Colts president Bill Polian likes to say "let the draft board speak to you." If you are lucky, the board says stay put and take the best player. Such was the case for the Bills, Bears, Bengals and Giants. The other 28 teams moved players for picks, or traded up or down trying to land the desired players at the right spots.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick told me on Thursday before the draft that many of the veteran players mentioned in trade talks might be cut early in the week after the draft, and he turned out to be right. We just saw three defensive tackles and an All-Pro guard get shown the door. They will fill the holes left for teams that did not meet all their needs in the draft. Here are a few observations from the draft:
Arizona -- The Cardinals were unable to land a franchise left tackle, but they finally got their nose tackle by grabbing Dan Williams with the 26th selection. Second-round pick Daryl Washington gives them a weakside inside linebacker that should start from Day 1. The dark horse in the draft may be outside linebacker, O'Brien Schofield, who was injured at the Senior Bowl but has a chance to replace some of the pass rush left behind by Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry. Schofield had 17 sacks in college.
Atlanta -- The Falcons calmly took the best player on their board in the first four rounds. A number of prognosticators said Sean Weatherspoon was a late first-round pick, but I agree with Atlanta grabbing him at No. 19. He can play any of the three linebacker spots. Not having a second-round pick left the Falcons waiting 64 selections before getting a defensive tackle (Corey Peters). A total of 10 defensive tackles came off the board during those 64 picks. Mike Johnson, also taken in the third round, can play center as well as guard. CB Dominique Franks, taken 135th overall, looked like a steal and should compete for at least the nickel corner job. The Falcons can go to camp with this roster.
Baltimore -- The Ravens traded out of the first round and still wound up with two defensive players in the second round, Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody, who will be on the field in 2010. Drafting tight ends back-to-back in the third and fourth rounds is a statement about Todd Heap. The Ravens were expected to get secondary help in the draft and passed on good safeties in the second round. By the time they went in the fourth round, 16 corners were gone.
Buffalo -- It was clear the grades on the board would not let the Bills select a quarterback, as they passed on Jimmy Clausen twice and Colt McCoy three times. It was obvious the Bills didn't like the draft class. C.J. Spiller is a playmaker who will touch the ball more than any other rookie running back next year. DT Torell Troup and DE Alex Carrington are excellent picks to build the 3-4 defense. A dark horse to keep an eye on is OT Ed Wang. He has the athleticism to win the right tackle job before his rookie season is over.
Carolina -- The Panthers needed more picks with the number of veterans who left the roster and Marty Hurney went from eight choices to 10. It had to be tough to sit back and wait 48 picks to select, but Clausen fell right in their lap, and they had to put off getting a wide receiver until the third round, when they got Brandon LaFell. The former LSU star is similar to long-time Carolina standout Mushin Muhammad. The Panthers then surprised many people by giving up a 2011 second-round pick for a Wildcat player, Armanti Edwards. I really like Eric Norwood in the fourth round as a situational pass rusher, who had 29 sacks in college.
Chicago -- It had to be torture waiting until pick No. 75 to make their first selection, but the Bears wisely refused to move up and mortgage their future once again. They went defense for the first of their five picks, but failed to address their concerns at offensive tackle until the seventh round. Some would think with all the throwing Mike Martz does, that the Bears would have drafted more receivers. I was told, however, that Martz doesn't want a lot of receivers in camp.
Cincinnati -- I thought the Bengals had a very good draft, hitting on key needs at tight end, defensive line and corner. Jermaine Gresham gives Carson Palmer his first big-time tight end since he joined the Bengals. Carlos Dunlap has first-round talent and dropped to the second for off-the-field issues, which Marvin Lewis will handle. DT Geno Atkins will be in the rotation at defensive tackle after running a sub-4.8 40-yard dash at 293 pounds. Jordan Shipley is a crafty wide receiver Palmer will come to trust in the slot. The Bengals could still use a safety to finish off a fine offseason.
