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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
1 (1) St. Louis: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
The Rams kick off a new era with the addition of a potential franchise quarterback. Bradford is extremely accurate, smart and competitive and really quieted concerns about his durability after he showed up at 236 pounds at the Combine. He needs to learn how to protect his body and brace himself from contact in the pros, and his biggest challenge, with limited foot quickness, could be continuing to stay healthy, especially with Alex Barron protecting one side of the line. The Rams need to continue adding more weapons for Bradford.
2 (2) Detroit: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
The key to Jim Schwartz's defense is stuffing the inside, and Suh possesses the brute strength and power to be a dominating force inside. The Lions' defense ranked dead last in the league defending the pass, and Suh's presence instantly upgrades the Lions' pass rush. Suh is better against the run than the pass, and his toughness and physicality better suited the Lions' style of play than did Gerald McCoy's. With the offseason acquisition of Corey Williams, the Lions are now much stronger inside.
3 (3) Tampa Bay: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
The Bucs' defense went downhill after the departure of Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland. In Gerald McCoy, the Buccaneers now have an explosive up-the-field penetrator in the middle of their defense once again. McCoy's greatest strength, however, could be in the locker room, where he had a very strong presence and elevated the play of his teammates at Oklahoma. McCoy instantly upgrades the Buccaneers' pass rush and should take time away from Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims, both of whom failed to live up to expectations as first-round picks in their first stops and have been marginally functional.
4 (4) Washington: OLT Trent Williams, Oklahoma
Washington perfectly fits the Redskins' zone-blocking scheme and fills a huge need with Chris Samuels retiring and Stephon Heyer on the trading block. Williams was clearly the most athletic blind-side protector in the draft, and he should keep Donovan McNabb healthy for years to come. He is versatile enough to play any position on the line and instantly upgrades an aging line, but Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen did take some risk by selecting a player not known for working hard or doing the little things it takes to be great.
5 (5) Kansas City: FS Eric Berry, Tennessee
Questions swirled around the league leading up to the draft about whether GM Scott Pioli, known for being one of the most thrifty general managers in football, would spend top-five money on the safety position. With the league having shifted to a pass-first league in recent years, the safety position has continued to grow in importance, however. Berry's toughness, physicality and durability were all reasons to make the Chiefs comfortable selecting a safety this early. He has stepped into the starting lineup immediately everywhere he has played during his career and found a way to change games with his exceptional instincts and ball skills. He has few deficiencies. The Chiefs know exactly what they are getting and now have an impact playmaker for Romeo Crennel's defense.
6 (6) Seattle: OLT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
The Seahawks' offensive line has struggled mightily in recent years and had a glaring need at the left tackle position with Walter Jones expected to retire. Okung is a big, physical, strong-hipped power player with outstanding length, which allows him to function on the left side despite some heaviness in his movement. To keep Matt Hasselbeck healthy and give Charlie Whitehurst a chance, the Seahawks needed to address this position more than any. Okung could be outstanding in the run game and very solid in pass protection.
7 (7) Cleveland: CB Joe Haden, Florida
The Browns ranked near the bottom of the league defending the pass last season and continually struggled with injuries at the position. There was strong support for Kyle Wilson in the Browns' war room, but ultimately, the Browns' brass decided Haden was a much safer selection given the Southeastern Conference competition that he regularly faced. He has good size, great ball skills and the man cover skills to enter the starting lineup immediately.
8 (8) Oakland: ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama
By selecting Rolando McClain, the Raiders may be setting up to run a base "30" front, which better suits the talents of DE Richard Seymour, having already acquired OLBs Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves via the trade market. For a 260-pounder, McClain moves well for his size, but he is a bit leggy for the inside and does not consistently close to the sideline. Some NFL teams had downgraded McClain because they viewed him as only a two-down linebacker, but the Butkus Award winner is extremely football-savvy, can line up a defense and has a Ray Lewis-type edge on the field that could serve the Raiders very well.
9 (9) Buffalo: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson
With Marshawn Lynch having worn out his welcome in Buffalo, the Bills needed to add another dimension to the backfield to relieve some of the burden on Fred Jackson. Spiller is a terrific mismatch piece whom Chan Gailey will be able to maximize from Day One. By selecting Spiller, the Bills ignored the OT position that plagued them so much a year ago, but they can be expected to bolster the line with future picks. Spiller is a difference maker with game-breaking skills and could really support the development of Trent Edwards.
