Published April 30, 2012
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – A recap and analysis of how the AFC teams fared in the 2012 NFL Draft:
1 - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (6-0, 190); 2 - Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia (6-6, 345); 3 - T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State (5-11, 188); 4 - Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State (6-2, 241); 4 - Ron Brooks, CB, Louisiana State (5-10, 190); 5 - Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State (6-6, 320); 5 - Tank Carder, LB, Texas Christian (6-2, 236); 6 - Mark Asper, OG, Oregon (6-6, 319); 7 - John Potter, K, Western Michigan (6-1, 219)
Top Picks Analysis: After taking giant steps towards solving their pass- rushing problem from a season ago in free agency, the Bills turned their attention to the back end of the defense at the outset of the draft. In Gilmore, the team gets a highly athletic cover man who's fast, fluid and dedicated to the game, and the high-rising former Gamecock should have no problem cracking the starting lineup as a rookie. General manager Buddy Nix stayed in the SEC to attempt to rectify Buffalo's most pressing pre-draft void, a blind-side protector for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the second-round selection of Glenn. The massive lineman did play left tackle at Georgia, but there are questions as to whether he's quick enough to handle NFL speed rushers in space on that side. Nix later made a curious move to trade up two spots for Graham, a blazer and outstanding return man with suspect hands and limited strength who was generally viewed as a late-round pick.
Best Value Pick: Sanders was a four-year starter at Florida State with experience at both tackle spots along with excellent size and good flexibility. He may wind up being a better option than Glenn as a left tackle.
Questionable Calls: Moving ahead to reach for Graham in the third round was an unnecessary move by Nix, even if it did come at the low cost of a seventh- round pick. And there were players more capable of filling the Bills' need for a reliable No. 2 outside receiver still available at that spot.
Summary: Buffalo's defense continued to get better through this draft, as Gilmore should help bolster a troublesome secondary and Bradham and Carder are useful players who could play in a pinch, but Nix's moves on offense don't seem as sensible. Glenn seems better suited to right tackle or guard, and the Bills didn't really get much help at wide receiver. A pedestrian collection overall.
FINAL GRADE: C
1 - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M (6-4, 221); 2 - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (6-5, 312); 3 - Olivier Vernon, OLB, Miami-Florida (6-2, 261); 3 - Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri (6-5, 252); 4 - Lamar Miller, RB, Miami-Florida (5-11, 212); 5 - Josh Kaddu, ILB, Oregon (6-3, 239); 6 - B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State (6-1, 211); 7 - Kheeston Randall, DE, Texas (6-5, 293); 7 - Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada (6-0, 217)
Top Pick Analysis: After whiffing on the likes of Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Alex Smith this offseason, the Dolphins finally got their hopeful long- term answer at quarterback with their widely-expected selection of Tannehill at the No. 8 overall slot. Highly-intelligent, strong-armed and mobile, the former college wide receiver has many of the attributes of a top-tier passer, and lands in a desirable situation in Miami. Tannehill's college coach, Mike Sherman, now serves as the Dolphins' offensive coordinator, and the presence of veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard can allow the team to stress patience with the still-developing rookie. Another major void was potentially solidified with the addition of Martin, an athletic but finesse-oriented tackle who will be asked to man the right side in his debut after slipping into the second round following a mediocre showing on the workout circuit. In contrast, Vernon raised his stock during the combine after missing a good chunk of last season on suspension for receiving illegal benefits. The Miami native is a powerful yet unrefined pass rusher with the athleticism to convert to a stand-up linebacker in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme. An extra choice obtained in the Brandon Marshall trade ultimately became Egnew, a speedy tight end with very good hands and body control with minimal experience as a blocker.
Best Value Pick: Martin has the long arms and quick feet NFL teams look for in a left tackle, so nabbing a day-one starter who can pass protect with the 42nd pick was a commendable move by general manager Jeff Ireland.
Questionable Calls: Though Egnew should help out whomever's at quarterback, the Dolphins gave away a bona fide No. 1 receiver in Marshall and ignored the position until the sixth round. Although Vernon has promise, he's a long ways away from being ready and Ireland had the ammo to trade up for an edge rusher who's farther along on the learning curve.
