2011 NFL Draft: First Round, Booms and Busts and How to Ruin a Franchise
The first round of the 2011 Draft turned out to be as exciting and unpredictable...as predicted by many commentators.
There were the safe picks, the huge reaches and the bottomless falls, but in the end, most of it kind of made sense.
This is my subjective reflections of the first round in the draft reading, watching and listening to the reactions from commentators and players.
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton QB, Grade D-
Cam Newton has all the potential in the world to be either a boom or a bust in the NFL.
I think that in the right setting, this kid has a ceiling where only the sky is the limit. But I will quickly add that I cannot think of a worse setting than the Carolina Panthers.
Cam Newton has experienced so much success in such a brief period of time, that when listening him it sounds like he can walk on water. Confidence is a great thing, but this can be a tough landing for Cam Newton.
In Carolina, Cam Newton is going to be brought in as the savior at the QB position...and he is going to start from Day One, in an offense that is basically as old school as it gets, and as far away from what Cam Newton has been doing in his short career.
What is even worse, to me it seems like Cam Newton is kind of high on all the attention. And I can't see a guy that is humble and aware of the huge task that lies ahead of him. He just wants to prove his critics wrong and show them how great he is.
For the Panthers to make this pick is unbelievable in my mind, their latest top 3 picks in the draft has now been on QBs, Newton, Clausen and Edwards and they also drafted Pike in 2010. None of the picks from 2010 has proven to be worth anything yet.
If Newton is a bust, this franchise is bound for a takeover and relocation.
I grade the Cam Newton pick with a D- because I think Cam Newton is going to the absolutely worst situation for him. But I sure hope Cam Newton proves me wrong.
2. Denver Broncos: Von Miller OLB, Grade B+
I just really wanted the Denver Broncos to select Patrick Peterson to play next to and eventually take over from Champ Bailey.
But I really like the Von Miller pick, too. To line him up opposite Elvis Dumervil is going to create a fearsome pass rush.
I have said all along that the depth of the D-line prospects were so deep, that the Broncos were better of selecting a DT or two in the second and third rounds and both Marvin Austin and Stephen Paea are still on the board.
I grade the pick with a B+ because I think that Von Miller is actually better in the 4-3 than the 3-4 defensive scheme. But, hey maybe the Broncos should stick with the 3-4 now!?
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus DT/DE, Grade A
I have loved Marcel Dareus to the Bills from the start. He is a perfect fit for the Bills 3-4 front, both as a pass rusher and a run stopper.
Nobody is going to be able to run the ball up the middle at will against the Bills in 2011.
I love that the Bills didn't get caught up in the QB feeding frenzy, but continue to build the team for the future. They are not going to the playoffs in a foreseeable future anyhow.
I grade the Dareus pick with an A, because the Bills stuck with the best player on the board at a position of great need.
4. Cincinatti Bengals: A.J. Green WR, Grade B
With A.J. Green, the Bengals can now move forward from TOchocinco and with a new QB build for the future with a group of young receivers.
I think the Bengals would love to add Andy Dalton with their second-round pick and if that fails, look for a veteran free agent QB once the CBA...this would also allow them to take a better look at Dan LeFevour (but that's just my opinion).
I'm giving the Bengals a B for taking the best player on the board (along Patrick Peterson) a player that completes the Bengals receiving corps.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson CB, Grade A
When you get a chance to pick the best player in the draft and he fills a need on your team - it should be a no-brainer.
The Cardinals are going to be a tough team to throw against for a long time. Unless of course they trade Peterson for Kevin Kolb and some change, but that's just thinking out of the box.
I love they didn't go QB (they have enough young, talented passers to develop), and they have a Mark Bulger as a stop gap solution if they can't trade for Kevin Kolb.
I give the Peterson pick a grade A for getting the best and safest player in the draft, sticking to their strategy of finding a veteran QB.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones WR, Grade A+
I think Julio Jones looked a bit overwhelmed when the Falcons traded up for him at a huge cost.
This effectively makes Julio Jones the most expensive player in the entire draft.
But this also makes a lot of sense, because you can very easily argue that Julio Jones is all the Falcons need to win a Super Bowl.
