NFL Draft: First-Round Grades

1. Indianapolis Colts

Who they took:  QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

Verdict: Great pick. Who else were they going to take – really? The Colts needed a starting quarterback and they got one. Right now, this is a good pick. But will it be a great pick? If Luck turns out to be Peyton Manning II, then it’s a great pick. If Luck turns out to be Ryan Leaf II, then the Colts better get used to picking this high for the next few seasons.

Grade: A

2. Washington Redskins

Who they took:  QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor

Verdict: Yawn. Consensus is this is a great pick, but Griffin has his detractors, including former Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb. But the Redskins can’t take the next step without a better quarterback, so this makes total sense. Again, this is a great pick now, but if RG3 flops and the Redskins are in this position in a few years, the grade goes from “A” to “F” and Mike Shanahan won’t be the head coach in the nation’s capital. RG3 and Shanahan might as well dress up like bride and groom like Mike Ditka and Ricky Williams did when the Saints traded all their picks.

Grade:  A

3. Cleveland Browns

Who they took:  RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

Verdict: I don’t understand why the Browns did what they did. The Vikings were not going to take Richardson. Yes, Richardson is the best running back in the draft, but the Vikings have much more glaring needs. So why did the Browns give the Vikings three picks to move up one spot? Maybe another team was involved, but will we ever know? Please understand the grade below: This pick would have been an “A” if the Browns took Richardson at No. 4, but they gave away too much to move up a meaningless spot.

Grade: C

4. Minnesota Vikings

Who they took: T Matt Khalil, Southern Cal

Verdict: This may be the smartest draft-day move in Vikings history. It’s at least better when they traded like 50 picks to Dallas to get Herschel Walker. I would have given this pick a “C-“ if the Vikings had just drafted Khalil. He’s great, but No. 4 is too high for a left tackle. But the Vikings didn’t just draft Khalil. They drafted Khalil and three players they’ve yet to pick. This could be the draft that changes the course of a franchise that won three games last year. The Vikings have 12 picks – yes, a dozen – left.

Grade:  A

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

Who they took: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State.

Verdict: This is a huge gamble. Blackmon is great. The problem? The quarterback throwing him the ball – Blaine Gabbert – is far from it. What the worth of a receiver whose quarterback can’t get him the ball? It will take Blackmon at least two years to become dominant – and that’s with an average quarterback. Honestly: Who is a worse starting quarterback than Gabbert?

Grade:  C

6. Dallas Cowboys

Who they took:  CB Morris Claiborne, LSU

Verdict:  This is why the draft is great. How many times did you hear the Cowboys were interested in Claiborne? Never. I heard how they loved safety Mark Barron and some defensive linemen, and then – voila! – Jerry Jones does a sneak attack and surprises everyone. The NFL hasn’t seen a surprise attack like this since Kurt Warner went from bagging groceries to bagging MVP honors and Super Bowl appearances. Say what you want about Jones: He surprised you. He just neutralized the top receiver by getting the draft’s best cornerback.

Grade: A

7. Tampa Bay

Who they took: S Mark Barron, Alabama

Verdict: How mad are you if you are a Bucs fan? Barron is a great safety, but is that what your team really needed? Did you see the Bucs’ offense last year? Their offense needed much more help. How mad is quarterback Josh Freeman right now? He could have had Blackmon and instead the Bucs took Barron. Barron is a great word to describe the Bucs’ offense in terms of talent. And here’s all you need to know about LeGarrette Blount: My 4-year-old daughter Zoe holds a bagel with more authority than Blount does a football.

Grade: C-

8. Miami Dolphins

Who they took: Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

Verdict: Joke: Who is first quarterback taken by the Dolphins in the first round since Dan Marino in 1983? Punch line: They still haven’t taken one. What? Tannehill has more experience as a receiver than a quarterback. This will go down as one of the worst top-eight picks in draft history. The Dolphins will draft another quarterback in three years. This isn’t Ryan Leaf-bad, but man, it’s going to be close.

Grade:  F

9. Carolina Panthers

Who they took: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Verdict:  Wow – that’s the best Carolina could do at No. 9? The Panthers could have traded down a few spots and still got this guy. At this point, I’m wondering if Cam Newton might play both ways nest year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s a reason no Boston College linebacker has ever been taken in the first round.

Grade: D

10. Buffalo Bills

Who they took: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

Verdict: I didn’t see this coming. But the pick has grown on me. I thought the Bills needed an offensive lineman more than a defensive back, but Gilmore might be better in the long-term than an offensive tackle. On the other hand, can you really trust the Bills to make a wise decision when it comes to the draft? There’s a reason why they haven’t made the playoffs this century and their draft-day debacles – see taking Aaron Maybin a few years ago – is as big as any. Buffalo is a great place for wings, but no so much for draft picks. Good news Bills fans: Jim Kelly’s nephew is a freshman at Clemson and could be available in just three short years.

