2011 NFL Draft Recap: Observations, Reactions & Opinions

Quarterback Cam Newton of Auburn University poses after being selected as the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2011 NFL football Draft in New York, April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Don’t listen to observers when they say there’s no sense in handing out grades following the NFL draft. I agree with the notion that it generally takes three years before anyone can properly evaluate a team’s draft, but why should that stop anyone from making observations? After all, when a major trade breaks in one of the main four sports, do we say, “Damn, I really want to break down this trade but we’ll have to wait three to four years before we do because we won’t know how things will play out!” Of course not – we analyze the deal ad nauseam, share our opinions and then either bask in the news or cry ourselves to sleep. That’s one of the many things that makes sports great.

With that in mind, here are 32 quick-hit observations (one for each team) from the 2011 NFL Draft. I don’t like to hand out grades because a) everyone does them and b) they’re just not fun for me. But I did something like this after the 2009 draft and I figured it would be cool to do something similar this year. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section or please, share your own opinions on another wild NFL draft.

1. Even the biggest Cam Newton supporters have to admit that the young man will be a major project for Carolina. He could wind up being in the Hall of Fame some day after leading the Panthers to three Super Bowls, but it’s going to take some time. He ran the spread option at Auburn – the kid will need a few years to learn and grow in a pro-style offense.

2. I love Von Miller the prospect but I don’t love Von Miller the prospect in Denver’s 4-3 defensive front. I wonder if one day we’ll look back at the Broncos’ selection at No. 2 and say: “They should have went with Marcell Dareus.”

3. Speaking of Dareus, how well did the Bills make out at No. 3? They needed to get more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and now they have someone who they can plug in on Day 1 and watch him compete. They must have been ecstatic when he fell past Denver.

4. Andy Dalton isn’t a spectacular prospect but he’s a fit for Jay Gruden’s offense and hey, he wants to play for the Bengals (something that cannot be said about Carson Palmer). And I have a feeling A.J. Green will make people forget about Chad Ochocinco (and quite frankly, all of his attention-seeking ways).

5. The Cardinals had to be disappointed that Von Miller didn’t fall to them at No. 5 but Patrick Peterson isn’t a bad consolation prize. Ryan Williams in the second round was a bit of a head-scratchier though. I like Williams, but is he a fit in an already crowded backfield? Two value picks that I really liked: Sam Acho and Quan Sturdivant. Acho fills Arizona’s need for a pass-rusher and Sturdivant was considered one of the top inside LBs available in the draft.

Wide receiver Julio Jones of the University of Alabama is greeted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell onstage after being selected as the sixth overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011 NFL football Draft in New York, April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

6. Quite frankly, I love what the Falcons did by trading up for Julio Jones. Everyone says they gave up too much for one player and I agree. But one thing I haven’t heard anyone say is what the Falcons should have parted with in order to move up from No. 27 to No. 6. Without being able to package a player because of the CBA fiasco, the Falcons probably had to overpay in order to make it a can’t-pass deal for Cleveland. The Falcons are built to win now and give GM Thomas Dimitroff credit for having the stones to pull off a trade like this. If Bill Belichick did it, we would be lauding his aggressiveness. I also love the trade up for Jaquizz Rodgers in the fifth. What a steal.

7. Some people have said that Aldon Smith was a reach at No. 7. But if the Niners had him at the top of their board and couldn’t move down in order to acquire more picks, then I say more power to them. They had a need at pass rusher and they filled it. I think with the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick can be a solid starter in this league in 2-4 years. But be patient Niner fans – BE PATIENT.

8. I was just as shocked as anyone that the Titans took Jake Locker at No. 8 overall, but don’t forget that this kid would have been the top pick last year had him come out. He has great athleticism and intangibles, but he’ll be a project for Mike Munchak and his Tennessee staff. I love the Titans’ selection of Akeem Ayers in the second. Due to his production at UCLA, he could have easily been a first rounder but he fell (for whatever reasons), making him a great value pick for Tennessee.

