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NFL Draft Review 2010
Preliminary 2010 Draft Grades
The American's Sports Editor Richard L Gale takes you through an analysis of the draft.
The following grades are for players drafted, plus those acquired in the days leading up to the draft. An adjusted draft grade will be made in our detailed division-by-division analyses in early May, to include signings of key undrafted free agents.
New England Patriots
New England know how to fix their problems. After trading up (an almost unknown tactic under Belichick) to select blocker–receiver Rob Gronkowski of Arizona, and adding Florida's Aaron Hernandez in Round 4, the Patriots turned a noted weakness at tight end into a positive strength in one weekend. Answering an OLB need with Florida DE Jermaine Cunningham, they selected a new ILB with team mate Brandon Spikes, both in Round 2. With Randy Moss in a contract year and Wes Welker coming off injury, the Pats signed veteran Torry Holt earleir in draft week, as well as adding speedy Ohio WR Taylor Price to the mix during. Top punter Zoltan Mesko and a host of solid late round selections concluded another large and accomplished draft week for the Patriots, somehow escaping with first round CB Devin McCourty into the bargain.
San Francisco 49ers
"We come out, we hit people in the mouth", as coach Mike Singletary is much quoted as saying, but this draft reflected that intention. As well as offensive line studs Anthony Davis of Rutgers and Mike Iupati of Idaho, the 49ers added hard–running Anthony Dixon of Mississippi State and blocking tight end Nate Byham of Pittsburgh, both in Round 6. They made a couple of catches on players falling down the draft in USC free safety Taylor Mays and Penn State LB Navorro Bowman, and also matched needs at corner and returner later on. A fine clutch of players was the result of a decision to be patient and not draft a new QB over the head of Alex Smith.
St. Louis Rams
Having fielded a 2009 offense so toothless it looked like an inverse image of a decade ago, the Rams jump–started a new era by adding tackle Roger Saffold and receiver Mardy Gilyard to first overall pick QB Sam Bradford. Saffold was a three–year starter at Indiana, while Gilyard snagged 168 passes for 22 scores the last two years. Both look plug–and–play in the Rams' system. It goes without saying that Bradford is their franchise passer for the next decade, though after barely playing as a senior, he's in for a rough adjustment in 2010. For a team as hapless as the Rams have looked recently, fouling up the draft was never impossible, but they ignored trade offers and stuck to their needs list, selecting South Florida CB Jerome Murphy in Round 3, and a glut of look–see defensive players on Day 3.
The Raiders had an unusually fine draft. Parting with ILB Kirk Morrison by trade, they replaced him with Alabama's Rolando McClain at Pick 8, matched a need at tackle with two selections (including underpriced Bruce Campbell of Maryland in Round 4), and at defensive tackle with Texas' Lamarr Houston. They also traded for QB Jason Campbell — who may not have proved the answer in Washington, but must be considered an upgrade here — for the cost of a 4th round pick next year. Later selections will be used to seek solutions to a return–game problem that defies the speed the Raiders keep throwing at it. DE Quentin Groves was acquired before the draft for the cost of a 5th round pick.
The Bengals nailed their no.1 need, taking Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham, who, despite missing all of '09 through injury, was still clearly the top receiving tight end in the draft. With reliable possession receiver Jordan Shipley of Texas in Round 3, Cincy should reignite QB Carson Palmer's numbers. The solidity of Shipley's style also allowed them to roll the dice on Kansas WR Dezmon Briscoe in R6 — hardly a gamble at that cost! This being the Bengals, they care less for character concerns, so answered a need at defensive end with Florida' Carlos Dunlap in R2. He'll have first year moments. With quicksilver CB Brandon Ghee, DT Geno Atkins and an upside OG in Otis Hudson, the Bengals remained focused throughout, but missed on a need at safety.
