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Final draft grades: Browns among five with highest honors

by | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

Grading a draft immediately after it concludes is akin to giving your compliments to the chef before the meal has been served. Sure, the food might sound good (or bad) based on the ingredients listed on the menu, but the true evaluation won't come until after the product has been tested.

It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But what is readily apparent is the different approaches that were taken, from going for the best available talent to focusing on team needs to gambling on character concerns and long-term potential.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: B

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Having surrendered the second most rushing yards in team history last season, the Bills needed to address their defense. General manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey clearly understood that, using their first four picks on the defensive side the ball, most notably adding the draft's best run-stuffer in defensive lineman Marcell Dareus with the No. 3 overall pick and former LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who many viewed as the top 3-4 inside linebacker in the draft. Watch out for middle-round former Tar Heels Da'Norris Searcy and Johnny White to surprise, as well.

Miami Dolphins: B

The Dolphins identified their most obvious weaknesses and set about fixing them with their first two selections. Mike Pouncey solidifies the interior of the offensive line and former Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas will prove to be a steal in the second round. The Dolphins added much-needed speed at receiver in Abilene Christian's Edmond Gates in the fourth round, giving the club the big-play threat it has been lacking since trading away Ted Ginn, Jr.

New England Patriots: B

With perceived needs along the front seven of its defense, New England surprisingly elected to focus on other areas of concern, including, of course, rescuing the falling Ryan Mallett in the third round. As well as the Patriots protect the passer, Mallett could be in position to succeed in New England, as his talent as a passer is unquestioned. He'll also have the consummate professional in Tom Brady to develop behind. Just as important for Mallett and Brady was the Patriots' addition of two massive men along the offensive line in former Colorado Buffalo Nate Solder in the first round and 6-5, 358-pounder Marcus Cannon in the fifth. In between, the Patriots added a pair of runners in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the second and third rounds. Vereen, one of the draft's more pro-ready backs due to his hands out of the backfield and blocking skills, could step in immediately. Ridley's power makes him the Patriots' short-yardage back of the future. Considering the Patriots yet again put themselves in a position of strength next year by acquiring another first-round pick, this was another strong effort from New England, despite the absence of pass rushers.

New York Jets: B-

The Jets were thought likely to invest an early-round pick in a pass-rushing outside linebacker, considering the age and declining effectiveness of their current outside linebackers. Instead, New York found better talent along the defensive line, adding Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round and the massive Kenrick Ellis from Hampton in the third. Ellis could prove a steal, as the Hampton star (South Carolina transfer) was viewed as a second-round talent. Character concerns pushed him down the board. It is hard to find fault with adding a combined 650 pounds of beef up front. Saturday's selection of former Louisville running back Bilal Powell could prove a steal.


Baltimore Ravens: A-

Despite a trade snafu with the Chicago Bears that allowed the Kansas City Chiefs to sneak in front of the Ravens, Baltimore added the player it was targeting all along in Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith's character concerns have been well-documented, but so has his talent. He could prove the reincarnation of former Ravens Pro Bowler Chris McAlister. With their need for a cornerback satisfied, the Ravens were able to shift to the offensive side of the ball throughout the rest of the draft, adding local speedster Torrey Smith in the second round (a player many thought the Ravens might have been considering in the first) and another lanky receiver with return skills in Tandon Doss in the fourth, sandwiching one of the better developmental offensive tackle prospects in the draft in Central Florida's Jah Reid in the late third round. The gamble on Smith makes this a boom or bust draft for the Ravens, but with the leadership in place to corral him, the Ravens look like one of the draft's winners.

