The NFL Draft: 1st Round Grades

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Football

The 1st round of the draft was just as exciting as everyone could have expected. When I made my predictions, I decided not to predict any possible trades, but there were several in the just the first 10 picks. With that said, my picks were not as great as I had hoped. If you were to grade my picks directly I only got 6/32; but if you take into account teams still picking the predicted player but changing positions, my numbers go up to 8/32. Even so, a lot of teams made a lot of significant moves and it was an exciting 1st round.

Here are my grades for each of the picks of the first round…

Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck QB – Indy made this pick official much earlier in the week and would have been criticized if they went in any other direction, even with Griffin. The fans let the Colts supporters know that they were not respected during this first pick, but no one can deny that this young man is a talent that we will see flourish at some point in his career. The Colts made moves this offseason, with the release of Manning and loss of a couple of key players. Luck is the QB of the future for them and should begin to produce with their depleted talent almost immediately. Draft Grade: A

Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III QB – Before Luck could get off the stage, the fans in Radio City were chanting RGIII. He was smiling all the way up to the stage and showed off his crazy socks (bringing a new quirk to DC after Portis’s crazy costumes). A new era is starting in DC and the Redskins organization and fans could not be happier. There will be a lot of criticism for giving up 1st round picks for the next two years, but they were looking at the strength of this QB and his ability to make an immediate impact. Draft Grade: A

Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson RB – Fearing that another team was going to move up, the Browns were looking for that impact player to take over at the running back position. Hillis moved on and the AFC North is a strong running division (Rice with the Ravens and Benson with the Bengals). Richardson has a quick step and agility to break free before the tackles line up. The Browns also did not have to give up much to make this move. Draft Grade: A

Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil OT – No one will deny that Kalil is a strong pickup at an offensive lineman. The Vikings made it official that this guy is an instant starter. Ponder may not be the QB of the future for the Vikes, but someone needs to block for him. The running game will continue to be excellent with Peterson, but the passing game suffered with limited protection. Kalil should allow for a better opportunity for Ponder to contribute in the short term. Draft Grade: A-

Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Blackmon WR – When it comes to taking the next best player off the board, no one will question the Jags on this pick. They also need some more talent to give Gabbert someone else to throw to. The problem with this pick is that the Jags has many other needs, including possibly not continuing with Gabbert as the focus of the offense. It is likely that their passing offense will increase from worst to something slightly better, but Blackmon would have been better served to go to a team with a solid quarterback. Draft Grade: B+

Dallas Cowboys – Morris Claiborne CB – With changes on defense, the Cowboys needed some help and made a move to get a player who definitely would not fall out of the top 10. Some commentators have speculated that the offense could produce better if their defense did not give up as many points and blow leads late in games. Claiborne is an excellent cover guy but will struggle a bit with tackling until he gets more NFL experience. Draft Grade: A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mark Barron SS – Not since Sean Taylor has there been a safety predicted to be such a big hitter than Barron. He is an excellent QB spy and quick in reaction to RBs and WR screens. The Buccaneers have had struggles on both offense and defense, but this is definitely a nice upgrade to match up against Newton, Brees and Ryan. Draft Grade: A-

Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill QB – The Dolphins have been an embarrassment this offseason. They missed out on every great QB free agent and were forced to overreach in the draft to get their guy for the future. Tannehill has a solid upside but is not as experienced as the top QB picks and should have been more of a later 1st round pick based on available talent. The Dolphins could have gone with a strong WR like Michael Floyd and picked up any of the other QBs from Weeden to Cousins in the 2nd round. Draft Grade: B

Carolina Panthers – Luke Kuechly LB – In need of an extra assistant on defense, Kuechly was an excellent pick and the best available LB in the draft. He should succeed where Dan Morgan struggled.  Draft Grade: A

Buffalo Bills – Stephen Gilmore CB – This young player is certainly an excellent pick, but there were some excellent offensive linemen that were available to protect their investment in Fitzpatrick. For their defense, Gilmore is an upgrade necessary to replace the lost talent over the past few years and limit the number of games the Bills will have to fight back for come-from-behind victories. Draft Grade: B+

Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe NT – These are not the Chiefs that used to go to the playoffs each season. They need help on both offense and defense. This is a player with a great quickness off the snap and will break through the line to get to the quarterback. Great pickup to strengthen that front line. Draft Grade: A-

Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox DT – Though I did not expect the Eagles to move up or even take Cox over Brockers, they gave up a little to shift only 3 spots up. Still, this is a defensive guy who improves the team just by being there. He is strong, quick off the snap and worthy of some attention for next season. Draft Grade: A-

Arizona Cardinals – Michael Floyd WR – In desperate need of a matchup with Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have continued their focus on upgrading their offense. Kolb will have a better chance to show off his talent with two strong receivers to work with. Draft Grade: A-

St. Louis Rams – Michel Brockers DT – Even without judging the pickup of Brockers, the Rams traded back twice (Redskins and Cowboys) to grab a lot of young talent for the rebuilding of the team. Understanding that both sides of the ball are an issue, Brockers will be excellent to work with Laurinaitis and Chris Long. Draft Grade: A

