The Steelers’ fortunes don’t quite seem to be so positive these days. These past two draft classes are examples in how everything can go wrong for a team, from the sure picks to the approved picks to the questionable picks.
Following an 8-8 season, Pittsburgh will need to fare better in the 2013 NFL Draft if they’re going to be playoff contenders once again.
2012 NFL Draft:
- 24th overall: Stanford OG David DeCastro
DeCastro dropped a bit from his top-15 projection, but he still went in the top-25 to Pittsburgh. Projected as the starting right guard, tragedy struck when DeCastro suffered a gruesome injury during the preseason–a torn MCL, dislocated kneecap and damage to the patellar tendon. Pittsburgh placed DeCastro on injured reserve with a tag to return, he was activated in late November and started the final three games of the season. DeCastro has plenty of skill and he has the size to succeed at guard. In a questionable offensive line, DeCastro is a shoo-in for starting in 2013.
- 2nd Round, 24th pick: Ohio St. OT Mike Adams
The second of two offensive linemen drafted to shore up a struggling and aging line, Adams was considered to be a bit weak for tackle and performed inconsistently throughout his Ohio State career (including a poor Senior Bowl showing in 2012). Pittsburgh took Adams as a future right tackle, but instead spent the entire offseason grooming him as the first-team left tackle. Due to an MCL sprain to Adams, right tackle Marcus Gilbert was shifted over to left tackle and Adams started at right tackle when he recovered. Ultimately, Adams started six games before going down with a season-ending ankle injury in week 12. Adams is likely to be a major player at tackle in the future, but he played very poorly in 2012 and he’s in danger of losing favor with the coaching staff if he can’t develop some consistency.
- 3rd Round, 23rd pick: Miami LB Sean Spence
Spence was drafted in 2012 with the intention of making him the heir apparent to Larry Foote as the second inside ‘backer (next to Lawrence Timmons) in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. Spence did well in camp, as the undersized tackling machine learned both inside ‘backer positions and looked prepped to serve as a reserve inside ‘backer and special teams player in 2013. As with the previous two selections, Spence also suffered an injury that landed him on injured reserve, wiping out his rookie season. Spence’s injury was dramatic, including a torn ACL, torn MCL, dislocated kneecap and a damaged nerve in his knee–making for one tough injury to rehab from. Spence likely will sit out 2013, and his career is in question at this point.
- 4th Round, 14th pick: Washington DT Alameda Ta’amu
Ta’amu is an example of another pick gone awry for the Steelers. Although considered a developmental nose tackle with a possibility to replace aging Casey Hampton in the future, Ta’amu’s career with Pittsburgh derailed following several felony charges related to a drunk driving incident–which occurred prior to Ta’amu ever taking the field for the Steelers. Having played no games and facing a suspension, Ta’amu was eventually waived and added to the practice squad, only to be waived later in the season once again. His future with Pittsburgh is questionable at best, and his history of injury problems in college combined with off-the-field issues may be a poison pill for his NFL career.
- 5th Round, 24th pick: Florida RB Chris Rainey
Rainey is another example of how being red-flagged for off-the-field concerns can dramatically decrease a player’s draft stock. A star at Florida, Rainey likely would have gone earlier in the draft if not for run-ins with the law, and Pittsburgh thought they were getting a steal talent-wise with this pick. Fast forward a year later, and Rainey made little impact for the Steelers before being arrested yet again and receiving his walking papers from Pittsburgh. Rainey does have talent as a returner and his speed offers big play ability at running back, but the character concerns may be career threatening–if he gets another chance it won’t be with Pittsburgh.
- 7th Round, 24th pick: Colorado WR Toney Clemons
Clemons was considered a developmental pick when Pittsburgh selected him, as he’s got size (6’2″ 210 lbs), speed (4.43 40-yard dash) and exhibits both ability to run after the catch and block well for a receiver. However, Clemons also exhibited problems with drops and ended up on the Steelers practice squad as a result. As Jacksonville signed Clemons off the squad, Pittsburgh saw no return for this pick.
- 7th Round, 33rd pick: Oregon TE David Paulson
Paulson made a name for himself at Oregon as a pass-catching H-back type player, with a remarkable 10 touchdowns in 67 career receptions as a Duck. With a H-back in David Johnson on the roster and Heath Miller starting at tight end, Paulson made the team as a reserve tight end and special teamer in 2012. In parts of all 16 games he managed seven catches for 51 yards and was on the field very little. The current rumor out of Pittsburgh is the Steelers may be looking at Paulson to start in 2013 while Miller recovers from ACL and MCL surgery–which would be good news for Paulson and likely bad news for Pittsburgh as a whole.
- 7th Round, 39th pick: Texas A&M CB Terrence Frederick
There’s little to say about Frederick other than he didn’t make it through final cuts and ultimately ended up with the Giants. Frederick is just one more wasted draft pick in Pittsburgh’s 2012 draft class.
- 7th Round, 41st pick: SMU OT Kelvin Beachum
A tackle at SMU, Beachum was predicted to have to move inside as a pro due to his size (6’2″ 302 lbs) and lack of strength for the tackle position in the NFL. Beachum impressed the coaching staff in camp, and was one of the main backups heading into the season–Beachum’s versatility allowed him to play all five line positions if Pittsburgh found themselves in a pinch. That’s exactly what happened in 2012, as injuries forced Beachum into the starting right tackle position for five starts (seven games). Beachum didn’t grade out favorably in his time on the field, but he wasn’t a dramatic downgrade from fellow rookie Mike Adams. Beachum’s versatility will likely lead to a role as a swing guard or tackle even if he can’t gain a starting role at left guard moving forward.
2011 NFL Draft:
- 31st overall: Ohio St. DE Cameron Heyward
Although Heyward has seen action in every game since he was drafted, Heyward’s selection was clearly a pick up for the future. Through two seasons, Heyward talled 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a rotational backup behind veteran Brett Keisel and 2009 first-round pick Ziggy Hood. Pittsburgh has been grooming Heyward to be a successor at end for two seasons now, and with Keisel’s contract expiring after the 2013 season, Hood possibly losing his starting job after another disappointing season (and his rookie contract is expiring too) and the possibility that Hood could be moved inside, there’s a chance Heyward could be given a chance to start. Steve McLendon is also in the mix, so until camp starts it’s unknown where Pittsburgh will go with the defensive line.
