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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
1 (33) St. Louis: OT Rodger Saffold, Indiana
Billy Devaney followed a successful protocol, adding much-needed protection for Sam Bradford, with OT Alex Barron having been on the trading block for years and too consistently giving up the edge and getting outleveraged. Given Bradford's lack of foot quickness to move around the pocket and his recent injury history, the decision to invest in the offensive line was a very wise move. Saffold is very athletic and could even allow the more physical Jason Smith to stay on the right side. However, he likely will begin his career on the right side and significantly upgrades the Rams' edges.
2 (34) Minnesota (from Detroit): CB Chris Cook, Virginia
Cook fits the profile of Minnesota's cornerbacks with great size, length and press-coverage ability. He adds depth to a position of need for the Vikings, with concerns about both Antoine Winfield, who played hurt much of last season, and Cedric Griffin coming off a season-ending torn ACL injury that could force him to start the season on the PUP list.
3 (35) Tampa Bay: DT Brian Price, UCLA
The Buccaneers' first two picks clearly reflect how Raheem Morris felt about his interior defensive linemen, Ryan Sims and Chris Hovan, who were both key reasons why the Bucs really struggled to stop the run last season, when they ranked last in the league defending the run. Price and Gerald McCoy could combine to form a very solid one-two combo and increase the inside pass-rush ability of a heavy-footed line. Price has shown a tendency to tire easily, and his conditioning was a concern at UCLA, but when he is fresh, he is very active, and he should get a big boost from the ever-demanding McCoy.
4 (36) Kansas City: RB Dexter McCluster, Mississippi
With C.J. Spiller and Jahvid Best both coming off the board in the first round, Dexter McCluster's value improved considerably. McCluster could combine with Thomas Jones to give the Chiefs a one-two complement like the Jets had a year ago when Leon Washington was healthy. McCluster's stock ascended at the Senior Bowl when he excelled catching the ball out of the slot and ran very crisp routes, but his strong finish against better competition in the Southeastern Conference was what was most impressive. The Chiefs needed to add more playmakers to support Matt Cassel, and McCluster fills the bill. The only concern is his lack of size and durability concerns, with a history of shoulder injuries, but he is extremely tough and has shown he will battle through pain.
5 (37) Philadelphia (from Washington): FS Nate Allen, South Florida
The Eagles' defense was not the same last season after losing Brian Dawkins. Allen gives the Eagles great range on the back end and fills one of their most pressing needs. He should have a chance to compete immediately with Macho Harris for a starting job. The biggest question about Allen is his lack of toughness and unwillingness to defend the run. He does not make a lot of plays and too often shows up at the pile a second after a tackle has been made, allowing others to arrive first. But he is smart, rangy and can cover like a corner with good hips and transitional quickness. He could help the Eagles covering the slot.
6 (38) Cleveland: FS T.J. Ward, Oregon
Ward grades out highly on tape, with very good instincts and physicality. He is a physical tackler who has lined up at corner and safety during his career, and his football intelligence and understanding of the game should allow him to compete for a starting job right away at a position where the Browns are very light following the departure of Brodney Pool. The greatest concern about Ward is his injury history, which was expected to potentially knock him down a round or two. Clearly, the Browns did not have any concerns about it. If he stays healthy, he should be a strong contributor and tempo setter for a secondary that struggled mightily defending the run and the pass a year ago.
7 (39) Tampa Bay (from Oakland): WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
The Buccaneers spent their first two picks bolstering the middle of their defense, but with WR Antonio Bryant departing in free agency, they had a big need to support Josh Freeman with more weapons. The Buccaneers' receiving corps is littered with a number of former early-round picks, such as Michael Clayton, Reggie Brown and Mark Bradley, and all of them have underachieved throughout their careers. Adding another receiver who struggled as a junior and is still very raw adds an element of risk, but in Benn's defense, he did play on an injured ankle with a revolving door at the QB position at Illinois and had to endure an offensive coordinator change. He is strong and physical after the catch and has return ability.
8 (40) Miami (from Seattle through San Diego): OLB Koa Misi, Utah
The Dolphins' greatest need was arguably at the rush linebacker position, with the team having cut Joey Porter and failed to re-sign Jason Taylor. Misi does not have prototypical size or length, but he can convert his strength into power and has a motor that does not stop. He could compete with SLB Charlie Anderson for a starting job out of the gate.
9 (41) Buffalo: NT Torell Troup, Central Florida
The most pivotal piece of a 3-4 defense is the nose tackle, and with the Bills making the conversion to an odd front, they needed a bigger, more stout centerpiece than Kyle Williams. Troup has the sheer mass, power and press strength to hold the point and occupy space and should immediately be able to factor into the Bills' defense on first and second downs.
10 (42) New England (from Chicago through Tampa Bay and Oakland): TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
After losing Ben Watson to the Browns in free agency, the Patriots needed to find an all-around tight end who could be groomed behind Alge Crumpler, and Bill Belichick, recognizing the value of the player and likely suspecting that the Ravens would pounce on a first-round talent, moved up two picks to address the position. Some teams had concerns about Gronkowski's injury history, after he missed all of last season with a serious back injury, and more had concerns about his character and focus. However, he comes from a football family, has natural hands and receiving ability and could develop into a solid all-around player if he can stay healthy and focused.
