- Round 1: QB Matt Stafford
- Round 2: DE Charles Johnson
- Round 3: DT Henry Melton
- Round 4: LB Luke Kuechly
- Round 5: LT Orlando Franklin
- Round 6: WR Dwayne Bowe
- Round 7: C John Sullivan
- Round 8: RT Mitchell Schwartz
- Round 9: G Jon Asamoah
- Round 10: DT Mike Martin
- Round 11: S Rahim Moore
- Round 12: CB Chris Culliver
- Round 13: OLB Phillip Wheeler
- Round 14: DE Junior Galette
- Round 15: CB E.J. Biggers
- Round 16: WR Jacoby Jones
- Round 17:
- Round 18:
- Round 19:
- Round 20:
- Round 21:
- Round 22:
Round 1, Pick 14: Matt Stafford, Quarterback
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Teams without franchise quarterbacks rarely see the light of gameday come mid-January. The Trent Dilfers and Brad Johnsons—and, perhaps, Joe Flaccos—of the world are the exceptions, not the rules.
Hence, I was somewhat shocked to find I had a choice between three such quarterbacks with the 14th overall pick. Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and recently minted hundred-millionaire Joe Flacco were all available. They may not be Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but this was still a tough decision.
Matt Ryan has been consistently good for the Falcons since he came in to the league. He is a huge reason they have made the playoffs four out of five years since he was drafted in 2008, and he is just now climbing into his prime. His draft classmate, Flacco, has not been nearly as consistent despite leading his team to the playoffs even more often, but he is coming off a torrid playoff run that could be a portent for the rest of the league.
Ultimately, however, Matthew Stafford’s talent was too tantalizing to pass up. Stafford may have regressed last season after a breakout performance in his first fully healthy year in 2011, but he still possesses the best arm talent in the league. He is 24 years old, and mechanics are his biggest issue. That means his problems can be corrected, which in turn means he could become one of the NFL’s great quarterbacks in the next few years.
Sure, Stafford has only been to the playoffs once, notching a loss in his only appearance, but the 24-year-old has thrown for over 10,000 yards in his first two fully healthy seasons. (Though, admittedly, having Calvin Johnson and dropping back to pass roughly 70,000 times has helped.) His upside was too big to ignore, though; this being a draft focusing both on immediate and long-term success, he presented the best of both worlds. I am confident he can master his failing footwork and get to the next level as a NFL quarterback.
Even if these three weren’t there, quarterback was my priority in the first round. While there were certainly some elite players at other positions available, the fear of being stuck choosing between Mark Sanchez, John Skelton and a wet slice of bread kept my wandering mind in check.
Round 2, Pick 51: Charles Johnson, Defensive End
There are better, more versatile pass-rushers in the league, but they were all snapped up before the 52nd pick. Jason Pierre-Paul emerged as my clear target before Scott Kacsmer took him a few picks before me—an incredible value considering his talent, athleticism and youth—making Johnson my consolation prize. Demarcus Ware was also under consideration here, but he is five years older than Johnson and Russ Lande swiped him just before me.
Johnson is strictly a 4-3 defensive end, meaning my defense is now locked into some form of a four-man front. That puts me on a particular defensive track, but I was comfortable enough to make that decision given Johnson’s pass-rushing skills. The 26-year-old has amassed 33 sacks over the past three years, including 13.5 in 2010 and 12.5 last season. He pressured the quarterback on 15.4 percent of his defensive snaps last season—he sacked, hit or hurried the quarterback 75 times last year—good for fifth in the league just behind Geno Atkins.
He might not be JPP, but Johnson is a solid start in my front seven.
Round 3, Pick 83: Henry Melton, Defensive Tackle
Team Venture has gone into line-building mode after choosing our quarterback of the future.
Charles Johnson is a fine pass-rusher, and now he has an excellent pass-rushing defensive tackle playing alongside him. Henry Melton was recently slapped with the franchise tag by the Bears, and for good reason—Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije and Co. had some big-time pressure-relief in the middle.
There are a few reasons why Chicago’s defense was so good last year, and Melton was one of them. The 6’3″, 295-pound defensive tackle has been underrated, disruptive force in the middle for the Bears since 2010. His 13 sacks over the past two seasons from the 3-technique spot is second to Geno Atkins at the position, one ahead of the much-heralded—and sometimes-reviled—Ndamokung Suh. His 37 total quarterback pressures last season was good for fifth in the league at the defensive tackle position, and he played 200 to 300 fewer snaps than those ahead of him on the list.
Melton is not as strong against the run, but that is something he can develop. Like Johnson, Melton is just 26 years old. That gives me two great pass-rushers still shy of their prime in the first three rounds of this draft.
Round 4, Pick 109: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker
Imagine my surprise when the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year was still sitting there with the 14th pick of the fourth round? Granted, my DROY was Casey Hayward, who happened to be scooped up just one pick before mine here. Bobby Wagner was also a favorite rookie of mine last season, but he was nabbed a while back.
Team Venture targeted a couple of cornerbacks that wound up being off the board by the time our pick came up, but Luke Kuechly more than makes up for those losses. After all, he only led the league with 165 total tackles in 2012 despite playing out of position for the first three games of the year. The 4-3 defense now has a 21-year-old tackling machine anchoring the middle for years to come. Kuechly’s combination of instincts, intelligence, athleticism and motor are the reason he led the league in tackles as a rookie. He still has some work to do in coverage, but he has plenty of time to grow into an elite middle linebacker.
