2011 NFL Draft Wrap-Up: Observations from the Draft

I know this is a few days late... Sorry. The day after the draft I left for Libya to cover what's going on there. Without internet I didn't have a chance to publish it then, but thought I'd share it now. Better late than never I hope.

One observation and a pet-peeve with the draft is the new format where the first round starts on Thursday night. I know it was new in 2010 but last year was it was different meaning an experimental trial run, so this year serves as a more honest critique. The major plus of the new format is that it focuses primarily on the first round two rounds. That is fine if you don't care much about what happens after round two, but for purists the three day event dilutes the draft and de-emphasizes the latter half and lower rounds. Unless you are named Mel Kiper, who has the time to spend two supposedly social evenings and a whole day digesting this stuff?

Whose husbands/wives/kids/normal non footballholic friends are cool with us watching 40 hours of football during a coveted weekend, which theoretically was probably one of the first nice weather occasions of the year. Plus on Saturday its such fast-paced non-stop action that you almost lose track of who we've drafted and whats going on. Then you lose the whole day Sunday too because you have to research and figure out what actually happened. Here is one possible suggestion: Move both rounds one and two to Thursday night. That way they are still in prime-time.Then give everyone Friday off. This would allow teams to evaluate their boards, give GM's an hour or two nap and increase the likely hood of blockbuster trades (awesome!). It would also help restore the sanity of friends and families across the country.

Then Saturday get back to it with rounds three and four and leave five through seven for the die-hards on Sunday, leaving Monday for people to recap everything while at work (perfect!). That doesn't sound too different, but the break on Friday is huge. Even just the perception that the weekend isn't totally consumed by football, even just the token Friday night makes a difference for everyone else. Plus its helps the teams take a day to re-address their needs and gives the fans a chance to catch their collective breath. Win, win, win.

Another observation was how different the draft priorities were from this year compared with last season. Most surprising was how many teams panicked and reached for quarterbacks in first round of the year's draft.

After Sam Bradford an obvious (and excellent) pick, the first quarterback taken was Tim Tebow by the Broncos who selected him 25th. Many people (including me) thought that was a terrible choice more because it was Tebow over Clausen rather than the position they were picking in (well done Broncos, well done). After Tebow however, the next QB didn't come off the board until Clausen at pick 48. After that, Colt McCoy, the next quarterback taken, lasted all the way into the third round at pick 85.

Regardless of what you think about Tebow, Clausen and McCoy, they were all value picks. Maybe the Broncos reached on Tebow (but if he was definitely their man, 25th is not too high) but the Broncos, Panthers and Browns were all relatively judicious and patient rather than impulsive.

Not reaching allowed Carolina to stock up on draft picks (which actually didn't help them but that is their own fault because they are bad at drafting) and gave the Broncos a chance to address their needs at receiver by taking Demaryius Thomas (remember the Broncos traded back into the first round to get Tebow). It also gave Cleveland the opportunity to not only secure their quarterback of their future but also presented them the chance to take Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, two dynamite players who have helped drastically improve Cleveland's previously disastrous secondary.

By contrast, Carolina, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Minnesota all made forced picks and took quarterbacks whose values were way to low for the position they were taken. Maybe Carolina got the ball rolling sparked a kind of domino effect and maybe a few of qb's will turn out to be great. But all four teams could have waited. There weren't many scouts/analysts who were saying, "Wow, Tennessee really has to go out and get Locker" he's the only player for their system.

When its all said and done, this year will probably be a lesson as why patience is key when drafting quarterbacks.

A third observation which will eventually highlight why I think this year's draft will hurt most teams that drafted high, is that only one offensive tackle was taken with the first 15 picks. You have to go back five years to find the last time that happened and 2006 was an anomaly as well.

I do not subscribe to the theory that offensive linemen are safe picks. No one is a safe pick. Sure quarterbacks may have higher learning curves, but if they are good enough they'll overcome them. That being said, in a league which is putting greater importance on and more responsibilities in the hands of younger quarterbacks, teams need to do everything they can to protect the future of their franchise. A heavy pass rush will stunt the development of a quarterback faster than anything - see Jimmy Clausen. So for teams like the the Panthers, Broncos and Bills to not address the issue will probably lead to consistent quarterback issues for another four/five more years.

Even if no linemen were rated worthy of a top three pick, why not trade down and accumulate more picks to fill other holes? Teams should start to realize its not an admission of defeat to trade down. Look at the Patriots. They are the masters of moving back, stockpiling picks and taking quality players without worrying about value. It's one reason their stupid dynasty has lasted this long (gross).

Lastly, and I know its too early.... but when was the last time Colts fans were so enthusiastic about a draft. The Colts haven't hit on three consecutive draft picks (knock on wood) like that, possibly ever. I mean not only did we get the help at the positions we desperately needed, we practically got every player we coveted.

No way would Castonzo fall to us. Boom.

We were desperate for interior line help. Boom.

Round three comes along and defensive tackle was still a huge weakness. Boom.

In the process we turned our two biggest areas of need into potential strengths and satisfied the most important person in the state of Indiana in the process. It was incredible.

 

Last quick point which has more to do with the state of the NFL than the draft. But did you realize  that guys like Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, Aldon Smith and others were being labeled and discussed as OLB/DE tweeners. At what point did 6'4 270 pounds (Robert Quinn's measures) become tweener.  Guys in NFL are becoming freakishly athletic. Not only are they getting faster but bigger too. 6'4, 270 used to be a defensive tackle for the Colts! Apparently not anymore....

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