The Falcons are in a window of opportunity for the next couple of years and they have been building steadily and sound for that. Now is the time to take the calculated gamble and go for it.
I give the Falcons pick of Julio Jones a grade A+ for the guts to reach, and go for glory and immortality.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Aldon Smith DE/OLB, Grade C+
Okay, I know Aldon Smith is a young physical freak that the 49ers can mould into a pass rush monster...but at number seven, with Blaine Gabbert, Amukamara, Quinn still on the board.
Maybe the 49'ers was surprised that both Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green and Julio Jones were all off the board.
But again, Aldon Smith addresses a big need as the 49ers get younger on defense.
If Harbaugh wants himself a young QB, he'd better be prepared to trade up for Dalton to get ahead of the Bengals, or maybe he just likes Kaepernick, that is if he is ready to gamble that the Bills wont take him.
Or maybe Harbaugh has found his QB gem later: Stanzi, Devlin, McElroy, Taylor.
I give the 49ers a C+ because it seems like they got out foxed and didn't get the player they really wanted. But Aldon Smith is not bad, just a little high.
8. Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker QB, Grade A
This is in my mind an excellent pick. The Titans get a skill-wise Vince Young-like player, which means they can pretty much use the same playbook. However, Locker brings a whole other set of intangibles with him.
Locker is a born leader who will work his butt off for his team. He is a tough kid and will fit right into the Titans' tough, hard-nosed image.
For the first time, he is going to play behind a good O-line and he will have an elite running back to carry the load.
Locker will be like a fish in the water in this offense with plenty of play action options, and he will be able to throw some deep bombs with his powerful arm to stretch the field.
The Titans do need to get Locker some more receiving weapons; I would love some FA veterans for him.
The Titans offense is going to be like Christmas for Locker; who for the first time in his career wont have to carry the whole team on his shoulders.
Lockers new teammates rally around this kid like the Browns did around McCoy.
I give the Titans a A for finding the perfect guy for their offense and the perfect leader of their franchise.
An A+ would have been manipulating the board and getting him 10 spots later, but to tell you the truth, I think both the Redskins and the Vikings would have jumped on Locker.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith OT, Grade C+
The rumor was out for a long time that the Cowboys really liked Tyron Smith. And I will give the Cowboys credit for addressing a need and for making a first-round pick for the O-line.
But what I don't get is taking a right tackle this high in the first round and not addressing the secondary with Prince Amukamara still on the board. Okay, the Cowboys might have other plans at CB, like a certain Raider shutdown corner.
Smith might turn out to be the future franchise LT for the Cowboys, and then I will have to eat my own words.
I give the Cowboys a C+ because I just think its a reach for a RT, especially with the mega holes the Cowboys have in their secondary.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert QB, Grade A-
I'm not a Blaine Gabbert fan, but I think the move the Jaguars made is a great one...that is, if most commentators are right about Blaine Gabbert's abilities and potential.
It perfect for Gabbert to go the Jaguars without the pressure of playing right away. He lands on a young team that is more than ready for a young QB and he will have Little Hercules to carry the load.
But (and this is why I don't give the Jaguars a top grade), they could also have had Ryan Kerrigan in the first and probably Colin Kaepernick in the second round, and that's a packet I like better.
I give the Jaguars an A- because they might just have landed themselves a franchise QB.
PS: I think Gabbert would have loved the big time with the Redskins, but he is probably better off in a smaller franchise with less media attention.
11. Houston Texans: J.J. Watt DE, Grade B
This Texans pick of J.J. Watt just reads solid all over.
Since both the Cowboys and the Texans bypassed Amukamara, there must be some issue there or maybe the CB is just very deep.
A 3-4 OLB could also have been a great pick, and there at least seemed to be great value still out there.
But I think the Texans figured that with J.J. Watt, they would also be able to get more production out of Mario Williams and take some load off him.
I give the Texans a solid B, for probably making the right safe pick.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder QB, Grade B+
I'm going to give the Vikings a lot of credit for getting the player they want and who they think can be their next franchise QB.
Ponder would most certainly not have been available when the Vikings pick in the second round. So they would have had to trade up to get him. And trading back up into the first round just cost the Saints a first-rounder in 2012.