Cincinnati Bengals: B

Perhaps Carson Palmer should re-think his pledge to never play for the Bengals again, as they quietly enjoyed a strong 2011 draft. Georgia's A.J. Green was, of course, the headliner. His rare combination of size, body control and strong hands has earned comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald, but he's faster than the Cardinals' Pro Bowler. To protect themselves against Palmer's threat, the Bengals added TCU's Andy Dalton in the second round, a pick panned by some due to his lack of ideal arm strength, but a quarterback whose intelligence and accuracy in the short to intermediate level makes him a good fit in Jay Gruden's offense. Though not as flashy as their first two picks, the addition of pass rusher extraordinaire Dontay Moch in the third and steady offensive lineman Clint Boling in the fourth round filled out a solid class.

Cleveland Browns: A

With the bevy of picks acquired in their trade with the Atlanta Falcons' move up for Julio Jones, as well as savvy drafting, the Browns enjoyed as strong a 2011 draft as any team in the NFL. Baylor's Phil Taylor was typecast as strictly a 3-4 nose guard by some, but his success in the Big 12 came as a 4-3 defensive tackle and he'll star in a similar capacity for the Browns. In the second round the Browns added underrated pass rusher Jabaal Sheard and one of the more athletically-gifted receivers in the draft in Greg Little. Little could prove a better value at No. 59 than Jones will prove at No. 6, especially considering what the Falcons gave up for Jones. With four picks in the fourth and fifth rounds, the Browns continued their re-tooling into a more traditional West Coast Offense, adding an athletic tight end in Jordan Cameron, a do-everything fullback in Owen Marecic and a solid interior line prospect in Jason Pinkston.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B

One of the primary reasons for the Steelers' consistent winning ways is their focus up front. In adding Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward and Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert in the first and second rounds, the Steelers followed their time-tested formula of adding big, physical players from top programs. Neither is flashy, but both are safe and perfect schematic fits. Addressing the need for cornerbacks after a torching from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, the Steelers added Curtis Brown (Texas) and intriguing developmental prospect Cortez Allen in the middle rounds. While not flashy, the 2011 class will prove yet another productive draft for the Steelers.


Houston Texas: B

In fielding one of the league's worst defenses -- and certainly the NFL's least-reliable tackling units -- the Texans went to work on draft day investing their first five picks on that side of the ball. Even before drafting Wisconsin defensive end with the No. 11 overall pick, the Texans used the equivalent of a first-round pick in adding Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator. His impact will be every bit as important to Houston's improvement defensively as Watt -- though the former Badger is a prototypical five-technique defensive end. I'm not as high on Arizona's Brooks Reed as some, but he does give the Texans competition with Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin as threats off the edge. The Texans did get nice value in former ACC cornerbacks Brandon Harris (Miami) and Rashad Carmichael (Virginia Tech) later in the draft and took a quarterback in North Carolina's T.J. Yates who demonstrated the leadership and intelligence that could someday make him a surprise starter in the NFL.

Indianapolis Colts: A

Considering the Colts only selected five players in the 2011 draft, I love what they did. Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo was among the safer prospects in this draft and will prove a steal at No. 22 overall. Similarly, I like Villanova's Ben Ijalana, who starred at left tackle but could make the move inside to guard with the Colts. Each started all four years of their respective careers. LSU's Drake Nevis lacks the size to be effective in every scheme, but as a three-technique, his quick hands and feet could make him an immediate standout for an Indianapolis defensive line that values athleticism over mass. The Colts even got great value on the third day of the draft. Fourth-round pick Delone Carter is a pinball of a running back who runs with similar toughness to current Colt Mike Hart, but is a better overall athlete. Chris Rucker's experience lies at cornerback, but many teams thought he projected better at safety. At either spot, in the sixth round he presented excellent value. It is tough to give a team an "A" with only five picks, but no team did more with less this year than the Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B

Give Jaguars general manager Gene Smith credit. Every time we think we've got him pegged, he surprises us. Last year he shocked with Cal's Tyson Alualu in the first round -- a pick largely panned as one of the real reaches of the draft (though not by me), who proved a very, very solid selection. This year, he aggressively traded up as Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert started to slip. Gabbert is in an ideal situation for success, as he'll have time to develop behind David Garrard. Having successfully located a few diamonds in the rough in recent years (Terrance Knighton, Derek Cox, among others), Smith focused on strictly small-schoolers the rest of the way in 2011, adding guard Will Rackley (Lehigh), wideout Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union), free safety Chris Prosinski (Wyoming) and cornerback Rod Isaac (Middle Tennessee State) in the middle and late rounds. Rackley could compete for immediate playing time. Shorts could surprise on a team needing playmakers.