- 2nd Round, 31st pick: Florida T Marcus Gilbert
Gilbert was drafted with the intention of making him a starting tackle. Since his selection, Gilbert has started at right tackle when healthy–which has been a problem, having played only five games in 2012 and 14 in 2011. Gilbert has performed well since his selection, and the Steelers seem prepped to move Gilbert over to left tackle this offseason, letting 2012 second-rounder Mike Adams man the right side. If Gilbert can stay healthy, he’s a solid starter for Pittsburgh.
- 3rd Round, 31st pick: Texas DB Curtis Brown
Brown was a player heavily overrated in the media, with some mocks listing him as a potential first-round pick. Brown was considered to be best on special teams, and was only Texas’ nickel back behind Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown. With only two picks in his career at Texas, Brown was counted by Pittsburgh’s scouts as the best cover corner of the trio–which would explain why he came up with so few interceptions since supposedly quarterbacks wouldn’t throw his way. Brown’s rookie season was unremarkable, with 11 tackles recorded on special teams and not a single down played on defense prior to landing on injured reserve. Expected to challenge for slot corner duties in his sophomore season, Brown overcame the competition and played 15 games before landing on injured reserve and missing the final game of the season. He tallied 28 tackles and two pass breakups, with the coaching staff criticizing his play at times and ultimately being pulled from nickel duties late in the season versus San Diego. Brown is likely heading back to a reserve role in 2013 following the re-signing of veteran corner William Gay and emergence of Cortez Allen as a starter opposite Ike Taylor.
- 4th Round, 32nd pick: Citadel DB Cortez Allen
While Allen may have been the second corner taken in the 2011 draft class, Allen has had more of an impact in his two-year career than Curtis Brown. Allen played mostly special teams as a rookie, tallying 15 tackles. Allen started towards the end of his sophomore campaign after Ike Taylor went down with an ankle injury, and would have started the final four games of the season if not for injury forcing Allen from playing in week 15 against the Cowboys. He finished the season with 55 tackles, 10 deflections, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. It’s likely Allen will start at corner opposite Taylor in 2013 now that Keenan Lewis has signed with New Orleans, although veteran free-agent signee William Gay could make a bid for the job.
- 5th Round, 34th pick: Fresno St. LB Chris Carter
It was curious to many why Carter fell so far in the draft, as reportedly many teams had graded him as a third-round talent. Carter’s rookie season saw him make the transition to 3-4 outside ‘backer following his career at Fresno St. at 4-3 end. Carter bulked up a bit to play special teams and tallied only three tackles prior to being placed on injured reserve halfway through the season. Heading into 2012, Carter practiced with special teams ahead of 2010 second-round pick Jason Worilds as James Harrison recovered from knee surgery. Carter ultimately started the first three games of the season prior to Harrison’s return during the week 4 bye–after which Carter served as the primary backup and played on special teams until an abdominal injury landed him on injured reserve once again. Carter managed only eight tackles and a pass deflection in his eight games in 2012, and the departure of Harrison may mean Pittsburgh is going to bring in a rookie to compete with Worilds and Carter for the starting spot in 2013.
- 6th Round, 34th pick: Nebraska OG Keith Williams
Williams is yet another example of a Pittsburgh pick never having an impact on the field for the Steelers. A good-sized mauler in the run game, Williams didn’t develop as a pass-blocker enough for Pittsburgh, and was cut loose with final cuts. Williams later latched on with the Bills.
- 7th Round, 36th pick: Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
Batch was thrown into a crowded backfield in 2011, and might have escaped roster cuts due to a torn ACL that landed him on injured reserve. Considered a camp warrior in his rookie season, Batch came back and was in consideration for a third-down role prior to a groin injury that kept him out late in preseason and early on in the 2012 season. Batch struggled to make a role for himself in his sophomore campaign and was even waived at one point prior to being signed once again. He only managed 25 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown prior to suffering a broken arm in week 16. Not being able to make a mark in Pittsburgh’s poor backfield in 2012 makes Batch’s prospects of future success dim.
And with that, the Steelers are done. Next up for NFL DR is the very first NFL Draft Reports Mock Draft feature, followed by a foray into the NFC East’s Past Drafts features.
You might be asking why this feature is labeled as “The Browns v. 2.0.” Well, that’s because today’s Browns are not the Cleveland Browns of old–Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995 and re-named them the Ravens, with a new Browns franchise starting up in 1999 under Al Lerner. The city of Cleveland may have reached an agreement to keep the ‘Browns legacy’ in Cleveland, but nevertheless this is a different franchise.
Cleveland has had a very mixed group of picks over the past two seasons, producing success stories like Trent Richardson, Mitchell Schwartz and Phil Taylor, while also picking a potential dud in aged quarterback Brandon Weeden.
The Browns are a team that needs to draft well in 2013 if they’re going to improve on a 5-11 season.
2012 NFL Draft:
- 3rd overall: Alabama RB Trent Richardson
While there are many examples of first-round running backs flopping in the NFL in past seasons, Richardson is a true exception to that trend. Richardson performed extremely well as a rookie runner, even with an abundance of injuries that plagued his season (and which he played through). Overcoming broken ribs and several minor injuries, Richardson started every game prior to sitting out of Cleveland’s week 17 game due to a high-ankle sprain. In total, Richardson rushed 267 times for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns. While Cleveland’s coaching staff would like to see Richardson improve on his 3.6 yards per carry mark in his rookie season, Richardson proved that he is a legitimate workhorse back that can play through tough injuries and still succeed. Richardson has a bright future ahead of himself, barring a Priest Holmes or Larry Johnson situation due to over-working by the coaching staff.
