Sunday, April 29, 2012

NFL Draft Grades

The three-day carnival known as the NFL Draft came to an end yesterday, and now it's time to way too prematurely grade the picks / decisions of your favorite teams. I am writing this article before reading any other pundit's grades so I am not influenced. We'll set a reminder in three years to see whose grades turned out to be more accurate.


Bengals: I'm about 96% sure that Cincinnati's scouting department consists of three dudes sitting around watching as much SportsCenter as possible. Ocassionally, they wil mix in a college game featuring teams ranked in the top 25. During the week, they'll troll the police blotter for potential prospects. This year, though, it worked. They found great value at defensive tackle in both the second (Penn State's Devon Still) and third (Clemson's Brandon Thompson) rounds. They also grabbed TE Orson Charles - probably best known to this point for destroying Florida's national championship trophy - who will provide another weapon for the Red Rifle. My favorite sleeper of the class is Boise State S George Iloka, who was drafted using the pick acquired from the Giants in return for LB Keith Rivers. For good measure, they added one of the top three cornerbacks in the draft, Dre Kirkpatrick who happens to have off the field issues, perfect. Plus, they grabbed national headlines thanks to the Mo Sanu phone prank story and for signing "troubled" Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict.

Eagles: Hello revamped defense. Philadelphia was abused last year on the defensive side of the ball, but a trade for LB DeMeco Ryans combined with the players they acquired in this draft will go a long way to changing that. The Eagles used four of their first five picks on very good defenders (including Banter-favorite CB Brandon Boykin from Georgia). I'm expecting DT Fletcher Cox, LB Mychal Kendricks, and DE Vinnie Curry to start right away. I also like seventh round lotto ticket RB Bryce Brown from Kansas State as a backup to Shady McCoy.

Packers: As witnessed by last season's playoff debacle, the problems in Green Bay were solely on defense. GM Ted Thompson took big steps towards rectifying that situation by using the team's first six draft choices on that side of the ball. The defensive tackles (Jerel Worthy and Mike Damiles) selected by the Pack should pay immediate dividends, and despite the fact new teammate Jermichael Finley didn't know who he was, first rounder Nick Perry will line up opposite Clay Matthews to attack opposing quarterbacks.

Steelers: That sound you heard from western Pennsylvania this weekend was Big Ben celebrating the fact that he won't be on his backside nearly as much this season. Pittsburgh spent their top two picks on offensive linemen (David DeCastro and Mike Adams) that will both be a huge upgrade over the patchwork line the Steelers employed last year.Washington DT Alameda Ta'amu and LB Sean Spence are made in the Steelers' mold too. In the fifth round, they took Florida RB/WR Chris Rainey who will add a new dimension to the offense. Solid from top to bottom.

Rams: This is more a reflection on the future value St. Louis was able to acquire rather than the players they selected this year which is impressive because this roster got a whole lot more talented. After the deal with Washington, the Rams have two first rounders in 2013 and 2014. In this draft, I loved the Michael Brockers, Trumaine Johnson, and Chris Givens picks. I also thought the risk of grabbing troubled babymaker Janoris Jenkins 39th overall is a worthwhile gamble especially since they have a great mentor for him in Cortland Finnegan. Nice work Jeff Fisher.


Bills: What an offseason for this team. Mario Williams got the train rolling, and it hasn't stopped. This is a very solid haul for Buffalo. CB Stephon Gilmorewill be an instant impact starter and so will G Cordy Glenn. LSU CB Ron Brooks was overshadowed by Morris Claiborne and the Honey Badger, but he will see time as at least a nickel back. What TCU LB Tank Carder lacks in measurables, he makes up for in heart and productivity.

Ravens: A classic Baltimore draft. They traded out of the first round and still managed to see a top-20 talent (Courtney Upshaw) fall into their laps. They solidified the interior offensive line with a couple guards that might contribute right away after Ben Grubbs left for the greener pastures of New Orleans. I also liked their picks of Temple RB Bernard Pierce (3rd) and Miami WR Tommy Streeter (7th). Efficient work, again.

Giants: Typical Jerry Reese. Just hung around and let the draft come to you. This guy makes the process look ridiculously easy. First round RB David Wilson will get touches right away and serves as an instant upgrade ober Brandon Jacobs. New York then grabbed LSU WR Ruben Randle in the midst of his inexplicable free fall to #63. Virginia Tech CB Jayron Hosley fell to the end of the third round, likely because of a failed drug test. If he can stay clean, these top three picks could be comparable to any other team's top trio this year. I didn't love four through seven but it's hard for me to question the maestro.

