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Grading the Draft Part 1 our of 4 (AFC North and East edition)

With the 2011 NFL draft complete I can now go about giving initial grades to each and every pick of the draft. These grades will be revisited around this time next year. The AFC West and South will be out tomorrow hopefully or Monday. The two NFC posts will be out this week as well. First I want to set some basic grading rules:

Individual Player Grades

A+: A player that is an incredible value at a position of need that has pro bowl potential

A: A player that is a great value at a position of need OR a player that is an incredible value at a position that is not a huge need

B: A player that is a good value at a position of need OR a great value that is not a position of need

C: A player that is good value at a minor need OR a player that is great value at no need OR a player with immense potential at a position of future need

D: A player that is decent value at a position of no need OR a player that has bad value at a position of need OR a solid player that was over-drafted

F: A player that has no value at a position of no need OR a player that is a huge reach at a position of need OR a player that has no means being in the draft

Al Davis: A player with great speed that is over-drafted by 1 to 2 rounds (usually would grade out to a C)

Note: In the 6th round the lowest grade you can get is a D. In the 7th round regular picks, the lowest grade you can get is a D+. In the 7th round compensatory picks the lowest grade you can get is a C-

Team Grades:

A: A team filled all/most of their needs without reaching at any pick and got one or more steals

B: A team filled most/all of their needs but reached on some of their picks and failed to get a major steal

C: A team did not fill most of their needs or reached to fill those needs with less than two major steals

D: A team filled none or very few of their needs and reached to do those and failed to draft good players at non needs

F: A team filled no needs, reached for players, picked bad scheme fits, and traded away future picks.

Without further ado, here it is.

 

AFC North: 

Cleveland Browns

Round 1 Pick 21: Phil Taylor, NT/DT, Baylor:

Grade B-  Immediately after the Browns made this pick, I began to wonder if they actually are switching to a 4-3. If they are, this pick is a C. If they are going to instead stay in a 3-4, this pick is an A-. I settle in between and give it a B-. Would have been a B but they decided to trade up from 27 to 21 when I think he would have still been there.

Round 2 Pick 5: Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, PIttsburgh:

Grade: B-  Again, as soon as this pick was made, I questioned if they were switching to a 4-3 or not. After these 1st two picks, I think they will stay in a 3-4. Sheard would make a great 3-4 OLB so this would be a solid pick. However, if they are switching to a 4-3, this is a terrible pick.

Round 2 Pick 27: Greg Little, WR, UNC:

Grade: B- Little apparently has incredible potential but I don't see it. He is a locker room nightmare that just has great measurables. He has never produced up to the standard he should at UNC. However, if he pans out he could be a solid #2 option. The Browns still lack a #1 WR on their team.

Round 4 Pick 5: Jordan Cameron, TE, USC:

Grade: C  This is a pick I really don't like. TE was not a big need at all and Cameron is a 2 to 3 year development. Not a good use of this pick.

Round 4 Pick 28: Owen Marecic, FB/LB/ST, Stanford:

Grade: B  This is a solid pick. The Browns wanted to land a FB in this draft and they got the best one in the draft. It is a slight reach but he is such a rare player that he is worth it.

Round 5 Pick 5: Buster Skrine, CB, Tennessee Chattanooga:

Grade: B+   A very good late round addition for the Browns. Skrine has unreal speed but still needs to develop his coverage skills and tackling ability.

Round 5 Pick 19: Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh:

Grade: A-  This is a very good 5th round pickup. I had Pinkston as a Day 2 pick so the Browns are getting great value. Add in the fact that RT is a big need and you get an A grade.

Round 7 Pick 47: Eric Hagg, SS, Nebraska:

Grade: B  Another good late round pickup. Hagg is a ball-hawking safety that makes huge hits. He needs to refine his coverage skills but that can be taught.

Team Grade: B- This is a tough draft to grade. If the Browns are switching to a 4-3, then this is a C draft. If they are staying in a 3-4, then this is an A- draft. Add in late round picks of Skrine, Pinkston, and Hagg and you have a very solid draft. However, with the uncertainty up top and the character concerns of Taylor, Sheard, and Little and it can only get a B- grade.