San Diego Chargers
LT gone, Cromartie gone, Jamal Williams gone, so a certain pressure for San Diego to ace another draft. The Chargers spent some picks to move up and secure Fresno State rusher Ryan Mathews; it would be a shock if he wasn't a fantasy notable from season one. The Chargers only nabbed a new nose tackle in Round 5, a steal in Cam Thomas of North Carolina. With LB Tim Dobbins departing as part of a day one pick–shuffle with Miami, the Chargers upgraded with Washington's Donald Butler in Round 3, and after trading away backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, they replaced him with tidy Tennessean Jonathan Crompton, who has NFL backup written all over him (in the nicest possible way). With Dedrick Epps (R7) replacing TE Brandon Manumaleuna, and safety Darrell Stuckey adding a poacher to the secondary, the Chargers completed a six–player draft with six hits.
The Pete Carroll era begins with a new left tackle, Oklahoma State sure–thing Russell Okung taken with Pick 6. With ex–Bronco OG Ben Hamilton signed prior to the draft, and draft day trades yielding RBs Leon Washington and LenDale White, line guru Alex Gibbs has some tools with which to craft a new rushing attack. The secondary, another area of great need, acquired complete safety Earl Thomas at pick 14, plus two later DBs. Taking Thomas meant the Seahawks missed out on a wide choice of big–name DEs, but they did gain EJ Wilson and Dexter Davis as look–see prospects less likely to create the breakthrough the sack count needs. The receiving corps adds future starter Golden Tate of Notre Dame and big but unproven Jameson Konz of Kent State. DT Kevin Vickerson also arrived via trade.
The Steelers tried to shop Ben Roethlisberger early, but by pick 10 the moment had passed and at pick 18 they addressed the 50 sacks he suffered last season, taking Maurkice Pouncey of Florida, the best versatile interior lineman in the draft. Their Round 2 choice was DE Jason Worilds of Virginia Tech, a pass rusher who had 'Steeler' stamped all over him; a second pass rusher, Ohio State's Thaddeus Gibson was added in Round 4. After shipping Santonio Holmes, the Steelers selected two small swift targets who produced big numbers in college, Emmanuel Sanders of SMU and Antonio Brown of Central Michigan, and picked up RB Jonathan Dwyer for a mere sixth. Although the Steelers stuck to the script in terms of matching need, and found good value several times, their lone selection at corner was Crezdon Butler of Clemson, a Round 5 selection that does little to improve a poor tally for interceptions from 2009. QB Byron Leftwich arrived in a pre–draft trade.
The Lions drafted a frightener of a defensive tackle in Nebraska's Ndamakong Suh, continuing an offseason focus on the D–line, then traded up from the top of R2 to late R1 to acquire explosive Cal runner Jahvid Best. 30th in the League at picking off opposing passers, the Lions replied to their plight with ballhawk DB Amari Spievey in Round 3. Later picks lacked early impact, even for a team as deep in the doldrums as the Lions, but were developmental responses to needs.
The Broncos muddied the QB waters by selecting Tim Tebow, who looks to be little more than a wrinkle in 2010. However, the Florida legend, together with receiving selections Demaryius Thomas of Georgia Tech (the first WR off the board, chosen over Dez Bryant) and Minnesota's Eric Decker point to a determination by coach Josh McDaniels to have a united locker room. The Broncos worked the phones well in the first round, moving down to gain extra picks. Another massive need was the interior of the offensive line, which is moving away from the zone–blocking of the Shanahan era, and they took three 300lbers including Utah's Zane Beadles and Baylor center JD Walton, but didn't select an inside linebacker. They did, however, sign veteran free agent Akin Ayodele from the Dolphins.
The Vikings signed free agent CB Lito Sheppard before the draft, and selected Virginia's 6'2" Chris Cook in Round 2. That wasn't just a concern that Cedric Griffin's ACL injury may linger into next season, but a reaction to Minnesota's lower–half ranking in pass defense and interceptions. R7 linebacker Ryan D'Imperio should also be a tonic for their sub–par kick coverage. Enhancing a strength, Stanford's punishing rusher Toby Gerhart arrived in Round 2 to spell Adrian Peterson. The Viking's best move of the day, however, was trading back from pick 30 to 34, instead moving up 28 places in R4 and gaining an extra R7; those picks netted pass rushing steal Everson Griffen of USC and blocking TE Mickey Shuler Jnr.