Tennessee Titans: A

Selecting Washington quarterback Jake Locker with the No. 8 overall pick -- and before Blaine Gabbert -- is being panned by virtually everyone. Not by me. Not only am I higher on Locker than most, I also love his fit in Tennessee's offense. Locker's mobility on the bootleg is an obvious complement to star Chris Johnson's deadly speed on the stretch play. Also, the Titans have the targets at tight end and a big-play wideout in Kenny Britt to take advantage of Locker's strong arm while on the move. Give Locker a year on the sideline to learn and he'll prove to be the star quarterback from this class. The Titans hardly stopped with Locker. They received excellent value throughout the rest of their draft. Linebackers Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy in the second and fourth rounds are future starters. So is defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, selected in the third round. The Titans added the power back they've been missing since LenDale White's dramatic fall from grace with Clemson's Jamie Harper, who is just as effective as a receiver as he is a runner. Add to this list a try-hard Iowa defensive lineman in Karl Klug, who could surprise, and one of the more intriguing developmental tackles in Byron Stingily (Louisville) and the Titans' class is easily among my favorites.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: B-

Had the Denver Broncos not been lacking defensive tackles on their roster and their draft class, their efforts over the three days of the 2011 Draft would rank higher. The addition of pass rusher Von Miller -- an immediate candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors -- certainly boosts their grade. So does the fact the Broncos were able land UCLA free safety Rahim Moore in the in the second round. Moore, the top-rated free safety by NFLDraftScout.com, should be aided by the assistance of veteran Brian Dawkins. The Broncos could see an immediate impact from big, burly offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, their third-round choice. Of the Broncos' late-round selections, Portland State tight end Julius Thomas is the most intriguing. Thomas is the latest former basketball player to attempt the conversion to the gridiron.

Kansas City Chiefs: C-

As typical of a Scott Pioli-led draft, the Chiefs' 2011 class featured a few highly productive, criminally underrated prospects in the middle rounds who will prove future NFL starters. Those players, former Florida State guard Rodney Hudson, Colorado cornerback Jalil Brown and Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, helped to save a class that otherwise was very uncharacteristic of the Chiefs and Pioli. First-round wideout Jon Baldin (Pittsburgh) has undeniable talent, but isn't as physical as his imposing size (6-4, 228 pounds) would indicate and he was a headache, at times, for the Pittsburgh coaching staff. Georgia's Justin Houston, likewise, is a bit of a 'tweener whose collegiate production was over-inflated by scheme. He also reportedly failed a drug test at the combine. The Chiefs were deservedly recognized as having a spectacular draft last year. This one, however, leaves me scratching my head.

Oakland Raiders: C+

Perhaps the least surprising draft of the year was turned in by the Oakland Raiders. With their first pick, the 48th pick overall, the Raiders selected Penn State star Stefen Wisniewski. If the name sounds familiar, it should, as he's the nephew of former Raider standout Steve Wisniewski. As nice of a story as that is, this is the NFL, not a college fraternity, and legacies don't necessarily warrant a top 50 selection. Of course, Al Davis loves speed and his club drafted precisely that in cornerbacks Demarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa, each of whom timed in the 4.3s at the combine. With their second fourth-round pick, the Raiders took another speedster in Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones. I love Jones' open-field running ability, but with carries split already between Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, where is Jones going to get his touches?

