The Cold, Hard Football Facts view draft grades a bit differently than most. You know how most analysts do it: They pretend they watched every college football game of the past three seasons, toss out clichés about various schemes, or which players "set the edge" and have "good motors" and then try to guess which will succeed or fail at the next level.
Good luck with that.
The truth is that nobody knows who's going to succeed or fail -- not us, not the draft "experts" on TV and certainly not the GMs making the decisions on draft day.
So here's what we do: We take a very detailed look at each team's statistical deficiencies before the draft. And then we determine which teams did the best job of addressing those needs. Some teams attack these deficiencies quite aggressively. Those teams usually improve the next year. Other teams stick their heads in the statistical sands, apparently trying to wish away the problems that plagued them last season (yes, we're talking about you, Jacksonville). These teams typically suffer the same fate the following year. It's all quite predictable, actually.
We can tell fairly accurately which teams did a good job of addressing their statistical needs in a given draft. As for which players are going to fail or succeed? Well, that's anyone's guess.
What I liked: The team's biggest statistical need was at quarterback. But it's obvious they intend to address that position, for better or worse, in free agency. With that said, the defense was no great shakes, either -- 30th in scoring defense last year. Top pick Patrick Peterson gives the team a potential shutdown corner, and that's always a positive move. LB Sam Acho could prove to be a key contributor as a pass rusher and a potential value with a fourth-round pick.
What I didn't like: The Cardinals fielded one of the worst offensive lines in football last year -- No. 28 on our Offensive Hog Index; No. 28 protecting the passer and No. 32 converting third downs. A good chunk of those problems were due to poor play at QB. But, in a draft in which offensive and defensive linemen ruled the boards, Arizona did not make a single play to shore up the OL.
The defense looks improved; but not sure RB Ryan Williams and TE Robert Housler aid the offense if QB is a weakness again in 2011. Grade: C+
Click hereto view the Cardinals' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Jacquizz Rodgers was one of college football's most exciting players, undersized in the mold of Darren Sproles, but sturdier in his frame. He could prove more integral to the offense than No. 1 pick Julio Jones -- but they didn't trade a slew of picks to get Rodgers.
What I didn't like: Thomas Dimitroff took an incredible risk by trading away an incredible five picks simply to land Jones. History proves that first-round wideouts have a huge rate of failure in the NFL and that the position is incredibly overvalued by teams, fans and analysts. Sure, the Atlanta passing game struggled at times (19th in Passing Yards Per Attempt). But the biggest statistical needs were on defense: The Falcons were 27th against the run last year, surrendering a porous 4.63 YPA. They drafted only two defenders, neither of whom project to be NFL starters.
A lot of bold but high-risk moves mortgaged on the back of seven draft picks. Big needs on defense generally unaddressed. Grade: D-
Click hereto view the Falcons' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Just a good, solid draft for a team with only a few glaring holes. Baltimore is institutionally defined by its defense, and top-pick CB Jimmy Smith can only help a unit that, though it ranked No. 5 in Defensive Passer Rating last year and has never been quite as stout as it was when Pro Bowler Chris McAlister was on the roster (No. 1 in DPR in 2008, his last year). The offensive line was the team's weak spot in 2010 (No. 22 on our Offensive Hog Index). They addressed that need with huge OT Jah Reid in the third round.
What I didn't like: The Ravens tried desperately to give Joe Flacco receiving help last year by bringing in veterans Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The effort blew up in their face when both had disastrous outings against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. They doubled down on the position again in this draft, with two wideouts among their first four picks. I would have rather seen another high-profile offensive lineman.
If it all pans out, the Ravens have taken a good team and made it a better one. Grade: B+
Click hereto view the Ravens' 2011 draft page
What I liked: A very good, aggressive draft aimed at fixing huge problems on defense. The Bills had the worst D-line last year and ranked 28th in scoring defense. Their first four picks all went to defense. Beefy offensive tackle Chris Hairston (fourth round) has the size and potential to develop into a legit NFL starter.
What I didn't like: If there's a nit to be picked, it's the Bills took Alabama's Marcell Dareus at DT ahead of Auburn's Nick Fairley. Dareus is much bigger, so size was the goal here. But Fairley was the more explosive and productive college player.
