We spend months analyzing and over-analyzing the draft (mostly over-analyzing), so the swift pace of the league’s most dissected event that isn’t the Super Bowl is both staggering, and mildly depressing.
You see, we’ll still have a solid week or so of that same analyzing and over-analyzing of the draft once the dust settles over the weekend, and I get some sleep for the first time in about four days. But after that together we’ll begin our journey down the long, winding road of the NFL’s true offseason, and there are three more months of nothingness before training camp starts.
The mere thought is petrifying, and it makes me feel cold and alone. The benefit for you, kind reader, is that during those summer dog days in the football calender we’ll reach deep into the generic list fun bag in our blatant whoring for pageviews Bleacher Report style. Who wants a list of the league’s hottest cheerleaders?!?
But let’s not entertain those thoughts of depression right now. While the single round of the draft that’s been completed was quite important, it’s still only one round. And tonight we’ll see the second and third most important rounds, because the second and third rounds will be completed.
I’d explain the pattern there more thoroughly, but I think our time is better spent breaking down a few of the top players available tonight, and their likely destinations.
1. TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
We understand that not every team has the right personnel in place to draft eight tight ends, and have them all catch 80 balls. We just have a difficult time understanding how 29 teams thought that way in the first round.
As I noted in the early hours of this morning after at least five Red Bulls, we can’t pretend to be too surprised about Fleener’s fall, because we simply can’t be overly shocked by the tumble of any player who was widely slotted as a late first-round pick. The 49ers and Steelers didn’t feel like doing a Patriots imitation and pairing Fleener with Vernon Davis or Heath Miller respectively, while evidently the Giants–Fleener’s most widely projected landing spot–are fine with Martellus Bennett as their two other tight ends recover from torn ACLs during the Super Bowl.
Destination: Fleener’s fall was indeed a little odd and confusing, but it’ll get even stranger if he makes it past the Colts tonight. Andrew Luck’s new place of employment is on the clock with the second pick (34th overall), and after losing Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme, GM Ryan Grigson has a need and a want. He needs a tight end, and he’d love to pair Luck with his former Stanford teammate for some instant chemistry.
2. DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
A low grade on Upshaw caused the plummet of a defensive end who was once projected as a mid first rounder, possibly to the Jets at No. 18. The sheer abundance of pass rushers also contributed, in addition to uncertainty about Upshaw’s fit as an outside linebacker with his inexperience dropping into coverage.
Destination: The ravens have been widely pegged as a fit for Upshaw, but they have far greater needs elsewhere that will be discussed below and should be their focus in the second round. Instead, the Panthers need pass rushing help and someone to complement Charles Johnson. Upshaw can fill that hole and improve on Carolina’s 31 sacks in 2011.
3. C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
The assumption was that if Konz made it past the Ravens in the first round, he’d fall, and he’d fall far. Well, now the Ravens have another chance after they traded out of the first round entirely, and they hold the third overall pick tonight.
Destination: With Matt Birk aging after he contemplated retirement earlier this offseason, Baltimore needs a successor at center now, and in the interim Konz could also slide over to fill the hole left by the departure of Ben Grubbs. He shouldn’t get past the Ravens at 35th overall, but if he does the best center in the draft could swan dive out of the top 50.
4. WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
Similar to Upshaw, Hill became a victim of the depth at his position. Beyond Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright, and Michael Floyd, it was expected that one more receiver would hear his name in the first round, and then a handful of others would fall into the muddled middle tier. That fourth receiver was A.J. Jenkins, and now Hill joins Reuben Randle and Mohamed Sanu among the still talented secondary prizes at the position waiting in round two.
Destination: After St. Louis’ haul from two first-round trades (with Washington and Dallas), the Rams are on the clock three times in the first 13 picks tonight. If one of those picks isn’t a wide receiver after Brandon Lloyd’s exit, that would be rather unfortunate. Hill is again competing with Randle, and he could have the advantage with Randle viewed as being better suited to be a slot receiver. Of the two, the wideout who doesn’t land in St. Louis will likely join Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson in Cleveland.
5. QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State
Along with Kirk Cousins, Osweiler leads the second tier of quarterbacks set to follow the Colin Kaepernick career path. Ideally they’ll both be drafted into a situation that allows them to be slowly groomed and developed over several seasons before taking over for either a fading veteran, or they’d be asked to be a cheaper, still effective alternative to an expiring contract.
Destination: Peyton Manning’s age and the fact that he hasn’t taken a hit in well over a year leads to the inevitable conclusion that Denver will draft a QB early to be both a quality backup, and his eventual successor. The Broncos did some heavy homework on Osweiler during the pre-draft process, and now it’s just a matter of what grade they’ve given him, and how high he is on their board. A high grade could mean an early pick at No. 36, but if the value isn’t right there then Osweiler may wait until No. 57. The Broncos own both picks, with the earlier one coming from their trade last night with Tampa that landed Doug Martin in the Bucs’ backfield.