Draft Grades – 2011

2011 Draft Grade: Jets

This draft was all about filling holes in an effort to make another deep run the playoffs in 2011 and the Jets did a solid job addressing those needs as well as getting good value at each slot.

It’s tough to find anything negative to say about the selection of Muhammad Wilkerson. Personally, I liked Cameron Heyward more, but Wilkerson was just a notch behind him in my book. He will likely be plugged into Shaun Ellis’ spot at defensive end and start from day one.

I absolutely love the selection of Kenrick Ellis in the late 3rd round. The only reason he fell that far was due to concerns about his character and the level of competition he faced in college. He was dismissed from South Carolina after failing drug tests, but had he stayed out of trouble and remained in the SEC I strongly believe he would have been viewed on the same level as Phil Taylor. The difference between the two in terms of raw talent really isn’t that great.

Bilal Powell had decent value in the 4th round, but I’m not sure if he’s a great fit for the Jets. I would have liked to see them draft a more versatile running back (a better version of Joe McKnight). Powell is similar runner to Shonn Green, and will probably struggle to see significant playing time early in his career.

The selection of Jeremy Kerley has brought some to assume that it signaled the end of the Brad Smith era in New York. I don’t know that I buy that. Kerley is 5’9″ and well under 200 pounds. Smith is 6’2″ and 210 pounds. They both return kicks, but as receivers they fill different roles. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Kerley can step right into Smith’s place in the offense.

Greg McElroy is well worth a 7th round pick. He has very little upside, but I would love to have him as a backup on my team. He’s a hard worker and an intelligent player. I wouldn’t want him as my starter, but if he had to step in off the bench, I’m confident that he can hold his own.

I have a hard time taking the selection of Scotty McKnight seriously. He’s Mark Sanchez’s childhood friend and that connection is the only reason he gained any recognition this offseason. He wasn’t even ranked among my top 50 receivers.

Aside from throwing a bone to Sanchez in the 7th round, the Jets did a nice job in this draft. Wilkerson will start immediately and Ellis will see some playing time as Sione Pouha’s backup. Powell and Kerley will play minor roles early on, but both have the potential to develop into more prominently featured players. The only strong criticism I have is the lack of an outside linebacker. The depth behind Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, who are both over the age of 30, is severely lacking. Adding a young pass rusher, even in the 4th or 5th round, would have been a welcomed addition.

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

2011 Draft Grade: Dolphins

The Dolphins were in a difficult position in this year’s draft. They desperately needed a quarterback, were stuck in no mans land in the 1st round and didn’t own a 2nd round pick. And their strongest positions on the roster – defensive end and linebacker – were the two deepest positions in the draft. As a result, they were forced to reach to fill needs early in the draft.

The first reach was for Mike Pouncey. I am confident that without his last name, Mike Pouncey would have not have been a 1st round pick. There simply isn’t a significant difference between and him and other interior linemen in this class such as Ben Ijalana and Will Rackley. That said, I do think Pouncey is a good fit in Miami. He’ll start immediately, but don’t expect him to live up to the expectations set by his brother in Pittsburgh.

In the 2nd round the Dolphins traded up to land Daniel Thomas. This was another pick that filled a need, but was definitely a reach. Thomas has potential, but there are clear flaws in his game which will limit his ability to be an instant-impact player. Thomas is tall for a running back and, as  a result, has runs very high. He isn’t an elusive runner and frequently takes a pounding over the course of a game. As a powerful north/south runner he fits what the Dolphins are looking for, but hopefully they aren’t going to rely on him for 20+ carries per game as a rookie.

I love their selection of Edmond Gates in the 4th round. He is the missing piece of the Dolphins receiving corps. They already had the No. 1 guy (Marshall) and two solid slot/possession receivers (Harline and Bess). Now Gates gives them the vertical threat they were missing. He has the potential to be a Mike Wallace/DeSean Jackson type receiver in Miami.

It will be interesting to see how they use Charles Clay. He’s sort of a fullback/tight end ‘tweener that doesn’t have a true position. The Dolphins may have to get creative to incorporate him into the offensive scheme.

Frank Kearse was drafted for his size, and his size alone. The Dolphins were looking to add competition for Chris Baker for the backup nose tackle job and Kearse will be given the opportunity to win that battle. He’s a low risk/potentially high reward option in the 7th round.

