Ryan McCrystal

Draft Grades: Green Bay Packers

As good as the Green Bay Packers looked at times in 2011, they had some significant holes to fill this offeason. Ted Thompson elected to stay quiet through most of free agency, but came up big with another strong draft class which should help in their quest for another Super Bowl title.

I was somewhat surprised to see Nick Perry still on the board at No. 28. While he would have benefited from returning to USC for another year, his raw talent is undeniable. Green Bay is the perfect place for Perry, who won’t feel the pressure to perform immediately. He will likely start from day one, but he won’t be the center of attention on a defense featuring Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk. It’s a great place for him to learn and develop, while also providing some immediate help.

Jerel Worthy could be a steal in the 2nd round, but we’ll have to see how the Packers use him. The Packers like oversized, space-eating defensive ends in their 3-4 defense, and Worthy is capable of filling that role. But he’ll need to stay in shape, because he’s just a few big meals away from looking more like a nose tackle.

I also like the selection of Casey Hayward, who could step into a starting role at some point this year. The 2nd round may have been early for Hayward, but the Packers needed to add an instant-impact player in the secondary.

Mike Daniels is more of a traditional 3-4 end, at least compared to Worthy. His upside may be somewhat limited, but he has the potential to provide some depth in the front seven.

Jerron McMillian was a reach in the 4th round. There was very little talent at the strong safety position in this draft and it felt like the Packers reached to add depth at a position of need. It’s an acceptable strategy in some situations, but the Packers got carried away with this one. Due to the lack of depth at the position he should make the final roster, but he’s a purely developmental prospect who offers little immediate value.

Terrell Manning could prove to be one of the great steals of this draft. He’s an explosive sideline-to-sideline linebacker who should excel at inside linebacker in Green Bay. The depth chart is crowded, so he may not see the field much early, but he definitely has a future in the league.

Andrew Datko has battled injuries which contributed to his fall the 7th round, but he’s well worth the risk at this point in the draft. The Packers will likely groom him behind Bryan Bulaga at right tackle.

I’m not as high on B.J. Coleman as some, but I can’t argue with the selection in the 7th round. He clearly has the measurables of an NFL quarterback and will have the opportunity to be brought along slowly in Green Bay. It’s a good situation for Coleman, and a nice opportunity for Green Bay to develop a prospect behind Rodgers.

Overall, this was one of the better draft classes in the league, something which is becoming common for Ted Thompson. Few GMs in the league understand the importance of finding value in the late rounds better than Thompson, who consistently plucks future starters from the scrap heap late in the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Packers 1 Comment

Draft Grades: Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions made significant strides in 2011, but have failed to make the necessary steps to build upon their playoff run. This draft class was an opportunity fill some holes, especially on defense, but GM Martin Mayhew failed to land any impact players on the defensive side of the ball.

Riley Reiff could have been a justifiable 1st-round pick if he filled an immediate need, but Lions don’t  have an immediate hole to fill on the offensive line. Jeff Backus may not have much time left in Detroit, however, so they could view Reiff as the future at left tackle. Unfortunately, Reiff does not project as an impact player on the left side, and would be better suited as a right tackle, where Gosder Cherilus appears to be entrenched.

Ryan Broyles is an intriguing prospect, but the 2nd round was far too early for an undersized receiver coming off a significant injury. This was the type of selection Lions fans thought they were free of when Matt Millen left the organization.

Dwight Bentley was also a reach in the 3rd round. He has some developmental value, but the Lions really needed to add an impact cornerback. Jayron Hosley and Brandon Boykin were both still on the board and are far more NFL ready than Bentley.

Ronnell Lewis has a chance to be a steal in the 4th round, but Lions will need to find the right place for him. In the 4-3 defense he could play end or strong-side linebacker.

Tahir Whitehead is a nice developmental prospect and was a solid value pick in the 5th round. He’ll likely compete for the backup role at strong-side linebacker.

Chris Greenwood was one of the Lions better selections. He’s raw and the level of competition is a definite concern, but his upside is undeniable. He may not provide much immediate help, but was well worth a flier in the 5th round.

Jonte Greene will compete with Bentley and Greenwood for playing time, but the Lions secondary is getting crowded. It’s unlikely that all three will be able to make the final roster cuts.

Travis Lewis is a great 7th-round pick. His upside is limited due to marginal athleticism, but he was a productive linebacker at Oklahoma and should be able to contribute as a backup and on special teams. He’ll likely compete with Doug Houge for the backup weak-side linebacker job.

