April 30, 2011

The book is closed on the 2011 NFL Draft as 254 players were selected over the seven rounds. As is the case every year, there were some head-scratching moments as highly-rated prospects slipped through the cracks while several were selected much earlier than their talents warranted. Here's a look at the steals and reaches:

Cameron Jordan/DL/New Orleans/No. 24: NFL teams went to extremes to downgrade Jordan, yet he was nothing but dominant on the college level. New Orleans comes away with the steal of the draft as Jordan should immediately produce as a rookie.

Prince Amukamara/CB/NY Giants/No. 19: Critics went out of their way to manufacture holes in Amukamara's game that were nonexistent. Many claimed he lacked elite speed and could not cover fast receivers yet at the combine Amukamara timed 4.3 in the forty. He will be an immediate starter for the Giants.

Nick Fairley/DL/Detroit/No. 13: Fairley was considered a potential top three choice just a month ago but a shoulder injury and character questions suppressed his draft grade. Fairley did nothing but produce on the field in 2010 and he'll be a terrific addition for the Lions blossoming defense.

Cameron Heyward/DL/Pittsburgh/No. 31: Heyward was never a flashy player on the college level rather just a steady lineman that did the little things well. He's a great fit for the Steelers and was a bargain late in round one.

Randall Cobb/WR/Green Bay/Round 2/No. 64: Cobb was rated as a late first round pick on a number of boards yet his lack of pure speed ended up pushing him deep into the second round. He'll produce for the Packers at receiver, punt returner and can run the occasional reverse.

Leonard Hankerson/WR/Washington/Round 3/No. 79: Hankerson's inconsistency and untimely drops pushed him into the third round, yet he possesses the physical skills to be a productive second wide out on the NFL level. He will immediately help the receiver needy Redskins.

Allen Bailey/DL/Round 3/Kansas City/No. 86: Character concerns and a senior year that did not meet expectations knocked Bailey out of the first round, but his drop into the third round is without justification. He'll be a terrific fit as a two-gap end in the Chiefs' defense and could eventually move in with the first team.

Sam Acho/DE-OLB/Arizona/Round 4/No. 103: Acho was a productive defensive end in college and turned in several good workouts before the draft. He'll need some time to adjust to outside linebacker in the Cardinals' 3-4 alignment, but offers the franchise a future starter at the position.

Roy Helu/RB/Washington/Round 4/No. 105: Helu was the second skill player the Redskins chose in round four. He's a triple threat running back who will compete for the starting position.

Christian Ballard/DL/Minnesota/Round 4/No. 106: Off-the-field red flags and on-the-field intensity concerns pushed Ballard into the draft's third day. When he's running on all cylinders, Ballard is a defensive lineman with the ability to impact the game in a number of schemes.

Kendall Hunter/RB/San Francisco/Round 4/No. 115: Hunter was downgraded as he lacks classic NFL size, yet his game is comparable in many ways to Pro Bowl player Leon Washington. Coincidentally, Washington was also a fourth-round selection.

Chris Carter/OLB/Pittsburgh/Round 5/No. 162: Pittsburgh always finds a way to harvest good pass rushers and Carter happened to be top-100 talent. He offers the style and substance to play in the Steelers system and is a player that can produce as a rookie.

Jerrell Powe/DT/Kansas City/Round 6/No. 199: Powe had a litany off the field issues as well as character questions which pushed him deep into the draft yet the big-bodied lineman has starting potential. The Chiefs may have found their future nose tackle.

Chris Neild/NT/Washington/Round 7/No. 253: The fact Neild was the second-to-last player selected is mind-blowing. He's a 320-pound slugger who brings his lunch pail to work every day and is a prospect coaches will love. Don't be surprised if he's starting by the end of his rookie season.

Jake Locker/QB/Tennessee/No. 8: Since his poor performance at the Senior Bowl, Locker's draft stock has been on the upswing. Yet this was much too early for a quarterback who still has numerous questions surrounding his accuracy and signal-caller skills.

Christian Ponder/QB/Minnesota/No. 12: Ponder is a solid quarterback when he's healthy, but has struggled to stay on the field the past two years. Considering the available talent on the board at positions such as defensive line, this was a panic choice by the Vikings.

Shane Vereen/RB/New England/Round 2/No. 56: Vereen is a solid ballcarrier, yet has no outstanding single skill. If the Patriots were looking for a situational running back, there were several higher-rated players available at this selection.

Jonas Mouton/LB/San Diego/Round 2/No. 61: Mouton was a solid linebacker at Michigan, but scouts questioned his instincts and were concerned about his 4.8 forty time at the combine. Many also think he's better suited to play in a 4-3 alignment versus the 3-4 employed by the Chargers.

Akeem Dent/LB/Atlanta/Round 3/No. 91: Dent will be a hometown favorite after playing his college ball at Georgia, yet he's a slow, two-down run defender who would have been available late in the draft.

Chris Prosinski/S/Jacksonville/Round 4/No. 121: Prosinski was a tough, run-defending safety in college, yet he's too one-dimensional for the NFL and his next level skills are reminiscent of a free agent.

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