2011 Draft Review
Overall, teams seem to have avoided any busts in the top 9, then JAC spoiled with run with Gabbert looking pretty weak as a rookie. Picks 11-20 produced good value, with HOU stealing the show with the JJ Watt pick. As could be expected, picks 21-32 produced pretty poor results.
(The assumption here is that round 2-7 assessments take a couple more years to see results since they are more developmental players, although some made big contributions in their first year, that is a hope more than expectation in most cases.)
9 A's = team got what they expected and needed, or more
9 B's = team got a little less than they hoped for with the pick
5 C's = team got much less than they expected, but still have a chance the pick will develop
8 D's = team needed much more from the pick and doesn't look like it will develop well for them
(No F's because impossible to tell someone is a complete wash-out in the first year)
From this draft, the typical problem with late rounds picks is apparent, much more likely to be disappointed. HOPE the 49ers can avoid that fate, as the good front offices are able to do fairly regularly, but it probably means taking a less "sexy" pick, and going with a G versus a WR at #30.
1. QB Newton, CAR – A+ -- not only did his season shock people, but he did it with limited talent around him, and the pick worked out brilliantly for Carolina despite all the doubts that Cam could make a successful transition to the NFL game. Truly amazing at how quickly he learned the game and excelled.
2. OLB Von Miller, DEN – A – turned out to be exactly what people thought he would be, which is a big win in the draft.
3. DT Dareus, BUF – B – was solid but not spectacular. Am I wrong here? Without veteran Williams beside him (out with injury), he had to pick up a big load and play NT. If he comes on strong in 2012, this would rise to an A.
4. WR AJ Green, CIN – A+ -- catches everything thrown his way, even when tightly covered. Awesome.
5. CB Peterson, AZ – A – game changing athlete that had typical rookie struggles at CB. But didn't make same mistakes twice. Look at first game against 49ers, Crabs worked him with double moves. Next game, Peterson corrected his play and was tight all day.
6. WR Jones, ATL – A – The Falcons gave up a lot to get him despite some analyst's reservations, and he brought a lot to the Falcon's, great speed AND hands. Looks like they didn't overpay afterall.
7. DE / OLB Aldon Smith, SF – A+ -- Wow, his rookie season was great. How much upside does he have? It looks like a lot. Turns out to have been a great evaluation of talent when most thought this was a big reach. Was he drafted higher than expected? Yes. Could you have traded back and gotten him, maybe, but you need the right trade partner. If that trade partners isn't there, you take the guy you wanted.
8. QB Locker, TEN – B – there were big doubts about his ability, but he looked like he'll be just fine as an NFL QB, although with his limited play, it's really a guess at this point.
9. OT Smith, DAL – A – Is a started and appears to be playing well.
10. QB Gabbert, JAC – C – This appears to have been a reach. For their sake, let's hope he develops to prove his rookie grade wrong.
11. DE Watt, HOU – A+ – I thought this was a 50/50 pick. He turned out great and is dominant at his position as a rookie playing DE in the 3-4 and still having a huge impact.
12. QB Ponder, MIN – B – Seems to have played well overall for a rookie and has a chance to become a good NFL starter with more talent around him.
13. DT Farley, DET – D – Not as dominant as expected, especially when Suh is right there to take pressure off the guy. He may develop, but it's a D because everyone expected so much more from the rookie, and DET had other needs other than DL.
14. DE / OLB Quinn, STL – C – Did get a few sacks, but didn't bring a lot to the defense as a rookie. It was hoped that his addition would make everyone else look better. Long did look better, but was it because of Quinn?
15. C Pouncey, MIA – B – He started all season and the team improved down the stretch. Doesn't appear as dominant as his brother, but wasn't expected to be.
16. DE Kerrigan, WAS – A – Produced more than expected and looks like a force for years to come.
17. OT Solder, NE – B – Only a B because NE's plan was for him to be a back-up for a year, so in their case the pick worked as planned. But typically a first rounder not starting would be a D, especially when the team had a lot of defensive needs.
18. DT Liuget, SD – C – They needed a pick to make a big contribution early on the DL. Although he played okay as a rookie, so there may be some upside, he was average at best in year 1.
19. CB Amukamara, NYG – B – he appears to be a talented CB, but in his first year wasn't as much of an impact player as people expected due to injury. As with others, his real value will be judged over the next 3 years.
20. DE Clayborn, TB – B – Clayborn seems to be developing nicely.
21. DT Taylor, CLE – D – the Browns needed all kinds of help on the offensive side of the ball, so a defensive player here should have been for a big impact. Taylor has played well in the middle, so it is hard to criticize him for the draft grade. But IMHO, a first round pick gives indication that they will help turn a franchise like CLE around, and this isn't that impactful. The grade goes to the team in this case, not the player.
22. OT Castonzo, IND – B – in hindsight, they needed help across the board and the OL play wasn't much help. But Castonzo wasn't the weak link, and having a year of experience may turn out to be ideal for when Luck shows up to start at QB in 2012! By 2013, this combination of picks may look like genius.
23. G Watkins, PHI – D – as the first G taken he didn't even start. But he has shown steady improvement. Maybe next year his play will move this grade to a C?
24. DE Jordan, NO – C – again, needed an impact player on the DL, and Jordan was average at best, but seems to be developing.
25. OT Carpenter, SEA – D – This is hard to judge since SEA OL draft picks haven't been able to stay healthy.
26. WR Baldwin, KC – D – He struggled as a rookie, but seemed to come on a bit at the end of the season if I remember correctly. This grade may be reflective of the disastrous season primarily due to injuries.
27. CB Smith, BAL – A – he played as well as you would expect a late round CB and looks to be developing as planned.
28. RB Ingram, NO – C – as the first RB taken I would have expected more of an impact and ability to be the full time starter. He runs well and looks like the real deal, but didn't take over the job. IF he becomes the full-time started in 2012, this would be a B+.
29. OT Carimi, CHI – D – Who? Probably too early to grade since he went on IR after two games. If he takes over the job this year and does well, this grade would rise to a B.
30. DE Wilkerson, NYJ – D – for a team desperate for pass rush, this pick provided none, and his play did not free up the OLB either. He at least started immediately. (Others have been less critical of this pick.)
31. DE Heyward, PIT – B – this is a benefit of the doubt grade because PIT has a practice of picking players here that take a few years to develop, and then prove to be top of their class players.
32. OT Sherrod, GB – D – They needed a starter on the OL and got a back-up.