The Lions failed to land any immediate help from this draft class, and the long-term value appears to be minimal as well. Reiff will likely earn a starting role eventually, but he is the only player from this class who realistically should be viewed as a long-term starter. This was a blown opportunity for the Lions.

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Draft Grades: Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears addressed their most glaring need by trading for Brandon Marshall earlier this offseason, but continued an aggressive approach during the draft. They made some bold moves in an effort to catch the Packers and keep pace with the Lions. But if they don’t pan out, it could prove to be a rough start to GM Phil Emery’s career.

I jumped aboard the Shea McClellin bandwagon this offseason, but he’s not a top 20 talent and I’m not sure how he fits in Chicago. McClellin excelled in 2011 based on his performance in a hybrid end/linebacker role at Boise State. In Chicago, however, he’ll likely revert back to playing the traditional 4-3 end role. When playing with his hand on the ground, McClellin looked simply ordinary, so I’m not sure what the Bears thought they saw. He would  have been better off landing in a 3-4 defense.

Alshon Jeffery was worth a 2nd-round pick, but I’m not sure he had value here for the Bears. Their receiving corps is suddenly crowded and it’s tough to imagine him playing a significant role as long as Brandon Marshall is ahead of him on the depth chart. He does have some developmental value, but if they’re trying to win now, there were other impact players on the board.

Brandon Hardin was a definite reach in the 3rd round. He’ll compete for playing time at strong safety, but will need to beat out Major Wright and Craig Steltz.

Evan Rodriguez was also a reach. He’ll likely shift to fullback, and it’s tough to justify filling that need as early as the 4th round.

Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy will compete for a job in the Bears secondary, but it’s fairly crowded back there. The top four corners are essentially set in stone, leaving Frey and McCoy to compete for one roster spot. It’s tough to imagine both players surviving the final cuts in training camp.

The Bears potentially added two starters in this draft class, but both McClellin and Jeffery are big risks. Neither players put together a consistent collegiate career, which raises some concern. Emery’s approach to this draft felt like a desperate attempt to make a splash. It may pay off down the road, but he did very little to help them in the immediate future. Overall, this was a very average haul for the Bears.

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Draft Grades: New York Jets

The New York Jets are making some bold moves this offseason, and it carried over to the draft. The rolled the dice early and often with this draft class, and it could pay of big way… or it could cost Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan their jobs.

Quinton Coples was a bold choice in the 1st round, especially considering some of the impact players still on the board. While Coples has a ton of potential, he’s had trouble staying motivated on the field which raises some big red flags. And when players have effort issues in college, it doesn’t usually improve once they’re collecting an NFL paycheck.

I like the selection of Stephen Hill in the 2nd round, but he’s not going to provide much help early on. He’ll serve as a deep threat early in his career, and could develop into a No. 1 receiver down the road, but will Tannenbaum and Ryan be around to reap those benefits?

Demario Davis was a reach in the 3rd round and didn’t fill a position of need. He’ll backup David Harris and Bart Scott at inside linebacker and play on special teams.

Josh Bush will compete for the the right to back up LaRon Landry at strong safety and provide some help in special teams coverage.

Terrance Ganaway will compete for a backup job at running back, but I don’t like his chance of winning a job. Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight should be solidly ahead of him on the depth chart.

Robert Griffin is a massive interior lineman who will compete for a backup job. He needs to stay in better shape, but he has the potential to develop into late-round steal.

I love the selection of Antonio Allen. He may never develop into a starter, but he’ll be an immediate impact player on special teams. I actually like Allen significantly more than Josh Bush.

Jordan White has some injury issues which led to his fall in the draft, but he has the potential to be a steal if he can stay on the field. He was extremely productive at Western Michigan and could develop into a decent slot receiver at the next level.

The Jets clearly gambled early in this class and were thinking about the future more than 2012. It’s a risky strategy, but there’s no denying the fact that they added two of the most talented players in the draft in the 1st and 2nd round. However, they didn’t add anyone who projects as a future starter in the 3rd round or later. The lack of depth from this class, coupled with the early-round risks makes it tough to give them a high grade.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Jets 1 Comment

Draft Grades: New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are always a tough team to predict in the draft, and Bill Belichick proved why once again. Belichick builds his own draft board and sticks to it, regardless of how it matches up with the consensus opinion.

