The NFL Draft has now come and gone. Some teams made off with superb picks, blue chip players for the next few years; while other teams came away holding little more than air. (They don’t know it yet though)
We’ve got every team listed below with the grade I’ve given them for their draft. While some of these may be biased, after watching the season, come on back and tell me if I was wrong. I don’t think I’m going to be too far off.
Let’s get to the grades!
- Arizona Cardinals: B- I know that Fitz wanted Michael Floyd, and he’s a good athlete, but after him the talent from this draft class drops off considerably. With no second round pick, the Cards sought value when they could and managed to pick up a decent corner in Jamell Fleming. However, the other picks they scrounged up in the later rounds probably won’t have an impact for a long time, if ever.
- Atlanta Falcons: B+ I think the impact of Julio Jones from last year was definitely still haunting the Falcons in the 2012 draft. That said, they came away with Wisconsin center Peter Konz and a slew of players that can effectively grow under a team that has some brilliant starters and a great coaching staff. I really like the pick of Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing.
- Baltimore Raves: B+ The Ravens traded out of the first and still ended up with OLB Courtney Upshaw. He’ll serve them well. The rest of the picks seem to be hopes and dreams mostly, but the offensive line will be effectively bolstered by OT Kelechi Osemele and OG Gino Gradkowski.
- Buffalo Bills: A The Bills had a phenomenal draft in 2012. CB Stephon Gilmore will be a great corner for them, and getting OT Cordy Glenn in the second was a steal. I think Glenn could have gone in the first and the Bills were absolutely right to pick him up.
- Carolina Panthers: B The Panthers flipped the bird to the rest of the league when they picked Luke Kuechly early in the first. They followed him up with a true first round guard in Amini Silatolu in the second and then proceeded to do little to address need later in the rounds. I commend them on sticking with their draft board though!
- Chicago Bears: A- The bears got three starters in the first three rounds. DE Shea McClellin was a phenomenal pick in the first, WR Alshon Jeffery in the second will finally give Jay Cutler a real target, and SS Brandon Hardin will provide very good depth at a position the front office probably isn’t settled with but currently does well. Look for Hardin to start at least one game in 2012 if not more. Fourth Round’s Evan Rodriguez could be incredibly handle for Cutler if they’re both healthy.
- Cincinnati Bengals: A The Bengals got four first round talents in the first three rounds. CB Dre Kirkpatrick, OG Kevin Zeitler, DT Devon Still (Love him!), and WR Mohamed Sanu (Who I also love!) all should have gone in the first, instead Stilland Sanu slid into the second and third respectively and the Bengals happily snatched them up. Looks like the Carson Palmer trade is already starting to pay off.
- Cleveland Browns: A I don’t care what you say, Brandon Weeden was the right pick in the first and best pick the Browns have made in a long time (including RB Trent Richardson before Weeden). Weeden, Richardson, OT Mitchell Schwartz (2nd round), and DT John Hughes (3rd round) will all make impacts this year and probably for years to come. I’m really high on Brandon Weeden and think anybody who says he was too old or not skilled enough can eat crow when the Browns return to the playoffs. Was that a season prediction? Yes, yes it was.
- Dallas Cowboys: B The Cowboys surprisingly traded up for CB Morris Claiborne and will reap the benefits for the next few years. Third round pick DE Tyrone Crawford was a very good pick and should develop into a solid player in a year or two. Look for fifth round pick WR Danny Coale will look great if Tony Romo can hit him, but he won’t make Romo look stellar. Not exactly a difference maker, but could be good.
- Denver Broncos: C- The Broncos have an odd draft class. They filled their holes on both sides of the ball with players that were not very highly rated by almost everyone. They left great players like Jerel Worthy and Devon Still on the board in favor of DT Derek Wolfe. I do like the pick of RB Ronnie Hillman in the third though. But that’s about it.