Cleveland -- The Browns masterfully waited for McCoy at No. 85. In the meantime, they selected the top corner, Joe Haden, a bit of a reach at safety, T.J. Ward, and an underrated running back, Montario Hardesty, to replace Jamal Lewis. Don't be surprised if safety Larry Asante, taken in the fifth round, gives Ward a run for playing time. With nine picks, the Browns satisfied all of their needs and should be ready for camp.
Dallas -- Jerry Jones didn't listen to his draft board the year Randy Moss came out, but he did this year and moved up for Dez Bryant. The Cowboys don't overreact in the draft like they used to, but they failed to draft a tackle, and as a result, re-signing Flozell Adams seems like a good idea. Zane Beadles would have been ideal in the second round, but he went 11 picks before Dallas selected. They did wisely move up to grab LB Sean Lee in the second round. He can play either inside spot and will eventually replace Keith Brooking. A kicker and a safety are still needs to be addressed.
Denver -- The Broncos started out with six picks, and wound up with nine selections by bouncing all over the board. They chose Tim Tebow at No. 25, after replacing Brandon Marshall with the same type of receiver, Demaryius Thomas, at No. 22. I really liked what the Broncos did to fortify their offensive line by adding Beadles, J.D. Walton and Eric Olsen. All three should make the team and compete to play right away. If third-round WR Eric Decker is healthy, he will have a chance to win the third wide receiver spot.
Detroit -- Second overall pick Ndamukong Suh gives Lions coach Jim Schwartz the Albert Haynesworth-type player he has been looking for in Detroit. The Lions' board had Jahvid Best rated as the best running back in the draft, and they didn't hesitate to move up to No. 30 overall to get him. They were unable to draft a linebacker, and will have to look for one in free agency. Keep an eye on seventh-round pick Willie Young, who had 46 tackles for a loss and 20 sacks in his college career at N.C. State.
Green Bay -- No team listens to its draft board like the Packers. In fact, they don't listen to anything else. They expect all their picks to make the team and play for a long time. If I were a draft-eligible player, I would love to get the call from GM Ted Thompson. Bryan Bulaga fell right to them, and he addresses one of their biggest needs. Thompson did not hesitate to jump up into the third round for safety Morgan Burnett, who had 14 interceptions in college and will challenge starter Atari Bigby. Many people thought they would select an outside linebacker in the second round, but the top five candidates were already gone, so they took a five-technique defensive tackle, Mike Neal.
Houston -- It was no secret the Texans needed a running back, and they got him in the second round with Ben Tate. If they moved up to get Ryan Mathews, they would have lost their second-round pick, and missed out on first-round pick Kareem Jackson. As it stands, they traded down in the second round, still got Tate and used the extra pick to get TE Garrett Graham. They grabbed Shelly Smith and Trindon Holliday in the sixth round. Smith is an undersized guard and Holliday was the smallest player in the draft.
Indianapolis -- Polian was delighted when DE Jerry Hughes fell right to him at No. 31. Hughes is in the mold of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and he will see lots of action right away. Polian told me linebacker Pat Angerer fits the mold of the Colts linebackers. Indy entered the draft with only four corners on the roster, and with all the nickel and dime defense it plays, Kevin Thomas was a good pick in the third round. Guard Jacques McClendon was a bit of a surprise in the fourth round, especially with his college teammate, the versatile Chris Scott, still on the board.
Jacksonville -- The Jaguars took some criticism when they chose DT Tyson Alualu at No. 10 but they were true to their board and only time will tell if the board was right. I really liked Alualu at the Senior Bowl, but I also recognized the Jags had only six picks coming into the draft. When the Jags came right back in the third round for another defensive tackle (D'Anthony Smith), it set into motion the release of veterans John Henderson and Montavious Stanley. The Jags could still use a guard/center type, as well as a developmental quarterback.
