I don’t disagree with Aaron when he says that grading a draft right after said draft is a bit of a fool’s errand. We can talk about whether it seems like a good or bad effort but truly, we won’t know for several years.
Still, discussing what we thought is always worth the time even if we don’t slap arbitrary grades (F+!) on our comments.
I thought that since everybody else will give their two cents on the Packers Draft (I really like the fit of Cobb and Sherrod is someone I linked to the Packers before I ended up with the Bears taking him in my last mock) I’d toss a few thoughts out on some of The Other 31 (see what I did there?).
Instead of the grades I’m just going to split this into Drafts I liked, Drafts I didn’t and those I’m On the Fence about.
This won’t touch on every team – many drafts didn’t stand out one way or the other and a section labeled Solid But Unspectacular would be exactly that.
DRAFTS I LIKED
Let’s get the Homer moment out of the way first.
New York Jets
While the Jets made some solid picks on day one and two, Kenrick Ellis at least could turn bad very quickly given some of his background and the felony assault charges he’s facing. It sounds like self defense to me (he was involved in an altercation over a woman and was attacked by a guy with a bat) but you never know. Still if he and Muhammad Wilkerson work out, the Jets just made a big step in solving their pass rush issues.
Where the Jets really crushed it though was on day three. RB Bilal Powell really impressed me at the Senior Bowl and he’s a patient runner who isn’t afraid of contact and is fantastic in pass protection. WR Jeremy Kerley isn’t a big player but runs outstanding routes and will contribute on special teams. QB Greg McElroy was someone I thought would be a great fit in Green Bay but it’s just as nice a fit here. He isn’t the best athlete and he lacks measurables the scouts love, but he’s the smartest QB in the class and is a high character, tough player who eventually will be a tremendous backup – with the chance of more.
What can I say? Where do I start? The Lions win the 2011 NFL Draft. If Nick Fairley works out, that defensive front will be tremendous. And Ndamukong Suh will have as good a chance of anyone of keeping Fairley focused. Boise State WR Titus Young is a bit unpolished as a route runner but will have time to develop behind Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson while he contributes in the return game. And we all know I’m a big fan of Mikel LeShoure as well. Jahvid Best isn’t an every down back and LeShoure will be very effective between the tackles and in short yardage – a perfect balance to Best and in an offense where it is impossible to load the box up against the run. I don’t love their day three picks and overall they didn’t have a ton of picks but it was about quality not quantity.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another team that just won the Super Bowl Draft Trophy (pat. pending), the Bucs got quality AND quantity. Adrian Clayborn faced questions about his ability to play defensive end at the Pro level due to his Erb’s palsy, which limits the range of motion in his right arm. Didn’t bother him in college and he’s great value for them in the first. I’ll tell you right now, 31 other teams got robbed on day two when they picked Da’Quan Bowers. Dr James Andrew gave him a clean bill of health – HIS KNEE IF FINE. The two of them improve the defensive line a hundred-fold. Add in addition, Mason Foster is an instinctive inside linebacker, Luke Stocker is an outstanding three down tight end and Allen Bradford could be a very nice compliment to that run game.
Drafts I Disliked
Kansas City Chiefs
I know I wrote this whole diatribe about not grading drafts now but holy crap were some of the picks in this division bad. Kansas City reached horribly for WR Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin is a huge boom or bust prospect and not even one they needed. They ignored multiple great defensive players to take a body-catching wideout with attitude problems (so now he has two Dwayne Bowes). I’m not in love with Ricky Stanzi either, to be honest but he went at least about where he should. When they did hit the defensive need, they took a questionable guy in Justin Houston, CB Jalil Brown who has middling instincts and stiff hips and OLB Gabe Miller who was a pretty big reach even in the fifth.
It’s an old meme but the Raiders get tagged with the ‘track star team’ for a reason and once again, went after fast players of middling skill. That and nepotism – C Stefen Wisniewski will be playing for his uncle on the oline. I did like them grabbing Taiwan Jones but otherwise it’s the usual thing for Al Davis’ team: draft speed and athleticism and cross your fingers. Also they reached at least once for a cornerback – and are likely to let Nnamdi Asomugha walk. That’s not an upgrade.
To be clear, I like the acquisition of Christian Ponder and if he gets a year or two to sit behind a good veteran quarterback, he could emerge as a very good starter. My problem with the Vikes – only exacerbated by waiting until round 6 to address it – is that the offensive line still has issues. Ponder could become an All Pro and it won’t matter if Suh, Matthews and Peppers spend entire games planting him in the ground. It’s not that grabbing Ponder precluded fixing the oline -there were prospects around when they picked tight end Kyle Rudolph, which was far from a crying need.
On The Fence
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers started off fine with Aldon Smith in the first round, but traded up nine spots to get quarterback Colin Kaepernick at 36. I like Kaepernick but he’ll take some time to develop and at this point are we really going back to Alex Smith? How long will that last and Kaepernick gets tossed to the wolves too early? It’s not a bad move but it’s pretty risky. I like Kendall Hunter in the fourth, but for the most part, this draft doesn’t pop off the page at me. It’s not bad though, far from it. No real home runs though.
I’ll give them this – they saw what they wanted and went after it. Julio Jones could make this a terrifying offense. As Jones told us in the press room – who do you cover? You can’t double cover him and leave Roddy White open. You can’t double White and leave Jones open. And both receivers will pull defenders off the line for Michael Turner.
But they gave up a ton of their future. It’s really an ‘all in’ moment for the Falcons. They gave up their first-round, second and fourth-round picks from this year. They also had to give up their first and fourth-round picks in 2012. If they miss on the guys they got this year, it could really hurt. But they still had six picks in this draft – so they had the chips to gamble.
As we all know, you don’t go home with the pot if you don’t embrace the risk. It’s hard for me to see this offense and not say it was worth it, but it’s definitely one that only time will tell on.