Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Grades

Grading Scale:
A = Tremendous value for a player who should make an immediate impact.
B = Good value for a player who will immediately play a solid role.
C = Decent player who should contribute.
D = Player of questionable value, ability, character, or fit for team's system.
E = Tremendous reach for a player of questionable ability.

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
: Projecting Cam Newton to be your quarterback is a risky proposition. Drafting him with the first overall pick in the draft is utterly insane. Then again, Carolina owner Jerry Richardson is said to the be the one who was enamoured with Newton, so there you go. Quite simply, the 10 - yard out is the bread and butter throw that any starting caliber NFL quarterback must be able to make. Newton has not even demonstrated the ability to make that throw in his workouts, let alone when there are defenders on the field. Now the only question is whether or not the Panthers will take a quarterback three years in a row when they have the first overall pick in next year's draft and Stanford's Andrew Luck is on the board.

2. Denver Broncos – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A and M
Grade: B-
Analysis: I think Von Miller is an elite talent, I just don't think he projects as well in a 4-3 defense as he does in a 3-4. I also question Denver's decision to go with Miller when they are absolutely devoid of talent at the defensive tackle position given their release of starters Jamal Williams and Justin Bannan as they transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 this season, especially when Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus were on the board and rated similarly to Miller in terms of draft grade.

3. Buffalo Bills – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Grade: B
Analysis: While I don't think Dareus is an elite playmaker, he is the type solid run stopper that the Bills were in desperate need of on their front seven. I applaud the Bills for resisting the urge to take a quarterback, none of whom were deserving of being selected with a high first round pick in this year's draft. I was going to say that GM Buddy Nix is not necessarily crazy after all, but his shrink threatened me with legal action if I put that statement in writing.  

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Grade: B
Analysis: Sure, A.J. Green is regarded as an elite talent at wide receiver, but I'm not sure that the Bengals really needed to draft a wide receiver given their other needs and the wealth of talent on the defensive line in this year's draft. Nonetheless, he steps in immediately as a starter following the pending releases of Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens. He just might have to wait a few years until the Bengals find a quarterback who can get him the ball...and no, Andy Dalton is NOT the answer.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Grade: B+
Analysis: While the Cardinals would have loved an elite 3-4 pass rusher like Von Miller, it is hard to argue with the value of drafting Patrick Peterson, who will team with Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie to give them a dynamic tandem at cornerback. I like the idea of Peterson playing conservative lock down coverage, with the Cardinals letting DRC gamble a little bit, meaning that he either returns an interception for a touchdown or gets burned deep on every single play that comes his way.

6. Atlanta (from Cleveland) – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Grade: D+
Analysis: Giving up two first round picks, a second round pick, and two fourth round picks for any player is too much, let alone for a risky position like wide receiver. Not only have there been more first round busts at wide receiver than any other position aside from maybe quarterback, but Atlanta just traded away the better part of two entire drafts for Julio Jones...not Calvin Johnson...but Julio Fucking Jones!! With only a handful of picks remaining over the next few years, I was pleased to see that the Falcons still found a way to grab a punter in the 6th round. However, since I am only grading first round picks I'm unable to lower their grade any further...even though I really want to.  

7. San Francisco 49ers – Aldon Smith, OLB/DE, Missouri
Grade: C-
Analysis: A prominent NFL scouting director told me that Aldon Smith has the potential to be one of the biggest busts at DE/OLB since Aaron Maybin of the Buffalo Bills. Robert Quinn not only would have been the safer pick, but he probably would have had more upside. Then again, San Francisco just seems to love taking it up the rear from dudes named "A. Smith."

8. Tennessee Titans – Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Grade: D+
Analysis: Not only are there many questions surrounding Jake Locker's accuracy given his inability to complete passes against competition at the college level, but the Titans made a tremendous reach to draft him without trading down. Sure Washington might have been looking at Locker at the 10th pick, which should've have been the first red flag for Tennessee to go against their draft board and look elsewhere for their quarterback of the future.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Grade: B
Analysis: For the first time since the departures of Gil Brandt, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells, Jerry Jones actually made a nice first round pick that had value and filled a glaring area of need. Then again, he promptly made up for it by wasting his third round pick on yet another running back.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Washington) – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Grade: C-
Analysis: For the life of me I can't figure out why Jacksonville would give up a second round pick in order to select Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Sure any guy named Blaine will look great in teal and pink during the NFL's breast cancer awareness month (and yes, that IS an indirect Pretty in Pink reference in a sports column), but there are not many people who think that Gabbert will develop into any better of a quarterback than current starter David Garrard. If Jacksonville wanted to reach on a quarterback, they should have concentrated on saving their franchise by drafting Florida quarterback Tim Tebow last year. That way they could have secured season ticket orders from Gainesville, FL religious zealot Terry Jones and his two parishioners...which would have only left the Jags 11,997 tickets short of getting blacked out every week. Speaking of Jesus, when are the Jags finally going to get it over with and move this franchise to L.A.?