Summary: This draft by no means cured all of Miami's warts, but securing a possible front-line quarterback in Tannehill and adding pieces such as Martin, Egnew and fourth-round pick Miller to the offense is certainly something to build on. Only the absence of a dynamic receiver prevents a top grade.
FINAL GRADE: B+
1 - Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse (6-5, 266); 1 - Donta Hightower, LB, Alabama (6-2, 265); 2 - Tavon Wilson, S, Illinois (5-11, 205); 3 - Jake Bequette, OLB, Arkansas (6-5, 274); 6 - Nate Ebner, S, Ohio State (6-0, 202); 7 - Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska (5-10, 204); 7 - Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern (5-11, 200)
Top Picks Analysis: It was hardly surprising that the Patriots were intent on upgrading the talent level on a defense that was littered with castoffs and overachievers this past season, but their uncharacteristically aggressive approach to the draft was something few saw coming. New England traded up twice in the first round to acquire Jones and Hightower, both of whom will be counted on to bring a spark to a transitioning pass rush right off the bat. Though Jones wasn't dominant in that area as a collegian, having recorded only 10 sacks in three years at Syracuse, he's regarded as a player whose best football is ahead of him and has the size, wingspan and athleticism teams crave in an all-around end. Hightower played mostly inside in Bill Belichick disciple Nick Saban's 3-4 arrangement at Alabama, but the Patriots may plan to use the imposing linebacker to fill a more glaring need as a stand-up outside rusher, an skill that he demonstrated proficiency in with the Crimson Tide. Like Jones, Wilson was a late riser following an excellent Pro Day performance and has experience at both corner and safety, though he wasn't a distinguished player in college and was generally viewed as a third-day selection. Bequette also brings versatility to the table as an end/outside linebacker hybrid who can drop into coverage, but isn't a dynamic pass rusher and has athletic limitations.
Best Value Pick: Dennard began the workout circuit as a potential second- rounder before witnessing his stock spiral after a so-so combine and getting arrested for an alleged altercation with a police officer a week before the draft. As an instinctive cornerback with a confident and physical demeanor, he could be a real steal in the seventh round, however.
Questionable Calls: Wilson was a major reach at the 48th overall selection as a safety with suspect range who wasn't much of a ball-hawk at Illinois. Though New England was wise to concentrate on defense, a young receiver that can get down the field vertically would have been a worthwhile investment in either the second or third round.
Summary: Jones and Wilson do come with some questions, but the Patriots did a solid job of restocking the defense with a few players that fit the team's profile. If the first-rounders can live up to their high status and Dennard pans out, this draft will qualify as a success.
Final Grade: B-
1 - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina (6-6, 284); 2 - Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech (6-4, 215); 3 - Demario Davis, ILB, Arkansas State (6-2, 235); 6 - Josh Bush, S, Wake Forest (5-11, 208); 6 - Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor (6-0, 239); 6 - Robert T. Griffin, OG, Baylor (6-6, 340); 7 - Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina (6-2, 210); 7 - Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan (6-0, 208)
Top Picks Analysis: The Jets bypassed some of the draft's top edge-rushing prospects such as Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry in favor of Coples, who ranks as one of the more puzzling players of this year's group. The versatile end has the strength, wingspan and lateral mobility to be a dominant force as both a run stopper and pressure-creator, but developed a reputation as a disinterested loafer as a collegian. Still, his sky-high ceiling was worth a gamble in the middle of the first round. Gang Green then traded up in the second to secure the draft's fastest receiver in Hill, a long-strider with very good hands and excellent blocking skills who should help open up the offense, though his knowledge of routes is limited from playing in Georgia Tech's option attack. The third round produced another fleet-footed but unpolished youngster in Davis, a compactly built thumper with developing instincts who could take over for the aging Bart Scott following a one-year apprenticeship.
Best Value Pick: If Coples can perform to his immense talent level, he'll be a heist at the 16th overall pick. The best of the late-rounders may be Allen, an intimidating hitter who could turn out to be a special-teams demon.
