NFL draft light on glamour, heavy on intrigue
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Minnesota went all in with three first-round picks.
Super Bowl champion Baltimore went for replacements for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
The New York Jets added to their quarterback uncertainty by taking Geno Smith in the second round.
Teams loaded up on linemen, making the big and beefy guys this year’s stars.
The 2013 NFL draft was light on glamour at the skill positions, but heavy on intrigue (when would Manti Te’o go?) and burly bodies able to either get after or protect all those pricey passers.
Denver Broncos boss John Elway called the draft “deep in the trenches.”
“It wasn’t sexy, but there were a lot of good football players in this draft,” he said. “It was deep in the other-than-glitzy positions.”
The first round included 18 linemen, one quarterback and, for the first time since 1963, no running backs.
“That’s a lot of love for the big boys up front, which we usually don’t get,” said No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, an offensive tackle from Central Michigan taken by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here’s a breakdown:
• Valiant Vikings: Nobody made more noise in this year’s draft than the Vikings.
Coming off a surprising run to the playoffs spearheaded by MVP Adrian Peterson, they became the first team since the Rams in 2001 to have three first-round picks. They traded four selections to New England to move up and take Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson after grabbing Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
That’s pushing all your chips into the center of the table.
“I don’t think it could’ve worked out any better for the caliber of players we got coming into our program,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said after addressing three of his four major needs in a dizzying 30-minute span. “I’m very excited.”
When the Vikings finally got back on the clock Saturday, Spielman addressed his other big need by grabbing Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges in the fourth round and Michael Mauti in the seventh.
With that, Minnesota served notice that they’re coming after Aaron Rodgers and everyone else in 2013.
• QB Conundrum: The Jets are testing out the old saying you can never have too many quarterbacks.
After Buffalo surprised nearly everyone by picking Florida State’s EJ Manuel as the only QB in the first round (at No. 16), the Jets pulled off their own stunner by selecting West Virginia’s Geno Smith in the second round, at No. 39.
Coach Rex Ryan’s three-ring circus at QB now includes a half dozen passers. The others are Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms.
“I hope they’re all thinking, ‘Hey, I have an opportunity to go win a job,’” Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said.
Smith certainly is.
“My goal is to be a franchise quarterback,” he said. “But as of now, there’s lots of work to be done.”
Smith put up great numbers in college but also had accuracy issues and fumbled the ball an alarming 32 times, and scouts also questioned his overall skills and leadership in some pre-draft reports.
“You know what,” Smith said, “critics don’t have a pick.”
• Super Selections: Will the Harbaugh brothers be making plans for another family reunion in February? Both Baltimore and San Francisco restocked for another Super Bowl run.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome launched a defensive makeover after Lewis retired and Reed led a free agency exodus following their title, signing with Houston. Newsome used his first four picks and six of 10 selections on defenders, beginning with safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown, who have some huge cleats to fill.
San Francisco’s 11-player haul included defensive back Eric Reid, defensive end Tank Carradine and tight end Vance McDonald, but the most intriguing pick was that of fourth-rounder Marcus Lattimore. The South Carolina running back suffered a career-threatening right knee injury last season just one year after tearing ligaments in his left knee.
San Francisco took a similar gamble several years ago when it spent a third-round selection on Frank Gore, who had suffered torn ligaments in each of his knees a year apart at the University of Miami, but has made the Pro Bowl four times and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
“I love the aggressive mental approach he has taken through this whole process, but we’re going to slow down the aggressive physical things and make sure Marcus is 100 percent healthy before he goes out there on the field,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “If he doesn’t play this year, then he doesn’t play this year.”
• Remaking Rosters: The heavy turnover after last season — eight new coaches and seven new general managers — meant there were plenty of newbies making draft decisions.
Led by the Chiefs new brain trust of coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey, eight of the top 11 picks were made by teams that had turnover at the decision-making positions as the Jaguars, Eagles, Browns, Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Chargers also had a first-year coach and/or general manager.
Of those, the biggest splash was made by the Bills when GM Buddy Nix gave new coach Doug Marrone a new QB by trading out of the eighth spot and selecting Florida State’s Manuel.
“If we can develop this guy, he has the talent to take you to the dance,” Nix said.
Other than the decision to take a chance on Manti Te’o in the second round, the Chargers’ rookie tandem of GM Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy added right tackle D.J. Fluker of Alabama with the 11th pick and Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen in the third round, two players who should help embattled QB Philip Rivers right away.
• Busts or Bronze: For all the money and hours spent watching tape and workouts, evaluating players’ bodies and minds, recording height, weight, speed and strength, the draft remains an inexact science.
There will be first-round busts like always and maybe some undrafted guys end up with bronze busts in Canton, Ohio.
“You never really know because you’re dealing with humans,” Elway said.
The Broncos have had at least one college free agent make the 53-man roster coming out of camp every year since 2004, but it’s going to be hard for any of Denver’s 15 undrafted additions to make it this year after Denver loaded up in free agency and the draft after a 13-3 season.
Elway wasn’t called on to close the sale on any of the free-agent candidates. He learned his lesson when he bought his first car dealership many years ago and a salesman called him in to seal the deal.
“So I go in and the guy says, ‘You’ve got a lot more money than I do. Why would I want to pay you $1,000?’” Elway recounted. “I said, ‘OK, you can have it for $500.’
“So, ever since then, I’ve stayed out of the negotiating business.”
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