Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions made significant strides in 2011, but have failed to make the necessary steps to build upon their playoff run. This draft class was an opportunity fill some holes, especially on defense, but GM Martin Mayhew failed to land any impact players on the defensive side of the ball.

Riley Reiff could have been a justifiable 1st-round pick if he filled an immediate need, but Lions don’t  have an immediate hole to fill on the offensive line. Jeff Backus may not have much time left in Detroit, however, so they could view Reiff as the future at left tackle. Unfortunately, Reiff does not project as an impact player on the left side, and would be better suited as a right tackle, where Gosder Cherilus appears to be entrenched.

Ryan Broyles is an intriguing prospect, but the 2nd round was far too early for an undersized receiver coming off a significant injury. This was the type of selection Lions fans thought they were free of when Matt Millen left the organization.

Dwight Bentley was also a reach in the 3rd round. He has some developmental value, but the Lions really needed to add an impact cornerback. Jayron Hosley and Brandon Boykin were both still on the board and are far more NFL ready than Bentley.

Ronnell Lewis has a chance to be a steal in the 4th round, but Lions will need to find the right place for him. In the 4-3 defense he could play end or strong-side linebacker.

Tahir Whitehead is a nice developmental prospect and was a solid value pick in the 5th round. He’ll likely compete for the backup role at strong-side linebacker.

Chris Greenwood was one of the Lions better selections. He’s raw and the level of competition is a definite concern, but his upside is undeniable. He may not provide much immediate help, but was well worth a flier in the 5th round.

Jonte Greene will compete with Bentley and Greenwood for playing time, but the Lions secondary is getting crowded. It’s unlikely that all three will be able to make the final roster cuts.

Travis Lewis is a great 7th-round pick. His upside is limited due to marginal athleticism, but he was a productive linebacker at Oklahoma and should be able to contribute as a backup and on special teams. He’ll likely compete with Doug Houge for the backup weak-side linebacker job.

The Lions failed to land any immediate help from this draft class, and the long-term value appears to be minimal as well. Reiff will likely earn a starting role eventually, but he is the only player from this class who realistically should be viewed as a long-term starter. This was a blown opportunity for the Lions.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Lions Leave a comment

Draft Grades: Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears addressed their most glaring need by trading for Brandon Marshall earlier this offseason, but continued an aggressive approach during the draft. They made some bold moves in an effort to catch the Packers and keep pace with the Lions. But if they don’t pan out, it could prove to be a rough start to GM Phil Emery’s career.

I jumped aboard the Shea McClellin bandwagon this offseason, but he’s not a top 20 talent and I’m not sure how he fits in Chicago. McClellin excelled in 2011 based on his performance in a hybrid end/linebacker role at Boise State. In Chicago, however, he’ll likely revert back to playing the traditional 4-3 end role. When playing with his hand on the ground, McClellin looked simply ordinary, so I’m not sure what the Bears thought they saw. He would  have been better off landing in a 3-4 defense.

Alshon Jeffery was worth a 2nd-round pick, but I’m not sure he had value here for the Bears. Their receiving corps is suddenly crowded and it’s tough to imagine him playing a significant role as long as Brandon Marshall is ahead of him on the depth chart. He does have some developmental value, but if they’re trying to win now, there were other impact players on the board.

Brandon Hardin was a definite reach in the 3rd round. He’ll compete for playing time at strong safety, but will need to beat out Major Wright and Craig Steltz.

Evan Rodriguez was also a reach. He’ll likely shift to fullback, and it’s tough to justify filling that need as early as the 4th round.

Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy will compete for a job in the Bears secondary, but it’s fairly crowded back there. The top four corners are essentially set in stone, leaving Frey and McCoy to compete for one roster spot. It’s tough to imagine both players surviving the final cuts in training camp.

The Bears potentially added two starters in this draft class, but both McClellin and Jeffery are big risks. Neither players put together a consistent collegiate career, which raises some concern. Emery’s approach to this draft felt like a desperate attempt to make a splash. It may pay off down the road, but he did very little to help them in the immediate future. Overall, this was a very average haul for the Bears.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Draft Grades - 2012 Leave a comment

Draft Grades: New York Jets

The New York Jets are making some bold moves this offseason, and it carried over to the draft. The rolled the dice early and often with this draft class, and it could pay of big way… or it could cost Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan their jobs.

Quinton Coples was a bold choice in the 1st round, especially considering some of the impact players still on the board. While Coples has a ton of potential, he’s had trouble staying motivated on the field which raises some big red flags. And when players have effort issues in college, it doesn’t usually improve once they’re collecting an NFL paycheck.

I like the selection of Stephen Hill in the 2nd round, but he’s not going to provide much help early on. He’ll serve as a deep threat early in his career, and could develop into a No. 1 receiver down the road, but will Tannenbaum and Ryan be around to reap those benefits?

Demario Davis was a reach in the 3rd round and didn’t fill a position of need. He’ll backup David Harris and Bart Scott at inside linebacker and play on special teams.

Josh Bush will compete for the the right to back up LaRon Landry at strong safety and provide some help in special teams coverage.

Terrance Ganaway will compete for a backup job at running back, but I don’t like his chance of winning a job. Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight should be solidly ahead of him on the depth chart.

Robert Griffin is a massive interior lineman who will compete for a backup job. He needs to stay in better shape, but he has the potential to develop into late-round steal.

