- Round 1: QB Peyton Manning
- Round 2: WR Andre Johnson
- Round 3: DT Nick Fairley
- Round 4: ILB Sean Lee
- Round 5: CB Antonio Cromartie
- Round 6: WR Mike Wallace
- Round 7: DE Cliff Avril
- Round 8: CB Sam Shields
- Round 9: S Glover Quin
- Round 10: RB Demarco Murray
- Round 11: CB Robert McClain
- Round 12:T/G Todd Herremans
- Round 13: LB Erin Henderson
- Round 14: DE Everson Griffen
- Round 15: RB/FB/H-Back Marcel Reece
- Round 16: C Will Montgomery
- Round 17:
- Round 18:
- Round 19:
- Round 20:
- Round 21:
- Round 22:
Round 1, Pick 2: Peyton Manning, Quarterback
Aaron Rodgers was the no-brainer #1 pick of this draft. If he somehow made it past the first pick I would have broken something running my way to the podium to turn in his name for my team. He’s arguably the best QB in the league, and is still relatively young – a guaranteed stud for years to come, the true definition of franchise QB. Once he was gone I was left with a pretty interesting set of choices. My options fell into three categories:
- Guys young enough, but not quite as good as truly top echelon passers
- Guys who are as good as anybody but don’t have much longer left due to age
- Young studs who showed a lot in year 1, but are still a question mark long term.
There was at least a part of me that wanted to select somebody from each category. For the sake of the draft still going on I won’t put a name to those I was considering, but in the end QB is just too important a position to screw around with and try to be clever, so I went with the best available QB and screw the long term (at least until later in the draft when it comes to backup time!).
Peyton Manning is one of the greatest QBs of all time, and that was only underlined last season when he came back after a year out of the game and had arguably the best season he has ever had despite having to modify his play as the year went on to accommodate his physical limitations. Anyone that can be an All-Pro all the while changing his game to adjust to what he can’t do anymore as the season went on is a freaking hero. It’s like Tiger Woods winning the masters at the same time as completely re-working his golf swing in between each day of play. Manning ensures that my QB situation is as good as anybody’s for the next year or two, and it just means that I need to be aware of looking for a young option for the future at some point in much the same way as Denver went all-in with him financially, but then added Osweiler in the draft.
Round 2, Pick 63: Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver
So apparently Sam Monson is building the team to dominate the 2009 season.
I admit I didn’t want to select a guy as old as Andre Johnson having already taken Peyton Manning, but when I surveyed the draft as my pick came around I was left with a relatively simple choice. It also didn’t hurt that I discovered the player I was planning on picking had actually done more than a dozen picks beforehand and I just hadn’t noticed!
There were still genuine stud players left. Despite players being taken at their positions there are a couple of players still there who I believe are the best players at their position in the NFL, but those positions I just don’t think are important enough to warrant a 2nd round selection in a draft like this. Eric Weddle is the best safety in football, and given that two safeties have already come off the board he would represent fantastic value in that sense, but I don’t see the safety position as a legitimate game changer outside of Ed Reed in his prime. Nobody playing right now is at that level. Similarly as much as I love a good interior O-lineman, I’m not taking a center or guard this high.
So I was then left with a few young, talented players with huge upside but no guarantee they continue the journey towards that upside, or a guy who at 30 years old is still an All-Pro at his position, and that position is an impact one. Last season Andre Johnson gained 1,598 yards – a career high for a guy with 11,254 and counting. His 99.9 receiving yards per game were also a career high, and his receptions per game were also right at the peak of his best performance. He did this with Matt Schaub throwing him the ball in a Houston offence that was run, run and run some more.
Much like Manning, Johnson is still one of the best players in the league despite his advancing years. He actually graded higher than Calvin Johnson in 2012 according to PFF’s play-by-play grading and led the NFL by a distance in terms of yards gained per route run (3.01, besting the next best WR by over 8%).
The bottom line is that Andre Johnson is still a beast. He’s big, fast, has great hands, and is incredibly tough to cover, and given some of the receivers to have already gone, and how high they went, he represents the kind of value I couldn’t pass up for a younger, unproven defensive stud who might make it to my next pick at the tail end of the 3rd round. The spine of my passing attack with Manning -> Johnson looks fantastically healthy, and all his age means is that I need to think about the future more than some others at a later point in the draft or even in the hypothetical future. But let’s face it, Brandon Stockley got off the couch at 36 and was turned into a 500+ yard, 6-TD receiver by Peyton Manning, I think Andre Johnson coming off a 1,500+ yard season with Matt Schaub throwing him the ball just might do ok.
