Rookie Report Cards: Grades for Every 2010 NFL 1st-Round Pick

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IDecember 16, 2010

Rookie Report Cards: Grades for Every 2010 NFL 1st-Round Pick

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    Rookie report cards are in for the end of the semester.....or is it the 2010 NFL season?

    Some players need extra credit in order to make the grade while some are destined for the honor roll.

    It's too early to declare a rookie a bust after just one season. Likewise, it's too early to declare a draft choice brilliant after one season.

    But after as many as 13 games for some rookies, we have an idea of how their NFL careers will pan out.

    Inside this slideshow, we hand down the report cards on all 32 picks from that prime-time evening in New York back in April.

No. 32: Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State

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    Team: New Orleans Saints

    Stats: 24 tackles, Two pass break-ups

    Grade: C+

    As the last pick in the draft, going to a team that just won the Super Bowl (largely because of great play in the secondary), Robinson wasn't going to be an integral part of Gregg Williams defense immediately.

    Although he has essentially done nothing in half of the Saints games thus far, he has made contributions in the other half: five games with at least three tackles, including eight against the Cardinals in Week 5.

    And in the impending rematch against Atlanta, with the NFC South likely on the line, his growing experience will be important against Roddy White, Michael Jenkins and the rest of the Falcons fine passing game.

No. 31: Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

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    Team: Indianapolis Colts

    Stats: Three tackles

    Grade: D

    It's not Hughes fault that he plays with two very good defensive ends, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

    And he wasn't going to supplant those two Pro Bowlers who have a combined 163 career sacks.

    But the Colts have had a difficult time pressuring the quarterback in 2010.

    At a spot like defensive end, a player capable of contributing can see significant action even if he isn't a starter, via a rotation.

    Hughes hasn't become a regular rotator in the Colts defense. If he were an "A-student," that wouldn't be the case.

No. 30: Jahvid Best, RB, Cal

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    Team: Detroit Lions

    Stats: 149 carries, 485 yards, four touchdowns; 51 receptions, 411 yards, one touchdown

    Grade: B+

    Best started off as hot as any rookie running back in NFL history, scoring five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) in his first two games.

    And in his second game, he had a monster game against Philadelphia, combining for 232 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns.

    But a few minor injuries, including a turf toe, have slowed him down since and Maurice Morris has started to take more of the carries. He hasn't rushed for 100 yards in a game yet, but the way he's played suggests he has many in his future.

No. 29: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

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    Team: New York Jets

    Stats: 20 tackles, Four pass break-ups

    Grade: C

    Much like Jerry Hughes in Indianapolis, Kyle Wilson's selection by the Jets was not meant to replace either of the team's Pro Bowl defenders—Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis.

    But Wilson has made a few contributions to the Jets defense in nickel and dime packages.

    He broke up three passes in the Jets first two games but hasn't participated as much lately.

    Maybe, as part of a much needed shake-up, Rex Ryan will give him some more time down the stretch.

No. 28: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State

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    Team: Miami Dolphins

    Stats: One tackle

    Grade: Incomplete

    Odrick broke his leg in the Dolphins' season-opening win at Buffalo and returned in mid-October. But then he broke his foot in practice in the middle of October and was placed on injured reserve. 

No. 27: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

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    Team: New England Patriots

    Stats: 67 tackles, one forced fumble, six interceptions

    Grade: A

    A rookie cornerback in the NFL is an easy target for opposing defenses, so the player better be monumentally talented just to get on the field.

    Just surviving would earn McCourty praise. But he has been phenomenal in Bill Belichick's defense, picking off six passes and breaking up 14 more.

    Tom Brady and newcomers BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead may get all the headlines, but the Patriots might not be in position for the AFC's first seed without McCourty playing so well.

No. 26: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

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    Team: Arizona Cardinals

    Stats: 30 tackles

    Grade: B

    After a somewhat slow start, Williams has begun to take over the 3-4 nose tackle spot for Bryan Robinson.

    And although very little else has gone right for Ken Wisenhunt, the Cardinals head coach is very pleased with the play of his 6'2", 327-pound rookie.

    "I think where you have really seen the progress Dan Williams has made has been on our goal-line defense," Wisenhunt told the Arizona Republic. "We've kept guys out of the end zone when they've been at the 1 or the 2-yard line. A big part of that is the way Dan has anchored the middle. He's going to really be a good player for us."