Kansas City -- The Chiefs surprised a few people with the Eric Berry pick and followed it up with another surprise by selecting Dexter McCluster in the second round. My favorite mid-round pick was center/guard Jon Asamoah. The Chiefs still have work to do on both lines and Scott Pioli has always made a living in the post-draft signings.
Miami -- The Dolphins came into the draft looking to help the defense and came away with two potential starters for 2010. Jared Odrick will work his way into the defensive line rotation, and Koa Misi will compete for a spot at outside linebacker now that Jason Taylor and Joey Porter are gone. John Jerry has very good feet, will push to play guard immediately and could someday be a tackle. Keep an eye on fifth-round pick Reshad Jones. He's good enough to compete for a starting role at safety this season.
Minnesota -- The Vikings got out of the bottom of the first round because they knew they could get the corner they wanted (Chris Cook) in the second. Choosing RB Toby Gerhart in the second round makes sense on multiple levels. He will assume some of the third-down duties Chester Taylor handled, backs up Adrian Peterson with a power running style and can do some of the H-back things Jimmy Kleinsasser does. Everson Griffen was a gift to start off the fourth round. Joe Webb, a former QB, is another versatile athlete who came cheap in the sixth round. I would still like to see the Vikings add a defensive tackle to their rotation, but they did not get one in the draft.
New England -- The Patriots used 12 draft picks to build up the back end of their roster and get younger. This is the third year in a row they took a corner high in the draft. The release of Adalius Thomas suggests second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham fits significantly into their plans at outside linebacker. In the Patriots' 3-4 looks, second-rounder Brandon Spikes will play. Three University of Florida players were drafted by New England, continuing the pipeline from Urban Meyer's program. The Patriots made a real smart move in the fifth round taking punter Zoltan Mesko, who is left-footed and excelled at dropping punts inside the 20-yard line.
New Orleans -- The Saints surprised a few people by taking corner Patrick Robinson in the first round when S Nate Allen and DT Brian Price were still on the board. It may mean Malcolm Jenkins is moving to safety. They were able to get DT Al Woods, a guy they wanted all along, in the fourth round. Second-rounder Charles Brown will push for the right tackle job by midseason. They could still use a linebacker and maybe one more running back.
N.Y. Giants -- Big Blue took some criticism for taking raw DE Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round, when DE Derrick Morgan and LB Sean Weatherspoon were still on the board. The Giants have made many good selections over the years at defensive end, and they know what they are doing. DT Linval Joseph was climbing draft boards the whole month of April and now the club has leverage on veterans Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty. Jerry Reese told me after the draft that he likes the linebackers on the team, and that Osi Umenyiora isn't being traded.
N.Y. Jets -- The Jets insisted on locking up OLB Jason Taylor before the draft, which I understand, but they could have maybe waited for Adalius Thomas to get cut loose. Monitor that situation to see if the Jets also show interest in Thomas. Kyle Wilson was a bargain at No. 29 as a nickel corner and return man. Keep in mind, the Jets could play close to 55 percent of their defensive plays in a nickel or dime look. Vladimir Ducasse is talented, but raw, and has big shoes to fill if he replaces released left guard Alan Faneca. The pick of fourth-rounder Joe McKnight made Leon Washington expendable, but time will tell if McKnight can replace Washington's production. The Jets could still use a defensive end or safety.
Oakland -- This was one of the best drafts in recent history for Oakland. The Raiders got a very solid leader type in the first round, LB Rolando McClain, and patiently waited for DT Lamarr Houston in the second round after trading down. Taking 6-foot-8 OT Jared Veldheer in the third round gave them a plan to take raw but talented OT Bruce Campbell in the fourth. Jacoby Ford is a classic Al Davis speed guy. Trading for Jason Campbell was the best move of all, and now this team has a chance.
