After selecting Josh Freeman, Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall early in the draft, I needed to use my picks in rounds 4 and 5 to build the core of the rest of my team. The two most critical positions I had ignored were left tackle and pass rusher. Fortunately my need largely coincided with what was left: I didn’t see a true difference maker at corner or defensive tackle, so it was easy to focus on 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 ends.
On offense, my choice at left tackle was made easy once Jake Long, Trent Williams, and Tyron Smith went off the board at the end of round four. I had D’Brickashaw Ferguson with those four in my final tier of what I would consider above-average left tackles, and Ferguson ranked second to only Williams. His reputation took a bit of a hit with a a poor 2011 and the Jets general implosion since then, but Ferguson quietly had a nice rebound season last year. He allowed only two sacks in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, and came in as PFF’s #7 left tackle. He’ll only turn 30 in December, so I think my team can count on him for another five years at least. He’s got size and great athleticism, and keeps himself in good shape, so he seems unlikely to fall off a click as he ages. As the 14th offensive tackle off the board, I think Ferguson represents strong value this late in the draft. He’s capable of being a franchise left tackle, which makes him a pick I can feel comfortable about at the end of the fourth round.
Turning to defense, my first goal was to take a player capable of playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end. Paul Kruger is an ideal player because of that exact versatility, and the 27-year-old has improved every year of his career. According to PFF, Kruger actually ranked as the top pass-rushing 3-4 OLB last season in their pass rushing productivity metric. While Kruger had 9 sacks in the regular season and another 4.5 in the playoffs, the most impressive statistic he posted was 33 hurries in just 359 pass-rushing snaps last year. He had 2.5 sacks, four tackles, and five hits on Andrew Luck in the Ravens initial playoff game, one of the most dominating performances by any player this past postseason.
Kruger is mediocre against the run and was a part-time player in Baltimore. Despite the big contract the Browns just gave him, there are certainly question marks about his ability to maintain this level of production. He’s only done been great for one season, and perhaps he won’t be the same player when he’s not teamed with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. But that’s why he’s available in the fifth round and not the first. I’m happy to take a chance on an ascending player who was stuck behind Jarret Johnson early in his career and then broke out last season. He just turned 27 last month, making him a player that can be a defensive cornerstone for the foreseeable future.