The draft is over but team needs continue. As one NFL head coach said on Tuesday, "we don't start throwing the waiver wire in the trash can because the draft is over." His point is that the draft is one part of the process to upgrade talent on a roster, but not the only part. The draft can't be graded for at least three years, but addressing team needs can be analyzed as we look back at the selections.
I talked with Ken Whisenhunt and he was very excited about what Beanie Wells brings to the team as a big-play back who has already performed well in University of Phoenix Stadium in bowl games. Defensive end Cody Brown gives them a hybrid player who can rush the passer with a good bend in his turn off the tackle or occasionally drop into coverage, according to Whisenhunt. Herman Johnson is a massive offensive lineman who Russ Grimm wants to work with and should really protect the launch point for Kurt Warner. Likewise, guard and seventh-round pick Trevor Canfield will make summer camp interesting with his reputation as a tenacious player always ready to rumble.
Head coach Mike Smith told me the Falcons needed to get better inside on defense and Peria Jerry is the '3 tech' tackle to get the job done. Safety William Moore, the team's second round pick, has to come through with Lawyer Milloy off the roster, and I would be patient if I was a Falcons fan. My favorite mid-round pick was DE Lawrence Sidbury, who can really get after opposing quarterbacks and should find himself on the field in pass situations.
General manager Ozzie Newsome usually has one of the best drafts in the league year in and year out. Grabbing OT Michael Oher was a steal at No. 23. The trade up to get him was brilliant. Defensive end Paul Kruger is a guy in the mold of Jarret Johnson and will start his career as a solid backup. My favorite pick was sixth-rounder Cedric Peerman, a guy that can handle returns and be a situational running back. They still need to find another wide receiver.
The Bills traded away all-pro tackle Jason Peters and never replaced him. Defensive end Aaron Maybin will be the excellent situational pass rusher that they desperately need and Eric Wood was a very highly regarded center who should win the job. Tight end Shawn Nelson is just the guy they need to threaten the middle of the field with T.O. and Lee Evans working the outside. A veteran left tackle would complete a good offseason.
The Panthers had to restructure Jake Delhomme's contract to get some breathing room and they didn't even have a first-round pick. Then they traded away next year's first-round pick to grab a quality player and pass rusher in DE Everette Brown. Cornerback Sherrod Martin has a chance to win the nickel job and Corvey Irvin is a quick defensive tackle that can penetrate, which is something the Panthers need. Some people believe they need a developmental quarterback but they feel fine at the position.
When you add Jay Cutler to the draft, it might be the best in the NFL. The Bears had no first day picks, but still managed to grab the very athletic defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert and wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias. later-round picks like CB D.J. Moore and LB Marcus Freeman should make the team and contribute on special teams and as backups. They don't need much more for 2009.
I really liked the Bengals' draft. Offensive tackle Andre Smith can run block with the best of them, LB Rey Maualuga will take over the image of the defense, DE Michael Johnson is an athlete who can be schemed into the pass rush and TE Chase Coffman could become to Carson Palmer what Jason Witten is to Tony Romo. They still need a solid defensive tackle and should pursue one if he comes available this spring.
The Browns were able to repeatedly move down in the frist round because they knew the guy they wanted would be there. Alex Mack, the center from California, may have been a surprise pick to some people but it reminds me of the year Eric Mangini took C Nick Mangold in the first round. The two wide receivers, Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi, should leverage the club against Braylon Edwards. Look for trade talks to heat up again after minicamps. There will be a lot of pressure on the team's other second-round pick, DE David Veikune, to bring some pass rush pressure to a defense that struggled to get after the QB last season. This team could use a player like Jason Taylor but I doubt he would come to a rebuilding franchise.
It was unusual to see the Cowboys silent on the first day of the draft. With so many picks on the second day, most observers felt Jerry Jones would package up a few and get in the first day action. The Cowboys took a lot of players that will help on special teams, with Jason Williams having an outside chance to start at linebacker. The Cowboys could still use an offensive guard but it's not a big priority.
The Broncos shocked a lot of people when they selected RB Knowshon Moreno after signing three running backs in free agency. On top of the surplus of runners is the need to build a 3-4 defense from the floor up. The team's biggest issues are in the front seven and despite getting a legitimate player in DE Robert Ayers, they may be two years away from a true 3-4 defense. They still need a nose tackle and a big inside linebacker. The two defensive backs picked in the second round -- Alphonso Smith and Darcel McBath -- raised some eyebrows, especially when they gave away a first-round pick next year to get Smith. That's only setting the time table back to construct a 3-4.
