2011 NFL Offseason Grades – AFC West

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL Draft Picks: Corey Liuget, DT (1-18); Marcus Gilchrist, CB (2-50); Jonas Mouton, OLB (2-61); Vincent Brown, WR (3-82); Shareece Wright, CB (3-89); Jordan Todman, RB (6-183); Stephen Schilling, G (6-201); Andrew Gachkar, OLB (7-234)

 

I really like the Liuget pick for this Chargers defense

A lot of people did not talk about the Chargers draft but personally, I thought they had one of the better drafts.  They had five picks in the first three rounds and did a great job with them.  Liuget had a great career at Illinois.  He is a large, athletic tackle who gets off the ball quick and has great instincts for finding the ball.  He can made an immediate impact for this team.  The Chargers addressed secondary issues but getting a solid pair of corners in Gilchrist and Wright.  I really like the additions of Vincent Brown (who I think will have a pretty good rookie campaign given Rivers’ ability to distribute the ball) and with uncertainty at running back, sixth round pick Jordan Todman could get a chance to get some touches early on. The only negative in their draft is that they failed to address their need for an offensive tackle.

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Vincent Jackson, WR (Chargers); Malcolm Floyd, WR (Chargers); Takeo Spikes, LB (49ers); Bob Sanders, S (Colts); Jeromey Clary, OT (Chargers); Antwan Barnes, LB (Chargers); Jacques Cesaire, DE (Chargers); Scott Mruczkowski, C (Chargers); Travis LaBoy, LB (49ers); Randy McMichael, TE (Chargers); Eric Weddle, S (Chargers); Billy Volek, QB (Chargers)

KEY LOSSES: Darren Sproles, RB; Brandon Siler, LB, Legadu Naanee, WR; Jyles Tucker, LB; Craigh Davis, WR

Keeping Vincent Jackson happy was the Chargers' #1 priority this offseason

Great teams keep their best players.  The fact that San Diego was able to make it through their free agency period and somehow keep both Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd is a huge win for that team.  The departure of Darren Sproles hurts that offense but it was pretty inevitable.  It’s hard to believe that in the last four years this team has allowed L.T., Michael Turner, and now Darren Sproles to just walk.

I really like the additions of Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy to the Chargers linebacking corps.  But the biggest move that San Diego could have made on the defensive side was locking up their own Eric Weddle and pairing him with the Colts’ Bob Sanders.  The question with Sanders is always if he can stay healthy but if he can, this defense could be a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS: Johnathan Baldwin, WR (1-26); Rodney Hudson, C (2-55); Justin Houston, DE (3-70); Allen Bailey, DE (3-86); Jalil Brown, CB (4-118); Ricky Stanzi, QB (5-135); Gabe Miller, OLB (5-140); Jerrell Powe, DT (6-199); Shane Bannon, FB (7-223)

Baldwin is a large receiver with great initial burst, but still very, very raw

Last season right after the draft I gave the Kansas City Chiefs the highest draft grade after somehow grabbing Eric Berry, Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, and Tony Moeaki all in the same draft.  This year I’m not as big on Kansas City’s draft but I do believe that Scott Pioli knows exactly what he is doing.  This is the guy who used his Mr. Irrelevant pick to grab Ryan Succop a couple years back, who I believe to be one of the best kickers in the league.  The Chiefs grabbed Baldwin in the first round who I thought was a bit of a reach but it was clear that the Chiefs needed immediate help at wide receiver and Baldwin is a big receiver with good hands who has great initial burst off the ball.  He is very raw and will take some development.  I still believe that taking an offensive lineman here and grabbing someone like Torrey Smith, Titus Young, or Randall Cobb in the second round would have been the better move.  Hudson was a perfect second round pick and I cannot believe that Justin Houston fell to them in the third round.  I definitely thought he was an early second round talent.  I like the addition of Ricky Stanzi to back up Cassel in the fifth round who was a very underrated college quarterback.  I am mostly intrigued by Jerrell Powe who is a very raw, but could be a very effective run stopper for the Chiefs.  The last time Pioli had the 199th overall pick (with which Powe was selected) he selected Tom Brady in New England so he is clearly a guy that knows how to find value late in a draft.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Tamba Hali, DE (Chiefs); Steve Breaston, WR (Cardinals); Kelly Gregg, NT (Ravens) Brandon Siler, LB (Chargers); Wallace Gilberry, DE (Chiefs); Le’Ron McClain, FB (Ravens)

KEY LOSSES: Brian Waters, G; Ron Edwards, DT

Steve Breaston makes a lot of sense for this Chiefs team given his familiarty with coach Todd Haley and his skill set.

