NFL Draft 2012 Grades: Results and Grades for All 32 First-Round Picks

Amelia AhlgrenContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

NFL Draft 2012 Grades: Results and Grades for All 32 First-Round Picks

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    The first round of the 2012 NFL draft has concluded, and now it's time to grade the results of the picks.

    Last night, the league welcomed 32 college studs to its ranks.

    This year's draft class was exceptional, partly due to last year's NFL lockout, which led many college players to delay going pro.

    However, while this robust and deeply talented group collectively this class certainly earns an "A," what grade did each team earn tonight?

    Here are the results and grades for all 32 first-round selections.

    Grades are based not only on how a player matches a team, but also on how well teams addressed needs or maneuvered their picks to move up or down in the draft.

1. Indianapolis Colts Pick Andrew Luck

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    The Indianapolis Colts kept their word Thursday night, using their first overall pick to pluck Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck in an attempt to address their biggest need heading into the draft.

    2011 illustrated just how integral Peyton Manning had been to Indy's offense when the Colts plummeted from their previous season's 10-6 record to wrap up the year at 2-14.

    Indy's choice to move on from an injured Manning in search of its next franchise quarterback was a wise one. Even though Manning won't be around to mentor Luck, the Colts snagged the most NFL-ready quarterback on the board. He possesses both the athleticism and the football IQ to succeed as a pro.

    Overall, a solid move for Indianapolis given its circumstances.

    Grade: A

2. Washington Redskins Pick Robert Griffin III

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    Even though you knew this was coming, it was still magical to watch that goofy grin split the face of quarterback Robert Griffin III.

    Whether the Heisman Trophy winner will become Washington's answer under center remains to be seen, but the Redskins at least know they are leaving Radio City Music Hall with an unrelenting work horse.

    Although he comes off as a goofball, Griffin made good on his promise to revive Baylor's football program with determination and dedication.

    As a redshirt sophomore, he finally convinced students to fill the empty bleachers that had long plagued the university's football program, leading Baylor to its first bowl game in 16 years.

    Last year, RG3 provided a thrilling encore with a win in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

    With that exclamation point punctuating his time at Baylor, he decided to declare for the draft.

    While Griffin is a can't-miss prospect, the Redskins should have been more draft-savvy.

    You only have to pore over about a decade of draft history to realize that name recognition among most quarterbacks who go early peaked at the time of their selection. And yet Washington gave up its sixth overall pick, this year's second-round pick and their 2013 and 2014 first-round selections to move up just four spots, guaranteeing RG3.

    After closing out last season with a 5-11 record, the Redskins need more than just a quarterback to turn themselves around. Missing those selections will hurt.

    And worse, if Griffin is a bust, the 'Skins have committed themselves to the bottom of the NFC East for years to come.

    Grade: C-

3. Cleveland Browns Pick Trent Richardson

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    The Browns demonstrated just how valuable running back Trent Richardson will be in the NFL by swinging a last-minute deal with the Minnesota Vikings to shift up one spot and hedge against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers doing the same.

    The Cleveland Browns entered the 2012 draft with 13 picks and gave up three later-round picks (Rounds 4, 5 and 7) to procure the Alabama running back.

    In choosing Richardson, the Browns not only plucked the best available player from the board, but they also filled a need.

    After wrestling with Peyton Hillis drama all season, the Browns had to address the void in their backfield. While Hillis had rushed for almost 1,200 yards in the 2010 season, his injuries and excuses sapped the energy out of Cleveland's ground game last year.

    Richardson will not disappoint as Hillis' replacement.

    The Alabama star is versatile. He churns his wheels, stays on his feet and evades tackles. Richardson has sure hands as well, notching 338 yards and three touchdowns in the air last season at Alabama.

    Cleveland's only worry now is whether Richardson ends up on the cover of"Madden '14.

    Grade: B+

4. Minnesota Vikings Pick Matt Kalil

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    Trade talk was heating up for the Minnesota Vikings in the days leading up to the draft, and Vikings GM Rick Spielman made good on it Thursday night.

    Minnesota gained Cleveland's fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks in the deal and essentially gave up nothing.

    Despite sliding from the third to the fourth overall pick, the Vikings inherited the board just how they wanted it, allowing them to draft USC tackle Matt Kalil.

    Their selection essentially kicked of the draft as it was the first pick that hadn't been known before the draft's start.

