First Round Grades: Redskins, NFC East, and notables

Well, that sure was anti-climactic. 

The Redskins made it official just about 30 minutes into the draft last night, taking the player many of us predicted they would at the top of the draft, solidifying their biggest weakness in personnel. 

Trent "Silverback... wtf???" Williams, as the panel of experts/idiots on ESPN said, is not a totally complete package yet, but he clearly has the most upside of any tackle in the draft. Williams is a natural athlete (34 inch vertical when you weigh 315?) who has not seen his potential yet. And, as (I think) Jon Gruden was saying when the Redskins made the pick, when you pick at 4, you want a guy with some upside. Russel Okung will be a good player, but when it's all said and done... I trust Shanahan. And so should you. 

Below I will grade the Redskins pick, discuss the rest of the division, and give some highlights and lowlights of the first round. 

Now for some grades:

Redskins: So when all of us said we wanted Okung over Williams, why was that exactly? Here's what we knew about both -- Okung is perceived as the more complete player. He put up better strength numbers at the combine. He's the "sure thing." (So was Robert Gallery.) Williams is perceived as the better athlete, perhaps the best athlete in the draft at his position (Bruce Campbell, maybe). He is versatile, as he played both sides of the line in college. Many commenters in here have acted like that's a bad thing... Is it? He played this entire season at left tackle and did a good job there, obviously, if he was picked so high. 

The next thing I have to say is the most important thing in this entire post. Are you ready for it? Ok. Who do you trust more, your gut, Mel Kiper or Mike Shanahan? 

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had Okung rated as the higher pick -- by a nose (Williams was #6 overall, Okung #5 overall on Scouts Inc). Mel Kiper also had Jimmy Clausen as his 4th best available player overall, and every team in the first round passed on him. These guys also said Robert Gallery was the best tackle prospect in 2004, when the Raiders passed on Phil Rivers, Sean Taylor, Larry Fitzgerald, DeAngelo Hall, Ben Roethlisberger, Jonathon Vilma, etc.

My point is that you, me, and Mel Kiper all are just not 1/100th as good at evaluating TEAM-SPECIFIC NFL talent as Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen, and the underrated Redskins scouting staff (that used to never have a say in the Cerrato era). Mike Shanahan knew what he wanted in his tackle. Do you think he said, "Oh damn, I wish I had known Russell Okung was still available!" after he made his pick? No. Those ratings on ESPN's "Best Available" are total BS. Williams doubters: did you personally break down the tape and say Okung is the better player? If you did, would you be qualified to do so and have an opinion for a zone-blocking scheme that requires the kind of players who are fast, mean and athletic (ie, Wiliams?) We got our man, the man that our Hall of Fame Coach believes was the best tackle for the Redskins in the draft, and with that I finally get to the Redskins grade for pick 1: A for taking the player that best fits their scheme at a position of extreme need. 

Man, that felt good. Let's move on to the rest of the NFC East.

NFC East Grades

Cowboys: We all knew they were going with Dez Bryant as soon as they traded up ahead of the Ravens. Grabbing who many considered to be the best WR in the draft at 24 was a great deal for the Cowboys, who now can boast the strongest WR corps in the NFC East, in my opinion, if Miles Austin can keep it up and you consider Jason Witten is still really Romo's #1 target. (So much for that Roy Williams idiot, right? He's probably #3 by the end of the season. Hilarious.) As New Orleans and Indianapolis showed, there is no such thing as having too many good receivers. Frankly, I think this was a great pick for the Cowboys as Bryant's "attitude problems" seemed to me to be pretty minor. He's got that idiotic swagger that will make him perfect for the despised Cowboys and I look forward to seeing LaRon Landry give him a true NFL welcome in week 1. Grade: B+ for great value and a great player, but ignoring some other needs (OT, DL).

Giants: When the Giants were picking, did anyone else think to themselves, "I'd hate to see Jason Pierre-Paul for the next 10 years, but why would they pick him when they have Tuck, Osi and Kiwanuka?" I was pretty floored when they decided to use ANOTHER pick on a speed-rusher when they are currently overstocked with them. They must have some other needs, right? I was very happy they didn't end up with Rolando McClain, as MLB is definitely a position of need for them. They will address that need later in the draft, certainly. But The Giants had a really weak defense last season, and still have a big hole at cornerback beyond Corey Webster. My impression was the Giants needed help at tackle on both sides of the line and in the secondary, yet they got a project-type athlete who is good for one thing (pass rushing in open space? and, alright, doing backflips after big wins?). I think JPP will be a good NFL player, but he is not going to be as good as the Giants hope, and certainly not right away. Grade: B- for not picking an NFL-game-ready player and ignoring some pressing needs, but recovering due to the potential of such a great athlete and getting good value at 15.

