Snap Judgments: Need, speed dominate first day of NFL draft
IRVING, Texas -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we put a wrap on the marquee day of the NFL's annual pick-fest, from our vantage point of deep in the heart of Texas....
• What hit home again Saturday was that the first round of the NFL Draft has now evolved into an exercise where teams have just three criteria for selecting players: Need, need and more need. All the elaborate and tedious work that teams put into ranking the best available players on their draft board takes a quick backseat to the urgency of filling a vacancy on the depth chart.
--Need is largely why there were eight trades in Saturday's wild and wooly first round, with teams hop-scotching their way all over the draft board to get the players they required.
--Need is why the Saints absolutely felt they had to trade up from No. 10 to No. 7 and get USC defensive tackle
--Need is why Jacksonville felt compelled to travel all the way from 26th to No. 8 to land the defensive end -- Florida's
--Need saw the Chiefs bounce up a couple notches from 17 to 15 to ensure themselves of getting the offensive tackle -- Virginia's
--Need was behind Carolina giving Philadelphia a ton for its No. 19 pick, which the Panthers used to select an offensive tackle they loved in Pitt's
--And need made teams like Atlanta and Houston reach for a couple offensive tackles in USC's
There isn't even any more lip service really paid to the notion of taking the best available athlete when a team's first-round turn comes around. It's a need-driven draft. More than ever.
In Dallas, where I'm spending draft weekend, the big controversy centers on the question of the Cowboys selecting Arkansas running back
I thought Jones was at least honest when he and Cowboys head coach
"Barber, in my mind, gave us the luxury of having a different kind of back,'' Jerry Jones said. "You really will get the most out of [Felix Jones] if you have someone [sharing the load with him]. We're committed to a two-back approach. And Felix has shown he flourishes in a two-back system. That's no issue with Felix.''
Jerry Jones wouldn't say this in so many words, but Dallas wanted Felix Jones because he fit what the Cowboys think they need, higher ranking for Mendenhall be dammed. Thus, Dallas very willingly spent a first-round pick on a runner who will technically be a backup. That's just the reality. The Cowboys would have preferred that Mendenhall hadn't lingered on the board, prompting all these pesky questions about comparative value. Jones was the guy the Cowboys thought they needed, so they took him. End of story.
That's how the first round in the NFL works these days.
• The juxtaposition was so stark that it immediately jumped to mind. Watching
It was at last year's draft, which I covered from Radio City Music Hall in New York, that then Falcons quarterback
Just days earlier, the Vick dog-fighting story had broken. In a meeting with Goodell, Vick assured the commissioner he had nothing to do with the operation, but had been the victim of actions undertaken by family members. At the time, Goodell chose to believe him, but he warned Vick that he would consider the quarterback responsible for the actions and decisions of family members and associates.
We now know the rest of the story. Fast forward to this year on draft Saturday, Vick is in prison, and the Falcons are debuting a new franchise quarterback in Boston College's Ryan, the third overall pick.
My, what a difference a year makes.
• Long live Goodell. The first two rounds of the draft flew by on Saturday, and we've got the Commish to thank for that with his new edict for up-tempo picking. Last year's record first round took an agonizing six hours and four minutes, while the first two rounds this year were done in just 5:50.
Somehow, some way, NFL teams conducted their business more quickly, and the union still managed to survive. Praise be.
• Speaking of Goodell, I think he might have authored my quote of the day. Asked in a pre-draft interview on ESPN what his reaction would be if ex-Patriots video assistant
"I'll be disappointed, because it's been so widely reported that there is a tape. But on the other hand, I won't be disappointed for the game of football.''
Pretty good assessment of what a lot of people are going to be saying if there's no walk-through tape.
• We're among those who hate the idea of grading a draft instantly, even before the players ever put on a uniform for their new team, but that doesn't mean we come out of Saturday's events without opinions.
How can you not consider Kansas City a big first-day winner? The Chiefs landed a potentially dominant defensive tackle at No. 5 in
The Chiefs then further made their day with their second-round pick, No. 35 overall, grabbing Virginia Tech cornerback
Said one veteran NFL personnel man to me on Saturday: "The Chiefs, that was a stroke of genius to come out of the first round with both Dorsey and Albert. A stroke of genius. That's a great round.''
• If there was a position that got over-picked, it was offensive tackle, where a whopping eight players went, led by No. 1 overall selection
Nobody I talked to had any quibbles about the first six tackles taken, but many eyebrows were raised around the league by Atlanta trading back into the round at No. 21 with Washington to select USC's Baker, who was seen as a second-round pick. Even more surprising was Houston taking Virginia Tech's Brown with the 26th pick that once belonged to both Jacksonville and Baltimore on Saturday.
"Both of those guys, Baker and Brown, they're not first-round picks,'' a league scout told me. "They were second-round tackles. I was shocked by how quickly all those offensive tackles came off the board. I think once
• On the flip side, not having a receiver drafted in the first round for the first time since 1990 seemed about right for a crop of pass-catchers that never did inspire much excitement this draft season. Teams were just being smart not to overrate the likes of Michigan State's
Raise your hand if you had Houston's
Kudos to Washington, however, for landing both Thomas (34th) and Kelly (51st) in the second round. The Redskins wanted some big receivers after going for small guys in recent years, and they got two of this draft's better prospects in that department.
• Baltimore came away from the first-round with the quarterback I liked best among this year's class of passers, Delaware's
Though I bought some of the buzz surrounding Michigan quarterback
New Baltimore offensive coordinator
• Start the bidding for Oakland running back
• Picks I really liked in the first two rounds:
-- Buffalo going for Troy cornerback
-- Carolina taking
-- Seattle selecting USC defensive end
-- Green Bay taking Louisville quarterback
-- Ditto for Miami taking Michigan's
• Picks I really didn't like in the first two rounds:
-- Chicago choosing Vanderbilt offensive tackle
-- Tampa Bay taking Kansas cornerback
-- St. Louis taking Houston receiver Donnie Avery with the No. 33 pick, over the likes of Michigan State's Devin Thomas and Indiana's James Hardy. I guess the Rams wanted someone undersized.
• Just wondering, but could
Jerry Jones said an interesting thing on Saturday about Pacman. He said he'd rather have someone playing for him who has been knocked down a few times in life, because they know what it's like to have to get up again, rather than someone who has never experienced difficulty.
All I can say to that, Jerry, is you've got your man. You've got your man.