- Round 1: QB Tony Romo
- Round 2: DE Jason Pierre-Paul
- Round 3: TE Aaron Hernandez
- Round 4: DE Jared Allen
- Round 5: LT Jared Veldheer
- Round 6: CB Cortland Finnegan
- Round 7: WR Antonio Brown
- Round 8: LB James Laurinatis
- Round 9: CB Ike Taylor
- Round 10:WR TY Hilton
- Round 11: FS Antoine Bethea
- Round 12: DT Stephen Paea
- Round 13: RT Max Starks
- Round 14: SS LaRon Landry
- Round 15: WR Emmanuel Sanders
- Round 16: LB LeRoy Hill
- Round 17:
- Round 18:
- Round 19:
- Round 20:
- Round 21:
- Round 22:
It would be hypocritical for me to complain about how hard it is picking late in the draft, as I just scolded a Steelers fan for using the same rationale about the team’s recent lack of draft success. But for this project when the whole league is on the board, it does become a very desperate quarterback market, as 15 of the first 22 picks were a quarterback.
While I would have loved to take CB Darrelle Revis, his ACL injury did concern me a bit.
But what concerned me even more were the nine writers drafting twice before I am on the clock again. When looking at the remaining quarterbacks and the good chance all nine of these gentlemen realize how bare the cupboard was getting there, I thought it was almost impossible to not wind up with a Sanchez/Fitzpatrick/Weeden/Gabbert/Ponder buffet the next time I could pick.
That left me no choice but to take Tony Romo, who I felt was clearly the best QB on the board, and am probably fortunate three straight non-QB picks went ahead of me. To me Romo’s clearly been better than the 16th-best QB in the league, though I understand much of this is for long-term success.
Romo will be 33 in April, but I feel confident he can start for 4-6 more seasons. There really isn’t a “five-year plan” in the NFL anymore. Coaches get fired after a couple of losing seasons. It’s all about winning now, and I am building for a team to be competitive immediately.
While Romo has many critics, I have supported him a lot the last two years, most notably citing the facts that he has been well above average in clutch situations, but that his worst blunders have come in front of a national audience. The Dallas Cowboys actually led the league in fourth-quarter comeback wins (5) in 2012 to even have a shot at the division title in Week 17, but all people will remember is the bad game against the Redskins.
That’s why my goal is to build a better team around Romo than the Cowboys have. With the right situation, I think he can thrive beyond just being a “stats guy” who can’t get it done in elimination games. His mobility and playmaking ability exceeds that of any quarterback left, so while I’m letting the Romo stigma get to me a little on the pick, the fact is I should probably feel lucky to have him fall to me at 23.
Round 2, Pick 42: Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive End
While I am confident my strategy of Darrelle Revis/Tony Romo would have never worked out, the strategy of Tony Romo/Darrelle Revis shockingly almost did. But Revis was taken one pick ahead of me, which brings back personal memories of the Jets doing the same to the Steelers in the 2007 draft.
Oh well. There are two key elements of pass defense, so instead I had a backup plan and that was Jason Pierre-Paul. Wanting to run a 4-3 so I do not have to blitz much, it was crucial that I found an edge pass-rusher. JPP may have had a down year in 2012, but so did the Giants in many ways. He is 24 years old, has freakish athletic ability, and is a player I would expect to lead the way on my team for many years to come.
Defensive end is a position I put a high premium on. While there are some fine defensive ends on the board, JPP’s age and athleticism were too much to pass up at 2.42.
Round 3, Pick 74: Aaron Hernandez, Tight End
I have my (and Terrell Owens’) quarterback. Since Romo is mobile, I do not feel the need for premium offensive linemen the same way I would with an immobile quarterback. Also with his success of getting good production out of lesser-known wide receivers, I stayed away from that position believing there is a ton of value remaining.