I was somewhat surprised by the trade up for Chander Jones, but I like the pick. He’s a perfect fit at end/linebacker in the Patriots hybrid defense. And while he’s still developing, Jones has the potential to be a true three-down lineman.

The selection of Dont’a Hightower felt like a slight reach in my opinion, and it’s tough to figure out how he’ll fit in the Patriots defense. That said, Belichick stacks his draft board with players whom he sees a specific role for in his defense, so I have no doubt that they have a plan for him.

While I’m willing to give Belichick the benefit of the doubt with Hightower, I can’t be so generous with the selection of Tavon Wilson. He’ll provide some much needed depth in the secondary but it’s tough to imagine him ever developing into a starter. Belichick does not have a strong track record drafting defensive backs, and this is just the latest slip up.

Jake Bequette was a great 3rd-round pick. He’ll have a chance to compete for a starting job, and should be used as part of the rotation at defensive end. He’s not an explosive pass rusher, but should be an asset on running downs.

Nate Ebner was the biggest 6th-round reach I’ve ever seen. He’s a former rugby player who was exclusively a special teams contributor at Ohio State. His measurables are impressive, but it’s tough to justify spending a 6th-round pick and a roster spot on a guy with so much development needed.

Alfonzo Dennard was overrated and his recent arrest led to his fall, but he was well worth the risk in the 7th round. However, it’s difficult to understand why the Patriots waited until the 7th round to address their need for a cornerback. Depth at the position was serious issue last year and relying on Dennard to fix the problem is a risk.

Jeremy Ebert will be Belichick’s latest project at receiver. He was productive at Northwestern and has the skill set necessary to contribute in the Welker/Edleman role. However, it’s getting crowded at the receiver position in New England and he’ll have a tough time making the final roster cuts.

Overall, this was just a so-so draft for the Patriots. They made some significant upgrades to their defensive front-seven, but the secondary was essentially ignored. It’s tough to imagine Wilson, Ebner or Dennard providing any meaningful contributions this season, which could mean their passing defense struggles from last season will carry over to 2012.

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Draft Grades: Miami Dolphins

When you draft a quarterback in the 1st round, you’re staking your entire reputation on that one player, which is exactly what Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland did with Ryan Tannehill. No matter what happens with the rest of this draft class, only Tannehill’s performance will be remembered.

I’ve been saying all year that Ryan Tannehill is not a 1st-round talent. I gave him a 3rd-round grade based on the fact that he has the raw skills to start in the NFL, but needs a considerable amount of development before he’s ready. And based on that assessment, I don’t like his chances to succeed in Miami. He’s the type of quarterback that needs to sit and learn, and he won’t have that luxury. The Dolphins are probably going to throw him into the fire, and that rarely works out well for developmental prospects.

Jonathan Martin was extremely overrated throughout the draft process, but he’s a solid 2nd-round pick for the Dolphins. He’ll be plugged in a right tackle where he should be an adequate starter.

Olivier Vernon is a run-stuffing lineman and I’m not sure how he fits in Miami’s 3-4 defense. He may be too small to play end but isn’t athletic enough to play linebacker.

Michael Egnew was a nice pickup in the 3rd round. He’s essentially an oversized receiver, and won’t be a three-down tight end. But they needed to add a pass-catching tight end, and he’ll be a nice compliment to Anthony Fasano, who’s more of a traditional tight end.

Lamar Miller could prove to be a steal in the 4th round, but the running back depth chart in Miami is crowded. He’ll have to fight for playing time behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.

Josh Kaddu adds depth at linebacker and should contribute on special teams. He’ll likely play inside linebacker in their 3-4 defense.

B.J. Cunningham is a solid possession receiver who could be a late-round steal. He’s a strong route runner with good hands and has the skills to play immediately. However, he’s similar to some other receivers on the Dolphins roster, such as Davone Bess, which may hurt his chances of seeing any significant playing time as a rookie.

Kheeston Randall is a steal in the 7th round. He’s a tough, hard-working player who fits perfectly at end in the Dolphins 3-4 defense. He may only be a career backup, but in the 7th round he’s well worth the selection.

Richard Matthews will have a tough time making the Dolphins final roster cuts. He’ll find a job somewhere, but the depth chart is crowded at receiver in Miami.

The Dolphins made some nice picks in this draft, but it’s impossible to overlook the gamble on Tannehill. This franchise is headed in the wrong direction, and they don’t appear to have the decision makers in place to turn things around.