Cincinnati Bengals

Round 1 Pick 4: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia:

Grade: A+  If Carson Palmer wants to come back, he certainly has a good reason. Green is as impressive of a prospect as there is in this draft. He has great measurables, great work ethic, great attitude, and great intangibles. Awesome pick.

Round 2 Pick 3: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU:

Grade: A  Is this really possible? Are the Bengals putting together a future. Dalton to Green could become a great combination in the future. Whether Dalton spends a year behind Palmer or he starts right away this is still a very good pick.

Round 3 Pick 2: Dontay Moch, OLB/DE, Nevada:

Grade: C Oh, you just knew they would blow it eventually. Here is the 1st typical Bengals pick. An incredible athlete that has no business being in a 4-3. He is 240 pounds. How is he supposed to play 4-3 DE at that weight? He can't be a 4-3 OLB because he has no coverage skills. His only position is 3-4 OLB so this pick is just terrible.

Round 4 Pick 4: Clint Boling, OG, Georgia:

Grade: A  Boling is a good guard prospect that could be a long term starter in the NFL. I don't know how he fell to the 4th round. Most had him as a 2nd to 3rd round pick so it is a steal at the top of the 4th round.

Round 5 Pick 3: Robert Sands, SS, WVU:

Grade: B   Sands is really a SS in a LB's body. However, you can't deny his ball skills, speed, and athleticism. If he refines his coverage skills he could be a great pick.

Round 6 Pick 2: Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford:

Grade: D+  This is the only bad pick of the draft. Whalen was thought of as an UDFA or 7th round pick and with much better WR options available this pick leaves me scratching my head.

Round 7 Pick 4: Korey Lindsay, CB, Southern Illinois:

Grade: B- Lindsay has decent size and speed but needs to improve both his zone and man defense. He is a great tackler. Sounds a lot like Bryant McFadden and if he turns out to be equal to BMAC, this grade will go way up.

Round 7 Pick 45: Jay Finley, RB, Baylor:

Grade: C+ This pick fills a need as Benson might be gone but not with the best available back. Cooper, Devine, and some other talented backs were still available.

Team Grade: B  The draft started very well with three A's out of their 1st 4 picks but then went down hill. The only good late round pick was Robert Sands and even that one has potential to be bad. However, they still got a great QB/WR pair for the future and a very good guard.

Baltimore Ravens:

Round 1 Pick 27: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado:

Grade: B+ Apparently, he is as good of a corner as Patrick Peterson according to some people. However, he is actually nowhere near that level. He is a solid, but not great, corner prospect with a terrible attitude and a bad character. Still, his immense talent and potential keep this as a B+.

Round 2 Pick 26: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland:

Grade: A  Smith is a very solid pick here. He gives them a true deep threat (that Flacco and Cam Cameron won't be able to utilize but that is besides the point) that can complement there older, slower, receivers.

Round 3 Pick 21: Jah Reid, OT, UCF:

Grade: C-  I started laughing when I saw this. The Ravens need a LT of the future yet they trade up to take a RT. When he would have still been there 5 picks later. I know, it is really funny. Him and Oher now give them two decent RT's and no LT's. Lamaar Woodely is licking his chops.

Round 4 Pick 26: Tandon Doss, WR, Indiana:

Grade: A  The Ravens got incredible value with both of their WR's. Doss is very similar to Smith in that they both have big play ability. That gives them two speed WR's that Flacco and Cameron won't use right. However, you can't deny the value here.

Round 5 Pick 33: Chykie Brown, CB, Texas:

Grade: C+  Have you heard of nickel college corners getting drafted? It is not a common occurrence however Brown is not a bad pick. However, he is a minor reach and does not fill a big need.

Round 5 Pick 34: Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State:

Grade: B  McPhee is good value but I don't see him fitting into a 3-4. He lacks the size to play DE and lacks the athleticism to play OLB. The only reason this grade is so high is that it is a major steal.

