Grading the NFL Draft - Part I - The NFC

Grading the NFL Draft - Part I - The NFC

NFC EAST

Dallas

1 - Anthony Spencer, DE/OLB, Purdue (6-3, 266)
3 - James Marten, T, Boston College (6-7, 303)
4 - Isaiah Stanback, QB/WR, Washington (6-2, 216)
4 - Doug Free, T, Northern Illinois (6-7, 318)
6 - Nick Folk, K, Arizona (6-1, 225)
6 - Deon Anderson, FB, Connecticut (5-11, 243)
7 - Courtney Brown, CB, Cal Poly (6-1, 196)
7 - Alan Ball, CB, Illinois (6-1, 176)

Analysis: Though there was some thought that the Cowboys would take a wide receiver with their first-round pick (which they had to re-obtain from Philadelphia after dealing the No. 22 selection to Cleveland), Dallas filled a less headline-grabbing need at pass rusher instead. Spencer is seen as a natural fit in the 3-4 defense, and should help right away. Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips also addressed the offensive line, taking a couple of undersized talents in Marten and Free in order to possibly halt the team's revolving door at tackle. The only pass-catcher the club took was not a pass-catcher at all apart from his freshman year in college, but Stanback is expected to make a smooth transition into the role at the next level. Folk could make the team as a kickoff specialist, Anderson will challenge Lousaka Polite at fullback, and Brown and Ball will be fortunate to make the team.

Bottom Line: Did not properly address problems in the secondary or the future at receiver, but Spencer and the tackles should be of assistance.

Grade: C+

N.Y. Giants
1 - Aaron Ross, CB, Texas (6-1, 192)
2 - Steve Smith, WR, USC (5-11, 199)
3 - Jay Alford, DT, Penn State (6-3, 304)
4 - Zak DeOssie, OLB (6-5, 250)
5 - Kevin Boss, TE, Western Oregon (6-6, 252)
6 - Adam Koets, T, Oregon State (6-5, 298)
7 - Michael Johnson, S, Arizona (6-3, 205)
7 - Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Marshall (5-9, 198)

Analysis: The Giants appear to have found a first-rate talent in Ross, who should help alleviate some of the team' coverage problems of a year ago. Smith is less of a sure thing, especially considering his size and the recent track record of USC wideouts (Keary Colbert, Mike Williams, etc.), but he'll get a chance to prove himself for a team that needs playmakers. Alford will join Barry Cofield in a good young group of tackles, and DeOssie, the son of former Giant Steve DeOssie, is likely to see most of his time as a rookie on special teams. Apart from DeOssie, the two seventh-rounders are the most intriguing of the second-day picks. Johnson was thought by some to be among the top dozen safety talents in the league, and may have been a major steal. Bradshaw had major off-the-field problems (he was arrested for burglary and petty larceny in 2006), but on a team that is contending with Tiki Barber's retirement, he'll have a decent shot of sticking.

Bottom Line: No left tackle or ball carrier candidates hurts their overall grade, but there is some legitimate value here.

Grade: B-

Philadelphia
2 - Kevin Kolb, QB, Houston (6-3, 220)
2 - Victor Abiamiri, DE, Notre Dame (6-5, 271)
3 - Stewart Bradley, OLB, Nebraska (6-4, 256)
3 - Tony Hunt, RB, Penn State (6-0, 230)
5 - C.J. Gaddis, CB, Clemson (5-11, 203)
5 - Brent Celek, TE, Cincinnati (6-4, 255)
6 - Rashad Barksdale, DB, Albany (6-0, 208)
7 - Nate Ilaoa, RB, Hawaii (5-9, 245)

Analysis: The Eagles' selection of Kolb with the 36th pick was a very strange one for a multitude of reasons. First, Philly didn't have a pressing need at quarterback, with A.J. Feeley and Kelly Holcomb around to spell the healing Donovan McNabb at signal-caller. Second, the Birds had more significant problems to address, most notably in the secondary. Third, few considered Kolb to be worthy of the 36th pick, with most expecting him to go late in the second round or early in the third. Other weird weekend maneuvers by Philadelphia: no defensive backs taken on the first day? The spending of a fifth-round pick on Celek, who one scouting service rated as the 25th-best tight end in the draft? No offensive linemen in a draft that Andy Reid presides over? There were some highlights, as Abiamiri, Bradley, and Hunt all have a chance to contribute in year one. But frankly, the Eagles took too many shots in the dark to classify their draft class a success.

Bottom Line: Philadelphia raised more questions than it answered with this crop.

