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Senior NFL Columnist

Re-grading the 2011 NFL Draft: The time I gave Christian Ponder an A

More on the 2011 draft: Infographic: Which team had the most productive draft?

There is nothing more humbling than looking back at draft grades from three years ago, grades given out the day after that draft was concluded.

Bottom line: We think we know, but we really don't.

Then again, neither do the teams. They miss too. When they miss, it's crippling. When I miss, it's humbling.

Big difference.

We do draft grades the weekend of the draft for immediacy. Fans, despite what they say, crave them -- as do my bosses. So I do them. The teams always hate them, and I get it.

That's why I come back three years later to re-grade the draft. It's the only fair way to grade a draft. Three years is a long enough period to let all the opinions marinate. How did the teams do? How did I do?

The 2011 NFL Draft included several big quarterback misses and big yields by teams you wouldn't have expected.

I had my share of misses (click for the 2011 full grades) -- Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder -- but there were a lot of hits, too.

So dive in, take a look, and see how the grades have changed as I sink down in my chair and try to hide my face for my immediate grades -- much like some of the general managers who were fired for what they did in 2011.

Arizona Cardinals

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: They landed a starter in corner Patrick Peterson in the first round, a starter in the third round in tight end Rob Housler and a starter (when healthy) in Sam Acho in the fourth. Second-round pick Ryan Williams has been plagued by injuries.

How I did: I liked the pick of Peterson in the first round and Acho was the third-day gem I liked. So I did OK there. I challenged them for passing on a quarterback, but that proved to be the right decision.

Re-grade: B

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons gave up plenty to move up for Julio Jones, but it has been worth the price. (USATSI)
The Falcons gave up plenty to move up for Julio Jones, but it has been worth the price. (USATSI)

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: This is the draft they traded away four picks (five if you count swapping picks) to move up to get receiver Julio Jones. He has been a heck of a player, so it has worked out, but they don't have a title and lack depth because of the move. They also got running back Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round and punter Matt Bosher in the sixth.

How I did: I questioned the move to trade away all the picks for Jones, and some will say I was right, but I would disagree. I think he has been worth it with the way the game is played. I liked the pick of linebacker Akeem Dent in the third round. He hasn't lived up to the expectations.

Re-grade: C-plus

Baltimore Ravens

2011 grade: B-plus

The skinny: They landed starting corner Jimmy Smith in the first round and speed receiver Torrey Smith in the second. They also got solid backups in defensive end Pernell McPhee and quarterback Tyrod Taylor. But they blew their third-pick on tackle Jah Reid.

How I did: I liked the pick of Smith in the second round because they badly needed his speed. And it worked out. I questioned the pick of Jimmy Smith in the first round, but only because of off-field issues. I even said I liked him as a player. My third-day gem was McPhee, who is a solid player on their defense who came in the fifth round.

Re-grade: B

Buffalo Bills

2011 grade: C-plus

The skinny: They landed a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Marcell Dareus in the first round, a good pick. They also got safety Aaron Williams, a quality starter, in the second. Third-round pick Kelvin Sheppard is now with the Colts, but fourth-round picks Chris Hairston (tackle) and Da'Norris Searcy (safety) have started.

How I did: I loved the Dareus pick, so credit there. But I also questioned the Bills' decision to pass on a quarterback because I didn't believe in Ryan Fitzpatrick. They were smart to pass -- at least in the first round -- but thinking Fitzpatrick was the long-term answer also was wrong. I also thought running back Johnny White was their third-day gem. He wasn't.

Re-grade: B

Carolina Panthers

2011 grade: C

The skinny: They took Cam Newton with the first overall pick, and he has proven to be worth it. Newton is among the top 10 to 14 QBs and has a lot of good football in front of him. The rest of the draft was a big bunch of nothing. The only player other than Newton still on the roster is backup receiver Kealoha Pilares. That's awful.

How I did: I questioned the decision to take Newton with the first pick because they had just taken Jimmy Clausen the year before. Oops. I also liked the pick of defensive tackle Sione Fua (now with Denver) in the third round.

Re-grade: D (Only because of Newton or it's an F).

