A handful of teams really aced their big test this week. Some of the biggest winners included the usual suspects, general managers like Jerry Reese and Ted Thompson. There were also a handful of teams that used to really botch these things that made it to the top of the heap for the 2012 NFL Draft, like the St. Louis Rams.
Yes, it is early to grade picks. What a total pundit line. It's never too early to grade picks. This grade is just a snap shot of where things stand after the draft, a first-quarter report card.
Dallas Cowboys: B+
A narrow loss to the Giants in Week 17 last season gave Dallas one offseason mission: find cornerbacks. They might have settled for signing free agent Brandon Carr, but they also grabbed Morris Claiborne. The two should match up well against Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. You have to gamble to win big.
New York Giants: A-
Thumbs up for grabbing Rueben Randle at the tail end of the second round. I thought he would go earlier. They should be able to score points adding Randle to the mix as well as first-round pick David Wilson. The downside with picking Wilson is that it forced them hold off a blue-chip lineman.
Line depth came on day three. They need to make a viable backup out of either Brandon Mosley or Matt McCants.
Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks will help that defense. Kendricks, alongside DeMeco Ryans, should clear up those linebacker issues they had last season. Good call to grab Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin in the fourth round. He provides a replacement for Asante Samuel and has a shot to see plenty of time working in the slot.
Did they really need to take quarterback Nick Foles?
Robert Griffin III. That's it. Washington's next three drafts will be judged by the success of RG3. They should be fine.
The front office made a good decision to use three of their later picks on offensive linemen. If just one pans out, that helps the young quarterback.
Still can't give this one a perfect grade because of the Kirk Cousins pick. Nothing against Cousins, but why take a second rookie quarterback with a fourth-round pick?
The Bears decided to see if they can extract the talent from Alshon Jeffery, a second-round pick. Chicago is not exactly America's thinnest city, but the chance to be part of a competitive team can motivate him. Did they reach on Shea McClellin? Some say they did. He was a pretty highly regarded pass rusher.
Chicago did not get any great values in the later rounds. Brandon Hardin is the key pick. Injuries devalued his draft stock. Do the Bears have the Belichick touch when it comes to players like that?
It was a good decision to draft Riley Reiff. His talent matches his draft spot perfectly, and the Lions needed youth on the offense line. If he looks better than Gosder Cherilus in training camp, he could start. I like the decision to take Oklahoma linebacker Ronnell Lewis in the fourth round. The other Sooner linebacker they drafted in the seventh round, Travis Lewis, gives them another contributor.
That was a little early for Ryan Broyles, recovering from an ACL tear. The good new is that they can wait for him to reach full speed, and still not put too much weight on his shoulders, or knee, when he is ready. Can he rebound into his old form?
A very good draft for Green Bay. Nick Perry at pick No. 28 gives them another pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews. They have to get him to play consistent football from game to game. I love the Jerel Worthy pick, especially stealing him at No. 51.
Vanderbilt corner Casey Hayward can be a contributor this season. He may have to be with Charles Woodson getting up there in years. Seventh-round pick Andrew Datko, an offensive tackle, was very good until a shoulder injury wiped out his season. Can he rebound?
i'm so glad that the Vikings drafted Matt Kalil. They really needed him if they are serious about letting Christian Ponder play. They absolutely fleeced Cleveland to get him, adding three late-rounders. Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith was the second-best safety in the draft, and they got him. Josh Robinson, the Vikes' third-round pick, can be a starting cornerback.
Greg "Childs, please!" Childs is another one of those players trying to rebound from a serious injury. Jarius Wright adds some speed to the offense, and with Kalil blocking, maybe he will have time to get open.
Atlanta Falcons: B-
Peter Konz was not the most exciting pick, but he was a real value in the second round. Konz will probably start all 16 games this season, and makes life easier for Matt Ryan. Jonathan Massaquoi might just turn out to be Atlanta's best pick, if his pass-rushing skills translate.
They reached on Lamar Holmes, the tackle they picked in the third round. Most teams would wait on an old school lead-blocker, but the Falcons can use Bradie Ewing. A tight end would have been a better pick.
Who is going to replace Curtis Lofton?
Well done by the Panthers to draft Luke Kuechly. In my mind and my mock drafts, mine included, I had a defensive tackle going to Carolina. Kuechly is a fine player, and will improve the run defense and give teams matchup problems over the middle.
Guard Amini Silatolu is another great pick. He gives Cam Newton an added measure of protection and helps the running game. Joe Adams can stretch the field with his speed. Cornerback Josh Norman may be a fifth-round bargain.
Did this draft class give Carolina a shot at the division with New Orleans weakened?
New Orleans did not have much to work with this year. They traded their first-round pick to get Mark Ingram last year. They paid for their seconnd-round pick in bounties. Nick Toon, a wide receiver from Wisconsin, is a natural replacement for Robert Meachem.
Was Akiem Hicks a better choice with their third-round pick than Brandon Thompson? They needed a defensive tackle.
The Bucs were big spenders in free agency. Trading back into the first round to draft Doug Martin surprised some. Their offense needed a legitimate rushing threat though, and he's a well-rounded player. He also helps as a pass blocker. Mark Barron will also be contributing in year one. He is very talented and better in coverage than most acknowledge.
I like Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald working together. This pick confused some people, but a pair of receivers like that can lift an offense up pretty far. They needed help on the offensive line, and got a steal with Ole Miss tackle Bobbie Massie in the third round.
San Francisco decided not to try and wait, or trade up, for A.J. Jenkins. The Rams wanted him at No. 33, so maybe teams are really onto something. Joe Looney, a guard from Wake Forest, adds depth. He might need to play a big role this season, and I wonder if he can do that at this point in his career.
Where does LaMichael James fit? I want to see more from Kendall Hunter. San Francisco has a deep enough roster to take risks.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of Bruce Irvin. He has talent, and I tend to underwrite character issues a little because, well, twentysomethings sometimes act stupid. Seattle's 2012 draft class will be judged by Irving. With Russell Wilson, the Seahawks may be trying to sew together a trio of iffy quarterbacks into a great one. How'd that work for Frankenstein?
St. Louis Rams: A
No team in the division did as well this week, this offseason, as the Rams. GM Les Snead picked up two extra second-round picks this year, and used them to draft some talented young players. People were underwhelmed with the Michael Brockers pick, but it strengthens what was already the best unit on the team.
I think they could have done better than Brian Quick. Can Ray Sherman find gold in that big frame? Bonus points for taking chance on Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. As Jenkins explained, he didn't shoot up some strip club! The tough love in the Rams' locker room will benefit both players.