2011 NFL Draft: First Round Pick-by-Pick Analysis

Jake CoxCorrespondent IApril 29, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: First Round Pick-by-Pick Analysis

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    The quest for the Lombardi Trophy begins today, as the first round of the NFL kicked off tonight.  Initial grades don’t really mean much, as players we expected to be stars end up being busts and vice versa. It’s still fun to analyze how each team is doing with each and every pick throughout the draft, so here is my first round draft recap, where I have analyzed each and every pick of the NFL’s draft first round.  Check back tomorrow and Saturday, as I will be reviewing each and every one of the draft picks throughout the next three days.

1. Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton, Auburn

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    I think this is a great pick for the Panthers. Jimmy Clausen really struggled last season, and Cam Newton gives them a legitimate franchise quarterback.  He’s not the top overall player talent wise, but he fills the biggest need on the football team.

    Grade: A

2. Denver Broncos: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M

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    Miller gives the Broncos the defensive play maker that they were lacking last year. I don’t think that his best fit is in a 4-3 defense, but he is an impact player who will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

    Grade: B+

3. Buffalo Bills:DT Marcel Dareus, Alabama

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    Dareus gives the Bills some excellent size up front, as he will play defensive end in the 3-4 scheme.  Dareus will be a disruptive player on the defensive line, and this is an excellent pick for the Bills. 

    Grade: A-

4. Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green, Georgia

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    Green will be a stud in this league, and he gives the Bengals the number one receiver that they’ve been missing. An excellent pick that will give Carson Palmer a reason to stay in Cincinnati next season.

    Grade: A

5. Arizona Cardinals: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

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    This is not a need pick, but the Cardinals just got the top overall player in the draft in my opinion.  He is an incredible athlete who will become one of the top cornerbacks in the league within the next few seasons.

    Grade: A-

6. Atlanta Falcons (from Cleveland) WR Julio Jones, Alabama

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    The Falcons gave up a ton to move all the way up to the sixth spot. The wide receiver position is a need, but it’s not this big of a need. I think this is a bad move by the Falcons, as they gave up too much to essentially get a number two receiver.

    Grade: D

7. San Francisco 49ers: OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri

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    He has a lot of potential, but this is a reach in my opinion. This could be arguably the 49ers’ biggest need, but I don’t see him making much of an impact early on in his career. I still think they should’ve drafted Blaine Gabbert.

    Grade: C+

8. Tennessee Titans: QB Jake Locker, Washington

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    What?! The decision to take him over Gabbert is questionable. I didn’t see this coming, as I thought Locker would go much later than Gabbert. His accuracy is his biggest question mark, but I’m a little shocked to see him go here. It does fill a huge need for the Titans though.

    Grade: C

9. Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith, USC

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    Smith is a great addition for the Cowboys. He is a little raw, but is an incredible athlete who will become Tony Romo’s best friend. Smith should become the left tackle of the future, but I don’t know if he starts right away in 2011.

    Grade: B

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Washington): QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

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11. Houston Texans: DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

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    This is a need for the Texans, but I’m surprised that they passed up on Prince Amukamara. Watt is a prototypical 3-4 defensive end who can also put some pressure on the quarterback. He is a safe player, but I still think the Texans would’ve been better off taking a corner.

    Grade: C+

12. Minnesota Vikings: QB Christian Ponder, Florida State

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    Wow! I get the need for a quarterback, but this is a gigantic reach for the Vikings. I don’t get why they didn’t trade down, but Ponder is not a good pick at this point in the draft. I don’t think many Vikings fans should be very happy right now.

    Grade: F

13. Detroit Lions: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

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    Another surprise pick in this draft, Fairley will create an incredible pairing with Ndamukong Suh in the middle of the line. I’m a little shocked that they passed on Prince Amukamara, but this defensive line is now very scary. Another solid draft pick by the Detroit Lions.

    Grade: B-

14. St. Louis Rams: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

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    Quinn is a great pass rusher, but he sat out all of last season. I think this is a good pick for the Rams, as it fills a huge need. I'm surprised that he went over Da’Quan Bowers, but it’s still a very solid addition for the Rams.

    Grade: B-

15. MIami Dolphins: OG/ C Mike Pouncey, Florida

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    This is a solid pick in my opinion, as Pouncey is solid addition to the Dolphins offensive line. He will probably be starting at center next year for the Dolphins. A solid pick by the Dolphins, although I’m sure that Mark Ingram was pretty tempting.

    Grade: B

16. Washington Redskins(from Jacksonville): OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

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    The Redskins made a pick that fills a huge need in Kerrigan. He is a relentless pass rusher who will make an excellent pairing with Brian Orakpo at outside linebacker. I’m a little surprised that they took Kerrigan over Bowers, but I think the Redskins got a good player. I also give them a good grade for picking up some extra picks by trading down to here.