    The Vikings needed to use their first-round selection on a player who could make a difference—and fast.

    Kalil certainly will be that guy for Minnesota.

    He excels at pass protection and will give quarterback Christian Ponder the opportunity to make plays in the pocket.

    Minnesota's early maneuvering and first-round draft choice made for a flawless first pick.

    Grade: A+

5. Jacksonville Jaguars Pick Justin Blackmon

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars traded with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to snag Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

    Jacksonville has been lacking a go-to receiver for years, building its offense around the short pass, effectively threatening no team's secondary.

    Blackmon will join recently signed free agent Laurent Robinson and wideout Mike Thomas in Jacksonville.

    With Blackmon's potential to be a downfield threat, the Jaguars' offense might finally be taken seriously this year.

    Blackmon can toe the sideline and is good over the middle as well.

    The Jaguars are also getting an all-around stand-up guy with their selection. The Oklahoma State product is invested in charity. He befriended a girl named Olivia, who is battling leukemia.

    Overall, an excellent pick for the Jags.

    Grade: A

6. Dallas Cowboys Pick Morris Claiborne

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    In six of the past 10 drafts, the Dallas Cowboys have made a trade with their first-round selection, so it wasn't a surprise to see the 'Boys spring up to No. 6 from their original position at 14th overall.

    Dallas made it worthwhile, too, snagging the draft's best corner, LSU's Morris Claiborne.

    Although Rob Ryan wasn't modest about declaring himself a god among defensive coordinators and bragging that he had the most talented defense in the NFL, 16 painful regular-season games last year told a different story.

    Ryan may finally get his wish with the addition of Claiborne, who has the potential to be a shutdown corner in Dallas. Claiborne can cover effectively in man situations and has a good eye for the ball, a skill leftover from his days as a receiver.

    Claiborne will join the ranks of Brandon Carr and Mike Jenkins to lock down Ryan's secondary. Expect the D to be back in Dallas.

    Grade: A-

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick Mark Barron

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers slid two in spots in the first round as a result of their trade with Jacksonville to grab safety Mark Barron.

    Tampa Bay's D ranked 30th in the NFL last season in total yards allowed, giving up just shy of 400 yards per game.

    Safety Mark Barron will do well in Tampa Bay.

    Barron can lure quarterbacks to throw by leaving enough space to make them feel safe with their decision. He almost always makes quarterbacks regret their throw by pouncing into the play.

    Barron is NFL-ready and will fit in well in Tampa Bay.

    Grade: A

8. Miami Dolphins Pick Ryan Tannehill

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    The Miami Dolphins entered draft day with one of the messiest rosters in the NFL. After a disastrous season, the Fins traded away top receiver Brandon Marshall in an attempt to court Peyton Manning.

    After losing the Manning sweepstakes and a bid for former Green Bay Packer backup Matt Flynn, Miami was still searching for a solution under center Thursday night, and it was no secret that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross badly wanted Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    Snagging him at the No. 8 spot was a huge win for Miami.

    Thankfully, the Dolphins didn't listen to Indianapolis Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay, who tweeted:

    Tannehill is a hidden gem in this draft,a quiet secret who was always sneaking up to want him,you better talk to Zigi The Biggie!

    — Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) April 11, 2012

    Irsay was, of course, referring to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf in that tweet, and he was advising teams to trade for the No. 3 overall pick to procure Ryan Tannehill.

    In a win for the Fins, they remained patient to avoid trading away picks for Tannehill. Those selections will be vital to a Miami team in full-on rebuild mode.

    Doubts remain over whether Tannehill can develop into an NFL-caliber quarterback. Whether or not he will remains to be seen, but he certainly plans to play at that level.

    Tannehill sent a message to his critics before the draft, telling an ESPN correspondent, "I want to make it tough for them to sit me wherever I go."

    Grade: B+

9. Carolina Panthers Pick Luke Kuechly

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    After hogging the headlines with last year's first overall pick, the Carolina Panthers were a quieter presence Thursday night when they drafted Boston College inside linebacker Luke Kuechly.

    Still, in the second year of a Panthers overhaul-style rebuild, their No. 9 overall selection was no less important than last year's first-rounder.

    With quarterback Cam Newton, wideout Steve Smith and running back Jonathan Stewart staples in Carolina's offense, GM Marty Hurney finally had the opportunity to take care of matters on the defensive front.

