By Brandon Niles Explorebigsky.com Sports Columnist
The 2013 NFL draft is in the books, and while much of it went as expected, there were several surprises. The Kansas City Chiefs took Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher with the first pick and the Detroit Lions grabbed defensive end Ezekiel Ansah from BYU in the least surprising move of the draft. The Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams blew up most pundits’ predictions by trading up for Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan and wide receiver Tavon Austin of West Virginia, respectively. Here is a look at which teams I think came out on top in 2013.
Minnesota was the biggest winner of Day 1, maneuvering around the draft board and winding up with three first round picks. The Vikings took defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd – who was projected to go in the top ten – out of Florida with the 23rd pick and should start right away for an already stellar defensive line. Getting a player of his caliber that late in the first round is excellent value and fills a need. The Vikings also drafted cornerback Xavier Rhodes from Florida State with pick 25. He’s a physical player with the size and ability to contribute immediately and help replace the departed Antoine Winfield. Finally, Minnesota traded back into the first round to take Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson at 29. Patterson has tremendous big play ability and will help young quarterback Christian Ponder immediately.
On Day 2, the Cardinals grabbed inside linebacker Kevin Minter from LSU, a first round talent who slid to the second round, and provides tremendous value for Arizona. In the third round they picked cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, also from LSU, who has uncanny instincts and playmaking ability. The Cardinals also plucked a starter in the first round with UNC offensive guard Jonathan Cooper, and they got excellent value in the later rounds with Texas defensive end Alex Okafor and Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope.
The Bengals nabbed three players who should start immediately, early in the second and third rounds. After picking Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first, Cincinnati got the versatile UNC running back Giovanni Bernard with their first second round pick. Bernard is an excellent back who will contribute to the already potent Bengal offense. They also got Margus Hunt in the second round, the versatile defensive end from Southern Methodist. I predicted him to go in the first, and he should be an immediate contributor to the Bengals hybrid defense. In the third round they drafted Georgia safety Shawn Williams, who should contend for a starting job right away. I also like the pick of South Carolina center T.J. Johnson in the seventh; he should be a solid rotational player early on.
While many teams did well in the 2013 NFL draft, the Vikings, Cardinals and Bengals should be especially pleased with the talent they acquired. With the NFL draft over, teams will now scour the list of undrafted players to uncover the next hidden gem, and will look toward rookie camps to start scheming ways to use their new young stars. The draft is my favorite time of year, because fans can be optimistic that their team will get the best of the rookie crop, and find that young superstar who will catapult them into the playoffs.