Dallas, Philly, Baltimore earn top draft grades
By Mel Kiper Jr.
After two days and 255 NFL draft picks, now's the time to evaluate what each team accomplished in New York.
The group of clear winners includes last year's NFC champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys. Those smarting a little as they prepare for minicamp include the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs.
How all this translates onto the field remains to be seen but for now the guessing and second-guessing are beginning.
Arizona Cardinals: A
The Cardinals had to have a corner and a running back in this draft and they got both in the first two rounds. Antrel Rolle was maybe the best defensive player on the board and J.J. Arrington is a productive back who was a good value in the second round. Eric Green adds depth at corner; linebacker Darryl Blackstock and guard Elton Brown were also nice values; and if linebacker Lance Mitchell reverts to his pre-injury form, he could become a decent player.
Atlanta Falcons: C+
Wide receiver Roddy White was a great pick in the first round for a team that needs to give quarterback Michael Vick more help, and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux fills a big need along the defensive line. Linebacker Jordan Beck might have been taken a bit early and end Chauncey Davis was a reach in the fourth round, while linebacker Michael Boley was a good selection in the fifth round. Running back DeAndra Cobb made sense as a situational guy and a return man.
Baltimore Ravens: A
Receiver Mark Clayton is a perfect fit and defensive end Dan Cody is a nice pass rusher who could be effective off the edge. Tackle Adam Terry is a good athlete and will team with center Jason Brown to add some depth along the offensive line, and the Ravens got the best fullback in the draft in Justin Green. The struggles and inconsistency of quarterback Derek Anderson have been well-documented but he has physical skills and could develop into a decent passer.
Buffalo Bills: C+
The Bills traded their 2005 first-round pick in the JP Losman deal but got a steal when receiver Roscoe Parrish fell to the late second round. Parrish will be a nice addition to the passing game and is also an effective returner, and his college teammate Kevin Everett could turn into a nice tight end. Center Raymond Preston was a reach in the fourth round, though, and Eric King will probably be a situational nickel back in the NFL.
Carolina Panthers: B-
Thomas Davis is a hard hitter and it will be interesting to see whether the Panthers leave him at safety, where he played in college, or move him to outside linebacker, where many project him at the next level. Running back Eric Shelton is an OK pick in the second round but is purely a straight-ahead, bruising runner. Guard Evan Mathis was quite a steal in the third round and quarterback Stefan LeFors should be a solid backup. Safety Ben Emanuel was a reach in the fourth round, as was guard Joe Berger in the sixth round, but end Jovan Haye was a good pickup in the sixth.
Chicago Bears: A-
Cedric Benson has all the makings of a star running back and Mark Bradley fills a need at wide receiver while also bringing excellent special-teams skills to the table. Getting Kyle Orton gives the Bears a nice backup who will fill in capably should quarterback Rex Grossman go down again. Receiver Airese Curry made sense in the fifth round and the late-round safeties could become contributors as well.
Cincinnati Bengals: A-
Defensive end David Pollack and linebacker Odell Thurman were teammates at Georgia and are immediate upgrades for the front seven on Marvin Lewis' defense. The Bengals helped the offensive line with another pair of teammates, center Eric Ghiaciuc and tackle Adam Kieft from Central Michigan, and thanks to his great physical attributes receiver Chris Henry is a good gamble in the third round despite some character questions. Fellow wideout Tab Perry was a sensible pick in the sixth.
Cleveland Browns: B
You can't argue with the Browns taking the best player available at No. 3 in Braylon Edwards even though they have other needs. If safety Brodney Pool gets back to the stellar form he showed as a sophomore he will pan out nicely; corner Antonio Perkins will be a nickel back who can also contribute in the return game; and quarterback Charlie Frye has the skills you want in a quarterback despite the fact that he throws a wobbly ball on occasion. Andrew Hoffman will be plugged in to fill a need at nose tackle.
Dallas Cowboys: A
One of the best hauls for any team thanks to a significant upgrade on the defensive front seven. Demarcus Ware is a terrific attack linebacker, end Marcus Spears is a great fit in a 3-4 scheme and linebacker Kevin Burnett is a solid, steady player. Running back Marion Barber III is bigger than current Dallas back Julius Jones and is a nice complement. Safety Justin Beriault was a steal in the sixth round and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is versatile enough to play in a 3-4 or 4-3, depending on what the team needs.
Denver Broncos: C
A team that did a lot of reaching for cornerbacks. Darrent Williams was an OK second-rounder, but fellow corner Karl Paymah traded on his workouts and Domonique Foxworth did not have a notable season last year despite possessing tremendous recovery speed. Denver's selection of running back Maurice Clarett in the third round seems like quite a reach, but I'll defer to coach Mike Shanahan when it comes to fitting the right players into his system. Guard Chris Myers brings some flexibility to the offensive line.
