Back to the Lockout

Grading every team in the NFL Draft: Denver's the biggest winner, 49ers lose large & Texans get seconds

Grading every team in the NFL Draft: Denver's the biggest winner, 49ers lose large & Texans get seconds

Von Miller
Von Miller helps the Denver Broncos emerge as the NFL Draft's ultimate winner.
NFL Draft Roger Goodell
The Draft offered a brief — with the emphasis on brief — from the uncertainty of the NFL lockout.
Von Miller
NFL Draft Roger Goodell

While acknowledging that the uncertainty of free agency in this lockout riddle of an offseason makes everything uncertain and incomplete, let's look at how all 32 teams did in the NFL Draft.

ARIZONA: It’s hard to argue with Patrick Peterson, who brings dynamic playmaking ability in the first round. The Cards also got perhaps the draft’s most complete running back in Ryan Williams. But they get docked a bit for failing to address the pass rush until taking Sam Acho, who’ll be learning linebacker on the fly. GRADE: B+

ATLANTA: The selection of wide receiver Julio Jones, and how much the Falcons traded away to climb up the draft and get him, indicates that Atlanta is ready to turn the ball over to Matt Ryan and become a more passing-oriented team. They might have to be to win slugfests, because the mediocre defense got little help. Mighty mite running back Jacquizz Rodgers was an intriguing fifth round pick. GRADE: B-

BALTIMORE: Picking where the Ravens were late in the first round, taking a chance on cornerback Jimmy Smith was a necessary gamble. He comes with character questions but also the potential to be as good as any defensive back in the draft. The Ravens also did a nice job boosting the receiving corps, with hometown boy Torrey Smith (from Maryland) and sure-handed Tandon Doss. GRADE: B

BUFFALO: While defensive end Marcell Darius may not do a lot to improve the pass rush, putting him next to sturdy nose tackle Kyle Williams should make the Bills defense less of a sieve against the run. They also did a nice job grabbing a solid corner at the top of the second round in Texas A&M’s Aaron Williams. It also looks like Ryan Fitzpatrick is safe at QB, which was the right move considering his play last year. GRADE: B

CAROLINA: Obviously, the Panthers are putting just about all of their eggs for this draft in Cam Newton’s basket. I personally think that it could be a rocky indoctrination into the league for him. They did take two defensive tackles in the third round to address a need, but they were hampered by the lack of a second round pick and failed to get much value in later rounds. GRADE: C+

CHICAGO: The Bears first few picks definitely filled out positions of need (offensive line, defensive line), but the players they got were a bit pedestrian. In addition, they traded up in the second round to get defensive tackle Stephen Paea, an unpolished defensive tackle from Oregon State, which cost them a fourth rounder. There’s not a lot of oomph on this list. GRADE: C+

CINCINNATI: Since Carson Palmer put the Bengals over the barrel, they had no choice but to grab a quarterback, which they did with Andy Dalton in the second round. But they also managed to get a premiere wideout in A.J. Green, and they nabbed potential starters in the fourth (guard Clint Boling) and fifth round (safety Robert Sands.) The youth movement is in full effect in Cincy. GRADE: A-

CLEVELAND: The Browns got a little bit of everything, although it’s debatable whether or not they’re all a good fit. For example, they nabbed massive defensive tackle Phil Taylor in round one, but how well will he fit in a 4-3? They also got wide receiver Greg Little, who’s loaded with talent and character questions. Throw in fullback fullback Owen Marecic, who played both ways at Stanford, and you see it was an odd haul. GRADE: B-

DALLAS: Jerry Jones and company had to decide in the first round whether the defensive backfield or the offensive line was the bigger problem area. They went with the latter, grabbing USC’s Tyson Smith to replace Marc Colombo at right tackle. That means they have to hope that their secondary can turn the page with the same crew they had a year ago. GRADE: B-

DENVER: I really liked what they did for the past three days. In Von Miller, they have a pass rusher to put opposite Elvis Dumervil and give offenses fits. Meanwhile, they nabbed perhaps the two top safeties in the draft (Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter) to fill an area of desperate need. The Broncos also added an interesting sleeper in former college hoops player Julius Thomas at tight end. GRADE: A

DETROIT: Defensive tackle Nick Fairley fell for a reason, although, if he keeps his head on straight, he and Ndamukong Suh will be a hellacious tandem. They added wide receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure in the second round even though their defensive back seven and offensive line needed more help, and trading up cost them third and fourth-round picks on a team with little depth. GRADE: B-

GREEN BAY: When you’re drafting last, you have to temper expectations a bit, but the defending champs did a good job filling out the few needs that they have. Top pick Derek Sherrod will be insurance for their aging offensive tackles, wideout Randal Cobb will help if James Jones doesn’t return and Alex Green is the kind of unheralded running back that does well with Green Bay. GRADE: B

HOUSTON: It was defense, defense, and more defense for the Texans, and you can’t blame them. I actually think that their second pick, Brooks Reed, can have more impact than their top selection, J.J. Watt, once he learns the ropes at outside linebacker. Three new defensive backs, led by second round corner Brandon Harris, shore up a major problem area. GRADE: B-

INDIANAPOLIS: This is another team that went after all needs, which means that the draft might not have been sexy, but it likely will be effective. The Colts added two offensive linemen (Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana) with their top two picks who fit their mold of mobile pass protectors. I also like the late selection of running back Delone Carter, who brings some grit to their running game. GRADE: B+

JACKSONVILLE: After several ineffectual drafts, the Jags decided to go big with the trade up for quarterback Blaine Gabbert. What this means for David Garrard is anybody’s guess, but it did mean that the picks given up for Gabbert made the rest of the draft for Jacksonville a bit sparse. What picks they did have were spent on small-school players that may take years to develop. GRADE: C+

