Draft Grades – 2011

2011 Draft Grades

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Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011 Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins took a new approach to the draft this year (by actually participating) and, at least on paper, it seems to have yielded much improved results over their previous strategy.

Ryan Kerrigan wasn’t the splash most ‘Skins fans were probably hoping for, but they took the safe approach by trading down and still landed a quality player. Kerrigan gives them a significant upgrade at outside linebacker, and will team with Brian Orakpo to give them a solid edge rusher on both sides.

Jarvis Jenkins was a definite reach, but he fills a glaring hole on the defensive line. He has the size and strength to play nose tackle and will be given an opportunity to win the starting job as a rookie.

I’m not high on Leonard Hankerson, but he’s a decent risk in the 3rd round. The potential is obviously there, but he’s terribly inconsistent. My concern is that in Washington he’ll be asked to do too much, too soon given their lack of depth at the position. If he crumbles under pressure early, it could slow his growth.

Roy Helu was a reach, but he fits the Mike Shanahan mold. Given Shanahan’s history, I certainly would’t rule out the possibility that he makes an immediate impact. He’ll be in the competition for a starting role.

Dejon Gomes was a significant reach. He was a JUCO transfer who was a backup corner/safety for much of his two years at Nebraska. He’s nothing more than a deep backup and special teams contributor.

Niles Paul was the third consecutive Cornhusker chosen by the Skins, and probably the best of the group. He wasn’t a great fit for Nebraska’s offense and could be the type of player who really takes off in an NFL system.

Evan Royster is a similar player to Roy Helu, and also fits the Mike Shanahan running back mold. Again, even though I’m not high on him, I can’t rule out the possibility that Shanahan maximizes his potential and turns Royster into a quality starter.

I love the selection of Aldrick Robinson. He’s an underrated playmaker who could prove to be the best receiver from this draft class for the Redskins.

Brandyn Thompson is nothing more than a backup who should provide depth at both corner and safety – if he makes the final roster cut.

Maurice Hurt adds much needed depth at guard and could potentially compete for a starting job unless others are added via free agency.

Markus White had great value in the 7th round. He’ll be converted to linebacker and should be able to win a backup job behind Kerrigan and Orakpo.

Chris Neild was well worth a 7th round pick and could win a job as a backup nose tackle. Don’t be shocked if the Redskins open the season with two rookie nose tackles – Neild and Jenkins.

This was a rare deep rookie class for the Redskins who typically trade away picks rather than stockpile them. I love the strategy, as they really needed to overhaul the roster. They may not have landed any superstars, but they probably found three to five long-term starters, some of whom will make an immediate impact.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Redskins Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t have many holes to fill, but they added a few instant impact players while getting quality value with most of their picks. It wasn’t an exciting draft, but they should come away with a few starters.

It’s impossible not to like Danny Watkins, but the 23rd pick may have been a bit early for a 26-year-old interior lineman, especially considering the fact that he may not be a significant upgrade over Max Jean-Gilles. He’ll start from day one, but he doesn’t have the same elite upside that usually allows for an interior lineman to climb into the 1st round.

I was surprised by the selection of Jaiquawn Jarrett in the 2nd round. It was only a slight reach, but I thought Kurt Coleman did a nice job at strong safety as a rookie last year. Apparently the selection of Jarrett means they’re giving up on Coleman after just one year.

Curtis Marsh was a great 3rd round pick. He may not have the instant-impact that they needed, but he has the potential to develop into a starter down the road.

I love the selection of Clay Matthews. He may not be an every-down player, but should be an effective situational pass rusher at strong-side linebacker.

Alex Henery was a reach and there’s just no way to defend this pick. For starters, he wasn’t the best kicker in the draft. And the Eagles situation at kicker was not desperate enough to warrant a 4th round pick even if he was.

Dion Lewis was a reach in the 5th round. He’s undersized and will be a mediocre backup at best. If Jerome Harrison is re-signed, Lewis may struggle to see the field as a rookie.

Julian Vandevelde will provide quality depth at guard. His upside may be limited, but he should have a long career as a backup.

The selection of Jason Kelce, their third interior lineman of the draft, is confusing. He’s going to have to fight for a roster spot.