Cardinals: Michael Floyd will thrive next to fellow Minnesotan Larry Fitzgerald. Also glad they addressed the offensive line situation by taking three tackles with between rounds 4 and 7, including Nate Potter from Boise State, whom I likes as a third round pick. San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley can sling it and has to be thrilled at trying to compete with the underwhelming duo of John Skelton and Kevin Kolb for playing time.

Bucs: I think they reached a bit for Mark barron and Doug Martin but both will make an immediate impact. LB Lavonte David from Nebraska is a bit undersized but was a tacking machine in Lincoln. Sounds like Derrick Brooks to me. RB LaGarrette Blount should rent, not buy in Tampa after this draft.

Chargers: Clearly San Diego felt they needed to upgrade its defensive line as they used their top two picks to improve the front four talent. I loved South Carolina DE/LB Melvin Ingram, and I like UConn DT Kendall Reyes. I also like third round S Brandon Taylor from LSU and fourth rounder Ladarius Green from LA-Lafayette might be the heir apparent to Antonio Gates. To me, though, the best pick of the weekend was Michigan C David Molk in the seventh round.

Colts: Andrew Luck was a no-brainer, but I like the way that they revamped the entire offense. Seven of their first eight picks came on offense, including two tight ends, the position of choice for Luck's targeting while he was at Stanford. One of those tight ends also happened to be his college teammate Coby Fleener.

I would have been a lot more excited about Coby Fleener if he had ears, but the Colts' draft was still solid.


Jaguars: I really like Jacksonville's first two picks, WR Justin Blackmon and DE Andre Branch. Jacksonville finally listened and grabbed an impact, playmaking receiver. They also selected a player in Branch that will start immediately. Then they went and ruined the whole thing by taking a punter, yes a punter, in the third round. Two steps forward, one step back.

Lions: The Good- Detroit picked an offensive lineman to help protect Matthew Stafford; they used their last six picks on cornerbacks and linebackers (three each); they grabbed Ryan Broyles, a favorite of mine in this draft. The Bad- Their offense was not the issue last year, the defense was; waiting until the 85th pick to address this issue is not smart; OT Riley Reiff isn't that good. Neither Good Nor Bad- Three of Detroit's eight picks came from Oklahoma.

Browns: I love Trent Richardson despite the history of highly drafted running backs being less than stellar. I also like the selection of QB Brandon Weeden because it probably means Colt McCoy won't be taking snaps for this team next year. Unfortunately, they still don't have any wide receivers of consequence. Greg Little can't carry this crew by himself and without a threat through the air, I'm not sure how the ground game will be effective at all.

Jets: I would have preferred Melvin Ingram over Quinton Coples in the first round, but we need to trust Rex. If WR Stephen Hill can be as good as pundits think, he'll be a steal in the second round. After that though, it's a mixed bag. I like the safety they picked in the seventh round (Antonio Allen) more than the one they selected 55 spots earlier (Josh Bush). They also failed to pick a replacement for overmatched OT Wayne Hunter. I did like the pick of WR Jordan White, a player I asked the Jets to take last week.

Panthers: It's tough to dislike Luke Kuechly. He was one of the most productive college linebackers in the history of college football, but the track record for drafting linebackers in the top-10 is poor at best. Carolina hasn't had the best luck with injuries to first round linebackers either (Dan Morgan, Jon Beason, Thomas Davis). The rest of the class is unexciting too.

Cowboys: The Cowboys went all-in on one player as they moved up eight spots in the first round to acquire LSU CB Morris Claiborne, but it cost them their second round pick. For a team that finished 8-8 last season, I don't think this was the best use of resources.

Dolphins: If I gave these grades after the first round, it would have been an F because I'm not comfortable mortgaging the next three-to-five years on a quarterback that predominantly played wide receiver in college. The good news for the 17 Miami fans that exist is that the rest of the draft was decent. OT Jon Martin will start right away, Lamar Miller was a bargain at the top of the fourth round, and I have a soft spot for uber-productive receivers like WR Rishard Matthews (91 catches, 1,364 yards, and 8 touchdowns as a senior at Nevada last year).

Titans: I didn't think wide receiver was a pressing need to Tennessee unless Kenny Britt is behind schedule in his recovery from injury. Still, Baylor WR Kendall Wright could be a weapon for QB Jake Locker for the next ten years. The rest of the class is ok, but I'm not sure they got anything more than backups and special teamers for the upcoming season.

