NPC First Round Draft Grades


With the 1st Round of the 2012 NFL Draft in the books and the second day of picks bearing down on us tonight, the crew here at NPC has been burning the candle at both ends to provide our loyal readers with the best NFL Draft coverage of any Steelers site out there on the big bad web.  Our in-house draft expert Dom has been on the ball with his Mock Draft articles all month, and our Steelers Draft Revisited articles gave you a look back at the past five Steelers draft classes.  On Tuesday night, we went live on NPC Radio with our projections for Round One.  Last night, we hosted a fantastic live chat with many of our readers throughout the first round and then followed up with another live NPC Radio broadcast.  Needless to say, if you want Draft coverage – Nice Pick, Cowher is THE place to be!

Now that the dust has settled on a crazy first round complete with numerous trades and surprising picks, we have taken some time to grade all 32 teams first-round picks.  The 2012 NFL Draft has already provided some shocking moments, and tonight should be even better.  Take a few minutes and enjoy our grades, and feel free to offer any feedback of your own in the comments section below.

1.  Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are entering a new era, and they started out by grabbing Stanford QB Andrew Luck with the 1st overall pick.  Luck is by far the most complete QB prospect to come out in some time, and should immediately start the process of becoming a Pro Bowl QB for Indianapolis as they rebuild.  The Colts made the only pick they could, and they have placed their franchise on the back of the 22-year old Luck.  Draft Grade – A+

2.  Washington Redskins – The Redskins have tried for years to find a franchise quarterback, and in Robert Griffin III they have found their man.  The former Baylor QB brings unparallelled athleticism to the position and he will be under center from day one of training camp for Washington.  As with many past drafts that had two top QB prospects vying for the top spot, the 2012 Draft will forever be remembered as the Luck/RGIII draft.  The Redskins have their franchise player now, and can build around him for years to come.  The only thing holding this pick back from an A+ grade is the experience factor of Griffin, who is not quite as polished as Luck.   Draft Grade – A

3.  Cleveland Browns – The Browns had two first round picks and after trading up to the #3 overall pick, they got their man in Alabama RB Trent Richardson.  Richardson was by far the most coveted RB in this draft and the Browns were in need of a workhorse after the Peyton Hillis experience blew up in their faces.  Their new RB is a guy who can carry their offense as they transition to a new quarterback, and in the “Big Boy” division of the AFC North, teams need to be able to run the ball consistently to win.  With their 22nd overall pick, the Browns reached a bit for Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden, a 28-year old former baseball prospect who was reborn as a top-rated QB in the dynamic OKST offense.  How he fits in with incumbent QB Colt McCoy still on the roster (for now) is unsure, but the Browns liked him enough to grab him at #22 when most draft experts had him graded as a 2nd round pick.  It was a situation where the Browns knew who they wanted and threw out the conventional draft playbook to get him.  Head Coach Pat Shurmer has two brand new toys to play with in an offense that needed a complete makeover.  Richardson is an A pick, but the age of Weeden makes his selection a B.   Draft Grade – B+

4.  Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings were very active in the first round, ending up with the #4 and #29 overall picks after several trades.  They took the best offensive line prospect in the draft at #4 in OT Matt Kalil, a road-grading tackle who will be a starter from day one.  Kalil is an A+ pick, and probably the best top O-Line pick since Joe Thomas a few years back.  After trading back into the late first round, the Vikings took Notre Dame S Harrison Smith at #29.  Smith fills a need the Vikings have had since Darren Sharper departed the Twin Cities, and his addition gives the Vikings a solid player behind a defense led by sack artist DE Jared Allen and LB Chad Greenway.  The Vikings helped both sides of the ball in this round, and for that they get a solid A draft grade.  Draft Grade – A

5.  Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jags are committed to building behind QB Blaine Gabbert, and they secured a dynamic weapon for their young gunslinger by taking WR Justin Blackmon at #5 overall.  Blackmon was the top WR in the draft and fills a major need for Jacksonville.  Now that they have their future top WR locked up, the Jaguars can look to fill many of their other holes tonight.  A solid pick of a player who should be a longtime starter and has upside similar to former Rams WR Torry Holt.  If Gabbert develops in his second year, Blackmon could be the top offensive rookie in 2012.  Draft Grade – A

6.  Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys had their eyes on CB Morris Claiborne from the beginning and traded up to secure his selection at #6 overall.  Claiborne has the look of a future Pro Bowl CB for a team that needed a lift in the defensive secondary.  He may not be as dynamic as former teammate CB Patrick Peterson, but Claiborne is a solid corner who will start immediately for Dallas.  Draft Grade – A

