2011 NFL Offseason Grades – NFC West

ST. LOUIS RAMS

2011 Draft Class:  Robert Quinn, DE (1-14); Lance Kendricks, TE (2-47); Austin Pettis, WR (3-78); Gregory Salas, WR (4-112); Jermale Hines, S (5-158);  Jabara Williams, OLB (7-228); Jonathan Nelson, CB (7-229)

 

 

Lance Kendricks is a big, strong, athletic tight end who should make an immediate impact for the Rams.

The Rams had a lot of impact rookies in 2010 and they have some guys in this year’s class who could also make an immediate impact.  I love the pick of Robert Quinn for the Rams.  Had he not been injured this past season he would have probably been a top 5 draft pick so for the Rams to get him at number 14 (with both top wide receivers off the board) was a great value.  Lance Kendricks, also looks to be a tight end who could have an immediate impact for the Rams.   He is a strong athletic tight end and in that offense, I really believe he could have a huge year.   Pettis and Salas could help bolster an ailing receiving corps and so overall I really like what St. Louis accomplished with their draft.  The only major problem is that the Rams failed to address issues on their offensive and defensive lines.

KEY ADDITIONS: Quintin Mikell, S (Eagles); Harvey Dahl, G (Falcons); Jacob Bell, G (Rams); Mike Sims-Walker, WR (Jaguars); Mark Clayton, WR (Rams); Ben Leber, LB (Vikings); Daniel Muir, DT (Colts); Justin Bannan, DT (Broncos);  Al Harris, CB (Dolphins);  Cadillac Williams, RB (Buccaneers);  Jerious Norwood, RB (Falcons); Mark Clayton, WR (Rams)

KEY LOSSES: John Greco, G;  Daniel Fells, TE; Laurent Robinson, WR

Quintin Mikell is not a name that gets a lot of attention BUT he is without a doubt one of the best safeties in the league.  It is going to be really interesting to see how the great defensive mind of Steve Spagnuolo utilizes him in this Rams defense.  Dahl was a great move that the Rams had to make to help improve their offensive line.  I really do like the addition of Al Harris, Cadillac Williams, and Jerious Norwood to this team but the pick-up Rams fans should be excited about is Mike Sims-Walker.  Sims-Walker is a good wide receiver and now with Josh McDaniels at the helm of the offense and a better quarterback than he had in Denver – don’t be shocked if Sims-Walker has a big year.  It’s a contract year for Sims-Walker so he is going to be motivated to perform.  I think that he should become the number one wideout in that offense. Bradford’s favorite target was Mark Clayton at the beginning of last season and so bringing him back is a definite credit for this receiving corps.   Of course the loss of John Greco is a major blow to that line but that was really the one downer in the Rams free agency period.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

2011 Draft Class: Patrick Peterson, CB (1-5); Ryan Williams, RB (2-38); Robert Housler, TE (3-69); Sam Acho, DE (4-103); Anthony Sherman, FB (5-136); Quan Sturdivant, ILB (6-171); David Carter,  DT (6-184); Demarco Sampson, WR (7-249)

The Cardinals drafted who I believe to be the best overall player in the draft in Patrick Peterson

With the 5th overall pick, the Cardinals may have very well selected the best overall player in the draft (although Von Miller is on that same level).  Peterson was a force to be reckoned with while he was at LSU and provided the Cardinals with potentially the best young cornerback tandem in the NFL (until the Kolb trade).   They followed that up by getting the 2nd best running back in the draft in Ryan Williams.  Ryan Williams is a physical runner who can also catch balls out of the backfield.   The Cardinals draft was not so much about addressing needs but in most cases, they took the best possible player on the board regardless of position and in my opinion that’s how championship teams are built.

KEY ADDITIONS: Kevin Kolb, QB (Eagles); Vonnie Holliday, DE (Redskins);  Richard Marshall, CB (Panthers);  Jeff King, TE (Panthers);  Daryn Colledge, G (Packers);  Lyle Sendlein, C (Cardinals); Deuce Lutui, G (Cardinals); Nick Eason, DT (Steelers); Chester Taylor, RB (Bears)

KEY LOSSES: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB; Derek Anderson, QB; Tim Hightower, RB; Steve Breaston, WR;  Ben Patrick, TE; Gerald Hayes, LB

If Kolb becomes the quarterback the Cardinals clearly believe he can be, then he was a bargain.