Seattle Seahawks – Bruce Irvin OLB – So the Seahawks got an extra pick out of the deal with Philadelphia, but there were much better players to pick over Irvin. Defense has been an area that has fallen backward, but why not draft a stronger lineman or another receiver for Flynn? Draft Grade: B-

New York Jets – Quinton Coples DE – The Jets already have character issues, but they seem to think that bringing in a DE who has poor work effort makes sense for their organization. The defensive line is the weakest part of their defense, but running is not the most significant part of the AFC East offenses to justify this pick. Draft Grade: B

Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick CB – With the offense showing vast improvement last season, the defense was actually one of the better ones in the league as well. The Bengals have been improving and could use the secondary assistance. Draft Grade: A-

San Diego Chargers – Melvin Ingram DE – With the loss of some great defensive linemen and linebackers, the run defense has been lacking and the ability to get to the quarterback. With Manning in the division, Ingram will definitely help with putting on the pressure, but he is not a strong as some of the other linemen in the 1st round. Draft Grade: A-

Chicago Bears – Shea McClellin OLB – Peppers, Urlacher and McClellin? This may be one of the better linebacker corps in the NFC and should hopefully match up well against the passing games of Detroit and Green Bay. Draft Grade: A-

Tennessee Titans – Kendall Wright WR – I thought they were going to give Locker more protection, but extra passing options does not hurt as well. They need help at wide receiver, which he provides in terms of speed. His vertical leap and height are a little on the smaller side. Draft Grade: B+

New England Patriots – Chandler Jones DE – With the worst overall defense in the NFL last year, this is an immediate improvement. Making the Super Bowl did not hide the lack of a run defense. This was an excellent adjustment to find an immediate impact player. Draft Grade: A

Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden QB – Though a confusing move, the Browns made it clear that McCoy is not their guy with this pick. Richardson gave the impression that offense was a focus, but Weeden says that their lack of offensive weapons meant that a QB was their idea of a smart move. He may be a good pick, but he is already an older guy and may have a shorter career, as well as shorter timeframe to produce before passing onto the next QB. Draft Grade: B-

Detroit Lions – Riley Rieff OT – Matthew Stafford proved himself last year, but protection is always a concern. Rieff could have been taken much sooner, so this was a bit of a steal as a late 1st-rounder. Draft Grade: A-

Pittsburgh Steelers – David DeCastro OG – As another lineman that could have been taken sooner, the Steelers got lucky that he dropped to this position. An aging offensive line cost the Steelers some of the success they could have experienced last season and DeCastro has a strong work ethic. Draft Grade: A-

New England Patriots – Dont’a Hightower ILB – Another strong defensive pick to upgrade their poor defensive play. Hightower was possibly interchangeable with the other LB prospects of the first round, but the Patriots should be happy with themselves for making this move. Draft Grade: A-

Houston Texans – Whitney Mercilus DE – No team lost more on defense than the Texans with both Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans leaving for new opportunities. Mercilus should make an immediate impact with the depleted line. There were better 1st round picks but this is a solid DE that they needed to pick. Draft Grade: B+

Cincinnati Bengals – Kevin Zeitler OG – As mentioned earlier, the Bengals have improved in many ways but this pick gives better protection to their young, talented QB. Guards do not usually stand out as much, but Zeitler should find a home with his translation of the Alabama defensive scheme. Draft Grade: B+

Green Bay Packers – Nick Perry DE – Excellent offense does not overshadow poor defense. With a need to improve their defensive line, Perry can give a quicker burst to put pressure on the other NFC North teams. Draft Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings – Harrison Smith S – Similar to the need to build their offense, their defense needed some youthful talent. Smith is a quick player but will not make as immediate an impact as Kalil on offense. Draft Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers – AJ Jenkins WR – The 49ers did not need to do much because they did not lose any of their starters. They would have been in the Super Bowl if one or two of the fumbles went the other way. Crabtree has not produced as well as expected, but they made moves to pick up two WRs in free agency, so this pick is a little suspect. Draft Grade: B-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Doug Martin RB – Though a few guys have been able to produce for short periods, the Bucs have been plagued with a serious of mediocre backs over the past several years, preventing Freeman from reaching his potential. Martin should be an immediate producer with his cuts and power. Draft Grade: A-

New York Giants – David Wilson RB – Though not projected for the first round, Wilson got lucky that the Super Bowl Champions were looking to replace Brandon Jacobs. There were better guys to pick to protect Manning, but Wilson has some potential to be productive alongside Bradshaw. Draft Grade: B-

Of the teams to fail to pick in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints. The Ravens were in good shape last season but could have upgraded on the offensive line (managed with Round 2 Pick 28). The Broncos made a number of moves in the offseason and were able to work without the first round pick. The Saints did not make huge changes but did not need to do much. The Raiders were the biggest loser in the experience of missing out on a pick in the first round.

There is still another several rounds left, so lets see what late rounder makes the biggest impact.

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