Past Drafts Part I: The AFC EastPosted: March 2, 2013
The first feature that will being going up on NFL DR is an analysis of the past couple draft classes for each team.
These past two draft classes are a bit unique in that the 2012 draft was stocked with talent and the 2011 draft class was drafted during the uncertain period of the impending NFL lockout.
An eight part feature, each part will feature a different division, starting with the AFC East.
Bear with me here, as these posts may be a bit lengthy.
Without further ado, we’ll start off with the Bills’ latest draft:
- 10th overall: South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore was widely regarded as being one of the top corners in the draft, and his rookie season showed glimpses of this touted ability to succeed at the professional level. 2012 proved to be a solid season overall, with his only really issues coming in week one versus the Jets. Following the disappointment of the first week of the season, Gilmore matched up well versus opponents’ number one receivers–even holding the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald to one catch in their week six match up. In the end, Gilmore totaled 61 tackles, a pick and three forced fumbles. The sky’s the limit for Gilmore.
- 2nd Round, 9th pick: Georgia OT Cordy Glenn
Glenn is an example of how offensive line tweeners aren’t always moved inside. While Glenn started over 2011 fourth-round pick Chris Hairston in 2012 and played well at left tackle, he was forced out of three games due to injury. Regarded as a good pass-blocker in 2012, he very well may end up moving inside if the Bills grab a tackle in the near future–ESPN analyst Mike Mayock was quoted as saying Glenn would make a “Pro Bowl guard if the Bills ever decide to move him inside.” For now, Glenn is a more-than capable tackle for the Bills.
- 3rd Round, 6th pick: N.C. State WR T.J. Graham
Graham’s selection in the third-round was a bit of a shocker due to his late-round projection. Graham has blazing speed–see his 4.41 40-yard dash and 2012 NFL Combine-leading 6.77 second cone drill–that makes for a deadly deep threat receiver. However, Graham’s straight-line speed made little difference in an offense where quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled to throw the ball deep. Graham finished the season with only 322 yards and one touchdown on 31 receptions–a low total for a player who started eleven games and saw more offensive snaps than any other receiver on the Bills roster not named Stevie Johnson. If the Bills stick with the limited Fitzpatrick in 2013 or grab another receiver in the draft, Graham may see another disappointing season ahead of him.
- 4th Round, 10th pick: Florida St. OLB Nigel Bradham
Originally projected as only a special teams player in the short term, Bradham surprised by replacing former starter Arthur Moats in week six. Bradham made the most of the opportunity, proving to be a capable run defender with his good combination of size and speed. 2012 saw Bradham rack up 57 tackles, including an impressive 11-tackle showing against the Jets in week 17. Bradham may enter the 2013 season as the starting strong-side linebacker if Buffalo doesn’t add any linebackers via the draft or free-agency.
- 4th Round, 29th pick: LSU CB Ron Brooks
A size-limited corner at 5’10″, Brooks was originally predicted as an impact nickel or dime corner due to his speed and coverage instincts. However, an early foot injury limited Brooks to only nine games, as he received the injured “designated to return” tag. Overall, he notched 19 tackles and four pass deflections while playing primarily on special teams. 2013 could prove to be a breakout season for Brooks, who is currently tagged to be the nickel corner for Buffalo–even if Aaron Williams sticks at corner, he will likely be playing outside rather than nickel or dime.
- 5th Round, 9th pick: Florida St. OT Zebrie Sanders
Buffalo drafted Sanders with the intention of making him the swing tackle of the future. Given a four-year contract, Sanders was inactive for all of 2012.
- 5th Round, 12th pick: TCU ILB Tank Carder
Billed as a stout run defender with some speed, Carder was mostly set for special teams duty in Buffalo with Kelvin Sheppard starting inside in Buffalo’s 4-3 defense. Carder ended up being one of Buffalo’s final cuts and was claimed by the Browns, where he made little impact.
- 6th Round, 8th pick: Oregon OG Mark Asper
A rather old rookie, who turned 27 during the season, Asper was called “as big as a house” by general manager Buddy Nix. Asper was set for a backup interior line job, but ultimately wouldn’t make it through final cuts. Claimed and waived by the Vikings, Asper was eventually picked up by the Jaguars.
- 7th Round, 44th pick: Western Michigan K John Potter
There’s little to say about Potter, who was brought in with a compensatory pick to challenge kicker Rian Lindell on kickoff duties. Potter is currently a free-agent after being cut in camp.
