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2012 NFL Draft - Day Two

April 27, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

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Once again, I would be remiss if I didn't begin this column with an emphatic thank you for my friend Brook Gardiner, who works in the NFL legal department, and also to Tracie Rodburg, who works for the NFL as well and who secured me a VIP Pass for night one of the 2012 NFL Draft. My appreciation for the efforts of both of them is immense.

If day one of the NFL Draft is about glitz and glamour, big lights and big names, day two is more about the nuts and bolts of what the NFL Draft is all about: finding quality college football players who fit your team well. One of the main reasons that it's difficult to accurately project the NFL Draft the further you get from the top is due to how teams evaluate players. There are plenty of exceptions, but by and large most teams identify the top players in roughly the same range. I'm not sure if the groupthink exists in the real NFL like it does in the mock draft world in finding some level of consensus for the top player at a given position, but certainly there is a disparity in how teams rank players further from the top spot that grows more and more prevalent the further you get from the top.

My morning and early afternoon today was spent resting up and doing some work on yesterday's column about day one of the draft. Just because the draft was going on didn't mean that Brook didn't have to work, so he headed to NFL headquarters and left his keys with me so I could go out for lunch and/or walk around the neighborhood a bit, both of which I did. As if having company in town wasn't tricky enough, Brook is about to move to a new apartment, so you could imagine the schedule-juggling he has had to do. New York City real estate, even the rental market, is absolutely insane (and not in a good way), though that is a topic I'll save for the trip recap I plan to write on LouPickney.com next week. But I managed to check out the surrounding area a bit and had some delicious pepperoni pizza at a place called Two Boots Pizza. I love New York style pizza, and there are plenty of places that try to make NYC style pizza elsewhere... but it's just not the same. Anyway, I was immersed in the NFL and feasting on my favorite pizza in the world, which is not a bad spot to be in at all.

Brook's girlfriend, Jessica, dropped by around 5:30 EDT to meet up with me and make sure I made it to Radio City Music Hall without incident. I can navigate NYC just fine on my own, but they wanted to be helpful -- and it was just one of many examples of both Brook and Jessica being thoughtful from my trip here.

By the time that Jessica and I made it to Radio City Music Hall, the line was already five blocks back, if not more. You would think it was finished, but then you'd cross the street and see that the line actually continued there. And this was for day two of the draft. From what Brook has told me, some of the long-time NFL office workers are flabbergasted at how the draft has grown from being a small hotel ballroom event that ESPN asked to air simply to fill time into the huge event that draws in fans of the NFL from all over the world that it is today.

For day two of the draft, I had second mezzanine tickets, which actually ended up providing a better view of the happenings than I had in the VIP area on the first mezzanine the day before. Brook had some flexibility in his NFL backstage schedule to be able to spend time with Jessica and me up there, which was great.

While I concentrate on the first round of the NFL Draft for the purposes of this site, that involves the evaluation (and, more importantly, my analysis of what other evaluators and scouts are saying and writing) of literally hundreds of players. I don't have the ability of someone like Mel Kiper, Jr. or Mike Mayock to rattle off information about a seemingly endless list of players on live television, but there's a reason they have their respective gigs: they're very good at what they do. Plus, on top of his excellent draft work, Mayock is easily the best color commentator in football, both in college and NFL. He particularly stands out because there are so many sub-par color commentators out there. He has my respect, for sure.

But because I knew enough of the major names that were likely to go off the board on day two, I had fun filling in Brook and Jessica about them. Hopefully I didn't slip too much into "Know It All Lou" mode, but I at least enjoyed talking about guys going off the board. Mostly I had positive things to say about them, with many being bargain players who fell further than some might have expected.

Brook grimaced when the Rams draft Appalachian State QB Brian Quick. It's not because he didn't like the guy or the Rams, but he is a Michigan fan and thus still bristles at the mere mention of App. State after their win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 2007. He had the same look on his face that I did last night when the Bills drafted South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore; I had mentioned to Brook yesterday before the first round started that the one regret I had with my finalized 2012 NFL Mock Draft from Wednesday night was not moving Gilmore up to Buffalo at #10, which I came very close to doing but ultimately didn't. Ugh.

