28 April 2011

2011 NFL Draft: 1st Round Grades

How did the teams do in their selections in the opening round of the 2011 NFL Draft? Here are my grades for each and every pick of the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

1. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton is the ultimate risk/reward prospect. He has a long way to go in his development but he has the potential to be a superstar. Luckily Newton has a solid running game and a good offensive line to work with. If Newton is given the chance to develop properly, he will be a star. The off-field questions (Is football most important? Would he be content being a multimillionaire?) are troublesome but the potential is too much to ignore. The Panthers need a leader, a face of the franchise, and they pretty much had to make this pick.
Grade: B+

2. Denver Broncos - Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
I'm a huge fan of Von Miller and I think he can be a stud rushing the passer. But he is not a great fit for the 4-3 defense. Either he is an undersized defensive end or he will play outside linebacker and have his pass rushing skill underutilized. He could form an awesome pass rush combo with Elvis Dumbervil coming back from injury, but Marcell Dareus would have been a better pick here. Miller will be a really good player regardless but his skill will be misused in Denver.
Grade: B-

3. Buffalo Bills - Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Bills desperatly needed help on the defensive front and Dareus is a perfect fit. He played in a 3-4 scheme at Alabama and can play all three spots. He can stuff the run and push the pocket. 
However this does not get as high of a pick because sooner or later, the Bills need a franchise quarterback. If they didn't like Gabbert here, then they need to draft a QB in round 2. A very good pick regardless.
Grade: B+

4. Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals desperately needed to upgrade their wide receiving corps with the departure of T.O. and the likely departure of Chad Ochocinco and made the right pick here. Green has got unbelievable hands and great athleticism. He gives the Bengals a big and athletic target similar to Plaxico Burress and would help Jordan Shipley work the middle of the field. Now who will be throwing to Green is anyone's guess but this is a great pick. 
Grade: A

5. Arizona Cardinals - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Now while the Cardinals do not have a huge need at cornerback, this is an awesome pick. Peterson is the best player in this draft and he will form a nasty combo with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie down in the desert. This is a great addition to a defense that can improve steadily with this move.
Yes they need a quarterback but with Ken Whisenhunt on the ropes and two young quarterbacks already at the farm, taking another developmental quarterback would've kinda silly. Looks like they will go after Marc Bulger. 
I love this pick. Grade: A+

6. Atlanta Falcons (from Cleveland) - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
This is a move that you make when you are that one piece away from being a serious Super Bowl contender. The Falcons needed another big-time threat to pair with Roddy White and to clear even more room for Michael Turner. Jones is a terrific prospect who is very physical and has tremendous speed. Jones and White will be a terrific pair for years. And call me crazy, but this could make the Falcons the favorite to bring the Lombardi Trophy home.
Grade: A+

7. San Francisco 49ers - Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Now while the 49ers needed juice for their pass rush and Smith helps in that regard, he is very young and raw and did not exactly light the world on fire at Missouri. I would've taken Robert Quinn but the concerns of his brain tumor possibly returning might cause him to slide.
And I hope that Jim Harbaugh does not expect Alex Smith to be the answer at quarterback. He missed a golden opportunity to develop a potential franchise QB in Blaine Gabbert.
Grade: C-

8. Tennessee Titans - Jake Locker, QB, Washington
This is a bad pick. Locker had serious accuracy concerns at Washington and his decision making is less than stellar. I'm stunned that with Gabbert on the board that the Titans would pass him up for Locker. They needed a franchise QB but they royally F'd up this pick.
Grade: F

9. Dallas Cowboys - Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The Cowboys have had concerns on the offensive line and they made a very good choice in taking Smith. Smith is the best mauler in this draft and has all the tools to be a stud on either side of the offensive line. He played the right side at USC but he has the wingspan and the body to be a stud blindside protector. Note that this is the first time Jerry Jones has selected a lineman in the first round.
Grade: A-

