clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2011 NFL Draft Grades: Five First Round Winners

With the first round in the books from last night's opening of the 2011 NFL Draft, it's time to for the inevitable Internet-timed celebration and criticism against those teams who fared best and worst. Let's be honest: not a single player has played a single down in a single game. Be that as it may, that doesn't stop any of us from wanting to discuss the acumen of front offices around the league.

Here are five winners from last night's first round:

1. Cleveland Browns - A team that only had five wins last season and faces a ruthless uphill climb in a division with the Ravens and Steelers needs all the help it can get. While an elite player could have been taken at the No. 6 choice, the Browns instead flipped the pick to a desperate Falcons team for five draft choices, including the Falcons' first two picks in 2012. The first addition brought the tremendous size and strength of nose tackle Phil Taylor from Baylor and the Browns have two second round choices tonight. Such a tremendous haul over two years will benefit this team for the next decade.

2. Detroit Lions - It's almost impossible to believe the Lions can pair Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley along the same defensive line, and head coach Jim Schwartz has to be kicking himself. At the same time, perhaps its a bit of draft karma after years of Matt Millen blunders. Already a strength, this instantly becomes the best line in the NFL and should even change the outcome of several games on the Lions schedule.

3. Buffalo Bills - In a draft filled with talented defensive linemen, the Bills take the cake with the most consistent, versatile force along the defensive front in Marcell Dareus. After last year's selection of Torell Troup (6-3, 315), the Bills now have a young impressive line to anchor the defense for years to come. While most predicted the Bills to take Von Miller, Dareus is a cornerstone for a franchise in need of one.

4. Houston Texans - As the Texans attempt to climb Mt. AFC South, it's going to take another pass rushing force opposite Mario Williams to force Peyton Manning into poor throws. Watt is a non-stop force who played his best in big games (two sacks against Ohio State; 10 tackles against Michigan State), and the Texans will feel his impact on the field from Week 1. As two other teams in the division add rookie quarterbacks (Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert), the Texans are lining up a legitimate pass rush at the right time.

5. Chicago Bears - This isn't a sexy choice, but the Bears were waiting like a spider for something valuable to land in their web at the end of round one. Chicago's porous offensive line surrendered 56 sacks last season and still made the NFC Championship game. Enter Gabe Carimi, a four-year starter at offensive tackle in a run-oriented offense at a top-flight program. It's the perfect fit at both value and need and provides the Bears the perfect choice.