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2008 NFL Draft Grades

2008 NFL Draft Grades

2008 NFL Draft Grades
by Robert Ferringo

The 2008 NFL Draft came and went and, as I first surmised in my initial mock draft, no one had any idea what was going on. Some of that disillusionment seemed to carry into the draft rooms of certain franchises, because there were definitely more teams that completely missed with their draft selections - I'm looking right at you Cincinnati - than there were clubs that made the most of their weekend (Kansas City, come on down).

Not many of the guys selected this weekend are going to step in and contribute valuable minutes in 2008 anyway. But you can still use the draft as a way to gauge the direction a franchise is headed, the confidence they have in the players they have, and their ability to stockpile talent for futures teams. With that in mind, here are my NFL Draft grades and snap analysis on how each team made out in the annual meat market known as the NFL Draft:

Buffalo Bills: B
I had been saying for weeks that the Bills shouldn't reach for a wideout with their top pick because, if things broke the right way, they could steal James Hardy in the second round. Well, everything broke the right way and Buffalo was able to made two excellent picks in the first two rounds. Throughout the draft they addressed needs, which is really to say they found players to develop. This is a solid team, with a lot of young talent, toughness, and depth.

Miami Dolphins: B
I really like the Jake Long pick, and I loved it that they were able to pair him with Chad Henne. I think Henne is a steal and has a bright future in the NFL. He was a four-year starter at Michigan and is a natural leader. He can play on Sundays. They also grabbed a pair of big defensive ends, including a solid value pick with Philip Merling, and I think Jalen Parmele is an interesting prospect. This draft isn't going to improve them overnight. But it's a start.

New England Patriots: C
Again, I was able to predict that the Pats would take a linebacker. But they lost out on a chance to take the best one available (Keith Rivers) by trading down. Beyond that they really had just a bunch of throwaway picks. I don't really see where they are laying the foundation for the next generation of the Dynasty in this draft. And it's that type of hubris that eventually undoes all NFL dynasties.

New York Jets: C-
I think the Jets have the highest "upside" with the players they took, relative to the rest of the division. But that leaves a lot of bust potential. Vernon Gholston is the perfect example. I thought it was ridiculous that they traded up for Dustin Keller, considering he would have still been there with their second round pick. Now they have to give the guy a first-round contract and lose another couple million on the cap (say nothing of the pick they gave up). I do think that Erik Ainge was a savvy selection.

Baltimore Ravens: B-
They whiffed on the quarterback that the franchise needed, but you have to give them credit for not mortgaging the future to get Matt Ryan. I am not a Joe Flacco fan and I think they should have waited for Brohm in the second round, while getting another marquee defender in the first round. However, they picked up Ray Rice, who I love, and they got some very good value on Tom Zbikowski. Again, the Ravens get credit for making the most of a tough spot.

Cincinnati Bengals: D-
The only thing that saved this draft was getting Rivers. Beyond that, it was a mess. The last thing they need is more wide receivers - even if they were to dump Chad Johnson. They have had one of the worst defenses in the NFL for over a decade, yet they burn two picks on mediocre receivers? I just don't get it. Also, one of the defensive players they did get, third-rounder Pat Sims, is another guy with character issues. It's just the same old Bungles, and they drafted like a second-rate organization should draft.

Cleveland Browns: C+
You really can't say that the Browns drafted well - although I loved the valued they secured with Missouri TE Martin Rucker - until you consider what they received for their draft picks. They traded up for Brady Quinn last year, and he still has some value to the franchise, and they were able to nab Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers for this year's second- and third-round selections. I'll take that.

Pittsburgh Steelers: C+
The Steelers really didn't address any of their needs along the offensive and defensive lines with their draft selections in the first three rounds. And they wasted a pick on Dennis Dixon, whom I believe will be playing baseball within two or three years. Rashard Mendenhall could end up being a steal at No. 23, but he's not going to pay dividends immediately for this club.