But part of why I must have sounded so positive early is because I really liked a bunch of guys who went in the 33-45 range:

Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw (#35 to Baltimore)
Clemson DE/OLB Andre Branch (#38 to Jacksonville)
North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins (#39 to St. Louis)
Georgia OG/OT Cordy Glenn (#41 to Buffalo)
Stanford OT Jonathan Martin (#42 to Miami)
Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill (#43 to NY Jets)
South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery (#45 to Chicago)

One interesting thing about round two was how subtle the NFL was about New Orleans having lost their second-round pick due to the bounty scandal. They were to have pick #59, but instead they bumped everyone up a spot and pretended like the Saints' pick slot didn't exist. On the big video board on the stage where they at times showed (all too briefly) the list of teams and players and pick slots, they was a grayed-out slot at the bottom of the right-most screen. The same was true in round three for the Raiders at #78, which would have been #79 had the Saints not lost their second-rounder, since Oakland forfeited their 2012 third-round pick to select Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft.

The highlight of things for me in round three came when Jacksonville drafted Cal punter Bryan Anger at #70 overall, which caused the crowd (including me) to break out in an uproarious round of laughter in mockery of the Jaguars. It actually wasn't a bad pick, and NFLDraftScout.com had him projected as a round 3-4 prospect. He landed 90 of 253 career punts at Cal inside the 20-yard-line, and he caught the attention of scouts at the East-West Shrine Game by averaging 60 yards per punt on three attempts: 59, 60, and 61 yards.

So it's not as if Anger lacks either accuracy or a cannon leg, and Jacksonville may very well need a top-tier punter with some of the grind-it-out, field possession games they could find themselves in this upcoming season. But to use the highest pick on a punter since Todd Sauerbrun went to Chicago at #56 overall in 1995... well, that was enough to make the fans in attendance laugh long and loud. But it's also true that Todd Sauerbrun ended up being a four-time All-Pro and lasted for 13 years in the NFL. So it could work out for the Jaguars.

Also, again in defense of Jacksonville, there was a run on corners going with Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward going to Green Bay at #62, Montana CB Trumaine Johnson going to St. Louis at #65, and UCF Josh Robinson going to Minnesota at #66. So the Jags weren't in position to fill their own need(s) at corner at #70, presuming that they were looking to do so.

One error I made was thinking that Wisconsin C Peter Konz was still on the board in the third round, when in reality he went to Atlanta in round two at #55 overall. I wrote on Twitter that Brook was downright giddy about the possibility of Konz falling to Dallas at #81, and believe me, I heard about my gaffe from several readers on Twitter. And rightfully so -- I screwed it up.

At about that point in the draft, the names and picks and trades all start to run together and it became difficult to keep track of everyone, particularly so if you don't have a cheat sheet like I didn't. It was more embarrassing than anything, and I felt foolish both for posting that on Twitter and for giving Brook false hope that the Cowboys had a shot at Konz at that spot.

The only positive: I was able to delete the errant Twitter post before my Droid 4 ran out of battery power yet again. 0-for-2 on that, and I had that bad boy 100% charged before Jessica and I left for Radio City Music Hall. Oh well.

Jessica is a big-time Miami Hurricanes fan, and by the final few picks of the third round rolled around, her, Brook and I were cheering for former Hurricanes RB Lamar Miller to be drafted. Atlanta held pick #91, and we listened to the announcement wondering if the Falcons might snag him there.

"The Atlanta Falcons select Lamar..."

As soon as we heard the name Lamar, the three of us started cheering loudly. I didn't particularly care where Lamar Miller was going to end up, but since Jessica and Brook were pulling for him to be drafted on day two, I joined them in cheering.

About a half-second later, we realized that we had jumped the gun. The Falcons has selected Lamar Holmes, an offensive tackle out of Southern Miss. Yep, Lamar Holmes, not Lamar Miller. Oops.

And, not to bury the lead, but the best part of the day came at the end of the draft. Brook, Jessica, and I were about to hail a cab near the corner of West 51st & 5th Avenue, lo and behold, we spotted two very high-ranking people within the league: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Executive Vice-President of Football Operations Ray Anderson. Brook introduced me to both men by name, which was a great opportunity that I appreciated immensely. It would have been a great photo-op, but they were in a bit of a hurry so that didn't happen. But that was a great way to punctuate my experience at day two of the 2012 NFL Draft.

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