Jan 062014
 

Kiko Alonso2013 saw some outstanding performances among defensive rookies, and we have nominated eight for the award won by Luke Kuechly last season. This year’s nominees include (in alphabetical order):

Kiko Alonso, BUF (6-10, 159 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INT)
Jarvis Jones, PIT (8-8, 40 tackles, 1 sack)
Star Lotulelei, CAR (12-4, 42 tackles, 3 sacks)
Tyrann Mathieu, ARI (10-6, 68 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT)
Alec Ogletree, STL (7-9, 117 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD)
Sheldon Richardson, NYJ (8-8, 76 tackles, 3.5 sacks)
Logan Ryan, NE (12-4, 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 INT, 1 TD)
Desmond Trufant, ATL (4-12, 70 tackles, 2 INT)

This award generated a wide variety of opinions among our contributors, as three different players accumulated first place votes, and one player who received a second place vote and three third place votes didn’t make the final cut (Logan Ryan), nor did another player who received a first place vote (Star Lotulelei). When all the votes are tallied, here are the top three vote winners:

Third Place: Alec Ogletree, linebacker, St. Louis Rams

Ogletree led a resurgent Rams’ defense with 117 tackles while forcing six fumbles. Ogletree also returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown, had a sack and a half and ten pass breakups. The first round sellection from the University of Georgia, coupled with defensive end Robert Quinn, give Jeff Fisher a solid defensive nucleus entering the 2014 season.

Second Place: Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle, New York Jets (2 1st place votes)

One of our two selections from the AFC East, Richardson single-handedly made new GM John Idzik look pretty bright this season, as the budding star dominated the line of scrimmage and was a force against opposition running games. Despite being a rookie and joining a very talented defensive front, Richardson proved to be arguably the best defensive player on the Jets’ roster. Richardson closed the season with 76 tackles and three and a half sacks.

First Place: Kiko Alonso, linebacker, Buffalo Bills (4 1st place votes)

Jets’ fans may disagree, but we agree with Mel Kiper on this one. Alonso was the best defensive rookie in the NFL in 2013, nearly on par with Kuechly’s performance in 2012. Alonso recorded 159 tackles in 2013, while helping the Bills improve to the tenth ranked offense (in defensive yards allowed). The secondary proved to be the bane of Buffalo’s defensive unit, but Alonso quickly established himself as a dominant and disruptive presence, picking off four passes while breaking up another nine, and tallying two sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Alonso finished third in the league in tackles, behind only Vontaze Burfict and Paul Posluszny.

Apr 262013
 

Meat And PotatoesWell that was quite an interesting first round. One quarterback, one running back, and a whole lot of trench players were taken in last night’s first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.Offensive and defensive linemen were the top targets (nine each), followed by cornerbacks (four), wide receivers (3) and safeties (3). Two linebackers and a tight end were also taken in last night’s action.

Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel came off the board at #1 (Chiefs) and #2 (Jaguars) respectively as predicted, and then the Dolphins threw a monkey wrench in, swapping with Oakland to move up to snag defensive end Dion Jordan. The next trade came at #8, where the Rams moved up to grab wide receiver Tavon Austin to replace Danny Amendola. Oakland used the #12 pick to select the player they were prepared to grab at #3, cornerback DJ Hayden.

The first (and only) quarterback went off the board when Buffalo selected Florida State’s EJ Manuel at #16. The Bills’ smokescreen for the past several weeks was very effective, as just about every quarterback other than Manuel had been associated with the Bills. The 49ers shot up the board to #18 to grab safety Eric Reid to fill out their secondary, and then the Cowboys pulled a bit of a head scratcher at #31 with their decision to take Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who is widely seen as a late second or early third round pick.

Atlanta swapped with St. Louis to take cornerback Desmond Trufant, a needed addition for the Falcons. The other trade of the first round came when Minnesota, who had already selected defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes jumped into New England’s 29th spot to pick up wide receiver Cordarrelle Petterson of Tennessee. New England, who was prepared to selected a player, opted for the value of grabbing Minnesota’s second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks.

Finally, former Patriots’ offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was present to announce the Patriots’ move, and this was accompanied by a moving tribute to the first responders and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. They also revealed a “Boston Strong” Patriots’ jersey that promises to become a future piece of wardrobe in the Ghost Rat household.

All in all, it was a solid “meat and potatoes” round for teams trying to protect the quarterback, pressure the quarterback, and defend the pass. I thought the Jets’ selection of cornerback Dee Milliner with the 9th pick was a bit dicey, particularly with DJ Hayden, Desmond Trufant, and Xavier Rhodes still available. Milliner is a great talent, but having two bad shoulders seems to be a cause of some concern. Cleveland’s landing of defensive end Barkevious Mongo at #6 was a sold selection, and seemingly safer than the Eagles’ taking defensive end Ziggy Ansah at #5, even if Ansah’s potential upside is greater. The Steelers got their man in linebacker Jarvis Jones at #17, while the Giants made absolutely the right selection at #19 in picking up tackle Justin Pugh. Bears’ fans were not thrilled with the teams’ selection of guard Kyle Long at #20, but Long promises to be a long-term starter for Chicago, who desperately need help on the offensive line.

Here are the first round picks… the ones I got right are in bold face:

1. Kansas City Chiefs – T Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – T Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
3. Miami Dolphins (trade) – DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
4. Philadelphia Eagles – T Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
5. Detroit Lions – DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU
6. Cleveland Browns – DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
7. Arizona Cardinals – G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
8. St. Louis Rams (trade) – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia (right team, wrong spot = half credit)
9. New York Jets – CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
10. Tennessee Titans – G Chance Warmack, Alabama
11. San Diego Chargers – T DJ Fluker, Alabama
12. Oakland Raiders (trade) – CB DJ Hayden, Houston
13. New York Jets – DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
14. Carolina Panthers – DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
15. New Orleans Saints – S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
16. Buffalo Bills (trade) – QB EJ Manuel, Florida State
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
18. San Francisco 49ers (trade) – S Eric Reid, LSU
19. New York Giants – T Justin Pugh, Syracuse
20. Chicago Bears – G Kyle Long, Oregon
21. Cincinnati Bengals – TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
22. Atlanta Falcons (trade) – CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
23. Minnesota Vikings – DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
24. Indianapolis Colts – DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
25. Minnesota Vikings – CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
26. Green Bay Packers – DE Datone Jones, UCLA
27. Houston Texans – WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
28. Denver Broncos – DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
29. Minnesota Vikings (trade) – WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
30. St. Louis Rams (trade) – LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
31. Dallas Cowboys (trade) – C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
32. Baltimore Ravens – S Matt Elam, Florida