Now that we are a full 24 hours removed from the nail-biting selection of the 2012 Mr. Irrelevant (Enjoy Disneyland, Mr. Harnish), the time has come to review the three-day marathon that was the 2012 NFL Draft.
Here at Nice Pick, Cowher we feel that the Steelers came away winners – big, jackpot-level winners. You can check out our review of the Steelers 2012 Draft HERE. For the purpose of this article, we will leave the black and gold out of the discussion. The happiness of knowing that David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Alameda Ta’amu, and Sean Spence jerseys will be available at your nearest retailer by the time you read this is enough to tickle the fancy of even the most curmudgeonly Steelers fans.
The thing about covering the NFL Draft that makes it so difficult (yet, fascinating) is that the spiderweb of potential story lines is virtually endless. We had 253 players selected over the course of the three-day marathon, each player drafted for a specific reason by their new found employers, and in turn changing the professional outlook for close to 1,696 already employed players who now wonder what the future holds for their career or for their teams depth chart. When you whittle all of that nonsense down to the bare minimum of thought, you come up with a select list of winners and losers.
Grab yourself a cold beverage, click off that boring NBA Playoff Game, and enjoy the NPC 2012 NFL Draft Winners and Losers.
The Indianapolis Colts – The Colts have drafted first overall in the modern-era NFL Draft more than any other franchise, with five picks in the top slot since 1967. In 1998, the Colts selected QB Peyton Manning and in the span of one year went from a perennial laughingstock to a perennial Super Bowl contender. The pick of Manning did more than turn around the fortunes of the team, it saved football in Indianapolis. The Colts would have never built the fanbase they have, been able to secure funding for their new Lucas Oil Stadium, and would probably be the Los Angeles Colts by now. So when the team allowed Peyton Manning – one of the greatest players in NFL history – to walk away this past spring, they were entering a frightening new era. The franchise tore down everything and everyone associated with Manning – from the front office to the coaching staff to the veteran players who had built the team into a powerhouse from 1999-2010. They essentially cleared the deck and started over, meaning that the 2012 NFL Draft was the most important in their history and perhaps the most important draft for ANY team in the history of the NFL.
The Colts knew who they wanted to replace Peyton Manning, and it was Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Luck is the most polished college quarterback to come through the draft since – well, Manning. He is the new face of the team, the big man on campus, the prom king. He is the franchise.
The Colts could have been happy with that. They solved the biggest problem any National Football League team has, they found a franchise quarterback. Instead of resting on those laurels and using the rest of the draft to simply plug holes, the Colts systematically tore apart the draft. They gave their new QB a security blanket by drafting his college TE – the highest-rated TE in the 2012 Draft – Cody Fleener. They doubled down on that strategy by drafting another TE in round three, Dwayne Allen – a 6’3″ 255 lb. pass-catching machine. The Colts then traded back into the late third round to nab WR T.Y. Hilton from Florida International, a do-it-all player who has the potential to win the field position battle for Indianapolis on every single kickoff and punt return. The Colts are returning WR Reggie Wayne and WR Austin Collie, and brought in WR Donnie Avery in free agency. The combination of those players and the new TE duo will be a instant playground for Andrew Luck, who will not have to endure the rookie season of doom that so many top QB picks have to contend with. The Colts did this the right way, and could very easily go from 1-15 to 8-8 or even better in 2012 because of it. The Colts completed their offensive draft mastery by stealing the 11th ranked QB in the draft, NIU QB Chandler Harnish, with the final pick in round seven. Harnish could become a valuable NFL backup and insurance policy for Luck over the next five years. A brilliant move to lock down the quarterback position for a long time.
While the offense is now in the hands of new OC Bruce Arians, the defense begins their switch to a 3-4 style with the addition of DT Josh Chapman and DE/OLB Tim Fugger, two high-motor players who will compete for starting jobs right away and provide talent to surround Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in the front seven.
