Some thought Eddie Lacy
could go to Green Bay in Round 1, but the Packers
snagged him late in Round 2. (Damian Strohmeyer/SI)
This year's NFL Draft was as hard to predict as any in recent memory, and the way in which Friday's and Saturday's action unfolded certainly verified that. With skill-position players slipping and Day 1 dominated by offensive lineman, the weekend was an exercise in finding value and capitalizing on the depth of this class.
Which teams succeeded in that goal and which fell victim to an ever-shifting draft board? We take a look at 10 players who were steals at their spots in the draft ... and 10 who should have stuck around a little longer.
• Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals (No. 21): There were multiple teams in the top 15 that could have justified taking Eifert, including the Bills at No. 8 (originally) and the Jets at 9. Cincinnati pounced later, and this pick was really the starting point for a run of possible steals -- Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson to Minnesota at 23, 25 and 29, respectively; Datone Jones to the Packers at 26; Sylvester Williams at 28 to Denver; and Alec Ogletree to St. Louis at 30.
• Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, RBs, Packers (Nos. 61 and 125): First, Lacy dropped to Green Bay late in Round 2. Then, the same scenario played out with Franklin at almost exactly the same spot in Round 4. These backs could have been the top two off the board at their position and no one would have batted an eye.
• Arthur Brown, LB, Ravens (No. 56): Kudos to the Ravens for trading up when Brown was available here. Four other linebackers came off the board before Brown in Round 2, including Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter. Brown could be better than them all from the get-go.
• Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers (No. 76): Allen has been slow to get back from a knee injury. Had he been healthy through the pre-draft process, he probably would have been a Round 1 pick -- and maybe even the first receiver taken.
• Damontre Moore, DE, Giants (No. 81); Alex Okafor, DE, Cardinals (No. 103): A pair of falling pass-rushers, Moore dropped to Round 3 and Okafor to Round 4. The knocks on Moore in the past weeks all centered on a questionable work ethic, while Okafor was viewed as a bit of a one-trick pony up front. Given some chances though, both will produce.
• Barrett Jones, C, Rams (No. 113): Jones lined up all over Alabama's line and held his own, though scouts knocked his apparent lack of athleticism. But for a team like St. Louis that needed line help, particularly at guard, Jones' versatility will pay dividends.
• Phillip Thomas, S, Redskins (No. 119): The Redskins, down a first-round pick, waited until Round 4 to address their weak spot at safety. Their patience was rewarded as they landed two ball-hawking players in Thomas and Georgia's Bacarri Rambo. The only issue with the latter pick of Rambo (another potential steal at 191): His game is extremely similar to Thomas', so it may be hard for both to be on the field.
• Quinton Patton, WR, 49ers (No. 128): Somehow, almost every pick San Francisco made in the first four rounds felt like thievery. That includes this one, a late Round 4 swipe of a receiver that was more productive than most other prospects at his position. Patton will be a handful for defenses as the 49ers' third or fourth receiver.
• Jesse Williams, DT, Seahawks (No. 137): Williams suffered a knee injury back in the SEC title game, and the lingering effects of that ailment drove him down the board. The rest of the league's loss is Seattle's gain. Many people (including yours truly) thought the 49ers might take Williams at No. 34 overall; Seattle nabbed the big, athletic lineman more than 100 picks later.
• Jordan Poyer, CB, Eagles (218): How did this happen? Poyer seemed to be firmly planted in the second tier of cornerbacks in this draft, below Dee Milliner, Desmond Trufant or Xavier Rhodes but certainly worthy of Day 2 consideration. Instead, Poyer somehow slipped into Round 7. Philadelphia won't regret giving him a shot there.
• E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills (No. 13): When a new head coach comes to town, especially when he brings a different offense with him, he wants a hand-picked guy at QB. So, that's the explanation for why Doug Marrone asked for Manuel in Round 1. The problem, however, is that Manuel did not appear to be a Round 1 talent and he always struggled to produce at an elite level in college. Had Buffalo not taken him here, he might have slipped a couple of rounds.
• Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys (No. 31): The Cowboys used the 31st pick on Frederick, then Brian Schwenke went to Tennessee at 107. I'm not sure Frederick is even the better of the two prospects, let alone 76 picks better. Dallas needed to bulk up its line, so that was the aim here. It's still a reach.
• Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers (No. 48): You'll probably hear a lot about how Bell fits the Steelers mold, so from their perspective, that may be all that matters. This is still higher than Bell should have gone -- even more so considering that Lacy, Franklin, Montee Ball and others were on the board.
• Jon Bostic, LB, Bears (No. 50): The fault is not in the Bears addressing their need at linebacker. It's in taking Bostic, probably a Round 3 guy if Chicago passes, in the top 50, six selections before Arthur Brown heard his name called.
• David Amerson, CB, Redskins (No. 51): There is not a lot of middle ground here. Either Amerson improves dramatically as a man-to-man cover guy or he bombs as an NFL cornerback. Maybe the Redskins will hide him in zone or slide him to safety, but there were better cornerbacks for the taking here.
• Kayvon Webster, CB, Broncos (No. 90): This happens frequently in the draft -- a team simply values an intriguing prospect much more favorably than just about anyone else. Webster could develop into a solid contributor and he does not need to do a whole lot early, so there's time to grow. Webster, however, probably would have been around in Round 4 or 5.
• Duron Harmon, S, Patriots (No. 91): And Harmon might have been around during the undrafted free-agent process that will be begin this weekend. Bill Belichick has a habit of doing this at least once a draft -- nabbing a player that is not really on anyone's radar.
• Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs (No. 96): Davis missed all of 2011 with a serious ankle injury and he was not the same player after coming back last year. Was Davis worth taking a shot on? Absolutely. Was he worth taking a shot on in Round 3, with Franklin or even Marcus Lattimore on the board? Nope.
• Edmund Kugbila, G, Panthers (No. 108): Never heard of him? You're forgiven. Kugbila was a fringe prospect out of tiny Valdosta State. The Panthers can afford to spend time developing Kugbila, and yet it's hard to imagine anyone else was jumping at him in Round 4.
• Jeff Locke, P, Vikings (No. 155); Sam Martin, P, Lions (No. 165):
Both guys (especially Locke) have big legs, and the Lions were the worst punting team in the league last season. There won't be many punter picks, though, that get high marks -- doubly true in Round 5 of a deep draft.