7.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs spent some money in free agency and continue to rebuild their roster with two first round picks.  S Mark Barron was coveted by many teams and should turn into a Pro Bowl caliber safety in a division with QB talent such as Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, and Drew Brees.  Boise State RB Doug Martin gives the Bucs another solid running back to team with LeGarrette Blount.  Martin was considered the second best RB in the class behind Richardson and will have a chance to develop into a starter behind Blount in 2012.  The Bucs had other areas of need, but the combination of Barron and Martin gives them a solid B grade.  Draft Grade – B

8.  Miami Dolphins – The Fish wanted him, and they got him.  QB Ryan Tannehill will become the next man in line to replace long-departed Dan Marino as a franchise QB for Miami.  Tannehill has several factors working against him – lack of experience being the biggest.  With incumbent QB Matt Moore still around, Tannehill shouldn’t have the pressure on him to start right away and it will be up to the Dolphins to not rush him and allow his development to take shape.  The best aspect of the Tannehill selection might be the addition of his wife to the South Beach community, where she should fit in quite nicely.  Draft Grade – B (Extra Points for a hot wife…)

9.  Carolina Panthers – The Panthers LOVE first round linebackers, and they scored the biggest prize of the 2012 LB class with Boston College LB Luke Kuechly.  Kuechly rose up the draft board quickly since his combine workout and should become a stalwart in the rebuilt defense of head coach Ron Rivera.  The Panthers might have been better served by taking another weapon for QB Cam Newton in the form of WR Michael Floyd, but its hard to argue with taking the best player available.  Draft Grade – B

10.  Buffalo Bills – Those pesky Bills always seem to go against the grain in the NFL Draft, but selecting CB Stephon Gilmore was the right move here.  Gilmore has the size and speed to become a solid player for the Bills, and provides another defensive weapon to help the Bills continue their quest to dethrone New England in the AFC East. The Bills had numerous areas of need, and could have went WR or even OL here.   Draft Grade – B

11.  Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs had their eyes locked on DT Dontari Poe from the outset of the draft, but could have easily traded down for more value and still got their man.  Head Coach Romeo Crennel loves his big defensive linemen, and hopefully Poe works out better than the last two KC first round defensive line picks.  Draft Grade – C+

12.  Philadelphia Eagles – DT Fletcher Cox will be the new centerpiece of a defense that is trying to get bigger in 2012.  The Eagles have a nice collection of defensive linemen who should be able to mentor Cox and have him ready to start by 2013.  I would have liked to see the Eagles go cornerback here after the trade of Asante Samuel has left them one injury away from disaster.  They could have also been tempted by DT Michael Brockers, who may have fit better into the defensive scheme in Philly.  Draft Grade – B

13.  Arizona Cardinals – WR Michael Floyd fills a giant need opposite all-World WR Larry Fitzgerald.  The Cardinals hope to recreate the offense they had when WR Anquan Boldin was on that side of the field, forcing teams to place their chips on one of two Pro Bowl receivers.  Floyd is talented, he has size, and if Arizona can get decent QB play in 2012, Floyd will make a difference right away.  Good pickup for “Pittsburgh West”.  Draft Grade – B+

14.  St. Louis Rams – Jeff Fisher knows how to play this game.  The Rams traded all the way down to #14 to get DT Michael Brockers to anchor their defensive line for years to come.  By trading down, the Rams were able to score three of the first thirteen picks in round two, where they will find help for QB Sam Bradford.  This grade is based more on what the Rams didn’t do, which was place all of their eggs in one basket.  The rebuild of this team will require numerous picks, and Fisher is a master of developing mid-round talent into quality NFL starters.  Getting Brockers was just a bonus.  Draft Grade – A (soon to be an A+ if the Rams secure a top WR early in round two tonight.)

