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Winners and losers of the NFL Draft

9:55 AM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There were plenty of surprises in this year's NFL Draft.

The Buffalo Bills shocked plenty of people by taking Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with the 16th overall pick. Then the rest of the league stunned most fans by virtually ignoring quarterbacks until Day 3.

The only three quarterbacks selected prior to the fourth round were Manuel, Geno Smith (second round to the New York Jets) and Mike Glennon (third round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). There were no running backs taken in the first round.

In the end, though, most of the teams filled major needs during three days at Radio City Music Hall. Some did a better job than others.

Let's take an early look - before these first-year players even get to a minicamp - to see which teams are the biggest winners and losers in the 2013 draft.

BIGGEST DRAFT WINNERS

1. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: The first round couldn't have gone any better for Minnesota. The Vikings needed a defensive tackle, and Sharrif Floyd - thought by some to be the best defensive player in the draft - was amazingly still there at pick No. 23.

Next, the Vikings needed a cornerback. Xavier Rhodes, ranked by most as either second or third at the position - and mocked by many in the first half of the first round - was still available at pick No. 25.

The Vikings had the extra first-round pick because they had dealt Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks. Needing to replace him in the lineup, Minnesota traded back up to the No. 29 spot and grabbed Cordarrelle Patterson, who was probably the consensus No. 2 prospect at the position.

The trade left Minnesota with no second- or third-round picks, but the Vikings came back in the fourth round and took another probable starter, Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges. It was quality over quantity, but the Vikings already had a playoff roster, so it was the right way to go.

2. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Have the Ravens ever failed to be draft-day winners under general manager Ozzie Newsome?

Didn't think so.

For a defending Super Bowl champion, the Ravens had some key vacancies to fill in this draft - namely replacements for long-time defensive leaders Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Those guys were picked in the first two rounds with safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown. They should both begin careers as starting lineup fixtures this fall.

One point to quibble about with the Ravens' draft, though: They didn't address wide receiver until the sixth round. That's when they opted for little-known Aaron Mellette of Elon, but he has some upside and could be a surprising first- year contributor.

3. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Trading up in the first round, the Rams got the draft's most dynamic skill-position player in Tavon Austin. Then, they traded down with Atlanta and still got the linebacker they wanted - Alec Ogletree - with the No. 30 pick.

The rest of the draft, St. Louis filled each of its needs with a solid prospect, most notably safety T.J. McDonald, wide receiver Stedman Bailey and guard Barrett Jones. Even though they didn't address their void at running back until their last pick, Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy was still a good get at No. 160. He could end up starting as a rookie, although he's unlikely to truly fill the shoes of the departed Steven Jackson.

4. GREEN BAY PACKERS: The Packers had a big need at running back and they completely overhauled their depth chart by drafting both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. Lacy was regarded by many to be a first-round talent, but he lasted until pick No. 61 - the next-to-last selection of the second round.

Franklin only cost the Packers a fourth-rounder, and it's easy to envision a timeshare in which Lacy plays on first and second down and Franklin on third.

The best thing about drafting the two solid backs was that Green Bay didn't have to use a first-round pick to do it. With that first-round selection, the Packers took Datone Jones, who projects as one of the most versatile defensive linemen in the draft. Mississippi State defensive end Josh Boyd looks like a great value pick in the fifth round.

5. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The rich get richer. The Niners made 11 picks, and it would be tough to imagine all 11 being able to crack what was already one of the league's best rosters.

The Niners didn't have many needs, but they filled the ones they had with quality choices. Eric Reid should do well covering tight ends as a replacement for Dashon Goldson. Rice tight end Vance McDonald will take on the role of departed Delanie Walker. Quinton Patton was potentially a steal as a fourth- round wide receiver.

Tank Carradine has some injury questions, but San Francisco doesn't need him to be a huge contributor right away. When he's ready, he will be groomed to be Justin Smith's eventual replacement.

Another fabulous luxury pick was Marcus Lattimore. The South Carolina standout was probably the best running back in the country before tearing up his knee last season. Even if he ends up on injured reserve in 2013, he will one day be an option to replace an aging Frank Gore as the team's featured back.

LOSERS

1. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Despite a 5-11 record last season, Cleveland has enough quality players to be a potential team on the rise. The draft started out well for the Browns when they selected Barkevious Mingo, a pass rusher with a high ceiling.

The rest of the draft didn't go so great. Already without a second-round pick that was surrendered in last year's supplemental draft, Cleveland picked smallish cornerback Leon McFadden in the third round.

The Browns then dealt their fourth- and fifth-rounders for 2014 third- and fourth-rounders, respectively. That would have been fine had Cleveland gone into this draft with few needs. It's hard to believe the Browns didn't use one of the picks to take a chance on a quarterback because there were quite a few developmental ones still available who would have been a good value in the mid- to-late rounds.

2. DALLAS COWBOYS: Particularly in the middle rounds, the Cowboys drafted some solid players. It's tough to argue with the Terrance Williams, J.J. Wilcox, B.W. Webb and Joseph Randle picks.

One problem was that the Cowboys traded down and then reached deep for Wisconsin center Travis Frederick at pick No. 31. Frederick should be a starting guard from Day 1, but he almost certainly could have been had in the second round, and possibly even in the third.

Another concern was the failure to address the defensive line. Considering that the draft was deep in that area, Dallas could have spent its first-rounder on a defensive lineman and then taken Frederick in the second round. The Cowboys' second-round pick, Gavin Escobar, is a good player. He didn't fill as big a need as a defensive lineman would have, though.

3. BUFFALO BILLS: Perhaps E.J. Manuel will turn out to be another Colin Kaepernick. If so, this will go down as a strong draft for the Bills. However, taking Manuel at No. 16 likely wasn't necessary, especially considering how much the top quarterbacks slid in this draft.

Wide receiver Robert Woods was an excellent second-round selection, but Buffalo didn't address a major weakness at guard, and this was a fairly deep draft for offensive linemen. The Bills also could have used some depth at defensive end.

4. DENVER BRONCOS: First-round defensive tackle Sylvester Williams was an excellent pick who filled a need. Second-round running back Montee Ball, who could overtake Willis McGahee at some point, filled another need, too.

The rest of the draft, though, included a number of reaches. Most notable was third-round cornerback Kayvon Webster of South Florida. Denver probably could have waited until the fifth round to take him.

5. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher was fine at No. 1 overall, although this wasn't the greatest year to own the No. 1 draft pick. Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce in the third round was another solid pick.

In terms of needs, the Chiefs could have used a defensive lineman or safety, perhaps with their compensatory selection at the bottom of the third round. Instead, they went with fleet-footed running back Knile Davis. Injury-prone and fumble-prone, Davis was overdrafted.

BEST VALUE PICK PER ROUND

First Round: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Minnesota Vikings

Second Round: Arthur Brown, LB, Baltimore Ravens

Third Round: Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

Fourth Round: Quinton Patton, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Fifth Round: Jesse Williams, DT, Seattle Seahawks

Sixth Round: Cornelius Washington, LB, Chicago Bears

Seventh Round: Zac Dysert, QB, Denver Broncos

Jeff Saukaitis has been a professional sportswriter since 1985.

The Sports Network

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