02 May 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Team Grades

As there has been no free agency this offseason due to the on-again, off for a day, then back on-again lockout, the NFL Draft was the only place where teams could fill their needs and stockpile talent. How did each team do in the draft? Here are my team by team grades.

1st Round Grades
Best Picks of Rounds 2-3
Best Pick of Rounds 4-7

Arizona Cardinals
I loved their first round selection of Patrick Peterson as he was the best player in the entire draft and selecting a quarterback would have been very dumb. But besides their steal of Sam Acho as the start of Round 4 and Quan Sturdivant in Round 6, they did not draft very well. Ryan Williams in Round 2 when they had major needs along the offensive line did not make sense and Rob Housler was a reach in the third. Why they chose no offensive lineman, I have no idea.
Grade: C+

Atlanta Falcons
The trade up to acquire Julio Jones was bold, risky, and expensive but I loved it. When you are a piece or two from a Super Bowl championship, I have no problem with being aggressive. I love Jones and I thought he was only a step behind A.J. Green. The Falcons really needed another big time threat opposite Roddy White and they got that in Jones.
The Falcons also made some quality mid-round picks as well. Akeem Dent figures to earn playing time at strongside linebacker and Jacquizz Rodgers was a steal in the fifth round. Andrew Jackson and Cliff Matthews were also good picks.
Grade: A-

Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens did a great job early of addressing their major needs with a pair of terrific picks. Jimmy Smith has elite talent but some maturity issues, however the Ravens have a terrific locker room led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed so they can handle guys with some character concerns. The Ravens have needed a receiver that could stretch the field to best utilize Joe Flacco's arm and Torrey Smith is a great fit.
The Ravens also made a slew of very good Day 3 picks especially with Tandon Doss, a big receiver with quality hands, and Pernell McPhee, who could compete for a starting spot on the defensive line right away.

Buffalo Bills
Let me start off by saying that Marcell Dareus was a very good pick as they sorely a player of his caliber on their defensive line. But this was a pitiful draft and proof why the Bills are never good. They chose no quarterbacks, despite a couple of good ones available in round 2, no 3-4 outside linebackers, no offensive lineman until midway on Day 3. They instead selected a flurry of defensive backs and running backs, despite both being some of the better stocked on the club. While I think Aaron Williams is a solid player, there were countless smarter picks that I really do not feel like naming them all.
However the Dareus pick keeps them from a failure.
Grade: D

Carolina Panthers
Is Cam Newton the best player in the draft? No. But it was a pick the Panthers had to make. When there is a regime change, like the hiring of a new coach, the team has to go in a new direction. They need new leadership and a new face of the franchise. The Panthers needed a franchise quarterback and Newton was the best one on the board. He'll bring a strong degree of leadership and is someone the team can market and build around. I don't care whether Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus, Von Miller, or A.J. Green were all better prospects but it's hard to grade a quarterback prospect with other prospects because the quarterback is far and away the most important player on the field. Carolina made the right choice.
The Panthers did not do a good job of bringing in weapons for Newton but did a very good job of addressing needs at defensive tackle and the interior offensive line.

Chicago Bears
The Bears have needed to upgrade their pass protection for years to give Jay Cutler a chance. Mission accomplished with the selection of Gabe Carimi. Carimi was an excellent value at the end of the first round and is a perfect NFC North lineman. Their next pick was a good one in Stephen Paea. I'm not the biggest fan of Paea but to get him towards the end of the second round when at one point he was a first round pick at a need position was smart.
Grade: B+

Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals actually did a very good job in the draft (so there may be hope in Buffalo?). They drastically needed to go in a different direction as the malcontent retreads that are Chad Johnson Ochocinco and Terrell Owens and succeeded in getting the best receiver in the draft in A.J. Green. If they still think they can bring Carson Palmer back, he'll be excited to play with an awesome talent like Green. But the Bengals did not panic when quarterbacks went early and they sat and got the guy they wanted at 35 in Andy Dalton, who gives them some actual talent if Palmer were to leave. Dontay Moch, Clint Boling, and Robert Sands were all solid picks as well.
Grade: A

