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2011 NFL Draft Grades: Arizona to Kansas City
By Jonathan Hull

Arizona Cardinals

Best value: Patrick Peterson (1-5), DB, LSU -- The Cards got the best player in the draft at No. 5 overall. Peterson is the total package and should have gone No. 1 overall. The Cards didn't have a huge need at DB, but grabbing Peterson improves the team in several facets immediately.
Worst value: Robert Housler (3-69), TE, Florida Atlantic -- Housler is a very good athlete, but he's a raw football player. The Cards have to find a way to channel his athleticism into becoming a pass-catching TE. He's a player I think they could have gotten two rounds later.
Late-round sleeper: Quan Sturdivant (6-171), LB, North Carolina -- A sleeper has to come in rounds 5, 6 or 7. That's the only reason Sturdivant makes it here. In reality, he's not a sleeper. He's a talented LB who could have gone as early as the second round. But players slip and the Cards end up with a great talent.
Need: The Cardinals addressed some of their biggest needs at OLB (Texas' Sam Acho in fourth round) and TE. They didn't grab a QB, but I don't punish them for that. It's obvious Arizona is thinking veteran for the position, which is something I've been preaching for months. They probably needed to add a piece along the OL, though. That's the one spot they didn't do anything with.
Grade: B-plus

Atlanta Falcons

Best value: Jacquizz Rodgers (5-145), RB, Oregon State -- It's hard to call first round pick Julio Jones the best value after all the Falcons gave up for him. I like their aggressive move, though, and I definitely don't punish their grade for making it. The move just keeps Jones from being listed here. The Falcons have put a heavy workload on Michael Turner the past three years and backup Jerious Norwood never developed into the change of pace back they were hoping for. Rodgers has a chance to fill that role. He had value in the third round, but RBs are known to slip. He's great value in the fifth.
Worst value: None -- Again, I won't punish the Falcons for the heavy price they paid to get Julio Jones. I don't think the Falcons reached a single time in this draft. Drafting Miami, Fla., punter Matt Bosher in the sixth round might be the biggest reach to me, but it's a sixth round pick. There's no such thing of a reach that late. The Falcons' board was solid all the way through.
Late-round sleeper: Cliff Matthews (7-230), DE, South Carolina -- Matthews is a good talent I though could go in the middle rounds. The Falcons need pass rushers and Matthews has good strength and a strong motor to be a part of the rotation at DE. The Falcons found a player who could get them 5 to 8 sacks a season, depending on playing time, in the seventh round.
Need: The big move up for Jones did prevent the Falcons from addressing some defensive needs at DE and OLB earlier. That means they'll be big players in the free agent market once the season can finally get to that point. A CB and young TE to groom behind Tony Gonzalez are two other positions the Falcons failed to address.
Grade: A-minus.

Baltimore Ravens

Best value: Jimmy Smith (1-27), CB, Colorado -- Smith has top 15 overall talent, but off-the-field red flags caused several teams to pause. But the Ravens have a strong locker room in tact, which should prove to be a solid foundation for him. The Ravens addressed their biggest need without reaching.
Worst value: None -- Baltimore didn't overly reach for any player. Some might say Central Florida OT Jah Reid, but his work ethic and the way he attacked his workouts moved him up many boards. Reid can be a starting RT in the league, making him a nice find in the third round.
Late-round sleeper: Anthony Allen (7-225), RB, Georgia Tech -- Allen is a talented back, who will get some coaching up after playing the triple option at Georgia Tech. But either you can run the ball or you can't. Allen definitely can and has the ability to run between the tackles and stretch the perimeter.
Need: The Ravens addresed their two biggest needs with their first two picks and didn't reach in doing so. After getting Smith in the first, they took Maryland WR Torrey Smith in the second, giving them the vertical threat they lacked. They also drafted a guy who could eventually replace Anquan Boldin with their fourth-round pick in Indiana's Tandon Doss.
Grade: A-minus

