The 2013 NFL Draft: Winners, Losers and Mixed Messages
The 2013 NFL Draft was predicted by many to be more about role players than skill players. This draft did not disappoint with a flurry of moves the best draft prognosticator couldn't predict.
Many of the teams made decisions they do not normally make due to the considerable depth in the trenches, linebacker and secondary. Some of these teams were big winners, others were big losers, but many teams had mixed results in a draft that set-up perfectly for all involved.
1) Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings were a surprise contender last season with Adrian Peterson carrying the team. With two first-round picks in their pocket, the Vikings made a gutsy trade with the Patriots to jump back into the first-round for a third time.
Jimmy Johnson always said it's not the number of picks you have, but what you do with them that counts. They added the best defensive tackle in the draft, Sharrif Floyd, who somehow slipped all the way to #23 overall. Minnesota drafted a much needed upgrade at the cornerback position with Xavier Rhodes and replaced Percy Harvin with Cordarrelle Patterson. Wide receiver was one of the weak positions in this draft, but Patterson was one of the impact players available. Add in Gerald Hodges with their fourth-round pick and the Vikings are set to take a big step forward in 2013.
2) San Francisco - The defending NFC Champions may have widened the gap with the rest of the conference. The Niners were aggressive, moving both up and back in the draft. Safety Eric Reid will make an immediate impact in a secondary that needed the help.
San Francisco also added some depth along the defensive line with Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier and Quinton Dial. Drafting Marcus Lattimore in the fourth-round may have been the steal of the draft. He is a potentially explosive running back and the Niners, with Frank Gore giving no indication of slowing down, have the time to wait for him to recover from knee surgery.
3) Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals were one of the teams everyone wanted to keep an eye on for a variety of reasons. This draft set up perfectly for Arizona who need to completely rebuild their offensive line before addressing the quarterback position. Many expected the Cardinals to make another mistake with a quarterback, but to their credit they used this draft to focus on improvements they can make with the prospects available. Jonathan Cooper was the best player available after an early run on offensive linemen.
The Cardinals followed with some intriguing picks that could give the Cardinals a very good defense immediately. Linebacker Kevin Minter in the second and defensive end Alex Okafor, a steal in the fourth, should make an immediate impact on the Cardinals defense. They did reach for cornerback Tyrann Mathieu in the third-round because no one really knows what they will get out of him. He was suspended last August after numerous failed drug tests and will have to submit a weekly test for the NFL. The Cardinals have done their homework on Mathieu and his talent makes it worth the risk.
1) New York Jets - The Dee Milliner pick in the first-round was a good move. He was the best corner on the board despite his medical history. However, they passed on Sharrif Floyd and the mistakes began to fall throughout the draft. Geno Smith was a mistake in the second-round because he isn't ready to start in the NFL. Mark Sanchez may not be the answer at quarterback, but the Jets could have waited a year to address the position. They made some good moves with their offensive line and defense, but they could have drafted better early in the draft.
2) Buffalo Bills - The Bills made a costly mistake drafting E.J. Manuel in the first-round. He is not ready for the NFL and will likely be rushed into starting in Buffalo. With numerous needs to address, the Bills decided to ignore crucial holes on the roster. Despite a wide receiver position that was weak in this draft, the Bills drafted multiple receivers. They should have focused on building an offensive line to protect Manuel. Accumulating wide receivers will give the Bills more weapons, but what impact can they have if the offensive line cannot protect the quarterback? Many of the Bills picks will have to be a surprise for this draft to be considered a success.
3) Philip Rivers and Tony Romo - Both the Chargers and Cowboys entered the draft with numerous holes on the offensive line. This is more important for Rivers who is not as mobile as Romo, but both players really need some protection. The Chargers took D.J Flucker in the first-round then ignored the position. After taking a center in the first-round, Jerry Jones decided it was more important to add weapons in the passing game. In a draft filled with quality offensive linemen in every round, these teams chose to go in a different direction.
1) Cleveland Browns - In the first-round, Cleveland selected an impact pass rusher, Barkevious Mingo, who will join one of the more physical defensive lines in the league. The Browns endured some bad luck with a cornerback run late in the second-round, but they did find a value pick in Leon McFadden.
McFadden will need time to develop, but he has the potential to make an impact in the secondary down the road. The Browns drafted well through the third-round, but the wheels fell off in the fourth when they decided to start trading down. Despite having quality players left on the board, the Browns began accumulating future draft picks. While the Browns are not expected to contend for a playoff spot this year, they had many opportunities to improve their roster on the last day of the draft.
2) Dallas Cowboys - After a poor first day, Dallas rebounded just enough to keep themselves out of the losing category. They gave away their first-round pick to San Francisco before drafting Travis Frederick. The center from Wisconsin has a lot of talent, but most teams gave him a third-round grade.
Dallas drafted tight end Gavin Escobar in the second-round instead of focusing their attention along the offensive and defensive lines. Escobar may be good in the passing game, but he has very poor blocking skills. Following two confusing rounds, Jerry Jones decided to start listening to his scouts again and took some high value picks. Wide receiver Terrance Williams and running back Joseph Randle can make an impact this season. Considering DeMarco Murray's track record with injuries, Randle gives Dallas much needed depth in the running game. The Cowboys' draft may have been filled with flaws, but the final day helped Dallas avert disaster.
This draft was unique, an opportunity for many of the teams in the league to take a huge step forward. While most took advantage of the opportunity, other teams made the same mistakes they always make. The results won't be known until the season begins, but teams who have struggled for many years may find themselves in the mix for a playoff spot.