It's true in any draft -- one surprise pick can lead to the demolition of five draft boards. And from there, the toppling dominoes can lead to some very strange bedfellows. Now that the Redskins have made their annual trip to the supermarket and come away with one of the offseason's biggest prizes (and surprises) in Donovan McNabb(notes), the top of the draft becomes a bit clearer. From there, however, things could still fly off the handle with just one or two surprise picks, and the annual run on a specific position. Picks 17-32 are here; the first 16 picks can be found here.
17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) -- QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: The 49ers brought in David Carr(notes) to back up Alex Smith, but the two former first overall picks haven't engendered the combined confidence you'd expect from a fringe third-rounder. Though his deep ball is overrated, and there are questions about his overall makeup, Clausen is a very accurate and efficient short-area passer, and his familiarity with an offensive scheme that may be more complex than the one Smith was asked to grasp last year may have San Francisco hoping that they can net another franchise quarterback from Notre Dame.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers -- CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State: Sure, the Steelers need help on the offensive line, but this is still a team defined by defense, which makes the recent exploits of their secondary so disturbing. The Steelers' back four fell apart when Troy Polamalu(notes) was hurt, and Wilson would bring immediate tight coverage ability. He doesn't play with great physicality, but Pittsburgh would probably sacrifice that for some actual coverage in center field.
19. Atlanta Falcons -- DE Brandon Graham, Michigan: Graham played all over the place for the Wolverines -- on the right and left side in three-and four-man fronts. When he went to the Senior Bowl and amazed everyone with his pass-rush moves, he was operating pretty much exclusively as a 4-3 end. Lesson learned, America -- this guy is best in a 4-3 front, or as a 3-4 "endbacker" in almost constant forward motion. Atlanta's defense exhibits good gap control, but the bust factor of Jamaal Anderson(notes), and John Abraham(notes) falling from 16.5 sacks in 2008 to 5.5 in 2009, leaves the Falcons with one graphic need. In the right situation (which this would appear to be), Graham has immediate double-digit sack potential.
20. Houston Texans -- RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State: Steve Slaton(notes) enjoyed a great rookie season in 2008, but fumbling issues and injuries led to a disappointing sophomore campaign. We don't know how much of Slaton's success had to do with Alex Gibbs' blocking scheme, but Mathews has the kind of talent that transcends style. He can bull through second- and third-level traffic, and has the speed to outrun safeties. Combining Mathews and Slaton would give the Texans a thunder-and-lighting attack they have long desired.
21. Cincinnati Bengals -- WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: It has long been the Bengals' practice to find "undervalued assets" in the form of players with on- or off-field concerns and elite athletic tools. Bryant didn't impress at his private workout after a tumultuous 2009 season, but there are still teams looking to do due diligence in the first round. Bryant has Cincinnati on his pre-draft travel itinerary, and it may just be that he has to accept his status outside the top 10. He can make the rest of the NFL pay later. Right now, it's about convincing his new team that he's not their latest draft mistake.
22. New England Patriots -- OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas: Kindle will fit New England's defense perfectly -- both in scheme and need for pass rush. As an edge rusher, he will impress with his non-stop pursuit and ability to turn the corner quickly. However, at 6-3 and 250 pounds, Kindle might be even better if he puts on about 10 pounds -- with a little extra power, he could have an Osi Umenyiora(notes)-like impact in the NFL.
23. Green Bay Packers -- CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers: The Packers are very well set on one side of the defensive backfield, but age and injuries have set the clock on Al Harris'(notes) career. Depth behind Harris is iffy, though Tramon Williams(notes) is a decent player. IN McCourty, the Pack get a player with excellent tackling ability combined with legitimate sub-4.4 speed. McCourty's a better zone corner, but he can play the man-on-man concepts the Packers prefer.
