Cam Newton, Dion Jordan

A Look Back: Recapping The 2013 NFL Draft’s Biggest Blunders

It’s hard not to come off a bit smug in picking apart a team’s draft from the prior offseason. We don’t want to be “that guy,” but we do want to highlight which NFL teams fared better than others.

There were some puzzling moves made in the 2013 draft that caused us to scratch our heads back when they first occurred. And it hurts more for fans to see a potential future superstar fall to another team just minutes later.

Here are nine “questionable” moves made by GMs last season during the 3-day event:

Miami Dolphins traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 to draft Dion Jordan, giving up an extra second-rounder (42nd) to do so. After moving up to pick No. 3 for a sizable amount, the Dolphins were expected to address a massive offensive line need with the last of the elite tackle class, Lane Johnson. Instead, they snagged an edge-rusher while Miami failed to get the ground game going.

The Dolphins finished 28th in Pro Football Focus run-block grading and Johnson finished 11th among tackles in that regard. This might not be fair retrospect, but what if they drafted Johnson and moved Jonathan Martin to right guard playing next to Tyson Clabo instead of Richie Incognito? Maybe throw less gas on the aggro fire. Pencil in Mike Pouncey at center and that’s not a bad line at all.

St. Louis Rams traded up from No. 16 to No. 8 to land Tavon Austin. The team lost a second and seventh rounder (moved up seven picks in the third) to draft a diminutive receiver, while an electric target with probably more upside didn’t leave the board until No. 29 in Viking Cordarrelle Patterson. Despite being widely regarded as a far more raw prospect, Patterson leaped Austin by 24 spots in Pro Football Focus’ 2013 receiver grading at No. 34 and provided a similar bonus in the return game.

Both St. Louis and Minny received roughly the same mix of decent and awful from its quarterback position. Austin may dramatically improve in year two and the Rams may find better way to utilize his explosiveness, but Patterson is the type of receiver the Rams could very well use a first-rounder on in the 2014 NFL draft.

Miami added yet another CB in round two with a much more dire need at offensive line. It happened to be Boise State corner Jamar Taylor at No. 54, and Taylor could very well break out this year and should anticipate more playing time. Still, we have to seriously question if Jeff Ireland was involved at all in this one, with the lack of immediate gratification involved in this transaction.

For a GM blatantly making splash acquisitions to keep his job in short-term, this was a missed opportunity as offensive line struggles greased the slopes to missing the postseason and Ireland’s exit. Meanwhile G Larry Warford, Pro Football Focus’ Offensive Rookie of the Year, became a Lion shortly after at No. 65.

The Taylor pick was just odd because it came among a wave of moves that screamed “win now” for the Dolphins, when there were already mouths to feed at that spot. Taylor would finish sixth among Dolphins cornerbacks in snaps behind Brent Grimes, Nolan Carroll, Jimmy Wilson, Dimitri Patterson and Will Davis.

New York Jets drafted Geno Smith 39th overall. Smith outplayed the rookie QB class down the stretch, but the Jets have seemed unsure about viewing him as the future from Day 1. From pulling him for Mark Sanchez late in a preseason game to signing Michael Vick, you have to ask John Idzik what the plan now is with Smith and what it was supposed to be. Hard to spend your 40th overall pick on the backup the future, even if Vick is “conceding” for now.

Meanwhile, Kiko Alonso left the board just seven picks later and the Jets’ linebacking corps remains shaky. I will give points for passing on Smith to draft Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson with their two first rounders, and by the way….

Tampa Bay Bucs traded the No. 13 overall pick—which could’ve been AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson—and a conditional 2014 pick that became the fourth pick in round four. And they give up $16 million in 2014 cap space, and the hypothetical cap space they could’ve saved over four years by drafting a stud with the 13th overall pick. All this to rent Darrelle Revis for one year!

If we were ranking this, here’s number one with a bullet. John Idzik made an entrance. Mark Dominik made his exit.

Indianapolis took edge rusher Bjoern Werner at No. 24 without having another pick to address the interior line until the 86th overall pick. Part of the criticism of the pick here is that Werner perhaps underwhelmed most among the 2013 first-rounders with just 13 pressures and three sacks on 85 pass rushes. Part is Indy not picking again until deep in the third round.

One year later, a bigger gap in competence still exists between the offensive tackles on this team. If your interior line is more flaccid than the president in “House of Cards,” any ensuing investments planned at running back will suffer.

Admittedly, this was a weird spot in the draft where the offensive line run had just fallen off a cliff. Also, it feels crazy to say on so many levels and would’ve made the Trent Richardson trade seem sane, but if Indy had taken center Travis Frederick here at 24 it would’ve provided a massively greater benefit to the Colts in 2013 and beyond, at the very least.

Interior penetration also wreaked havoc on the pocket, as Hugh Thornton and Mike McGlynn both finished bottom 10 among guards in PFF’s pass blocking efficiency while Samson Satele finished a bottom-five graded center. Andrew Luck and Pep Hamilton are nodding their heads.

The Atlanta Falcons passed on Eddie Lacy at No. 60, who went with the very next pick to the Packers. Not that cornerback Robert Alford had a terrible rookie year, or that this pick didn’t make sense following their signing of Steven Jackson. But swapping Jackson, Lacy—and their contracts—would have taken a load off both Atlanta’s salary cap and Matt Ryan, and would continue to do so going forward.

By the time Atlanta signed Jackson, 2013 was already a shaping up as a good offseason to address running back needs in the second round or later. Yet Atlanta approached it in a manner that is a thing of the past, signing a relatively expensive, aging back instead of reconstructing their backfield through UDFAs and the draft.

Steven Jackson’s contract with Atlanta, via Spotrac.com:

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.24.17 PM

Eddie Lacy’s contract with Green Bay:

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.23.43 PM

Lacy edged Jackson in yards per attempt, 4.1-3.5. Jackson’s season was marred by a string of injuries while Lacy did bounce back, forcing just two fewer missed tackles than Adrian Peterson in roughly the same number of snaps.

Rams passed on receiver Keenan Allen at pick No. 71, round three’s ninth pick. TJ McDonald could turn into an excellent safety but once again the Rams remain desperate for an upper-echelon receiver and they continue to struggle in the secondary. San Diego took Allen at 76 and with Philip Rivers’ resurgence finished fourth in the league in WR Rating, which Pro Football Focus defines as “the rating that quarterbacks have whilst throwing to a receiver.”

Allen also topped 1,000 yards through the air despite receiving less targets than 30 other receivers. Austin could prove a dangerous wrinkle but an unlikely WR1. Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt retired a very long time ago.

New York Giants took Ryan Nassib with the 110th overall pick. The Giants entered the 2013 offseason and regular season with a sneaky-high number of weak areas and needs (ornerback, offensive line, linebacker, edge rusher). This makes spending a mid-fourth rounder at quarterback, with stalwart Eli Manning locked in and taking big, juicy bites out of their cap for the foreseeable future, an inefficient position to devote that high of a draft pick.

Not sure the trade-bait argument sells the probability of the investment coming through either.

Honorable mentions:

  • Buffalo passed on Kenny Stills at No. 143, who went at 144 to the Saints.
  • Falcons passed on Zac Stacy at No. 153, who went at 160 to the Rams.
  • Cleveland Browns passed on Andre Ellington at No. 175, who went 187th to the Arizona Cardinals.
Thomas Emerick

About Thomas Emerick

Merry freelancer. NFL Lead Writer at The Sports Daily, Contributor to Sporting News. May have also seen my work at USA Today, Bleacher Report, Pro Football Focus and the late AOL FanHouse. VT grad. I am also an avid diabetic.

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