Round 6 Pick 15: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech:

Grade: C   Trading up to get a backup QB is not a good decision. Especially a backup QB that is 3 to 4 years away from being ready to be a reliable backup.

Round 7 Pick 24: Anthony Allen, RB, Georgia Tech:

Grade: B-   Allen is a power, down-hill runner that could replace Willis McGahee. Good investment here.

Team Grade: B   They took a big chance in round 1 with Jimmy Smith. If he pans out he could be a good #1 corner. If he doesn't, he is a huge round 1 bust. To low of floor for my liking. However, their round 2 and 4 WR picks were awesome. Reaching for Reid in round 3 is not good. However, the Ravens filled most of their needs and this draft merits a B grade but most "experts" will be giving them an A.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Round 1 Pick 31: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State:

Grade: A-   Heyward was the best player available and filled a big long and short term need. The Steelers needed a backup to Brett Keisel in-case he got hurt and also needed his long-term replacement. Heyward grew up a Steelers fan which is a plus. Also, he has played a 5-tech at Ohio State which is another plus. Add in his 4 years of production, great attitude, great work ethic, high ceiling and high floor and you get a very good pick. Colbert strikes gold here.

Round 2 Pick 63: Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida:

Grade B  Another very solid pick. While many of us wanted to get Curtis Brown or Brandon Burton here (see below) this was our best option. Colbert clearly knew that the CB's would fall to us in round 3 but it was obvious that a tackle prospect like Gilbert would not be there. He can play RG, RT, and LT. I think he will begin as either our RT or RG depending on who wins the RT battle between he and Colon. Is he our future at LT? I don't think so but it is definitely a possibility.

Round 3 Pick 31: Curtis Brown, CB, Texas:

Grade: A-  The player many of us wanted in round 2 and we get him in round 3 without moving up. Colbert is a genius. Brown has incredible potential, great athleticism, is a great character, and can also play special teams. I think drafting him means the end of Willie Gay and Anthony Madison in Pittsburgh. He will replace Gay as our nickel corner and will replace Madison as a special teams ace. In a couple years, he could become a great #2 corner.

Round 4 Pick 31: Cortez Allen, CB, Citadel:

Grade: B+   Allen is a solid pick again. He has the potential to be a great #2 corner and will contribute right away either as a nickel or dime corner.

Round 5 Pick 31: Chris Carter, DE/OLB, Fresno State:

Grade: A-   Carter is a big-time pass rusher coming out of the WAC. He has 3-4 OLB size and could become our replacement for Lamaar Woodely if we don't resign him. If we do, the Carter is a nice 3rd down pass rusher for the Steelers.

Round 6 Pick 31: Keith Williams, OG, Nebraska:

Grade: A-  Williams was one of my highest rated guards in this draft. 6th to be exact. He gives the Steelers great value and fills a huge need. He could become a starting RG as soon as 2012. At worst he is a solid backup guard.

Round 7 Pick 31: Baron Batch, RB, Texas Tech:

Grade: A-  The Steelers find their replacement to MeMo. Batch is Memo 2.0 as he is a great pass catcher, blocker, and speed back. He will save them about 2 million dollars by replacing Memo.

Team Grade: A-   The Steelers quietly put together one of the best drafts in the league. They filled their 6 biggest needs without reaching anywhere and got players with high floors and high ceilings. Low risk draft that could end up being on the level of the 2010 draft.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Round 1 Pick 3: Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama:

Grade: A The Bills get the best player in the draft on the defensive line. He gives them a formidable pair of tackles with Williams there as well. Also, he can play multiple positions in the Bills Hybrid defense. He can play 4-3 DT, 3-4 DE, and 3-4 NT so he is a great pick.

Round 2 Pick 2: Aaron Williams, CB/FS, Texas:

Grade: B+ Williams is a solid pick but not sure why he was taken. I think Dalton should have been the pick but I think they trust Fitzpatrick. Still, Williams has the potential to be a great FS in this league.