I did not go into this draft with a specific scheme in mind because I wanted to see how the draft board fell first, but this defense is shaping up to be a version of the Tampa-2. Kuechly makes for a nice lynchpin in this scheme, but it will be interesting to see what personnel fits elsewhere on the defense going forward.
Round 5, Pick 148: Orlando Franklin, Left Tackle
A dead mouse greeted me from my pillow as I prepared to go to bed, so here I am, wide awake… writing this:
Nabbing Orlando Franklin to play left tackle is a curious move, even to myself. There has been plenty of speculation that the Broncos might move the 6’7″ behemoth to guard—a bit large for the interior, incidentally—but their acquisition of Louis Vasquez has likely blocked that possibility. That he could play that well at right tackle and still be considered for the interior of the line only highlights him to be a versatile lineman.
Franklin actually played on the other side in college, having played both left guard and left tackle coming out of the University of Miami. He has been a right tackle for the Broncos thus far, but he has taken to the switch rather well. After a decent rookie year, the 25-year-old former Hurricane allowed just 26 total quarterback pressures last season, tied for seventh in the league among all offensive tackles. He was good enough to garner PFF’s seventh-best pass-blocking rating last season among all offensive tackles, though he did commit the second-most penalties at his position. He is also a good run-blocker, which is part of the reason Denver has talked about moving him inside.
It might be a bit of a risk to tab Franklin as my team’s left tackle—moving from one side to the other could prove disastrous—but I feel confident he can slide back into that position and perform well. The last round of picks left the cupboard bare at left tackle, and I think Franklin is talented enough to man the blind side. At worst, if the experiment fails, I can slide him to another position along the line and grab a left tackle in free agency or the draft.
Round 6, Pick 174: Dwayne Bowe, Wide Receiver
The supply of No. 1 receivers was dangerously low at the time, so I decided to pluck Dwayne Bowe up before it was too late.
The big receiver has put up good numbers in recent years despite dealing with the likes of Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn and Tyler Palko. He might not be a burner, but Bowe has been among the leaders in reception yards gained per pass route run at wide receiver. Bowe is a reliable receiver who is tough to bring down, and he is a plus blocker.
At 28, Bowe has entered his prime; it would be interesting to see what he can do with a great quarterback for once in his career. I wanted to give Matthew Stafford a good, big target after having worked some on my defensive front, and the timing seemed right.
Round 7, Pick 211: John Sullivan, Center
I went the more traditional route in taking Sullivan, one of the league’s best centers, rather than try to shuffle someone else around like I did with Orlando Franklin.
My goal is to create a good foundation on the offensive line by taking strong players on the outside and at center, and Sullivan fit that mold perfectly. The 27-year-old is a good pass blocker, and he is great in the run game. (Though I have yet to address the running game in earnest.) The 6’4″, 301-pound behemoth was too good to pass up at this stage, especially considering the recent run on centers.
Here is a guy I had thought about drafting over the past two rounds, and I was pleasantly surprised he lasted this long. Mitchell Schwartz will be Orlando Franklin’s bookend on the right side. Schwartz was one of the league’s best right tackles last season as a rookie, particularly as a pass blocker. He is also 23.
Round 9, Pick 275: Jon Asamoah, Right Guard
As if it weren’t evident by now, one of my goals was to build a strong offensive line. I am a big believer in strong trench play. Jon Asamoah was someone I had on my radar for a couple of rounds now, and I was thrilled and surprised he lasted this long. Playing in Kansas City has a way of making some players incognito, it seems.
Asamoah is a bit under the radar despite becoming one of the NFL’s better offensive guards since coming into the league in 2010. The 24-year-old is well-rounded, and he can play both sides. Depending on who I eventually take to complement him, Asamoah will stick to the right side on Team Venture; paired with right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and anchored by John Sullivan in the middle, Asamoah should make this of the best right sides in this entire RSP draft.
Round 10, Pick 302: Mike Martin, Defensive Tackle
Mike Martin is another one of those under-the-radar players I am glad fell to me. He wasn’t a big name heading into the 2012 draft, but he outplayed many of the highly touted defensive tackles as a rookie, at least on a per-snap basis. He is young, and he fits my 4-3 scheme nicely.
The former Wolverine was one of the strongest defensive line prospects coming into the draft, and he was surprisingly good as a pass-rusher. In fact, Martin’s overall rating at PFF fell just behind fellow Venture teammate Henry Melton’s, good for ninth in the league at the defensive tackle position. He was given a chance to shine when Jurrell Casey was injured mid-season, and he took full advantage.
Martin will have an even bigger chance to shine for Team Venture, who will make the 22-year-old a starter.
Round 11, Pick 338: Rahim Moore Safety
Yes, this is the same Rahim Moore of AFC Championship infamy. The second-year player took full responsibility for allowing Jacoby Jones to get behind him for a game-tying touchdown in the waning moments of the game, a feat for which he was widely mocked on social media. But forget the AFC Championship game; his 2012 was rather good otherwise.
The 23-year-old took over as a starter last season, and he performed well for the Broncos. Teams threw at him only 27 times last year, and he allowed just one touchdown during the regular season. He might have had just one interception too, but he was a ball-hawk in college—the interceptions will come.
I had a choice between Moore and a better veteran here, but youth trumped experience for me. I believe Moore will bounce back from his late-game brain cramp to become one of the league’s better free safeties over the next several years. Team Venture needed to get cracking on the secondary, and this is a nice start.
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