By reflecting back on the drafts of all 32 teams, I will look ahead to how each team’s draft will impact their future and whether each team maximized their ability to draft well this year. In each draft review, teams will be assessed of how well they drafted both on board value and filling team needs, displaying both how teams made great selections and where they made big mistakes.
Continuing with the reviews, Volume Four of Eight features the four teams originally slated to the final four picks of the first half of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, picks 13 through 16, those being the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Round 1, Pick 13: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn (3rd overall prospect)
By drafting Nick Fairley, the Detroit Lions are set to have possibly the best young duo at defensive tackle in the entire National Football League. Of course, a large part of that is that they already have the best young defensive tackle in the National Football League, second-year player Ndamukong Suh. How could the Lions make Suh even better? By adding another difference-maker in Fairley to line up next to him.
Fairley is not quite the consistently dominant force that Suh is, but few players are. Fairley likely dropped out of the top 10 picks due to questions about work ethic and maturity, but he is a tremendously talented defensive tackle who can make big plays both against the run and pass to change the game.
With Suh, a player who will draw consistent double-teams after being a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season, teams will not have the option of double-teaming Fairley, which will give him opportunities to blow up rushing attempts and sack the quarterback. Fairley was drafted into the perfect situation to become a star playing alongside Suh.
The Detroit Lions may not have had a major need at the defensive tackle position, but when the third-best propsect in the Draft is available at 13th overall, that value is too good to pass up. Adding such a tremendous playmaker in Fairley next to Suh should pay huge dividends for the Lions’ defense.
Round 2, Pick 57: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois (40th overall prospect)
Mikel Leshoure had tremendous productivity as a running back in the Big Ten and is the best power back in the 2011 NFL Draft class.
The Detroit Lions had to give up many picks to get back into the second round, trading their third- and fourth-round picks, and also swapped down a few spots in both the fifth and seventh rounds. Leshoure was very good value late in the second round, and is a perfect complement to the Lions’ quick, shifty feature back, Jahvid Best. This made Leshoure worth trading up for.
Unfortunately, Leshoure is out for the entire 2011 season with a torn Achilles tendon, but I expect that he will bounce back strong in 2012 to become the complement to Best in the backfield that they drafted him to be.
Round 5, Pick 157: Doug Hogue, OLB, Syracuse (155th overall prospect)
The Detroit Lions needed to add an outside linebacker, and Doug Hogue fit the bill as a solid Round 5 selection. Hogue is not a spectacular playmaker, but he is a solid all-around linebacker who is good against the run and in pass coverage, and should be able to compete for playing time at the strongside or weakside linebacker position. Good pick to address a need area.
Round 2, Pick 44: Titus Young, WR, Boise State (56th overall prospect)
With major needs at linebacker and cornerback, I thought the Lions would have been better off drafting one of two great values in Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson or Miami cornerback Brandon Harris. However, I am not criticizing the Lions’ selection here.
Aside from Calvin Johnson, the Lions lacked playmakers at the wide receiver position, so they certainly had reason to upgrade. In Young, the Lions get a shifty slot receiver who can also contribute as a very skilled kick and punt returner.
Small, inconsistent and questionable character, there are certainly question marks when it comes to Young, but his ability as a playmaker made him worthy of a second-round draft pick, and he adds another dimension to the Lions offense, which is certainly beneficial.
“What The …?” Picks
Round 7, Pick 209: Johnny Culbreath, OT, South Carolina State (not in Top 400)
Bringing in a developmental prospect at offensive tackle was a good decision in Round 7, but with Arkansas State’s Derek Newton still available, it is hard to understand why the Lions would choose Culbreath here. Newton has starting potential as an offensive tackle, whereas Culbreath is an extremely raw player who lacks the talent to be anything more than a backup.
Even as a seventh-round selection, Culbreath was a bad choice, for he should have gone undrafted while a much better prospect at the position was still on the board.
The Picks They Traded
Round 6, Pick 173 was traded in August 2010 in exchange for defensive end Lawrence Jackson.