Brian Rolle could be a steal in the 6th round. He’s perfect for their defensive scheme – slightly undersized and athletic – and should compete for playing time at weak-side linebacker.

Greg Lloyd will likely compete for the backup inside linebacker job, but could also provide depth on the strong and weak sides.

Stanley Havili was my top-rated fullback, but he’s going to have a very difficult time stealing playing time from Leonard Weaver and Owen Schmitt. He definitely had value in the 7th round, but he just doesn’t appear to fit into Philly’s plans.

As a whole, this was a solid draft for the Eagles. However, they failed to add any true impact players. Based purely on depth they’ll likely find two or three long-term starters from the mix, but this is a fairly ordinary class with limited upside.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Eagles 1 Comment

2011 Draft Grades: New York Giants

This draft showed why Jerry Reese is one of the most under-appreciated general managers in the game and why the New York Giants have remained competitive throughout his tenure. He finds the perfect blend of value and need and puts together another excellent draft class.

The selection of Prince Amukamara was all about value. Cornerback wasn’t their most pressing need, but he was arguably the best player on the board. He should have no problem winning a starting job, and could emerge as their top corner by the end of his rookie year.

Marvin Austin filled a hole and had great value in the mid 2nd round. Had he played the 2011 season I strongly believe he would have emerged as a top-20 talent. There are some concerns about his character, but if he plays with a chip on his shoulder due to the fact that he fell to the 2nd round, watch out. He could develop into a dangerous interior pass rusher.

Jerrel Jernigan also had decent value in the 3rd round and should compete for playing time as the 3rd or 4th option at receiver. He’s very similar to Steve Smith, however, which makes me wonder how the Giants plan to use both of them on the field at the same time. Jernigan’s playing time may be limited to four receiver sets.

James Brewer has very little upside, but could have a long career as a backup. He has the ability to play both tackle and guard and should be a valuable backup early in his career before potentially taking over a starting job down the road.

Greg Jones has a ton of potential, but never fully lived up to expectations at Michigan State. He needs to become a more disciplined player on the field, but in the 6th round he was well worth the risk.

I love the selection of Tyler Sash. He will immediately make an impact on special teams and could see playing time as a backup at strong safety.

Jacquain Williams adds depth to a weak group of linebackers. He’s more of a developmental prospect, however, and the Giants were in need of someone who could contribute immediately.

Da’Rel Scott‘s stock soared at the combine when he impressed with his speed, but ultimately his inconsistency in college held him back. The Giants needed to add a running back in case Brandon Jacobs doesn’t return, but Scott probably isn’t going to fill that void.

As a whole, this was very close to a perfect draft class for the Giants. However, they failed to add the necessary depth at linebacker and running back and seemed to desperately reach to fill those voids in the late rounds. However, they did land two players who should be long-term starters and at least two others capable of contributing as backups immediately.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Giants Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Dallas Cowboys

This wasn’t the most exciting draft in Dallas Cowboys history, but I like the way they addressed their biggest needs while still getting players who had good value at each slot. It was a smart, safe draft which should immediately improve their team.

Tyron Smith isn’t your typical top-10 pick in the sense that he isn’t nearly as polished as most highly routed prospects. However, he makes a lot of sense for the Cowboys. They desperately needed to upgrade the offensive line and Smith was the top prospect in this class.

I really like Bruce Carter, but I’m not sure how he fits into the scheme in Dallas. He’s probably too small to be a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker, however, he is at his best when used as a speed rusher off the edge. Rob Ryan may need to get creative to best use his abilities.

The selection of DeMarco Murray likely ends the Marion Barber era in Dallas. There’s no need to carry four quality running backs, and Barber is probably the odd man out. Murray has the potential to be a starter and could see significant playing time this season if he impresses early.

David Arkin is a nice developmental prospect. The 4th round may have been a bit early, but he’ll provide valuable depth at both guard and tackle.

I like Josh Thomas in the 5th round, but it would have been nice to see the Cowboys add a cornerback earlier in the draft. Every defensive back on the roster underperformed in 2010 and some immediate help would have been nice. Thomas is more of a developmental prospect, who probably does more on special teams than at cornerback this year.

Dwayne Harris could contribute as a slot receiver immediately. The top three receivers are set, but there is definitely room for another contributor in the rotation.