 11. Houston Texans – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Grade: B
Analysis: Not only was J.J. Watt a nice pick as a 5 technique end in their 3-4 defense, but they took Arizona OLB/DE Brooks Reed in the second round. I would say that this team has an affinity for white dudes, but then I remembered that they took a chance on a certain undrafted African-American running back who lead the NFL in rushing last year named Arian Foster...Wait a minute! WTF?!!

12. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Grade: D+
Analysis: So, the Vikings passed on huge positions of need when highly rated players like DT Nick Fairley and DE Robert Quinn were still available and made a big time reach for a weak armed quarterback with a history of arm injuries? While I don't think that Christian Ponder is the man to replace Brett Favre behind center, he is way ahead of him when it comes to his success with the women.

I'd take Christian Ponder's girlfriend over Jenn Sterger any day.

13. Detroit Lions – Nick Fairley, DT, Alabama
Grade: A-
Analysis: When Matt Millen was still the Lions GM, bust worthy wide receivers climbed up draft boards and enticed the Lions into drafting them. In the Martin Mayhew era, game changing defensive tackles just seem to fall from the sky to Detroit. I'm Fairley Suh it all has to do with karma, but maybe lazy and drug addicted wide receivers just naturally gravitate towards mustaches con queso.* In any event the "Silver Rush" of the early 80's just re-emerged as the "Silver Crush."

*A "mustache con queso" is a cheesy mustache

14. St. Louis Rams – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Grade: A-
Analysis: While the Rams have a history of wasting high first round picks on defensive linemen, this time I actually like this pick. You use your high first round picks on swift rush ends like Robert Quinn, not stiff base ends like Chris Long and Adam Carriker...Awww, somebody is learning!

15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
Grade: B-
Analysis: Mike Pouncey was able to capitalize on the success that his twin brother had with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an All Pro guard in his rookie season, much like Charlie O'Connell parlayed being Jerry O'Connell's less successful twin brother into a gig as ABC's "The Bachelor." Oh wait, that's not exactly a compliment, is it?

16. Washington Pigskins (from Jacksonville) - Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
Grade: B
Analysis: Cheers for trading back and getting a much needed second round pick to go along with a much needed 3-4 pass rusher. Jeers for insisting to any NFL insider who would listen that either Rex Grossman or John Beck really will be your starting quarterback this season, and then following up on it by not drafting ANY quarterbacks.

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Grade: B
Analysis: This was a solid pick at a position of need by the Patriots, but I question why they decided to go with Nate Solder instead of Anthony Castonzo, who was graded higher by most scouts and draft analysts. Could it be because they knew Solder was coveted by their rivals in Indianapolis? The Patriots have such an inferiority complex, I'm pretty sure that Tom Brady would hit on Peyton Manning's wife and jeopardize his relationship with supermodel Gisele Bundchen if thought he could get under his skin and throw him off his game.

18. San Diego Chargers – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Grade: B-
Analysis: Corey Liuget of Illinois a fairly solid pick by the Chargers at the 18th selection. I just question whether a nose tackle like Phil Taylor of Baylor would have been a better fit than Liuget, who is probably better suited to play DT in a 4-3 defense, especially when Cameron Jordan clearly projects as the better end in a 3-4. Then again, it's all part of A.J. Smith's master plan to avoid playing in the Super Bowl at any cost.

19. New York Giants – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Grade: B+
Analysis: The Giants received tremendous value in Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara falling to them at the 19th pick. I wanted to grade this pick a little higher, but Amukmara is yet to show that he's an elite playmaker with ball skills. Still a good pick though, "Crazy Carl" would be proud. 

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Grade: B
Analysis: While I think Adrian Clayborn is a decent player, he's not exactly the elite pass rusher that most analysts thought the Bucs should take in the first round. Fortunately, they got a Mulligan and were able to draft Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson in the second round.

21. Cleveland Browns (from Kansas City) – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
Grade: A
Analysis: While Phil Taylor doesn't exactly blow me away, he's a solid player considering the Browns acquired him in addition to the astonishing 1st, 2nd and two 4th round picks that they received in return for trading the 6th overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons for the 27th pick. I'm just surprised that the Browns didn't give up all of those extra picks when they traded with Kansas City for the 21st selection given their history of getting abused whenever they try to move up in the draft.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Castanzo, OT, Boston College
Grade: A-
Analysis: Not only did Indy address a glaring need on their offensive line, but they probably got the best value available on their draft board with Anthony Castonzo falling to them at the 22nd pick. Fortunately for Colts fans, Bill Polian is not Bill Tobin.

Sadly, the video of Kiper's original exchange with Tobin could not be located, but this video is worth watching if for no other reason than the classic snarky shot that ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann takes at Tobin at the end of his rant.

