Evan Silva

NFL Draft Grades

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Draft 2011: NFC Grades

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The 2011 NFL draft concluded Saturday evening. Rotoworld blurbed every single selection, picks one (Cam Newton) through 254 (Cheta Ozougwu).

After a grueling three days of relentless work, we'll put the finishing touches on our intensive draft coverage with post-draft grades.

But trust us: We don't believe in assessing draft hauls immediately after the three-day affair. This is for your pleasure. If you're reading this intro, you're interested. And we want to appeal to you. Don't take these grades too seriously. We'll know a lot more about the 2011 draft in around 2014.

But here's our breakdown of the NFC:

Arizona Cardinals

5. Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU.
38. Ryan Williams, running back, Virginia Tech.
69. Rob Housler, tight end, Florida Atlantic.
103. Sam Acho, linebacker, Texas.
136. Anthony Sherman, fullback, UConn.
171. Quan Sturdivant, linebacker, North Carolina.
184. David Carter, defensive end, UCLA.

246. DeMarco Sampson, wide receiver, San Diego State.

Overview: The disappointing aspect of this draft was that it didn't include an impact pass rusher. The Cards say they rated Williams as a top-15 player, but they passed on Akeem Ayers and Brooks Reed for a committee back. Acho has a big name, but isn't an especially explosive rusher. He'll probably max out as a Parys Haralson type. While Peterson was the cream of this crop, rounds three through seven all brought in good talent. Sherman is a bulldozing lead blocker. Housler's speed translates to the field, where he averaged 15.74 yards per catch in his career. Sturdivant is a better player than his workouts showed. Carter is a solid five-technique prospect.

Grade: B-

Atlanta Falcons

6. Julio Jones, wide receiver, Alabama.
91. Akeem Dent, linebacker, Georgia.
145. Jacquizz Rodgers, running back, Oregon State.
192. Matt Bosher, kicker, Miami.
210. Andrew Jackson, guard, Fresno State.
230. Cliff Matthews, defensive end, South Carolina.

Overview: Jones and Rodgers both required trades up, and in the process Atlanta forked over first-, second-, fourth-, fifth-, and seventh-round picks in 2011, as well as first- and fourth-round picks in 2012. While we appreciate G.M. Thomas Dimitroff's aggressiveness, that's a lot to pay for a possession receiver and 5-foot-6 running back. But the draft definitely makes the Falcons better right away. Jackson and Matthews were value picks, the former an underrated interior line prospect and the latter a relentless pass rusher. Dent is a big-time hitter at linebacker.

Grade: C+

Carolina Panthers

1. Cam Newton, quarterback, Auburn.
65. Terrell McClain, defensive tackle, South Florida.
97. Sione Fua, defensive tackle, Stanford.
98. Brandon Hogan, cornerback, West Virginia.
132. Kealoha Pilares, wide receiver, Hawaii.
166. Lawrence Wilson, linebacker, UConn.
203. Zachary Williams, guard/center, Washington State.
244. Lee Ziemba, tackle, Auburn.

Overview: Mixed feelings about this draft. Carolina is swinging for the fences on Newton, which is something G.M. Marty Hurney felt forced into after seeing his team go 2-14 last season. McClain had second-round grades from teams and was a value at the top of round three. Wilson is a run-and-chase linebacker with outstanding athleticism and coverage skills. The picks we didn't like were Hogan, who is littered with character and medical red flags, Ziemba, a slow-footed tackle, Fua, a nose tackle without much pass-rush ability, and Williams, a 'tweener guard/center. Pilares is something of a sleeper, but overall this draft is a tough one to "grade."

Grade: C-

Chicago Bears

29. Gabe Carimi, tackle, Wisconsin.
53. Stephen Paea, defensive tackle, Oregon State.
93. Chris Conte, safety, California.
160. Nate Enderle, quarterback, Idaho.
195. J.T. Thomas, linebacker, West Virginia.

Overview: Few expected Carimi to be available at 29, and that pick was one of the first round's biggest steals. He's a plug-and-play starter along with Paea, who cost a trade up (the Bears surrendered picks No. 62 and 127). Paea won't make anyone forget Tommie Harris' prime, but he is a stout run defender with better pass-rush skills than given credit. A former cornerback, Conte can flat-out cover. He's got excellent range. Enderle took a boatload of sacks at Idaho, so he'll fit right into Mike Martz's system. Thomas adds some youth to an aging linebacker corps.