Needing immediate help on the defensive line and some youth at receiver, the Panthers went quarterback. And oh boy, did they ever go quarterback: Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen tumbled into their laps at pick 48, 24 hours later off the board than expected, and Cincinnati's Tony Pike was selected in R6. They also made a 'wildcat' choice in R3 with Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards, who played QB in college but projects (willingly?) as a receiver here. I guess that Matt Moore honeymoon was short–lived, huh? Despite their passer obsession, the Panthers addressed receiver directly with LSU's Brandon LaFell, yet the only contribution to their D–line came in the form of Ole Miss end Greg Hardy. If he recaptures his sophomore form (before injury), he's a steal. For now, he's half a selection at their key need. Massive steal as Jimmy Clausen seems, they could have spread their draft net a little wider.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It's fair to say Tampa's D–line just improved some. After taking dominating DT Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma in Round 1, they added Brian Price of UCLA in Round 2. The league–worst rush defense was also bolstered by FSU LB Dekoda Watson, Virginia Tech's Cody Grimm arrives as a gift for special teams, and Vanderbilt's Myron Lewis is valuable and solid depth at corner. The Buccaneers also had one of the worst offenses in the league in 2009, and gave QB Josh Freeman two new targets in Illinois WR Arrelious Benn and Syracuse' Mike Williams; they have undeniable talent, but it is debatable whether they will help or hinder Freeman's development in year two.
Kansas City Chiefs
Statistically, the Chiefs had a lot of problems to deal with in all phases of the game. Pass defense was one of their lesser needs (merely 22nd in the league), but they upgraded there anyway with generational safety Eric Berry of Tennessee at pick 5, adding Alabama corner Javier Arenas and Ole Miss free safety Kendrick Lewis (the latter in R5). Round 2 selection Dexter McCluster is a versatile RB/WR who could create serious mismatches in a Percy Harvin style. Round 3 selections guard Jon Asamoah and blocking TE Tony Moeaki will also be hits, as will DE Cameron Sheffield (R5) though less immediately. However, by passing on a tackle like Russell Okung to take Berry, the Chiefs leave QB Matt Cassell to twist in the wind for another year.
The Browns tackled their 29th–ranked pass defense with Florida CB Joe Haden and Oregon safety TJ Ward, reshaping the secondary. That meant passing twice on the opportunity to take a big–name quarterback, a glaring need. However, after calling RB Montario Hardesty's name late in Round 2, they looped back to QB in time to grab Texas' Colt McCoy at the 85th pick of the draft; his skill set fits their West Coast nicely. Rangey Round 6 receiver Carlton Mitchell of South Florida has an opportunity to establish a year one role. A need at DE was overlooked until pick 186, however.
DE Brandon Graham of Michigan (Round 1) was joined by Daniel Te'o–Nesheim of Washington (R3) and Ricky Sapp of Clemson (R5 steal), more than shoring up that position. Round 2 free safety Nate Allen of South Florida supplies the best ball–hawking player they've had since Lito Sheppard, and if Trevard Lindley of Kentucky can recapture his junior form, they have a second steal. Florida WR Riley Cooper (pick 159) is another minor steal, bringing 6'3" height the Eagles receiving corps can do with, while I really like Charles Scott of LSU (pick 200) in any system where the line–blocking above average. Problem is, that's not the Eagles right now, and the one area they did not draft was the line. With 13 selections, they could easily have done so.
Tipping the scales at over 350lbs, there's a reason Alabama DT Terrence 'Mount' Cody had some scouts worried. He slipped to the second round, as did DE Sergio Kindle of Texas, and the Ravens snapped up both, matching two needs and no doubt extending Ray Lewis' career at MLB. However, Baltimore later selecting two tight ends and another DT, and while BYU TE Dennis Pitta and DT Art Jones were nice undervalued investments, the Ravens never approached a remaining need at corner.