Nowhere to go but up for the team that ranked dead last across the board last year in our Quality Stats. Grade: B+
Click here to view the Bills' 2011 draft page
What I liked: No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton. It was obvious Carolina's biggest problem last year was one of the most inept passing attacks we've seen in years, as they were dead-last in almost all of our offensive Quality Stats. Enter Newton. He's fresh off arguably the most productive season in the history of college football: No. 2 nationally in passing efficiency, with 1,473 yards on the ground, a mind-blowing 50 touchdowns (30 passing, 20 rushing), Heisman Trophy, national title ... you get the point. The upside is tantalizing.
What I didn't like: The Panthers had only one pick in the first two rounds, and that went to a high-risk player -- one who tells us that the team has already given up on their top pick of last year, Jimmy Clausen. If Newton doesn't work out, we're talking two wasted drafts for the worst team in football last year.
Hard to judge. If Newton works out, it's an A+ draft. But right now it's a high-risk, high-reward venture. Grade: C
Click hereto view the Panthers' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The Bears wasted no time attack their biggest need, the worst offensive line in football last year: Dead-last on our Offensive Hog Index and last in protecting the passer, as well. Gabe Carimi was the best offensive lineman on one of the most punishing rushing attacks in college football last year at Wisconsin. Also like Stephen Paea's potential to become a stalwart on the D-line in the wake of the release of Tommie Harris.
What I didn't like: Carimi can't fix the OL all by himself. In a draft dominated by linemen, another O-Hog would have been nice ... even necessary.
Two solid needs-based moves high in the draft. Grade: A-
Click hereto view the Bears' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Andy Dalton. A highly productive and proven winner (42-7 at TCU) and his arrival on campus there coincided with the rise of the Horned Frogs -- under Dalton, they fielded their best teams since the days of Sammy Baugh. He has the potential to be the best quarterback from the class of 2011.
What I didn't like: Drafting A.J. Green fourth overall. As noted with Atlanta's aggressive move to grab Julio Jones, wide receivers are high-risk picks high in the draft; and they generally have a minimal impact on team's ability to win and even the best WRs typically take a few years to develop. The Bengals had MUCH bigger needs on the defensive line (No. 23 on our Defensive Hog Index, No. 24 rushing the passer) and the 2011 draft was filled with potential game-changers at the position. Yet Cincy devoted just one of its eight picks to DL, and waited until the third round to grab pint-sized Dontay Moch (6-1, 248) of Nevada. He's at best a situational pass rusher who projects to play OLB in the NFL.
Dalton saves it from being a terrible draft, but only if he lives up to the expectations we have for him. Grade: C
Click here to view the Bengals' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur added a nice 1-2 punch of run stopper (Phil Taylor) and pass rusher (Jabaal Sheard) with their first two picks.
What I didn't like: Cleveland's worst indicators last year were scoring offense (31st), passer rating (28th), protecting the passer (25th) and Offensive Hog Index (24th). Yet, they waited until their third pick to add an offensive weapon: WR Greg Little, one of a trio of UNC players who were drafted high despite the fact they were suspended all of last season. Risky pick.
Would have liked more resources dedicated to offensive line. Otherwise, potential to be a nice draft class. Grade: B
Click here to view the Browns' 2011 draft page
What I liked: In a big year for offensive lineman, the Cowboys picked up 20-year-old Tyron Smith, the highest-rated offensive tackle on most boards, with the No. 9 pick in Round 1. He's already talking about his Hall of Fame potential. Ah, the intoxicating elixir of the draft.
What I didn't like: The Cowboys fielded the worst defense in franchise history last year, surrendering 436 points. So what did they do? Doubled down on its prolific offense (29.1 PPG over eight weeks under Jason Garrett) while devoting just two of eight picks to defense. Very curious draft that appeared to ignore the team's most obvious needs.
