Once the 2012 NFL Draft started, it went by in a hurry. The first-round finished in about three hours, which is less than half of the time it took just three years ago. The picks were coming in faster than a commissioner’s hug and the trades were flowing like water. The top of the draft went as planned, but my mock draft barely survived the early surprise picks (Bruce Irvin). The chain reaction caused a few top prospects to fall deep into the draft.
A lot of quality players were taken later in the draft, which is where a team’s scouting department earns their money. The first few rounds have a greater percentage of sticking in the league, but the later rounds is where championship are won. Every Super Bowl team has a few guys like Donald Driver, Tom Brady, or Marques Colston, who were picked in the last two rounds of the NFL draft. Who were the steals in the 2012 NFL Draft? A few of these picks might surprise you, because there were a lot of smart draft picks this year.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State) – I know what you’re thinking, “How can a Top-12 pick be a “steal?” It’s due to the fact that he was there at #12 and he was the #1 guy on their board. He wasn’t even the first defensive tackle taken. Kansas City drafted an untested guys from Memphis (Donatri Poe). Cox has been compared to Warren Sapp and if you can get a guy like that at #12, it’s a steal.
21. New England Patriots – DE Chandler Jones (Syracuse) – The Patriots could draft an 8-year old girl in the first-round and NFL analysts would defend it with “Belichick is a genius.” As much as I say that every year, I really love Jones. He reminds me of Dwight Freeney, but with the ability to be a really good OLB in a 3-4. His brother is Jon “Bones” Jones of the UFC, so you know he’ll be a fighter for you.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – OG David DeCastro (Stanford) – DeCastro was a guy that I heard would be taken in the top 15, but teams didn’t focus much on offensive linemen in the first-round. He could be the best guard to enter the draft since Steve Hutchinson. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is old and fragile, so this was a pretty easy decision.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Doug Martin (Boise State) – The Bucs were sneaky before the Draft and didn’t squash the rumor that they wanted to move up for Trent Richardson. They kept their cool and ended up getting a better fit at running back at #31. Martin will be a nice complement to LeGarrette Blount. The duo reminds me of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, who had a nice run in New York.
34. Indianapolis Colts – TE Coby Fleener (Stanford) – Andrew Luck isn’t able to practice at the Colts practice facility until June. He is finishing up his academic quarter and he needs a familiar target to help ease him into the NFL. Fleener will also be at Stanford during this time, so it was logical that he was high on the Colts draft board. The Giants was rumored to be interested in him at #32, but ended up taking a running back instead. Fleener reminds me of Rob Gronkowski, because he can line up at tight-end or wide receiver. He has big hands and he isn’t a terrible blocker.
40. Carolina Panthers – OG Amini Silatolu (Midwestern State) – I didn’t know of Silatolu until I started to research some of the offensive linemen in this year’s draft class. I watched some videos online and read some of the chatter about him. The video of him is ridiculous, but I had to remind myself that he was facing sub-par talent at the D-II/D-III level. He is a project for the Panthers, but he impressed me enough to think of this pick as a steal.
51. Green Bay Packers – DT Jerel Worthy (Michigan State) – Just a few weeks ago, Worthy was mentioned as a first-round grade, just behind Cox and Poe. He will come into the league with a chip on his shoulder. If the Packers ever line up at a 4-3, he would be interesting beside of B.J. Raji, but in a 3-4, he’ll come in the game to spell Raji.
54. Detroit Lions – WR Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma) – Broyles was a consensus All-American in 2010 & 2011 and the NCAA FBS leader in career receptions (349). The reason that he fell into the second-round was that he tore his ACL in a November game last season. He will start out the year on the PUP list, but if the Lions are patient with him, he could be a nice bookend to Calvin Johnson.
55. Atlanta Falcons – C Peter Konz (Wisconsin) – Konz is another guy that was rumored to be picked late in the first-round. Konz fell because teams were drafting based on need instead of using the “best player available” strategy. The University of Wisconsin manufactures NFL offensive linemen and Konz will be in the league for a long time.
65. St. Louis Rams – DB Trumaine Johnson (Montana) – Montana isn’t known for it’s NFL talent, but seven players will end up in NFL camps. Johnson is a bit cornerback at nearly 6’2 and the kind of physical corner that Jeff Fisher loves. He will compete to the be a starter in 2012.
66. Minnesota Vikings – DB Josh Robinson (Central Florida) – The Vikings drafted the fastest guy at the NFL Combine, with a 4.29 40-yard time. I usually hate teams drafting the fastest guy high in the draft, but I like it when he’s a corner. He can play man-to-man or zone and he’ll instantly help Minnesota’s poor pass defense.
