First Round Grades from NFL Draft

I’m going to put on my teacher hat to grade the first round of the 2011 NFL draft based purely on need and talent.

Carolina Panthers – The only way Carolina could pass on Cam Newton was if they were offered a Godfather type deal for the first pick.  Newton is a high risk high reward guy, but nowadays it’s easier to accept the possibility of bust than passing on the next all pro.  Grade: B+

Denver Broncos – I thought Von Miller was a tad overrated but if he lives up to his draft status and combine numbers the Broncos immediately have one of the better LB corps in the league.  It can be argued that Marcel Dareus would’ve filled a bigger hole.
Grade: B

Buffalo Bills – Dareus and A.J. Green were generally considered to be the best players in the draft.  The Bills severely needed to address their run defense and pairing Dareus with emerging tackle Kyle Williams is a starting point, an excellent one at that.  Dareus has the speed to move outside in a 3-4 and the strength/size combo to be disruptive when moved inside.  Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals – Green was the best player in the draft in my opinion.  He immediately fills the holes sure to arise with the pending departure of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.  Unfortunately, it’s Jordan Palmer and not Carson who may be throwing to him.  Grade: A+

Arizona Cardinals – Drafting Patrick Peterson here was obviously a best player on the board pick and not a need pick.  Many expect Peterson to eventually be moved to safety but until then Peterson, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson, and Kerry Rhodes make up a damn good secondary provided Rhodes continues his play of last year and Wilson returns to his pre last season play.  Grade: B+

Atlanta Falcons – I see what the Falcons want to do in selecting Julio Jones, but I am not in agreeance with what they gave up in order to acquire this pick.  On selection alone, I would give this a B- grade but factoring in the picks and Jones penchant for dropping passes lowers the grade here.  Grade: C+

San Francisco 49ers – I was told by a source that this pick could potentially be Kevin Kolb bait.  Either way Aldon Smith lacks size and is reminscent of Seattle soon to be bust Aaron Curry.    Grade: C-

Tennessee Titans – Quarterback was the Titans most pressing need and they believe that they solved it with Jake Locker although it was entirely too early based on Locker’s pre draft grades.  Locker needs to improve on his accuracy and may be better served sitting behind Kerry Collins for at least 1/4 season provided Collins returns.  The Titans could’ve went Nick Fairley here as well.
Grade: B

Dallas Cowboys – It was offensive line help here or secondary help.The Boys ended up choosing to address their line and took Tyron Smith.  Smith has tons of potential and will eventually be entrusted in watching Tony Romo’s blind side.  Grade: B+

Jacksonville Jaguars – I’ve been on record as to questioning Blaine Gabbert’s accension to the top of this draft but he couldn’t have landed in a better place.  David Garrard has been an all pro in inconsistency and it was due time for the Jags to address it with a possible replacement.  Gabbert can be afforded a sit down season to adjust from the transition from a spread to a pro style offense and Jacksonville can begin it’s divorce with Garrard.  Grade: A-

Houston Texans – For the umpteenth year it seems, the Texans drafted a defensive lineman in JJ Watt.  Watt is a high motor safe pick who’ll add much needed toughness. Of course safe picks usually get you 8-8, but that’s the norm in Houston. Prince Amukarmara would’ve been a welcomed addition to the league’s worst secondary and Robert Quinn could’ve eased the transition to the 3-4.  Grade: C

Minnesota Vikings – Until Brett Favre announces his annual comeback, quarterback is the position of need here.  Christian Ponder is more polished than the two signal callers selected ahead of him, but has been labeled injury prone. This was high for Ponder on most boards, but it was said that he was quite impressive in his team interviews.  Ponder will probably be resigned to sitting behind a veteran seeing as to how Minnesota is a playoff team with consistent qb play. Grade: B-

Detroit Lions – Like his college teammate Newton, Nick Fairley is a high risk high reward guy.  It’s highly unlikely that Fairley’s questionable work ethic will be a problem with Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Jim Schwartz hovering over his shoulder.  Grade: A-

St. Louis Rams – Selecting Robert Quinn here adds to an improved defensive line although he could probably be used more standing up next to James Laurinatis.  The Rams would’ve done better trading down and selecting Johnathan Baldwin later once Green and Jones were off the board seeing as to how Sam Bradford is in desperate need of receivers.  Grade: C+