    Carolina's total defense ranked No. 28 overall in the NFL, according to, and its biggest needs were at defensive tackle and cornerback. According to second-year coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers were looking for a first-rounder who was ready to make an impact on day one.

    Kuechly will be their guy. He led he nation with tackles last season and put up workout numbers similar to that of Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

    The Panthers made a solid choice at No. 9.

    Grade: A

10. Buffalo Bills Pick Stephon Gilmore

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    The Buffalo Bills made defense a priority during free agency, signing coveted Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams and former New England Patriot Mark Anderson. The Bills continued to prioritize defense with their first pick of the draft, selecting South Carolina corner Stephon Gilmore. 

    As the Bills transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme and their pass rush strengthens, Gilmore will have the opportunity to defend frantic passes. He'll defend them well, using his ability to stay in stride with receivers and his size to deflect balls headed in his direction.

    With the addition of Gilmore, the Bills are shaping up to be a formidable foe in the AFC East.

    Grade: B+

11. Kansas City Chiefs Pick Dontari Poe

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    Although Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has openly stated that the Chiefs use one of their picks to snatch up a quarterback each year, you knew that wasn't going to happen in the first round of this year's draft.

    The Chiefs needed to focus on defense this offseason, and their selection of Memphis tackle Dontari Poe made sense on some levels.

    The Chiefs re-signed defensive end Amon Gordon this offseason and restructured defensive end Tyson Jackson's contract over the weekend, so the only piece missing from their 3-4 was an anchoring nose tackle.

    Poe has the strength and size to be that guy, but picking him was a risk for the Kansas City Chiefs, who may have been better served to draft another position and let Jerrell Powe, last year's selection at nose tackle, develop.

    Still, it's refreshing to see teams take risks.

    Grade: B

12. Philadelphia Eagles Pick Fletcher Cox

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    The Philadelphia Eagles crept up three spots from their No. 15 pick to select Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox 12th overall.

    Cox is a versatile player. He can rush the pass and stop the run effectively as well. His addition alongside DeMeco Ryans will bolster Philadelphia's inside line.

    It's curious why the Eagles didn't address their secondary, especially after the recent loss of Asante Samuel.

    However, make no mistake, Cox will be upending RG3 plenty, and Eagles fans will be grateful for this selection.

    Grade: B+

13. Arizona Cardinals Pick Michael Floyd

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    The Arizona Cardinals picked up Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd with their 13th overall pick, potentially adding a knockout receiver.

    They could have also used their first-rounder to select a right tackle since the Cardinals were one of the most-sacked teams in 2011. However, a pickup at wideout made sense for Arizona as well, and according to Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King, Larry Fitzgerald desperately wanted Michael Floyd to join him in Arizona.

    The pair could by deadly in 2012 with defenses no longer able to plunk two guys on Fitzgerald.

    Still, they will need to invest in pass protection in later rounds if they want this offense to succeed.

    Grade: B+

14. St. Louis Rams Pick Michael Brockers

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    The St. Louis Rams had an abundance of need heading into draft night. They also had an abundance of picks after trades with the Redskins and Cowboys left them loaded.

    With the Rams looking more porous than Swiss cheese this offseason, they did need additions on defense.

    However, despite their savvy maneuvering leading up to this moment, their pick was somewhat lackluster.

    Brockers' primary role is as a run-stopper, which will come in handy against NFC West foes Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch, especially since the Rams ranked among the bottom of the league at stopping the run last season.

    Brockers, however, essentially only played one year at LSU, and his talent is largely undefined. Further, he is weak on the pass rush. He sacked opposing quarterbacks just twice last season.

    St. Louis could have gotten more bang for its buck with this pick, especially on offense if it wants to build quarterback Sam Bradford back up to his Rookie of the Year potential.

    Still, Brockers will contribute to a Rams team looking to turn around from 2-14.

    Grade: B-

15. Seattle Seahawks Pick Bruce Irvin

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    The Seattle Seahawks were content to cede their No. 12 overall pick in favor of choosing at 15th to pluck West Virginia outside linebacker Bruce Irvin.

    Draftniks were projecting Irvin to go in the middle of the second round, so he pulled off an upset of sorts by coming off the board 15th overall on Thursday night.

