2011 NFL Draft: Cam Newton and the 5 Best and Worst Value Picks of the 1st Round
It's Christmas Day for NFL fans again!
Each year, we are witnesses to a display of each team's ability to assess and grade talent. There has hardly been a draft that has gone by without its share of surprise falls and head-scratching reaches.
Sometimes, the "sure things" fail, and less often, those "reaches" make teams look good.
Which brings us to the point: Who got value out of their selections?
The best examples of draft value come in the later rounds, when teams find players who perfectly fit their system.
Yet, we are talking about the first round, where each team selecting must get guaranteed results from whom they draft. Additionally, those choices must be appropriate within the order they are selected.
Let's look at who made good and who should have waited on their choices.
Best Value: Cardinals, Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU, 5th Overall
Peterson came into his junior season season as a top-notch corner in one of college football's elite conferences.
All he did was improve in nearly ever facet of his game, winning nearly every defensive award he was eligible to win.
Many believed Peterson to be the best player at any position going into yesterday's draft.
As a corner, he is everything teams look for. He reads plays well, he recognizes zone coverages, is an exceptional tackler, can support the run and has nice ball skills.
Arizona selecting him at No. 5 represents great value.
Best Value: Texans, J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin, 11th Overall
Watt transferred schools and converted positions to become an All-American, consensus All-Big Ten pick and Lott IMPACT Trophy winner.
He has a ridiculous work ethic and a will to win that is most desirable in a defensive end. There is just no quit in him and he takes no plays off.
Watt uses all that he has at his disposal to get the job done, leveraging his size, strength, intelligence and relentless motor to compile tackles for loss, sacks and even blocked kicks.
At No. 11, the Texans just added a Kyle Vanden Bosch/Jared Allen-type edge player who is only going to get better.
Best Value: Lions, Nick Fairley, DT, 13th Overall
Fairley is the first player on the list that represents some level of risk. Yet, the risk for the player that was once expected to be in the running for the top overall pick is just that he has only one year of high-level college experience under his belt.
What a year it was, though! Fairly has real explosion at the line, quick feet for a man his size and possesses big-time tackling ability.
In addition, Fairley will have the opportunity to play next to Ndamukong Suh, giving the Lions an inside pressure ability that will be unrivaled in the league.
Nabbing Fairley at this stage makes the Lions a big winner.
Best Value: Giants, Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska, 19th Overall
Amukamara just fell into the Giants' lap.
He is a complete DB with a dominating skill set. He possesses great read instincts, anticipates throws well and is the NFL ideal press-cover corner by utilizing size, strength, speed and tackling ability.
The one knock against Amukamara is a question about his hands. He did not intercept a single pass in his last season at Nebraska. But, consider that teams were so afraid to throw his way that opponents only targeted Amukamara 53 times, completing only 18 passes last season!
Most considered him a top-10 talent. He is such a good pick at No. 19 that the Giants should consider taking him again in the next round!
Best Value: Saints, Cameron Jordan, DE, California, 24th Overall
Jordan is a double-win for the Saints, as he represents both value and fills a big need.
He is exceptionally strong and more explosive than fast. Jordan has the family bloodlines and is a very high-effort player that doesn't give up on a play until the whistle.
He has outstanding versatility, which the Saints will use to create matchup problems for opponents. Jordan gives the Saints better ability to control the run at the line of scrimmage and instantly makes Will Smith a more dangerous player on the other end.
Honorable mentions to: Dallas and St. Louis.
Worst Value: Panthers, Cam Newton, QB, Auburn, 1st Overall
If we could grade this pick, it would be an F-minus. Now, before all the Auburn fans start sending death threats, please understand we are talking about the value of the pick.
Sure, Newton had a phenomenal season at Auburn, possesses freakish athletic skills and comes off as an intelligent player.
Yet, for all his accolades, no one can be sure that he can play the role of NFL quarterback. With the No. 1 overall selection, that's a horrible thing to be in question.
Newton does have a powerful arm, decent accuracy and scrambling ability, but the offensive scheme at Auburn he was asked to run had all the intricacies and complexities of a really fancy high-school program.
Can he make NFL reads? Can he take a snap from under center? Can he translate all that athletic ability into anything that actually means something in the NFL? Does he have the maturity and mental toughness to handle the rigors and pressures at the next level?
Absolutely no one can know that.
It's the kind of unknown quotient that should never be part of the top overall selection.
Because of all the question marks, Carolina has a better chance of having just drafted another Akili Smith than a Steve Young.
Worst Value: Broncos, Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M, 2nd Overall
The day his college football season ended, Von Miller was considered a potential first-round pick. After his first set of workouts ended, he became an instant potential top 10 pick.
That should have been a giant red flag for teams right there.
Eagles fans, remember Mike Mamula?
Want a guy who can run real fast in a straight line? Miller is your guy.
Do you want a complete player with the instincts and consistency to make plays as a DE/LB? Look elsewhere.
Like Newton, Miller wasn't asked to take on a complex assignment. He didn't have to make reads or call audibles. Miller was simply asked to run real fast toward the QB every down.
He accomplished his assignment well in college, but to have to question whether he can transition well to the NFL game is too much to risk at this slot.
Sorry, Denver fans.
Worst Value: Falcons, Julio Jones, WR, Alabama, 6th Overall
It may be foolish to question anything that Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff does; the man is clearly an elite general manager.
Jones is a very fine player. There is a lot to like about him.
Many teams would never select a wideout this high. The logic being that WRs don't touch the ball on every play, so you wait to draft the position.
All that aside, the Falcons paid a huge price to move up about a million spots to draft a wide receiver whose biggest weakness is catching the ball!
It's like drafting a LB who is a fine athlete, but his biggest weakness is tackling.
Again, Dimitroff deserves some benefit of the doubt, but what cost is too high for a move like this?
Maybe what the Falcons paid? At No. 6, plus all the other forfeited picks, it's just not enough reward for the risk.
Worst Value: Jaguars, Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri, 10th Overall
We will keep this one simple.
It's all the same stuff mentioned before regarding Cam Newton, except Gabbert doesn't possess the elite level of athleticism that Newton does.
Same problems, same risks, just slightly later.
Not what you want out of a top 10 selection.
Worst Value: Seahawks, James Carpenter, OT, Alabama, 25th Overall
James Carpenter is a fine player.
Yet, the reality of the situation is that with higher-rated prospects on the board at the position, (Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod, etc.) Seattle could have traded out of the first round altogether and would have still likely been able to select Carpenter.
With as many holes as Seattle has to fill, selecting a player that is this big of a reach is just irresponsible—no matter how well he fits their system.
They could have parlayed their hand into so much more and flat-out failed.
Dishonorable mentions go out to Baltimore's and Kansas City's selections, but we said five.