15.  Seattle Seahawks – Head Coach Pete Carroll is trying to convince the world that he wanted OLB Bruce Irvin on his team since he was a high school standout that snubbed Carroll’s USC team.  Don’t believe it.  The Seahawks took a major gamble with their lone first round pick, and now anything less than a Jevon Kearse-level rookie season will deem this pick a failure.  With so many talented defensive players on the board at #15, the Seahawks failed to get any of them.  After the Aaron Curry disaster, one would think Seattle would have learned their lesson on overvaluing linebackers.  Irvin has major character issues to boot.   Draft Grade – D-

16.  New York Jets – The Jets needed a pass rusher and have never been a team that considered character issues when adding players to their team.  Enter DE Quinton Coples, a player that was once considered a possible top 5 pick before scandal and a sub-par senior campaign killed his momentum.  Rex Ryan is trying to catch lightening in a bottle here, and Coples has the talent to become a fantastic edge rusher for the Jets.  Draft Grade – B+

17.  Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals had two first rounders to play with due to the horrific Carson Palmer trade they pulled off on Oakland last year.  The Bengals got their man at #17 in CB Dre Kirkpatrick, then traded down and got OG Kevin Zeitler at #27.  Both picks fill holes for Cincy, but the selection of Zeitler is curious with so many good offensive linemen still on the board.  Both players will be immediate starters in 2012.  Draft Grade – B

18.  San Diego Chargers – The Bolts made perhaps the best mid-round pick here with DE Melvin Ingram.  Ingram could have gone much earlier and his talent level is off the charts for a rookie DE.  San Diego is in a similar situation as many teams, trying to get younger on defense.  This pick will go a long way towards their goal.  Draft Grade – A

19.  Chicago Bears – All signs pointed to the Bears selecting a DE in the first round, but the potential to add the high-motor of OLB Shea McClellin was too tempting to pass up.  The former Boise State Bronco adds fire to the defense and will fit in nicely for the Monsters of the Midway.  Bears fans will appreciate the way this kid plays, it is a pick that fits all around.  It also took the top player off the board for New England, which always gets bonus points.  Draft Grade – A

20.  Tennessee Titans – With WR Kenny Britt always a question mark, the Titans needed to add another weapon for their quarterback – whomever that ends up being.  WR Kendell Wright flourished at Baylor with RGIII throwing him the ball, and he gives the Titans a solid 1-2 punch with Britt, allowing Nate Washington to go back to his natural role as a 3rd receiver.  Tennessee didn’t have many options here, and chose Wright over an offensive line upgrade.  Draft Grade – B-

21.  New England Patriots – The Brady Bunch comes away with two highly-touted defensive players in DE Chandler Jones and ILB Dont’a Hightower.  Once again the Pats come away winners.  Jones and Hightower will both add youth to a defense that was awful last season.  A defensive back would have been the most conventional option, but New England couldn’t pass up the chance to rebuild their front seven with two great talents.  Draft Grade – A

22.  Detroit Lions – The Lions saw OT Reilly Reiff fall all the way to #22.  Easy pick.  Pencil Reiff in as a starter on the offensive line for the next decade in the Motor City.  Draft Grade – A

23.  Pittsburgh Steelers – OG David DeCastro is the best guard prospect to come out of the draft in a decade.  The Steelers were shocked he fell to them and took all of 10 seconds to get their draft card to the podium.  The Steelers offensive line will instantly be better.  The running game will instantly be better.  This is Alan Faneca all over again.  Draft Grade – A+

24.  Houston Texans – A defense that is now without Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans needed a new face.  DE Whitney Mercilus will be that face.  This was a need pick that worked out well for the Texans, who have eyes on a deep playoff run in 2012.  Draft Grade – B-

25.  Green Bay Packers – Needing another pass rusher to compliment Clay Matthews, the Pack secured DE/OLB Nick Perry from USC.  It will take time for Perry to learn the complex defense of Dom Capers, but ultimately Green Bay got what they came for in round one.  Draft Grade – B

26.  San Fransisco 49ers – The 49ers signed formerly retired WR Randy Moss in the offseason, but knew that they needed a young WR to add to the weapons for QB Alex Smith.  They reached on this pick, taking WR A.J. Jenkins of Illinois.  Time will tell on this pick, but the value just isn’t there at #30 overall for this selection.  Jenkins may end up being a serviceable #2 WR.  Draft Grade – C-

27.  New York Giants – The Champs add RB David Wilson to their squad after waving bye-bye to veteran Brandon Jacobs in the offseason.  Wilson will become the ying to Ahmed Bradshaw’s yang.  The last pick of the first round is a tough spot to pick from, but New York filled a need with a player that could have easily been gone 10-12 picks prior.  The G-Men are like the Steelers, it’s hard to argue with what they do because they do it so well.  Draft Grade – B-

28.  New Orleans Saints – NO PICKS

29.  Oakland Raiders – NO PICKS

30.  Denver Broncos – NO PICKS

31.  Baltimore Ravens – NO PICKS

32.  Atlanta Falcons – NO PICKS


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Don’t forget to check out NPC all week long as we delve into the 2012 NFL Draft from the Black and Gold colored glasses all weekend long!