While the typical "Winners and Losers" post-draft analysis is popular, I wanted to take a slightly different approach this year. Instead of assigning grades to teams whose selections have yet to take a snap in the NFL, I find more value in discussing intriguing picks and situations that come from said picks.
I will touch base on teams that may have had strong drafts, as their choices lead to interesting scenarios in the NFL. In case you are wondering, I would say the Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons had the worst drafts. The Jacksonville Jaguars were not far behind (a third-round punter seals their fate). Then again, it is tough to accomplish much when you have few picks and do not begin selecting until the middle of the draft.
What is not to like about this draft? Arizona landed a potential stud wideout in Michael Floyd and two offensive linemen (Senio Kelemete, Bobby Massie) that could be starters in the league for years to come. They also added cornerback depth with Justin Bethel and Jamell Fleming, who may become an instant contributor. Oh, and the Cards have a long-term quarterback prospect in Ryan Lindley, just in case John Skelton and Kevin Kolb cannot lead the way.
The Cardinals are in a volatile division that could be up for grabs with just a few breaks. Once again, Arizona has put itself in a position for short- and long-term success through sound drafting.
A good fit for this D?
I like their draft, but selecting Courtney Upshaw makes me wonder a little bit. He is expected to compete at outside linebacker on the strong side, and I just don't think he is a good fit for the position. His skill set has me thinking he is a 4-3 defense end, so I wonder if Baltimore was caught up in the perceived value when they chose him.
Offensive guard Kelechi Osemele is a strong selection, and I am quite fond of bringing in Bernard Pierce to give the overworked Ray Rice an extra breather to preserve the rusher's NFL lifespan. Fourth-round choice Gino Gradkowski gives the line competition at guard and a possible replacement for Matt Birk at center in a year or two.
The Ravens found value picks in cornerback Asa Jackson (fifth) and wideout Tommy Streeter (sixth). Both players should make the roster and could contribute during the 2012 season.
The Bills put together another strong draft, even though I don't agree with Stephon Gilmore as a top-10 pick to a team that is super deep at cornerback. Cordy Glenn gives them a huge offensive guard or a stout right tackle, and Zebrie Sanders was a quality value pick in the fifth to help bolster this front five. He could wind up starting sooner than later, although which side of the line he will man is yet to be known.
Tank Carder was another value pick in the fifth. He could be a great special teamer with potential to be the starting middle linebacker if Kelvin Sheppard fails to get the job done. Nigel Bradham was a sound pick for outside linebacker depth, and he, too, could challenge for playing time.
Ron Brooks was a nice pick and should be a fine player, but, yet again, why waste another pick on a cornerback with such a deep stable of players at the position.
T.J. Graham, a smurphy wide receiver choice in the third round, didn't do it for me. I had a sixth-round grade on him and feel he probably will never be more than a special teamer. He reminds me of Roscoe Parrish, and that isn't a compliment.
Carolina was smart and sound with their drafting. Most teams can only hope to hit on four draft choices, let alone their first four.
Luke Kuechly is a stud, Amini Silatolu fills an immediate need, Frank Alexander is a blue-collar value player, and Joe Adams gives Cam Newton more downfield help with his ability to stretch a defense.
Kuechly should replace Jon Beason (Achilles') as the starting middle linebacker, but he is good enough in coverage to play the SAM position. I expect Silatolu to start from Week 1 at one of the guard spots (probably left), but that is a lot to ask from a Division II rookie.
Shea McClellin is a talented player, yet I cannot endorse this selection. He is a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, and even though the Tampa 2 defense can get away with smaller ends, McClellin's brightest outlook is still as a 34 rush.
Chicago chose Alshon Jeffery in a reasonable spot in terms of assuming risk. I simply am not a believer in Jeffery, and do you really want the possible future face of your receiving corps being influenced by Brandon Marshall? I would have preferred Rueben Randle over Jeffery, as their upside is similar, and Randle's downside isn't as great as Jeffery's.
No team had a stronger draft top to bottom than Cincy. They scored across the board and filled key needs with standout players.