It should have been a big day for defense. Instead, the Cowboys will likely take the field next year with a same old collection of big, but underachieving names on defense. Grade: D-
Click hereto view the Cowboys' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The Broncos gave up more points than any team in the NFL last year and capitalized on that in way the Cowboys should have: Aggressively grabbing defenders. It started with No. 2 pick, Von Miller, a pass-rush specialist OLB. It was a perfect needs-based selection: Denver was No. 29 last year on our Defensive Hog Index and dead-last league wide at pressuring the quarterback, forcing a Negative Pass Play on just 6.3 percent of dropbacks -- half the rate of the best pass-rush team in football last year, the Super Bowl champ packers (12.2%). Second-round pick Rahim Moore was the top-rated safety on most boards, and the Broncos landed him with the No. 45 pick. He could start right away.
What I didn't like: Liked it all.
John Elway's first draft has the potential to be a great one that addressed all the team's most glaring needs. Grade: A
Click here to view the Broncos' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The team addressed another building-block D-tackle first, landing a potential game-breaker in Nick Fairley, who posted incredible numbers in last year that surpassed those even of most pass-rushing specialists. Paired with 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh, a defense that was an embarrassment as recently as 2009 could be one of the NFL's most feared units in 2011. The Lions followed the Fairley pick with two potential game-breaking talents in Titus Young and Mikel LeShoure. A potentially great day for the Lions after a great season of statistical progress in 2010.
What I didn't like: The Lions had three of the first 57 picks, but just two more the rest of the way after mismanaging the process in previous years.
For the first time in years, if not decades, the future is bright in Detroit. Grade: A
Click here to view the Lions' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The Packers were a statistical juggernaut in 2010, finishing No. 1 across the board in our Quality Stats. But they did have one relative weakness, the 16th-ranked offensive line, and smartly addressed that need with their No. 1 pick, OT Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State. Green Bay appeared to nail its top 2010 pick in LT Bryan Bulaga. So if Sherrod pans out, the Packers have a pair of bookend tackles for years to come to protect Aaron Rodgers.
What I didn't like: The Packers have some free-agency vulnerabilities on the defensive front, namely in Cullen Jenkins, but did little to address the unit until the late rounds. But with the free agency situation so volatile leaguewide, it's unclear how any of this will ultimately play out.
The Packers quickly addressed their biggest need while adding 10 young draft picks to compete for spots on an already talented roster. Grade: A
Click here to view the Packers' 2011 draft page
What I liked: First five picks, five defenders. The Texans were a disaster on defense, surrendering 26.7 PPG (29th) and were especially bad on pass defense: Dead-last in Defensive Passer Rating. The average opponent produced a Tom Brady-esque 100.5 rating against Houston. Management attacked this terrible weakness aggressively.
What I didn't like: First five picks, five defenders. It says a lot about the Texans' institutional liabilities on defense that they've devoted so many high picks to defenders in recent years, yet still had to quintuple down on D again here in 2011. The list includes first-rounders Dunta Robinson (2004), Jason Babin (2004), Travis Johnson (2005), Mario Williams (2006), Amobi Okoye (2007), Brian Cushing (2009), Kareem Jackson (2010) and now J.J. Watt (2011). And don't forget second-rounder and 2006 Rookie of the Year DeMeco Ryans. The team is either choosing the wrong players, or failing to develop them properly.
Grade: A, based upon addressing needs ... and anF, based upon faith that they'll pan out.
Click hereto view the Texans' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The Colts obviously live and die on the arm of Peyton Manning -- or certainly believe they do (as evidenced by abandoning the ground game last year). So Indy doubled down in its effort to protect him with a pair of potential franchise tackles in Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana with the first two picks. The Colts can also help improve a weak ground attack that averaged just 3.77 YPA last year.
What I didn't like: Indy devoted just one draft pick to shoring up one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL, and waited until the third round to do so (Drake Nevis of LSU). The Colts defense last year was manhandled on the ground, surrendering 4.57 YPA (25th). But they were even worse at pressuring the passer, despite the presence of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Colts produced a negative pass play on just 7.1 percent of dropbacks. Only Denver was worse.
The Colts will be better on the OL in 2011, but it won't matter when the DL is getting gashed for 200 yards on the ground every other week. Grade: C
Click here to view the Colts' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Blaine Gabbert has the potential to emerge into the true franchise quarterback the team has always lacked. But I'm concerned that his numbers regressed badly in 2010 after a great sophomore year in 2009.