A former first-round selection of the Seattle Seahawks, Lawrence Jackson had his best NFL season last year in a situational role with the Detroit Lions. Jackson never lived up to his potential, but he is a good situational defensive end, and well worth the Round 6 selection they gave up, considering he is a better player than any defensive end the Lions could have gotten at that point in the Draft.
Round 7, Pick 210 was traded in March 2010 along with a 2010 sixth-round selection in exchange for cornerback Chris Houston.
Chris Houston played well last season as the Detroit Lions’ No. 1 cornerback, and he has been re-signed for two more years, so the Detroit Lions got him at an absolute bargain rate last year, giving up only two late-round picks for a starting cornerback. Certainly better than any cornerback they could have drafted in the seventh round.
The Detroit Lions made waves throughout the National Football League on Day 1 of the 2011 NFL Draft, when they drafted a defensive tackle in the first round for the second straight year, getting one of the best players in the draft class at tremendous value in Nick Fairley. While the Lions did fail on addressing their major needs early in the draft, they added two playmakers to upgrade offensively on Day 2 in Titus Young and then trading back into the second round for Mikel Leshoure.
Trades left the Detroit Lions with very few picks to work with on Day 3, but the Lions did get two productive defensive players out of those trades in Lawrence Jackson and Chris Houston, which only makes their 2011 NFL Draft look better. The Lions could have done a better job addressing their needs at outside linebacker and cornerback, but overall, the Lions got great value in this draft and added three talents that should play big roles for their teams. For that, the Lions grade out with an A-.
Round 1 Pick DE Robert Quinn
Round 4, Pick 112: Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii (64th overall prospect)
The St. Louis Rams came into the 2011 NFL Draft with a major need at the wide receiver position and got a great bargain by getting Greg Salas early on Day 3.
Salas was extremely productive in the Hawaii passing attack, leading all receivers in the NCAA last year in receptions and receiving yards. He is a well-rounded receiver with a solid combination of size and speed. He has reliable hands, and while he may not be much of a deep threat, he will be a great addition to the receiving corps for Sam Bradford to work with.
Salas would have been good value in Round 3, so getting him in the fourth round is a bargain.
Round 7, Pick 229: Jonathan Nelson, FS, Oklahoma (284th overall prospect)
The St. Louis Rams needed reinforcement in their secondary, so Jonathan Nelson was a decent choice in Round 7. Nelson is a solid free safety who has the versatility to play cornerback as well, although his major area of contribution in the National Football League will likely be on special teams.
The Rams could have added better value to the secondary at this point in Georgia Tech free safety Jerrard Tarrant or Oregon State cornerback James Dockery, but as a solid athlete and pass coverage back, Nelson can make an impact on the field for the Rams.
Round 3, Pick 78: Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State (88th overall prospect)
The Rams were in serious need of a big wideout and certainly got a big receiver in Austin Pettis. Pettis has size and strength, which will make him a good possession receiver and red-zone threat, but he does not have great athleticism.
Pettis is a very reliable wide receiver who should be a good weapon for Bradford in the passing game. However, another big receiver, and one of the best wideouts in the draft class in Leonard Hankerson, was still available, and great value in the third round.
Pettis was of value in the third round, but Hankerson has as much size as Pettis while he is also a much better athlete and downfield playmaker, so the Rams made a mistake in passing him up for Pettis, although Austin is still a player who should help the Rams. Not a bad choice, but not the best choice.
Round 5, Pick 158: Jermale Hines, FS, Ohio State (206th overall prospect)
While the Rams really needed to draft a free safety, they made somewhat of a reach by selecting Jermale Hines in Round 5. Hines is a very talented player who displayed flashes of brilliance in his collegiate career that I at one time thought would make him a Day 2 prospect. However, Hines’ play was inconsistent throughout his career at Ohio State, and he never secured a long-term starting spot on the Buckeyes defense.
