Well that went well. The Dolphins threw value out the window and reached for the quarterback. OK. I will survive. With that out of the way let’s take a look at the year’s best draft classes.
1. Miami Dolphins.
13. (or so) Miami Dolphins
Despite their questionable first round pick the Dolphins did alright, I just have a burning need to talk about them first. The Dolphins nabbed a desperately needed right tackle in the second round in Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, a guy many thought could go in the first round. Miami might have opted for a WR like Stephen Hill or Alshon Jeffery, but I can’t argue with keeping the quarterback upright before getting star receivers.
In the third round Miami went local with Olivier Vernon, a former UM defensive end ready to replace Kendall Langford in the rotation. Not my favorite pick, but not too bad. Miami then went out and took a 6’5’’ tight end named Michael Egnew. I’m not ashamed to say I had never heard of him, and even though the Fins took Egnew over a guy I tabbed for success (Orson Charles) I’m happy with the pick. For years I’ve felt teams should take every former basketball playing tight end possible, and this guy Egnew fits the bill.
The move for RB Lamar Miller in the fourth round was great value, Miller is a steal there and will likely replace Reggie Bush, who is a free agent next year. As for Tannehill, he’s young and athletic and has time to learn, but this move still reeks of desperation. Time will tell, but it’s worth noting that Jacksonville, with the pick right before Miami, only paid a fourth-rounder to move up for Justin Blackmon. I’m happy for all my Jags fans out there, but Miami passed up a home run receiver for a guy being described as a “lottery ticket.” On the plus side, Tannehill does already know the offense, and he could always play receiver.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
The actual best draft class award must go to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Almost every year, the Steelers just sit there with a late first round pick and take somebody great that the rest of the NFL foolishly let slip. Or they trade back, get extra picks, and THEN take somebody great. The two times Pittsburgh traded up in the first round recently were for Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes.
This year, Pittsburgh stood pat in the first and took David DeCastro, a guard universally picked to be a perennial Pro Bowler. They followed that up with OT Mike Adams in the second round, another tackle many thought might go in the first. With Maurkice Pouncey already at center, the Steelers just built a nasty right side on the offensive line, and turned their biggest weakness last year into a strength. Sean Spence in the third round and Chris Rainey in the fifth round are two more underrated picks that will likely pan out for Pittsburgh, demonstrating why the best teams are the best teams – they recognize talent in the draft.
1. Indianapolis Colts
No, you know what, the Colts had the best draft by far. Yeah, Andrew Luck was an obvious pick, but so what. He is by far the best player in the draft. There is a reason all the bad teams wanted to Suck for Luck, this guy is going to win Super Bowls. The Colts also followed up by getting Luck the top two rated tight ends in the entire draft, including his Stanford teammate Coby Fleener. And at the end of the third round, the Colts moved up for the fastest receiver in the draft, FIU’s own T.Y. Hilton, a guy drawing comparisons to Victor Cruz. Hats off to Indy, they freaking nailed this draft.
3. New England Patriots
Belichick doesn’t get enough credit in the draft. Two years ago he got Rob Gronkowski in the second round and Aaron Hernandez in the fourth. Bill knows what he’s doing. This year, he finally played all his cards, trading up for likely the most athletic pass rusher in the draft, Chandler Jones, and another pass rusher people used to rate in the draft’s top 5 overall, Dont’a Hightower. Like the Steelers, the Patriots also turned their biggest hole into a strength with their top two picks.
4. New York Giants
Are you noticing a trend? The best teams in football are also the teams that draft the best! New York stayed put and filled their holes on offense with the last picks in the first and second round. David Wilson may have been a small reach in the first, but he and Reuben Randle will immediately contribute at RB and WR respectively. After losing Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, the Giants are re-loaded.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The last team I felt a need to note was Baltimore, who had Courtney Upshaw fall into their lap in the second round, and picked a potential diamond in the rough in the sixth with Tommy Streeter. These players fit the Ravens’ mold, and they got them below their actual value.
The other drafts I liked were the Bears and Bengals, two more teams that are already good at football. A quick note to Jacksonville, did you notice that none of the good teams picked a punter in the third round, or in any round? Drafting well is not rocket science. Find the best players in college football, balance their play on the field against the strength of their competition, and pick them as late in the draft as you can possibly get them. For a punter, that means not picking the guy at all. For a player like Chandler Jones or Justin Blackmon, sometimes that means trading up. And for Kellen Moore, the Boise State quarterback who wasn’t even drafted, that means picking up the phone as soon as the draft is over. What’s that? He’s already on the Lions? I guess Detroit just declared that they know a little about the draft too.