- 22nd overall: Oklahoma St. QB Brandon Weeden
Weeden was and remains to be a controversial pick from the 2012 draft. While many pundits agreed that Weeden would likely remain until the second-round, the Browns shocked the NFL by drafting Weeden so early. Weeden was immediately installed in front of Colt McCoy as the starter in camp, and Browns’ president Mike Holmgren raved about Weeden being the most-ready of any rookie quarterback to play in the NFL. An old prospect at the age of 28, Weeden’s arm strength is undeniable (he was a minor-league pitcher prior to taking up football at Oklahoma St.), but coming out of college there were questions about his pocket presence becoming an issue at the professional level. Weeden ultimately started all-but one game in 2012, missing week 17 with a shoulder sprain. He finished the season 5-10 as a starter while throwing for 3,385 yards and boasting a poor 14:17 touchdown to interceptions ratio. Weeden was also sacked 28 times and put up both poor quarterback rating (72.6) and completion percentage (57.4). With a new regime in place in Cleveland, the current rumor is Weeden will be facing competition in camp from somebody other than Colt McCoy–with such a poor free-agent market (that’s already been picked pretty clean), it’s looking more and more like the Browns may bring in competition via the draft. Between VP of Personnel Mike Lombardi and new head coach Rob Chudzinski, Weeden has few believers on the coaching staff.
- 2nd Round, 3th pick: California OT Mitchell Schwartz
Schwartz was considered a bit of a steal in the second-round after he managed to stop end Quinton Coples in the Senior Bowl leading up to the draft. A massive tackle at 6’5″ 320 lbs, Schwartz played primarily at left tackle for Cal. With Joe Thomas locked it as starter at left tackle, the Browns expected Schwartz to step in at right tackle as the immediate starter–and that’s just what he did. Although Schwartz graded out just about average in run-blocking, he did well as a pass-blocker and was ranked in the top-25 by Pro Football Focus out of offensive tackles. Schwartz is locked in at right tackle and forms a formidable duo with Thomas.
- 3rd Round, 24th pick: Cincinnati DT John Hughes
Hughes was considered a bit of a reach by the Browns, a team that had closely watched Hughes as a senior and hoped he would fall to the later round of the draft. Rumors abounded Hughes could be in for a starting job in then-coordinator Dick Jauron’s 4-3 defense, but ultimately Hughes only drew a couple starts due to injury to 2011 first-round pick Phil Taylor. Hughes totaled 34 tackles and three sacks in his time on the field as a rookie, boding well for his future with Cleveland. However, the transition to 3-4 under new coordinator Ray Horton could present a problem–Hughes’ size (6’2″ 320) fits a nose tackle, yet Phil Taylor is more favored as the starter in 2013. While Hughes may be given time as a rotational tackle behind Taylor, there’s little chance he’ll be starting in his second professional season.
- 4th Round, 5th pick: Miami WR Travis Benjamin
Benjamin is another small speedster, given his 5’10” stature and sub-4.40 40-yard time. While perfectly suited for the slot, as Benjamin was a good route-runner and capable receiver with exceptional burst, Benjamin has a known preference for playing outside–given his size he is severely outmatched physically. Benjamin played in 14 games as a rookie, with 18 receptions, 298 yards and two touchdowns. With his speed, Benjamin can be a deep threat and a big play receiver, but his size will likely limit him to deep routes, underneath routes and the return game–making him very much a slot receiver rather than an outside receiver. Benjamin may benefit from strong-armed Weeden remaining under center rather than noodle-armed Colt McCoy or a quarterback brought in from free-agency or the draft.
- 4th Round, 25th pick: Nevada ILB James-Michael Johnson
Johnson is another example of a player drafted by the former coaching staff to play in one defensive scheme as a rookie, only to have to make a transition in 2013 if he wants to get on the field. A 4-3 outside ‘backer, Johnson was ticketed for some time as a starter with weak-side ‘backer Scott Fujita suspended for the first three games due to the Saints bounty scandal, yet Johnson was sidelined with an oblique injury for the first four games of the season. Johnson tallied 36 tackles as a rookie in eight starts (10 games) prior to ultimately landing on injured reserve for a knee injury in December. Johnson may actually benefit from the transition to 3-4 heading into the 2013 season, as Cleveland currently has no inside ‘backer to match up with D’Qwell Jackson–Scott Fujita is likely done for his career, Kaluka Maiava departed via free-agency and Chris Gocong is uncertain to start the season due to an ACL injury. Johnson did play as an inside linebacker for Nevada, so he’ll slide inside as a run-stopping ‘backer with an ability to cover inside the box–albeit his man coverage abilities are very limited.
- 5th Round, 25th pick: Colorado OG Ryan Miller
When you think of an offensive lineman, Miller is about as big as they come at 6’7″ and 321 lbs. Even so, Miller started twice as many games at guard than tackle while at Colorado–proving the big man has a high degree of versatility. Although he has been criticized by scouts as being too weak to play tackle and too big to play guard, Cleveland took Miller with the intention of making him a long-term swingman. As a rookie, Miller was active for eight games as the primary backup at right tackle. He’ll likely have a roster spot moving forward.
- 6th Round, 34th pick: Texas OLB Emmanuel Acho
The brother of Arizona ‘backer Sam Acho, Emmanuel came into the league as a 4-3 outside ‘backer with some potential as a passing down sub. Decent against the run and capable in coverage, Acho’s weakness is his inability to shrug off blocks, meaning he’s unlikely to see the field on early downs. Acho’s rookie season was largely a wash, as he was placed on injured reserve after only the second preseason game due to injury. Acho could be a candidate for middle linebacker, but it’s likely he’ll be stuck in a reserve role with the move to 3-4 imminent.
- 6th Round, 35th pick: Boise St. DT Billy Winn
While third-round pick John Hughes may suffer from the move to 3-4, it’s likely that Winn may benefit in a way. While the starting tackles in Cleveland’s 4-3 defense were Rubin and Taylor, Rubin will shift over to end and Winn is likely to play a rotational role behind recent acquisition Desmond Bryant and Taylor. Winn’s rookie season at tackle was promising, as he racked up 26 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble while grading out favorably according to Pro Football Focus. Winn is the best candidate of Cleveland’s defensive linemen to play end–Taylor is a nose tackle through and through and Hughes stands in similar regard. Barring an addition in the draft, Winn will still have a role in 2013 on the defensive line.
- 7th Round, 38th pick: Arizona CB Trevin Wade
Coming out of Arizona, Wade’s size (5’10”) similarly limits him in the way that Skrine is unlikely to play outside of the slot. Wade was little more than a special teams player and sub package corner as a rookie–he saw time in 13 games and tallied 16 tackles and a deflection in his time on the field. Wade’s future is uncertain with a new coaching staff, but he has the abilities to succeed as a nickel or dime corner.
