Monday, May 16, 2011

12 comments 2011 NFL Draft Grades- AFC Edition

It has been a little bit of time since the NFL Draft occurred and I am just now getting around to putting up my grades for the draft. I like to think it gave everyone time to think about how each team really did rather than just fall back on what the draft "experts" say immediately after the draft. I grade a draft using numbers "0-10" because using "A-F" is so cliche. I evaluate a draft based on how much I like the players a team picked, whether those players make them a better team, and whether that means giving them depth or giving them players who are starters. I like to see team fill needs that make them a better team or takes care of a problem that team had the previous season. I am going to break the NFL Draft into two separate posts and I will do the AFC today.

This is just for fun and for a debate (perhaps) in the comments. I am not pretending to be an expert and trying to make money off an opinion (a la Mel Kiper Jr) that really isn't going to be proven wrong for another couple of years. I make fun of those people. No one really knows if the grades aren't right for about five years, which is why I go back and grade drafts from 2001 by people who claim to know what they are talking about.

I will go in order of division with the AFC first and, of course, explain each grade.

Buffalo Bills

I'm not mad at the Bills for not drafting a quarterback. I'm a firm believer if you have a quarterback in the position who isn't great, but serviceable, there isn't a reason to draft a quarterback early you don't like. Not to mention, the Bills needed a defensive tackle and they got one. So they filled that need. Here's my issue with the Bills draft though. They didn't get a pass-rusher nor did they get an offensive tackle, as well as not get a quarterback. They need impact players and then they go and draft Aaron Williams in the 2nd round. He may be great, but they don't need another safety and even if they did, he won't be able to pressure the other team's quarterback. The Bills need a pass rusher, not more secondary help. For God's sake why even spend a draft pick on a running back? Why?

Grade: 2

Miami Dolphins

I tend not to judge teams harsher because they didn't have as many picks going into the draft. The Dolphins didn't have a lot of picks in the early rounds, but I like how they plugged guys into holes they had on their roster. There's no point in drafting a quarterback you don't like in the first round to say you tried to improve the position, so it was smart to instead draft the best interior lineman in Pouncey. Daniel Thomas has the potential to be a great running back and Edmund Gates will make a good slot receiver...though I thought that was the position Devone Bess was best at. I didn't care for the later half of their draft. Regardless, the Dolphins got better in the draft.

Grade: 6

New England Patriots

I don't completely get this draft, so Patriots fans feel free to tell me what an idiot I am. I like the Nate Solder pick, but where is a defensive lineman at? Isn't that a need for the Patriots? I thought it was. I like Ras-I Dowling and he was drafted about where I think he should have been, but Belichick won a Super Bowl with Troy Brown as the nickel corner, so I feel like they could have addressed that need a little bit later. What makes up for the draft and doesn't make me pan it, is the acquisition of Marcus Cannon in the 5th round. I have a feeling he will miss a season due to his illness and then end up being an absolute steal for the Patriots. I am a fan of Shane Vereen, but I don't get why the Pats took back-to-back running backs and didn't upgrade the defensive line in the 2nd or 3rd round. The Ryan Mallett choice is merely so the Patriots can trade him to Oakland in two years and get draft picks for him. You know Al Davis will want Mallett in a couple of years.

Grade: 4

New York Jets

I thought the Jets needed to get a bit younger on the defensive line and they did a great job of that. I really liked Wilkerson before the draft and think that was a great pick. He can move over in passing situations and rush the passer from the nose tackle position and play end. Kenrick Ellis was a good pick at nose tackle as well and will hopefully help stop the run. The pick I like the most by the Jets is Jeremy Kerley. He'll be a great slot receiver and can return punts. He's small, but it is not like the Jets will ask him to play on the outside for a few years. They have wide receivers, but I feel like they don't have a guy like Kerley. I don't get the Jets drafting a running back. I thought they were set at that position. Still, a draft that met their needs.

