The NFL Draft Report - Handing Out Grades For The First-Round Picks

The NFL Draft Report - Handing Out Grades For The First-Round Picks

Okay, so we don’t mean to toot our own horn here but ...

In our annual Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft story the other day in this very column space we happened to have written the following:

“Jim Sez is forecasting as least three big deals (and probably even more) involving first-round choices” - and don’t you know there were eight trades in all in the opening round of a rock-‘em, sock-‘em affair that did indeed go at a fast-and-furious pace but count us among the folks who could have done without all that hugging between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and those first-rounders ... ugh!

The fact of the matter is Thursday night’s NFL Draft Round I was terrific made-for-TV stuff - did you catch the part where Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kahil was showing his “I’m not worthy” bows to little brother Matt after he was tabbed with the draft’s fourth overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings? Priceless stuff (but, of course, the ESPN folks didn’t say anything about it!) - and it’s not as if the opening round went according to form as there were plenty of major surprises and more than a few head-scratcher picks.

We’ll hand out our NFL Draft Round I grades in a moment with quick-hitter comments regarding all 32 picks but first this key reminder with the NBA Playoffs all set to start this Saturday/Sunday in eight different locations and so keep this in mind ...

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THE NFL DRAFT ROUND I GRADES 

  1. INDIANAPOLIS - ANDREW LUCK, QB (Stanford) - No-brainer from the proverbial get-go and what we really like is that this former Maxwell Award winner is a “one-of-the-guys” player who will grow up with this franchise. Let’s say it’s Colts in the post-season come 2014. Grade: A+
  2. WASHINGTON - ROBERT GRIFFIN III, QB (Baylor) - Loved the burgundy socks that he displayed for the TV cameras last night at Radio City Music Hall and now the Redskins are hoping he can high-step out of trouble when facing rough/tough defenses the next 10-to-12 years. Grade: A
  3. CLEVELAND - TRENT RICHARDSON, RB (Alabama) - The Brownies traded up a spot to get ‘em (was New England after him with those two first-round picks?) and now boss-man Mike Holmgren hopes his college game translates well to the next level ... but we do have some doubts. Grade: B-
  4. MINNESOTA - MATT KALIL, OT (USC) - The Vikings were more-than-willing to go down a spot and land the draft’s best blocker and love the fact he played the past two years for “pro-minded” head coach Lane Kiffin. Happy now, QB Christian Ponder? Grade: A
  5. JACKSONVILLE - JUSTIN BLACKMON, WR (Oklahoma State) - We had the Jaguars trading down a couple of spots and instead they moved up from #7 to take the most explosive wide-out in this draft but just how long till he starts moaning-and-groaning about not getting the ball enough. Love the talent, not always the ‘tude. Grade: B+
  6. DALLAS - MORRIS CLAIBORNE, CB (LSU) - How about the fact that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now has made a first-round trade in 18 of his 24 years on the job? At least this one made perfect sense as ‘Boys needed secondary help and landed the best cover CB around. Grade: A+
  7. TAMPA BAY - MARK BARRON, SS (Alabama) - The Bucs traded down two spots and we’re wondering why they didn’t sit tight and snag Claiborne at #5. Sure, new head coach Greg Schiano is preaching “toughness” but an air-tight corner against the likes of QBs Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan twice a year each would’ve helped! Grade: C+
  8. MIAMI - RYAN TANNEHILL, QB (Texas A&M) - Okay, we had the pick correct in our mock draft but just thought the Fish might have to trade up a few spots to ensure it and simply cannot argue the fact that this franchise needs an identity at this position and can’t worry that he may be a “reach”. Grade: B
  9. CAROLINA - LUKE KUECHLY, ILB (Boston College) -- The Panthers need to fill a lot of vacancies and grabbing this tackling machine helps but we thought Carolina would go pass rusher and in a subtle way this pick really changed the rest of Round I. Grade: B
  10. BUFFALO - STEPHON GILMORE, CB (South Carolina) - Our sources said the Bills were gonna trade up and look for WR Blackmon but when Jags nabbed him at #5 it forced the AFC East squad to sit here and take “best available player” and even that’s debatable (would have liked DT Fletcher Cox here). Grade: C+
  11. KANSAS CITY - DONTARI POE, DT (Memphis) - Wildest hairdo of the night and pretty wild pick too when you consider the Chiefs could have taken Cox or OLB Melvin Ingram here and been better off. Maybe GM Scott Pioli will have some explaining to do come December! Grade: C-
  12. PHILADELPHIA - FLETCHER COX, DT (Miss State) - Once the Bills and Chiefs passed on this man-monster than the Eagles pulled the trigger on a deal with Seattle and surged to the podium with this pick ... bravo! Maybe head coach Andy Reid deserved a break, right? P.S., this guy had top 6 draft talent. Grade: A
  13. ARIZONA - MICHAEL FLOYD, WR (Notre Dame) - We’ll take the round of applause after hitting this one on the head as Redbirds probably needed to address their defense but if someone can take heat off veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald than it’s a sound choice. Grade: B