- 7th Round, 40th pick: Alabama TE Brad Smelley
A compensation pick, Smelley’s addition to the roster put pressure on 2011 pick Owen Marecic as a possible starter at fullback. Smelley is a capable pass-catcher, who will need to develop run-blocking skills if he’s going to overtake Marecic. Smelley was waived at cuts, but was added back to the roster in December to contribute on special teams. If Smelley is to stick on the roster in 2013, it will likely be at the cost of Marecic or any other fullbacks and tight ends brought in to challenge Marecic, Smelley, Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge.
2011 NFL Draft:
- 21st overall: Baylor DT Phillip Taylor
Originally touted as a bit of an overdraft when the Browns traded out of the top-ten and then up again to 21st overall, Taylor played primarily nose tackle in Baylor’s 3-4 scheme as a run-stuffer in college. As Cleveland employed a 4-3 defense under coordinator Dick Jauron over the past two seasons, Taylor was forced to make the transition to 4-3 tackle in the process. 2011 saw Taylor have some measure of success, as he tallied 59 tackles and four sacks in 16 starts. Following a promising rookie season, Taylor suffered a torn pectoral muscle during offseason workouts, and was placed on the physically unable to perform list as a result. Taylor made his 2012 debut in early November in week 9 versus the Ravens. Following his sophomore debut, Taylor started the remaining seven games at tackle–racking up 14 tackles and one sack in the process and grading out positively in run stopping. The upcoming season will see Taylor transition back to nose tackle in Cleveland’s new 3-4 system, so he could be in for the biggest season of his short career.
- 2nd Round, 5th pick: Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard
Thus far in his career, Sheard has been a very successful defensive end. A strong rookie campaign saw Sheard rack up 55 tackles, five forced fumbles and 8.5 sacks as a 16 game starter. His sophomore campaign was a bit more rocky, with only one sack recorded in the first five games of the season. In total, Sheard managed 55 tackles and seven sacks in his second season. The 2013 season could prove to be difficult for Sheard, as he will be forced to transition to outside linebacker in Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme. Although Sheard isn’t a complete stranger to playing as a stand up rusher (he played over 150 snaps standing up in 2012), it’s unknown whether Sheard can truly make the transition to an every down 3-4 oustide ‘backer.
- 2nd Round, 17th pick: North Carolina WR Greg Little
Little’s draft stock was questionable heading into 2011 following a lost season in 2010 with North Carolina due to injury. With good size (6’2″) and great catching skills before going pro, Little may not possess overwhelming speed, but was comparatively polished as a rookie. In 12 starts (16 games) Little caught 61 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns with noodle-armed Colt McCoy under center. The beginning of 2012 was less fortunate, as Little was plagued with drops and suffered in performance, yet he put up similar statistics in his sophomore campaign–53 receptions, 647 yards and four touchdowns. Little is a big part of Cleveland’s passing attack, wherever he plays (outside or in the slot).
- 4th Round, 6th pick: USC TE Jordan Cameron
Touted as an athletic project player coming out of Southern California, Cameron put up an excellent 4.59 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and boasts size to boot (6’4″ 245 lbs). However, Cameron also exhibits very poor blocking skills for his size, and has been used more as a move tight end in his short career as a result. Cameron had little significance to the Browns as a rookie, playing in eight games and totaling only six catches. His sophomore year saw more playing time as a receiver behind starter Benjamin Watson, with Cameron playing in 14 games. Still, his second season only saw marginal improvement in production–20 receptions, 226 yards and one touchdown–with some glimpses of possibly being a part of the Browns’ offense. The departure of Watson could mean Cameron is in for a significant increase in playing time, but Cleveland did also sign veteran Gary Barnidge–supposedly as a blocker and special teams player–who could cut into Cameron’s snaps should he struggle.
- 4th Round, 28th pick: Stanford RB Owen Marecic
Drafted with the intention of being Cleveland’s lead blocker of the future, Marecic started four games as a rookie while contributing mostly as a special teamer in parts of 14 games as a rookie. The following offseason saw Marecic on the roster bubble after Cleveland drafted fullback/tight end tweener Brad Smelley late in the 2012 draft. Even so, Marecic began the 2012 season as the starting fullback in Cleveland’s offense. He would only start two games before losing the job to veteran Alex Smith, a blocking specialist who can play both tight end and lead blocker. After two disappointing seasons, Marecic is again on the roster bubble. It would not be surprising if Smelley’s presence or a drafted lead blocker leads to Marecic’s release prior to the 2013 opener.
- 5th Round, 9th pick: Tennessee-Chattanooga CB Buster Skrine
Skrine is blessed with blistering speed, supposedly timed in the 4.20-4.30 range at times. However, his small size (5’9″ 185 lbs) has been a problem for Skrine. As a rookie, he mostly played in sub packages and on special teams, but was active for all 16 games (18 tackles, 2 deflections and a pick). The offseason saw Cleveland’s coaching staff talk up Skrine as a potential starter opposite Joe Haden, but ultimately he was used mostly as a nickel and dime corner with injury to nickel corner Dmitri Patterson. 2012 saw Skrine total 85 tackles and 11 deflections, but a failure to register any picks and poor showing as a starter have proved to lessen his value with the Browns. Skrine may yet succeed as a slot corner, but his display of poor tackling skills and inability to guard physical receivers will prove to be roadblocks in Skrine’s future.
- 5th Round, 22nd pick: Pittsburgh OT Jason Pinkston
A guard/tackle tweener, Pinkston was immediately regarded as a guard by the Browns. Pinkston started his rookie season at left guard following injury to Eric Steinbach, but struggled as a rookie and graded out very poorly. Much of his struggles were attributed to the lack of an offseason to prepare for the 2011 season due to the lockout. Pinkston headed into the 2012 season as a starter and showed marked improvement with a full offseason of preparation–only to be diagnosed with a blood clot following Cleveland’s week 6 game. The clot forced Pinkston onto injured reserve, but he should be good to go in 2013 and is cheaply signed–ensuring his roster spot. Pinkston is a very capable pass-blocker and has improved as a run-blocker, and should be in consideration for a starting spot once again.