Therefore, while Hines is a hard-hitting, athletic safety who has shown the potential to be a playmaker at the position, he is a developmental project who should not have been selected above the sixth round. Considering there was not much better value available at the free safety position, this was not necessarily a bad selection, for Hines’ upside could end up making him a diamond in the rough. However, he was a reach selection that the Rams should have passed upon in favor of better value.
Not the Best Pick
Round 1, Pick 14: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina (25th overall prospect)
The St. Louis Rams will certainly benefit from adding an impact pass rusher in Robert Quinn. However, Quinn is overrated, and after missing all of last season due to NCAA violations, he was a reach as a top-15 selection.
Quinn is a very good athlete with good pass rush skills, but he is weak against the run and needs to learn better technique to succeed in the National Football League. The Rams could have addressed a greater need at the defensive tackle position while also gotten better value by selecting California’s Cameron Jordan, but instead reached on Quinn.
Quinn could end up becoming a star pass rusher for the Rams, but he could also be a major bust, making this a questionable selection.
Round 2, Pick 47: Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin (66th overall prospect)
Tight end was a major need for the St. Louis Rams, but Lance Kendricks should not have been the second tight end off of the board. Kendricks is a good all-around tight end who can also play as an H-back, with solid receiving and blocking skills.
However, there were still two better tight ends available in Tennessee’s Luke Stocker and Arkansas’ D.J. Williams, and Kendricks was a small reach in the second round. Kendricks should be a productive addition to the Rams’ offense, but not the best choice with better value available.
Round 7, Pick 216: Mikail Baker, CB, Baylor (not in Top 400)
Mikail Baker is a player who was not on my draft radar at all, and certainly not the best choice for the St. Louis Rams. Baker does have potential as a special teams player, which is why Baker does not fall into the “What the …?” category. However, his productivity collegiately was subpar, and there was a better defensive back from Baylor still available in Byron Landor, along with many cornerbacks, including North Carolina’s Kendric Burney.
Baker could make the roster as a special teamer, but he is a player who the Rams should have waited to pursue as an undrafted free agent.
Round 7, Pick 228: Jabara Williams, OLB, Stephen F. Austin (not in Top 400)
The St. Louis Rams needed to draft an outside linebacker, but could have done better than selecting Jabara Williams in Round 7. Better outside linebacker prospects, including Boston College’s Mark Herzlich and USC’s Malcolm Smith, were still available.
Williams was a standout at the FCS level and has a very intriguing combination of size and athleticism, so he is a sleeper project worth developing, and not necessarily a bad seventh-round choice, albeit not the best value.
The Picks They Traded
The St. Louis Rams traded Round 6, Pick 180 in September 2010 in exchange for wide receiver Mark Clayton (and Round 7, Pick 228).
Mark Clayton appeared to be well on his way to a career year last season prior to suffering a serious knee injury that ended his season. Clayton is not back with the team for another season, and in fact has yet to be signed by any team, likely due to the injury status of his knee. However, considering that the Rams only gave up a Round 6 pick and did get a Round 7 pick back in return, this was a trade worth making for the Rams.
The St. Louis Rams failed to address major needs at the defensive tackle and outside linebacker position, and did not take great advantage of value in the 2011 NFL Draft. Both Robert Quinn and Lance Kendricks were reaches in the first two rounds.
The Rams doubled up on wide receivers in the next two rounds, getting a great Round 4 bargain in Greg Salas, along with a decent Round 3 choice in Austin Pettis. However, the rest of the Rams’ picks all went to developmental prospects or special teams players, preventing the Rams from adding many player who can contribute offensively or defensively for the team this season.
With only one great selection, an overall poor sense of value and needs left unmet, the St. Louis Rams grade out with a C-.
Round 6, Pick 174: Charles Clay, FB, Tulsa (100th overall prospect)
As a multi-faceted H-back, Charles Clay is a very valuable addition to the Miami Dolphins in Round 6. Clay has the size and receiving ability to play some tight end, but is also a good lead blocker and decent runner.
His most valuable area will likely be lining up as a fullback who can contribute as a receiver and blocker out of the backfield. His overall value would have made him a very good choice early on Day 3, so the Dolphins really got a steal with him still being on the board in Round 6.