Bottom line, in the big picture, reaching for Ponder at No. 12 just might have been the right tactical move.
Speaking for Ponder is also that he is possibly the most pro ready of the rookie QBs. Ponder will be able to step right in and run the offense and have AP doing the dirty work, drawing all the attention.
Ponder is a smart kid and will know the playbook inside out in a heartbeat.
I heard a commentator comparing Ponder to Montana; maybe that's a bit exaggerated, but I see where it is coming from.
I give the Vikings a B+ for having the guts to reach for their guy, and who knows if Ponder would have made it past the Dolphins at 15, the Redskins at 16 and the Seahawks at 25...and that's just in the first round.
13. Detroit Lions: Nick Fairley DT, Grade A+
Wow, what a potentially great pick for the Lions. If Fairley can live up to his potential, the Lions are going to have a deadly duo in the center of the defense for the next 10 years.
And could the setting for ensuring success possibly be better for Fairley? Off the field he will have Suh and Vanden Bosh to show him the ropes as a pro, and on the field he will get a lot of space to roam as Suh will be attracting a lot of the double teams.
If the Lions can get Fairley and Suh to bond, this could be the pick of the entire draft.
I give the Lions an A+ for seeing and taking an opportunity when it is there, even if it wasn't a position of need.
14. St. Louis Rams: Robert Quinn DE, Grade A-
I give the Rams credit for not panicking and reaching for one of the top two receivers. They know they are in there for the long haul.
So they get themselves a 20-year-old athletic freak with tons of potential, who is hungry like a wolf and ready to be moulded, fitted and deployed as a pass-rushing missile.
I give the Rams an A- because they are still taking a chance on a young man who hasn't played for a long time, and there were safer picks out there in Ryan Kerrigan and Cameron Jordan.
But its hard to find a better pure pass rusher who can get after the QB from all angles.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey C/OG, Grade B+
Mike Pouncey is a happy kid because he beat his brother, as he was taken two picks earlier than Maurkice in 2010.
The Dolphins get the best interior lineman to anchor the O-line for the next ten years at least. Pouncey could start at guard before takes over at center, and the Dolphins will build around him from there, and why not take one of his teammates from the Gator O-line later in the draft like Marcus Gilbert or Carl Johnson?
I give the Dolphins a B+ for getting a great player and not reaching or trading up for a QB. To get an A, I think they should have traded down, securing a second-round pick.
16. Washington Redskins: Ryan Kerrigan DE/OLB, Grade B+
What a relief in Washington, they were able to trade down and get another second-rounder.
But you have to wonder why Shanahan didn't take Blaine Gabbert to be his future franchise QB. The latest rumors even had the Redskins trading up for Gabbert.
With Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins are not only getting a great pass rusher opposite Brian Orakpo, they are also getting a smart and relentless worker, in the mould of an ideal Shanahan player.
I just can't help to wonder why the Redskins aren't changing back to to the 4-3 defense as Kerrigan, just as Orakpo and the rest of the Redskins defense, seems a better fit for the 4-3 defense.
The Redskins still have to find themselves a QB in the draft (I would think), but so far I give them a B+.
17. New England Patriots: Nate Solder OT, Grade B
It is not a surprise that the Patriots selected an O-lineman for an O-line than could lose three starters in the off-season and in general needs an infusion of youth.
In my mind, Solder is the pick because Belichick sees a player with the physical frame and right state of mind to be developed into the perfect left tackle for the future.
I give the Patriots a B for the solid but not spectacular pick, but I would be surprised if Solder in two years is considered the best tackle of his draft class.
18. San Diego Chargers: Corey Liuget DT, Grade C+
I really like Liuget, I just didn't see him in the 3-4 front, but I guess the Chargers thinks that he is better getting after the QB than Cam Jordan!?
So I give the Chargers a C+ for the Liuget pick because I think he is better as a 4-3 DT...but he is a great prospect who has lots of potential.
19. New York Giants: Prince Amukamara CB, Grade A
When a player like Amukamara drops in your lap, I guess you can look past your most prominent needs. But Amukamara is also an investment in the future.
For being able to see and take the opportunity when it arises, I give the Giants an A for the Amukamara pick.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn DE, Grade C+
Adrian Clayborn is a great player, who has overcome adversity and have been a leader for his team.
