Ten draft day moves that may dramatically affect the '07 season
It’s commonly known the NFL Draft shouldn’t be graded until the rookies have completed at least their third professional season. With that said, there’s no use grading teams unless it’s based on selection value and filling needs.
However, that doesn’t mean certain draft day moves won’t have an immediate impact on the upcoming season. In fact, most teams that find themselves smack in the middle of a playoff push usually can site specific moves they made on draft day as having a significant impact on their success.
Below are 10 – five good, five not so good – draft day moves that may dramatically affect the upcoming 2007 NFL season.
One move most expect to see among the poor is the Miami Dolphins selecting Ted Ginn Jr. ninth overall, passing on potential franchise quarterback Brady Quinn. But you won’t find it. Unlike Mel Kiper Jr. – who had a panic attack on live television when he heard Ginn’s name announced – and other national analysts, I’m not going to criticize the selection of Ginn over Quinn.
First of all, I didn’t think Quinn was a top-10 prospect to begin with. Sure, he played in a “pro style offense” at Notre Dame and seemingly has everything you look for in a quarterback. But he also never beat top-ranked opponents even though he had the surrounding talent to do so, and he has mechanical problems with his footwork that some scouts seem to ignore. He often doesn’t shift his feet and weight properly when throwing the short to intermediate passes, instead relying on his arm strength to guide the ball to his receiver.
Don’t get it twisted, however, because I still think Quinn is a solid prospect, just not worthy of a top-10 selection. People were outraged when Miami passed on the Domer, but what most forget is how NFL teams rank prospects on their “Big Board” before the draft. If the Dolphins had Ginn rated higher than Quinn on their board and BYU quarterback John Beck – whom they drafted in the second round – just below Quinn, then they were justified in taking Ginn ninth. All teams go by their “Big Board” and if both Ginn – whom everyone has seemed to forget is an explosive playmaker – and Beck pan out, then Miami’s scouts were the ones who got it right and Kiper can go comb that mane of his.
On the flip side, if Ginn and Beck don’t pan out and Quinn resurrects Cleveland’s franchise, then the Dolphins are going to be on the wrong side of draft day history. Hey, no pressure right?
Five positive draft day moves that will impact the ’07 season
1. The Browns oust all other teams with their top-three selections
The Browns selected two top prospects in Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn in the first round, then landed UNLV cornerback Eric Wright in the second, who arguably could’ve been a first-round pick if not for prior off-field issues. Thomas should start immediately and could instantly make top free agent signing Eric Steinbach better. Maybe Thomas will lift the play of ’05 free agent splash Kevin Shaffer as well, giving the Browns one of the most improved offensive lines in football. Quinn shouldn’t start right away, but like Thomas, Wright will get the opportunity to compete in an already underrated Cleveland secondary. Most importantly perhaps is the impact the selections of Thomas and Wright could have on the Browns’ 2008 draft. A 7-9 or 8-8 season isn’t out of the question for Cleveland, making the compensation given up for Quinn (a first rounder in ’08, among other picks) more than justified.
2. The Patriots acquire Randy Moss from the Raiders for a fourth-round pick
Many can argue Moss’ on-field ability checked out shortly after his mental mind frame did in ‘06. However, giving up a fourth rounder for a five-time Pro Bowler and paying him minimum wage is hardly a risk. New England took a shot on a supposed clubhouse cancer named Corey Dillon three years ago and he helped lead them to a Super Bowl. Dillon was motivated by the fact he could potentially win a tile, and Moss apparently is too. It’s hard to argue Moss’ talent hasn’t declined after watching him play the last two seasons in Oakland, but winning and proving people wrong is the ultimate revenge. Plus he’ll pair with Donte’ Stallworth in the most improved wide receiver unit in the NFL.
3. The 49ers follow up a productive offseason with a solid draft
In the offseason, the 49ers added one of the games’ best young cornerbacks in Nate Clements, a productive pass-rushing linebacker in Tully Banta-Cain, a hard-hitting safety in Michael Lewis and a speedy deep threat in Ashley Lelie. The ‘Niners followed up their offseason shopping spree by adding the draft’s best middle linebacker prospect in Mississippi’s Patrick Willis, a top offensive tackle in Central Michigan’s Joe Staley, and three potential sleeper defensive ends in Florida’s Ray McDonald and Joe Cohen and Nebraska’s Jay Moore. Looks like San Fran will be a chic pick in ’08.