No. 25: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

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    Team: Denver Broncos

    Stats: 1-for-1, three yards, one touchdown; 12 carries, 28 yards, three touchdowns

    Grade: B-

    Trading up to draft Tim Tebow in the first round (when he likely could have been selected a round later) is only going to prove worth it if he becomes a big-time player.

    And that hasn't happened in his first season. And who knows if it ever will.

    But he has contributed at least a little in the goal-line packages. And scoring four touchdowns in just a handful of snaps is nothing to snipe at.

    Still, the Broncos are a mess and you have to wonder if that first round choice might have been spent better on a different player who wasn't so hit-or-miss.

No. 24: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

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    Team: Dallas Cowboys

    Stats: 45 catches, 561 yards, six touchdowns

    Grade: A-

    Bryant's receiving numbers aren't spectacular. They aren't the totals that another supremely talented "problem child" wide receiving talent (Randy Moss) totaled in 1998.

    But he proved to be a great addition to the Cowboys, even if they are mired in a terribly disappointing season.

    In his debut, Bryant caught eight passes for 56 yards and, a month later, against the Giants, he returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown, then caught two more in the fourth quarter.

    And even though his foot injury will cost him the season's final four games, he was well worth the 24th pick.

No. 23: Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

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    Team: Green Bay Packers

    Stats: Nine starts

    Grade: A-

    To start at tackle for a pretty prolific offense like the Packers is an impressive feat for a rookie.

    The Packers running game has not been good this year (24th in the NFL), but it's hard to put much of the blame for that on Bulaga. The loss of Ryan Grant is the main reason.

    Green Bay's offensive line has struggled a bit to protect Aaron Rodgers (29 sacks allowed), even if his most recent concussion wasn't the Packers fault.

    Still, like the man on the opposite side of the Packers offensive line, left tackle Chad Clifton, he could be a starter in Green Bay for a decade-plus.

No. 22: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

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    Team: Denver Broncos

    Stats: 22 catches, 283 yards, two touchdowns

    Grade: B-

    Thomas made quite a debut in the NFL, catching eight balls for 97 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown in one of the Broncos few wins during the 2010 season.

    But in the weeks that followed, he didn't do very much for a Denver team that has no problem heaving the ball all over the field. Thomas had as many catches in Weeks 3 through 8 as he did in Week 2.

    He seemed to be more involved in the offense against Kansas City and San Diego, but the ankle injury cost him the next several weeks, slowing up his progress.

No. 21: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

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    Team: Cincinnati Bengals

    Stats: 47 catches, 409 yards, three touchdowns

    Grade: B+

    With Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and fellow rookie Jordan Shipley, it's hard to believe there are any balls left over for the tight end, especially given Carson Palmer's significant struggles in 2010.

    But Gresham has done a fantastic job as a pass catcher and isn't a bad blocker, either.

    Even if there are to be major changes forthcoming in Cincinnati, Gresham should be a significant factor in their offensive planning for a long time.

No. 20: Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Team: Houston Texans

    Stats: 61 tackles, two interceptions, nine pass break-ups

    Grade: B

    Houston's defense has been extremely disappointing in 2010: it is ranked dead last in the NFL against the pass.

    Jackson has helped out with two picks and nine pass break ups, so he deserves some praise for doing that as a rookie.

    But his arrival, largely as a replacement for Dunta Robinson, really hasn't improved the team this year. Texans fans have to hope it will next year.

No. 19: Sean Witherspoon, OLB, Missouri

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    Team: Atlanta Falcons

    Stats: 33 tackles, one sack, one pass break-up

    Grade: Incomplete

    Weatherspoon missed half of the 2010 season with a right knee sprain, but has been very good when healthy.

    He recorded 24 tackles and a sack in the Falcons first three games, but his injury has kept him from a complete return. Weatherspoon has played some in the team's nickel package, but it's been months since we've seen him play as an everydown linebacker.

No. 18: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida

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    Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Stats: 13 starts

    Grade: A

    Just like Devin McCourty in New England, Pouncey is a key starter at a very difficult position for a team headed towards the playoffs.

    His consistent play would be enough to earn him a good grade, but because he is the best offensive lineman of the entire unit, he deserves top marks.

    Pouncey has overcome quarterback changes, shifting around of the offensive line and a few nagging injuries. He seems to be the next link in the chain of great Pittsburgh centers following Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jeff Hartings.

No. 17: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

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    Team: San Francisco

    Stats: 13 starts

    Grade:  A-

    The 49ers have plenty of problems on both sides of the ball. But they seem to have found themselves a left guard for the next decade or so.