Grade: 7

Baltimore Ravens

I knew I should have mocked Jimmy Smith to the Ravens. I got cute and went against conventional thought because I felt like it was too obvious and was a smokescreen. What I like about the Ravens is they took care of the needs they have. They need cornerbacks and they drafted an exceptional one in Smith. They need help at wide receiver and drafted two of them. I like this move because the idea of relying on the veterans last year wasn't as productive as anticipated. I know very little about Jah Reid, but it appears the Ravens reached to get him. Hey, if they like him I guess based on the "Alualu rule" from last year, I will try not to criticize a team for making a slight reach. I'm not sure how Anthony Allen was still available in the 7th round.

Grade: 8

Cincinnati Bengals

I feel like Jon Gruden, but I like this draft as well. AJ Green has all the makings of an impact receiver and the Bengals needed to give Palmer/Dalton more weapons. Obviously, the Bengals were taking a quarterback in the draft and they seem to have done well with Dalton. Much of the grade I am giving the Bengals is based on Dalton performing well. That's usually the case when a team takes a quarterback early in the draft. What makes this draft great in my mind is Boling in the fourth round and Sands in the fifth round. Boling may never be great, but he can play a variety of positions and could start very soon for the Bengals. I wish they had addressed the defensive line a little bit and they didn't. For that, it doesn't deserve a perfect grade, but it deserves very close.

Grade: 9

Cleveland Browns

I'm pretty sure I am the only person who did not like the Browns draft very much...at least I didn't like it much compared to others. Phil Taylor is a 3-4 nose tackle. Sure, he play in a 4-3 defense and will stop the run, but he is better used in another scheme. If the Browns wanted a 4-3 defender, I felt like there were better options available. I watched Pitt play a few times this year and I am not sure how I feel about Jabaal Sheard at the NFL level. He seemed small to me at times. Greg Little does fit a need for them, but I thought the Browns would have been better served to take Julio Jones because I thought they needed an impact wide receiver. I am not sure Little is that guy. So I credit the Browns with trying to fill deficiencies they have, but I am more impressed with some of their later picks. They addressed the defensive line problem they had, but I don't like the players they addressed the position with.

Grade: 3

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are sort of the opposite of the Browns for me. They filled their needs, but with players I like and think will produce at a high level. Cameron Heyward was a great pick in the first round for them and he'll combine with Ziggy Hood well. I think Heyward will end up being one of the better players in this draft and I like how they drafted an offensive lineman who isn't close to his ceiling in Marcus Gilbert. The Steelers are smart and know they needed to do something about the secondary and they did by taking two cornerbacks. I will admit, I didn't like the pick of Baron Batch in the 7th round, though I guess he will probably make it on the Steelers roster. Still, that is about all I can say negative about the Steelers draft.

Grade: 8

Houston Texans

I hate being positive. For some of these drafts, I have to though. I like this draft and what the Texans tried to do here. They had to improve the defense, or actually Gary Kubiak had to improve the defense or else he would be fired after this season. The Texans went nearly all defense in this draft. I like J.J. Watt and I love Brooks Reed. The Texans need pass rushers and they got at least one with great potential. They also got two cornerbacks with the next two picks and I actually like Rashad Carmichael better than Brandon Harris in the long-term. I'm still not sure either player is the long-term answer as a starter, but at least the Texans addressed the position. The Texans did exactly what they needed to in the draft, which was get 3-4 personnel.

Grade: 7

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts didn't have a lot of picks, so I won't criticize them for that. Are they a better team now than they were at the beginning of the draft? Yes, they are. They did they draft impact players? No, they didn't. I really thought they would take a backup quarterback at some point, but I guess they figured protecting Peyton Manning is the answer to keeping him healthy. They needed to upgrade the offensive line and they have done that and they needed to get a defensive tackle and they did that. They got a backup running back in case Joseph Addai leaves in free agency and a pretty good running back as well in Delone Carter. Solid draft for the Colts, though it wasn't the sexiest.

Grade: 7

Jacksonville Jaguars

Terrible. Horrible. I did not like this draft. I feel like the Jaguars were more concerned with putting fans butts in the seats then fixing their needs. The Jaguars needed (and I think most people can agree with this) help at defensive end and at the safety position. Instead, with their five picks they choose a quarterback and two later round picks that can have only be described positively by a scouting service as "the potential to help out on special teams." In fact, Rod Isaac was described as a player that would make "a good 9th defensive back for an NFL roster." That's really the best player available in the 5th round? Gabbert was a sexy pick and I will look stupid if he is a franchise quarterback, but I will take that chance. It's like the Jaguars said, "Fuck improving the pass rush or the secondary, let's get a quarterback! Maybe we'll sell some merchandise!" There is no way Jack Del Rio, a former defensive coordinator, is happy none of the defensive needs were even close to being addressed.

