The New York Jets entered the draft with just a handful of picks in large part due to trades over the past twelve months. They left the event with four new players after draft day maneuvers. Cornerbacks were a necessity for the team as were replacements for veterans who were soon to be shoved off.
The team was targeting cornerbacks in round one and Kareem Jackson was at the top of the list. Yet when the Texans swiped the Alabama junior in the 20th slot, much earlier than most thought, the Jets thought they would be locked out of the position and turned their attention towards the offensive line. As we reported prior to the start of round two, the Jets worked the phones and were speaking with the highest rated blocker on their board as the 29th pick neared. When the Green Bay Packers selected Bryan Bulaga then the Baltimore Ravens traded out of the first round, the cornerback position was back in play for the team. Eventually they landed Kyle Wilson, but it took a while to make the choice as the team had to talk themselves out of an offensive lineman at that point. Wilson is a solid athlete with good ball skills. He improved his game over the course of the ’09 season then watched his draft stock take off during Senior Bowl week. Why did Wilson, who most rated as the second cornerback in the draft, end up being the fourth player at his position selected? Several reasons. Wilson does not have the natural size of Jackson or Devin McCourty, nor does he have the upside of either player. He’s still a terrific prospect that could develop into a starter down the road. He also brings the element of return specialist, which is added value.
The Jets held their breath and were relieved when Vladimir Ducasse, the player they were set to select in the first frame, fell into their laps in round two. The franchise hopes Ducasse replaces Alan Faneca, who was soon cut by the team. It’s more than a hope, it’ll be a necessity for a franchise that was 30 minutes away from the Super Bowl just four months ago. Ducasse’s talent was obvious to us prior to the 2008 season and a year ago we rated him as the third best small school prospect in the nation. He has the size and athleticism to develop into a starter at the next level. That said we don’t think he’s NFL ready at this point and it could be a struggle for Ducasse over the seasons initial two months.
At the top of round four the Jets came away with a steal when they selected USC running back Joe McKnight. The drafting of McKnight would quickly spell the end of Leon Washington’s career with the Jets as the former All-Pro return specialist was traded just hours later. There are many similarities between McKnight and the player he’s set to replace. Coming out of Florida State, Washington was branded as an underachiever and fell to the fourth round- ditto for McKnight. Both were considered situational third down backs that would be asked to serve double duty as return specialists. Washington was brilliant in that capacity- the Jets will need much the same from his replacement. At the top of his game McKnight was one of the more creative ball carriers in the country. He’s elusive and incredibly quick. The Jets need McKnight to produce right out of the gate in a variety of roles and he has the physical skills to get the job done. But the question is does he have the heart to compete?
One round later the Jets traded Washington plus a seventh round selection to Seattle for the 139th pick of the draft then chose fullback John Conner. While the team wants to line-up a replacement for the aging Toni Richardson this choice was a bit of a head scratcher. Conner was not rated as the top fullback in the draft by many, including ourselves, as we graded Rashawn Jackson higher. Conner is not a bad choice but considering some of the needs the team had on the defensive line and at safety coupled with the available talent still on the board (Cam Thomas, Robert Johnson, Austen Lane) this choice would have been better served at a spot other than fullback.
Overview: All too often outsiders grade a team’s draft based on one player, or as it is known, the one player draft. Yet when a team has just four picks this becomes a little more justified. Under the circumstances the player that will make or break this draft, at least in the short term, is Vladimir Ducasse. If the UMass product ably replaces veteran Alan Faneca and the Jets compete for a spot in the Super Bowl then this draft will be viewed as a success. On the other hand if the offensive line, which has been a strength for this team the past two seasons, struggles and the weak link is left guard, cutting Faneca with the hopes he would be replaced by Ducasse, the Jets will be heavily criticized.
The New England Patriots entered the 2010 NFL Draft with a load of picks yet made several moves throughout the rounds and acquire even more. Defense would be the theme as the team is still trying to plug holes in the secondary and replace what is, for the most part, an aging linebacker unit. Tight end was also a priority and depth has also been an issue for the former Super Bowl winners in recent years. More than anything else New England needed to reverse the trend of what has been less than stellar drafting in recent years.