After losing Dunta Robinson in free agency, the Texans had little option but to take a corner in Round 1, and Alabama's Kareem Jackson provides them with a safe immediate solution. That left them a little behind the plot in their search for a runner, but Auburn's Ben Tate fits the system and could produce a heap of yards right away. Aside from tiny return specialist Trindon Holliday, the rest of their draft was depth and rotation. The Texans added TE depth in Wisconsin's Garrett Graham and Pittsburgh's Dorin Dickerson, the latter as a late steal.
The Colts largely defied expectations that they would stock up on offensive line depth and development (although they did take Tennessee guard Jacques McClendon in Round 4), preferring to restock on defense. They took one for each level in the first three rounds — pass–rushing TCU end Jerry Hughes, tackle–busy Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer (both well–proven) and USC corner Kevin Thomas — then revisited the line, backers and backs in Round 7. They also added Brody Eldridge, an outstanding blocking tight end. The draft may lack headliners, but the Colts again selected stuff they can use.
One of the very worst pass defenses in the league last year, the Titans also lost Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency, but take a step forward with Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan in Round 1. Seeking further playmakers, they took tackling machine LB Rennie Curran in Round 3 and traded away RB LenDale White and DT Kevin Vickerson to be in position for R4 corner Alterraun Verner. The slump in safety Myron Rolle's value — eventually taken in Round 6 — was farcical treatment for a good solid player, and the Titans reaped the reward. There was a consistent theme of upside amongst later picks.
New York Giants
A strength only 2–3 years ago, the Giants' defensive line gets an overhaul here, with defensive tackle Jason Pierre–Paul and nose tackle Linval Joseph arriving in the first two rounds. Despite having signed Antrel Rolle in free agency, the Giants further enhanced themselves at safety with LSU's Chad Jones in Round 3, and middle linebacker Phillip Dillard, who could be forced into early action. OG Mitch Petrus of Arkansas and East Carolina punter Matt Dodge were the only two non–defensive selections.
New York Jets
Offseason trade activity left the Jets with a minimal draft, and they missed on needs at safety, on the defensive line and at outside linebacker. Instead they added another big name at corner, Boise State's Kyle Wilson, though by some to be the best prospect at the position in the draft. With guard Alan Faneca's release imminent, the Jets took UMass OL Vlad Ducasse in the second round, and they also made situational RB Leon Washington expendible by taking USC's agile Joe McKnight. Fullback John Conner was also added as an understudy to Tony Richardson, an important move.
Aside from versatile OL depth John Jerry in Round 3, the Fins went defense, defense, defense after falling to 22nd in that category in 2009. DL Jared Odrick and pass–rusher Koa Misi were taken in rounds 2 and 3, with LB depth added later (plus former Charger Tim Dobbins arriving via a complex trade that resulted in the Misi pick). Round 5 safety Reshad Jones was a nice Day 3 pickup, but some of the selections seemed a shade out of position when compared with need — Jones a strong safety when they needed a free safety, Odrick a 3–technique DE/DT when a true nose tackle was a major need. None the less, this haul represents some hard–graft, day–long players.
The Cards needed to help their linebacking corps, and did so both directly (sideline–to–sideline speed Daryl Washington of TCU in Round 2) and indirectly (Round 1 DT Dan Williams of Tennessee will soak up attention inside). Their mid–round picks — including Fordham QB John Skelton and Citadel WR Andre Roberts — have intriguing upside in this setting, but for a so–so team clinging to the top of their division by default, big–name departures (Karlos Dansby, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle) have been answered with some small–school selections that may have minimal impact.
After so much action in free agency, Chicago was left with limited draft options, and nothing before pick 75 when they selected Florida free safety Major Wright. With Northwestern DE Corey Wootton, Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour and J'Marcus Webb, a sizeable small–school tackle in Rounds 4, 6 and 7, the Bears didn't do too bad at working their part–time draft for some fill–in talent.