Grade: C-

Washington

1 - LaRon Landry, S, LSU (6-2, 205)
5 - Dallas Sartz, OLB, USC (6-5, 235)
6 - H.B. Blades, LB, Pittsburgh (5-11, 236)
6 - Jordan Palmer, QB, UTEP (6-6, 231)
7 - Tyler Ecker, TE, Michigan (6-6, 246)

Analysis: Landry was considered by many to be the best defensive player in the draft, and his presence can only help a Redskins secondary that was laughably poor in its playmaking a year ago. Washington only had one pick in the first 142 of the draft, so there's little else that warrants serious evaluation. Sartz, Blades, and Ecker will make the team as special teams players, if at all, and Palmer, brother of Carson, is a project who will have to refine his skills for a season or two in NFL Europe.

Bottom Line: It is indisputable that the draft helped no team less than it did the Redskins.

Grade: D





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Re: Grading the NFL Draft - Part I - The NFC

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta
1 - Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas (6-6, 279)
2 - Justin Blalock, OL, Texas (6-4, 329)
2 - Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas (5-11, 185)
3 - Laurent Robinson, WR, Illinois State (6-1, 193)
4 - Stephen Nicholas, OLB, South Florida (6-1, 232)
4 - Martrez Milner, TE, Georgia (6-4, 256)
6 - Trey Lewis, DT, Washburn (6-3, 293)
6 - David Irons, CB, Auburn (5-10, 190)
6 - Doug Datish, C, Ohio State (6-4, 302)
6 - Daren Stone, S, Maine (6-3, 218)
7 - Jason Snelling, FB, Virginia (5-11, 232)

Analysis: Anderson was a bit of a reach at No. 8 overall, but since the Falcons lost Patrick Kerney via free agency and can hardly count on the fragile John Abraham, the pick was a prudent one. The second-round selections were excellent, as Blalock and Houston were both believed to have first-round talent by many, and also filled major needs. Laurent Robinson is not a name that is going to wow a lot of Falcons fans, but the team couldn't afford to be let down by another supposed stud (see Michael Jenkins, Roddy White). Of the team's seven second-day picks, those that have the best chance of making an immediate impact are Milner, who could be Alge Crumpler's primary backup, and Irons, the brother of Auburn running back Kenny Irons, who will have an opportunity to help prop up a suspect secondary.

Bottom Line: Bobby Petrino's first draft failed to answer all of the questions in the defensive front seven and on the offensive line, but Atlanta improved its depth overall.

Grade: B

Carolina
1 - Jon Beason, OLB, Miami-Florida (6-0, 236)
2 - Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC (6-5, 213)
2 - Ryan Kalil, C, USC (6-3, 291)
3 - Charles Johnson, DE, Georgia (6-2, 273)
4 - Ryne Robinson, WR, Miami-Ohio (5-8, 178)
5 - Dante Rosario, TE/FB, Oregon (6-3, 244)
5 - Tim Shaw, LB, Penn State (6-1, 233)
7 - C.J. Wilson, CB, Baylor (6-1, 195)

Analysis: The Panthers gambled and won in trading down to the No. 25 spot, getting Beason there when many expected them to jump on the multi-dimensional linebacker at No. 14. The rest of the first day followed the positive trend: Jarrett is the heir apparent to Keyshawn Johnson at the No. 2 receiving slot; Kalil was thought by most to be the best center in the draft and could also start right away at guard; and Charles Johnson was an underrated college player who should fit seamlessly into the end rotation. On the second day, the Panthers snagged Robinson, who will have a chance to fill the punt returner role. Rosario, Shaw, and Wilson all project as special teamers. The biggest needs not filled over the weekend were in the secondary, where Carolina could have used another playmaker, and at tight end, where the team still lacks a credible pass-catcher.

Bottom Line: Tough to argue with who they selected, but there are still a couple of voids for John Fox and company.

Grade: B

New Orleans
1 - Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee (6-3, 211)
3 - Usama Young, CB, Kent State (5-11, 186)
3 - Andy Alleman, G, Akron (6-4, 302)
4 - Antonio Pittman, RB, Ohio State (5-11, 195)
4 - Jermon Bushrod, T, Towson (6-4, 315)
5 - David Jones, CB, Wingate (6-0, 196)
7 - Marvin Mitchell, LB, Tennessee (6-3, 240)

Analysis: Meachem, who played extremely well in big games in his final year at Tennessee, was a real find for New Orleans at No. 27. He's the heir apparent to Joe Horn, though the presence of Marques Colston will keep the pressure off to a degree. The Saints apparently did a thorough scouting job on the Mid- American Conference, filling secondary and o-line needs by selecting Young and Alleman in the first round. The team will need both to develop quickly, and second-day picks Jones and Bushrod could also help in those respective areas. The biggest name selected on the second day was Pittman, though with Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister on the roster, the former Ohio State standout figures to contribute mostly on special teams at first.