Shawn Chapas will compete with Chris Gronkowski for the starting fullback job. The loser likely gets cut.

Bill Nagy is a tough run blocker who could win a job as the backup center. In time, he could develop into a starter. The Cowboys interior line is getting up there in age, so Nagy should be ready to step into a starting role should the injury bug bite the Cowboys this year.

Despite their record in 2010, the Cowboys can compete this year if healthy and this draft class definitely will help. Tyron Smith should start immediately, and Carter and Murray will both contribute in various roles. They probably didn’t land 3 to 4 long-term starters, but they improved the team for the short run and added a number of nice pieces who can contribute in reserve roles.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Cowboys, Draft Grades - 2011 Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: San Diego Chargers

Does A.J. Smith want to get fired? The San Diego Chargers GM is on the hot seat, and this was not the draft of someone looking to save his job. After a decent 1st-round selection, Smith made reach after reach and could now be in his last few months as GM if the 2011 season doesn’t result a deep playoff run.

Corey Liuget wasn’t the best player on the board at his position, but at least he was a consensus 1st-round pick and fills an area of need. He will be a heavy favorite to win a starting job in training camp.

Marcus Gilchrist was a reach at No. 50. He’s a safety/corner ‘tweener and may struggle to find a defined role in San Diego. Based on their needs, they’re likely to start him at corner where he’ll compete for the nickel job.

Jonas Mouton was a reach of epic proportions – the type usually reserved for Al Davis. I did not give him a draftable grade, and wouldn’t have even ranked him among the best undrafted players. I don’t see how he fits into the defense in San Diego.

Vincent Brown is a decent 3rd-round pick, but another slight reach. Given the uncertain futures of Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd, however, adding a receiver here was necessary. Depending on how things play out, he could end up playing a significant role in the offense as a rookie.

Shareece Wright may actually be a better cornerback than Gilchrist. He isn’t as polished and doesn’t have as much experience, but could prove to be the better player in the long run.

I love the selection of Jordan Todman in the 6th round. I felt he was overrated by many prior to the draft, but in the 6th round he could be a steal. Adding him behind Ryan Mathews was one of the few smart decisions the Chargers made in this draft.

I also like the selection of Stephen Schilling, one of the more underrated linemen in this class. As a four-year starter at Michigan he gained valuable experience playing in multiple offensive schemes. He could compete for playing time early in his career.

Andrew Gachkar is undersized and may struggle to win a spot on the roster. He’ll be converted to inside linebacker and may need a year on the practice squad before he’s ready to see action.

This draft was nothing short of a disaster for the Chargers, who failed to add the necessary pieces to make another run at the playoffs. In a weak division they may still be competitive in 2011, but anything less than a playoff appearance will end the A.J. Smith era – and this draft class will be a big reason why.

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2011 Draft Grades: Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders won’t be contenders until Al Davis is dead. This is the sad but very real truth that Raiders fans have to live with. He continues to insist on making the draft day decision, despite the fact that looking at combine numbers appears to be his only participation in the scouting process.

Stefen Wisniewski was a decent selection in the 2nd round, even if it was predictable. Davis probably never saw Wisniewski play, but saw his last name on the combine list and immediately settled on the nephew of former Raider great Steve Wisniewski. He’ll compete for the starting job at center.

With his second pick in the draft Al Davis, very predictably, grabbed the fasted player in this year’s class, Demarcus Van Dyke. Unfortunately speed is about all Van Dyke has to offer. He’s undersized and saw limited playing time at Miami.

Joseph Barksdale satisfied Davis’ need for the biggest and strongest lineman in the class. Barksdale’s LSU career was underwhelming to say the least. He has a ton of potential, but never came close to living up to expectations in college.

Chimdi Chekwa had good value in the 4th round, even if Davis only stumbled onto him due to his 40 time. He is significantly more prepared for the NFL than Van Dyke and could compete for a starting job.

Davis went back for more speed with the selection of Taiwan Jones, possibly the fastest running back in this year’s class when healthy. Unfortunately he has a long history of injury problems and limited experience against top competition.