- 7th Round, 56th pick: Nebraska DB Eric Hagg
Hagg played both safety and slot corner for the Huskers and was touted for his flexibility entering the draft. The Browns quickly decided that Hagg would be better served as a safety than a corner due to his lack of speed and appropriate size (6’1″). A preseason injury led to Hagg’s inactive for the beginning of the season, put once healthy Hagg played both special teams and in sub packages for the remaining ten games of the season. Hagg only totaled 11 tackles as a rookie with one pass deflection. Heading into his second season, Hagg was labeled as the starter at free safety, and started the first two games before being removed in favor of veteran Usama Young. In total, Hagg managed only 22 tackles as a four-game starter and 12 total games. It’s unknown exactly where Hagg stands with new head coach Rob Chudzinski’s coaching staff.
Well, that’s it for the Browns. It’s noticeable that the Browns still have every player drafted within the past two seasons on the roster–a rare feat in today’s NFL.
I’ll be working to get the Steelers Past Drafts segment up as quick as possible following a delayed posting of Cleveland’s feature.
Ah, the Bengals. As a self-proclaimed die-hard Reds fan, it’s always interesting to write about that Cincinnati football team that I happen not to be a fan of.
Cincinnati has done well in the past two draft classes, having selected their franchise quarterback in Andy Dalton and a dominant receiver in A.J. Green in 2011, then following that in the 2012 draft class with several solid contributors, including corner Dre Kirkpatrick (even if injuries derailed his rookie season).
The Bengals could ensure another playoff run in 2013 with a strong showing in the draft, with the possibility of challenging the Super Bowl champion Ravens for the AFC North title.
- 17th overall: Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick is in a tough situation following a bust of a rookie season. The 17th overall pick was slotted to start as soon as he got a grasp of the defense, yet injuries limited him to only parts of five games in 2012 with only four tackles to show for his time on special teams as as depth at corner. Kirkpatrick will need to establish a healthy string of practices if he’s going to contribute from the start in 2013, but he has the potential to be a starter–and the Bengals are counting on him with regardless of the status of incumbent starters Terrance Newman and Adam Jones.
- 27th overall: Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler
Zeitler is more of an immediate success story in 2012 for the Bengals. Originally projected a bit higher in the draft, Zeitler wasn’t alone as guards fell to later picks (the Steelers took top-ten projected guard David DeCastro only a few picks earlier). From the start of camp, Zeitler was installed as the starting right guard, and there he remained throughout the season. Pro Football Focus gave Zeitler a very positive grade for 2012, ranking as the 12th best guard in the league as a rookie. With 16 starts under his belt at only 23, Zeitler should be a big part of the Bengals’ offensive line for years to come.
- 2nd round, 21st pick: Penn St. DT Devon Still
Scouts pegged Still as a capable run-stuffer who was significant for his ability to rush the passer coming out of Penn State. While it may be clear from Still’s playing time that the talent is there, the coaching staff’s decision to only keep three tackles active per week limited Still’s time on the field as a rookie. With Domata Peko the clear nose tackle in Cincinnati and Geno Atkins the opposite tackle, the Bengals had to decide who would be active on game-day between veteran Pat Sims, Still and fellow rookie Brandon Thompson. While Sims missed time on the PUP list, Still and Thompson shared time on the roster while the other sat on the sideline as a healthy inactive. In parts of eight games, Still managed 14 tackles with .5 sacks and a forced fumble. Still will likely have a much more active role on the defense now that Sims has departed Cincinnati.
- 3rd round, 20th pick: Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu
What happened to Sanu on draft day was a bit of a mystery, as many draftniks had projected the Rutgers receiver to go in the early first-round, only for him to fall to the second day of the draft. Sanu came on slow at camp, behind roster bubble players Brandon Tate and Armon Binns as he struggled to get integrated into Cincinnati’s offense. However, as the season progressed it seemed that Sanu had established himself as the clear-cut number two to A.J. Green–only for it to be announced in November that Sanu would miss the remainder of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot. Sanu finished the season with 16 catches for 154 yards and four touchdowns in parts of nine games (three starts). Heading into 2013, Sanu is a big piece of the passing offense, entrenched as either the number two or slot receiver.
- 3rd round, 30th pick: Clemson DT Brandon Thompson
The other rookie victim of Cincinnati’s crowded defensive line situation, Thompson was only active for three games in 2012. Originally projected as a middling first-round pick, Thompson was considered a steal by the Bengals in the third-round. However, Thompson has only one tackle and 13 healthy game-day inactives to show for his rookie campaign. This offseason will likely determine Thompson’s future with the team, as starters Domata Peko and Geno Atkins still remain with the team, as well as second-round rookie Still. Thompson does have the added bonus that Atkins is headed into a contract season and may be departing Cincinnati following the 2013 season.
- 4th round, 21st pick: Georgia TE Orson Charles
Charles is an example of how a player can go from a possible late first-round pick to an afterthought in only a matter of months. Between changing agents, showing poorly at Georgia’s pro day and refusing to participate in much of the NFL combine only to get arrested for a DUI weeks later, Charles quickly went from the second tight end on the board to a fourth-round pick. That didn’t keep Cincinnati from using Charles in 2012, as he was an eight game starter and active for all 16 games. Used as more of a number two and blocker to Jermaine Gresham, Charles managed only eight catches for 101 yards. He’s got the potential to replace Gresham should the veteran continue to underachieve at the professional level.
- 5th round, 21st pick: Iowa CB Shaun Prater
A small corner out of Iowa, Prater’s size (5’10″) limits his coverage abilities. Cincinnati grabbed Prater as a run-stopping corner who’s experience on special teams would ensure a roster spot as a reserve corner and kick coverage gunner. However, Prater missed the entirety of the 2012 season after being placed on injured reserve, and thus has little to show the coaching staff heading into 2013. Prater is likely on the roster bubble, especially given his lack of man coverage abilities.
- 5th round, 31st pick: California WR Marvin Jones
Although Jones ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2012, he has been criticized as not playing up to his speed and having difficulty separating from corners. However, Jones is also 6’2″ with a good vertical that lets him jump over coverage to get the ball. Jones pounced upon the opportunity to start when Mohamed Sanu went down, as he started the final six games of the season (including the wild card game versus Houston. Overall, Jones finished the season with 18 receptions for 201 yards and a single touchdown while fighting for targets with A.J. Green and slot receiver Andrew Hawkins. With Sanu cemented in the lineup as either Cincinnati’s number two or slot receiver, Jones will likely head to the fourth receiver role in 2013.
