Here are 15 observations, thoughts and projections (sure to be wrong knowing my luck with predictions on prospects) from the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
1. Hey kids, if you want to be a NFL quarterback…don’t…do…drugs. I’ve never seen so many quarterback-needy teams stay away from a prototypical pocket passer like they’re doing with Ryan Mallett this year. I may be in the minority here, but I think he’s going to be a steal no matter where he winds up. (Side Note: Before this article went live, I saw that Mallett got taken by the Patriots in the third round. Bill Belichick is going to make this kid a winner someday.)
2. Andy Dalton may not have the strongest arm but he’s a solid fit for Jay Gruden’s offense in Cincinnati. I’m thinking the dream scenario for the Bengals would be for Carson Palmer to suck it up for one more season and then they can turn the keys over to Dalton in 2012. But if Palmer is done, the Bengals can sign a veteran and bring Dalton along slowly.
3. It may take a couple of years but give Jim Harbaugh some time and he could turn Colin Kaepernick into a good pro quarterback. Kaepernick is a bit of a project but the kid has good size, a great arm and is one hell of an athlete. He has all the tools to succeed and if fans are patient, this could wind up being a beautiful marriage.
4. The Browns did well in the first two rounds. Not only did they acquire 62 picks from the Falcons in exchange for the No. 6 overall selection, but Mike Holmgren addressed needs along the D-line with Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, and at receiver with Greg Little (who isn’t Julio Jones but he’s a solid prospect nonetheless). All three players should see action as rookies.
5. So what does it say about Beanie Wells if the Cardinals are taking Ryan Williams in the second round? If Williams stays healthy, he’s an explosive runner with good vision but he’s going to have to fight for carries next year in the desert. Given how many needs Arizona has, this is a strange fit.
6. Both players might not pan out, but I love what the Titans have done in the first two rounds. They got their quarterback of the future in Blaine Gabbert and an outside linebacker in Akeem Ayers who can get after the quarterback. Ayers probably should have went in the late first round.
7. In three years people are going to talk about how fearsome the combination of DeMarcus Ware and Bruce Carter.
8. Wade Phillips knows that a good pass rush can cover up weaknesses in the defensive backfield. Mario Williams, Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed? I like it. Brendan Harris is a bit of a boom or bust pick but thus far, the Texans have done a great job addressing needs.
9. Does the NFL Network only have one highlight on Kyle Rudolph or did he only make one big play last year? I’ve seen that catch against Michigan 54 times in two days.
10. I like Nick Fairley, Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure. That said, I’m confused by the Lions’ game plan here. With their first two picks, they took players at positions where they have two of the best players in the league (Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson). With their third pick, they traded up for a running back so they could pair him with Jahvid Best? I guess Martin Mayhew plans to address the massive holes at cornerback and along the offensive line in free agency. Good luck with that. (Although hey, maybe he’s planning to throw about a billion dollars at Nnamdi Asomugha.)
11. Peyton Manning will sleep easy this weekend knowing that the Colts’ first two picks were spent on offensive linemen (Anthony Costanzo and Ben Ijalana). I really like the move up for Ijalana, who could have went late in the first.
12. I mocked Da’Quan Bowers to the Bucs in the first round and he fell all the way to them in the second. This kid led the NCAA in sacks last year and if it weren’t for a knee injury, he would have probably been a top 5 pick. Talk about value.
13. I don’t want to call the Bears’ pick of Stephen Paea a “steal” because that’s roughly where he was slated to go. But what a solid pick. Chicago needed to beef up its offensive line, so it snagged the best run-blocking OT in the first round in Wisconsin’s Gabe Carmini. They also had to replace Tommie Harris, so they took Paea in the second round. Well done, Jerry Angelo.
14. Daniel Thomas was one of the more impressive players to me in college football last year. I was a little surprised that Miami didn’t take Mark Ingram in the first round, but to trade up and land Thomas in the second was solid. I think Dolphin fans are going to love this underrated runner.
15. The rich get richer: The Packers torched defenses last year with their playmaking ability and they just gave Aaron Rodgers another weapon in Randall Cobb. With James Jones set to test free agency and Donald Driver’s career winding down, the Pack needed to address the receiver position at some point. So with no other pressing needs, they went with the best player available at No. 64 in Cobb, who is extremely versatile and can line up anywhere.