Cleveland Browns
Their grade automatically goes up when you factor in the fact that they traded down and stockpiled picks. I didn't love the Phil Taylor pick because he is not a great fit for a 4-3 but he is better than the scrubs Cleveland has at tackle. Every pick the rest of the draft was a good one though. Jabaal Sheard gives Dick Jauron a talented pass rusher, Greg Little has got the talent to be a strong receiving threat for Colt McCoy, as does Jordan Cameron at tight end, and Owen Marecic is the guy everyone wants on their team. Buster Skrine was a very good pick as well. Well done, Mike Holmgren.
Grade: A-

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys had a chance to take charge in the NFC East but failed to do so with their average draft. Tyron Smith filled a huge need at offensive tackle and has a lot of potential at offensive tackle. And Bruce Carter was a solid pick in the second round. But DeMarco Murray? And no defensive backs? You know Jerry Jones and the Coboys as a whole used to dominate the draft...
Grade: C-

Denver Broncos
I know I'm in the minority here but I didn't love the Von Miller pick because his awesome pass rush skill is negated when playing at outside linebacker in the 4-3. Rahim Moore was a terrific pick at the top of the second round, and especially after trading down, but they did not get great value until the final round. Some promising pieces for John Elway in his first NFL Draft but he still needs work.
Grade: C

Detroit Lions
The Lions had the most overrated draft. Yes they got great value with their first three picks in Nick Fairley, who was a one year wonder but was a good value at 13, Titus Young and especially Mikel Leshoure but they passed up quality offensive tackles (Anthony Costanzo in Round 1, Ben Ijalana in Round 2) and defensive backs (Prince Amukamara in Round 1, Brandon Harris in Round 2) despite those being their biggest needs. When will Jim Schwartz and co. realize that protecting Matthew Stafford is their biggest priority? Stafford is continually getting hurt and could be ruined if Jeff "Mr. Look-Out Block" Backus is not replaced on his blindside. Or the fact that scrub defensive backs will continually get them murdered by the Packers. Again it's not like they made crappy picks but they fail to realize their most important needs.
Grade: B-

Green Bay Packers
Ted Thompson knows what the NFL Draft is all about. He always seems to find great value picks. Derek Sherrod is not the prototypical NFC North tackle but he is a great pass blocker who will keep Bryan Bulaga on his better side on the right. Randall Cobb was an easy steal at the end of round 2. Davon House and D.J. Williams were also both great picks. With the exception of reaching for Alex Green, they did not make an awful pick. Which is easier said than done.
Grade: A

Houston Texans
The Texans had huge needs on the defensive side of the ball thanks to an epically bad pass defense and the conversion to a 3-4. They hit home runs on their first three picks. J.J. Watt is the perfect 5 technique. Some thought the Texans should have taken Prince Amukamara instead but they made up by trading up to take Brandon Harris in the late 2nd. Brooks Reid is a very talented edge rusher. All in all, the Texans addressed their big needs with great picks. And "Mr. Irrelevant" Cheta Ozougwu will be a solid contributor as well.
Grade: A

Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have failed to adequately protect Peyton Manning of late and Bill Polian needed to upgrade in a big way. Lo and behold, Anthony Costanzo and Ben Ijalana both fall into their laps. Costanzo is the prototypical left tackle prospect and Ijalana can play mutiple positions effectively. The Colts needed reinforcements at defensive tackle as well so Drake Nevis was a very good selection as well at 87. Polian reinforced the notion that he is an elite personnel guy with this sterling draft.
Grade: A+

Jacksonville Jaguars
Trading up for Blaine Gabbert shows that the Jaguars are not that focused on 2011, which is not good news for Jack Del Rio. However, David Garrard played his best football when competing for his job with Byron Leftwich so maybe this will be in the kick in the pants he needs. Will Rackley and Cecil Shorts were both solid picks. However with their final two selections, the Jags took guys were in no way draftable prospects.
Grade: C

Kansas City Chiefs
Scott Pioli did a very good job in this draft. I don't love Jon Baldwin but he does fill a need and trading down for him and collecting another pick was wise. Their next three picks in Rodney Hudson, Justin Houston, and Allen Bailey were all steals. Ricky Stanzi may push Matt Cassel down the road and Jerrell Powe gives the team the nose tackle they needed.
Grade: A-