Dre Kirkpatrick brings youth to a talented, veteran cornerback corps. He should benefit greatly learning behind Terence Newman and Nate Clements. Kevin Zeitler could start from the get-go at right guard over Jacob Bell.
Devon Still and Brandon Thompson were quality picks along the defensive line. Both players should rotate at interior tackle and improve Cincinnati's run-stopping ability.
The offense gets more weaponry with Mohamed Sanu at wide receiver, and he could start immediately for the Bengals. Orson Charles is a bit of a project at tight end, but he will have time to learn the game behind Jermaine Gresham to eventually give the team a powerful one-two punch at the position.
George Iloka in the fifth round was a very good value at free safety. He gives them insurance for Reggie Nelson, but I feel the Bengals would be better off moving him to strong safety to compete with Taylor Mays. Ohio State running back Dan Herron in the sixth was also an interesting pick. He has good size at 5-foot-10, 213 pounds and could contribute if BenJarvus Green-Ellis can't get the job done.
I am not a big fan of he Brandon Weeden pick, especially in the first round, as I am not ready to give up on Colt McCoy ... obviously the Browns are. I would have invested more in weapons for McCoy. Another head-scratching move was the selection of Travis Benjamin at wide receiver. He is just 164 pounds, with small hands and short arms. I had him graded as a sixth-round prospect.
On the positive side of things, I liked the value they found in Boise State defensive end Billy Winn in the sixth round. He should develop into a starter down the line.
The Danny Coale selection should make Tony Romo smile. The 6-foot, 206-pound receiver from Virginia Tech knows how to exploit defenses in the slot and is a reliable target. Expect him to battle for the No. 3 job.
Next, the 'Boys chose Oklahoma tight end James Hanna. Eventually, he will replace Jason Witten if all goes well. Hanna is a dynamic downfield threat.
I am in love with the third-round pick of San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman. Expect big things if he is paired with Willis McGahee. Hillman has the potential to be special in the NFL, and it won't hurt getting to play behind Peyton Manning. Hillman may shine if given the chance to become a full-time back in this zone-blocking scheme.
Ryan Broyles? Really? That is exactly what the Lions needed ... a slot receiver coming off knee reconstruction surgery five months ago when they have glaring holes at cornerback and defensive end.
The assumption is that Broyles will move into the slot in 2013, pushing Titus Young into Nate Burleson's starting spot. The veteran receiver will earn $4.5 million next year, and he could become more expensive than he is worth.
I have gone on record about my disappointment in what has made Ryan Tannehill a first-round pick, especially a high one. Miami, as expected, pulled the trigger. I don't think this is a great situation for him, since he really should learn the ropes from the sidelines behind a veteran quarterback (sorry, David Garrard doesn't count). At least the connection with former coach Mike Sherman gives me some hope for the future.
I fully expect the rook to be thrown into the fire from the onset of the season. Not good. Jonathan Martin is a so-so prospect in my eyes. I don't think he is made of left tackle material, and I don't know that he has enough of a mean streak to play right guard the way this offense needs him to play it.
Conversely, I am a fan of the Lamar Miller value pick in the third round. He should be able to contribute on special teams and if Reggie Bush suffers an injury.
Michael Egnew is a talented tight end prospect who should have a bright future in the league. Olivier Vernon and Josh Kaddu will bolster the defense, too. Vernon, a defensive end-outside linebacker, has plenty of athleticism and a huge wingspan on his side.
Kheeston Randall intrigues me the most out of all. He is an interior force on the defensive line when asked to attack gaps and was a great value for the Dolphins in the seventh round. The Texas product should make the final roster with ease.
I don't see anything special about the Vikings' draft, but they did a good job of addressing most of their key needs (offensive tackle, safety, cornerback and wide receiver). The Vikes drafted quality players and filled needs, so that means they did their job by my estimation.
My favorite pick was their seventh-round value choice of middle linebacker Audie Cole. He may battle for a starting job, especially if E.J. Henderson doesn't return.
The G-men raked in the first three rounds, and I'm a huge fan of their fourth-round gamble on Cincinnati tight end Adrien Robinson. He is blazing fast and has impressive moves as a former basketball player. Robinson has natural hands, and New York could have yet another dangerous weapon for Eli Manning in the next few years.