Grade: C

11. Kansas City Chiefs

Who they took: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis

Verdict: I love this pick. This guy is basically Haloti Ngata, but could be a little bit better, which is scary. The kid’s a beast. He’s 6-foot-4, weighs 346 pounds, runs 40 yards in 4.98 seconds and can benched 225 pounds 44 times, more than any player at the combine this year. He might be the steal of the draft.

Grade:  A-

12. Philadelphia Eagles

Who they took: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

Verdict: Did you hear that rumble last night? That was big boy Andy Reid jumping up and down because he just saved his job with this pick. Cox is a beast. I don’t care what the Eagles gave up to get him. The Eagles needed someone who can kill quarterbacks and that’s exactly what Cox does. I had Fletcher going at No. 7 and the Eagles got him at No. 12.

Grade:  A-

13. Arizona Cardinals

Who they took: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

Verdict: Is he really the second-best receiver in the draft? Maybe, maybe not. Is he worthy of the being the No. 13 pick? No. The Cardinals could have traded down and still got him. But he is, however, a receiver and that sends a clear message to the team’s star, Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals got him help, which shows they are committed to him, which bodes well for the baddest dude in dreadlocks staying in Arizona for the remainder of his career. If I was the Cardinals’ general manager, I would have picked an offensive lineman, probably Riley Reiff, but I’m not. You know Floyd’s selection marks the first time a Golden Domer has been taken this high since Rick Mirer went No. 2 overall to the Bears in 1993? My goodness, how the mighty have fallen. Should it be a concern that he’s had three alchohol-related incidents in the past two years, including being charged with DUI in March 2011?

Grade:  C+

14. St. Louis Rams

Who they took: DT Michael Brockers, LSU

Verdict: If I could read quarterback Sam Bradford’s mind, he be thinking: “What the hell is going on here? We just drafted a defensive player when I don’t have a big-time receiver? Is management trying to make me the least attractive fantasy football quarterback I can be?” Brockers can dominate the line of scrimmage, but isn’t that why the Rams drafted Chris Long in 2008? The Rams had much bigger needs here.

Grade: D

15. Seattle Seahawks

Who they took:  LB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

Verdict: The Seahawks used a first-round pick to draft a second- or third-round-caliber player. Irvin is fast, but do you invest the No. 15 pick in a player who dropped out of high school, spent time in jail for robbery and should have the words “character issues” tattooed on his forehead? No. No. And no. Tell me this guy is not the next Pacman Jones.

Grade:  F. And if I could give a “G,” I would.

16. New York Jets

Who they took:  DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

Verdict: ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said as soon as Roger Goodell called Coples’ name that the former Tar Heel “looks the part” of a defensive end, but “he disappears to much at time for me.” These might be the most insightful words to ever leave Gruden’s mouth. Congrats, Jets: You just picked another Vernon Gholston, which means you got a player who looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane. Man, that cliché never gets old, but if the shoe fits, throw it on Coples. You’re about to see a guy make millions for doing. The Jets could have drafted me and I’d have been just as productive.

Grade:  D- (They traded for Tim Tebow during the offseason, so I can’t give them an “F”)

17. Cincinnati Bengals

Who they took:  CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

Verdict: He’s gets high marks on the field, and apparently, gets high off it, too. It’s never good when you type your name followed by the word “marijuana” and 70,800 matches appear in 0.19 seconds. Now, he’s going to be a millionaire. He knew there was a good chance he’d go in the first round this past January, and he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana. His future is hazy.

Grade: C, but if he stays away from weed, the grade improves.

18. San Diego Chargers

Who they took:  DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Verdict: How Ingram fell here is beyond me. If he would have been taken in the top 10, it would have been a great pick, but for the Chargers to get a player who could be the next Shawne Merriman is an absolute steal. I’d like to congratulate Norv Turner for realizing that if the Chargers are going to contend, it’s probably a good idea to have players who can sack the quarterback, which only one Charger did more than four times last year.

19. Chicago Bears

Who they took: LB Shea McClellin, Boise State

Verdict: The Packers, Lions and Vikings are celebrating the Bears swung and missed badly with their first-round pick. It’s a great story, though: McClellin grew up on a farm in Idaho raising animals. Now, he’s a Bear. Go Figure.

Grade: C-

20. Tennessee Titans

Who they took: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

Verdict: Memo to Kenny Britt: You’re spot as the team’s No. 1 receiver is in jeopardy. Wright is fast, probably faster than Britt and his surgically repaired knee. I’ll call it now: Wright has more fantasy points than Britt next year. But does that mean it was a good pick for the Titans, who needed more help on defense? No.