Its hard to question Raheem Morris, but I'm not sure that Clayborn is a great value pick at this point. But I guess all the pass rushers at this point in the draft had question marks all over them.
I think alternatives could have been playmakers like Mark Ingram or Jimmy Smith.
I give the Buccaneers a C+ for playing this pick too soft. But I hope Clayborn proves me wrong.
21. Cleveland Browns: Phil Taylor NT, Grade A+
The Browns just pulled off a monster deal with the Atlanta Falcons, a move that could potentially be the changing point for the organization moving forward.
Picking up Phil Taylor is really just the icing on the cake, in a run-heavy division the Browns have just plugged a big hole in the middle.
How can you not give the Browns an A+ for the trade and the pick?
22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Costanzo OT, Grade B
Nothing to it really...just get the best tackle who fits what you want to do, but he does have to be smart though, to keep up with Manning at the line of scrimmage.
Nothing much to say, good pick. Grade B.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Danny Watkins OG, Grade A-
I think Jimmy Smith or Aaron Williams would have been the bold risky picks here.
But I know for sure Michael Vick is going to feel a lot safer with this guy putting out fires all along the O-line.
But with that smile, can you really believe that he is tough and mean...on the field?
I give the Eagles an A- for making the safe pick to protect the team's most valuable commodity.
24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan DE, Grade A
I have no idea how this beast fell this far, but the Saints don't care and Jordan certainly won't either.
He is now on a Super Bowl-worthy team where he has the chance to make an impact an a difference - no body is going to run over the Saints in 2011.
I give the Saints an A for making this pick...huge impact player.
25. Seattle Seahawks: James Carpenter OT, Grade ?
James who? I mean, it's even hard to find a good picture of this guy.
I can't really grade him since I hardly read anything about him. so there is a big question mark.
But supposedly he is going to be great at RT.
Pete Carroll, you better know what you are doing.
26. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin WR, Grade C
This kid is potentially a lot of trouble, but I can't imagine the Chiefs selecting a player they can't handle. Hopefully, the only trouble he will cause is for the opposing defenses.
But he has it all size, speed, hands and the Chiefs needs more offensive weapons.
I can only give the Chiefs a C for the high-risk pick that goes against the trend of team leaders from last season.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith CB, Grade B+
I can't help loving this pick, not because Jimmy Smith is just as talented a cover corner as Peterson or Amukamara, but I would love to be in that locker room when Ed Reed and Ray Lewis teaches this guy about being a man and responsibility.
He just landed in the best possible spot and the Ravens got themselves a shutdown corner.
I give the Ravens a B+
28. New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram RB, Grade A
With Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram on board, I'm almost ready to declare the Saints the winners of this draft, or at least of the first round.
For what is essentially two low first-round picks and a second-rounder, they got two players with top 15 talent.
Mark Ingram is that every-down player that Brees need to take the Saints offense back to elite level.
I give the Saints an A for Mark Ingram.
29. Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi OT; Grade B
This wasn't really a hard pick, as the Bears just needed to get the best available tackle.
In Carimi, the Bears know what they are getting, a 10-year tackle with Pro Bowl potential.
I give the Bears a nice B for the safe pick.
30. New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson DT, Grade B-
So it's Rex Ryan, well, he just made the safe value pick with Muhammad Wilkerson (why couldn't I find a picture of him ?)
I would have loved Akeem Ayers here for the pass rush, but I can certainly see the argument for a D-lineman.
I would have thought Rex Ryan was a little more daring. So I give him a B-
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cameron Hayward DT/DE, Grade A-
The Steelers always make the right value picks and you cannot argue that Heyward is a great fit for the Steelers.
The need at corner is probably bigger as well as the O-line, but for the long run, Heyward is a great pick for an aging D-line.
I give the Steelers an A-.
32. Green Bay Packers: Derek Sherrod OT, Grade B
The Packers first and foremost need to protect Aaron Rodgers and poor O-line play almost cost the Packers the spot in the playoffs.
Sherrod will lock down the tackle spots with Bryan Bulaga for the next 10 years if all goes as planned.
I give the Packers a safe B...I just would have like to see Brooks Reed opposite Clay Matthews.