Well an extremely interesting draft has ended, I am going to look at the winners and losers from the three day event. Now that the dust has settled and fans have had an opportunity to take in the results, I believe it is a perfect time to recap this draft through that perspective.
Sorry, but our 49ers will not be appearing on either list. I cannot say they were "winners" because my primary targets heading into the draft were Patrick Peterson and Shane Vereen; neither will be dawning a 49er uniform anytime soon. That said, they cannot be classified as losers because of the picks of Aldon Smith, Colin Kapernick, Kendall Hunter and Ronald Johnson. My take is that the 49ers are somewhere in between; I will have full details on this tomorrow in a separate article.
So, onto the winners and losers from the 2011 NFL Draft
1. New Orleans Saints
1st Round, 24th Pick: DE Cameron Jordan California
1st Round, 28th Pick: RB Mark Ingram Alabama
3rd Round, 72nd Pick: LB Martez Wilson Illinois
3rd Round, 88th Pick: CB Johnny Patrick Louisville
7th Round, 226th Pick: DE Greg Romeus Pittsburgh
You are looking at a team attempting to build a dynasty ala the New England Patriots. The Saints did a good job looking like a true championships franchise during this draft. I really love Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram in the 1st round. Both fill immediate needs and will come right in and contribute.
Cameron Jordan is a three down DE in the NFL, he won't be limited to obvious passing situations because of his ability against the run. I can see Jordan having a long career as a solid all-around contributor.
Mark Ingram is just one year removed from the Heisman, and has all the tools to be among the best RBs in the NFL. Ingram will also push Reggie Bush right back down to the more comfortable COP back role.
New Orleans also did a solid job in the mid-late rounds. Martez Wilson is a tackling machine that should come in and compete as a starter immediately; he has 1st round talent. Johnny Patrick is extremely raw but athletically gifted corner from Louisville. The Saints filled a need with that pick, and will allow him time to get up to speed in the NFL.
2. New England Patriots
1st Round, 17th Pick: OT Nate Solder Colorado
2nd Round, 33rd Pick: CB Ras-I Dawling Virginia
2nd Round, 56th Pick: RB Shane Vereen California
3rd Round, 73rd Pick: RB Stevan Ridley Louisiana State
3rd Round, 74th Pick: QB Ryan Mallett Arkansas
5th Round, 138th Pick: OT Marcus Cannon Texas Christian
I think this is the 5th consecutive year that I have had New England on this list; maybe I should just give them a permanent spot here. Why not? After all, they now have four picks in the first two rounds next year as well.
Nate Solder may end up being the best offensive tackle in this draft class in three to four years; that is how good I project him to be. Solid in the running game and pass protection, look for Solder to make an immediate impact.
Prior to injury issues in 2010 Ras-I Dawling was a top 15 pick, but his draft stock dropped due to said injuries. The Patriots got a steal here, someone that I project to be a possible #1 corner in the NFL.
Then the Patriots addressed one of their biggest needs, RB, with two great picks. By now most of you know my feelings about Shane Vereen, he is going to be an all-pro back in the NFL. I love his ability to catch the ball, pass protect and line up wide. Steven Ridley also has the "it" factor and should work well with Vereen for years to come.
Ryan Mallett was probably the most physically gifted QB in this draft class but character concerns caused him to fall to the 3rd round. With his ability and the opportunity to sit behind Tom Brady, I see nothing but good things from Mallett in the future.
3. New York Giants
1st Round, 19th Pick: CB Prince Amukamara Nebraska
2nd Round, 52nd Pick: DL Marvin Austin North Carolina
3rd Round, 83rd Pick: WR Jerrel Jernigan Troy
4th Round, 117th Pick: OT James Brewer Indiana
6th Round, 185th Pick: LB Greg Jones Michigan State
6th Round, 198th Pick: S Tyler Sash Iowa
Wow, the Giants hit the "mother load" in this draft. They found value and need with pretty much every single pick; this is how good their draft was.
Prince Amukamara will be a #1 corner in the NFL; how did he fall to 19? I really do not have an answer. I see a shutdown corner in Prince, something that the Giants desperately needed.