KANSAS CITY: The Chiefs 2010 draft was so brilliant that it helped propel them to an unlikely division title. Alas, 2011 doesn’t look like it will have the similar impact. They failed to add some badly-needed muscle on the front line, instead stretching for wideout Jonathan Baldwin. At least they added some picks through trades and found a developmental quaterback late in Ricky Stanzi. GRADE: C+

MIAMI: Most experts had the Dolphins taking a runner in the first round, but they wisely realized that there wasn’t any value at that position at pick 15. Instead, they nabbed the best interior offensive lineman in the draft in Mike Pouncey. They then traded to get into the second round to pick Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas as a possible new feature back. GRADE: B

MINNESOTA: While Christian Ponder may indeed fit their new West Coast offense, the Vikes could have had him much later on. Still, they managed to get great value in the second round with Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph. They also did a nice job getting some extra picks via trade to fill some of their many needs. A pair of sixth rounders (linebacker Ross Homan and center Brandon Fusco) could be steals. GRADE: B

NEW ENGLAND: On the positive side, adding a pair of high picks next year should help financially if a rookie cap is installed, and two offensive tackles chosen this year (Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon) yield depth. On the negative side, two middling running backs and quarterback Ryan Mallett seem to be wasteful picks in the middle rounds. GRADE: B-

NEW ORLEANS: The Saints ended up with two first rounders and two third rounders, but they didn’t quite maximize the potential impact of those picks. Defensive end Cameron Jordan was a solid pick at an area of need, but Mark Ingram, whom they traded up to get, gives them yet another tailback with health issues. A third round pick of cornerback Johnny Patrick ignored a glaring need at linebacker. GRADE: C+

NEW YORK GIANTS: Give credit to the Giants, who have had a spotty recent draft history, for sticking with value in the first two rounds. Although they had bigger needs than cornerback and defensive tackle, Prince Awukamara and Marvin Austin both have Pro Bowl-level talent. The rest of their picks were a bit spotty, and they failed to get help for the middle of the offensive line. GRADE: B

NEW YORK JETS: The quest for help on the defensive line led to the Jets’ taking two right off the bat. First rounder Muhammad Wilkerson doesn’t seem like a game changer, but third rounder Kenrick Ellis could be a standout nose tackle if he can keep his weight under control. I liked the late selection of Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, who is going to prove he can play in this league. GRADE: C+

OAKLAND: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Al Davis likes speed. As a result, the Raiders, who were the only NFL team lacking a first round pick, seemed to reach for guys with limited skill sets just because they could burn. The team’s top pick, center Stefan Wisniewski, should help at a position of need, but there were some typical head scratchers after that. GRADE: C

PHILADELPHIA: There were some nice picks sprinkled throughout, but overall this draft for the Eagles seemed to be more about quantity, with 11 picks, than quality. First-round guard Danny Watkins is 26 years old, which might make him more ready to step in early even if it limits his potential. Linebacker Casey Matthews has the right bloodlines to be a productive steal in the fourth round. GRADE: B-

PITTSBURGH: The Steelers waited until the third rounded to address their battered secondary, although, in their defense, all of the big-name defensive backs were gone when their pick came up in round one. They did get a solid defensive end in Cameron Heyward to provide depth on the line and grabbed defensive backs in rounds three and four to compensate. GRADE: B-

SAN DIEGO: This looks like a draft of wasted opportunities for the Lightning Bolts. They made an excellent first round choice with rugged defensive end Corey Liuget, but their two second rounders and two third rounders all seemed to be picked a bit high for their projections. None of them look like impact players anytime soon. GRADE C-

SAN FRANCISCO: What in the world was going on here? Aldon Smith was taken about 10 picks too early, and then they traded up to get quarterback Colin Kaepernick, apparently forgetting that Alex Smith also came from an unconventional college offense. Kendall Hunter becomes the latest in a seemingly endless group of runners picked up to try and spell Frank Gore. GRADE: D

SEATTLE: How in the world did the Seahawks fail to pick a quarterback in a draft lousy with them? They also neglected to grab a speedy receiver, so they’re looking at another year of dink-and-dunk all the way down the field, or at least until they have to punt. And the ‘Hawks could have waited another round before taking top pick James Carpenter. Yikes. GRADE: C-

ST. LOUIS: The Rams knew they wouldn’t be able to get one of the stud receivers, so they took a wise approach. Defensive end Robert Quinn could be an elite pass rusher a few years down the road, so the Rams took him even though it wasn’t a need position. They then added a pair of excellent targets for Sam Bradford: H-Back type Lance Kendricks and consummate route runner Austin Pettis. GRADE:  A-

TAMPA BAY: The Bucs draft looked like it was run by a computer:  Input need, output pick. Adrian Clayborn is the top pick, but this draft might hinge on the performance and the health of fellow defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, whose stock dropped due to a balky knee. One need pick that could pay off is tackling machine Mason Foster in round three. GRADE: B-

TENNESSEE: Jake Locker might just get the ball in Week One, considering the state of the quarterback situation in Tennessee. The Titans almost had no choice but to take a QB. Whether Locker outplays Blaine Gabbert is another matter. Getting high-quality linebackers for their next two picks should help to shore up a serious problem area. GRADE: B+

WASHINGTON: Can this be? The Skins actually had some draft picks at their disposal and made them well? Amazing. There is some concern about whether top pick Ryan Kerrigan can make the switch to outside linebacker, but his pass rush skills should translate. They also filled need positions with solid players in the next few rounds. GRADE: A-