New York addressed their positions of need and landed quality players in the process. The strong just became stronger.
A wasted draft choice
It is hard not to believe the Eagles knocked it out of the park with this draft. They landed their man in the first with Fletcher Cox, following up his selection with a pair of defensive talents in linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive end Vinny Curry. Philly has a knack for finding pass-rushing defensive end talent.
I am not fond of the Nick Foles pick, but if anyone can get something out of him it probably will be Andy Reid. Brandon Boykin is a nice slot corner addition to replace Asante Samuel.
Offensive guard Brandon Washington slid to the sixth round, and the Eagles also spent a same-round pick on Iowa wideout Marvin McNutt. There is talent to be found in the receiver, as long as he can maintain focus on football.
Much like my sentiments regarding the Eagles, it is difficult to dislike what the Steelers accomplished. They landed the best offensive guard in the draft at No. 24 and secured a promising tackle in Mike X. Adams a round later.
Mike Tomlin's bunch will see offensive help from running back Chris Rainey, who makes for a nice change-of-pace option. Alameda Ta'amu is my favorite pick of the bunch. He should be the future of their 3-4 line, as the 348-pound nose tackle is a mountain of a man.
Sean Spence will play at inside linebacker, a spot the Steelers needed to address. It may take him a season or so before he is comfortable with the transition, however.
San Diego had a gift fall into their lap with the Melvin Ingram selection in the first round. He should be an immediate difference-maker. They stuck with the defensive theme by adding Kendall Reyes, who will kick out to defensive end in this defense, and Brandon Taylor to compete at strong safety. He reminds me of Ryan Clark, from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ladarius Green was my favorite choice, though. He is a raw, extra-athletic tight end prospect from Louisiana-Lafayette. If any team knows how to get the most out of a tight end in this situation, it is the Chargers. He is insurance for Antonio Gates and should eventually replace him in the starting lineup.
I like what they did with the Cam Johnson pick in the final round. He was well worth the pick, as no risk is involved in a seventh-round selection.
The Niners nabbed A.J. Jenkins at wide receiver in the first round, which was a tad surprising. Jenkins has the athleticism and talent to eventually be groomed into an NFL star.
His selection was followed up with LaMichael James - a somewhat confounding choice. James joins a heavily crowded backfield, and his long-term potential is far greater than his immediate outlook. I am convinced that he can be a full-time back at the next level, but that won't happen as long as Frank Gore is on the roster.
The controversial pick of Bruce Irvin isn't as out there to me, but I don't understand why a 4-3 team would be so high on him. He is a great pass rusher, yet his skill set should be employed as a 3-4 edge rusher. It is not surprising that three of the four teams reportedly interested in Irvin as a first-rounder were 3-4 alignment teams.
Seattle did well with the choice of Bobby Wagner at linebacker. He figures to be the future at middle linebacker, unless Barrett Ruud has a bounce-back season.
I'm a huge fan of Russell Wilson, but he has an uphill battle to see playing time with the contract Seattle gave Matt Flynn. Robert Turbin will turn heads as a complement to Marshawn Lynch, and he could even be the future of the position for the 'Hawks.
Isaiah Pead is a fantastic complementary back, but the Rams are foolish if they believe he can be something more than that, as reports suggest. St. Louis did a great job of trading back and landing impact players. Overall, their draft was one of the strongest throughout the league.
The Bucs did everything they needed to do during the draft. If they can get the most out of their defensive line, this team could be extremely dangerous under disciplinarian head coach Greg Schiano.
Lavonte David has all of the tools to become a playmaker on defense. Keith Tandy is an underrated cornerback, and Mark Barron simply ties it all together on defense.
Doug Martin should take the primary rushing role form LeGarrette Blount and could be the steal of the rookie draft class at the running back position. Expect big things in 2012 and beyond from the Boise State product.
What on Earth was Washington thinking by drafting Kirk Cousins in the fourth round after taking Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick? It was a wasted selection, unless they have doubts about what RG3 will be in the pros. Even if that is the case, Washington screwed up and, in some ways, set back Cousins' pro career.
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.