2011 NFL Draft Grades: Top 10 Most Outstanding Picks of Day 2

Dean HoldenAnalyst IApril 30, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Grades: Top 10 Most Outstanding Picks of Day 2

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The second and third rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft are in the books.

    There have been some questionable decisions, some huge slides and plenty of trades.

    The second day of the draft never packs the same punch as the first, but most teams still count on getting quality starters out of it. In this case, some teams may have gotten future stars.

    Among the 64 picks made on Day 2, some stand out more than others.

    While it is, of course, far too early to grade any picks made in this draft in the long-term, it is not too early to grade based on who got the best values or the guys they really needed.

    Though it may be premature, here are the 15 most outstanding picks of the 2011 NFL Draft, Day 2.

10. 33rd Overall Pick: Ras-I Dowling to New England

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 09:  Ras-I Dowling #19 of the Virginia Cavaliers against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I like this pick a fair amount because Ras-I Dowling has a very specific skill set, and the Patriots know how to play a guy to his strengths.

    Dowling has the measurables and the skills to have been a first-round pick, but he spent a good portion of his senior season injured.

    Was cornerback a major need for the Patriots? Not really, though it was far from secure. But they took one of the better players on the board to shore up some quality depth with a high ceiling.

9. 84th Overall Pick: Mason Foster to Tampa Bay

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 11:  Linebacker Mason Foster #40 of the Washington Huskies looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Syracuse Orange on September 11, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Mason Foster is the picture of productivity. He's rangy and he always puts himself in a position to make a play.

    I love what Tampa Bay has done to overhaul its defense in its draft, and Foster should fit right in with them. He's not much of a pass rusher, but Tampa isn't likely to ask him to be.

    He'll be a sideline-to-sideline defender, the kind who will track down a sweep on the other side of the field.

    The Bucs will enjoy having that kind of range at linebacker, especially behind a defensive line that should cause increasing amounts of havoc.

8. 43rd Overall Pick: Kyle Rudolph to Minnesota

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Kyle Rudolph #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish breaks away from Quinton Rochardson #28 of the Washington Huskies after catching the ball on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Dan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    At 43rd overall, most teams don't expect to get the best of anything on the board.

    So it's certainly surprising that the Minnesota Vikings were able to pluck the top tight end on the board in the middle of the second round.

    While the Vikings had greater needs in other areas (is tight end ever anybody's biggest need?), they did take a quarterback in the first round, and the common courtesy is to supply him with weapons.

    Given that the Vikings play in a division with three of the best pass-rushing teams in football, a good weapon to start with is a big target he can use as a safety valve.

7. 95th Overall Pick: Curtis Brown to Pittsburgh

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 1: Defensive back Curtis Brown #6 of Texas goes up for a pass during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Curtis Brown has good cornerback size and is an exceptional athlete.

    The only drawback is that he's not actually very good at the cornerback position.

    Of course, Brown improved his coverage and ball skills during his time at Texas, and he figures to only get better.

    In other words, he's a perfect third-round pick. Great physical skills, huge upside, raw football skills.

    This is why the Steelers are consistently good. They take a guy they can coach up, help him realize his upside, and plug him in for 10 years or so.

    Curtis Brown will be the next of those guys.

6. 39th Overall Pick: Akeem Ayers to Tennessee

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Linebacker Akeem Ayers #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the game with the Houston Cougars at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Akeem Ayers didn't do himself any favors by bailing out of the NFL Draft party in a presumable hissy fit after he wasn't selected in the first round.

    For a guy who fell that far because of issues with his attitude and motor (a sense of entitlement, perhaps?), that probably wasn't his smartest play.

    But the Tennessee Titans still took him with the eighth pick of the second round. Why?

    Because his talent level alone makes him top 15 material. Ayers is a lean, athletic linebacker who can fit into just about any scheme, and if his motor and work ethic are where they need to be, he has the ability to be a Pro Bowl linebacker.

    Of course, it will be up to the Titans coaching staff and locker room to ensure he meets that "if."

