Sports Outside the Beltway

2008 NFL Draft Grades

NFL Draft 2008 Logo The day after the NFL draft, everyone wants to know how their teams did. The real answer is that nobody really knows and won’t know for three or four years. Players get injured (remember Kijana Carter). Sure-fire studs become busts (about every other high 1st round quarterback, for example). Undrafted free agents (Tony Romo) and 6th round picks (Tom Brady) become superstars.

But waiting four years isn’t any fun. And, since I’m not a pro scout, I can’t really help you much with my analysis. What I can do, though, is collect the experts’ opinions in one place for you. I’ll be adding to this post for the next few days, doing just that.

The best place to begin, though, is DMN Hall of Famer Rick “Goose” Gosselin. He’s a tough grader, making no concessions for lack of picks or picking late in the draft, but widely considered the best because he bases it on months of discussions with scouts and general managers plus his own decades of experience covering the League. Here’s how he breaks down the 2008 draft:

Arizona: B – The Cardinals needed to address their pass defense, which ranked 28th in the NFL last season. CB Rogers-Cromartie was a steal at 16 and defensive ends Campbell, Iwebema and Harrington can help dial up the heat up front.

Atlanta: B – The Falcons gave their fans hope – and also slammed the book shut on the Michael Vick era – by drafting Ryan at 3. Atlanta had the best third round of this draft with two DBs for the 23rd-ranked pass defense and WR Douglas.

Baltimore: C – The Ravens needed a quarterback and probably overextended for Flacco. New head coach John Harbaugh didn’t forget his special teams roots when he drafted safeties Zbikowski and Nakamura and WR Smith.

Buffalo: C - The Bills came away with the best cornerback and best kick returner in the draft, and it’s the same player – CB McKelvin. WR Hardy gives the Bills a huge target in the red zone. He’s a great complement for speedy WR Lee Evans.

Carolina: B – The Panthers had the best seventh round, landing a pass rusher in Taylor and two blockers in Bernadeau and Schwartz. Getting OT Otah and RB Stewart in the first round will help the Panthers re-establish the running game.

Chicago: A - The Bears subscribe to the big-school drafting philosophy and found quality throughout the draft. WR Bennett in the third, S Steltz in the fourth, CB Bowman in the fifth and WR Monk in the seventh were all value picks.

Cincinnati: C – The Bengals were the one team that did not shy away from character players (once again). LB Rivers and S Lynch have impeccable character and will be the face of this draft class. DTs Sims and Shirley can be boom or bust.

Cleveland: C – The Browns did remarkably well for not having a pick in the first four rounds. MLB Bell could have an impact as a rookie in the NFL’s 27th-ranked run defense, and Hubbard and Rucker can help diversify the passing attack.

Dallas: B – The Cowboys were cruising along with a great draft until reaching for LB Walden in the sixth. RB Choice in the fourth and CB Scandrick in the fifth were superb second-day selections. RB Jones will be a boon to the special teams.

Denver: C – Denver needed help for its defense, which ranked 19th in the league last season. But coach Mike Shanahan is an offensive genius, so the Broncos used their first three picks to bolster the league’s 11th-ranked offense.

Detroit: A – The Lions wanted to make this a defensive draft and selected three potential starters in the first three rounds. But their offense, the NFL’s worst last season, may benefit even more from the arrival of OT Cherilus and RB Smith.

Green Bay: B – The Packers traded out of the first round and then turned in the best second round of the draft. Brohm gives them insurance for Aaron Rodgers, Lee gives them another big corner, and Nelson is a big-body, big-play receiver.

Houston: C – Desperate for an offensive tackle, the Texans reached deep into the first round to claim Virginia Tech’s Duane Brown with the 26th overall selection. Molden could be the home run of this draft if the Texans show patience for two years.

Indianapolis: C – There were six quality centers in this draft, and the Colts claimed three of them: Pollak, Justice and Richard. Those three will also work as guards. Indy had the best sixth round, adding Justice, RB Hart and TE Santi.

Jacksonville: C – There were four elite pass rushers in this draft, and the Jaguars came away with two of them, DEs Harvey and Groves. Southern California alum Jack Del Rio stayed true to his school by drafting LB Williams and RB Washington late.

Kansas City: A+ – The good fortune began when Outland Trophy-winning DT Glenn Dorsey slid to them at five. The Chiefs drafted seven players who had third-round grades or better. A quantity draft (12 picks) quickly evolved into a quality draft.

Miami: C – Chad Henne and Jake Long helped take Michigan to four consecutive bowls. The Dolphins are hoping they can continue working their bowl magic in South Florida. DE Philip Merling has the size up front that Bill Parcells likes.

: C – The Vikings sent their first- and third-round picks to Kansas City in the deal for NFL sack leader Jared Allen, which slowed this draft down. But getting S Johnson at No. 43 was a bargain, and Booty provides insurance at quarterback.

New England: C – The Patriots have a different draft board than most, targeting specific skills rather than positions. Mayo can play all four linebacker spots, Crable is an edge rusher, and Slater is the best special teams player in the draft.

New Orleans: B – The Saints wanted to come away with a defensive tackle and tried to trade up for Dorsey and for Ellis, succeeding in landing Ellis. Risky Nicks is the best run blocker in the draft, and Arrington is one of the best possession WRs.

N.Y. Giants : C – Like the Bears, the Super Bowl champion Giants love big school players, and they have an affinity for Michigan players in particular. Manningham was the beneficiary in 2008. Phillips steps in for free-agenct defection Gibril Wilson.

N.Y. Jets: C – The Jets landed the best pass rusher and the best pass-catching tight end in the draft. San Jose State’s Lowery also was one of the best ballhawks available. Ainge could stoke an already-heated quarterback competition.

: C – Pencil in RB McFadden as the favorite for NFL rookie of the year honors. Al Davis likes size and speed, and McFadden has plenty of both. Safety Branch, WR Shields and DE Scott are also prototype Raiders who play speed games.

Philadelphia: C – After coming up short in the offensive tackle market, the Eagles bailed out of the first round. DT Laws will provide the Eagles an inside rotation on defense, and WR Jackson and S Demps should have immediate impacts on special teams.

Pittsburgh: C – Mendenhall was the steal of the draft at No. 23. Teaming with Willie Parker, the Steelers will have two offensive speeds – fast and faster. The play-action game will never be better. QB Dixon has Slash-like potential.

San Diego: C – Cason replaces free-agenc defector Drayton Florence in San Diego’s cornerback rotation, and FB Hester was arguably the highest character player in this draft. He was an investment in the future success of LaDainian Tomlinson.

San Francisco: C – The 49ers didn’t have many picks but smartly took the value as it arrived up on the draft board. Balmer, Rachal and Wallace will make the 49ers more formidable up front and Morgan could be a real find in the sixth with his speed.

St. Louis: A – Long will be a great complement up front to last year’s top pick by the Rams, Adam Carriker. They will be two of the highest motor defensive linemen in the league. Avery and Burton inject fast legs into an aging receiving corps.

Seattle: C – The Seahawks took a kicker and a deep snapper to bolster the NFL’s 14th-ranked special teams unit. Jackson adds size on defense, and Carlson will give QB Matt Hasselbeck a dependable underneath receiver.

Tampa Bay
: C – The Buccaneers made one of the biggest reaches of the draft, taking WR Dexter Jackson in the second round. He projected as a fifth-rounder. But GM Bruce Allen recovered nicely in the second day with Moore, Johnson, Hayes and Boyd.

Tennessee: B – The Titans needed offensive speed and landed the fastest player in this draft in RB Johnson. Tennessee had the best fourth round of the draft, taking big school producers Hawkins and Kegler and small-school riser Hayes.

Washington: C – New coach Jim Zorn can build the offense to his liking with the first-day selections of two wide receivers and a tight end. Thomas, Davis and Kelly all had first-round grades, and the Redskins found them all in the second.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper has been at it for 30 years, making him the most recognizable name (to fans, anyway) in NFL draft coverage. He breaks it down by division rather than alphabetically:

Two days, seven rounds and 252 picks are in the books for the 2008 NFL draft. Michigan’s Jake Long started things off — days before the draft — and Idaho linebacker David Vobora ended the draft as this year’s Mr. Irrelevant.

But football is the ultimate team sport, and it starts every year with the draft. While some teams have a lot to be excited about based on what they accomplished in this year’s draft, other teams still have a lot of work to do before the 2008 season starts.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: GRADE: C+
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin is going to be a very good player and I liked the pick. James Hardy is the big wide receiver the Bills need, someone who can be a threat in the red zone. Virginia Tech DE Chris Ellis is a decent pass-rusher, and I thought CB Reggie Corner and TE Derek Fine were reaches in the fourth round. I did like their late-round picks, RB Xavier Omon, OT Demetrius Bell and WR Steve Johnson.

Miami Dolphins: GRADE: B-
Jake Long fills a need at left tackle, and I liked Bill Parcells’ selection of Clemson DE Phillip Merling with the 32nd overall pick because he’s solid against the run. The pick of Chad Henne in the second round tells you Miami is not sold on John Beck; however, I’m not sold on Henne. He has accuracy issues and a long delivery and he isn’t mobile. I do like his toughness and he does have some of those intangibles you look for in a quarterback. Defensive end Kendall Langford is a big body, but I thought he was somewhat of a reach after an average senior season. Shawn Murphy really came on as a guard and he could battle for a starting spot. Jalen Parmele was a workhorse at Toledo, a big running back who also has some speed. And Lionel Dotson was a good seventh-round pick who should be able to help at nose tackle.

New England Patriots: GRADE: C+
I’m a big fan of linebacker Jerod Mayo, a lights-out hitter who reminds me of a young Junior Seau. Cornerback was a position of need with the loss of Asante Samuel in free agency. But taking Colorado CB Terrence Wheatley — when CB Charles Godfrey was on the board — was a reach. (I projected Wheatley to go somewhere in the fourth round.) Michigan’s Shawn Crable fits their 3-4 scheme as an OLB. Quarterback Kevin O’Connell is intriguing, but he was taken a bit high in the third round. Matt Slater’s future is going to be as a kick returner/special teams player. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite leveled off during his career at Auburn, and Bo Ruud will be a backup linebacker.

New York Jets: GRADE: B-
Lining up opposite Calvin Pace, OLB Vernon Gholston has a chance to get a lot of sacks in his rookie season. Tight end Dustin Keller can be used in a lot of different ways and will give the passing game some much-needed juice. Dwight Lowery had a great junior season at corner for San Jose state, but his grade tailed off as a senior. Erik Ainge does not have that wow factor you like to see in a quarterback, but he has great pocket awareness. And he has the ability to make throws when he’s outside the pocket. Ainge has a little bit of that “it” factor. Kansas wide receiver Marcus Henry does not have a lot of speed and doesn’t separate well, but he caught the ball very effectively. I liked the Jets’ picks, but I thought they would have taken wide receiver a bit earlier in the draft.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: GRADE: B
The Ravens wanted Matt Ryan, but Joe Flacco was the next-best quarterback in this draft. The Ravens made a great deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars that got them three additional picks. They also traded down and still were able to get running back Ray Rice in the second round. The Ravens need to start bringing in young linebackers and Miami’s Tavares Gooden had a very good 2007 season. Tom Zbikowski is a good third-round choice, but only if his play resembles what he did in 2006 as opposed to 2007. Oniel Cousins is a versatile offensive lineman and WR Marcus Smith will help on special teams in kick coverage and as a returner. Safety Haruki Nakamura and RB Allen Patrick might have to make this roster by performing on special teams.

Cincinnati Bengals: GRADE: C+
Keith Rivers is solid player with great character. Jerome Simpson is a hard-working receiver and WR Andre Caldwell could be a second or third option right away. While junior DT Pat Sims was a very underrated player out of Auburn, OT Anthony Collins should have stayed at Kansas for another year. Still, he was decent fourth-round pick. Safety Corey Lynch is a playmaker (he blocked the field-goal attempt in the closing seconds of Appalachian State’s upset win at Michigan last season). Some scouts I spoke with thought Lynch — who went in Round 6 — could go as high as the fourth round. Villanova TE Matt Sherry is not a very good blocker, but he has very good hands and could push for a roster spot. Wide receiver Mario Urrutia didn’t have a great 2007 season and I’m not sure why he came out. Urrutia has talent, but should have gone back to Louisville for his senior season. Angelo Craig flashed pass-rushing abilities at times; at other times he disappeared.

Cleveland Browns: GRADE: B+
The Browns didn’t have a pick until the fourth round and grabbed UNLV linebacker Beau Bell and Missouri tight end Martin Rucker, who could be a factor in the passing game. Ahtyba Rubin is more of a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Wide receiver Paul Hubbard is big and athletic, but he’s inconsistent catching. Alex Hall will be an OLB in the Browns’ scheme. Cleveland only had five picks; however, they traded this year’s first-round pick to take QB Brady Quinn last year and traded second- and third-round picks for Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers. When you factor those transactions, the Browns are using the draft process the right way.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Running back wasn’t a need area in the first round, but when Rashard Mendenhall was still on the board at No. 23, he became a luxury pick. Mendenhall was a very good pick, so too was Limas Sweed, who fell to the 53rd overall pick. Dennis Dixon was a one-year wonder at Oregon before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He showed skills in 2007; still, Dixon is a good fifth-round pick as someone you can develop. Bruce Davis fits the Steelers’ scheme as an OLB (he had 24.5 sacks the past two seasons). Tony Hills is a solid backup at OT who has the ability to push for a starting role if he can work on his aggressiveness. Mike Humpal could be a good backup LB and help out on special teams; and safety Ryan Mundy will be a decent special teams player.

AFC South

Houston Texans: GRADE: C
Some thought Duane Brown was a reach in the first round, but I thought he was one of the five or six best offensive tackles in the draft because of his athleticism. Brown is a very good offensive lineman, and that’s what the Texans need. Antwaun Molden is a good developmental cornerback; RB Steve Slaton will be a good change-of-pace back; OLB Xavier Adibi is fast and athletic, but is not instinctive, and a bit overrated; and Frank Okam is a big body who wasn’t consistent enough to be a high pick. Safety Dominique Barber is a decent sixth-round pick and could help out in the secondary.

