02 April 2013

Grading the 2012 NFL Draft, One Year Later

As we count down the weeks to the 2013 NFL Draft, let's go back a year and look at how teams did in last year's draft and see if they hit home runs and are set up well for the future or if they bombed and are in a similar position, one year later.

Initial grades

1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
I think it is safe to say this worked out rather well. The Colts were able to seamlessly move from Peyton Manning to Luck and it was the latter who led the club to a surprise playoff appearance, even with a less than impressive supporting cast on both sides of the football. The future for both Luck and the Colts is quite bright.
Grade: A+

2. Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Again, I think this worked out rather well. Yes the team had to give up a truck-load of draft picks to the Rams to be able to select Griffin, but that is a price worth paying for a franchise quarterback and that is what Griffin is. Griffin captured the minds of the Beltway with a tremendous rookie campaign that ended in the playoffs. Now the concern is with his ACL, LCL and meniscus tear that he suffered in the playoffs against the Seahawks but he is expected to begin running next week.
Grade: A+

3. Cleveland Browns - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Browns moved up a selection to take Richardson and while you usually do not see a running back go this high in the draft, Richardson was a different kind of prospect. However, while he showed himself to be a touchdown machine and has the talent to be a great back, he was a little disappointing last year and looked like a plodder at times. However, the passing game was inconsistent and he did have to fight off injuries. With Norv Turner calling plays, he should be much better in 2013.
Grade: B+

4. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, T, USC
Kalil showed that he was worth this high of a selection and that he has the ability to develop into a top-flight left tackle in no time. He also had a key role in Adrian Peterson's near-record season and he also did his best to make Christian Ponder look good, which is no small task.
Grade: A-

5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
It ain't easy catching "passes" from Blaine Gabbert but Blackmon made the best of a bad situation with 64 catches, 865 yards and a quintet of touchdown receptions. He and Cecil Shorts turned out to be a pretty solid receiving duo, and it is one that could be unleashed once somebody adequate was under center.
Grade: A-

6. Dallas Cowboys - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Dallas tried to remake their secondary in a big way with the acquisition of Brandon Carr and the trade up for Claiborne and while the secondary was not drastically improved, it should be when everybody is healthy. Claiborne fought the injury bug but he played well when he was on the field at one of the tougher positions for a rookie. I think he could have a big 2013.
Grade: B

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Many felt that the Buccaneers got over-aggressive in their pursuit of Barron but it really played off with his excellent rookie campaign. Barron was all over the football field, making plays everywhere and showing good instincts for the ball. He should make a good safety combination with Dashon Goldson this coming season.
Grade: A

8. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Apparently Tannehill would go first overall in this year's draft. Now while I am not totally on board there, and even as he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, Tannehill showed a lot of promise with the 'Phins a year ago. Look for him to take an even bigger stride with a higher comfort level and an upgraded receiving unit.
Grade: B+

9. Carolina Panthers - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Anytime you can pick up the Defensive Rookie of the Year, as Kuechly was in 2012, that is never a bad thing. He proved himself to be an all over the field linebacker, making tackles seemingly everywhere, and he really showed off his impressive instincts. Carolina always loves to have talented linebackers, and Kuechly looks to be the face of their defense for many years.
Grade: A

10. Buffalo Bills - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Gilmore saw his stock rise right before the draft and it showed when he was selected in the top ten. All in all, he had a solid rookie campaign at a position that is notoriously hard for rookies to play. He struggled early on amid criticisms that he was not physical enough but he was lining up against top wideouts later in the year and did a quality job. He was a key reason why the Bills were much improved against the pass.
Grade: B+

11. Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Many were not sure of what Poe, a workout warrior who dominated the 2012 Combine, would bring to the table considering he was not that impressive at Memphis but he had himself a good rookie season. In fact, he was probably the best of the Chiefs' lineman, which includes fellow high first round picks Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. He played a lot of minutes on the field and he showed solid run stuffing and pass rushing ability from the nose.
Grade: B+

12. Philadelphia Eagles - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
I was surprised that Poe went before Cox but as we all knew that Andy Reid loved to draft defensive linemen, he could not resist and amid a disappointing season for the club, Cox was one of the few bright spots on Philadelphia a year ago. He showed good pass rushing ability with 5.5 sacks but the one downspot was getting suspended for throwing punches against Detroit and getting fined. Should be interesting to see how he fits in a 3-4.
Grade: B+

13. Arizona Cardinals - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Floyd did not put up as good of numbers as many hoped, but it also did not help that the quarterback position was a mess and the offensive line was a bigger trainwreck than Ishtar. He was inconsistent in his rookie campaign but he also showed plenty of flashes to where Bruce Arians and co. think he can develop into a good one.
Grade: B

14. St. Louis Rams - Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Rams made a wise move in moving back in the draft a couple of times to acquire more picks but they were also looking to take Michael Floyd with this pick, but he was off the board. However, they made a solid pick in Brockers. Brockers was raw going into last year but he was a solid contributor with four sacks in 12 starts. With continued development, Brockers can complement ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn and make for a strong line.
Grade: B

15. Seattle Seahawks - Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia
Boy did I hate this pick a year ago, considering who was on the board at that time. But while Irvin is a mess in run support, he really looks to be a fearsome pass rusher off the edge thanks to his remarkable athleticism/ That helped him compile eight sacks, good for second on the team behind Chris Clemons's 11.5
Grade: B+

16. New York Jets - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Coples was a disappointment to many early in 2012 as he did not see the field very much and when he did, not making much of an impact. There were questions about his work ethic, which extended back to his days in Chapel Hill. Coples did get more time later in the year and registered 5.5 sacks and if the effort is there, he can be a good one.
Grade: C+