11 (43) Baltimore (from Miami through Denver): OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas
GM Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the NFL at recognizing value, especially as it relates to trusting his doctors, and if Kindle stays healthy, he could be a double-digit sack producer in the mold of Peter Boulware. Kindle is a first-round talent who slid out of the first round largely because of concerns about his knee, intelligence and character — three red flags. But the Ravens know how to keep the game simple and have a track record of hitting on pass rushers. Kindle could be the next if he stays healthy. He is tough, physical and explosive and is well-suited for the rush LB position.
12 (44) Oakland (from Jacksonville through New England): DT Lamarr Houston, Texas
Houston really elevated his draft stock with a strong senior season, and his lateral quickness, agility and motor stand out on tape. He was a disruptive force for the Longhorns and adds an inside pass rusher to the Raiders' defense after the loss of Gerard Warren. Having lined up at power end at times for the Longhorns, Houston also gives the Raiders flexibility to kick him outside in "30"-front packages.
13 (45) Denver: OG Zane Beadles, Utah
With Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris securely protecting the edges in Denver, Beadles likely will kick inside from the OLT position that he handled in college, and he may even be tried as a center in Denver, with a pressing need at the position following the departure of Casey Wiegmann. He could help at any of the three interior positions and clearly was drafted to start soon. He is quick and athletic but lacks ideal strength for the interior.
14 (46) New York Giants: DT Linval Joseph, East Carolina
With Fred Robbins being dealt to St. Louis and Barry Cofield a restricted free agent, the Giants needed to add some depth inside and clearly planned to re-sculpt their defensive front seven through the draft. Joseph departed ECU early after Skip Holtz took a job at South Florida. He entered the program closer to 400 pounds and has played through some back injuries, but he is strong and physical and appeared much more athletic at his pro day than he does on tape. There was some discussion about him by teams late in the first round, and he brings solid value in the second. He should contribute readily and help the Giants collapse the pocket from the inside.
15 (47) Arizona (from Tennessee through New England): ILB Daryl Washington, TCU
The Cardinals historically have not been very active trading, but with a glaring hole in the middle of their defense following the departure of Karlos Dansby, they moved up several spots to land one of the faster linebackers in the draft. Washington will combine with Dan Williams to fortify the middle of the Cardinals' defense and increase overall team speed. The Cardinals, as they historically do, did a fine job of recognizing the value of falling talent.
16 (48) Carolina: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
Instead of mortgaging the future to move up, as they have the last two years for Everette Brown and Jeff Otah, Marty Hurney patiently waited for the board to fall to him, and he took a chance on a polished passer who should be able to compete for the starting job readily following the departure of Jake Delhomme. Clausen did not get a chance to fully perform for evaluators prior to the draft, as he was recovering from toe surgery, and questions continued to swirl in league circles about what type of leader he will be in the pros, both factors having negatively affected his draft status. However, he fills a very pressing need for the Panthers and will have a chance to compete for a starting job.
17 (49) San Francisco: FS Taylor Mays, USC
For a four-year starter, Mays' production on the ball was very suspect, with only five career interceptions, and his limited lateral agility and questionable transitional quickness could limit him in man coverage. However, he is very physical when he has a clean shot, and if used most heavily in the box as a banger, he could prove to be a fine addition and a significant upgrade over the injury-prone Michael Lewis. Mays has top-10-type talent, and he slipped to the second half of the second round in part because of questions about his selfishness and immaturity. Yet Mike Singletary has proven to be a strong disciplinarian, and the Niners, more than most, could feel comfortable rolling the dice on his immense physical potential.
18 (50) Kansas City (from Atlanta): CB Javier Arenas, Alabama
After selecting Eric Berry with their first pick, the Chiefs continued to make over the back end of Romeo Crennel's defense by selecting a zone cornerback in the mold of Ronde Barber. Arenas is a squatty, tough, physical and instinctive corner who could excel manning short zones in a predominantly zone coverage scheme.
19 (51) Minnesota (from Houston): RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford
With Chester Taylor being signed by the division-rival Bears in free agency, the Vikings needed a complementary back to relieve some of the burden from Adrian Peterson. Gerhart should do just that and could be a welcome addition as a short-yardage runner given the tendency of Peterson to put the ball on the ground. He adds much-needed depth and power to the Vikings' ground game.
20 (52) Pittsburgh: OLB Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
The Steelers have had some big hits at the OLB position, such as Kendrell Bell, Clark Haggans, Jason Gildon and James Harrison, who was signed after the draft and has been developed into an All-Pro. However, selecting Worilds in the second round appears to be a reach similar to the selection of Bruce Davis in the third round of the 2008 draft. He is undersized and could be challenged by the size of the NFL game. Yet, if there is a place where he can succeed, it is in Dick LeBeau's odd front, with few coaches scheming pressure any better than the veteran coordinator. Worilds was drafted earlier than many teams expected, after notching only five sacks as a senior, but he should benefit from being able to learn from the aging Harrison.
