By Dan Rubin
Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the draft’s 2nd and 3rd round selections, goings-on, and overall tomfoolery:
The mad genius did it again. Maybe I’m just a wicked homer, but Bill Belichick never disappoints during the NFL Draft. He orchestrated the Patriots to the tune of three second round selections and two third round selections, which he traded into picks and future considerations. When the dust settled, they selected a cornerback, two running backs, and the heir apparent to Tom Brady.
I love the selection of Ryan Mallett. Actually, let me take that back; I really love that pick. I said in my draft preview that the Pats needed a quarterback. Mallett’s the answer. The Patriots are preparing for life after Brady because he won’t play forever. Mallett brings all the coachable tools for the NFL with none of the immediate pressure. He’s going to sit for four years (maybe), learn the system and mature under the tutelage of one of the game’s all time greats. Then, when it’s his time, he’ll be able to step in and seamlessly fill the role. Bill did it again.
I also really liked Cincinnati’s patience with waiting for Andy Dalton. It would’ve been easy to react in the first round and trade up to get Dalton, especially after Minnesota grabbed Christian Ponder. But they waited as long as they could and gambled that Dalton would last through the first two selections of the second round. It doesn’t sound like much, but Buffalo desperately needs a new quarterback (among other things). They passed on Dalton for Aaron Williams, and the rumor of the Bungles trading up to get in front of the Bills to ensure a shot at Dalton was left at just that. With the rumors still swirling regarding the fate and future of Carson Palmer, the Bengals at least made sure they have a contingency plan one way or the other.
Division I-FCS came out on top on Day 2, as well. Usually, the former I-AA doesn’t produce players until the late rounds, when guys from Coppin State start making their appearances. But 2011 is another year where I-AA players went in the first few rounds. Both players were offensive linemen, but Benjamin Ijalana (Villanova) joined the Colts, and William Rackley (Lehigh) and Kenrick Ellis (Hampton) joined the Jaguars and Jets, respectively, in the second and third rounds, respectively. It also marks another year where the J-E-T-S dipped into the FCS division, where they took Vlad Ducasse from UMass last year.
ESPN gets a “big thumbs up” for its coverage of the second and third rounds. They trotted out everybody under the sun for the first round, and it seemed like it was too much talking and not enough of the players. Maybe it’s because the later rounds don’t have as much of an opinion, but they had packages for just about everyone on the second round. I saw more blocking package highlight reels for those big daddies getting picked than I’d seen with some players in the first round. And Jon Gruden continued some of the best analysis I’ve heard when it comes to the NFL. That’s saying something because Gruden is so awesomely bad on Monday Night Football. I’m actually looking forward to hearing what he has to say on the final day of the draft.
Gruden also gets a huge pat on the back for the way he handled the lockout situation. Ok, the lockout is back, thanks to a judge in the middle of the NFL Draft. At least that’s not awful timing or anything, given the events of yesterday’s pre-draft debacle booing at Roger Goodell (more on this later). But Gruden said what we all are thinking – “Look, I have no idea what these four and five-syllable words even mean. Let’s just get back to the game.” Thank you, Coach. Thank you very much.
Kudos to the league for trotting out every dusty alumnus they could find. Seeing Joe Morris the day after I heard about Mark Ingram, Sr. brought me back to memories of Tecmo Bowl on the old Nintendo Entertainment System. I can still envision Mark Bavaro running that outlet pattern to the bottom of my screen, then hitting him for a first down as Phil Simms trotted the Giants up the field. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve lit up the Los Angles Raiders in that game; every time they trotted out somebody, it gave my dad and I something to talk about, usually around him having seen the guys and me asking about them.
Franco Harris’s Beard gets a class by itself. Looks so natural, no one can tell (Just for Men gel!).
The guy who introduced the Lions second round pick is probably the only person willing to be identified as a Lions fan (for now). They couldn’t even find a decent alumnus. Apparently Scott Mitchell couldn’t be found. Maybe they could’ve trotted out Wayne Fontes.
