1.10 Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
2.08 Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
3.12 Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
4.33 Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah St.
4.36 Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg
5.18 Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
6.13 TJ Jones, WR, Notre Dame
7.14 Nate Freese, K, Boston College
Obviously, Eric Ebron will enjoy the luxury of playing alongside a double-team magnet like Calvin Johnson. But Ebron will thrive due to more than just Megatron’s presence. Reggie Bush’s routes out of the backfield usually stress linebackers and drop-down safeties—the same defenders who normally provide help coverage on the tight end. Ebron can also detach from the formation and play the slot, an important facet of coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system.
Kyle Van Noy is the type of fluid mover the Lions have featured in their 4-3, zone-heavy defense. He’ll play the strong side. Should new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin change things up, Van Noy can also play the weakside in a 3-4. Travis Swanson was brought in to eventually supplant Dominic Raiola, who is coming off his best season in years but will turn 36 in December.
Green Bay Packers
1.21 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
2.21 Davante Adams, WR, Fresno St.
3.21 Khyri Thornton, DE, Southern Mississippi
3.34 Richard Rodgers, TE, California
4.21 Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona St.
5.21 Corey Linsley, OC, Ohio State
5.36 Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
6.21 Demetri Goodson, CB, Baylor
7.21 Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley
The Packers used several young safeties in recent years. Most of them were mid-round picks, and the results were middling. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a rangy centerfield type, which will allow Morgan Burnett to play with more of a downhill tilt. Clinton-Dix’s arrival also allows Green Bay to keep Micah Hyde as a slot corner, where he impressed last year.
Davante Adams can eventually fill the void created by James Jones’s departure, though he’ll likely start as the Packers’ No. 4 receiver as Jarrett Boykin is promoted to Jones’s old spot. The Khyri Thornton selection is the latest example of GM Ted Thompson’s draft day addiction to defensive lineman. The Packers already had four D-lineman taken in the top two rounds of recent drafts, plus intriguing 2013 fifth-rounder Josh Boyd and recently signed ex-Viking Letroy Guion. All this for a team that often lines up with just two defensive linemen in its base nickel package.
Richard Rodgers’ immediate future could depend on Jermichael Finley’s status. (There are rumors of Finley returning to the Pack once he gets a clean bill of health.) Corey Lindsey might compete for a starting job even as a fifth-round rookie; the only other options at the pivot are J.C. Tretter, who did not see the field last season as a fourth-round rookie, and practice squad veteran Garth Gerhart.
1.09 Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
1.32 Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
3.08 Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon St.
3.32 Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
5.05 David Yankey, OG, Stanford
6.06 Antone Exum, S, Virginia Tech
6.08 Kendall James, CB, Maine
7.05 Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
7.08 Brandon Watts, LB, Georgia Tech
7.10 Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina
With edge rushers Everson Griffen and Brian Robison both locked in long-term, the Vikings can afford to let Anthony Barr develop in a pass-rush specialist role. Barr will probably need the extra time; he’s only played defense for two years. New head coach Mike Zimmer could use his rookie wunderathlete as a standup joker in his zone-blitz packages. Though Griffen’s ability to fill that role, plus the fact that defensive end Scott Crichton was chosen in the third round, suggests the Vikings could use Barr in a traditional linebacker role.
Teddy Bridgewater might have a chance to learn on the field as a rookie. Though if everything breaks right the Vikings could be Wild Card contenders with veteran Matt Cassel in 2014.
Jerick McKinnon isn’t going to replace Toby Gerhart; the converted QB is too raw as a receiver and pass protector to take many snaps behind Adrian Peterson. David Yankey could be a good value, as there’s no reason for the Vikings to lock veterans Charlie Johnson or Brandon Fusco into starting roles.
New Orleans Saints
1.20 Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon St.
2.26 Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
4.26 Khairi Fortt, ILB, California
5.27 Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama
5.29 Ronald Powell, OLB, Florida
6.26 Tavon Rooks, OT, Kansas St.
Brandin Cooks could not have fallen into a better situation. The system Sean Payton and Drew Brees have built will take advantage of his quickness in and out of breaks, downfield ball tracking and creativity after the catch. Cooks can replace some of what the Saints lost with the departures of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles. He’s small, but that’s no longer a major issue in today’s finesse NFL.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a physical, lanky press corner in the Seattle mold. A converted wide receiver, he’ll draw comparisons to Richard Sherman. Sherman rode the bench for the first half of his rookie season, and Jean-Baptiste may do the same. But with Patrick Robinson coming off a serious knee injury (and not a lock to make the team), Rob Ryan might need the rookie to play right away. Then again, Ryan often prefers to play three safeties in his dime package, so maybe it’s Vinnie Sunseri who will see more action. Close to fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered last October, Sunseri will push Rafael Bush for that third safety role.
New York Giants
1.12 Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
2.11 Weston Richburg, OC, Colorado St.
3.10 Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse
4.13 Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
5.12 Nat Berhe, S, San Diego St.
5.34 Devon Kennard, LB, USC
6.11 Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
Odell Beckham Jr. has been championed for precise route running, a must when playing with a gutsy, squeeze-it-into-the-window passer like Eli Manning; he likes to find receivers either really early or really late out of their breaks. Perhaps Manning’s style will change under first-year coordinator Ben McAdoo, who comes over from Green Bay. Regardless, the Giants need Beckham ready to go right away; the new system often uses three-receiver personnel.
Weston Richburg also must be ready on Day One. New York’s only other experienced centers are J.D. Walton, the ex-Bronco who missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, and journeyman Dallas Reynolds. GM Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin must have really liked Andre Williams; this club did not seem to have room for another running back. Now it’s a matter of which backup will be jettisoned to make room for Williams: Peyton Hillis or Da’Rel Scott. David Wilson could be on the chopping block as well as he works his way back from neck surgery, but that seems like a long shot considering how dynamic he’s looked at times when healthy.
On defense, Jay Bromley should enter the rotation immediately. New York’s front four is nowhere near as potent or deep as it was a few years ago.