More NFL draft: NFC teams' grades
NEW YORK – Another year, another NFL draft is in the books. As always, some teams made incredibly smart and predictable moves (the Raiders getting their quarterback, the Jets getting an immediate starter in the secondary). Some franchises made baffling moves (shame on you, Miami). And then you have the crafty perennial Super Bowl contender Patriots stepping away from the draft board to add a potentially valuable piece for yet another run at the title.
Of course, it might take years from now before we're truly able to assess all the moves made during another long and intriguing draft weekend. But for now, we'll get a little judgmental (OK, maybe a lot) and hand out grades to the AFC franchises.
Buffalo Bills: This is not necessarily a complaint about the players the Bills drafted because running back Marshawn Lynch is very talented, linebacker Paul Posluszny was considered a first-round talent and quarterback Trent Edwards was highly regarded by many. However, you have to wonder if the Bills did a lot of checking into Lynch's background, given the character issues, before they used a pick this high on him. Even more, Lynch is probably going to like Buffalo's weather as much as former back Willis McGahee. That said, if the Bills get four or five good years out of Lynch, who cares if he likes it there?
Miami Dolphins: Coach Cam Cameron may know and love Ted Ginn Jr., but it's hard to justify taking a skinny (5-foot-11, 178 pounds) receiver with the ninth overall pick. Ginn can run, is a deep threat, played well against top opponents and can return both punts and kickoffs. Still, there's a reason that Cameron got booed by Dolphins fans when he came out to talk about this pick. The fans really wanted Brady Quinn. The Dolphins believe they got a quarterback prospect just as good in the second round with John Beck. Most of the rest of the draft was spent searching for beef along both lines and filling sundry needs, such as punter (Brandon Fields).
New England Patriots: OK, if you really want to nitpick, the Patriots took too many guys in this draft. With such a veteran team, it's going to be hard for more than five of the nine players they drafted to make the team. That aside, what the Patriots did in the draft was little short of brilliant. They came up with a much-needed safety in Brandon Meriweather. They also came up with an extra first-round pick next year in a trade from San Francisco. They also got a good possession receiver in Wes Welker for a second and seventh rounder. Finally, they got Randy Moss for a fourth-round pick. That's a stunning haul and further proof of why the Pats are way ahead of the pack in this stuff.
New York Jets: They paid a high price to get corner Darrelle Revis, but he was the top-rated cornerback by most teams in this draft and will start right away. Given that the Patriots seriously upgraded their receiving corps, the Jets really needed an instant impact player like Revis. Likewise, inside linebacker David Harris will start right away in the front seven. Jacob Bender is a big-body project to get in the sixth-round and could actually develop into a mauler left tackle one day. That said, the Jets needed a little more help than they got.
Baltimore Ravens: No draft is particularly exciting when your team is taking a guard (Ben Grubbs) in the first round. Yippee, make that inside block. The Ravens also missed out when they tried to trade up for free-falling quarterback Brady Quinn in the first round, but it was hard to match the offer Cleveland put on the table for Dallas. That said, the Ravens came up with the top-rated interior offensive lineman in the draft and filled some other needs along the way. Return specialist Yamon Figurs has big-time speed and can replace troubled and injured return man B.J. Sams. Marshal Yanda is a right tackle candidate and Antwan Barnes has superior speed for his size (6-4, 307). Former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith is a nice gamble in the fifth round.
Cincinnati Bengals: This is a solid draft, though definitely not sexy. Cornerback Leon Hall is a solid pick, although the Bengals preferred Darrelle Revis. Hall fits the Bengals' scheme and, in a nice change of pace for them, is a high-character person. Kenny Irons will likely step in as a third-down back with the hope of developing later on, taking over for the constantly injured Chris Perry. Safety Marvin White can run, which Cincy needs in its secondary. Both quarterback Jeff Rowe and guard Dan Santucci are good prospects for development.
Cleveland Browns: OK, the trade for Brady Quinn was a little expensive. Giving up a first-round pick in 2008 could come back to haunt the Browns if it's a top-10 selection. However, that pick was probably going to be used on a quarterback next year. In that sense, the Browns are getting their quarterback a year earlier. To also get left tackle Joe Thomas thus makes this an extremely strong effort. Cornerback Eric Wright is a character risk, but he might be the most talented of anyone at his position in this draft. The rest of the picks are all solid prospects.