Detroit Lions: C+
Give the Lions credit for going away from their biggest needs to take receiver Mike Williams, who was clearly the best player available at No. 10 overall, but you have to wonder if they got enough help for the defense. Williams gives Detroit perhaps the best young receiving corps in the league, but defensive linemen Shaun Cody (a versatile end-tackle combo) and end Bill Swancutt (a one-dimensional pass rusher) may not be enough of a boost up front. Coach Steve Mariucci has to hope he can develop some accuracy in tall quarterback Dan Orlovsky; corner Stanley Wilson is an average player; and end Jonathan Goddard will likely move to outside linebacker.
Green Bay Packers: C
The Packers had to take quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first round. You just can't pass on the opportunity to get Brett Favre's heir apparent and give him some time to learn from one of the best passers ever, even though he won't help them win this year. Corner Nick Collins is a good athlete but very raw and was a reach in the second round. And while receiver Terrence Murphy is a nice player, Green Bay didn't need a receiver. Safety Marviel Underwood was a solid pickup in the fourth round but linebacker Brady Poppinga might not be a good fit in the Packers' scheme. I like receiver Craig Bragg in the sixth round but there is just not enough defensive help in this class.
Houston Texans: C
Defensive tackle Travis Johnson can plug the middle and is a perfect fit for Houston's defensive scheme, and despite a lack of ideal speed running back Vernand Morency has nice pure running skills. Receiver Jerome Mathis is a great fourth-round pickup if he can maintain his concentration. The rest of the group is nothing to write home about.
Indianapolis Colts: C+
Marlin Jackson is a nice upgrade at cornerback but second-rounder Kelvin Hayden moved to corner just last year and is still very raw. Defensive tackle Vincent Burns came off the board a bit early, while guard Dylan Gandy will lend some versatility to the offensive line and defensive end Jonathan Welsh did not always play to the level of his physical talents. Running back Anthony Davis could be a nice find in the seventh round if he stays healthy enough to remain in the mix.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C+
The Jaguars took wide receiver Matt Jones off the board much earlier than most expected him to go, and the former college quarterback is a projection and slight risk despite his amazing athleticism. Offensive tackle Khalif Barnes was a nice pickup in the second round, but taking cornerback Scott Starks in the third round was a bit of a reach despite his potential to contribute as a nickel back. Running back Alvin Pearman will be a nice backup to Fred Taylor and safety Gerald Sensabaugh is a good value in the fifth round.
Kansas City Chiefs: C
The Chiefs settled for outside linebacker Derrick Johnson when Thomas Davis went to Carolina, but that's not a bad consolation prize. Punter Dustin Colquitt was a reach in the third round because of his inconsistency and receiver Craphonso Thorpe needs to regain the form he showed before suffering a leg injury late in his career. James Grigsby should be OK as a backup linebacker but the Chiefs did not do enough to help the defense and took two questionable offensive players in the seventh round.
Miami Dolphins: B-
Running back Ronnie Brown is a complete prospect and you also have to like the intensity and toughness end Matt Roth will bring to the table. The biggest question is whether linebacker Channing Crowder will remain healthy enough long enough to be an impact pro, but new Miami coach Nick Saban obviously had no questions about cornerback Travis Daniels, who played under Saban at LSU and solidified his standing with a good 40 time. Offensive tackle Anthony Alabi is an average player and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson came on as a senior but still needs some work.
Minnesota Vikings: B+
The Vikings targeted speed on their board and they definitely got it with wide receiver Troy Williamson, who wowed Minnesota enough that the Vikings passed on Mike Williams. Defensive end Erasmus James gives them much-needed help up front, guard-tackle Marcus Johnson will solidify the offensive line and running back Ciatrick Fason has the potential to be a terrific steal in the fourth round. Dustin Fox is a good cornerback and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley is a motivated overachiever.
New England Patriots: C
Guard Logan Mankins was a reach in the first round but the Patriots obviously like his size and nastiness, and he will help fill the void left by Joe Andruzzi's departure via free agency. Ellis Hobbs has good size but not enough skill to be more than a nickel back, and safety James Sanders was a teammate of Mankins at Fresno State and both were helped by the relationship between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Fresno State coach Pat Hill. Tackle Nick Kaczur could play guard as well but came off the board a little early and Matt Cassel is a big project at quarterback.
New Orleans Saints: C
I like Jammal Brown as a power right tackle and safety Josh Bullocks is an OK pick providing he can refocus and get back some of the ball hawking skills he showed as a sophomore. Alfred Fincher is a productive linebacker who will also help the defense and receiver Chase Lyman could be a contributor if he stays healthy. I don't know about the Adrian McPherson pick, though, because the Saints had enough other needs that they probably couldn't afford to go after a developmental quarterback.
New York Giants: C
Cornerback Corey Webster was slowed by nagging injuries last season but is a tremendous cover man when healthy and had a top-10 grade after his junior season. Justin Tuck is an OK end in the third round but should have gone back to Notre Dame; Brandon Jacobs should carve a niche as a power back; and end Eric Moore is also an OK pick. The Giants just did not have enough selections to make a big impact on their football team.
