10 things we learned from the 2011 NFL draft


1. The Cincinnati Bengals are moving on

Two issues plagued the Bengals in the offseason: What to do about Twitter-happy (but team unhappy) Chad Ochocinco now that he's thrown head coach Marvin Lewis under the bus in several social media instances, and how to replace quarterback Carson Palmer after his threats to retire. Team owner Mike Brown has said that the Bengals would not trade Palmer, but it sure seems as if the front office is getting ready for the inevitable post-labor standoff. Brown and his minions took Georgia receiver A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round. Green was the best wideout in this draft class (think Randy Moss Lite), but Dalton impresses more with his intangibles, throwing the deep ball a lot like Palmer after injuries took a toll.

2. The Washington Redskins have finally embraced the draft concept

After abdicating the draft altogether in some seasons through the Vinny Cerrato era (or at least it seemed that way; there was the one year in which Vinny tried to give the Bengals about half his picks for the aforementioned Senor Ochocinco), Mike Shanahan has endeavored to turn over a new leaf in the nation's capitol. Trading down multiple times to get several extra selections, Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen picked up several defenders who look to be better fits in Jim Haslett's hybrid defense, including Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan and Clemson DT Jarvis Jenkins. Getting players who actually fit the hybrid defenses you're playing? What a concept!  

3. Da'Quan Bowers' knee and Ryan Mallett's issues were legit

At one time, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett were thought to be guaranteed high first-round picks. Bowers for his explosive pass rush and devastating run defense, and Mallett for the best arm in this draft class (and perhaps the last few draft classes). But the worry about the effects of a torn meniscus suffered halfway through the 2010 season pushed Bowers down to the 19th pick in the second round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mallett, whose rocket arm was negated in the minds of many by his relative lack of mobility and alleged off-field dings, dropped even further — to 74th overall. The good news for Mallett is that he went to New England, where he'll see the position played about as well as it can be.

4. The rest of the NFL may want to double up its guards when playing Detroit

Yeouch. Last year, the Detroit Lions took defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick, and Suh plowed a path of destruction on his way to the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Pairing him with Auburn tackle Nick Fairley, whose disruptive abilities rival Suh's in the minds of some, seems unfair. Head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham have more flexibility with their tackles. Suh also showed the ability to wreak havoc outside in three-man fronts, and the Fairly/Suh combo could be just about unblockable when stunting inside.

5. The Atlanta Falcons think they're a Super Bowl team

There's no other reason to do what they did in the first round, trading up from the 27th overall pick, taking the Cleveland Browns' sixth pick, and giving up five total picks — three in 2011 and two more in 2012 — for the right to get Alabama receiver Julio Jones. No doubt that Jones is a great player, but it wasn't a lack of receiver talent that got the Falcons booted out of the playoffs against the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers; it was the defense's tendency to look like a clown school against Aaron Rodgers. Atlanta also traded two late-round picks to move up and take Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Atlanta's draft strategy this year can be summed up in four words: "This had better work."

6. Failing a drug test at the scouting combine is a very, very bad idea

If you don't believe us, just ask Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston and Iowa defensive lineman Christian Ballard. The news came out this week that each player had reportedly failed tests for marijuana at the combine, which is about the dumbest drug test failure you can manage — it's not exactly random and surprising. As a result, Houston dropped from where most people had him projected (late first or early second round) to the seventh pick in the third round, where the Kansas City Chiefs picked him up. Things were worse for Ballard, who was taken by the Minnesota Vikings early in the fourth round after most people thought he'd be gone by the mid-second.

7. The Seattle Seahawks want to punch you in the mouth

Seattle went into the draft supposedly needing a franchise quarterback, but you wouldn't have known it by the way they went about the first three rounds of their draft. While millions of mock drafts had Pete Carroll and John Schneider going with Dalton, Mallett or some other mid-round prospect, the Seahawks took a right tackle (Alabama's James Carpenter) with their first-round pick, traded out of the second round and picked up Wisconsin guard John Moffitt in the third. It's a sea of change for a team that hasn't had a powerful offensive line in years. When one member of the local media asked line coach Tom Cable about Carpenter's rumored "finesse" blocking style, Cable gruffly responded that he didn't take finesse guys. Well, alrighty then! (And by the way, the Seahawks didn't take a quarterback with any of their nine draft picks).

8. The Broncos are John Fox's team as much as John Elway's

For all the pre-draft talk about how John Elway didn't see a franchise quarterback on the current roster, the Broncos certainly went more to the defensive leanings of head coach John Fox when all was said and done. Made sense, really — while Denver's offense was fairly functional in 2010, the defense was a sinkhole. That's why they took Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and UCLA safety Rahim Moore up top, and filled out the draft with linebacker Nate Irving of N.C. State, linebacker Mike Mohamed and Oklahoma defensive lineman Jeremy Beal.

9. Don't invite the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears to the same party

It started out as just another draft pick timing disaster in which Mike Tice was tangentially involved, and has developed into an NFL version of "Playin' the Feud!" It started with the Chicago Bears calling the Ravens and asking to move up to snag Baltimore's 26th overall pick. After some discussion, GM Ozzie Newsome agreed to Chicago's offer — and that's where it got weird. Chicago somehow failed to confirm the trade in time, which meant that the Ravens were basically on the hook for a draft pick they thought they'd traded. They wound up passing, quote, to their surprise. After the Kansas City Chiefs selected Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin, the Ravens sashayed back in and got Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, the guy they wanted all along.  

The Ravens wanted the Bears to give them the fourth-round pick they had agreed to, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even recommended that the Bears do so. But Bears GM Jerry Angelo felt differently. "The only thing I'm gonna say [is] they have rules when you do something wrong, not when you make mistakes," Angelo said on Friday. "A mistake was made. No rule was broken."

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti? Not amused. "I'm disappointed in the Bears and the McCaskeys," Bisciotti said. "It is in my opinion a deviation from their great legacy," Bisciotti said. "They concluded that their heartfelt and admirable apology was sufficient for our loss. All of us at the Ravens strongly disagree ... probably end of story."

And probably end of story if Angelo ever feels like doing any further deals with the Ravens.

10. Appalachian State is still beating Michigan.

On Sept. 1, 2007, Appalachian State shocked the Michigan Wolverines (and the rest of the world) by beating them, 34-32. On April 30, 2011, Appalachian State (Daniel Kilgore, Mark Legree, D.J. Smith) shocked the Wolverines again (Jonas Mouton, Steve Schilling) by beating them, 3-2, in draft picks. Some teams just have other teams' numbers.

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