How to assessthis draft? I give the first-round run of seven offensive tackles (above) an A,but beyond that letter grades are out, groupings are in. These are the teamsthat got me thinking.
DRAFTING FORNEED, AND WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?
Start with the finest and most dedicated LB, Keith Rivers. Third-rounderPatrick Sims is a 310-pound DT who'll shore up the middle. WRs Jerome Simpsonand Andre Caldwell help cover the loss of Chris Henry and the moods of ChadJohnson.
Breathtakingly fast RB Felix Jones will team with Marion Barber. Mike Jenkins,a quality CB, will pair with Terence Newman. Martellus Bennett, an athletic TE,will replace Anthony Fasano (traded to Miami). Tashard Choice, a seriousbanger, provides still more backfield depth.
Talented S Kenny Phillips neatly fills the hole left by the departure of GibrilWilson. The off-season loss of two LBs is covered by an athletic pair of245-pounders, Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff.
To beat the Colts, you have to get at Peyton Manning. The first two picks wentfor edge rushers Derrick Harvey and Quentin Graves, though trading up 18 spots,to No. 8, for Harvey was a bit of a reach.
Linebacking corps aging? Plug in top pick Jerod Mayo, 242 pounds, 4.54 in the40. Mourning the loss of CBs Asante Samuel and Randall Gay? Here'ssecond-rounder Terrence Wheatley.
They wanted to trade up for their most pressing need, a big, quick defensivelineman, notably Glenn Dorsey. Sorry, price was too high, so they took LBSedrick Ellis. Believe me, they will not regret it. Second-round CB TracyPorter (4.37) helps the secondary get speedier.
WAIT A MINUTE
Enemy offenses run over a Chicago D built for speed rushing. Rex Grossman losesWRs Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad. So the first two picks are a smooth,athletic T, Chris Williams, and a grind-it-out RB, Matt Forte. One QB among 12picks would have helped.
They had trouble stopping the run, remember? Well, first-rounder Ryan Clady isa very functional T, but they didn't take a big defensive guy, DT CarltonPowell, until round 5.
The names will knock you out: DT Glenn Dorsey, OL Branden Albert, CB BrandonFlowers, 6'8" TE Brad Cottam. Two questions: How do you cover the loss ofAll-Pro DE Jared Allen (traded to Minnesota)? Do you really have a QB who canget you through a season?
Secondary's creaking, D-line needs help. So the first four picks go WR, TE, WR,G? Yes, Devin Thomas might be the best wideout in the draft, and Malcolm Kellyis a good possession man, but ...
John Fox is a tough guy. The first round brought pounding RB Jonathan Stewartand hard-nosed T Jeff Otah. Later came no-nonsense CB Charles Godfrey and solidILB Dan Connor.
The No. 1 pick, CB Aqib Talib, likes to get in people's faces, which Jon Grudendoesn't mind at all. Then comes little WR Dexter Jackson, who runs a 4.33.Speedy and annoying, that's Tampa Bay.
The nine picks average 6'3", 275, and at the top are 6'7", 315 T JakeLong; 6'5", 272 pocket-collapsing DE Phillip Merling and 6'2", 225 QBChad Henne, with a rifle arm. Bill Parcells likes 'em big.
The top pick, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is a terrific cover guy, butsecond-round DE Calais Campbell didn't reach his potential and third-round WREarly Doucet had a nagging groin injury.
Up and down the draft order they went until big Joe Flacco, the Delaware QB,fell into their laps. To make things interesting they grabbed RB Ray Rice, thegreatest Rutgers player since Paul Robeson.
I guess this is a way of saying that after top pick Kentwan Balmer, thelate-blooming DT, and G Chilo Rachal, the roughneck second-rounder, none of theNiners' other selections thrilled me.
Leodis McKelvin is a top-flight CB but an even better return man. QB TrentEdwards asked for a big target—how about 6'6", 220-pound WR JamesHardy?
Some interesting choices among nine picks, but two QBs? We can understand BrianBrohm, but why Matt Flynn?
Should have been loading up on pass-protecting lineman from the franchise'sstart, and now they finally get one—a finesse guy, T Duane Brown.
DE Chris Long makes sense. And so does beefy G John Greco, the third-rounder.But who insisted on WR Donnie Avery at No. 33 with better wideouts on theboard?
I CAN'T WAIT TOSEE ...
Trevor Laws, the second-round DT, show the world that a great run-plugginglineman is just as valuable as a sack artist.... Donovan McNabb get a look atsecond-round WR DeSean Jackson's 4.35 speed.
First-round RB Rashard Mendenhall carrying the ball in relief of WillieParker.... Big Ben playing skyball with 6'4", 212-pound WR, Limas Sweed,the second-round pick.... Classy fifth-round QB Dennis Dixon coming in for afew of those Kordell Stewart numbers.
Miami's nine picks average 6'3", 275 pounds. TheNo. 1 choice, Jake Long, is 6'7", 315. Bill Parcells LIKES 'EM BIG.
TOM DIPACE PHOTOGRAPHY
Jake Long, Michigan No. 1 • DOLPHINS
BRIAN LOSNESS/US PRESSWIRE
Ryan Clady, Boise State No. 12 • BRONCOS
NEIL BRAKE/VANDERBILT ATHLETICS
Chris Williams, Vanderbilt No. 14 • BEARS
Gosder Cherilus, Boston College No. 17 • LIONS
JIM OWENS/ICON SMI
Jeff Otah, Pittsburgh No. 19 • PANTHERS
JOSE/MARIN/MEDIA.ORG/CAL SPORT MEDIA
Sam Baker, USC No. 21 • FALCONS
RICH KANE/ICON SMI
Duane Brown, Virginia Tech No. 26 • TEXANS