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Every year, we seem to spend more and more time talking about the NFL draft. Even aside from the actual draft — which now spans four days instead of two — it feels like conversations about prospects begin the minute the season ends. Why, then, does it also seem like those conversations end the minute the draft takes place?
We’ll never stop hearing about RG3’s knee or what Russell Wilson has done in Seattle, but for players like Matt Kalil, Fletcher Cox, or David DeCastro, much of the intrigue from fans disappears the moment these players hold up a jersey and bear-hug Roger Goodell. As part of our countdown to the NFL season, I decided to run down last year’s rookie class team by team — mostly looking at whether they contributed last season and what they’re likely to do this season. Because first- and second-round picks are typically considered the players capable of starting right away, those players are listed under each team. Other rookies who played significant time, or are slated to this season, are mentioned when it’s applicable. In doing this, we know that many players don't fully develop until their third or fourth season. This isn't an attempt at draft grades. It's more an effort to catch up with what some of the bigger prospects did in their first season. But no matter what happens in the next few years, we do already know this: Seattle won.
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the first in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
There's higher-profile news in Minnesota at the moment, but amid all the Percy Harvin drama is a lingering question that threatens the Vikings’ very foundation. There’s no actual proof that Adrian Peterson can be killed by conventional weapons, but his post-human season is at least partially (partially!) a result of running behind of the league’s best offensive lines.
Because I’m a Bears fan, and because my friends and I made a blood pact to never again discuss what transpired in the NFL on Sunday afternoon, I decided that this week’s Trenchie Awards would go a bit differently. There’s really no sense in discussing what happened in the past. We can only move forward, and in front of us is a set of lineman matchups that has me (and anyone else with pictures of J.J. Watt in his or her locker) looking forward to this year’s wild-card weekend even more than I normally would.
J.J. Watt vs. Geno Atkins
OK, so they’re not actually playing against each other, but in a game that’s otherwise uninspiring, we get a chance to watch the two best defensive players in football do their thing.
As Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote this week, if it weren’t for the historic year Watt has put together, Atkins’s 2012 would be the season worthy of all this adulation. According to PFF’s numbers, Atkins graded out almost two times better than any other defensive tackle the site has ever charted. Cameron Wake and Von Miller were the only two players, at any position, to record more total pressures. Unlike Watt, whose position varies based on Houston’s front and situation, there’s no mistaking what Atkins is. He’s a 3-technique, 4-3 tackle who happens to be one of the four most disruptive pass rushers in the league.
In celebration of the NFL's release of the all-22 and end-zone film for the 2012 season, each week we'll be bringing you the best in offensive- and defensive-line play. For the winners of last week's Trenchies, click here.
My favorite NFL draft memory is from my freshman year of college. It has nothing to do with who my Chicago Bears took that year (Greg Olsen, 31st overall), or which colossal bust made his way into the top 10 (JaMarcus Russell). No, that year was about testing the durability of a miniature hockey stick when slammed against a dorm room furnace, which is how a friend reacted when his Packers ended up with Justin Harrell at no. 16 instead of Marshawn Lynch, who went to the Bills at no. 12. The stick lost.
The reason I always go back to that one has less to do with what happened than it does how many of us were there to see it. For some of my friends, the draft is better than Christmas morning, and for one of us (my Rams-loving former roommate), the only day every season where hope doesn’t seem so ridiculous.
This year is no different. When it was clear Jay Cutler’s broken thumb would keep the Bears from the playoffs, I immediately started doing two things: (1) becoming embarrassed at my inability to figure out the draft order, and (2) hoping Michael Floyd had just enough alcohol-related run-ins with the law to fall to no. 19. The second one doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, but I do have three more draft-obsessed observations that I think should.