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Ira Kaufman's NFL Draft grades

NFC South BUCS: Da'Quan Bowers represented too much value to pass up at No. 51 and Adrian Clayborn brings a physical presence the Bucs crave up front. Mason Foster's versatility is a major asset and he'll contribute immediately on special teams. Luke Stocker provides some depth if Kellen Winslow's creaky knees start acting up. GRADE: A-minus. ATLANTA: This could end up being a one-player draft for the defending division champs. WR Julio Jones needs to make a major impact, considering the prohibitive cost of moving up 21 spots in a trade with Cleveland. It was an atypical gamble for GM Thomas Dimitroff, who had been methodical in his approach. GRADE: D. CAROLINA: If Cam Newton turns out to be a franchise QB, Ron Rivera's first draft will be deemed a smash. The Panthers averaged only 12 points per game, and a disillusioned fan base needs reason to believe. Terrell McClain (USF) and Sione Fua are run-stuffing DTs, while DB Brandon Hogan is undersized but feisty. GRADE: C.
NEW ORLEANS: Some scouts believed Cameron Jordan was the premier defensive end prospect in the draft. He'll be given every opportunity to start as a rookie. Mark Ingram will inherit Reggie Bush's do-everything role in the backfield and Martez Wilson can be groomed slowly behind MLB Jonathan Vilma. GRADE: B-plus. ---- NFC East DALLAS: The Cowboys have been undermined by protection issues for the last few years, and Tyron Smith has the size and athleticism to offer immediate help up front. Bruce Carter boasts rare speed at LB, blocking seven kicks, and RB DeMarco Murray's soft hands will surely be appreciated by Tony Romo. GRADE: C. NEW YORK GIANTS: Even the harshest NY skeptics found it hard to boo the selection of Prince Amukamara, considered the second-best corner behind Patrick Peterson. Marvin Austin is a talented DT whose work ethic has been questioned. Undersized WR Jerrell Jernigan was a third-round reach. GRADE: C. PHILADELPHIA: A strong Senior Bowl showing elevated Danny Watkins, who has the size and versatility to play anywhere up front. The Eagles then turned to their top defensive priority – shoring up a mediocre secondary. Jaiquawn Jarrett and Curtis Marsh are big hitters who can close in a hurry. GRADE: C-minus. WASHINGTON: Trading back in Round 1 and still landing Ryan Kerrigan at No. 16 proved to be a shrewd move. Kerrigan could thrive if he is shifted to outside linebacker opposite Brian Orakpo. Jarvis Jenkins, who played inside next to Da'Quan Bowers at Clemson, may be moved to end. Where's the QB? GRADE: B-minus. ---- NFC North CHICAGO: Like Dallas, the Bears have had difficulty keeping their quarterbacks upright. Enter Gabe Carimi, a 6-foot-7 specimen blessed with ample skills to start on Week 1. Stephen Paea is a former rugby player from Polynesia who made 30.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage at Oregon State. GRADE: C. DETROIT: GM Martin Mayhew, a former Bucs cornerback, has deftly engineered a Motown overhaul. Nick Fairley had too much upside to bypass at No. 13 and he'll make a formidable pairing inside with Ndamukong Suh. WR Titus Young is a shifty blur and RB Mikel Leshoure's production at Illinois is impressive. GRADE: A. GREEN BAY: Once again, GM Ted Thompson displayed his knack as a talent evaluator. Derek Sherrod, the heir apparent to aging Chad Clifton at left tackle, represents solid value with the final pick of the opening round. Alex Green rushed for 1,199 yards and 18 TDs for the pass-happy Hawaii Warriors. GRADE: B. MINNESOTA: In their endless quest for a young QB to build around, the Vikes have turned to FSU's Christian Ponder, who could be a bit of a reach at No. 12. Ponder has limited mobility, but he makes good decisions and he has a nice new weapon in TE Kyle Rudolph, who boasts the size and speed to make plays downfield. GRADE: C-minus. ---- NFC West ARIZONA: CB wasn't the top priority for the offensively-challenged Cardinals, but Patrick Peterson was the surest prospect on the board. He should start Week 1, and he's also an adept punt returner. If Ryan Williams remains healthy, he can add some flash to the backfield. Rob Housley may be the fastest TE in the draft. GRADE: B-minus. ST. LOUIS: Coach Steve Spagnuolo believes you never have enough quality defensive linemen and Robert Quinn proved too tempting at No. 14. Led by Chris Long, the Rams are building a serious pass rush. TE Lance Kendricks has sure hands and a strong frame, giving second-year QB Sam Bradford another gifted target. GRADE: C. SAN FRANCISCO: New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio believes Aldon Smith will thrive as an OLB in a 3-4 alignment that generated little heat in 2010. After Thursday's run on quarterbacks, the 49ers decided to take a chance on Colin Kaepernick early in the second round. He's a project, but he's smart and eager to learn. GRADE: C-minus. SEATTLE: Lacking premium picks, the Seahawks focused on bolstering their offensive line. Tackle James Carpenter (Alabama) and guard John Moffitt (Wisconsin) come from big-time programs and both will be given every chance to win starting jobs, but Seattle was unable to address major issues at quarterback and defensive end. GRADE: F. ---- AFC East BUFFALO: DT Marcel Dareus should provide a significant upgrade for a defense that proved unable to stop the