Questionable Calls: The Jets got subpar play from right tackle Wayne Hunter last season and have received next to nothing out of 2010 second-rounder Vladimir Ducasse, so it would have made sense for a team that wants to establish a punishing ground game to look for some help there. The need for another outside linebacker that can get to the quarterback still exists as well following the draft.
Summary: The Jets weren't able to rectify all the trouble spots on their roster, but getting two top-level athletes with tremendous upside with the first pair of picks is still noteworthy. Nobody here is a sure thing, but there's still plenty to like about this cast.
FINAL GRADE: B-
2 - Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama (6-2, 272); 2 - Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State (6-6, 333); 3 - Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple (6-0, 218); 4 - Gino Gradkowski, C, Delaware (6-3, 299); 4 - Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State (6-0, 211); 5 - Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly (5-10, 191); 6 - Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami-Florida (6-5, 219); 7 - DeAngelo Tyson, DT, Georgia (6-2, 315)
Top Picks Analysis: The Ravens were able to trade out of the first round and still manage to land the player they might have had their sights set on with their original pick at No. 29. Upshaw was one of this draft's biggest sliders after struggling mightily in agility drills at the combine, but the Defensive MVP of this past season's BCS National Championship Game is a powerful pass rusher with an advanced array of moves who can be utilized as either a down lineman or standing up as a 3-4 linebacker. Baltimore then obtained a potential replacement for departing left guard Ben Grubbs in Osemele, an oversized college tackle with great length and natural strength who needs some technical refinement and carries some questions about his work ethic. Baltimore moved up in the third round for Pierce, a balanced big back with cutback ability who'll take over for the retired Ricky Williams as Ray Rice's main caddy.
Best Value Pick: Streeter is a junior eligible who probably should have stayed in school after starting just one season in college, but the Miami native has the tools to develop into a starting-caliber receiver who can stretch the field with outstanding straight-line speed over time.
Questionable Calls: Though Streeter has a lot of upside, a more experienced receiver capable of contributing immediately would have served the Ravens better in next season's quest for a Super Bowl, and a five-technique end that can help offset the free-agent loss of Cory Redding is still on the wish list following this draft.
Summary: Another strong assemblage of young talent by general manager Ozzie Newsome and player personnel director Eric DeCosta. Upshaw suits what the Ravens like to do defensively, Osemele has starter's skills and Pierce fills a big hole as a backup running back. Plus Baltimore got a receiver with talent and brought in possible heirs apparent to aging stars Matt Birk and Ed Reed with the fourth-round selections of small-school prospects Gradkowski and Thompson.
FINAL GRADE: B
1 - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (6-2, 186); 1 - Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin (6-4, 314); 2 - Devon Still, DT, Penn State (6-5, 303); 3 - Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers (6-2, 211); 3 - Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson (6-2, 314); 4 - Orson Charles, TE, Georgia (6-3, 251); 5 - Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa (5-10, 190); 5 - Marvin Jones, WR, California (6-2, 199); 5 - George Iloka, S, Boise State (6-4, 225); 6 - Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State (5-10, 213)
Top Pick Analysis: The Bengals were able to bring in some more competition to a crowded cornerback corps by using their choice acquired in last fall's Carson Palmer trade on Kirkpatrick, a tall and very physical cover man capable of pushing veterans Nate Clements and Jason Allen for a place on the first- team defense. Zeitler, a three-year starter at Wisconsin, is expected to be an instant regular at right guard whose power and readiness should help boost a running game that was generally mediocre a year ago. Cincinnati traded down in the first round to land the former Badger, picking up an extra third that was spent on Thompson, a thick-bodied run-stopper with tremendous natural strength that will join the team's defensive tackle rotation along with Still, who offers more pass-rush potential than his new teammate as a three-technique candidate. The 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year had once been considered a first-day lock, but slipped to the No. 53 spot mainly due to motivational concerns. Sanu had a very productive three-year career at Rutgers and is physical and an accomplished route-runner who could develop into a consistent chain-moving No. 2 receiver.
