NFL: Draft grades, bad and good

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2011

By Mark Craig
Minneapolis Star Tribune
It takes three to five years to accurately judge an NFL draft pick. Itís also unfair to critique a teamís draft class until we see what happens when (if?) the leagueís free agency and trading periods open.
But what else are we going to do now that Americaís most popular and profitable sport has returned its fast-paced game to the slow lane that is the U.S. legal system? So letís roll out the awards:
ó ěSeriouslyíî award: The 49ers had their pick of all but one quarterback at No. 7. They passed, watched five QBs fly off the board and then took Nevadaís Colin Kaepernick at No. 36. Then new coach Jim Harbaugh reached out in an attempt to reconnect the franchise with free agent Alex Smith, the teamís former No. 1 overall bust. ěIf Iím a betting man, then Iím betting on Alex Smith,î Harbaugh said. Somewhere, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary were smiling.
Role Reversal award: Strange three days in the AFC East. Needing quarterbacks, the Bills and Dolphins passed a combined 15 times. Set at quarterback, the Patriots and Jets took Arkansasí Ryan Mallett (third round) and Alabamaís Greg McElroy (seventh), respectively. So as the Patriots begin developing who they think might be the next Tom Brady (active: reigning MVP), the Dolphins and Bills will keep right on looking for the next Dan Marino (retired: 1999) and Jim Kelly (retired: 1996).
ó Worst Plan B award: Surely, the Redskins have a free agent quarterback targeted or a trade in mind after giving up the 10th pick when they could have selected Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. But rumor has it they might just go with John Beck after they dump Donovan McNabb. Yes, the same John Beck whoís 0-4 as a starter and with his third team since people were calling him the next Kurt Warner back in 2007.
ó Biggest Pick award (literally): If you havenít seen photos of the 245th overall pick, please Google Michael Jasper of Division II Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn. Even Mel Kiper Jr. didnít have him listed as a prospect. But Jasper, a prospective nose tackle, played last season at 6-4, 430 pounds. And, no, thatís not a typo. Heís down to 375 now. ěHeís drying up to nothing,î said Bills general manager Buddy Nix.
ó Quote of the Draft award: ěGood luck beating that football team,î Kiper said after the Packers added Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb (64th overall) to Aaron Rodgersí arsenal.
ó Advil award: How good do you think Bengals coach Marvin Lewis feels now? In a span of 31 picks, he eliminated two migraines. He picked Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green (fourth overall) so he can dump Chad Ochocinco. Then he picked TCU quarterback Andy Dalton (35th) so he can tell Carson Palmer not to let the door him in the backside on the way out of town.
ó Great, but … award: The Lionsí draft is being roundly praised. They definitely picked three dynamic players in the top two rounds in Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Boise State receiver Titus Young and Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure. Their strengths got stronger, but their weaknesses (cornerback, linebacker) are as weak as they were before the draft. ěThereís a lot of time between now and when the season begins to worry about our needs,î Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
ó Tired of Peyton award: The Titans and Jaguars really donít care if you think they reached for quarterbacks. Try beating Peyton Manning in the AFC South without one, pal. Thatís why Tennessee took Washingtonís Jake Locker No. 8 and the Jags traded up to get Gabbert at No. 10.
ó Sitting On Your Hands award: Last year, the Rams got their franchise quarterback when they picked Sam Bradford. This year, they watched as their NFC West counterparts did little (49ers) to nothing (Cardinals, Seahawks) to improve their woes at quarterback. Arizona had its pick of all but one quarterback when it selected LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson fifth overall. Youíd think Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. would be livid. But no. He praised Cardinals management for passing on quarterbacks that werenít considered canít-miss prospects. ěIf you miss at that position (quarterback), itíll set your franchise back years, man,î Fitzgerald told Yahoo!

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