NFL Draft 2012: Day 1 Team Grades

Keaton WolfeContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

NFL Draft 2012: Day 1 Team Grades

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    It was a wild and trade-filled first day of the 2012 NFL Draft. With the new CBA that has lowered rookie contracts substantially, NFL teams clearly aren't afraid to move up and get the players they want.

    With that, there are also those selections that are no-brainers, and then those selections that leave us scratching our heads as to what a team was thinking drafting a certain player so early.

    Well, these are my team grades for day one of the 2012 NFL Draft. Teams still have six more rounds to improve, so there really is no need to panic if your NFL team didn't fill every need in the first round.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck QB, Stanford

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    Andrew Luck was an bbvious choice for the Colts, who start their rebuilding process with a QB who raised the expectations for the Stanford football program and will eventually lead the Colts to many playoff berths.

    Team Grade: A

2. Washington Redskin: Robert Griffin III QB, Baylor

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    The Redskins traded up specifically for RG3, and he should excel in Mike Shanahan's offensive system. Hopefully, he will bring the Redskins to the top of the NFC East within a few years.

    Team Grade: A

3. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson RB, Alabama

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    I think Cleveland gave up a little too much to get Richardson and move up only one spot, but they made sure they would get him by preventing Minnesota from trading with another team. Richardson will take pressure off the Browns' QB in the next season. Peyton Hillis left for Kansas City, but he was really just average. Richardson is a three-down back that will move the chains. 

    Pick Grade: A

4. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil OT, USC

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    The Vikings drafted their left tackle to protect QB Christian Ponder's blindside. Kalil is a dominant left tackle in pass protection but still needs work in run blocking. They received a good number of picks for just trading down one spot, and still got their guy. 

    Pick Grade: A+

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon WR, Oklahoma State

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    Love this selection by the Jaguars. Blackmon will help Gabbert immensely and have a huge impact as a rookie. At Oklahoma State, he came through with big plays time and time again, and that's what the great ones do. Blackmon has a good head on his shoulders, is humble but also wants the ball because he knows he is good. 

    Team Grade: A

6. Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne CB, LSU

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    The Cowboys moved up into the top 10 to get the best cornerback in the draft in Claiborne. Claiborne and Cowboys' newly-signed cornerback Brandon Carr will make one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL.

    Team Grade: A

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mark Barron S, Alabama

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    Barron is a hard-hitting safety with range who will be a huge upgrade at the safety position for the Bucs. The Bucs also gained a fourth-round pick by trading down. 

    Pick Grade: A

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill QB, Texas A&M

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    Tannehill is a slightly overrated QB coming out of Texas A&M who was not worthy of a top-10 pick, but his pick was still the one the Dolphins had to make. Dolphins' offensive coordinator Mike Sherman would work with Tannehill's development, as he was the head coach at Texas A&M, while QB David Garrard will start the season.

    Team Grade: B-

9. Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly ILB, Boston College

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    Kuechly is a beast with top-10 talent, and will become the leader of the Panthers defense for years to come. I thought they should have selected defensive tackle Fletcher Cox or wide receiver Michael Floyd with this pick, though. Still, Kuechly should be an All-Pro. 

    Team Grade: A

10. Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore CB, South Carolina

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    Although Gilmore has very strong upside, I think 10th overall is a little high, and a risk for someone who may or may not develop into a shut-down cornerback as would be expected out of a top-10 selection. Again, I think Floyd would have been a better choice, giving Fitzpatrick a weapon to throw to. 

    Team Grade: B

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe NT, Memphis

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    Poe is a very risky pick for the Chiefs, who, based almost solely on his spectacular combine performance, hope that they have the coaches to develop Poe into a dominant force on the field. I believe personally, though, that Poe has the drive to be great and will do the work it takes to be worth that 11th overall selection. 

    Team Grade: A-

12. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox DT, Mississippi State

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    The Eagles moved up three spots in the first round to get the guy they really wanted after the Panthers passed on him. Cox gives the Eagles an inside presence along the defensive line who can disrupt plays in the opponent's backfield. 

    Team Grade: A

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd WR, Notre Dame

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    Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald got his wish for a legit No. 2 receiver to help draw away coverage from him and also give QB Kevin Kolb another weapon. Floyd is also a great blocker downfield in the run game.

    Team Grade: A

14. St. Louis Rams: Michael Brockers DT, LSU

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    I think Brockers has a lot to prove in St. Louis and will need to make an impact so that Rams defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn can get pressure on opposing teams' quarterbacks. This was too high a spot for Brockers to go, and it seems everyone else the Rams wanted had been taken after trading down to the Cowboys' spot. They did gain many picks by trading down twice, though.

    Team Grade: A-

15. Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Irvin DE, West Virginia

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    This selection was the first surprising selection in the 2012 NFL Draft and a major reach for Seattle. What are they thinking? First, offensive tackle James Carpenter last year, and now Irvin. Irvin is only a situational pass rusher in a 4-3 defense and was my 78th-rated prospect overall. I do applaud and congratulate Irvin for turning around his life and becoming a now-rich man.

    Team Grade: F

16. New York Jets: Quinton Coples DE, North Carolina

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    I don't see Coples as a good fit with the Jets defense. This may be because I'm not sure whether he'll be a defensive end in the 3-4, or whether the Jets think they can play him at outside linebacker in hopes he can make the transition like Mario Williams did last year with the Texans before he got hurt. Coples definitely has the talent and athletic ability to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 if that's where they play him, but I think he'll be a defensive end.

    Team Grade: B+

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick CB, Alabama

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    The Bengals have signed some middle-of-the-road cornerbacks and still need a No. 1 cornerback, as Leon Hall likely won't be ready to play in the 2012 season. Kirkpatrick can fill in and be a very good starter in the NFL with his physical style of play and NFL readiness. 