Grade: 1

Tennessee Titans

Well, the Titans did need a quarterback and they took one in Jake Locker. I'm not completely sure how they plan on protecting him, but it doesn't matter because Locker is gritty and like Brett Favre so he doesn't need any stinkin' protection from an offensive line. While I like the Ayers and Casey picks in the 2nd and 3rd round, neither player is the pass rusher the Titans need. The Titans are a better team on defense, but I think they should have addressed their need at defensive end earlier in the draft. Not to mention, the Titans need to get blocking upfront and I am not sure not drafting a guard or center in a year where there may be no free agency is the key to improving Chris Johnson's YPC average. So in summation, the Titans needed to get a quarterback, improve the pass rush and upgrade the offensive line. They did one of those things.

Grade: 4

Denver Broncos

Ah yes, it is a John Fox draft. He takes an incredibly talented player and then puts him in a role where his full skill set isn't utilitized. A similar situation to Von Miller playing in a 4-3 is Thomas Davis, the talented OLB for the Panthers, when was drafted and put at safety for a season...you know, just because. In a similar vein, the Broncos took a 3-4 linebacker for a 4-3 system. Miller may excel in the 4-3 system, but he could really excel in the 3-4 system. I thought Dareus was the better pick at the #2 spot. I am admittedly biased when discussing Denver's draft because I have years of experience with how John Fox runs a team. I love the picks of Virgil Green and Julian Thomas, but given Fox's offense traditionally using the tight end as a 6th offensive lineman, I am not 100% sure they will be utilized properly given their skill set, but if they are used properly they have great potential. Two picks I really like are Jeremy Beal and Rahim Moore. Those guys are going to be great for Fox's defense. Overall, this is a good draft for the Broncos, but they didn't address the DT position and that was a huge error.

Grade: 5

Kansas City Chiefs

I like how the Chiefs got a quality wide receiver and also got a third round pick out of it as well. Great move. Under the "Alualu rule" I will not criticize the Chiefs for taking Baldwin when they potentially could have gotten him in the second round. There's a chance he could have been gone at that spot. He is talented, troubled, but talented. The three picks I like for the Chiefs draft are Justin Houston (who would have gone higher if he wasn't unfortunate enough to get caught smoking pot...you know, since no other athletes did this in college), Jerrell Powe (an actual nose tackle!) and Ricky Stanzi. Powe is a starter in the NFL, Houston has a ton of talent and should be a starter for the Chiefs as long as he keeps his shit together, and Stanzi is a quarterback who given experience in a system could turn into a starter. I think he is a system quarterback and that's not an insult. Other than that, there are a few misses in this draft. Still, the Chiefs took care of their needs in the draft and got value in the later rounds.

Grade: 8

Oakland Raiders

I liked the Raiders picks last year. I think I gave them a good grade in my head (I don't think I did NFL draft grades last year). I don't like their draft this year. Because the Raiders hate draft picks, they figured they would go ahead and get rid of that stupid 2nd round pick they have next year. Who should they trade the pick to? Oh yeah, New England. It's like a big brother taking advantage of a little brother at this point. It's unfair. Who did the Raiders move up to get in the third round? Joseph Barksdale, who was projected to go in the 3rd or 4th round anyway. So it is not like they moved up to get a guy who had fallen. I know under the "Alualu rule" I created, I can't bash this pick. Screw it, I did anyway. So while the Raiders did meet their needs in the draft, I give them credit for that, but at the end of the draft I feel like they were sorting the offensive players by their 40 yard time and their athletic ability and then drafting the best offensive player who meets that criteria.

I am mocking them and giving them a low grade, but I like how they attempted to address their needs at cornerback. That's a positive. Still...giving away another 2012 pick (along with the 4th round pick they gave up for Campbell last year) is not good and I'm not sure there is a player in this draft that will help them improve much.