  14. ST. LOUIS - MICHAEL BROCKERS, DT (LSU) - Once the Rams traded out of pick #6, they let it be known that adding depth was more important than adding a single signature defender but let’s just say new coach Jeff Fisher got lucky here as anyone in the previous five picks could have snatched up this line-clogger. Grade: B
  15. SEATTLE - BRUCE IRVIN, OLB (West Virginia) - Must admit we didn’t have this dude in our first round and from the sounds of critics late last night he probably doesn’t belong among the draft’s top 40 players. Go ahead and prove us wrong, Pete Carroll! Grade: D
  16. NEW YORK JETS - QUINTON COPLES, DE (North Carolina) - Let’s just say this selection didn’t get a rousing ovation from J-E-T-S Nation although must admit we believe Carolina Panthers were gonna take him in the top 10. If he’s another Vernon Gholston, than GM Mike Tannenbaum may pay with his job. Grade: C+
  17. CINCINNATI - DRE KIRKPATRICK, CB (Alabama) - Roll Tide! Funny thing is we thought Bengals would opt for ‘Bama OLB Courtney Upshaw who didn’t even make the grade in Round One and odds are Cincy’s pick here prevented rival Pittsburgh from possibly getting their hands on him at #24. Grade: B+
  18. SAN DIEGO - MELVIN INGRAM, OLB (South Carolina) - Everyone is raving about this kid with ESPN folks calling it one of the best three picks in Round One and we thought he’d go inside the top 10 but than why did he drop this low? Hmmm. Grade: B-
  19. CHICAGO - SHEA McCLELLIN, OLB (Boise State) - The Bears had the opportunity to draft native son DE Whitney Mercilus (from Illinois) and passed and so talk show hosts in Windy City have lots of non-Cubs fodder this weekend. And we didn’t see this “farm boy” with first-round draft label either! Grade: C
  20. TENNESSEE - KENDALL WRIGHT, WR (Baylor) - Injuries pretty much forced the Titans’ draft hand here but count us among the folks who believe they “reached” for this one-time “RG3” favorite target. Grade: C+
  21. NEW ENGLAND - CHANDLER JONES, DE (Syracuse) - This kid’s draft stock rose a bit in the past few days and he created enough buzz that the Pats traded up a few spots with Cincinnati here. Keep in mind he missed five games last year and is far from a finished product. Grade: C
  22. CLEVELAND - BRANDON WEEDEN, QB (Oklahoma State) - No doubt the aforementioned Holmgren wants someone to replace injury-prone slinger Colt McCoy but are the Browns not putting their eggs in the “wrong basket”? Forget that Weeden will be 29 years old this fall, he may be product of Okie State high-octane passing system. Grade: C-
  23. DETROIT - RILEY REIFF, OT (Iowa) - Did you know that there were eight SEC players chosen before the first Big 10 guy here came off the board? ‘Tis true and we told you all along the Lions needed to refurbish the O-line but just didn’t think Reiff would last this long. Grade: B+
  24. PITTSBURGH -- DAVID DeCASTRO, OG (Stanford) - The Steelers really had their hearts set on secondary help here but no Kirkpatrick and no Gilmore made ‘em adjust their thinking and so time to bone up a banged-up offensive line that keeps getting QB Ben Roethlisberger banged up. Grade: B
  25. NEW ENGLAND - DONT’A HIGHTOWER, ILB (Alabama) - Yes, the Pats traded up again and nabbed more big-time defensive help as fourth Crimson Tide defender was tabbed but now head coach Bill Belichick must figure out where he fits best ... inside or out? Grade: C+
  26. HOUSTON - WHITNEY MERCILUS, DE (Illinois) - His 16 QB sacks really came out of nowhere last year but all these young stud defenders for DC Wade Phillips should have Texans thinking Super Bowl or bust in 2012. Grade: B+
  27. CINCINNATI - KEVIN ZEITLER, OG (Wisconsin) - We had this Badgers star going two picks earlier and so Bengals happy to get him here and now hope QB Andy Dalton feels a bit more secure in the pocket ... and he will. Grade: B+
  28. GREEN BAY - NICK PERRY, DE (USC) - Our Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft had this former Men of Troy star going at #12 and so someone missed the boat here ... was it us or the all-knowing NFL teams that made the last 15 or 16 picks? Grade: B
  29. MINNESOTA - HARRISON SMITH, SS (Notre Dame) - The Ravens moved out of this draft slot because G Zeitler was gone and so the Vikes jumped up and tried to plug one of their many defensive holes but this guy’s overall game doesn’t wow us. Grade: D
  30. SAN FRANCISCO - A.J. JENKINS, WR (Illinois) - The Niners did add WR Mario Manningham via free agency but believed they needed more wide-out help plus don’t be shocked if this guy returns some punts too (sorry to remind you, San Fran fans!). Grade: B
  31. TAMPA BAY - DOUG MARTIN, RB (Boise State) - Let’s just say you could have knocked the Super Bowl champion New York Giants over with a feather after the Bucs traded into this spot as T-Bay moved back into Round One with this trade with New England (yes, Schiano and Belichick are good buddies!). Grade: B+
  32. NEW YORK GIANTS - DAVID WILSON, RB (Virginia Tech) - Who are we to “diss” Giants GM Jerry Reese after he’s won a pair of Super Bowls the past five years but call this a knee-jerk reaction to missing out on Martin and note that “Big Blue” fans were not initially thrilled with the choice ... and neither are we! Grade: C-
NOTE: Catch our NBA Playoff Previews in the next couple of Jim Sez columns plus there’s other NFL Draft News & Notes too!
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