Buffalo Bills

Best value: Marcell Dareus (1-3), DT, Alabama -- The Bills simply allowed Dareus to fall to them at No. 3 overall. Dareus is a proven commodity during his time at 'Bama and is also scheme versatile, meaning he fits a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme wonderfully. The league's worst run defense just got much better. Second-round pick Aaron Williams, a DB from Texas, also could have gone here.
Worst value: Da'Norris Searcy (3-100), S, North Carolina -- It's not a huge reach, but even a slight reach is still a reach. There were better safeties available. Searcy has good size, but he's not  physical. His cover skills are better, but still only marginal. He can be a very good special teams player, but this was an early fourth round pick. And frankly, Aaron Williams has to be a likely candidate to take over for free agent to be Donte Whitner. The Bills could have done more here.
Late-round sleeper: Johnny White (5-133), RB, North Carolina -- White isn't going to outrun very many people, but he's an intelligent, patient back and is ideal as a third-down option given his ability to both pass block and catch the ball out of the backfield. He'll make the team.
Need: The Bills are now staring at Ryan Fitzpatrick as their QB for the entire season and still don't have a young QB to groom behind him. They might be one of the favorites in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Buffalo did a good job finding help along the DL and OL, but didn't find a rush LB for its 3-4 scheme. The value of Dareus and Williams saves their grade.
Grade: B.

Carolina Panthers

Best value: Lawrence Wilson (6-166), LB, Connecticut -- Wilson is as instinctive as a LB can be and is always around the ball on film. He's small, but putting him at Will LB in the Panthers' 4-3 scheme would protect him. He's got late third-round value and could develop into a starter. I also like the value Carolina got for seventh-round pick Lee Ziemba. The Auburn OT can be a starting RT in the league.
Worst value: Cam Newton (1-1), QB, Auburn -- I like Newton. I think he can develop into a good QB in this league. However, the Panthers have so many other pieces they need to get into place before he can succeed. QB simply wasn't their most pressing need. There were two elite players in this draft in LSU DB Patrick Peterson and Texas A&M LB Von Miller. But a QB has gone No. 1 overall in 11 of the last 14 drafts. The NFL is a league of trends and teams are scare of going against the grain and bucking these trends. Carolina fell victim to that Thursday. I also felt like the Panthers reached for DTs Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, who were both taken in the third round.
Late-round sleeper: Lee Ziemba (7-244), OT, Auburn -- Again, I only put Ziemba here because he was taken in the seventh round. I thought he was definitely worth a middle round pick. I see him as a starting RT or even a guard in the league. He's got the right type of skill and toughness to develop into that.
Need: The Panthers had as many needs as any other team in the league, which is why there were picking No. 1 overall. They did a good job of finding players at a majority of those positions in this draft, but I didn't really care for the value of several of their selections. Finding talents like Wilson and Ziemba in the late rounds keeps them out of the C-range.
Grade: B-minus.

Chicago Bears

Best value: Gabe Carimi (1-29), OT, Wisconsin -- Carimi may never be a left tackle, but he could develop into one of the league's best right tackles. The Bears struggled mightily to protect Jay Cutler last season and wanted Carimi so bad, they were ready to move up two picks ahead of Seattle to get him. The trade with Baltimore never got called in, but the Bears were fortunate to have Seattle pass on Carimi and still land him.
Worst value: Chris Conte (3-93), S, Cal -- Conte looked like a late-round project to me, instead of a third-round pick the Bears might be expecting to contend for a starting job in a couple seasons. His production wasn't there in college and he didn't prove to be much of an athlete. The Cover 2 can cover some of those deficiencies, but not all of them.
Late-round sleeper: None -- The Bears had only two picks in the draft's last day, taking Idaho QB Nathan Enderle and West Virginia LB J.T. Thomas. I wouldn't be surprised if neither guy makes the team. Enderle looks the part and has a strong  arm, but his release is slow and he has no mobility. Thomas is small and an average athlete. I wouldn't have even had him on my draft board.
Need: Chicago addressed its two biggest needs with its first two picks along the OL and at DT. With Tommy Harris now gone, the Bears took Oregon State DT Stephen Paea to replace him. Paea has the potential to make an impact on the Bears' front four sooner than later. Chicago did likely need to add a WR, though, and failed to do so.
Grade: B.