    Irvin is quick and will help the Seahawks rack up stats in the sack column. However, Irvin struggles against the run and comes with a host of off-the-field baggage. He was arrested in March for disorderly conduct, adding to list of reasons to be cautious over Irvin's behavioral liability.

    Grade: C

16. New York Jets Pick Quinton Coples

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    North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples joined a teetering New York Jets team as they kicked off what will be a make-or-break draft.

    The Jets needed a pass-rusher heading into Thursday, so it was no surprise that their first round pick was for a defensive end.

    Despite Coples' freakish athletic ability, though, there are questions surrounding his effort. Coples went through hot and cold streaks at North Carolina that were largely tied to effort.

    Still, Coples can slip between the 3-4 and the 4-3, and this versatility could make him dangerous.

    If Rex Ryan lays down the law on the 16th overall pick, it could be lights out for Tom Brady.

    Grade: B+

17. Cincinnati Bengals Pick Dre Kirkpatrick

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    Other than the acquisition of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Bengals accomplished little during free agency, but they entered Radio City Music Hall with two picks to make Thursday night.

    After losing Johnathan Joseph, the Bengals were weak in the secondary.

    Their selection of Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, the draft's third-best corner, was a deliberate attempt to replace Joseph. And in a class that didn't provide much depth at that position, this is a pretty solid move for Cincinnati.

    A lean Kirkpatrick can come out of nowhere to throttle receivers and lay them out.

    Overall, the Bengals did a solid job balancing need while considering the board to make their first pick of the 2012 draft.

    Grade: A

18. San Diego Chargers Pick Melvin Ingram

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    The San Diego Chargers spent the free agency period helping out their offense by signing receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, but the Chargers wanted to use the draft to address their middle-of-the-pack defense heading into next season.

    The South Carolina defensive end will be a great pass-rusher for San Diego. He comes at quarterbacks with speed and power and should fit nicely into San Diego's 4-3.

    Grade: A

19. Chicago Bears Pick Shea McClellin

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    The Chicago Bears used their first-round pick to grab Boise State outside linebacker Shea McClellin.

    McClellin is a good addition to play opposite Julius Peppers in the D-line. He brings tremendous pressure as a pass-rusher and has the ability to get to the quarterback.

    Still, you wonder whether the Bears may have been better off using this pick on their O-line. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked 23 times in 10 games last season and played pretty banged up until a thumb injury kept him off the field for good. The quarterback flashed his potential when he led the Bears to the NFC Championship in 2010, so I may have invested in protecting him with my first pick.

    Still, the Bears needed to bolster their pass rush and McClellin will be able to contribute in the 4-3.

    Grade: B+

20. Tennessee Titans Pick Kendall Wright

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    The Tennessee Titans took Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright off the board with the 20th overall pick.

    Tennessee had some tough choices to make with this pick.

    It could have invested in its offensive line to get a rush-blocker and potentially get Chris Johnson back up to his rookie season production.

    The Titans also would have benefited adding to their defensive line or at safety after the loss of Cortland Finnegan.

    Tennessee also needed a wideout to play alongside Nate Washington and Kenny Britt, and Wright is a promising addition. The Baylor product succeeds at getting yards after the catch and is good at snagging jump balls.

    Grade: A-

21. New England Patriots Pick Chandler Jones

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    The New England Patriots traded up from their No. 27 overall first-round selection to snatch Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones.

    Trading up is a move you don't see much from the Pats, a team that often prefers to trade down its picks, but their needs on defense have never been more overstated. Despite being crowned a defensive mastermind, Bill Belichick has coached a bottom-ranked defense in New England for the past two years.

    Jones is a great pick for the Pats. He missed five early games last season and had scouts seen more of his senior year performance, he could have gone very early on in this draft.

    Jones looks like he has the flexibility to slip between Belichick's 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. He'll notch up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks and help rescue New England's defense from the depths of the NFL.

    Grade: A

22. Cleveland Browns Pick Brandon Weeden

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    After procuring Trent Richardson with their newly acquired No. 3 overall pick, the Cleveland Browns decided to use their second first-rounder to foster a little competition at quarterback.

    The Browns selected Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden.

    Weeden has a strong arm and a raw athleticism. He played four seasons of minor-league baseball before enrolling in the draft.

    At 28 years old, the Browns will not have to deal with the immaturity that often comes with players joining the NFL at age 21. Still, this pick was somewhat questionable by the Browns.

