Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Overview: AFC

Now that I have had time to digest the three day media frenzy known as the NFL Draft, I will proceed to review each teams draft picks and grade how they did in terms of who they drafted and what each team needed. Today I will review the AFC teams. Next blog will be the overview of NFC team's draft picks.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills
Best Draft Picks: Marcell Dareus, DT (Round 1), Aaron Williams, CB (Round 2), Kelvin Sheppard, LB (Round 3), Chris Hairston OT (R4)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: The Bills had many needs on both sides of the ball coming into this game. They showed heart and toughness last season but without enough talent you can't win many games in the NFL. Its hard to give the Bills too much credit for pick with the 3rd overall pick the player who I considered the second best defensive player in the entire draft when he happened to be available. But in drafting Sheppard and Williams they upgraded their defense with two talented players who have excellent potential and can contribute sooner then later. Also they drafted a good offensive line prospect in Chris Hairston who flew under the radar mostly because he was arguable the best offensive lineman on a team which had a rough season doing much on offense.

Miami Dolphins
Best Draft Picks: Mike Pouncey, C/OG (Round 1), Daniel Thomas, RB (Round 2)
Draft Grade: C
Comments: The Dolphins had two good picks in the early rounds but as the draft went on they kept picking players that either didn't fit what they need or players who are limited in skills. Pouncey and Thomas can contribute immediately for the Dolphins which is helpful for a team with limited depth. But they needed more offensive weapons along with secondary help yet I doubt Edmund Gates (WR) or Jimmy Wilson will be able to solve either of those needs.

New England Patroits
Best Draft Picks: Nat Solder, OT (Round 1), Ras-I Dowling, CB (Round 2), Stevan Ridley, RB (Round 3), Marcus Cannon, OT (Round 5)
Draft Grade: B-
Comments: The Patriots' biggest need was pass rushers on defense. The closest they got in filling that need was a 6th round defensive end who is as raw talent wise as vegetables just picked out of one's garden. Solder has the potential to me a great offensive lineman while Dowling and Ridley are better then the "experts" give them credit for. Only time will tell if not picking a dynamic pass rusher in this years draft will hurt the team's ability to get back to a Super Bowl any time soon.

New York Jets
Best Draft Picks: Kenrick Ellis, DT (Round 3), Jeremy Kerley, WR (Round 5), Greg McElroy, QB (Round 7)
Draft Grade: B-
Comments: The reason I give the Jets the same grade as the Patriots is because of their top pick Muhammed Wilkerson. Wilkerson is a physical specimen and one of the best talents in this years draft. Yet there were times in games he disapeared and not because he was double teamed. The Jets could have taken Da'Quan Bowers, a player they could have lined up at multiple positions like the Baltimore Ravens have with Jarret Johnson and Haloti Ngata. Wilkerson in a hands down defensive lineman that I am unsure if he is polished enough of a player to make an impact in the next 2 years. Picking up Ellis and Kerley adds depth to their respective positions on the field and can help this coming year. Meanwhile, Greg McElroy could be to the Jets what Frank Reich was to the Buffalo Bills during their Super Bowl years. Reich was the backup of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and whenever he got time on the field he was a leader yet good enough that the Bills did not need to rush Kelly back onto the field before recovering from injuries.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens
Best Draft Picks: Jimmy Smith, CB (Round 1), Torrey Smith, WR (Round 2), Tandon Doss, WR (Round 4), Anthony Allen, RB (Round 7)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: The Ravens did a good job at drafting value in each round. Jimmy Smith in my opinion was a better college cornerback then Prince Amukamara (who was drafted earlier in the 1st round). Torrey Smith is a deep threat wideout and Tandon Doss is an excellent possesion receiver who is great on third down and in the Red Zone. They needed depth for their secondary and wide receiver corp so they addressed both successfully.

Cincinnati Bengals
Best Draft Picks: AJ Green, WR (Round 1), Andy Dalton, QB (Round 2), Dontay Moch, LB (Round 3), Ryan Whalen, WR (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: With Carson Palmer wanting out of town and the uncertainty of Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson's future production the Bengals needed to do some retooling. They drafted the best Wide Receiver in the draft (Green) while picking up in the second round the most underrated Quarterback in this year's draft class (Daulton). Andy Daulton skills and collegiate career compare very well to another underrated Quarterback who was drafted in the second round: Drew Brees. Moch and Whalen add depth to the team at their respective positions. Their draft grade would have been higher if they had addressed the offensive and defensive lines in the draft.

Cleveland Browns
Best Draft Picks: Greg Little, WR (Round 2), Jordan Cameron, TE (Round 4), Owen Marecic, FB/LB (Round 4)
Draft Grade: C-
Comments:The Browns used their first 2 picks on defensive lineman that did little to impress me in college. Phil Taylor showed flashes on talent but was inconsisten while Jabaal Sheard was not as a big a factor while playing at Pitt as the "experts" hype him to be. Little can be a solid NFL Wide Receiver while Cameron has similar skills to Kellen Winslow Jr. (who the Browns drafted in 2004). Owen Marecic is a great locker room guy who works hard and plays bigger then his size. Yet in the end the Browns could have done more to address their needs at Wide Receiver, Offensive Line and Linebacker.

Pittsburg Steelers
Best Draft Picks: Cameron Heyward, DE (Round 1), Marcus Gilbert, OT (Round 2), Curtis Brown, CB (Round 3), Keith Williams, OG (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: The Steelers organization understands that if they want to stay a playoff contender they must keep reloading through the draft. They are getting old on the offensive and defensive lines. Heyward is a beast and an underrated talent in a deep defense line class. Curtis Brown was the "other Texas Cornerback" playing opposite of the talented Aaron Williams. Brown is a smart corner who can immediately contribute as a solid Nickel cover guy. I was expecting the Steelers to pick up a Running Back in the middle rounds but instead they passed on many of them which makes me wonder if they will add to their RB depth via free agency.