    He rarely allows a sack and before Frank Gore was injured, Iupati was one of the key blockers in a pretty good 49ers rushing attack.

No. 16: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

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    Team: Tennessee Titans

    Stats: Five tackles

    Grade: Incomplete

    Morgan proved to be a promising talent, recording 1.5 sacks in the first two games. But he tore his ACL in Week 4 against the Broncos and was put on IR.

    We'll have to wait until next year to deliver a fair grade on him.

No. 15: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

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    Team:  New York Giants

    Stats: 24 tackles, two forced fumbles, four sacks, four pass break-ups

    Grade: B+

    With the loss of teammate Mathias Kiwanuka (another first round, Big East defensive end), Pierre-Paul has become that key third defensive end that helps the Giants front four be so effective.

    Rotating in frequently, Pierre-Paul has helped the Giants defense record 39 sacks, tied for the most in the NFL.

    Depending on what he and the Giants do Sunday afternoon against Michael Vick, maybe Pierre-Paul will bump his grade up to an A.

No. 14: Earl Thomas, S, Texas

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    Team: Seattle Seahawks

    Stats: 65 tackles, five interceptions, seven pass break-ups

    Grade: A

    The Seahawks defense has had its problems in 2010. They are third worst in the NFL against the pass. But they have been able to get a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, thanks in part to Thomas and the secondary's coverage.

    Furthermore, Thomas has picked off five passes this year, two of which came in the fourth quarter to seal a win over San Diego early in the season. That one game could be the margin of difference when the NFC West title is decided.

No. 13: Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan

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    Team: Philadelphia Eagles

    Stats: 13 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles

    Grade: C

    Graham was the opening day starter for the Eagles and has made a few big plays along the way, including three sacks.

    But he lost the starter's job to Juqua Parker and hasn't become a regular part of the team's rotation along the defensive line.

    Now that he tore his ACL in last week's win over Dallas, he won't have a chance to see more playing time. He was just placed on the IR.

No. 12: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

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    Team: San Diego Chargers

    Stats: 103 carries, 447 yards, four touchdowns

    Grade: B

    Mathews rookie season has seen both its ups and downs. He missed several weeks with an ankle injury and struggled some with fumbles: he's lost three this year. Worst of all, Mike Tolbert has shown he too can run the ball for big-time yards.

    But he has carried the load for the Charges several weeks and is capable of making plays in the passing game as well.

    He isn't LaDanian Tomlinson (despite the visor) and might not ever become as great as LT. But he's had a nice rookie year and has at least one rabid fan in San Diego:

    Ryan Mathews Video: Watch Chargers Star in a Funny 'Kimmel' Skit

No. 11: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Team: San Francisco 49ers

    Stats: 13 starts

    Grade: B+

    Mike Iupati has been a little bit better in the 49ers offense, but Davis is holding his own.

    Against the Packers two weeks ago, he kept the NFC's sack leader, Clay Matthews, away from Troy Smith and against Arizona on Monday Night, Davis played his best game of the year against Pro Bowler Darnell Dockett.

    "That's how the game is," Davis told the San Francisco's Chronicle's David White, "you'll have some good games, you'll have some bad games,"

No. 10: Tyson Alualu, DT, Cal

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

    Stats: 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one pass break-up

    Grade: B

    The Jaguars are one of the surprise teams in the NFL, but don't credit their turnaround to Alualu's arrival: David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew probably deserve a bit more credit for having a chance at winning the AFC South.

    But Alualu is progressing and has helped the Jags defense get a little bit better.

    He and the Jags have a huge test on Sunday. If they get pressure on Peyton Manning, they might leave Indianapolis with the division title.

No. 9: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

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    Team: Buffalo Bills

    Stats: 56 carries, 232 yards, zero touchdowns

    Grade: C

    Spiller is learning a lot watching Fred Jackson stand in as the Bills feature back, so that will probably pay off down the road. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing game is the offense's strength anyway.

    But if Spiller were developing just a little bit more, he would give Buffalo a pretty powerful attack.

    Plenty of runners have turned into stars as rookies. And maybe Spiller isn't an Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson. But it's hard to know that now, given he has yet to carry the ball more than eight times a game.

No. 8: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

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    Team: Oakland Raiders

    Stats: 64 tackles, one-half sack, one interception, four pass break-ups

    Grade: B+

    Not many people know that the Raiders pass defense is ranked seventh in the NFL, one of the main reasons they've already won more games this year than any season since their trip to Super Bowl XXXVII.

    McClain is a key part of that turn around. He's been effective in defending both the pass and the run.