17. Cincinnati Bengals - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Kirkpatrick was taken to be the potential replacement for Johnathan Joseph at corner but he suffered with injuries through his rookie season and only saw action in five games. Therefore, I can't really give him a grade considering his injury issues and the team does have high hopes for him, provided he can stay healthy in 2013.
Grade: Incomplete

18. San Diego Chargers - Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
I loved this pick a year ago, I thought it was a steal considering the guys that went ahead of him, but Ingram did struggle for playing time behind Shaun Phillips and Jarret Johnson. Not only that, he was not very productive when he did see the field, only putting up one sack. If he wants to not be the next Larry English, he has to step his game up this year.
Grade: C-

19. Chicago Bears - Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State
McClellin was a questionable pick a year ago considering he did not appear to fit a 4-3 defense very well as an end and it did turn out to be a struggle for him, only sacking opposing quarterbacks 2.5 times and have 14 tackles for the year. He is going to have to step up in year two if he wants to see more playing time, or the team may consider moving him to linebacker.
Grade: C-

20. Tennessee Titans - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Questions remain if Wright can be a No. 1 for Jake Locker, I personally am not sold, but he did step into a key role as one of Locker's top targets a year ago and he had a very good year as he led the team in receptions and tied for the team lead in touchdowns. Look for Locker to utilize his big arm more to stretch the field with Wright.
Grade: B+

21. New England Patriots - Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
Jones is another guy that saw his stock soar with strong pre-draft workouts, despite less than stellar collegiate production with the Orange. The Patriots have had trouble for years generating a consistent pass rush but Jones was a solid contributor in 2012 with six sacks in the first eight games before suffering an ankle injury. The team is expecting him to take a big jump in 2013, and I think he can with his potential and athleticism.
Grade: B

22. Cleveland Browns - Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
It was not a pretty season for Weeden, but we knew that coming in. After all, he had to adjust to an NFL system from a spread, did not have a whole lot of weapons around him and was already in his upper 20's but all of that considered, I thought he had a solid and promising rookie season. It should be interesting how well he plays in 2013.
Grade: B-

23. Detroit Lions - Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
I really liked this selection because I felt it was a good value and helped to address a mediocre offensive line. And while Reiff did only start one game, his versatility was utilized across the line, especially in jumbo packages, and he helped fill roles across the line. He is expected to start somewhere on the line this upcoming season.
Grade: B

24. Pittsburgh Steelers - David DeCastro, G, Stanford
It is a year later and I still do not know how DeCastro fell all the way to 24 when he should have gone in the top ten. Maybe teams saw in the future he was going to tear his ACL and MCL but fortunately for the Steelers, he was able to see the field late in the year and he looked like he was going to develop into a good one. However, considering how long he was out, I am going to cop out and give him an incomplete.
Grade: Incomplete

25. New England Patriots - Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
New England looked to shore up a mediocre defense with their first two selections in this draft and while Jones had a solid debut, Hightower had a pretty good one. He started all but three games for the Pats and totaled 60 tackles on the year, and he even picked up four sacks as he showed a good ability to get after the passer. Look for him and Jerod Mayo to be a formidable pairing at inside linebacker in the 3-4.
Grade: B+

26. Houston Texans - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
I took pride in this pick because I nailed it in my final mock draft, so there's that. Mercilus could have been thought of as a luxury pick, but as we have seen you can never have too many pass rushers and Mercilus looked good in limited playing time, racking up six sacks. With Connor Barwin headed to Philadelphia, look for Mercilus to approach ten sacks, if not more.
Grade: A-

27. Cincinnati Bengals - Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
I did not have Zeitler going this high when I was previewing last year's draft but he did show that he was worth the selection with a solid rookie campaign as part of a good Bengals offensive line. However, one could make the point that his sound year had much to do with Andre Smith being next to him. I do not necessarily buy that because Zeitler was impressive on his own, in my opinion.
Pick: A-

28. Green Bay Packers - Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
The Packers have been struggling for years to find another pass rush threat opposite of Clay Matthews and they thought they had it in Perry, but Perry struggled to stay healthy and he struggled to see the field when he was. Considering that the team had to give a good amount of playing time to Erik Walden, that was not a good sign.
Grade: C-

29. Minnesota Vikings - Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
Minnesota saw a nice decline in performance from their secondary, but nobody tell that to Smith as he was a very good centerfielder last year, collecting three interceptions. With the departure of Antoine Winfield, he is the top guy still in the mix and there was a reason why was in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Grade: A-

30. San Francisco 49ers - A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
This was a questionable selection when it was made and now it is even more questionable considering that Jenkins contributed nothing this year to the 49ers. And I mean that literally as he only played in three games and catch zero passes. Plus, it was not like the 49ers had too many deep threats, their top threat in the vertical game was arguably Randy Moss, which is saying something. Jenkins really has to show something in 2013 or he could be gone.
Grade: F

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
The Buccaneers were looking for some explosion in their rushing game after featuring the plodding talents of LaGarrette Blount and boy did Martin deliver. Martin finished fifth in the league in rushing yards with almost 1,500 and fifth in rushing touchdowns with 11. He also contributed in the passing game with 49 catches, proving to be a solid outlet target for Josh Freeman. They have got themselves a keeper.
Grade: A

32. New York Giants - David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Wilson did not get a huge amount of action in the backfield this past year, that will likely come this year, but he did turn out to be a real threat in the return game, the first the Giants have had in years. He also was a multipurpose monster against the Saints in week 14 when he rushed for 100 and had over 200 return yards. Just another tool for Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride to play with.
Grade: B

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