Saturday, when all the picks unfold and give an idea on how each team wanted to attack the best three days in any sports off season.