Round 3 Pick 4: Kelvin Sheppard, ILB/OLB, LSU:

Grade: B   Another very solid pick. Sheppard, like Dareus, gives them positional flexibility. When they are in a 3-4, he can come off the edge as a pass rusher. When they are in a 4-3, he can play the MLB spot and cover the RB's. Good pick.

Round 4 Pick 3: Da'Norris Searcy, S, UNC:

Grade: C   Why did they draft two players in the 1st 4 rounds that project as safety's and not address rush OLB or OT. Searcy was also a reach here.

Round 4 Pick 26: Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson:

Grade: A-  This is a very good pick. Hairston can be a LT or RT in the NFL. He has huge potential and with good coaching he could become a good tackle.

Round 5 Pick 2: Johnny White, RB, UNC:

Grade: D+   Why take a 7th round RB when there are much better RB's available? Plus, they have Spiller and Jackson already. Bad pick.

Round 6 Pick 4: Chris White, ILB, Mississippi State:

Grade: B-  White has a lot of potential and is a solid pick. He is also very good value. However, he is not filling a big need as they already took Kelvin Sheppard.

Round 7 Pick 3: Justin Rodgers, CB, Richmond:

Grade: B-  Rodgers has a lot of potential but they took their 3rd pick for the secondary here. If they were going to take 3 players at one position, it should have been on the OL.

Round 7 Pick 44: Michael Jasper, DT, Bethel:

Grade: B-   Jasper is a huge player that can be a run stuffer. Right now he will only play in goal-line situations but in a couple years, he could be a starting DT/NT. Him, Williams, and Dareus give them  a very good DT rotation.

Team Grade: B-  The Bills failed to address the OL until the 4th round. That alone keeps this from being any sort of A. However, you can't deny that Dareus is a great player. Williams in round 2 is good. However, taking 2 LB's and 3 secondary players was not good as only one of each was truly needed. I think a B- is generous as this could easily be a C.

Miami Dolphins

Round 1 Pick 15: Mike Pouncey, OG/OC, Florida:

Grade: B+ My friend is a Dolphins fan and summed it up best. "If Pouncey becomes a great Pro Bowl Guard or Center the Dolphins offense is still average. If he busts, the Dolphins offense is still average. However, if they take Mallet or Ingram and they become a great player, the Dolphins offense become above average to good. If Mallet or Ingram bust, the Dolphins offense is still average. So why not take the player who can make the bigger impact?" However, Pouncey is still a very solid pick.

Round 2 Pick 30: Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State:

Grade: B+ One of my favorite players in the draft, Thomas gives them an explosive, powerful runner that can change the game. He can wear you down running up the gut but also bounce it outside and take it to the house. Very solid pick.

Round 4 Pick 14: Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian:

Grade: A   Gates is as explosive of a WR as their was in this draft. He gives Chad Henne a great weapon.

Round 6 Pick 9: Charles Clay, FB, Tulsa:

Grade:B   Clay is a FB that can catch passes, run the ball, and block. He was the best pure FB in the draft and is great value here.

Round 7 Pick 28: Frank Kearse, DT/NT, Alabama A&M:

Grade: B  Kearse is a huge body that could bolster the Dolphins run defense. He is a project but could pay big dividends in a couple years.

Round 7 Pick 34: Jimmy Wilson, CB, Montana:

Grade: B- Wilson has a good story but is also a good football player. He could become a solid nickel corner so it is a solid pick here.

Team Grade: B   None of their picks were great but none were bad either. No reaches in this draft and one steal in Gates. They did not draft a QB so they must like Henne.

New England Patriots

Round 1 Pick 17: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado:

Grade: C   This was the beginning of a terrible 3 rounds for the Pats. Solder is a huge project and is likely 2 to 3 years away from even being solid at tackle. He has immense potential but to low of a floor especially with Ingram, Jordan, and Wilkerson still on the board.

