There is no doubt the lockout had a sizable impact on the 2011 NFL Draft. It forced a lot of teams to draft needs instead of best player available. As such, some teams got to sit back and pick off top players.
Other teams were able to maneuver around with trades and maximize value.
This is a strong class for the Ravens. Their biggest need was easily cornerback and the team added a starter in Jimmy Smith and a developmental nickel corner in Chykie Brown. Baltimore also had to add speed at wide receiver and did so with Torrey Smith. They filled out the draft with good scheme fits like tackle Jah Reid and defensive end Pernell McPhee.
The Lions only had five draft picks, but they really hit on their first three with DT Nick Fairley, WR Titus Young and RB Mikel Leshoure. Each should see considerable playing time as a rookie. Fairley is scary on their line next Ndamukong Suh. Leshoure could be the starting running back next season. It's surprising the team didn't address its glaring needs at cornerback and offensive tackle, though. Their fifth-round pick could have been used on one of those positions.
Green Bay Packers
In the first five rounds of the draft, the only questionable pick the Packers made was Hawaii running back Alex Green in the third round. Every other pick – OT Derek Sherrod, WR Randall Cobb, CB Davon House and TE D.J. Williams – was rated in my top 80 players. The Super Bowl champions are showing how they developed the best roster in the NFL. The trouble may be finding playing time for all this talent.
Everyone knew Houston needed to transform its defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with this draft. They did a really nice job of filling needs. Their first three picks – DE J.J. Watt, OLB Brooks Reed, CB Brandon Harris – could all be rookie starters. Corner Rashad Carmichael was a good depth pick in the fourth. T.J. Yates is a good developmental quarterback with decent tools.
If there is one team that showed they want to win right now, it's the Indianapolis Colts. The team found the two offensive linemen it needs in Anthony Castonzo and Benjamin Ijalana and a scheme perfect defensive tackle in Drake Nevis. Delone Carter should get a lot of carries at running back if his health holds up.
Kansas City Chiefs
As I mentioned, this is potentially a boom or bust draft for the Chiefs. Kansas City made some good trades and picked talent. But there is plenty of questions about on-field work ethic with WR Jon Baldwin, OLB Justin Houston, DE Allen Bailey and DT Jerrell Powe. Best case scenario, they'll be difference makers. The Chiefs did a good job filling needs with high upside.
What the? With Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick? That's right. I'm hanging my 2011 draft hat on Ponder developing into a good quarterback. After that, the Vikings made a lot of excellent choices. Kyle Rudolph was a first-round player before injury. Christian Ballard could be really good on that d-line, Brandon Burton is the cornerback they needed and center Brandon Fusco is a nice scheme fit find in the sixth round.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints may have given up a lot in order to get back into the first round to get running back Mark Ingram, but it was a smart move. He should make a big impact on their offense. Cameron Jordan could do the same thing with the defense. Martez Wilson is a good developmental linebacker with a high ceiling thanks to his athleticism. Johnny Patrick should start as a fine nickel cornerback.
New York Giants
New York general manager Jerry Reese got to sit back in the draft and wait for talent to fall to him. He didn't make trades and didn't need to. He got a steal with cornerback Prince Amukamara in the first round and defensive tackle Marvin Austin in the second round. Jerrel Jernigan is a playmaker and a good fit for their offense. James Brewer is a big, tough blocker. Greg Jones and Tyler Sash were wildly productive college players and the leaders of their teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa came into the draft needing a pass rush. They certainly added it with ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. They continued to add solid, scheme-based picks in Mason Foster and Ahmad Black. They also got a fourth-round steal in tight end Luke Stocker. He could be this year's Tony Moeaki.