NFL Draft 2012 Results: Grades for All 32 First-Round Picks
I fully understand that grading a draft, no matter which sport, doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense a couple days after the fact. It is pretty obvious that we are not going to get a feel for the success and/or failure of the 250-plus picks that were made during the three-day event in New York City for a year or two.
That being said, we can get a feel about which picks were the best and which picks were the worst. What teams reached a great deal and which teams got the best value with their selections?
This is a subjective sport, grading a draft that is, but something that every writer and media outlet the world over does.
Here is my proverbial hat into the ring.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
Not only was Andrew Luck the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the 2012 NFL draft, he plays the most important position on the football field.
It was already a forgone conclusion that the Indianapolis Colts were going to make Luck the initial pick of the draft last Thursday, so there really wasn't much drama in it.
What he does bring to the Colts is another franchise quarterback to lead the organization for the next 10-to-15 years—most NFL teams would salivate over this opportunity.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
Acquired from the St. Louis Rams for first-round picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well as a second-round pick in 2012.
When taking into account this selection, you have to look at what the Washington Redskins gave up to acquire the No. 2 overall pick and Robert Griffin III. It was quite the bounty, to put it lightly, with three first-round picks as well as a second rounder.
That being said, this is a franchise that just needed to make a move at the quarterback position. They had not had a Pro Bowl quarterback since Brad Johnson in 1999, and even that was a one-year wonder.
RGIII gives them a ton of excitement heading into the 2012 season after having to deal with the likes of John Beck, Rex Grossman and a washed-up Donovan McNabb over the course of the last few seasons.
RGIII is also in a great position to succeed, with Trent Williams acting as his blind-side protector as well as the additions of Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon at the wide receiver position.
3. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
Acquired from the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 4 overall pick, fourth-round pick, fifth-round pick and seventh-round pick.
My initial reaction to the Cleveland Browns giving up three selections to move up just one spot wasn't too pleasant. It seemed to be a high bounty to pay, considering that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might not have been interested in jumping them to draft Trent Richardson.
I took a step back and thought about it for a second. When was the last time the Browns actually had a franchise running back? No, I am not talking about Peyton Hillis.
We all knew that Tom Heckert and Co. needed to add explosive players at skill positions, and Richardson is the best running back to enter the National Football League since Adrian Peterson.
Now the onus is on the Browns quarterback, whoever he is, to open up the offense and make sure defenses cannot stack the box with eight players against Richardson in the run game. If that happens, he will have limited success as a rookie. If not, you could be looking at a 1,500-yard rusher in 2012.
4. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, Southern California
Acquired from the Cleveland Browns for a fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round pick.
The Minnesota Vikings were able to pick up a few extra picks in order to trade down one slot and get a player they were targeting the entire time.
This was the smart selection for a Vikings franchise that invested a first-round pick on a quarterback last season. If Christian Ponder was going to be given any chance at success in the NFL, he would need to have that blind-side protector.
While Matt Kalil isn't as stout a prospect as Jake Long or Joe Thomas, he still does represent top-five value. The USC product will be able to come in immediately and help the Vikings offense improve a great deal.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
Acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No. 7 overall pick and a fourth-round pick.
I am not going to conclude that the Jacksonville Jaguars would have had Justin Blackmon with their original selection. We have no idea what the St. Louis Rams were thinking at No. 6 overall. Pure conjecture, but they did trade down after Jacksonville selected the former Oklahoma State standout. That might indicate something.
What I will say is that Blackmon does not represent tremendous value here. He wasn't my No. 1 receiver in the 2012 NFL draft, and the Jaguars were forced to part with an important fourth-round pick to acquire him.
I just cannot give Jacksonville a good grade here because I am not too high on Blackmon performing up to this value in the National Football League. It really is that simple.
6. Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, Louisiana State
Acquired from the St. Louis Rams for the 14th overall pick and second-round pick.
Jerry Jones and Co. literally stole Morris Claiborne on Thursday night. He was the consensus No. 1 defensive player in the draft and fits an area of tremendous need with the Dallas Cowboys.
More than that, a second-round pick really wasn't too high a price to pay in order to acquire the LSU product.
