Skip to main content

Non-grading the draft: Thoughts on every team's weekend haul of picks


Giving a draft grade for each team the day after the draft is a fruitless exercise. It takes a minimum of three years before a draft can be revisited and evaluated to determine how productive a team was with its selections. With that caveat, here's my reaction to every team's picks, grouped in categories as opposed to the standard letter grade.

Baltimore Ravens: The Wizard of Oz, GM Ozzie Newsome, does it again by entering the draft with no glaring needs and getting tremendous value at every selection. Mississippi tackle Michael Oher has all the physical tools to be a good starter in the NFL and they got him relatively late in the first round while Utah's Paul Kruger (an all-day sucker, which is football terminology for playing hard every snap) will quickly fit in on the Ravens' intimidating defense. The rest of Newsome's haul will provide depth and help on special teams.

Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis is tired of trying to play finesse football in the black and blue division. Instead of running from the bullies in the schoolyard in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Bengals are going to hit them in the mouth with Alabama tackle Andre Smith and USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. Smith is the best run-blocking offensive lineman by far and Maualuga is a vicious tackler, so they will both fit in well in the AFC North. Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson and Missouri tight end Chase Coffman could be steals. Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs may start as a rookie.

Philadelphia Eagles: They got arguably the best receiver in the draft, Jeremy Maclin, at No. 19 and the most elusive and pure runner, LeSean McCoy, at No. 53. The Eagles also got another receiving threat in sleeper tight end Cornelius Ingram from Florida. Oh, and did I mention they got the most talented left tackle in the league in Jason Peters via trade and a guy nicknamed "Macho"(Victor Harris)? You gotta love it.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers got the best defensive tackle in the draft in B.J. Raji, who is stout enough to play nose guard and athletic enough to line up over the offensive tackle in Dom Capers' new defense. Speaking of positional versatility, the Packers also got the best combo pass rusher-pass defender available at the outside backer position in Clay Matthews. Eastern Michigan's T.J. Lang and South Carolina's Jamon Meredith will provide further competition to an offensive line that took a step back last year.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys traded down and drafted a bunch of players who won't even make their roster. What is the point of that? Out of their 12 picks, maybe two of them will contribute in 2009. Not good.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs traded up two spots for Josh Freeman, but who else wanted him? I highly doubt Denver would have taken him at 18. The Bucs probably could have traded down and still landed him. Freeman will take at least a year or two to develop, so new head coach Raheem Morris had better have some job security for a team that is in full-blown rebuilding mode. The Bucs still need a defensive tackle, though I am sure they hope Roy Miller from Texas can fill that role.

Miami Dolphins: Bill Parcells likes big people at every position and believes might makes right in the NFL. He got the biggest corner in the draft in Utah's Sean Smith and just about the biggest wideout in USC's Patrick Turner. Those picks came after the Dolphins got the most talented cornerback available in the draft in Illinois' Vontae Davis, who needs to overcome maturity issues. The Dolphins also got the ideal Wildcat candidate in West Virginia's Pat White and a solid but not spectacular receiver in Ohio State's Brian Hartline.

Houston Texans: The Texans needed to get better and more versatile on the defensive side of the ball and USC's Brian Cushing and Cincinnati's Connor Barwin certainly fill the bill as almost mirror image players that can do a lot of things flanking DeMeco Ryans. Alabama interior lineman Antoine Caldwell was a value pick and provides depth which was needed up front. Local product James Casey drives down the street from Rice to start his pro career and can play a number of positions for the dynamic Texans offense.

Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin will make a ton of plays for the Vikings as long as he can stay on the field. Phil Loadholt is the big hammer the Vikes wanted to get at right tackle. Asher Allen from Georgia is the corner they sorely needed.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers give up next year's first rounder for the second year in a row, but it doesn't matter because they got the pass-rusher they desperately needed opposite Julius Peppers in Everette Brown, a guy who many people thought could have gone in the top 15. Georgia defensive tackle Corvey Irvin will contribute in the rotation as a rookie. Oklahoma offensive guard Duke Robinson is a big boy who needs to play with better technique and consistency. Sounds a lot like Jeff Otah last year, and that worked out pretty well for John Fox and company.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints got the best player at their biggest position of need over the past couple of years in Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. They would have liked to have gotten an outside linebacker or a power running back, but they would rather have Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma, the players they traded for the picks.