- 3rd overall: Alabama DT Marcell Dareus
Originally projected to be taken by the Denver Broncos at second-overall, Dareus fell when John Elway and company surprised everybody by springing on explosive pass-rusher Von Miller out of Texas A&M. Buffalo gladly jumped on Dareus with the following pick–and thus far he’s paid off for the Bills as a stout interior lineman. In his rookie season, Dareus put up 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 15 starts. This past season Dareus managed a further 39 tackles and 5.5 sacks once again–while also putting up six pass deflections as a further contribution. Dareus was criticized for being inconsistent at times, and he struggled to play through the pain of his brother’s death mid-season. Although originally drafted to play 3-4 DE, the Bills transitioned to a mostly 4-3 front in 2011 and in 2012 played primarily 4-3 from the get-go. Dareus should make a significant impact for the Bills for a long time to come, regardless of the defensive front employed in the future.
- 2nd Round, 2nd pick: Texas CB Aaron Williams
Aaron Williams has been a disappointment for the Bills from the start. Although regarded by many teams as having a skill set more suited for a safety, the Bills have stubbornly attempted to fit Williams into the cornerback mold over the past two seasons. Annually grading out as one of Pro Football Focus’ worst corners and having dealt with extensive injuries–having only played in 20 games–Williams will likely be given one more shot in 2013 to improve as a corner, but may be headed to a safety position if he doesn’t show well in camp or early in the season.
- 3rd Round, 4th pick: LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard
Drafted when the Bills were still a 3-4 defense, Sheppard was pegged to challenge Andra Davis at inside linebacker opposite incumbent Paul Posluszny–only later to find out that under the new collective bargaining agreement ‘Poz’ would end up being an unrestricted free-agent. Sheppard played opposite Davis and started six games, racking up 70 tackles and a safety in a season where Buffalo started employing more 4-3 looks. In 2012, Sheppard started all-but one game at middle linebacker in the primarily 4-3 scheme. Racking up 70 tackles and two sacks, Sheppard struggled at times with the transition, but played well enough to likely retain the starting spot for 2013–unless Buffalo decides to upgrade via the draft or a veteran free-agent.
- 4th Round, 3rd pick: North Carolina DB Da’Norris Searcy
A tweener defensive back, Searcy was regarded from the start as a safety by Buffalo (while Aaron Williams was instead tried out at corner). Searcy started three games as a rookie, racking up 34 tackles and an interception in parts of all 16 games. 2012 also proved to be a decently productive season, as Searcy managed 39 tackles and two forced fumbles in fifteen games. Already regarded as an excellent run defender and decent in coverage–having spotted the aging strong safety George Wilson at points throughout the 2012 season–Searcy could be the Bills’ replacement for the departed Wilson in 2013.
- 4rd Round, 25th pick: Clemson OL Chris Hairston
Originally billed to play right tackle for Buffalo, Hairston was forced into playing right tackle following inury to incumbent starter Demetrius Bell in 2011. Hairston would only last part of the season, having dealt with an ankle injury and then losing the starting job to Bell when he returned from injury. In total, Hairston started seven games as a rookie at left tackle. Heading into the 2012 draft, general manager Buddy Nix made conflicting comments about Hairston, first commenting that the Bills could win with Hairston and later saying that left tackle was the top priority in the draft. Hairston started eight games in 2012 while playing in 12 prior to a season-ending injury placed him on injured reserve. Buffalo may look to upgrade on Hairston in the draft this season.
- 5th Round, 2nd pick: North Carolina RB Johnny White
It’s telling that White is no longer on Buffalo’s roster. In one-plus seasons, White played in parts of 15 games for the Bills, tallying only 20 carries and one catch for under 100 yards combined–with no touchdowns to his credit. White was waived in 2012 and picked up by Green Bay, where he made no impact prior to hitting injured reserve with a concussion. White was clearly a missed pick for Buffalo.
- 6th Round, 4th pick: Mississippi St. LB Chris White
Primarily a special-teamer from the moment he was drafted, White played little in 2011 due to injury and was only active for seven games prior to an ACL injury sidelined him for the remainder of 2011. This past season was of little remark as well, with White totaling 11 tackles in special teams play. White has only 19 tackles and a forced fumble to his name, squarely placing him on the roster bubble for 2013.