Miami Dolphins
The 'Phins were in a tough spot with their top selection because to fill their needs they would have to reach. Mike Pouncey is not the 15th best player in the draft but he fills a huge hole in their interior offensive line. They needed help at running back so Daniel Thomas makes sense. Edmond Gates and Charles Clay were both steals and will give Chad Henne some weapons to work with. Not a bad draft at all by Miami.
Grade: B

Minnesota Vikings
Well it's obvious to everyone that the Vikings panicked when three quaterbacks went in the top 10 and then they took Christian Ponder. Do I think he was worthy of the 12th pick, no. But I do think he is a great fit for the West Coast offense and if he's a stud, it won't matter where he was drafted. If you think you have found a franchise quarterback, you have to pull the trigger. Unless it's a quarterback with as many visible flaws as Jake Locker but I'll get into that mometarily.
The rest of their draft was very good. Kyle Rudolph, Christian Ballard, Brandon Burton, and DeMarcus Love were all steals. And I know a guy from Slippery Rock and he'll be happy that one of his own was drafted.
Grade: B

New England Patriots
For what seems like the first time in a while, I really do not like the Patriots' draft. Nate Solder got murdered at the Senior Bowl by seemingly everyone and Anthony Costanzo was a much better prospect. Ras-I Dowling is a solid player but he fills no need. And who knows why Bill Belichick wasted picks on mediocre running back prospects like Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley? I can't fail the Pats because they stockpiled picks and they will likely turn Ryan Mallett into a high pick down the road as well.
Grade: C-

New Orleans Saints
The Saints stole Cam Jordan at 24 as he should have gone much higher in this draft. He projects to be a very good defensive end or tackle and certainly fills a need. I'm not the biggest fan of taking a running back in the first round, let alone trading up for one and give up picks, and I do not love Mark Ingram either, but he is a good fit. New Orleans did make a bunch of really good picks afterwards and I love the Greg Romeus selection in the seventh round.
Grade: B

New York Giants
Jerry Reese is one of the shrewder GM's on draft day and he was really on this year. He got steals on seven of his eight picks, excepting the Jacquian Williams pick at 202. How in the world did Prince Amukamara fall to 19? Or Marvin Austin to 52? Or Jerrell Jernigan to 83? Greg Jones at 185? Da'Rel Scott at 221? This awesome draft might make the Giants the favorites in the NFC East next season.
Grade: A+

New York Jets
The Jets are not known for great picks at the NFL Draft (best part at 0:35) but they did a very good job this year. I know some Jets fans wanted Da'Quan Bowers to be taken with the 30th pick but with his knee concerns, consistency/work ethic issues, and the questions of whether he would fit in a 3-4 would have made that a dumb selection. Muhammamed Wilkerson was a great choice, he has played in a 3-4 before, fills a big need, and is extremely versatile which is critical when you play for a Rex Ryan defense. Kenrick Ellis was a very good pick at 94 and the strong locker room in New York will keep him straight and out of trouble. Bilal Powell was not a great pick but Jeremy Kerley was. Greg McIlroy is the ideal backup quarterback, smart and does not make stupid decisions (listening, Mr. Clemens?).
Grade: A-

Oakland Raiders
The Raiders actually made a bunch of solid selections this year. Stefen Wisniewski was a great selection as he had excellent value at 48 and fills a big need. DeMarcus Van Dyke of Miami (FL) was a solid prospect and he helps fill the wide gap left by Nnamdi Asomugha. Joseph Barksdale was another solid pick but Al Davis chose to trade up to get him 10 picks head of time, which was idiotic. The rest if their draft was a mixed bag of solid speedy prospect selections and dumb speed prospect selections.
Grade: B-

Philadelphia Eagles
I know Danny Watkins is 27 years old but he has only played football for a few years so he does have room to grow. Plus he is a much needed upgrade to a porous Eagles offensive line and he is the kind of guy even Philly fans will love. Philadelphia made a bunch of underrated selections the rest of the draft including Jaiquawn Jarrett, Curtis Marsh, Dion Lewis, and Stanley Havili. But taking a fourth round pick on a kicker makes no sense. Alex Henery is a good kicking prospect and he can punt as well but I've always hated taking kicking prospects earlier than the last couple of rounds, unless you are getting Ray Guy or Jan Stenerud.
Grade: B