Chicago Bears

2011 grade: C-plus

The skinny: They drafted tackle Gabe Carimi in the first round, and he's now with Atlanta, his third team. Not good. They did get two starters in the draft, with defensive tackle Stephen Paea coming in the second round and safety Chris Conte coming in the third. Neither player is top 25 at their position and Conte could be on the bench in 2013.

How I did: I liked the pick of Paea in the second round, so that was a decent hit. But I also liked Carimi. That wasn't so good.

Re-grade: D

Cincinnati Bengals

2011 grade: B

The skinny: They landed receiver A.J. Green in the first round and quarterback Andy Dalton in the second. That's a pretty good 1-2 punch, even if some don't like Dalton. He has taken them to the playoffs three consecutive seasons. Fourth-round pick Clint Boling is the starting left guard.

How I did: I liked the pick of Dalton in the second round, and still do. And I loved the pick of Green in the first. My third-day gem was safety Robert Sands, and he didn't work out. I questioned the move to take Dontay Moch in the third, and he is back with the team after a year in Arizona.

Re-grade: B-plus

Cleveland Browns

2011 grade: C-plus

The skinny: They traded out of the sixth spot with Atlanta to pick up extra picks and they ended up having a nice draft. First-round pick Phil Taylor is a good defensive tackle. Second-round picks Greg Little (WR) and Jabal Sheard (OLB) start. Fourth-round pick Jordan Cameron is a Pro Bowl tight end and Buster Skrine, a fifth-round pick, was a starter at corner last season. Fifth-round pick Jason Pinkston also started at guard. It's too bad they took Brandon Weeden in 2012 with one of the firsts they got to trade out of the sixth spot.

How I did: I questioned the move to trade out, but they still had a heck of a draft. I liked the move to draft Little, but he hasn't been what I expected. My third-day gem was Cameron, who I liked because he was a former basketball player.

Re-grade: A

Dallas Cowboys

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: The Cowboys nailed their first-round pick, getting Pro Bowl tackle Tyron Smith ninth overall. Second-round pick Bruce Carter has a ton of talent and 24 starts the past two seasons. Third-round pick DeMarco Murray is a top-notch running back. Sixth-round pick Dwayne Harris is the third receiver and a heck of a return man.

How I did: I liked the pick of Carter, even though he was coming off an ACL injury. I questioned the pick of Murray because they had so many other needs. My third-day gem was Harris, which is a hit.

Re-grade: B

Denver Broncos

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: They took pass rusher Von Miller in the first round, and he's a star when he's on the field. He's now coming off major knee surgery. Second-round pick Rahim Moore is also coming off an injury-plagued season, but is a decent player. Orlando Franklin, another second-round pick, started at right tackle the past two seasons and should be the left guard in 2014. Fourth-round pick Julius Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl last season at tight end. Nate Irving and Quentin Carter are backups.

How I did: I questioned the decision to take Miller over Dareus, which Denver got right and I didn't. My third-day gem was Thomas, which is a big hit. I liked the pick of Moore in the second as their best pick.

Re-grade: A

Detroit Lions

2011 grade: B-plus

The skinny: The Lions took defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the first round, and he has become a good player inside. But that's pretty much it from this draft. Receiver Titus Young, a second-round pick, had issues and is gone. Running back Mikel Leshoure, another second-round pick, is a backup at best.

How I did: I loved the pick of Fairley, and that has played out. I also liked the pick of Young, which hasn't. My third-day gem was linebacker Doug Hogue, and he didn't work out.

Re-grade: D

Green Bay Packers

2011 grade: B-plus

The skinny: First-round pick Derek Sherrod has had a series of injury troubles that have kept him off the field. So that hasn't worked out. But they hit big time on receiver Randall Cobb in the second round, although he missed time with an injury last season. But of the eight other picks, only safety Davon House has really done anything and Ryan Taylor is a backup tight end.

How I did: I loved the pick of Cobb, and that worked out. I didn't question many of the other moves, which didn't. This was not a good draft for general manager Ted Thompson. My third-day gem was outside linebacker Ricky Elmore, who didn't work out.

Re-grade: D-minus

Houston Texans

2011 grade: A

The skinny: This is the draft that landed them star defensive lineman J.J. Watt. He has proven to be a great pick. Second-round pick Brooks Reed has been a starter at outside linebacker but hasn't been as good as expected. Corner Brandon Harris, another second-round pick, has been mostly a backup. Fifth-round picks Shiloh Keo (safety) and T.J. Yates (quarterback) are on the team and have started. Seventh-round tackle Derek Newton has been a starter on the right side.

