26 April 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 1st Round Grades

And finally, all those mock drafts have led to something, as the 2012 NFL Draft is underway. We know who the top two picks will be tonight at Radio City Music Hall so in theory, the real fun starts with Minnesota and the third pick (we've discussed that here). Throughout the night I will be posting live grades for every first round selection, moments after they are announced by Roger Goodell. So here we go.

My final mock draft

1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
We have known this selection for months now. In fact, we have always known that Luck will be the top selection in this draft, ever since he announced he would be returning to Stanford for his junior year (fourth-year junior, by the way). Can you imagine if you are the Colts that you go from Peyton Manning running the show for a wildly successful decade-plus and now you are going to Luck, who is said to be an even better prospect than Manning and in fact the best one since John Elway was selected by the, well, Colts before he was traded per his wish to Denver. Luck has it all and he is poised for stardom. Indianapolis had to make this pick and without question is it the right one.
Grade: A+


2. Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
There is no question that the Redskins really paid a steep price to trade up from the sixth selection to the second selection in order to select the Heisman Trophy winner but for a franchise quarterback, it is absolutely worth it. In most years, Griffin would be the top pick but with a once-in-a-lifetime prospect like Luck, he goes second. Griffin on the football field has every tool, he has a tremendous arm, great accuracy, he sees the field very well and his athleticism, oh my goodness, the guy is a freak. What is also impressive is that Griffin is highly intelligent, he's a great teammate, a hard worker and a natural leader who brought a mediocre football program to a lot of success.
Grade: A+

3. Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota) - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Cleveland moved up to take the best running back since Adrian Peterson hit the league in the 2007 NFL Draft. When Mike Holmgren was still coaching, the last Super Bowl he went to, he was led by a star running back in Shaun Alexander. Now he has the opportunity to put together a team led by a soon to be star in Richardson, who has all the tools that you want out of your running back. He's physical, well-built, has good speed and can catch the football. All Peyton Hillis flamed out and left the team in the offseason, Cleveland had a need for offensive playmakers and they sure got one.
Grade: A


4. Minnesota Vikings (from Cleveland- Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Nice to see the Vikings made the absolute right move here by taking an elite offensive tackle prospect, showing that the Morris Claiborne talk was all a smokescreen. Minnesota sees Christian Ponder as their franchise quarterback and they need to give him the protection that he needs by bringing in a top-flight blindside protector. Charlie Johnson was an absolute disaster at left tackle last year and Minnesota's offensive line gave up way too many sacks. Kalil had to be this pick.
Grade: A


5. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Tampa Bay) - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I understand that Blaine Gabbert was god awful last year, but who the hell was he throwing to? He had no weapons to work with at receiver and even after the Jaguars overpaid for Laurent Robinson, they needed a legitimate number one receiver. Blackmon is that guy, a very physical wideout similar to Hakeem Nicks who can go up and get the football. He's not as good as A.J. Green was in last year's draft but he is not that far behind.
Grade: A

6. Dallas Cowboys (from St. Louis) - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Really thought that the Cowboys were moving up for Mark Barron, not Claiborne but I still really like this selection. The Cowboys' secondary was absolutely putrid a year ago and it is clear that even after making a great signing in Brandon Carr, they were not done at cornerback and now they got a guy who has great size for a cornerback, absolutely tremendous ball skills and he can fly as well. The Cowboys now have what on paper looks like a lethal cornerback duo.
Grade: A-


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Jacksonville- Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
Mike Mayock, a former safety himself, raves about this kid's potential in the NFL. Barron is a big safety that can hit very hard, who can't from Alabama? Plus he can really move and his coverage skills are better than what you would think of him. A common comparison of his is Adrian Wilson. Tampa came into the draft not having a huge need at safety but their secondary did suck a year ago plus they have a guy that can cover the tight end, like the Saints' Jimmy Graham.
Grade: B


8. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
There is no question that this is still a reach, Tannehill is far too raw as a quarterback (less than two years under center in College Station) to go in the top ten. But Miami, who badly needs a potential franchise quarterback after getting spurned by everyone this offseason, is the best situation for him. His college coach, Mike Sherman, is his offensive coordinator. Plus Tannehill does not have to start right away because Matt Moore is still a decent starting quarterback in the short-term. Tannehill has got a great arm, solid accuracy and is very mobile. He needs to really work on his consistency and tendency to throw crippling interceptions.
Grade: B


9. Carolina Panthers - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Finally, a pick that I had that makes me look smart for once. Now linebacker is not the biggest need on the porous Panthers' defense, either line or cornerback taking the cake there, but in my opinion they are getting the best defensive player still on the board here. I love watching this kid, he is so damn instinctive, he has a great nose for the football plus he has better athleticism than you think he would. I think he may be the safest player in the draft and we all know Carolina loves great linebackers.
Grade: A-


