Hey there sporty people. I decided to take a little break from baseball this week and talk to you a little bit about the NFL. Not the labor dispute in the lockout.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. The 2011 NFL draft took place over the weekend and, as usual, there were some big surprises. I’ve picked four drafts to talk about, the two that I think are the best and two that I think are the worst.
First round selection: QB Cam Newton
Like the Patriots, the Panthers failed to address their most pressing needs in this year’s draft, namely speed at wide receiver and a first or second-round pass-rushing talent. What they did get was Newton, an egomaniac who will need at least two seasons to prepare before he’s ready to compete at the NFL level. Even then, he’s not guaranteed to fit into an NFL system. For a team that gave up the second-most rushing touchdowns and was last in almost every passing category, drafting a developmental quarterback and no significant defensive help will certainly come back to haunt them in the upcoming season.
New England Patriots:
First round selection: OT Nate Solder
The NFL community seems to believe that Bill Belichick is a crafty genius when it comes to the draft. As an ardent Patriots fan I’d like to believe it, yet it is hard for me to see the reason in not drafting a pass-rusher before the sixth round. Sure, Solder might be the heir apparent to the aging Matt Light and QB Ryan Mallett is almost certainly that for Tom Brady — but why draft another corner when they’ve already spent high picks in previous years on Darius Butler and Devin McCourty, and have capable veteran Leigh Bodden to back them up? The most confusing selection of all might be that of tight end Lee Smith in the fifth round after drafting two highly skilled tight ends last year. Maybe Belichick knows something the rest of us don’t. Still, leaving your greatest need unaddressed is never a good idea.
First round selection: DT Marcel Dareus
The Bills had a lot of problems last season but their main one was defense — particularly their rushing defense. They gave up a total of 335 first downs last season (fifth most in the league) and 138 of those were rushing first downs — more than any other team gave up. Because of this, they used their first four picks to revamp their defense at every level with Dareus, CB Aaron Williams, LB Kelvin Sheppard and Da’Norris Searcy. They might have considered spending a pick on a QB, but Ryan Fitzpatrick showed promise last season and they must have faith in him. They addressed their immediate needs and should be a better team when the new season begins.
First round selection: DT Nick Fairley
After giving up 1999 yards on the ground last season, 18 rushing touchdowns (fifth most in the league) and an average of 4.5 yards per carry, the Lions desperately needed a big body up front to stop the run. They got that in Fairley, who will certainly start next season. Their second pick, WR Titus Young provides them with a speed option for when QB Matthew Stafford has to get rid of the ball quickly.