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Draft Grades: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills were already having a strong offseason, highlighted by the addition of Mario Williams. And their 2012 draft class completes the process, and potentially makes them darkhorse contenders in the AFC.

The Bills reached for Stephon Gilmore. There’s no denying his potential, but he’s will need time to develop – more time than you’d typically expect from a top-10 pick. That said, I believe cornerback was one of their most glaring needs, and there was a fairly significant dropoff in talent at the position. If they felt this was an area they needed to address in order to compete in 2012, the reach was justified.

Cordy Glenn could be a steal in the 2nd round, but it depends where the Bills use him. He played left tackle this past season at Georgia, but is best suited to play right tackle or guard in the pros. If the Bills use him at left tackle, they’ll be missing an opportunity to maximize his skills.

T.J. Graham was a reach in the 3rd round. He’s more of a track star than a football player. He can stretch the field and potentially contribute as a return specialist, but his upside is limited.

Nigel Bradham is a developmental prospect but I like how he fits in Buffalo. He won’t be forced to play a significant role right away and can be brought along slowly.

I love the selection of Ron Brooks. He was stuck behind Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu this past year, but had the skills to start for nearly any other program in the country. His lack of experience makes him a bit of an unknown, but he played well in a nickel corner role at LSU and, at worst, should be able to fill that role in Buffalo.

Zebrie Sanders could be the Bills long-term answer at left tackle, but he isn’t ready for that role just yet. Ideally, they’ll keep him on the sidelines for a year, developing his strength and technique. But they’re desperate for help on the offensive line, which may force him into action.

Tank Carder lacks the measurables, but was extremely productive at TCU. He may never start, but should have a long career as a backup and special teams contributor.

Mark Asper may add some depth to the offensive line, but he’ll have to fight to make the final roster cuts. The Bills have no shortage of mediocre interior linemen.

The selection of John Potter doesn’t make much sense. Rian Lindell seems to be entrenched as the starting kicker and Potter is no better than any number of kickers who could have been picked up after the draft.

Overall, the Bills did a nice job of addressing needs without making many significant reaches. They also landed a few solid developmental prospects who could pay off a few years down the line. This may be Buddy Nix’s best draft class since coming to Buffalo.

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Draft Grades: Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins draft was all about one player. And while they made some questionable choices later on, the selection of RGII is all that matters.

Robert Griffin immediately becomes the face of the franchise in DC. But fans who expect him to immediately turn things around are going to be disappointed. He’s still very raw and there will be growing pains. What sets him apart though are his intangibles. We’ve seen players with his raw ability before, but no one with his combination of athleticism, arm strength and accuracy has also had the worth ethic and leadership qualities that RGII possesses.

Josh LeRibeus was a reach in the 3rd round. But they did need to attempt to upgrade the interior offensive line and he should be given an opportunity to win a starting job.

The “controversy” surrounding the selection of Kirk Cousins was purely a media creation. Cousins is a backup quarterback, and he was always going to be a backup. So does it really matter if he’s backing up a 10-year veteran or a rookie? That said, the Redskins could have addressed another need with the 102nd pick. There were still impact players on the board, and Cousins may never see the field in Washington.

Keenan Robinson was a nice pickup in the 4th round. He fits well in their defense and will be a capable backup to Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

I like Adam Gettis more than LeRibeus. Both prospects will compete with each other for playing time.

Alfred Morris was a reach. There were better running back prospects on the board in the 6th round. But Mike Shannahan loves his sleeper running backs, so he’ll give Morris a fair shot to earn a job.

Tom Compton will compete for a backup job at tackle. They don’t have an obvious choice for Trent Williams’ backup, so Compton could be in the mix.

Richard Crawford and Jordan Bernstine are both long shots to make the roster. The Redskins secondary is crowded and they’ve already signed two cornerbacks this offseason. Bernstine has the size to play safety as well, so he may actually have the edge to earn a job if he can demonstrate the necessary versatility.

The Redskins only added one difference maker in this class, but when that difference maker is a true franchise quarterback, that’s all you need. They definitely missed some opportunities in the 3rd and 4th round to build around Griffin, but they still receive high marks overall.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Redskins 1 Comment

Draft Grades: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had relatively few holes to fill, so this draft class was about adding depth and finding some prospects to groom for future roles.

