2010 NFL First Round Recap: Head-scratchers, values, sleepers & more

That’ll do it – the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft is in the books. All in all, even the most die-hard draft fans would have to admit that the move to prime time was a success. The action was quicker, the coverage was tighter and the event was interesting throughout. I was skeptical about the new format at first, but I admit tonight was entertaining.

Below is a recap of the first round, including head-scratching moves, valuable picks and more. I also preview the second round by listing my top 5 players that are still available.

Head-Scratcher: Broncos trade three picks for Tim Tebow.
Tebow fans will certainly criticize me for this, but this was the worst draft-day trade I’ve seen in recent memory. Inexcusably, the Broncos parted with a second, a third and a fourth round selection to trade up to the 25th overall pick to take Tebow, who may or may not wind up being a quarterback at the next level. He’s the ultimate developmental project, so hopefully Denver is willing to wait three-plus years while he works on his throwing motion, his footwork and his release. And here’s the thing: if he doesn’t become a quarterback, then how bad does this trade wind up looking? Let’s say he becomes an H-back or is only used in the Wildcat, then the Broncos just traded three picks for a role player. Think about that for a second. There’s a good chance that Denver was afraid of someone else taking Tebow before they had the chance to select him in the second round. (Buffalo was apparently trying to move up as well.) But three picks in exchange for one of the biggest risks in the draft? Don’t get me wrong – Tebow is a pure football player, a winner and a worker. There’s something about him that makes you want to throw conventional wisdom out the window and predict success for him. But I can’t justify what the Broncos gave up here. It just doesn’t make sense.

Best Value: Seahawks select Russell Okung & Earl Thomas.
It’s easy to say that the Seahawks had a nice draft seeing as how they had two picks in the first round. But everything fell right for them at No. 6 and No. 14, respectively. To have Russell Okung, who was regarded as the top left tackle in the draft, fall to them at No. 6 was huge. He was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State and the 2009 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. While he doesn’t necessarily have a high ceiling, he was the safest pick of left tackles in the draft and he fills a need. Thomas, meanwhile, provides an immediate upgrade in the Seahawks’ horrid secondary. He ranked second nationally in inceptions last season and often flashed big-play potential on game day. Considering the Jaguars were reportedly interested in him at No. 10 and the Eagles were attempting to trade up for him to No. 12, Seattle did well to wait for him to fall to No. 14.

Best Pick: Lions get the best player in the draft at No. 2.
Four years ago, the Lions had the second overall pick in the 2007 draft and had the opportunity to select the best player regardless of position. That year they took Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, which has worked out pretty damn well for them given his immense playmaking ability. This year, after the Rams took Sam Bradford at No. 1, Detroit once again had the opportunity to take the best player on the board and instead of over-thinking the pick like some teams do, they didn’t waver. Ndamukong Suh dominated the Big 12 last year as the nation’s best defensive player. Jim Schwartz built a successful defense in Tennessee centered around Albert Haynesworth and now he can do the same with Suh in Detroit. The impressive DT should immediately upgrade the Lions’ run defense and provides the Lions with another playmaker (something they desperately need) on that side of the ball.

Steal: Cowboys trade up for Dez Bryant.
When we look back at this draft in a couple years, I think several teams will regret passing on Bryant. The character issues surrounding him appeared to be overblown and while he may have some maturity issues, he’s a phenomenal playmaker that will immediately push Roy Williams for a starting job. It has been well documented that Jerry Jones has been haunted by the decision to pass on Randy Moss in the 1997 draft and as Bryant continued to fall in round one, it seemed certain that the Dallas owner would find a way to nab him. Tony Romo has yet another weapon at his disposal in the Cowboys’ offense.

Biggest Surprise: Jaguars reach for Tyson Alualu.
Don’t get it twisted – Alualu is a fine player. He led Cal in both tackles for loss and sacks last season and is a solid three-technique DT. But was there no way the Jaguars could have traded down and got him later in the first round? Hey, maybe they tried and eventually couldn’t find a trade partner (it was reported before the draft that GM Gene Smith was trying to trade down, so it’s possible that he was never made a solid offer). But given how there were 97 trades in the first round, one would think that the Jags could have found someone to take the No. 10 pick, even if they had to accept lesser value. It seems as though Jacksonville panicked once Al Davis snatched Rolando McClain two picks ahead of them. They no doubt liked Alualu, but there’s no way they had him rated 10th on their big board. This was a pretty big surprise given that Smith bases his draft strategy around taking the best player available.

Top 5 Players Still Available:

1. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
I’m not surprised that Clausen fell out of the top 15 picks seeing as how the always-reliable Adam Schefter reported that he was likely to fall this morning. But how does Tim Tebow go ahead of Clausen? Clausen doesn’t come without his flaws (not overly athletic, durability is a concern, often has to step into his throws, etc.), but he played in a pro style offense at ND and has a great football IQ. I don’t think he’s an elite prospect, but he should have went ahead of Tebow.

2. Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
Kindle is the top 3-4 outside linebacker in the draft and had a first round grade coming into Thursday night. Rivals.com reported that his stock fell because he had microfracture surgery, which would have been a red flag to teams seeing as how he also had knee surgery prior to the 2008 season. Still, the Texas product has good size, outstanding athleticism and could be a productive pass rusher at the next level.

3. Taylor Mays, S, USC
It’s no surprise Mays fell because teams don’t know whether or not he’s a safety or an outside linebacker. But he’s a physical specimen and an athletic freak. He has great size, hits like a freight train and has great timed speed. His instincts and ball skills are a concern, but this is a football player through and through.

4. Rodger Saffold, OT, Indiana
Saffold is the best offensive tackle left on the board and is less of a risk than workout warrior Bruce Campbell from Maryland. He has good bulk, athleticism and has a ton of experience versus Big Ten competition. While he’s not overly strong or powerful, he would be great for a team that runs the zone-blocking scheme because he’s a natural knee bender and is agile.

5. Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
You could really go with several players here, including Penn State’s Sean Lee, TCU’s Daryl Washington or even Virginia’s Chris Cook. But in terms of overall talent, it’s hard not to love what Benn brings to the table. If he played in a real offense with a consistent quarterback in college, he would have probably put up fantastic numbers. He has excellent size, athleticism and is elusive with the ball in his hands. If he falls past the second round, some team is going to get a steal later in the draft.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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