23. Philadelphia Eagles - Danny Watkins, C, Baylor
Grade: C+
Analysis: The Eagles can certainly use some help on their offensive line, although Watkins may have been a slight reach this early in the draft, especially when Gabe Carimi was still on the board. Given Watkins background as a firefighter and his visits to "ground zero" and the NYFD while he was in New York for the draft, I have to think that "Fireman Ed" was hoping that he'd go to his J-E-T-S!

I'm pretty sure that Danny Watkins was drafted by the wrong team. Leave it to the city of Philadelphia to mess up fate.

24. New Orleans Saints – Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal
Grade: A-
Analysis: Not only does he fill a position of need for the Saints at defensive end, and not only is he versatile enough to move inside on passing downs much like Mike Hargrove, but some draft analysts thought he could have been a top ten pick. I'm just surprised that Mickey Loomis didn't turn in a draft card for Jordan Cameron, the TE - Southern California instead of Cameron Jordan, the DE out of California after after he foolishly overpayed to move back into the first round and select Mark Ingram, Jr.

25. Seattle Seahawks – James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
Grade: D+
Analysis: This pick was an incredible reach by the Seahawks. I'm not a big fan of drafting offensive linemen who can only play right tackle in the first round. If Seattle's target really was Alabama tackle James Carpenter over someone like the more highly regarded Gabe Carimi, I would have suggested trading down to the top of the third round where most analysts projected him to go. At the very least, the Seahawks should have made tentative arrangements for a trade with Chicago in order to allow them to pass on a couple of draft slots and save a few bucks.

26. Kansas City Chiefs – Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Grade: C
Analysis: The Chiefs made nice moves in picking up an extra 3rd round pick by moving back from the 21st spot to the 27th pick, and then by moving up one spot from the 27th pick to the 26th when Baltimore failed to turn in their selection within the allotted time. Unfortunately, Kansas City reached to take Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin, who will compliment Dwayne Bowe perfectly when it comes to big athletic receivers who lack focus and work ethic (see Detroit Lions, 2003-2005).

27. Baltimore Ravens – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Grade: C
Analysis: While the Ravens looked foolish when their time on the clock expired and Kansas City leap-frogged them to take the 26th pick, it was actually because Chicago GM Jerry Angelo failed to report a trade where the Ravens would have traded down to the 29th pick. In any event, it looks like the Ravens got the player they were targeting in cornerback Jimmy Smith, who fills an immediate need in their secondary, although Ravens did miss out on the 4th round pick that Chicago had agreed to trade them in order to move up (more on this below).

28. New Orleans Saints (from New England) – Mark Ingram, Jr., RB, Alabama
Grade: D
Analysis: Note on how not to manage the draft - don't trade your second round pick and a first round pick the following season in order to trade back into the first round for a running back who not only was projected to fall to the second round, but has a skill set that is nearly identical to the undrafted you already have.

29. Chicago Bears - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Grade: B+
Analysis: The Bears stayed at the 29th pick and got the offensive tackle that they targeted in Gabe Carimi. Of course, Bears GM Jerry Angelo actually tried to trade their 4th round pick in order to move up with with Baltimore to get him three spots earlier, but admittedly botched that trade when he failed to report it to the league while the Ravens were still on the clock. While this whole scenario reeks of the Bears mismanaging their team's war room, I guess I can't downgrade a team when their mistake actually netted them the same player that they were targeting and saved them a 4th round pick. Then again, Baltimore still might be seeking compensation from the Bears for that mistake.

30. New York Jets – Muhammad Wikerson, DE/DT, Temple
Grade: B
Analysis: Muhammad Wilkerson is a solid pick who will fit the 3-4 defensive system that Rex Ryan runs. Sadly, I long for the days when the Jets botched their first round pick on an annual basis.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Grade: B
Analysis: Cameron Heyward was a solid pick this late in the first round, as he fills one of several positions of need for the Steelers. Bonus points for bringing the son of former NFL star Craig "Ironhead" Heyward to the "Steel City." I already see an endorsement deal for him with Iron City Brewery. Draftees can technically endorse alcohol if there's a lockout, right?

32. Green Bay Packers – Derek Sherrod, OT, Missippi State
Grade: B
Analysis: Coincidence or not? The Detroit Lions picked Nick Fairley to pair with Ndamukong Suh (who knocked Aaron Rodgers out of their game last season with a concussion), and the Packers proceeded to draft additional help for their offensive line with Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the Packers did refuse to trade down three spots into the top of the second round for an additional mid round pick from Cincinnati (who wanted to secure Andy Dalton) because they feared that either New England or Buffalo would draft Sherrod. Sherrod may not start right away, but he will provide Green Bay with some much needed depth and peace of mind at tackle until he does.

And with the draft over and a pending lockout, here's to next year's football season!

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