Cincinnati Bengals

Best value: A.J. Green (1-4), WR, Georgia -- Some considered Green the best player in the draft. There's no doubt he's one of the top 5. Cincy had a big need to add some new faces in its passing game and landed the biggest name of the bunch here. He could prove to be an upgrade over Ochocinco as a rookie, and I'm not taking the veteran for granted, either.
Worst value: None -- I thought the Bengals drafted very well from a value perspective. Some might think Dalton is a slight reach, but with the way QBs were flying off the boards, his value was definitely raised. After all, rumors of him going in the top 10 were hot during the week leading up to the draft.
Late-round sleeper: Ryan Whalen (6-167), WR, Stanford -- Whalen wasn't a steal. The Bengals got the right value for him here. I simply like the way he plays. He's a great third-down option. When defenses are sitting down in zones, Whalen has the ability to make the read, find the open space and sit down in it. He'll catch most everything near him and sustain drives. Every WR corps needs a Ryan Whalen.
Need: The Bengals addressed nearly every need they had. The one position they might have missed on is DT. After that, Cincy did a great job of getting both need and value throughout this process. I see Cincy's first four picks capable of being starters within three years. Three of the four could start as rookies with Nevada LB Dontay Moch being the one exception.
Grade: A.

Cleveland Browns

Best value: Eric Hagg (7-248), S, Nebraska -- Any time a player with the potential to become a starter is found in the seventh round, then the value is high. Hagg will be a special teams warrior as a rookie, but don't be shocked if he's a starting safety or even a nickelback within three seasons.
Worst value: Phil Taylor (1-21), DT, Baylor -- Taylor is a gap-clogger and will consistently demand two blockers. But Cleveland is getting away from the 3-4 scheme which Taylor might have been a better fit for as a NT. He'll still fit as a 1-technique, but he's a two-down player at most. I've always had issues with two-down players being taken this high. The Browns did originally have the sixth overall pick and got amazing value for it. So that upgrades this reach somewhat.
Late-round sleeper: Buster Skrine (5-137), CB, Tenn-Chatanooga -- Skrine is very raw and has been injury plagued, but you can't coach speed. Skrine has plenty of that to offer. He can become a solid nickelback with the ability to cover quicker, inside receivers.
Need: The Browns are moving to a 4-3 scheme and did a solid job of finding pieces for that transition, particularly Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard in the second round. They also found in interesting WR prospect in North Carolina's Greg Little in the third, while USC TE Jordan Cameron has the athleticism to develop into an impact option in the passing game.
Grade: B-plus.

Dallas Cowboys

Best value: Tyron Smith (1-9), OT, USC -- Smith was considered by many as the lineman with the highest ceiling in the draft. He's only 20 with good size, athleticism and length. He's a future left tackle once he gets couched up. He was the top OT on many boards, but by no means was the consensus No. 1 option.
Worst value: None -- Value definitely wasn't an issue for the Cowboys. It became apparent by the third round that they were looking at value even over need. The top of their draft board was used for every single pick.
Late-round sleeper: Joshua Thomas (5-143), CB, Buffalo -- Many draftniks saw Thomas as one of the biggest sleepers among all DBs. He has to answer his durability concerns and prove he can stay healthy, however, Thomas has fluid hips and is a good enough cover guy to develop into a starting role. He'll never have a season where he picks off a ton of passes. He's just solid.
Need: This is the issue with the Cowboys' draft. There are questions along the DL, yet no picks were spent to address it. There are issues in the secondary and the Cowboys have no safeties with much experience currently on the roster. Again, no picks were used to address it. Not even late-round picks where the Cowboys grabbed a slot receiver, fullback and a center who probably won't make the team. The value of their early round picks, particularly guys like North Carolina LB Bruce Carter and Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray, keeps this as an average draft.
Grade: B.