How I did: I liked the pick of Watt, but questioned taking him over a corner. Reed was my best pick, but that hasn't quite worked out. The third-day gem was Yates, who has started.

Re-grade: B

Indianapolis Colts

2011 grade: B

The skinny: They took tackle Anthony Castonzo in the first round, and he has been a decent left tackle. But they blew it in the second round trading up to get guard-tackle Ben Ijalana, who is no longer with the team. In fact, Castonzo is the only player from the draft left on the roster.

How I did: I liked the pick in the third-round of defensive tackle Drake Nevis, and he was good as a rookie but when the scheme changed he didn't fit. I questioned the move for Ijalana and my third-day gem was running back Delone Carter. Nevis and Carter are now in Jacksonville.

Re-grade: D

Jacksonville Jaguars

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: They moved up to take quarterback Blaine Gabbert and that was an epic fail. He is now in San Francisco, and the Jaguars still need a quarterback. They did get receiver Cecil Shorts in the fourth round, and he is a good starter. The rest of the draft produced little, although third-round pick Will Rackley has been a starter.

How I did: I liked the move to trade up to get Gabbert, which was way wrong. I questioned their passing on defensive players with their first three picks, and that showed up the past two seasons. My third-day gem was Shorts, which is a hit.

Re-grade: D-minus

Kansas City Chiefs

2011 grade: C-minus

The skinny: The Chiefs blew their first-round pick on receiver Jonathan Baldwin, who is now in San Francisco. They're still looking for a receiver. Second-round pick Rodney Hudson is the starting center, so that was a solid pick. Third-round pick Justin Houston is a Pro Bowl player, so they nailed that one big time. Fellow third-round pick Allen Bailey is a nice rotation player at defensive tackle. The rest of the draft didn't produce much of anything.

How I did: I questioned the picks of Baldwin and Houston because they had some character concerns. One worked out, one didn't. My third-day gem was quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who was taken in the fifth round. That didn't work out.

Re-grade: B-minus

Miami Dolphins

2011 grade: C-plus

The skinny: They took center Mike Pouncey in the first round, and he has proven to be a top-tier center. Second-round runner Daniel Thomas has been a disappointment. But they did get value in sixth-round pick Charles Clay, a tight end who did some good things last season. Seventh-round defensive back Jimmy Wilson also has become a solid pick with three starts last season.

How I did: I liked the pick of Pouncey, which has played out. I questioned the decision to pass on a quarterback, but they were right and got Ryan Tannehill the next season. My third-day gem was receiver Clyde Gates, but he is now with the Jets and only has 30 catches in three seasons, even with his blazing speed.

Re-grade: C

Minnesota Vikings

Christian Ponder has just 38 touchdowns in 35 starts for the Vikings. (USATSI)

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: This draft landed quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round. That hasn't worked out and they didn't even pick up his fifth-year option. They took starting tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round, which is a good pick. The rest of the draft didn't produce much. Sixth-round pick Brandon Fusco is the starting right guard.

How I did: Bad. I liked the pick of Ponder, but that was way off. I also liked fifth-round pick Brandon Burton as my third-day gem, but that didn't work out. I criticized the pick of Christian Ballard in the third, and he proved to be a bad pick.

Re-grade: D

New England Patriots

2011 grade: B

The skinny: The Patriots had a lot of picks and ended up getting a good starting tackle in Nate Solder in the first round and two backs in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in Rounds 2 and 3. They also used a first-round pick they got from the Saints -- for their second first-rounder in 2011 -- to take Chandler Jones in 2012. But they blew a second-round pick on corner Ras-I Dowling, who is no longer with the team. They also got backups Ryan Mallett and Marcus Cannon (who has started) in this drat.

How I did: I liked the pick of Dowling in the second round. Oops. But I also called Cannon the third-day gem, and he has worked out. I questioned the pick of Vereen in the second, and he has been a good player.

Re-grade: B-plus

New Orleans Saints

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: They landed defensive end Cameron Jordan with their first-round pick, 24th overall, and he has become a top player. That's value. They also traded back into the first round to get running back Mark Ingram, who hasn't lived up to expectations. Third-round pick Martez Wilson was let go last season and is now with Dallas. They got nothing else from this draft.

