2011 NFL Draft Grades: Report Cards for the First Three Rounds

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 29, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Grades: Report Cards for the First Three Rounds

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    With the first two days of the 2011 NFL Draft in the books, we are here to take a look at every team's picks.

    While the true value of the draft cannot be graded for three to five years, it's always fun to take a look at how the team's did based on our rankings of the players and individual team needs.

    How did the trades work out for your team? Are Cam Newton and Jake Locker worthy of a high grade as their team's new franchise quarterback?

    We know how you can find out.

Carolina Panthers 2011 Draft Grade

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    Selections: QB Cam Newton, DT Terrell McClain, DT Sione Fua


    The Panthers reached for Newton, in our opinion, and drafted a player not ready to lead in the NFL right away. Newton was a one-year starter at Auburn and will struggle to adapt to the NFL game early on in his career.

    Without a second-round pick due to a 2011 trade with the Patriots, the Panthers are left waiting until Round 3 to find a defensive tackle to anchor a very young defensive line.

    Terrell McClain is a good option as a three-technique defensive tackle.

    Sione Fua is a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. He will be able to line up next to McClain and give the Panthers a solid one-two punch at tackle.

     

    Grade: B-

Denver Broncos 2011 Draft Grade

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    Picks: OLB Von Miller, FS Rahim Moore, OT Orlando Franklin, ILB Nate Irving


    The Broncos drafted the best linebacker in this draft or any draft in the last 10 years by grabbing the outside linebacker from Texas A&M, Von Miller. We initially doubted this pick but after sitting on it, we love the match of Miller and Broncos head coach John Fox.

    Rahim Moore started off the second round for Denver after a trade with the 49ers, and we love that pick. Moore is a great athlete with the range to make plays. He will be a replacement for Brian Dawkins.

    Picking back-to-back, thanks to trades, the Broncos draft a right tackle to replace free agent Ryan Harris. Orlando Franklin is another good, solid value pick that fills a need.

    Nate Irving is a really nice pick in Round 3. As the Broncos move to the 4-3 defense, they'll need players like Sheppard.

    You have to like John Elway's first draft.

     

    Grade: A

Buffalo Bills 2011 Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE Marcell Dareus, CB Aaron Williams, ILB Kelvin Sheppard


    The selection of defensive end Marcell Dareus was a no-brainer. All week it was Dareus or Von Miller, and Buffalo was happy to draft whichever player fell to them.

    Dareus is a great fit in the three-technique position for Denver. The Broncos have huge needs at defensive tackle, with no legitimate starters back in 2011.

    With pick No. 34 the Bills picked up cornerback Aaron Williams. Williams can start at cornerback or free safety, but is a cornerback in the Bills system.

    The pick of Kelvin Sheppard makes us wonder if they think Paul Posluszny will be back next year. Sheppard could also see time at the "TED" position if Posluszny is brought back.

     

    Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals Draft Grade

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    Picks: WR A.J. Green, QB Andy Dalton, OLB Dontay Moch


    Cincinnati ignored offers for the fourth overall pick and held tight, drafting the premier wide receiver needed to replace Chad Ochocinco. Green was our No. 3 player overall and a great value/need selection.

    In Round 2 we love the pick of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton is a great fit for Jay Gruden's offense, has the skill to play as a rookie and is the type of leader the Bengals locker room needs.

    Pairing Green and Dalton for the next decade has to make Bengals fans happy.

    Dontay Moch in Round 3 adds a ton of speed on defense. Moch can be an outside linebacker or defensive end in passing situations. We love the selection.

     

    Grade: A+

Arizona Cardinals Draft Grade

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    Picks: CB Patrick Peterson, RB Ryan Williams, TE Rob Housler


    The Cardinals drafted our No. 1 overall player with the fifth pick in the first round, which was a great overall value for them.

    Peterson will step in as a rookie and start opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well as contribute on special teams.

    The Round 2 selection of Ryan Williams is more surprising.

    The Cardinals have Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, who was also a second-round pick. We're not sure what the Cardinals were going for here. Williams is a very good runner, and his running style will be a nice complement to Wells.

    Rob Housler has the speed to become a threat as a pass receiver. He needs work as a blocker.

