The stories of the draft, as I see it:
* The lockout. What's going on? Will the league year be force-started by the start of the draft, or will the NFL continue to drag their heels? It sounds like the NFL is readying to open the doors on Friday, which could mean that we go the 1st round with no transactions allowed, but then have the league year started and transactions allowed come round 2.
* The quarterbacks. Zero first-tier franchise-to-be quarterbacks, but the biggest, most interesting batch of guys with some black marks the draft has had in a long time. They're so bunched together, and some of them could go anywhere from the late 1st round to round 3.
* The defensive ends. The two guys at the top of the list have medical issues, and there's plenty of 1st round talented guys beneath them. Can the position get up to 10 guys selected in the 1st round?
* Five GMs whose drafts interest me most:
- Gene Smith. Obviously a personal favorite of mine given the team, but his two year track record is better than any other GM's right now. Like the other GMs on this list, he has established his trademark formula. Can he keep hitting with it? And can he maneuver his way to a QB-of-the-future in this draft?
- Bill Belichick. Always one of the best "gamers" of the draft, and an expert at building up more draft ammunition. Well, he's already built up this year, with an extra 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick to go with his own still-intact compliment of picks in those rounds. Will he use some to make a move upwards? Will he continue to move down and pick up even more picks, in this draft or the next? Or will he use the picks he has right now for the next big reloading of the roster? He's always one of the guys to watch closest on draft day. Plus I'm reading his dad's scouting book right now.
- Ted Thompson. Thompson is a man worthy of holding Ron Wolf's old spot. I've been an admirer of his personnel work for a while. His last three 1st round selections have been Bryan Bulaga, B.J. Raji and (in a bold trade-up move) Clay Matthews. And that Aaron Rodgers selection has been working out pretty OK too. Thompson's formula is much similar to Smith's, and though I haven't heard him say it, I bet Smith looked to Thompson as a bit of a model.
- Thomas Dimitroff. Dimitroff is the anti-Thompson/Smith. Both of those guys are disciplined BAP drafters. Dimitroff and his Falcons staff are unabashed needs drafters. In the months leading up to the draft, the team holds meetings they call their "Needs" meetings, in which they identify their team needs. And on draft day, they target and fill them. They hit with Matt Ryan, but injuries have kept the rest of Dimitroff's 1st round picks - Sam Baker, Peria Jerry, and Sean Weatherspoon - from showing yet if they're going to fulfill their potential at the NFL level. But below round 1 in his three drafts, Dimitroff has produced two good starting safeties (William Moore and Thomas DeCloud, a 2nd and 3rd, respectively), and a cornerstone MLB in Curtis Lofton. Needs drafting has worked so far for Dimitroff as the team has done an outstanding job on talent evaluation.
- Bill Polian. Not just a competition committee rule-gamer, but also one of the league's premiere GMs. But Polian has been on one hell of a cold streak:
2007 1st rd: Anthony Gonzalez - slight promise at first but roster fodder with only 12 career starts
2007 2nd rd: traded pick for "Booger" McFarland, who was key for that 2006 run but only lasted that one year before washing out of the league
2008 1st rd: Tony Ugoh (they traded this pick to draft Ugoh in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft) - Swing-and-a-miss attempt at Tarik Glenn's successor
2008 2nd rd: Mike Pollak - Mediocre starter and weak point on line, time likely running low
2009 1st rd: Donald Brown - Addai still has a job because Brown is crap
2009 2nd rd: Fili Moala - Not the guy they were hoping for, but at least produced some last year, still very much at risk of not holding his job
2010 1st rd: Jerry Hughes - So far the most epic of whiffs. A healthy scratch for a whole quarter of the season
2010 2nd rd: Pat Angerer - The best hope of a decent player in this bunch. Will at least compete for a starting OLB job
That's four straight drafts with zero true quality starters selected in the first 2 rounds, minus possibly Angerer - and we'll see if Jerry Hughes can even ever get on the field. It hasn't been said out loud much, because Manning alone has been enough to keep the team a contender, but if you're wondering why the Colts have yet to return to the Super Bowl since their 2006 win, start by reading this list.
Also, honorable mention to Scott Pioli, whose first draft as a Chief wasn't thrilling but his second crack at it last year was, from the early returns, outstanding.