What I didn't like: Jacksonville management must have confused Gabbert with a shutdown corner. Otherwise, the 2011 draft was a complete failure to address the team's stunning statistical deficiencies. Jacksonville was a complete disaster on defense, and especially in pass defense, last year: No. 29 at pressuring the passer (7.3% negative pass plays), No. 30 in run defense (4.68 YPA), No. 31 in Defensive Passer Rating (98.5), and No. 32 in passing yards per attempt allowed (7.53 YPA adjusting for sacks, 8.29 YPA based just on attempts).
They responded to this need by drafting QB-OL-WR with their first three picks and then devoting their final two picks (fourth and fifth rounds) to second-tier DBs. The Jaguars could have drafted Johnny Unitas, John Hannah and Jerry Rice, but even those guys wouldn't win paired with that defense. Grade: F-(epic fail)
Click here to view the Jaguars' 2011 draft page
What I liked: I rarely suggest drafting wide receivers high, for reasons addressed in the Falcons and Bengals reports above. But Kansas City is one of the rare teams for which it was a good move. The Chiefs were statistically stout in most areas last year, save for the downfield passing game -- their weakest link, as we saw in the punchless playoff loss to Baltimore. So nabbing WR Jonathan Baldwin No. 1 was a good needs-based selection by a team that ranked just 23rd last year in average per pass attempt (5.85).
What I didn't like: Would have liked to have seen a more aggressive play for a pass rusher in the second round, instead of devoting the pick to offensive lineman Rodney Hudson. Kansas City was very good both running the ball and in pass protection last year. But they were below average in the same areas on defense.
Overall, good solid selections that largely addressed most of their needs. Grade: B+
Click here to view the Chiefs' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The first two picks went to versatile players who can address the anemic ground game of 2010 (they averaged just 3.7 yards per rush). No. 1 pick Mike Pouncey can play either guard or center, while No. 2 pick Daniel Thomas, a late second-rounder, is a two-way threat as a runner (19 TD last year for Kansas State) and a pass catcher (52 receptions in two years).
What I didn't like: The Dolphins did not add a single defender until the seventh round, and the two picks there were both small-school players: DT Frank Kearse (Alabama A&M) and DB Jimmy Wilson (Montana). Kearse, though, appears to have plenty of upside. Of course, "upside" is never in short supply this time of year.
Overall, Miami addressed its most pressing needs early. Grade: B+
Click hereto view the Dolphins' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round. He started as freshman at Notre Dame, has great size (6-6, 259), nice hands and good blocking skills. Paired with Visanthe Shiancoe, he gives the Vikings a potentially great tandem in 2011.
What I didn't like: Christian Ponder. The Vikings clearly need a "quarterback of the future" after the tragically failed Brett Favre experiment of the past two years. Just not sure Ponder is the answer. Look at the list of NCAA leaders in any major passing category last year. Call me when you reach Ponder. When the phone doesn't ring, I'll know it's you.
The Vikings struggled badly in pass protection last year, too, but didn't draft O-line until the sixth round. Grade: C-
Click here to view the Vikings' 2011 draft page
What I liked: No. 1 pick Nate Solder is a massive (6-8, 319) highly aggressive potential anchor for years to come at left tackle. The folks at Sport Science made him sound like a combination of Forrest Gregg, Killer Kowalski, Jesse Owens, Michael Jordan and Superman. The Patriots need the OL help, with much of last year's unit -- No. 1 on our Offensive Hog Index wire to wire -- likely on the way out before the 2011 season.
What I didn't like: The Patriots have been haunted by failures on pass defense every year since their last Super Bowl victory, and especially handicapped by the lack of an elite pass rusher. They simply ignored the problem in the draft. New England will not win a Super Bowl again until its mundane Defensive Passer Rating improves by 10 to 15 points. The top two teams in DPR last year? Green Bay No. 1; Pittsburgh No. 2.
Six of seven picks went to shore up an offense that led the NFL in scoring last year, while the struggling defense was largely ignored. Grade: C-
Click hereto view the Patriots' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Great first two days. Top pick Cameron Jordan, a pass-rush specialist defensive end, was a perfect needs pick for a team whose pass defense tumbled badly from its Super Bowl-winning form of 2009. Mark Ingram is a great first-round talent, as well.