Denarius Moore showed steady improvement throughout his career and could be one of the better late-round picks in this draft if he continues to develop. However, it’s tough to see how he’ll fit into the offense in Oakland. Due to Davis’ obsession with size and speed they have about six receivers who are all equally mediocre.

Richard Gordon adds some much needed depth to the tight end position. He’ll compete for the backup job behind Zach Miller, assuming Miller is re-signed.

David Ausberry was a wasted pick and will struggle to make the final roster. There are at least six receivers ahead of him on the depth chart.

Once again, Al Davis put together a draft class heavy on size and speed and light on talent. A few starters may emerge from the class, but this isn’t a group that’s going to change the Raiders fortunes. They’re destined to continue to lose as along as Davis is calling the shots.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Raiders 5 Comments

2011 Draft Grades: Kansas City Chiefs

Maybe Scott Pioli had less of a say in the Patriots draft plans than we all assumed. In his first draft with the Kansas City Chiefs he selected safety in top 10 (very un-Belichick-like) and this year he reached for a receiver in the 1st round (even more un-Belichick-like).

The selection of Jonathan Baldwin was one of the most confusing of the 1st round. There’s no denying his talent, but I see no reason to spend a 1st-round pick on a player who only shows up when he wants to. If a guy has that type of attitude while playing in the Big East, what leads you to believe he’ll change in the NFL? Baldwin will make some big plays here and there, but he’ll also drive coaches and fans crazy by failing to show up in big moments.

Rodney Hudson was a much safer and much more Belichick-like pick in the 2nd round. If Rudy Niswanger is not re-signed, Hudson could start from day one at center.

Justin Houston was viewed as a potential 1st-round prospect but fell, in part, due to his positive marijuana test at the combine. Kansas City is truly the perfect fit for him. His defensive coordinator at Georgia, Todd Grantham, coached under his new defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, in Cleveland. That connection undoubtedly played a role in this selection.

Allen Bailey is another talented but terribly inconsistent player. He has the potential to start at the next level, but he needs to show a more consistent effort on the field.

Jalil Brown is slightly overrated in my opinion, but I will say this: he’s battle tested. Opponents looked to avoid Jimmy Smith over the post few seasons and often threw in Brown’s direction. His upside may be limited, but he’s ready to contribute in some capacity as a rookie.

Ricky Stanzi is a nice developmental prospect for the Chiefs. Matt Cassel has been good but not great thus far in Kansas City, and the Chiefs are preparing for the possibility that they may be interested in an upgrade at the position in another year or two.

Gabe Miller is likely nothing more than a special teams player who was a reach in the 5th round. He’ll have to fight to make the final roster cut.

Jerrell Powe fell much further than I expected and is a great fit in Kansas City. Due simply to a lack of other options at the position, Powe could be in line for the starting job at nose tackle.

Shane Bannon will be given an opportunity to win the starting fullback job. If loses the battle, it’s unlikely that he’ll be kept on the roster.

This was a boom-or-bust draft class for the Chiefs. The only slam dunk pick was Rodney Hudson, who at worst should be an adequate starter on the offensive line. If everyone else plays up to their full potential, however, they could have as many as four long-term starters. But that’s a big if considering the question marks surrounding Baldwin, Houston and Bailey.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chiefs, Draft Grades - 2011 1 Comment

2011 Draft Grades: Denver Broncos

The Broncos had too many holes to fill in just one draft, but they did a nice job identifying the most glaring issues and got the rebuilding process started. The franchise won’t be turned around in one year, but this was a step in the right direction.

Von Miller was a legitimate early 1st-round prospect, but taking him at No. 2 was a reach – especially considering the fact that his ideal position was as a 3-4 outside linebacker. A strong case could be made that he was the best available player for a team like Buffalo or Arizona, but not the Broncos. That’s not to say he’ll fail – I still think he can be a quality starter – but he may never fully live up to expectations.

I love the selection of Rahim Moore in the 2nd round. He’ll spend a year in a backup role learning behind Brian Dawkins before taking over the starting free safety job in 2011. This is an ideal situation for both Moore and the Broncos.

The Broncos reached slightly for Orlando Franklin, who has a ton of ability but never fulfilled expectations at Miami. He primarily played left tackle at Miami, but lacks the athleticism necessary to play that position at the next level. He may even need to shift inside to guard.