Indianapolis Colts: GRADE: B
The Colts drafted three of my top six centers. Mike Pollak has outstanding mobility and will likely be moved to guard, while Steven Justice and Jamey Richard are quality linemen. Philip Wheeler will help out at ILB. For this offense, fourth-round pick Jacob Tamme at tight end should be a nice fit. The Colts drafted Mike Hart in the sixth round, and he’ll have a great opportunity to be the backup to Joseph Addai. Hart lasted till the sixth round because of a 4.7 time in the 40. Mount Union WR Pierre Garcon is a nice player who some scouts thought could make a team.

Jacksonville Jaguars: GRADE: C-
Not only was defensive end Derrick Harvey a big reach at No. 8 (after trading up with Baltimore), but the Jags gave up three picks in order to draft the Florida defensive end. Quentin Groves will be a good defensive end if he plays like he did as a junior. I do like CB Trae Williams, who could be a factor right away. I thought the Jaguars should have traded for Jason Taylor, a proven pass-rusher who would have been the missing link along the defensive line.

Tennessee Titans: GRADE: C
Running back Chris Johnson is a good player, but I wasn’t expecting him to go to Tennessee, especially because the Titans need a wide receiver. (They should have looked at WR Devin Thomas in the first round.) They did get WR Lavelle Hawkins in the fourth round and Vince Young will like the former California wide receiver. Jason Jones can play DE or DT. I don’t have a problem with the player they drafted on Day 1, but the philosophy is skewed. It was the third straight year Tennessee drafted a running back in the first two rounds. Craig Stevens is a good blocking tight end. William Hayes has good closing speed for a defensive end, but was a reach in the fourth round. Stanford Keglar was a good fourth-round pick with some ability, and seventh-rounder Cary Williams could make this team as a developmental cornerback.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: GRADE: C+
Ryan Clady is the left tackle the Broncos needed to help Jay Cutler, and Clady should start right away. Eddie Royal is a decent slot receiver who has some return skills, Kory Lichtensteiger was one of the top centers in the draft and Arizona State’s Ryan Torain is an interesting pick at running back because he has the potential to prosper in Denver. Torain’s ASU teammate, safety Joshua Barrett, has great physical abilities, but does not always play up to his potential. I want to see how they use FB Peyton Hillis because he has great hands out of the backfield, and would be an ideal H-back if he were a couple of inches taller.

Kansas City Chiefs: GRADE: A
The rebuilding process is on. The Chiefs started the draft with 13 picks, and they made them count. After getting defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey — the No. 1 player on my Big Board — with the fifth overall pick, the Chiefs grabbed tackle Branden Albert, although he will be a work in progress. Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers would have been a mid-first-round pick if he had run better 40 times at the NFL combine. On Day 2, RB Jamaal Charles and Tennessee TE Brad Cottam — who has untapped ability — will be nice complements on offense. Cottam could be a diamond in the rough. DaJuan Morgan is a solid safety, Brandon Carr is another corner who might be a sleeper and Kevin Robinson can make his mark in the return game. Barry Richardson never materialized into a great offensive lineman at Clemson, but he could start right away with the holes Kansas City has on its offensive line. Defensive end Brian Johnston has long-range potential.

Oakland Raiders: GRADE B-
We all know what Darren McFadden can do. I really liked Oakland’s second-round pick, Connecticut CB Tyvon Branch. He can help out in the return game, and also has great catch-up speed. Wide receiver Arman Shields hurt his knee early in the season and fell off the radar, but he’s a developmental receiver.

San Diego Chargers: GRADE: C+
Antoine Cason played a lot of football at Arizona, which at times works against a player in terms of being overevaluated. Cason doesn’t have great recovery speed, but he has good technique in coverage and good ball skills. Jacob Hester could make up for the loss of Michael Turner. Hester was a fullback at LSU, but isn’t a prototypical lead-blocking fullback. UTEP RB Marcus Thomas has some ability and was a good fifth-round pick; CB DeJuan Tribble did not have great workouts, but he flashed second-round potential early in the season. One thing I didn’t like about the Chargers’ draft is they didn’t really address their need at right tackle.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: GRADE: B+
Felix Jones will join Marion Barber in the Cowboys’ backfield and will also return kicks. Cornerback Mike Jenkins has really good ball skills and should be a major contributor this season in the secondary. Tight end Martellus Bennett has talent and should be able to help out in the passing game. Running back Tashard Choice had a knee injury in 2007; otherwise he would have gone a little higher in the draft. He can run between tackles, but isn’t going to run away from anyone in space. I projected Boise State cornerback Orlando Scandrick to go late in the second round, and I was surprised to see him last until the fifth round. However, the Cowboys didn’t draft a wide receiver, which I thought was one of their top three need areas.

New York Giants: GRADE: C+
I understand taking safety Kenny Phillips with the last pick in the first round. He had a great sophomore season in 2006. Terrell Thomas could be a No. 2 cornerback, but I thought that pick was just OK. Wide receiver Mario Manningham is worth a role of the dice in the third round because he has talent, but his stock dropped in the months leading up to the draft, with some teams viewing him as a late-round pick. Jonathan Goff was a good find in the fifth round, and the same can be said about Andre’ Woodson in Round 6. Defensive end Robert Henderson is just a marginal prospect.

Philadelphia Eagles: GRADE: C+
Trevor Laws had a very good 2007, and was arguably Notre Dame’s best player. I like where the Eagles got DeSean Jackson because he’s an exciting player (when healthy) who will help out in the return game. Bryan Smith is a combination DE/OLB, and Michael McGlynn had a nice season at right tackle opposite Jeff Otah. Cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu is a pick for the future; after declaring for the draft, he suffered a knee injury in January and isn’t expected to play in 2008. Andrew Studebaker out of Wheaton has the potential to be a situational pass-rusher.

Washington Redskins
They traded out of the first round and still were able to get three offensive weapons in the second round: wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and tight end Fred Davis. Chad Rinehart is a versatile offensive lineman who can play guard or tackle. In the sixth round, Georgia Tech’s Durant Brooks was the first — and only — punter drafted. He has a strong leg and should compete for the starting job (30 of his 65 punts were 50 yards or longer). Hawaii QB Colt Brennan went in the sixth round. He isn’t very big, but he has some ability. What hurt Brennan was his performance in the Sugar Bowl and the Senior Bowl practices, and the system he played in, which allowed him to put up big numbers. Safety Christopher Horton will be a good backup and special teams player. The only thing the Redskins didn’t get was a pass-rushing defensive end.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: GRADE: B
Chris Williams is the left tackle the Bears need from a pass-protection standpoint, and he’ll start as a rookie. Matt Forte is a hard-nosed running back. He’s not flashy, but he’s elusive. I like what the Bears did on Day 2, starting with Vanderbilt WR Earl Bennett, who reminds me of Hines Ward. Arkansas DT Marcus Harrison lasted until the third round because of some off-field concerns, and Nebraska’s Zack Bowman is a big corner who was once projected as a first-round pick, before he suffered injuries to both knees. LSU safety Craig Steltz — who reminds me of former Bear Doug Plank — will be a solid special teams player and could push for a starting job. With his height, Arkansas WR Marcus Monk could be a red zone threat and he qualifies as a very good seventh-round pick. He looked like a second-rounder after his junior year, and ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, which is excellent for a 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver. Tight end Kellen Davis has tremendous athletic ability but he needs to be more consistent.

Detroit Lions: GRADE: C+
Gosder Cherilus is a right tackle who is an effective run-blocker, which is why the Lions drafted him in the first round. But third-round pick Kevin Smith is the key player in the Lions’ draft class. Smith proved at Central Florida he could carry the load, and in my opinion, he’ll be the Lions’ starting running back in Week 1. Jordon Dizon is undersized for a middle linebacker, but he has a chance to be productive in Detroit’s scheme, because he has the ability to cover the deep middle. Fullback Jerome Felton is more effective as a runner than a blocker, but he’s a good value pick in the fifth round. Army safety Caleb Campbell went in the seventh round and is big at 229 pounds. Campbell could be an OLB if he puts on 10 to 15 pounds. Cliff Avril could be a decent pass-rusher, although he had only six sacks in 2007. DT Andre Fluellen flashed big-time ability early in his career at Florida State but never lived up to it.

Green Bay Packers: GRADE: B-
The Packers took a QB on both days of the draft: Brian Brohm in the second round and Matt Flynn in the seventh. Brohm is cerebral and accurate, but can he stay healthy? Flynn is big, has good arm strength and can run for a first down if he has to. Flynn has intangibles, something you must have to lead a team to a national title. Second-round pick Jordy Nelson is a great athlete, and will be a faster version of former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark. Patrick Lee is a very good cover corner and a solid second-round pick. Tight end Jermichael Finley has a ton of talent, he just has to make strides in terms of catching the ball and blocking. Defensive end Jeremy Thompson has a similar attitude and motor to current Packer Aaron Kampman.

Minnesota Vikings: GRADE: B
They had only one pick in the first four rounds. I had safety Tyrell Johnson going in the first round, so to get him in Round 2 (43rd overall) is a great pick because Johnson has big-time skills. In the fifth round the Vikings took John David Booty, an accurate quarterback who is great at throwing on the move and sees the field extremely well. Letroy Guion is more of a developmental defensive tackle, and center John Sullivan was average in 2007, but at times looked very good in his career. Factor in the addition of DE Jared Allen, and this was a good draft for the Vikings.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: GRADE: B
I thought they would take DT Glenn Dorsey, but the Falcons needed a face for the franchise, and had to take QB Matt Ryan. He should be a great starting point; a new era of Falcons football begins. USC OT Sam Baker wasn’t healthy in 2007, he struggled in Senior Bowl practices and he has short arms for a left tackle. I like Baker, but I thought it was a bit of a reach moving up to get him. Linebacker Curtis Lofton is a decent second-round pick, but I really like what Atlanta did in the third round, taking WR Harry Douglas, CB Chevis Jackson and safety Thomas DeCoud. Kroy Biermann is a good pass-rusher. Wilrey Fontenot played opposite Antoine Cason at Arizona, although he’ll be more of a dime back. RB Thomas Brown is not real big, and he’s going to be battling Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood for playing time in the backfield.

Carolina Panthers: GRADE: B
The future is now in Carolina, which gave up its first-round pick in 2009 to trade back into this year’s first round and draft offensive tackle Jeff Otah. Jonathan Stewart is a workhorse running back and Dan Connor is a real nice pick in the third round. I like the Panthers’ picks on Day 2, highlighted by Iowa CB Charles Godfrey, who I thought was the best player on the board heading into Day 2. Tight end Gary Barnidge, who they picked in the fifth round, catches everything thrown his way, although he is not much of a blocker. Hilee Taylor has a very good motor at OLB, Geoff Schwartz is an overachieving OL and G Mackenzy Bernadeau out of Bentley has a good chance to make the team. I didn’t like seeing them give up a future first-round pick, and Stewart does have some durability concerns, but this was a good draft for the Panthers.

New Orleans Saints: GRADE: C+
I’m high on DT Sedrick Ellis — there wasn’t much of a difference between him and Dorsey. Cornerback Tracy Porter has to show toughness in run support and also be able to match up against physical wide receivers. Porter should also be able to help out as a punt returner. DeMario Pressley is a classic underachiever. He looked good at the start of his college career but never became a dominant player. OT Carl Nicks has some ability and talent, but he just needs to maximize it. I didn’t like taking PK Taylor Mehlhaff over Brandon Coutu, but I did like getting WR Adrian Arrington in the seventh round. I thought he could go as high as the fourth round.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: GRADE: B
Aqib Talib fits this system and is the perfect Cover 2 cornerback. He has great ball skills, but not the recovery speed. Wide receiver Dexter Jackson has great speed, but are his hands going to be good enough? Jackson was the only WR the Buccaneers drafted, and that was a need area for them heading into the draft. Third-round pick Jeremy Zuttah from Rutgers gives this offensive line some versatility. What I want to see is DT Dre Moore put it all together every week. He showed glimpses of that at Maryland, but if the Bucs can motivate Moore, then they could have found a gem in the fourth round. QB Josh Johnson is a great athlete and Jon Gruden likes him, but Johnson will be a project quarterback for the future. Linebacker Geno Hayes probably isn’t the next Derrick Brooks at linebacker, but he’s very instinctive and is a good form tackler. He could be a nice fit at weakside linebacker in Tampa Bay’s scheme.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: GRADE: B-
I like CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but I thought Arizona would take a running back (Ray Rice?) in the second round. Instead, Arizona drafted DE Calais Campbell. If Campbell reverts back to his 2006 form, this will turn out to be a good pick. LSU WR Early Doucet will be a slot receiver and was a good third-round pick. I like RB Timothy Hightower, although he doesn’t have a lot of speed. I like their sixth- and seventh-round picks (Christopher Harrington and Brandon Keith), but the Cardinals didn’t get a quality running back to complement Edgerrin James, unless Hightower is able to play the part.

St. Louis Rams: GRADE: C+
Taking DE Chris Long allows Adam Carriker to stay inside at defensive tackle. Some didn’t think Donnie Avery should have been the first WR to come off the board. It might have been a bit of a reach, but he caught 91 balls and has the ability to make people miss. John Greco is a versatile offensive lineman. CB Justin King has a lot of potential, but he gets beat in coverage far too much. Wide receiver Keenan Burton would have gone higher than the fourth round if he hadn’t been slowed by knee and ankle injuries in his senior season. Roy Schuening has a chance to start this year at guard. Chris Chamberlain had a very nice season at Tulsa. And don’t forget about OLB David Vobora, aka Mr. Irrelevant, who I thought was a midround pick. Vobora has some ability and I would be surprised if he didn’t make this team as a special teams player.

San Francisco 49ers
They didn’t address their need at wide receiver until the sixth round and didn’t take an OLB until the seventh round. Kentwan Balmer is a solid DT prospect for their scheme, and I like Chilo Rachal’s aggressiveness at guard (he can also play right tackle). Reggie Smith is kind of a tweener at safety or corner. He has ability, but needs to settle on a position. Cody Wallace was the No. 1 center on my board. Josh Morgan is a decent receiver. OLB Larry Grant can make this team as backup.