Houston Texans: C-
Duane Brown? Once again, the Texans were all over the place on draft day. There just doesn't seem to be a real focused plan in the construction of this team. They overpay weak free agents and they reach for questionable talent in the draft. It's a shame that this up-and-coming club really didn't do anything to help them right away. I do like the picks of Steve Slaton and Xavier Adibi. One of those two will turn out to be a solid pro.

Indianapolis Colts: B-
I think it was Chris Mortensen that pointed out what a fantastic deal the Colts made to trade up last year for Tony Ugoh. They wouldn't have landed a lineman of his quality otherwise. I don't understand drafting three centers, but Bill Polian has proven that he just "gets it" when it comes to the draft so I give him the benefit of the doubt. I am also a Mike Hart fan, but I don't think turf suits him.

Jacksonville Jaguars: D+
Derrick Harvey was a guy that was sliding on a lot of draft boards, and the Jaguars clearly overpaid for him. They also took four defensive players with their first four picks and didn't even try to find a potential game-breaker on the offensive side of the ball with a late choice. I understand trying to maintain a strong defense, but I think they went about it the wrong way.

Tennessee Titans: D
Wow. That's all I could say about the Chris Johnson selection. The Titans have had several scrap heap running backs over the past few years and that's been working fine. But to not pick up some athletes and playmakers to help Vince Young was just ridiculous.

Denver Broncos: B-
Very quietly, the Broncos are having a solid little offseason. They secured Ryan Clady at solid value. He will be an immediate starter and that means immediate return on investment. Beyond that, the Broncs took several strong athletes and they filled in potential starters in defensive areas of need. Eddie Royal and Jack Williams will also see a lot of time this coming season.

Kansas City Chiefs: A
The belle of the ball, the Chiefs really shined this weekend. They aced all four of their top picks and I think two of those guys could end up being Pro Bowl-caliber players. They addressed needs, got great value, and harvested proven talent. Also, they picked up some very athletic players in the mid and late rounds. If they can get just one or two of them to blossom this becomes an outstanding weekend for a rebuilding team. One knock: I would have liked to have seen them pick up a quarterback.

Oakland Riders: B-
The McFadden pick will eventually turn out to be the correct one, even if I think they would have been better suited with Dorsey. However, unlike some other teams, you can see somewhat of a plan or a vision here. The Raiders have dramatically improved this offseason. And if McFadden is as good as advertised this team could be a sleeper in 2008. As for the later picks, they will likely end up as typical Oakland washouts.

San Diego Chargers: C
Here is another club that picked up some decent players, but really didn't address any needs. Jacob Hester could end up being a fantastic find, and I really liked the pick of Marcus Thomas where they got him. But with LT in the backfield did they really need to spend two picks on an RB and none on an offensive tackle?

Dallas Cowboys: B+
I thought they would trade up somewhere in the first round or try to make a splash somewhere. But they are much smarter for not having done that. I am a big fan of Mike Jenkins and he is going to step right in and make plays for this secondary. Also, Felix Jones is a stud. This guy is going to have a very good career. He has elite speed and is a game breaker. My prediction: he will have more touchdowns this year than McFadden. Mark it down. The one question mark about this draft: where are the receivers?

New York Giants: C+
Mario Manningham is a name, but he's not a player. Kenny Phillips is from a name school, but he is very raw. Jonathan Goff was a sensational pick in the fifth round and could be one of the steals of the weekend. And that's that. But it pales in comparison to last year's outstanding draft.

Washington Redskins: B
A lot of people commented on how strange it was to see the Redskins so prominently involved in the draft. But for seemingly only having five picks in the last 10 years they showed that they still have an idea what it's about. They picked up two slick wideouts and are in a position where they only need one to pan out. Colt Brennen was a good prospect to pick up. I do wish they had at least tried to take a DE. But I'm sure they'll just trade next year's first round pick for someone. Jason Taylor, anyone?