What I didn't like: The Saints could have moved more aggressively to find a playmaking DB, before selecting Johnny Patrick in the third round. The team's two biggest problems in 2010 were big rise in INTs by Drew Brees (11 in 2009, 22 in 2010) and a big decline in INTs defensively (26 in 2009 to a league-worst nine in 2010). Obviously, they think Brees will return to form and are committed to him for the long term. But not sure Patrick is enough to bring the defense back to form. But perhaps the young DB, under the tutelage of a healthy Darren Sharper, could be a difference. Just don't know at this point.
Very good potential draft class. Grade: B+
Click here to view the Saints' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Top pick, CB Prince Amukamara, is a physical phenom with the chance to be this draft's top shutdown corner.
What I didn't like: The Giants were not particularly effective at getting the ball downfield in 2010, though that's probably always going to be the case as along as Eli Manning is the quarterback. Regardless , I'm concerned the best they did to help him was pint-sized slot receiver Jerrel Jernigan (5-9, 185). In a best-case scenario, Jernigan emerges into a Wes Welker-type possession receiver underneath. But that's an awful lot to expect. And I'm concerned by his very humble average of 9.8 yards per catch in 2010 (84 catches, 822 yards). He's not the player who's going to help a downfield attack.
Amukamara could single-handedly turn it into an A-caliber class. Grade: B-
Click hereto view the Giants' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Doubling down on defensive hogs and grabbing proven winner QB Greg McElroy with a late pick. Shaun Ellis may not be back in green in 2011, and Rex Ryan loves his defensive lineman. So he picked up two potential key contributors with his first two picks, first rounder Muhammad Wilkerson and third-rounder Kenrick Ellis. The Jets need the help, too: despite the team's improved record from 9-7 in 2009 to 11-5 in 2010, the performance of the defense had declined in key areas. McElroy, meanwhile, was a great leader, winner and clutch passer with Alabama who could prove a highly competent back-up QB.
What I didn't like: The Jets waited too long to grab a wide receiver (Jeremy Kerley in the fifth round) and Ellis has a long history of off-field issues. The team is committed to Mark Sanchez at quarterback, but he's still yet to prove an ability to get the ball downfield. With the team's veteran WR situation iffy, the Jets could have used help higher in the draft. Ellis, meanwhile, was kicked off the South Carolina football team in 2008 and now could be looking at a 20-year prison sentence after allegedly assaulting a man last year, while playing for Hampton University.
The Jets look like a better team today than they were Thursday morning. And, not to be glib or insensitive, enhance their reputation as tough guys in the old Raiders mold not afraid to take chances on bad eggs. Grade: B+
Click here to view the Jets' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The heavy investment in offensive line. The Raiders devoted their first pick (second rounder Stefen Wisniewski) and third pick (third-rounder Joseph Barksdale) to beefy blockers. They were good needs-based picks. Sure, the Raiders averaged a tremendous 4.96 YPA on the ground last year, second only to the Eagles. But they finished No. 19 on our Offensive Hog Index because they struggled in both pass protection and on third downs.
What I didn't like: The Raiders still don't have a franchise quarterback. The offense scored plenty of points in 2010 (25.6 PPG). But Jason Campbell still isn't a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback (59.0%, 13 TD, 8 INT, 84.5 rating in 2010). With a guy like Ryan Mallett, a first-round talent who tumbled to the third (New England), the Raiders could have created some competition at the position on the cheap.
First four picks went to OL and DB, addressing the team's two biggest statistical needs. Grade: B+
Click hereto view the Raiders' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The tag-team combo of Jaiquawn Jarrett (second round) and Curtis Marsh (third round) in the secondary. Philly struggled badly at time in the defensive backfield, as evidenced by the 31 touchdown passes allowed. Only Houston and Dallas, two of the league's most incompetent defenses, surrendered more TD passes (33 each). So the Eagles needed help in the secondary and got it in Jarrett, a run-stopping safety, and Marsh, an athletic cover corner.
