- Round 1: OLB/DE Aldon Smith
- Round 2: QB Jay Cutler
- Round 3: LT Andrew Whitworth
- Round 4: DT Michael Brockers
- Round 5: LB Lavonte David
- Round 6: G Evan Mathis
- Round 7: DE/DT Lamarr Houston
- Round 8: OT Eric Winston
- Round 9: CB Antoine Winfield
- Round 10: WR Mike Williams
- Round 11: TE Zach Miller
- Round 12: WR Reuben Randle
- Round 13: OLB/DE Kamerion Wimbley
- Round 14: RB Ryan Mathews
- Round 15: CB Bradley Fletcher
- Round 16: LB Nigel Bradham
- Round 17:
- Round 18:
- Round 19:
- Round 20:
- Round 21:
- Round 22:
Round 1, Pick 21: Aldon Smith, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End
I considered extending the QB run – an inevitable and probably correct start to this draft – with Sam Bradford. But I think quarterbacks are in deeper supply than ever before and if I don’t find one I like in the next few rounds, I’m willing to accept the consequences of needing to search for one in the next couple of drafts. More than anything else, though, given the choice between a QB like Bradford and taking a player that will help defend Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Robert Grifffin III and Colin Kaepernick, I’m going with the latter.
I think the best way to defend today’s wide variety of passing and read option offenses is with discipline up front and a strong third down approach to get off the field. There’s a great debate to be had about whether an edge rusher or cover corner is a better way to win on third down, but I lean slightly toward pressuring the pocket.
So, I took the best edge rusher on my board – Aldon Smith. Almost immediately, I had buyer’s remorse for passing on Geno Atkins, a feeling that my friend Sam Monson immediately hammered home by strongly advocating Atkins over Smith in our Twitter conversation. More on that in a minute.
First, there’s nothing wrong with Aldon Smith. Sure, he’s inconsistent and may not get a sack for long stretches. That’s the case with every edge rusher who plays 1000 snaps in a season. They take plays off, they get held without a penalty called, their counter move isn’t working well, they’re a little unlucky around the pocket. Over the past two seasons, Smith has averaged at least a quarterback pressure (pressure, hit or sack) once every five pass rushes according to Pro Football Focus. That’s dominant.
While it’s true that Smith did not record a sack after Justin Smith’s tricep injury last year, his pass rushing efficiency did not suffer. He hit or pressured the quarterback 26 times (again h/t to PFF) in his final six games including the playoffs. His success is not dependent on the presence of another pass rushing threat.
Finally, he’s a better run defender that you think and he’s proven that he can zone drop and hold his own in coverage.
Monson made some very good points. Atkins is more consistent and even more dominant than Smith has been. Pressure up the middle is arguably more valuable than pressure outside. And Atkins could probably be just as effective as a 5-technique as he is at 3-technique – a key point given that I’m drafting to play a multiple front scheme on defense.
Depending on which pass rushers are still available in the coming rounds, I may wish I’d taken Atkins and delayed my edge rushing pick until later.
For now, I’ll console my defensive coordinator with a guy who offenses will have to account for on every single snap.
Round 2, Pick 44: Jay Cutler, Quarterback
My plan in this exercise was to build an elite defensive unit early and pick my offensive spots later. So, I was hoping to draft Cameron Wake here. Or Darrelle Revis. Or Earl Thomas. Or Patrick Peterson. Or Haloti Ngata. All were taken.
There are definitely players I love that would be great fits in a versatile, multiple front defensive system left on my draft board. But I think many of them will be available later in this draft.
So, I’m turning my attention to the dark side of the line of scrimmage.
There’s not a lot to say about Jay Cutler. He’s not a sexy pick. But he’s got a big arm, can make any throw in the playbook and has no fear in the pocket. Those are attributes of a franchise quarterback. He would have represented good value in the late first round in this draft.
The next conundrum – Do I prioritize protecting Cutler over following my heart back to the defensive huddle.
Round 3, Pick 76: Andrew Whitworth, Offensive Tackle.
Again, I was disappointed to see a handful of targeted defensive players taken ahead of this pick. Muhammad Wilkerson, Lardarius Webb or Brandon Flowers would have been my pick had they lasted and Marcell Dareus and Justin Houston were also high on my “good fit for a multiple front scheme” list.
But it’s imperative that I protect Jay Cutler. So, I’m forsaking my defensive interests again and taking Andrew Whitworth.
Cutler is prone to poor decision-making, but he’s proven he’s willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit. I think many of his issues in recent years can be traced to brutal offensive line play. It’s impossible to execute Mike Martz’s deep timing route offense when you can’t get to your seven step drop without dodging edge rushers. Chicago’s offensive line was better at times last year, but greatly struggled with consistency.
There were four left tackles that I liked here – a list that also included Michael Roos, Branden Albert and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Ordinarily, that might mean I’d taken a player from another position and hope one of the four lasted until my next pick. That’s too big a risk with this position and this draft has broken my spirit too many times already.
I think Whitworth has long been an underrated pass blocker. In a division that has him facing Terrell Suggs and James Harrison and the complicated, often disguised pass rushing schemes of Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice a year, Whitworth has more than held his own. He’s finished first, second and second in PFF’s pass block ratings in the past three seasons.
An elite pass protecting left tackle serves a dual role for Cutler. Pass protection is key, but it’ll also allow flexibility in how I approach the tight end position and the route trees of my receivers – if Ian Kenyon leaves any for the rest of us.
With a little luck, we’ll get back to the defensive huddle next round.
Round 4, Pick 115: Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle
After missing out on players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Haloti Ngata and Marcell Dareus in earlier rounds, I’m pleased to add Michael Brockers make it to my fourth round pick.
Brockers was going to be more of a project than his mid-first round draft pedigree suggested, but he already began fulfilling some of his run-stuffing potential at the end of last season. His five sacks are a little misleading – they had more to do with Robert Quinn and Chris Long than any elite pass rush skill – but Brockers can still be a penetrating force in passing down subpackages.
There’s still room for Brockers to grow. And 2013 will be his age 22 season.
I’m planning to use the versatile Brockers at 5-techinque, 3-technique and possibly as a shade nose tackle in some nickel fronts. If he continues to improve, he’ll be just as important to the success of my defense as Aldon Smith.
Round 5, Pick 141: Lavonte David, Linebacker
I had a very hard time passing on players I liked at three other positions, but I couldn’t continue to pass on Lavonte David.
David may not seem like an obvious fit for a hybrid front scheme, but he’s more versatile than his measurements suggest. Though he’s listed under 235 pounds, he’s one of the more violent and downhill run defenders in the league.
But that’s not the reason I wanted him. David’s best attribute is his ability to thrive in man and zone coverage on any down. That’s a very nice chess piece to deploy against offenses with move tight ends, pass catching half backs and slot receivers running option routes on any down. There’s also more to his pass rush ability than he showed last year. He shouldn’t be typecast as a 4-3 WLB. He’s more Jon Beason or Daryl Washington or Derrick Brooks than Cato June. At age 23, David projects to continued improvement.
Every down linebackers with elite coverage skill are an underrated part of a versatile defensive scheme. In this exercise, David’s all-around ability will also give me flexibility at both safety positions and at middle linebacker.
Round 6, Pick 181: Evan Mathis, Guard
Round 7, Pick 204: Lamarr Houston, Defensive End
Round 8, Pick 245: Eric Winston, Offensive Tackle
Round 9, Pick 268: Antoine Winfield, Cornerback
Round 10, Pick 308: Mike Williams, Wide Receiver
Round 11, Pick 331: Zach Miller, Tight End
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