The Chiefs made the biggest move they could have in free agency – they locked up Tamba Hali long term.  He’s not a big name but he is an elite pass rusher.  Chiefs fans have to be glad after seeing elite talent like Jared Allen and Tony Gonzalez leave the past few years that the Chiefs could lock up one of their own.   They then turned around and re-signed Gilberry to bookend with Hali while Houston develops.   Kelly Gregg is aging but he’s definitely a solid nose tackle pick-up for the Chiefs.  The ideal pick-up would have been Aubrayo Franklin from the 49ers but Gregg is a good consolation prize.  The one addition I love is Steve Breaston.  Last year the Chiefs had Bowe and Moeaki at tight end and then nobody else to catch the ball.  Now with McCluster having another season to catch out of the backfield and the addition of Baldwin and now a speedy receiver like Breaston who had 1,000 yard seasons under current Chiefs coach Todd Haely in Arizona, Kansas City has put together a solid little receiving corps.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Von Miller, LB (1-2); Rahim Moore, S (2-45); Orlando Franklin, G (2-46); Nate Irving, ILB (3-67); Quinton Carter, S (4-108); Julius Thomas, TE (4-129); Mike Mohamed, ILB (6-189); Virgil Green, TE (7-204); Jeremy Beal, DE (7-247)

 

Barring injury, Von Miller will be the defensive, and perhaps the overall, rookie of the year

If you had to ask me who was the best player in the draft – it would be a toss-up between Von Miller and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.  I really feel like Von Miller could make an immediate impact for the Broncos and he was the player that made the most sense for Denver.  Denver’s biggest needs in this draft were on the defensive side of the ball and this was their primary focus.  Denver was able to take the first safety off the board in the second round and if Nate Irving can avoid injury, could be a steal in the third round.  The one thing that is lacking in this draft for Denver is they did not really address the concerns along their defensive line.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Ty Warren, DT (Patriots); Brodrick Bunkley, DT (Eagles); Jeremy Jarmon, DT (Redskins); Derrick Harvey, DE (Jaguars); Marcus Thomas, DT (Broncos); Daniel Fells, TE (Rams); Willis McGahee, RB (Ravens); John Fox, Head Coach (Panthers Head Coach)

KEY LOSSES: Jabar Gaffney, WR, Daniel Graham, TE;  Ronald Fields, NT; Renaldo Hill, S; Ryan Harris, OT

New Broncos head coach John Fox, has his work cut out for him in Denver

Surprisingly, Denver did not have a lot of cap room to work with going into free agency.  The Broncos started off by immediately addressing defensive line issues with the addition of Ty Warren, Brodrick Bunkley, Derrick Harvey, and the re-signing of Marcus Thomas.  I love the trade of Jabar Gaffney for Jeremy Jarmon as he fits John Fox’s scheme in Denver perfectly.   Derrick Harvey has never lived up to his draft hype BUT he is definitely a risk worth taking and if there is one thing John Fox knows it’s defensive ends.  I also really like the addition of Daniel Fells though the Broncos really did put a huge emphasis on tight ends in their offseason.  I think McGahee was a risk worth taking in their backfield to pair with Knowshon Moreno.  Of course what is going to be really interesting is to see how new head coach John Fox (great hire) deals with trying to implement his system with a mixture of Shanahan and McDaniels guys.