Denver Broncos

Best value: Von Miller (1-2), LB, Texas A&M -- The Broncos grabbed one of the two elite athletes in this draft. Even if he was the second overall pick, Miller is worth that selection. He's going to be a great option and a three-down player. He'll play OLB, specializing in coverage, on first and second downs, then turn into an edge rusher on passing downs. Having Miller opposite the returning Elvis Dumervil gives the Broncos a strong pass rush.
Worst value: Julius Thomas (4-129), TE, Portland State -- Thomas is a major project at TE. It's not a horrid reach, but a reach none the less. He's a former basketball player who spent only one year playing football in college. After the success of Antonio Gates and more recently Jimmy Graham in New Orleans, many teams are eager to grab former basketball players who want to be a TE. I don't think Thomas is going to translate like Gates and Graham have.
Late-round sleeper: Virgil Green (7-204), TE, Nevada -- The Broncos should have taken Green where they took Thomas. Green is a much more proven commodity at TE. He's got strong hands and always comes up with catches in big situations. He's on the smallish side, but if the Broncos simply want a pass-catching option at TE, then Green's the man.
Need: The Broncos probably could have used more help along their front four with Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal being their only selection there and they took him in the seventh round. Denver is switching back to a 4-3 defense under John Fox and did find some decent pieces to help that transition. They found two strong safeties in second round pick Rahim Moore out of UCLA and Oklahoma's Quinton Carter in the fourth round. Also, third round pick Orlando Franklin of Miami gives Denver a versatile OL to play guard or right tackle.
Grade: A-minus.

Detroit Lions

Best value: Nick Fairley (1-13), DT, Auburn -- Fairley at 13 is one of the biggest steals of the first round. Plus, the Lions now couple Fairley with Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams in their DT rotation. That's a nasty threesome that will plague the NFC North offensive lines with nightmares.
Worst value: None -- The Lions made good use of their first round pick and two second rounders then didn't pick again until the fifth round. They didn't reach at any point.
Late-round sleeper: Douglas Hogue (5-157), LB, Syracuse -- Hogue has good enough size, but likely won't ever be a starter. He does, however, excel in coverage would could make a nickel-package option down the road.
Need: The Lions missed on a huge need at CB. They could have taken Colorado CB Jimmy Smith at No. 13 overall and it wouldn't have been that big a reach based on his talent. But I'm not going to punish Detroit for taking the more valuable Nick Fairley instead. Still, it would have been nice to see them go with a CB rather than Boise State WR Titus Young with their first second-round pick.
Grade: A-minus.

Green Bay Packers

Best value: D.J. Williams (5-141), TE, Arkansas -- Williams slipped because of his height. He's only 6-1, but he plays much bigger. He can't be a traditional TE, but the Packers are intelligent enough to use him in a way that will showcase his pass catching skills. He's just another weapon for Aaron Rodgers, and one that should be utilized some during his rookie season.
Worst value: Derek Sherrod (1-32), OT, Mississippi State -- Sherrod looks the part, but that's about it. He doesn't have good enough lateral movement to take on the league's better pass rushers and lacks the proper technique and strength to be a sound run blocker. I found him to be the most overrated OT in this draft.
Late-round sleeper: Lawrence Guy (7-233), DE, Arizona State -- Guy is more than capable of being a rotation player along the Packers' three-man front. He is a perfect fit at 5-technique in the 3-4 and should be prove capable of freeing up the Packers' pass rushing OLBs. Great value in the seventh round. I thought he was a definite third rounder.
Need: The Packers addressed everyone one of their major needs in one way or another. The only black mark against them is not finding an OLB to help take some of the pass rush attention off Clay Matthews earlier in the draft, but grabbing Arizona's Ricky Elmore in the sixth round could help with that issue at times.
Grade: B.

Houston Texans

Best value: Brandon Harris (2-60), CB, Miami, Fla. -- Harris was thought of as a late first round pick by some so for Houston to get him to fill a major need nearly a round later was a nice pick. They did give up a future second rounder for him, but the price could prove worthy.
Worst value: None -- Houston did a great job with value. It's hard to say they reached for any of their selections. Their top three selections could be starters as rookies.
Late-round sleeper: T.J. Yates (5-152), QB, North Carolina -- Yates will likely never be a starter in the league, but he's got the tools to be a very good backup. He improved by leaps and bounds as a senior. He's got the intangibles teams look for in backups. Grabbing a strong backup QB in the fifth round is great value in today's NFL.
Need: The Texans had major issues to address on defense and they did so without reaching. J.J. Watt will start at DE opposite Mario Williams in the Texans' new 3-4 scheme. Brooks Reed was a great pass rushing option found in the second round along with Harris at CB. Even fourth-round pick CB Rashad Carmichael could figure into the mix in the secondary. This was a stellar draft in Houston.
Grade: A.

