Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Assessing NFL draft — the 2011 draft, with 5 years' perspective (w/video)

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For those who gorged themselves on mock drafts all week and Mel Kiper's pontificating all weekend, here's hoping you saved room for the final course.

Post-draft analysis. As sure as Roger Goodell gives out hugs, NFL pundits everywhere are grading the quality of each team's draft harvest with knee-jerk aplomb. Never mind that a draft class' value can't be truly assessed for at least three years; it's more fun to suspend reality and partake of instant analysis.

But long-term hindsight can be pretty engaging, too. Sorting out the busts and brilliant picks from bygone drafts is an exercise steeped more in fact than frivolousness, with nary a sliver of entertainment value lost.

So join our second-annual Tampa Bay Times five-year rewind to the 2011 draft (well after rookie contracts have expired) to see which war rooms flourished and fizzled a half-decade ago. To make it more interesting, we added the grades given to those teams by Kiper (who based them mainly on needs and value) in the draft's immediate wake.

Biggest winners

Ravens

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: Three (including 2012 Super Bowl title)

Analysis: All eight members of this class played for the Ravens at some point. CB Jimmy Smith (first round) signed a $48 million extension last spring, and WR Torrey Smith (second) bolted for the 49ers after four prosperous years (213 catches, 30 TDs). Fifth-rounder Pernell McPhee might forever have endeared himself to Raven fans by strip-sacking Peyton Manning and tipping a Tom Brady pass (leading to a fourth-quarter interception) during Baltimore's Super Bowl run.

Kiper's 2011 grade: B-plus

Seahawks

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: Four (including 2013 Super Bowl title)

Analysis: Pete Carroll got little value in the early rounds, but uncovered an embarrassment of riches later on. K.J. Wright (fourth round), now one of the top outside linebackers in the game, was drafted one round ahead of some dude named Richard Sherman. CB Byron Maxwell (sixth) didn't play much his first two years, but evolved into a full-time starter who intercepted Aaron Rodgers in the 2014 NFC title game. And seventh-round LB Malcolm Smith? All he did was earn Super Bowl MVP honors.

Kiper's 2011 grade: D-plus. ("They did nothing really to help the defensive line and their sense of value was questionable.")

Bengals

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: Five

Analysis: Thirty-five picks into this draft, the Bengals had acquired a cornerstone receiver (A.J. Green) and quarterback (Andy Dalton). Fourth-round G Clint Boling evolved into a versatile offensive lineman and Bengals fixture up front. That trio of picks alone compensates for abysmal drafting in the final three rounds.

Kiper's 2011 grade: A-minus

Broncos

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: Five (including 2015 Super Bowl title)

Analysis: The drafting of Von Miller alone (No. 2 overall pick) made this draft worthwhile for Denver, but the Broncos added some key cogs later. T Orlando Franklin (second round) was a fixture up front for four years. Before encountering knee problems, S Quinton Carter (fourth) intercepted Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in the playoffs as a rookie. TE Julius Thomas (fourth) had 12 TD catches — most by a Denver tight end — in 2013. TE Virgil Green (seventh) has become revered as a de facto extra tackle.

Kiper's grade: B

Also in the hunt

• Cowboys (T Tyron Smith in first round, RB DeMarco Murray in third)

• Texans (Took J.J. Watt with 11th overall pick, and durable T Derek Newton in seventh round)

• Patriots (Drafted LT Nate Solder 17th overall; got production from RBs Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley)

• Steelers (Got DE Cam Heyward and T Marcus Gilbert in first two rounds; got value from fourth-round DB Cortez Allen)

• 49ers (Took LB Aldon Smith, QB Colin Kaepernick within first 36 picks; converted FB Bruce Miller evolved into seventh-round steal)

Biggest losers

Eagles

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: One

Analysis: Philadelphia's biggest embarrassment since Rocky V. The Eagles accumulated 11 picks and flopped on nearly every one. G Danny Watkins, the 26th overall pick, never had a heart for the game and was released after two years (he's now a firefighter). Second-round DB Jaiquawn Jarrett's most notable moment in Philly was a crushing block on one of his own teammates against the Steelers. One must dig to the sixth round before finding a guy (Pro Bowl C Jason Kelce) who stuck.

Kiper's 2011 grade: C-plus

Bears

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: None

Analysis: Hard to fault the Bears for how badly this class turned out. They took Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi with the 29th overall pick; signed him to a four-year, $7.06 million deal; then watched him mangle his knee in his second game. (Less than two years later, Carimi was traded to the Bucs.) Second-round OT Stephen Paea, for whom they surrendered second- and fourth-round picks, had one healthy season (six sacks in 2014) in Chicago.

Kiper's 2011 grade: B

Bucs

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: None

Analysis: Five years after using their first two picks on defensive ends (Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers), the Bucs still need pass-rush help. With eventual Pro Bowl players Cam Jordan and Mo Wilkerson still on the board, the Bucs used the 20th overall pick on Clayborn and got 13 sacks in four injury-besieged years. Bowers (four-plus seasons, seven sacks) also was injury-prone. Third-rounder Mason Foster had three solid years at middle linebacker, but didn't mesh in Lovie Smith's Tampa-2. A half-decade later, blocking TE Luke Stocker (fourth round) is the only '11 draftee still on the team.

Kiper's 2011 grade: B-plus ("... Clayborn will help in 2011, and Bowers could be an all-timer as a steal if he's healthy.")

Lions

Playoff appearances since 2011 draft: Two

Analysis: In the end, this group appeared in more precincts than Pro Bowls. Auburn DT Nick Fairley, the 13th overall pick, was inconsistent over four years (and arrested twice following his rookie season). WR Titus Young (second round) had a nice rookie year (48 catches) but discontentment and immaturity forced Detroit to release him after 2012. Another second-rounder, RB Mikel Leshoure, missed his entire rookie season (torn Achilles' tendon), then was busted twice within a month on pot-possession charges.

Kiper's 2011 grade: A-minus ("Detroit hit home runs all over in terms of value ...")

Also in the hunt

• Panthers (Got Cam Newton and nothing else)

• Packers (WR Randall Cobb only one of 10 draftees still on team)

• Jags (Took Blaine Gabbert with 10th overall pick)

• Colts (Four of their five picks lasted two or fewer seasons)

• Redskins (Only two of their 12 picks remain on roster)

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