San Diego Chargers: B-

With Larry English and Ryan Matthews underwhelming as the Chargers' past two first-round picks, general manager A.J. Smith made the wise decision of ignoring the specifics of scheme and simply taking a very good defensive lineman in Illinois' Corey Liuget. While not as long as most teams are looking for in a five-technique defensive end, Liuget's strength and quickness will make an immediate contributor. I wasn't as high on the value of San Diego's next two selections, each selected in the second round. However, Clemson defensive back Marcus Gilchrist and Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton, do fit in nicely in San Diego's scheme. So do the Chargers' third-rounders - local products Vincent Brown, a productive wideout from San Diego State and USC cornerback Shareece Wright -- each of whom impressed at the Senior Bowl. Of the Chargers' late-round picks, Connecticut running Jordan Todman could surprise.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: C

The Cowboys answered one of their primary concerns with the No. 9 overall in USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith. While Smith's athletic upside is limitless, I have reservations about his ability to provide the physicality needed to play at right tackle immediately or transition quickly to the left side -- a position he never started at while at USC. The Cowboys took a similar gamble on pure athleticism in the second round with workout wonder Bruce Carter (who is coming off a torn ACL). When healthy, Carter has shown the speed and explosiveness to be a playmaker in every phase of the game, but his lack of instincts is a concern. One Day Three prospect who could surprise is East Carolina wideout Dwayne Harris. Unlike the Cowboys' first two selections, Harris isn't a phenomenal athlete. He was very productive, however, and is a tough, versatile player who could surprise as a target in the slot. This was a typical Jerry Jones draft -- heavy on flashy athletes, but lacking the game-to-game consistency that translates into NFL victories.

New York Giants: A-

The Giants allowed the draft to come to them, exercising the "best player available" strategy to perfection. Cornerback wasn't a primary area of concern, but Prince Amukamara at No. 19 was simply too good to pass up. His lack of flashy plays as a senior caused him to slip, but he'll prove well worth the pick in the long run. Though I have reservations about Marvin Austin's work ethic, at No. 52, the first-round caliber athlete from North Carolina certainly made sense -- especially considering how much the Giants value defensive linemen. Possessing electric speed and the versatility to contribute in the slot and as a punt returner, Jerrell Jernigan will quickly emerge as a fan favorite. If you're looking for a candidate to emerge as the biggest steal of the draft, keep Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones in mind. Playing heavier as a senior than he did earlier in his previous three seasons as a starter, Jones wasn't as effective in 2010 and dropped much further than he should have. He'll emerge as a starter for the Giants early in his career -- quite a value considering he was the No. 185 overall pick of the draft. Only my reservations about Austin's dependability keeps the Giants from getting an elite grade.

Philadelphia Eagles: B-

The Eagles' selection of a 26-year-old guard with the No. 23 overall pick will be criticized by some, though certainly not by me. Danny Watkins stepped in immediately for former No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith (Rams) at left tackle in 2009 for Baylor, demonstrating great toughness and competitive fire despite it being only his third season of playing the game. What was most impressive, however, was how quickly he acclimated inside at guard at the Senior Bowl despite having never played the position. He'll provide toughness inside for Philadelphia. Physicality is one of the key elements that Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett brings to the defense. He'll provide some pop in the secondary and is a reliable open-field tackler. Similarly, the Eagles took another instinctive, reliable tackling defender in Oregon's Casey Matthews in the fourth round. Though not as athletic as his older brother, the former Duck's ability to make big plays in critical moments could make him a surprise early contributor. Perhaps the most important contributor for the Eagles could wind up being their other fourth-round selection, former Nebraska kicker Alex Henery - one of only two kickers drafted this year.