The 41.7 million guaranteed to Matthew Stafford said that he was their guy the whole time. Brandon Pettigrew was the best tight end in the draft, which makes him a solid pick later in the first. The top of the second round had most people thinking James Laurinaitis or Rey Maualuga instead of CB Louis Delmas. The Lions still need a middle linebacker to run this defense.
Here's a team building its first 3-4 defense and committed to the project in the draft. B.J. Raji gives them the nose tackle and LB Clay Matthews gives them the right outside linebacker. T.J. Lang is a typical Packer offensive lineman, not pretty but very effective. The Packers are ready for camp with what they have on the roster.
Lots of mock drafts had a running back going to the Texans but I know offensive line coach Alex Gibbs didn't want to waste a pick on a back. He develops runners in his system. Linebacker Brian Cushing and DE Connor Barwin will beef up a defense in need of an identity. The passing game has Gary Kubiak's signature, but the Texans have become tight end happy, taking two more even though pro bowler Owen Daniels is on the roster. Another running back this spring might be a good idea and I wonder if Edgerrin James fits.
If you study Bill Polian's decisions since he arrived in Indianapolis, the selection of RB Donald Brown is no surprise. He moved Marshall Faulk for Edgerrin James. He let James go for Joseph Addai and someday he will do the same to Addai for Brown. Fili Moala gives the Colts a big inside defensive lineman to slow the run game down and Curtis Painter is an interesting QB candidate that Polian had his eye on months ago. I would like to see the Colts add a linebacker to the team before camp.
Instead of moving out of the No. 8 spot in the first round, the Jaguars got a 10-year offensive tackle in Eugene Monroe and came right back in the second round for another tackle, Eben Britton. Overnight the Jags turned a weakness into a big strength. They may have considered a quarterback but they will like the wide receivers they picked. Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard can really catch the ball and move the chains. Rashard Jennings, the running back out of Liberty, was a steal at pick No. 250. I watched him at the Senior Bowl and he will be a capable backup to Maurice Jones-Drew.
So many needs and not enough quality picks. Defensive end Tyson Jackson was a good start and reminds Scott Pioli of Richard Seymour, the guy they built the Patriots defense around. Defensive tackle Alex Magee impressed me at the Senior Bowl and should get some work in a rotation at defensive end, but they still need pass rushers. After minicamps, we may see a deal for a veteran.
The Dolphins took a big corner in Vontae Davis, something they'll need with Terrell Owens and Randy Moss in the division. Davis had some questions surrounding him but Bill Parcells and his staff will make sure he tows the line. The second-round selection of Pat White screams that the Wildcat is going to be expanded and that spells trouble for opponents. Sean Smith reminds Parcells of Albert Lewis and, as always, he looks for players that remind him of former greats. I really like the selection of big wide receiver, Patrick Turner, in the third round. He will give the team a presence in the red zone. They still need to find a young nose tackle to complete a good year's work.
When talking about WR Percy Harvin after the draft, coach Brad Childress told me, "I believe in this kid." He also said that he was more than convinced that Harvin would not have any troubles off the field. The second-round selection of right tackle Phil Loadholt gives the Vikings the biggest set of bookend tackles in the league, making the run game even better. Asher Allen is a corner who will compete for the nickel spot and Jasper Brinkley will back up the inside linebacker spot. The whole story of the Vikings' draft rests on the shoulders of the QB that wins the job, whether it be Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson. Everything else is now in place to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Bill Belichick loves the second round and has no interest in a high-priced first-round player that will upset the chemistry in his locker room. The Patriots used four picks in the second round and parlayed other picks into two additional second-round picks next year. Coach Belichick told me after the draft that Patrick Chung is a very bright safety who makes the calls and adjustments, and third-round linebacker Tyrone McKenzie has played in so many systems that he can eventually help out at all the linebacker spots. Ron Brace, the Boston College nose tackle, may leverage the club against the contract demands of Vince Wilfork down the road. It will be tough for 12 draft picks to make this Patriots team, but they should also have a very good practice squad. It would not surprise me if they are still in the market for a veteran outside pass rusher.
The Saints had only four picks but they started the day off with a versatile defensive back, Malcolm Jenkins, who could lineup at corner or safety. Jenkins told me after the draft that the club will start him off at corner. The selection of Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn in the fourth round confirms that plan. Look for the Saints to sign a running back before camp. I wonder if Edgerrin James will be on their radar screen.
The Giants hit it big in this draft. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is suited to replace Amani Toomer in time and Ramses Barden is a physical clone of Plaxico Burress, which gives them a big red zone target. Clint Sintim can rush the passer and fits well in the Giants' fire-zone scheme. The steal of the fourth round was Andre Brown, a big running back with really good hands. The G-men satisfied every need in the draft and are ready for camp.