Best Value Pick: Jones has experience in a West Coast offense like the Bengals employ and showed better-than-expected speed at the combine. He'll give Sanu a strong run in camp for to right to replace the outgoing Jerome Simpson in the starting lineup.
Questionable Calls: All three current starters at linebacker and two of the top three defensive ends are scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next season, but the Bengals didn't take a player at any of those positions.
Summary: Cincinnati was able to successfully build on its talent base with an excellent overall haul. All five of the Bengals' selections over the first three rounds have a chance to contribute immediately in some form, and there are also possible sleepers in Jones and Iloka, a tall and rangy safety with starting potential.
FINAL GRADE: A-
1 - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (5-9, 228); 1 - Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (6-4, 221); 2 - Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California (6-5, 318); 3 - John Hughes, DT, Cincinnati (6-3, 309); 4 - Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami-Florida (5-10, 172); 4 - James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada (6-1, 241); 5 - Ryan Miller, OT, Colorado (6-7, 321); 6 - Emmanuel Acho, OLB, Texas (6-2, 238); 6 - Billy Winn, DT, Boise State (6-4, 294); 7 - Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona (5-10, 192); 7 - Brad Smelley, FB, Alabama (6-2, 238)
Top Picks Analysis: The Browns came in with the goal of boosting one of the NFL's most anemic offenses and started the makeover by moving up one spot to the No. 3 position to reel in the supremely talented Richardson, a complete running back with exceptional power and the speed to break off big gains outside. The Heisman Trophy finalist is also a fine receiver and willing pass blocker, and his lone knock is that he's so physical that there's a threat of a shortened career. Weeden's pro tenure has already been curtailed, as the former minor league pitcher will be 29 years old come October, but he's mature and composed and sports a superior arm than incumbent Colt McCoy. He'll get every chance to claim the starting job in camp as long as can grasp the system. Cleveland also had a hole at right tackle that it intends to fill with Schwartz, a gritty and intelligent four-year starter at Cal with average athleticism but pro-ready technique. Defense was finally addressed with the third-round selection of Hughes, a rotational run-stopper with limited pass- rush skills and upside.
Best Value Pick: Winn is a good athlete with a quick first step who may be able to contribute as an interior pass rusher. Considered in many circles to be a better prospect than Hughes, he slid to the bottom of the sixth round primarily due to maturity and motivation concerns.
Questionable Calls: There were a few. Hughes looks like a massive reach in the third round, and it's debatable as to whether general manager Tom Heckert needed to spend a first-round pick on Weeden when he would have likely been still available at Cleveland's No. 37 spot. That selection may have been better served by obtaining a field-stretching wide receiver, something the Browns didn't address until the fourth-round choice of return specialist Benjamin. And since Minnesota wasn't going to take Richardson at No. 3, trading up a place seemed like a needless move.
Summary: The Browns did get a cornerstone player in Richardson, but the jury's still out about many of Heckert's other decisions, a few of which he may have jumped the gun on. If Weeden quickly develops into a capable quarterback that can ignite Cleveland's dormant passing game, the mark below will be significantly higher. But his lack of seasoning in a pro system raises questions as to whether that can be the case, and his window is already closing. With the Browns' bounty of picks and advantageous positions, this draft could have been much more than what they actually got.
FINAL GRADE: C
1 - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (6-5, 316); 2 - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State (6-7, 323); 3 - Sean Spence, ILB, Miami-Florida (5-11, 231); 4 - Alameda Ta'amu, NT, Washington (6-3, 248); 5 - Chris Rainey, WR, Florida (5-8, 180); 7 - Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado (6-2, 210); 7 - David Paulson, TE, Oregon (6-3, 246); 7 - Terrence Frederick, CB, Texas A&M (5-10, 187); Kelvin Beachum, OG, SMU (6-3, 303)
Top Picks Analysis: Having been plagued by mediocre offensive line play in recent years, the Steelers stressed that department early on and came away with a pair of high-end prospects with their initial two selections. DeCastro is one of the soundest members of this rookie crop, a durable, low-risk player who excels in pass protection and can also move the pile in the run game, and will be an instant starter at one of the guard spots. Adams comes with far more uncertainty due to off-field issues and questionable work habits, but the ex-Buckeye is big and nimble enough to acquit himself on either side and provides a nice insurance policy against right tackle Willie Colon's injury problems. Pittsburgh's blueprint for getting younger on defense started with Spence, a fast and instinctive performer who should be an immediate asset on special teams but needs to add strength to take on blockers as an inside linebacker candidate.