     

    Grade: B+

Cleveland Browns Draft Grade

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    Picks: DT Phil Taylor, DE Jabaal Sheard, WR Greg Little


    The Browns have been incredibly active so far, making numerous trades to work the board. We're still a bit surprised they chose to trade out and not select a wide receiver in Round 1.

    Phil Taylor is an instant starter, replacing Shaun Rogers at nose tackle.

    Round 2 brought another defensive lineman to the Browns, this time in a defensive end. We had defensive end as the Browns' No. 2 need and had been predicting the Sheard pick for a few weeks.

    The pick of Greg Little in late Round 2 is phenomenal. We love Little's deep-ball ability. Little will give the Browns a true threat for Colt McCoy.


    Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers Draft Grade

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    Picks: OLB Aldon Smith, QB Colin Kaepernick, CB Chris Culliver


    The 49ers did a good job of filling their top needs by sitting tight in the first round, trading up in Round 2 and finding a guy they can build around in Round 3.

    Aldon Smith might seem like a reach at pick No. 7 but we had heard he was a player the Redskins and Texans liked at 10 and 11, respectively.

    Kaepernick in Round 2 fills the need for a franchise quarterback. He's a mobile quarterback and fits what Jim Harbaugh wants to do on offense.

    The 49ers reached for a cornerback in Round 3. We don't love Culliver as a value in that spot. There were many better cornerbacks on the board.

     

    Grade: B+

Tennessee Titans Draft Grade

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    Picks: QB Jake Locker, LB Akeem Ayers, DT Jurrell Casey


    The Titans have done a good job addressing their needs early in the draft, even if they have reached slightly for their quarterback. Jake Locker was a surprise at No. 8 but respected scouts we have talked to really like Locker, and we're willing to wait and see on him. We still believe that Locker could have been had lower than this.

    Akeem Ayers was a top-20 talent who happened to fall based on slow 40 times at the scouting combine. Ayers is a playmaker, and in the Titans 4-3 scheme he will be a standout.

    Jurrell Casey was one of our picks as a Round 3 sleeper who could become a Pro Bowler. His ability as a two-gap defensive tackle will be worth watching.

     

    Grade: B-

Dallas Cowboys Draft Grade

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    Picks: OT Tyron Smith, OLB Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray


    The Cowboys were able to get two first-round players with their picks in Round 1 and 2, building up great value and addressing their top two needs. In Round 3 the Cowboys made a pick that surprised us.

    Tyron Smith is young (only 20 years old), but has the speed and strength to become a Pro Bowl offensive tackle.

    Bruce Carter is a top-15 talent who happened to fall to Round 2 because of an ACL injury. He's a good fit at strongside linebacker in the 3-4.

    DeMarco Murray, on the other hand, is surprising. This move would seem to indicate that the Cowboys are done with Marion Barber.

     

    Grade: B+

Washington Redskins Draft Grade

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    Picks: OLB Ryan Kerrigan, DE Jarvis Jenkins, WR Leonard Hankerson


    The Redskins' focus has been defense, when many expected them to look at quarterback and wide receiver with their first two picks.

    Ryan Kerrigan is an exceptional athlete, and lining him up opposite Brian Orakpo is a scary tandem for offensive coordinators.

    Jarvis Jenkins will be an instant starter in the 3-4 defense, replacing Albert Haynesworth, who should be cut. Jenkins was an underrated tackle at Clemson and will be a nice rookie starter in Washington.

    Round 3 brings the pick we were waiting for with a wide receiver. Leonard Hankerson has No. 1 wideout ability, but he's a little too inconsistent to be considered much higher than this.

     

    Grade: B

Houston Texans Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE J.J. Watt, OLB Brooks Reed, CB Brandon Harris

     

    The Texans have made smart picks, but the value for their first-round pick of J.J. Watt was way off the mark. With the No. 11 pick the Texans could have traded back at least five spots before drafting Watt.

    The selections of Reed and Harris in Round 2 were brilliant. These are the picks we were waiting for from the Texans earlier in this draft.

    Reed and Harris both fill needs in the starting lineup for the Texans as they transition to a 3-4 defense.

     

    Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings Draft Grade

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    Picks: QB Christian Ponder, TE Kyle Rudolph


    Both of the Vikings' first two selections were a bit surprising. Not many people saw Christian Ponder as a top-12 pick, but the Vikings' need at the position won out over value.

