As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to judge a draft class before any of those players step foot onto and NFL field. It usually takes about three years before you can give a team a final grade on their draft. It is especially hard this year due to the lockout. Teams like Minnesota and Tennessee, who might have had their eyes on signing a veteran quarterback, couldn’t, which made them reach for a one in the draft. The pick may be a reach, but those teams didn’t really have any other choice. With that said, here are my winners from the 2011 NFL draft!
I absolutely love what the Lions have done the past two years. They are the most up-and-coming team in the NFL. They nailed every pick they had this year and I give them and A+ across the board. I would have liked to see them address the offensive line earlier than round seven, but when you add Nick Fairley, Titus Young, and Mikel Leshoure with your first three picks, no Lions fan can be upset, especially since they can still address the o-line in free agency. Stafford, Best, Leshoure, Johnson, Young, and Pettigrew might be one of the most exciting offenses to watch in the upcoming years. Suh and Fairley can dominate games on the defensive side of the ball, and I feel Detroit is one solid corner away from making a run at a division title. Again, I love where this team is going.
For a team that desperately needed help on the defensive side of the ball, the Texans adressed every need. With Wade Phillips bringing in the 3-4 scheme to Houston, they obviously needed players to fit the scheme. Enter J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed. These were two of my favorite prospects in this draft class, and fit exactly what the Texans needed in their front seven. The addition of corners Brandon Harris and Rashad Carmichael, and safety Shiloh Keo will help improve the worst secondary in all of football. With their offense already set, this draft class could make the Texans a very good football team in the up coming years.
New York Giants
This may be the hardest draft for me to praise as the Giants sicken me, however, I must give credit where credit is due. The Giants nailed every pick. How Amukamara fell to pick 19 is beyond me and the same could be said for Marvin Austin falling to pick 52 and Greg Jones (who I once mocked in the first round!!) falling to pick 185! The Giants could have the most impactful rookie class we’ve seen in a long time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year the Bucs spent back-to-back picks on defensive tackles, this year they doubled dipped at defensive end taking Adrain Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers in rounds one and two. Pair that with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and, wow, that d-line is going to be a force to be reckoned with in a few years. The Bucs didn’t address the corner position early, which makes me think they’re having second thoughts about releasing Talib. This is another young teams heading in the right direction. Big ups to Raheem Morris for turning this team around in a hurry.
Taking Von Miller over Marcell Darues was a bit shocking to me, ever though all the experts mocked it, but it’s hard to argue as a lot of people had Miller as the number one defensive player in the draft. Adding Miller and Nate Irving shore up their line backing corps. Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter are going to be very solid safeties. They also added Virgil Green and Jeremy Beal in round seven, which are steals that late in the draft. You can clearly tell that Josh McDaniels is no longer in charge on this team.
St. Louis Rams
Julio Jones didn’t fall into the laps of the Rams, but I think they’re OK with that they way things played out. They landed Robert Quinn with their first round pick as Quinn fell all the way to pick 14. Quinn is easily a top ten talent, but after missing the entire 2010 season he fell to the middle of round one. They also added three new toys for Sam Bradford. Tight end Lance Kendricks and receiver Austin Pettis were slight reaches, but the Rams need weapons for Bradford, so the picks were justified in that regard. Greg Salas doesn’t have ideal size or speed for a receiver, but his hands are good enough to make him a solid number three or four receiver on the Rams.
Yes, Ryan Mallet. Who better than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to teach this kid how to become a pro, on and off the field? Mallet has fallen into the perfect situation, a la Aaron Rodgers.