New York pulled the trigger on the biggest draft day trade to get QB Mark Sanchez. I know Sanchez and spoke with him after he was selected and there's little doubt in my mind he will be a star in the Big Apple. Shonn Green is a powerful running back with only 300 college carries, making him a prime candidate for a long career. He gives the club leverage against the contract demands of Thomas Jones. The Jets still need a premiere receiver for Sanchez and it may be worth it to trade for Braylon Edwards in the next few weeks.
Al Davis still calls the shots in Oakland and that will not change. People have been criticizing the Raiders for taking WR Darrius Heyward-Bey too early and then selecting a safety in the second round that many had as a second-day pick. Heyward-Bey gives the Raiders a deep threat and they have the quarterback in JaMarcus Russell to get it to him off the play-action fake to Darren McFadden. I would still like to see the Raiders pick up a left tackle if one becomes available. Levi Jones could help this situation if he is cut by Cincinnati.
People ask, 'why jump up two spots to take Jeremy Maclin?' Detroit wasn't going to take him but they could have sold the spot to someone who wanted him as much as Philly. After taking the most productive total yardage player in college football last year, they grabbed RB LeSean McCoy, who scored 35 rushing touchdowns and caught 65 balls in 25 games at Pittsburgh. The fifth round was a bonus round with TE Cornelius Ingram -- who looked like Antonio Gates in 2007 before an injury last year -- and Victor Harris, who is a big-time playmaker for the secondary. The Eagles don't need another player to make a Super Bowl run.
I was hoping for a young '5 technique' tackle to get in a rotation at DE and they landed Ziggy Hood, who plays all out, all the time. He needs work against the run, especially in a two-gap system, but they can turn him loose on pass downs. Offensive tackle Kraig Urbik will push the inside players on the offensive line while the rest of the picks head to Steeler school for a year of development. It wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up a veteran offensive tackle if one becomes available.
The draft told me the Chargers still believe in LaDainian Tomlinson when they didn't take a running back until the fourth round -- a tweener in RB/FB Gartrell Johnson. The selection of DE Larry English to start the day off was a great choice and an insurance policy against another Shawne Merriman injury. The most intriguing pick of the day was a DT from Canada, Vaughn Martin, who possesses some of the physical traits of Reggie White. Time will tell, but there's a lot to work with when Martin gets on the field.
Michael Crabtree falls right in their lap and the 49ers fans who remember the days of Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens have every reason to be excited that the old days are ready to return. I asked Mike Singletary about the comparisons to former wide receivers and he said, "It's not important where we have been, but where we are going." Look for sixth-round pick TE Bear Pascoe to have an impact on this team.
A month before the draft, the Seahawks didn't figure Aaron Curry would fall to them. But after trading away Julian Peterson to the Lions, it all fell in place that his replacement would be right there at the top of the draft. Max Unger is a versatile lineman that has played tackle, guard and center and will break into the starting lineup this summer. Keep your eye on Rutgers QB Mike Teel. He will sit for a few years behind Matt Hasselbeck but he has the skills to play in the NFL. The team could still use a corner and a left tackle. I wonder if they have interest in Eagles corner Sheldon Brown.
The Rams were serious about Mark Sanchez but I can't fault them for selecting Jason Smith to plug in at left tackle. Laurinaitis in the second round was an outright gift and a perfect fit to run the defense. It may take Rams GM Billy Devaney two years to turn this franchise around but he is on the right path. What Spagnuolo's defense still needs are some 'jokers' who can rush the passer or drop into coverage.
At the owners meeting in March, Raheem Morris told me he loved the idea of getting QB Josh Freeman to build this team around. He got his choice and he only had to move up two spots to get him. DT Roy Miller and DE Kyle Moore will help a defensive line in need of reinforcements. I would still like to see the Bucs get another wide receiver this spring.
As Jeff Fisher said to me after the draft, "we were criticized last year for not taking a wide receiver, but we got a heck of a player this year in Kenny Britt." Defensive lineman Sen'Derrick Marks had some bad games on tape, but Fisher defended him and explained he played a number of games injured last season. The Titans have always loved tight ends and they grabbed another good one in Jared Cook in the third round. Keep an eye on fifth-round pick Javon Ringer, a running back from Michigan State. Lendale White is in the last year of his contract and Ringer can play. I wonder if the Titans would still be interested in a veteran corner or defensive end.
Finally, the Redskins found a pass rusher to play opposite Andre Carter with the selection of DE Brian Orakpo. The team didn't have many picks, and by time they went again at No. 80, eight offense tackles were drafted and the cupboard was bare. They would like to get young at offensive tackle and I don't think they will sign an old veteran this spring.