    Rudolph, on the other hand, was a great value in the second round. If he can stay healthy Rudolph will provide an excellent seam target for Ponder.

     

    Grade: A-

Detroit Lions Draft Grade

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    Picks: DT Nick Fairley, WR Titus Young, RB Mikel Leshoure


    The Lions caused nightmares for every NFC North quarterback last night when they selected Nick Fairley to team up with Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle.

    They followed up that excellent value selection by adding a scary threat at wide receiver and punt returner in Titus Young from Boise State.

    Both Young and Fairley have the tools to start as rookies and make a huge impact.

    The Lions' second pick in Round 2 is one we simply love.

    Mikel Leshoure was our No. 1 running back, and we're shocked to find him on the board in Round 2. He will be a great compliment to Jahvid Best.

     

    Grade: A+

St. Louis Rams Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE Robet Quinn, TE Lance Kendricks, WR Austin Pettis


    The Rams grabbed our No. 5 overall player with their first pick, adding a great value pick and also filling a need on the defensive line for a pass rusher. We like this pick.

    Lance Kendricks and Austin Pettis were brought in to provide targets for Sam Bradford. Pettis is a big receiver but has the speed and agility to make plays. Kendricks is your classic pass-receiving tight end.

     

    Grade: A+

Miami Dolphins Draft Grade

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    Picks: OG Mike Pouncey, RB Daniel Thomas


    The Dolphins made a fairly predictable selection in grabbing Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey. Jeff Ireland has to hope that Mike can play at the same level as his twin brother Maurkice did in his Pro Bowl rookie season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The Dolphins had no Round 2 pick after trading for Brandon Marshall, but in Round 3 they found their running back of the future in Daniel Thomas. Thomas will see instant playing time with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

     

    Grade: A

Jacksonville Jaguars Draft Grade

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    Picks: QB Blaine Gabbert, OT Will Rackley


    Jacksonville packed its 2011 second-round pick to move up and select a quarterback to compete with David Garrard.

    Gabbert was our No. 9 pick overall and is a good value for the Jaguars with the 10th pick, but was he worth giving up so many draft picks for?

    The Jaguars like Will Rackley at guard, a position we see him excelling once in the NFL.

     

    Grade: B

Oakland Raiders Draft Grade

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    Pick: G/C Stefan Wisniewski, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, OT Joseph Barksdale


    This is what the guys on TV like to call a "legacy pick."

    Wisniewski can play all three interior offensive line positions and could immediately step in at guard to replace Robert Gallery.

    In Round 3 the Raiders made a traditional Raiders pick in drafting the fastest player in the draft class, DeMarcus Van Dyke. No surprise here.

    With their second pick the Raiders keep with the offensive line trend and grab a physical left tackle who could transition to the right side in the NFL.

     

    Grade: A

San Diego Chargers Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE Corey Liuget, FS/CB Marcus Gilchrist, OLB Jonas Mouton, WR Vincent Brown


    The Chargers had clear-cut needs at defensive end, outside linebacker, free safety and inside linebacker entering the 2011 NFL Draft.

    Liuget is an ideal five-technique end in the 3-4 defense, especially one that asks the defensive end to get up the field.

    Marcus Gilchrist is a starter in his rookie season as a free safety or a nickel-type player at cornerback if they like him there. We had him as a third-round pick, so this is too early for our liking.

    Jonas Mouton was a surprise for us in the late second round, but when you look at their needs he fills the role of a pass rusher. He's just a round too soon for us.

    Wide receiver Vincent Brown is drafted to replace Vincent Jackson, a talented wide receiver who has been in a contract dispute for the last two years.

     

    Grade: B-

New York Giants Draft Grade

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    Picks: CB Prince Amukamara, DT Marvin Austin, WR Jerrel Jernigan


    No team did a better job of assessing the value of the player available and making a pick to help their team immediately.

    The Giants grabbed the No. 2 cornerback in the draft with pick No. 19. Prince Amukamara has the skill to have a Devin McCourty-like rookie season.

    The Giants picked up another playing falling down the board when they drafted Marvin Austin in Round 2. Austin will be an instant upgrade at defensive tackle and will be a nice duo with 2010 draftee Linval Joseph.

    We were a bit surprised to see the Giants draft a wide receiver in Round 3 and not a running back, but Jernigan is a great value and has the ability to make an impact on special teams.