10 (10) Jacksonville: DT Tyson Alualu, California
Few anticipated that Alualu would have been a top-10 pick despite some whispers leading up to the draft that the Jaguars were entertaining the idea of selecting the explosive three-technique. However, he fits very well in the Jaguars' defense alongside Terrance Knighton and possesses the strength of character that GM Gene Smith values so highly. Alualu primarily lined up outside in a three-man front at California, but he will likely move inside and challenge John Henderson for playing time, while allowing the Jaguars to transition between even and odd fronts more easily.
11 (11) San Francisco (from Chicago through Denver): OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers
With a market shaping up for Anthony Davis, the Niners moved up two slots to nab the powerful, athletic blocker, who should allow Adam Snyder to become a swing tackle and provide the depth that was lacking on the offensive line last season. Concerns existed about Davis' maturity, but he is only 20 years old and could not have found a better landing spot, with Mike Singletary having proven capable of molding undisciplined talent.
12 (12) San Diego (from Miami): RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
With LaDainian Tomlinson out of the picture, the Chargers needed an every-down back who would allow Norv Turner to re-establish the power running game, and Mathews fits the bill. He should step into the starting lineup immediately alongside Darren Sproles and help re-establish a ground game that finished the season ranked 31st in the league and forced Turner to go to the air much more often last season. San Diego's cost to make the deal may appear rich — besides a swap of first-round picks in which they moved up 16 spots, the Chargers gave up second- and fourth-round picks and backup LB Tim Dobbins and received fourth- and sixth-round picks — but with Ronnie Brown on the trading block and Ricky Williams past his prime, the Dolphins also had a need for a power runner, and Seattle was believed to be lurking, as well.
13 (13) Philadelphia (from San Francisco through Denver): DE Brandon Graham, Michigan
The Eagles made a strong run at Julius Peppers in free agency and were not able to land him, but they did find a high-energy, productive left defensive end who could play with power on the edges. Sean McDermott's defense struggled to create enough pressure on its own last season, and Graham has the pass-rush potential to leverage the edge. He should challenge Juqua Parker for the starting job out of the gate and could provide an immediate impact as a nickel rusher.
14 (14) Seattle (from Denver): FS Earl Thomas, Texas
After Kansas City nabbed Eric Berry a pick ahead of them, the Seahawks were left to scramble to fill a very weak position on their roster. The Seahawks' secondary was picked apart last season, ranking 30th in the league against the pass, and Thomas' range, ball skills and playmaking ability will allow the Seahawks to better handle the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Crabtree twice a year.
15 (15) New York Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
The most physically gifted pass rusher in the draft, Pierre-Paul has natural bend, athletic ability and movement skills that cannot be taught. The big question surrounding his future is whether he will ever be able to learn how to rush the passer against more polished NFL blockers, given his lack of instincts and learning deficiency. He is very much a raw, developmental project at this stage in his career, but the Giants have a strong support network in place and the type of depth on their roster to afford Pierre-Paul to be brought along slowly in a role as a nickel rusher. It could allow the Giants the flexibility to move the emotional Osi Umenyiora, as well.
16 (16) Tennessee: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
With Kyle Vanden Bosch departing for Detroit and Jevon Kearse unsigned, the Titans needed to add some more youth to their front. Morgan is a young version of Vanden Bosch, with good strength, power and energy to man the left defensive end position. The Titans may have had a more pressing need for a cornerback with their pass defense really sagging last season, but an energetic pass rusher will make the secondary's job much easier.
17 (17) San Francisco (from Carolina): OG Mike Iupati, Idaho
When Mike Singletary took over in San Francisco, he wanted to establish a physical, smashmouth ground game, yet he did not have the offensive line to get the job done. With the addition of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, the Niners not only found two plug-and-play starters, they added considerable firepower to a line that should now be able to re-establish the line of scrimmage and create big holes for Frank Gore.
18 (18) Pittsburgh: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
Selecting a center this highly is difficult to justify from a value standpoint. However, teams can justify selecting interior offensive linemen early if they are special, and Pouncey fits the "special" category. He will match big-on-big very well in a powerful division where he will be asked to face Shaun Rogers twice a year. He has excellent size, toughness and football intelligence and should anchor the line for 10-12 years.
19 (19) Atlanta: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
With Mike Peterson aging and playing undisciplined football, Weatherspoon adds youth to the Falcons' linebacking unit. He is big, fast and flies to the ball. His play dropped off as a senior after he bulked up, but he looked much more comfortable after dropping weight at the Senior Bowl. The biggest challenge he will face upon entering the pros will be keeping his ego in check and not alienating veterans in the locker room.
20 (20) Houston: CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama
The Texans needed a big, physical cornerback to replace the departed Dunta Robinson, and Jackson fits the bill. He will enter training camp with the expectation to start and should not have any problems after playing every coverage for Nick Saban at Alabama. He is quick to support the run, plays smart and very seldom gets beat, with deceptive functional playing speed given his smooth stride.