- 7th Round, 3rd pick: Richmond DB Justin Rogers
Rogers was claimed to be a steal by Buffalo following his seventh-round selection, as they believed he could play nickel corner from a rookie. While Rogers’ size as a rookie (5’10″ 183 lbs) was a concern, Rogers was billed as a capable corner and returner. In 2011 and 2012, Rogers put up respectable numbers while serving as a nickel and reserve corner. Playing in all-but three games between both seasons, Rogers has 53 tackles, two picks and nine pass deflections to his name.
- 7th Round, 42nd pick: Bethel (TN) DT Michael Jasper
A compensation pick, Jasper was considered a physical freak at 6’4″ 394 lbs while running a 5.53 40-yard dash coming out of college. The practice squad player was later converted to offensive line and signed to the active roster late in the 2011 season. After being waived in 2012, Jasper landed with the Titans and later the Giants.
- 8th overall: Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill
Although some thought Tannehill would have to move to receiver if he was going to make an impact in the NFL, Miami set out to prove them wrong–taking Tannehill in the top-ten in the process. Undoubtedly a reach, Tannehill proved to be just what Miami needed–a versatile quarterback who can make plays both with his arm and his legs. Possibly considered a poor man’s RGIII or Cam Newton, Tannehill started all 16 games in 2012 and, while he put up mediocre numbers (12 TD, 13 INT, 76.1 QB rating), he did show promise. Miami may never get their value out of this pick, but Tannehill has the tools to be an impact player at the professional level. If Tannehill can cut down on the turnovers (13 INT, 9 fumbles) and learn to balance effective running with pocket presense, he could just turn out to be the franchise quarterback Miami has sorely needed for years.
- 2nd Round, 10th pick: Stanford OT Jonathan Martin
Perhaps a hint that contract-year left tackle Jake Long wouldn’t be re-signed come season’s end, Martin was considered a bit of a steal in the second-round. With decent size and uncommon quickness, combined with lengthy arms, Martin’s stature is a dream for many offensive line coaches. An instant-starter in camp due to a weak line, Martin manned the right tackle position until shifting over to left tackle when Long went down late in the season due to injury. Martin, originally touted as a finesse tackle with great size and quickness, proved to be an ineffective pass-blocker in 2012. With 47 quarterback hurries (attributed by Pro Football Focus), Martin will need some work if he’s to be Miami’s next blindside tackle. There is promise here, but also great risk.
- 3rd Round, 9th pick: Miami DE Olivier Vernon
A talented, and balanced, 4-3 defensive end, Vernon was overshadowed in 2012 by the presence of ends Cameron Wake and Jared Odrick. Relegated to situational pass-rushing duties, Vernon made the best of his situation and contributed with 32 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. With neither Wake or Odrick heading out of Miami anytime soon, Vernon will likely return to the situational pass-rusher role in 2013. If injuries occur or Odrick hits the trade block (as some rumors have lauded), Vernon is fully capable of stepping into a starting role for Miami.
- 3rd Round, 15th pick: Missouri TE Michael Egnew
Another hint that yet another Dolphin may be headed to another city in 2013, Egnew was added to the roster to combine with Charles Clay as potential TE starters for the future. While Clay fits more of an H-back role, Egnew is a pass-catching tight end through and through. It’s looking more and more likely that Miami is focusing on re-signing Jake Long and will let Anthony Fasano walk. While Egnew may have seen little playing time behind Fasano and Clay, his size, speed and receiving abilities make him a prime target for offensive potential in 2013. Between Clay and Egnew, Miami should be fine at tight end for the future.
- 4th Round, 2nd pick: Miami RB Lamar Miller
Having taken a power runner last season in Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas, this season Miami set their eyes on an elusive runner. Miller may have been third-string for much of 2012, but he still managed 250 yards and a touchdown on 51 carries–all to the tune of a 4.9 yards per carry clip. Easily more explosive than Thomas, and with Reggie Bush likely heading to free-agency, Miller is in line for a dramatic increase in workload for 2013. Miller is the running back to own in Miami’s backfield for fantasy, and will likely be an offensive weapon as he develops in Miami.
- 5th Round, 20th pick: Oregon LB Josh Kaddu
An excellent mix of size, speed and quickness to the ball, Kaddu has all the athletic traits required of a linebacker to succeed on the outside of a 4-3 scheme. Kaddu didn’t get a chance to show much in 2012, since he was waived prior to the season, stashed on the practice squad for over a month, and then only saw special teams play in parts of three games after getting the call to the active roster. The coaching staff is big on Kaddu’s potential, but currently Miami has starters at all three linebacker positions in Karlos Dansby in the middle and the duo of Koa Misi and Kevin Burnett on the outside.