How I did: I liked the pick of Wilson in the third round. Oops. I questioned the move to trade back into the first round to get Ingram, and that has played out. My third-day gem was pass rusher Greg Romeus, who was coming off knee surgeries, but he didn't work out.

Re-grade: C-minus

New York Giants

2011 grade: A

The skinny: They took corner Prince Amukamara in the first round, and he is coming off his best season and is their best corner. Second-round defensive tackle Marvin Austin didn't work out, and he's in Denver. Third-round receiver Jerrell Jernigan flashed late last season and might be ready for more after two seasons of doing little. Fourth-round pick James Brewer started eight games at guard last season. Sixth-round pick Jacquian Williams is a speed linebacker who started eight games last season. Seventh-round pick Da'Rel Scott is a backup running back.

How I did: I liked the pick of Amukamara in the first round and questioned the decision to not pick an offensive lineman until the fourth. That has played out with their line issues. My third-day gem was linebacker Greg Jones, who came in the sixth round but is no longer on the roster.

Re-grade: B-minus

New York Jets

Muhammad Wilkerson (96) has emerged as a centerpiece of the Jets' defense. (USATSI)
Muhammad Wilkerson (96) has emerged as a centerpiece of the Jets' defense. (USATSI)

2011 grade: C

The skinny: They took defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson with the 30th pick, and that has proven to be a steal. He's one of the league's best down linemen. Third-round pick Kendrick Ellis is a solid D-line reserve. Fourth-round runner Bilal Powel has proven to be a nice pick, as has fifth-round pick Jeremy Kerley as a receiver.

How I did: I praised the pick of Wilkerson, but also questioned the decision to pass on picking an outside rusher for their 3-4 scheme. My third-day gem was seventh-round quarterback Greg McElroy, who started some games but has since retired.

Re-grade: B

Oakland Raiders

2011 grade: C

The skinny: They traded their first-round pick to New England to get Richard Seymour, a good player who wasn't worth the pick. They did have eight other picks, and of those eight the starters are center Stefan Wisniewski (second) and receiver Denarius Moore (fifth). Seventh-round receiver David Ausberry is now a tight end and could play a big role this season.

How I did: I liked the pick of tackle Joseph Barksdale, but he isn't with the team anymore. He is the starter at right tackle for the Rams. I questioned the pick of third-round corner DeMarcus Van Dyke, who is no longer with the team and is on Kansas City's roster. My third-day gem was corner Chimdi Chekwa, and he has two starts in three seasons but has also played in the nickel.

Re-grade: C

Philadelphia Eagles

2011 grade: B

The skinny: The Eagles blew their first three picks on guard Danny Watkins, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and corner Curtis Marsh. Ouch. The Eagles had nine other picks in that draft, and the only real hits were fourth-round kicker Alex Henery and sixth-round center Jason Kelce, who is one of the better centers in the league.

How I did: Not good. I liked the pick of Watkins in the first round as much as the Eagles did. I questioned the move to take Henery (hey, he's a kicker) but that worked out. My third-day gem was linebacker Casey Matthews, who has started but is more of a backup.

Re-grade: D

Pittsburgh Steelers

2011 grade: B-minus

The skinny: The Steelers picked defensive end Cameron Heyward in the first round and he is developing into a decent starter. He's coming off his best season. Second-round pick Marcus Gilbert is a starter at tackle. They have received production from fourth-round corner Cortez Allen, who has started 11 games the past two seasons.

How I did: I liked the pick of Heyward, but questioned the pick of Gilbert, who I said they over-drafted. I was wrong. My third-day gem was fifth-round pick Chris Carter, who is still on the roster and has four starts.

Re-grade: B-minus

St. Louis Rams

2011 grade: B

The skinny: They landed All-Pro pass rusher Robert Quinn in the first round. He is arguably the best edge rusher in the league. Second-round tight end Lance Kendricks is a contributor, but hasn't lived up to the expectations. Third-round receiver Austin Pettis has 11 starts and 95 catches.

How I did: I loved the pick of Quinn, and that has proven to be a steal. I didn't like the pick of Pettis in the third round, but liked receiver Greg Salas in the fourth. Salas, who was my third-day gem, is gone.