Seattle Seahawks: GRADE: B
Lawrence Jackson stepped up his performance and deserved being a first-round pick. I would have looked at Dustin Keller, although John Carlson is a more complete tight end. Texas A&M’s Red Bryant is a stay-at-home defensive tackle. He was productive in 2007, but he never took his game to the next level coming out of high school. Owen Schmitt is a throwback old-school fullback. Tyler Schmitt is a good long snapper. Justin Forsett has the chance to make this team at running back. Georgia’s Brandon Coutu — whom I thought was the best kicker in this draft — could be this year’s Mason Crosby.

Larry Weisman, USA TODAY. Frankly, I have no idea what his credentials are for evaluating NFL drafts. But somebody’s paying him to do it, so he must be an expert. Right?


• Miami Dolphins: Safely tucked away OT Jake Long as first overall choice last Tuesday. Should start on the left side for many years. DE Phillip Merling slipped into second round after a weak workout and sports hernia surgery but he should fit this 3-4 scheme on the left side, more because he can play the run than for his pass-rushing. Great value here, especially if Dolphins trade Jason Taylor. QB Chad Henne will be an immediate factor. Solid, solid board.

• Kansas City Chiefs: Like the mounties, they got their man. Make that men. DT Glenn Dorsey dropped in their laps and gives them the player they hoped Ryan Sims would be. With second No. 1, they moved up two spots and grabbed OL Branden Albert, who could be their answer at LT and at the least will play G. Two big holes filled, though there are still questions about pass-rushers. CB Brandon Flowers might lack raw speed but plays a physical style and could have been a No. 1 pick.


• Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrific bit of luck getting RB Rashard Mendenhall 23rd, especially when the o-linemen they liked best were gone. This gives them some between-the-tackles punch to complement Willie Parker, who comes off a broken leg. WR Limas Sweed is a great value late in round 2 and Bruce Davis is a typical Steelers’ outside LB with rush skills. OT Tony Hill is a mauler who fits this type of running game.

• New York Giants: Linked with FS Kenny Phillips early on and didn’t stray, despite reports of unimpressive workouts and an OK junior season. Good fit for a team shy of speed and depth in the deep middle after loss of Gibril Wilson. Stuck with filling defensive holes in second round with Terrell Thomas, a physical, bump-and-run CB who helps at a position riddled with age. WR Mario Manningham’s workouts and conduct knocked him down but Giants need refreshing at this position.

• Indianapolis Colts: Dealt away their No. 1 a year ago and picked OT Tony Ugoh, who stepped in as a starter. That influences this grade. Needed some LB depth and got it in third round with Philip Wheeler, who can run and rush the passer from the edge. Also got some insurance in C Mike Pollak, heir apparent to Jeff Saturday in a scheme that prizes movement over drive.

• Carolina Panthers: Love these maneuvers, despite giving up ’09 No. 1. Hole at RB is filled by Jonathan Stewart, whose toe injury should not limit him past July. This gives some life to the downhill running game. Panthers picked up a second No. 1 pick from Philadelphia to grab OT Jeff Otah, a masher. Solidifies another weak area. Then LB Dan Connor drops in their lap in third round. Bingo!

• Arizona Cardinals: This team helped itself. RB Tim Hightower, picked in fifth round, is a good short-yardage back. Filled need at CB in first round with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and got a huge DE (6-8 Calais Campbell) in second round, which represents good value. Cardinals suffered from injury at DE last few years. Early Doucet will find a crowd at WR but the Cards may eventually move disgruntled Anquan Boldin.


• Jacksonville Jaguars: They never hid their desire for DE Derrick Harvey and moved aggressively from 26th spot in first round to eighth to get him. Harvey looks like the most complete of the DEs, so this pick, even at the cost, ought to be success. Same idea in moving up to get Quentin Groves. Want to knock off the Colts? Then find a way to rush Peyton Manning, no matter the price.

• Minnesota Vikings: Count DE Jaren Allen as their No. 1 pick (and two No. 3s). He had 15½ sacks last year to lead the NFL and he brings a missing element to this defense, which ranked first in the NFL against the run. So even minus an influx of young talent, they used choices well. QB John David Booty in the fifth round is a great value play for a team with issues at the position. Also like S Tyrell Johnson.

• San Diego Chargers: Antoine Cason fills the bill neatly after Chargers lost CBs Sammy Davis and Drayton Florence. He can push for starting job or be the third CB and then fight his way into the lineup. Bolts traded up in third round to get FB Jacob Hester, who will fill the role left vacant by Lorenzo Neal. Not many holes, only five picks.

• Washington Redskins: Wanted to trade their No. 1 pick for established WR but instead bailed out of the round to give themselves more choices than the nine with which they went into the draft. Then got WR Devin Thomas at the top of the second round. Thomas, a junior college transfer, only had the one solid season at Michigan State. WR Malcolm Kelly fell quite a bit but may be better than Thomas. TE Fred Davis was tops at his position on many boards. QB Colt Brennan could be fun to watch.

• Chicago Bears: Helped their offense with first three picks but no QB, alas. OT Chris Williams solidifies a weak position and should start immediately. Bit of a stretch in second round for RB Matt Forte but the Bears cannot go solo with Cedric Benson. WR Earl Bennett has decent size. Love SS Craig Steltz for what he’ll bring to Chicago’s standout special teams.

• San Francisco 49ers: Kentwan Balmer came on strong and the 49ers needed an inside presence at NT. So Balmer is a fit. Outside rusher or a WR looked like more of a priority. Not quite a steal but good value here in building the strength of a team already oriented toward defense. Chilo Rachal could start at G immediately. DB Reggie Smith could play CB or S.


• Dallas Cowboys: Excellent job in filling needs but bypassing Rashard Mendenhall? Had to get RB and did, in explosive Felix Jones. He’ll dovetail nicely with Marion Barber III. Then moved up three spots in deal with Seattle and grabbed CB Mike Jenkins, which gives them some insurance regarding Pacman Jones and his uncertain status (currently suspended). TE Martellus Bennett steps in for traded Anthony Fasano.

• Cleveland Browns: Didn’t get to play until the fourth round. Dealt away picks last year and this spring for other bodies. Until they squeeze something out of QB Brady Quinn and find out exactly what DT Shaun Rogers weighs, who can make a judgment here? If Rogers and recently acquired Corey Williams make the d-line solid, this draft was essentially for veterans at a porous position. LB Beau Bell could help shore up against the run.

• Buffalo Bills: Continuing to work on bolstering a subpar defense, Bills started the run on CBs with Leodis McKelvin. They’d never drafted a CB this high before. Talented returner as well for a club that highly values special teams. Also got the aptly named Reggie Corner, who plays that position. Got the big-body WR in second round (6-5 James Hardy, tallest WR they’ve drafted) to team with Lee Evans.

• New England Patriots: Repairing an aging defense was first priority and biggest need was a young inside LB with the ability to play multiple positions. Jerod Mayo’s that guy. A riser on most draft boards last few weeks, he went a bit higher than most teams might have had him. Mayo can also play OLB but that’s where Shawn Crable fits in. Terrence Wheatley can be a shutdown CB and also returns kicks, was a bit of a sleeper with great athletic skills. Reached quite a bit on QB Kevin O’Connell in third round.

• Green Bay Packers: Skipped out of the first round in deal with New York Jets. Grabbed WR Jordy Nelson in second round and this could be a steal though a bit mystifying since the Packers aren’t short of talent at this position. The kid can fly, runs 4.5 40-yard dash. Filled needs later with CB Patrick Lee and TE Jemichael Finley. Stole DE Jeremy Thompson in fourth round. QB Brian Brohm could have gone higher.

• New Orleans Saints: Clearly looked to beef up defense and did so with first three choices. Premium is now on the front four and Sedrick Ellis gives them a terrific interior presence to go with some decent rush guys. DT DeMario Pressley, a fifth-rounder, could also surprise. Got secondary help in CB Tracy Porter. Deal to get TE Jeremy Shockey from New York Giants never happened.


• Atlanta Falcons: Everything rides on QB Matt Ryan. His stock climbed as the draft approached. The Falcons desired stability and a new face for the franchise. Not sure the second reason is enough to take Ryan (19 INTs last year) third overall. Traded back into first round for OT Sam Baker, who could well wind up at G, making this a reach. Liking the defensive picks more than the offensive ones, but Ryan ultimately makes or breaks this draft.

• St. Louis Rams: Much internal debate but they went with Chris Long, seeking some pressure from the edge, over DT Glenn Dorsey. Only got 5½ sacks from DEs last year and Leonard Little will soon be 34. Looks like not only a safe pick but a good one. WR Donnie Avery went too high but the Rams love the speed and have the positional need. CB Justin King should be the nickel back right away. They failed to address their o-line issues.

• Cincinnati Bengals: Figured to go defensive line but took OLB Keith Rivers instead. He’s probably a better fit at on the weak side but the Bengals are so short at this position that he could be the starter at MLB. Drafted a couple of WRs as insurance against Chad Johnson’s absence in what looks to be an unpleasant holdout. DT Pat Sims gets off the ball well and has some girth. But who’s going to rush the passer?

• Philadelphia Eagles: Bailed out of first round rather than take a WR too high and then got the guy they liked, DeSean Jackson, in the second. Need that sort of playmaker. Picked up Carolina’s No. 1 next year. Got o-line help in Mike McGlynn but reached a bit for him, added secondary help later and those were at least slight reaches too — though FS Quintin Demps shows some real ability. CB Jack Ikegwuono has knee problems and may be facing burglary charges.


• Baltimore Ravens: Wanted a QB. They suspected Matt Ryan would not fall to them in the eighth spot and could not trade up. So they dropped down and grabbed a recent riser in Joe Flacco. Big arm, but how his skills translate from a smaller college program (Delaware) to the NFL is anyone’s guess. Filling this position has been an intractable problem for years. Did not get an OT to replace Jonathan Ogden. Grade is higher if you like trade for CB Fabian Washington, a former No. 1 of Oakland’s acquired for a fourth-round pick.

• New York Jets: Maybe they wanted RB Darren McFadden but they made their move later, not early, and patience will pay off. If DE/LB Vernon Gholston adapts to multiple-front scheme, they’ve got a pass-rusher. Deal with Green Bay at the bottom of the first round brings TE Dustin Keller, which should help the QB (whomever that may be), though they’re stocked at that position. No RB or WR help for a team torn down to its foundations.

• Houston Texans: Needed RB but couldn’t let the OT situation go unaddressed. But they traded down and then took Virginia Tech left tackle Duane Brown. Bit of a head-scratcher here. He has played both sides so that gives them flexibility. Went RB with Steve Slaton, who has outside burst but might not be big enough to bull through the middle. Fits their one-cut scheme but size will play into his durability. Xavier Adibi plays better than he runs but did the Texans really need a LB?

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mild surprise in CB Aqib Talib. Bucs were looking at this position but Talib’s off-the-field issues had him going in the second round on many boards. It will be interesting to see how he fits the Tampa-2 scheme. He’s big and physical. Bucs had to have help with Brian Kelly gone and Ronde Barber aging. DT Dre Moore a good find in Round 4, but otherwise unimpressive unless Dexter Jackson becomes an impact WR and not just a return specialist.

• Seattle Seahawks: Dropped down in first round in trade with Dallas and went a little bit off the mainstream trail with Southern California DE Lawrence Jackson. He’ll work in as a situational pass-rusher. Space-eating run-stopper came later in Red Bryant. Thinking was they’d go TE, which they did later with John Carlson, though Fred Davis was still on the board. Carlson isn’t quite as good a receiver. Love face-busting FB Owen Schmitt as replacement for Mack Strong. Sixth round pick Tyler Schmitt is only the second long snapper taken in draft history.


• Oakland Raiders: Feeling the need for some speed, the Raiders could not bypass RB Darren McFadden. He should team neatly with Justin Fargas, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Was this the biggest of the Raider needs? No. DT was. Big reach on CB Tyvon Branch and already had added DeAngelo Hall in trade, though they traded Fabian Washington for almost nothing (fourth-round pick). Reached on WR Arman Shields as well.

• Detroit Lions: Need position at RT seems to have dictated choice of Gosder Cherilus, who should have gone lower. Bit of a reach but he plays with the sort of ferocity this team can use, especially after allowing 117 sacks over last two seasons and losing Damien Woody as free agent. LB Jordon Dizon is undersized but fits the Tampa-2 scheme and will play hard for them. RB Kevin Smith probably not the answer in a troublesome spot.


• Tennessee Titans: If they plan on running the wishbone, boost the grade. RB Chris Johnson ran the fastest times in the 40-yard dash at the combine and then ran right into the first round with a team that keeps drafting at this position (LenDale White, Chris Henry) and pays too little attention to its WRs and the holes along the d-line. No team had fewer TD catches last year than the Titans’ nine and the Titans did not do enough here to help QB Vince Young.

• Denver Broncos: Happy times when need and the right player coincide. Ryan Clady can eventually step in at LT, where the Broncos lost 11-year veteran Matt Lepsis to retirement. WR Eddie Royal helps on punt returns and gives Denver wiggle room with Brandon Marshall, a question mark because of an arm injury. But why draft Royal after signing veterans Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert and Brandon Stokley before that? Lot of money is being tied up in this position.

Clifton Brown, Sporting News.


Chiefs. Christmas came early. Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers and Jamaal Charles all were potential first-round picks. This was more than a home run. It was a grand slam.


Dolphins. They took full advantage of picking first. Chad Henne could be their new starting quarterback. Jake Long will anchor the offensive line. Phillip Merling was a Round 2 steal.

Falcons. The focus will be on Matt Ryan, but Sam Baker and Curtis Lofton are excellent players. At least eight picks could make the roster, which has been significantly upgraded.


Packers. Brian Brohm gives the Packers insurance at quarterback if Aaron Rodgers falters. Jordy Nelson is a deep-threat receiver who also returns kicks. They got great value for a team picking near the bottom.

Panthers. A power runner (Jonathan Stewart) and a tackle (Jeff Otah) will complement each other nicely. Dan Connor is John Fox’s kind of linebacker•smart and aggressive. Nice job.


Bills. Major needs were addressed. Leodis McKelvin could make people forget Nate Clements. James Hardy should complement speedy Lee Evans as a possession receiver.

Cowboys. What they got was better than trading for Darren McFadden. Felix Jones may be just as good a running back. Taking Mike Jenkins makes them less dependent on Pacman Jones.

Vikings. Trading their first-round pick for Jared Allen was the best part of their draft. But it also was shrewd to move up five spots for Tyrell Johnson, a safety most scouts love.