Indianapolis did draft a few project picks in the later rounds (T Justin Anderson, WR LaVon Brazill, RB Vick Ballard) who could end up becoming nice role players for the team, and ultimately I believe the Indianapolis Colts had the best draft of any team in the NFL. Fans in Indy have much to be thankful for today, as their beloved Colts are in great shape for the next decade.
Cincinnati Bengals Fans – For years, despite a few solid playoff seasons mixed in, Bengals fans have basically lived in a world of despair. They have an owner who seems to care less about the fans and the team on the field less than any other owner in any professional sport. They have had to endure terrible draft picks by a slew of inept general managers and head coaches, they have sat back and watched as player after player flamed out once they put on the black and orange stripes. Prior to last season, the team had dumped malcontent Quarterback Carson Palmer and his sidekick Chad OchoCinco. They seemed to be headed into another dark Bengals era of losing as they transitioned to a rookie QB in Andy Dalton. Despite a season in which they miraculously made the playoffs behind Dalton and WR sensation A.J. Green, Bengals fans stayed away from Paul Brown Stadium until the final weeks. They missed the beginning of something special, and the ante got upped even further in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Cincinnati Bengals raked in their second straight highly rated draft class, and this time they came away with no less than TEN possible impact players for Marvin Lewis and his talented coaching staff.
The Bengals kicked off their draft with two first-round picks, the second one the result of the scam they pulled on Oakland in the Carson Palmer deal last year. They used their first pick on their biggest need, selecting CB Dre Kirkpatrick, a 6’1″ monster who will instantly become a starter in the defensive secondary for a defense that only got better as each week of the 2011 season passed by. After trading down with their second first rounder (picking up the Patriots 3rd round pick in the process – more on that later) the Bengals drafted roadblock G Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin. Zeitler had a first-round grade, and is a plug and play guard who will be a starter from day one. After stealing Penn State DE Devon Still in round two – a player who could excel in the Bengals diverse run-stopping schemes, they got the WR they desperately needed with their first third round pick. WR Mohamed Sanu was one of the most polished players in the draft, having started for three seasons at Rutgers and excelled despite playing with three freshman quarterbacks during his time there. He jumps in as another play maker on an offense sporting Pro Bowl WR A.J. Green and Pro Bowl TE Jermaine Gresham. Cincinnati added another talented TE in round four by drafting Georgia TE Orson Charles, a 6’2 251 lb match-up nightmare who will add another dimension to the offense.
More? How about DT Brandon Thompson of Clemson, a player who miraculously fell to the Bengals in round three when they used that pick from the Patriots to grab him. Thompson is a future starter at DE for the Bengals after starting over 40 games in college. Even more? How about Boise State FS George IIoka, a massive safety who has the physical tools and attitude to become a new fan favorite in Cincinnati. Not to mention the addition of Ohio State RB Dan Herron, who was one of the top five most prolific running backs in the country in 2011 and amazingly lasted into the seventh round, where the Bengals added the Ohio product.
Bengals fans have no reason to think that their team is not committed to winning any longer, as the franchise has now turned the corner from Cinderella story to legitimate AFC North contenders. Time to buy those season ticket packages, Bengals fans. Your team just turned Paul Brown Stadium into the place to be in 2012.
St. Louis Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher – It has been all rainbows and cream cheese for Fisher since he was hired as the next head coach of the St. Louis Rams, a moribund franchise that never seems to be able to get out of their own way. Enter Fisher, the former mayor of Titansville. Despite losing his future defensive coordinator before even coaching a game, Fisher has been on fire since taking over the hot seat in St. Louis. Luckily, he is in the right place to rebuild an NFL franchise. The fans in St. Louis are currently going ga-ga over their hometown Blues run at the Stanley Cup, and the baseball Cardinals – the unquestioned champion of St. Louis sports – are defending their World Series title by streaking through the National League in 2012. So quietly, Fisher has gone about his business of rebuilding the Rams, a team in distant third-place among fans hearts in their city. He has been given the keys to the castle and was told, “go do your thing Mr. Mustache Man”.