- 6th Round, 13th pick: Michigan St. WR B.J. Cunningham
If you haven’t heard of Cunningham before, I don’t blame you. The Michigan State product saw virtually no time on the Dolphins roster in camp prior to being cut late in the preseason. The little that can be found on Cunningham speaks of his major problem with drops–not an admirable trait in a receiver tying to get off the roster bubble. Cunningham spent 2013 on the Eagles’ practice squad and signed a futures contract in December with Philadelphia.
- 7th Round, 8th pick: Texas DT Kheeston Randall
A purely run-stopping tackle, Randall originally received higher draft grades prior to his senior year at Texas. However, a disappointing season left him with a late-round or undrafted grade from many scouts. Randall made almost no impact as a backup in Miami last season, racking up only eight tackles in parts of 12 games. With a limited skill set and too small to play in a 3-4 system as a nose tackle, Randall has little appeal for any team outside of a rotational tackle for short yardage downs.
- 7th Round, 20th pick: Nevada WR Rishard Matthews
While Matthews may have been drafted lower than fellow receiver B.J. Cunningham, Matthews stuck on the roster while Cunningham failed to do so. Matthews only played in eight games in 2012, but he did manage 11 catches for 151 yards in his limited time on the field. Following the release of veteran Jabar Gaffney in late November, Matthews was elevated from a reserve role to fourth receiver, but he didn’t see the benefits until week 17–where he put up a season-high three catches for 36 yards in his only start of the season. Matthews’ late season efforts have given the coaching staff hope that Matthews could be headed for a larger role in 2013, especially if the already weak receiver corps loses Brian Hartline to free-agency and cuts ties with under-performing slot man Davone Bess.
- 15th overall: Florida OL Mike Pouncey
The twin brother of Steelers lineman Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey is an example of how some first-round picks quickly pan out for teams in a big way. In an aging and needy line, Pouncey has taken off as a center for the Dolphins and isn’t looking back. Through his first two seasons, Pouncey has started all 32 teams and has graded out positively each year. Pouncey is a major building block of the Miami offensive line.
- 2nd Round, 30th pick: Kansas St. RB Daniel Thomas
Miami traded up in the draft to get Thomas, apparently a runner that the front office had been targeting all along. So far, Thomas has produced mixed results as an on-again off-again workhorse for Miami. With speedster Reggie Bush as the clear-cut starter the past two seasons, Thomas was thought to be the perfect complement–a tough running between the tackles running back–for an elusive running like Bush. Thomas did get some looks when Bush went down, but inconsistency and injuries have held back Thomas so far. Currently, Thomas has more fumbles (5) than touchdowns (4) on his Dolphins resume, and less than 1,000 rushing yards in parts of two seasons. For Thomas to make an impact, he needs to stay healthier (25 games played in two seasons) and he needs to improve his consistency carrying the ball (3.5 yards per carry).
- 4th Round, 15th pick: Albeline Christian WR Edmond “Clyde” Gates
Gates is an example of taking a relatively unknown receiver earlier on due to speed as a deciding factor. Earlier on we saw the Bills do this with T.J. Graham in 2012. Gates’ story thus far is also a cautionary tale. Through two seasons, Gates has totaled only 18 receptions and under 250 yards–with only two of these catches coming in a Miami uniform. As a rookie, Gates handled returning duties and reserve duties at receiver, playing in parts of 15 games. When Miami overhauled their staff following another disappointing season, Gates struggled to pick up new coach Joe Philbin’s west coast offense. In the end, Gates was cut in an abysmal receiving corps and ended up with the Jets in 2012, where he continued to under-perform. Miami essentially got no return from this pick.
- 6th Round, 15th pick: Tulsa TE Charles Clay
Even from his rookie season Clay brought versatility to the field as a player. Billed as both a tight end and a fullback–he can block some, but his true versatility is he can run the ball and he can catch the ball too. The epitome of a H-back, Clay contributed in nine starts (parts of 15 games) with 16 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns behind starting tight end Anthony Fasano. With the addition of fullback Jorvorskie Lane, Clay focused more on the tight end position in 2012 and put up another 18 receptions for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Although his production may have decreased, he may become a bigger part of the offense in 2013 if Anthony Fasano is allowed to hit free-agency.
- 7th Round, 39th pick: Alabama A&M DT Frank Kearse
A supplemental pick, Kearse was drafted to play nose tackle in Miami’s 3-4 defense. However, Kearse didn’t make final cuts and was waived–only to later be added to the practice squad. Kearse never made an impact for Miami, as he was signed off the practice squad by Carolina. Kearse is now in limbo after having be added and cut by the Panthers several times.