Grade: 2

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers needed defensive help and they got it in the form of Corey Liuget, though I think he fits better in the 4-3 system, he can still play end in the 3-4. So that was good, but I don't get the pick of Jonas Mouton. From my research it seems he could have been had four rounds later. That's a huge reach. For a team that needed playmakers on defense and at the linebacker position, they didn't get any in the draft. That's a big miss in my opinion. I do like how they upgraded the secondary, but a front seven that needed some playmakers isn't getting those playmakers...or even quality depth for that matter. Jordan Todman appears to be a good pick in the 6th round and Shareece Wright was also a good value at his position. Still, they need impact players and I don't see enough of them.

Grade: 3

I will be back in a couple days and grade the NFC teams and their draft.

12 comments:

Martin F. said...

All I've seen of Ryan Mallet the last couple years is a QB who is good when things are going good, and cracks under pressure situations. He's not going to be the next Tom Brady, he's not even close. Not only is he not the kind of QB who can bring a team and steal a victory from an opponent, he isn't able to keep a lead against better teams. He's the kind of guy who can lead a team back against a bad team, but isn't going to do diddly for you against a as good or better team. I really disliked the Pats draft.

The Steelers seem to be a team who can take a guy not yet ready for the NFL, but who has talent, and can coach him up the next year. He can play special teams, maybe fill in a play here or there, and then be ready to go his second season. Also, they don't do things like use a high draft pick on a RB when the stable is already full.

rich said...

Buffalo

While I also wonder about why they needed to draft a RB (especially after spending a first round pick on Spiller last year), it was only a 5th round pick and they got a guy who could actually contribute this year, which is a pretty big plus for a 5th rounder. While they do have Jackson and Spiller, Spiller was pretty disappointing last year (and it wasn't the OL as Jackson managed to average almost half a yard more per carry).

It also makes sense in the regard that they aren't wowed by their QB situation and even if they draft someone next year, having a solid running game helps out in both of those situations.

The QBs

While I will agree with Martin's general feeling about Mallett, for where he was taken in the draft, he's not a bad pick. If Brady goes down, it doesn't really matter who can step in, because there's going to be a huge drop-off. However, like Cassell did the year he subbed for Brady, Mallett is a capable QB. He may not be a superstar, but he'll be able to not completely give away games like some backups.

The one place I will disagree with Martin's assessment is that Mallett some of those loses you can't really put on Mallet. In the games against good competition, Mallett actually played rather well and while he may not have been fantastic down the stretch, to discount Mallett's ability because his team pissed away some of his leads is kind of unwarranted.

This past season, Arkansas lost to three teams, all of whom were ranked in the top 10 at the time they beat Arkansas. There are very few QBs who could lead a team to victories in those games, especially when half of one of those teams (OSU) probably shouldn't have even been playing.

Against Auburn, he put up 43 points in a losing effort (65 points for Auburn, that's some pretty shitty defense).

Against Alabama, Arkansas scored 20 points and were in serious contention to win the game the entire time. Alabama didn't exactly make it a habit to let teams score tons of points (only 4 teams scored 20 or more), but Arkansas is the only team to score 20+ and lose.

Against OSU in the Sugar Bowl, there were six drops by Arkansas receivers and again, despite scoring over 20 points lost because of some pretty awful defense.

Would I take Mallett as a guy to lead my team to a final TD in the last minute? Probably not, but he may learn under Brady and Belicheck, so I wouldn't exactly write him off. Of course, I think he's also an arrogant cocksucker, so I get more a Jeff George vibe from him than Tom Brady.

Back to the point, considering the money given to Cam Newton (hahaha, sorry BGF), Gabbert, Locker (?!?!) and Ponder (?!?!?!?!?!?!?!), Mallett in the third round is a steal compared to what Car, Jac, Tenn and Minn used to get their equally shitty QBs.

rich said...

One last point I'll make about Mallett is about the quote where he compared himself to Brady. Was it a good comparison? Not really. Was it an over the top arrogant one? Absolutely not.

For some reason the media hates Mallett (again, I'll say he seems incredibly arrogant IMO), but some of the things are taken way out of proportion.

For example, ESPN's documentary on Brady and the QBs from the same draft used the "I'm the best decision you've ever made" quote that Brady used the first time he met Bob Kraft as a good thing that highlights Brady's confidence.