Marvin Austin would have been a top 10 pick if he had decided to come out after his Junior season. Unfortunately for him, Austin was suspended prior to the 2010 season and never played a down. His loss is the Giants gain because I see an all-pro performer in Austin.
Getting Greg Jones and Tyler Sash in the 6th round was just plain lucky. Both will eventually turn into NFL starters, with Jones it all depends on injury concerns. That said, they are two physically sound players that should have an immediate impact.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
1st Round, 4th Pick: WR A.J. Green Georgia
2nd Round, 35th Pick: QB Andy Dalton Texas Christian
3rd Round, 66th Pick: LB Dontay Moch Nevada
4th Round, 101st Pick: G Clint Boling Georgia
5th Round, 134th Pick: S Robert Sands West Virginia
6th Round, 167th Pick: WR Ryan Whalen Stanford
7th Round, 207th Pick: CB Korey Lindsey Southern Illinois
Great draft from top to bottom for Cincinnati in 2011. The Bengals were able to get their QB of the future in Andy Dalton, who I believe will have a solid NFL career. He is extremely sound fundamentally and knows how to run an offense.
Dalton will be teaming up with the dynamic A.J. Green sometime in the near future. Green has everything you are looking for in a #1 wide receiver and will be their primary target, no matter the QB, in 2011.
Speed rusher Dontay Moch was one of my favorite players in this draft; I had hoped our 49ers would have had a chance to draft him, but they didn't. I envision Moch in an Elvis Dumervil type of hybrid role for the Bengals.
1. Seattle Seahawks
1st Round, 25th Pick: OT James Carpenter Alabama
4th Round, 107th Pick: WR Kris Durham Georgia
These two picks are the reasons why I have Seattle at #1 on this list. While not being able to say anything bad about James Carpenter, I will conclude that he could have been had in the late 2nd or early 3rd. It makes to sense to reach for a player like that in the 1st.
I had a UNDFA grade on Kris Durham and the Seahawks decided he was worth a 4th round pick: why? I really have no idea. The Seahawks did not address the QB or CB position in this draft and remain extremely weak at those positions.
2. Dallas Cowboys
2nd Round, 40th Pick: LB Bruce Carter North Carolina
3rd Round, 71st Pick: RB DeMarco Murray Oklahoma
4th Round, 110th Pick: OL David Arkin Missouri State
Brooks Read was on the board when the Cowboys decided to reach for Bruce Carter. Besides the fact that OLB was not a huge position of need, the Cowboys dropped the ball with that pick.
It took the Cowboys until the 5th round to address their weakest position, CB. Instead of looking for value at that position in the 3rd round the Cowboys decided it would be best to draft a RB when they already have three solid ones on roster. Why? Jerry Jones had to have something major to do with that I am guessing. Overall, an extremely unproductive draft for Dallas.
3. Carolina Panthers
1st Round, 1st Pick QB Cam Newton Auburn
3rd Round, 65th Pick: DT Terrell McClain South Florida
5th Round, 132nd Pick: WR Keoloha Pilares Hawaii
The Cameron Newton pick aside, Carolina just dropped the ball in every which way this weekend. Some say that the Panthers had to selection Newton #1 overall, but I don't see it that way. They could have been more creative with that pick. One idea would have been to take less value and attempt a trade down scenario with a team that valued Von Miller or Marcell Dareus; all indications are that they didn't even attempts such a move.
With Richard Marshall set to leave via free agency, the Panthers had a huge need at corner, but refused to address that position at all. Terrell McClain does represent value in the 3rd round, but where is the real need? Also, the Panthers reached for an UNDFA type player in Keoloha Pilaresin the 5th round, once again at a position where they don't have a lot of need.
Synopsis: Calm down Green Bay and Detroit fans, I have your teams with an A grade as well. However, I had to dwindle the list down to four, and the teams listed above represent the best drafts of 2011. On the same note, some 49ers fans would put them on the "loser" list, but I find that to be extremely premature; keep in mind that 7th round draft picks don't make or break teams.
It was an extremely interesting draft but when the dust settles you are going to see some great players come out of it. New England, as always, is right atop the list of winners because they are genious when it comes to the draft. New Orleans may be put on that same page in the near future, if nothing else because of this draft.