- 5th round, 32nd pick: Boise St. S George Iloka
Iloka entered the draft as a potential second-day pick due to his coverage abilities and size (6’4″). Iloka played mostly special teams in his seven active games in 2012, racking up only two tackles. As a true center fielder-type safety, Iloka may be able to crack the starting roster in 2013 if he can beat out the struggling Taylor Mays (and the Bengals decide to pass on safety in the draft).
- 6th round, 21st pick: Ohio St. RB Dan Herron
Herron was added in the sixth-round as a long shot to make the roster out of Ohio State. Cincinnati already had Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard assured to make the final roster, while Herron had to compete with Cedric Peerman for a spot. Ultimately, Herron was waived and added to the practice squad at final cuts. The Bengals finally called up Herron in December, and he finished out the season with four carries for only five yards in parts of three games. Herron is unlikely to survive cuts again in 2013.
- 4th overall: Georgia WR A.J. Green
To say this pick paid off is an understatement. Green stepped in and immediately formed a rapport with Dalton, putting up 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns on 65 receptions in his rookie season. With a sophomore season line of 97 receptions for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns, Green proved that his performance was no fluke. There’s little to say here other than Green has a very, very bright future ahead of him.
- 2nd round, 3rd pick: Texas Christian QB Andy Dalton
In a quarterback-heavy draft class, many forgot about small-school Dalton. Who were the three quarterbacks who went before Dalton? Jake Locker (Titans 8th overall), Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars 10th overall) and Christian Ponder (Vikings 14th overall) were all first-round picks, while Dalton and sophomore phenom Colin Kaepernick were taken back-to-back in the second-round. Dalton’s rookie season saw the Bengals reach the playoffs with a 9-7 record, good for the second AFC wild card. In 16 starts, Dalton’s stat line was an impressive 300/516 (58.1 completion percentage) for 3,398 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Dalton’s 2012 was even better, posting a 62.3 completion percentage (329/528) for 3,669 yards with 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The Bengals went 10-6 and earned a playoff berth with Dalton under center once again. He also added four touchdowns on the ground in his sophomore season. Between Dalton and Green, Cincinnati has an offensive duo to build around.
- 3rd round, 2nd pick: Nevada-Reno OLB Dontay Moch
Cincinnati followed up two on-target picks with what many consider to be a complete dud in Moch. Coming out of Nevada, Moch posted an incredibly fast 4.44 40-yard dash time at the combine–which combined with his 6’2″ 248 lb frame makes for a scary mix of size and speed. Expected to contribute on special teams on rookie as he picked up the defensive scheme and transitioned to linebacker from defensive end, Moch suffered a broken foot in the preseason opener and proceeded to be inactive for his entire rookie campaign. Moch’s 2012 started on a similar note, as he missed four games due to a PED suspension. Moch was ultimately only active for one game before being put on the reserve/non-football injury list with recurring migraine symptoms. It’s unclear if Moch has a future with the Bengals at this point.
- 4th round, 4th pick: Georgia OG Clint Boling
Boling was drafted with the intention that he start at guard for the Bengals from the first game as a rookie. He did indeed start the season opener at right guard, but only lasted three games before being benched for poor play. Boling would only last two more weeks on the active roster before spending the remaining of the season as a healthy inactive. With the departure of veteran starter Bobbie Williams prior to the 2012 season, Boling was inserted into the starting lineup and started all 16 games in his sophomore campaign. Boling graded out favorably in pass-blocking in 2012, but poorly in run-blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. He should keep his starting job opposite 2012 rookie Kevin Zeitler moving forward.
- 5th round, 3rd pick: West Virginia DB Robert Sands
A free safety at West Virginia, many pundits expected the Bengals to convert Sands to strong due to his size (6’4″) and suspect coverage skills, yet Sands was made a free safety and has stuck. His rookie season saw healthy inactives in all-but one game, where he failed to record any stats. Sands’ sophomore campaign was a wash, as he suffered a season-ending chest injury during the preseason, landing him on injured reserve (possibly saving him from final cuts in the process). In addition to a lost season, Sands was arrested on Jan. 6 with assault and domestic violence–further endangering his NFL prospects.
- 6th round, 2nd pick: Stanford WR Ryan Whalen
Whalen beat the odds as a rookie out of Stanford, as the possession receiver was expected to miss the cut in a crowded receiver corps. Active for four games in 2011, Whalen recorded four receptions for 27 yards while mostly playing on special teams. After a largely-unremarkable rookie campaign, Whalen entered the 2012 preseason clearly on the roster bubble. Once again, Whalen beat the odds and managed to be active for nine games in 2012, recording seven catches for 53 yards. It’s up to Whalen to beat the odds once again in 2013 if he’s going to make it through final cuts.
- 7th round, 4th pick: Southern Illinois DB Korey Lindsey
Under-sized and coming from small-school Southern Illinois, Lindsey was considered an under-the-radar ball-hawk by scouts. So far, Lindsey has done nothing to prove these scouts right–he’s on his fourth team (Bengals, Cardinals, Colts and Redskins), and has been waived five times (twice by the Cardinals). At this point, there’s little hope for Lindsey’s NFL prospects.
- 7th round, 43rd pick: Baylor RB Jay Finley
There’s a reason Finley was a seventh-round pick–he can do almost anything required of an NFL quarterback…but then again he can’t do any of it all that well either. Undersized and lacking speed, he has a knack for the hole, but he doesn’t have breakaway speed and isn’t known for breaking tackles. Originally waived with the intention of being added to the Bengals’ practice squad, Cincinnati later changed their minds and let him hit the open market. Finley spent part of the season on the Seahawks’ practice squad, but he’s been out of football since the end of the 2011 season.
That’s it for the Bengals. Next up in the Past Drafts series will be the Cleveland Browns.
Next stop in the Past Drafts feature is Baltimore, featuring the reigning Super Bowl champions.