After trading down with the Dallas Cowboys the Patriots surprised some by selecting Devin McCourty with the 27th pick of the draft. The secondary needs an infusion of talented cover corners and McCourty certainly offers potential yet questions surround this pick. With the pending release of Adalius Thomas on draft day plus the number of cornerbacks presently on the Patriots rosters, many wonder if this selection was in part to keep McCourty away from the New York Jets as much as it was to bring more competition to the defensive backfield. McCourty offers terrific upside and he’s a sensational special teams player, so from that point of view the choice is justified.
The loss of Ben Watson in free agency meant the Patriots had to come out of the draft with a tight end and they selected Arizona junior Rob Gronkowski with the 10th pick of round two. There’s no denying Gronkowski’s talent as he shows himself to be a sensational pass catcher who gives effort as a blocker when he’s on the field. There’s also no dodging the obvious issue of his back injury, one which required surgery and forced him to the sidelines in 2009, and something that could be an issue down the road. This is a selection that comes with a great amount of upside potential as well as downside risk, depending on how Gronkowski’s back holds out over the long haul.
New England hopes they bolstered their linebacker talent when they tabbed Jermaine Cunningham in round two. While we’ve always been fans of Cunningham we think the second frame was a bit of a reach for his talents. He showed explosion and quickness off the edge at Florida from his defensive end position but the question remains; does Cunningham possess the speed to play the linebacker spot on a fulltime basis in the NFL? Pre-draft workouts lends one to believe the answer is “no” but Cunningham struggled with a hamstring injury the months prior to April. Our bigger criticism is New England bypassed a number of talented rush linebacker prospects (Jerry Hughes/Sergio Kindle) available to them prior to the 42nd pick, which they used on Gronkowski.
The linebacker spot was again addressed later in the round with another former Gator as Brandon Spikes was chosen with the 62nd pick. Spikes poor post season workouts were well documented here at TFYDraftInsider.net as was his unwillingness to run for scouts. The bottom line is Spikes is a terrific football player and one of the most violent defenders in this draft. If there’s a coach that will be able fit Spikes into a scheme which masks his deficient speed it will be Bill Belicheck. From an on the field performance we cannot quibble over this choice.
Taylor Price was the team’s pick in round three and the speedy wide out was good value. Price is a terrific athlete that has displayed a lot of skill catching the ball. He’s father away from being NFL ready than most will admit yet his upside is terrific. Price has the tools to develop into a very good second wide out yet it may take some time for him to get there.
In round four the team went back to the University of Florida and selected their third Gator of the draft, again addressing the tight end spot with the choice of Aaron Hernandez. From a pure football point of view the selection of Hernandez is great value and the pass catching tight end should quickly develop a rapport with Tom Brady. Then again it’s not a lack of talent that pushed Hernandez into the fourth round, rather well documented off the field issues which could keep him on the sidelines. For Hernandez, a change in his way of life is in order if he desires a long, productive NFL career.
New England made Zoltan Mesko the first punter off the board in round five and the big legged kicker has the necessary tools to kick in the often inclement weather of the northeast. The biggest issue facing Mesko is his touch-to-toe time, or in layman’s terms, the ability to quickly get the ball away once he handles the snap. It’s been an issue for Mesko who looked terrible at the Senior Bowl yet was far and away the best punter during the combine.
Center Ted Larsen was a solid sixth round pick and will fit the Patriots blocking scheme well. Larsen is not a dominant lineman yet fluid on his feet and shows the ability to annihilate opponents blocking in motion. More than anything else he’s a smart lineman, which is a prerequisite for the Patriots line.
New England had four picks in the final frame and all were solid choices.
Offensive tackle Thomas Welch is a terrific developmental prospect likely headed for the practice squad. He’s got the size and athleticism to compete at the next level but must really improve his blocking strength. The Patriots could use some inexpensive back-ups that can play multiple positions and Welch offers exactly that.
Two defensive tackles from the SEC were chosen next. Both Brandon Deadrick and Kade Weston nicely project as defensive ends in New England’s 3-4 system and each has a contrasting style. Deadrick is not the greatest athlete but gets the most from his ability while Weston has a world of talent yet for the most part never met expectations in college. They both have the skill to make a roster, either with the Patriots or another franchise.