Bottom Line: Meachem should be a perfect fit in one of the league's top offenses, but there appears to be one too many small-school reaches on this list.

Grade: B-

Tampa Bay
1 - Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson (6-5, 260)
2 - Arron Sears, T, Tennessee (6-4, 328)
2 - Sabby Piscitelli, SS, Oregon State (6-3, 224)
3 - Quincy Black, OLB, New Mexico (6-2, 240)
4 - Tanard Jackson, CB, Syracuse (6-0, 192)
5 - Greg Peterson, DE, North Carolina Central (6-5, 286)
6 - Adam Hayward, LB, Portland State (6-0, 230)
7 - Chris Denman, T, Fresno State (6-6, 315)
7 - Marcus Hamilton, CB, Virginia (5-11, 186)
7 - Kenneth Darby, RB, Alabama (5-10, 208)

Analysis: The Bucs didn't end up with Calvin Johnson, which wasn't the end of the world for a team that can certainly use Adams' pass-rushing prowess. Adams, Piscitelli, and Black could all be rookie starters on a team with major old age issues on the defense. Sears should also be a solid addition to Tampa's youth movement on the offensive line. The Buccaneers' six second-day picks were a bit of a mixed bag. Jackson and Hamilton will both have a chance to crack the depth chart at corner, but neither is considered to have standout potential. Peterson and Hayward are defensive projects that could be situational or special teams players at best. Denman projects as a career backup at right tackle, and Darby is a long shot after an unproductive senior season at Alabama.

Bottom Line: The first day is what matters most, and in that regard, Tampa looks to have improved itself immensely.

Grade: B+

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NFC NORTH

Chicago
1 - Greg Olsen, TE, Miami-Florida (6-4, 252)
2 - Dan Bazuin, DE, Central Michigan (6-3, 265)
3 - Garrett Wolfe, RB, Northern Illinois (5-7, 177)
3 - Michael Okwo, ILB, Stanford (5-11, 232)
4 - Josh Beekman, G, Boston College (6-2, 321)
5 - Kevin Payne, SS, Louisiana-Monroe (6-0, 220)
5 - Corey Graham, CB, New Hampshire (6-0, 195)
7 - Trumaine McBride, CB, Ole Miss (5-9, 179)
7 - Aaron Brant, T, Iowa State (6-7, 313)

Analysis: The Bears filled some needs on the first day, but only kinda-sorta. Olsen is another much-needed pass-catcher for Rex Grossman to look for, and was a great value at No. 31, but Chicago might have been better off with a pure wide receiver to eventually replace soon-to-be 34-year-old Muhsin Muhammad. Bazuin will join a front four that was average during the latter stages of last season, but he's an end when a tackle would have been more suitable. Wolfe is slated to become the change-of-pace back now that Thomas Jones is gone, but will he be big enough? And Okwo offers depth to a linebacking corps that is contending with the possible absence of OLB Lance Briggs, but is best-suited to be an inside linebacker. Of the three secondary picks on the second day, Lovie Smith needs at least one to step up and contribute defensively.

Bottom Line: There's plenty of talent here, but there appear to be some square pegs being crowbarred into round holes.

Grade: C+

Detroit
1 - Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech (6-4, 237)
2 - Drew Stanton, QB, Michigan State (6-3, 235)
2 - Ikaika Alama-Francis, DE, Hawaii (6-5, 280)
2 - Gerald Alexander, FS, Boise State (6-0, 210)
4 - A.J. Davis, CB, North Carolina State (5-10, 192)
4 - Manuel Ramirez, G, Texas Tech (6-3, 335)
5 - Johnny Baldwin, LB, Alabama A&M (6-2, 232)
7 - Ramzee Robinson, CB, Alabama (5-9, 184)

Analysis: OK, so he might just turn out to be the Hall of Famer that everyone expects him to be, but does Johnson make the Lions markedly better? They already had a stud wideout in Roy Williams, and a 97-catch man in Mike Furrey. There is no denying Johnson's talent, but a lack of pass-catching was not a problem for this team. The Stanton pick has incurred some criticism, but most scouts believe Stanton has the tools to be an effective NFL quarterback and Mike Martz has worked wonders with lesser players. Less is being said and written about Alama-Francis and Alexander, but a poor Detroit defense is going to need both to be very good very quickly. There were some reaches on the second day, most notably Baldwin, who had a number of draftniks scrambling for biographical information. It is highly probable that the Lions could have received better value for that pick, and waited until the final pick of the draft to take Baldwin.