Eagles: I'm gonna be honest: I have no clue what the Eagles are doing this off-season. They are going super-duper young, which is great in theory, but is there a team in the NFL with more question marks coming into this season? First, they trade the best player in Eagles history, Donovan McNabb, inside the division for a guy with two career starts under his belt. Then, they trade up -- losing some of their millions of draft picks in the process -- to draft a guy that I don't think anyone saw going so high (although, I'm sure they had intel stating otherwise in order to pull the trigger). Despite having lost a lot in the secondary in the last few years -- Sheldon Brown left via trade this year, Brian Dawkins has not been replaced -- they passed on Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays and a lot of strong corners. The Eagles also passed on a bunch of linebacker prospects -- many of whom are still available, meaning they'll probably get one with the Donovan pick in the 2nd round -- despite starting rookie undrafted free agent Moise Fokou (yeah Terps!) last season and letting Will Witherspoon walk this offseason. The Eagles still have a bunch of needs (RB, OL) in addition to the ones above, yet they picked a good pass-rushing DL instead. Interesting. Sure tells you what the NFC East thinks about the importance of getting to the quarterback. Makes you happy the 'Skins have Orakpo for the foreseeable future, right? I digress. Grade: C for taking a guy that seemed out of place that high in the round and ignoring big-time needs.

Superlative Section:

Best First Round: Seattle. They addressed a need at left tackle, getting Russell Okung, and they also snagged the top safety in the class, Earl Thomas. They got two starters they can feel great about for the next decade at positions at which they needed help. They did a great job. (For fun, here's a quote about Trent Williams and Okung by the Seahawks line coach, Alex Gibbs, who worked with Mike Shanahan for many years: It was obvious [Okung] was one of the top, top players in this draft," Alex Gibbs, Seattle’s new line coach, told reporters. "He and Trent Williams both went very quickly. We'd have loved to have either one of them."

Biggest Head-Scratchers: There were so many, I can't name just one. Jacksonville's selection at #10 of a gentleman I've never heard of, Tyson Alualu, baffled me. So did Buffalo's choice of CJ Spiller at#9, an amazing player, but without a good line or a quarterback, and on a team with Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, was that their best move? 

Team Most Likely to be the next Saints/Cardinals/team that sucked for eternity to come out of nowhere and be the world's most fun team to watch in a few years: The Lions. In their last few drafts, they've added Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best in the first round. In a few years, all will be annual Pro Bowl selections (if Best can stay healthy). I think Best isn't much of a drop from CJ Spiller, personally, and I think Matt Stafford has to be happy with the options he has on offense next year. The Lions are going to be fun to watch in a few years, especially if Suh is anywhere near as good as I think he will be. 

Most likely to do nothing for two years then be great: Tim Tebow. I wrote this much, you have to let me indulge in a little Tebow talk. My personal opinion is that Tim Tebow would get crushed on an NFL field if you put him out there today. He was never that great of a passer at Florida, but he got the job done by giving it all he had and making plays with his feet. He's a natural athlete and leader with a serious work ethic. I think he's a bit overrated in those regards (there are a lot of leaders and athletes and workers in the NFL), but it's clear he's done quite a lot at Florida and rallied his teammates week in and week out. I do believe Tebow will be an NFL starter one day. He will need to be vigorously coached in order to do so, but Josh McDaniels knows what he's doing with quarterbacks given his time with Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. I think Tebow will be starting in Denver by 2012 or 2013, and will be nothing but a positive influence in the locker room in the meantime, never bad, especially on a team that just dealt with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall for the last few seasons. 

Most Nervous Organization on 4/23/2010: The Rams. They just bet the farm on a guy who's played 2 football games in the last year, while passing on Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and (you name him, a lot of great players went in the draft yesterday). I still think the Rams are the most likely destination for Jason Campbell, because I really don't think they're going to want to start Bradford from day 1. The NFL is a gigantic step up from Oklahoma, especially at quarterback. He's going to need a lot of time to adjust, and with that offense and that shoulder, I think it's wise to sit him for a while. I think Bradford could be quite good, but the Rams did not just get the world's most sure thing at QB at #1 overall, a tough position to be in. Hopefully they boost their offense today in rounds 2 and 3. 

Best picks on the board: Sergio Kindle, Colt McCoy, Bruce Campbell, and... oh yeah... Jimmy Clausen. Anyone watch Brian Orakpo when he was in college? That guy who played just like him on the other side of the defense was Sergio Kindle. I'm really surprised he is available at this point in the draft. He looked great for Texas this season and is a great fit for 3-4, I think. Colt McCoy, in my opinion, was just as good of as a quarterback as anyone in the country this season, and I think he will be a good NFL starter, probably a lot sooner than Bradford or Tebow, depending on where he lands. Bruce Campbell is a complete homer pick (I go to UMD), but I definitely believe he was the victim of the rare overrated-because-he's-a-filthy-athlete-then-underrated-because-everyone-called-him-overrated syndrome. He has a lot of holes in his game at OT, but he is just a great athlete and one of the strongest and fastest tackles in the draft. I think he's going to be a good pro if he's well-coached and isn't asked to do too much too early. And lastly, Jimmy Clausen. That deep sigh of relief and that smirk you're wearing on your face? Is it there when you read Clausen's name just now? It is for me. Kiper and McShay yammered on and on for months about how the Redskins had to take him at #4 because he was just SOOO amazing. 32 picks, no Clausen. Clearly, NFL scouts actually watched the ND games this season, when Clausen just flat out was not that impressive. We should all be glad the Redskins didn't pick him. 

I'm extremely doubtful the Redskins will be picking today (they'd have to trade someone good in order to do so), but this article is definitely long enough to get you through the first couple picks in the second round. Go Skins, and let's all get excited for Trent Williams!

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