Who likes the NFL Draft? Me, that’s who. I understand it isn’t for everyone and even the most ardent NFL fan can find it boring after the first two picks. But not me, I love it. As a college-football-trumps-all-other-sports type you might think that sounds a bit contradictory, but I disagree. I have known of most of the guys in the Draft since they were in high school (remember, I am also a recruitnik) and I watched them sign their letters of intent at their high school with coaches and parents present, donning the cap of their new college team.
You know those coming-of-age movies/TV shows, where someone graduates from college and decides to move to a faraway town to chase their professional dreams? This is that, but it’s true. Kids from Mississippi and Colorado are suddenly on their way Seattle and New England. Watching these guys since they were 18 — some since they were 15 of 16 — I feel like I know them and I feel like I’m watching that coming-of-age story unfold in front of me.
Yes, that was very corny, so I’ll stop. I am a college guy, but I also love the NFL. The NFL is a one-guy league, meaning one guy can make all the difference in the world. College is all about building and creating depth, but with only 53 players on the roster, every single one must count and every single one can be the difference between the playoffs and contract extensions and no playoffs and a team starting over.
That means the NFL Draft is of a paramount importance to every team. They spend millions on research to find the best players that are the best fit for their organization… but they don’t always get it right. Some hit home runs, but some don’t. Let’s take a look at three teams that nailed it. Next week we will talk about the teams that didn’t.
Green Bay Packers
The Pack couldn’t seem to keep a running back healthy last year and they suffered, ranking 20th in the league in rushing yards per game. The lack of a running game also led to 51 sacks allowed, the second most in the league. After locking up Aaron Rodgers last week (5-year, $110 million extension), they needed to get him some help. They did.
Green Bay took running backs Eddie Lacey (Bama) and Jonathan Franklin (UCLA). With Lacey’s bruising size and Franklin’s speed and hands, the Packers have their 1-2 punch at tailback. A pair of tackles — David Bakhtiari (CU) and JC Tretter (Cornell) were taken in the fourth to shore up the o-line and a super athletic defensive end in Datone Jones (UCLA) was their first pick. Green Bay identified their issues and addressed them and did so without breaking the bank. Well done.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams’ defense is solid. Their numbers don’t always reflect that because they are on the field so much, but the general thought is if they can get anything from the offense, St. Louis could be a force. Last year they scored just 18.7 points per game, managed 329 yards per game and 221 yards passing. And now tailback Stephen Jackson is an Atlanta Falcon. The Rams desperately needed help for quarterback Sam Bradford. They got it.
Trading up into the first round, St. Louis took the most electrifying receiver in the draft in West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. They followed up in the third with his team Steadman Bailey and finished with Zac Stacy (Vandy), an underrated tailback that is the Commodores’ all-time leading rusher. He isn’t Stephen Jackson, but the addition of the Mountaineer wide outs will open up the running game significantly.
Also on the way to St. Louis, safety TJ McDonald (USC) and super linebacker Alec Ogletree (UGA), which will only help fortify an already formidable defense. The Rams are going to compete with ‘Niners and Seahawks now and will fun to watch.
I know, this isn’t an NFL team, but follow me on this. The Tigers had eight defensive players drafted this year. Eight from the same side of the ball. That’s just absurd. And the reason they make this list is every single superstar high school player has the NFL as their goal, and now LSU is showing the high school blue bloods that if you come play for the Mad Hatter in Baton Rouge you are likely on your way to NFL stardom and money.
That isn’t going to hurt recruiting, is it? No way. Recruiting is what feeds the machine and you can be sure Miles and his staff will be highlighting their drafted players in every living room they visit. Nothing like proof to aid your cause and the 2013 NFL Draft was proof LSU’s defensive coaches know what they are doing.
What did I miss? Let me hear your thoughts on Twitter @TreyMcLean or email me.