2012 NFL Draft First Round Grades

The 2012 NFL Draft’s first round has come and gone. Here are my grades for all 32 first round selections:

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: A

I’ve made my thoughts known on what I think about Luck and Griffin in the past. I think Griffin has the potential to be better, but Luck is better right now and is the safer pick. This was an easy selection for Indianapolis as they look to replace future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: A

The second no-brainer of the evening. Despite the crap-shoot that is selecting quarterbacks in the draft these days, I feel really good about the two above. I think both Luck and Griffin will become franchise quarterbacks. The Redskins aggressive move to trade up to this pick is going to pay off.

3. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: B+

This would easily be an A to me if the Browns didn’t trade up a spot to draft Richardson. Cleveland gave up three draft picks to move up one spot with Minnesota to take last season’s Doak Walker Award winner. To be fair, Cleveland entered the day with 13 picks and after selecting two in the first round, they still have eight more in the final six rounds. I’m in the minority when it comes to running backs these days, but I truly believe they are still important in the NFL despite it being a QB-driven league. Richardson has the potential to be a great NFL RB, and he instantly upgrades Cleveland’s offense.

4. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC: A

Breaking News: The Vikings did something smart on draft day. They traded back a spot, acquired three picks in the process, and were still able to draft the guy they wanted, a franchise left tackle in Matt Kalil. There was some smoke before that draft that Minnesota wouldn’t take Kalil, instead selecting cornerback Morris Claiborne. Instead, the Vikings stuck by the guy they had been linked to all along. Great selection.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: A-

Quick, name a Jaguars wide receiver from last season. I’ll wait…. (crickets)… That’s what I thought. Jacksonville was very aggressive in moving up to #5 to leapfrog the Rams and select Blackmon. Jacksonville’s wide receiver core last season was terrible, and it has been for a few years now. I’m not quite as high on Blackmon as others, and I don’t think he is as good as either wide receiver picked in the Top-10 last season, but I think he has the potential to be really good in this league. He instantly becomes the best wide receiver on the Jacksonville roster. It remains to be seen, however, if Blaine Gabbert can get him the ball.

6. Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: A-

Even though Dallas had to give up a second round pick to move up up and get Claiborne, I still absolutely love this pick. I think Claiborne is going to be a shutdown cornerback in the NFL sooner rather than later, and Dallas needed help in the secondary. With the Cowboys signing Brandon Carr to a five-year deal earlier this offseason, they now have a very formidable 1-2 CB tandem in Carr and Claiborne.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama: B

I think Tampa Bay would have been better off staying at #5 and drafting Morris Claiborne, but it’s hard not to like this pick by Tampa Bay. Their safeties were atrocious last season so Barron fills a huge need. Barron is a very good athlete, excellent in run support, and has the potential to be a ball-hawk on the next level. He also has the endorsement of former Buccaneers safety John Lynch, and that is good enough for me.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: C

I’m not a fan of Ryan Tannehill, and I don’t see him being a franchise quarterback in the NFL. I could be wrong, but I never saw him at Texas A&M and thought he was a Top-10 pick. I understand that the Dolphins needed a quarterback after missing out on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn in free agency, and then falling short in the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, but I think they would have better served passing on Tannehill and going after a QB next season. I don’t see him as an upgrade over Matt Moore at this point.

9. Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College: B

I think this is a good pick, but the Panthers had more pressing needs on the defensive line and in the secondary. Even so, Luke Kuechly was a tackling machine at Boston College, and most NFL Draft analysts saw him as one of the safest picks in the draft this year. I’m not sure I would have taken Kuechly in the Top 10, but I understand the logic behind this pick. He should make an immediate impact on Carolina’s defense next season.

10. Buffalo Bills: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: C+

Stephon Gilmore shot up draft boards over the last few weeks for some reason or another. I think he’s a solid player, but I didn’t see him as a Top 10 talent. He was good at South Carolina, but he got beat a good bit deep by opposing wide receivers. I think Buffalo would have been better off taking Riley Reiff or Michael Floyd.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis: D-

Dontari Poe was a freak in workouts and at the NFL combine. He is an unbelievable athlete for his size, and he earned a lot of money with his incredible combine. But this is an awful pick by the Chiefs. Poe is a great talent, but his work ethic has been called into question and for good reason. With Poe showing out like he did in workouts, it raises the question of why he didn’t dominate the C-USA competition he faced at Memphis.

12. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: B

I think Fletcher Cox is the best defensive tackle in this draft, but I don’t like that the Eagles had to trade up to get him. The Rams probably snag him if the Eagles don’t make the move, but even then Philadelphia can stay put and take a guy like Michael Brockers. This is a pretty deep defensive tackle class, so the Eagles could have even traded back and still got a really good player at that position. Even still, Cox is a great fit for Philly’s defensive scheme, so it’s a good selection.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: B

I think this was a solid pick, although I think Arizona should have gone elsewhere. Larry Fitzgerald asked for some help, and the Cardinals are bringing him some with Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd. I think Floyd is on the same level as Justin Blackmon, so getting him 13th when Blackmon went eight spots higher is good value, in my opinion.

14. St. Louis Rams: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: B

Poor Rams. They trade back from 2 to 6 with Washington feeling they can still get Justin Blackmon with that pick. Instead, the Jaguars jumped up to the 5th pick to steal Blackmon. After that happened though, I really like what the Rams did by moving back. They had their eyes set on Blackmon, he was off the board, so they accumulated more picks, moved back, and still got one of the best defensive tackle prospects in this class. Brockers is raw, but he oozes potential.

15. Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, West Virginia: F

Easily the worst pick of the first round in my opinion, and one of the worst I have seen in the last few years. A lot of analysts had Irvin as a 2nd or 3rd round prospect, but instead the Seahawks took him in the top half of the first round. I think Irvin is solid, and could develop into a good player in the NFL, but you do not take him 15th when better defensive end/outside linebackers are on the board. If this is the guy you wanted, then trade back and get him later. I guess Pete Carroll is trying to make sure his second tour in the NFL is just as short as the first.

16. New York Jets: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: C+

I like Quinton Coples, but I don’t like him in the Jets defensive scheme. Coples is a 4-3 defensive end, in my opinion. The Jets would have been better off picking Melvin Ingram out of South Carolina, who was still on the board. This was a perplexing pick to me just because of the schematic fit. I believe Coples has a ton of potential though, so this could turn out to be a good pick.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: B+

I think Kirkpatrick is the second best cornerback in this draft behind LSU’s Morris Claiborne, so I really like this pick for the Bengals. Kirkpatrick was once considered a Top-10 talent before his arrest in Florida, so this is pretty good value. He has some question marks regarding his cover skills, but he’s another guy with loads of potential and ideal size for an NFL corner.

18. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: A

This was a great pick by the Chargers as Melvin Ingram, considered by many as the best defensive end in this draft class, fell into their laps. Ingram is a perfect fit for San Diego’s defensive scheme as well. Ingram was highly productive in his last season with South Carolina. Ingram was expected by some to be selecting in the Top 10, so the Chargers got a steal getting him here.

19. Chicago Bears: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State: C+

Most scouts and analysts saw McClellin as a 3-4 outside linebacker rather than a 4-3 defensive end, but he’ll be playing on the defensive line in Chicago’s defense. McClellin is another prospect who had been overlooked, but really shot up draft boards in recent weeks. A few teams in the 20s coveted the former Boise State player, but Chicago beat them to the punch. I like McClellin, but he’s a curious fit for the Bears.

20. Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: C+

I’m not completely sold on Kendall Wright. He had a spectacular season for Baylor last year, but I think that was more because of Robert Griffin III. Wright’s workouts weren’t that impressive. This is a decent pick nonetheless, but I think Tennessee would have been better served taking one of the best available pass rushers in Chandler Jones or Whitney Mercilus.

21. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse: B+

Finally Bill Belichick uses the picks he has been stockpiling for years. It seems like every year Belichick would trade back in the first round. Not this year. This time he was aggressive and moved up in the first round, not once, but twice. More on the second pick later. As for the first one, admittedly I don’t know a whole lot about Jones, but I’ll defer to experts such as Mike Mayock who really like him.

22. Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: F

If it wasn’t for the Seahawks taking Bruce Irvin about two rounds too high, Cleveland’s selection of Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick would have been the worst pick of the first round. Even still, it was pretty awful. Brandon Weeden will be 29-years-old in October. You do not use a first round draft pick on a quarterback who is already older than the quarterback on your roster that you are giving up on. I would have been fine with the Browns using their second round pick on Weeden, but they should have looked elsewhere with this pick.

23. Detroit Lions: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: A

This was one of the better picks in the first round. I thought the Lions would take Jonathan Martin with this pick, but I had no idea Riley Reiff was going to fall this far. It wasn’t long ago that Reiff was projected as a Top-10 pick. He’s a Top-10 talent, so this is an absolute steal for Detroit. The Lions keep making competent first round selections. It’s crazy what happens when you fire Matt Millen.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: A

Another excellent pick for great value. I couldn’t believe DeCastro fell all the way to 24 into Pittsburgh’s hands. This pick was pretty much a no-brainer for the Steelers with DeCastro on the board, despite Dont’a Hightower also still being on the board. DeCastro is another very safe pick. At worst, I think DeCastro is a serviceable starting guard for the next 10 years. At best, DeCastro develops into one of the best guards in the NFL.

25. New England Patriots: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: A-

Another aggressive move by New England, and another very good pick by Belichick and company. Hightower is a smart football player, and answered all the questions about lingering issues with his knee after having surgery with a big year in 2011. His versatility obviously peaked the Patriots interest in him. Hightower can play inside or outside linebacker, and is no stranger to putting his hand in the dirt as a defensive end in passing downs. The Patriots needed to upgrade their front seven, and they did just that with their two first round picks.

26. Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois: B-

This is a good value pick by the Texans, but I’m not completely sold on Mercilus despite his huge year for Illinois in 2011. He forced nine fumbles and led the nation in sacks last season, but I am always wary of one-year wonder players, and Mercilus wasn’t talked about much at all until last year. Mercilus should help fill the massive hole left by Mario Williams’ departure to Buffalo.

27. Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin: B-

I like Kevin Zeitler, I really do, but I thought the Bengals were going to select either Courtney Upshaw to help their needs in the defensive front seven, or they would select Cordy Glenn out of Georgia if they were going to pick an offensive guard. It’s hard to question a team selecting an offensive lineman out of Wisconsin though.

28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC: C+

Another spot I think Courtney Upshaw would have been a better fit for. Upshaw was rated higher than Perry by most, but it is hard to question Ted Thompson when it comes to drafting players. The Packers needed another guy to go alongside Clay Matthews in getting after opposing quarterbacks, and that’s what they got with their first round selection even if I think another player would have been a better pick here.

29. Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith, SS, Notre Dame: B

Another good pick by the Vikings. Minnesota’s secondary was bad last year, and they play in a division with a lot of good quarterbacks and a lot of good wide receivers. They needed to help their secondary as they go against Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler a combined six times a season. This is not a very deep safety class with a substantial drop after Mark Barron and Harrison Smith.

30. San Francisco 49ers: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: D-

I’m tempted to give this an F, but I think it isn’t as bad as Seattle’s or Cleveland’s 2nd pick, but man this is still a very bad pick by the 49ers. Most draft boards had A.J. Jenkins ranked in the 60s, and he is drafted in the first round. If they wanted a wide receiver, they would have been better off selecting Stephen Hill, Rueben Randle, or Alshon Jeffery. They could have also selected Jim Harbaugh’s former player, tight end Coby Fleener.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: B

I thought David Wilson was the second best running back prospect in this class behind Trent Richardson, but Doug Martin is a better fit with Tampa Bay. Some people questioned this pick, but Martin has drawn Ray Rice comparisons, and he is a great complimentary piece in the backfield with LeGarrette Blount.

32. New York Giants: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech: B

The Giants were obviously concerned with Ahmad Bradshaw’s ability to stay healthy after releasing their backup running back Brandon Jacobs. Wilson has a good combination of speed and power, and should immediately have an impact for the offense of the defending Super Bowl Champs.