    That was evident last week: A foot injury cause him to miss the game against the Jaguars, and Jacksonville rushed for 234 yards and crushed the Raiders playoff hopes.

    Maurice Jones-Drew's game-winning 30-yard touchdown came right up the middle, where McClain would have been had he not been out.

No. 7: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

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    Team: Cleveland Browns

    Stats: 45 tackles, five interceptions, 16 pass break-ups

    Grade: A

    Devin McCourty has been outstanding for the New England Patriots this year. But Joe Haden seems to be the best rookie corner of the bunch (just another common thread between Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick's defenses).

    Haden has become something of a shutdown corner. Not only is Haden tied for sixth in the NFL with five picks, but his 16 pass break-ups are tied for fifth.

    Back in April, Browns fans were sad that the team missed out on safety Eric Berry. But Cleveland still received a great, NFL-ready defensive back.

No. 6: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Team: Seattle Seahawks

    Stats: Seven starts

    Grade: C

    An ankle injury caused Okung to miss three games earlier this season, but he's returned to the lineup as the Seahawks look to regain the lead this week in the NFC West.

    Okung has done well in stretches this year, but the Seahawks ground attack is one of the worst in the NFL, so his arrival hasn't been a game-changer.

    And Matt Hasselbeck's turnover problems are largely due to pressure.

No. 5: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

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    Team: Kansas City Chiefs

    Stats: 76 tackles, three interceptions, one forced fumbles, seven pass break-ups

    Grade: A

    A safety who makes 100 tackles (and Berry will finish the season near that total) is not always a good thing. But Berry has been a real force in the turnaround in Kansas City.

    For example, in the Chiefs win versus Buffalo, Berry had a critical interception at the end of the game that helped force overtime.

    Romeo Crennel has the Chiefs' defense ranked 18th, up from 30th last season. Berry's arrival is one reason why.

No. 4: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

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    Team: Washington Redskins

    Stats: 10 starts

    Grade: B

    Williams has struggled lately with a shoulder injury, so credit him for playing through the pain.

    But the Redskins offense is not very good right now.

    They may rack up tons of yards in the passing game, but they have not been able to score points. They are 5-8 largely because of their 18 points per game (28th in the NFL).

    Still, eventually, with his athleticism, Williams should soon blossom in Mike Shanahan's zone run scheme.

No. 3: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

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    Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Stats: 28 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles

    Grade: B

    McCoy has delivered in spurts for the young Bucs defense.

    He had two sacks in the near-comeback win over Baltimore and his ability to occupy blockers has helped the Bucs linebackers make plays. Barrett Ruud and Geno Hayes are having great seasons.

    It's hard to measure the individual performance of a defensive tackle, especially one whose strength isn't necessarily pass rushing.

    But last year, the Bucs defense was 27th in points allowed and finished 3-13. This year it is 13th and will, at worst, finish .500 even if they miss out on a playoff spot.

No. 2: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

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    Team: Detroit Lions

    Stats: 52 tackles, one interception, eight sacks

    Grade: A

    Suh's ability to get to the quarterback was the reason why the Lions selected him second overall. And he hasn't let them down at all, recording eight sacks and a whole lot more pressures.

    But as an interior defensive lineman, his 52 tackles are a pretty remarkable stat.

    He is a good candidate to make his first pro bowl, perhaps his first of 10 or so in a row.

    "He's on pace to set an all-time record being an interior lineman, talking about numbers and sacks," said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, who will face Suh this Sunday. "He's explosive. He was very highly evaluated on our board. I can't say enough good things about Ndamukong Suh ... what he's already done in the NFL ... what he's going to bring to this game from this point on."

No. 1: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

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    Team: St. Louis Rams

    Stats: 60.3-percent completion, 2,884 yards, 17 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

    Grade: A+

    Bradford might become the next quarterback in the growing line of rookies (Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez) to lead their team to the playoffs. The next three weeks will determine that.

    But even if the Rams don't make the postseason, Bradford's rookie year will be considered a triumph.

    The stats aren't terribly overwhelming, but he's led the Rams to several surprise wins and an even more surprising record.

    What's most impressive about Bradford in 2010, however, are the obstacles he's overcome.

    Recovering from the shoulder injury that kept him off the field for most of his senior season at Oklahoma was part of it. But so was losing Mark Clayton to a season-ending injury in Week Five.

    Bradford doesn't have a great receiving corps, but he's kept the turnovers down and was very clutch in key wins over Denver, San Diego and the vital victory over Seattle.