Arizona’s offseason is about Kevin Kolb.  On paper it does appear that the Arizona Cardinals overspent for Kevin Kolb by giving up a 2nd round pick and former 1st round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  However if Kolb can develop into the franchise quarterback that the Cardinals believe he can be than it is well worth it.  The trade already gave Larry Fitzgerald the confidence in Arizona he needed to sign a long term contract with the team so that trade has already began to pay dividends.  Re-signing Lutui was key for the Cardinals and I like the signing of Todd Heap with the assumption that Arizona plans to incorporate the tight end even more into the passing game.  Chester Taylor had a terrible year in Chicago last year but if he can return to Minnesota form, this is going to be a great bargain signing for the Cardinals.

Rodgers-Cromartie was a huge loss and I am curious to see who steps up into the number 2 receiving spot with the departure of Steve Breaston.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

2011 Draft Class: James Carpenter, G (1-25); John Moffitt, G (3-75); K.J. Wright, OLB (4-99);  Kris Durham, WR (4-107); Richard Sherman, CB (5-154); Mark LeGree, S (5-156); Byron Maxwell, CB (6-173); Lazarius Levingston, DE (7-205); Malcolm Smith, OLB (7-242)

James Carpenter can be a good tackle in this league but Andy Dalton would've been less of a reach

Seattle definitely had one of the worse drafts in the NFL.  Their largest need going into the draft (later solidified by the departure of Matt Hasselbeck) was quarterback which they failed to address.  I believe that taking Andy Dalton at this pick would have been less of a reach than James Carpenter was.  In the second round the Seahawks got a good guard in Moffitt but with greater needs in the receiving corps, quarterback position, and along the defensive line this pick did not make much sense either.   While their later picks addressed some key needs in the Seahawk secondary, I have to question whether any of these players will have much of an impact.  Overall, a rather unimpressive draft.

KEY ADDITIONS: Sidney Rice, WR (Vikings), Brandon Mebane, DT (Seahawks); Zach Miller, TE (Raiders); Robert Gallery, G (Raiders); Tarvaris Jackson, QB (Vikings); Alan Branch, DT (Cardinals); Leroy Hill, LB (Seahawks); Michael Robinson, RB (Seahawks)

KEY LOSSES: Stacy Andrews, OT; Chris Spencer, C; Lofa Tatupu, LB; Matt Hasselbeck, QB

If Tarvaris Jackson cannot have success in Seattle, he will never be a successful starter anywhere

I love what the Seahawks did in the offseason.  I have long been a believer that Tarvaris Jackson has the talent to be a starting QB in this league.  I can honestly say that if he doesn’t succeed in his current situation (with his favorite receiving target in Rice and the same offensive coordinator he has had his whole career in Bevell) then he will never succeed.  The Seahawks made a splash by grabbing the 2nd best wide receiver on the free agent market and then by signing a great tight end in Zach Miller and getting Robert Gallery from Oakland to help their offensive line.  The big signing of course for the Seahawks was bringing back Brandon Mebane who may have been the best defensive tackle available in free agency.  The question remains though as to whether Jackson or Whitehurst can emerge as a viable starter for Seattle.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

2011 Draft Class: Aldon Smith, DE (1-7); Colin Kaepernick, QB (2-36); Chris Culliver, CB (3-80); Kendall Hunter, RB (4-115); Daniel Kilgore, G (5-163); Ronald Johnson, WR (6-182); Colin Jones, S (6-190); Bruce Miller, DE (7-211); Michael Person, OT (7-239); Curtis Holcomb, CB (7-250)

Aldon Smith was a good choice and satisfies a need, but another Missouri Tiger may have been the better choice

Unlike many, I don’t believe Aldon Smith was a reach at 7th overall.  He is a fast, physical pass-rusher that satisfies an obvious need for San Francisco and was not going to fall outside of the top 10 picks.  However, I believe that San Francisco drafted the wrong Missouri player.  The obvious need for San Francisco was quarterback and with every quarterback except Cam Newton still on the board,  Gabbert or Locker would have made a lot more sense than Smith.  However, Harbaugh found his developmental project in the second round in Kaepernick.  However, considering that Mallett fell all the way to the 4th round – I though this was not the wisest of picks.  I look at the entire San Francisco draft and pretty much every player they took is a project but the problem is that the 49ers need impact players now.  Maybe Harbaugh is just mailing it in so he can grab Andrew Luck next season.

