Biggest Meltdowns of the NFL Draft
The NFL Draft is a pretty stressful time for coaches and general managers. The fate of their team literally rests with the players they add, and picking a couple of busts is the fastest way to find yourself out of a job. There’s endless hours of tape and scouting reports and conflicting theories about every player’s “upside,” whatever that actually means. It’s a million dollar decision that’s made in a pressure cooker. Some teams seem to handle it well and make sound, reasonable choices. Those teams are less fun to mock, however, so we’re going to focus on the teams who seem to have panicked at the overwhelming selection, like a starving child at a buffet who can’t handle all those choices so he gets a couple of water chestnuts and a spoonful of beets. We’ll count down the five head-scratchingest, most bewildering, meltdowny, terrible picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Come for the mocking hindsight criticism, stay for the pictures of NFL coaches looking dumb.
5. New York Jets – Quentin Coples, DE North Carolina 1st Round
The Jets ‘ biggest need coming into this draft was improving their pass rush, in particular from their edge rushers. For almost everybody else, this meant taking a player that could play outside linebacker in the Jets 3-4 defense and who had shown some pass rushing ability, like Alabama’s Melvin Ingram, who just happened to be available when the Jets went on the clock. Instead, New York took Coples out of North Carolina, who meets about none of the desired characteristics for an elite pass rusher in the 3-4 scheme. First, Coples is a natural end in the 4-3 scheme, which means he’s tall and strong but not quick enough to transition to a standup outside linebacker like the Jets need. This means that he’ll get bumped down into a 3-4 defensive end, which plays more like a defensive tackle, which Coples will have to learn. An even bigger red flag about Coples inability to be a good fit for what the Jets need is the fact that he struggled to rush the passer effectively or consistently in college, which really makes it unlikely he’ll wake up in training camp and have it click for him. So, he’s wrong for the defensive scheme and lacks the skill set the team was looking for. No wonder he was their first pick!
4. Washingon Redskins – Kirk Cousins, QB Michigan State 3rd Round
Washington traded a king’s ransom to move up to the second spot and draft RGIII to be their quarterback of the future. After giving up so much, you would assume that the Redskins would be incredibly selective with the rest of their choices, ensuring that they used them to fill some of the various glaring needs on the team, like offensive line, cornerback, safety, linebacker, and running back just to name a few. That’s why it was pretty surprising when the Skins took another quarterback in Cousins out of Michigan State in the third round, when plenty of talent at need positions was still available. I know that Mike Shanahan loves having quarterbacks to mold, but this is a little over the top. After getting Cousins, the Redskins cut John Beck, which leaves just the two rookies and Rex Grossman on the Redskins roster at quarterback. When you think of a veteran examples you want young QBs to follow, Rex Grossman is not a name that’s going to pop up. The Redskins have defended the pick as a need, since the backup quarterback role is so important in today’s game (just look at Indy last year, or Chicago after Cutler went down). Some pundits are putting the theory out there that the Redskins picked Cousins to flip him for draft picks next season, in an attempt to recoup some of the cost for moving up to get RGIII. Whether Cousins is a Plan B or merely future trade fodder, it’s not the pick the Redskins needed going into next season.
3. Seattle Seahawks – Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB West Virginia 1st Round
The Seahawks have been trying to find a solid defensive end that can get pressure for years now. This year may just be their latest swing and a miss. Irvin, from West Virginia, was called by some to be the best pure pass rusher in the draft, so on paper this pick looks like it fills a glaring need. However, Irvin is undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, which is why scouts projected him to make the transition to an outside linebacks in a 3-4 scheme. Playing the edge in a 3-4, Irvin could use his speed and take that wide path to the quarterback that he used in college to bring pressure without having to take on offensive linemen on a regular basis. Unfortunately for all parties, that isn’t going to happen in Seattle. The Seahawks run a pretty vanilla 4-3 and do not like to blitz their linebackers to get pressure. That means Irvin will stay put as a down DE, but he lacks the strength to hold an edge or to give support to the run, and has his pass rush nullified by having to engage the offensive line. If they try and move him to an outside backer, he’ll rarely get a chance to use his skills as a pass rusher and will be asked to play pass defense and come up on runs, neither of which are in his wheel house. Off-field trouble, including an arrest for destruction of property the day after his pro day, raised some questions about his maturity and mental makeup, which resulted in Irvin being graded almost universally as a 2nd round pick. The Seahawks decided to surprise everyone, though, by reaching for Irvin midway through the first round, including Irvin, who said he was unaware the Seahawks were interested in him because they hadn’t talked to him during the entire draft process. So, take a guy who’s a bad fit for your scheme and never talk to him to guage his mental maturity? What could go wrong!
2. New England Patriots – Tavon Wilson, S Illinois 2nd Round
The Patriots are historically savvy drafters, and continued the trend in round 1 of the draft where they got good value and filled needs by adding a defensive end (Chandler Jones, Syracuse) and a versatile linebacker (Dont’a Hightower, Alabama), but the Pats got caught reaching in round 2 for the sake of a need. Wilson came into the draft as the 24th rated safety, according to Scouts, Inc., grading out at a not-very good 32 out of 100. Wilson has below average size and just average speed to go along with a lack of playmaking ability to make plays beyond routine interceptions. He was versatile while in college, playing at both cornerback and safety, which always gets Belichick excited, which resulted in the Pats overvaluing Wilson. Sometimes, the reason a person plays a lot of positions is because they aren’t very good at any of them. This is probably the reach of the draft, as nobody had Wilson rated in their top-100 prospects, and Scouts, Inc. didn’t even have him in their top-300! Wilson was so off the radar, he wasn’t even able to swing an invite to the Combine. This may be the Patriots believing that they can do anything and have it work out because they’re the Patriots, but the last couple of years have shown that may not be the case any more.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Bryan Anger, P California 3rd Round
This was Rich Eisen’s favorite pick of the draft, by far. For a team that is full of needs that could have been addressed by a decently high third round pick (like a tackle to keep Blaine Gabbert alive, for example), drafting a punter is probably the best/worst thing they could do. Best because it makes it easy to pick the worst pick of the draft and laugh and laugh and laugh. Worst, because he’s a punter and it isn’t the seventh round. While Anger was rated as a draftable punter, he would have been available on Saturday to take since, once again, he’s a punter. If your team chooses a punter and it isn’t the last day of the draft, you can bet that it will become almost automatically and universally the worst pick of the draft. Unless someone else drafts a player who’s dead or committed to playing baseball or something. Of course, with the way this Jags offense runs (or doesn’t run for that matter), a punter who can change field position and at least slow the other team from running away with a game could just turn out to be Jacksonville’s team MVP.
So who was left off this list that was a terrible pick? I know that the Seahawks and Pete Carroll got to keep picking after round one, so there are others out there. Tell me who you think was the worst pick in the draft and why in the comments below.