The dust has settled on the 2011 NFL Draft. The three-day event from Radio City Music Hall began on Thursday evening and concluded on Saturday afternoon, and now that nearly 48 hours have passed since Mr. Irrelevant was selected as the 232nd and final pick in round seven, let's see if we can identify who we think are the big 'winners' and 'losers' by handing out some grades. Rather than try to hammer it all out at once, let's begin in the AFC North and assess how each of the Pittsburgh Steelers' divisional rivals fared over the weekend beginning with the hated Baltimore Ravens. . Before moving on, I encourage you to go back through the myriad posts written on the main page and in the fanposts since Thursday night -- there was quite a hefty volume of stuff written, and there were some interesting and lively discussions worth jumping into if you've not already had a chance.
AFC North Draft Grades
Baltimore Ravens (12-4 ; 4-2)
Total Draft picks: 8 (one per round + second 5th rounder)
First Round Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
By selecting Smith, the Ravens are obviously confident in their veteran leadership to keep Smith in line and focused on helping the Ravens inch closer to a breakthrough in the upcoming years playoffs. While Steeler Nation may be chuckling about the Ravens adding a 'thug' like Smith, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense will have a tougher time creating matchup problems for the Ravens secondary with their arsenal of skilled playmakers at wide receiver.
Best 'Need' Pick:
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Ravens may very well have believed that Smith was the highest rated player on their board when they were on the clock at No. 27, but the addition of Smith also fills a big need. The Ravens secondary needed a talented young body at CB in this draft. They got that in Smith. He migh over time cause some headaches for John Harbaugh and the organization, but in '11 at least before Smith has had time to run amok, he improves a Ravens secondary that gave up too many big plays down the field on defense last season. To conclude, let me say that I think that teams might be doing themselves a disservice by shying too far away from high-talent prospects because of character concerns. Red flags are red flags, but in those instances where there's a solid likelihood that the player keeps it together well enough to avoid prolonged suspensions or eroding the locker room chemistry, I think it's worth it to at times roll the dice. The Steelers don't win Super Bowl XLIII without Santonio Holmes, the New York Giants don't win SB XLII without Plaxico Burress etc. And in my opinion at least, even if the pick doesn't make it through two contracts before blowing up in your face, the pick can still be valuable one so long as they help you win while being paid relatively little during their rookie contract.
Best 'Value' Pick: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
Smith is a burner down the field, and a sure-handed quality route runner in the short and intermediate areas of the field. He could turn out to have every bit of a productive career as the the two stud WRs taken in the top ten of round one --AJ Green (3rd) and Julio Jones (6th). The Ravens got a lot more dangerous offensively and you better believe it's in an attempt to be able to finally get the upper hand over the Steelers' defense.
Biggest 'Boom/Bust/ Pick: Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State
McPhee is an athletic, fairly quick DE who made some plays against high quality competition in the SEC. Most folks like McPhee just fine as a prospect, but his performance on the bench press gives me pause. 20 reps ain't much for a guy that size, and I wonder how he'll be able to disengage from blocks against nasty NFL OL who know all the tricks in the book to engage defenders. If he can get stronger at the point of attack, he might be able to develop into a important complimentary defensive asset along the lines of what Brett Keisel has provided to Dick LeBeau's defense. I could also see him being a training camp casualty quite easily.
Least Inspiring Pick: Jah Reid, OT, Central Florida.
Reid certainly has the size and other physical tangibles to develop into a quality offensive tackle in the NFL, but he might find himself overwhelmed by the quality of pass rushers at the next level, especially in the two games each year that he squares off against the Steelers. I only qualify this as a 'boom/bust' pick because there's not a whole lot of grey area when it comes to assessing the impact an offensive tackle has on one's team. You're either a quality starter, a starter that hurts your team with regular mistakes, or you don't play much, if any, as a reserve. I think that's why there's such a massive difference in pay scale between the quality starters at OT and the rest of the lot. Anyway, current Ravens right tackle Marshall Yanda might hold off Reid in 2011, but with four years of accrued experience, he's approaching that time when the Ravens will have to make a decision about his future. Reid will either make that decision an easy or difficult one based on what Reid flashes this next year.
Sleeper Selection: Chykie Brown, DB, Texas
Brown needs some polish, but he's quite the athlete like his former teammate Curtis Brown. Brown could easily turn into a solid upgrade over Fabian Washington and Chris Carr. As we've discussed frequently in recent weeks, the need for reliable nickle back play is more important than ever in today's NFL. Brown might not be a 'shutdown' corner in the traditional sense of the word, but his skill set could lend itself nicely to a formidable secondary somewhere down the road.
2011 Impact Index***: 4.375 (Jimmy Smith = 7 ; Torrey Smith = 9; Jah Reid = 5 ; Tandon Doss = 5 ; Chykie Brown = 4 ; Pernell McPhee = 2 ; Tyrod Taylor = 1 ; Anthony Allen = 2
Projected 53-man survivors: 5 (J. Smith, T. Smith, Reid, Doss, Brown)
Overall Grade: A-/B+
Hate to say it, but I think the Ravens got a lot better in this year's draft. There's reason to believe that six or seven of their selections could stick and contribute at some point in the next few years, and with their top two selections, they acquired players that could become top-five type guys at their respective positions.
*** My 2011 Impact Index is an entirely made up and subjective assessment of which guys are likely to have an immediate impact, and to what degree, during the 2011 NFL season. I assigned a score of 1-10 to each selection, then divided the total by the number of picks. For example, in this instance, Jimmy Smith gets an 8 because he's almost certain to be a starter at CB, but given how tough the position is, I don't think it's realistic to think he'll not make some mistakes as a rookie while he acclimates to the NFL game. Meanwhile, Torrey Smith is also a lock to start for Baltimore along side Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. He not only has an opportunity to put up some big numbers himself, he also will make life a lot easier on the two veteran WRs because of the additional dimension he'll add to the passing game.