KEY ADDITIONS: Braylon Edwards, WR (Jets); Alex Smith, QB (49ers); Madieu Williams, S (Vikings); David Akers, K (Eagles); Donte Whitner, S (Bills); Ray McDonald, DT (49ers); Carlos Rogers, CB (Redskins); Jonathan Goodwin, C (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Aubrayo Franklin, NT; Nate Clements, CB; Manny Lawson, LB; Eric Heitmann, C

49ers fans hope Harbaugh can do for them what he did up the road in Stanford

The first big thing that the 49ers did was go out and get one of the biggest coaching names available in Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh.  His brother Jon has had success in Baltimore and Jim took Stanford from nothing to being a legitimate national football power.  I really like the Braylon Edwards pick-up for the 49ers because, despite his drops, Edwards is a player with “homerun” ability.  Whitner is a player who made giant steps last year and is a risk worth taking in my mind.  Goodwin should come in and solidify that offensive line and I really like the addition of David Akers who I believe was the best kicker available in free agency.  I really did expect the 49ers to make a splash in either the quarterback or cornerback market but unfortunately, they really did not do anything to improve either position.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

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2011 Offseason Grades – NFC East

Without further ado, offseason grades for the NFC East

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Danny Watkins, G (1-23); Jaiquawn Jarrett, S (2-54); Curtis Marsh, CB (3-90); Casey Matthews, ILB (4-116); Alex Henery, K (4-120); Dion Lewis, RB (5-149); Julian Vandervelde, C (5-161); Jason Kelce, C (6-191); Brian Rolle, OLB (7-237); Greg Lloyd, ILB (7-237); Stanley Havili, FB (7-240)

 

If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay, he will be remembered as an absolute steal in the 4th round.

Philadelphia had 11 picks in this year’s drafts and when I look at how they used it I see it as “honest”.  The Eagles were aware of their weaknesses and drafted position by position to tighten things up.  A lot of people considered Watkins a reach in the first round, but Andy Reid believes he can be a Week 1 starter.  Watkins has good strength and is an adequate pass blocker and run blocker.  The one thing I always noticed when he played at Baylor is he is a “play to the whistle” type player so I think he’ll fit in fine in Philly.  Jarrett was a good pick up to help solidify the safety position and Curtis Martin seemed like an obvious choice for a team that, at the time, was weak at cornerback position.  Making Alex Henery the first kicker off the board made it pretty obvious that Akers was on his way out (which surprised me).  They doubled up on centers late with Vandervelde and Kelce clearly acknowledging their need there.  Philly did a good job of drafting in positions of need, I just don’t know how many of these players will have an impact. I love the Casey Matthews pick.  He was a great player at Oregon and comes from a great line of impact players who were underappreciated in the draft.  If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay (who is a leader on the Packers’ defense) then he was an absolute steal in the 4th round.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (Raiders); Ronnie Brown, RB (Dolphins); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (Cardinals); Cullen Jenkins, DT (Packers); Vince Young, QB (Titans); Steve Smith, WR (Giants); Jason Babin, DE (Titans); Ryan Harris, OT (Broncos); Akeem Jordan, LB (Eagles); Evan Mathis, G (Bengals); Jarrad Page, S (Patriots); Derek Landri, DT (Panthers); Anthony Hargrove, DL (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Kevin Kolb, QB; Quintin Mikell, S; Brodrick Bunkley, DT; Leonard Weaver, FB; Ernie Sims, LB; Max Jean-Gilles, G; Dimitri Patterson, CB; Stewart Bradley, LB

Nnamdi Asomugha was the obvious prize of free agency but I'm a big fan of the addition of Ryan Harris to this Eagles' line