     

    Grade: A+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE Adrian Clayborn, DE Da'Quan Bowers, OLB Mason Foster


    The Buccaneers grabbed a player in Round 1 we all thought they would draft in defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who is a perfect fit at end for the Bucs' true 4-3 defense. He could also slide inside on passing downs if needed.

    The Round 2 pick of Da'Quan Bowers is a little more surprising. He is a great value, depending on which doctors you believe.

    The Buccaneers had a need for two defensive ends; we just didn't see them drafting them back-to-back. However, they did draft two defensive tackles in a row last year.

    Mason Foster is a great fit for the Tampa 2. He'll step in at weakside linebacker in his rookie season.

     

    Grade: A

Kansas City Chiefs Draft Grade

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    Picks: WR Jon Baldwin, OC Rodney Hudson, OLB Justin Houston, DE Allen Bailey


    We are not sold on the selection of Baldwin, even if the Chiefs traded back to draft him. Baldwin has had off-field issues, is immature and is oddly similar to Dwayne Bowe.

    The selection of Hudson is one we like a lot more than the Baldwin pick. Hudson can step in as a starter at guard or center in his first season. He's NFL-ready.

    Justin Houston is a great pick here if they can trust him to stay clean. Houston failed a drug test at the scouting combine. He's a premier pass rusher when he's on the field.

    Allen Bailey graded out as a late second-round pick on our board and is a great value here. It makes us wonder if the team is planning for a future without Tyson Jackson.

     

    Grade: C

Indianapolis Colts Draft Grade

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    Picks: OT Anthony Castonzo, OG Ben Ijalana, DT Drake Nevis


    The Colts have ignored the offensive line far too often in previous drafts. That changed this year.

    Anthony Castonzo is a Day 1 starter at left tackle. He graded out as the best left tackle on many draft boards before the 2011 draft.

    Lining up next to him next year will most likely be their second-round pick, Ben Ijalana.

    Both players were a great value in their respective slots and also fill needs for the Colts.

    Round 3 saw the Colts drafting to fill all three of our pre-draft needs for them. Defensive tackle Drake Nevis is your classic three-technique tackle to pressure the pocket.

     

    Grade: A+

Philadelphia Eagles Draft Grade

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    Pick: OG Danny Watkins, FS Jaiquawn Jarrett, CB Curtis Marsh


    The Eagles did a good job standing pat and addressing needs with the picks they have. That's what they've done here.

    Danny Watkins can start at guard or right tackle, and that versatility fits what Philadelphia likes to do on the offensive line.

    Jaiquawn Jarrett was a slight reach in Round 2, but his athletic ability and range are exciting. He has a good amount of potential.

    Once Ellis Hobbs retired, we marked cornerback as a need for Philadelphia. Marsh is a small-school guy but has the size and speed to play in the NFL.

     

    Grade: A

New Orleans Saints Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE Cameron Jordan, RB Mark Ingram, ILB Martez Wilson


    The Saints wasted no time making wholesale improvements to their roster by selecting Cameron Jordan and then trading back in to the first round for running back Mark Ingram.

    The Saints definitely needed both players, but trading a future first-round pick for a running back is not our idea of value.

    In Round 3 the Saints did go for a value pick when they drafted inside linebacker Martez WIlson, who has inside/outside ability and adds the speed the Saints need at linebacker.

     

    Grade: C+

Seattle Seahawks Draft Grade

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    Picks: OT James Carpenter, OG John Moffitt


    The Seahawks spent their first selection on a player we had rated No. 80 overall. Even James Carpenter's college head coach Nick Saban was shocked to hear his offensive tackle's name called in Round 1.

    The Seahawks passed on the more polished Derek Sherrod for Carpenter; we'll see how that pans out for them.

    After moving out of Round 2 for future picks the Seahawks draft another offensive lineman, ignoring needs at quarterback and defensive tackle.

    This is a very unsexy draft for the Seahawks.

     

    Grade: D

Baltimore Ravens Draft Grade

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    Picks: CB Jimmy Smith, WR Torrey Smith, OT Jah Reid


    The Ravens took a Round 1 gamble and drafted the troubled, but talented cornerback from Colorado. Smith has top-15 talent if he can stay out of trouble.

    John Harbaugh is hoping his strong leaders on defense, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, can keep Smith on the straight and narrow.