Jets. Quarterbacks were too comfortable playing against the Jets. Vernon Gholston will change that, and trading up to get Dustin Keller gives their quarterbacks a tight end target.

Rams. Chris Long is easy to love. Donnie Avery in Round 2 was a reach, but getting Justin King in Round 4 should help the secondary, and John Greco is an offensive lineman with potential.

Saints. The trade up to get Sedrick Ellis was excellent. He’s a run-stopper. Horrible play in the secondary hurt them last season, and Tracy Porter is a cornerback with serious potential.


Bears. No, they didn’t get a quarterback, but they got three players — Chris Williams, Matt Forte and Earl Bennett — who can help an anemic offense, plus a defensive tackle (Marcus Harrison) who has first-round skills.

Giants. General manager Jerry Reese is a draft master. They needed a safety and got one in Kenny Phillips. Mario Manningham fell to them because of attitude, not lack of talent.

Steelers. Rashard Mendenhall continues their tradition of physical backs. Ben Roethlisberger wanted a receiver with size, and now he has one in Limas Sweed.


Eagles. It paid off to trade down. DeSean Jackson gives them a much-needed deep target for Donovan McNabb, and a draft-day deal gives them the Panthers’ first-rounder in ’09.

Raiders. Lack of draft picks prevented them from filling more holes. This is all about Darren McFadden. If he becomes a star, then this was a good draft. If not, they didn’t get much help.

Ravens. Getting Joe Flacco was important, but they took a major risk trading out of the No. 8 spot. Ray Rice is a small back, but he should form a nice combo with Willis McGahee.


Bengals. Keith Rivers could quickly become their best linebacker. They took two receivers with their first four picks. This looks like a team getting ready for life without Chad Johnson.

Jaguars. The trade up to get Derrick Harvey and drafting Quentin Groves were all about improving the pass rush. But you have to worry about Harvey’s and Groves’ lack of consistency in college.

Redskins. Jim Zorn is going to open up the offense more than Joe Gibbs. Getting two receivers, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, fits into Zorn’s plan. Jason Campbell is smiling.


Broncos. Ryan Clady will help the offensive line, but after him their draft tailed off. They needed help on the defensive line but added only a fifth-rounder. They may have overrated Eddie Royal as a receiver.

Buccaneers. Aqib Talib may be a nice eventual replacement for Ronde Barber. But the Bucs may have overrated Dexter Jackson, who may be more of a return man in the NFL than a receiver.

Cardinals. They waited too long to get a running back to spell Edgerrin James. Arizona should have taken Mendenhall or Jones instead of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a cornerback who is still raw.


49ers. Kentwan Balmer may be a quality defensive lineman, but the Niners should have taken one of the 10 second-round wideouts instead of Chilo Rachal, who came out a year too soon.

Seahawks. This draft won’t get Mike Holmgren back to the Super Bowl in his final year. Lawrence Jackson could be a solid defensive end, but the Seahawks also needed wideout help.


Lions. Gosder Cherilus will improve the offensive line, but the need for secondary help was not addressed, and Dan Connor would have been a safer pick at linebacker than Jordon Dizon.

Patriots. Will Jerod Mayo really be a better player than two guys the Patriots could have taken — Sedrick Ellis or Keith Rivers? They also failed to get line help to better protect Tom Brady.


Chargers. Having only two of the first 165 picks limited what they could do. Antoine Cason may turn into a good corner, and Jacob Hester will love blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson.

Titans. No excuse for failing to get Vince Young a top-rated receiver. Chris Johnson is a speedy back, but this team had the league’s fewest TD catches last year. That may happen again.


Browns. What did you expect from a team that did not have a pick until the fourth round? They scored big in last year’s draft and spent heavily in free agency. Anything from this draft is a bonus.

Colts. Their first pick was No. 59. Fortunately for them, they don’t need much help. Keep an eye on linebacker Philip Wheeler. The Colts have often struck gold late in the draft.

Texans. They should have gotten more help for a team talking playoffs. Duane Brown needs polish as an offensive lineman. Steve Slaton is unlikely to solve their need for a consistent runner.

Pete Brisco, CBS Sportsline:

Arizona Cardinals

Best pick: They wanted Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and landed him with the 16th pick in the first round. He has the skills to start as a rookie.

Questionable move: Taking Miami defensive end Calais Campbell in the second round. What is he, an end or a tackle? If he’s an end, he has to lose weight to become quicker. If he’s a tackle, he needs to gain weight.

Second-day gem: Iowa defensive end Kenny Iwebema has injury issues that hurt his production, but when he is on the field he can be a solid defensive end. He could end up being better than Campbell.

Overall grade: B. They addressed the defensive side with three of their first four picks and then got receiver Early Doucet in the third round. Solid.

Atlanta Falcons

Best pick: Some questioned their decision to trade back into the first round and get USC tackle Sam Baker, but it was the right move. He was a four-year starter for the Trojans and will be a 10-year starter for the Falcons, beginning as a rookie.

Questionable move: Taking Matt Ryan third overall. If Dorsey goes on to be a star and Ryan isn’t the franchise passer they expect, look out.

Second-day gem: LSU corner Chevis Jackson, taken in the third round, doesn’t run as well as scouts like, but he has everything else needed to be a successful corner on the next level.

Overall grade: B. I wouldn’t have selected Ryan third overall, but they needed a passer. I get it. The rest of the draft was very good. Trading up to get Baker will pay off in a big way. Second-round pick Curtis Lofton is a run-stuffing linebacker and Jackson capped it off.

Baltimore Ravens

Best pick: Third-round pick Tavares Gooden was the best defender on a Miami defense that included two players picked higher than him. Ray Lewis has a fellow from The U. he can take under his wing.

Questionable move: Trading up to get quarterback Joe Flacco. They probably could have stayed at 26 and still landed him. Plus, Brian Brohm and Chad Henne were better options.

Second-day gem: Safety Tom Zbikowski, a third-round pick, is one of those players who will find his way onto the field. He will be a special-teams star — bare minimum.

Overall grade: C. They reached for Flacco and I didn’t really like the pick of Ray Rice in the second round.

Buffalo Bills

Best pick: They considered receiver, but opted for corner Leodis McKelvin in the first round. The value of a corner is much greater than a receiver, and they snagged the best cover player in the draft.

Questionable move: They took receiver James Hardy in the second round when Malcolm Kelly was still on the board. Kelly should have been the choice.

Second-day gem: Tight end Derek Fine, taken in the fourth round, can block, which is rare for a tight end these days.

Overall grade: B-.

Carolina Panthers

Best pick: Third-round pick Charles Godfrey played corner and safety at Iowa, but he might be better suited to play safety in the NFL. He has a lot of range for that position.

Questionable move: A lot of people will question trading their 2009 first-round pick and other choices to move back into the first round to take tackle Jeff Otah. I like it, but it will be questioned.

Second-day gem: Fifth-round pick Gary Barnidge, a tight end from Louisville, is a nice receiving tight end who will help the Panthers passing game.

Overall grade: B-. As much as I like top pick Jonathan Stewart, don’t the Panthers have far greater needs than a running back?

Chicago Bears

Best pick: Third-round pick Marcus Harrison will become a force in the middle of their defense. Some off-field issues prevented him from being a higher selection.

Questionable move: Taking tackle Chris Williams with the 14th pick in the first round came after several teams took him off their boards for medical reasons (back). Chicago better hope that doesn’t become a problem.

Second-day gem: I love tight end Kellen Davis, whom the Bears selected in the fifth round. He’s a strong, athletic player.

Overall grade: B+. Aside from the questions about Williams, they did a nice job. Harrison will make this draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

Best pick: First-round pick Keith Rivers will add much-needed speed to a linebacker group that was decimated by injuries last season.

Questionable move: They took three players with character issues in third-round pick Pat Sims, fourth-round pick Anthony Collins and fifth-round pick Jason Shirley. After all they’ve dealt with in terms of character problems, how could they do that?

Second-day gem: Shirley, a defensive tackle from Fresno State, was dismissed from the Bulldogs last year for disciplinary reasons. When he’s on the field, he’s a 330-pound power player.

Overall grade: C. After Rivers, their draft has a lot of questions. Taking Coastal Carolina receiver Jerome Simpson in the second round is a risky pick.

Cleveland Browns

Best pick: Fourth-round pick Beau Bell has some character questions, but he’s a physical linebacker who has been compared to Jeremiah Trotter.

Questionable move: Trading away their top three picks before the draft started. I like the moves, but some will question them. If Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams don’t work out at defensive tackle, they will be ripped for trading the picks.

Second-day gem: Sixth-round defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin was a dominant nose tackle for Iowa State. He can learn behind Rogers.

Overall grade: B+. That counts trading for Brady Quinn, Rogers, Williams and adding the late-day gems.

Dallas Cowboys

Best pick: I’m a big fan of Arkansas running back Felix Jones, who went 22nd in the first round. He is a home-run threat every time he touches it.

Questionable move: Hard to find one. They had a good two days, but taking tight end Martellus Bennett in the second round might be it. With Jason Witten on the roster, that was a luxury pick.

Second-day gem: Corner Orlando Scandrick has nice cover skills. Were it not for some attitude questions, he might have been taken higher than the fifth round.

Overall grade: A. With two first-round picks, it was hard to mess things up. Getting corner Mike Jenkins after Jones fills a need.

Denver Broncos

Best pick: Running back Ryan Torain, taken in the fifth round, has second-round ability but a foot injury dropped his stock. The Broncos will love this kid.

Questionable move: Second-round pick Eddie Royal will give the passing game a speedy receiver who can help Jay Cutler, but did he go too high at No. 42 overall?

Second-day gem: Sixth-round pick Spencer Larsen was a tackling machine at Arizona.

Overall grade: B. They needed a left tackle and got one in the first round in Ryan Clady. The rest of the draft included some nice choices.

Detroit Lions

Best pick: They have issues at running back, so trading up in the third round to take Central Florida’s Kevin Smith was a nice move.

Questionable move: They took Boston College tackle Gosder Cherlius in the first round instead of Jeff Otah, who was still on the board.

Second-day gem: Third-round pick Cliff Avril, a pass rusher from Purdue, is the kind of edge player Rod Marinelli likes.

Overall grade: B+. Give credit to Matt Millen. He added a lot of good football players in this draft. He had a lot of picks and did a nice job with them.

Green Bay Packers

Best pick: Taking quarterback Brian Brohm in the second round will turn out to be a great pick. He will be the starter in a few years.

Questionable move: They drafted Kansas State receiver Jordy Nelson in the second round, higher than most expected. There were also some bigger-name receivers still on the board.

Second-day gem: Fourth-round pick Jeremy Thompson, a defensive end out of Wake Forest, can help liven up the pass rush.

Overall grade: B-. The pick of Brohm brings their grade up. They did add some depth and competition at positions (OL, TE, CB) that needed it.

Houston Texans

Best pick: They needed corner help and Antwaun Molden is a small-school player who has man-coverage skills.

Questionable move: Trading down in the first round to take tackle Duane Brown was a shocker, but it does fill a need. He is raw, but he has plenty of athletic ability.

Second-day gem: At one time, fifth-round pick Frank Okam was considered a possible first-day choice. If he can turn up the intensity, he could be a factor at defensive tackle.

Overall grade: C-. Why didn’t they just stay put and take tackle Jeff Otah in the first round? They did do better in the middle rounds.

Indianapolis Colts

Best pick: Taking Georgia linebacker/defensive end Marcus Howard in the fifth round is a steal. He’s perfect for the Colts, who like undersized ends with speed.

Questionable move: Nothing really. They added interior line depth, which they had to have, and selected two tight ends, which they needed.

Second-day gem: Tight end Jacob Tamme, a fourth-round pick, is a converted receiver. The Colts lost Ben Utecht, so they try and replace him with Tamme.

Overall grade: B-. Third-round pick Phillip Wheeler is a typical Colts pick, a linebacker who can run.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best pick: Trading up to get defensive end Derrick Harvey in the first round was a good move. Based on the value chart, they got the better of the deal with the Ravens. Harvey will be a 10-sack-a-year player soon.

Questionable move: Trading up to get defensive end Quentin Groves in the second round. Groves has some character issues and a lot of scouts think he’s more flash than substance.

Second-day gem: Fifth-round pick Thomas Williams didn’t start at USC, but he played behind three first-round picks.

Overall grade: B-. Getting Harvey, one of the elite pass rushers, was a bold, aggressive move that fills a huge hole. There wasn’t much else.

Kansas City Chiefs

Best pick: They saw Dorsey fall to them with the fifth pick. He was the top player on half the boards in the league.

Questionable move: I like Texas running back Jamaal Charles, but do the Chiefs really need to be using a third-round pick on a back with Larry Johnson on the roster?

Second-day gem: Sixth-round pick Barry Richardson, a tackle out of Clemson, is massive (6-7, 338) and was once considered a first-day possibility.

Overall grade: A+. They had a lot of picks and used them well. Good thing, too. They need a lot of help.

Miami Dolphins

Best pick: Second-round pick Chad Henne had first-round talent, so he’s a bargain. He could push for the starting job as a rookie.

Questionable move: Not a lot to pick apart. They had a good weekend.

Second-day gem: Sixth-round guard Donald Thomas, a converted defensive tackle, could be a project who can be developed.

Overall grade: A. Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells did a really nice job. Jake Long was the right choice at the top spot. Getting Henne in the second round was the cherry on the sundae.

Minnesota Vikings

Best pick: I love the selection of Arkansas State safety Tyrell Johnson in the second round. He is that speedy safety all teams want.

Questionable move: Trading their first-round pick to get Jared Allen, who has off-the-field issues. What happens if there is a misstep?

Second-day gem: If defensive tackle Letroy Guion can get his weight in check, he could be a steal in the fifth round.

Overall grade: B. Johnson helps the defense and fifth-round pick John David Booty might end up pushing Tarvaris Jackson for the starting quarterback job.

New England Patriots

Best pick: Third-round pick Shawn Crable will be a perfect fit in their 3-4 defense at outside linebacker. He was one of my favorite players entering the draft.

Questionable move: Using a third-round pick on quarterback Kevin O’Connell was a bit strange. Does this mean they don’t like Matt Cassel?