Dallas has now turned a major weakness on their defense into one of its biggest strengths. Claiborne is going to team up with newly signed Brandon Carr to form one of the most dynamic corner duos in the entire National Football League. This gives their defense an entirely new dimension and should turn it around a great deal in 2012.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama
Acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars along with a fourth-round pick.
I really do not like the idea of selecting a safety in the top 10 unless he is guaranteed to be a dominating force in the secondary for a decade. With that in mind, I am not sold on Barron as that type of prospect right now.
Of course, he will provide a tremendous amount of help in the back end of the Buccaneers defense. Barron should be able to come in immediately, providing much needed help in the box against the run.
He will need to hone those coverage skills in order to be an all-around performer in the National Football League.
What made this pick much more friendly from a Buccaneers aspect is the fact that they used the fourth-round pick acquired to move back up towards the end of the initial round and select Doug Martin.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Listen, this was a pick that Jeff Ireland and Co. had to make. They were backed into a corner after missing out on the top free-agent quarterbacks, and needed to get someone to energize the fanbase.
More than that, they needed to get someone who could help move the franchise forward and put a winning product on the football field.
The larger issue here is that Ryan Tannehill wasn't a first-round prospect and represented zero value here. He is going to have to sit on the bench for a season or two in order to learn the nuances of the league and gain more seasoning.
While there is little doubt that the Texas A&M product has the skills necessary to be a successful quarterback, you just don't select a project quarterback in the top 10. That is usually reserved for the latter rounds.
9. Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College
Absolutely nothing against Luke Kuechly here, as he will be a fine linebacker in the NFL. He just doesn't represent top-10 value, and didn't fill a position of tremendous need in Carolina with the Panthers.
While we are unsure whether Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are going to return to full health in 2012, the defensive line and secondary seemed to be larger issues for a struggling Panthers defense.
The reason why Carolina gets an average grade here is because of the possibility that the Boston College product could join those two aforementioned veteran linebackers to form a dynamic trio in the Panthers front seven.
Their mere presence will help out the defensive line a great deal.
10. Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Buffalo Bills didn't buy into the hype of going wide receiver here, which probably bodes well for their long-term prognosis as a team.
Stephon Gilmore had been my No. 2-ranked corner throughout the entire draft process. In fact, I believed he was being undervalued a great deal in the lead up to the event in New York City. What Gilmore brings to the table immediately, is great coverage skills on the outside.
Adding the South Carolina product to the mix is going to be huge considering Buffalo spent large sums of money on two pass-rushers, Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
Having a secondary that can force a quarterback to hold on to the ball a second or two longer is going to make those two pass-rushers that much more dangerous.
This is what Buddy Nix and Co. fully understood in the war room when Gilmore fell to them at No. 10.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, Nose Tackle, Memphis
The reason why I give the Kansas City Chiefs a better grade than others is really simple. I am much higher on Dontari Poe than other "experts" are. He will be a dominating run-stuffing force along the interior of their defensive line for the next decade.
A perceived lack of production at Memphis led many skeptics to conclude that Poe was purely a workout warrior at the NFL combine, but I just don't see it that way.
He is really going to help out as a gap filler, enabling Tamba Hali and other Kansas City pass-rushers to roam free on the outside. The trickle-down effect is going to be great.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Line, Mississippi State
Acquired from the Seattle Seahawks for the 15th overall pick, fourth-round pick and sixth-round pick.
The Philadelphia Eagles killed this draft from beginning to end, even concluding the final day by signing Chris Polk as a free agent.
Their success began in the first round when Philadelphia made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to pick up the talented Fletcher Cox with the 12th overall pick. The Mississippi State product is going to provide another dimension to an already talented Eagles defensive line.
He has the ability to play both inside and out, consistently making plays against the run and as a pass-rusher. I had Cox with a top-10 grade leading up to the draft. While he seems to fit better in a base 3-4 scheme, Cox gives the Eagles defense a great deal of flexibility moving forward.
One of the best picks of the initial round.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
Michael Floyd was my No. 1 receiver in the draft, so getting him outside of the top 10 is an absolute coup. He will team up with Larry Fitzgerald to create one of the better wide receiver tandems in the entire National Football League.
Floyd already possesses the ability to be a dominating player near the red zone, consistently able to leap over defenders on the corner fades. This will enable the Notre Dame product to have an immediate impact.
One obvious reason why I didn't grade this selection higher, is that it doesn't matter the talent you have on the outside at the wide receiver position if you cannot pass protect. This is going to be a consistent theme for the Cardinals moving forward.
The much smarter pick here would have been either Cordy Glenn or Riley Reiff. Instead, the Cardinals bought into the hype, listened to their star receiver and will struggle because of it.
14. St. Louis Rams: Michael Brockers, Defensive Line, Louisiana State
Acquired from the Dallas Cowboys along with second-round pick for No. 6 overall pick.
I fully understand that the St. Louis Rams had a whole host of issues throughout their roster. This is a team that needed to get talent at pretty much every position on the football field.
So, trading down a couple times from the No. 2 overall pick seemed to make a whole lot of sense.
Selecting Michael Brockers here didn't.
St. Louis needed to go with a safer pick; someone who could have made an immediate impact on the football field.
Brockers is a project that will not make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. He has all the tools necessary to succeed, but struggles with technique and will have to gain more seasoning to be an impact player.
15. Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Irvin, Defensive End/Linebacker, West Virginia
Acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles along with a fourth-round pick and sixth-round pick.
Sure, some teams might have been high on Bruce Irvin. Sure, he had met with the San Francisco 49ers, among others. That really isn't the point here. There is no way to tell whether these other teams were actually interested in drafting Irvin in the first round.
The larger issue here is the fact that Irvin isn't a good fit for Seattle's defense and is going to struggle finding a role in their specific scheme. They would have been much better off either standing pat and selecting Fletcher Cox 12th or picking up Quinton Coples here.
The West Virginia product doesn't possess the bulk or strength to play with his hands down at the line. He doesn't have the coverage ability to play outside linebacker and will struggle shedding blocks in the NFL.
I had a third-round grade on Irvin, which indicates how much of a reach I feel him to have been. What hurts just as bad here is the fact that Seattle "reached" with both the additional picks (Jaye Howard and Jeremy Lane) they acquired by trading down with the Philadelphia Eagles.
16. New York Jets: Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
Much like the Seattle Sehawks before, Quinton Coples is nowhere near a great fit in the New York Jets' 3-4 defensive scheme.
The North Carolina product isn't going to be able to play standing up as an outside linebacker opposite Aaron Maybin. He also struggles a great deal getting that initial push at the line of scrimmage against larger offensive tackles.
In reality, Coples is a tweener when it comes to playing in this specific defensive scheme.What further pushes the Jets trade down is the fact that I had a late first-round grade on Coples. He is horribly inconsistent and needs to hone certain techniques in order to be an impact player.
Melvin Ingram would have been the much smarter pick here.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
Acquired from the Oakland Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade.
The Cincinnati Bengals did a damn good job during the 2012 NFL draft, as one of the only teams that acquired an overall "A" grade from me.
However, this might have been the biggest reach of the entire draft for the franchise. Dre Kirkpatrick, although extremely talented, is going to struggle a great deal as a rookie with horrid technique on the outside. He tends to get turned around a great deal and possesses extremely stiff hips.
This is a high-risk, high-reward type of pick. The Alabama product does have the talent to be an effective corner in the NFL, especially in press coverage.
Look for the Bengals to utilize him in the slot early to take full advantage of this.
18. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Linebacker, South Carolina
The San Diego Chargers were able to get top-10 talent near the end of the teens without having to give up extra picks in a trade up.
That is awesome in and of itself.
More than that, Melvin Ingram fills a position of need for the Chargers defense. He will be able to come in immediately as a situational pass-rusher behind Jarret Johnson and opposite Antwan Barnes at the outside linebacker position.
There is no reason to believe that Ingram cannot have an Aldon Smith-type effect for San Diego in 2012. That is great value with the 18th pick.
19. Chicago Bears: Shea McClellin, Defensive End, Boise State
A vast majority of scouts believed that Shea McClellin fit much better as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Of course, Phil Emery and the Chicago Bears just didn't see it this way. They plan on playing the Boise State product opposite Julius Peppers on the defensive line.
Opposing offenses are going to have a field day running up the gut against McClellin. He lacks the build, strength and talent to play against the run in the NFL.
This doesn't even take into account the fact that Riley Reiff and David DeCastro were both on the board at this pick. Two areas of much more concern for this franchise.
20. Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
This is a pick that I am pretty sure the Tennessee Titans weren't looking at making heading into the draft on Thursday.
They had holes at center and in the secondary at cornerback. However, the board really didn't play out to their liking with the first 19 picks. All three of the "top-tier" corners were selected, and it appeared that Peter Konz was dropping a great deal due to injury concerns.
All things equal, the Titans did a fabulous job here. Kendall Wright seems to be a perfect fit in their offense as a complementary slot receiver to both Nate Washington and Kenny Britt.
He will provide great route-running and catching ability in the slot at the hashes, making the job of their starting quarterback, whoever he is, that much easier.
Pretty much the perfect fit here.
21. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones, Defensive End/Linebacker, Syracuse
Acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals for 27th overall pick and third-round pick.
The New England Patriots went against their MO in the first round last week. Instead of trading down to accumulate extra picks, they made the decision to move up and grab "elite" talent.
Well, it didn't work out too well for them here.
Chandler Jones was a late riser in the days leading up to the draft, but has a ton of holes in his game. He needs to accumulate more pass-rush moves, and has to start shedding blockers better in order to be a successful player in the NFL.
This leads me to believe that the Syracuse product was probably a second-round prospect, no matter what other "experts" concluded.
New England also traded up to "reach" for Jones, which cost them an opportunity to select a player like Brandon Thompson or Brandon Boykin later in the draft, also areas of concern.
22. Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden, Quarterback, Oklahoma State
Acquired from the Atlanta Falcons in the Julio Jones trade.
Full disclosure here, I had Brandon Weeden as the No. 3 quarterback in the 2012 NFL draft ahead of Ryan Tannehill. I am also not going to criticize them for selecting the oldest player to ever go in the first round. That really is a non-issue here.
My primary concern is that Cleveland is going to put Weeden in the same situation as Colt McCoy has been in over the course of the last two seasons. They failed to get a wide receiver early in the draft and are going to have to rely on a poor group of receivers.
It makes absolutely no sense to replace Colt McCoy as the starting quarterback when they haven't given him an opportunity to succeed. It makes even less sense to put Weeden in the same situation.
23. Detroit Lions: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
This was probably one of the smartest selections in the entire first round. The Detroit Lions were in need of a future franchise bookend at the tackle position, and Riley Reiff represented top-12 value here.
Why not make the pick?
I am pretty sure that is exactly what was going through the heads of Martin Mayhew and Co. in the Lions war room Thursday evening.
Absolutely nothing to criticize with this selection.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford
At the end of the day, David DeCastro was the No. 5 overall player in the entire 2012 NFL draft on my board. That just goes to tell you what I think of the talented guard and how he is going to translate to the National Football League.
Couple that with the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to draft him 24th overall, and you have one of the best picks in the entire draft. Adding even more to the plate is the fact that he fills a position of tremendous need along Pittsburgh's offensive line.
DeCastro is going to be a perennial Pro Bowl performer out of the gate, and is the best guard prospect to enter the league in over two decades. The former All-American at Stanford doesn't have one single glaring hole in his game.
25. New England Patriots: Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama
Acquired from the Denver Broncos for the 31st overall pick and a fourth-round pick.
Unlike the Chandler Jones pick before, Dont'a Hightower represents great value and should be an immediate impact rookie on the New England Patriots defense.
He has scheme versatility, which is absolutely huge in the Patriots' hybrid defense. More than that, the Alabama product possesses the athletic skills and instincts to be one of the best inside linebackers in the entire National Football League within the next couple of seasons.
Teaming him up with Jared Mayo at linebacker is going to give New England a dynamic duo, both rushing the passer and dropping back into coverage.
Their mere presence on the football field is going to make the other nine players on defense that much better. You can't ask for more than that.
26. Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois
Did the Houston Texans really need to go pass-rusher here? After all, this is a team that has holes on both sides of the ball. In order for them to compete for the AFC Championship next season, Houston really needed to address offensive line issues, but failed to do so here.
Couple that with that fact that I didn't even have anywhere near a first-round grade on Whitney Mercilus, and you have the makings for a bad grade.
I am pretty sure that the combination of Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin could handle the pass-rush duties.
27. Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin Zeitler, Guard, Wisconsin
Acquired from the New England Patriots along with a third-round pick for the 21st overall pick.
Cordy Glenn would have been the better pick here. After all, he was rated higher than Kevin Zeitler by most "experts," including myself.
This doesn't mean that Zeitler isn't going to be a good player in the National Football League. He succeeded in a pro-style blocking scheme at Wisconsin and has the ability to be a really good pull-blocker for Cincinnati moving forward.
You also have to take into account that Cincinnati picked up a third-round pick in a trade down with the New England Patriots here. They selected Brandon Thompson with that pick to fill another hole on the other side of the ball.
28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, Linebacker, Southern California
Many of my regular readers understand that I am not sold on Nick Perry as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Of course, this means that I am in the minority here, but I will not retract that statement until proven wrong.
There is also a reason why I am sitting here writing this article as a pundit instead of being in a war room somewhere. It is safe to assume that Ted Thompson and Co. knew what they were doing.
Assuming that Perry does work out as an outside linebacker, he is going to be a dynamic player opposite Clay Matthews.
29. Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame
Acquired from the Baltimore Ravens for a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick.
I had the pleasure of watching Harrison Smith play every game of his Notre Dame career over the course of the last few seasons. He acts as a quarterback in the secondary and can be a really decent starting safety.
However, is the word "decent" good to hear after realizing that he was a first-round pick? Moreover, is it good to know that your team traded back into the first round to draft him?
Smith isn't going to be a huge difference maker in the NFL. He will be that average safety who Minnesota looks to replace in another five years. It is all about talent and athletic ability, two things that Smith seems to be missing a great deal of.
More of a mid-round pick.
30. San Francisco 49ers: A.J. Jenkins, Wide Receiver, Illinois
Let me make this clear: Any wide receiver, outside of Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd, the San Francisco 49ers would have selected here was going to receive the same grade.
This is not an indictment on A.J. Jenkins, who I believe is going to surprise a lot of people at the next level. I absolutely love his skill set and the way he is going to fit into the 49ers offensive scheme.
It is more about need and who was available. San Francisco had one area of major concern, the right guard position. Cordy Glenn was staring them in the face after he slipped out of the top 25. That would have been the pick that made the most sense.
Instead, San Francisco went with a receiver who might not be an immediate impact player. Jim Harbaugh rarely runs a four wide receiver set, which indicates that Jenkins isn't going to see the field a great deal as a rookie.
Why not go for the player who is going to make more of an immediate impact?
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
Acquired from the Denver Broncos.
While many "experts" had Lamar Miller pegged as the No. 2 running back in the draft, I was going against the grain by indicating that Doug Martin deserved to be ranked that high.
In fact, I had the Boise State product as a top-20 player in the entire draft. That says a lot in regards to what I think Martin can do at the next level.
He is going to team up with LeGarrette Blount to form a dynamic duo in the offensive backfield for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is going to help Josh Freeman out a great deal, taking pressure off the suddenly struggling quarterback.
It also enables the Buccaneers to go to more of a ground-and-pound game, something they strayed away from a great deal, by design, in 2011.
32. New York Giants: David Wilson, Running Back, Virginia Tech
Much like other teams near the bottom of the draft, the New York Giants were afforded the ability to stray away from need and go with the best player available.
The issue here is that David Wilson wasn't the best player on the board at the end of the first round. Despite being one of the most talented backs in the entire draft, Wilson is going to have to learn the nuances of the NFL in order to have success.
He isn't going to be an immediate impact player. Instead, Ahmad Bradshaw and the coaching staff is going to have to work extensively with Wilson so that he gains the ability to be productive.