Last season, Baltimore got Michael Oher and Green Bay took Clay Matthews with the picks the Patriots bailed on to get out of the first round and into the second.
The Patriots moved back twice in the first round this year, surrendering picks that allowed Denver to take Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Dallas to draft wide receiver Dez Bryant — players the Patriots seemingly could have used. New England then selected cornerback Devin McCourty 27th overall, a pick that drew some criticism by the home folks because it didn’t fit some needs (McCourty could immediately help special teams and adds depth to a secondary that needs it).
The Raiders: If we’re going to give Seattle love for making bold trades and drafting well, Oakland deserves its props as well. For the first time in years, they showed restraint in free agency and further restraint at the top end of the draft. They also traded for Washington quarterback Jason Campbell, who will replace JaMarcus Russell as the starter and gain immediate respect because of his work ethic. Improving that situation, Oakland only surrendered a fourth-round pick next season. In the past, it would have probably given up a lot more to get Campbell. Instead, it got good value in the trade.
The Raiders also took a potential premier defender in inside linebacker Rolando McClain with the No. 8 overall pick. Getting Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston in the second round could also help fortify one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Oakland used later-round picks on NFL Scouting Combine all-stars Jacoby Ford, a return specialist, and offensive tackle Bruce Campbell.
By snagging two massive, powerful defensive tackles, Tampa Bay felt it could help slow down the strong ground attacks of NFC South foes Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta, which, in turn, could minimize the amount of times Freeman would have to play from behind. Secondly, by generating a pass rush through the interior, the Bucs hope to screen Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ passing lanes and flush the Falcons’ Matt Ryan out of the pocket — where he is less comfortable — to force turnovers that could shorten the length Tampa Bay’s offense has to drive.
As good as Dominik feels about the defensive upgrade, adding big, game-breaking receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams with second- and fourth-round picks, respectively, will make Tampa Bay competitive faster than presumed after last season’s 3-13 train wreck.
The picks of Benn and Williams sandwiched the third-round selection of cornerback Myron Lewis, who will open the season at nickel back but eventually take over for Ronde Barber and pair with Aqib Talib. Lewis’ ball skills are why he was so attractive and a must-have for coach Raheem Morris. He wants interceptions so Freeman can get the ball in his hands.