Washington Redskins: A

Historically known for aggressively trading up in the draft, the Redskins took the opposite strategy in 2011, deftly moving down the board, picking up more selections and still addressing keys area of need. Having run a 3-4 defense for the past few seasons despite fielding a team largely built on 4-3 personnel, the Redskins added a prototypical edge-rusher in Ryan Kerrigan to pair with Brian Orakpo. While many characterized the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year as strictly a 4-3 defensive end, Kerrigan actually projects better as an OLB as he doesn't use his hands particularly well, but has burst, agility and great instincts. The Redskins added a classic five-technique defensive end in Clemson's Jarvis Jenkins in the second round and addressed their need for receivers with size in Miami's Leonard Hankerson and Nebraska's Niles Paul in the third and fifth rounds. No head coach has enjoyed as much success with late-round running backs as Mike Shanahan, and he could have worked his magic again with Roy Helu (Nebraska) and Penn State's Evan Royster in the fourth and sixth rounds. Helu, in particular, is an ideal fit in a zone-scheme, as he can plant his foot and accelerate downhill explosively. In terms of adding multiple players who fit their scheme and will improve the overall talent of their club, no team was more effective this year than the Redskins.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: B

Despite their well-documented aborted trade with the Baltimore Ravens, the Bears overall did a very nice job in the 2011 draft. The Bears surprisingly found one of the safer offensive tackles still available to them at No. 29 in Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, the reigning Outland Trophy winner. They also found a squatty strongman to potentially fill the large shoes left by Tommie Harris in former Oregon State Beaver Stephen Paea. Paea's record-breaking 49 reps at 225 pounds at the combine proved his strength, though to be effective as a three-technique he'll need to show better lateral agility and instincts. Free safety Chris Conte (California) was quietly viewed by some as the best developmental prospect of this year's weak safety class. Speaking of developmental prospects, Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle, at 6-4, 240 pounds, has the build and arm strength well worthy of his fifth-round selection. While there is a lot to like about Chicago's draft, the fact the club was unable to add more weapons for Jay Cutler, or improve its depth at cornerback, remains a legitimate concern.

Detroit Lions: A-

It doesn't get much better than the Lions' first three selections, as general manager Martin Mayhew proved just as capable of finding talent when drafting outside of the top 10 as he had in selecting Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh the past two years. Though the team had bigger needs, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley falling into their lap could prove a coup, especially considering the talent already on Detroit on the defensive line. Just as frightening as the combination of Suh-Fairley-Vanden Bosch is on defense, the speed of running back Jahvid Best will be well complemented by the power of Mikel LeShoure. In between, the Lions simply added arguably the draft's top deep threat in Boise State's Titus Young to better take advantage of Stafford's big arm. Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue, the team's fifth-round selection, could surprise. Only their limited number of picks keeps the Lions from ranking among the elite drafts in this class.

Green Bay Packers: A

General manager Ted Thompson is one of the more astute talent-evaluators in the NFL and strong, unspectacular drafts such as this one show precisely why. Recognizing the unique talent they have in Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, the Packers protected him up front with versatile offensive tackle Derek Sherrod in the first round and a variety of dynamic pass-catchers throughout the rest of the draft. Kentucky's Randall Cobb was the most versatile weapon in the draft. Hawaii running back Alex Green is a powerful runner with underrated speed and hands. Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams in the fifth round could prove a steal, as what he lacks in size (6-2, 245) he makes up for in reliable hands and surprising toughness as a blocker. Add in developmental prospects at cornerback (Davon House), pass rusher (Ricky Elmore) and defensive end (Lawrence Guy) on the third day of the draft and the Packers continue to retool the most talented roster in the league.

Minnesota Vikings: B+

Full disclosure: I am higher on Christian Ponder than most, so if you're thinking I'm going to knock them significantly for their perceived "reach" of him at No. 12, you're wrong. I will certainly admit that the No. 12 overall pick higher is higher than a quarterback coming off two arm surgeries should go, but the Vikings needed a passer who could play right away and Ponder is, in my opinion, the most pro-ready passer in this draft. If -- and it is a big if -- he can stay healthy, he'll prove worthy of this pick. Arm-strength, intelligence and mobility are not questions, in my mind. The Vikings found solid talent throughout the rest of the draft, as well. The selection of Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph was a surprise considering the emergence of Visanthe Shiancoe. Versatile defensive lineman Christian Ballard (4th round), competitive cornerback Brandon Burton (5th) and developmental center Brandon Fusco (6th) highlighted a busy Day Three for the Vikings.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: B-