21 (21) Cincinnati: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
The Bengals had a glaring hole on their roster at the TE position, and Gresham should step into the starting lineup readily. He has outstanding instincts for the position, catches the ball naturally and has big-time upside as a pass catcher. He will open up the Bengals' passing game and should contend for honors readily.
22 (22) Denver (from New England): WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
Josh McDaniels proved he learned wisely from Bill Belichick, as he carefully worked his way down the draft board and stockpiled additional picks while still positioning himself to land his receiver of choice. After dealing Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins, McDaniels needed to replace Marshall's production, and he landed a very similar player without all the baggage.
23 (23) Green Bay: OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
After Bulaga's arms measured 32¼ inches at his pro day, shorter than any other left tackle in the league, NFL OL coaches began to express greater concern about his ability to handle the edge, and his stock was affected adversely. However, he is very smart, understands angles and has good feet to become a very solid starter in the pros. He likely will be groomed inside at left guard next to Chad Clifton, with the potential to kick outside in a year or two.
24 (24) Dallas (from Philadelphia through Denver and New England): WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
With no one to answer to but himself, Jerry Jones could feel comfortable rolling the dice on an elite talent with considerable maturity concerns. He is a big, physically imposing No. 1 receiver who could develop into a game-breaker if he stays focused and learns what it means to work. The addition of Bryant does not look encouraging for Roy Williams, however.
25 (25) Denver (from Baltimore): QB Tim Tebow, Florida
Josh McDaniels shipped Jay Cutler out of town a year ago because Cutler did not fit the profile of what the head coach seeks in a quarterback, most of which has nothing to do with a passer's physical tools and everything to do with work ethic, intelligence and intangibles, which cannot be quantified with a stopwatch. By selecting Tebow in the first round, the Broncos clearly sent a message about what they think of Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, both of whom may be needed for another year or two while Tebow's mechanics are overhauled. Concerns still exist about his accuracy, field vision and ability to feel pressure, but if anyone can help fix mechanical deficiencies, it is the confident McDaniels, who will have his work cut out in molding Tebow into an NFL-style passer.
26 (26) Arizona: NT Dan Williams, Tennessee
Gabe Watson has been a functional plugger inside, but Dan Williams significantly upgrades the position and brings more quickness and agility to create inside pressure in the Cardinals' movement front. His presence should make it easier for Paris Lenon, or whichever linebacker the Cardinals draft, to replace Karlos Dansby.
27 (27) New England (from Dallas): CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers
Bill Belichick highly values special teams, and McCourty's ability to excel as a gunner and jammer on special teams considerably enhanced his value. Having to face Jets WRs Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards twice a year placed a greater premium on the cornerback position for the Patriots, and more depth was needed, given the age of Shawn Springs and the injury history of Terrence Wheatley.
28 (28) Miami (from San Diego): DE Jared Odrick, Penn State
Odrick lined up inside for Penn State and was very active and disruptive when he kept his pads low, but he too often rises and plays tall, which may make him more naturally setting the edge in a "30" front. Bill Parcells is a believer in building inside out and sought value over need by drafting a difficult-to-find five-technique.
29 (29) New York Jets: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
With few picks in tow, the Jets uncharacteristically stood still, not aggressively trading up the way they have in past years. Wilson should be able to compete readily in the slot as a nickel corner and provide insurance and motivation for the injury-prone Antonio Cromartie. He is tough and physical and fits the aggressive temperament of Rex Ryan's defense.
30 (30) Detroit (from Minnesota): RB Jahvid Best, California
The Lions sought a difference maker on each side of the ball, and in Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best, they found two impact-type players. Best should alleviate some of the burden on Kevin Smith and add spark to the backfield for Matt Stafford and a potential big-play weapon to the return game.
31 (31) Indianapolis: DE Jerry Hughes, TCU
The key to the Colts' defense is edge heat, and few in this draft have proven they can heat up the edges as well as Jerry Hughes. While he may not have ideal length, he understands leverage, has been very productive and could turn out to be another excellent late-round value pick for the Colts.
32 (32) New Orleans: CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State
With Malcom Jenkins likely to move to free safety to replace Darren Sharper, the Saints sought another big cover corner to play opposite Tracy Porter. Robinson does not play physical, but he is very quick-footed, extremely athletic and has man-cover skills that will allow him to excel in the press coverage Gregg Williams likes to employ.
Nolan Nawrocki will provide pick-by-pick analysis of the second and third rounds Friday evening.