Round 3, Pick 95: Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle
I love it when a plan comes together. I had considered taking Fairley with my pick in the 2nd round but gambled that he would slide under people’s radar and took Andre Johnson instead.
Fairley is the first Detroit Lions DT I would have taken in this draft.
Let me emphasise – I think Fairley will end up being a better player than Ndamukong Suh, and probably as soon as this season. If you look at the PFF grading, there’s an argument to be made that he was better last season, despite Suh putting together his best season. Fairley graded pretty close to Suh, despite playing ~400 fewer snaps, and the biggest thing holding him back was his penalty count.
He had a slow start to his career, and that might have put people off, but last season Fairley really began to emerge, and the best part is he was getting better as the season went on before being shut down. He was blanked as a pass rusher twice in the first four games, but after the bye week it didn’t happen for the rest of his season and 7 of his 8 QB knockdowns came in that stretch. Unlike Suh, Fairley’s performance vs the run was impressive as well. He shows a far better feel for the down blocks and wham blocks that teams have used to nullify Suh’s threat and made 23 stops on the year (a tackle for an offensive failure) compared to Suh’s 21. He was a top draft pick for a reason, and we’re starting to see that kind of talent in a major way. 2012 should have more in store.
The bottom line is that Fairley is on the kind of upswing in his career arc that Geno Atkins was on before his last real breakout and dominance in 2012. If I’ve caught Fairley at the same point then I’m in serious business with the first pick for my defense.
Round 4, Pick 98: Sean Lee, Inside Linebacker
Every great defense needs a tackling machine in the middle of the field. Whether you’re running a 3-4 or a 4-3, you need that inside linebacker to marshall the defense, set the tone, and generally smack the hell out of anyone trying to gain yardage on his defense.
In Sean Lee, I just picked one of the best of them.
Last year before getting hurt Lee was playing out of his skin. He was shut down mid-way through Week 7 against the Panthers, and he still finished the year as PFF’s 6th graded ILB, just a hair behind Lawrence Timmons, a player that went just before him. He graded out essentially the same as Timmons but playing around 1/3 of the snaps, that’s how dominant he was when he was on the field. The best part though is that Lee is a complete linebacker, looking adept in coverage as well as coming up to stop the run.
In Kiffin’s new 4-3 defense in Dallas, Lee could really take off, becoming the best linebacker to come out of ‘Linebacker U’ in years.
Fairley and Lee give me a great beginning and spine off which to hang my 4-3 defense, but both players have the kind of abilities to move around a little within the defense and give me the flexibility to tinker with the front as necessary.
The time he missed with injury might have caused him to slip past my fellow GMs, but Lee should be right there in the conversation about the best ILBs in the league when he returns to the field.
Round 5, Pick: 160: Antonio Cromartie, Cornerback
One of the more important positions to get locked down for me was my top cornerback. As the market started to get hit I had to jump now, and got a guy who is one of the league’s more talented players, and actually far better than his maligned reputation would suggest: Antonio Cromartie.
There were a few ways I could have gone here. Part of me was tempted to take a pair of Cover-2 corners (arguably the best 2 in the league) with my two close picks and have the most important part of my secondary entirely sorted in one easy move, but I am loathed to be boxed into any one particular system, and I honestly prefer the flexibility and challenging nature of other schemes.
Cromartie got a big reputation early in San Diego with some flashy play, but then he ended up moving off to the Jets where he became firmly lodged in the shadow of the league’s best corner, Darrelle Revis. From this point everyone kind of forgot how good Cromartie could actually be, and when Revis went down this year we heard how the Jets defense would collapse in his absence, especially on the back end, where Cromartie would now be tasked with having to deal with an opponent’s top receiver, and would no longer be protected by Revis. How did he respond? With a career year, that’s how.
He was thrown at 87 times this season, but allowed just 40 catches (46%) for 511 yards. Though he was beaten on occasions, he also intercepted three passes and broke up another dozen, and QBs targeting him had a rating of just 69.7
The bottom line is that Cromartie is a versatile and talented corner, and one of the few left capable of legitimately manning up against an opponent’s top receiver and doing fine. I’m happy to have him in my secondary, and that gives me three talented, aggressive, and scheme diverse players as the spine of my D from which to build.