Pittsburgh Steelers
Ever wonder why the Steelers are consistently good? Because they draft well every year, and this year was no different. Cameron Heyward is a solid pick at 31 and he has the talent to be a stud at the 5 technique. Marcus Gilbert will be a nice addition to a mediocre offensive line. The Steelers made very good picks until their final selection. They filled needs across their team and doubled down on cornerbacks, which Dick LeBeau can mold into very good starters.
Grade: A

San Diego Chargers
The Chargers had a very questionable draft. I was a big fan of Corey Liuget as a 4-3 tackle but he did not project well to play end in a 3-4, which is what the Chargers run. Plus with Cam Jordan on the board, the pick made even less sense. Marcus Gilchrist was not the best defensive back on the board at 50 and Jonas Mouton was a terrible reach at 61. I like Vincent Brown a lot though. But why the Chargers did not take a rush linebacker made no sense.
Grade: C-

San Francisco 49ers
I thought Aldon Smith was a bit of a reach with the eighth selection and I thought either Robert Quinn, Blaine Gabbert, or Prince Amukamara would have been better picks. Smith is exceptionally athletic and loaded with potential, but he did not produce a whole lot at Missouri. I loved the Colin Kaepernick pick at 36. He has a great arm (tested as the strongest in the draft at the Combine) and terrific athleticism. He needs development but if Jim Harbaugh brings him along he can be a stud. The rest of the 49ers' draft had some odd picks but I really liked the selections of Kendall Hunter and Ronald Johnson.
Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks
Pete Carroll followed a very good draft in 2010 with a dud in 2011. James Carpenter was simply an awful reach in the first round as he was considered to be a second round prospect at best, plus Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod were still on the board. With the exception of John Moffitt, the rest of their draft was littered with reaches and questionable picks.
Grade: D-

St. Louis Rams
The Rams needed to work on their pass rush and find more weapons for Sam Bradford and they did both in a very good way. Robert Quinn was a steal at 14 and he should form a great pairing with Chris Long coming off the edge. The Rams prayed that Julio Jones would drop and when that was not realized, they spent a few picks wisely on weapons for Bradford. Of the selections of Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis, and Greg Salas, only Pettis was a slight reach.
Grade: A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have shown a commitment to building a stellar defensive line and after going tackle heavy last year, they double dipped to fix a mediocre pass rush. Adrian Clayborn has some issues with his Erb's Palsy but he has a knack for rushing the passer. And we all know about the risks of Da'Quan Bowers but to get him in the middle of the second round was an awesome pick. I also liked the picks of Mason Foster and Ahmad Black but trading up for Luke Stocker was an odd move. Still a very good job done by the Tampa Bay brass.
Grade: A-

Tennessee Titans
I knew I gave some praise for the Vikings' reach of Ponder earlier but I simply cannot do the same for the pick of Jake Locker at the eight pick. Locker has a lot of serious flaws, his accuracy was terrible at Washington, he made terrible decisions in the pocket, and he too quickly chose to run instead of making a second read. I do agree with Jon Gruden when he says he was a winner, because his 12-26 record as a starter at Washington makes that statement 100% valid. And Blaine Gabbert was still on the board and don;t try to tell me that Locker was a better prospect. At leas you could make an argument for Ponder being the best QB on the board at 12.
However the Titans made great picks with their next three selections. Akeem Ayers was an awesome steal in the second round and Jurrell Casey and Colin McCarthy were also quality picks.
Grade: C

Washington Redskins
I like the Ryan Kerrigan pick but I do wonder how well he will fit in a 3-4 defense at outside linebacker because he is not extremely athletic and is towards the heavier end of 3-4 pass rushers. Jarvis Jenkins fills the hole that will be evacuated by Fat Albert. Leonard Hankerson was a total steal at 79 and Niles Paul was another solid receiver selection at the 155th pick. I also like the Evan Royster selection at 177 much more than Roy Helu pick at 105.
Grade: B-

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