Best Value Pick: The Steelers may have found their successor to the declining Casey Hampton in fourth-round choice Ta'amu, a massive space eater who's difficult to move and isn't a non-factor as a pass rusher.
Questionable Calls: Spence was a bit of a strange pick by a team that usually looks for bigger and stouter linebackers in their 3-4 defense. With mostly unproven players behind stalwart Ike Taylor at cornerback, not taking one until a seventh-round flyer was also somewhat of a gamble, as was the absence of a running back with Rashard Mendenhall rehabbing a torn ACL and entering the final year of his contract.
Summary: The Steelers got stronger across both lines of scrimmage by obtaining three potential starters in DeCastro, Adams and Ta'amu. The rest of the lot is mostly unspectacular, but the more pieces Pittsburgh can add to an aging roster, the better.
FINAL GRADE: B
1 - Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois (6-4, 261); 3 - DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State (6-2, 211); 3 - Brandon Brooks, OG, Miami-Ohio (6-5, 346); 4 - Ben Jones, C, Georgia (6-3, 303); 4 - Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State (5-11, 188); 4 - Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska (6-4, 279); 5 - Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M (5-9, 205); 6 - Nick Mondek, OT, Purdue (6-6, 304)
Top Picks Analysis: Though outside linebacker wasn't a huge need area, the Texans were able to snare one of this draft's better pass rushers after Mercilus fell into the team's lap at the 26th overall pick. The early entrant sports an excellent first step as well as some power and put together a dominant junior year at Illinois, leading the nation with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles. Houston moved down into the early third round for Posey, a tall and coordinated receiver who can threaten the defense vertically but is an unpolished route runner with average speed and hands. Brooks is a massive mauler with good footwork for a man of his size, and could eventually become a starter at right guard once he improves his technique.
Best Value Pick: Martin is a blazer who excels at making defenders miss in open space. He's too raw and not yet strong enough to contribute significantly as a receiver, but can have a quick impact as a dangerous punt returner who might make the underachieving Jacoby Jones expendable.
Questionable Calls: Posey has a chance to emerge as a decent No. 2 receiver at some point, but will need time to hone his skills and doesn't have the upside of LSU's Reuben Randle, whom the Texans passed on in the late second round to trade down.
Summary: The Texans did fairly well in replenishing the depth losses caused by numerous offseason player defections and obtaining a potential double-digit sack artist in Mercilus. There isn't a whole lot to get excited about afterwards, but not much to gripe about this cast either.
FINAL GRADE: B-
1 - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (6-4, 234); 2 - Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (6-6, 247); 3 - Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson (6-3, 255); 3 - T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International (5-10, 183); 5 - Josh Chapman, NT, Alabama (6-1, 316); 5 - Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State (5-10, 219); 6 - LaVon Brazill, WR, Ohio (5-11, 192); 7 - Justin Anderson, OT, Georgia (6-4, 335); 7- Tim Fugger, OLB, Vanderbilt (6-3, 248); 7 - Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois (6-2, 219)
Top Picks Analysis: The Colts officially ushered in their new era of football with the entirely expected selection of Luck with the No. 1 overall pick, then proceeded to get their hopeful franchise quarterback a few playmakers to build around. Owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson made the right call at the top, as Luck is a strong-armed and very accurate passer with above- average mobility and an advanced knowledge of the pro game that's almost unheard of at the collegiate level. The cerebral young signal-caller will also have a familiar face to work with off the bat, with Indianapolis tabbing fellow Stanford product Fleener with the second choice of the second round. Adept at both getting down the seam and catching the ball in traffic, Luck's old and new teammate adds a needed weapon to the Colt's receiving arsenal. Fleener isn't much of a blocker, however, which prompted the choice of Allen in the next round. The 2011 Mackey Award recipient is a better in-line performer as well as a solid receiver that will allow offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to employ two-tight looks. Another pass-catcher was added to the mix when Indy traded up near the end of the third round for Hilton, a speedy and shifty slot receiver with dangerous open-field skills whose biggest impact as a rookie may be as a return man.
