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Like is always the case, Day 1 of the NFL Draft proved to be entertaining with a lot of surprises.
Early on, the Atlanta Falcons traded essentially its entire draft for Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons, led by general manager and former Patriots director of college scouting Tom Dimitroff, traded away picks 27 (first round), 59 (second round), 124 (fourth round), a 2012 first rounder and a 2012 fourth rounder.
That’s a steep price to pay for Jones, but with a poor receiving class, Dimitroff and co. obviously felt they needed to do whatever it took to grab him. The Falcons also looked to trade with Cincinnati to draft Georgia’s A.J. Green at No. 4.
Coming into the draft, we knew the quarterbacks would be well-documented. They didn’t disappoint Thursday night. In the draft’s first real surprise, the Tennessee Titans drafted Washington quarterback Jake Locker over Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert at No. 8. Then at No. 12, the Minnesota Vikings took the biggest reach of the first round, Florida State’s Christian Ponder.
Look for the run on quarterbacks to continue Friday.
Here’s a quick rundown of my winners and losers of the first day:
1. New Orleans Saints
The Saints added two big-time playmakers with Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram.
2. Cleveland Browns
Anytime you can pull off a trade and get four extra picks, you’re a winner. Cleveland was in a tough spot at No. 6 anyway.
3. New England Patriots
Nate Solder’s a solid pick, but trading No. 28 for No. 56 and a 2012 first rounder shows that Bill Belichick is a head above the rest.
1. Carolina Panthers
Just don’t see it with Cam Newton. Bad year to have the No. 1 pick.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Ponder was a mega-reach. Could have gotten him with their second round pick, if not, Ryan Mallett or Ricky Stanzi would be available.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Passed on Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod for a second or third round prospect in James Carpenter.
One month ago, Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers was talked about going No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers. Now, the end result for Bowers is unknown.
There’s no denying that Bowers is a stud. He recorded 25 tackles-for-loss last season with 15.5 sacks. But, the big knock on Bowers appears to be questions about his knee. Reportedly, teams have crossed Bowers off their draft board entirely because they question if his knee will hold up in the NFL.
We can assume that teams have done their due-diligence and all share the same concern. Still, Bowers is too good — when healthy — not to be picked within the first 10 picks of the second round. Teams sitting within the top 10 include: Patriots, Bills, Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Titans, Cowboys, Redskins and Texans.
The Bills, who drafted Marcell Dareus with the No. 3 pick, could use a pass rusher on the outside. This puts the Patriots in terrific position. If a team is really interested in Bowers, we could see a desperate move to launch ahead of Buffalo. Ultimately the Patriots could wind up swapping seconds this year and receiving another second or third rounder next year.
Or, what if New England, who desperately needs someone off the edge selects Bowers? What if Bowers falls to round three?
A lot could happen. That’s the beauty of the draft.
There isn’t a better draft day trader in the NFL today. Year after year, Bill Belichick is simply masterful with his trades. Whether it was a fourth round pick in 2007 for Randy Moss, or trading a 2010 third round pick for a 2011 second rounder — a difference from 89 to 33, to last night trading No. 28 for a 2012 first rounder and pick No. 56 in the second round via New Orleans.
But, don’t think he’s done just yet.
With three second round picks (33, 56, 60) and two third rounders (74, 92) the Patriots are in prime position to acquire more picks in 2012. We touched on the possibility of a team trading up for Bowers at 33, but this is just one example of many different trade scenarios.
Recently, Belichick has had success when the Patriots have had multiple picks in the second round; no team made out better than New England in 2010. Last season, the Patriots added Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes in the second round, and don’t forget Aaron Hernandez in the fourth.
Is it far-fetched to see Belichick draft three guys in round two? Absolutely not. But, don’t be surprised to see New England stockpile for 2012.
In the first round, we saw Newton, Locker, Gabbert and Ponder come off the board. In the second, we could see four more.
Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and TCU’s Andy Dalton without a doubt will hear their names within the first hour of Friday’s draft. Then comes some intrigue. The Oakland Raiders reportedly love Nevada’s Colin Naepernick — go figure — so, don’t be shocked to see him follow Mallett and Dalton.
Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi and Deleware’s Pat Delvin could also be two quarterbacks that get a strong look for some teams toward the end of the second round.
Ironically, in one of the weaker quarterback classes we’ve had, we may see eight picked in the first 64.
Follow me on Twitter: @M_Marcantonio