Second-day gem: Bo Ruud, a seventh-round linebacker taken out of Nebraska, has a good football pedigree. His father played in the NFL and brother, Barrett, starts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at middle linebacker.

Overall grade: B+. I love the move to take Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo in the first round. He brings speed to a linebacker group that needed it.

New Orleans Saints

Best pick: Their aggression to go up and draft USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis should be lauded. He will be an immediate starter.

Questionable move: I thought they took Indiana corner Tracy Porter too high in the second round. There were better options.

Second-day gem: Fifth-round pick Carl Nicks has some character concerns, but if he stays out of trouble he could develop into a starting-quality player.

Overall grade: B-. Landing Ellis is big, but there are questions about the other picks.

New York Giants

Best pick: Getting Michigan receiver Mario Manningham in the third round will pay off. He has some character issues, but that shouldn’t be a problem playing for Tom Coughlin.

Questionable move: Taking Miami safety Kenny Phillips in the first round over Arkansas State safety Tyrell Johnson. OK, that’s nitpicking; both are good players.

Second-day gem: Fourth-round pick Bryan Kehl, a linebacker from BYU, was rated higher on some boards. The Giants need help at linebacker and Kehl should provide it.

Overall grade: A. This team gets it. Jerry Reese knows how to find quality football players. First-round pick Phillips will start as a rookie.

New York Jets

Best pick: Fifth-round pick Erik Ainge just might push for time in his second year with the team. The Jets aren’t exactly loaded at quarterback.

Questionable move: Trading back into the first round to take tight end Dustin Keller will be scrutinized. They need help there, but couldn’t they have waited to get one later?

Second-day gem: Fourth-round pick Dwight Lowery will probably move to safety on the next level and could be a good one.

Overall grade: C+. I think Vernon Gholston, their top pick, is overrated. Keller will be a nice player, but he was taken too high.

Oakland Raiders

Best pick: Fourth-round pick Tyvon Branch played corner in college at Connecticut but is projected as a safety on the next level.

Questionable move: Taking Darren McFadden with the fourth pick when Dorsey was staring them in the face. They need a lot of help for th

SI’s Paul Zimmerman probably doesn’t belong here, since he doesn’t actually issue grades, but he’s an institution.

My Numero Uno

Miami Dolphins: I like this because the character of the drafter was reflected in the picks. It was a Man’s draft, make that He-Man. Big guys. Serious. Top guy on the board, Jake Long, stands 6-7 and weighs 315. The defensive end, Phillip Merling, is not what you’d call a nimble-footed pass rusher. He likes to stack ‘em up at the point. A two-gapper. Oh yes, he’s 6-4½, 275. The QB, drafted with Miami’s second pick in the second round, Chad Henne, is 226. He’s got a gun. I mean for an arm. I assume he’ll challenge for the job, or something more sinister. The average of the nine chaps selected is 6-3, 274. My kind of draft, boy.


Detroit Lions: I saw their top pick, tackle Gosder Cherilus, in the Senior Bowl. He was blowing people off the line. Run blocking catches my eye. Pass blocking is like watching Dancing With the Stars with my wife. I know, I know, it’s more important, the way the game is played today, but I’m old and my prejudices are meaningful to me.

Jordon Dizon, the LB picked in the second round, was an active run plugger with a lot of range. Kevin Smith, the third rounder, is a punishing 215 pounder. I guess I should say something about Matt Millen drafting Army’s OLB-SS Caleb Campbell in the seventh round, mainly because his son was Campbell’s teammate at West Point.

According to something said at one of the 5,000 appearances Campbell made on ESPN and NFL Network, the deal is that if he catches on in an NFL camp, he doesn’t have to report for active service, which most likely includes Iraq. Tell me, please, the coach who would be evil enough to cut him?

Oakland Raiders: Mainly because I called this one right in my mock draft, and I needed wins real bad. Al Davis has a mob of runners, but none of them like McFadden. He runs a 4.33, and in the old days, the typical Raider running back, Mark Van Eeghen, Marv Hubbard, that bunch, couldn’t cover 20 yards in that time. So everyone’s keeping fingers crossed that the bright lights of Oakland don’t ensnare the young man. Ghosts of Teddy Hendricks and John Matuszak are everywhere. I also like Oakland’s third-round choice, fourth rounder Bryan Shields, the tall wideout who broke the bank at the combine workouts.

Tennessee Titans: If only on freak-show appeal alone. I don’t know what a 4.24 running back looks like, but that’s what Chris Johnson clocked at the combine. He’s not a shrimpy little guy, either. He’s 197 pounds. I mean, are there stretches when he leaves the ground entirely? I like Craig Stevens, the Cal TE (third round) as well.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I want to see Big Ben playing skyball with the second-round pick, 6-4, 217-pound Limas Sweed, the wideout. I’m interested to see what they do with Dennis Dixon, the very classy and athletic Oregon QB who was headed for first-round glory before he tore the ACL in his knee and ended up a fifth rounder. I bet they have some Kordell Stewart numbers cooked up for him. Rashard Mendenhall, to take some pressure off Fast Willie in the running game, was a good choice, too.

Philadelphia Eagles: I’ve kind of been following the career of Trevor Laws, their second-round DT from Notre Dame, right up through the Senior Bowl, when he put on a clinic on how to shed blockers trained on pass blocking, to stop the run. He’ll be just fine in Philly’s system. It’ll also be interesting to see the expression on Donovan McNabb’s face the first time second-round choice DeSean Jackson, who has 4.37 speed, goes out for a deep one.

Cincinnati Bengals: Once again they give us a draft without many holes in it. At No.1, Keith Rivers is a dedicated and technically correct LB. At No. 2, Jerome Simpson is a highly dedicated receiver, whose 4.42 clocking put his school, Coastal Carolina, on the map. What map? The map of the coast, of course. Patrick Sims (third round) brings 310 pounds of run stopping to address a glaring weakness.

Atlanta Falcons: Well, yeah, I guess I had to love this draft because I had Matt Ryan on my board, and the guys that had Glenn Dorsey went down in flames. When they traded up for another first-round pick to get tackle Sam Baker to block for him, I thought that was a reach, but far be it for me to criticize the team that gave me a W.

Minnesota Vikings
: Are you counting DE Jared Allen, the big-league pass rusher who came from the Chiefs for draft choices? You are? Then I love their draft. But only if they help him beat the drinking problem. One DUI and it’s a bad mistake. Two and it’s a problem. QB John David Booty (fifth round) from USC is an interesting choice since the position is far from locked up.

Buffalo Bills: QB Trent Edwards wondered whether or not there was a big wideout with fine hands available, and mentioned how nice it would be to have one, and the conversation produced 6-5½, 216-pound James Hardy. He’s not the only guy in the organization they made happy. Bobby April, the terrific special teams coach, cracked a bottle of champagne when they drafted Leodis McKelvin in the first round. Possibly the best corner available, but also a fine return man.

Dallas Cowboys: McFadden’s running mate, Felix Jones, can fly; he averaged 8.7 yards a crack last season. Perfect counterpart for Marion Barber, but farther down the Cowboys got lucky when Tashard Choice, a slashing type of runner, fell to them. Mike Jenkins is a fine corner to team with Terence Newman.


Carolina Panthers: Traded up for the tackle (Jeff Otah) to block for the runner (Jonathan Stewart), which provides John Fox with the kind of attack he’s most comfortable with.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Traded way up, 18 spots, to get Derrick Harvey, an edge rusher, and then devoted their second-round choice to another one, Quentin Groves. I know the whole idea is to pressure the most dangerous man in the division, Peyton Manning, but getting these guys with the eighth and 52nd picks of the entire draft is a bit of a reach.

San Francisco 49ers: Two big guys to provide a grain of toughness on both sides of the ball, For the interior defense, to keep people off their inside linebacking phenom, Patrick Willis, they got 307-pound Kentwan Balmer in the first round. Next pick was a bruising guard, Chilo Rachal, who perfected his game at USC.

New York Giants: Free safety Gibril Wilson free agents himself out of town, in comes Kenny Phillips from the U., which is Miami, where they know all about safetymen. And here are two more good picks for needs, a pair of 242-pound linebackers, Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff.
Business as usual

Indianapolis Colts: No first-round pick this time, which produced the oddity of three picks listed as centers. One will hold the position, one will move to guard, probably the highest one picked, Mike Pollak, and one will have to deposit his chips at the teller’s window. Philip Wheeler is a speedy linebacker whose weight is now 243. Wish mine was.

Arizona Cardinals: They said they loved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the 4.29 corner, and by golly they were one of the few teams not lying. I wish Ken Whisenhunt and his speedy corner the best of luck, and that goes for DE Calais Campbell, who has been mentioned as an underachiever, but not to him, I’ll wager.


New York Jets: So what do you do when you’ve picked two of the finest athletes on the board, DE Vernon Gholston and TE Dustin Keller, and people are sneering at them? Great workout warriors, they say. Gholston is on and off and Keller can’t block. Well, if I were Eric Mangini, I’d make sure the clippings all find a place in their lockers. Strange things following consistent nagging –such as consistency, and blocking, and consistently blocking, you understand.

Tampa Bay Bucs: The top pick, CB Aqib Talib, is so gifted as a cover man that he actually sneers at receivers, I hear. Which doesn’t bother his coach, who, I’ve heard, sneers at writers on occasion. It’s an interesting draft that landed little Dexter Jackson, who can do a 4.33, and G/T Jeremy Zuttah, a technically gifted lineman with great potential.

New England Patriots: They always take a lineman, whether offensive or defensive. Some of them, even first rounders, are only dimly known. I mean, when they took Logan Mankins I thought it was a department store. But a few years later I was putting him on my all-pro team. This year? No linemen. The pressing needs of young linebackers to spruce up an aging unit, and corners to take over for two émigrés, was too great. Enter No.1 choice, Jerod Mayo, an OLB with numbers that say 242 pounds and 4.52, and corner Terrence Wheatley, who turned in a 4.37 at the combine.
The sliding scale

Baltimore Ravens: They wanted Ryan. Falcons got him. So we’ll take our ball and go home, said Ozzie Newsome, and he packed up and pulled out of the pick. And there he was heading for the second round, when hello there, Joe Flacco, the big guy with the laser arm, was still aboard. So at 18 he became a Raven. I don’t think Kyle Boller’s in trouble — yet. The kid is still too raw, and wild. And at the draft room in New York a great cheer went up when the Ravens, with their second-round pick, selected Rutgers star halfback Ray Rice, the greatest player to wear the scarlet since the great Paul Robeson.

New Orleans Saints: Same type of story. Glenn Dorsey, the terrific DT from LSU, was their man. They even traded three places up, to seven, for a shot at him. Sorry, the Chiefs got there first. So New Orleans did a volte face and picked equally devastating — well, almost — Sedrick Ellis of USC. One of the best DT’s to come along in years. Suspecting that their corners were perhaps slowing down a bit, the Saints grabbed CB Tracy Porter (4.37) with the next selection.


Kansas City Chiefs: Stars of the war room, stars of the TV studios and the draft, that’s K.C., with its cast of thousands. And yes, the names are impressive, but how about the two that are missing? Jared Allen, their right DE who led the league in sacks last year, and … well, the name escapes me, but it was the guy I was sure the Chiefs would bring in to give Brodie Croyle a run for the QB job. Sorry, no one to push Croyle, no Allen to line up at his usual spot. It’s what I call a “yes, but…” draft.


Seattle Seahawks: I can find only three interesting names, DE Lawrence Jackson and Notre Dame TE John Carlson at the top, and then a drop to the fifth round for a peek at 250-pound fullback Owen Schmitt.

San Diego Chargers: Not their fault. Only five total picks. I’ll say this — opportunistic corner Antoine Cason. Then I’ll say goodbye.

Cleveland Browns: The first of five choices starts at round four with LB Bo Bell. They say he’s mean. I know why. He’s lonely. Earlier deals for DT Shawn Rogers (Lions) and DE Corey Williams (Packers) took their toll, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that Cleveland had to throw in a gifted corner, Leigh Bodden, and I don’t think that was such a good idea.

Charean Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As a Cowboys fan, I’ve read her stuff for a while and liked it but I’ve never considered her a national draft expert before. She’s a chick, for one thing, and she writes for a smallish paper. But there she was on ESPN’s second day draft coverage panel, so she must be an expert. Either that, or nobody else would work eight hours on a Sunday.

