Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb walks on stage after being selected in the second round of the NFL football draft by the Green Bay Packers at Radio City Music Hall Friday, April 29, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)
With the 2011 NFL Draft now in the books, it’s time to hand out the grades. We’ll start with the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers!
Green Bay Packers:
Drew Smith: A-
I liked the drafting of a tackle in the first round, which shows excellent future vision from Ted Thompson. The fact that he also most likely replaced the significant departing free agents (Brandon Jackson, James Jones and maybe Daryn Colledge) was a solid move, and he also addressed the biggest glaring weakness of his championship team: the return game. I love the pick of Randall Cobb, who will get a shot to be a contributor on offense, but has a chance to be a star as a returner. Did they need two tight ends? Probably not, but with Derek Lee probably gone, and Finley’s health still a bit of a question mark, it never hurts to have some redundancy. I will be shocked if all ten make the roster, however. With this group and the talent on the team now, including injured players coming back, if half make the team that will be a successful draft, seven out of the ten would make it great.
Paige Pearson: B
The Packers put great emphasis on drafting big bodies in early rounds and they did that in selecting tackle Derek Sherrod. Addressing the aging tackles (Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher) was a must for the Packers. The Packers also addressed a need by drafting Randall Cobb. The wide receiver out of Kentucky says he has no problem returning kicks and punts. As for the latter part of the Packers draft, they treated it like free agency. We’ll see if it pays off down the road.
Justin Felder: B+
It’s tough to grade, since before the draft we all pegged the Packers needs as OLB and DE; but as Dom Capers told us after all was said and done, the team seems to be much more comfortable with the guys they have than we thought they were. Love the first round OT selection and I think you should beat the bandwagon and get your Randall Cobb jersey early because he’ll be a fan-favorite, but I feel adding talent at the spot opposite Clay Matthews would’ve been more valuable than a third running back (assuming Brandon Jackson won’t be back). Perhaps not drafting a defensive lineman early means the team will (attempt to) bring back Cullen Jenkins, but the Packers final pick, DT Lawrence Guy, could develop into a solid DE in Capers’ system.
Doug Ritchay: B
When the players haven’t even practiced, it’s hard to grade a draft class. However, Sherrod’s addition settles the tackle position for years, and Cobb and Williams could turn into good offensive weapons.
Josh Morgan: B+
Nothing flashy, as per usual for Ted Thompson and the Packers, but the quality and quantity was definitely apparent. Derek Sherrod eases any concerns that people have with Chad Clifton, while Randall Cobb may end up being the best pick in this draft class. With Donald Driver not getting any younger and the possibility of losing James Jones to free-agency, Cobb will likely be asked to produce in his first year. Driver still has some catches in him, don’t get me wrong, but his most important role this year might be to get Cobb ready for the future. Alex Green is as tough as they come and D.J. Williams might be that diamond in the rough that most teams look for later in the draft. Don’t be surprised if he gives Andrew Quarless a run for his money in camp. As for the rest of the draft, the Packers definitely tried to stockpile with three sixth round picks and two in the seventh. With no free-agency for now, the Packers used the end of the draft to bring some extra players in. Overall, the Packers added solid talent, high character, and plenty of depth.
Arizona Cardinals: B+
Kind of feels like they took the “best-player-available approach.” Probably got the best player in the draft in Patrick Peterson, and Ryan Williams is going to be a star. Picking up LB’s Sam Acho and Quan Sturdivant later were great value picks.
Atlanta Falcons: B
Made the biggest draft splash by trading up to get Julio Jones, but didn’t really address their needs on defense. LB Akeem Dent will contribute, but won’t be a difference-maker. RB/ATH Jacquizz Rodgers is a dynamic player and dynamite talent. But will they stop anyone?
Baltimore Ravens: B
Of course the Ravens went defense in the first round, albeit after missing their slot. Jimmy Smith is a physical corner with a ton of upside. They also picked up a couple WR’s to bring some youth to an aging receiving corps.