What I didn't like: Expending a fourth-round pick on a kicker. Nebraska's Alex Henery was probably college football's best kicker in 2010 (first team All America). But it's an awfully high pick to use on a guy who may do nothing more than put pressure on the aging David Akers. Only one other kicker was drafted this year, the University of Miami's Matt Bosher, and Atlanta didn't grab him until late in the sixth round. Even worse: The Eagles still had seven more draft picks after grabbing Henery in the fourth round.
A kicker? In the fourth round? Grade: B-
Click hereto view the Eagles' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The obsession with linemen. The Steelers always seem to build in the trenches rather than chase flashy skill-position players. No coincidence the Steelers are the most successful organization of the Super Bowl Era. The 2011 draft was classic Steelers: DL No. 1 (first rounder Cam Heyward) then OL No. 2 (second rounder Marcus Gilbert). Four of seven picks were devoted to linemen -- before tossing their last pick at RB Baron Batch of Texas Tech in the seventh round. Remember, this a team that won two Super Bowls with undrafted free agent Willie Parker as its lead back.
What I didn't like: Nitpicking here: The Steelers should have invested in OL first, before DL. The team is a Defensive Hog juggernaut (No. 1 again last year on our Defensive Hog Index), but has struggled in recent years to field a decent offensive line. Pittsburgh finished the 2010 season No. 14 on our Offensive Hog Index, easily its lowest ranking in any of our Quality Stats.
Slow and steady draft class. Grade: B+
Click here to view the Steelers' 2011 draft page
What I liked: San Diego was a statistical juggernaut in 2010 that simply failed to make it count on the field. One problem? A lack of performers to make those critical game-changing plays on defense in big moments. So I like the fact they went heavy on potential defensive playmakers at all three levels with their first three picks: DT Corey Liuget, DB Marcus Gilchrist and LB Jonas Mouton. Will it pay off? History tell us no, the talented Chargers always play small when the moment is big.
What I didn't like: Norv Turner is still the guy the Chargers expect to turn these new draft picks into winners. San Diego has a long, inglorious history of underachievement, but it's reached new heights (or depths, as the case may be) under Turner, with each year a step back from the next. He reached the AFC title game his first year; got bounced in the divisional round in 2008; failed to win a single playoff game in 2009; then just missed the playoffs altogether in 2010, despite one of the NFL's most talented and statistically dominant teams. It was an incredible underachievement.
Not sure what direction San Diego will take with these picks. Grade: C
Click hereto view the Chargers' 2011 draft page
What I liked: Picking up QB Colin Kaepernick in the second round. He has incredible athletic talents and put up great numbers on the ground and in the air at Nevada. New head coach Jim Harbaugh, meanwhile, played quarterback in the NFL and has a proven track record now with Stanford's Andrew Luck of developing pro-style QB talent. More importantly, quarterback was the team's greatest statistical need in 2010. The Smiths, Alex and Troy, are clearly not the long-term answer at quarterback. Kaepernick could be a great value in the second round.
What I didn't like: The 49ers still need a lot of help on the offensive line. They ended the 2010 season No. 30 on our Offensive Hog Index and struggled especially protecting the passer. It's hard to groom quarterbacks in that kind of environment. Yet San Francisco waited until the fifth round to tab an offensive lineman, and then pulled Daniel Kilgore out of FCS school Appalachian State, most likely a backup at best in the NFL.
Grade: B- ... but it's a winning class if Kaepernick pans out.
Click hereto view the 49ers' 2011 draft page
What I liked: With so many problems to fix, the Seahawks focused on one and set about fixing it: The offensive line. Everybody remembers Marshawn Lynch's incredible touchdown run against New Orleans in the playoffs last year. But with the exception of that play, the Seattle ground game, and its OL, were disasters last year: No. 28 on our Offensive Hog Index and 30th running the ball (3.7 YPA). Top two picks James Carpenter (first round) and John Moffitt (third round) could help immediately.
What I didn't like: With so many problems to fix, the Seahawks ignored many of them, especially quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck has had a nice career, and he played incredibly well in the postseason last year (7 TD, 1 INT). But it was a tough year overall (12 TD, 17 INT), while the team ranked 27th in average per pass attempt and 29th in offensive passer rating. It's a statistical miracle the Seahawks reached the playoffs -- let alone won a postseason game -- given those flaws. Seattle still has no long-term solution at the position, and given all the problems last year, and the rise of a team like St. Louis, it's hard to see them bumbling into the playoffs again in 2011 without a first-rate QB.
