First-year general managers paired with new coaches shape draft

Denver created a stir by selecting Georgia's Knowshon Moreno with the No. 12 pick, adding to a stable of running backs and neglecting its tissue-tough defense.

Cleveland traded back, then, traded back again and, of all things, finally took … a center with the 21st overall selection.

After trading up two slots, Tampa Bay took Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman with the 17th overall pick, a radical departure from the previous regime of Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen, who were shown the door, in part, because their failure to develop a young quarterback.

In all, the six teams that have first-year general managers paired with new coaches created some of the biggest headlines in this weekend's draft. Some made moves that raised eyebrows following previous offseason decisions, while all made calls that showed the blueprint of what they're trying to establish to shape the team in their images.

Broncos: As if rookie coach Josh McDaniels and first-year GM Brian Xanders hadn't brought enough controversy on themselves by alienating and then dealing quarterback Jay Cutler, the selection of Moreno with the team's first pick only added to the head-scratching because of Denver's abundance of running backs. Then, the Broncos traded a first-round pick in 2010 to move up in the second round in this draft to select cornerback Alphonso Smith.

Overlooked amid the morass of everything is that Denver acquired some really good players, who, over the long term, could help the Broncos get back to being playoff regulars. Besides Moreno and Smith, defensive end Robert Ayers (18th overall) is potentially a big-time player who addresses a need.

Their philosophy -- maybe more than any other team -- truly was taking the best player available, which is why the Moreno pick seemingly came out of nowhere, as did the move for Smith. McDaniels has brought the Patriots' mentality with him to Denver, where you can't have enough running backs or cornerbacks.

Moreno should be a big asset to quarterback Kyle Orton, while Smith adds not only to the nickel package but is a big-time returner. Free-agent acquisition J.J. Arrington is in for a world of competition as a third-down back and a returner, which is one thing Xanders and McDaniels seek at each position.

McDaniels and Xanders have shown a disregard for outside opinion, which is a constant for New England's Bill Belichick and his disciples, like McDaniels and Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. The new leadership in Denver has invited cynicism and now they have to prove that the new way is the right way.

Browns: The moves Eric Mangini and new GM George Kokinis made on the first day of the draft weren't the ones most expected.

Wide receiver Braylon Edwards and quarterback Brady Quinn were mentioned heavily in trade talks but they are still on the roster (for now). The Browns did add to the quarterback mix, though, acquiring Brett Ratliff from the Jets as part of the trade that dropped the Browns from the fifth overall pick to 17th. That allowed the Jets to move up to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in the blockbuster transaction of the draft.

It was just the first move Cleveland made to bypass a rookie quarterback. The Browns traded back again to the 19th pick in a deal with Tampa Bay so the Buccaneers could leapfrog Denver to select Freeman.

By passing twice on quarterbacks in the opening round, Cleveland seems pleased, for now, with its group of signal callers that includes Derek Anderson. In fact, it used its first pick on center Alex Mack, who will have to protect the quarterback. This isn't the first time Mangini has used a first-round pick on a center. The Jets took Nick Mangold with the 29th overall selection in 2006. Mangold went to the Pro Bowl in 2008.

The thinking on going with a center in the first round could have something to do with the competition the Browns face in the AFC North. The Steelers (Casey Hampton), Ravens (Haloti Ngata) and Bengals (Domata Peko) all feature starters on the interior of their lines that weigh 325 pounds or more.

After addressing the offensive line, the Browns then spent two second-round picks on wide receivers -- Ohio State's Brian Robiskie and Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi -- to give their quarterbacks options.

It looks like they are trying to help their quarterbacks -- but possibly also get people in place in case they somehow eventually deal Edwards.

Lions: GM Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz followed the belief that a franchise quarterback is needed for the team to eventually be good and took Matthew Stafford with the top pick. They did their due diligence and, in making the Stafford choice, wore ear plugs when it came to a local fan base still smarting from Joey Harrington not panning out.

From there the Lions showed that they want to become more physical and versatile at positions more teams have begun to prioritize: tight end and safety. The selection of Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew was somewhat of a surprise since offensive tackle Michael Oher was available, but Mayhew and Schwartz took a player they valued more and picked up someone who can draw some attention away from Calvin Johnson and help block in the running game.

Safety Louis Delmas at No. 33 gives Schwartz a player much like Chris Hope, the Pro Bowl performer Schwartz had in Tennessee. Hope is a solid cover- and run safety that sets a tone with his tackling and tenacity. Although Stafford is the face of Detroit's draft, Pettigrew and Delmas could be first to help foster in the identity Schwartz is trying to establish.

Buccaneers: Coach Raheem Morris and GM Mark Dominik have boldly -- and rapidly -- tried to transform the Bucs, first, by releasing some of their franchise fixtures (Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn Part II), then trading for TEWA (Tight End With Attitude) Kellen Winslow.

Now they've shown their intent to find a long-term fixture at quarterback by not only drafting Freeman, the QB many scouts think will develop into the best of this draft class, but being prudent enough to trade a pick in front of Denver, which could have snagged him.

Dominik and Morris clearly are trying to get the attention of any player who feels comfortable -- including Freeman. Though he has the loftiest draft status among the Tampa quarterbacks, big-armed Luke McCown and last year's promising prospect Josh Johnson aren't going to surrender the position. Veteran free-agent acquisition Byron Leftwich might keep the seat warm this season, but Morris is going to promote competition for the position -- at every position -- and it is clear he is looking for passionate players who aren't going to wither under pressure.

Don't doubt that's a big reason why Winslow was acquired and signed to a huge contract extension.

Chiefs: If there were any doubts that Pioli and coach Todd Haley are all about the concept of team, look at what's gone on this week alone. They trade away the one true face of the franchise, tight end Tony Gonzalez -- for a 2010 second round pick, at that -- then they draft non-marquee players at non-marquee positions through most of the draft.

Pioli, using the successful formula he learned over the years with Belichick, wants to build the Chiefs from the guts out. He started by selecting LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson, who wasn't considered among the top defenders at the front end of the draft but he was the best defensive end for what Pioli and Haley want to build. The next two picks also came on defense and the fourth was an offensive lineman.

Take away Matt Cassel (who hasn't taken a snap for the Chiefs), running back Larry Johnson and maybe wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and name another player on the Chiefs roster in three seconds. Take a little longer than that doesn't it? Now, take away Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker and name another player from the Patriots in three seconds. Get the point?

Rams: New coach Steve Spagnuolo helped win a lot of football games with the New York Giants boasting a rugged and massive offensive line along with a dominating defense keyed by defensive ends and a bell-ringing middle linebacker. St. Louis has won just five games over the past two seasons because of a banged up and somewhat undersized offensive line and not enough WHAM in the middle of the defense.

Jason Smith, the left tackle out of Baylor, was chosen second overall to help remake the offensive line, which got a big boost with the free-agent signing of Jason Brown. If quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson can be shielded, the Rams can be an effective offensive team, although a significant threat at wide receiver is needed to help open the field. WR Donnie Avery had 53 receptions for 674 yards and three touchdowns is the most likely candidate.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is the three-down hammer Spagnuolo wants to be the tone setter on defense. With Chris Long, last year's second overall pick at one defensive end and veteran Leonard Little at the other, Spagnuolo now has some of the pieces to begin the turnaround of a roster that still has plenty of room for upgrades.

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