Best Value Pick: Chapman was an important anchor on Alabama's BCS championship defense who fell to the fifth round mostly because of a knee injury that required surgery this past winter. Though his medical history is concerning, he's a stout run stopper who could open the season as a starting nose tackle on Indianapolis' new-look defense.
Questionable Calls: The Colts are in the process of converting to a 3-4 scheme under new head coach Chuck Pagano, yet only two of the club's 10 picks were allotted to that side. A particular overlook was at cornerback, where there isn't a proven commodity other than returning starter Jerraud Powers on the current roster.
Summary: The defense remains a trouble spot after Grigson's virtual disregard of that unit, but landing a young quarterback of Luck's caliber always ensures a positive grade. Fleener, Allen and Chapman were good picks as well, which also helps offset those other oversights.
FINAL GRADE: B
1 - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (6-1, 207); 2 - Andre Branch, DE, Clemson (6-4, 259); 3 - Bryan Anger, P, California (6-4, 208); 5 - Brandon Marshall, ILB, Nevada (6-1, 242); 6 - Mike Harris, CB, Florida State (5-10, 188); 7 - Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland (6-2, 328)
Top Picks Analysis: The Jaguars accelerated their offensive rebuilding plan by climbing up two spots in the first round to reel in two-time Biletnikoff Award recipient Blackmon, whose terrific hands, physical style and determined demeanor help offset a lack of high-end speed and have drawn comparisons to multiple Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin. General manager Gene Smith then turned his attention towards rectifying the team's other obvious deficiency, a lethargic pass rush, with the selection of Branch. Albeit an unfinished product with only one year of sustained dominance in college, the 22-year-old can fire off the snap and has the frame to add more girth to be an effective three-down player. Smith followed with the curious choice of Anger in the third round, though the former Cal standout is a legitimate NFL-caliber prospect with excellent leg strength and hang time on his kicks. Jacksonville relinquished its fourth-rounder to Tampa Bay in order to make the move up to No. 5 for Blackmon.
Best Value Pick: Harris is a fearless and willing tackler with good recognition and ball skills despite starting only one season at Florida State, and stands a reasonable chance to stick as an extra secondary defender in sub- packages and contributor on special teams.
Questionable Calls: Anger may turn out to be an above-average punter at the next level, but considering that one hasn't been chosen as high as the third round since 2005, odds are Smith could have waited and instead targeted a more heavily scouted position with the 70th overall pick. This draft didn't provide any extra depth along the offensive line, something the Jaguars could have used.
Summary: Smith will probably be taken to task for grabbing a punter in the third round, but his aggressive pursuit of Blackmon was a good move and Branch has considerable upside as a pass rusher. Since those were the two positions that were the most in need of a facelift, Jacksonville was able to improve itself over the three days.
FINAL GRADE: B-
1 - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor (5-10, 196); 2 - Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina (6-1, 244); 3 - Mike Martin, DT, Michigan (6-2, 306); 4 - Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson (5-11, 189); 5 - Taylor Thompson, TE, Southern Methodist (6-6, 259); 6 - Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State (6-1, 207); 7 - Scott Solomon, DE, Rice (6-3, 262)
Top Picks Analysis: The Titans were believed to be leaning towards defense or the offensive line with their first-round pick, but the team switched gears by nabbing Wright, Robert Griffin's favorite target at Baylor. The former basketball player is an exceptionally quick and slippery receiver with impressive toughness as well, though a lack of preferred size and strength may limit him to the slot in the pros. Speed is also one of Brown's best assets, with the second-round choice setting a school record in the 60-meter dash while a member of the North Carolina track team, but suspect instincts and a passive demeanor in run support caused his stock to slip. Conversely, Martin competes with a relentless motor to go along with superior weight-room strength and solid quickness. He's similar to Titans' 2011 third-rounder Jurrell Casey, a 15-game starter as rookie, and will likely rotate with his new teammate this coming season.
