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Haden's pick still debated in Cleveland
This marks the FOXSports.com debut column for our newest NFL reporter/insider, Adam Caplan.
After each NFL Draft, fans and talking heads debate why players were selected higher or lower than first expected.
The mystery of the rise and fall of many top players becomes a source of conjecture amongst many fans on message boards and alike, but FOXSports.com has learned through various league executives the inside skinny on why players moved up or down, or went off the board to a particular team.
How does this translate for each first-round pick heading into training camp? Which guys are poised to make an impact ASAP and which still have big questions to answer?
With less than four weeks to go until the start of training camps, here's an overview of each first-round selection.
1. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Inside Info: Bradford going to the Rams was no surprise. This was a team that’s been looking for a franchise quarterback for some time. Once they were comfortable with his medical issues, Bradford became their guy. However, NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell told FOXSports.com Bradford probably shouldn’t play a single down this season based on the steep learning curve he’ll go through based on the offensive scheme he played in at Oklahoma. Cosell said the Bengals did the same thing with Carson Palmer in 2003 and it worked out quite well.
2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
Inside Info: The only issue for teams became about which scheme Suh would be better off playing in, the 3-4 or 4-3. However, according to a veteran personnel evaluator, Suh’s capable of playing in either because of his size and mobility. Suh should be the foundation of the defensive front-seven for the Lions for years to come under head coach Jim Schwartz.
3. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Inside Info: McCoy was a much better fit for a 4-3. It’s believed there weren’t many teams that run a 3-4 which would have seriously considered selecting him. In Tampa's cover-2 scheme, he'll fit in as a "3-technique" which will take advantage his excellent first step.
4. Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins
Inside Info: Williams could have gone off the board a little higher than most expected, but because of the premium most teams put on protecting quarterbacks, the selection of the athletic lineman shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Jammal Brown, who Washington also acquired recently, might be better off playing on the right side. In fact, sources said many teams looked at him as a right tackle, not left, coming into the 2005 draft.
5. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Inside Info: Perhaps the most-hyped player available in this draft, Berry was going to go off the board inside the top 10, make no mistake about it. However, some personnel evaluators question how the Chiefs will use him. Some think he’s better off at cornerback than at safety.
6. Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks
Inside Info: Okung was seen as one of the safest first-round selections, so it’s wasn’t a surprise that Seattle, which needed a left tackle badly, took him off the board at this spot. He should be an instant starter on the day camp opens.
7. Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns
Inside Info: This selection was a big surprise to many of Cleveland’s fans, but the fact is Haden was the highest-rated player left on their draft board. General manager Tom Heckert, who was making the personnel decisions for the first time in his career, stuck to his board and went with the best player. However, some other evaluators question Haden’s speed and whether he’ll be able to cover the faster receivers. Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown are expected to open camp with the first-team defense, but Haden figures to work his way up the depth chart quickly.
8. Rolando McClain, LB, Oakland Raiders
Inside Info: A source said that for the first time in many years, owner Al Davis - who makes all the personnel decisions for the team - took the best player available instead of the best athlete. Despite rumors before the draft, other sources said the Raiders never considered selecting OT Bruce Campbell in this round. They wound up selecting him three rounds later. McClain will take over the starting middle linebacker job right away.
9. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Inside Info: While some fans wanted the team to select a quarterback here, that simply wasn’t going to happen. With head coach Chan Gailey being a running back proponent, Spiller made the most sense for Buffalo’s mundane offense.
10. Tyson Alualu, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
Inside Info: The first shocker in this draft came with the 10th overall selection. While many fans were shocked at this pick, it should be noted that sources said several teams had a first-round grade on Alualu. But whether he was a good enough value at No. 10 remains to be seen. Alualu figures to start right away. In fact, it probably would be a huge upset if he's not in the starting lineup on opening day. Jacksonville simply lacks enough quality talent on the interior of their D-line.
Inside Info: Davis seemed to go a bit higher off the board than many thought could happen, but several personnel sources said he might have been the most athletic tackle available in this draft.
12. Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
Inside Info: While some observers thought Mathews was a questionable selection this early, San Diego clearly needed to solve their starting running back problem. He was seen as the top feature back available for this draft, and he could very well handle 20-plus carries a game this season.
13. Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Inside Info: The top question surrounding Graham seemed to be whether he was better off playing in the 3-4 or 4-3. Graham, who dominated Senior Bowl practices, rocketed up draft boards after that week. However, a source said at least at few teams didn’t have a first-round grade on him because of his shorter than ideal arm length. Philadelphia has decent depth at both end spots, but the talented rookie figures to be high in the rotation right away.
14. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
Inside Info: Thomas was seen by most personnel evaluators as perhaps one of the top two or three defensive backs available for this draft. In fact, some teams, according to sources, looked at him possibly playing half of his snaps at cornerback because of his versatility. The bottom line is Thomas should have an impact on Seattle's undermanned secondary right away.
15. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
Inside Info: Most team observers were stunned when the Giants selected the athletic, but raw, defensive lineman. However, based on the inconsistency New York had last season with its pass rush, Pierre-Paul’s selection shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Because of decent depth at the position, he can be brought along slowly - perhaps in a situational pass rushing role.
