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NFC draft: Rating top picks, intriguing players to follow

by | CBS Sports
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Looking at how NFC teams fared in the draft, and which prospects bear watching as they develop:

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

First pick: Dez Bryant

Bryant was rated a top-five talent. He is one of the best receivers I have seen in the past 10 years. He is big, strong and explosive. He dropped in the draft for many reasons. One of them would have been his subpar workout this spring that raised concerns with teams about his work habits. If I were a GM, it would concern me. The Cowboys, I believe, have a boom-or-bust pick. Bryant is going to need a strong mentor on and off the field to be successful.

The pick I will follow most: Sean Lee

A very good value pick. He had late-first to early second-round value. He is very well coached and was a fun player to watch. He is very instinctive. Lee can shed blocks and get to the ball. I thought he was a good tackler. He was my second-rated inside linebacker. I expect him to eventually replace Keith Brooking. The reason I want to watch him is to see if he is as good as I think he is and if he should have gone in the first round.

New York Giants

First pick: Jason Pierre-Paul

He was one of my favorite players to watch over the past few months. He has terrific potential as a pass rusher. He can get the edge and also beat you inside. He has the long arms and athletic ability you want in a defensive end. When the Giants won the Super Bowl they did it with a relentless pass rush. Paul gives them a chance to get back to that.

The pick I will follow most: Pierre-Paul

He has top-10 talent, but probably didn't go there because he had limited college experience. Is he a flash in the pan or did the Giants steal a top-10 pick? I really want to see if the Giants can get him on the field. They moved Justin Tuck inside to get him on the field. It will be interesting if the Giants can get all four of their rushers -- Tuck, Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora -- on the field at the same time. Tuck has proven he can play inside. I don't think the other three players have the body types to play inside.

Philadelphia Eagles

First pick: Brandon Graham

The Eagles wanted to improve their pass rush and they did that with Graham. They have had success with an undersized defensive end in Trent Cole, and in their style of play they can continue that. Graham has very quick hands when transitioning on the pass rush. He also has deceptive strength on his bull rush. His height (6-feet-1) can be viewed as a problem, but Elvis Dumervil and James Harrison are not that tall.

The pick I will follow most: Mike Kafka

You might think this is a strange pick to follow. But I had Kafka rated as my fifth-best QB. I thought he had good mobility and was very quick and smooth in his throwing motion and movements. His accuracy was good in the tape I saw. Everyone seemed to agree on the first four QB prospects but no one could agree on the next prospect. Kafka had my vote, so let's see how he does.

Washington Redskins

First pick: Trent Williams

Williams will step in right away at left tackle for the Redskins and fill a major need. He has played left and right tackle and center, which tells you he is smart. Some teams felt that he reminded them of Denver's Ryan Clady, who Mike Shanahan drafted in Denver. Williams is a better prospect at the same point in his career. Williams has the athletic ability to do the things the Redskins need him to do in their running game: cut-off block on the backside and get to the second level.

The pick I will follow most: Williams

Since they had so few picks, I will focus on Williams. He has the ability to play in the NFL. Some teams did not think he could play left tackle. In the tapes I saw I thought he could. So can he play left tackle or not?

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

First pick: Sean Weatherspoon

The Falcons had needs in the defensive line and at outside linebacker and did the right thing; they took the best player on the board, Weatherspoon. He is an instinct player who could play inside or outside linebacker. He has the athletic ability to cover and be a three-down linebacker. He actually had an off year and played better in 2008.

The pick I will follow most: Corey Peters

The third-round pick from Kentucky was not rated that high in the fall but seemed to rise. He has good quickness to go along with his size. I never looked at him because he was initially ranked as a later-round prospect, so I want to see what other people saw in him to put him in the third round. I made some calls to people I respect in the NFL and they liked him. This was an "under the radar" prospect.

Carolina Panthers

First pick: Jimmy Clausen

As much publicity as the Tim Tebow pick got this was just as controversial. No one I talked to in the NFL felt that Jimmy Clausen lacked the talent of a top pick. The questions about him seem to surround his personality. That talk is over now and reality sets in. It is in Clausen's hands. As a college prospect, I thought he had first-round skills, but had two things that bothered me: He forced the ball when he got in the red zone and tended to leave the pocket too early.

The picks I will follow most: Clausen, Armanti Edwards

Certainly it will be Clausen, but the other prospect will be Armanti Edwards, projected to move from quarterback to wide receiver. He is athletic and fast with good hands. I am told he looked good in receiver workouts. The Panthers traded a second-round pick next year to get him.

New Orleans Saints

First pick: Patrick Robinson

In a pressure defense you can't have enough corners. Last year, Saints cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter played well, but when they missed time with injuries, the Saints struggled on defense. Drafting Robinson, who is a very talented corner, allows the Saints to move Malcolm Jenkins to free safety, which I think is his best position.

The pick I will follow most: Charles Brown

Brown, a left tackle from Southern California, is very athletic. I like his ability to pass protect. I think he needs to be more physical in his anchor. He was rated as a late first-round pick, but a number of teams needing a tackle passed on him. We will see who was right.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First pick: Gerald McCoy

This was a natural fit for the Bucs. In fact, in the game tapes I watched, I thought McCoy outplayed No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh. He is an up-field player with very good quickness. He is a natural in the three-technique position. He reminded me of Tommie Harris in college in the way he was a very disruptive player.

