By Robert Ferringo
It was a busy weekend for the NFL. There was plenty to be excited about, including a new set of pros being drafted into The League. But there was also the pall cast by an unfavorable ruling against the players that has reinstated the lockout that is plaguing this offseason. In the end, the weekend’s developments were merely a distraction and an oasis in an offseason that is going to be a bitter and anxious one for fans and gamblers alike.
But the show must go on. And as such I spent the weekend with one eye on the developments in NYC and have put the results of my findings into a neat, easy-to-read format: my 2011 NFL Draft Grades. Though no games were played there were plenty of winners and plenty of losers this weekend. And considering that the lockout has frozen free agency that put even more onus on what teams did while “on the clock” last week.
Here are Doc’s Sports 2011 NFL Draft Grades:
Arizona – B-
The draft was salvaged from the C’s by their pick of Quan Sturdivant in Round 6. Good get. They scored with Patrick Peterson in Round 1. Ryan Williams definitely has talent but I think that was a luxury pick in Round 2 when they have needs at LB and on the OL.
Atlanta – A-
I agree that the Falcons gave up too much to get Julio Jones. But I also love the fact that they understood where the real need on the team was. (I have been getting cross-eyed looks for a year here in ATL when I suggested that Atlanta desperately needed another wideout.) Akeem Dent is a local guy with some upside and Jacquizz Rodgers can carve out a niche as a playmaker. Even their 7th Round picks have some bite. All around another nice weekend for the Dimitroff crew.
Baltimore – B
I didn’t love a lot of the players that the Ravens nabbed. However, I felt like they took some nice developmental pieces in areas where they have needs. I also know this: Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business. I will defer to him.
Buffalo – C-
I think that Marcell Dareus was a nice pick. And getting Aaron Williams at the top of Round 2 was a sweet move. But beyond that they did a whole lot of nothing. Maybe some of the guys will pan out, maybe some won’t. But the Bills didn’t do anything that would excite their floundering fan base. This team continues to struggle in October because they continue to struggle in April.
Carolina – C-
It is no secret that I’m not a big fan of Cam Newton’s. But we will have to wait and see with him. Beyond that the Panthers had a bunch of reaches and random dudes that may top out as special teams performers. I am a huge Ron Rivera fan. But Carolina has to give him something to work with.
Chicago – B-
The Bears did some good things with the limited picks that they had. Their top two picks – Gabe Carimi and Stephen Paea – were as good as anyone’s top two grabs. But they didn’t pick up anything beyond that.
Cincinnati – B
Whether or not the Bengals needed a receiver can be debated. What can’t be debated is that A.J. Green is a playmaker of the first order. I am not sold on Andy Dalton, but drafting him – rather than reaching for someone with their first pick – could be just the bluff to get Carson Palmer back. (Thought I don’t think they want him.) They picked up some nice prospects down the line of their picks and all in all had a rare solid day.
Cleveland – B+
You know that I am going to give high marks to any team that drafts two defensive linemen, an offensive lineman, and a fullback with four of their top seven picks. Cleveland also grabbed an extra No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. It was a good weekend for Mike Holmgren and I liked the Greg Little grab.
Dallas – B-
Much like the Bears, I thought that the Cowboys’ top two picks were both exceptional. But beyond that the Cowboys seemed to ignore one of the most glaring needs of the entire league; this team’s secondary is an epic disaster and they didn’t even hint at improving it. They better hope there is a free agent period.
Denver – A
This team is pushing all the right buttons. From John Elway to John Fox to Von Miller, the Broncos are doing work this offseason. They got three potential starters with their first three picks, which also all addressed needs. Then their No. 4 and No. 5 picks were used on guys that I am definitely in favor of. It was a great weekend for the Broncs.
Detroit – B+
The only thing keeping the Lions from earning an A was the fact that they didn’t address their glaring secondary needs. But they also nailed their first two picks. I love what the Fairley pick says about this team: how they are building and what they are going to be about.
Green Bay – A+
There is simply nothing not to like about the Packers, who could actually be building a dynasty. I had predicted that they grab Randall Cobb, an exciting playmaker that fits a need, at the end of Round 1. They got him at the end of Round 2 after also getting one of the best o-line prospects in the draft with their first pick. Mix in some really interesting prospects in Rounds 3-6.
Houston – D+
I don’t know what this team is doing. I have no idea why they used their first two picks on defensive linemen when they have had one of the league’s all-time worst secondaries for nearly a decade. They wasted their two fifth round picks and aside from the Brandon Harris pick – and he is a boom or bust prospect – I don’t feel like they did enough to upgrade their overall talent.
Indianapolis – D
The Colts didn’t have a ton of picks. And Bill Polian has been a draft master. But that aside, I don’t see it. This team has a host of real issues – particularly on defense – and they used their top two picks on offensive linemen? As if they were going to risk Peyton Manning’s health on rookie starters? I like the Delone Carter pick because he’s my boy from SU. Other than that this draft was a bust.