85. Detroit Lions – DB Dwight Bentley (Louisiana Lafayette) – This is the third “steal” of a cornerback in the 3rd round. He’s an aggressive guy and reminds some of Eric Berry. He will need some work to get at Berry’s level, but if you can get a starting cornerback at pick #85, you’re doing something right.
97. Miami Dolphins – RB Lamar Miller (Miami FL) – The Dolphins didn’t have to go very far to scount Miller. He has blazing speed (4.3) and will inject some life into Miami’s running attack. Some scouts had him as a Top-50 talent, but he was leapfrogged by some other running backs with higher potential.
109. Pittsburgh Steelers – DT Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) – Ta’amu received a high grade by a lot of scouts (2nd-round), but he was also hurt by a few guys being taken higher because of upside. He can fill holes on the interior with his 348 pound frame. The Steelers hope that he will be the Casey Hampton’s successor.
112. Arizona Cardinals – OT Bobby Massie (Mississippi) – One of Arizona’s top needs was trying to fill the vacated right-tackle position. They confused a lot of people when they didn’t address this issue in the first three rounds. Massie should win the starting right-tackle job and getting him here is a steal.
143. Carolina Panthers – DB Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) – A lot of teams take small college cornerbacks in hopes of molding them into NFL talent. If they don’t pan out there, they can stick them on the special teams. Norman is a nice gamble at #143, because he has a nose for the ball. He has good size and could end up as a nickelback and get his team a few turnovers.
163. Green Bay Packers – OLB Terrell Manning (NC State) – Manning’s draft stock took a huge hit when he had knee surgery. He was a two year starter at NC State and Green Bay need depth at linebacker. They have been riddled with injuries at that position in the past. If they are patient with him, he’ll be a nice substitution or much more.
164. Atlanta Falcons – DE Jonathan Massaquoi (Troy) – Troy has produced DeMarcus Ware & Osi Umenyiora, so taking a chance on Massaquoi could have a high payout. He will add depth to the position in Atlanta. He’s a project, but all the raw talent is there to be a starter.
186. Dallas Cowboys – TE James Hanna (Oklahoma) – At Oklahoma, Hanna was a red-zone target with big play potential. He will add speed to the tight-end position, but will not be a good blocker. He will be an asset in a two tight-end formation and will be hard for a linebacker to cover with his speed. Drafting Hanna at #186 is great value for Dallas with little risk.
190. Tennessee Titans – S Markelle Martin (Oklahoma State) – If Martin didn’t tear his meniscus after the Senior Bowl, he would have went in the third or fourth round. He scared off some teams and he fell into the Titans’ lap in the sixth round. If he recovers fully from surgery, he can add depth to their secondary, exactly what you want from a late-round pick.
194. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Marvin McNutt (Iowa) – I’m starting to notice a theme with my “draft steals”…they are all coming off late-season injuries. McNutt is currently recovering from a shoulder injury, so he fell to the sixth-round. I watch a lot of Big Ten football games. McNutt seems to have been at Iowa for a decade, but all he did there was catch poorly-thrown balls. He’s a big guy and he will be an asset for Michael Vick.
205. Cleveland Browns – DT Billy Winn (Boise State) – The Browns needed help stopping the run and Winn can add depth at the defensive tackle position. He would have been a second-day pick, but once again, an injury (foot) dropped his draft stock. Winn could be one of the biggest steals in the draft if he bounces back from his injury.
219. Minnesota Vikings – DE Trevor Guyton (California) – Guyton had a third/fourth-round grade coming into the draft, but a lot of teams filled their need in the first two days of the draft. He’s a nice pick for Minnesota in the 7th-round.
224. New England Patriots – DB Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska) – He has some off-field issues, but New England can take on the risk. Their secondary was one of the worst in NFL history, so they will find a spot for Dennard.
237. San Francisco 49ers – DE Cam Johnson (Virginia) – The Niners lack depth on the defensive line and they should be glad that he fell so far in the draft. I predict that he makes the team and has a chance to develop into a nice backup in the NFL.
242. New York Jets – S Antonio Allen (South Carolina) – Allen was graded high by most of the network talking heads and I like the pick. Rex Ryan is a smart guy and he needs to be able to move some guys around in the defense. Allen has played linebacker and safety in college. He’s the kind of guy that Ryan will love to coach.
250. San Diego Chargers – RB Edwin Baker (Michigan State) – I love this pick and could be my favorite of the sixth or seventh-round. Baker seemed to have peaked early in his college career, but he still had an above-average career. Ryan Mathews has had some durability issues and they needed a functional backup. Baker will be a cheap option and end up being Mike Tolbert-like goal-line back (if you subtract 40 lbs.).
What are some of your favorite picks from this year’s NFL Draft?