NFC East

Dallas: The Cowboys had a good draft, but it could have been even better with the selection of Rashard Mendenhall. Grade B+

NY Giants: The Giants, who lost starting safety Gibril Wilson in free agency, addressed their biggest need, with Kenny Phillips getting a chance to compete for the job with Sammy Knight. Grade C+

Philadelphia: The biggest thing the Eagles got out of this draft was an extra first-round pick next year. Trevor Laws was the third defensive tackle in the past four years the Eagles have taken with their first choice. Grade: C

Washington: The Redskins tried to trade for Cincinnati wideout Chad Johnson; they ended up with Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly as well as tight end Fred Davis. Grade: B+

NFC North

Chicago: The Bears averaged only 3.1 yards per rush last year, the lowest for any NFL team since the 2000 San Diego Chargers. Chris Williams and Matt Forte should improve that stat. Grade: C

Detroit: The Lions have not had a player rush for even 700 yards in any of the past three seasons; Smith had 2,567 last year at Central Florida. Grade: C

Green Bay: In his drafts with the Packers, general manager Ted Thompson has made 10 trades getting him an additional 12 picks. He was thrilled to get Jordy Nelson and Brian Brohm in the second round. Grade: B

Minnesota: The Vikings made their best move when they traded for Jared Allen. The only question is: Did they give up too much? Grade: C-

NFC South

Atlanta: The Falcons talked about building inside-out, but they ended up not drafting an offensive lineman or defensive end. (Kroy Biermann is expected to play OLB.) Grade: C-

Carolina: The Panthers mortgaged their future by trading next year’s first-round pick to get Jeff Otah. It’s obvious it’s win now for general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox. Grade: C

New Orleans: The Saints took a huge step in improving a defense that allowed 348.1 yards per game last season. Grade: C+

Tampa Bay: The Bucs got Brian Kelly’s replacement, but they passed on South Florida’s Mike Jenkins to get Aqib Talib. Grade: C

NFC West

Arizona: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie replaces Antrel Rolle, who is moving to free safety; Calais Campbell, Kenny Iwebema and Chris Harrington will get chances to play. Grade: B-

St. Louis: Chris Long reportedly was only fourth on their draft board early last week, but they needed a defensive end more than a defensive tackle. Grade C-

San Francisco: The 49ers didn’t get much to help an offense that ranked last in the NFL with an average of 13.7 points per game. Grade: C-

Seattle: The Seahawks are trying to win the Giants’ way — by pressuring the quarterback. Lawrence Jackson is added to an arsenal that produced 45 sacks last season. Grade: C

AFC East

Buffalo: The Bills have lost 14 of the past 15 games against the Patriots, so McKelvin and Hardy were drafted with that in mind. Grade: B

Miami: The Dolphins won’t be 1-15 this season after solving several needs in this draft as well as potentially getting their quarterback of the future in Chad Henne. Grade: A

New England: The Patriots needed to get younger at linebacker. Their starters had an average age of 32.4 years old last season, the oldest in the league. Grade: C

New York Jets: The Jets wanted running back Darren McFadden; they have to hope Vernon Gholston isn’t a workout warrior. Grade: C-

AFC North

Baltimore: Joe Flacco could be the best quarterback in this draft, but the Ravens overvalued him, trading up to get him. Grade: C-

Cincinnati: The Bengals were 27th in total defense and 24th in points allowed, and they had only 22 sacks. They used five picks on defensive players. Grade: C

Cleveland: The Browns got Brady Quinn, Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams by trading their first-day picks. Grade: Incomplete

Pittsburgh: The Steelers had the oldest starting defense in the NFL last season but didn’t get it much younger in this draft. Grade: C

AFC South

Houston: The Texans traded down and ended up reaching for Duane Brown. He does fill a huge need at left tackle, which has been an Achilles’ heel since Houston used the first pick of the expansion draft on Tony Boselli. Grade: C-

Indianapolis: The Colts’ 22 starters in the playoffs last season were all homegrown. This team knows how to draft, even when it doesn’t have a first-round pick. Grade: C

Jacksonville: The Jags might have overvalued Derrick Harvey, but defensive end Bobby McCray left in free agency and Reggie Hayward had only 3.5 sacks last season after coming back from a torn Achilles’. Grade: C

Tennessee: The Titans have used second-round picks on running backs (Chris Henry and LenDale White) in the past two seasons. Yet, they reached on Chris Johnson. And they waited until the 126th pick to get Vince Young help at wide receiver. Grade: C-

AFC West

Denver: The Broncos played it safe by selecting Ryan Clady, who will become the first rookie offensive lineman starter in Mike Shanahan’s tenure in Denver. Grade: C

Kansas City: What’s not to love? On paper, the Chiefs had one of the best drafts in recent history, but with 12 picks, including two first-rounders (Glenn Dorsey and Branden Albert), and tons of holes, they should have. Grade: A+

Oakland: Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly re-signed, but defensive tackle Warren Sapp retired, and defensive tackle Gerard Warren remains a huge disappointment. They could have used Glenn Dorsey. But it’s hard to argue with Darren McFadden. Grade: C

San Diego: The Chargers had targeted an offensive tackle, but none were there when they drafted in the first round. They tried to trade down but found no takers. Antoine Cason will compete for the nickel job. Grade: C-

Yahoo! Sports decided that 32 teams was too much for one man, so divided it up. Charles Robinson handled the NFC:


Dallas Cowboys
Picks: RB Felix Jones, DB Mike Jenkins, TE Martellus Bennett, RB Tashard Choice, DB Orlando Scandrick, DL Erik Walden
Positives: Jones, Jenkins, Choice
Negative: No young wide receiver to develop.
Bottom line: B+. Only six picks, but Jones and Jenkins are solid picks. However, taking Jones over Rashard Mendenhall because he was used to playing a backup role makes no sense. That doesn’t make Felix a bad pick, it just links him forever to Mendenhall. Jenkins can return kicks and gives great insurance at cornerback for Pacman Jones. The addition of Pacman also counts, and Dallas doesn’t have a lot invested for the talent level. Bennett is intriguing and Choice could be a steal in the fourth round.

New York Giants
Picks: DB Kenny Phillips, DB Terrell Thomas, WR Mario Manningham, LB Bryan Kehl, LB Jonathan Goff, QB André Woodson, DE Robert Henderson
Positives: Phillips, Manningham, Woodson
Negative: No picks for tackle depth.
Bottom line:B. A solid class from top to bottom. Phillips, Kehl and Woodson have a boatload of upside. Manningham could be a tremendous value pick in the third round. Whatever you want to say about his lack of speed or smarts (reportedly scored very low on the Wonderlic test administered at the NFL scouting combine), he consistently produced on the biggest of stages at the college level. But keeping him from becoming a character issue might be tough in New York. Woodson’s mechanics and decision-making translate into a major project over the next several years, but he’s got a lot of tools to keep the Giants invested.

Philadelphia Eagles
Picks: DL Trevor Laws, WR DeSean Jackson, DL Bryan Smith, OL Mike McGlynn, DB Quintin Demps, DB Jack Ikegwuonu, OL Mike Gibson, LB Joe Mays, DL Andrew Studebaker, OL King Dunlap
Positives: Jackson, Ikegwuonu
Negative: No tackle until the seventh round.
Bottom line: C+. The 10 picks touched on all the major needs, but the class doesn’t have the “wow” factor. It’s a little reminiscent of the 2004 draft that went 10 deep but didn’t produce much. However, Philadelphia’s fleecing of Carolina for the 19th pick will produce future dividends. Jackson is explosive and a potential steal in the second round. Ikegwuonu has a lot of talent and could move over to safety when he recovers from his knee injury. McGlynn could move to tackle and Dunlap could make the team because of his size.

Washington Redskins
Picks: WR Devin Thomas, TE Fred Davis, WR Malcolm Kelly, OL Chad Rinehart, DB Justin Tryon, P Durant Brooks, DB Kareem Moore, QB Colt Brennan, DL Rob Jackson, DB Chris Horton
Positives: Thomas, Davis, Kelly, Brooks
Negative: Defensive end not addressed until the seventh round.
Bottom line:A. Ten overall picks with lots of potential from top to bottom. The two wideouts slipped a little and could all end up providing great value. Thomas and Kelly could develop into quality big targets, and an AFC scout told Yahoo! Sports in February that Davis was the best overall talent at tight end in this draft. The punter need was addressed with the best one the college game had to offer in Brooks. Brennan is an intriguing pick late in the sixth round. A lot of potential starters in this draft.


Chicago Bears
Picks: OL Chris Williams, RB Matt Forte, WR Earl Bennett, DL Marcus Harrison, DB Craig Steltz, DB Zack Bowman, TE Kellen Davis, DL Ervin Baldwin, OL Chester Adams, LB Joey LaRocque, OL Kirk Barton, WR Marcus Monk
Positives: Williams, Forte
Negative: No quarterback to groom.
Bottom line: C. There are lots of bodies to look at with 12 total picks, but five of them were seventh-rounders. Williams is a decent offensive line prospect, but Jeff Otah or Branden Albert might have been better choices. Forte could be a solid second-round pick, but he has something to prove. The Bears passed on two marquee quarterbacks (Brian Brohm and Chad Henne) to pick Forte, which could come back to haunt them. Davis and Baldwin have a lot of raw potential and could be late-round steals.

Detroit Lions
Picks: OL Gosder Cherilus, LB Jordon Dizon, RB Kevin Smith, DL Andre Fluellen, DL Cliff Avril, WR Kenneth Moore, FB Jerome Felton, DL Landon Cohen, DB Caleb Campbell
Positives: Dizon, Smith
Negatives: Missing on first-round targets and reaching for Cherilus.
Bottom line: D. Detroit addressed most needs but missed out on its three targeted players in the first round – Derrick Harvey, Jonathan Stewart and Jerod Mayo – then traded back to No. 17 and still reached for Cherilus. Dizon is smallish but consistent. Moving up for Smith in the third round was intriguing. He could be a good value there, but it’s a concern that he rarely had a dominating yards-per-carry average against quality competition. Other than Cherilus, it’s hard to see a lot of room to grow in this class.

Green Bay Packers
Picks: WR Jordy Nelson, QB Brian Brohm, DB Pat Lee, TE Jermichael Finley, DL Jeremy Thompson, OL Josh Sitton, OL Breno Giacomini, QB Matt Flynn, WR Brett Swain
Positives: Nelson, Brohm, Lee, Flynn
Negatives: No tackles drafted until the fourth and fifth round.
Bottom line: B. GM Ted Thompson was active as usual and produced a robust class size of nine picks. He once again used his first pick on a position that didn’t seem to be a huge need (wideout), but it’s hard to rip him for a methodology that has worked in the bigger picture. Getting Brohm so late in the second round is a coup. He’ll create competition with Aaron Rodgers, and if they both develop well, the Packers have some capital at the position for future trades. Flynn likely won’t make the team but is good value late. Overall, it was a good class for depth.

Minnesota Vikings
Picks: DB Tyrell Johnson, QB John David Booty, DL Letroy Guion, OL John Sullivan, WR Jaymar Johnson
Positive: Booty
Negatives: Only five picks and no immediate impact players.
Bottom line: B. Jared Allen factors into this draft, but his talent is balanced against his risk of further suspension. Johnson gives some good depth at safety. Guion and Sullivan are solid picks to groom for the future at defensive tackle and center. Johnson will get pushed around by cornerbacks at the next level. Booty is the really intriguing pick. He’s got the arm to fit Minnesota’s scheme and is likely to get time to play because of Tarvaris Jackson’s injury issues.


Atlanta Falcons
Picks: QB Matt Ryan, OL Sam Baker, LB Curtis Lofton, DB Chevis Jackson, WR Harry Douglas, DB Thomas DeCoud, LB Robert James, LB Kroy Biermann, RB Thomas Brown, DB Wilrey Fontenot, TE Keith Zinger
Positives: Ryan, Baker, DeCoud
Negative: No defensive line help.
Bottom line: B. The class size is great with 11 picks, and it’s a strong defensive group with six picks on that side of the ball. The first four picks come from big-time programs. Ryan could reshape the franchise if he lives up to his billing. Baker was a necessary reach, and if he’s healthy, he could someday prove worthy of the 21st overall pick. Still, trading two second-rounders is an awful lot to pay for a guy whose performance last year dictated him worthy of one second-round pick. DeCoud has the speed to cover and the mentality to play the run tough. Hard to believe that out of 11 selections, Baker was the only pick invested between the offensive and defensive lines. That’s troubling.

Carolina Panthers
Picks: RB Jonathan Stewart, OL Jeff Otah, DB Charles Godfrey, LB Dan Connor, TE Gary Barnidge, DL Nick Hayden, LB Hilee Taylor, OL Geoff Schwartz, OL Mackenzy Bernadeau
Positives: Stewart, Otah, Godfrey, Connor
Negative: No young quarterback to groom.
Bottom line: A. Nine picks with several potential starters on offense and defense. The Panthers gave up too much for Otah, but he could start immediately. Godfrey is a playmaker and Connor is a solid, consistent linebacker. Stewart has got loads of talent and should be OK after toe surgery. Hayden can be a solid platoon player at defensive tackle.

New Orleans Saints
Picks: DL Sedrick Ellis, DB Tracy Porter, DL DeMario Pressley, OL Carl Nicks, K Taylor Mehlhaff, WR Adrian Arrington
Positives: Ellis, Porter, Arrington
Negative: No tight end help.
Bottom line: B-. Only two picks in the first 143 selections. The Saints tried to get Jeremy Shockey, but the Giants were asking too much. Ellis and Porter should be solid additions to the defense, and Pressley could be a steal in the fifth round if he stays healthy and improves his lower body strength. Nicks is a project at tackle. Arrington was great value in the seventh round, even if he is unlikely to make the roster at a deep wideout spot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Picks: DB Aqib Talib, WR Dexter Jackson, OL Jeremy Zuttah, DL Dre Moore, QB Josh Johnson, LB Geno Hayes, RB Cory Boyd
Positive: Jackson
Negative: Character risk with Talib.
Bottom line: C. All the major needs were hit with seven picks, including wideout and cornerback with the first two picks. Talib has some red flags for character and he takes chances on the field. But he’s also got size and can be a playmaker. Jackson hasn’t played in a pro-style offense, but he’s got a ton of quickness and athleticism. Despite his lack of elite size, it wouldn’t be a shocker to see him develop into the best wideout from this draft. Zuttah is a good guard/tackle combo project. Johnson has an enticing skill set but a lot to learn.


Arizona Cardinals
Picks: DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DL Calais Campbell, WR Early Doucet, DL Kenny Iwebema, RB Tim Hightower, DL Chris Harrington, OL Brandon Keith
Positives: Rodgers-Cromartie, Campbell, Doucet
Negative: No picks for depth at safety.
Bottom line: B. Rodgers-Cromartie had an amazing offseason and has loads of upside. Campbell had a down year in 2007 but could be a steal in Round 2. He’ll likely shed some weight to pick up some explosion that he lacked last year. Doucet was a nice value pick in the third round, even if he’s likely to be a possession guy rather than a game breaker. Hightower has good size but doesn’t have great open-field speed. It’s hard to believe he’ll be the guy to replace Edgerrin James.

St. Louis Rams
Picks: DL Chris Long, WR Donnie Avery, OL John Greco, DB Justin King, WR Keenan Burton, OL Roy Schuening, LB Chris Chamberlain, LB David Vobora
Positive: Long
Negative: Only one immediate starter in the class.
Bottom line: C+. Long should be an impact player right away and boosts the grade, but the rest of the class leaves a lot to be desired. Taking smallish Avery over Devin Thomas or James Hardy was a head-scratcher. Avery put up big yardage numbers as a senior but scored “only” seven touchdowns, and rarely played against the kind of competition Thomas and Hardy faced. Greco could eventually develop into a starter. King has all the skills but can’t seem to put it together.

San Francisco 49ers
Picks: DL Kentwan Balmer, OL Chilo Rachal, DB Reggie Smith, OL Cody Wallace, WR Josh Morgan, LB Larry Grant
Positives: Balmer, Smith
Negatives: C. Wideout and linebacker not addressed until sixth and seventh rounds.
Bottom line: Having only six picks isn’t great, particularly when need areas like receiver and linebacker didn’t get prominent attention. Balmer is raw and athletic, but he basically has a one-year résumé. Rachal isn’t very athletic. Smith is an underrated pick in the third round. Morgan and Grant look like special teams players. It’s a class that doesn’t have a lot of spark in it.