 

 

 

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS

 

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Stefen Wisniewski, C (2-48); Demarcus VanDyke (3-81); Joseph Barksdale, OT (3-92); Chimdi Chekwa, CB (4-113); Taiwan Jones, RB (4-125); Denarius Moore, WR (5-148); Richard Gordon, TE (6-181); David Ausberry, WR (7-241)

 

Anyone who knows the Raiders could see the Wisniewski pick coming from a mile away

I saw the Wisniewski pick coming from a mile away.  He satisfied a need on the Raiders’ offensive line and given that his uncle Steve is a Raiders assistant coach and legendary lineman – it was clear that Wisniewski was Al Davis’ guy.  Van Dyke was a necessary pick-up given the later departure of Nnamdi Asomugha.  Of course, the Van Dyke pick was pretty obvious given that he was the fastest guy in the draft and everyone knows how Al Davis loves his speed guys.  They waited awhile in the draft to address their wide receiver and outside linebacker positions but I think getting Denarius Moore out of Tennessee in the 5th round represents great value.  Like any Raiders draft, a lot of head scratching moves here and a hard draft to gauge at this moment in time.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Kamerion Wimbley, LB (Raiders); Michael Huff, S (Raiders); Khalif Barnes, OT (Raiders); Jarvis Moss, DE (Raiders); Samson Satele, C (Raiders); Stephon Heyer, OT (Redskins);  Justin Smiley, G (Dolphins); Trent Edwards, QB (Jaguars), Hue Jackson, Head Coach (Raiders Offensive Coordinator)

KEY LOSSES: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB; Zach Miller, TE; Robert Gallery, G

Re-signing Michael Huff was a great move for Oakland but they were unable to bring back their top 2 free agents.

The Raiders did a good job of resigning their free agents, unfortunately they missed out on the three most important ones.  This free agency period is definitely more about what they lost as opposed to what they brought back.  They lost the best cornerback in the NFL with Asomugha, they lost a big part of their offensive line in Robert Gallery, and then Zach Miller who I consider a top 10 tight end and has been vastly underrated.  Huff, Moss, and Wimbley all had strong years for a good Raiders defense but they have underperformed for most of their careers.  I do like the hire of Hue Jackson and like bringing in Trent Edwards to back up Campbell; but the Raiders free agency definitely left a lot to be desired.

 

 

 

 

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

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2011 NFL Offseason Grades – AFC North

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

NFL DRAFT

2011  DRAFT PICKS: Cameron Heyward, DE (1-31); Marcus Gilbert, OT (2-63); Curtis Brown, CB (3-95); Cortez Allen, CB (4-128); Christopher Carter, OLB (5-162); Keith Williams, G (6-196); Baron Batch, RB (7-232)

 

 

Cameron Heyward is big strong defensive end that fits the Steel Curtain's great tradition

The Pittsburgh Steelers did the most important thing you can do in a draft, they covered the majority of their needs.  Sure there weren’t  a lot of big names here but I do like the Cameron Heyward pick a lot for Pittsburgh.   He is a versatile player that can play either the end or tackle position in a four man front.  He is a relentless pass rusher with a quick first step and the ability to stay low and get the advantage on an offensive line.  Gilbert fills a hole on their O-line and should be able to step in and contribute immediately.   I really like the Carter pick-up late.  He is not the most explosive player but he is strong and is a great tackler and could develop into a good OLB against the run.  The biggest flaw that I can find in the Steelers’ draft is they really needed to find a way to bolster their receiving corps and did not do so in this draft.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Ike Taylor, CB (Steelers); Willie Colon, OT (Steelers); Jonathan Scott, OT (Steelers);  Mewelde Moore, RB (Steelers); William Gay, CB (Steelers); Jerricho Cotchery, WR (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Antwaan Randle El, WR; Flozell Adams, OT; Max Starks, OT

Re-signing Ike Taylor was a priority for the Steelers.