The pick I will follow most: Mike Williams

Williams was rated as a second- or third-round prospect before he left the Syracuse team during the middle of last season. His leaving the team probably hurt his draft ranking. He is a good athlete with good size and hands. The question is if he will reach his full potential in the NFL, something he did not do in college

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

First pick: Major Wright

He fills a need for the Bears. He was a tough player to grade because he played deep in the secondary and was in and out of the lineup. I liked what I saw from him. He showed speed, athletic ability and instincts in the games I watched.

The pick I will follow most: Corey Wooten

Wooten had a second-round grade coming into his senior year, but coming off of a knee injury probably caused him to have a subpar year. Did the Bears get a steal in Round 4? I want to find out.

Detroit Lions

First pick: Ndamukong Suh

I'm sure the Lions were torn about whether to take an offensive tackle or Suh. But in the end they thought Suh was better than the offensive tackles available. I see their point. Suh will be a better player in pro football than in college because he will be able to be more aggressive off the ball. This will better take advantage of his quickness and strength. He also will give an identity to the Lions' line and improve their physicality. I like him as a prospect, but I don't see him as a dominating player.

The pick I will follow most: Jahvid Best

Cal's Best had first-round grades. He has some injury history that may have had some teams lower their grades on him. He is a speed back who will work best in a two-back rotation because he is big. I do not know how much difference there is between him and C.J. Spiller.

Green Bay Packers

First pick: Bryan Bulaga

Most draft predictions had Bulaga going higher, but I agreed with most personnel people I talked to who thought this was the range of where he should go. The Packers say they will line him up at left tackle, which they should. He played there in college and should be given the opportunity to prove he can play there. He might be a better right tackle in the end because there are some questions about his ability to handle the outside rush.

The pick I will follow most: Bulaga

When I surveyed teams on him his grades varied from top 10 to a second-round grade. Some people thought he could play left tackle and some others thought he was only a right-side player, either at tackle or even at guard.

Minnesota Vikings

First pick: Chris Cook

Cornerback is one of the positions the Vikings wanted to fill in this draft, and Cook fits their system very well. He is a very good cover two corner and plays well in a zone. He is physical. He can play press and is aggressive against the run.

The pick I will follow most: Everson Griffen

The fourth-round pick had late first- and second-round grades. He has some pass-rush ability. If he lives up to his promise he will be a steal. Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards was viewed as an underachiever in college and he turned into a pretty good pro. We will see if that is the case with Griffin. It's interesting that Pete Carroll, who needs a defensive end in Seattle, passed on him.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

First pick: Dan Williams

Williams is a natural nose tackle. He is physical at the point of attack and will be tough to move. He has very good anchor. I do not think you will get much out of the pass rush from him except some bull rush at times to push the pocket.

The pick I will follow most: Daryl Washington

Washington is a very good athlete, but I didn't think he played the run very well. Specifically he needs to improve his ability to shed blocks. How will Arizona use him to make up for this deficiency, or will he improve it?

St. Louis Rams

First pick: Sam Bradford

Bradford is an interesting story. He may have been the top pick in the draft last year but chose to stay in school. He played sparingly in 2009 because of injuries and still was the top quarterback in the draft. That is a testimony to his ability. I like his athletic ability, accuracy and decision making. I rated him over Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez in accuracy and Matt Ryan in athletic ability. Overall I rated him ahead of all three of the other quarterbacks.

The pick I will follow most: Rodger Saffold

Saffold was the fifth-rated tackle with most of the teams I talked to, but did not sneak into the first round. He did get drafted ahead of more-publicized players like Charles Brown and Bruce Campbell. Were the Rams right? I think they were. Let's see.

San Francisco 49ers

First picks: Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati

The Niners set out to rebuild the right side of their offensive line and they drafted two excellent prospects. Both players need some work. Iupati is a physical player who can knock defenders off the ball. He can also pull and block on the run. But he needs technique work with his hand placement and he plays too high. Davis has a wide body with long arms. He has the ability to slide his feet to pass protect. He needs to work on finishing his blocks more consistently.

The pick I will follow most: Taylor Mays

Mays was a player most people had first-round grades on but had questions about his ability to cover and change directions in space. Is he a hazard in coverage or will San Francisco put him in a scheme where his deficiencies are not noticeable, and his strength as a hitter will be what people notice first?

Seattle Seahawks

First picks: Russell Okung, Earl Thomas

Sometimes you have to be lucky and Seattle had some luck on its side. They needed a left tackle to replace Walter Jones, sometimes there might not be one there. In Seattle's case they landed Okung, who can start immediately and fill the position. He is a solid player who has good pass protection ability. He is also solid as a run blocker. I thought he was a little more consistent than Trent Williams, who went ahead of him. Thomas is a very athletic safety. He has very good range and has good coverage skills. He also needs to improve his tackling. That being said, he is one of the better safeties I have seen in recent years. Safety was also a big need for the Seahawks.

The pick I will follow most: Anthony McCoy

Carroll drafted only one of his college players, McCoy in the sixth round. He dropped in the draft for a number of reasons, but Carroll knows him better. Did teams overrate his problems or were they right on passing on him? He has good hands and size. In surveying teams he had a third-round grade average.

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