    Torrey Smith is a speedy receiver and deep threat—something the Ravens sorely needed in such a slow receiving crew.

    Jah Reid in Round 3 makes us think the Ravens want to find a replacement for Jared Gaither at right tackle (or perhaps left tackle).

     

    Grade: B

Atlanta Falcons Draft Grade

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    Picks: WR Julio Jones, ILB Akeem Dent


    The Falcons traded away their future for Julio Jones by giving up a first-, second- and fourth-round pick this year and two 2012 picks for the No. 6 spot.

    Julio Jones is a dynamic difference-maker at wideout. Opposite Roddy White he will be electric.

    The Falcons are close to a Super Bowl. This might put them over the top.

    Akeem Dent in Round 3 is a pick to help them get younger at linebacker. It's likely Dent would replace Mike Peterson at strongside linebacker, or allow Curtis Lofton to move outside.

     

    Grade: A+

New England Patriots Draft Grade

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    Picks: OT Nate Solder, CB Ras-I Dowling, RB Shane Vereen, RB Stevan Ridley, QB Ryan Mallett


    The Patriots were predictable in trading pick No. 28 to New Orleans for a future first-round pick. What was not predictable was the selection of Nate Solder so early in Round 1.

    Solder is a great athlete, but he was our No. 5 overall tackle. This pick indicates the Patriots do not plan to retain Matt Light.

    Ras-I Dowling at the top of Round 2 is a great pick. We did not have cornerback high on the Patriots' list of needs, but this makes sense. Dowling will line up opposite Devin McCourty, solidifying the cornerback position in New England.

    The Patriots may lose BenJarvus Green-Ellis to free agency, and he may be hard to re-sign after a 1,000-yard season. That makes drafting one running back a smart pick, but two in a row?

    Vereen is a speed/power guy who has the talent to be a three-down, featured back. Ridley makes sense as a goal-line guy. If the Patriots platoon the two runners right and fail to re-sign Green-Ellis, these will be smart picks.

    Ryan Mallett...wow. The Patriots do need a player behind Tom Brady to groom for the future. Ryan Mallett's an interesting choice there. Great value, and if anyone can get his off-field issues under control, it's the Patriots.

     

    Grade: B+

Chicago Bears Draft Grade

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    Picks: OT Gabe Carimi, DT Stephen Paea, FS Chris Conte


    The Bears started the draft with a smart, safe pick of our No. 1 offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. They will give Carimi the chance to start at left tackle opposite J'Marcus Webb as a rookie.

    In Round 2 the plan was to replace Tommie Harris at defensive tackle. The Bears did that with Stephen Paea, a player many had rated as a first-rounder before a shoulder injury late in the season.

    Chris Conte will see playing time in a safety rotation and special teams. We really like his athleticism and production as a one-year starter.

     

    Grade: A

New York Jets Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NT Kenrick Ellis


    The Jets made a very safe pick by drafting the big defensive end with their first-round pick and a nose tackle in Round 3.

    Both players come from small schools, but have ideal 3-4 defense talent and skills sets.

    With so many free agents in New York these are two solid picks who could see major playing time in 2011.

     

    Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Grade

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    Picks: DE Cam Heyward, OT Marcus Gilbert, CB Curtis Brown


    The Steelers do a good job of making smart, solid picks that fill needs both now and in the future.

    Cam Heyward is a classic five-technique defensive end for the Pittsburgh 3-4 defense.

    The Steelers finally draft an offensive tackle, pulling the trigger on a right tackle in Round 2. Marcus Gilbert is a big, big man. We like his potential, especially in the run game.

    The third-round pick for Pittsburgh is one we love. The Steelers have needed a cornerback for years. Brown will be able to step in as a rookie in special teams and nickel packages.

     

    Grade: B

Green Bay Packers Draft Grade

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    Picks: OT Derek Sherrod, WR Randall Cobb, RB Alex Green


    The Packers make a safe, conservative pick by drafting one of our top offensive tackles in Derek Sherrod. Sherrod can replace Chad Clifton at left tackle in the next two seasons.

    Randall Cobb is a dynamic player who can make plays in the run game, passing game and on special teams. He's a Percy Harvin-like talent.

    Alex Green is a pick we really like. He's a big back with speed who fits the Packers offense. He wasn't used right at Hawaii. The Packers will use him right.

     

    Grade: A