If you’ve been following at all, you know by now that we here at the Sickness like to do our analysis a little differently. Rather than feigning expertise we don’t actually possess, or trying to convince you that we are able to see the future (read: giving each team a letter grade for a draft from which not a single player has set foot on the field yet), I like to sift through the myriad selections and give you my favorites at each position. I’m taking both “value” (as subjectively assessed by yours truly) and team need into account. This isn’t necessarily the best player chosen at each (or any particular) position. Rather, these are the Sickness Approved choices. Draft picks who I think will look like relative steals at their respective draft positions when we look back on this selection party three years hence.
I was impressed again this year with what I view as the overall improvement in draft process around the league. I think most teams got it right more often than not. It used to be we’d have a handful of dreadful drafts to pan at the end of the weekend. Now, almost nobody was totally out of left field with their choices. Most teams seem to understand their needs, and have learned through organizational pass-down or simple trial-and-error that choosing to address those needs over selecting the best football players on the board is an almost surefire ticket to misery. As such, fewer glaring errors stand out. The teams that we know have always done it well are still doing it well (Eagles, Steelers, Patriots, just as a few examples, killed it this year), and even some long-questioned draft flubbers- most notably the Cincinnati Bengals, who had arguably the most impressive draft in the league- are nailing it down. For an NFL draft fan, this was a captivating weekend.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Never mind Raymond; Everyone loves Luck and Griffin, and they’re both in what I consider to be perfect spots. Luck will be in an offense that tears up the middle of the field and takes its shots. Griffin will be killing people on play pass and stretch boots, throwing bombs to freak athlete wideouts in what should eventually be an explosive attack in DC. But departing momentarily from the obvious, I think the Seahawks’ third-round “gamble” for Wilson was a stroke of genius. When I watch Wilson play, I see the rare exception to the Short Quarterback Postulate. My case is supported by Wilson’s A+ athleticism and strong arm, his collegiate production, his ability to pick up two different systems and win, his evident leadership and communicative skills, and the simple fact that he had fewer passes batted down than Luck, Griffin and Tannehill (among others). As many have noted, he played behind the nation’s tallest line at Wisconsin, the ball comes out high and he’s outstanding at finding the necessary throwing lanes. Wilson has long been Sickness Approved, and the time he will have to absorb Darrell Bevell’s version of the West Coast should allow him to get to the business of competing with Matt Flynn for a longer-term commitment in a year or two.
BJ Coleman, Green Bay Packers (7/243): You will hear this name again in three or four years when Ted Thompson parlays him into a high draft pick. Mark it.
LaMichael James, San Francisco 49ers (2/61): Have fun catching this guy on the counter after Frank Gore beats you down for three quarters. A perfect fit for all involved.
Michael Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7/212): I also love Doug Martin, for whom the Bucs traded back up into the first round, but to land Michael Smith so late in the draft was a stunner to me. Smith has home run speed.
Reuben Randle, New York Giants (3/63): Eli gets yet another toy. One of the “fallers” that most surprised me, Randle has good size, speed and athleticism and falls into a perfect position as a depth option behind Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and company for the Super Bowl champs.
Devon Wylie, Kansas City Chiefs (4/107): If he stays healthy, Wiggles has all-pro upside as a slot receiver. It could get explosive with Bowe, McCluster, Moeaki, Wylie and Charles on the field all at once. Have fun with that, AFC West.
Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (5/166): Jones was well-known and much ballyhooed among the draft community for the past several months. There’s a reason. High-grade body control and stick-um hands. Not to rip the QB play at Cal, but Jones could have put up ridiculous numbers in other offenses, if you know what I’m sayin’.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (2/34): For all the obvious reasons.
David Paulson, Pittsburgh Steelers (7/240): As I look at this list, it seems a bit Pac-heavy, but I really do like a lot of these fits. Paulson fits the fine tradition of under-appreciated Steelers tight ends. It will be interesting to see how they employ him under Todd Haley.
Micheal Egnew, Miami Dolphins (3/78): Huge and fast, Egnew could fall into the category of tight ends whose college coaches either didn’t know what to do with them or just weren’t willing to significantly change their offenses to feature them in a Belichick/Payton fashion. That the Dolphins drafted him in the third round, and before any wide receiver, indicates an intention to join those ranks relatively soon.
Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland Browns (2/37): Some called this a reach. I can only assume none of them saw a single game played by either the Cal Bears or the Cleveland Browns in the fall of 2011. He’ll have growing pains, but this is a huge upgrade at a position of major need.
Cordy Glenn (2/41), and Zebrie Sanders (5/144), Buffalo Bills: Buddy Nix, I salute you. Building what should in time be one of the best defenses in the NFL with Mario Williams and two fine corners, Nix also added these potential future bookends. At worst, Glenn should be a standout guard with flexibility to kick outside. The Bills have done some damn fine work the past couple off-seasons, and imagine how it’s going to look if CJ Spiller breaks out as many expect?
Matt Kalil, Minnesota Vikings (1/4): They traded down for extra picks and added what I suspect will be a top 10 left tackle. Great stuff.