5. 42nd Overall Pick: Brooks Reed to Houston

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    TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Ricky Stanzi #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is sacked by Brooks Reed #42 of the Arizona Wildcats during the third quarter of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Wild
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I would actually like to pair this with Houston's pick of Brandon Harris at 60th overall. Both picks are phenomenal choices for a team overhauling its defense.

    The Texans, a team currently transitioning its defense to a 3-4, needed two things to fix its atrocious pass defense above all else: guys to get after the quarterback, and help at the corner position.

    Turns out, they've gotten both. Brooks Reed was not only the best pass rusher available at 42nd, he may well have been the best player overall, and he fits what Houston wants to do going forward.

    A bonus for Houston is that they're now full of guys to get after the quarterback in a division sporting two rookie quarterbacks and Peyton Manning.

4. 74th Overall Pick: Ryan Mallett to New England.

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks looks to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    This is one of the strangest picks in the draft, and I still can't figure out quite why I like it. But I do.

    It probably has partly to do with the fact that the Patriots had traded back so many times, they were basically playing with house money by the third round.

    Quarterback on the board? Sure, bring him on in, the more the merrier!

    I actually think this pick is far better for Mallett than it is for New England... but in a weird way, it gets better for New England the more Mallett benefits.

    Let me explain, since that made no sense.

    Mallett, a verifiable head case (and don't tell me he's not, or the "most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft" wouldn't have fallen to the third round), is almost guaranteed to clean up his act in New England.

    I don't know what kind of brainwashing Bill Belichick is into, but he has never failed to turn a problem child into a model citizen under his watch.

    Now I certainly don't expect Mallett to be Tom Brady's true successor. Brady has far too much time left in his career. He certainly has more time with the Patriots than Mallett's rookie contract will.

    That's why I fully expect him to be shipped out at some point, after Mallett's issues are all forgotten about. And New England will most likely turn a profit on it, like a real estate investor who buys a fixer-upper and flips it for twice the profit.

3. 64th Overall Pick: Randall Cobb to Green Bay

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    LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 13:  Randall Cobb #18 of the Kentucky Wildcats runs with the ball while defended by Sean Richardson #21 of the Vanderbilt Commodores during the game at Commonwealth Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Super Bowl Champions must have been looking around their war room waiting for someone to find a mistake.

    Randall Cobb, available at 64th? He was a perfect fit for the Packers' system, except that the Packers were supposed to have to take him 32 spots earlier, at the end of the first round.

    Instead, they took a talented offensive tackle in the first round, then sat patiently for 31 more picks, only to find one of their targets from the first round still hanging around.

    Now they find a guy who is dangerous in the slot, dangerous down the field, dangerous in the flat and dangerous as a return man.

    With James Jones a free agent, and Donald Driver's illustrious career in its twilight, Cobb makes the rich richer in an already absurdly talented championship offense.

2. 70th Overall Pick: Justin Houston to Kansas City

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  Justin Houston #42 of the Georgia Bulldogs sacks quarterback Tevin Washington #13 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Justin Houston got passed up, a whole lot, because of potential character concerns.

    After word came out that Houston failed a drug test at the combine, the expected first-round pick began his slide, all the way to the top of the third.

    But by that point, the immense physical talent outweighs the potential character risk.

    If Houston leaves whatever drug issues he may or may not have and checks them at the door, he'll be one of the biggest steals of the draft.

    If he doesn't, he'll be suspended too often for us to know what may have been.

1. 51st Overall Pick: Da'Quan Bowers to Tampa Bay

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28:  Defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson sits on the bench during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    This is almost too easy.

    Da'Quan Bowers is probably going to be the biggest draft steal in the last several years, and it's all because of a bunch of "maybe" speculation about the long-term health of his knee.

    In retrospect, it's a little silly thinking about what a guy's knee is going to look like three years from now.

    Nevermind pre-existing conditions, how many NFL players are probably going to blow up their knees in game action in the next three years?

    But still, that concern was enough to slide a former No. 1 overall prospect to the bottom half of the second round.

    Where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were waiting with open arms and wide, incredulous eyes.

    If Bowers' knee turns out to be fine, and he starts posting double-digit sack totals for Tampa Bay's suddenly very frightening defensive front, a lot of teams are going to feel awfully silly for passing on him.

    Twice.