    Grade: C+

23. Detroit Lions Pick Riley Reiff

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    The Detroit Lions decided to protect quarterback Mark Stafford with their No. 23 overall pick, drafting offensive tackle Riley Reiff.

    And good thing.

    Stafford was the sixth-most sacked quarterback in 2011.

    Reiff will help the O-line stand firm and will contribute in the ground game, as he is a solid run-blocker.

    Grade: A-

24. Pittsburgh Steelers Pick David DeCastro

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    With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the third-most-sacked quarterback in 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers desperately needed to shore up their offensive line.

    They couldn't have found a better match than Stanford guard David DeCastro, who should make an instant splash in Pittsburgh.

    Grade: A

25. New England Patriots Pick Dont'a Hightower

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    The Super Bowl runners-up traded up again to showcase their commitment to building a solid defense for next year.

    Hightower should fit in nicely. He is versatile and big, making him able to maul opposing quarterbacks.

    Another solid selection by the Pats.

    Grade: A

26. Houston Texans Pick Whitney Mercilus

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    The Houston Texans lost defensive end Mario Williams and linebacker DeMeco Ryans to free agency this offseason, a huge blow to their D.

    Not only did the Texans need a defensive end when they drafted Illinois linebacker Whitney Mercilus, but they also continued their tradition of getting defense-happy early in the draft. Since 2004, the the Texans have used 12 of their 14 first- and second-round picks to acquire defenders.

    Mercilus tallied 16 sacks last season, the most in the nation. He will be a valuable addition in Houston.

    Grade: A

27. Cincinnati Bengals Pick Kevin Zeitler

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    After losing Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn, the Bengals needed some help on the offensive line. They chose Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler with their second first-rounder to achieve that end.

    Zeitler has good anticipation in the run game. He'll make openings for Benjarvus Green-Ellis.

    My only reservation about this pick is that the Bengals could have filled a need on defense here by drafting Courtney Upshaw, who, surprisingly, was still on the board at the time.

    Grade: B+

28. Green Bay Packers Pick Nick Perry

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    The Green Bay Packers took a risk selecting USC defensive end Nick Perry with their first-round pick, but the move has a lot of upside.

    The Packers needed a pass-rush threat opposite Clay Matthews, and Perry has the potential to be that guy. He had hot and cold streaks at USC, but he has a strong upper body and he'll be fast as a blitzer.

    Grade: A-

29. Minnesota Vikings Pick Harrison Smith

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    The Minnesota Vikings acquired their second pick of the first round through a trade with the Baltimore Ravens that will leave the Ravens making their first selection Friday.

    The Vikings chose Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, who should help plug up Minnesota's leaky secondary.

    Smith should be able to lock down the middle of the field effectively for Minnesota.

    Grade: A

30. San Francisco 49ers Pick A.J. Jenkins

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    The San Francisco 49ers ended the 2011 season leaps and bounds ahead of their NFC West rivals, finishing at 13-3 to become the eventual NFC title contenders. None of their division counterparts managed a winning record.

    Still, the 49ers had improvements to make in the offseason, and wideout was one area where they needed depth. They added to that position through free agency, signing Mario Manningham and Randy Moss.

    Although they could have gained depth at wideout, adding Jenkins was probably a stretch. Jenkins was slated to go late second or early third round on the boards of most draftniks.

    Grade: B-

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick Doug Martin

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    The Bucs traded with the Denver Broncos, who had secured the 31st pick through a trade with New England.

    Tampa Bay used its second first-rounder to snag Boise State running back Doug Martin.

    Martin was a solid addition for the Bucs, whose go-to back at the moment is fumble-prone LeGarrette Blount.

    Martin ran for more than 1,200 yards in each of his last two seasons at Boise State, and he is experienced on defense and special teams. In his college career, he has taken snaps at safety, and last year he took a kickoff back for six.

    Martin will contribute greatly to Tampa Bay's backfield, and his versatility will allow him to contribute elsewhere should the Bucs need it.

    Grade: A

32. New York Giants Pick David Wilson

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    The Super Bowl champion New York Giants needed a running back heading into next year, but they could have drafted an effective back at a later round.

    Virginia Tech running back David Wilson will not quit on the Giants as he is a committed runner who somehow comes up with an extra inch when you thought the play was over.

    Still, the Giants could have addressed a more pressing need with their first-round selection while snagging a good running back later.

    Grade: B