The past two draft classes for the Ravens are an example of how a team can pick up solid contributors that let a team make a playoff push (which was ultimately successful in 2012).
The Ravens are an up-and-coming championship team, who have the parts to make up for the loss of team leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and with a few pieces could compete for a repeat championship in 2013.
- 2nd Round, 3rd pick: Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw
A powerful bull-rushing end/linebacker out of Alabama, Upshaw was taken in the second round by Baltimore as a replacement for Sergio Kindle (their 2010 second-round pick) following his flop in Baltimore. Upshaw was originally projected as a first-round pick, but fell to the Ravens early in the second following a poor showing at the combine (where Upshaw weighed in considerably heavier than his Alabama playing weight). Originally projected as a rotational pass-rusher behind starters Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger, Upshaw got the opportunity to start following the announcement in May that Suggs had suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon. However, a poor showing in camp led to Upshaw losing the strong-side job to special teams ace Albert McClellan, and McClellan drew the week one start instead of Upshaw as a result. It was surprising when Upshaw drew the start in week two over McClellan, and then later over Kruger in week three due to injury. Upshaw drew starts inconsistently as a rookie, with nine starts while playing in all 16 games. Overall, Upshaw performed well, to the tune of 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, and is poised for a bigger role in 2013 regardless of whether Baltimore re-signs Kruger.
- 2nd Round, 28nd pick: Iowa St. OT Kelechi Osemele
Osemele was drafted with the idea that he would challenge for the right tackle job in camp, with Michael Oher projected to start at left tackle (while Bryant McKinnie missed time due to injury). Although he worked at both left guard and right tackle in camp, ultimately Bobbie Williams was signed to play guard and Osemele moved to right tackle for the season and started all 16 games–although the move wasn’t permanent. With the injuries to starters Marshal Yanda and back up Jah Reid, Baltimore was forced to shift the offensive line around, with McKinnie taking over left tackle, Oher moving to right, and Osemele manning guard opposite Williams. Osemele’s flexibility on the line and potential as a starter makes him a very solid pick up for Baltimore.
- 3rd Round, 21st pick: Temple RB Bernard Pierce
Pierce is an example of how rookies can prove scouts wrong almost immediately on the field. Pegged as a decent between the tackles runner with average speed and poor abilities as a passing down back, Pierce tore up the field behind starter Ray Rice, totaling 532 yards and a touchdown on 108 carries (a 4.9 yard per carry average). Pierce played a large part in the wild card round defeat of the Colts this season, as Rice had been pulled after fumbling issues, to the tune of 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 YPC). With Rice entrenched as the starter moving forward, Pierce may be somewhat limited in terms of touches, but at some point the Ravens may look at Pierce as a cheaper alternative to Rice.
- 4th Round, 3rd pick: Delaware OG Gino Gradkowski
Listed as a center/guard tweener heading into the draft, Baltimore drafted Gradkowski with the intention of having him compete for the left guard spot. Although Gradkowski ultimately lost out to Bobbie Williams and Jah Reid in this regard, he found himself as the primary back up to veteran Matt Birk in 2012. Active for the entire season, the younger brother of journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is looking at a prime chance at starting with the announcement that Birk is retiring this offseason.
- 4th Round, 35th pick: South Carolina St. FS Christian Thompson
Many saw this pick coming ahead of time, as Ravens great Ed Reed had been mentoring Thompson throughout the draft process. Having run a 4.41 40 yard dash at his pro day, Thompson was one of the fastest safeties in the draft and played both safety spots at South Carolina while also contributing on special teams. Thompson made the roster due to his flexibility and talents on special teams as a gunner, but didn’t see any snaps on defense in 2012. A thigh injury prematurely ended his season in November, but he should be good to go for OTAs and could see an expanded role in 2013 if Reed leaves via free-agency or retires.
- 5th Round, 34th pick: Cal Poly CB Asa Jackson
Coming out of a small school like Cal Poly St., Jackson had to prove that he could compete at a much higher level in the NFL. His rookie season offered little encouragement, as he was only active for three games (registering one tackle on special teams) and also received a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Jackson is squarely on the roster bubble in 2013, especially if the Ravens bring in additional talent in the secondary via the draft.
- 6th Round, 28th pick: Miami WR Tommy Streeter
A very tall receiver (6’5″), Streeter was considered a highly developmental receiver coming into the draft because of his poor route-running skills and poor burst off the snap, but his speed (4.40 at the combine, sub-4.40 at his pro day) cannot be denied. Although he had no impact in 2012, landing on injured reserve with an ankle sprain in August, he is considered a potential red-zone threat in the future due to his size and speed. However, Streeter is extremely unpolished following only one season of starting experience at Miami and essentially a red-shirt rookie season in the NFL.
- 7th Round, 29th pick: Georgia DL Deangelo Tyson
Tyson was originally a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but a poor college career at Georgia led to Baltimore landing him late in the draft. Tyson has nose tackle size at 6’2″ and 310 lbs, as well as decent athletic abilities for his size. Playing both nose tackle and end in Baltimore’s 3-4 scheme, Tyson totaled 11 tackles in parts of 10 games. It’s unclear whether Tyson is a lock for the roster in 2013, but the better bet would be on a competition for a spot.
- 27th overall: Colorado DB Jimmy Smith
Touted as a talented corner with some off-the-field problems, Smith fell from a possible top-ten pick to the Ravens at 27th overall as a result of concerns about keeping on the field. Ravens management talked up Smith as comparable to Darrelle Revis or Champ Bailey in ability to shadow top receivers. Smith’s rookie season would end up being a rocky ride, with a high-ankle sprain keeping him off the field early on and as a result of missing extended time as a rookie he was eased into the defense. With a few starts under his belt and some time as nickel and dime back, Smith would finish the season with a concussion in week 17. In 12 games (three starts), Smith tallied 20 tackles, eight deflections and two picks–so his rookie season wasn’t exactly a wash, even if he didn’t live up to the hype. For 2012, Smith had a full offseason to prepare (the lockout in 2011 caused problems for rookies) and was further hyped by the organization as having shut-down potential. The 2012 season started on a positive note for Smith (although negatively for the team) as starting corner Lardarius Webb suffered a torn ACL, opening a starting spot for Smith. Yet, this opportunity was squandered by further injuries (groin injury and sports hernia) that limited Smith on the field and would eventually force him to miss five games towards the end of the season. His return in week 15 from the hernia was another low for Smith, as he was burned by Eric Decker for eight catches, 133 yards and a score. The Ravens organization still believes that Smith has top corner abilities, but after two seasons Smith is running out of time to prove himself.