- 7th Round, 43rd pick: Montana DB Jimmy Wilson
A hard-hitting corner at Montana, Wilson was pegged originally as a corner by Miami, only to be moved to safety in camp…and then moved back to corner prior to the 2011 season. Following a disappointing 2011 campaign, Wilson was again moved to safety in camp prior to the 2012 season. Although primarily a special teams player in 2011, Wilson did make some impact at safety in 2012 with a 40-tackle campaign. Tacking on two sacks, four pass break-ups and a forced fumble prior to season’s end, Wilson may yet carve out a role in Miami’s defense.
New England Patriots
- 21st overall: Syracuse DE Chandler Jones
Perhaps one of the better pass-rushers in the draft, Jones fell a bit lower than was projected, as pass-rusher needy teams like the Jets were expected to take Jones prior to the Patriots. Jones immediately became a fixture in the Patriots’ defensive line in 2012, taking over the right end spot in their relatively new hybrid system. A rookie campaign comprised of 45 tackles, six sacks, five pass deflections and three forced fumbles in 13 starts is quite the way to break into the pros. Although there was a scare with possible ankle surgery in the offseason, Jones should be good to go in 2013 as an integral part of the New England pass-rush.
- 25th overall: Alabama ILB Dont’a Hightower
Leading up to the draft there were many teams rumored to be targeting Hightower, from Pittsburgh to Denver. Belichick chose to trade up for Hightower to become the new centerpiece of the Patriots’ linebacker corps, and so far that choice has seemed to pay off. Stepping into the starting middle linebacker role, Hightower racked up 60 tackles and four sacks in his rookie campaign. Like Jones, Hightower will be part of a young core group of defensive players on the Patriots for the future.
- 2nd Round, 16th pick: Illinois FS Tavon Wilson
The selection of Wilson in the second-round astounded many analysts, coaches, scouts, executives…nearly any person involved in NFL personnel decisions questioned the decision of the Patriots to take Wilson so early in the draft. Even if Wilson panned out (which it seems he has in some form), it was wondered why the Patriots decided to take him so very early on. Wilson came into the draft with what many scouts deemed as an unknown skill set at the professional level–neither suited for a corner or suited for a safety. Wilson performed well in the situational role he had on the field in 2012, tallying 41 tackles, six pass deflections and four interceptions as a safety–proving many scouts wrong in their opinions of him as a late-round talent at best. The future is uncertain for Wilson, as much of his playing time was due to injury in the secondary this past season.
- 3rd Round, 27th pick: Arkansas DE Jake Bequette
Bequette is another versatile player to add to Bill Belichick’s list of players fit for the 4-3/3-4 hybrid scheme now employed in New England. Capable of playing both 3-4 defensive end and 4-3 defensive end, Bequette played very little in 2012–appearing in only three games with no stats to show of on the field. Bequette’s versatility and high motor may allow for him to keep a roster spot.
- 6th Round, 27th pick: Ohio St. DB Nate Ebner
Billed for special teams play, Ebner entered into a very crowded safety situation, with Tavon Wilson playing a more central role even when injuries plagued the Patriots’ secondary. In parts of 15 games, Ebner tallied 14 tackles in special teams play. Time will tell if Ebner can stick on the roster, but he will be squarely on the roster bubble in 2013.
- 7th Round, 17th pick: Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard
Dennard sabotaged his draft stock only just prior to the 2012 NFL Draft when he got into an altercation with a police officer–with that incident he went from an early-round pick to a seventh round pick. Dennard was thought to possibly be made a safety, but was made a CB by the Patriots in OTAs early on. Inactive for the first four weeks, Dennard played a key part in the secondary as a rookie. In seven starts and parts of 10 games, Dennard racked up 35 tackles, seven pass deflections, three interceptions–one for a touchdown–and one forced fumble. Look for Dennard to play a central part in the New England secondary moving forward, regardless of the conviction this past month–which will likely be served prior to the 2013 season.
- 7th Round, 28th pick: Northwestern WR Jeremy Ebert
From the start, Ebert was no more than a late-round flier for the Patriots. When final cuts came, Ebert was waived and spent the season on the practice squads of Philadelphia and later the Patriots’ practice squad. Ebert was re-signed as a future contract in January, but it likely only a camp body in 2013.