- Detroit Lions: B+ The Lions started the draft with a great selection in offensive tackle Riley Reiff. They then fell flat. Not in a bad way, just in a “hmmmm, would I have done that?” way. I love WR Ryan Broyles in the second, but think they may have paid a bit much for him. Also, despite CB Dwight Bentley and DE Ronnell Lewis in the third and fourth, I don’t think they got “back on track” with really good picks until CB Chris Greenwood in the fifth. Not a bad draft by any means though.
- Green Bay Packers: A The Packers lucked out by getting DE Nick Perry in the first and followed him up with DT Jerel Worthy and CB Casey Hayward in the second. Iowa’s Mike Daniels will be great for rotation at defensive tackle. All around, the Packers just kept getting value, value, value. But they’ve been doing this forever.
- Houston Texans: B- The Texans have been solid drafters lately, but I just don’t see this one paying off like the others. OLB Whitney Mercilus was a great first round pick, but the picks in the third WR DeVier Posey and OG Brandon Brooks seem a tad questionable. Especially if the team is supposed to be reestablishing a great line after being picked apart during free agency. The fourth round picks, C Ben Jones and DT Jared Crick are widely speculated to be long time players though. Could be another good year.
- Indianapolis Colts: A It’s hard not to give the Colts an A this year. QB Andrew Luck (1st), TE Coby Fleener (2nd and Luck’s college teammate), TE Dwayne Allen (3rd), and WRs T.Y. Hilton (3rd) and LaVon Brazill (6th) will help out in a wide receiving corps that was mostly good because of Peyton Manning.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: B The Jags may have had a B- draft, but I think that the prospects will pan out a lot better than many. WR Justin Blackmon will be superb. Yes, some people question his ability to be a playmaker, but everyone discounted Carolina’s Steve Smith too. Blackmon will be competing for records in a few years. Mark my words. DE Andre Branch adds much needed size and skill opposite Jeremy Mincey. 3rd round’s Bryan Anger was the surprise of the draft. We’ll have to see if he was really worth it. If Adam Podlesh hadn’t left last offseason the Jags wouldn’t have had to draft Anger. The final three rounds added depth at OLB with Brandon Marshall, CB Mike Harris, and DT Jeris Pendleton.
- Kansas City Chiefs: B+ Dontari Poe was a great pick in the first round, and I really like second round’s Ot Jeff Allen. Fourth round’s WR Devon Wylie looks very nice as well. I’m digging what the Chiefs have going on.
- Miami Dolphins: B OK, I like Brandon Weeden more than Ryan Tannehill. I like him even more since he wasn’t picked eighth overall. The Dolphins came away with some solid picks in OT Jonathan Martin, TE Michael Egnew, RB Lamar Miller, and a wide receiver who could surprise in Michigan State’s B.J. Cunningham in the sixth.
- Minnesota Vikings: B+ The Vikings started great with OT Matt Kalil and FS Harrison Smith. The team then went out and got players who could contribute throughout the year in some way. CB Josh Robinson could start through the year. It’ll be curious to see if this will help Christian Ponder enough to make the team competitive in the tough NFC North.
- New England Patrios: B+ I just don’t think Bill Belichick knows how to build a very good defense. That said, his first two picks of DE Chandler Jones and ILB Dont’a Hightower should help solve that problem. I can’t believe CB Alfonzo Dennard fell to the seventh round. The Pats were right to pick him up.
- New Orleans Saints: B The Saints had a good draft! Seriously, no first or second round picks hurt, but WR Nick Toon was a phenomenal grab in the fourth and Akiem Hicks could pay off. It’ll be curious to see how the Saints draftees will do without proper scheming from Sean Payton all year.
- New York Giants: B The Giants took RB David Wilson in the first which wasn’t what a lot of people were thinking they would do. WR Reuben Randle in the second was a very good pick though and OT Brandon Mosley will work out in the long run. Good work New York.
- New York Jets: B+ If Quinton Coples pans out this draft class will be even more impressive. Why do players with poor work ethics always go to teams with a reputation for not being able to create a good locker room atmosphere? Weird. Coples will be good though, WR Stephen Hill could help Sanchez (or Tebow?) look really good. OLB Demario Davis will also be a good player in a pretty decent linebacking corps.