Jacksonville – D
It is tough to hammer them too much because if Blaine Gabbert turns out to be a stud QB then they will be one of the weekend’s winners. But they gave up a lot to get Gabbert and they wasted their other picks on guys from Lehigh, Mount Union, Wyoming and Middle Tennessee State.
Kansas City – B
I’m not a fan of Jon Baldwin’s. But when you consider him as part of K.C.’s overall haul you see that he fits the profile of what the Chiefs were going for. They used their first four picks on high-upside guys that have a lot of physical potential. GM Scott Pioli is putting the onus on the coaching staff and he has given them plenty to work with.
Miami – C
The Dolphins didn’t have a lot to work with but I felt they did OK. Mike Pouncey was a steal in the first round and fell into their lap. Dan Thomas was a nice pick in Round 2 as insurance against their running backs departing. Beyond that was a whole lot of nothing.
Minnesota – D+
I don’t understand the Christian Ponder pick at all. I liked Ponder as a sleeper QB for someone down the road but I don’t think he was a first rounder. Then they grab a Notre Dame player in Round 2. Another mistake. Christian Ballard bailed them out by being around in Round 4 and was their best pick, but beyond that they have to just hope someone works out.
New England – B+
It was an interesting weekend for the Patriots. They picked up a pair of really intriguing running back prospects – filling a need – while also grabbing a foundation guy in Round 1, an upside guy at a need position in Round 2, and then getting excellent value by taking Ryan Mallett in Round 3. Once again, the Pats just “get it”.
New Orleans – A-
A strong offseason continues for the Saints. They grabbed Shaun Rogers this offseason, backed that up with a pair of pass rushers in Round 1 and 3. They also made the bold move of grabbing Heisman winner Mark Ingram to bolster the rushing attack. I also love the Greg Romeus get in Round 7.
New York Giants – A-
I thought the G-Men scored a pair of TDs with their top two picks. I thought Marvin Austin was a first-round talent and the Giants were smart enough (unlike a lot of others) not to pass on Prince Amukamara. Greg Jones was an excellent value pick in Round 6 and there are enough other prospects here where someone can pan out.
New York Jets – C+
I am not counting guys grabbed in trades for draft picks towards these grades. With that in mind, I don’t think that Jets really improved themselves much over the weekend and they really put forth an uninspired effort.
Oakland – C-
Another wasted weekend for the Raiders. They didn’t have a No. 1 pick and they reached for “legacy” pick Stefen Wisniewski in Round 2. After that they picked up the usual litany of “speed” guys that will likely be off the roster within about 18 months.
Philadelphia – B+
Just another sweet weekend for the Eagles. They took the obligatory lineman in Round 1 and then they dotted the rest of their weekend with high-upside, high-talent guys. Casey Matthews was a nice pick and I think that Dion Lewis or Julian Vandervelde could carve out a nice niche. They also addressed their primary need by taking a shot with two defensive backs, although they both are of questionable pedigree.
Pittsburgh – C+
There just wasn’t much here to get excited about. I think that Cam Heyward could be another in a recent line of Ohio State busts. And past that they have some nice prospects but no one that jumps off the page.
San Diego – B-
I felt like the Chargers got stronger as the day went on. A.J. Smith is another proven commodity on draft day and had another solid weekend. Corey Liuget is a boom-or-bust guy. I like the skill position players that they grabbed and I thought they filled in around them with some real athletic talents.
San Francisco – C
Jim Harbaugh’s first draft was uninspiring. Aldon Smith could be a good pick. Colin Kaepernick was a wasted pick in Round 2. He’s not an NFL prospect, in my eyes, and they have so many other needs that I thought it was a terrible move. Chris Culliver and Kendal Hunter were solid pickups. The rest of the guys will likely be bagging groceries this time in 2013.
Seattle – C-
They had two reaches with their first two picks; but at least they were reaching for guys that will fit glaring needs. Beyond that I didn’t feel like they did a good job of adding players with upside or at least proven track records.
St. Louis – B
Robert Quinn was a nice pickup, although I think the Rams should’ve jumped on Prince Amukamara in the first round. I give the Rams credit for trying to load up on skill players. They know they need to give Sam Bradford something to work with. They addressed the secondary too late and they didn’t get any linemen. But they had a solid weekend.
Tampa Bay – B
So much of this draft will come down to what becomes of DaQuan Bowers. But he was worth the risk at the time that the Bucs took it. Even so, they were able to land some guys with a load of potential and some guys that can really grow on one of the up-and-coming rosters in the league.
Tennessee – C-
I have no idea what is going on with the Jake Locker pick. But hey, they must know something I don’t. Akeem Ayers was a solid find and watch for fifth round pick Karl Klug to step in and make an immediate impact. Past that they are at the whim of who works out and who doesn’t.
Washington – B
The Skins should get an ‘A’ just for the fact that they had so many picks. Nothing that they did really jumped out at me and they were able to make a move to gain more selections by trading with the Jaguars. They got younger in the backfield, they picked up a nice receiver prospect with Leonard Hankerson and I felt like they addressed areas of need. A rare solid draft weekend for this franchise.