- 1st Round, 17th pick: Colorado OT Nate Solder
Solder was a controversial prospect heading into the draft, because he’d been an effective tackle in at Colorado and has good size, yet he showed a remarkable lack of strength at the 2011 NFL Combine (19 bench reps). A converted tight end, Solder exhibited a concerning habit of being overmatched by the bull rush, but counters with athleticism. Solder had an unremarkable rookie season, playing sparingly at tackle and seeing some time as an extra blocker at TE in some sets. 2012 saw Solder take on a much larger role in an extremely weakened New England offensive line, which lost multiple players to injury and lost both Matt Light and Robert Gallery to retirement. Solder proved to be a capable starter, although his strength remains a worry for some. Solder will likely enter 2013 as the Patriots’ starting left tackle for the second consecutive season.
- 2nd Round, 1st pick: Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling
Dowling may have size on his side and play with physicality, but the 6’1″ corner hasn’t played all that much in his two years with New England. The second-round pick started the first two games of the 2011 season, a surprising move to many outside the Patriots organization. Shortly into the the week two game versus San Diego, Dowling was placed on the injured reserve with several back-to-back injuries. 2012 wasn’t much of an improvement for Dowling, who was given the nickel corner duties only to lose his spot following the season opener. Dowling would only last seven games as a reserve corner before landing injured reserve with a torn quadriceps. With two injury-plagued seasons following an injury-plagued campaign as a senior at Virginia prior to the draft, Dowling is in danger of losing his roster spot. Simply put, Dowling needs to get on the field and stay on the field if he’s going to have a shot at making himself valuable to New England.
- 2nd Round, 24th pick: California RB Shane Vereen
Pegged as a versatile running back, Vereen was taken by the Patriots earlier than most scouts deemed advisable. Vereen’s rookie season was less-than spectacular, as he posted only 57 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown in only five games. His sophomore campaign was more suitable to the second-round value New England placed on Vereen, as he managed 251 yards and three touchdowns on 62 carries. Vereen also caught eight passes for 149 yards while fumbling just once in his 70 touches. Vereen missed the first three games due to injury, but he made a role for himself following his return even though running backs Brandon Bolden and Steven Ridley had seemed to pass over Vereen at running back. There’s still time for Vereen to gain more of a role in the running game, but his window is closing quickly and he could be on his way out of New England.
- 3rd Round, 9th pick: LSU RB Stevan Ridley
The second consecutive running back chosen by New England, Ridley spent his rookie season buried in the depth chart by Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis’ presence on the roster. Yet, Ridley still managed 441 rushing yards and a touchdown on 87 rushes in parts of 16 games. 2012 was a very productive year for Ridley, for when Green-Ellis departed in free-agency there was an opening at running back that Ridley seized over fellow running backs Vereen and Bolden. Ridley put up an impressive 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns at a 4.4 yards per carry average. Between Ridley and Vereen, New England should be well-off at running back for some time.
- 3rd Round, 10th pick: Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett
Mallett was arguably one of the most talented quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft, but his reputation was marred by off-the-field issues at Arkansas. Between questionable practicing habits and several run-ins with the law, Mallett’s stock took a dive leading up to the draft. Mallett’s rookie season was unremarkable, as he remained the third-string quarterback behind Brian Hoyer for the entirety of the season. Mallett’s 2012 campaign saw him pass over Hoyer to gain the backup job to Tom Brady–Belichick showed confidence in Mallett by waiving Hoyer and only keeping two quarterbacks on the roster. So far this offseason, the Patriots have been receiving trade offers from quarterback needy teams for Mallett left and right, but it looks like Belichick and company are standing pat with their backup quarterback.
- 5th Round, 10th pick: TCU OT Marcus Cannon
New England decided to take another potential value pick in Cannon late in the fifth round as the second offensive tackle they had acquired via the draft in 2011. Cannon had originally been tabbed as a first-round talent due to his size and strength, but his draft stock fell dramatically when it was made public that Cannon had a treatable case of lymphoma. Due to the chemotherapy treatments, Cannon’s rookie season was largely a wash, with some time spent on the active roster later in the season. Cannon did see time in 2012 as a swing tackle, now that first-round rookie Nate Solder had become the starting left tackle following the retirement of Matt Light. The upcoming season could prove to be a big one for Cannon, as incumbent right tackle starter Sebastian Vollmer is set to hit the free-agent market unless New England makes an offer that the 28-year-old tackle can’t refuse.
