Round One of the 2012 NFL draft unfolded with unprecedented speed. All 32 selections were made within three hours, which was a record breaking pace. And if that did not deliver enough excitement for you, then the veritable conga line of trades certainly should have. While the choices of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were hardly shocking, there were other decisions that left us in a state of amazement. With the progression of time, some of these moves will eventually prove to be shrewd, while others will result in various levels of perpetual bewilderment.
Please remember that this article deals with the 10 most unexpected draft selections. Which does not necessarily mean that each move is perceived as a mistake, although I believe that some of them were. All 10 will be listed in the order that they took place.
1. Morris Claiborne To The Cowboys
The fifth selection of the night leads off this list. Not because Claiborne wasn't expected to go this early, but because it occurred with a team that had no prior contact with him. In fact, Claiborne himself was surprised… actually the word that he used was shocked… when Dallas drafted him. Not exactly what you experience in most cases with such an extensive investment. But the Cowboys moved up eight slots in order to seize him, and his performance should justify that move.
2. Mark Barron To The Buccaneers
Barron was not expected to go quite this quickly, plus observers and fans have questioned the decision to employ the seventh overall pick on a safety. However, Tampa Bay finished 30th in total defense last season (394.4 YPG), and was dead last in points allowed, with an embarrassing 30.9 PPG. Therefore, this choice makes sense to me. You also have to believe that the presence of Jimmy Graham within the NFC South, was a major factor with this move.
3. Dontari Poe To The Chiefs
There are many remaining questions concerning Poe’s ability, due in great part to the level of competition that he faced during his collegiate career at Memphis. Which makes GM Scott Pioli’s contention that Poe’s exceptional display at the combine did not influence the Chiefs' decision difficult to believe. Considering the lack of in existence on tape, choosing Poe as the 11th overall pick was simply a reach. And that is far too early to execute that type of need pick, when a vast array of talent remained readily available.
4. Bruce Irvin To The Seahawks
My twitter timeline was sent ablaze, the moment that Irvin’s name was called. And I have searched for any mock draft that included Irvin in the initial round, but have discovered none. He was at best projected to go somewhere in the high 40s, and usually after that. If Seattle concluded that Irvin was the pass rusher they needed most, and became resolved to grab him, that is fine. But he would have been available later in the process. Worse, he can only be utilized on certain downs. Not really the preferred script for the 15th pick.
5. Quinton Coples To The Jets
The 16th pick was utilized on Coples, whose excellent talent has been exceeded by his reluctance to unleash it. The comparisons to Vernon Gholston instantaneously became rampant, and the Jets had better hope that he performs with far more inspiration that he did as a senior for North Carolina. While Rex Ryan understandably coveted a pass rusher, there were several excellent options available (Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw) that were overall superior to Coples.
6. Brandon Weeden To The Browns
Weeden’s age does not concern me as much as Colt McCoy’s shortcomings, since the incumbent Cleveland QB finished just 36th among all signal callers last season, with a 74.6 rating. Therefore, I can make a strong case for Cleveland’s selection of Weeden. But it is difficult to justify doing so at that point of the proceedings. Not when a glaring weakness at WR could have been addressed instead, yet now remains. Same goes for the cavernous hole at RT. But Weeden should quickly secure the staring slot, and the McCoy era has essentially ended.
This surprise arrived in a package deal comprised of both players. It had been nine years since Bill Belichick, who is notorious for trading down with his draft selections, traded up in order to secure each member of the tandem. But last year’s 31st ranked defense permitted over 400 YPG (411.1), which precipitated the need to assertively upgrade that unit. The selections of Jones and Hightower accomplished exactly that.
8. Kevin Zeitler To The Bengals
Cincinnati should benefit from drafting Zeitler, since they needed an upgrade at OG. But by trading the 21st overall selection to the Patriots, in exchange for the 27th selection that was utilized on Zeitler, they shunned the opportunity to secure David DeCastro, who was projected to depart the boards much earlier in most mock drafts. The fact that divisional rival Pittsburgh grabbed DeCastro with the 24th pick, could direct a spotlight onto this decision over time.
9. A. J. Jenkins To The 49ers
The inclusion of Jenkins into this round was a stunner. The 49ers were in need of another WR, but with Stephen Hill and Rueben Randle still available, this choice caught analysts off-guard. Jenkins possesses excellent speed, and his productivity during his final two years at Illinois (146 receptions, over 2,000 yards, 15 TDs) lends credence to the belief that he will ultimately become a wise investment. But you have to wonder what the Niners could have accomplished with Hill.
10. The Broncos Trading Out Of The Round
John Elway had been aggressive throughout the off-season ( you just might have heard something about his successful pursuit of Peyton Manning), which appeared to make Denver a candidate to elevate their initial selection. Instead, they traded completely out of the round. First, by giving the 25th overall pick to New England, in exchange for the 31st selection. Then, they swapped that pick with Tampa Bay, which catapulting them out of the round. They now also possess the 101st pick, as part of those two deals. The moves were made because Elway did not like his remaining options, but it remains surprising that we are still waiting on the Broncos' initial selection.