9. The buzz around the Cowboys was rather quiet this year (at least compared to last April when they took Dez Bryant), but I really liked their draft. They wouldn’t have taken Tyron Smith in the first if they didn’t think he could fill in at left tackle and Bruce Carter was once considered a top-15 overall pick before tearing his ACL last November. It might take 2-3 years before he’s an effective pro, but what potential the combo of Carter and DeMarcus Ware has. If he can stay healthy, DeMarco Murray will turn heads in Big D as well.

10. Blaine Gabbert couldn’t have asked for a better situation to wind up in. He’s not ready to start as a rookie and now he can learn behind David Garrard for a year before assuming the starting role. Not many people know who Will Rackley was before the draft but let me tell you, he has drawn rave reviews over the past couple of months. Great find by Jaguars’ GM Gene Smith at No. 76 overall.

11. Some Houston fans might be a little upset that the Texans didn’t draft a corner with one of their first two picks. But people have to keep in mind that Houston likes their young corners despite how they played in 2010. And if you have a secondary that struggles, you draft guys like J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed in order to beef up the front seven. I think Wade Phillips will do wonders with his new toys.

12. No matter what they’ve said following the draft, I honestly don’t think the Vikings had a backup plan for the No. 12 overall pick. I think they wanted Jake Locker and once he didn’t fall to them, they reached on Christian Ponder. That said, Ponder is a good fit for Bill Musgrave’s offense and Musgrave is heralded for being able to work with young QBs. If Ponder winds up starting as a rookie, it’s not like he doesn’t have weapons around him either. They also got good value in the second with the selection of Kyle Rudolph, and late round prospect DeMarcus Love, who can play either tackle or guard spots.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley of Auburn University stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the 13th overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2011 NFL football Draft in New York, April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

13. The Lions are being showered with praise after nabbing Nick Fairley, Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure – as well they should be. When he took over for Matt Millen two years ago, GM Martin Mayhew said that it would take a few years but he would add talent to the Lions’ roster. He’s done that in three-straight drafts and while there are massive holes that need to be addressed in the secondary, Mayhew has a plan and he’s executing it.

14. Robert Quinn could wind up being the best pass rusher in this entire draft, especially under Steve Spagnuolo’s guidance. The rest of the Rams’ draft was rather blasé to me, however. I like Austin Pettis and Greg Salas, but while they add much needed depth to St. Louis’ receiving corps, neither of them have off-the-chart athleticism.

15. Even though they didn’t take their quarterback of the future, the Dolphins landed a starter in Mike Pouncey, a feature back in Daniel Thomas (who is highly underrated in my opinion) and a prospect in Edmond Gates, who may contribute right away.

16. It’s hard to argue with Mike Shanahan’s strategy. He knew he needed to replenish the Redskins’draft with extra picks (which he did), and fill his roster with players that he handpicked. But I wonder if Ryan Kerrigan is a good fit for the 3-4. I loved him as a 4-3 defensive end prospect but was disappointed that the Skins snagged him because now he’ll stand up in a 3-4. Still, he’s a football player through and through.

17. I love that Ryan Mallett wound up in New England. He’s a prototypical pocket passer and is a great fit for Bill Belichick’s version of the spread. He’ll also have zero pressure right away and can mature under the Patriots’ guidance for the next couple of years. (If nothing else, you know Belichick will trade Mallett for 17 first round picks if the time comes.) But while I liked that pick, I think it’s concerning that the Patriots failed to address their need at pass rush.

18. The Chargers did well with their first pick (Corey Liuget is going to be a nice pro) but just like the Patriots, they failed to address their need for a pass rusher. Jonas Mouton had just two sacks last year at Michigan so if the Bolts think that he’s the answer, they might be in for a rude awakening.

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) congratulates Nebraska’s cornerback Prince Amukamara, number nineteen overall pick, who ws selected by the New York Giants during round one of the 2011 NFL Draft Pick at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. UPI/Monika Graff

19. No, the Giants didn’t need another quarterback. But Prince Amukamara was a tremendous value at No. 19 and the G-Men did well with the selections of Marvin Austin, Jerrel Jernigan and Greg Jones in the middle rounds.