run last fall. We may never know for sure if the Bills would have selected OLB Von Miller ahead of Dareus, but Buffalo is now markedly better up front. Scouts appear divided on the instincts of CB Aaron Williams. GRADE: C. MIAMI: The Dolphins bypassed RB Mark Ingram at No. 15 in favor of Gator C Mike Pouncey, a powerful straight-ahead blocker who lacks the athleticism of his brother, Maurkice, a terrific rookie center last season for the Steelers. Daniel Thomas ran for 1,585 yards and 19 TDs at Kansas State, but he lacks speed. GRADE: D. NEW ENGLAND: Armed with five of the first 74 picks, the Pats cashed in across the board. T Nate Solder is rangy and powerful, and second-round DB Ras-I Dowling is a tantalizing prospect saddled with durability issues. QB Ryan Mallett, who inexplicably fell to the third round, will learn the nuances of the position behind Tom Brady. GRADE: B. NEW YORK JETS: Coach Rex Ryan spent much of his pre-draft discussions emphasizing the need for pass rushers, then he went out and grabbed two space-eaters inside at DT. Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis should improve New York's rush defense, but neither is expected to collapse the pocket from the inside. GRADE: D. ---- AFC North BALTIMORE: With CB Jimmy Smith still available with the 27th pick, the Ravens reached out for a talented player dogged by character issues. You'd think there are enough leaders surrounding the ex-Colorado standout to keep Smith focused. There are no such concerns about WR Torrey Smith, a burner out of Maryland. GRADE: B-minus. CINCINNATI: New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden walked away giddy after landing WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton. Within a few years, that tandem could represent a very dangerous passing combination at the pro level. LB Dontay Moch is a superior athlete who will be coached up by Marvin Lewis. GRADE: B. CLEVELAND: The Browns gave up a chance to grab a quarterback at No. 6, but they received a draft harvest from the Falcons that includes next year's first-round pick. Baylor DT Phillip Taylor and Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard should help a defensive line that struggled against both the run and the pass last year. GRADE: C. PITTSBURGH: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward has all the classic attributes of Steel City defenders – he's nasty, aggressive and relentless. Defensive backs Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen have an opportunity to contribute immediately in a thin secondary that values cornerbacks who can provide sturdy run support. GRADE: B. ---- AFC South HOUSTON: With new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips installing a 3-4 scheme, the Texans were happy to find Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt still on the board at No. 11. Watt's skills as a pass rusher should take some pressure off Mario Williams. LB Brooks Reed and CB Brandon Harris represent solid value for a coaching staff in peril. GRADE: B. INDIANAPOLIS: GM Bill Polian rarely misses on a first-round choice, and Boston College's Anthony Castonzo appears to be a good fit. Protecting Peyton Manning is Job 1 and Castonzo has the size and savvy to start at left tackle as a rookie. The Colts then doubled up, selecting Villanova T Ben Ijalana midway through Round 2. Grade: B. JACKSONVILLE: Few draft pundits expected the Jags to move up and use their first-round choice on a QB, but Jacksonville's braintrust is convinced Blaine Gabbert has a chance to be a star. The pass rush still looks weak, but Gabbert has the advantage of learning behind solid veteran David Garrard. It's all about Gabbert. GRADE: C-minus. TENNESSEE: The Titans also pulled an opening-night surprise, bypassing Gabbert at No. 8 for Washington QB Jake Locker. New coach Mike Munchak is convinced Locker has the intangibles to succeed at the NFL level. UCLA LB Akeem Ayers was a smart pick, and fourth-round LB Colin McCarthy is productive when healthy. GRADE: C. ---- AFC West DENVER: New coach John Fox has a defensive pedigree, and he had his sights set on OLB Von Miller from the start as the Broncos switch to a 4-3. Miller's skills as a pass rusher will make an immediate impact, especially with the return of DE Elvis Dumervil. Predictably, four of the top five picks were on defense. GRADE: B. KANSAS CITY: After moving back five spots, the Chiefs are hoping lanky Pittsburgh WR Jonathan Baldwin is worth the No. 26 pick, easing the burden on Dwayne Bowe. FSU center Rodney Hudson has a chance to compete on a creaky OL and Georgia LB Justin Houston is an intriguing prospect who could be a star or a bust. GRADE: C. OAKLAND: With only one of the top 80 selections, the Raiders lacked the ammunition to address their many needs. Second-round choice Stefen Wisniewski was a solid player at Penn State and he sports impressive Oakland bloodlines, but you can hardly expect Raider Nation to get all worked up about a center. GRADE: F. SAN DIEGO: The Chargers leaned heavily toward defense, despite yielding the fewest yards in the league. Illinois DE Corey Liuget has the strength and quickness to crash the pocket from inside, and San Diego wasted little time grabbing the disruptive junior. Versatile Clemson DB Marcus Gilchrist plays bigger than his size. GRADE: C.
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