And his THING is building winning football teams. Fisher inherited a franchise QB in Sam Bradford, a franchise RB in Steven Jackson, a rock-solid DE in Chris Long, and little else. He went out and brought in WR Steve Smith (the “other” Steve Smith) to start the process of providing weapons for Bradford. Then came the 2012 NFL Draft. The Rams held the #2 overall pick in the draft, which they traded to the Washington Redskins for the Skins 1st round pick in 2012 (#6), along with Washington’s NEXT two 1st round picks (2013 and 2014), and the Redskins second round pick this year (#39). So with one quick trade, the Rams netted a future basket of draft picks that they can use to continue their rebuild all the way into 2014.
Fisher and the Rams weren’t done yet. On draft day, they traded that #6 overall pick to Dallas for the #14 and #45 picks in the 2012 Draft. So once the dust settled, Fisher had hauled in a final tally of:
– The 14th overall pick in the 2012 Draft
– The 45th overall pick in the 2012 Draft
– Washingtons 1st round pick in 2013
– Washingtons 1st round pick in 2014
All of that for simply moving down twelve slots in the 2012 Draft. That, my pigskin obsessed readers, is the definition of highway robbery.
AND the Draft hadn’t even started yet!
Once the draft began, the Rams used their 14th overall pick to select DT Michael Brockers of LSU, the #2 DT on the board. Brockers fills a major need for the Rams on the interior of the defensive line and will start immediately. Fisher then went into the war room to find help for his franchise QB. The Rams selected WR Brian Quick of Appalachian State, a 6’3 220 lb receiver that many have compared to a young Terrell Owens. In the fourth round, Fisher found another weapon for Bradford in Wake Forest speedy WR Chris Givens. Sandwiched in between the Quick and Givens picks were three more high-quality, need-filling selections. CB Janoris Jenkins was a first-round talent who fell due to character issues. Jeff Fisher is a master of getting the most out of every player, and he will ensure that Jenkins reaches his potential. CB Trumaine Johnson of Montana is a HUGE CB who will play opposite Jenkins and become a true enforcer on the field for the Rams. RB Isiah Pead from Cincinnati was a quickly-rising star up the draft board when the Rams selected him at #50. Pead will come in and learn from one of the best in Jackson, as well as spell the veteran on passing downs with his ability to work in space and catch passes underneath from Bradford. A true value pick and possibly the heir apparent to Jackson in the future, but for now the Rams have a solid 1-2 punch at RB.
In the fifth round, the Rams took OT Rokevious Watkins of South Carolina, a 6’4 338 lb lineman who will help plug a hole in the offensive line at either RT or RG. The addition of K Greg Zuerlein will spell the end of the Josh Brown era in St. Louis. Zuerlein presets as a kicker who can split the uprights from anywhere in the field, and in the domes of the NFC West he will be even better. LB Aaron Brown of Hawaii was picked in the seventh round and will become a special teams dynamo before possibly moving to inside linebacker in the future.
Jeff Fisher has completely turned around the fortunes of the St. Louis Rams in a short time, and the deals he pulled off over the past month ensure the Rams will be able to add at minimum two first-round talents per year through 2014, a wonderful trading chip to have for a coach who knows how to play this game as well as anyone in the league.
Fisher is a winner because he not only secured a player at EVERY position of need heading into this draft, but also set his team up to be a major player in the league for years to come.
South Beach, Miami Dolphins Fans – yeah, the Dolphins got their man. QB Ryan Tannehill is already having conversations about how the ceremony will go when they retire his number in a few years. In the meantime, the big story is that Lauren Tannehill is taking her immense talents to South Beach for 2012. The talk of the draft, the beautiful Lauren overshadowed her slightly”Magoo” QB husband with her amazing body and infectious smile. Never has a players wife or girlfriend fit better into a city than Lauren Tannehill fits in South Beach. Ryan may be the franchise QB the fish have been looking for since Dan Marino retired into a life full of Nutraslim commercials, but his wife has instantly become a star. Lauren Tannehill was the top trending subject on Twitter for over 24 hours Thursday night and a quick Google search uncovers no less than 300 fan sites dedicated to Mrs. Tannehill.