Oakland Raiders: I would pay money to get a copy of the Raiders draft board. Seriously. First-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey is fast but has trouble catching the ball at times, which is kind of a problem when you are trying to make your living as an NFL receiver. Mike Mitchell had a good pro day, which, of course, makes him a second-round pick. Then the Raiders reached (what else is new) for Wisconsin defensive end Matt Shaughnessy. Sorry, Raiders fans, but it does not look like there is any light at the end of the black tunnel.

New York Jets: Everyone else loves what the Jets did. Not me. It is hard for me to imagine USC quarterback Mark Sanchez being better as a rookie than fourth-year vet Kellen Clemens. The move had as much to do with sparking excitement among the fanbase and making a big splash as it did with football. The pressure on Sanchez will be huge for a team whose roster is ready to win now. Drafting only three players means the team is looking to get into the postseason. Having one of them be a quarterback makes that unlikely, despite what Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan did last year. Moving up to get Iowa running back Shonn Greene gives the Jets some insurance in case Thomas Jones continues to hold out, but where is the receiver that they so desperately need opposite Jerricho Cotchery?

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks elected to pass on a quarterback and a left tackle in order to take the best defensive player and quite possibly the best overall player in the draft in Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. He will be a difference maker immediately. Versatile offensive lineman Max Unger from Oregon and former walk-on turned all-time leading receiver Deon Butler from Penn State should have roles to fill as well for new head coach Jim Mora.

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends

Chicago Bears: If quarterback Jay Cutler lives up to expectations, the rest of this draft is meaningless for Chicago. Still, Jerry Angelo gathered up several solid players that will help the Bears in 2009. San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbertcan jump out of a pool -- even though I have no idea what that means in terms of football. Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman and Vanderbilt defensive back D.J. Moore are solid players from power conferences who could see the field early. The Bears still need a receiver who can help them this year.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills batted .500 in this draft, which is good in baseball but bad in football. They needed a pass rusher and a left tackle in this draft but got only one by taking the player with the best first step in this year's class, Penn State's Aaron Maybin. Maybin will be a situational pass rusher as a rookie and give Buffalo an option opposite Aaron Schobel. Louisville's Eric Wood and Oregon State's Andy Levitre were two of the top rated interior offensive linemen available and can help fortify the inside, but it remains to be seen whether veterans Kirk Chambers, Langston Walker and Demetrius Bell can protect Trent Edwards on the flanks in some combination. Southern Mississippi tight end Shawn Nelson gives them the speed threat at tight end they were sorely lacking.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Jack Del Rio was tired of drafting guys who didn't pan out. That, and he wanted to get back to his meat and potatoes philosophy. That meant getting more physical up front. The Jags got amazing value in picking offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton much lower than most people anticipated. Terrance Knighton is the big body that was needed next to John Henderson, and Jacksonville waited until later to get receivers like Mike Thomas and Jarrett Dillard after their negative experiences with Matt Jones and Reggie Williams early in previous drafts.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos defense was horrible last year, so, of course, their first pick would be a ... running back? Fortunately for Josh McDaniels, they rallied with the next two picks of Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith, both of whom will play as rookies. Then the Broncos took Texas Tech defensive back Darcel McBath and North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn way earlier than most people would have anticipated, so it was back to the head-scratching for the new regime.

New York Giants: The G-men got a lot of value in players like Virginia's Clint Sintim and UConn's William Beatty, but if they lose in the playoffs again because Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden aren't able to contribute as rookies this will be a draft that is forever known as the trade that didn't happen. You can't tell me Nicks and Barden will be better than Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards the next two years. By the time the rookies develop, the window on the Giants' title hopes might be closed.

Detroit Lions: This draft will always hinge on whether Matthew Stafford earns the exorbitant money he is receiving. To his credit, he has handled the process fantastically up to this point. Now he just needs to play well. Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew and Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas are the most physical players at their position and fit what Jim Schwartz is trying to do in the Motor City.

New England Patriots: I feel like I have seen this draft before because it seems eerily similar to what the Patriots did last year, and every other year that I can remember for that matter. They fortified the back end with Oregon's Patrick Chung and UConn's Darius Butler. They continued to draft for depth and competition on the offensive line by collecting a bunch of blue collar-types in Houston's Sebastian Vollmer, Penn State's Rich Ohrnberger and Louisville's George Bussey. Boston College's Ron Brace was the best pure nose guard available and North Carolina receiver Brandon Tate could end up being a steal if he can overcome injury and off-field issues.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The fans in the Steel City like 'em strong and tough and that is exactly what they got with their first two picks in Missouri defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and Wisconsin guard Kraig Urbik. They needed some depth up front and they got that in Hood and Urbik. The Steelers also landed the fastest wide receiver in the draft, Mississippi's Mike Wallace. Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett will compete for the nickel spot and fill the void left by Bryant McFadden's departure to Arizona.

