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TGS SPECIAL REPORT...NFL DRAFT WINNERS AND LOSERS
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


Now that we’ve had a few weeks to digest the NFL Draft, here’s a quick look at who we believe were the winners April 26-28 at Radio City Music Hall...and who might have been the losers. The featured sides (eight likely “winners” and five potential “losers”) are listed below.

WINNERS? 1-Cincinnati Bengals...Although Cincy, with two first-round picks, didn’t move up as many expected to give itself a shot at LSU CB Morris Claiborne, the Bengals found a nice CB consolation prize with their 17th pick in Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick. The Bengals could have added as many as six eventual starters from the draft, also addressing needs on the OL with Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler (taken later in the first round), at WR with Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu (3rd) and Cal’s Marvin Jones (5th), and along the DL with DTs Devon Still (2nd, Penn State, projected by some as a first-round pick) and Brandon Thompson (3rd, Georgia).

2-Pittsburgh Steelers...The Men of Steel were looking to revamp their offensive line and seem to have done so by adding Stanford G David DeCastro with the first-round pick and Ohio State T Mike Adams in the second round. The Steelers waited a bit longer than we expected to go for reinforcements along the DL (which seemed a priority considering Casey Hampton’s durability issues following knee surgery), but they think that Washington Huskies’ 4th-round pick Alameda Ta’amu, a 348-pounder, will eventually be a force. Third-round LB Sean Spence (Miami-Florida) could make a quicker impact.

3-New York Giants...The Super Bowl champ G-Men were hamstrung a bit with their pick at the end of the first round, where they went RB as we envisioned. With Boise State’s Doug Martin off the board with the previous pick to Tampa Bay, they went with Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, who should still make an impact and perhaps prove a more valuable offensive tool in 2012 than holdover RB Ahmad Bradshaw. GM Jerry Reese shrewdly addressed needs with all five of his choices in the first four rounds, adding a needed wideout (LSU’s Reuben Randle in the 2nd round), CB (Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley in the 3rd),TE (Cincinnati’s Andrien Robinson in the 4th), and OT (Auburn’s Brandon Mosley in the 4th). A very smart and efficient draft.

4-Tampa Bay Buccaneers...Some are wondering if the Bucs are going to rue bypassing LSU CB Morris Claiborne with their first pick, trading down to the 7th spot. But new HC Greg Schiano swears that the Bucs had Alabama S Mark Barron rated just as highly, and the Tide DB should be one of three immediate starters from last week’s haul at Radio City Music Hall that also included aforementioned Boise State RB Doug Martin (taken with the 31st pick in the first round, as the Bucs added selections by trading with the Jags and Broncos) and Nebraska LB LaVonte David in the second round.

5-Buffalo Bills...The Bills, who upgraded their defnese in free agency when adding DE Mario Willaims from the Texans, contrinued to address the stop unit by plucking South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore in the first round. But the real sleeper pick could be LSU CB Ron Brooks, who has "only" played behind Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Morris Claiborne and was used mostly in nickel-back looks for John Chavis' Tiger defense. Safe to say that brooks could have excelled with more reps at almost any other school. Also added needed depth along the OL (Georgia G Cordy Glenn & Florida State T Zebrie Sanders) and at WR (NC State's T.J. Graham) and all-intangible LB TRank Carder (TCU).

6-Green Bay Packers...The Pack needed defensive help and made no bones about it during the first few rounds. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was smiling at the additions of first-rounder Nick Perry (LB/DE, Southern Cal) and second-rounders Jerel Worthy (DE, Michigan State) and Casey Hayward (CB, Vanderbilt), the latter likely making it easier to move Charles Woodson to safety.

7-Baltimore Ravens...GM Ozzie Newsome was at it again in a typical and very functional-looking Ravens draft. Newsome traded out of the first round (with the Vikings) to add second and-fourth-round picks. For the former, Alabama DE/LB Courtney Upshaw fell into Newsome’s lap with the 35th pick. Later, Ozzie added needed reinforcements along the OL (Iowa State T Kelechi Osemele in the 2nd and Delaware T Gino Gradkowski in the 4th), and depth at skill positions with Temple RB Bernard Pierce (3rd) and Miami-Fla. WR Tommy Streeter (6th). Nothing too flashy but functional as always for Newsome.

8-Minnesota Vikings...Able to trade down a spot with the Browns and still get Southern Cal OT Matt Kalil with the 4th pick in the first round looks to be a good bit of business. The Vikes also immediately upgraded their spotty secondary by adding Notre Same S Harrison Smith at the end of the first round and UCF CB Josh Robinson n the third round.

LOSERS? 1-Detroit Lions...Maybe this draft will eventually turn into a bonanza for the Lins. But we don’t expect any of this crop to make much impact in 2012, when an extra boost from a few key rookies could perhaps boost the Lions deeper into the playoff mix. Many teams began to sour on Iowa OT Riley Reiff, who fell to Detroit at the 23rd pick in the first round. Reiff might not start this fall, and 2nd-round WR Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma) is recovering from serious knee surgery. Perhaps 3rd-round CB Dwight Bentley (UL-Lafayette) will contribute in nickel-back looks this fall. Otherwise, this could be an invisible draft class in 2012.

2-Denver Broncos...The Broncos were in the mood to trade down and add some extra picks, twice trading out oft he first round. We expected Denver might have something more to show from its wheeling and dealing than 2nd-round DT Derrick Wolfe (Cincinnati) when other higher-regarded run stuffers could have plucked had Denver held on to some of its earlier picks. We’re also not sure about 2nd-round pick QB Brock Osweiler from Arizona State. Osweiler’s teammate at ASU, 4th-round CB Omar Bolden, had a history of injury problems in Tempe. A potential sleeper might be 4rd-round RB Ronnie Hillman from San Diego State, or else this group could have little impact in the fall.

3-New York Jets...Rex Ryan is rolling the dice on a lot of fronts in the offseason. First, the Tim Tebow acquisition from Denver. Then, underachieving North Carolina DE Quinton Coples in the first round, followed by intriguing but raw Georgia Tech HR Stephen Hill in the second round. Hill intrigues because he played in Paul Johnson’s option offense for the Yellow Jackets, and that sort of adjustment from a run-based offense to the NFL is always tricky. These picks seem to be gambles that Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum might not have needed to take.

4-San Francisco 49ers...We thought HC Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke wouldn’t be afraid to think outside of the box. But we’re not sure anybody expected that Harbaugh would push Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins (projected by some as a likely third-round pick) into the end of the first round. We thought the Niners might address OL issues earlier than the 4th round when they tabbed Wake Forest G Joe Looney. They might make a splash, however, with 2nd-round RB LaMichael James from Oregon.

5-Chicago Bears...Some believe that new GM Phil Emery, in charge of his first draft, might have done too much reaching with his first pick, Boise State LB/DE Shea McClellin, a playmaker who intrigues but also a possible “tweener” without the size and speed necessary to become a difference maker. Many had McClellin as a second-round pick. The Bears also might have gambled on second-round WR Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina), whose commitment has been questioned after allowing his weight to balloon to over 240 pounds.


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