Pittsburgh Steelers: As usual, the Steelers don't exactly wow anybody with sexy names or make a punch of splashy trades, but they do a wonderful job of making effective picks to fill needs. Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley were among the top linebackers on just about everybody's board. Timmons will step in and play right away. Woodley is the type of edge rusher that the Steelers need after letting Joey Porter go. Tight end Matt Spaeth is an interesting player because of his size. Aside from him, receiver Dallas Baker is the only other skill player the Steelers took.
Houston Texans: If you factor in that the Texans essentially got quarterback Matt Schaub in this draft and then got the top defensive tackle with the No. 10 overall pick, that's a nice haul. Schaub cost them two second-round picks and a sizeable amount of cash on the contract, but that's the going price with quarterbacks. The actual draft is filled with guys who don't have a lot of upside. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones may be nothing more than a return man and tall returners generally don't have a lot of success. Guard Brandon Frye might be the best gamble of the remaining players because he could develop into a left tackle.
Indianapolis Colts: Nice picks all around to fill roles. Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, with the smarts to learn the job quickly, figures to take the job once held by Brandon Stokley. Offensive tackle Tony Ugoh was considered a possible first-round talent by some coaches and scouts, and cornerback Daymeion Hughes is a very nice Cover 2 cornerback and should fill in for either the departed Nick Harper or Jason David. There may not be a lot of impact to this draft right away, but all of the players are considered solid.
Jacksonville Jaguars: It's a little hard to get excited when an offensively challenged team like the Jaguars invests its first two picks of the draft in defensive help. That said, the Jaguars have liked safety Reggie Nelson for months and managed to get him even after trading down. Nelson is a great athlete and might end up being the best safety in this class with his ability to cover and his room for growth. Linebacker Justin Durant was the best small-college defensive player in the land. Mike Walker is something of an indictment of the current receiving corps, which deserves to be indicted. Outside linebacker Brian Smith is coming off an injury and remains a bit of a risk.
Tennessee Titans: This is a pretty iffy draft. Michael Griffin is a terrific strong safety, which the Titans need, but taking strong safeties in the first round is not always a great value choice. Chris Henry's selection in the second round is a big indictment of running back LenDale White, the team's second-round pick from last year who weighed in at more than 260 pounds earlier this offseason. That said, Henry may be more of a workout guy than a true player. The rest of the guys in this group are pretty low-potential players. Wide receiver Paul Williams is an example of a pure speed guy that the Titans love to draft, yet rarely develops into a great player.
Denver Broncos: Anyone who saw the Broncos last year knew that their defensive line was woefully inadequate by true contender status. Thus, the emphasis in the first four picks was necessary. Jarvis Moss had a lot of detractors because he's a little stiff for an end. Still, he has the quickness to be a factor in the pass rush right away. Tim Crowder was an excellent talent to get in the second round. In that vein, Marcus Thomas is an outstanding risk to take in the fourth round. He had a problem with marijuana in college, but several defensive line coaches around the NFL said he was the second-best defensive-tackle talent in this draft behind Amobi Okoye.
Kansas City Chiefs: For those who haven't seen Dwayne Bowe, he's really something to behold physically. You don't draw them up much better than Bowe when it comes to size-speed guys at wide receiver. In any year that didn't include Calvin Johnson, Bowe might have been the talk of the receiver group. The next two picks are straight needs and speak to Kansas City's failure to pick good defensive tackles in the past. Tank Tyler has some character issues, but he's amazingly strong (he did 42 reps at the combine on the 225-pound bench press). Kolby Smith is a good backup to Larry Johnson and should allow the Chiefs to reduce Johnson's NFL-record workload (416 carries) of last season.
Oakland Raiders: When you have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, it's easy for people to like what you do. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell is a wonderful physical talent, far and away the most gifted passer the league has seen in years. As for the rest of the draft, the Raiders got a lot of players who have star potential, such as defensive end Quentin Moses, who had a first-round grade on him going into last season before dropping down the board. Mario Henderson is a terrific left tackle prospect. If running back Michael Bush ever returns to health, he's a guy who had first-round talent before getting hurt and could be a bruising power runner. Getting Zach Miller was nice, especially since the Raiders were able to trade down and still get him. The bottom line is that 10 of the 11 picks could easily make the roster.
San Diego Chargers: Craig Davis is a serious burner who gives the Chargers an immediate deep threat to complement the likes of Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates. The Chargers paid a steep price to get cornerback Eric Weddle, but he also figures to start right away, which is pretty significant when you're going to a title-contending team. The rest of the players are all terrific athletes, which is an A.J. Smith specialty and a reason why the Chargers have been able to sustain free-agent losses in recent years. Linebacker Brandon Siler has some big-time character issues, but he has plenty of talent.