Seattle Seahawks
Picks: DL Lawrence Jackson, TE John Carlson, DL Red Bryant, FB Owen Schmitt, LS Tyler Schmitt, RB Justin Forsett, K Brandon CoutuPositives: Jackson
Negative: No wide receiver help.
Bottom line: C. Jackson is a solid talent at defensive end, but there have been a lot of underachievers coming off the USC line the past several years. Still, Jackson has good quickness. The pick could have been used on one of the many wideouts still on the board, but that position was entirely ignored. Bryant should be a solid run-plugger for a fourth-rounder. With three of the seven picks devoted to long-snapper, kicker and fullback, it’s not the sexiest class ever.

Jason Cole did the AFC:


Buffalo Bills
Picks: CB Leodis McKelvin, WR James Hardy, DE Chris Ellis, CB Reggie Corner, TE Derek Fine, LB Alvin Bowen, RB Xavier Omon, OT Demetrius Bell, WR Steve Johnson, DB Kennard Cox
Positives: McKelvin and Hardy
Negatives: Ellis
Bottom line: B+. Patience paid off for the Bills as the early run on defensive linemen allowed McKelvin to slip to No. 11 overall. The Bills got the best cornerback in the draft and didn’t have to move up to get him. Hardy is an interesting prospect. His 6-foot-6 height should give the Bills a nice red zone receiver. Ellis isn’t a bad pick for the third round, but he’s not the most disciplined kid. The Bills continued to look for help at CB with Corner. Not the sexiest draft, but it should be effective.

Miami Dolphins
Picks: OT Jake Long, DE Phillip Merling, QB Chad Henne, DE Kendall Langford, G Shawn Murphy, RB Jalen Parmele, G Donald Thomas, RB Lex Hilliard, NT Lionel Dotson
Positives: Long, Henne and Langford
Negatives: Merling and Thomas
Bottom line: B+. Anybody who wants to understand the Bill Parcells blueprint should study this draft. Rebuild the lines first and get a drop-back quarterback. Long immediately steps into the left tackle spot while Merling and Langford give the team a much-needed infusion of talent on the defensive line. However, Merling is a bit of a reach because he doesn’t fit a 3-4 defense perfectly. The best move for the Dolphins was not overreacting to the hype regarding Henne after Baltimore made an early move to nab Joe Flacco. Instead of creating a run on quarterbacks, the Dolphins patiently waited for him at the end of the second round.

New England Patriots
Picks: LB Jerod Mayo, CB Terrence Wheatley, LB Shawn Crable, QB Kevin O’Connell, CB Jonathan Wilhite, WR Matt Slater and LB Bo Ruud
Positives: Mayo, Wheatley and Crable
Negatives: O’Connell
Bottom line: A-. Indy’s Bill Polian is the best drafter, but no team in the NFL works the draft better than the Patriots and they again showed it this year. They moved out of the No. 7 spot and got yet another pick after not getting a shot at one of the premier defenders in the draft. The Pats now can begin the transition from the paleo-linebacking corps they’ve had the past two years to a more modern group. Likewise, they hope the likes of Wheatley and Wilhite will fill the shoes of departed CBs Asante Samuel and Randall Gay.

New York Jets
Picks: LB/DE Vernon Gholston, TE Dustin Keller, CB Dwight Lowery, QB Erik Ainge, WR Marcus Henry, OT Nate Garner
Positives: Keller and Lowery
Negatives: Gholston and Ainge
Bottom line: C. Jets fans at the draft were thrilled when their team grabbed Gholston to give them another outside pass rusher, another piece in an aggressive offseason. But there are plenty of people around the NFL who contend that Gholston is the biggest potential bust of the first round. There are concerns about whether he really likes the game. That’s not good. Keller gives the team a more dynamic receiver for the middle of the field and a stopgap if starting TE Chris Baker doesn’t play for the Jets this season. Lowery gives them depth at a weak spot. Ainge is a waste of a pick.


Baltimore Ravens
Picks: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, LB Tavares Gooden, S Tom Zbikowski, G Oniel Cousins, WR Marcus Smith, OT David Hale, S Haruki Nakamura, WR Justin Harper, RB Allen Patrick
Positives: Rice, Gooden and Zbikowski
Negatives: Flacco
Bottom line: C. There’s a lot of excitement about Flacco, who has a cannon arm. But look at the history of the league: QBs who are taller than 6-5 generally aren’t very good. They can’t move fast enough to avoid hits. Flacco lumbers when he moves and he’s making a big jump from Delaware. Good luck. Rice is a very good backup to Willis McGahee, and Gooden is a much better player than he showed at Miami.

Cincinnati Bengals
Picks: LB Keith Rivers, WR Jerome Simpson, DT Pat Sims, WR Andre Caldwell, OT Anthony Collins, DT Jason Shirley, S Corey Lynch, TE Matt Sherry, DE Angelo Craig and WR Mario Urritia
Positives: Rivers, Sims and Caldwell
Negatives: Simpson and Shirley
Bottom line: D-. Rivers and Sims are immediate starters, but that’s almost by default. The Bengals wanted to get USC DT Sedrick Ellis in the first round, but got jumped by the Saints, who telegraphed their move for four days. The Bengals should have done something to counter New Orleans, but as is typical with Cincy, the Bengals let someone else determine their fate. Calling Simpson a “negative” is a little strong, but he’s just a reminder of how bad the situation is there between the dismissal of Chris Henry and the mouthing off by Chad Johnson. Where the grade really takes a hit is with Shirley, a guy who was in and out of trouble last season. The Bengals never learn.

Cleveland Browns
Picks: LB Beau Bell, TE Martin Rucker, DT Ahtyba Rubin, WR Paul Hubbard and DE Alex Hall
Positives: Rucker
Negatives: Bell
Bottom line: C. Rucker is a good backup to have for TE Kellen Winslow. This is a really difficult draft to analyze because the Browns traded away their first day of the draft. The first-round pick was dealt last year for Brady Quinn. Then they dealt the other picks for the likes of DTs Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. The Quinn deal has yet to pan out but it could be great. Rogers and Williams were both huge needs, a sign that the Browns are playing for today. This is the type of draft where they could have problems down the road if the roster gets old in a hurry. Bell is a decent interior LB prospect, but he has been hurt.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Picks: RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Limas Sweed, DE Bruce Davis, OT Tony Hills, QB Dennis Dixon, LB Mike Humpal, S Ryan Mundy
Positives: Mendenhall, Sweed, Davis and Dixon
Negatives: Hills
Bottom line: A. This is a truly great draft, although it’s unlikely Dixon will get a chance to develop as a passer with Ben Roethlisberger entrenched. A month ago, there was a debate about who the second-best back in the draft was after Darren McFadden and many people thought it was Mendenhall. Then he fell behind Jonathan Stewart and Felix Jones. The Steelers nabbed a falling value, a great move in drafting. Sweed has awesome talent and Davis will convert to an OLB and has the quickness to be another great pass rusher in the Steelers’ 3-4 system. The injured Dixon was a great value in the fifth round.


Houston Texans
Picks: OT Duane Brown, CB Antwaun Molden, RB Steve Slaton, LB Xavier Adibi, DT Frank Okam, S Dominique Barber, QB Alex Brink
Positives: Brown, Slaton and Okam
Negatives: Molden
Bottom line: B. Give Houston a lot of credit for maneuvering around the draft, particularly after a mid-first round run on offensive linemen left the Texans without great choices at the No. 18 spot. They slid back to get Brown at No. 26, nabbing a need player at a better value spot. You also have to love the speed of Slaton, who can change a game in a hurry. However, Molden is too raw and the downside of Slaton is that he doesn’t like contact, making him a predictable runner. Okam, a former defensive tackle, is likely to shift to guard, a clever move by teams that realize that non-athletic DTs can make for cheap, athletic G’s.

Indianapolis Colts
Picks: OT Mike Pollak, LB Philip Wheeler, TE Jacob Tamme, LB Marcus Howard, TE Tom Santi, C Steve Justice, RB Mike Hart, WR Pierre Garcon, G Jamey Richard
Positives: Pollak, Tamme and Howard
Negatives: Wheeler
Bottom line: B. OK, any criticism of this draft is a matter of being pretty picky. Colts president Bill Polian is always a step or two ahead of the pack. Last year, he traded away his first pick to get Tony Ugoh, a starting left tackle. This year, he’s looking ahead to keeping the line solid with Pollak, a guy who fits the Colts’ system perfectly. Likewise, Tamme gives the Colts another receiving tight end to work the middle of the field. Wheeler is a little stiff for what the Colts do on defense, but he’s still a solid player. Howard is a great experiment at either LB or DE.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Picks: DE Derrick Harvey, DE Quentin Groves, LB Thomas Williams, CB Trae Williams, RB Chauncey Washington
Positives: Harvey and Groves
Negatives: Gave away took many draft picks.
Bottom line: C+. This is not a criticism of the players the Jaguars took. Harvey is one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the draft, capable of playing both outside and inside. He’s going to be a force. Groves is only a step or two behind. However, how quickly will these guys make it? The Jags are in position to compete for a title and there’s a good argument that they could have nabbed Dolphins DE Jason Taylor with some of those picks. It’s a pretty good bet that Taylor will have more sacks over the next two years than either Harvey or Groves. Maybe more than them combined.

Tennessee Titans
Picks: RB Chris Johnson, DE Jason Jones, TE Craig Stevens, DL William Hayes, WR Lavelle Hawkins, LB Stanford Keglar, DB Cary Williams
Positives: Jones and Hawkins
Negatives: Johnson, Stevens and Hayes
Bottom line: D. This not a shot at Johnson, who is one of the fastest players in the draft, but this is the third consecutive year the Titans have spent a first- or second-round pick on a running back. They desperately need receiving help. Jones fills in for the loss of Antwan Odom. Hayes will get a shot at that job as well, but he was more of reach. Hawkins is a really nice pickup in the fourth round, but the Titans needed to get another one earlier.


Denver Broncos
Picks: OT Ryan Clady, WR Eddie Royal, G Kory Lichtensteiger, CB Jack Williams, RB Ryan Torain, DT Carlton Powell, LB Spencer Larsen, DB Josh Barrett and RB Peyton Hillis
Positives: Clady, Royal and Williams
Negatives: Lichtensteiger and Torain
Bottom line: B. The Broncos nabbed the second-best left tackle in the draft after Jake Long and an immediate replacement to Matt Lepsis, who retired. The Broncos addressed their constant need for a return man with Royal, who could be really interesting in the offense as well. Lichtensteiger is a solid player, but guys with short arms have problems in this league. So much of line play, both offensively and defensively, is dependent upon leverage. Like Royal, Williams is a speed guy the Broncos needed.

Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: DT Glenn Dorsey, G Branden Albert, CB Brandon Flowers, RB Jamaal Charles, TE Brad Cottam, S DaJuan Morgan, WR Will Franklin, CB Brandon Carr, OT Barry Richardson, WR Kevin Robinson, DE Brian Johnston and TE Michael Merritt
Positives: Dorsey, Albert, Flowers and Charles
Negatives: Cottam and Franklin
Bottom line: A. Losing DE Jared Allen to get a bunch of picks still hurts, but that relationship was broken beyond repair. The Chiefs resisted all temptations to move either up or down, stood pat and got perhaps the most dynamic defensive player in the draft in Dorsey and a terrific talent on the offensive line in Albert. Both are great building blocks for the future. Flowers gives the Chiefs a much-needed infusion of youth since veteran Patrick Surtain might be close to the end. Charles provides some speed at running back and he could be a possible successor to Larry Johnson.

Oakland Raiders
Picks: RB Darren McFadden, CB Tyvon Branch, WR Arman Shields, DE Trevor Scott and WR Chaz Schilens
Positives: McFadden, McFadden and McFadden
Negatives: Branch and Shields
Bottom line: A-. The McFadden pick is a great gamble, although there’s a legit concern about whether the Raiders will give him the personal help he needs to succeed. Like the Jets (Gholston) and Atlanta (Matt Ryan), the Raiders took a player with huge boom and bust potential. However, McFadden has the biggest upside of all three. In fact, he has the biggest upside of any player in the draft and he could be a huge help to second-year QB JaMarcus Russell. Branch and Shields are desperate attempts to fill needs, but should make the team.

San Diego Chargers
Picks: CB Antoine Cason, FB Jacob Hester, RB Marcus Thomas, CB DeJuan Tribble and OT Corey Clark
Positives: Cason
Negatives: Hester
Bottom line: C. This is a much more clever draft than this grade indicates. Instead of grabbing a lot of players who won’t make the roster, the Chargers wisely took only five players. This is a dynamic that many teams don’t understand when they’re building a roster. Sometimes, having a lot of picks is a waste of time. Cason fills the job of departed CB Drayton Florence. Hester is a bit of a reach, but he is a quality player and a better running back than most people think. He fits well as a replacement for Michael Turner and will be great on special teams.

Vic Carucci,


Arizona Cardinals

First-round cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, from Tennessee State, fills a key need. Defensive end Calais Campbell, from Miami, looks like an excellent value in the second round and should help bring stability to a position hampered by injuries in recent seasons. With Anquan Boldin making noises about wanting to be traded, the Cardinals got some insurance at wide receiver with third-rounder Early Doucet, from LSU. Fifth-round running back Tim Hightower, from Richmond, can move the pile.

Buffalo Bills

It usually doesn’t work out this well, but the Bills addressed crying needs with their first two picks. In the first round, they landed the top-rated cornerback in the draft, Troy’s Leodis McKelvin, who also should help in the return game. In the second, they landed their towering, athletic receiver in 6-foot-5 James Hardy, from Indiana. They additionally enhanced the depth of a defense ravaged by injuries last season with third-round end Chris Ellis, from Virginia Tech, and fourth-round cornerback Reggie Corner, from Akron.