Grade:  C-


New England Patriots

Who they took: DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse

Verdict:  His brother Art, plays for the Ravens. His other brother, Jon, is UFC Light Heavyweight champion. Apparently, this is one family that has great athletic genes. At this point, I can’t bash a Patriots draft pick since it seems like everyone they choose turns out to be pretty good, especially quarterbacks taken in the sixth round who end up marrying Brazilian hotties.

Grade:  B

22. Cleveland Browns

Who they took:  QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Verdict: Give him the starting job now. Colt McCoy just isn’t good enough. I can’t even try to be funny here. What do Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Arizona’s Nick Foles all have in common? They all lost to Weeden this past fall. You think Weeden is scared of McCoy? Still, the Browns could have traded down and taken Weeden in the second round.

Grade: B

23. Detroit Lions

Who they took: LT Riley Reiff, Iowa

Verdict:  Not a sexy pick, but Reiff will make the offense look a lot prettier next year because he’ll help give the Lions a running game and protect quarterback Matt Stafford. The league’s oldest offensive line just got younger – and better.

Grade: B

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Who they took: G David DeCastro, Stanford

Verdict:  They got the draft’s best guard with the 24th overall pick. That’s value. It’s why the Steelers are the Steelers, which means they have more Vince Lombardi Trophy than your team. Still, I was thinking linebacker here, but who am I to argue when a team takes the top player at his position.

Grade: A

25. New England Patriots

Who they took:  LB Dont’a Hightower

Verdict: What did you expect? I predicted this one correctly. Because it makes the most sense. And if it’s one thing the Patriots always do well. It’s draft. I remember they picked some quarterback out of Michigan in the sixth round. His name was like, Tom something. I think it turned out well for them. Oh, his last name is Brady. He has three Super Bowl rings and a super hot wife. Yes, I’m, jealous.

Grade:  A

26. Houston Texans

Who they took: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

Verdict: He was the best pass rusher available, so they had to take him. The Texans’ defense prevented them from advancing further in the playoffs. Now, they can team Mercilus with Mario Williams. Clearly, the defense is better now than it was yesterday.

Grade: B+

27. Cincinnati Bengals

Who they took:  G Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

Verdict: The Bengals jokes need to stop because the following is no laughing matter: In the past two drafts, Cincy has drafted four Pro Bowlers. Who has selected more? Answer: No one. He led college football with 142 knockdown blocks and had 33 blocks that led to touchdowns last year, according to NFL Draft Report. Given the Bengals’ recent track record, they get the benefit of the doubt. I can’t believe I wrote that sentence.

Grade: A-

28. Green Bay Packers

Who they took:  LB Nick Perry, Southern Cal

Verdict: If he plays like fellow USC alum Clay Matthews, it’s a great pick. But I don’t think he will. There’s a reason he fell this far. It’s called inconsistency. The Packers could have drafted Perry in the second round, which isn’t exactly a compliment.

Grade: C-

29. Minnesota Vikings

Who they took: S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

Verdict: When any team trades its 35th and 98th overall pick to get a safety to improve a secondary that resembled Swiss cheese last year, it’s a good pick. But is Smith really the best choice here? The Vikings could have gotten him in the second or third round. If Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill turns out to be a star, this could be a major mistake.

Grade: B-

30. San Francisco 49ers

Who they took: WR A.J. Jenkins, Illinois

Verdict: Who? Why use a first-round pick on a player who could have been taken in the second round. He couldn’t dominate the soft Big Ten so he’s going to be great in the NFL? Jim Harbaugh may think he’s the smartest guy in the room, but that doesn’t make it so. What’s the fastest way the 49ers could have killed all the good buzz generated from last year’s fantastic season? Two words: A.J. Jenkins.

Grade: D

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Who they took: RB Doug Martin, Boise State

Verdict: LeGarrette Blount, pack your bags. There’s a new starting running back in town, and his name in Doug Martin. Good for Boise State. They had as many first-round picks as LSU this year. Too bad they didn’t get to play in the BCS championship game. What does that have to do with this pick? Nothing, really, but every time I see a Boise State player I think of the Broncos missing a field goal that costs them a trip to the national championship game. I don’t know why I think this way; I just do.

Grade: B

32. New York Giants

Who they took: RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

Verdict: Of course they had to take a running back after Brandon Jacobs signed with the 49ers. He’s a good fit. He packs the speed. Ahmad Bradshaw brings the power. The Giants continue to run the ball down teams’ throats. I doubted the Giants at time last year and all they did was win the Super Bowl. I’m not doubting them when it comes to the last pick in the first round.

Grade: B+


(Feature photo of Andrew Luck courtesy of John Martinez Pavliga)