Buffalo Bills: B+
The Bills just got a lot better on defense. DE Marcell Dareus will be an instant difference-maker along the Bills defensive line, while CB Aaron Williams is a first-round talent they were able to get in the second round. The only reason this isn’t an A is because the Bills did nothing to help a mediocre offense.
Carolina Panthers: C-
Well, they got QB Cam Newton. But Newton’s still a project and the rest of the picks aren’t going to be household names any time soon. The worst team in the NFL didn’t get much better…
Chicago Bears: B-
The Bears had to be happy getting a guy like OT Gabe Carimi to fall to them late in the first and Stephen Paea is a beast at DT, but with only five picks in the draft the Bears weren’t able to address any needs on offense.
Cincinnati Bengals: B+
You just gotta love the top two picks in WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton. If nothing else, these two picks bring some excitement to a franchise that doesn’t have too much to be exited about.
Cleveland Browns: B
Browns got great value in this draft by making the early trade with the Falcons. They were able to move back in the first round and still get great talent and a BIG body in DT Phil Taylor. DE Jabaal Sheard will likely start for the Browns next season and WR Greg Little will be a threat for the lackluster Browns offense.
Dallas Cowboys: B-
Some nice variety for the Cowboys in the first three rounds with OT Tyron Smith, LB Bruce Carter and RB/ATH Demarco Murray. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Demarco Murray fits this team very well and they failed to draft anyone of note in the secondary.
Denver Broncos: C+
LB Von Miller will be my preseason pick for Rookie of the Year, but John Elway appears to still be learning at this whole NFL Draft. Then again, he didn’t handle it very well when he was drafted either…
Detroit Lions: A-
DT Nick Fairley was the steal of the draft at no. 13 and I can’t wait to see him next to Ndamukong Suh next season. Titus Young is a dynamic receiver and RB Mikel Leshoure provides the “thunder” to go along with 2010 selection Jahvid Best’s “lightning.” Lions are still thin in their back seven though. Probably should have been addressed.
Houston Texans: A+
Bottom line, the Texans got three players with first-round talent. Adding DE’s J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed will provide quite a scare for opposing QB’s when teamed up with pro-bowler Mario Williams, while Brandon Harris very well might start at corner when the Texans open up the 2011 season.
Indianapolis Colts: C+
The Colts got a couple guys that will help protect Peyton Manning in OT Anthony Castanzo and OT Ben Ijalana, but defense is still a huge concern. I understand wanting to protect the franchise, but this Colts defense is nowhere near championship caliber.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B
The Jags got their quarterback of the future to fall to them at them at no. 10. They then took the rest of the draft off…Okay, that might be a little harsh, but I don’t see any of these guys stepping in and making a difference this season. Gabbert alone, however, is enough to carry this draft class to a decent grade.
Kansas City Chiefs: C-
Apparently the Kansas City Chiefs can’t handle success. After a surprising 2010 season, the Chiefs followed it up with one of the worst draft classes in the league. They reached for WR Jonathan Baldwin and they reached for C Rodney Hudson. Third-round pick, LB Justin Houston, who was thought to be a late-first, early-second round talent was a nice pick in the third. Chiefs needed weapons on offense, not sure they got them.
Miami Dolphins: C+
The Dolphins went with the safe pick in the first round with C Mike Pouncey. But then they went with a luxury pick in RB Daniel Thomas in the second round and questionable WR choice in Edmond Gates in the third. Miami has needs and they weren’t addressed, in my opinion.
Minnesota Vikings: C
After what was almost a comical year for the Vikes, they didn’t do much to stop that downward momentum. QB Christian Ponder was a huge reach at No. 12 and while Kyle Rudolph is a great talent at tight end, last time I checked the Vikings had a pro-bowl caliber tight end in Visanthe Shiancoe. DT Christian Ballard was a good value pick later on, but otherwise pretty ho-hum for the Vikes.
