Which teams got the best value out of there picks? Who improved the most? Who wasted their opportunity to improve?What is the difference between drafting smart and overvaluing a player and reaching? We won't know those answers for sure for at least three years, that's how long it takes to fully evaluate a draft, but we can evaluate draft quality and value based off of team needs and players rankings.
It's easy to get excited when your team trades up for some really well known, seemingly highly talented player, but giving up future draft picks and mortgaging your future rarely pays off in the long run. Many times the team overpays for a player they could have had half a round or even a full round later. If you are not a team just a couple of players away from the superbowl, it's better to build your team with patience. I am talking to you Jacksonville and Carolina. The Jags traded away a lot of picks to move way up and reach for DE Derrick Harvey and the Panthers gave up next years first round draft pick to the Eagles to get OT Jeff Otah.
Below I have listed this years draft winners and losers and my grades for each team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
John Gruden must have some secret knowledge no other NFL coach has. He came into this years draft and found himself a list of steals. Gruden said he wanted to add playmakers to his team and with following picks he definitely did so. In the first round Tampa took Corner Aqib Talib from Kansas. Talib is easily one of the top five corners in this years draft and fits perfectly in the tampa two scheme. Second Round pick Dexter Jackson was a slight reach based on his projection but for a player who could very easily be the next Devin Hester with better hands it was well worth it. Jackson runs a 4.3 forty yard dash and has surprisingly good hands. His size may limit him in the NFL at 5'10" 182 pounds but he will at least be very dangerous from the slot and a threat to take kicks and punts all the way. In the third Gruden picked Rutgers offensive guard Jeremy Zuttah. A four year starter at Rutgers Zuttah is very technically sound blocking and could be a good starter in a couple of years. Dre Moore from Maryland went to Tampa in the fourth adding depth on the defensive line. In the fifth round Gruden got his quarterback of the future Josh Johnson. Gruden had been scouting Johnson for some time and was very high on him. Josh is the biggest steal of this years draft. He is a very smart quarterback with a good arm and incredible athletic ability. He could be the new starter within the next two years. Sixth round pick Geno Hayes from Florida State could a very good special teams player and backup. Running Back Cory Boyd from South Carolina Gruden's final pick has the quickness and balance to be a potential starter and a complete steal.In only seven picks Tampa likely added at least three starters you can't really ask for more from one draft.
Draft Grade A+
We all know how high powered the offense is in Cincinnati, but we also know how thin their linebacker corps and defensive line are. Cinci came into this years draft looking for playmakers to help their struggling defense. Their First pick (number nine overall) was linebacker Keith Rivers. Rivers is an extremely gifted athlete with a nose for the football. He seems to always be around the play and helping make big plays happen for the defense. He will definitely help the Bengals pass rush and run defense improve. Second round pick Jerome Simpson has all the tools to a great wide receiver. With Chad Johnson throwing fits and asking to be traded the Bengals had no choice but to look for insurance in the event he was to hold out or leave. Simpson doesn’t have blazing speed but he has great hands and good size and will fight for every jump ball. Third round pick Pat Sims adds much needed talent to cinci's defensive line. Wide receiver Andre Caldwell is a nice depth pick and could be a very good special teams player. Offensive tackle Anthony Collins is a very underrated and talented young lineman bringing starter ability to the table. Defensive linemen Jason Shirley and Deangelo Craig are very good depth picks and both have good talent and starter potential. Safety Corey Lynch could be a real steal late he has great ball instincts and is a very good tackler. He has all the tools to be a good starting strong safety at the least he will a pro bowl caliber special teams player. Wide Receiver Mario Uruttia has tremendous size and good speed and could be a dangerous red zone threat. New Orleans out maneavered them for DT Sedrick Ellis or this rating would have been an A+.
Draft Grade A
St Louis Rams:
The Rams may be one of the most improved teams of this years draft. The obvious need for upgrades at several positions had to come through the draft. With their first pick St Louis took defensive end Chris Long. The son of NFL hall of famer Howie Long, Chris is probably one of the best defensive players to come out of a draft since Mario Williams. He was the clear team leader of the Virginia defense in college. As the second round began Scott Linehan looked at the board and his eyes must have lit up. WR Donnie Avery sat there for the taking. Avery is a very undervalued wide out who had a tremendous career at Houston, but it's questionable that he was the top wideout in this draft. He is a good solid pick although Hardy might have been a better choice. In the third round offensive tackle John Greco was the pick. Greco has good quick feet to handle the outside rush and is also very strong. Orlando Pace is aging rapidly and can't seem to stay healthy. Greco might very easily be the Rams starter at left tackle this year or next. Cornerback Justin King brings incredible ball skills and blazing speed to a secondary that needs both badly. Offensive guard Roy Scheuning was a steal in the fifth round and a very capable starter. Keenan Burton is a absolute steal this late and could very easily end up being the successor to Issac Bruce. Cornerback Chris Chamberlain has good speed and could make a very good nickel corner. Linehan and the Rams did a tremendous job of getting value and filling needs.