4. The Falcons land four starters in the first four rounds
Despite losing out on LSU safety prospect LaRon Landry (selected sixth overall by the Redskins), the Falcons were able to fill huge holes in the first four rounds. Arkansas’ Jamaal Anderson should immediately start at defensive end, replacing Patrick Kerney who signed with the Seahawks. In the second round, Atlanta struck gold with Texas’ guard Justin Blalock and Arkansas’ cornerback Chris Houston. Blalock has a tremendous chance to start at left guard in the season opener and Houston will push for the starting cornerback position opposite DeAngelo Hall. In the fourth round, South Florida’s Stephen Nicholas will get the chance to start at outside linebacker with Demorrio Williams suffering a torn pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the rest of the offseason. Throw in last year’s second-round pick Jimmy Williams’ move from corner to free safety, and the Falcons got five potential starters in just four rounds.
5. The Bears finally get their pass-catching tight end
Criticized for passing on top tight end prospects Leonard Pope and Mercedes Lewis in the ’06 NFL Draft, the Bears landed one of the best receiving tight ends since Jeremy Shockey. While not as tough as Shockey, Miami’s Greg Olsen has the soft hands and explosiveness to give quarterback Rex Grossman an immediate third-down target. Olsen is also a fantastic route runner, which is only going to help the Bears’ methodical offense. Chicago just added a key piece to an already solid team.
Five poor draft day moves that will impact the ’07 season
1. The Titans fail to address their wide receiver need in the first round
The Titans had their pick of top receiver prospects with the 19th overall pick in the first round, yet they passed on hometown product Robert Meachem of UT, LSU’s Dwayne Bowe and USC’s Dwayne Jarrett in order to select Texas’ safety Michael Griffin. Not that Griffin is a bad prospect, Tennessee just had bigger needs and franchise quarterback Vince Young would have benefited from a true deep threat like Meachem or Bowe. Plus, one could argue Florida safety Reggie Nelson was a better prospect than Griffin, yet the Titans passed on Nelson, who wound up in Jacksonville. NFL analysts will be quick to assume the Titans are a playoff contender heading into next year with the way they finished in ’06, but the truth is they haven’t had a very productive offseason.
2. The Eagles allow the Cowboys to get their man and then reach with their first pick
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen hammered this move on draft day and I absolutely agree. Late in the first round, the Eagles traded their first round pick (No. 26 overall) to Dallas for multiple selections later in the draft. The Cowboys selected Purdue’ defensive end Anthony Spencer with the No. 26 pick, a player they coveted at No. 22 when they traded it to the Browns, who drafted Brady Quinn. Philly’s next move was drafting Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb with the first of the three picks they acquired from the Cowboys. The kicker with Kolb is that most scouts had him going one or even two rounds later than the Eagles chose him. But the real issue is the Eagles trading with a division rival. You don’t ever make a move that could potentially help a team in your division, even if it might help you in the process, period. Andy Reid and the Eagles broke one of the NFL’s cardinal rules, and then didn’t even get max value with the selection of Kolb. Good luck facing Spencer twice a year, Philly.
3. The Packers miss out, and then reach
When longtime running back Ahman Green signed with the Texans in the offseason, the Packers turned their attention to the draft to address perhaps their biggest need. Vernand Morency is expected to see significant carries in ’07, but Green Bay was out to add yet another runner, and focused on California’s Marshawn Lynch. Unfortunately, Buffalo chose Lynch with the 12th overall selection, four picks ahead of the Packers. With Lynch off the board, Green Bay easily could have addressed its receiver, tight end or safety positions with various prospects, but instead chose Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell. While Harrell was regarded as a first-round prospect, he was a reach at No. 16 and might not have the impact Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem, Miami tight end Greg Olsen or Florida safety Reggie Nelson would have had in Green Bay for ’07 and beyond.
4. The Lions fail to address defense with top picks
It’s hard to argue with Detroit’s selection of Calvin Johnson with the second overall pick considering he was the best prospect in the entire draft. However, the cold hard fact of the matter is the Lions still failed to fill immediate needs with their top two selections. There are huge holes still at middle linebacker and at cornerback that weren’t addressed when Detroit selected Johnson and Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton. One could make the argument the offense got dramatically better with the addition of Johnson, but the defense still has glaring needs, making the ’07 Lions looking awfully comparable to the ’06 version.
5. The Chargers' questionable first-day decisions
One of the better drafting teams in the past decade has been the San Diego Chargers, but with their first pick in the first round (No. 30 overall), the Chargers selected LSU’s Craig Davis, a second-tier wide receiver who was viewed as a late second-round pick. There’s no arguing San Diego needed a receiver, but one has to wonder if they passed on a better prospect in Dwayne Jarrett, who played in their own backyard at USC. With their second pick, the Chargers traded the Bears four draft picks – including a third rounder in ’08 – for the rights to draft Utah safety Eric Weddle. Much like Davis, Weddle could be a sleeper, but four picks to acquire a jack of all trades, master of none safety is a steep price. The Chargers are still going to be a playoff contender at the start of the regular season, but they made some questionable moves on the first day of the draft.
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