New England Patriots: C-
Why is everyone so excited about this Ryan Mallett pick? The Patriots have a back-up QB that they are very high on in Brian Hoyer. I’m kind of getting sick of the Patriots antics in the draft and really not impressed with the talent they accumulated. Nate Solder will be a good tackle, and that’s all I’ve got…
New Orleans Saints: B+
Despite picking near the end of the first round, the Saints made the most of it. They started with the very talented DE Cameron Jordan from Cal and then traded up to get RB Mark Ingram. If the Saints can find a way to work Reggie Bush into that offense it’s going to be tough to stop. Greg Romeus was a great value pick in the 7th round.
New York Giants: B+
The Giants did some nice work in the early rounds with CB Prince Amukamara falling to them at no. 19 and then getting DT Marvin Austin in the second round. And look out for WR Jerel Jernigan from Troy. With a solid WR corps in New York, look for Jernigan to be open quite a bit across the middle.
New York Jets: B
DT Muhammad Wilkerson was a nice get late in the first round while DT Kendrick Ellis will help solidfy the middle of that Jets defensive line. I also really liked the pick of Jeremy Kerley in the 5th round. Watch out when that guy touches the ball.
Oakland Raiders: D
And the Raiders have once again proved why they are the Raiders. Oakland didn’t have a first round pick and they didn’t seem to pay much attention after that. Stefen Wisniewski will probably end up being a good center, but they could have got drafted him at least a round later. CB DeMarcus Van Dyke is fast, but that’s about it.
Philadelphia Eagles: B-
Well, apparently the Eagles weren’t impressed with David Akers’ misses in the playoffs against the Packers. They made a pretty loud statement by taking kicker Alex Henery in the 4th round. Of course, they did have 11 picks so they had to pick someone there. But really, the 4th round?
Pittsburgh Steelers: B
DE Cameron Heyward will be a staple of the Steelers defense for years to come and Marcus Gilbert will eventually work his way into a starting role. Probably could’ve addressed some needs at the skill positions but they’re the Steelers, they’ll be fine.
St. Louis Rams: B+
Well, this grade is based off the big unknown that is DE Robert Quinn. After being suspended for the entire 2010 season at UNC, Quinn will at least be fresh when he suit up for the Rams. As for the rest of the draft, St. Louis made sure they got some weapons to put around last year’s top pick Sam Bradford with TE Lance Kendricks, and WR’s Austin Pettis and Greg Salas.
San Diego Chargers: B
Well, the Chargers couldn’t play defense last year, so they made sure they tried to fix that. First three rounds went DE Corey Liuget, DB Marcus Gilchrist, and LB Jonas Mouton.
San Francisco: C+
Really like LB Aldon Smith…in a 4-3 defense. Unfortunately the Niners run a 3-4. He’s a good enough player to make the transition but it might take awhile. Not convinced Colin Kaepernick is the QB of the future in San Francisco either. Let’s wait and see on this one…
Seattle Seahawks: C
Don’t mid the Seahawks going offensive line with their first two picks except for the fact that 1st round pick James Carpenter should have been picked in the 2nd round at the earliest. And I guess they’re hoping that one of the three defensive backs they drafted can guard someone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+
This could end up being the best draft class, or it could blow up in the Bucs face. Both DE Adrian Clayborn and DE Da’Quan Bowers have medical concerns but if they can find a way to stay healthy, both guys will start next season. Bowers could be a pro-bowler as a rookie. Also look for DB Ahmad Black to start in 2011.
Tennessee Titans: B-
Jake Locker over Blaine Gabbert? I don’t see how. I guess they said he’s the anti-Vince Young…in that case, great pick. In any other case, that’s a reach. LB Akeem Ayers was a nice grab in the second round, but the quarterback will continue to be a problem in the Music City.
Washington Redskins: C-
How don’t you draft a quarterback? Donovan McNabb won’t be back and Rex Grossman has already proved he’s not the answer. DE Ryan Kerrigan will be a stud on defense but defense isn’t the problem right now.