A lot has been said and just how unbelievable the Philadelphia Eagles’ offseason has been.  I have not seen this much hoopla about a team’s free agency since the 2007 Patriots when they brought in Moss, Stallworth, Welker, and Thomas, among others.  Last season the cornerback position was a glaring weakness for the Philadelphia Eagles but they shored up that position through free agency and trade by bringing in 2 of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league.  Mikell was a gigantic loss for the Eagles at the safety position but Page should make for a good replacement and I really do believe it would behoove the Eagles to, at this point, move Asante Samuel to the safety position.  Steve Smith was a nice risk to take given Maclin’s mystery illness.  I love the addition of Babin and Jenkins.  I really believe that they will benefit from Trent Cole in the same way Kevin Smith and Ray Edwards were able to benefit by the addition of Jared Allen.  Vince Young was a great pick up if for no other reason, then to do with him what they did with Kolb and McNabb – flip him on the trade market for higher value.  The most unsung of this group but maybe the Eagles’ best pick up was Ryan Harris at tackle who should solidify that offensive line for the Eagles but there still remain some questions at center.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Ryan Kerrigan, DE (1-16); Jarvis Jenkins, DT (2-41); Leonard Hankerson, WR (3-79); Roy Helu, RB (4-105); Dejon Gomes, S (5-146); Niles Paul, WR (5-155); Evan Royster, RB (6-177); Aldrick Robinson, WR (6-178); Brandyn Thompson, CB (7-213); Maurice Hurt, G (7-217); Markus White, DE (7-224); Christopher Neild, DT (7-253)

While I am not a fan of the Cornhuskers, I'm a big believer in what Roy Helu, Jr. can accomplish in the NFL

Mike Shanahan has a reputation as someone who can develop quarterbacks but where does this come from?  He inherited a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in John Elway and has not had a strong QB ever since.  That being said, QB is the most obvious weakness for the Redskins and I feel that they made a huge mistake in trading down when they could have drafted, who I believe to be, the best quarterback in the draft in Blaine Gabbert.  Any time you get the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, you need to take it and I feel like this is a mistake that will haunt Washington fans for years. However, the Redskins did get great value in trading down and Kerrigan and Jenkins should do wonders for their front four.  The pick that Redskins fans should be excited about is landing Nebraska running back Roy Helu in the 4th round.  This kid is a strong running back who in college could easily break tackles and can accelerate in the gaps.  I really think that Helu has a bright future as a number one running back in the NFL.

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS:Barry Cofield, DT (Giants); Josh Wilson, CB (Ravens); Stephen Bowen, DE (Cowboys); Santana Moss, WR (Redskins); Chris Chester, C (Ravens); Jamal Brown, OT (Redskins); Jabar Gaffney, WR (Broncos); Tim Hightower, RB (Cardinals), Donte’ Stallworth, WR (Ravens); Kellen Clemens, QB (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Albert Haynesworth, DT; Donovan McNabb, QB; Carlos Rogers, CB; Casey Rabach, C; Maake Kemoeatu, DT; Phillip Daniels, DE; Jeremy Jarmon, DT; Vonnie Holiday, DE

Given their draft, trading defensive end Vonnie Holliday for Tim Hightower was a move that could pay dividends for Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan got younger in the front four completely rebuilding it this offseason.  He addressed this need with the first two rounds of the draft and then went out in free agency and signed Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen who is one of the better young defensive ends in the league.  Re-signing Santana Moss was a necessity and the addition of Stallworth and Gaffney bolsters that receiving corps.  Chris Chester was a really solid pick-up as well to help strengthen a weak offensive line.  I will continue to say that I feel like the McNabb trade was a bad decision for Washington because after passing on Gabbert and trading Donovan, the Redskins are without a QB.  I do like the Tim Hightower trade quite a bit for Washington and between Hightower, Helu, and Torain, Shanahan should find a tandem that he can work with in his famous “running system”.


NEW YORK GIANTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Prince Amukamara, CB (1-19); Marvin Austin, DT (2-52); Jerrel Jernigan, WR (3-83); James Brewer,  OT (4-117); Greg Jones, ILB (6-185); Tyler Sash, S (6-198); Jacquian Williams, LB (6-202); Da’Rel Scott, RB (7-221)

 

The Giants had to be excited to find a cornerback like Amukamara available to them at pick 19