David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers (1/24): Are you kidding me with this? Nobody between, say, 15 and 23 wanted to pull one of the best interior offensive line prospects in years off the board before he fell into the Steelers’ lap? How do they do this every year, you ask? Easy: they just keep drafting good players. Sooner or later, a great one for one of your only needs accidentally jumps into your shopping cart. For previous examples, see Roethlisberger, Ben and Woodley, Lamarr.
Brandon Brooks, Houston Texans (3/76): He’s 350 pounds of mobility, and will fit in beautifully in the Texans’ zone scheme. When he gets moving, he’ll be faster than most guards in the league. Nice little nasty streak on him, too.
Kelechi Osemele, Baltimore Ravens (2/60): He had the ability to play left tackle in college, and will soon be an upgrade on much of their line.
Peter Konz, Atlanta Falcons (2/55): The draft’s best center doesn’t come off the board until 55? Rough year for centers. But Atlanta happily plucked him up and filled a position of need.
Phillip Blake, Denver Broncos (4/108): The new Jeff Saturday!
Vinny Curry, Philadelphia Eagles (2/59): So, let me get this straight. They led the league in sacks a year ago. They’re running Trent Cole and Jason Babin out there…and they’re going to add Vinny Curry to the mix? Is this even allowed? Can I get a ruling?
Jared Crick, Houston Texans (4/126): Crick’s drop to the fourth round was as big a surprise to me as any other in the draft. He’s (Mayock alert!) scheme-versatile and can kick inside on passing downs. A player that so many talked about as a first rounder not long ago is too talented to ignore in a defense that keeps looking more and more fun for Wade Phillips to play with.
Andre Branch, Jacksonville Jaguars (2/38): Just a real fine all-around player who creates leverage well, beats guys off the line often enough, and plays with good balance. A quality addition to that Jags D-line.
Devon Still, Cincinnati Bengals (2/53): Often projected as a first-round pick, Still and earlier choice Dre Kirkpatrick should help satisfy Marvin Lewis. You did notice his pre-draft comment, did you not, about the team having “neglected the defense” recently? Well, no more.
Alameda Te’Amu, Pittsburgh Steelers (4/109): I give up- the draft is obviously rigged for the Steelers. Te’Amu is just a perfect, big, strong fit for the Steelers’ front.
Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles (1/12): And Fletcher Cox, too? OK, I take it back. The draft is rigged for Pennsylvania.
Melvin Ingram, San Diego Chargers (1/18): Perhaps my favorite defensive prospect in this draft. Call him an OLB or a DE, but make sure you call him a baller. I suspect a dozen or so teams will be kicking themselves in two or three years.
Courtney Upshaw, Baltimore Ravens (2/35): Again. Are you kidding me? And all of a sudden, this pick got much more important with the bad news on Thursday. It’s like someone knew T-Sizzle was going to go down (a huge blow to both the Ravens and fans of high-motor physical football). Another guy who could be a LB or DE depending on your look.
Terrell Manning, Green Bay Packers (5/163): Explosive athlete who can do everything needed from the position in the Packers’ 3-4. It may take some time, but I see an eventual starter. Props to Brendan Leister for pointing him out to me.
Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia Eagles (2/46): The Eagles absolutely killed this draft, and no better evidence exists than their 2nd round scores of Curry and Kendricks.
Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots (1/25): Belichick stuns everyone and moves up twice in the first round, scoring perfect fits for his improving defense. Gotta love it. Hightower joins the long line of fantastic Hoodie LB’s.
Janoris Jenkins, St. Louis Rams (2/39): Yes, the red flags were apparently abundant. But have you seen the tape? He shut down AJ Green. He shut down Julio Jones. (Perhaps you’ve heard of them.) The only things he didn’t shut down while in the SEC were his libido and penchant for chronic indulgence. And, being real…the only issue that concerns me there if I’m an NFL executive is the potential for suspension. Bottom line, Jenkins is a top-15 talent. If he can be properly guided, he’s going to be a star. Great gamble by Les Snead and Jeff Fisher.
Brandon Boykin, Philadelphia Eagles (4/123): Sen Dog was PUMPED for this pick, and rightfully so. With the depth they have at the position, Boykin can put his playmaking skills to use early as a dime, and take his time developing.
Jamell Fleming, Arizona Cardinals (3/80): One of my favorite defensive players in college football, Fleming should eventually form a nice pair with last year’s first-round pick, Patrick Peterson.
George Iloka, Cincinnati Bengals (5/153): At 6’3″, 225 Iloka is what I imagine most safeties are going to look like soon. As in, they have bodies of smallish outside linebackers and the speed and athleticism to keep up with the new breed of tight end in the NFL.
Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1/7): Again- they traded back and landed a fantastic player at a position of need. Clearly, they noticed Jimmy Graham.
Hard to believe the draft has come and gone, but there you have it. The 2012 All-Sickness NFL Draft Team. Who’d I miss? Which were your guys? Let me know below or on Twitter @FtblSickness. And to finish, a sheer guess at the #1 overall pick in a year…naaaaah. Check the podcast. We did it there.