For the Steelers, free agency was largely about making sure they continue to have a great offensive line.  Their line has been a big part of their three Super Bowl appearances in the last 7 years and with the Steelers, they seem to believe that Scott and Colon are preferrable to Adams and Starks.   The Steelers did the most important thing that a team can in free agency which is re-sign your key guys.  Additionally, the Steelers were in desperate need of a wide receiver if they plan to repeat as AFC Champions and were able to pick up Jerricho Cotchery this week who should fit into their offensive scheme perfectly.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Jimmy Smith, CB (1-27); Torrey Smith, WR (2-58); Jah Reid, OT (3-85); Tandon Doss, WR (4-123), Chykie Brown, CB (5-164); Pernell McPhee, DE (6-165); Tyrod Taylor, WR (6-180); Anthony Allen, RB (7-225)

 

Like Percy Harvin & Randy Moss, Jimmy Smith looks to make other teams regret letting him slide

I feel like Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens find good value late in a draft better than anyone else.  In the first round they got the shutdown corner they needed in Jimmy Smith.  I feel that Jimmy Smith should not have fallen past the 15th pick but character issues (much like Percy Harvin a few years ago) caused him to slide and Baltimore gets a great value here.  Torrey Smith is a wideout who has blazing speed and will be popular with the fans being a Maryland Terrapin and all.  I am really curious to see the path that Tyrod Taylor’s career take as I am always intrigued by college quarterbacks who are drafted as wide receivers (Brad Smith, Joe Webb, Antwaan Randle El, Julian Edelman, etc.).  Overall I really like this draft because the Ravens got the most bang for their buck and did feel some immediate needs.  However they ignored their gaping need in the safety position which I see as this draft’s biggest failure.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Lee Evans, WR (Bills); Bernard Pollard, S/OLB (Texans); Vonta Leach, FB (Texans); Marshall Yanda, G (Ravens); Chris Carr, CB (Ravens)

KEY LOSSES: Derrick Mason, WR; Willis McGahee, RB; Le’Ron McClain, FB; Todd Heap, TE; Kelly Gregg, DT; Fabian Washington, DB; Josh Wilson, DB; Dawan Landry, S

In Lee Evans, the Ravens get a guy who can stretch the field for Joe Flacco

Before yesterday, I would’ve graded Baltimore’s free agency period and trades in the C+ range because while I do like their additions – I feel like the team lost a lot.  However, I have them sitting higher because the 4th round pick for Lee Evans may be a better value trade than McNabb for a 6th round pick to Minnesota.  Now I am not promising 23 touchdowns for Evans, I am just saying ask Bill Bellichick what happens when you give up a 4th round draft pick to get a talented receiver out of an unfavorable situation.  I think that Evans is an upgrade over Derrick Mason and will pair nicely with Boldin and Smith.  The upgrade of the receiving corps over the last two seasons should make this a career year for Joe Flacco.   Leach is a bruiser of a fullback and an upgrade over McClain and re-signing Carr was necessary.  I still feel they lost a lot though with the departure of Dawan Landry, Todd Heap, and Josh Wilson.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: A.J. Green, WR (1-4); Andy Dalton, QB (2-35); Dontay Moch, OLB (3-66); Clint Boling, G (4-101); Robert Sands, S (5-134); Ryan Whalen, WR (6-167); Korey Lindsey, CB (7-207); Jay Finley, RB (7-246)

 

A.J. Green has the tools to be an elite receiver in the NFL

I really liked Cincinnati’s approach to this draft.  They had a lot of needs going in and as opposed to panicking – they simply adopted a B.P.A. (Best Player Available) approach and in doing so were able to fill many of their holes.  They used the 4th overall pick to take the best wide receiver prospect I believe we have seen since Calvin Johnson.  A.J. Green will be a star in this league.  The Bengals foresaw the departure of Ochocinco and Palmer and used their first two picks to address that.  Considering that 4 quarterbacks were drafted in the first 12 picks, I consider the Bengals finding someone as good as Andy Dalton in the 2nd round an absolute steal.   If I had to declare a draft winner right now, it would be a toss up between Detroit, Cincinnati, and the next team I’m going to discuss.  I love the Robert Sands pick in the 5th round – he is an intelligent player who plays aggressively.  He has a great awareness about him and his long arms and great hands have me believing he could develop into quite the ballhawk.  He reminds me of a larger Darren Sharper.   I also think that Jay Finley was a great 7th round pick, he’s a running back who could be a solid number 2 in this league.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Nate Clements, CB (49ers); Manny Lawson, LB (49ers); Thomas Howard, LB (Raiders); Cedric Benson, RB (Bengals); Brian Leonard, RB (Bengals)