From a value standpoint, the New York Giants had an excellent draft.  I really did not think that Amukamara would fall past the Detroit Lions at 13 but he fell to the Giants and they were wise to take him.  Marvin Austin should help out that defensive line of theirs.  He fell because he lacks consistency but he has the talent to be an elite defensive tackle.  The two late picks of the Giants that I really like for them is James Brewer in the 4th round who has the skills to be a servicable tackle and could help out their O-Line but I feel that they did not do enough to address their aging offensive line.  Tyler Sash was a good risk to take in the seventh round.  He was a standout safety at the University of Iowa and was a cornerstone of a great defense.  In college he was an aggressive player who was a great tackler and had an ability to get his hands on the ball.  He has some parts of his game he needs to tighten up to play at the pro level but has the potential to do well in that Giants defense.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Mathias Kiwanuka, DE (Giants); Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (Giants); Ben Patrick, TE (Cardinals); Stacy Andrews, OL (Seahawks); Kevin Boothe, G (Giants); David Baas, C (49ers)

KEY LOSSES: Rocky Bernard, DT; Shaun O’Hara, C; Rich Seubert, G; Shawn Andrews, G; Steve Smith, WR

Re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw was the Giants' no. 1 priority going into the offseason

New York was so cash-strapped going into this season that they really couldn’t do much in free agency.  They were able to re-sign their top two priorities in Ahmad Bradshaw and Mathias Kiwanuka.  The Giants already had offensive line issues and now have lost Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews.  I do believe that David Baas is an upgrade for them over the aging O’Hara and I like the addition of Stacy Andrews but I feel this line has a long ways to go.  I do see the Steve Smith loss really hurting this team because, if nothing else, he took pressure off of Hakeem Nicks.  Overall the Giants were able to replace what they lost which still leaves the Giants looking pretty average in a much improved NFC.

DALLAS COWBOYS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Tyron Smith, OT (1-9); Bruce Carter, OLB (2-40); DeMarco Murray, RB (3-71); David Arkin, G (4-110); Josh Thomas, CB (5-143); Dwayne Harris, WR (6-176); Shaun Chapas, FB (7-220); Bill Nagy, C (7-252)

 

Some say Smith was taken too early but if he plays well, you can never take a Pro Bowl OT too high

A lot of people criticized Dallas for not trading out of their pick to try and get more value at the offensive tackle position but the Cowboys got the man they wanted in Tyron Smith and 9th overall and I believe he was a perfect pick for the Cowboys.  I believed that the Cowboys needed to fix their offensive line issues and so the fact that they waited until the 4th round to continue to do that was confusing.  The Cowboys also should have addressed the cornerback position earlier.  Given the departure of Marion Barber, the DeMarco Murray pick makes sense in the 3rd round.  The best value pick here was Dwayne Harris who is a small, speedy receiver with great hands that should do nicely in the slot for the Cowboys offense and provide a great target for Tony Romo.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS: Jason Garrett, Head Coach (Cowboys’ Offensive Coordinator); Doug Free, OT (Cowboys); Kyle Kosier, G (Cowboys); Marcus Spears, DE (Cowboys); Jason Hatcher, DE (Cowboys); Gerald Sensabaugh, S (Cowboys); Abram Elam, S (Browns)

KEY LOSSES: Marion Barber, RB; Roy Williams, WR; Leonard Davis, G; Marc Colombo, OT

The best offseason move the Cowboys made was removing the interim tag from Jason Garrett's title.

The Cowboys had a down year last year in a season where many had them pegged to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.   With Tony Romo healthy again and a new head coach, this is a team that hopes to bounce back in a serious way.  Jason Garrett was the only man for the job and as one of the hottest head coaching candidates available, the Cowboys were smart to hang on to him before he left to go elsewhere.  Then Garrett turned around and brought in one of the best defensive minds in the game in Rob Ryan to help that Cowboys defense regain old form. Like the Giants, the Cowboys were limited by their cap situation but that did not stop them from re-signing most of their important players.  Roy Williams was going to be gone regardless and the Cowboys are sold on the future of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice (along with DeMarco Murray) in that backfield.  Sensabaugh is a good safety but the addition of Elam at that position was a great move by Dallas.  The loss of Marc Colombo does hurt, but Tyron Smith should prove to be an upgrade at the position.


When I look at the landscape of the NFC East, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  A strong Philadelphia Eagles team drastically improved almost overnight.  The Redskins have gotten stronger at some positions and weaker at others.  The New York Giants look like a team that will once again, just miss a wildcard spot, and the Dallas Cowboys didn’t do much but they did fire their head coach and they do get their Pro Bowl quarterback back in the fold which should make a huge difference.  As always, this is going to be a fun division to watch. 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!