Now that same entity wants to spin "Tom and I are similar" as being arrogant? I'm sorry, but that's just so fundamentally retarded that it can only be attributed to ESPN.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, I like Mallett a bit more than you do. I was very impressed with his knowledge during Jon Gruden's QB camp. I liked the pick where it was made and I do think he is in a good situation with the Patriots. Still, some of those questions about personality can be exacerbated at the QB position over other positions and may hurt a team more. Those questions a/b Clausen last year and his attitude towards other players on the team turned out to be somewhat true and I am not sure 50% of the Panthers team likes him. The advantage for Mallett is he doesn't have to be the leader in New England at this point.

That's what I like about the Steelers as well. They take guys and mold them to fit their system. They have the luxury of doing that since they don't always need immediate help at certain positions.

Rich, I thought Buffalo should have pretended to address another position at that point in the draft, that's all. Even though Spiller didn't impress last year, I wouldn't give up on him too soon. I thought a 5th round pick on a running back met a need they could have filled later in the draft. I had no issue with them not taking a quarterback early in the draft. I think Fitzpatrick can get them where they are going for one more year.

While I will say I don't see Mallett as a quarterback on par (at least not yet) with Matt Cassel some of those losses really weren't his fault. Arkansas did put up some good offensive numbers on good teams, including against Auburn.

As far as his attitude goes, the cockiness doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't turn into a Ryan Leaf-type situation and I don't think it will because he isn't asked to be the star, so he can grow into the role.

Mock Cam Newton all you want. There's a 35% chance he will get the last laugh and be a quality NFL quarterback.

(shoots self in head)

I will talk more about Newton in my NFC grades and I have some justification for the pick, though I didn't want to take up too much space so I hope I got my point across.

It seems the media hates Newton (to an extent) and Mallett for some of their comments. I like some cockiness in a quarterback and it is really hard to tell how it will translate to the NFL. We don't know how many players have told the team that drafted them they would not regret it and the team actually DID end up regretting it. You don't hear about the 5th round picks that were cocky and then ended up getting cut...at least not much.

ESPN can use that quote against Mallett b/c they know NOW Brady can back it up. They will forget what they said a/b Mallett if he becomes a great QB.

Martin F. said...

It might be because the games I saw of Mallet, but he never seemed to have that great second half. It seemed Arkansas would get the lead, like they did against Alabama, and then Mallet would make some bad passes, or toss an interception or two, and the team would come up short, or hold on to win in spite of him.

I will say that he has as good a chance as any of these QB's this year to be any good. Maybe even better, because the Pats don't make the QB do more then he's capable of, and because he's played three years under center.

Cam Newton at #1? Titans picking Locker? Ponder to the Vikes? Whaaaaat? There are at least three QB's coming out of the Pac-12 next year who have a better foundation then these guys. If I was running one of these teams that needs a QB, I'd bite the bullet this Lockout Year on a 1 year FA QB, and then see if I can get Luck, Barkley, or Foles.

Also, people keep calling what the Browns did as a heist trading their pick for multiples. It's only a heist if they get good players in those new slots, and I don't see anything that shows me they were better off getting those guys then Julio Jones would have been for Colt McCoy on an offense that lacks ANY play making threats other then Cribbs.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, underrated. A Top 15 QB in my opinion. He showed me at least as much as Eli Manning does. Put Ryan on the Giants and I'm pretty sure he'd do at least as well as Eli.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, I can't wait for the Panthers to draft Andrew Luck next year. We could be like the Lions, except we collect quarterbacks! I'm pumped.

It was a weak QB class this year, no doubt about it. I think next year will be a pretty good QB class. Landry Jones is going to be a good one as well. Mallett could definitely be an NFL starter at some point and he is in a good spot to do mature.

Mallett did tend to force some throws during games last year, but most quarterbacks do that in college. I don't know if he will ever be a starter, but he has a shot based just on his talent.

I like Fitzpatrick. Don't know if I would put him in the Top 15, but the Bills can suck this year and can get Jones, Barkley or Luck next year.

rich said...

The thing about Arkansas' offense is that they showed their hand pretty early in games. Especially that game against Alabama. After half time, Alabama executed better defensively and Arkansas just seemed determined to try the same crap over and over again and so I have to put some of the blame on the coaching staff.