I generally reward teams with high grades for aggression on draft day. I also understand the need to surround Matt Ryan with weapons and believe that Julio Jones is a top-10 talent. However, let's put Atlanta's trade up for Jones into perspective. The Falcons feature arguably the league's best wide receiver already in Roddy White. That means that Jones - at best - will serve as the Falcons' No. 2 receiver. Giving up five draft picks, including two first-round picks, for a No. 2 receiver is too much. The Falcons took one of my favorite players in the draft -- Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers -- who will prove a steal as 145th pick. They also found a physical thumper in linebacker Akeem Dent and one of the more underrated interior linemen in the draft in Andrew Jackson in the seventh round. However, it was their secondary and lack of a consistent pass rush that allowed the Packers to score 48 points and push Atlanta out of the playoffs. Adding more offense and ignoring the defense until free agency is a risky proposition.

Carolina Panthers: B-

The Panthers drafted eight players this year, but the success or failure of the first one will determine their final grade. With presumably no trade opportunities and no other players worthy of the No. 1 overall selection, the Panthers swung for the fences with Cam Newton as the top pick. There are certainly red flags with Newton, but as the NFL Draft proved -- when only four Tigers were drafted (Newton, Nick Fairley and seventh-rounders Zach Clayton and Lee Ziemba) -- Auburn's ride to the BCS Championship was largely based on Newton's astounding physical talents and poise despite mounting pressure on and off the field. In a division featuring Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman, the Panthers' only chance at success was to find their own franchise quarterback. Other than Newton, the Panthers added two underrated defensive tackles in Terrell McClain (South Florida) and Sione Fua (Stanford) in the third round. The club took advantage of its day three selections with talented (if troubled, injured) cornerback Brandon Hogan (West Virginia), playmaking wideout Kealoha Pilares (Hawaii) and an athletic, productive linebacker in Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut), among others.

New Orleans Saints: A-

There is simply too much to like about the flash and force of the Saints' 2011 draft to not rank it among the top talent collections of the year. New Orleans found a falling star in Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan, whose size and versatility will be put to great use by coordinator Gregg Williams, one of the more creative minds in the business. The aggressive trade up for Alabama's Mark Ingram will pay off in spades for the Saints, as the inability of the backs on their current roster to remain healthy robbed the offense of the running game that served as an underrated component of their run to the 2010 Super Bowl title. The Saints also got a first-round caliber athlete in the third round with Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson and took a flyer on injured defensive end Greg Romeus (Pittsburgh) in the seventh round. There is some gamble to the Saints' second- and third-day selections, but the safety of their first two picks makes this one of the year's best - and most immediately impactful - draft classes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A-

The Bucs entered the 2011 draft desperately needing to find pass rushers; Stylez White led the team last year with 4.5 sacks. In adding Iowa's Adrian Clayborn in the first round, the Bucs seemed to ease their concerns. They may have eliminated them entirely in the second round by taking the gamble on Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers returning to the form that saw him register a nation-leading 15.5 sacks last year. Statistical production was clearly important to the Bucs on draft day, as they added Washington linebacker Mason Foster -- who racked up more solo and total tackles last year than any other player in the draft. With local products in Florida safety Ahmad Black and Florida International cornerback Anthony Gaiter on the third day, the Bucs not only appealed to their fans, but added playmakers to their secondary. The 2011 class proved that Mark Dominik (and his staff) is indeed one of the true rising stars in the talent evaluation business. Only Bowers' medical concerns keep this from ranking among the elite draft classes.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: B

For all of the excitement brewing in Detroit about the combination of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley working the inside together, the Cardinals' tall, athletic duo of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Patrick Peterson might prove just as terrorizing to the opposition. Peterson, my No. 1-rated player in the 2011 draft, was a steal for the Cardinals at the fifth pick. With shutdown corners on each side, Arizona didn't have to reach for a pass rusher, instead taking advantage of Texas' Sam Acho falling into their lap in the fourth round. In between the two picks the Cardinals served notice to former first-round pick Beanie Wells that his lack of durability and pass blocking isn't going to cut it by drafting Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams in the second round. Williams' burst gives the team big-play potential from the backfield, something they've been lacking with Wells and Tim Hightower. Among the late picks, inside linebacker Quan Sturdivant could prove a steal in the sixth round.

