- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

Which team performed the best during this weekend’s NFL Draft? Which team disappointed by making ill-advised selections or haphazard trades? Here are five winners and losers from this offseason:

Winners

The Browns drafted left tackle Joe Thomas third overall and then gave next year’s first-round pick to Dallas to land quarterback Brady Quinn with the 22nd pick. In one draft, they solidified the offensive line with the best available tackle and gave their fans hope by taking a home-state quarterback who is NFL ready. Earlier this offseason, they signed Eric Steinbach to play tackle, Jamal Lewis to handle the running game and Robaire Smith to rush the passer. GM Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel know their jobs are on the line by drafting Quinn, but as the Washington Redskins did in 2005, giving away a future first rounder to draft a quarterback (Jason Campbell) is well worth the risk.

The Patriots started the draft with two first-round picks and ended the draft with two 2008 first-round picks plus their safety of the future (Brandon Meriweather) and a No. 1 receiver (Randy Moss) that cost them only a fourth-round pick. The Patriots have loaded up for a Super Bowl run following exits the last two seasons in losses at Denver and Indianapolis. Through free agency and trades, they have revamped their receiving group with Moss, Donte Stallworth, Kelley Washington and Wes Welker and spent money to sign linebacker Adalius Thomas and tight end Kyle Brady. New England has become a model for how to conduct the draft.

The importance of having a good safety (or two) who can play the run, blitz the passer and cover the slot receiver was magnified Saturday when four safeties went in the first 24 picks and seven safeties were chosen in the first two rounds. Last year, only two safeties went in the first round. Saturday, LaRon Landry went sixth to the Redskins, Michael Griffin 19th to Tennessee, Reggie Nelson 21st to Jacksonville and Meriweather 24th to New England. A lockdown cornerback is still the top priority for most defenses, but finding a safety who can make an instant impact has resulted in teams going that direction in the opening round.

On the surface, it looks like the Bears had a so-so draft. But look deeper and it was a solid weekend for the defending NFC champs. First, they still have linebacker Lance Briggs on the roster. They didn’t deal him to the Redskins because they knew the sixth pick would be tough to move. They will deal with the Briggs situation in the summer. In the first round, they drafted the top-rated tight end Miami’s Greg Olsen. A young quarterback’s best friend is a solid tight end (see Chris Cooley and Jason Campbell). In the third round, they drafted productive running back Garrett Wolfe, who will be Cedric Benson’s backup.

The Panthers found four potential starters in the first three rounds after trading out of the No. 14 spot. Not a bad first day. They selected linebacker Jon Beason in the first round, and he can play outside if he moves ahead of Na’il Diggs or in the middle if Dan Morgan can’t recover from his concussion problems. In the second round, they picked Southern Cal receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who is 6-foot-4 and fell only because of a sub-par 40-yard dash time, and the draft’s top-rated center, Ryan Kalil. Kalil’s arrival gives the Panthers flexibility, and they could move Justin Hartwig to guard. In the third and fourth rounds, they took pass rusher Charles Johnson and receiver/return man Ryne Robinson, respectively.

Losers

Usually the Eagles along with New England and Indianapolis are a model of how to get great value for non-first-round picks. But what they did this year, especially Saturday, was puzzling. They traded out of the first round. No problem there. But with their first pick, No. 36 overall, they ignored needs at linebacker (where they’re getting old) and safety (ditto) to choose quarterback Kevin Kolb. Huh? The team already has A.J. Feeley and Kelly Holcomb as insurance for Donovan McNabb. They could have gotten a quarterback in the third or fourth round. They finally took a linebacker in the third round and a safety in the fifth round. If Jeremiah Trotter and/or Brian Dawkins go down, they’re in trouble.

The Notre Dame quarterback gets to play for the team he grew up cheering for (the Browns), but in going to Cleveland with the 22nd pick and not the third pick, he cost himself a Brink’s truck worth of cash. Last year, Vince Young was drafted third by Tennessee and received $25.74 million in guaranteed money. Manny Lawson went 22nd to San Francisco and received $6.28 million in guaranteed money. That’s a pretty big disparity. The only plus for Quinn could be in his second contract. If he starts early and plays well for the Browns, he could cash in earlier.

Imagine the surprise at Redskin Park on Saturday when Quinn was available at No. 6, the decision makers called South Florida asking whether the Dolphins were interested and they said, “No thanks. We’re going to stay at No. 9 and draft Ted Ginn.” Taking Ginn, the Ohio State receiver/return guy, that high was the shock of the first round, especially with Quinn still on the board. And then the Dolphins took a quarterback (Brigham Young’s John Beck) in the second round who isn’t nearly ready to play right away. New coach Cam Cameron deserved to be booed and heckled at a fan function in South Florida.

The Buccaneers were supposed to be one of the compelling teams in the draft because of their stockpile of draft picks. But they didn’t do much of anything. They wanted Calvin Johnson but were unwilling to give up what Detroit wanted, then drafted defensive end Gaines Adams with the fourth pick. If Adams pans out, fine. But with their two second-round picks, the Buccaneers went with tackle Arron Sears and safety Sabby Piscitelli instead of adding to a receiving group that includes an aging Joey Galloway and little else. Not exactly the way to help new quarterback Jeff Garcia.

The first round took a record six hours, eight minutes, and it seemed like it took six days and eight hours. Teams are allowed 15 minutes to make their selection. For a league that wants to be fan friendly and puts everything from minicamp practices to combine weightlifting sessions on television, the length of the first round was a disservice to fans. It would be interesting to see what the ratings were for the first hour of the draft compared with, say, the fourth hour. The NFL should allow 12 minutes in the first round, which would automatically shave 96 minutes off the round or, better yet, make it a 10-minute rule.

Ryan O’Halloran

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