Of course Mallett made some unspeakably bad throws as well and I hate trying to justify his draft slot, but he has a huge arm and that's the first step in the NFL.

I'm sorry, but if Colt McCoy and his limp dick of an arm can go in the second round, then you have to feel pretty good about Mallett in the third.

I'll second what Martin said though, I honestly think this year's crop of QBs is going to be just awful. I'm getting a 2002 vibe from this year's QB class. There were a ton of high picks, but seriously? Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert? Christian Ponder was a top 20 pick in an NFL draft. I'm sorry, but that speaks to the incredible lack of talent at the position this year.

Back to Mallett, the one thing I keep coming back to in my head is Jeff George. The arm, the cockiness, he just oozes Jeff George. Now, that's not a particularly good thing, but I think it just sums up the fact that Mallett has the talent, he just needs to get his head together, which is probably the hardest thing to "teach" someone.

Switching to the Browns, while I'll agree with you Martin about it only being a heist if they get solid players out of it, the fact is that the Browns weren't one player from even being okay.

They're still in a position where having the ability to draft 2-4 solid players is better than having one great one. I also think it was smart to not draft Julio Jones because the Browns seem dead set on McCoy being the guy there and if my earlier comment on McCoy didn't drive my opinion home, McCoy isn't the QB who can get Julio Jones involved in the game properly.

You don't draft a guy with 4.4 speed and then have him run 10-15 yard routes because your QB can't muster up the courage to throw it further than that. Cribbs works best in the short routes, Jones works best in the mid to long range routes. McCoy isn't suited for that.

To be honest, neither is Little, but at least this way, Little and McCoy can grow together as players. To be honest, if Cleveland drafts Jones, I'd give him 5 games max before he was pissed off about how poorly McCoy throws the ball. Now Jones doesn't seem to be a Dez Bryant type personality, but do you really want to draft a high impact WR and then piss him off in the first half of the season because your noodle dick QB can't throw a decent ball past 15 yards?

Even if you don't like their draft this year, they're likely set up for another top 10 pick and probably a pick in the high 20's next year. I think they whiffed on a few (most) of their picks this year (a FB in the 4th round?), but they still got two guys who are probably starters in the long run and a WR to grow with their limp wristed QB.

It was a bad draft, but not taking Jones was probably a very smart move, especially given his injury history.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I don't think anyone likes the quarterbacks in this year's draft. I don't know if Mallett is any better than the rest of them, but it seems like the public disagrees.

About the Browns, no they aren't one player away, but I thought they could have used Julio Jones at wide receiver. I don't have a massive issue with them trading for other picks, I just don't like the ones they got. Taylor is a 3-4 nose tackle and I thought there were better 4-3 DT's available at that spot. Taylor may work out though, I just thought there were better options. I don't like Sheard that much and I think Little will be a good #2/#3 receiver, but they need more than that.

I'm not a professional scout obviously, but I don't really like the players they got. Little was a good pick where he was, but I would have probably tried to get a receiver earlier.

Martin F. said...

I think the Browns were smart to make the trade, just that I don't think they executed it very well on their back end, and as such, felt they would be at least as well off drafting Jones. McCoy is accurate, and I figured he could run slants, bubble screens, hitches, to make use of the speed till they get the QB they want. I'm not convinced that McCoy is Holmgrens QB of the future, more like the QB eh, of right now, eh.

Bengoodfella said...

I don't know what the Browns long-term plan at quarterback is. I am guessing they are planning on giving McCoy one more year and then deciding from there.

I get the need to get more picks, I am not really arguing against that, but I feel like they need a reliable receiver that isn't Ben Watson. So picking up the other picks were great, but I would have liked to see them draft an impact offensive player.

Murray said...

I think the Patriots feel that the pass rush will come from within. I think they feel Cunningham and Spikes will both improve this year and maybe Ty Warren might actually not be injured.

Bengoodfella said...

Murray, that is entirely possible. Those three guys being healthy and contributing will help, but I still am a little surprised they didn't draft a d-lineman of some sort. It is hard to criticize Bill Belichick though, since the Pats are usually really good.