- 5th Round, 31st pick: Marshall TE Lee Smith
A blocking specialist, Smith was drafted to be Alge Crumpler’s future replacement at tight end. If you look at the Patriots’ roster today, you can see it’s not Lee Smith that’s manning that spot–that would be up-and-comers Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Smith was beat out by an undrafted free-agent, Will Yeatman, and ultimately fell into obscurity after being claimed off of waivers by the Bills.
- 6th Round, 34th pick: Central Arkansas DE Markell Carter
Reported as a defensive end in the draft, Carter is one of those players who has been moved between end and outside linebacker several times in his brief career. Another play no longer on New England’s roster, Carter spent all of 2011 as a practice squad player prior to being waived by the Patriots.
- 7th Round, 17th pick: TCU DB Malcolm Williams
Williams was an interesting pick merely because he seemed to have no position in the NFL. Even at TCU, Williams contributed little on defense–although tabbed as a defensive back for draft purposes, he was more of a special teams player from day one. Williams has been on and off the roster, spending time on the practice squad, but ultimately stuck on the roster due to injuries in 2012. Don’t be surprised if Williams is one of the first players cut in 2013.
New York Jets
- 16th overall: North Carolina DE Quinton Coples
Only a season after drafting an end in the first-round, Rex Ryan decided to shore up the line yet again by choosing defensive end Coples 16th overall. Although Coples only started two games, he was still a large part of the defensive line–Coples led the defense with 5.5 sacks. With 30 tackles and two pass deflections, Coples proved he can play opposite Muhammad Wilkerson at defensive end in 2012. With two capable young ends on the line, Ryan can focus on more pressing needs on the offense and in the pass-rush.
- 2nd Round, 11th pick: Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill
Coming out of Georgia Tech, Hill was billed to be a well-built, stout blocker who was extremely raw in his receiving abilities. That proved true in 2012, as Hill struggled to get the offense down and then struggled with drops in his rookie campaign. Hill’s totals of 21 receptions for 252 yards and three touchdowns are incredibly underwhelming given the amount of snaps Hill saw prior to injury. The coaching staff has high hopes for Hill in 2013, and with a full offseason to prepare Hill could make an impact next season.
- 3rd Round, 14th pick: Arkansas St. OLB Demario Davis
Originally listed as an OLB heading into the draft, it became clear very quickly that New York had no intention of ever playing Davis on the outside in their 3-4 defensive scheme. Instead, rumors swirled that Davis could challenge incumbent Bart Scott for playing time inside (with David Harris the other inside linebacker). However, Scott was very much a part of the defense, and Davis could only manage to steal a couple starts from the struggling veteran as the season continued. Davis managed to rack up 36 tackles in 2012, although much more is expected of him in 2013. With Scott out of the picture, Davis can now step into the starting lineup–as many analysts have projected for his sophomore campaign.
- 6th Round, 17th pick: Wake Forest S Josh Bush
Bush is another defensive back who entered the draft with an undetermined position, but was officially listed as a safety. Although capable of playing corner, Bush was made a safety by the Jets’ coaching staff. In 2012, Bush saw little playing time outside of special teams, totaling 11 tackles in all 16 games. It is yet unknown what role Bush will play in 2013, as starter LaRon Landry hit the free-agent market and Eric Smith was cut just weeks ago.
- 6th Round, 32nd pick: Baylor RB Terrance Ganaway
Ganaway may have been overshadowed by star quarterback Robert Griffin III in the draft, but he’s still a capable running back. A between the tackles hard runner, Ganaway lasted only a short while on the Jets’ roster. Waived late in August, the Rams claimed Ganaway and added him to the roster, where he was active for only a few games. Ganaway may have a role in St. Louis’ roster with the expected departure of Steven Jackson.
- 6th Round, 33rd pick: Baylor OG Robert T. Griffin
Griffin may be a big man, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good lineman. A capable pass-blocker, Griffin doesn’t have the athleticism to be a run-blocker at the professional level. Griffin didn’t stick with the Jets, and he likely won’t stick with the Colts as well in 2013.
- 7th Round, 35th pick: South Carolina SS Antonio Allen
Another safety who may benefit from the departures of Landry and Smith, Allen was largely outside of New York’s plans in 2012. Allen was waived at final cuts and signed to the practice squad prior to being promoted to the active roster not once, but twice during the season. Allen saw most of his playing time later on in the season, with appearances in seven games and one start–in which he tallied six tackles and one sack. Allen is a hard-hitting safety who could find himself in a situational role (or better) in 2013.