- Oakland Raiders: B- Being on the wrong end of the Carson Palmer trade isn’t helpful. Utah’s OT Tony Bergstrom should fill in well though. Other than that, there was little the Raiders could do besides add depth and hope for the best.
- Philadelphia Eagles: A I really like what Andy Reid and Co. did in this draft. Getting DT Fletcher Cox and DE Vinny Curry in the first two rounds was a great move. Cox will be in this league for a long time and Curry should make an impact immediately. Every one of their picks should still be in the league in four years and almost all of them will play for the Eagles this coming year. Well done Philly!
- Pittsburgh Steelers: A Like the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers did a good job of getting value with every one of their picks. G David DeCastro and OT Mike Adams will bolster the offensive line (you know, the one that lets Ben Roethlisberger get hit so much) immediately. RB Chris Rainey in the fifth will be a tremendous addition to the offense. The Steelers really came out ahead in the 2012 draft.
- San Diego: A- San Diego may actually be competitive this coming year. DE Melvin Ingram, DT Kendall Reyes, and SS Brandon Taylor will help immensely to stop Philip Rivers from having to win a shootout. It’ll be curious to see how Michigan’s C David Molk works out as a development prospect.
- San Francisco 49ers: C If the Niners were trying to get competitive again after a surprising 2011 campaign, they sure aren’t showing it. WR A.J. Jenkins must have something special that nobody knows about because the Niners thought he was worthy of a first round pick. I kind of like RB LaMichael James in the second, but San Fran really didn’t get great value or fill many needs with their picks this year.
- Seattle Seahawks: C The Seahawks took DE/OLB Bruce Irvin in the first round. Either the team was hoping to get all of its media coverage now and pack in the season or the guy is really something special. While I lean toward the former, if Irvin turns out to be great we all may have to become Seahawks fans. I really like the pickup of Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson in the third (some people think it’s ridiculous, but ok…). Seattle wasn’t as hapless as the Niners, but they sure as hell didn’t pick up anybody who is going to continue the resurrection of this franchise.
- St. Louis Rams: A The Rams came away with some superb talent in the first two rounds. DT Michael Brockers in the first and CB Janoris Jenkins, WR Brian Quick, and RB Isaiah Pead in the second. New head coach Jeff Fischer knows what he wants and what he’s doing. Sm Bradford may finally fulfill his draft potential under Fischer’s tutelage and a good supporting cast. CB Trumaine Johnson (from Montana) was a superb pickup in the third, watch for him and Jenkins to player very well all year.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A SS Mark Barron and RB Doug Martin will automatically make impacts in the 2012 season. To top it off, the Bucs managed to grab OLD Lavonte David in the second. They did all of this while trading back and making the draft look easy.
- Tennessee Titans: B+ I do not like WR Alshon Jeffery. I know I’m in the minority and I’m certain he’ll pair well with Kenny Britt, but I just don’t see him being as effective as people expect him to be. The Titans did a good job of adding tough players who will make their strong roster even stronger. DT Mike Martin and OLB Zach Brown will be great additions and should punish the AFC South competition. I really like seventh round pick DE Scott Solomon as well.
- Washington Redskins: B- The Redskins got RGIII, the best move they could make this year. But then proceeded to do very little. A second quarterback in the fourth round was unnecessary. They did do a decent job by addressing the two guard spots with Josh Leribeus and and Adam Gettis in the third and fifth rounds.
So, who won the draft? Who was the most effective on draft day. I really think it was the Cleveland Browns most everyone will disagree. The Jags did a very good job of securing good talent and will make a statement with Blackmon.
That statement is: stick to your draft boards and get the best player you can.
Of course, picking a punter in the third round may make teams think that Gene Smith simply doesn’t draft well.
All in all, I’m pretty pleased.
In Gene We Trust,
– Luke N. Sims