Chicago Bears: C

AND the only reason they scored this high is because they made some solid, solid picks on the second day. However, grabbing Matt Forte instead of a quarterback in Round 2 is a classic, classic Bears mistake. I think either Earl Bennett or Marcus Monk will pan out and pay off in a big way. I also think that they missed the boat by not getting any linebackers or offensive linemen. Instead they are infatuated with taking eight corners and safeties every year.

Detroit Lions: C+
Kevin Smith is a gem. But beyond that, this is all vintage Lions: no substance. They grabbed a bunch of marginal prospects and showed no ingenuity. It looks like the plan was to draft the skeleton of a power running game. But we'll see how long that lasts. But instead they grabbed yet another undersized linebacker and they reached for tackle that will be a liability in pass defense.

Green Bay Packers: C+
They weren't really sending a great message to either Aaron Rodgers or the fans base by taking not one, but two quarterbacks. There were teams that don't even know whom their starter will be on opening day next year that didn't take any QB's. I really like the Jodry Nelson pickup.

Minnesota Vikings: B-
They get the best grade for anyone in their division because they came out of the weekend with the only player that's going to perform at an All Pro level this year: Jared Allen. They also scored the No. 2-rated safety in the draft with their only pick in the top four rounds. Great value and addressed a need. I just hope they are right about T-Jack at quarterback. He's the only thing between this team and the NFC Championship Game.

Atlanta Falcons: B-
I don't like the Matt Ryan pick. They have zero receivers and a terrible offensive line. So throwing Ryan back there to get destroyed is only going to either A) get him hurt, B) help him develop awful habits, and/or C) make the fan base lose faith in him and pine for Michael Vick. They definitely should have traded down, even if they only picked up an extra third- or fourth-round pick. But Sam Baker was a nice grab, and they definitely scored with Chevis Jackson. Again, he will be one of the top five or six steals of this draft.

Carolina Panthers: D+
Why gamble on another injury prone running back when their offensive and defensive lines are in shambles? I don't understand their line of thinking at all. Yes, they got Jeff Otah. But they needed so much more. Stewart could be a stud, but he was the wrong choice. Their best pick was grabbing Dan Conner in Round 3.

New Orleans Saints: C
They got Sed Ellis and that's really it. Tough to grade them any higher for grabbing one guy that fell in their lap. They didn't end up with Shockey and there just isn't much here to get excited about. However, I think they have done enough in the offense to at least improve.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C
Same situations as New Orleans: the Bucs got one very good player that fits an immediate need, and didn't do much else the rest of the weekend. I liked them grabbing Geno Hayes late, and Jeremy Zuttah is just a brutish football player. But I don't see this weekend giving them a talent influx and they still didn't get the wideout they desperately needed.

Arizona Cardinals: B-
They really could have scored higher if they had found that running back that they desperately need. But I give them credit by sticking with what was obviously a plan for them: defense and toughness. Early Doucet is electric and by 2009 will be an indispensable part of this offense. Still, they definitely needed a running back and came up short.

St. Louis Rams: D+
I disagree with the Chris Long pick because this team already has a ton of money locked up at that position. And they need run stoppers. I think they clanged one off the uprights here. Also, taking Donnie Avery as the first wideout is kind of a joke. The rest of the players are marginal prospects and special teamers, at best. The Rams did not restock the cupboard, although I do credit them for at least attempting to address their needs on the offensive line.

San Francisco 49ers: D
The 49ers are a mess. A complete mess. Their two biggest needs were linebackers and receivers. They used their last two picks to address those positions and ended up with two practice squad-caliber players. Reggie Smith was a solid value pick in the third round. But even their No. 1 pick, Kent Balmer, can be considered a reach because of his bust potential. So much for the 49ers as everyone's sleeper this year.

Seattle Seahawks: B-
This draft was just a hair above being a C+. I gave them the bump because they managed to score two specialists - FB Owen Schmitt and K Brandon Coutu - that were the best at their positions. I also don't fully agree with the strategy, but I can't denounce the defensive line talent they scored, along with a hit-or-miss tight end.

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