NFL Draft: Winners and Losers From Round One

Was the Rams’ trade for Tavon Austin really worth it?

As everyone expected, there were predictable picks, shocking picks, aggressive picks, cautious picks and trades on day one of the 2013 NFL Draft. These players may still be prospects who are developing and we won’t know the true value choices or mistakes until some distance down the road, but initial impressions can often be accurate in this sort of thing.

Here are some picks I like and some I don’t like.

Winners:

Luke Joeckel to the Jaguars
It seems baffling that the Jaguars would take the top offensive tackle left on their board with the second overall pick. Baffling for many reasons. For one, Gus Bradley is a defensive head coach and there were a plethora of pass rushers and impact players remaining. Secondly, Eugene Monroe is the Jaguars’ best player, an offensive tackle who has been entrenched on the blindside since being taken in eighth overall in 2009. Third, the turnaround potential from an offensive tackle is not as immediate as it is from a quarterback or impact pass-rusher.

With all that being said, the Jaguars made the right decision in taking Joeckel. This is a deep draft, but there were only three special offensive tackles in the group. By adding that tackle, the Jaguars will improve both the running-game and pass-protection that was lacking last year. Having two top-tier offensive tackles can be an invaluable asset to any offense, with teams such as the Patriots, Bengals and 49ers showing in recent years.

Considering that only one quarterback went before the Jaguars’ first pick of the second round, it’s safe to say they would have been reaching for any signal-caller at that point. If they want to replace Blaine Gabbert this year, they have options at the beginning of the second round, but if they want to give him every chance to succeed this year, they have done that by giving him protection to match explosive receivers and Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield.

If Gabbert fails, then the Jaguars will be able to get their quarterback next year.

The Jaguars could have taken a defender, but Gus Bradley has proven he can get the very best out of any talent he is given and craft it into a decent defense. This move just fits the overall blueprint of the Jaguars’ new regime.

 

Dion Jordan to the Dolphins
As soon as the Dolphins came on the clock after trading up with the Oakland Raiders, I set about writing up a blurb about Lane Johnson and the immediate impact he would have on the Dolphins’ offense. Of course, once the pick was announced I was as shocked as everyone else that they took Jordan. Surprisingly though, I wasn’t as outraged as I would have expected myself to be if you told me this would happen.

The Dolphins only gave up one of their second round picks, so they can still make the trade for Branden Albert. Presuming they make that happen, they will have addressed their two greatest needs in the draft. Needs that if they went unaddressed, could have proved fatal to any success in the short-term.

Jordan’s impact on the Dolphins defense will be major. His presence across from the incredible Cameron Wake offers the team two high-powered pass-rushers to pressure the passer. Having two rushers who can potentially crack 15+ sacks in the same season creates problems for offenses before the ball is even snapped and improves every level of the defense because of that.

Jordan’s presence also allows the Dolphins to kick Jared Odrick inside to defensive tackle from defensive end, where he played out of position last year. Odrick is a very talented player who was too big to be considered a permanent option at defense end. He did well filling in last year, but alongside Randy Starks on the inside, he will be able to reach his full potential.

Playing in the AFC East, the Dolphins’ primary goal is always to surpass the Patriots. Winning those two divisional matchups during the season goes a long way to doing that. Not only does Jordan’s pass-rushing give the Dolphins a major boost in that area, because they now have a complete defensive line that can disrupt the pocket, his versatility will also allow the Dolphins to try and confuse Tom Brady with different looks after the snap. Flipping formations and changing coverages after the snap is the best way to contain the Patriots’ defense.

 

Sheldon Richardson to the Jets
Richardson slipped much further than anyone anticipated he would, but the Jets were delighted that he did. Having already added Dee Milliner to take Darrelle Revis’ spot across from Antonio Cromartie, the Jets used the pick they received for Revis on this mammoth defensive lineman.

Mike Mayock described Richardson as an “explosive, freakish tackle at 310 lbs.” The Jets already have two freakishly good young defensive lineman on their roster, Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, so this move is going to push them over the top on the defensive line and make them a nightmare to match up to.

Having that much size and athleticism together on the line will make life easier on the Jets’ linebackers while still providing pressure from the position. The Jets could have taken a safety or linebacker, but the depth at safety is there later in the draft and every linebacker already on the roster will benefit from this move. Much like at safety, this draft also offers the Jets many more opportunities to land different offensive weapons later in the draft.

 

Tyler Eifert to the Bengals
Sitting in the 21st overall spot with one of the strongest, most well-rounded rosters in the league, the Bengals were able to take a luxury choice here. Eifert is one of the safest picks in the draft because he is an all-around player who is clearly the best at his position. He is expected to be an instant impact player in the NFL and should help the Bengals create mismatches on a routine basis.

