NFL Draft 2011: Day One Winners and Losers

By Dan Rubin

With the 2011 NFL Draft already underway, it is officially time to look back on day one and reflect on which teams drafted well, as well as the ones that didn’t. Here is our winners and losers from the first round.  

Winners: Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers come away as big winners of the first round.

Now look, I understand that there’s a very real possibility that Newton could become a major bust and that they drafted Jimmy Clausen to fill the starting quarterback role. But, I also believe that the draft is used to give your fans a very real hope of success in a way that one single day can’t. Fans don’t get hungry for tickets over minicamp, and they don’t get pumped up for OTAs.  They get pumped at the draft.  This is a team that lacked a face for their franchise.  They have it now.  Maybe in three years, we’ll question the pick and refer to the Heisman Trophy winner as a bust, but for now, this day and this draft belonged to Newton. Almost immediately, the future of Panther football was altered.

The Atlanta Falcons were exposed on offense in the divisional playoffs. The Packers took away the deep threat on Matt Ryan in their game back in January, and he only threw for 186 yards.  They had some defensive woes, which I’m sure they’ll address when they can start moving and signing players (as well as later in the draft).  But they had to find a solution to the problem of having only Roddy White for the deep ball.  Now Ryan has White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner, Michael Jenkins, and Julio Jones to throw the ball to.  He’s only in his 4th year.  They actually didn’t need a lot, so they were able to make the deal.  Sure they got fleeced, but I don’t think it’s a horrible move.

But as much as I loved the gutsy, ballsy move by the Falcons, I really love what Cleveland did. Cleveland has more holes than a donut shop.  The early pick would give them a flashy player, but they don’t need that; they have the face of a franchise in Peyton Hillis. They need to fill pretty much everything else. And they acquired the ability to do it by giving away an early pick that couldn’t make a huge impact on this team.  In the rebuilding future, this could go down as the moment where the Browns became relevant again.

Jon Gruden – thank you for owning the talking hairpiece of Mel Kiper, Jr. Seriously, if Gruden crapped on Kiper any more, Kiper’s address would’ve become “porto-potty in NYC.”  It was awesome.  I love it when football guys just take it to that guy.

Detroit’s pass rush this year will be Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. A couple of months ago, Aaron Burns, (our guest from the Charlotte Weekly this week) thought Fairley would go first overall. I love the pick because he was there at #13.  The NFC North is wide open if Green Bay has any Super Bowl hangover.  The Lions aren’t pushovers anymore.

The Patriots did a good job playing it safe, picking a good, solid offensive tackle with their first pick.  I really wanted Anthony Costanzo, but they got essentially the same guy with a different name in Nate Solder.  Right now, the Pats have nobody under contract for their line. Matt Light is a free agent, Logan Mankins is pretty much history, and Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur, (a.k.a. your right side of the line) is gone. So that means your preseason offensive line returns only Dan Koppen. I like the pick a lot.

Costanzo became a winner anyways, when he got selected to block for the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning.  I remember standing at a Boston College game talking to his dad four-odd years ago, and I knew he was going to be great.  Another year, another Boston College Eagle in the first round.  Ho hum, that’s becoming par the norm for “O-Line U” over there in Chestnut Hill.

The Losers: 

This will go down as the draft where the fans finally rebelled. Roger Goodell had his photo moment with the Hall of Famers and the Prospects, and the fans booed him almost immediately.  The chants of “We Want Football” shocked everyone, and I don’t think the talking heads knew what to do when it happened.

Rich Eisen had nothing to say, and the “commish” looked lost at the podium.  It’s the first moment through the entire labor drama when the fans finally spoke up and could actually be heard, and nobody knew what to do.  The constant booing cascading from Radio City Music Hall’s rafters said it all – the fans are fed up with legal speak and loopholes all over the place.  They want results.  They want football.  And Goodell ended up with egg on his face.

Teams also had to draft by need in the first round because they couldn’t move players ahead of time.  With the league not advising teams on player movement before Friday, the first round featured absolutely zero player movement.  The teams could only trade picks or draft players.  Therefore, it became surreal almost immediately when Von Miller was picked second overall, and he hugged Roger Goodell – a man he’s suing.  It was the fourth or fifth moment where I laughed at the Commish, and but the loser of the moment was Miller.  How can you sue the league, hug the man you’re suing, and have people take it seriously?  I’m sure the NFL will use that in its defense somehow.

The Falcons screwed their future over very badly by giving up two first rounder’s, (including their pick next year), their second round pick, their fourth round pick, and next year’s fourth.  If they don’t hit on every other pick this year, they could be in some deep trouble. Thomas Dimitrioff has mortgaged his job on Jones ability to produce and Atlanta’s ability to win a Super Bowl within the next 2-3 years.

I don’t get why Jacksonville traded up to take Blaine Gabbert.  I mean, I think Gabbert’s better than Jake Locker, but they have a decent quarterback who can win football games.  David Garrard is pretty good, and he can scramble.  I just don’t get why you make the move to take him, when you can sit back two picks later and get an offensive lineman to protect and block Garrard.  Instead, you’ve served notice that Garrard is gone in a couple of years or at least backing up, and you’ve gone into transitional mode.

Christian Ponder?  Really?  Like…really?  I’ve followed him from Day 1 at Florida State…really?!?!

The draft coverage gets a sagging grade because honestly, I didn’t think it was great. Too many talking heads, not enough highlights.  And the gratuitous phone call shots are overboard as always. It just feels like it’s too much. I’d prefer the olden days when they interviewed fans instead of just showing them.

We’ll be back with more coverage throughout the weekend. A long couple of days ahead, especially if you’re a Pats fan like us at Noontime Sports.

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