The 2012 NFL kicked off last night, and I thought, for the most part, teams were able to find a great deal of talent. Plenty of teams filled needs and added players that will soon be difference-makers at the next level. Here are some of my favorite and least favorite picks of the first round:
Trent Richardson - Cleveland 3rd: Usually, I would be opposed to drafting a running back this early. There is such an immense amount of talent at the running back position these days that a team can often find their guy in a middle-round or in free agency. However, guys like Richardson do not come around often. He is by far the best college running back I've seen since Adrian Peterson. He has the same unteachable balance and tackle breaking ability as Marshawn Lynch, plus speed and elusiveness similar to Ray Rice. He is a complete package and will wear down defenses unlike any runner in the NFL. As Jon Gruden said, when you tackle Richardson you have to make a business decision. Trying to hold your ground against him is like putting your chest to a counter-top and having Norm Duke send a bowling ball into your chest. In the AFC North, you need to be able to run the ball so your defense can catch their breath. Richardson will keep the chains moving in Cleveland. Finally, a great pick for the Browns.
Morris Claiborne - Dallas 6th: I believe it was Jerry Jones who said the best way to help Tony Romo is by improving the defense. Well that is just what Morris Claiborne will do for the Cowboys. Romo can get the job done. Anyone who plays through a punctured lung and beats the NFL's best defense (49ers) in overtime has my support. If Miles Austin can get healthy and Dez Bryant can get sane, the offense will be just fine. The defense is solid, but with Terrence Newman leaving and Mike Jenkins underachieving, cornerback needed to be addressed for this team that will face Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and RG3 twice a year. Pairing Claiborne with newly acquired Brandon Carr solidifies a potentially spectacular cornerback tandem.
Fletcher Cox - Philadelphia 12th: Last year, I said that the Eagles would be "good." I was thinking somewhere in the 9-10 win range. Why did I doubt the dream team? Because the middle of their defense is a gaping hole. By trading up to the 12th pick from 15, the Eagles snagged a guy who some were saying could be drafted in the top 5. They filled an incredibly strong need. This pick won't only improve the Eagles run defense, but it will keep opposing pass protection from focusing solely on their great outside pass rushers. Good player, huge need, great pick.
Michael Floyd - Arizona 13th: The Cardinals needed to find a way to give Larry Fitzgerald some breathing room in the secondary. They also needed to find a weapon for the (predictably) struggling Kevin Kolb. Well, they killed two birds with one stone with this pick. Michael Floyd is very similar to Justin Blackmon: big and physical with good hands and a great ability to grab jump balls. Floyd has the mentality of a bust, but playing opposite Fitz will be the best thing to happen to his career. Fitz will keep him in check and teach him all the right ways to prepare for the season. The Cardinals passing game now has a nice dual threat.
Least Favorite Picks (cont.)
Bruce Irvin - Seattle 15th: Once again, I don't have a problem with this player. Spark plug of a pass rusher. Can be a huge difference-maker in pass rushing situations. However, just a week or two ago, I was reading that the Raiders were hoping to get him at 95. Ninety-five. I get the feeling that the Seahawks could have traded down, gained some picks in later rounds, and still gotten their guy.
There were a lot of other picks I liked, not many that I hated, but those were the ones I felt strongly about.
Don't dismiss the draft just yet. Plenty of Pro Bowlers have to wait until the second round to hear their names called.