Jimmy Wilson‘s story was well documented during the draft. His football career was sidetracked by a murder trial, but after being acquitted (after spending two years in jail) he got back on the field and had solid year for Montana. He has limited playing experience, but has spent time at both corner and safety and may have some upside. There were better players on the board, but there’s little risk involved in the 7th round.

Overall I’m not too excited about this draft class for the Dolphins. They reached to fill some needs and seemed to approach the draft from the mindset of a team needing just a couple of pieces to compete for a Super Bowl title. In reality, the Dolphins are far from being competitors - especially with the Patriots and Jets clearly ahead of them in their own division. They got a few nice contributors here, but this isn’t the type of draft that turns around a franchise.

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

2011 Draft Grades: Bills

I’m starting to like what Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are doing in Buffalo. It’s easy to come to a struggling franchise and simply decide to draft the first quarterback that comes along, but they’re taking a patient approach to rebuilding the Bills.

I would have taken Patrick Peterson in the 1st round, but Marcell Dareus isn’t a bad choice. He’ll start immediately and should be a difference maker on their defensive line. His experience in Alabama’s 3-4 defense will help him make a smooth transition to the NFL. Don’t expect multiple Pro Bowls from Dareus – 3-4 defensive ends just don’t get that type of recognition – but that doesn’t mean he won’t still be a great player for them for the next decade.

I like Aaron Williams in the 2nd round. Leodis McKelvin has really struggled and there isn’t much depth behind him. There is also a chance that they move Williams to safety. Donte Whitner is set to become a free agent and may not return. Jairus Byrd could probably shift over to strong safety, allowing Williams to take his spot at free safety. Either way, I expect Williams to see significant playing time as a rookie.

Kelvin Sheppard wasn’t a huge reach in the 3rd round (I gave him a 4th-round grade) but there were better players available. Martez Wilson, Colin McCarthy and Quan Sturdivant – just to name a few – all had higher grades and were still on the board. It will be interesting to see if they keep him at inside linebacker. He has the size to move to the outside, where they actually need more depth.

Da’Norris Searcy could prove to be a steal in the 4th round. I only gave him a 5th round grade, but the Bills will likely give him a chance to win the starting job at strong safety. He’s a big, physical player who has a chance to be an enforcer in their secondary. While it may have been a slight reach, I think he’s a great fit for what they’re trying to do on defense.

Chris Hairston was a reach in the 4th, and it’s disappointing to see the Bills wait this long to address their offensive line needs. He lacks the athleticism to fill their need for a left tackle, and may ultimately have to move to guard which is one of the few positions where the Bills didn’t need help in this draft.

I like Johnny White in the 5th round. He won’t be asked to do much in 2011, but Fred Jackson is 30 and likely won’t be around much longer. Once C.J. Spiller takes over the full time duties, White will be there to back him up.

Chris White had decent value in the 6th round, but just like with Sheppard, it comes at a position that doesn’t need the added depth. White has a future in this league, but I would not be shocked if he struggles to make the final roster cut in Buffalo.

I really like the addition of Justin Rogers in the 7th round. He’s undersized, but I like his chance to devele into a solid nickel back. There will be a lot of competition for that slot in Buffalo, but he definitely has a chance to win some playing time as a rookie.

Michael Jasper is a behemoth of a man. At 6’4″, 394 pounds they’re obviously hoping he can provide depth at nose tackle. At that size it’s tough to imagine him ever being a three-down lineman, but in certain short-yardage situations he can be a valuable situational player and was well worth a 7th round selection.

Overall this was a surprisingly solid draft the Bills. I didn’t have a ton of faith in Gailey and Nix after their performance in last year’s draft, but they rebounded nicely. They landed at least two starters (Dareus and Williams) and possibly as many as four if Sheppard and Searcy are able to live up to expectations.

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

2011 1st-Round Draft Grades

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn – 6th rated QB/99th overall
This was huge risk for the Panthers, and both GM Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera are putting their reputation on the line. There’s no denying Newton’s raw talent, but being an elite quarterback takes so much more than athletic ability and arm strength. How many of the elite quarterbacks in the league have truly elite raw physical tools? Peyton Manning qualifies, but what about the others? Brady? No. Brees? No. It’s all about accuracy and work ethic, and there are concerns about Newton in both areas. In the 3rd or 4th round, I could understand taking a chance on him as a developmental guy with a high ceiling, but 1st overall? It’s just insane. Grade: F
I would have taken: Patrick Peterson Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011 2 Comments