Round 2 Pick 1: Ras I Dowling, CB, Virginia:

Grade: B  This was there only decent pick of the first 3 rounds and even this was decent. Dowling is a reach anywhere before 40. Also, he does not fill a big need. The Pats still need an OG, DE, OLB, and WR before they should think about a corner.

Round 2 Pick 24: Shane Vereen, RB, California:

Grade: C-  With Mikel Leshoure still on the board, the Pats decide to take Vereen, a 3rd round prospect. Pretty bad pick. However, Vereen has good potential and could end up making me look stupid.

Round 3 Pick 9: Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU:

Grade: F  One RB is fine but why two? And why take a 5th to 6th round prospect. I have no idea what the Pats are going to do with 4 average RB's. This was truly a terrible pick.

Round 3 Pick 10: Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas:

Grade: C-  And they follow it up with another horrible pick. Mallet is not going to be content to sit on the bench for 4 to 5 years, which he will have to do. Only thing saving this from being an F is that he has good trade value down the line. However, why did the Pats decide to ignore their needs at OG, DE, and OLB through the 1st 3 rounds? Who knows. Bellicheck is not a genius.

Round 5 Pick 7: Marcus Cannon, OG/OT, TCU:

Grade: A  Cannon was defnitely their best pick of the draft. He has 2nd round talent and fell because of treatable cancer. Very good pick.

Round 5 Pick 28: Lee Smith, TE, Marshall:

Grade: F   Smith was a reach in round 5 and fills no need. Just another terrible pick. I am starting to sound like a broken record addressing these Pats picks.

Round 7 Pick 16: Malcolm Williams, CB/S, TCU:

Grade: B   Why did they take a 2nd corner? I have no idea but they took the 728th ranked player on Scouts Inc so this is a reach and fills no need.

Team Grade: C   The Patriots failed epically to take advantage of their plethora of picks. Solder at 17 has too big of a bust potential. Dowling is a slight reach and does not fill a big need. Their 2 RB picks are questionable at best. Nothing wrong with Vereen in the 2nd but Ridley in the 3rd is a 2 round reach and why do they want 4 RB's on their roster. Cannon was their only good pick of the draft. Another TE? Another CB? Terrible draft. And don't even get me started on Ryan Mallet.

New York Jets

Round 1 Pick 30: Muhammed Wilkerson, DE, Temple:

Grade: A  Wilkerson was 22nd on my big board so he is great value here. He fills a big need at DE and gives the Jets a decent pass rusher who can also be run support. Good addition for Rex Ryan.

Round 3 Pick 30: Kendrick Ellis, NT, Hampton:

Grade: A-  I want to grade this pick much lower but I can't because it was good value. Ellis has a lot of potential, but he is a locker room cancer, not a hard worker, and played against bad competition. If Jets fans think he will start this year, they are really wrong. He is a project. Two years, and he could be great. But not yet.

Round 4 Pick 29: Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville:

Grade: C  Very shaky pick as I see him being cut. They already have 3 good RB's so I don't know where he fits.

Round 5 Pick 22: Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU:

Grade: A-   Kerley was a very good pickup this late in the draft. In the event that Holmes, Edwards, or both are gone, Kerley gives them a good weapon. He is a slot receiver but could be a very high level slot receiver for Sanchez.

Round 7 Pick 5: Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama:

Grade: B   This is a good pick. Sanchez had no backup QB and McElroy has the tools to be a great backup or potential starter. If he develops really well, he becomes great trade bait as a starting QB. Very good investment here.

Round 7 Pick 24: Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado:

Grade: D+  The Jets end with a bad pick. There were better WR prospects on the board and I don't think they should double dip on WR's. Do they think they are not getting Holmes or Edwards back? If so, they should have taken Terrance Tolliver.

Team Grade: B     - The Jets made good use of their first two picks addressing DL and adding a pass rush. They had two decent day 3 picks and two bad day 3 picks.

 

That ends part one of my draft analysis for the NFL. As I said earlier the other three parts will be out by the end of the week and then I will move on to more analysis of the Steelers draft. Enjoy.

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