2011 NFL Draft Grades: 10 Biggest Winners on Thursday

James BrownSenior Analyst IApril 28, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Grades: 10 Biggest Winners on Thursday

0 of 10

    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The first round of the NFL draft is over and several teams and players emerged as winners.

    The ultimate grade will be given much later as rookies attempt to lead their teams to a Super Bowl. Until that can happen, teams will be graded on their draft strategy and how their selections may have changed the future of their franchises.

Jake Locker

1 of 10

    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The Tennessee Titans used their No. 8 overall pick to draft Jake Locker. Locker was criticized for staying another year in college and throwing away a chance to be drafted No. 1 overall in the draft.

    Locker overcame adversity and still managed to get drafted high in the 2011 draft. Blaine Gabbert felt the crunch as Locker was the second quarterback taken overall in the draft. Jake Locker is easily a winner in day one of the NFL Draft.

Carson Palmer

2 of 10

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Carson Palmer was not in New York for the NFL draft, but he is still a winner. The Cincinnati Bengals used their fourth overall pick to draft wide receiver A.J. Green giving Palmer a great weapon on the field. However, Palmer is not staying in Cincinnati and this pick will give him leverage as the Bengals will need to move him if he does not play.

    Whether he stays or goes, Palmer is a winner on the first night of the draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars

3 of 10

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    When the Jaguars prepped for the draft, they never dreamed that they would have a chance to get Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert is a top prospect and the Jaguars needed a quarterback of the future and got that in Gabbert.

    The No. 10 pick came relatively cheap as they just surrendered their first and second pick (49) in this draft.

St. Louis Rams

4 of 10

    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Rams took advantage of the offensive rush in the draft, grabbing Robert Quinn out of North Carolina.

    Quinn gives the Rams a sensational pass rusher that will contribute on day one. The Rams get great value with Quinn at this spot and they continue a trend in this year’s draft with teams drafting the best player available.

Christian Ponder

5 of 10

    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Christian Ponder joins Jake Locker as a quarterback that jumped up into the first round after many experts assumed he would be drafted in the second round. The Vikings made sure they did not miss out on a quarterback, and while it may be a reach, it makes Ponder a winner.

Washington Redskins

6 of 10

    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Washington Redskins did exactly everything that they wanted to do in the draft. They traded down in the first round with the Jacksonville Jaguars to get an extra pick and they still managed to get a defensive end.

    Ryan Kerrigan is an excellent prospect that fits well in the system. Kerrigan plays non-stop and never gives up on a play, something the Redskins needed. The Redskins got the position they wants and an extra pick making them first round winners.

Cam Newton

7 of 10

    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers made Cam Newton the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and that alone makes him a winner. Love him or hate him, Newton is a popular player with the potential to be a great player. Newton overcame multiple obstacles to be the top pick in the draft.

    Newton had to overcome problems at Florida, accusations of academic fraud, and a pay-for-pay scandal involving his father. Newton was not the No. 1 overall pick when the college football season ended, but on draft night he was selected first and because of that, Newton is a winner.

New England Patriots

8 of 10

    Elsa/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots were rumored to trade up in this draft due to the fact that they were loaded with draft picks. The way that the chips fell, the Patriots ended up being big winners in the draft.

    They did not have to trade any of their picks and they got a very talented prospect that fit their needs and prepared for the future.

    They grabbed an athletic offensive lineman in Nate Solder who will be a nice fit on the front line. They then stayed true to their usual approach to the draft and traded down. The Patriots traded their No. 28 pick to the New Orleans Saints and have once again stockpiled picks for the future.

Cleveland Browns

9 of 10

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns traded away their sixth round pick to a rattled Atlanta Falcons team. After falling to execute a trade with the Bengals for A.J. Green, the Falcons made sure they did not miss out on Julio Jones.

    They showered the Browns with draft picks in order to secure the wide receiver out of Alabama. The Browns are the true winners grabbing five picks in exchange. The Browns get the first, second and fourth round picks in this year’s draft and the first and fourth round picks in 2012.

    The Falcons clearly overpaid for the pick, and the Browns reaped the benefits.

    The Browns were not done and traded up to take the No. 21 spot from the Kansas City Chiefs and they landed Phil Taylor. The Browns were one of the most active teams in the first round and got their man and extra picks to become a winner in the first round.

New Orleans Saints

10 of 10

    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    The Saints had to love their position in the draft. The way it unfolded, the Saints had their choice of several players that they thought would have been gone at this point. They stepped up and nabbed Cameron Jordan out of California to bolster the defense.  

    This is a solid pick for the Saints and a steal at this position. Jordan is a stud and an automatic upgrade to the defense.

    The Saints weren't satisfied with that pick and they traded up with the New England Patriots and drafted running back Mark Ingram.

    The Saints answered two of their glaring needs in the first and as a result they are the biggest winners in the first round.

    Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at mregaw@gmail.com