The Big 12 in the draft

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Texas A&M Aggies throws a pass against the Texas Longhorns in the first half of a game at Kyle Field on November 24, 2011 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)

Unlike Nobis60, who is our resident NFL master, I can't tell you much about most of the players selected or their fit on their new team. However, I do have some thoughts on our representatives from the Big 12 as well as some thoughts on the bigger picks that you all already have a solid grip without my contributions.

After the jump we'll take a Big 12 focused look at the first 3 rounds and deride the draft choices of the Cleveland Browns.

Round 1:

Have we ever seen 3 Big 12 players drafted in the top 10 before? ...too lazy to look it up, probably we have. Anyways, the Big 12 is now on the forefront on the QB revolution that is seizing NFL franchises who are seeking to adapt to the league's new style.

The rule changes to protect QB's and receivers is timed perfectly with the rise of the spread passing game at all levels, the information age, and 7 on 7-groomed youths to whom throwing the ball comes as naturally as using Apple Products for today's college students.

We haven't seen the last of Big 12 QB's filling the top rounds. Unless these guys all suck. I'm betting on at least one of them panning out, I'm sure you can guess who.

Robert Griffin, III to Washington Redskins: Baylor's devastating spread play-action game, which wreaked devastation on the Big 12's defenses, is going to be a solid warm-up for playing in Shanahan's bootleg-driven offense in Washington.

Many of the criticisms of RGIII: He doesn't call the plays, they don't huddle, he doesn't take snaps from under center, he's a jerk and the socks are a gimmick, all seem to reveal far more about NFL offenses and scouts than they do about RGIII.

If Baylor has mastered a system that simplifies things for the QB perhaps NFL coaches should be looking to mimic rather than mock. When you see RGIII's collegiate dominance you should see potential, both in his game and in your own understanding of the possibilities of offensive football.

Anyways, he's an exceptional physical talent who has all the tools and discipline you would want for this offense. Great selection for the Redskins and almost certainly an immediate upgrade over what they trotted out last year. If they can get their running game going adequately I think he'll be more than dangerous enough on play-action to start now before he's actually made the adjustment to NFL complexity and defensive coverage.

Justin Blackmon to Jacksonville Jaguars: There are a few factors that concern me here but none of them include his actual size or combine 40 time. He played big against some really good corners in the Big 12 and, on at least a few occasions each, got the best of Leonard Johnson, Jamell Fleming, Aaron Williams, Prince Amukumara, Carrington Byndom, Nigel Malone, and a few other current or future pro corners. His physical skillset is excellent.

What concerns me is that you routinely see teams find stud receivers in the later rounds or as free agents, which suggests that evaluations for WR's are fairly off. The traits that seem to make up many of the league's finer receivers are often not found at the combine. Blackmon may be a great pro, but is he a good value in the top 10?

Also Jacksonville was a terrible team last year and my first prescription for terrible teams is generally to improve their trench infantry or the acquisition of skill talent will be useless.

All that said, Blackmon was the most dominant receiver I've ever seen in this league and he destroyed people on deep fades, posts, screens, everything. There was no way to play him that wouldn't leave you vulnerable to something he did really well. If you're going to take a shot with an RB or WR this was the one to do it with.

Trent Richardson to Cleveland Browns: I can't resist taking a shot here. I like Richardson, I thought he was possibly the best athlete on the field when Alabama's offense was going against the LSU defense. But running backs break down and are injured, because they get tackled and hammered by some of the most brutal and enormous athletes on the planet every weekend, and are at the mercy of their OL.

People say that OL's make bad backs look good and RB's can make bad OL's look good but the latter isn't particularly true. The collective impact on a running play of all 5 OL (not to mention the blocking of the TE's, FB's, and WR's) is significantly greater than that of the RB.

Were I running a physical running team that was already well stocked with OL and defensive players I might consider using a top pick to attempt to push my running game over the top, but consider the average shelf life of a running back vs. the expected career contributions of a linebacker, end, or for the running game, an offensive lineman. Unless that back brings you a championship or has an uncharacteristically long career it's a bad value.

Every statistic and logical argument says never to do this, which means that the Browns chose Richardson because they trust their evaluation of him as a HOF running back over the wisdom of probability. Or they are just morons who don't understand the possibilities of mathematics for football strategy.

Ryan Tannehill to Miami Dolphins: And just like that the Dolphins secured the 2 masterminds behind the Aggies' 5 come-from-behind defeats.

If I were an NFL GM I might draft Tannehill in the 4-6th round and consider myself to be very clever to have gained a skilled athlete who might become a good quarterback after 3 years or so of practicing. I would never dream of drafting such a project in the first 3 rounds.

Tannehill can run (though he often inexplicably chose not to) and can throw well on the run. He has good arm strength and is physically tough (his 4th quarter TD drive after the pounding we gave him was definitely impressive). He's familiar with the college-version of Mike Sherman's offense, which is one of the most predictable I've ever seen, so his leap to the NFL version may not necessarily take too long.