St. Louis Rams: B+

Like the Cardinals, the Rams were in the fortuitous position of having a true playmaker fall to them. Some teams were worried about the North Carolina pass rusher Robert Quinn's benign tumor and year-long suspension, but at No. 14 overall, Quinn simply presented too much value at a difference-making position to allow to fall further. Quinn, 6-4 and 265 pounds, gives the Rams an explosive edge rusher who will complement the play of emerging base end Chris Long and veterans James Hall and Fred Robbins. Quinn, whose 2009 tape showed the type of explosiveness to warrant top five consideration, could emerge as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in St. Louis. With a defensive standout added in the first round, the Rams added playmakers for young franchise quarterback Sam Bradford with their next three selections, adding Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks and a pair of prototypical possession receivers in Boise State's Austin Pettis and Hawaii's Greg Salas. Pettis and Salas, each big, strong and possessing excellent hands, are essentially carbon-copies of each other. They'll give Bradford a pair of reliable targets, but neither has the speed to stretch the field. It was also surprising to see the Rams not select a running back to take some of the pressure off of Steven Jackson. Of the Rams' late day three picks, I'm actually highest on their last one -- Oklahoma safety Jonathan Nelson -- taken in the seventh round.

San Francisco 49ers: C

Though the 49ers used their first-round pick on Missouri pass rusher Aldon Smith, their 2011 NFL Draft will ultimately be known as the draft in which Jim Harbaugh selected his future quarterback. Colin Kaepernick possesses many of the attributes necessary toward becoming successful in the NFL. He has a rare combination of size, arm strength and mobility for the position and is intelligent and hard-working. His awkward throwing motion has drawn the ire of some, though the 49ers are obviously comfortable with it. Recognized for his development of Andrew Luck at Stanford, Harbaugh's ability to cultivate Kaepernick will go a long way in determining both men's success in the NFL. As for Smith, quite frankly, I have my reservations about his potential in San Francisco's scheme. At 6-4, 263 pounds, Smith is already bigger than many 3-4 edge rushers and at only 20 years-old, he hasn't stopped growing. He's a bit stiff in the hips and I question how well he'll be able to turn the corner and close on the quarterback. Third-round pick Chris Culliver has a rare combination of size, speed and versatility. Of all San Francisco's picks, I'm highest on Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter, who is going to struggle to see the field considering the 49ers feature one of the NFL's top backs in Frank Gore. There is undeniably a lot of intriguing talent in this draft class, but one with some real gambles on upside.

Seattle Seahawks: B

The Seahawks clearly have a plan in place for a quarterback, as they did not take one despite having nine draft picks. That plan might be to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck, find another veteran or simply run with Charlie Whitehurst, the passer they added through trade last year. What Seattle didn't get at quarterback, they certainly added in toughness up front, taking Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter and Wisconsin guard John Moffitt in the first and third rounds. Per Football Outsiders' stats, the Seahawks gained nothing or lost yardage on a staggering 26 percent of their runs last season. Clearly, Pete Carroll and John Schneider's focus was on improving the running game. The selection of Mississippi State outside linebacker K.J. Wright and Georgia wideout Kris Durham were surprises, given the similar talents of players already on their roster. Of Seattle's seven day three selections, improving the secondary was an obvious focus as the team used three consecutive picks on Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman, Appalachian State free safety Mark LeGree and Clemson cornerback Byron Maxwell. I'm particularly high on the LeGree, a three-time All-American who could surprise as a future starter.

Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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