Looking Back at the 2013 Draft: AFC Playoff Teams

Story posted January 28, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Kris Rogers

From the day after the Super Bowl until the beginning of May, all 32 NFL franchises focus their attention on the next season through the NFL Draft. Teams with poor seasons at the start of the draft often have a defined need for their first pick, but finding that specific area to improve becomes more difficult the later you go in the draft. A team could draft for depth, or address a specific need exposed during the playoffs. They could also trade up or down out of the spot they were given late in the first round. Looking back at the 2012 playoff teams, and how they drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft, can help predict what this year’s group of playoff teams may do with their selections in May.

Bengals: For the first time in history, the Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs in consecutive seasons, but lost to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round for the second straight year. With the 21st pick in the first round, Cincinnati drafted tight end Tyler Eifert. The former Notre Dame player was the best player left on the Bengals board, drafting him even though Jermaine Gresham, a 2010 first-round selection was still under contract. Eifert caught 39 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season.

Colts: After choosing not to re-sign seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Dwight Freeney and switching to a 4-3 defense, the Indianapolis Colts were low on pass rushers and drafted German-born linebacker Bjoern Werner 24th overall. In his first season, the rookie from Florida State worked in rotation with Robert Mathis and Erik Walden providing depth for the Colts, playing in 13 games and starting one; recording 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Texans: Houston made its second straight appearance in the AFC Divisional championship in 2012, but struggled against teams that could shut down wide receiver Andre Johnson. With the 27th pick, the Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins, a quick receiver with good hands to take some of the pressure off of Johnson; who was targeted more than any receiver in the NFL in 2012. The Clemson product made an immediate impact in his rookie season, catching 52 passes for 802 yards and two touchdowns.

Broncos: When it was Denver’s turn with the 28th pick, they didn’t have any major needs on either side of the ball. Their offense and defense were both near the top of the league, so they were drafting for depth, selecting North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Williams did not start, but played in a rotation with Terrence Knighton and Kevin Vickerson to strengthen the interior of their defense. Williams ended the 2013 season with 19 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Patriots: Originally slated in at the 29th pick of the first round, the New England Patriots traded their first-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for their second, third, fourth, and seventh-round picks. The Patriots would use those picks to draft linebacker Jamie Collins from Southern Miss, cornerback Logan Ryan from Rutgers, and wide receiver Josh Boyce from Texas Christian. New England would trade the seventh-round selection to Tampa Bay for running back LeGarrette Blount.

Collins would have a quiet year, rotating in at the linebacker position, but made a splash in the Patriot’s divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts; sacking quarterback Andrew Luck and also intercepting a pass.

Logan Ryan would see a lot of playing time in 2013, due to injuries to cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard. He had an impressive rookie season, making five interceptions and forcing a fumble.

Boyce would mostly play a backup role for the Patriots in 2013, but caught nine passes for 127 yards.

Blount would arguably make the biggest impact of the four. He entered the 2013 season fourth on the Patriots depth chart at running back behind Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden, but due to injuries and inconsistent play he found himself with more and more responsibility. He ran for 773 yards on 153 carries and seven touchdowns in the regular season, and in the Patriots divisional round matchup against the Colts in the playoffs rushed 24 times for 166 yards and four scores, including a 77-yard touchdown run.

Ravens: After the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl 47, they lost many key players to retirement and free agency, including safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. With the final pick of the first round, they selected Florida safety Matt Elam to fill the void. Elam took over for Michael Huff as the starter in week three and recorded 77 tackles and an interception, as well as recovering two fumbles.

Elam also made headlines in a week six matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Elam went low trying to make a tackle on Packers receiver Randall Cobb and fractured his tibia, causing him to miss over two months with the injury.

Not every prospect is going to be a success, and the chances of finding a guaranteed star decreases with each player off the board. Many of the players drafted in the first round by playoff teams would go on to make immediate impacts as starters, but others were picked to provide depth and to develop into future contributors. Fans can expect similar outcomes when the 2014 NFL Draft gets underway on May 8.

Kristopher Rogers is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email klr5374@psu.edu.