Eight trades later the first round of the 2012 draft is over, and remarkably I didn’t hear Mel Kiper Jr. say the phrase “phone booth” once. It was chaos early, as only one team in the top seven made its pick in the slot where the standings originally put them on the draft board.
This is the new reality of the rookie wage scale, and during the first round of the first draft under the new CBA it quickly became clear that trading is now quite trendy and affordable. That was the unexpected development, but an emphasis on high end cornerbacks at the height of a passing era wasn’t surprising, and therefore the reach for passers wasn’t either.
As we align our heads in the proper direction again, here are a few thoughts and observations in addition to the rest of our coverage from an opening night that featured a flurry of action leading to key needs being filled in key places.
Tampa Bay wins the first round
Bucs GM Mark Dominick orchestrated two trades. One early to bring in Mark Barron, adding a playmaker to a secondary that’s seen a formerly elite talent in Ronde Barber fade. Barron is a hard hitter who’s effective against the run, and he’ll also strengthen a pass defense that allowed 238.4 yards per game.
Then later Dominick addressed another need, trading back into the first round and getting Doug Martin to both complement LeGarrette Blunt in the backfield, and compete with a running back who’s weak in pass protection, has gone through fumble issues, and is entering the final year of his contract. Combine this savvy early drafting with the additions of Eric Wright, Carl Nicks, and Vincent Jackson through free agency, and the Bucs’ rental of the league’s basement should only last one year.
Despite the emergence of the tight end, Coby Fleener is still unemployed
This isn’t exactly staggering, because at best Fleener was a late first-round pick, and he’s widely been projected to land in Indianapolis tomorrow with the Colts’ 34th overall pick, and support his Stanford teammate Andrew Luck. But it’s still notable that several teams at the back end of the first round with an opportunity to create a solid tight end tandem chose to look elsewhere (Giants, 49ers, Steelers).
The Patriots are influential, but Bill Belichick still hasn’t quite perfected his Jedi brainwashing technique.
Just like that, the Colt McCoy era(?) is over
Thought of as a slight reach in the first round only because of his age, Brandon Weeden will now be tasked with bringing respect back to a position in Cleveland that’s fueled the factory of sadness with tears for quite some time.
Downgrading Weeden due to the numbers on his birth certificate was always a practice spearheaded by mouth breathers. He’ll turn 29 next fall, and quarterbacks who are even above average often hang around until their late 30s. Barring a significant injury, the Browns just purchased seven years of high end production at the most important offensive position.
The pressure on Richardson to be a stud is enormous
Three running backs were selected in the first round, but two (David Wilson and Martin) came off the board in the final two slots. As expected, Trent Richardson became an anomaly at the position, and was more than just a top five pick. After Cleveland’s trade with Minnesota he made it into the top three, a move up that cost three more picks, and that much more in added pressure.
If he isn’t in the same stratosphere as Adrian Peterson in terms of his production and talent, this pick will quickly be a failure. Luckily, Richardson has the aforementioned Weeden now to create a reliable passing game, and he’ll provide much more optimism on that front than the noodle-armed McCoy.
The Broncos had a need they couldn’t satisfy
And that’s why they kept trading down, and eventually out of the first round entirely. The primary need in Denver was a defensive tackle who could anchor the middle to occupy blockers and boost a still struggling run defense, and also have the versatility to help Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil rush the passer.
The value didn’t match the players available either at Denver’s original slot at No. 25, or later at No. 31 following the trade with New England. Fletcher Cox and Dontari Poe were long gone, and the Broncos evidently didn’t have a strong first-round grade on Jerel Worthy.
Denver holds the fourth pick Friday night (36th overall), and look for Worthy to be the target, with the value now improved early on Day 2.
Upshaw was the victim of a deep pass rusher pool
It was going to happen to someone with the abundance of pass rushers available in the first round, and given the scouting scuttlebutt that built against Upshaw prior to Thursday, his descent out of the first round isn’t surprising. Concern was expressed that he had the tools to be a strong edge rusher, but he didn’t compare to the elite talents at the position in this draft like Melvin Ingram.
He was described by one scout as a pass rusher who would top out at six-to-eight sacks per year, which is a fine number for an early second-round pick.