    Grade: B+

17. New England Patriots: OT Nate Solder, Colorado

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    A surprise here with both Prince Amukamara and Da’Quan Bowers on the board. Offensive tackle is a pretty big area of concern, but this might be just a bit early for Solder. He has a lot of potential though, and could turn out to be a very good left tackle in this league.

    Grade: C+

18. San Diego Chargers: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois

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    Liuget will end up playing defensive end in the 3-4 defense. He is a very good player who really is a big improvement along the defensive line. This is the biggest need for the Chargers, and they filled it with one of the top players still available. I will say that I would’ve taken Cameron Jordan at this point, but that’s just personal preference.

    Grade: B+

19. New York Giants: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

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    This is an excellent value pick for the Giants. He’s the best player on the board at this point, and he will greatly improve the depth of the cornerback spot for the Giants. This isn’t the biggest need for them, but it’s a great pick in my book. 

    Grade: A

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

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    This was a position that they badly needed, and Clayborn is a pretty solid pick here. He has an incredible motor, and he instantly becomes the top defensive end for the Buccaneers. I’m a little surprised that they didn’t go for Da’Quan Bowers here though, as he is more talented than Clayborn in my opinion.

    Grade: B

21. Cleveland Browns(from Kansas City): DT Phil Taylor, Baylor

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    I really don’t get this pick. The Browns biggest need is at defensive end, and Da’Quan Bowers is still on the board.  Taylor is a nice run stuffer, but he’s a better fit for the 3-4 defense. I didn’t expect the Browns to take a nose tackle this early, so this pick gets a low grade from me.

    Grade: D+

22. Indianapolis Colts: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

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    This is a great pick for the Indianapolis Colts. He fills the biggest need for the Colts, and Peyton Manning has to be happy with this pick.  Castonzo will be brought in to protect Manning, and he will be an anchor on the Colts line for years to come.

    Grade: A

23. Philadelphia Eagles: OG Danny Watkins, Baylor

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    Watkins is a solid pick for the Eagles, and he is a player who can start right away for the Eagles.  The Eagles love to build from the line out, and this pick isn’t surprising considering Andy Reid’s track record. A solid pick for the Eagles at this point in the draft.

    Grade: A-

24. New Orleans Saints: DE Cameron Jordan, California

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    Jordan is an excellent pick right here. He is one of my favorite players in this draft, and he’ll provide excellent pass rush up front for the Saints. He fills arguably their biggest need, and he should come in and make a big impact right away in his rookie season.

    Grade: A-

25. Seattle Seahawks: OG James Carpenter, Alabama

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    This is a terrible pick. He is a late second round prospect at best right here, and I think this is a huge reach. They do need some offensive line help, but a major reach here, as they could’ve waited until their second round pick to get him.

    Grade: F

26. Kansas City Chiefs(from Cle Thru Atl): WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh

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    Baldwin fills a very big need for the Chiefs, and I’ve been a big fan of Baldwin for a long time. He gives them great size at the wideout position, and he should be a very good compliment to Dwayne Bowe. Matt Cassel should be very happy with this pick.

    Grade: B+

27. Baltimore Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

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    Smith is a very talented player who would’ve gone much earlier if he didn’t have some maturity concerns. He will become an instant starter in Baltimore in my opinion, and he could develop into one of the better corners in the league in a few seasons. It's a little strange that Baltimore missed their pick originally, but it’s still a solid first round pick for them.

    Grade: B

28. New Orleans Saints (from New England): RB Mark Ingram, Alabama

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    Ingram is a very good value pick for the Saints, but I don’t get the fact that they traded a first rounder next year for a running back. They already have three solid running backs on the team, so it’s not a big need pick for them. 

    Grade: C

29. Chicago Bears: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

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    This is an excellent pick for the Bears, as he fills the biggest need on the team. He can start at the tackle position right away, and I personally think that he instantly becomes the Bears best offensive lineman.

    Grade: A

30. New York Jets: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple

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    He is a guy who has an incredible motor. He will provide an instant upgrade for the New York Jets, and he will give them a lot of versatility along the defensive line. This is a pretty good value pick for the Jets, and I think he will start right away for the team.

    Grade: A-

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State

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    Another very solid pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as he helps to bring in some more depth for the Steelers along the defensive line. He is a safe pick in my book, but he will make a big impact for the Steelers in round one.

    Grade: B+

32. OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State

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    Sherrod is the right tackle of the future for the Packers, and this is a solid pick. He has been a long time starter, and I think that he will get an opportunity to make an impact next season. Nice pick for the Super Bowl champions, as they have to keep Aaron Rodgers upright.

    Grade: B+