Bottom Line: Besides Johnson, it's tough to find a potential Pro Bowler among this group.

Grade: C

Green Bay
1 - Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee (6-4, 305)
2 - Brandon Jackson, RB, Nebraska (5-10, 210)
3 - James Jones, WR, San Jose State (6-1, 207)
3 - Aaron Rouse, SS, Virginia Tech (6-4, 225)
4 - Allen Barbre, T, Missouri Southern (6-4, 300)
5 - David Clowney, WR, Virginia Tech (6-0, 188)
6 - Korey Hall, LB, Boise State (6-0, 229)
6 - Desmond Bishop, LB, Cal (6-2, 239)
6 - Mason Crosby, K, Colorado (6-1, 212)
7 - DeShawn Wynn, RB, Florida (5-10, 232)
7 - Clark Harris, TE, Rutgers (6-5, 261)

Analysis: Judging by ESPN's coverage, a group of seven-year-old Packer fans were clearly irate at the team's selection of Harrell, who was hurt for the majority of his senior year and who most experts expected to go late-first or early-second round. Green Bay didn't fill its glaring need in the backfield until the second round (thanks in large part to the Bills stealing Marshawn Lynch at No. 12), picking the somewhat undersized Jackson. The Pack also selected Wynn, who struggled to find his way out or Urban Meyer's doghouse while in college, in the seventh round. The franchise might have engaged in the reach of the entire draft by selecting Jones on the first day (some scouts had him in the undrafted free agent zone), but got good value for the speedy Clowney in the fifth round. Elsewhere on offense, Harris has a chance to stick on a team that needs tight end help. On defense, Rouse is a pure in-the-box type of safety. And on special teams, the selection of Crosby, who many considered to be the best kicker in the draft, puts Dave Rayner on notice.

Bottom Line: Eleven picks, and not a can't-miss player among the bunch.

Grade: C-

Minnesota
1 - Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma (6-2, 218)
2 - Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina (6-4, 202)
3 - Marcus McCauley, CB, Fresno State (6-1, 200)
4 - Brian Robison, DE, Texas (6-2, 266)
5- Aundrae Allison, WR, East Carolina (6-0, 202)
6 - Rufus Alexander, LB, Oklahoma (6-1, 228)
7 - Tyler Thigpen, QB, Coastal Carolina (6-1, 216)
7 - Chandler Williams, WR, Florida International (5-11, 184)

Analysis: Vikings head coach Brad Childress and GM Rick Spielman breathed some life into the offense, choosing Peterson to unseat Chester Taylor as the primary ball carrier and adding the rangy Rice to a group of wideouts that has had trouble getting out of its own way. McCauley was a solid third-round value but will be a backup to begin his NFL career. Robison has a chance to be in the rotation at a thin end spot, but is not the answer to the team's pass- rushing woes. Childress hopes he found the next Marques Colston in either Allison or Williams, and though neither has great size, both have sub-4.5 speed. The Vikings waited until the seventh round before taking a flier on a quarterback, meaning Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, or an as-yet-unnamed free agent will be the starter in 2007.

Bottom Line: No top-notch pass-rusher or quarterback candidate spells an average haul overall.

Grade: C+

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Re: Grading the NFL Draft - Part I - The NFC

NFC WEST

Arizona
1 - Levi Brown, T, Penn State (6-4, 328)
2 - Alan Branch, DT, Michigan (6-6, 331)
3 - Buster Davis, ILB, Florida State (5-10, 244)
5 - Steve Breaston, RS/WR, Michigan (6-0, 178)
7 - Ben Patrick, TE, Delaware (6-3, 252)

Analysis: If there is an NFL team with a chance to have 100 percent of its draft picks on the roster and making an impact in 2007, it is the Cardinals. Brown wasn't quite a top-five talent, but will offer Matt Leinart plenty of protection on his blind side. Branch slipped all the way out of the first round after being projected as a Top 10 pick by some, but will fit well in the Cardinals' 3-4. Davis is short but was a productive tackler at Florida State, Breaston was among the most feared return men in the nation as a collegian, and Patrick was a seventh-round steal after being ranked among the top five tight ends by most services. The only weakness of the first draft of the Ken Whisenhunt era was the team's inability to find a pass rusher to complement Bertrand Berry.