KEY LOSSES: Johnathan Joseph, CB; Chad Ochocinco, WR; Carson Palmer, QB; Antwan Odom, DE; Evan Mathis, G


Re-signing Benson was necessary if the Bengals were going to have any success this year

The biggest departure of free agency for the Bengals was not Chad Ochocinco or Carson Palmer .  In my mind, it was Johnathan Joseph who many overlooked in free agency in light of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes.  Nate Clements was a good effort to replace Joseph but he is nowhere near as good.  The Bengals anticipated Palmer’s retirement and the Ochocinco trade and in my opinion, upgraded at the wide receiver position when they drafted Green.  Cedric Benson was necessary to bring back and I really like the Gradkowski pick-up.  Gradkowski is a quarterback who has never gotten his due, similar to Jeff Garcia, but he does find ways to win games for bad teams and provides good competition for Dalton.   I like the Thomas Howard signing as well but to me the retirement of Carson Palmer and departure of Johnathan Joseph severely set the Bengals back for this season.


CLEVELAND BROWNS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Phil Taylor, DT (1-21); Jabaal Sheard, DE (2-37); Greg Little, WR (2-59); Jordan Cameron, TE (4-102); Owen Marecic, FB (4-124); Buster Skrine, CB (5-137);  Jason Pinkston, OT (5-150); Eric Hagg, S (7-248)

 

Phil Taylor was the best run-stopper available in this year's draft

You know what I have always admired about Mike Holmgren?  He is a realist who knows what he wants.  In my mind, when Cleveland landed the 6th overall pick there were only 3 players worth them taking with that high of a pick – Georgia WR A.J. Green (went 4th overall to Cincy), LSU CB Patrick Peterson (went 5th overall to Cleveland), and Missouri DE Aldon Smith (went with the 7th overall pick to San Fran).  When Cleveland’s turn came up, Holmgren decided Aldon wasn’t the way to go with that pick and so instead of taking a player too high or one he had no interest in – he got Atlanta to pay him a king’s ransom so they could draft Julio Jones.  Later on they were able to get the big run-stopping D Tackle they needed in Phil Taylor and with the Falcons’ 2nd round pick they got a big target who can stretch the field for McCoy in Greg Little.  Overall I like this draft, not just because of who they grabbed this year but because of how it prepares them for future drafts to truly rebuild this team.   Holmgren is very realistic about where the Browns are as a franchise and as someone who has 3 conference championships and one more Super Bowl ring than the entire Browns franchise, knows the personnel he needs to get them there.

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Pat Shurmur, Head Coach (Rams’ Offensive Coordinator); Jon Greco, G (Rams);  Usama Young, S (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Eric Wright, CB; Abram Elam, S

Pat Shurmur did a great job with Sam Bradford and now has Andy Dalton to develop.

When it came to the free agency period, the Browns did a couple of things right – they hired a great offensive mind as their new head coach in Pat Shurmur; they traded for Jon Greco, a strong offensive lineman who should solidify the right side of the line; and they signed Usama Young from the Saints who I believe upgrades their safety situation over the departed Abram Elam.   When I look at Cleveland’s free agency period though, for me it will always be about what they did not do.  They had the most cap room of any NFL team and did not even make a run at defensive end Ray Edwards, or wide receivers like James Jones, Malcolm Floyd, Michael Jenkins, or Mike Sims-Walker.  There was no upgrade to their pass rush, no addition of difference-makers, and the Browns had more capacity to do that than anyone.  In a short free agency period, the fact they could offer more money with less time to decide worked in their favor.  As a result, I believe they were the biggest losers in free agency.

 

 

 

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