Round 4, Pick 111: Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian (95th overall prospect)
The Miami Dolphins needed to add another vertical threat at the wide receiver position and may end up with the guy they coveted in Edmond Gates. Gates is a tremendous athlete who looks to follow the path of Johnny Knox, from Abilene Christian standout to NFL vertical threat.
Gates is certainly a developmental prospect who will need to make a big transition from Division II to the National Football League, but he has high upside given his athletic ability and playmaking ability, and if he meets his potential, he could end up being a steal as a Round 4 pick.
Not the Best Pick
Round 1, Pick 15: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida (53rd overall prospect)
The Miami Dolphins did have a major need at the center position, but Mike Pouncey was a big reach as a top-15 selection. Mike is not as talented as his twin brother, Pittsburgh Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey, but was certainly drafted as though he is the same caliber of player.
Pouncey is a solid interior lineman, but I am not sure that he is cut out to play the center position, and considering the Dolphins will be expecting Mike to be a quickly-emerging star like Maurkice, they are likely to be disappointed in the result. Pouncey would have been a solid second-round selection, but the Dolphins should have gone with a better value, such as Alabama running back Mark Ingram or California defensive end Cameron Jordan, over reaching for Pouncey in the first round.
Round 2, Pick 62: Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State (111th overall prospect)
The Miami Dolphins needed to add a running back, but trading three selections (third round, fifth round and seventh round picks) to move into the second round and draft Daniel Thomas was not the way to do that.
While Daniel Thomas was very productive as a collegiate running back, there is nothing spectacular as an NFL prospect. He is a solid power back, but he is not a great athlete, and will not flash anything special on the field for the Dolphins. He is a solid rotational back who would have been worth a Day 3 draft pick, but was not worth trading up into the second round to get, especially with many better running backs still available, including Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter and Connecticut’s Jordan Todman.
Round 7, Pick 231: Frank Kearse, DT, Alabama A&M (not in Top 400)
The Miami Dolphins needed a backup nose tackle, but it is doubtful that Round 7 pick Frank Kearse can be that guy. With potential fills to that need still available in Ohio State’s Dexter Larimore and West Virginia’s Chris Neild, it was puzzling that the Dolphins would use this selection on a small-schooler best suited to be an undrafted free agent in Kearse.
Round 7, Pick 235: Jimmy Wilson, CB, Montana (not in Top 400)
Jimmy Wilson certainly has a unique story. Wilson spent more than two years in prison for a murder he did not commit until he was finally acquitted. Wilson may not have been a player who should have been drafted, but he has worked really hard to prove himself after getting his life and NFL dreams back, and the Dolphins helped him realize his dreams by drafting him.
Granted, in terms of grading the selection, the Dolphins could have gotten much better value at this position in North Carolina’s Kendric Burney or Oregon State’s James Dockery, but at least they added to a position of need.
The Picks They Traded
Round 2, Pick 46 along with a 2010 second-round selection in April 2010 in exchange for wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Brandon Marshall may have his issues off the field, but he is an extremely talented wideout and a stud on the field. With the Dolphins re-signing Marshall to a four-year contract after trading for him, they made this trade worth it, for they got a fantastic No. 1 wide receiver who they could not have gotten with a second-round selection in either of the past two drafts.
Marshall has great size, athleticism and playmaking ability, and should continue to be one of the Dolphins’ main offensive weapon over the next few seasons. A trade well worth making.
The Miami Dolphins did not do very well in finding value in this draft. They did find two steals on Day 3 in Edmond Gates and Charles Clay, but both Day 1 pick Mike Pouncey and Day 2 pick Daniel Thomas were major reaches at the picks with which they were selected.
The Dolphins did address their two biggest needs with those two picks, but did not choose the best players they could have at those positions, and they still have an unmet need at the quarterback position. Overall, while the Dolphins did address areas of need, their lack of value hurts their grade, leaving them with a C-.
