With lower salaries for rookies in the coming year, the NFL went crazy with trades up and down the draft. Now that the dust has settled on the historically quick First Round, let's hand out awards for winners and losers.
Best Bluff - Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings held the third pick, but convinced the Browns to leap frog to the third slot for a guaranteed Trent Richardson, allowing the Vikes to pick up three of Clevelands picks and still draft OT Matt Kalil. The Browns had 13 to spend, so it's a decent swap in value and opportunity for both franchises. Minnesota will also gain protection for former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, who the Vikings drafted in the first round last year. He was sacked 49 times in his rookie season, and Kalil will provide protection from the blindside. The Vikings later drafted Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with the 29th pick.
All In - Jacksonville Jaguars
Rejoice, Jags fans. The ownership is finally serious about putting the right pieces in place, and gave up only a 4th round pick to move up two slots and thwart St. Louis's attempts to draft 2-time Fred Belitnikoff award winner Justin Blackmon, wide receiver from Oklahoma State. Last year Jacksonville was dead last in receptions over 20 yards. Blackmon should fix that. Their next pick is 38th overall, 6th in the second round.
Nice Moves - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First Tampa Bay slid back to No. 7 from No.5 and gained Jacksonville's fourth round pick. Unexpectedly, the Rams then traded Dallas their pick and the Bucs lost out on Morris Clairborne, a tremendous talent. Luckily, the position they needed to fill had not been drafted: Mark Barron, safety and 2-time captain at Alabama. He led the SEC in interceptions his sophomore year and will make up for the legal enbattled Talib and again Ronde Barber. The Red Barron comes from a good pedigree and will become a leader for the team. Satisfied, the Bucs then planned to wait for a running back.
As the players came off the list, Tampa Bay saw an opportunity to turn their second round pick into a first round when no one was drafting running backs. Tampa Bay sent their 36th and 101st picks to the Denver Broncos in exchange for the 31st and 126th selections and snatched the second best running back in the draft, Doug Martin, a steal at 31. They effectively stole him from the NY Giants - who picked next, and took another running back. Nice! Martin has the potential to rival LeGarrett Blount in year one, and take over the position in year two.
You Done Good - New England Patriots
The team notorious for trading down finally reversed strategies in this draft, turning their late first round picks into the 21st and 25th selections, drafting local DE Chandler Jones from Syracuse and inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower from Alabama. Hightower was not expected to fall to 25th, but the Seahawk chose the one dimensional pass rusher Bruce Irvin at 15 and the Bears selected Boise State's Shea McClellin at 19, providing the opportunity. This immediately addresses the Patriot's near league worst defense that cost them a Superbowl. The Pats could still use a running back, and may pursue Miami's Lamar Miller in the second round.
What Do We Do Now? - Cleveland Browns
Already fooled into thinking The Vikings may trade away the No. 4 pick, the Browns sat tight at No. 22 to see their intended target, Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright, surprisingly drafted by the Tennessee Titans. For some reason, they opted to then select Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden, a gun slinger set to turn 29 years old. Forget the needs to protect the quarter back, or the need for more players to pass to. The Browns lost their receiver and clearly panicked. Weeden may have been the best available on their personal lists, but certainly is not an upgrade over the now seasoned Colt McCoy. Essentially, they have added drama instead of plugging holes in the offense. What were they thinking?
Well, I Guess We're Stuck - Buffalo Bills
The Bills had their fingers crossed that Luke Kuechly would fall to No. 10, but saw the Carolina Panthers snatch him up at No. 9. At this point the Bills should have joined the carrousel and traded down, but had no takers. Miami had taken the third best quarterback at No. 8 and Philadelphia was more comfortable trading up to slot 12 at a lower cost. Arizona felt safe to take their wide receiver at slot 13 and St. Louis continued to hoard their picks. Down the line every phone was cooling off for the middle stretch of the draft, so the Bills took the second or third best corner Stephon Gilmore. South Carolina makes him SEC tested, but there were needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver that still needed plugged. Gilmore is a top 15 talent, no question, but the Bills really sat on their hands with this pick.
Calling It Now - Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks could have done so much with the 15th overall selection, but they pulled an Alualu by drafting Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia. If you haven't heard of him, he's a one dimensional pass rusher who is explosive off the line, but a one trick pony. Head coach Pete Carroll claims it will add creativity, but this is a player no one was talking about. Seattle had traded back and picked up a fourth and fifth round pick, but they could have probably gotten Irvin with one of those picks. His legal problems do not provide a track record of success. I'll call this pick a dud.
Honorable Mention - San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers nearly made it to the superbowl, and their almost great team landed them the 29th or 30th pick in each round ,severely limiting their creativity with the draft. Their outlook was already bright, the former high draft picks Michael Crabtree and Alex Smith were glued together by excellent coaching and the team was on the up and up. This offseason they signed Randy Moss (who may actually be the shell of his former self) and Mario Manningham (Eli Manning's favorite target in the superbowl). Combine with Crabtree and Ted Ginn the 49ers probably needed an insurance pick in the wide receiver category, but at 30th overall? The 49ers reached down to the mid level receiving prospects and chose A.J. Jenkins from Illinois. This may not be a bad decision, but curious for the first round unless they really don't believe in the receivers they already have. Either way, the 49ers seem to be settling for a B-level receiving core to add to... Alex Smith.