The NFL gets a massive black eye with its labor situation. Rich Eisen said before the first round that it would be great to finally get back to football, even if it was influenced by an uneasy labor situation. And now the league is right back in the headlines for the wrong reasons. As name after name was rattled off, it became quickly overshadowed with the reinstitution of a lockout we, as fans, really don’t want. These billion dollar owners and million dollar players are on the verge of ruining something we all desperately are begging them not to. And yet nobody seems to care. Did you not hear the fans? We’re mad as hell, and they’re going to demonize the one thing we all need as an outlet.
I mean, maybe they haven’t figured it out yet. Football saved New Orleans after Katrina. A team named the Patriots won the Super Bowl the year of 9/11, armed with a guard who had brothers who ran into the Twin Towers (oh by the way, they were underdogs that everyone loved). This game has a way of touching millions of people, and they’re going to destroy it. I hope you can sense the emotion in those last two paragraphs. I desperately want my NFL, and even if they do figure it out, there’s a sense that this game and league that I love has been irreparably torn in some capacity. The 2011-2012 season will always be marred by the labor situation because the offseason is so affected by it. Thanks a lot guys.
In terms of rosters, I don’t really get what New England was doing with drafting two running backs. Ok, I get that BenJarvis Green-Ellis probably isn’t a long-term solution. But the guy just ran for 1,000 yards in a year where he wasn’t even the feature back during the first third of the season. So they went out and drafted two running backs out of the four picks on Friday. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. I can understand taking one, but now the backfield is going to be stocked with a ton of guys. Only one can carry the ball at a time, and with Tom Brady under center, you’re not running it every play.
I also don’t get why the Patriots didn’t go after a wide receiver or, more importantly, a defensive lineman. Pass rushing is an issue for this team, and they haven’t yet addressed it. Maybe they have confidence in the returning Value Menu of Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, that guy Love, and Vince Wilfork. Maybe they’re banking on the return of Ty Warren and a steady improvement of the linebacker corps. But something felt wrong about taking another rookie cornerback that nobody in New England has probably heard of and not even touching that horrendous pass rush.
Offensive position players were big losers on Day 2. 15 out of 32 and 20 out of 33 picks in the second and third rounds, respectively, were for defense. And now take into account that two of the first four picks in the second round were for Dalton and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. The offenses around the league are clicking at a pace never before seen, and the game is starting to shift its focus to how to stop these high-powered attacks.
Speaking of Kaepernick, congratulations to the San Francisco 49ers for making the “Holy Crap We Need to Press A Panic Button” draft pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. As soon as Dalton went to the Bengals, the Niners immediately traded up from 7th in the second round to 4th to ensure they got Kaepernick. They left Mallett on the board and took a guy who ran a weirdo offense in the WAC last year. He also doesn’t throw the ball like a prototypical NFL-style QB. What does that add up to? A poor man’s Vince Young. They also made the biggest reactionary move of the draft so far when they did that. They needed a QB since Alex Smith (Welcome to Bustville. Population – you) is not under contract, and right now their only returning signal caller is David Carr. But they could’ve waited and had the choice of Mallett in that slot. Or they could’ve traded back and amassed some other picks to get Mallett there. Instead, they traded up to take a guy who I don’t think is a very good quarterback.
One last stat on Kaepernick, who is a guy who threw and ran for thousands of yards, Nevada nearly lost to a weak Boston College team in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl this year. Yes they finished the year ranked #11, and they beat Boise State, and Kaepernick put up ungodly numbers. But take away a punt return for a touchdown on special teams, and Nevada loses that game. That’s right, they lose to a BC team that had an offense ranked something like second from the bottom in passing. A good defense shuts him down. What do you think will happen in the NFL, where defenses are awesome?
I’m personally looking forward to Day 3, when teams start to fill out their rosters with some names you probably haven’t heard of. But Day 3, and the later rounds for that matter, usually fills out a good chunk of star players over time (like that guy with the sweet looking hair who plays for New England. Brady, I think his name is?). And for me personally, I’m hoping Mark Herzlich gets selected somewhere. The 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year deserves a shot at the pros after all he’s been through coming back from cancer, and it would be one of the final stamps on a comeback that I have taken a true personal interest in. It would make a lot of us who support the fight against cancer very happy and very hopeful for those who suffer from this horrible disease.
See you tomorrow as we wrap up one of the best weekends in the NFL.