24. Philadelphia Eagles -- S Taylor Mays, USC: It's been an interesting offseason in Philly, to say the least. With an obvious rebuild in process (whether the front office admits it or not), it's a good time to add a player with seemingly infinite physical gifts, who's still a work in progress on the field. Mays is an elite enforcer against the run. Mays can start as a rover and work his way up to free safety as he develops a better backpedal and ability to transition against receivers in space.
25. Baltimore Ravens -- TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma: Gresham would be a great addition to the Ravens because he presents a series of impossible mismatches for defenses. He can elude press coverage at the line, take on linebackers with his size and strength, and blow by safeties with surprising speed. Some find his blocking disappointing, but it's probably wise to look at Gresham as an Antonio Gates(notes)-style player (a big receiver as opposed to a traditional tight end), no matter how physically imposing he may be.
26. Arizona Cardinals -- OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: Unfortunately for the Cards, there really isn't a replacement for Karlos Dansby(notes) in this draft; legit three-down inside linebackers of Dansby's caliber don't grow on trees. But Weatherspoon has experience inside, and the agility to make a difference outside. That's valuable versatility for a defense that shifts its fronts on a regular basis.
27. Dallas Cowboys -- OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: With the release of Flozell Adams(notes), the Cowboys have set their minds to protecting Tony Romo's(notes) blind side with either a rookie, or swing tackle Doug Free(notes). Free is the short-term solution, but Jerry Jones has never shied away from developmental projects, and Campbell brings rare size and athleticism to the position. Where he doesn't measure up is on the game tape, but Dallas' blocking schemes are not among the league's most complex.
28. San Diego Chargers -- NT Terrence Cody, Alabama: It's often true with defensive tackles that you don't understand their value until they're not on the field, This was certainly true for the Chargers after they lost Jamal Williams(notes) to a triceps injury, and then to the Broncos. A formerly dominant front seven was anything but in 2009, and the Chargers could look to Cody, the mainstay of Nick Saban's 3-4 defense, to fill the void. Cody frequently played a couple biscuits short of 400 in college, but he looked good at about 350 in recent workouts. Cody has fast feet and surprising short-area quickness for a man his size.
29. New York Jets -- OG Mike Iupati, Idaho: The Jets have perhaps the best run-blocking line in the business, but in 2009, left guard Alan Faneca(notes) led the league in blown pass blocks at his position. That's bad news for a team that didn't pass the ball that much. Faneca also has a $7.5 million base salary in 2010, which may lead the Jets to look Iupati's way if he's still on the board. Coaches had Iupati playing all over the line during Senior Bowl week, and there are some who think he could kick out to tackle, but he's a precision mauler at the guard position -- just the thing that might push the Jets that one extra step to the Super Bowl.
30. Minnesota Vikings -- CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State: For some teams, the first round is simple. As long as the Vikings can count on the return of Grandpa Favre, the one thing that could keep them from a Super Bowl trip is a defensive backfield that is decidedly league-average despite the support of a dominant front four. Though he's a little raw in coverage, Robinson can play in the zone looks the Vikings prefer, and his straight-line sped will improve that secondary right away.
31. Indianapolis Colts -- OT Rodger Saffold, Indiana: Colts president Bill Polian is never shy about blamescaping after a loss, and he took after his own offensive line following Indy's Super Bowl disappointment against the Saints. Saffold has been under the radar in a very deep class of tackles, but he has experience, good base technique, and the intelligence to thrive in one of the NFL's most diverse and effective offenses.
32. New Orleans Saints -- DE Everson Griffen, USC: The Saints need help all along their front seven. Defensive tackle is the primary concern; Gregg Williams simply lacks the kind of dump truck-style nose tackle needed to stop the run consistently in 3-man fronts. But if that player isn't on the board, it might be wise to look at more 4-3 sets and the addition of a potentially elite end. Griffen brings size and speed -- if he can overcome the questions about his work ethic and occasional tendency to get washed out by blocks, he'll help the Saints keep the pace in the NFC.
Posted Jul 2 2012
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