The Seahawks did the best they could, given the many holes they have to fill. Grade: B
Click here to view the Seahawks' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The potentially devastating future of Steve Spagnuolo's defensive line. Remember, Spags rose to fame as defensive coordinator with the Giants, when the team's top-ranked Defensive Hogs sparked a shocking upset of the unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLI. He's building a similar unit in St. Louis. We chronicled the incredible rise of the Rams' Defensive Hogs under Spagnuolo before the draft: They were dead last on our Defensive Hog Index in 2009; they were No. 7 in 2010. But the coach isn't satisfied: He grabbed talented pass rusher Robert Quinn with the No. 14 overall pick, telling the football world he intends to win again with a dominant D-line.
What I didn't like: The offensive line is going to need some love sooner or later -- and they got none in the 2011 draft. The Rams averaged just 3.68 YPA on the ground last year -- only the Bengals ran less effectively. So St. Louis picked up a stud running back and road grader on the offensive line, right? Wrong. Not one player at either position.
The Rams might be dominant on defense, but Sam Bradford might still struggle to find a groove behind a pretty poor OL. Grade: B-
Click here to view the Rams' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The big needs-based draft, highlighted by potential game-breaker Da'Quan Bowers with a second-round selection. Look out, folks, Tampa is quietly building a very nice little team: Solid offensive line, good running game and a highly efficient rising-star quarterback. The greatest flaw was one of the worst defensive fronts in football: No. 30 on our Defensive Hog Index. GM Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris must have been looking at the same numbers we do, because their first three picks went to Defensive Hogs: DE Adrian Clayborn (first round), DE Bowers, a first talent (second round) and LB Mason Foster (third round). Expect an immediate upgrade on defense and expect Tampa to contend for the NFC South title.
What I didn't like: Not much to dislike, but if we're looking for a flaw: What's with drafting two tight ends when you already have Kellen Winslow under wraps as an obvious No. 1? Guess that's the luxury of being solid in so many areas and then addressing your biggest need early.
Bucs fans should be excited about the future. Grade: A
Click here to view the Buccaneers' 2011 draft page
What I liked: The team has put the Vince Young/Kerry Collins Era in the past (sort of). It was ugly at times, the talented but volatile Young trading playing time with the steady but aging Collins. The team needed to go in a new direction, and they did so with No. 1 pick Jake Locker. The big problem? The athletic Locker was terribly inaccurate by modern college football standards, and didn't seem to improve his accuracy during his years at Washington, even as coach Steve Sarkisian made a public effort to do so. Didn't we just see the Titans battle through the talented-but-inaccurate route with a previous quarterback?
What I didn't like: The failure to address the big problems on pass defense. Tennessee's weakest statistical link last year was stopping opposing quarterbacks: No. 21 in Defensive Passer Rating (86.4). Super Bowl champ Green Bay was No. 1 in DPR (67.2); AFC champ Pittsburgh was No. 2 (73.8) -- it's always important to be good in this indicator. The Titans failed to grab a DB until Tommie Campbell with a compensatory pick (No. 251 overall); while LB Akeem Ayers (second round) could be a nice pass rusher, he's not going to give the Titans a Super Bowl-caliber pass defense.
Still plenty of question marks and work to do. Grade: C
Click here to view the Titans' 2011 draft page
What I liked: For once, the Redskins seemed to go for substance over style, starting with DE Ryan Kerrigan (first round), arguably the most talented pass rusher in the 2011 draft. He led the nation with 26 tackles-for-loss and forced five fumbles. It was a great needs pick: The Redskins forced a negative pass play on just 7.1 percent of dropbacks last year (30th). They followed the Kerrigan pick with interior defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins in the second round.
What I didn't like: The Redskins still have plenty of holes to fill to compete in the tough NFC East. Even if Kerrigan and Jenkins pan out, it's a long road to recovery that's still a couple draft classes away.
Washington, like Seattle, might have done as much as it could with so many needs at hand. But they do have one potential gamebreaker in their pocket. Grade: B+
Click hereto view the Redskins' 2011 draft page
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