But what I feel Romo does need is a good tight end, as he loves to use Jason Witten. So I went with a younger option in Aaron Hernandez. He may be three inches shorter than Witten, but he is more explosive and can be used in a variety of ways. With Rob Gronkowski taking a lot of his targets in New England, I think Hernandez can easily be a 1,000-yard, 10+ TD player the next few years as a No. 1 TE.
Not sure I would line him up at RB as the Patriots have done before, but it does show how versatile of a player he is. With Tony Gonzalez pondering retirement, Antonio Gates and some others aging, Witten having a lot of wear and tear at age 31, I think tight end is a position with slumping value and acted quickly on a young, budding superstar.
Round 4, Pick 116: Jared Allen, Defensive End
Originally I thought I could add Henry Melton to get an inside pass rush, but then I noticed Alex Miglio snatched him up nine picks after I had taken Aaron Hernandez in the third round. That’s okay, as for the last few picks I have strongly considered another defensive end to match up with Jason Pierre-Paul. With over 20 of them off the board, the top-tier guys were running dry, but I did notice some real quality veterans still available.
That gets back to what makes this project interesting: what kind of team are you building and how will you do it?
I am thinking of it as an alternate reality where the NFL is replaced with a new league from scratch, and this draft will determine the rosters moving forward. Winning now is still huge, so I want to be competitive right away. Without crunching the numbers, I think a lot of young players have gone that are clearly not better than many of the veterans available at the same positions. But if you are looking for long-term value, then there is nothing wrong with that. It all comes back to how you choose to build your team.
When you look at successful teams, they tend to have a solid mixture of veterans on their last legs, veterans in their primes, good developmental players, raw youth, and a few contributing rookies to round out the roster. You need each layer present, not just for on the field but also in the locker room and for educational purposes. Let these guys teach each other to be pros.
Everyone chosen so far can be considered at least a “good” player, Many deserve a better compliment than that. But when the reality of a salary cap kicks in, most teams are only going to have a handful or two (at most) of really good players. There are positions that will be liabilities, but that’s just how the league works. You can’t have a stud at every position, so you must understand which ones are most important to you.
Defensive end is a big one for me, and while Allen will be 31 years old, I still very much look at him as one of my cornerstone players for the next five-plus years. He already has 117 career sacks and his relentless motor is intact. He has also done a good job of avoiding serious injuries in his career, so I see no reason why he cannot play well until he is 36 or even older. Reggie White (39) and Bruce Smith (40) lasted a long time. Michael Strahan was 36 when he went out on top with the Giants in 2007.
I also could not pass up the matchup problems created with opponents having to worry about both Allen and Pierre-Paul coming off the edges from my 4-3 defense. Who do you chip? Who do you slide protection towards? If there’s a weak tackle on your team, which is a good chance in any league (real or fake), then it is going to be attacked every time by one of these guys.
Round 5, Pick 140: Jared Veldheer, Left Tackle
With 15 tackles off the board, I felt the need to lock down a long-time starter here at a premium position. While the allure of a wide receiver was big, I thought the value was still deeper at that position.
Veldheer first caught my attention when compiling a 2012 “Dough Bowl Roster” for the NFL Network, targeting players who gave the best value performance in the 2011 season. A third-round pick in 2010, what I like about this guy is he’s freakin’ huge at 6’8″ and 322 pounds. Good luck moving that, and he’s not a slob either. He has cut down on his penalties each year on an Oakland team where discipline is never emphasized. I think offensive line is an area where unit play is far more important than individual, but Veldheer has been a bright spot on a bad line, and he will be the cornerstone player of my offensive line.
Round 6: Pick 183: Cortland, Finnegan, Cornerback
Round 7: Pick 202: Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver
Round 8, Pick 247: James Laurinatis, Linebacker
Round 9, Pick 266: Ike Taylor, Cornerback
Round 10, Pick 310: T.Y. Hilton, Wide Receiver
Round 11, Pick 329: Antoine Bethea, Free Safety
The RSP Writers project is brought to you by the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Learn more about the 2013 RSP Writers Project and check out the completed 2012 RSP Writers Project where we built teams under a realistic salary cap. You can try it yourself.