For the last few weeks, we all have been watching draft analysts on the NFL Network and ESPN go over every top player in next week’s draft. They tell us how they will be difference-makers or All Pros for the club that drafts them. The reality is, very few become All Pros or difference makers. Most turn out to become rank and file NFL players or even busts.
Immediately after the draft, we will see many of the analysts put grades on clubs' drafts. This will be good reading for the fans, but in actuality, it’s ludicrous. It takes a good two to three years to see if a draft turned out as well as advertised. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at the 2011 first round and see how each player actually turned out. I’ll give you a hint…it was a very strong first round!
1 – Cam Newton – Carolina – The Auburn quarterback had a record setting rookie year. He struggled some his second year, but with a new offensive coordinator (Mike Shula), he came back to have a strong third year. The Panthers won their division and Newton went to the Pro Bowl. Excellent pick.
2 – Von Miller – Denver – On the field, Miller has been a dominant player who was very worthy of being the second overall pick. His off field issues say the pick was a bit risky.
3 – Marcell Dareus – Buffalo – Dareus has been the anchor of the Bills defensive line and has already been to a Pro Bowl . An excellent choice.
4 – A.J. Green – Cincinnati – Green turned out to be as advertised. He is one of the best receivers in the NFL and a Pro Bowler. Another excellent choice.
5 – Patrick Peterson – Arizona – Peterson is one of the most gifted corners in the league. He is big, physical, and a top press cover guy. Add to that, his rare return skills. Another Pro Bowler and a great choice for Arizona.
6 – Julio Jones – Atlanta – The Falcons traded up to draft Julio, hoping he would be the final piece to the puzzle in getting them to a Super Bowl. The Super Bowl hasn’t happened, but Jones is one of the top receivers in the NFL. Great pick!
7 – Aldon Smith – San Francisco – This story is similar to Von Miller. On the field, Smith can be a dominating force. Off the field, he is a nightmare. He was selected to play in the 2013 Pro Bowl but didn’t play in the game because the 49ers were in the Super Bowl.
8 – Jake Locker – Tennessee – Locker has been inconsistent at best. He struggled with accuracy in college and that has carried over to the NFL. Being a top 10 pick, much was expected, and he has disappointed!
9 – Tyron Smith – Dallas – Like many rookie offensive tackles, Smith played on the right side as a rookie and was moved over to left tackle in 2012. In a short time, he has become one of the better left tackles in the NFL and a Pro Bowl selection. An excellent choice for the Cowboys.
10 – Blaine Gabbert – Jacksonville – Many analysts thought Gabbert was going to be a future Pro Bowler. I said he was the most over rated player in the draft, and he was! He is the first player to be considered a total bust from the 2011 Draft.
11 – J.J. Watt – Houston – In three seasons, he has become one of the most feared defensive linemen in the NFL. I don’t think there is anything else we need to say.
12 – Christian Ponder – Minnesota – The Vikings go into the 2014 Draft looking for a quarterback. That tells you the Ponder selection has not worked out.
13 – Nick Fairley – Detroit – Fairley has had his moments in the league, but overall, his play has been inconsistent. When he wants to turn it loose, he is very difficult to block. He has also had some off field issues. It’s fair to say he hasn’t quite lived up to being picked at 13.
14 – Robert Quinn – St. Louis – No one ever doubted Quinn’s talent, but he had some medical issues that caused him to drop to number 14. He has improved every year and is now one of the best edge pass rushers in the NFL. Another Pro Bowler.
15 – Mike Pouncey – Miami – Pouncey is the eleventh player in the first 15 selections that has been voted to a Pro Bowl roster. He has been a starter since his rookie year and anchors the Dolphins offensive line.
16 – Ryan Kerrigan – Washington – Kerrigan was a down defensive end at Purdue. Washington moved him to outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. He has been a very steady, if not dominant player at times. Great pick!
17 – Nate Solder – New England – Another tackle who played on the right side as a rookie and then moved over to the left side. He has been a very steady and consistent player for the Patriots. An excellent pick!
18 – Corey Liuget – San Diego – Liuget has been the anchor of the San Diego defensive line. He is a very steady player who can defend the run and rush the passer. An excellent pick at the 18 slot.
19 – Prince Amukamara – New York Giants – Amukamara broke his foot early in training camp during his rookie year. That caused him to miss half the season. He has been a starter the last two seasons with solid, but unspectacular results. At this point in his career, he has to be labeled a bit of a disappointment. This season will be very important for him.
20 – Adrian Clayborn – Tampa Bay – Like Amukamara, Clayborn has been steady, yet unspectacular. The Bucs have decided not to pick up the fifth year option on his contract. Recently, new head coach Lovie Smith said that Clayborn has to prove he is a good NFL player. This year will be big for Clayborn.
21 – Phil Taylor – Cleveland – Taylor’s play has been very solid for the Browns. He has been a starter since his rookie year. While he may not be a Pro Bowler yet, it could very well happen in the future. Good pick.
22 – Anthony Castonzo – Indianapolis – The Boston College product has been the Colts' starter at left tackle since training camp of his rookie year. He’s a very steady and consistent player who keeps getting better. An excellent selection for the Colts.
23 – Dan Watkins – Philadelphia – Drafting an overaged player (26 year old rookie) in the first round is never good business. Watkins was only a part time starter while in Philly and was cut earlier this offseason. A bust!
24 – Cam Jordan – New Orleans – Jordan has been a great player since his rookie year. A top football character guy who always goes all out. Another Pro Bowler from this class.
25 – James Carpenter – Seattle – He hasn’t been a total disappointment but hasn’t lived up to expectations either. He was drafted to play tackle but is now playing guard. He started 10 of 16 games played in 2013.
26 – Jonathan Baldwin – Kansas City – When a first round pick gets traded after only two seasons, you know something is wrong. He has only 44 career receptions in 3 seasons. Bust!
27 – Jimmy Smith – Baltimore – He played as the Ravens third corner during his first two seasons. He became the starter in 2013. He is a very steady and sometimes physical corner. Good pick.
28 – Mark Ingra
m – New Orleans – He has to be labeled a disappointment. He has run for only 1462 yards in three seasons. They were looking for a lot more when they made the selection.
29 – Gabe Carimi – Chicago – He played well the first part of his rookie year, injured a knee, and has struggled ever since. The Bears traded him to Tampa Bay last year and the Bucs have since cut him. A bust.
30 – Muhammad Wilkerson – New York Jets – The pre-draft book on Wilkerson was that he was raw but talented with upside. That has proved to be correct. He is a very solid performer for the Jets and a very good pick at number 30.
31 – Cam Heyward – Pittsburgh – Heyward started slowly but came on in 2013. Had 59 total tackles and five sacks in 2013. His overall play is not what they had hoped for, but the way he played last year may be a sign of things to come. The jury is still out.
32 – Derek Sherrod – Green Bay – He was drafted to become the starter at left tackle. He hasn’t started a game in three years. Huge disappointment.
With twelve players from the first round already being voted into the Pro Bowl, the first round of the 2011 draft has to be considered excellent. On the negative side, four quarterbacks were drafted in the top 12 selections and three of them have been disappointments. In the top part of the second round, two quarterbacks were taken (Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton) and both have led their teams to multiple playoff appearances.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe