2012 NFL Draft Grades: Breaking Down the Biggest Winners and Losers

Ryan Alfieri@Ryan_AlfieriCorrespondent IIIMay 2, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Grades: Breaking Down the Biggest Winners and Losers

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    Of course, it is a bit premature to start evaluating draft picks, but there is no denying that some players and teams made out better than others. 

    While teams like the Jaguars and Broncos reached on talent, teams like the Bills and Bengals cashed in on the impatience of their competitors. 

    Here is a breakdown of the biggest winners and losers of the draft.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Yes, it is too early to start declaring which drafts will be the most successful, but at a first glance, the Bengals have to be thrilled with how their weekend played out. 

    They were able to address just about every need on the team without reaching for talent. Not only did they land two quality first-round picks in Kevin Zeitler and Dre Kirkpatrick, but they were able to add Devon Still in the second round. 

    The Bengals even found a possible solution for their dire safety situation with the addition of George Iloka in the fifth round. Iloka is a bit raw, but with some time, he can develop into a quality starter. 

    Cincinnati has always been on the butt end of jokes when it came to how they run their organization, but there is nothing to laugh about here. Mike Brown hit a home run in this draft. 

Loser: Kirk Cousins

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    Although I am sure Kirk Cousins was relieved to hear his phone ring early in the fourth round, he had to have been a bit disappointed to discover who was on the other end of the line. 

    Few thought that Cousins was ready to start in the NFL, but he at least deserved a chance to go into a situation to compete for a starting job. 

    However, now that the Redskins called his name, any chance Cousins had of starting in an NFL game have been put on hold for at least the next three or so years. 

    The only way Cousins will be able to get himself into a better situation is to play lights out in preseason action to try and catch the eye of teams looking for a quarterback, just as Matt Flynn and Kevin Kolb did. 

Winner: Minnesota Vikings

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    If you put aside the actual players they drafted, the Vikings manipulated the draft masterfully. 

    They created a perception that they were not interested in USC tackle Matt Kalil, generating a once dead trade market. They picked up a few late-round picks from the Browns and were then able to still get their franchise left tackle in Matt Kalil. 

    From there, they were able to attack another big need by trading up for safety Harrison Smith. 

    What Rick Spielman and the Vikings did on draft day was a textbook example of how to use rumors and speculation to your advantage and manipulate the market. 

Loser: St. Louis Rams

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    The Rams can say all they want about how thrilled they are to have drafted Michael Brockers, but deep down, disappointment rests in their hearts. 

    The Rams really wanted Justin Blackmon, but they were leapfrogged by the Jaguars, inciting frustration from Jeff Fisher. In response, they traded back with Dallas and settled on a a run-stuffing defensive tackle. 

    As a result, they were forced to take a receiver with their next pick in the second round, and wound up reaching for a raw prospect in Brian Quick. 

    Sam Bradford needs immediate help, not an inexperienced developmental player to work with. 

Winner: San Diego Chargers

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    When the Jets shockingly passed on Melvin Ingram, the draft order was set up perfectly for him to fall past a few more teams with a 4-3 defensive scheme and be sitting there for the Chargers. 

    Coming into the first round, San Diego had to be thinking that they would walk away with someone of the caliber of Courtney Upshaw. Landing a Top 10 prospect near the bottom third of the draft will put them on my "winners" list. 

Loser: Rueben Randle

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    Most draft experts predicted Rueben Randle to fall somewhere around the bottom of Round 1 to early in Round 2. As it turns out, Randle would have been a third-round pick had it not been for the Giants' willingness to capitalize on his value. 

    Why did Randle fall? As the 49ers and Rams decided to go in more unusual routes in their receiver selections, selecting A.J. Jenkins and Brian Quick, respectively, the other receivers were pushed down the board. 

    Truth is, Randle could have easily have been a first-round pick, but he paid a price for the head-scratching moves of two franchises. 

Winner: Andrew Luck

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    Not only was Andrew Luck given the honor of being the first pick in the draft, making him the richest man in the room (next to Roger Goodell), but he must have had a big grin on his face as he watched the rest of the draft play out. 

    The Colts took an offensive approach to the draft, adding two tight ends with their next two picks. One of those picks was Coby Fleener, Lucks' favorite target at Stanford. 

    Much like they did with Peyton Manning, the Colts have made it a priority to surround Luck with as many toys as possible to expedite his development. 

Loser: Courtney Upshaw

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    Once viewed as a sure-fire first-round pick, Upshaw took a very Rey Maualuga-like tumble into the second round. 

    As pass-rushers like Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples took a tumble, Upshaw wound up paying the heftiest price. Upshaw sat and watched as four of his teammates at Alabama were taken before him. 

    Ultimately, Upshaw was simply a victim of the "tweener" label. He played outside linebacker at Alabama, but his skill set is more suited to a 4-3 base end. Upshaw needed to be a better pass-rusher or better in coverage if he was to be selected in Round 1. 

Winner: New York Giants

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    The Giants took some heat for the David Wilson selection at the bottom of Round 1, but personally, I like the pick. Wilson has as much upside as any back in this draft, and he will have time to adjust to the pro game as Ahmad Bradshaw resumes his starting role. 

    In the next round, they were able to add a top talent in Rueben Randle, who was considered to be a possible first-round pick. 

    The Giants took a chance on Jayron Hosley, who failed a drug test at the combine, in Round 3. But Hosley, who led the nation in interceptions in 2010, is a perfect fit as a zone corner in the Giants' scheme. 

Loser: Seattle Seahawks

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    Yes, I understand that Bruce Irvin was their highest rated player on the board and that Seattle has a history of deviating from the general consensus in terms of draft grades. 

    But frankly, as much as I admire their courage, this deviant behavior has not resulted in quality picks, particularly in the early rounds.

    For evidence, look no further than last year's first-round selection, tackle James Carpenter. Carpenter was viewed as a second-round prospect. After one year in the pros, Carpenter has been nothing short of underwhelming. 

    Bruce Irvin may very well get 10 sacks this year, but he will only be on the field for half the defensive snaps, at best. As a franchise, you need your No. 15 overall pick to be more of a factor than just a role player. 

Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Bucs have their fair share of needs, but most importantly, they lack leadership and maturity, particularly on defense—which is why I love the Mark Barron selection. 

    Not only does Barron fill a massive need at safety, but he brings an element of toughness and maturity to a locker room that desperately needs it. 

    The Bucs continued their attitude adjustment with the section of workhorse running back Doug Martin. A disciplined runner and an excellent pass blocker, Martin is the polar opposite of LeGarrette Blount in all of the right ways. 

    It is now more apparent than ever that the Greg Schiano era is now underway.