16. Derrick Morgan, DE, Tennessee Titans
Inside Info: Morgan was thought to go off the board a little earlier, but he didn’t have the versatility of Brandon Graham, so the former Georgia Tech end slid to the middle of the round. With veteran DE Kyle Vanden Bosch moving on during free agency, Morgan should start right away for the Titans.
17. Mike Iupati, OL, San Francisco 49ers
Inside Info: Head coach Mike Singletary is a proponent of a power running game, and Iutpati is, in the words of a long-tenured NFL scout, “a tough SOB you want in a foxhole.” He fits in with a team that wants to run the ball a lot more than they want to pass it.
18. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
Inside Info: Two personnel sources told FOXSports.com that Pouncey could probably play in any offensive scheme with his athleticism and strength. The only issue is whether he’ll wind up playing guard or center for the majority of his career with Pittsburgh.
19. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Inside Info: Sources said Weatherspoon was seen as one of the most technically sound defensive players available in the draft, so it wasn't a surprise he went off the board in the first round. His versatility should help an inconsistent Atlanta defense.
20. Kareem Jackson, CB, Houston Texans
Inside Info: Because of the pro style defense Jackson played in the past few years at the University of Alabama, he went from being a possible mid second-round selection to a first-round pick. He'll likely start right away for Houston.
21. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Inside Info: How unproductive have the Bengal tight ends been the past 20 years? They’ve only had one player from that position post at least 50 receptions in a single season (Tony McGee with 55 in 1995.) Gresham was easily the best tight end available, but as a personnel source from another team pointed out, it remains to be seen how much they’ll really throw the ball to him considering all of the other passing options available in their offense.
22. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Inside Info: Thomas’ broken foot was thought to be a deterrent for him being selected in the first round. However, sources correctly pointed out his foot would be healed well before training camps started (he worked in recent OTA drills.)
23. Bryan Bulaga, OT, Green Bay Packers
Inside Info: Bulaga fell farther than some thought he would, but he’s seen by some personnel evaluators as being better off at guard. Still, because of Green Bay’s issues at tackle, he’ll get his chance on the outside, not inside.
24. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Inside Info: Many teams were scared off by character concerns which caused him to slip, but Dallas looked at Bryant as too good of a value to pass up. Time will tell if his attitude and commitment to the game are commensurate with his enormous talent.
25. Tim Tebow, QB, Denver Broncos
Inside Info: While many analysts feel Tebow’s mechanics will keep him from being a quality starter at the NFL level, former NFL QB Scott Brunner, who tutored Joe Flacco and Brian Hoyer prior to recent drafts, told FOXSports.com that Tebow’s biggest issues are that he’s a long strider when he throws and his body is too low during his throwing motion. However, Brunner also indicated that Tebow’s long release wasn’t as big as an issue as some think.
26. Dan Williams, DT, Arizona Cardinals
Inside Info: Williams was thought to have a solid chance to go much higher. In fact, some personnel evaluators said he could’ve been selected as high as No. 9 to Buffalo. So, Arizona got what appears to be a very good value. The defensive lineman will slide right in at nose tackle as a rookie.
27. Devin McCourty, CB, New England
Inside Info: Most teams had a first-round grade on McCourty, but New England seemingly didn’t need another cornerback considering what they’ve done in recent drafts. But as a source familiar with head coach Bill Belichick’s thinking, McCourty might have been the most versatile defensive back available other than Eric Berry. McCourty’s also a very good special teams player, an area where Belichick puts a high premium.
28. Jared Odrick, DL, Miami Dolphins
Inside Info: This was the area Odrick was supposed to go off the board, sources said. In fact, some believed he would’ve been looked at hard at this selection by the Chargers had they not traded up in this round. Odrick figures to get into the rotation at defensive end right away, but he'll have to make an adjustment playing in Miami's 3-4 defensive scheme.
29. Kyle Wilson, CB, New York Jets
Inside Info: Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the first round was Wilson’s drop to the bottom end of it. In fact, personnel sources said there were at least five teams picking within the top 20 that considered selecting him. So, why did he drop? It’s hard to believe considering how well he performed during Senior Bowl practices. His move down draft boards remains a mystery to most.
30. Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit Lions
Inside Info: Here’s a guy many liked coming into the draft, but none of the sources FOXSports.com talked to saw going in the first round. However, as a veteran personnel evaluator noted, “you can’t teach speed.” Best should get on the field early based on Detroit’s lack of high-end talent at the position.
31. Jerry Hughes, DE, Indianapolis Colts
Inside Info: Many teams had a low first-round, high second-round grade on Hughes, but the issue was which scheme he’d be better utilized in, a 3-4 or 4-3. He’s the kind of edge rusher who’ll fit in well in Indy’s 4-3.
32. Patrick Robinson, CB, New Orleans Saints
Inside Info: Robinson’s inclusion in the first round was probably a surprise to some considering many teams didn’t have a first-round grade on him. However, a source pointed out that the defensive scheme New Orleans runs was similar to the one he played in at Florida State, so that should help him matriculate into the Saints scheme right away.
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