It’s hard not to root for Nate Irving, who missed the entire 2009 season due to injuries a devastating car crash. He was tremendously productive in his return this past season and should only continue to get better the further removed he is from those injuries. He could prove to be a steal from the 3rd round.

Quinton Carter could be a nice compliment to Rahim Moore in the Broncos secondary. He has the ability to play either safety position and could potentially win a starting job at strong safety down the road. In the meantime, he’ll make an immediate impact on special teams.

Julius Thomas is a converted basketball player who has a lot of upside, but will offer very little help in 2011. The Broncos are desperate for a pass-catching tight end, so it would have been nice to see them add someone who could make more of an immediate impact.

Mike Mohamed is a smart, fundamentally sound player who should be a solid backup in Denver. He could play inside or weak-side linebacker.

Virgil Green is a similar prospect to Julius Thomas, and may actually offer more in terms of immediate contribution. He’s an elite athlete for the position and could be used as a weapon in the passing game.

Jeremy Beal was a productive collegiate lineman/linebacker but has limited athleticism and may have already maxed out his potential. He’s worth taking a chance on in the 7th round, but he’ll have to fight just to make the roster.

The Broncos added only one immediate starter (Miller) which is somewhat disappointing. Down the road, however, Moore, Franklin, Irving and possibly Carter and Thomas could develop into starters. That’s too many ifs to give them an A, but the class certainly has the potential to improve their grade over the course of the next few years.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Broncos, Draft Grades - 2011 Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings class is very similar to the Titans: a complete debacle in the 1st round, followed by some very solid mid-round selections. Unfortunately no amount of mid-round picks can make up for reaching for a quarterback with the 12th overall selection.

Christian Ponder was mediocre college quarterback with a history of arm injuries. What exactly about that summary could lead anyone to even consider him in the 1st round? Take away the injuries and I could see rolling the dice in the 2nd round, but under no circumstances is he a 1st-round talent. This was a desperation draft pick of epic proportions, and one that the Vikings will regret for years to come.

As misguided as the selection of Ponder was, I do have to give the Vikings credit for rebounding in the 2nd round. Kyle Rudolph is a 1st-round talent, who slipped due to a recent injury. He’ll become a go-to target for Ponder early in his career, especially if Sidney Rice isn’t re-signed.

Christian Ballard played end at Iowa, but could shift inside to tackle to help replace Pat Williams. Based purely on talent he could have come off the board in the 2nd round, but likely fell due to a positive drug test at the combine.

I really like the selection of Brandon Burton in the 4th round. He isn’t an elite athlete, and may ultimately be moved to safety, but will give the Vikings some much needed depth in their injury-plagued secondary.

Demarcus Love was a reach, even in the 6th round. There’s no denying his talent (he was once considered a potential 1st-round pick) but his play is sloppy and lazy. He’s the type of player that could be out of the league before his career even takes off if he doesn’t show the motivation coaches need to see in training camp.

Brandon Fusco is one of the more underrated small-school prospects in this class. He’ll have a chance to compete for the backup job at center and could provide depth at guard as well.

I love the selection of Ross Homan. He has experience at all three linebacker positions in the 4-3 defense and should give the Vikings valuable depth. He’s a poor man’s Chad Greenway.

D’Aundre Reed was primarily a backup at Arizona, and is a bit of a project, but he has the raw athleticism of an elite pass rusher. He’s far from a guarantee, but the Vikings should be cautiously optimistic that they can develop him into consistent pass rush threat and an elite steal from the 7th round.

The Vikings really should have added a receiver before the 7th round if they’re at all concerned about being able to re-sign Sidney Rice, but at least they got decent value for Stephen Burton. He’ll have his work cut out for him fighting for a spot on the roster, but he has the potential to develop into a decent 4th or 5th option as a possession receiver.

The Vikings did an excellent job filling holes and landing good value picks in the 2nd-7th rounds, but the selection of Christian Ponder overshadows all of that. If your 1st-round quarterback is a bust – no one remembers the rest of the draft, and for good reason. If Ponder doesn’t work out, they’ll be right back here drafting a quarterback in three years, having wasted the prime of Adrian Peterson’s career.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Vikings 1 Comment