- 2nd Round, 26th pick: Maryland WR Torrey Smith
The second Smith taken in the draft by the Ravens, Torrey Smith was billed as a speedster and a physical receiver coming out of Maryland (with a 4.43 40 yard dash time and decent 6’0″ size, you may see why). Smith made an immediate impact as a rookie and has developed a rapport with recently extended quarterback Joe Flacco as a deep threat (even if Flacco misses deep a bit too much). With a rookie season line of 50 receptions, 841 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by a sophomore campaign of 49 receptions 855 yards and eight touchdowns, Smith has cemented himself as a favorite target of Flacco–especially if Anquan Boldin possibly hitting the market this offseason.
- 3rd Round, 21st pick: Central Florida OT Jah Reid
Reid is an example of how college tackles are sometimes drafted, only to be moved inside shortly after. With the intention of making the 6’7″ Reid their right tackle of the future, the Ravens took the Central Florida graduate in the third-round–only to determine before camp even ended that he would never play tackle at the professional level. Reid is another example of how 6’7″ size without the quickness to engage ends or outside ‘backers can result in a tackle that easily gets over-matched by opponents that get leverage. As part of the transition to guard, Reid had a largely uneventful rookie season–active for all 16 games, he played a total of seven snaps. Heading into the 2012 season, the Ravens let left guard Ben Grubbs (a five-year starter) walk in free-agency–Reid finally got his chance to start. Reid had the job all-but locked up, only to suffer an injury in preseason that kept him out until November. Reid totaled seven starts in nine active weeks prior to landing on injured reserve in January. There may not be a starting spot for Reid in Baltimore next season, as he graded out poorly in his time as a starter in 2012.
- 4th Round, 26th pick: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
The second receiver Baltimore drafted in 2011 is much less of a success story than Torrey Smith. Thus far, Doss has only single-digit receptions to his name and a single touchdown–likely due to a mostly lost rookie season after having hernia surgery as a senior at Indiana. Doss played some special teams in 2011, but was only active for six games. Much more was expected of Doss in 2012, but after some offseason hype from coaches Doss contributed very little in parts of 14 games. With Boldin possibly on his way out of Baltimore, Doss could be in for some more snaps on offense in 2013.
- 5th Round, 33rd pick: Texas DB Chykie Brown
A quick and physical corner, Brown was credited with 4.37 and 4.40 times at his pro day in 2011, and only fell in the draft because of a low pick number (two) across 29 starts at Texas. Credited as a speedy corner who could immediately contribute on special teams, Brown recorded four tackles and a deflection in parts of seven games as a rookie. 2012 was a much more productive season for Brown, as he was active for all 16 games and drew a start due to Baltimore’s injury-riddled secondary as the season progressed. With 25 tackles and five deflections, Brown made some contribution for the Ravens–however he didn’t silence the critics who claim he doesn’t have the ability to come up with picks.
- 5th Round, 34th pick: Mississippi St. DE Pernell McPhee
Originally lauded as a fit at either 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker in either scheme at 6’3″ and 274 lbs, Baltimore surprised many when they announced that McPhee was to put on weight and play 3-4 end in their defensive scheme. The move paid off for McPhee, who served as a rotational end in his rookie campaign. Totaling 23 tackles and six sacks, McPhee’s season was a success–only to find out after the season ended that he needed arthroscopic knee surgery. Heading into 2012, it seemed that the surgeries had sapped McPhee of the explosiveness he exhibited as a rookie–with the resulting announcement from McPhee that he planned to bulk up in an attempt to save some value in being a 3-4 run-stuffing end. With injuries marring his season, McPhee ultimately played in 12 games (with six starts) and totaled only 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks–a disappointment after such a promising rookie season. This offseason, McPhee will look to shed the extra weight and regain the explosiveness that he was known for as a rookie.
- 6th Round, 15th pick: Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor
Although there was some question as to whether Taylor would play quarterback in the NFL, the Ravens made it clear they drafted him with the intention of making a professional quarterback out of him when they announced Taylor as the primary backup to Joe Flacco prior to the preseason. Taylor started off with a bumpy first preseason game in 2011, but the next several weeks saw strong performances for Taylor, quieting any calls for a veteran signing to back up Flacco. Taylor didn’t make any headlines until the next summer, when it was announced that Baltimore had brought in ex-Colts quarterback Curtis Painter to compete for the number two duties–with Taylor ultimately affirming the coaching staff’s belief in him as he beat out Painter. The only action Taylor saw in 2012 was in week 17′s mop up duty, where he went 15 for 25 with 149 yards and an interception while rushing for 65 yards and a score. Taylor is an athlete who has developed as a passer over the past two seasons to the point that there has been some interest in trading for him this offseason, but it’s likely he’ll stick as the Ravens’ backup quarterback in 2013.
- 7th Round, 22nd pick: Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen
Likely drafted as an after-thought in 2011, since Baltimore already had starter Ray Rice, veteran Willis McGahee and backup Jalen Parmele on the roster, Allen did little as a rookie outside of special teams. Even following the releases of both McGahee and Parmele, his skill set as a short yardage back with very limited receiving skills did little for him, as it seemed he couldn’t steal carries from either of the more talented Rice or veteran pick up Ricky Williams. It was thought that Allen could be in for back up duties in 2012 following Williams’ departure, but Allen fell behind on the depth chart when he proved to be a liability in blitz pick up and his receiving skills hadn’t improved. Allen was waived in August following the ascension of Bernard Pierce and Bobby Rainey on the depth chart. With under 20 carries in his first two seasons and the emergence of Pierce as the clear cut back up to Ray Rice, Allen may not have a spot on the roster in 2013.
There you have it. Baltimore is in much better shape with how their picks panned out in the past two drafts than several teams already covered in the Past Drafts segment (for a refresher, see Part I), as you can see each player they have drafted has remained with the team.
The next team up is the Cincinnati Bengals.
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.