AFC South

Houston Texans
Best Draft Picks: JJ Watt, DE (Round 1), Brandon Harris, CB (Round 2), Shiloh Keo, S (Round 5)
Draft Grade: C
Comments: The Texans are changing to a 3-4 with new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips and JJ Watts is the perfect Defensive End for that scheme. But Watt is the major highlight of the Texans draft since they used most of their picks on players who most teams were not looking at it seems. Harris and Keo will add depth and can contribute their rookie seasons but the Texans did not get any real "steals" in this years draft.

Indianapolis Colts
Best Draft Picks: Anthony Castonzo, OT (Round 1), Benjamin Ijalana, OT (Round 2)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: Colts beefed up their Offensive Line with two big, solid Tackles to protect Peyton Manning. Castonzo is the best NFL ready OT in the draft while Ijalana is probably the most underrated Offensive linemen in this year's draft class. After those two good picks, the Colts had only three other draft picks and they didn't do much with those picks. Sixth round pick Chris Rucker is a wild card for the Colts because he has the talent to be a Pro Bowl level Cornerback but Rucker had maturity issues at Michigan State and has made some bad off the field choices in the past.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Best Draft Picks: Blaine Gabbert, QB (Round 1)
Draft Grade: D+
Comments: This is the second straight year the Jaguars have had a draft full of players that makes me scratch my head. They have one of the most accurate, solid starting Quarterbacks in the NFL yet they draft a talented QB "for the future". Since they gave up draft picks to move up to pick Gabbert, the Jags used their remaining four picks to select players who really did not stand out in college. Being able to workout great in shorts and looking good in a weightroom does not always translate to on the field production (just ask the Packers how Tony Mandarich worked out for them).

Tennessee Titans
Best Draft Picks: Jake Locker, QB (Round 1), Akeem Ayers, LB (Round 2), Jurrell Casey, DT (Round 3), Colin McCarthy, LB (Round 4), Karl Klug, DL (Round 5)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: Some people think the Titans reached for Jake Locker yet people forget that Locker would have been the number one pick in last year's draft AHEAD of Sam Bradford. Locker went back to school to get his degree. Sure he had a down year but that down year can help him develop into an even better NFL QB. He reminds me of a right handed Steve Young; many of the criticisms of Locker coming out of college is what the "experts" said about Young when he was drafted. The Titans also drafted one of the most talented Linebackers available, two underrated-hard working Defensive linemen, and a hard-nosed Inside Linebacker. They got a franchise QB to replace the departing Vince Young and strengthened their defense with guys who can play as rookies.

AFC South

Denver Broncos
Best Draft Picks: Von Miller, LB (Round 1), Rahim Moore, S (Round 2), Orlando Franklin, OG (Round 2), Quinton Carter, S (Round 4), Virgil Green, TE (Round 7)
Draft Grade: A-
Comments: Denver had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. So they hired a new Head Coach who knows how to build defenses and be a winner. John Fox is the perfect head coach to rebuild this team and this draft is a great foundation for their future. Von Miller could be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this coming season while Moore can start next to Brian Dawkins Week 1. Franklin has the skills to develop into a solid starting Guard. The criticisms of Green that he "lacks size" and needs to develop as a better route runner and blocker was also said about a former Bronco that he reminds me of: Shannon Sharpe.

Kansas City Chiefs
Best Draft Picks: Jonathan Baldwin, WR (Round 1), Allen Bailey, DE (Round 3), Ricky Stanzi, QB (Round 5)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: The Chiefs drafted what they needed in this year's draft. They needed depth at Wide Receiver, Defensive and Offensive Line, as well as at Linebacker. Selecting Stanzi is a nice backup for Matt Cassel (since Brody Croyle has never won an NFL game). But none of their picks were exciting or flashy. Maybe thats what the Cheifs wanted: good, professional football players. They didn't really fill all of their needs though so if I was a Chiefs fan it would be hard for me to get too excited.

Oakland Raiders
Best Draft Picks: Stefen Wisiniewski, OL (Round 2), Chimdi Chekwa, CB (Round 4), Danarius Moore, WR (Round 5)
Draft Grade: C
Comments: Raiders picked up some solid players in this year's draft. Wisiniewski can start immediately in the NFL and could develop into a 10 year, solid starter. Chewka was one of the best defensive backs in the Big Ten Conference this past season. Moore got some bad reviews from "experts" because he did not have the performances or stats other SEC receivers did yet he was the Vols go to receiver and played under a different offensive coordinator with difference offenses in each season he was at Tennessee. But as usual the Raiders drafted the NFL Combine stars who showed little while in college (Demarcus Van Dyke, Taiwan Jones, Joe Barksdale) so the good picks balance out with the bad selections.

San Diego Chargers
Best Draft Picks: Corey Liuget, DL (Round 1), Marcus Gilchrist, CB (Round 2), Shareece Wright, CB (Round 3)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: While the Chargers strengthened their defensive depth, they did so with players who are not going to "wow" anyone. Liuget has the most potential to be a good starter but he needs to work at it. Gilchrist is a jack-of-all-trades defensive back who needs a specific position. Mouton made some good plays at Michigan State because most Big Ten teams gameplanned against letting his teammates beat them. Aside from Wright, the rest of their 3rd round and later draft picks did not impress me in college. Obviously the key to those excellent drafts the Chargers use to have was former Head Coach Marty Shottenheimer and not General Manager A.J. Smith.

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