Indianapolis Colts

Best value: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College -- Castonzo was the top tackle on more than one team's board. The Colts showed how bad they wanted him by taking less than 30 seconds to turn in the pick. He can fit at right or left tackle. Indy uses a zone-blocking scheme in the ground game and that best suits Castonzo. He's a cerebral player which is another quality the Colts love on their OL.
Worst value: None -- The Colts only had five selections and made the most of them. They didn't reach at any point and I honestly have positive thoughts on each one of their draftees.
Late-round sleeper: Chris Rucker (6-23), CB, Michigan State -- This is the only option for this category, but Rucker definitely qualifies. He had mid-round talent, but slipped because of off-the-field issues. The Colts are a stable organization capable of combating those problems and they wouldn't have taken them if they thought the issue was a major one.
Need: The Colts had to strengthen its OL first and foremost. They did so with their first two picks with Castonzo in the first and Villanova OG Ben Ijalana in the second. Both guys could start from Day 1. Both will also upgrade the Colts' ground game. In the third round, Indy took LSU DT Drake Nevis who was extremely productive in college, but lacked the size most teams desire in a one-gap penetrator. The Colts prefer his style of play, making him a perfect fit for the right value in round 3. Also, Syracuse RB Delone Carter was possibly my favorite player at his position in this draft. Getting him in the fourth round is good value and he'll bring some needed toughness to the Colts' ground game.
Grade: A

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best value: Blaine Gabbert (1-10), QB, Missouri -- Gabbert dropped and went in the area I thought he originally should go. However, the fact that Jake Locker was taken before him makes Gabbert even more valuable to Jacksonville. The Jags pulled the trigger on a trade to secure him and now have the luxury of letting him learn for a season or two behind veteran David Garrard.
Worst value: Chris Prosinski (4-121), S, Wyoming -- The Jags are in deperate need at safety, but Prosinski isn't a step in the right direction. Jacksonville used six different safety combinations last year, but none of them provided the coverage needed. Prosinski isn't known to be a cover guy, either. He's more of a run supporter, who will also be exposed in pass protection. And his ability to stuff the run might not translate to the NFL, either.
Late-round sleeper: None -- The Jags had only one pick in the late rounds, taking Middle Tennesse CB Roderick Isaac in the fifth round. I don't think Issac will even make the team.
Need: None of the Jaguars selections look like they will make an impact as rookies. Will Rackley is a nice pick at guard in the third round, but the Jags aren't really looking for a new starter at that position. The Jags failed to adequately address major holes in their secondary and didn't even do anything along the defensive line or linebacker. This was one of the poorer drafts.
Grade: C.

Kansas City Chiefs

Best value: Justin Houston (3-70), LB, Georgia -- Once believed to be a mid-first round pick, Houston slipped some due to a failed drug test at the Combine. He's the perfect fit to be a hybrid 3-4 OLB and gives KC a much-needed pass rusher opposite Tamba Hali. Hali could have a career year now that Houston is there.
Worst value: Jonathan Baldwin (1-26), WR, Pitt -- I noted after the first day how much I didn't really care for this pick. The Chiefs needed a WR, but there were more valuable players at DE, OL and LB that would fill just as big of needs. Baldwin definitely has some upside, but the Chiefs could have found receivers just as valuable later in the draft.
Late-round sleeper: Jerrell Powe (6-199), DT, Ole Miss -- There are concerns about Powe's stamina and his ability to control his weight. But the Chiefs aren't asking Powe to be anything more than a situational player. He's a great fit at NT in KC's 3-4 and should fill in nicely as a gap-clogger.
Need: From a need standpoint, the Chiefs addressed most of their issues. I particularly like the work they did on the second day with Houston as well as Florida State OG Rodney Hudson in the second round and Miami DE Allen Bailey in the third. The selection of Baldwin is my only major issue with their draft, but wasting a first-round pick is always a bad thing.
Grade: B-plus.

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