Redskins: This is the RGIII draft for Washington. Everyone knows that. The thing I don't know is why they grabbed QB Kirk Cousins in the fourth round instead of getting their top prize another weapon. The Skins didn't have a second rounder and that's not a luxury this team can afford. If RGIII becomes a superstar, this grade will seem way too low, but I'm just not a fan of the other picks.


49ers: San Francisco knew their defense was world class and focused on offense. They reached for their top two picks, WR AJ Jenkins and RB LaMichael James, but at least they fill positions of need.

Vikings: They moved back one spot at the top of the first round, picked up some extra picks, and still got the player they seemingly wanted, OT Matt Kalil. Unfortunately, that was the only pick in this whole class that I really like. UCF CB Josh Robinson - the fastest player at this year's Combine - can run like the wind, but that doesn't necessarily translate to being a good football player.

Patriots: Kind of a buzzkill draft for New England. Their top two picks - Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones - will definitely help right away, but after that I don't see it. Last year when they had just a so-so draft we could say at least they got a future first rounder as part of their haul. Fans in New England can't be that thrilled that this is all the Pats came away with after having extra picks in higher rounds for what seemed like the last five years.

Bears: To me, they reached a little for Boise State LB Shea McClellin in the first round, but WR Alshon Jeffrey was a nice pick in the second. The reason they are graded so poorly is because they failed to address the offensive line problem. Obviously Jay Cutler will need time to make throws to Jeffrey and newly acquired Brandon Marshall, but no player selected by Chicago will help with that issue.

Texans: Defensive ends Whitney Mercilus and Jared Crick should help fill a small portion of the gaping void left by Mario Williams' departure, but I don't see value in the rest of this class. They cut Eric Winston earlier in the offseason but then waited until the sixth round to address the position. Their two third round picks gained more noteriety off the field than on. G Brandon Brooks wasn't invited to the Combine, and WR DeVier Posey was one of five Ohio State Buckeyes suspended to start the year.

Falcons: Hamstrung by last year's trade to acquire WR Julio Jones which cost them their first rounder, Atlanta's haul was pretty underwhelming. They got good value with C Pete Konz from Offensive Linemen University, but I'm not sure that this class will provide more than one or two long-term starters.


Broncos: Denver finished 8-8 last season. They were lucky to make the playoffs largely because of the ineptitude of the rest of their division and the heroics of Tim Tebow. Tebow is gone, having been replaced by a guy named Peyton. This was a vital draft to continue the momentum of turning this team into a serious contender in 2012. Unfortunately for them and their fans, the haul was pretty terrible. There's not one pick that I love (even Brock Osweiler whom Swag and I picked to go in this exact spot in our mock). Peyton can't be happy right now.

Chiefs: Using a high first round pick on a player that was not productive at all in college leaves me scratching my head. DT Dontari Poe was the star of the Combine, but I'm not buying the hype. The rest of the draft is also way too blah for my liking. Kansas City has a chance to win the AFC West next year, but this draft won't be the reason why.

Seahawks: Bruce Irvin looks more like a situational pass rusher than an every down defensive end. It's hard to justify spending a top-15 pick on a niche player. They also used their third pick on quarterback that won't be higher than third on their depth chart this year. Hard for me to find even one pick I would have made myself.

Raiders: Notice a trend here? That's three of the four teams in the AFC West that ended up with F grades from me. At least Oakland can take a bit of solace knowing they didn't lose much ground on the division over the last three days. For what it's worth, Arizona WR Juron Criner intrigues me a little.

Saints: They dealt this year's first rounder for RB Mark Ingram during the 2011 Draft, and their second rounder was stripped because of bounty-gate. This was a terrible draft for New Orleans. They better get Drew Brees signed long term because this team can use some positive PR.

Third-Year Juniors declaring early for draft : Alvester Alexander (Wyoming), Vontaze Burfict (Arizona State), Tiree Eure (Minnesota), Cliff Harris (Oregon), Aldarius Johnson (Miami), Donte Paige-Moss (North Carolina), Ken Plue (Purdue), Darron Thomas (Oregon), Johnny Thomas (Oklahoma State), and Phillip Thomas (Syracuse) all had eligibility remaining after their junior seasons. Each of them decided to declare for the draft, surrendering eligibilty, and each went undrafted. Happens every year, but it still never makes sense to me.

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