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NEWS | May 4, 2010

2010 NFL Draft: Who improved most?

By Airman 1st Class Patrick McKenna 316th Wing Public Affairs

While it is most certainly true that it's hard, and some would even say unfair, to judge a team's draft too soon, the alternative is to wait three years and have the benefit of hindsight to declare who did well. Where's the fun in that? The NFL shifting the draft to prime time was a huge success as they saw a 30 percent ratings increase from last year's first round. The draft itself will be remembered for many things - Sam Bradford going first overall, Tim Tebow getting picked in the first round, Jimmy Clausen's free fall out of the first round. But 10 years from now, what will be talked about is what teams turned their franchises around last weekend. What top pick turned into a bust? What late-round draft pick became a pro bowler? Here's a recap of some teams who appear to have set themselves up nicely:

Seattle Seahawks - Seattle was under a lot of pressure going into last week's NFL Draft to bring in some serious talent to help turn the franchise around. Pete Carroll and company hit one out of the park. Not only did they draft what some experts think was the best offensive lineman in the draft (Russell Okung), but they also snagged a very talented safety (Earl Thomas) with their second first round pick. The Seahawks also acquired veteran running backs, LenDale White and Leon Washington, to help shore up their offense. The Seahawks did a great job of bringing in young talent as well as veterans to help them compete immediately.

Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens addressed their offense with the trade for Anquan Boldin back in early March so they clearly turned their sites to getting younger on the defensive side of the ball. They picked up a pass rusher with tons of potential (Sergio Kindle) in the second round. Kindle was rated to go in the first round but fell due to injury concerns. Fortunately for him, he won't be rushed and will be able to learn from Terrell Suggs, who's one of the premier sack artists in the NFL. The Ravens then beefed up their defensive line by drafting mammoth defensive lineman (Terrence Cody) who will be able to take up blockers and protect Ray Lewis and Suggs. The Ravens did all that despite not having a first round pick.

Detroit Lions - Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves, the Lions did not draft a wide receiver in the first round for the third straight year. They were fortunate enough to take what some scouts say is the most dominant defensive lineman to come out of the draft in recent memory (Ndamukong Suh) giving head coach Jim Schwartz a younger, faster, hungrier version of Albert Haynesworth. They then traded up to snag running back Jahvid Best who should immediately step in as a third down back, giving Matthew Stafford a great safety valve to throw to. The Lions are slowly putting together some nice talent and are not far away from competing for a wild card berth.

Oakland Raiders - The Oakland Raiders had themselves a decent draft. No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. They managed to draft the consensus top linebacker in the draft (Rolano McClain) in the first round and only had to deal a fourth round pick for Jason Campbell who will be a solid player for them. If they can get some semblance of a running game from Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, the Raiders will have the makings of a decent offense this season.

New York Jets - The Jets were picking late in the first round so to have Kyle Wilson, a cornerback some thought could go top ten, fall to them was a major break. He'll be a fantastic nickel back this season and with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie he'll help form the best secondary in football. The Jets also picked up Joe McKnight from USC who is electric in the open field. The Jets have to be considered favorites to win their division.

San Francisco 49ers - The Niners obviously decided if they want to keep Alex Smith on his feet and Frank Gore happy, they'd need to seriously upgrade their offensive line.They drafted left tackle Anthony Davis and future guard Mike Iupati to help accomplish those goals. Taylor Mays in the second round could be a steal if he can harness his immense physical talent and improve his pass coverage.