10. Buffalo Bills - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
When you play Tom Brady twice a year, you need great cover guys in your secondary and the corners for Buffalo have not gotten it done of late, particularly last year. Gilmore's stock really rose of late to where he was not that far behind Morris Claiborne. I really was not a fan of his play last year as a guy that goes in the top ten should look better than how he did. The talent is clearly there as he has great size, good hands and a good nose for the football but he needs to show more consistency.
Grade: B-


11. Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Now I understand that nose tackle was a major need for the Chiefs and their 3-4 defense and in that sense Poe makes sense. But to take him over Fletcher Cox? No thanks, particularly for a guy that while he absolutely blew up the combine, really did not tear up the football world at Memphis. A 350-pound guy that ran a really fast 40 for his size should be much more distruptive than Poe was, a second team All-C-USA player. Really don't like this pick, would've gone with Cox or David DeCastro.
Grade: C-


12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Seattle) - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
You think the Eagles are happy to be in a position to take the top defensive tackle in the draft? I agree, they made a brilliant move to move up three spots with Seattle to get a guy they targeted big time. As the Eagles filled most of their big needs in free agency and we know that Andy Reid loves to use high draft picks on the defensive line and they got a good one in Cox, who is the best interior pass rusher in this draft. The more I watched him at Mississippi State, the more I liked him. Hearing comparisons to Kevin Williams. Excellent pick.
Grade: A


13. Arizona Cardinals - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
We all know how good Larry Fitzgerald is and that has been proven over the last couple of years considering the Cardinals have had nothing opposite him since Anquan Boldin left Glendale. Floyd is the quarterback's best friend because he is a big, physical wideout who can get up and grab the football. He has natural hands and is simply brilliant in the red zone. Hearing Michael Irvin compare Floyd to Anquan Boldin and I really like that comparison. Whoever is playing QB, either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, is one happy man.
Grade: A-


14. St. Louis Rams (from Dallas) - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Rams' grade goes up because they now have a boatload of picks for this year and next year by trading down twice, first down to six, now to fourteen. Plus Brockers is one of the best players remaining on the board and fills a big need at defensive tackle for a porous Rams defense that has made a bunch of wise moves to get better. The Rams really needed a big tackle inside that can stuff the run and keep the attention away from their defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Brockers is at his best against the run and thus is a good fit.
Grade: A-


15. Seattle Seahawks (from Philadelphia) - Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, West Virginia
Even with Chris Clemons in town, the Seahawks really needed a pass rusher as it was only Clemons rushing the passer last year plus he is a free agent in a year. However, this was a terrible pick. I understand that Irvin has got great skill rushing the passer but he was a second round caliber player. You're taking him over Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, even Whitney Mercilus? Plus he has character problems. This was a real reach, especially considering who was on the board.
Grade: F


16. New York Jets - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Everybody knew that the Jets were going to go pass rusher here, it's been painfully obvious. I really thought that Melvin Ingram was a better prospect though and I know the Jets wanted him. The thing with Coples is that I think he will be a 3-4 end as he is too big to play outside linebacker but he has tha immense talent to be a star pass rusher but the Jets did work him out twice as an outside linebacker. The real question is his dedication and his effort. He clearly was not showing his best effort in 2011 at North Carolina and that will be the key for him in the draft. A good pick but would have been a great pick if Ingram was the guy.
Grade: B


17. Cincinnati Bengals - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
This pick makes a whole lot of sense and not just because of the character questions (I know that the marijuana charge was dropped as it wasn't him with the pot but still). Kirkpatrick fits the Bengals defense perfectly as they love to have big and physical corners out on the perimeter of this defense. He is very long and very physical outside and he is great stuffing the run for a cornerback. Plus his cover skills are very good as well.
Grade: A-


18. San Diego Chargers - Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
This is a fantastic pick and A.J. Smith is so lucky that this kid fell to them at 18. The Chargers really needed another pass rusher as Shaun Phillips disappointed a year ago and while Antwan Barnes had 11 sacks, he's a situational rusher. They brought in Jarret Johnson who is a great overall player but isn't a pass rusher. Ingram is great value here as he was the best pass rusher in this draft. There are some questions about his size but he plays with a great motor, is very fast and athletic and is one of the best off the edge.
Grade: A


19. Chicago Bears - Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State
The Bears really wanted another pass rusher as Julius Peppers was their pass rush last year. The question I have with this pick is that I think he is a little small for a 4-3 end and Chicago may play him at strongside linebacker, potentially. His stock has absolutely risen and he is a great pass rusher off the edge and is very instinctive as well as versatile which Rod Marinelli will enjoy. Really think he was a better fit for a 3-4 defense and I would have taken Whitney Mercilus here but not a bad pick though.
Grade: B-


20. Tennessee Titans - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Really would have gone with David DeCastro here, would have thought Mike Munchak would have loved to have this kid, but Wright makes a lot of sense. You spent a first round pick on Jake Locker, who showed promise when he played last year. Besides Kenny Britt, the Titans did not have much explosion in their receiving unit and Britt is coming off a knee injury. Wright gives Locker a real deep threat down the field besides Britt and he had great tape at Baylor.
Grade: B+