Yes, South Beach is a winner in this contest. They gained a franchise QB who was minimal experience and will be a major project, but while they wait out the time it takes to get Ryan into the Dolphins lineup, they have Lauren to keep them company on those lonely Florida nights.
The Seattle Seahawks – as if it wasn’t bad enough that Nike picked the Seabirds to be the guinea pig for the new generation of ugly Nike football uniforms, and now the team has to take the field in jerseys that even the XFL wouldn’t have tried to push through, but now the team is in shambles due to the inability of Head Coach Pete Carroll to use the NFL Draft to fill the many holes his team has. In a division with the San Fransisco 49ers – the undisputed best team in the NFC West, along with the Rams and Cardinals, both teams who have a plan and are working towards getting better, the Seahawks have become something of an enigma out in the Pacific Northwest.
With a high 1st round pick and MANY positions of need, the Seahawks had an opportunity to secure a player that could give an identity to a franchise that sorely needs one. Instead, Seattle made the most shocking 1st round move in years – selecting a universally ranked 3rd round situational pass rusher with the 15th overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. OLB Bruce Irvin of West Virginia played in less than 30% of the plays for his team last season. He is simply a situational player, with speed to rush the passer. In order to develop Irvin into a 3-down NFL OLB, the Seahawks will need to spend no less than two full seasons prepping him and teaching him how to play the position. That is ok if you come in as a 4th or 5th round pick, but as a 1st round pick, IMMEDIATE IMPACT should be tattooed across your forehead. For a team that had massive holes at OL, DL, CB, and WR to select Irvin when such players as DE Melvin Ingram, DE Shea McClellin, DE Quinton Coples, DE Chandler Jones, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, WR Kendell Wright, and half a dozen 1st round grade offensive lineman were on the board was a blunder that could haunt this franchise for years.
The team signed free agent QB Matt Flynn to a massive multi-year contract to be their quarterback less than a month ago, and then drafted ZERO weapons for him in the draft. The 3rd round pick of QB Russell Wilson was heralded as a great value pick, but it does nothing to help the team that will be on the field in 2012. ILB Bobby Wagner of Utah State might turn out to be a nice player, but the shine was off already on OLB picks after the Irvin debacle. The Seahawks had ten picks in the 2012 Draft and selected eight defensive players, none of them impact players who can start right away – besides Wagner, who may be forced into a starting role due to need. The only offensive player drafted by Seattle that could contribute in 2012 is RB Robert Turbin of Utah State, a short-yardage type back who could spell RB Marshawn Lynch when he isn’t feeling “beast mode”.
This entire draft was terrible, and now Pete Carroll and his staff will be behind the eight ball trying to figure out a way to keep their new franchise QB Flynn upright all season. With little offensive talent on the roster outside Lynch and WR Sidney Rice, the Seahawks better hope that they catch lightening in a bottle with some of these late round picks. If not, I would imagine the career dissipation light for Pete Carroll will begin flashing sometime around week 8 of the 2012 season.
Washington Redskins – OK, the Redskins mortgaged their future – in typical Dan Snyder fashion – to get their bread and butter player, QB Robert Griffin III. RGIII is talented, personable, and will be a player that is talked about for years no matter what he accomplishes in the NFL. He is a new breed of African-American QB – not just fast and athletic, but also a genuinely premier pocket-passer. He will vie with Cam Newton for the cover of every pre-season magazine, the starring role in every TV commercial, and will be the face of the Washington Redskins for years to come.
So you would think the next goal would be to find him some help on a team that barely averaged 13.0 points per game in 2011. Some WR, TE, or even a RB to take some of the strain off the young gunslinger as he begins his quest to become a star.
Instead, the Redskins decided they would draft ANOTHER quarterback. Yup, welcome to your new NFL career Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins. Enjoy holding that clipboard and learning how to be an NFL quarterback from…….Rex Grossman? The Redskins not only hut themselves by picking Cousins, they essentially ended a promising NFL career before it could start by drafting the 4th ranked QB on the board to be a BACK-UP and possible trade bait in a few years.