Tight End was one of the Bengals’ strong points on offense last year, with Jermaine Gresham, but by adding Eifert to the mix, they are creating an area of strength that will allow them to dictate to defenses the way the New England Patriots have over the years. With Andy Dalton struggling to develop and Andre Smith’s status still uncertain for this season, having two tight ends will alleviate the pressure on the quarterback.

The Bengals needed to build around Dalton, and they should pick a running back within the next two rounds, but even if they don’t land a back, Dalton already has more weapons than most. With Eifert and Gresham at tight end, it becomes more difficult to match up to AJ Green on the edge. Throw in the very impressive rookie receivers from last season, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and defenses are going to be stretched in different ways this season when playing the Bengals.

Significantly, no team in the AFC North will feel comfortable trying to contain the Bengals when they are in their two tight-end sets. The Browns, Steelers and Ravens should have decent defenses, but they don’t have the depth and all-around ability to stretch themselves in multiple directions at a time.

 

Other Good Moves: Eric Fisher to the Chiefs, Jonathan Cooper to the Cardinals, Star Lotulelei to the Panthers, Kenny Vaccaro to the Saints, Eric Reid to the 49ers, Desmond Trufant to the Falcons, Datone Jones to the Packers, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson to the Vikings.

Losers:

Ezekiel Ansah to the Lions
The Lions’ problem in recent years has been their culture rather than their talent. Jim Schwartz has not created a situation where young players will be able to develop with ease. Ansah is a boom or bust prospect who has plenty of talent, but needs to pointed in the right direction and have every move he makes crafted by good coaching and leadership.

Ansah’s immediate fit into the Lions’ wide-nine defense, where the defensive ends line up very wide, is perfect because of his athleticism and ability to chase down running-backs or quarterbacks. However, the value of those defensive ends isn’t typically that high because they don’t impact the running-game as they only really focus on rushing the passer. That has been a problem for many of the Lions’ defensive linemen in recent years.

Having lost Cliff Avril, the Lions needed to land a defensive end, but it was definitely not their priority. The Lions needed an offensive tackle and allowed the top three to go off the board ahead of them. Now they face the prospect of entering the season with Riley Reiff at left tackle, a player who is unsuited to protect Matthew Stafford, on an offense that set record a record for passing attempts last year.

Ansah will have to be special from the get-go for this pick to be considered the right move. By not looking to protect Matthew Stafford, the franchise is going against the identity it has previously established.

 

Tavon Austin to the Rams.
Everyone knew that the Rams were interested in Austin entering the draft, but nobody was certain that they would be willing to trade into the top 10 to land him. They eventually did, giving up a second round pick, swapping third round picks and giving up a late round pick. Considering they could have had DeAndre Hopkins without giving up those picks, the Rams paid too heavy of a price for Austin.

Austin is a special prospect and he may one day be a superstar receiver. However, he is more likely to spend the majority of his career on IR than any other player coming out this season and he still needs to prove his ability to consistently make receptions over the middle and move the chains in situational football. Austin also handicaps the different formations that the Rams can use, while Hopkins wouldn’t have offered them greater flexibility and a surer prospect.

The value of a smaller receiver isn’t the issue here, in the right scenario Austin could be a dominant player, but the value of Austin compared to the rest of this talented receiving class is. The Rams did later trade down with their second first round pick, but they hurt the overall value of their draft and cost themselves a chance to improve their roster elsewhere by reaching for a specific receiver who has as many questions as answers.

 

Bjoern Werner to the Colts
It’s not so much the actual choice here by the Colts that bothers me, but instead the fact that this move compounds the addition of Erik Walden in free agency. Yes, Walden and Werner were brought in for different roles in Chuck Pagano’s defense, so Werner will be a situational-rusher and heir apparent to Robert Mathis, but what real value is there in Walden that isn’t there in Werner?

It’s a passing league, so an overpaid and largely ineffective run-stuffing linebacker isn’t really an ideal piece to have on any roster. If the Colts hadn’t signed Walden and then drafted Werner to immediately start, creating an impressive pass-rushing combination that could capitalise on teams that were playing from behind would make a lot more sense for a team with Andrew Luck on offense.

Maybe Werner will beat out Walden and start from day one, but at best that means they have taken a notable cap hit for no real reason.

 

Other Bad Moves: Travis Frederick to the Cowboys, Alec Ogletree to the Rams, Jarvis Jones to the Steelers.

You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf

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