New York Jets: C
Current Jets kicker Doug Brien is serviceable but the team obviously believed Mike Nugent's leg strength was top notch, since the second-rounder was their first pick this year. Cornerback Justin Miller made sense later in the round because of his big-play ability and awesome return abilities, but most of the rest of the draft is made up of reaches (Sione Puha and Kery Rhodes) and projects (Harry Williams).
Oakland Raiders: C
The Raiders went with speed at cornerback with Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt but sacrificed in terms of ball skills. If Andrew Walter fully recovers from a separated throwing shoulder he will get a chance to be the quarterback of the future, and if defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne stays focused he will be a great value after falling from a first-round grade all the way to the sixth round. End Ryan Riddle and offensive tackle Pete McMahon were good pickups in the sixth round and, all things considered, I like those last two picks better than Oakland's first two.
Philadelphia Eagles: A
Another very good group of players. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson is an exceptional player, Matt McCoy was one of the fastest-rising linebackers leading up to the draft, Ryan Moats provides good depth behind Brian Westbrook at running back and Sean Considine is a smart, tough safety. Todd Herremans is a developmental offensive tackle prospect out of the fourth round but the Eagles got five more potential contributors after taking him. A large class with no real downside.
Pittsburgh Steelers: C+
Heath Miller is a big-time upgrade at tight end and corner Bryan McFadden is the kind of tough, aggressive run supporter Steelers coach Bill Cowher likes. Offensive lineman Trai Essex was a reach, receiver Fred Gibson needs to bulk up a bit and linebacker Rian Wallace needs to get stronger. Noah Herron is a backup-type running back, but guard Chris Kemoeatu was a nice find in the sixth round and could even try to play nose tackle after logging some time there in college.
San Diego Chargers: C
I like end/linebacker Shawne Merriman as an addition to the pass rush, but the rest of the players the Chargers selected were taken a little early. Defensive tackle Luis Castillo did not have a first-round grade and receiver Vincent Jackson was a reach in the second round as the Chargers were desperate to add a receiver. Darren Sproles should be a nice situational back who can also return kicks, but the remainder of the players San Diego took were more toward the undrafted free-agent category.
San Francisco 49ers: B
A good first day but an average second day. There were no trade opportunities compelling enough that San Francisco wanted to give up the No. 1 overall pick, but quarterback Alex Smith is a player who's easy to like. Center David Baas will help the interior of the offensive line and Frank Gore might help take some pressure off Smith as they mature together, while guard Adam Snyder will lend a hand to Baas. It will be interesting to see whether former quarterback Rasheed Marshall can transition to wide receiver, with the rest of the group not looking like impact players.
Seattle Seahawks: B
Chris Spencer is able to play center and both guard positions and is a big help, but linebacker Lofa Tatupu, quarterback David Greene and linebacker Leroy Hill were all reaches. Offensive tackle Ray Willis was a good pick in the fourth round, end Jeb Huckeba is an overachiever and the remainder of Seattle's draftees look like backups or special teamers.
St. Louis Rams: C
Tackle Alex Barron has plenty of athletic gifts but is inconsistent in his effort, so the Rams may or may not have the right tackle they need. The next three picks were all reaches (corner Ronald Bartell Jr., safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and center Richie Incognito), but Dante Ridgeway made sense at receiver in the sixth round and I like quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as a developmental project.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+
Running back Carnell Williams is very good in traffic and fills a big need for the Bucs, while both safety/linebacker Barrett Ruud and tight end Alex Smith are good value picks. Offensive tackle Chris Colmer looks to have put his medical woes behind him but the third round is still a bit high. Guard Dan Buenning is a nice value selection in the fourth but there are questions after that. Safety Donte Nicholson has limitations in coverage, receiver Larry Brackins needs to mature, defensive tackle Anthony Bryant has some maturing to do and receiver Paris Warren does not have much in the way of speed.
Tennessee Titans: B
Corner Adam Jones fills a huge need for the Titans and Michael Roos is a very good tackle for Tennessee to add in the second round. Courtney Roby is an average receiver and Brandon Jones is OK, but I actually like fourth-round wideout Roydell Williams more than either Roby or Jones. Running back Damien Nash was a stretch in the fifth round but offensive tackle Daniel Loper is good in pass protection, and there is some question as to whether tight end Bo Scaife can stay healthy.
Washington Redskins: C
The Redskins had a lot of picks but still ended up with an average draft. Cornerback Carlos Rogers fills a big need but taking quarterback Jason Campbell with their second first-round pick is a head-scratcher. Campbell is a very good player and a very solid pro prospect thanks to his extreme accuracy, but coach Joe Gibbs wants to win right now and Campbell doesn't help him do that. Linebacker Robert McCune has a lot of ability and Manuel White is an OK running back, but the rest of the picks are average at best.