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Washington) - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
This was a stunning move and I have mixed feelings. The Jaguars had more pressing needs than quarterback particlarly rushing the passer. But they also have needed to light a fire under David Garrard or find a replacement. I like Gabbert but don't love him because he has some clear flaws, but this is a fine move.
Grade: B-

11. Houston Texans - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Now you may think that this is an odd move with Prince Amukamara still on the board and their atrocious pass defense from a year ago. But the Texans are converting to a 3-4 and needed personnel to make a successful conversion. Watt is a hard working, blue-collar player who is very strong at the point of attack, is underrated athletically and is a great 5 technique end. I would've taken Amukamara but this is still a solid pick.
Grade: B

12. Minnesota Vikings - Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
The initial reaction is to hate this pick but I can see the reasoning behind this pick. Ponder is a perfect fit for the West Coast offense as he is very accurate in the short and intermediate passing game plus solid athleticism and high intelligence. It's an absurd reach but I don't completely hate it because there is no chance that he would be available in the second round at their pick. If you feel a quarterback can be the franchise guy, you have to pull the trigger.
Grade: D+

13. Detroit Lions - Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
This is a pretty good value pick and a pairing of Fairley and Ndamukong Suh could be nasty. But the Lions still have a hole at left tackle and a hole in the secondary that they could've addressed yet again but chose not to. And even if they went d-line, I thought they would go defensive end. But this is still a very good value and who will be able to run on the Lions now? But Prince Amukamara was still on the board...
Grade: B

14. St. Louis Rams - Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Quinn has a world of potential coming off the edge rushing the passer. He has a very high ceiling thanks to his great athleticism and very good strength. The Rams needed to complement Long with another pass rusher thanks to James Hall being in his mid 30's. Still you have to be concerned if his brain tumor comes back. But I do like the pick.
Grade: B+

15. Miami Dolphins - Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida
Now this is a bit of a reach but Pouncey is a mauler inside. He can play either guard or center and will fill a big need for the Dolphins, who needed to upgrade their interior to try to keep Ronnie Brown healthy and Ricky Williams effective. Plus he has great bloodlines, which never hurts.
Grade: B+

16. Washington Redskins (from Jacksonville) - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Redskins needed help rushing the passer and Kerrigan helps in that regard. He is a high motor player who plays both the run and rushes the passer effectively. However, he does not fit well in a 3-4 because he does not have the athleticism to be effective with his hand off the ground.
Grade: C+

17. New England Patriots - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Protecting Tom Brady is incredibly vital, especially as he is getting up there in age. But Solder is not close to being the top offensive tackle on the board (Anthony Costanzo, anyone?) and he was awful at the Senior Bowl. He has a lot of potential but this is not a great pick.
Grade: C-

18. San Diego Chargers - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
I like Liuget and I think he can develop into a very good defensive tackle. But he is not a very good fit, from an initial glance, for the 3-4 that the Chargers run. Cameron Jordan would have been a much better selection at this point.
Grade: C

19. New York Giants - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Now while cornerback is not the biggest need for the Giants, Amukamara is simply too good to pass up. Clearly the top player on the board, he was not too far from Patrick Peterson. He is tremendous in run support and can simply make plays. This is a tremendous value pick by the G-Men right here.
Grade: A+

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Buccaneers desperately needed pass rush help and Clayborn gives Tampa a potentially dangerous edge rusher. However I have some reservations about the pick with Da'Quan Bowers and Cameron Jordan still on the board. But overall it's not a bad pick.
Grade: B-

21. Cleveland Browns (from Kansas City) - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
I really like Phil Taylor and I think he can develop into one of the better nose tackles in football. However, he is not a great fit in a 4-3 and while he helps out their rush defense, he really does not fill that much of a need here. Not the best pick by any means.
Grade: C-

22. Indianapolis Colts - Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
The Colts desperately needed to upgrade their offensive line to give Peyton Manning a chance. Costanzo was arguably the top or second best tackle propect on the board and has all the ability to develop into a very good blind-side protector. Bill Polian shows yet again that he understands what the NFL Draft is all about.
Grade: A+