Final pick Zac Robinson was an interesting choice. We were never high on Robinson’s next level ability, though to his credit he played well at the Senior Bowl then had a solid combine outing. We think he’s better off playing for a west coast/timing offense in a warm weather environment. That said the Patriots have had recent success taking projects at the quarterback position and turning them into next level players.
Overview: In our opinions this is the ultimate boom or bust draft. Gronkowski, Cunningham, Spikes, Hernandez and Mesko could all be players in the league yet each has a number of red flag issues which could cut short their NFL careers or turn them into nothing but bench warmers. The team’s late round selections were all solid picks but the Patriots need impact from this draft after yielding little from the process in recent years.
Much of the Miami Dolphins draft day strategy was dictated by the mid-April trade, which yielded the franchise Brandon Marshall. With their need at receiver filled the Dolphins looked to plug holes on the defensive side of the ball and collect extra picks to make up for those lost in the Marshall deal.
The team made a big move down draft boards after trading with the San Diego Chargers, dropping from the 14th selection of round one to the 28th. In that spot they chose Jared Odrick, which represents excellent value. Many felt Odrick would be drafted earlier in round one based on his ability to play defensive tackle or be used as a two-gap end. The need was created when the team decided to move Randy Starks to the nose tackle position. That move is highly questionable yet there’s no denying Odrick was a bargain in the final stages of round one.
In return for moving down 14 slots the Dolphins acquired the 40th pick of the draft from the Chargers and used that selection to draft Koa Misi. The off season losses of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor created a major void at the rush linebacker position, and Misi is pegged to plug the hole. The Utah defensive end definitely has the athleticism to hold down the spot and to his credit, showed linebacker skills throughout the Senior Bowl. It could be baptism under fire for Misi as Miami must manufacture a pass rush from their front seven.
Offensive lineman John Jerry was moving up draft boards but we still think he was a bit of a reach in round three. He’s a big, plodding blocker better off in confined quarters. Though he’s been listed at the offensive tackle spot we’ve always graded Jerry as a guard, the position where he’s been placed on Miami’s depth chart.
Miami came away with a good player in round four, selecting outside linebacker AJ Edds. The former Hawkeye is well suited for a 34 alignment and his nasty attitude on the field will sit well with Bill Parcells. Round four is right about where we rated Edds, who could develop into a starter in time.
The team looked to the defensive backfield with a pair of picks in round five, initially selecting cornerback Nolan Carroll. The Maryland product has the measurables to play at the next level but has never been anything other than a flash in the pan. He’ll have to elevate every facet of his game to make the roster in September. The team initially targeted Robert Johnson of Utah with their other selection in the frame but turned their attention to Rashad Jones when Johnson came off the board. At the top of his game Jones is a terrific safety, effective in both run support and pass coverage. Problem was Jones seemed lost on the field for most of the ’09 season at Georgia. He could end up as a real steal if he gets his game back on track and plays up to his level of ability.
Two picks in round seven yielded another pair of defensive prospects. Linebacker Chris McCoy was solid value in the last frame. He comes off a terrific season and will be used as a situational pass rusher that can stand up over tackle or line up with his hand on the ground. McCoy’s game is moving north and we would not be surprised at all if he makes the final cut. Austin Spitler was a sleeper we spoke about during Ohio State’s pro-day back on March 12th. He’s a solid inside linebacker prospect that will have to make his mark on special teams.
Overview: When grading this draft one must factor in the acquisition of receiver Brandon Marshall. And though Marshall could implode at any time off the field, there’s no question he’ll be a big asset for Chad Henne and the Miami offense. The Dolphins came away with good players who, for the most part, fill needs. Moving Randy Starks to nose tackle could be risky, especially considering the team bypassed numerous opportunities to select nose tackles throughout the seven rounds. They also passed up a number of good safety prospects along the way- though Jones could be fifth round steal. On paper the Dolphins look like a much better team after the draft and a number of the players selected should produce as rookies, which is the bottom line.