Round 4, Pick 114: Cecil Shorts, WR, Mount Union (109th overall prospect)
The Jacksonville Jaguars needed to add a vertical threat at the wide receiver position, and got a solid choice in Round 4 in Cecil Shorts. As a Division III player, Shorts is certainly a sleeper, even though he was a standout at that level.
Shorts is a skilled wideout who may not be quite the size-speed threat the Jaguars needed, but should be a valuable contributor at a position of major need. He was not the best choice here; given their need of a real vertical threat, the Jaguars should not have passed up Tennessee’s Denarius Moore with this pick, but Shorts was still a solid choice for both value and need.
Round 1, Pick 10: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri (77th overall prospect)
I view the Jaguars’ selection of Blaine Gabbert very similarly to how I view the Titans’ selection of Jake Locker two picks earlier. Like Locker, Gabbert was a massive reach as a top-10 selection, especially considering the Jaguars traded away their second-round pick to move up six spots to select him, certainly a very steep price for a team with many need areas. However, David Garrard is not a franchise quarterback, so the Jaguars were smart to look for their quarterback of this future in this Draft.
While I am not convinced that Gabbert can be that guy, the Jaguars needed to trade up if they were going to select him, and he was one of the better options in a very weak quarterback class. Not the best pick, but Gabbert does have the skills to be a solid NFL starting quarterback if he lives up to his potential, and the Jaguars needed a quarterback.
“What The …?” Picks
Round 3, Pick 76: Will Rackley, G, Lehigh (177th overall prospect)
The offensive line was not a position that the Jaguars needed to address in the 2011 NFL Draft, and they certainly should not have addressed it by trading up to select Will Rackley, who was not of good value in Round 3. Rackley was one of the quick risers of the pre-draft process, and he does have upside, but I did not see enough out of him to believe he was worthy of being selected on Day 2.
The Jaguars gave up their Round 6 selection to move up only four spots to get Rackley, a move that makes no sense considering Rackley was a major reach anyways. The Jaguars could have stayed put and addressed a need with a great value selection in Washington linebacker Mason Foster, Texas defensive end Sam Acho or Oklahoma free safety Quinton Carter.
Round 4, Pick 121: Chris Prosinski, FS, Wyoming (not in Top 400)
Admittedly, Chris Prosinski probably at least deserved a spot in my Top 400 prospects. He is a tough, instinctive safety who has the skills to be a very good special teams player. However, he is unlikely to be anything more than a special teamer and backup safety in the National Football League, making him a major reach in Round 4.
The Jaguars needed a free safety, but selecting Prosinski early on Day 3 was not the way to address that need.
Round 5, Pick 147: Rod Issac, CB, Middle Tennessee State (not in Top 400)
Drafting a cornerback in Round 5 was a good decision for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but making that cornerback Rod Issac was not. Issac is a decent cornerback, but there is nothing about his game that makes him a special NFL prospect.
With many better cornerbacks still available, including Michigan State’s Chris L. Rucker, Richmond’s Justin Rogers and North Carolina’s Kendric Burney, there is no rationalization to this choice.
The Picks They Traded
Round 7, Pick 218 was traded in May 2010 in exchange for guard Justin Smiley.
Justin Smiley started five games for the Jaguars last season, but has been released after just one year with the team. However, at the cost of only a seventh-round draft pick, this was a trade worth making for the Jaguars, even though they got very little result out of it.
The Jaguars traded picks to move up six spots in Round 1 and four spots in Round 3, which did not leave them with very many picks to work with. While the Jaguars did address a need at the quarterback position, the Jaguars traded up to get two players whose value made them not at all worth trading up for.
On Day 3, the Jaguars only had three picks to work with, and after making one solid choice in Cecil Shorts, their final two selections of Chris Prosinski and Rod Issac were players who could have been undrafted free agents. The Jaguars failed to address their needs in the defensive front seven, of which they had many, and did not do a very good job addressing the needs in their secondary.
Overall, the Jaguars’ complete lack of value in this draft, and their inability to effectively address their needs, grades them out with a D.