Draft Grade A
The Panthers entered this years draft looking to upgrade the running back position and add depth. In the first round alone they filled team needs at running back and offensive tackle. RB Jonathan Stewart is arguably one of the top three backs in his draft class, but coming off of turf toe surgery, RB Reshard Mendenhall might have been the safer pick. Jeff Otah is a powerful mauling right tackle who can open massive holes for any running back, but the Panthers gave up 2009's first round pick for him, they might regret that lost pick next year, especialy if they have a bad season, which means, obviously, that that pick would be higher than justified. Cornerback Charles Godfrey has good ball skills and could be a huge steal in the third. Third round pick linebacker Dan Connor is a complete steal who has first round talent. Defensive tackle Nick Hayden is a very solid player who adds much needed depth and starter potential.Geoff Schwartz is a solid late offensive line pick that could start. Late round pick Tyler Hilee will most likely be a special teams contributor.
Draft Grade B+
Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Chicago
Not every team gets great value for their picks. Some reach for a player they really want or give up too much in a draft day trade. The following teams spent both draft days reaching or giving up too much or not filling needs.
OT Jake Long was a great pick. He is a cornerstone to build the offensive line around. Unfortunately after that the picks went downhill. Chad Henne was a decent pick my guess is this might be Beck's last year as starter. In The Second Philip Merling was a good pick. He was a bit of a steal most expected him to go in the late first round. Kendal Langford was a good pick the dolphins can use plenty of help on the defensive line. Shawn Murphy wasn’t even on some draft boards and the dolphins took him in the fourth round. He was projected to be a likely seventh rounder. Hopefully they know something everyone else missed out on. Jalen Parmele was definitely a solid pick adds depth at running back in case Ronnie Brown gets hurt again or Ricky Williams finally gets kicked out of the NFL for good. The later picks were good players but other than Donald Thomas they didn’t fill needs drafting only three offensive linemen in one of the deepest classes ever was probably not a great Idea especially when you took two running backs. A wide receiver could have been taken another offensive lineman or maybe a cornerback. Another late defensive end pick made me wonder but at least John Beck got some help at running back now if only he had a line or receivers. In the end the dolphins made some solid picks but drafted too many of the same position and didn’t even address certain needs or holes in the team at all.
Draft Grade C-
The Titans have real depth issues at wide receiver but didn't even draft one until the fifth round. If Justin Gage is starting you have serious needs for a upgrade. First round pick RB Chris Johnson has great speed (4.24) and could be a good starting or situational back. The problem with this pick is Chris wasn’t projected to be drafted till the middle of the second round and the Titans don’t really need a running back as they already have a good starting back in Lendale White. Unless they are going to try to teach Johnson to play wide out this pick is a waste on a complimentary player that they will overpay first round money to. If Johnson was that big of a want they should have traded out of the first round with a team that wanted an extra first round pick into the early second round and taken him there. When the Titans took Johnson there were at least two backs still graded above him. Second round pick Jason Jones from Eastern Michigan is an extremely talented edge rusher and is the best pick out of their draft. Craig Stevens and William Hayes are decent picks. Lavelle Hawkins is a good receiver and good value at the spot where he was taken. He is somewhat of steal that late. He could be a good slot receiver and special teams player. The Titans draft was bad at best. They reached horribly on their first pick and never addressed needs at wide receiver and offensive line depth.
Draft Grade C-
Lions fans must be the most patient people ever. Every year it seems that Matt Millen gets worse at drafting. Offensive tackle Gosher Cherilous is a good young right tackle. He is second round value taken in the first round but because a run on tackles had started I will give the pick the benefit of the doubt. Linebacker Jordan Dizon is a good young player but he was listed as a fourth rounder on almost every draft board yet the Lions took him in the second. Running back Kevin Smith is a exciting young back and the best pick of Detroit’s draft. Cliff Avril could be a solid situation pass rusher but was a reach also. Jerome Felton and Caleb Campbell highlight the later rounds unfortunately by then almost every pick was a reach or better players were passed over. Not only did the team fail to get value for several of its picks but with a need at linebacker they passed over one of the best in the draft Dan Conner in two straight rounds.
Draft Grade D+
Honorable Mention: Atlanta
By Jason Baudendistel