I love the selection of Antonio Allen. He may never develop into a starter, but he’ll be an immediate impact player on special teams. I actually like Allen significantly more than Josh Bush.

Jordan White has some injury issues which led to his fall in the draft, but he has the potential to be a steal if he can stay on the field. He was extremely productive at Western Michigan and could develop into a decent slot receiver at the next level.

The Jets clearly gambled early in this class and were thinking about the future more than 2012. It’s a risky strategy, but there’s no denying the fact that they added two of the most talented players in the draft in the 1st and 2nd round. However, they didn’t add anyone who projects as a future starter in the 3rd round or later. The lack of depth from this class, coupled with the early-round risks makes it tough to give them a high grade.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Jets 1 Comment

Draft Grades: New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are always a tough team to predict in the draft, and Bill Belichick proved why once again. Belichick builds his own draft board and sticks to it, regardless of how it matches up with the consensus opinion.

I was somewhat surprised by the trade up for Chander Jones, but I like the pick. He’s a perfect fit at end/linebacker in the Patriots hybrid defense. And while he’s still developing, Jones has the potential to be a true three-down lineman.

The selection of Dont’a Hightower felt like a slight reach in my opinion, and it’s tough to figure out how he’ll fit in the Patriots defense. That said, Belichick stacks his draft board with players whom he sees a specific role for in his defense, so I have no doubt that they have a plan for him.

While I’m willing to give Belichick the benefit of the doubt with Hightower, I can’t be so generous with the selection of Tavon Wilson. He’ll provide some much needed depth in the secondary but it’s tough to imagine him ever developing into a starter. Belichick does not have a strong track record drafting defensive backs, and this is just the latest slip up.

Jake Bequette was a great 3rd-round pick. He’ll have a chance to compete for a starting job, and should be used as part of the rotation at defensive end. He’s not an explosive pass rusher, but should be an asset on running downs.

Nate Ebner was the biggest 6th-round reach I’ve ever seen. He’s a former rugby player who was exclusively a special teams contributor at Ohio State. His measurables are impressive, but it’s tough to justify spending a 6th-round pick and a roster spot on a guy with so much development needed.

Alfonzo Dennard was overrated and his recent arrest led to his fall, but he was well worth the risk in the 7th round. However, it’s difficult to understand why the Patriots waited until the 7th round to address their need for a cornerback. Depth at the position was serious issue last year and relying on Dennard to fix the problem is a risk.

Jeremy Ebert will be Belichick’s latest project at receiver. He was productive at Northwestern and has the skill set necessary to contribute in the Welker/Edleman role. However, it’s getting crowded at the receiver position in New England and he’ll have a tough time making the final roster cuts.

Overall, this was just a so-so draft for the Patriots. They made some significant upgrades to their defensive front-seven, but the secondary was essentially ignored. It’s tough to imagine Wilson, Ebner or Dennard providing any meaningful contributions this season, which could mean their passing defense struggles from last season will carry over to 2012.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Patriots Leave a comment

Draft Grades: Miami Dolphins

When you draft a quarterback in the 1st round, you’re staking your entire reputation on that one player, which is exactly what Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland did with Ryan Tannehill. No matter what happens with the rest of this draft class, only Tannehill’s performance will be remembered.

I’ve been saying all year that Ryan Tannehill is not a 1st-round talent. I gave him a 3rd-round grade based on the fact that he has the raw skills to start in the NFL, but needs a considerable amount of development before he’s ready. And based on that assessment, I don’t like his chances to succeed in Miami. He’s the type of quarterback that needs to sit and learn, and he won’t have that luxury. The Dolphins are probably going to throw him into the fire, and that rarely works out well for developmental prospects.

Jonathan Martin was extremely overrated throughout the draft process, but he’s a solid 2nd-round pick for the Dolphins. He’ll be plugged in a right tackle where he should be an adequate starter.

Olivier Vernon is a run-stuffing lineman and I’m not sure how he fits in Miami’s 3-4 defense. He may be too small to play end but isn’t athletic enough to play linebacker.

Michael Egnew was a nice pickup in the 3rd round. He’s essentially an oversized receiver, and won’t be a three-down tight end. But they needed to add a pass-catching tight end, and he’ll be a nice compliment to Anthony Fasano, who’s more of a traditional tight end.

Lamar Miller could prove to be a steal in the 4th round, but the running back depth chart in Miami is crowded. He’ll have to fight for playing time behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.

Josh Kaddu adds depth at linebacker and should contribute on special teams. He’ll likely play inside linebacker in their 3-4 defense.

B.J. Cunningham is a solid possession receiver who could be a late-round steal. He’s a strong route runner with good hands and has the skills to play immediately. However, he’s similar to some other receivers on the Dolphins roster, such as Davone Bess, which may hurt his chances of seeing any significant playing time as a rookie.

Kheeston Randall is a steal in the 7th round. He’s a tough, hard-working player who fits perfectly at end in the Dolphins 3-4 defense. He may only be a career backup, but in the 7th round he’s well worth the selection.

Richard Matthews will have a tough time making the Dolphins final roster cuts. He’ll find a job somewhere, but the depth chart is crowded at receiver in Miami.

The Dolphins made some nice picks in this draft, but it’s impossible to overlook the gamble on Tannehill. This franchise is headed in the wrong direction, and they don’t appear to have the decision makers in place to turn things around.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Dolphins, Draft Grades - 2012 Leave a comment