- 7th Round, 37th pick: Western Michigan WR Jordan White
The Jets second compensatory pick (Allen being the first), White experienced a setback during OTAs that landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list and likely brought his roster spot into jeopardy. Originally a candidate to play in the slot for New York, it became clear that Kerley was the man there and White was part of final cuts as a result. Signed to the practice squad, White was promoted to the active roster in November and saw time in three games, playing mostly special teams. With only one catch for 13 yards on his resume, White may have trouble cracking the roster in 2013.
- 30th overall: Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson
With the departure of defensive end Shaun Ellis, Rex Ryan went out to get a starting end in the draft–and he found that in Wilkerson. With a lack of an offseason due to the lockout, it was expected Wilkerson would have trouble adjusting professional ball, especially as a starter. Instead, Wilkerson put up 49 tackles, three sacks, a safety, two pass deflections and a forced fumble in 16 starts. With an offseason ahead of the 2012 season to prepare, Wilkerson was touted as having a fantastic future in Ryan’s 3-4 defense. Any doubters were proven wrong by Wilkerson’s performance–69 tackles, five sacks, four pass deflections and three forced fumbles. Few ends have seen such success in Ryan’s scheme, and few players as young as Wilkerson have made such an impact in only their first two seasons. Wilkerson has a bright future ahead of him.
- 3rd Round, 30th pick: Hampton DT Kenrick Ellis
While New York may have been right on target with their first-round pick, Ellis proved to be less of a sure-thing. Ellis has the tools to be a capable 3-4 run-stuffer, but off-the-field issues have blemished his career thus far. The major road block has been a May 2012 conviction for misdemeanor assault and battery. In two seasons, Ellis played in 17 games and put up 25 tackles. Ellis is still in the plans for New York, but his time is running out.
- 4th Round, 30th pick: Louisville RB Bilal Powell
Powell was drafted into a murky situation with the Jets, who had a clear-cut starter in Shonn Greene coming off of a breakout season. Powell did little as a rookie–he was active for two games and had under 25 rushing yards and only a fumble to his credit. 2012 proved to be a much more productive season, as Powell established himself as an alternative to the struggling Greene as a passing down back. In 14 games, including two starts, Powell rushed for 437 yards and four touchdowns while tacking on an additional 17 receptions for 140 yards. Moving forward, Powell will likely have a role in passing situations, but otherwise he may be relegated to a situational role again in 2013 with Greene and Joe McKnight still on the roster.
- 5th Round, 25th pick: TCU WR Jeremy Kerley
Kerley was one of the bright spots in New York in 2012, having emerged as a capable slot receiver and retaining value as a returner. The TCU product was mostly relegated to special teams as a rookie, but still played in 15 games with 29 receptions for 314 yards and a touchdown. With the clear weakness at receiver in 2012, Kerley got his chance to start–first Holmes went down with injury, and then acquisitions Chaz Schilens and rookie Stephen Hill proved to be unreliable targets for the struggling Mark Sanchez. Kerley responded well, putting up very solid numbers in an extremely erratic offense. In seven starts (16 games played) Kerley caught 56 passes for 827 yards and two touchdowns. Barring enormous expense in the offseason, Kerley will likely play a similar role in 2013.
- 7th Round, 16th pick: Alabama QB Greg McElroy
Originally an after-thought in an offense dedicated to Mark Sanchez as the starter, McElroy did little in 2011 after impressing in preseason games due to a thumb injury that landed him on the injured reserve. Following the 2011 season, McElroy made the news by blasting the Jets’ clubhouse environment–something that didn’t make management happy, especially after adding media mega-hype quarterback Tim Tebow via trade. The blunders of Sanchez in 2012 would allow McElroy to play in two games, with one start, late in the season. McElroy’s stats were mediocre in those games (79.2 rating, 19/31 for 214 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but he still proved to be more capable than Sanchez in his time–including his first appearance as a late-game replacement for Sanchez. It’s unclear who will be the starter in 2013, or if New York will bring in another quarterback to challenge Sanchez and McElroy.
- 7th Round, 35th pick: Colorado WR Scotty McKnight
The Colorado product was rumored to have been an addition as a favor to Mark Sanchez, as he knew McKnight growing up. McKnight didn’t make it through final cuts in 2011, but he was added to the practice squad. A torn ACL ended McKnight’s 2011 season before he could be called up to the active roster. The offseason saw McKnight waived and then re-signed, only to be waived at final cuts for the second-consecutive season.
There you have it, the AFC East’s last couple drafts. Due to the length of this post and the time it took to complete, moving forward I’m likely going to be covering each team individually.