Round 6, Pick 163: Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver
With my second pick in rapid succession I looked around for where I thought there was value, and it took a lot to step away from running back, where I think there are a couple of fantastic players still around. In the end I went receiver, and a guy who just landed a huge free agent contract from Miami – Mike Wallace.I’m bringing in Wallace for the same reason Miami went so hard after him this week – because he has a unique ability to run off the top of a defense and straight past any cornerback in the league. As much as football gets ever more complex, speed still kills, and a guy who can just run downfield over the top of a defense will always have a huge value to an offense. Mike Wallace is virtually impossible to overthrow, demonstrating a freakish closing speed when the ball is in the air and the kind of extra gear defensive backs just don’t have. He isn’t anything like the same player, but this trait reminds me a little bit of Randy Moss under the deep ball – the ability to locate the football and separate from his coverage as he runs to go and get it.With Andre Johnson already in house, I’ve got an All-Pro receiver with a complete skill set to play on one side, and I just added the league’s most imposing deep threat on the other side. Mr Manning is going to have toys to play with.
Round 7, Pick 224: Cliff Avril, Defensive End
I’m happy to get Avril this low down. He’s a legitimate pass-rusher who wasn’t helped by the Lions’ D-line system that requires rushers to try and beat their guys one on one in the same fashion almost every snap. In Detroit he didn’t get the benefit of being able to mix up his rush much or run a lot of combination moves with defensive tackles, but he will have no such restrictions in my defense. I’m going to turn Avril loose and with Nick Fairley the duo will have far more help within the system and from each other than they ever had in Detroit.
Round 8, Pick 226: Sam Shields, Cornerback
In today’s passing league you need to be able to match up on the back end. Antonio Cromartie is a corner who can legitimately match up with a number one receiver and track them all game, but there’s no use doing that if you don’t have a player that can hold up on the other side. Sam Shields is one of the league’s better young corners and should fill that role ably.
Last year he was PFF’s 8th graded cover corner despite missing time and playing only 606 snaps (compared to over 1000 for some of the players above him). He can be beaten badly at times, but he will make teams work for their completions and presents a dangerous target for opposing passers. On 44 targets last year he got his hands to ten of them, either picking them off or breaking them up.
Round 9, Pick 287: Glover Quin, Safety
I love Quinn’s versatility. A lot of players get termed versatile in the NFL, but all too often that just means they can do multiple things badly. Quinn can do multiple things well. He can play in a cover-2 system easily, or he can also play deep, in the box, and most crucially, cover the slot to a reasonable level. I anticipate adding a nickel corner who can take my primary slot duties, but Quinn gives me the versatility to cover TEs in man coverage or to go to a dime package without needing to find another player that can cover the slot.
Round 10, Pick 290: DeMarco Murray, Running Back
I actually tried to go offensive line here before discovering the guy I was picking went rounds earlier, so I came back to running back, where I think there’s a significant drop-off after a guy like Murray. He’s got great vision, burst and the ability to play in all facets of the game. He’s going to give Manning the running game to work off.
Round 11, Pick 349 : Robert McClain, Cornerback
This is a pick I had been eyeing up since the start of the draft, and my only question was how far I could afford to let him fall before taking him. In truth I suspect I’ve jumped the gun a little taking him this high, but I couldn’t risk missing out any longer.
When Peyton Manning threw his three first quarter interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons, one of them was a great play from McClain, playing one of his first NFL snaps, making a great read on the play and coming over the top to pick it off. Since that point McClain put together a really quite impressive season and finished the year as PFF’s 10th ranked coverage corner and 12th overall despite being essentially the nickel corner for the Falcons. He can play inside and out, but will be manning the slot primarily in my defense. He didn’t allow a single TD last season and in addition to that pick of Manning, he broke up another eight passes and was beaten for just 7.8 yards per completion when he did allow a catch.
McClain I think is a complete under the radar stud, one of the best players nobody is talking about, and he helps make my nickel defense look extremely tough to attack through the air.
Round 12, Pick 352:Todd Herremans, G/T
Time to (finally) think about my OL. I purposely ignored OL until this far into the draft because I knew good, solid players would be available, and frankly a monster OL is pretty meaningless without the QB to take advantage of it. In addition, guys like Manning can make poor units look better than they are, so he should be able to make a capable unit look really quite good.
Herremans is a good guard and right tackle, and could play any one of three positions for my OL. At this point I haven’t decided which he will be playing, rather just taking a player of his skills and fitting others in around him when the draft comes around to me again.
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