Indianapolis Colts

Bill Polian, the Colts’ president, has every right to be thrilled with his first-round pick, which he actually acquired a year ago in the deal that landed offensive tackle Tony Ugoh, who came through big after the retirement of Tarik Glenn. Mike Pollak, a second-rounder from Arizona State, provides insurance and should be the eventual replacement for starting center Jeff Saturday. Third-rounder Philip Wheeler, a linebacker from Georgia Tech, should make his presence felt as an edge pass rusher.

Kansas City Chiefs

It couldn’t have started any better when LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, arguably the most dominant player in the draft, fell to them at No. 5. Dorsey can immediately be a difference-making force. The Chiefs traded up two spots from the first-round choice they received from Minnesota in the Jarred Allen deal to land Branden Albert, a standout offensive guard from Virginia who is nimble enough to play tackle. Physical cornerback Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech), considered by some to be a first-round talent, was a good value on the second round. Third-rounders Jamaal Charles (running back, Texas), Brad Cottam (tight end, Tennessee), and defensive back DaJuan Morgan (defensive back, North Carolina State) should contribute.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins wisely went with the safest No. 1 overall choice, Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long, and enhanced their chances of getting maximum immediate production by signing him well before the draft. Maybe they found their franchise quarterback in Chad Henne, a second-rounder from Michigan. Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling, their other second-round choice, looks like he’ll be a solid run-stopper as long as he has no lingering problems recovering from sports-hernia surgery.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Somehow, the Steelers ended up with one of the best running backs in the draft, Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall, with the 23rd overall pick. His powerful style fits well in their offensive scheme and provides an instant one-two punch with speedy Willie Parker. Ben Roethlisberger has the big receiver he wanted in second-rounder Limas Sweed, from Texas. Mike Tomlin has another good pass-rushing outside linebacker in third-rounder Bruce Davis, from UCLA. Tony Hill, a fourth-round offensive tackle from Texas, addresses a key need.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were desperate to do something to get the franchise moving in the right direction after the Michael Vick fiasco. So they took a chance by passing on Dorsey at No. 3 in favor of Matt Ryan. If the former Boston College star proves to be a success as their new franchise quarterback, no one will care. The Falcons traded back into the first round for USC offensive lineman Sam Baker, but this only was worthwhile if he plays tackle rather than guard. Second-round linebacker Curtis Lofton, from Oklahoma, and third-round cornerback Chevis Jackson, from LSU, are helpful additions.

Baltimore Ravens

If the Ravens finally found their franchise quarterback in first-rounder Joe Flacco, then this draft was a huge success. The strong-armed Flacco was a star at tiny Delaware, raising questions about whether he is up to the transition to the NFL. But the Ravens had enough of a conviction in him to deal down from No. 8, when it was clear they would not be able to get Ryan, and then back up to to land Flacco with the No. 18 pick. Although the Ravens already have a franchise running back in Willis McGahee, they made a key move to help their depth at the position by grabbing Rutgers’ Ray Rice in the third round. The Ravens got some solid help at safety, by selecting Notre Dame’s Tom Zbikowski in the third round, and at cornerback by sending a fourth-round choice to Oakland for Fabian Washington.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys did exactly what they set out to do with their two first-round picks. They wanted to get a running back, and opted for explosive and versatile Felix Jones from Arkansas. Some will criticize them for passing on Mendenhall, but they have every reason to feel good about Jones. They also wanted to get a cornerback, and they made a trade with Seattle to move up three spots and select South Florida’s Mike Jenkins, one of the draft’s best at the position. The fourth-rounder the Cowboys traded to Tennessee for Pacman Jones is a risk, even if the talented cornerback is reinstated.

Houston Texans

By trading down in the first round for behemoth Virginia Tech offensive tackle Duane Brown, the Texans did more than address a key need with a versatile player; he can play on both sides. They also added picks that allowed them to address other needs — third-round running back Steve Slaton, a former West Virginia standout whose impressive outside speed fits nicely in Gary Kubiak’s one-cut scheme, and sixth-round safety Dominique Barber, from Minnesota. The Texans also made a solid addition to special teams with another former Hokie, linebacker Xavier Adibi, in the fourth round.

Jacksonville Jaguars

In their effort to overtake the Colts in the AFC South, once and for all, the Jaguars might have been a tad overzealous by trading up from 26th to eighth to land Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey. They also moved up for Auburn linebacker Quentin Groves. But if they end up generating more heat on Peyton Manning and slowing down the Colts’ explosive offense, they will look more intelligent than impetuous.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have every reason to believe they nailed their first-round pick by shipping it (along with a pair of third-rounders) to the Chiefs for Allen, the NFL’s sack leader in 2007. Allen gives the Vikings the pass-rushing terror they’ve long needed. Some scouts believe second-round pick Tyrell Johnson, from Arkansas State, is the most talented safety in the draft. While playing quarterback at USC, fifth-rounder John David Booty ran much of the Vikings’ offense and that should help him put some heat on shaky starter Tarvaris Jackson.

New Orleans Saints

The mission was to upgrade the defense. And the Saints accomplished it with their first three picks: first-round tackle Sedrick Ellis, from USC; second-round defensive back Tracy Porter, from Indiana, and fifth-round tackle DeMario Pressley, from North Carolina State.

New York Giants

They filled the safety hole created by Gibril Wilson’s departure with the player widely regarded as the draft’s best at the position, Kenny Phillips. The former Miami standout provides good coverage and is physical enough to help near the line of scrimmage. Second-round cornerback Terrell Thomas, from USC, fills another key spot in the secondary. Third-round wide receiver Mario Manningham, from Michigan, is a risk because of poor workouts and personal-conduct issues, but the Giants have faith that he’ll deliver.

New York Jets

They took a major step to upgrade their defensive front by using the sixth overall choice on Ohio State defensive end/outside linebacker Vernon Gholston, who has what it takes to emerge as a dominant pass-rusher. Their trade with Green Bay allowed them to snag arguably the draft’s best tight end, Purdue’s Dustin Keller, at the bottom of the first round.

St. Louis Rams

After plenty of discussion about whether to go with Dorsey or Virginia defensive end Chris Long with the second overall pick, the Rams decided to go with Long. It is perceived as the safer choice because of Long’s exceptionally high character grades, but he can be every bit the game-changing force that Dorsey appears to be. Making Houston’s Donnie Avery the draft’s first wide receiver pick, in the second round, was a bit of a surprise, but the Rams were determined to inject his considerable speed into their offense. Fourth-rounder Justin King, from Penn State, can contribute immediately as a nickel back.

San Diego Chargers

Having lost cornerbacks Sammy Davis and Drayton Florence, the Chargers needed to find a quality player at the position. And they appear to have landed one in first-rounder Antoine Cason, from Arizona. The Chargers also needed a fullback to replace Lorenzo Neal, so trading up for LSU’s Jacob Hester made sense.

The 49ers addressed a key need in the middle of their defense with North Carolina tackle Kentwan Balmer, a solid value low in the first round. They might have landed an immediate starter at offensive guard in USC’s Chilo Rachal. Third-rounder Reggie Smith, from Oklahoma, is versatile enough to be plugged in at cornerback or safety.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins dealt their way into more picks, and invested heavily in their passing game. They grabbed arguably the two best receivers in the draft, Michigan State’s Devin Thomas and Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly, and one of the best tight ends, Fred Davis, in the second round. You think new coach Jim Zorn is going to put the ball in the air a bit? The sixth-round flier on Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, who is recovering from hip surgery and whose impressive college stats could be more the result of scheme than talent, was a good idea for a club that doesn’t have a well-established starter.
We’ll see

Carolina Panthers

You have to at least admire the aggressive approach of decision-makers who feel the pressure to get this team turned around. Using a first-round choice on Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart was bold, considering he is recovering from toe surgery. But the physician who performed the operation works with the Panthers, so they are confident he’ll be fine by training camp. Trading back into the first round to land Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jeff Otah was another fearless move that helps address a crucial need, but is it a case of mortgaging the future for the present? Linebacker Dan Connor, from Penn State, was a tremendous value in the third round.

Chicago Bears

The Bears needed a quarterback, but passed on Henne and Louisville’s Brian Brohm. First-round offensive tackle Chris Williams, from Vanderbilt, was a good pick. But what does he do to upgrade quarterback? Ditto for third-round wide receiver Earl Bennett, another Vanderbilt product. Running back Matt Forte, from Tulane, might have been a reach in the second round, although the Bears must get better ground production than Cedric Benson gave them last year. The Bears look to have added yet another special-teams standout in fourth-round defensive back Craig Steltz, from LSU.

Cincinnati Bengals

First-rounder Keith Rivers was an outside linebacker at USC, but the Bengals need help at middle linebacker and he could end up starting there as a rookie. Given the release of troubled Chris Henry and Chad Johnson’s holdout threat, wide receivers Jerome Simpson (second round, Coastal Carolina) and Andre Caldwell (third round, Florida) provide some necessary insurance. Defensive tackle Pat Sims, a third-rounder from Auburn, gets good penetration as a pass rusher. However, given the Bengals’ many problems with character issues, why would they use their fifth-round pick on Fresno State tackle Jason Shirley, who has a history of off-field trouble?

Cleveland Browns

It’s impossible to gauge the Browns’ draft until we see how the players for whom they gave up their top three picks — quarterback Brady Quinn and defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams — pan out. And, if all goes well with Derek Anderson, Quinn might very well not see the field. Fourth-rounder Beau Bell, a linebacker from Nevada-Las Vegas, figures to provide additional run-stopping help.

Denver Broncos

Using a first-round pick on Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady made perfect sense, especially after the retirement of Matt Lepsis. What was a little bit of a head-scratcher was second-round wide receiver Eddie Royal, from Virginia Tech. Sure, the Broncos have reason to be concerned with Brandon Marshall’s arm injury, but didn’t they sufficiently address depth at the position with the signings of Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert?

Detroit Lions

Although they traded down and addressed a crying need, the Lions still might have reached on first-round offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, from Boston College. Third-rounder Kevin Smith, from Central Florida, doesn’t appear as if he has what it takes to solve a major problem at running back. Second-round pick Jordon Dizon, from Colorado, is the kind of speedy linebacker that is perfect for the Lions’ scheme. Everyone’s favorite sentimental pick is Army safety Caleb Campbell, in the seventh round.

Green Bay Packers

Figuring out the Packers’ draft strategy isn’t easy. After bailing out of the first round, they used a second-round choice in an area where they didn’t seem to need any help: wide receiver. Still, Kansas State’s Jordy Nelson, a speedster, is an intriguing prospect. And doesn’t Aaron Rodgers have enough pressure on him as Brett Favre’s replacement and with the potential that Favre might come back from retirement? Why invest another second-rounder in Louisville QB Brian Brohm, even if he was widely projected as a first-round pick? The Packers did address needs with second-round cornerback Patrick Lee, from Auburn, and third-round tight end Jermichael Finley, from Texas.

New England Patriots

Given their aging defense, the Patriots made some logical picks. However, it could be argued that they went a bit too high by selecting Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo in the first round. It also could be argued that they reached with their third-round choice, San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell.

Oakland Raiders

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden might very well have been the most talented player in the draft, but could the Raiders truly afford to use the fourth overall pick on a player at a position where they are pretty well stocked? The Raiders needed a defensive tackle more, and took a big chance by passing on Dorsey. Considering that they traded for DeAngelo Hall, the apparent fourth-round reach for cornerback Tyvon Branch, from Connecticut, is a little puzzling. Wide receiver Arman Shields, from Richmond, also looks like he might have been a reach in the fourth.

Philadelphia Eagles

We’ll have to wait until next year’s draft to see what the Eagles do with the first-round choice they traded to Carolina, to get the true picture of how well they did this year. Second-round wide receiver/return man DeSean Jackson, from Cal, is a dynamic playmaker that the Eagles need. Offensive guard Mike McGlynn, from Pitt, might have been a reach in the fourth round. Ditto for fourth-round defensive backs Quintin Demps (Texas El Paso) and Jack Ikegwuono (Wisconsin), who has knee and off-field problems.

Seattle Seahawks

Although they moved down in the first round, the Seahawks might have reached a bit with USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson. Tight end was a need, but did it make sense to use their second-rounder on Notre Dame’s John Carlson when another Trojan, Fred Davis, was still on the board? Fifth-round fullback Owen Schmitt, from West Virginia, hits like a sledgehammer and should be a good replacement for Mack Strong. Investing even a sixth-round pick in a long-snapper, Tyler Schmitt from San Diego State, is curious.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers needed help at cornerback, but did they take too much of a risk by investing a first-round choice in Kansas’ Aqib Talib, whose off-field issues figured to push him lower? And is the big, physical Talib the best fit for the Bucs’ Tampa-Two scheme, where smaller and quicker defensive backs tend to excel? Second-rounder Dexter Jackson, from Appalachian State, could be a dynamic return man. Fourth-round defensive tackle Dre Moore, from Maryland, has the potential to emerge as an impressive player.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans needed to get more receiver help for Vince Young. Instead, they allowed themselves to be caught up with the remarkable speed of running back Chris Johnson, and might have reached by selecting the former East Carolina star in the first round. Second-rounder Jason Jones, from Eastern Michigan, adds some beef to the middle of their defensive line.

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Just FYI, I linked to your article from Barbie Conquers Iran, Excerpt: …”without coercion, people will always choose to be like Americans. If Muslims were free to abandon their faith without fear of being whipped, tortured, burned and killed, and were exposed to American culture, in short order, Islam would cease to exist.”

Posted by bernie | April 29, 2008 | 07:31 am | Permalink

Awesome post. All the grades you want in one place.

Thank you sir!

Posted by john | April 29, 2008 | 12:20 pm | Permalink

Fans can post their own grades of each team’s draft and see how other fans rate them, as well.

Personally, I only gave out 2 As: To KC and DET (apparently I’m more impressed with their manipulation of the first couple of rounds than others are; I do note that despite the nice job trading back in the first, they still reached for the guy they took).

My grades:

ARI: C          MIA: B
ATL: B          MIN: C
BAL: C          NE: C
BUF: C          NO: C
CAR: B          NYG: C
CHI: B          NYJ: C
CIN: C          OAK: B
CLE: D          PHI: B
DAL: B          PIT: B
DEN: B          SD: C
DET: A          SF: B
GB: B          SEA: C
HOU: C          STL: B
IND: B          TB: C
JAX: C          TEN: C
KC: A          WAS: C

Posted by Dodd | April 30, 2008 | 01:16 pm | Permalink

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