Grade: B

Dallas Cowboys

9. Tyron Smith, tackle, USC.
40. Bruce Carter, linebacker, North Carolina.
71. DeMarco Murray, running back, Oklahoma.
110. David Arkin, tackle/guard, Missouri State.
143. Josh Thomas, cornerback, Buffalo.
176. Dwayne Harris, wide receiver, East Carolina.
220. Shaun Chapas, fullback, Georgia.
252. Bill Nagy, center/guard, Wisconsin.

Overview: The Cowboys got fine value with their first two picks, and acquiring the best left tackle in any draft as "late" as No. 9 overall is a coup. But it's fair to wonder if Dallas could have done better in the end. Murray is an injury waiting to happen, and wasn't nearly as productive on a per-play basis as some think in the last two years of his college career. His name is much bigger than his actual game. Arkin is a project and probably a reach so early in round four. The only late-rounder we especially like is Harris, who can do all of the things Patrick Crayton could.

Grade: B-

Detroit Lions

13. Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn.
44. Titus Young, wide receiver, Boise State.
57. Mikel Leshoure, running back, Illinois.
157. Doug Hogue, linebacker, Syracuse.
209. Johnny Culbreath, tackle, South Carolina State.

Overview: The Lions stuck to their board in round one, stealing a top-eight talent at No. 13. Remember when The Williamses ruled the NFC North? Detroit will have a better defensive line within a year. And the rest of the draft was just as impressive. Leshoure had first-round grades from some teams. Young adds a new element to a Detroit offense that's gotten nothing from its third receiver since Mike Martz was run out of town. Culbreath runs a 4.92 at 6-foot-5, 322, so he's your quintessential late-round flier. Hogue will push for a starting job on the outside. The only reason this draft doesn't get a full "A" is because it didn't include any defensive back help.

Grade: A-

Green Bay Packers

32. Derek Sherrod, tackle, Mississippi State.
64. Randall Cobb, wide receiver, Kentucky.
96. Alex Green, running back, Hawaii.
131. Davon House, cornerback, New Mexico State.
141. D.J. Williams, tight end, Arkansas.
179. Caleb Schlauderaff, guard, Utah.
186. D.J. Smith, linebacker, Appalachian State.
197. Ricky Elmore, linebacker, Arizona.
218. Ryan Taylor, special teamer, North Carolina.
233. Lawrence Guy, defensive end, Arizona State.

Overview: G.M. Ted Thompson killed it, as usual. All five of his rounds one through five picks brought value, and at least four fit into positions that needed depth. Sherrod will be a starter by year two. Cobb is incredibly versatile with some Percy Harvin to his game. Green is highly underrated. House has the size-speed combo of a starter. Williams is "move" tight end insurance in case Jermichael Finley leaves in 2012 free agency. Don't be shocked if Guy or Elmore develops into a major contributor. Taylor was UNC's special teams captain in 2008 and 2010.

Grade: A

Minnesota Vikings

12. Christian Ponder, quarterback, Florida State.
43. Kyle Rudolph, tight end, Notre Dame.
106. Christian Ballard, defensive tackle, Iowa.
139. Brandon Burton, cornerback, Utah.
168. DeMarcus Love, tackle/guard, Arkansas.
170. Mistral Raymond, defensive back, South Florida.
172. Brandon Fusco, center, Slippery Rock.
200. Ross Homan, linebacker, Ohio State.
215. D'Aundre Reed, defensive end, Arizona.
236. Stephen Burton, wide receiver, West Texas A&M.

Overview: We've seen Todd McShay bash the Ponder pick. The reality is, Minnesota needed a quarterback, Ponder played in a pro-style offense at FSU, and he is NFL-ready with perhaps the most accurate arm in the draft. We don't have a big problem with the selection. Behind Ponder, you can't question the value of any of G.M. Rick Spielman's remaining selections. Love won't stay at tackle in the pros, but he could be a mauling right guard. Rudolph is a day-one starter in two-tight end sets. Burton and Ballard were second-day prospects, at least according to draftniks. Fusco is a developmental center. Homan, Reed, and Burton are great late-round fliers.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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