Indianapolis Colts: Bill Polian really can't help himself when it comes to getting talented skill players in round one, but he got a prototypical Colt in intelligent do-it-all running back Donald Brown from UConn. Polian then addressed their most glaring need by getting big space eaters in USC defensive tackle Fili Moala and Michigan nose guard Terrance Taylor. BYU wide receiver Austin Collie has Colt written all over him and could be running routes from the slot as a rookie if he can grasp the complicated scheme that Indy runs.

Tennessee Titans: Wide receiver Kenny Britt and tight end Jared Cook give the Titans more speed and options for Kerry Collins on the outside. The Titans got another young body on the defensive line in Sen'Derrick Marks, who they will need to get to play hard on every snap. Javon Ringer, Troy Kopog and the rest of the Titans picks will be counted on to provide depth on a team disappointed by its early playoff exit.

Atlanta Falcons: Thomas Dimitroff knows exactly what he is doing. He traded for Tony Gonzalez and filled the only real need on offense before sinking his teeth into the other side of the ball. Peria Jerry is a rolling bucket of butcher knives and plays his tail off every play, which fits what Mike Smith and the Falcons are trying to do. William Moore injects some youth and physicality into the secondary, and look out for sleeper defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, who dominated at the FCS level for the Richmond Spiders.

Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt had a solid draft again, getting power running back Chris "Beanie" Wells from Ohio State in the first round. Cody Brown from Connecticut fits the mold of the Steelers outside linebackers that Whisenhunt remembers from his time in Pittsburgh. Rashad Johnson from Alabama and small-school prospect Gregory Toler will fight for playing time in the secondary as rookie.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams let the draft come to them and it worked out well as they filled three needs in the first three rounds. Baylor tackle Jason Smith was number one at his position on most boards because he is a more physical finisher than Eugene Monroe. James Laurinaitis was a three-time All-American at Ohio State and noted student of the game. He'll be a team leader in the NFL. Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher had the size-speed combo that Rams GM Billy Devaney was looking for at that position.

Cleveland Browns: Eric Mangini and George Kokinis did a ton of business in stockpiling players that fit what they are looking to do in Cleveland, starting by trading down and getting a trio of former Jets. Georgia's Mohammed Massaquoi and Ohio State's Brian Robiskie are the anti-divas at wide receiver who could both become solid pros. Cal center Alex Mack was the best interior lineman in the draft, and his passion for the game will wear off on his fellow linemates.

Washington Redskins: The Skins swung and missed on Mark Sanchez, but that may be a blessing in disguise. Brian Orakpo looks like Tarzan but too often plays like Jane, and Washington defensive coordinator Greg Blache will be all over him in order to get maximum effort. Maryland corner Kevin Barnes should help too, but I certainly hope they don't picture former top-five pick Mike Williams being the answer at right tackle after signing him Friday night.

San Diego Chargers: It is hard to question A.J. Smith when it comes to outside linebackers, so I won't with his decision to take the super-productive Larry English from Northern Illinois. Texas Tech's Louis Vasquez is a mauler who benched 225 pounds 39 times at the combine and will compete for the starting right guard spot vacated when Mike Goff was not re-signed. Sleeper alert is in effect with defensive tackle Vaughn Martin from Canadian powerhouse Western Ontario.

Kansas City Chiefs: New Chiefs GM Scott Pioli cares only about good football players, thank you, and doesn't care if they lack the flash that some fans might be seeking. Tyson Jackson is a big defensive end with great hands in the Richard Seymour mold and will be a force right away and will be joined on the defensive line by Purdue's Alex Magee. Donald Washington probably should have stayed at Ohio State but his physical ability is unquestioned and he will compete in an already youthful Chiefs defensive backfield.

San Francisco 49ers: Mike Singletary had to be smiling from ear to ear when Michael Crabtree fell into his lap at No. 10, giving the Niners the elite playmaker they have been seeking for a long time. Alabama running back Glen Coffee will lessen the load for Frank Gore as they run behind the second-best blocking tight end in the draft in Fresno State's Bear Pascoe. Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop is a throwback who makes tackles all over the field. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis gives San Francisco a physically gifted quarterback who has some obstacles to overcome to become an NFL caliber passer.