Philadelphia -- Andy Reid used 13 picks in the draft to load up on young players and the over-riding theme was pass rush. Between Brandon Graham, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Ricky Sapp and Jamar Chaney, they secured prospects with 80.5 total college sacks. The first five picks and nine of the 13 were for Sean McDermott's defense. Keep an eye on Chaney. He is unlikely to crack the starting lineup after the trade for Ernie Sims, but has the talent to eventually start.
Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh had 10 draft picks and first-rounder Maurkice Pouncey will be a 10-year starter at guard, and eventually center. After that pick, the Steelers couldn't resist linebackers, as usual. They selected three to bolster an already strong unit. They brought back corner Bryant McFadden in a draft-day trade to address their top need at corner. Seven corners were off the board by the time they picked in the second round and 10 by the time they went in the third. With Santonio Holmes gone, they grabbed two receivers with unbelievable production. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have 590 receptions and 56 touchdowns between them in college.
San Diego -- The Chargers moved up for who some called the best back in the draft, Ryan Mathews. After taking Mathews, they concentrated on defense. Third-rounder Donald Butler will challenge for playing time at inside linebacker. Fourth-rounder Darrell Stuckey does the same at safety and big Cam Thomas gives the Chargers a two-man rotation on the nose. I really like the late fifth-round pick of QB Jonathan Crompton, with Norv Turner coaching him as a potential No. 2 down the road.
San Francisco -- I liked the two offensive linemen the Niners took in the first round (Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati) and the second-round pick, Taylor Mays. Third-rounder Navorro Bowman will not break into the starting lineup this year, but he stands a very good chance in 2011. Sixth-rounder Anthony Dixon puts a solid power back in the running back group to take pressure off Frank Gore, and sixth-rounder TE Nate Byham was picked to beef up the run blocking. I would hope they are still thinking of a quarterback to push Alex Smith.
Seattle -- What's not to like about a team that some would argue got the best left tackle and free safety in the draft in first-rounders Russell Okung and Earl Thomas? They got Golden Tate in the second round, and you know Pete Carroll will be experimenting with using Tate in the Wildcat. Trading for Leon Washington and LenDale White answered the running back situation and allowed them to address strong safety and corner. The best late-round pick was TE Anthony McCoy, who has stiff competition from veterans John Carlson and Chris White. The Seahawks are still looking for more players to raise the level of competition.
St. Louis -- If you believe you are looking at a franchise QB, you take him and that's exactly what the Rams did by drafting Sam Bradford first overall. At least eight of the 11 draft picks should make the team. OT Rodger Saffold, taken in the second round, was a fast riser up draft boards in recent weeks and should be a Week 1 starter at guard with an eye on a tackle spot next year. The Rams still need a third-down running back who would help take the burden off Steven Jackson.
Tampa Bay -- After getting rid of both coordinators last year, the Bucs finally settled down and played decent football. Raheem Morris returned the defense to the Monte Kiffin package and went out in this draft and double downed on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy (first round) and Brian Price (second round). There will be some real quickness upfront with those two on board. Second-round WR Arrelious Benn is a fine blocker, as well as receiver, and he may be good enough to crack the lineup this year. Seventh-round LB Dekoda Watson will be a factor on special teams.
Tennessee -- The Titans had a solid draft that met all their needs, except at outside linebacker. If Keith Bulluck comes back, then they will be fine. Derrick Morgan was a no-brainer in the first round and was a safer pick than Pierre-Paul, who went one pick earlier. WR Damian Williams reminds me of Donald Driver and will be a factor by midseason. The most interesting selection may be safety Myron Rolle in the sixth round. Some day he will be a doctor, but he is going after his football career right now, despite many NFL people questioning his passion for the game.
Washington -- The Redskins began the draft with four picks, finished up with six choices and attacked their offensive line problems with three of them. While the Redskins were building up the offense in the draft, they just didn't have enough picks to help a defense that is converting from a 4-3 to a 3-4. The only defensive player selected was linebacker Perry Riley, who will challenge Rocky McIntosh for an inside spot. Look for GM Bruce Allen to continue to use free agency to build up the back end of the roster.