Best Value Pick: Sensabaugh only started one season at Clemson, but ran a sub-4.4 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine and has shown a feel for playing zone coverage. He could get an opportunity in nickel packages right away.
Questionable Calls: It's surprising that the Titans didn't draft a center or guard to aid one of the league's most anemic rushing attacks in 2011. The club did sign veteran Steve Hutchinson in free agency, but it's unclear if the seven-time Pro Bowler can reclaim his once-dominant form after battling injuries. Tennessee had a need for a pass-rushing presence at defensive tackle, but Martin's not dynamic in that department.
Summary: The Titans got a lot faster on defense with the additions of Brown and Sensabaugh, but Wright is the only member of a group comprised predominantly of projects that appears to have a better than average chance to be a definitive difference-maker.
FINAL GRADE: C
2 - Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati (6-5, 295); 2 - Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State (6-7, 242); 3 - Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State (5-9, 200); 4 - Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State (5-10, 202); 4 - Philip Blake, C, Baylor (6-3, 311); 5 - Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee (6-5, 284); 6 - Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky (6-0, 237)
Top Picks Analysis: After trading down twice to exit the first round, the Broncos addressed what was their most glaring area of weakness with the somewhat surprising selection of Wolfe in the early second. The 2011 co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year is extremely agile and brings good pass- rushing skills to the team's aging interior, though he's a bit lean and isn't a true anchor in the running game. Denver then grabbed Peyton Manning's intended future successor in the towering Osweiler, a big-armed and competitive developmental project who's at least a couple of years away from being ready due to mechanical flaws and limited experience. The Broncos traded up in the third for Hillman, a durable but undersized speed back who needs work in pass protection and with ball security.
Best Value Pick: Blake is an older prospect who turns 27 in November, but the native Canadian has the functional strength and initial get-off to compete for a starting role at either center or right guard, two positions where the Broncos have some instability.
Questionable Calls: Hillman may have been overdrafted, as he's strictly an outside runner who lacks the power between the tackles and consistent hands as a receiver to be a surefire every-down back. The Broncos could have used another body in addition to Blake to a thin reserve ranks on the offensive line.
Summary: Wolfe and Blake should be able to contribute as rookies, but there aren't any certain hits out of this class, as Osweiler is an unknown quantity and fourth-round pick Bolden had an injury-marred career as the young quarterback's college teammate. The Broncos scored far better in free agency than in the draft.
FINAL GRADE: C+
1 - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis (6-4, 346); 2 - Jeff Allen, OG, Illinois (6-4, 307); 3 - Donald Stephenson, OT, Oklahoma (6-5, 312); 4 - Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State (5-9, 187); 5 - DeQuan Menzie, DB, Alabama (5-11, 202); 6 - Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M (5-10, 206); 7 - Jerome Long, DE, San Diego State (6-4, 290); 7 - Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan (6-1, 225)
Top Picks Analysis: General manager Scott Pioli's emphasis on building through both lines was crystal clear in this draft, with the Chiefs utilizing their first three picks on players who operate in the trenches. The plan began with the selection of the polarizing Poe, an athletic freak with a massive frame and superior strength who's remarkably light on his feet, to presumably anchor the middle of the defensive front. Scouts have wondered whether his short- armed build is best suited for a two-gap plugger, however, and his failure to dominate at a lower FCS level has raised questions as well. The second round brought Kansas City's left guard of the future in Allen, an excellent pass protector and high-character guy who's likely slated to take over for veteran Ryan Lilja in 2013. The Chiefs grabbed another combine marvel with the choice of Stephenson, who posted the best 40 time and vertical jump of any offensive lineman in Indianapolis. Though incredibly raw and an underachiever in college, he's got the skill set to become a starter with some work.
Best Value Pick: Gray is one of this draft's better receiving running backs who can also make an impact as a return man. He gives the Chiefs some insurance in a backfield led by the duo of injury risk Jamaal Charles and fumble-prone Peyton Hillis.