21 (53) New England: OLB Jermaine Cunningham, Florida
Carlos Dunlap received most of the hype at Florida, but it is was Cunningham who stood out more on tape. He is a bit tightly wound, but he has the body length that Bill Belichick desires for his traditional "30"-front defense and the strength and power to slip-shed blockers and pressurize the edges. Hailing from a championship program adds an element of allure for Patriots' brass, as it could enhance Cunningham's readiness to compete, with Adalius Thomas having fallen out of favor last season and in need of being replaced.
22 (54) Cincinnati: DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida
In typical Bengals fashion, they rolled the dice on a big-time, physical talent with considerable character questions. If the light ever comes on, the Bengals could hit big — Dunlap has immense physical talent — but with Antwan Odom coming off a season-ending injury, Dunlap gives the Bengals better depth at the position with his capability to play on either side. Might fit best on the left side behind Robert Geathers.
23 (55) Dallas (from Philadelphia): ILB Sean Lee, Penn State
Some teams have concerns about Lee's knee injury, but he is tough, physical and has been very productive. He will bring youth at a position where Keith Brooking appears to be on his last legs, and he can bring the same type of leadership to the field that the Cowboys have received from Brooking. He fills a clear need but is also a solid value pick.
24 (56) Green Bay: DE Mike Neal, Purdue
Neal is extremely strong (500-pound bench presser) and should battle Johnny Jolly for playing time as a rookie. His inconsistent play was the biggest concern for scouts, and he was not expected to be drafted as early as he was. Yet when he played hard, he did show he's capable of dominating in flashes.
25 (57) Baltimore: NT Terrence Cody, Alabama
With Kelly Gregg aging and Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan moving on, the Ravens could use more youth and depth on their defensive line. Cody was plucked to man the middle. The pick should make Ray Lewis very happy and help Tavares Gooden continue to develop, as Cody could capably occupy two blockers with his long arms and rare press strength. John Harbaugh runs a tight ship and should be able to keep the overweight Cody in shape.
26 (58) Houston (from Arizona through New England): RB Ben Tate, Auburn
Steve Slaton battled injury for much of last season, and the Texans needed a workhorse back who could handle a heavier workload. After missing out on Ryan Mathews in the first round, they found a very suitable stretch-zone runner for Gary Kubiak's zone running game in Ben Tate, who really improved as a senior. He is tight in the hips, but he can stick his foot in the ground and get upfield quickly and should excel for the Texans.
27 (59) Cleveland (from Dallas through Philadelphia): RB Montario Hardesty, Tennessee
With Jamal Lewis unsigned, the Browns needed to get younger in the backfield and add a power complement to Jerome Harrison. There were some concerns about Hardesty's knee, considering he had microfracture surgery, but he stayed healthy as a senior and showed he was capable of carrying the Vols' offense. He should combine with Harrison for a formidable one-two punch.
28 (60) Seattle (from San Diego): WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame
T.J. Houshmandzadeh disappointed after signing a blockbuster contract, and the Seahawks' receiving unit lacks a playmaking talent. Golden Tate gives Matt Hasselbeck a solid run-after-the-catch option. He's tight-hipped and pigeon-toed and does not look the part, but he did produce for the Irish and could be effective in the slot from Day One.
29 (61) New York Jets: OT Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts
With Alan Faneca being shopped and likely to be cut, Ducasse could be plugged in readily at the left guard position and help establish a more powerful ground attack. Ducasse has long arms, good feet and power in his body and can move defenders off the line of scrimmage. He could be groomed inside for a year and eventually replace Damien Woody.
30 (62) New England (from Minnesota through Houston): ILB Brandon Spikes, Florida
The Patriots added another Florida defensive leader, and Brandon Spikes, who compares very favorably to former MLB Bryan Cox, is perfectly suited to man the inside of New England's defense. He has excellent instincts and on-field leadership ability and could be paired alongside Jerod Mayo to bolster the middle of the Patriots' run defense.
31 (63) Indianapolis: MLB Pat Angerer, Iowa
General manager Bill Polian is very fond of Big Ten talent and has a history of finding solid players such as Bob Sanders and Dallas Clark in the Iowa program. Angerer has great speed and instincts and fits seamlessly into the Colts' defense. He has the speed to help outside, as well as the inside position he manned for the Hawkeyes, and could be a demon on special teams.
32 (64) New Orleans: OT Charles Brown, USC
Teams had concerns about Brown's back injury, which lessened his value, and questions about his lateral agility, toughness and football-playing demeanor were all causes for concern. However, with Jammal Brown coming off injury and potentially on the trading block, the Saints had a reason to invest in the tackle position. Similar to Jacob Rogers, whom the Cowboys drafted in the 2004 second round out of USC when Sean Payton was in Dallas, Brown may struggle to live up to his draft expectations.
Nolan Nawrocki will provide observations on the picks in the final four rounds Saturday, and he'll have grades for each team's draft late Sunday.