Re-grade: B

San Diego Chargers

2011 grade: B-plus

The skinny: The Chargers used a first-round pick on defensive lineman Cory Liuget, who has turned into a good starter. They had two second-round picks and hit on safety Marcus Gilchrist but missed on linebacker Jonas Mouton. They got starting corner Shareece Wright and receiver Vincent Brown in the third round. That's value. Seventh-round linebacker Andrew Gachkar is a quality reserve.

How I did: I liked the pick of Gilchrist in the second round. I questioned the pick of linebacker Mouton in the second round, and he hasn't worked out. My third-day gem was guard Stephen Schilling and he is now in Seattle.

Re-grade: A

San Francisco 49ers

Aldon Smith has 42 sacks in three seasons for the 49ers. (USATSI)
Aldon Smith has 42 sacks in three seasons for the 49ers. (USATSI)

2011 grade: C-plus

The skinny: The 49ers nailed their top two picks, taking Aldon Smith in the first round and Colin Kaepernick in the second. Smith has off-the-field issues, which clouds the pick some, but he's a supreme talent when on the field. Kaepernick has proven to be a good starter. They also landed starting corner Chris Culliver in the third, running back Kendall Hunter in the fourth and fullback Bruce Miller in the seventh. Daniel Kilgore, who came in the fifth, could be their starting center this season.

How I did: I missed big time since I initially didn't like the pick of Smith because they passed on a quarterback. How wrong was I? I wasn't sold on Kaepernick either. I liked Hunter in the fourth, and my third-day gem was Kilgore.

Re-grade: A-plus (If Smith plays)

Seattle Seahawks

2011 grade: C-minus

The skinny: The Seahawks basically missed on their first three moves in this draft. They took James Carpenter in the first round to be a tackle, and he's now a rotation guard. Third-round pick John Moffitt was let go and has since retired. They traded their second-round pick to Detroit for additional picks that year and it panned out. It turned out to be a good draft. They got corner Richard Sherman in the fifth, and he's arguably the best in football. They also got fellow starting corner Byron Maxwell in the sixth and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith came in the seventh.

How I did: I liked the Moffitt pick, which was a miss. I questioned the Carpenter pick, which I got right. My third-day gem was a fifth-round pick, but it wasn't Sherman. It was safety Mark Legree, who is in Buffalo now.

Re-grade: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2011 grade: A

The skinny: They had eight picks but the only sure starter in 2014 will be middle linebacker Mason Foster. That hurts. They took defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers in the first two rounds, but they haven't lived up to expectations. The rest of the draft produced backup tight end Luke Stocker.

How I did: I both liked and questioned the move to take Bowers in the second round. He had talent, but there were injury concerns. And that has played out. My third-day gem was safety Ahmad Black, and he's not with the team anymore. I liked their draft back then, but the two defensive ends haven't helped the grade.

Re-grade: D

Tennessee Titans

2011 grade: B

The skinny: The Titans took quarterback Jake Locker with the eighth pick and so far that hasn't worked out. This year will decide his fate. They hit on Akeem Ayers in the second round and really hit on defensive tackle Jurrell Casey in the third. He is a force. Fourth-round pick Colin McCarthy has started at linebacker and fifth-round pick Karl Klug is a decent backup at defensive tackle.

How I did: I questioned the Locker pick, mainly because he was taken before Gabbert. That's not good. I loved the pick of Casey in the third round and he has proven to be a heck of a pick. My third-day gem was McCarthy.

Re-grade: B

Washington Redskins

2011 grade: B

The skinny: They had 12 picks that year because of a trade down in the first, and all but two are still on the roster. That's impressive. Of the 10, two (Ryan Kerrigan and Jarvis Jenkins) are starters, but there are several key reserves, including receivers Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson, running back Roy Helu and seventh-round nose tackle Chris Neild.

How I did: I liked the move to trade back and take Kerrigan, who has proven to be a solid, if not special player. I questioned their passing on a quarterback, but that was the right move. My third-day gem was backup running back Evan Royster.

Re-grade: A


Below is an objective look at the 2011 NFL Draft, examining each team's class by snap counts (productivity). See how it lines up with my takes on each team's draft.

 
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