Questionable Calls: Taking a boom-or-bust player such as Poe at No. 11 overall certainly carries some risk, and fourth-rounder Wylie is a hit-or-miss prospect as well because of a scary medical history.
Summary: A good overall collection with the potential to be great if both Poe and Stephenson can translate their physical talents into on-field production and the shifty Wylie can stay healthy and provide the offense a dynamic slot receiver it's presently devoid of.
FINAL GRADE: B
3 - Tony Bergstrom, OG, Utah (6-5, 313); 4 - Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State (6-2, 246); 5 - Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State (6-5, 274); 5 - Juron Criner, WR, Arizona (6-3, 224); 6 - Christo Bilukidi, DT, Georgia State (6-4, 311); 7 - Nathan Stupar, OLB, Penn State (6-1, 241)
Top Pick Analysis: Reggie McKenzie found himself behind the eight-ball in his debut draft as the Raiders' new general manager, as the Silver and Black didn't have a pick until the bottom of the third round due to a few debatable personnel decisions by the Al Davis-led regime. He was still able to obtain a useful prospect in Bergstrom, a right tackle at Utah whose short arms and average footwork in space make him a better candidate for left guard. Burris has starting potential as well as an outside linebacker with some upside as a pass rusher, and his gung-ho mentality and hustle should be an asset to the special-teams units. Crawford is a native of England who didn't begin playing football until late in high school, but offers some intrigue as a rotational reserve.
Best Value Pick: Criner is the antithesis of a typical Al Davis receiver, as he was one of the combine's slowest wideouts, but is a good route runner with strong hands and the size to be a serviceable possession receiver in Oakland's West Coast offense.
Questionable Calls: The Raiders had serious use for an all-around tight end and a big running back that can spell the injury-prone Darren McFadden, but McKenzie instead chose to utilize some late picks on extreme project players such as Crawford and the virtually unknown Bilukidi.
Summary: McKenzie hands were greatly tied by the sins of Oakland's past, so obtaining three players that can be contributors in Bergstrom, Burris and Criner was admirable. Still, there isn't a member of this group that appears to be anything more than an average starter down the line.
DRAFT GRADE: C-
1 - Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina (6-1, 264); 2 - Kendall Reyes, DE, Connecticut (6-4, 299); 3 - Brandon Taylor, S, Louisiana State (5-11, 209); 4 - Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6, 238); 5 - Johnnie Troutman, OG, Penn State (6-4, 325); 7 - David Molk, C, Michigan (6-1, 298); 7 - Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (5-8, 204)
Top Picks Analysis: A.J. Smith normally isn't gun-shy about moving up in the first round and snaring a player he covets, but the embattled general manager benefited from holding his ground this year. In desperate need of a dangerous pass rusher to give the defense more bite, the Chargers had the good fortune of having one of this year's best in Ingram fall to them at the 18th overall choice. The squatty college lineman can quickly get to the edge with an explosive first step, plus he's stout enough to hold up against the run and displayed excellent lateral agility at the combine that will aid him in coverage. Another possible starter at a thin position was plucked with the second-round selection of Reyes, a powerful and hard-working prospect with the frame to work as a five-technique end in San Diego's 3-4 alignment. Smith's only trade of the draft came in the third round, when he vaulted five spots to claim Taylor, one of the steadying forces on a dominant LSU defense. He's a good tackler with some range and adequate speed, but his best asset may be in the leadership category.
Best Value Pick: Green is essentially an oversized receiver with minimal blocking ability, but he's fast with soft hands and may be able to make an impact as a move player at a position where Antonio Gates has missed a lot of time the past two seasons.
Questionable Calls: The one defensive position Smith neglected was cornerback, where returning starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are coming off subpar seasons and are entering the final year of their contracts. Though depth was added to the offensive line, Troutman and Molk are basically backup types and a swing tackle may have been of greater importance.
Summary: Shoddy defense helped lead to San Diego's failure to reach the playoffs last year, so the addition of three players that could wind up as starters ranks as a fine haul for a team that doesn't usually have much trouble scoring points. All of the other picks stand a good chance of making the roster and contributing in some form, which leads to a top grade.
FINAL GRADE: A-