23. Philadelphia Eagles - Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
I really like this pick. Watkins has a great story with his background and how he has only played football for a few years. He has a lot of potential as he can maul as well as pass protect pretty well. He is versatile as he played left tackle last year at Baylor and he is a guy that Philadelphia will love. Yes he is 27 but he has obviously not played a lot of football so he will play for a while. Jimmy Smith might've been a slightly better pick but I'm really feeling this pick.
Grade: A-

24. New Orleans Saints - Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
This is a great value pick here for the Saints. It is stunning that Jordan has fallen this far but this guy is a very good player. He can play across the defensive line and is a tenacious pass rusher. Gregg Williams will love this kid as he can form a strong pairing with either Sedrick Ellis or Will Smith, depending on where he plays.
Grade: A

25. Seattle Seahawks - James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
This is a really stunning as nobody saw this pick coming. Let's not forget the Seahawks drafted Russell Okung last year in the top five so I don't understand this pick with the chance to upgrade the secondary or the defensive line or maybe a quarterback. Caprenter does not have the athleticism to play left tackle and will be confined to the right side, if not at guard. But there is a much, much better version of this guy and his name is Gabe Carimi. Don't forget that Derek Sherrod and Ben Ijalana were also on the board. I don't get it.
Grade: F

26. Kansas City Chiefs (from Cleveland via Atlanta) - Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
The Chiefs could have used this pick on a Gabe Carimi or a Derek Sherrod and upgrade their offensive line but they instead take Baldwin. Baldwin has got very good size with great hands and concentration. He is a solid possession receiver who will complement Dwayne Bowe well, but I would have gone offensive line here.
Grade: C+

27. Baltimore Ravens - Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
For some reason the Ravens chose to let time run out and passed on the 26th pick. But anyways, the Ravens  get the talented cornerback that they were craving in Smith. Smith has a ton of potential but has some maturity issues. However, he is going to the right organization where he will be allowed to flourish on the edge. The Ravens had a big need and filled it well.
Grade: A-

28. New Orleans (From New England) - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Saints suffered from a ton of injuries and inconsistency from the running back spot in 2010 and now they have the bellcow they have not had since Deuce McAllister was in town. Ingram does not have great speed, but he has the size to be a solid workhouse for Drew Brees and co. But I really do not like Ingram enough to give up picks down the road for him and I would've waited to take a running back.
Grade: C+

29. Chicago Bears - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
This is a great pick by Chicago here. They really needed to get some reinforcements for their pitiful offensive line and Carimi is a great fit. He is a physical, blue-collar type who can develop into a very good right tackle. I don't see him on the left side but the Bears had to make this pick so that Jay Cutler can survive another season. This is a Mike Tice kind of guy.
Grade: A+

30. New York Jets - Muhammed Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple
I know some Jets fans will inevitably cry about passing on Bowers but this is a very good pick right here. Wilkerson is a perfect fit for Rex Ryan's attacking 3-4 scheme. He is a 5 technique defensive end but he can around the defensive line. He has very good athleticism and he has great size. He can stuff the run effectively and push the pocket very well. I'm liking this move a lot.
Grade: A-

31. Pittsburgh Steelers - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Heyward is a very good fit for Dick LeBeau's defensive system. He should help spice up the pass rush from the defensive end slot in the 3-4. He may not start right away but he'll be groomed to start down the road. A solid pick that is a typical Steelers selection.
Grade: B

32. Green Bay Packers - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
This is a typical Ted Thompson pick, building up the depth in the trenches. This is a great value pick and it allows the Packers to keep Bryan Bulaga on the right side of the offensive line, where he may be better suited. The highest priority for the Packers is protecting Aaron Rodgers and they have struggled to do so at times. But Sherrod is a natural left tackle prospect with great pass blocking skills and for the second year in a row, the Packers hit a home run with an offensive line prospect.
Grade: A-

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