Washington surprised some by choosing Oklahoma's Trent Williams over Oklahoma State's Russell Okung, but either matched their number one need, left tackle. With another tackle, Selvish Capers of West Virginia, at pick 231 (nice value) and interior lineman Erik Cook, also in Round 7, that's a triple–tick for the line. However, the defensive line also needed help, and the Redskins ignored it completely, as they did the secondary. LSU linebacker Perry Riley was the lone defensive selection. Round 6 tight end Dennis Morris may be used as a blocking fullback, and while the arrival of Donovan McNabb puts the focus on the passing game, this half–draft looks more like a counter to the team's 27th–ranked rushing offense.
The selection of DT Corey Peters in R3 of this year's draft begs the question: is there something we should know about last year's Falcons first–rounder Peria Jerry or is this bad news for Jonathan Babineaux? A team 26th in the league in sacks could have done with an end. OLB selection Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri is versatile and can cover, but he isn't that dangerous as a pass rusher. Considering the effort Atlanta put into purging themselves of locker–room disruptors a couple of years ago, I'm surprised at the selection; I foresee a difficult rookie season. On the more positive side, depth at guard was added in rounds 3 and 4, WR Kerry Meier was highly productive as a QB–to–WR convert at Kansas, and Oklahoma's CB Dominique Franks was a steal in Round 5.
New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl champs they may be, but they had needs on defense. Those were not entirely addressed, overlooking OLB and end, but an undervalued defensive tackle, LSU's Al Woods, fell to them in R4. The selection of CB Patrick Robinson at the end of Round 1 — only a year after taking Malcolm Jenkins — may have reflected disappointment in seeing DE Jerry Hughes go off the board one spot earlier. And that was it on defense. Other selections included offensive tackle Charles Brown from USC, 6'6" Miami TE Jimmy Graham and Oregon State QB Sean Canfield, all of whom look the part as guys who will stick and contribute as pros.
The Cowboys dealt up to secure slumping Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant, and there was much celebrating everywhere, presumably, except at Roy Williams' house. However, as versatile as Round 2 Linebacker Sean Lee may be, and as much as Jerry Jones regularly calls on a small schooler like CB Akwasi Owusu–Ansah of Indiana (PA), they greatly ignore need, signing a late right tackle after releasing all–pro left tackle Flozell Adams, and failing to land a safety. If Bryant isn't everything he was considered to be this time last year, this draft could prove very forgettable.
The usual spotty effort from Buffalo. While they began with the electrifying speed of RB CJ Spiller, their Round 2 selection at DT (Central Florida's Torell Troup) may well have been there later, and they seemed hamstrung by the need to retool their defensive line for the incoming 3–4 alignment, taking DE Alex Carrington of Arkansas State in Round 3, plus two DE/LB converts in Round 6. That left needs at receiver, offensive tackle and quarterback (they had their opportunity to deal for Jason Campbell) untouched until R4, R5 and R7 respectively.
Green Bay Packers
While the Packers have moved on from the Brett Favre era, their offensive tackles haven't, with Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton re–signed. Iowa's Bryan Bulaga heralds the next generation. While safety Morgan Burnett was a nice selection with the 71st pick of the draft, needs at cornerback and outside linebacker went unanswered in the draft while they drafted DL Mike Neal and TE Andrew Quarless, neither of which related to positional needs. Uninspired.
Although the Jaguars needed help at safety and outside linebacker, the Jaguars were desperate enough at defensive line that come the draft, they selected everything and, frankly, anything. California DE Tyson Alualu was the first shocker of Day 1, taken with pick no.10, when trading down for him would have been desirable. Two more ends were taken in Round 5, and defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith of Louisiana Tech in Round 3, meaning a trade for productive former–Raider LB Kirk Morrison was their only non–line acquisition before Round 6. This draft did little to change their role as basement dwellers in their division.
DRAFT COVERAGE IN THE AMERICAN
The American's preliminary grades of all 32 teams will appear here on Monday April 26, with extensive analysis of each team's draft haul and undrafted free agent signings over the following fortnight. An overview of the draft will also appear in the May issue of The American magazine.