Bottom Line: Each of the Cardinals' five selections has the ability to help, and isn't that point of the draft?

Grade: A-

St. Louis

1 - Adam Carriker, DL, Nebraska (6-6, 292)
2 - Brian Leonard, FB, Rutgers (6-1, 238)
3 - Jonathan Wade, CB, Tennessee (5-10, 192)
5 - Dustin Fry, C, Clemson (6-2, 236)
5 - Clifton Ryan, DL, Michigan State (6-3, 310)
6 - Ken Shackleford, T, Georgia (6-5, 322)
7 - Keith Jackson, DT, Arkansas (6-0, 305)
7 - Derek Stanley, WR/RS, Wisconsin-Whitewater (5-10, 172)

Analysis: The Rams drafted Carriker in the hopes that he can be sturdy enough to play inside, and with Leonard Little and James Hall on the roster, the d- line has the potential to be very good. Leonard is an intriguing talent who figures to spell Steven Jackson for 7-10 touches a game. Wade will compete for a job in a secondary that includes a number of new faces. On the second day, Fry represents insurance for the embattled Richie Incognito, and Keith Jackson, son of the former NFL tight end of the same name, could contribute in the line rotation. Ryan and Stanley were among the biggest reaches in the draft, and both could have trouble making the team. If St. Louis was going to take some risks, it might have done so with a linebacker or two that could contribute to a currently average group.

Bottom Line: The Rams did most of their damage via free agency, but found a couple of potential jewels in Carriker and Leonard.

Grade: B

San Francisco
1 - Patrick Willis, ILB, Ole Miss (6-1, 240)
1 - Joe Staley, T, Central Michigan (6-5, 302)
3 - Jason Hill, WR, Washington State (6-0, 210)
3 - Ray McDonald, DT, Florida (6-3, 281)
4 - Jay Moore, DE, Nebraska (6-5, 276)
4 - Dashon Goldson, FS, Washington (6-2, 202)
4 - Joe Cohen, DT, Florida (6-2, 313)
5 - Tarell Brown, CB, Texas (5-11, 192)
6 - Thomas Clayton, RB, Kansas State (5-10, 218)

Analysis: The 49ers' big splash was trading for Seattle wideout Darrell Jackson on Sunday, but Mike Nolan and company also managed to pick up a couple of potential starters early-on in the draft. Willis figures to be a menace at the heart of the 3-4, and Staley looks like the team's left tackle of the future. Hill, who opened eyes with a 4.34 40-yard dash at the combine, has a chance to be an immediate game-breaker. McDonald looks like a quintessential 3-4 end, and Moore could crack the depth chart there as well. The interesting second-day picks were the team's last two, as Brown and Clayton each had character issues coming into the draft and will have to shed their somewhat sketchy reputations.

Bottom Line: Nolan improved his team in all phases, lending further evidence to all of that "team on the rise" talk.

Grade: A

Seattle
2 - Josh Wilson, CB, Maryland (5-9, 188)
3 - Brandon Mebane, DT, Cal (6-1,305)
4 - Baraka Atkins, DE, Miami-Florida (6-4, 308)
4 - Mansfield Wrotto, G, Georgia Tech (6-3, 316)
5 - Will Herring, LB/FS, Auburn (6-3, 226)
6 -Courtney Taylor, WR, Auburn (6-2, 204)
6 - Jordan Kent, WR, Oregon (6-4,217)
7 - Steve Vallos, OL, Wake Forest (6-3, 297)

Analysis: Undersized corners have been part of the problem in the Seattle secondary in recent years, which means the selection of the speedy but diminutive Wilson is a curious one. Tough to envision Wilson matching up with NFC West wideouts like Larry Fitzgerald or Drew Bennett, though he can certainly run with them. Elsewhere, Mebane was one of the top DT talents available, and could thrive while playing alongside ends Julian Peterson and Patrick Kerney. Wrotto can play guard or tackle, and will add immediate depth to a line that needs it. Also positive was the selection of Taylor, who some expected to go on the first day, and the basketball-bred Kent is an intriguing physical specimen as well. Seattle's big reach was for Herring, who doesn't have a natural position in the NFL, and it could also be difficult for the team to find a role for Atkins in light of the team's pass rushing depth.

Bottom Line: Doesn't look like there are any major scores here, but neither are there any unmitigated disasters.

Grade: B-

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