20. If you’re a Bucs fan, how could you not love what your team did this weekend? The one major need that Tampa Bay had heading into the draft was pass rusher and they walked away with Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers (who could have went in the top 5 if not for the doubts surrounding his knee) in the first two rounds. Wow. Raheem Morris has something special brewing in Tampa.

21. GM Tom Heckert had a nice weekend. He did what any good GM would have done by accepting the Falcons’ generous gift of five picks for the No. 6 selection and then filling needs for the Browns by taking Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little. The Browns aren’t one Julio Jones away from competing and Heckert knows that.

22. The Colts’ draft wasn’t sexy but they filled major needs with the selections of Anthony Castonzo, Ben Ijalana and Drake Nevis in the first three rounds. Indy may have gotten three new starters out of those picks.

23. Eagle fans may have been ticked off that their team didn’t draft Jimmy Smith in the first round, but Danny Watkins could wind up being a future Pro Bowl-caliber guard and the team found great value with CB Curtis Marsh in the second. Philly also added great depth in Dion Lewis, Brian Rolle, Greg Lloyd Jr. and Casey Matthews in the later rounds.

A New Orleans Saints fan sits in the back row in the balcony at Radio City Music Hall during the 2011 NFL football Draft in New York, April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

24. Outside of maybe the Lions, the Saints arguably had the best draft out of any team this year. They hit home runs with Cam Jordan and Mark Ingram in the first, then came back in the middle rounds and added two talented players in Martez Wilson and Greg Romeus. A great team just got even better.

25. If Seahawk fans are upset following this weekend’s action, I don’t blame them. James Carpenter is a solid prospect and is versatile in that he can play either right tackle or guard, but he was a reach in the first round. K.J. Wright was a solid pick in the second but I’m not enamored with the selections of Richard Serman, Kris Durham and John Moffitt.

26. There’s a good chance that the Chiefs’ first three players – Jon Baldwin, Rodney Hudson and Justin Houston – will start this season, while Allen Bailey and Jalil Brown add good depth. Still, I wonder if Houston can make it as an OLB in a 3-4.

27. The Ravens took a gamble with the selection of Jimmy Smith but he may wind up being a steal at No. 26 overall. Plus, both he and second round pick Torrey Smith filled too huge needs for Ozzie Newsome’s team.

28. Things started off really well for the Bears, who took OT Gabe Carimi in the first and DT Stephen Paea in the second. But Chris Conte seems like a highly under whelming pick in the third, even though some believe he could wind up challenging for a starting spot. Still, the Bears had a nice overall draft and some scouts rave about sixth-rounder J.T. Thomas.

29. The Jets’ addressed their need along the defensive line with the selections of Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis, but they failed to add a pass rusher and I doubt Jeremy Kerley nor Scott McKnight filled the team’s hole at receiver. (No offense to either prospect, but the Jets probably should have addressed the position earlier in the draft.)

30. Once again, the Steelers found value in the draft. Cam Heyward should thrive under DC Dick LeBeau and both he, Marcus Gilbert and Curtis Brown could wind up starting as rookies.

31. The rich got richer as the defending Super Bowl champion Packers once again had a really solid draft. Ted Thompson must have taken about 10 seconds to decide on Derek Sherrod in the first, and then he came back in the second and added a highly versatile player in Randall Cobb. TT once strikes gold in April.

32. I thought for sure that Al Davis would take Ryan Mallett in the second, but Stefen Wisniewski was a solid selection for the Raiders in that round. Davis once again drafted speed, adding corners Demarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa, as well as receivers Denarius Moore and David Ausberry.

On a side note, I wonder if a weekend filled with booing fans has changed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s perspective on the lockout. Players are used to being booed, but suits like Goodell aren’t. He seemed awfully uncomfortable when he walked up to the podium on Thursday night.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>