2011 NFL Draft Grades: Biggest Winners and Losers for the 2011 NFL Draft

Michael AkelsonCorrespondent IMay 1, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Grades: Biggest Winners and Losers for the 2011 NFL Draft

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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

    The 2011 NFL Draft is one of the toughest in recent memory to asses. 

    That is why I'm here, to guide you through one of the craziest drafts ever.

    As in any draft, this one had winners and losers, so I won't beat around the bush here.

    These are your final grades for 2011 NFL Draft winners and losers.

Winner: Detroit Lions

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Nick Fairley, #13 overall pick by the Detriot Lions, during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Imag
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    One of the biggest winners of this draft has to be the Detroit Lions.

    They got Nick Fairley to pair with Ndamukong Suh to form a defensive tackle duo that should be illegal. In the second round, they picked up speedy receiver Titus Young and they also got the second-best running back in the draft in Mikel Leshoure.

    This was a great, great draft for Detroit.

Loser: Atlanta Falcons

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Julio Jones, #6 overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Falcons are on the brink of the Super Bowl, so they traded two first-round picks and three other picks to go up and get the man they think will push them into the Super Bowl.

    Unfortunately, that man was Julio Jones.

    Don't get me wrong, I think Jones will be a great NFL player, but where the Falcons need impact players is on defense.

    They mortgaged two drafts for a wide receiver. I don't think a wideout is going to stop Aaron Rodgers or Michael Vick this year in the playoffs, do you?

Winner: Houston Texans

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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

    It was a great draft for the Houston Texans.

    First, they picked up J.J Watt, who is an absolute stud that will go hard every play.

    Then they got one of the biggest steals in the draft by getting pass-rushing guru Brooks Reed, who has the best motor the NFL Draft has seen since Clay Matthews.

    With their other second-round pick they got Brandon Harris, a corner with first-round talent.

    The Houston Texans came into this draft with improving their pass defense as their No. 1 priority, and they did just that.

    Great draft for Houston.

Loser: Seattle Seahawks

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 16:  Marcell Dareus #57 and James Carpenter #77 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Ole Miss Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Trent Dilfer said it best. The Seattle Seahawks reached for nearly every player they took in this draft, and they didn't improve nearly as much as everybody else in their division.

    Do you really think Matt Hasselbeck is coming back now? They're the biggest losers team-wise of the draft.

Winner: New York Giants

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) poses for a photo with Prince Amukamara, #19 overall pick by the New York Giants, on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The New York Giants were winners as soon as they made their second-round pick.

    After getting one of the biggest steals of the draft by picking up Prince Amukamara at No. 19 in Round 1, they got another first-round talent in Round 2 in Marvin Austin, who fell only because of character issues.

    Tom Coughlin won't put up with character issues, so expect Austin to fix himself.

    The Giants definitely got better with this draft.

Loser: Justin Houston

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 21:  Justin Houston #42 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Justin Houston was going in the first round in most mock drafts, but he fell to Round 3.

    Character concerns and a failed drug test made him fall, and I'm sure that when he receives his first paycheck, he'll regret smoking that joint.

Winner: Christian Ponder

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Quarterback Christian Ponder of Florida State looks on during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    A projected second-round pick, Christian Ponder ended up going 12th overall.

    While we all know he's not as talented as a 12th overall pick, he will now be paid like one. Plus, he gets Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice to play with.

    Not bad.

Loser: Minnesota Vikings

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    MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 29: Quarterback  Christian Ponder #7 of the South Team passes over defensive lineman Pierre Allen #95 North Team during the fourth quarter of the Under Armour Senior Bowl on January 29, 2011 at Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Where Christian Ponder wins, the Minnesota Vikings lose.

    Not only do they miss out on Prince Amukamara and Nick Fairley, who were both still available at the time of their first pick, but they now must pay Christian Ponder like a 12th overall pick.

    Even getting Kyle Rudolph in Round 2 doesn't save them from picking Ponder that high while guys like Amukamara and Fairley were still available.

Winner: Cam Newton

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Cam Newton, #1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers holds up a jersey on stage after he was picked during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Despite not even being a top-10 prospect on most experts' boards, Cam Newton was the first overall pick in the draft.

    Which means the real winner is his bank account, which should be filled with zeros as soon as he signs.

Loser: Da'Quan Bowers

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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

    I really feel for Da'Quan Bowers. Once considered a consensus first-overall pick, Bowers fell all the way to the middle of the second round.

    The reason is because he is now being called a one-contract player. He will have a knee surgery within the next four years, and it could possibly end his career.

    So now that we know he'll probably only get one contract, it's not a good sign that he will be paid like a middle-of-the-second-round pick.

    I hope he plays a long, healthy career and proves us all wrong, but as of right now, how could Da'Quan Bowers not be a loser?

Winner: St. Louis Rams

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28:  Defensive lineman Robert Quinn of North Carolina runs through a drill 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

    I love what the St. Louis Rams did in this draft.

    In the first round, they stole one of the best players in the draft when they got Robert Quinn with the 14th pick, and then they proceeded to address their need at wide receiver.

    They got Sam Bradford three, capable pass-catchers who can come in and help right away.

    Great job by the Rams.

Loser: Ryan Mallett

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  (R) Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks calls out alongside Jarius Wright #4 against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (P
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Ryan Mallett was the biggest and strongest-armed quarterback in this draft.

    Usually that can help you climb into the late first round, as Joe Flacco and Josh Freeman have proved in recent seasons, but that wasn't the case for Mallett.

    His character issues potentially pushed him from being a first-round pick all the way to the Patriots at pick No. 73, with whom he won't even have a chance to play for a while.

    But he does get the benefit of learning from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, so I guess it's not the worst thing that could have happened.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  A.J. Green, #4 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, holds up a jersey after he was drafted during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    One of the biggest winners of this draft has to be the Cincinnati Bengals.

    With their first two picks, they officially started a new era in Cincy.

    They got their new star wide receiver in A.J Green (he even keeps his mouth shut) and new star quarterback Andy Dalton (he hasn't demanded a trade yet).

    They also got good value by getting Dontay Moch in Round 3.

    The future is looking bright in Cincinnati, that's for certain.

Loser: New England Patriots

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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

    Normally, the words loser and New England Patriots don't belong in the same sentence, but this year is an exception.

    I'm highly unimpressed with the Patriots draft this year.

    They reached for Nate Solder in Round 1 when Anthony Castonzo and Gabe Carimi were both still on the board.

    Then they chose corner Ras-I Dowling in Round 2 instead of a pass rusher like Brooks Reed when they desperately needed one.

    The Pats also passed on Cameron Jordan in Round 1, wasted second and third-round picks on bottom-of-the-depth-chart running backs and then made their best pick of the draft, which is saying a lot considering all they got was a backup QB.

    Not a good draft for Bill Belichick. The only good that came from this year's draft for them really was the fact that they added a first and second-round pick next season.

    But in terms of this draft, not good, not at all.