Miami Dolphins – Adding Mike Pouncey to Jake Long and Richie Incognito immediately improves the stability of an offensive line that will be relied upon to protect an immobile qb in either Chad Henne or possibly Ryan Mallett.  Mark Ingram would’ve been a possibilty here with the uncertainty of the Dolphin backfield.  Grade: A-

Washington – After deciding Gabbert or Ponder wasn’t their guy, trading down six spots and picking up a second rounder they desperately needed was a bonus for the Skins.  Ryan Kerrigan gives them a pass rusher to pair opposite Brian Orakpo to enhance a defense in desperate need of a pass rush.  Grade: B+

New England – In their first of many picks, the Pats opted to attend to their offensive line with the selection of athletic behemoth Nate Solder.  Solder gives them insurance in case Matt Light leaves and becomes the heir apparent if Light returns.  Solder has all the intangibles to one day be a mauler in the run game.  Grade: B

San Diego – The Chargers missed Jamal Williams last season and Corey Liguet can possibly fill that void.  Liguet is undersized but violent enough to play defensive tackle in a 3-4.  At the very same time, Liquet may fill the Chargers DE need more.  Grade: B-

New York Giants – Prince Amukamara dropped further than expected but his cover skills will serve the Giants well and give them a surplus of corners to rotate much as they do their defensive line and allow them to blitz more than they already do if that’s even possible.  Grade: B+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn comes in and can play immediately alongside 2010 picks Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.  The Bucs are in dire need of a pass rush and Clayborn’s tape shows he can get to the QB.  Something tells me the Bucs would’ve snatched Amakamara here if available with the organization tiring of Aquib Talib’s off field antics.  Grade: B-

Cleveland Browns – Phil Taylor solves a need, but is it more pressing than a wide receiver to aid Colt McCoy’s development.  Passing on Jones and specifically Baldwin here could come back to haunt the Browns provided they aren’t able to get an impact receiver with one of their later picks.  Grade: C+

Indianapolis Colts – Rated as the highest tackle on many draft boards, getting Anthony Castonzo here is a plus for the Colts.  Castonzo is ready to play now at either tackle, but will be expected to play the left side.   Nothing is more important in Indy than protecting the blind side of Peyton Manning. Grade: A

Philadelphia Eagles – Danny Watkins may be 26 years old, but his maturity could prove to be beneficial seeing as to how he’ll be entrusted to shore up Michael Vick’s blindside.  The Eagles haven’t had much stability on their right interior since Shawn Andrews pro bowl year. Grade: B-

New Orleans Saints – Cameron Jordan at 24 is a steal. Adding Jordan to a defensive line that includes Will Smith, Sedrick Ellis, and Shaun Rodgers will give opposing teams fits. Grade: A

Seattle Seahawks – With Locker off the board, the Seahawks tended to their next biggest need with James Carpenter. Seattle has had offensive line issues for a while now and stabilizing that area is a necessity. Grade: B-

Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs took the next best wideout and addressed a big need. Johnathan Baldwin solves their search for a second wr opposite Dwyane Bowe. Grade: B+

Baltimore Ravens – Character issues aside, Jimmy Smith may be the best corner in the draft. Certainly the most physical, Smith gives the Ravens a second coming of former Raven great Chris McAllister. Grade: A-

New Orleans Saints – With no impact linebackers left worth a first round pick, getting the top rated RB here was the only option. Mark Ingram gives the Saints the choice of cutting ties with Reggie Bush or Pierre Thomas. This will more than likely indicate the release of Pierre Thomas seeing as to how Ingram and Bush are two totally different players. Grade: B+

Chicago Bears – There are two areas of need for Chicago, offensive line and wide receiver. Gabe Carimi won’t be a cornerstone LT, but he’ll be a decent RT. Coming from Wisconsin’s physical program will serve well for Carimi in the trenches of the NFC North. Grade: B-

New York Jets – Muhammad Wilkerson gives the Jets defense what they lacked in a pass rush up front. He has the perfect blend of size and speed to play outside in the Jets 3-4. Grade: B

Pittsburgh Steelers – Cameron Heyward just seems like a Steeler. He can get to the QB and disrupt plays. Heyward will benefit from the proven leadership already on the Steeler defense. Addressing their offensive line would’ve been a possibility here as well.
Grade: B

Green Bay Packers – It was either reach for a RB with Ingram gone or draft an offensive lineman. Derrick Sherrod only adds strength to a position that looked better than it actually was last year thanks to Aaron Rodgers. Grade: B-