I like the trade up for Fletcher Cox. The hype surrounding his stock got a little out of control in the weeks leading up to the draft, but he does have the potential to be an impact interior lineman. He’s a prototypical penetrating three-technique tackle and has the potential to be a poor man’s Ndamakong Suh. He’s inconsistent against the run, but Philly has the depth  to use him as part of a rotation.

I like the selection Mychal Kendricks in the 2nd round, but I do wonder where he fits in. He’s best suited to play insider or weak-side linebacker, but the Eagles most glaring hole is on the strong-side. Kendricks can probably make that transition, but it’s not a perfect fit.

Vinny Curry will be steal in the late 2nd round. He’s a relentless pass rusher who could push for playing time immediately, even on crowded defensive line in Philly.

I’m baffled by the selection of Nick Foles. For starters, the Eagles could  have landed an impact player in the late 3rd round, there was no reason to settle for a purely developmental prospect. But to make matters worse, Foles is not worthy of a 3rd-round pick. He’s terribly inconsistent and didn’t show any real potential until the second half of his senior year. There’s a huge bust factor with this pick.

Brandon Boykin is a steal in the 4th round and I’m shocked he fell that far. He’s undersized and may be limited to playing the nickel corner role, but he definitely has the skills to make an impact. He’ll compete with Curtis Marsh for playing time, but should eventually earn a larger role down the road.

Marvin McNutt has limited upside, but he ‘s fairly polished and will have a chance to compete for the fourth receiver role. On a different team I’d like his chances, but the Eagles receiving corps is crowded. He may end up on the practice squad.

Brandon Washington played left tackle at Miami but will need to shift inside to guard in the pros. I’m somewhat surprised by this selection because the Eagles have been targeting smaller, more athletic interior lineman in recent years, and Washington definitely does not fit that mold.

Bryce Brown was a serious gamble, even in the 7th round. He was highly recruited out of high school and ended up at Tennessee, but eventually transferred to Kansas State. However, he’s consistently found himself in trouble and needs to get his life in order before he can be relied upon. He’s made a number of questionable decision throughout his career, including unexpectedly leaving the Kansas State program last September. Even in the 7th round, he probably wasn’t worth the headache that he’ll bring.

The Eagles put together a solid class and added some impressive depth to their front seven. The only pick that really raised any concerns was Foles, which felt like a reach. But they still added at least three players who project as future starters (Cox, Kendricks and Curry) and another (Boykin) who should at least add contribute as a nickel corner.

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Draft Grades: New York Giants

With so few holes, I expected the New York Giants to simply target the best available player – a strategy which Jerry Reese has used frequently in the past – but he strayed from his typical approach and it may come back to haunt him down the road.

David Wilson was a reach, and there’s really no way to sugar coat that. The fact that Reese would reach for Wilson raises a serious question: is Ahmad Bradshaw healthy? If so, the selection makes little sense. But if they’re legitimately worried about Bradshaw’s ability to stay on the field in 2012, the pick is justifiable. Since the motivation behind the pick is a bit of an unknown, I’ll have to factor that into the grade and give Reese the benefit of the doubt.

The selection of Rueben Randle is more in line with the Giants typical draft strategy. He was among the top available players on the board and will help fill the void left by the departure of Mario Manningham. He’s a developmental prospect but should be able to provide some help as a third or fourth option at receiver this year.

Jayron Hosley fell due to character concerns, but was probably worth the gamble in the late 3rd round. He likely won’t see the the field much given the Giants crowded secondary, but he was a solid investment at that point in the draft.

Adrien Robinson was a hot name this offseason and a late riser up the draft boards. He’s a good fit for the Giants, who like their tight ends to be strong blockers. He was likely drafted as insurance behind Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, who are both coming off injuries.

Brandon Mosley and Matt McCants add some much-needed depth to the Giants offensive line. Neither has much upside, but they both have the ability to play multiple positions along the line and have long careers as backup linemen.

Markus Kuhn will become one of the few players born in Germany to play in the NFL. He’s a good athlete for his size and is an interesting developmental prospect. However, the Giants depth chart is crowded at defensive tackle and he may struggle to make the final roster cut.

I’m having a hard time grading the Giants draft without knowing what prompted the selection of David Wilson. If they’re worried about Bradshaw, it makes sense. But if they panicked once Doug Martin was snatched out from under them by the Bucs, it’s a poor decision. Given Reese’s draft history, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this was definitely not his strongest draft class.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Giants 1 Comment