    Pick Grade: A

18. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Ingram OLB, South Carolina

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    Ingram is a high-motor player who makes plays all over the field and should have an impact right away for the Chargers' pass rush. He definitely reminds me of a young Dwight Freeney with his stature and style of play. Ingram fell right in the laps of the Chargers, making this a great value selection.

    Team Grade: A+

19. Chicago Bears: Shea McClellin DE, Boise State

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    The Bears reached for a defensive end who might be a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. I rated McClellin as the 39th overall prospect and seventh overall defensive end. Chandler Jones and Whitney Mercilus would have been better picks if the Bears wanted a defensive end, in my opinion. 

    Team Grade: C-

20. Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright WR, Baylor

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    The Titans got a weapon on offense, but I think it was a slight reach as I see him being the fifth best wide receiver in this year's draft. He should have a good year, but I don't think he'll have the impact that's typical of a top-20 selection.

    Team Grade: B-

21. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones OLB, Syracuse

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    The Patriots used their variety of draft picks to move up a few spots. Jones would be a bit of a project switching positions to a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he has the capability and upside to fit well in the Patriots defense. 

    Pick Grade: A-

22. Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden QB, Oklahoma State

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    I don't quite understand picking a soon-to-be 29-year-old quarterback in the first round when he would likely be available in the second round as well, and when there are other players currently available who could also improve the team. Just not a smart move by the Browns. Weeden will no doubt have to be the starter, and the Browns need to draft weapons for him during the next six rounds.

    Pick Grade: D-

    Team Grade: B-

23. Detroit Lions: Riley Reiff OT, Iowa

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    The Lions made a great selection by taking Reiff, who could start at right guard or right tackle and eventually move to the left tackle position when offensive tackle Jeff Backus retires. 

    Team Grade: A

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: David DeCastro OG, Stanford

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    DeCastro has been said to be the best pure guard since Titans offensive guard Steve Hutchinson entered the league as a Seahawk, but slid pretty far in the first round. DeCastro is an immediate upgrade for the Steelers at guard and should create big running lanes for the Steelers offense. DeCastro would also be major help in keeping Big Ben upright and healthy.

    Team Grade: A+

25. New England Patriots: Dont'a Hightower ILB, Alabama

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    Hightower is a physically imposing inside linebacker at 265 pounds who runs like a deer. Just the kind of player that the Patriots could use to go along with ILB Jered Mayo. 

    Pick Grade: A+ 
    Team Grade: A

26. Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus OLB, Illinois

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    Mercilus can have an Aldon Smith type of impact in his rookie season with the Texans in their defensive system. This was a BPA selection, but it also provides depth after defensive end Mario Williams left to sign with the Buffalo Bills. Mercilus was outstanding in his only season starting at Illinois, getting 16 sacks and forcing eight fumbles. 

    Team Grade: A+

27. Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin Zeitler OG, Wisconsin

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    The Bengals must have had Zeiter as the higher graded guard between him and Georgia's Cordy Glenn, and so Zeitler was picked before teammate Peter Konz, which is a little bit of a surprise. I think Zeitler was a second-round-caliber prospect, and a bit of a reach here.

    Pick Grade: B-
    Team Grade: B+

28. Green Bay Packers - Nick Perry OLB, USC

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    The Packers drafted a very good outside pass rusher and Perry could excel at that spot in the 3-4 with the athleticism he has. Perry and outside linebacker Clay Matthews should generate pressures and sacks in 2012. 

    Team Grade: A

29. Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith S, Notre Dame

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    The Vikings lack talent in safety play and Smith is a tough, hard-hitting safety who will provide the Vikings with an upgrade in the secondary. However, I feel the better pick would have been wide receiver Stephen Hill, who would have given Christian Ponder another weapon outside of the often injured wide receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Kyle Rudolph, especially after moving back into the first round. Smith was more of a second-round talent.

    Pick Grade: B
    Team Grade: A-

30. San Francisco 49ers: A.J. Jenkins WR, Illinois

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    Another reach in the NFC West. I had Jenkins going in the early third round and as the 87th overall prospect. Jenkins is a good receiver who will never be any more than a No. 3 wideout in the NFL. The 49ers just spent a first-round choice on their fourth or fifth receiver for 2012.

    Team Grade: F-

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin RB, Boise State

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    I had Martin going at No. 36 to the Bucs in my second-round mock draft, and they moved up into the first round to get him, which later proved to be a good move as the next pick was also a running back. Martin should be a solid three-down back for the Buccaneers and give young QB Josh Freeman some help on offense.

    Pick Grade: A-
    Team Grade: A-

32. New York Giants: David Wilson RB, Virginia Tech

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    The Giants were another team for whom I thought wide receiver Stephen Hill would have been a great fit, allowing WR Victor Cruz to dominate in the slot. The Giants will instead draft a wide receiver later. I think offensive tackle Jonathan Martin is also a better prospect and would have been the better choice than running back David Wilson, who is a very explosive player every time he touches the ball.

    Team Grade: C+

Teams That Didn't Have First-Round Selections

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    Atlanta Falcons: Traded their 2012 first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft for wide receiver Julio Jones.

    Baltimore Ravens: Moved out of the first round by trading with the Vikings. They will likely get center Peter Konz in the second round.

    Denver Broncos: Traded down twice in the first round, gaining selections.

    Oakland Raiders: Don't have a selection until No. 95 in the third round.

    New Orleans Saints: Traded their first-round selection last year to move back into the 2011 NFL Draft. They don't have a selection until No. 89 in the third round.