21. New England Patriots (from Cincinnati) - Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
The Patriots needed to take a pass rusher with one of their first round selections as Mark Anderson signed with the Buffalo Bills and Andre Carter is still coming back from injury. They got a great value in Chandler Jones, even as I am not as high on him as most others are. Jones is explosive coming off the edge and he is great at shedding blockers thanks to his great hands and arms.
Grade: A-


22. Cleveland Browns - Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
I am not hating this pick like many folks are because I am very high on Weeden. Like I've said, if Weeden was not 28 years old, he would have been a top ten pick because he may be the best pocket passer in this draft, like veteran NFL Films producer Greg Cosell has said. His arm is very good, his accuracy is great and he is a natural leader. Everybody knows that Colt McCoy is not the answer at quarterback and I really think Weeden has got the tools a quarterback needs in this league. A little bit of a reach but not a bad pick in my opinion.
Grade: B


23. Detroit Lions - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
This pick makes a lot of sense and it is a really good value for Detroit. Jeff Backus was pretty good a year ago actually but he is 35 and not getting any younger. You have to protect the franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford and while there are some questions if Reiff can be a left tackle but here it is a good value. Reiff's short arms are a question mark but the Hawkeyes always breed great linemen. I like him a lot but again, can he be a blindside protector?
Grade: B+


24. Pittsburgh Steelers - David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Now this is the kind of pick that shows why the Steelers compete for championships. Man this is such a great pick. For the Steelers, who have had such a bad line for so long, to get the next Steve Hutchinson here at 24 is just brilliant. DeCastro is going to be a star guard and whoever is rushing the football for the Steelers is going to be very, very happy. Count Big Ben as those happy as well.
Grade: A+

25. New England Patriots (from Denver) - Dont'a Hightower, MLB, Alabama
The Patriots move up again, that's a rarity, and they make another great value pick in Hightower. Rob Ninkovich is a decent inside linebacker but he was a guy that could be upgraded on and Hightower is the ideal 3-4 inside linebacker. Bill Belichick will love this guy because he plays hard, is very physical and has a great nose for the football.
Grade: A


26. Houston Texans - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Like I said in my latest mock, which was the first one in a while that did not have a wideout going to Houston, I really think that the Texans would see the value in getting another pass rusher, even as their defense is very good and they have a pair of great pass rushers in Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin. Mercilus is an athletic freak on the level of Jason Pierre-Paul and was dominant last year in Champaign. Was a one-year wonder, however.
Grade: A-


27. Cincinnati Bengals (from New England) - Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
This is a decent pick because the Bengals really needed some help on their interior of their offensive line, particularly at guard, and thus Zeitler makes sense and he is a pretty rock-solid guard who not many flaws. But with Cordy Glenn still on the board, I don't get this pick. Glenn is the must better prospect than Zeitler because he can play tackle as well an has more talent in my opinion.
Grade: B-


28. Green Bay Packers - Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Really thought this pick would be Courtney Upshaw, the best player on the board but they really needed another pass rusher so Perry makes sense to make for an USC duo with him and Clay Matthews. Perry was ridiculous at the Combine but saw his stock drop a little and some were worried if he was lithe enough to be a pass rusher off the edge as he will probably have to lose a few pounds to have more fluidity off the edge. Still would have gone with Upshaw, a better pass rushing prospect, but Perry is a good football player and it was about time Green Bay added a pass rusher opposite Matthews.
Grade: B


29. Minnesota Vikings (from Baltimore) - Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
The Vikings made a wise move to move back into the first round to get a much needed upgrade at safety. The Vikings' safeties were really bad last year and a big reason why their secondary was just pitiful as stopping the aerial attacks league-wide. Smith is an ideal free safety as he is very fast, has a very solid nose for the football and is also a solid run defender as well.
Grade: B+


30. San Francisco 49ers - AJ Jenkins, WR, Illinois
The 49ers really wanted a vertical threat because they have lacked that for a while and while they made a good signing in Mario Manningham and a decent risk in Randy Moss, they wanted a deep threat. Now while A.J. Jenkins is a really good deep threat as he has great speed, this is a reach. Especially with much better receivers on the board like Stephen Hill, who also had the speed to stretch the defense.
Grade: D+


31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from New England via Denver) - Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Tampa Bay really needed to upgrade their running game as LaGarrette Blount does not have much pop and really took a step back a year ago. Greg Schiano is going to want to run the football and why not take the best running back in this draft not named Trent Richardson. Martin has drawn some comparisons to Ray Rice and to Matt Forte as he is a little bit small but he is an explosive runner that can catch the football very well as well. Really like this pick.
Grade: A-


32. New York Giants - David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Three running backs in the first round? Who saw that? Anyways, the Giants needed to get some help at running back in this draft as their running game really disappointed plus Brandon Jacobs does have a high salary number for 2012. Wilson is a little small but he is very fast and hits the hole quick. He is also more powerful than you would think but really needs to work on his ball security.
Grade: B

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