One down, six more to go. Hard to believe we’re just getting started after all the interesting and surprising action that transpired during the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. We’ll get to how the Cleveland Browns fared in a bit, but in case you’re late to the party, here’s a one-word hint: success.
Just in case you’re looking for a complete list of who was selected and where, here’s the full list of the first 32 names announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell at Radio City Music Hall Thursday night:
1. Carolina Panthers — Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
2. Denver Broncos — Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
3. Buffalo Bills — Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
4. Cincinnati Bengals — AJ Green, WR, Georgia
5. Arizona Cardinals — Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
6. Atlanta Falcons (via Cleveland) — Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
7. San Francisco 49ers — Aldon Smith, LB, Missouri
8. Tennessee Titans — Jake Locker, QB, Washington
9. Dallas Cowboys — Tyron Smith, OT, USC
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Washington) — Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
11. Houston Texans – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
12. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
13. Detroit Lions – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
14. St. Louis Rams – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
16. Washington Redskins (via Jacksonville) – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
17. New England Patriots – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
18. San Diego Chargers – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
19. New York Giants – Prince Amukamara, DB, Nebraska
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
21. Cleveland Browns (via Kansas City via Atlanta) — Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
22. Indianapolis Colts — Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
23. Philadelphia Eagles — Danny Watkings, OG, Baylor
24. New Orleans Saints — Cameron Jordan, DE, California
25. Seattle Seahawks — James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
26. Kansas City Chiefs** — Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
27. Baltimore Ravens** — Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
28. New Orleans Saints (via New England) — Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
29. Chicago Bears — Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
30. New York Jets — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
31. Pittsburgh Steelers — Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
32. Green Bay Packers — Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Let’s review what I felt were five of the more interesting/surprising developments in round one.
1) Blockbuster Trade Between Cleveland and Atlanta Provides Early Fireworks
The Falcons had to give up an arm and a leg to make the deal happen — their second round pick (59) and fourth round pick (124th) in this year’s draft, as well as a first and fourth in the 2012 Draft. That’s a lot, no doubt, but if Atlanta truly believes they’re on the cusp of breaking through and hoisting a Lombardi Trophy at the end of either the ‘11 or ’12 seasons, then this is a good gamble. As for the Browns, well, fans are understandably ecstatic. Mike Holmgren pulled off a great trade for a team that’s on the right track, but still at least a year or two away from seriously contending in the AFC. The Browns now have a boatload of picks in this and next year’s draft to continue stockpiling assets. And to boot, they still were able to get an outstanding talent in the first round when they moved up from 27 to 21 to select Phil Taylor, the undeniably talented DT out of Baylor.
2) Wasn't This Supposed To Be A Weak QB Crop?
I guess teams didn’t get the memo that this year’s crop of quarterbacks was supposedly weak. There were four quarterbacks taken within the first twelve picks. Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert were expected to be taken early, but the first real shocker came when the Tennessee Titans drafted University of Washington QB Jake Locker with the No. 8 pick. Locker is a fantastic young man, a high character guy that you want leading your team. And he possesses many of the physical tools that scouts drool over. But accuracy issues had most pundits pegging him as a late first or early second round pick at the very highest. It will be interesting to read more about the Titans’ reasoning in the forthcoming days and weeks.
Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert was the next to come off the board, selected tenth by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The fact that Gabbert went in the top ten is hardly a shocker, but the fact that Jacksonville traded up to acquire him is a bit of a shocker. There aren’t too many bigtime believers in David Garrard anymore, but still, I don’t think I’d seen a single mock pegging Gabbert to the Jags.
The fourth QB in the first dozen picks came just two selections later when Florida State’s Christian Ponder had his name called by the Minnesota Vikings at No. 12. Plenty of draftniks had gone of the record to say that Ponder was flying under the radar a bit, but again, I’d not seen anybody predict that he’d go quite that high.
3) Detroit Lions’ D-Line Gets Even Nastier
Only one year removed from taking Ndamukong Suh early in the first round, the Detroit Lions added yet another beastly DT in Nick Fairley. Projected at one time to be a slam dunk top five pick, Fairley was probably adversely affected by just how long the pre-draft process is. Anyway, most thought that Prince Amukamara was the likely pick here — Detroit’s secondary is woeful, and needless to say, Suh panned out in a big way for Detroit last season. But the Lions front office opted to go with Fairley, the big-smiled, hulking talent out of Auburn. If all goes according to plan, Detroit will be pretty much impossible to run against in future years, and Suh and Fairley will make life a whole lot easier on the rest of the Lions’ pass rushers by commanding double teams and eating up blockers as interior D-line pass rushers.
4) Cam Newton Adds to Heisman History at No. 1
No surprise here, but a quick note to mention that Newton becomes the tenth Heisman Trophy winner to become a No. 1 overall draft pick since 1967. Also of note is that this marks the first time in NFL history that the past two Heisman Trophy winners have gone first in consecutive drafts. Even though I’m not at all sold on Newton living up to his No. 1 overall draft status, a hearty congratulations to him and his family.
5) Combating the Pass with a Strong Defensive Line
I’m not making any sort of bold statement by saying that the NFL has become a passing league. Can’t throw the ball, don’t expect to win. And conversely, if your secondary is porous, it’s awfully hard to be competitive. By that logic, you’d think that cornerbacks would be more heavily targeted than they were in round one. The consensus seems to have been that there’s a number of CB prospects worthy of a second round selection, and not too many worthy of taking in the first. But still, only three CBs were taken on Thursday night — Patrick Peterson (5th overall, Arizona Cardinals); Prince Amukamara (19th, New York Giants); and Jimmy Smith (27th, Baltimore Ravens). So much for putting an emphasis on defending the pass.
Then again, maybe teams feel the best way to slow down potent aerial attacks is to load up along the defensive line. After all, six defensive ends were taken in the first round, tied for the most in NFL history (1992). Throw in two defensive tackles — Phil Taylor (21st) and Muhammad Wilkerson (30th, NYJ) and an even one quarter of this year’s first round picks were defensive linemen.
All in all, a great night from New York City. And we’re just getting started! The Cleveland Browns will have two picks on Friday night. Both are second rounders, as they traded away their third round pick to Kansas City in order to move up and draft Phil Taylor at No. 21.
For more analysis, commentary, and fan discussion about Cleveland’s intriguing first round decisions, as well as what might be in store for the remainder of the draft, be sure to check out Dawgs By Nature.