While Indianapolis spent their draft surrounding Andrew Luck with familiar faces and weapons in the passing game, Washington – after mortgaging their future to the Rams by trading both their 2013 and 2014 1st round picks for the right to draft RGIII – went another direction. They loaded up on mid-round offensive linemen, a decent OLB (Keenan Robinson), and a slew of late-round cornerbacks. The only help they could find Mr. Griffin III was a little-known RB out of Florida Atlantic University named Alfred Morris. Morris will compete to be the 3rd down back to RB Roy Helu and try to unseat RB Evan Royster as the #2 RB on the depth chart.
If RGIII doesn’t pan out, the Redskins may have just regulated themselves to also-ran status for the next decade in a division that includes Dallas, Philadelphia, and the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants – all teams that are BETTER today than they were a year ago. The pressure they have put on RGIII is immense, but at least he knows if he messes up he always has a top-rated backup QB looking over his shoulder – that should make him feel MUCH better,
The City of Cleveland – We already know that Cleveland is a tough place to live. Property values are at an all-time low, the city is rotting from the inside due to poverty in urban areas, and the job market is forcing young residents to move away. Cleveland sports fans had endured so many heartbreaking moments – “The Drive”, “The Fumble”, Art Modell, The Indians, LeBron James, and who can forget poor Craig Ehlo.
The Browns have been nothing more than an afterthought since returning in 1999. They have had two winning seasons since then, with one playoff appearance ending in a brutal loss to the Steelers in a game the Browns were up by 17 points at one point. Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, William Green, Kellen Winslow Jr., Braylon Edwards, Kamerion Wimbley……..all 1st round picks for the Browns since their return, none reaching their potential. Yes, Cleveland is the worst sports city around, but for some reason Browns fans still pack into the cleverly named Cleveland Browns Stadium each Sunday to watch their team lose game after game.
Fast forward to the 2012 NFL Draft. The Browns make a move to draft the best running back on the board, Alabama RB Trent Richardson. Things are looking up! In the streets of Cleveland, they rejoice! A few hours later, the Browns cap off the end of the Colt McCoy era by selecting a Quarterback who they think can lead their team to the promise land. Unfortunately, that QB is 28 years old. Let us put that in perspective for you: At 28 years old, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had not only played in three AFC Championship games, he had WON two Super Bowl championships. Ravens QB Joe Flacco has been to the playoffs in all four of his NFL seasons, and he is just 27. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers turns 28 this year, has won a Super Bowl, and still had enough time to sit on the bench, learning from future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre for three years before inheriting the starting role.
QB Brandon Weeden is 28 years old and will be a ROOKIE in 2012. If he takes the usual development route of a rookie NFL quarterback and hits his stride in his third season, he will be 31 years old. The average QB shelf life in the NFL is seven years. Weeden is coming in from Oklahoma State, where he ran an offense that was built around throwing the ball 50+ times a game. He will need to learn how to run a pro-style offense in one summer if he plans to start for the Browns in 2012. Any way you slice it,for all of the good the Browns did with their Richardson pick – they undid it with the Weeden pick.
At least they brought in some more offensive play makers though, right? Wrong. Richardson will join the worst offense in football, with a rookie QB, and no additional help. The Browns spent the rest of their eleven picks shoring up their defense and offensive line. Project WR Travis Benjamin from Miami will ad another nameless face out there among Browns receivers. The Browns did grab up some decent defensive talent though, stealing Boise State DT Billy Winn in the sixth round, and Texas OLB Emmanuel Acho directly before Winn. Both should be immediate upgrades over the retreads the Browns sent out there in 2011.
Unfortunately, the Browns once again believe they need to “start over” on offense, and plan to do so with a 28 year old rookie QB over Colt McCoy, a player who played admirably in two seasons with virtually zero help.
Good luck Cleveland, Ohio.
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