His ability to read coverages is either horrificly bad, or he just makes bad decisions. In the Missouri game I started predicting his interceptions when I saw the Missouri safeties dropping into Cover-2 alignments that he would invariably attempt to defeat with downfield outs. The Aggy offense had him making a lot of single-man reads where he looked to only one side of the field. The progression to Rogers/Brady/Manning level is being able to look off coverage and make reads across the entire field. Can Tannehill do that? I have no idea, but he never did it in college and his ability to make even the simple reads there was poor.

If Tannehill was a top 10 player then Landry Jones should go 1st easily because he was by far the more impressive player. But, with all the tape on Jones I won't be surprised if he drops down into the hands of a competent team choosing later in the first.

Kendall Wright to Tennessee: Wright's ceiling is Steve Smith 2.0. His playing speed is intensely fast and he's a downfield threat in a play-action system. However, in college he was kind of a one-trick pony. The talent is there but he hasn't had to run a lot of different routes yet although he seems to have the body control to be an effective learner.

The 1st round is a dangerous place to draft speedsters and hope they turn into play-action weapons. It's extremely likely that a 5th rounder in this draft will develop the route-running to be a similarly effective player at a much smaller cost.

Great example of a good player with strong pro potential being taken too early. As a GM I would hope to get him as a bargain in the later rounds.

Brandon Weeden to Cleveland: And just like that, Cleveland was able to break-even as a team. They replaced an experienced spread-system QB with an older, yet less experienced spread-system QB and replaced a bruising tailback with a possible upgrade.

Weeden was masterful at OSU, but teams rarely got pressure on him, he could loft balls to Blackmon and watch him do all the work, and he was making those reads in the no-huddle AirRaid which forces simplicity on the defense and exhuasts them with bubble screens and easy throws.

Obviously what they are hoping is that Weeden's age and big arm+Richardson will equal a pounding playaction offense immediately. What is actually going to happen is that teams will load up the box and blitz Weeden to the DL while he flings deep fades to receivers not named Justin Blackmon.

Additionally, their great need for more players necessitates that Colt, possibly a great back-up and tradeable asset, has to be traded to recover draft picks. Any leverage they may have had from his value to other teams is lost by the fact that they really need to move him. Good job Cleveland.

Round 2:

Ryan Broyles to Detroit: Texas had a lot of success against 85 by matching Aaron Williams or Kenny Vaccaro on him and pressing him at the line. NFL teams, particularly Detroit's opponents, may not have physical corners to play over the slot against him. Especially with Megatron on the outside.

Broyles torched Diggs in their matchups last year and he can destroy you in a hurry if you let him loose or miss a tackle, but his struggles with elite press-corners make him a luxury weapon for teams who can command coverage-attention with their outside reeivers.

I think the 2nd round is really high for such a player and I wonder if he, or a similar weapon, may have been available to the Lions much later. That said, I don't think Detroit will regret having him on their team.

Kelechi Osemele to Baltimore Ravens: Osemele was a 346 pound left tackle in the Big 12, who'll play Guard or Right tackle for Baltimore. The Ravens are all about imposing their will on the lines and their schematic approach in the run game, Gibbs' Wide and Tight Zones, require linemen with quick feet. Osemele has that in addition to his massive girth which makes him a perfect fit for their system. He can move piles on inside zone or reach players on the outside runs.

Once again we saw the rich becoming richer as the Ravens waited and easily selected the pieces they needed without having to trade up to satisfy their crushes. They also landed Upshaw with the 35th pick...

Round 3:

Donald Stephenson to Kansas City: Stephenson encapsulates all the pros and cons of the Sooners "grow TE's into OL" philosophy over the last few years. He brings quick feet, hands, and good height to the tackle position but lacks the strength to move piles in the running game.

Were I a passing team I would be interested in him as a depth-builder and possible future contributor. I think the Chiefs were trying to be clever, awed by his combine results and determined he might be a hidden gem and potential franchise Left Tackle.

Were I more familiar with the tackles in this draft I might deride them but they could be right. Some of their pin'n'pull type sweep plays will make good use of his athleticism as a puller. He wasn't a franchise player in college and may never be as strong as you would like but he's an interesting project. I expect him to be a valuable back-up for many years.

Michael Egnew to Miami Dolphins: Good vertical threat as a Tight End, which are all the rage these days. It's sensible to use these mid-round picks to find pieces that will help a young QB get his feet planted and TE's are a favored way to do that either as key cogs in the passing game or max-protect blocking surfaces.

Since the Dolphins still have a capable-ish player in Matt Moore you have to like the pick-up here. I don't see him as a Graham or Gronkowski but I didn't watch much Missouri so I don't really know what I'm talking about.

Jamell Fleming to Arizona Cardinals: Fleming was secretly one of the better corners in the league last year and his injury perfectly coincided with the collapse of the "sharks" (OU Secondary nickname) against Seth Doege.

He's a physical corner who can jam receivers and plays the run well as a force player on the edge. He is also a solid blitzer for their zone-blitz package. Paired with Patrick Peterson, he gives them a very solid bump'n'run tandem and one of the better run-force combos at Corner if they want to play Cover-2.

He may be a guy who could move around in nickel or dime sets, as well, maybe play nickel or safety in a pinch like McCourty did for the Patriots in their playoff run last year.

Rounds 4-7 are being discussed here, the Longhorn watch continues...

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