2013 NFL Draft grades: An 'A' for St. Louis Rams

7:54 AM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
Tavon Austin selected in first round of the NFL Draft. (Jerry Lai, USA TODAY Sports)
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Nate Davis, USA TODAY Sports

It takes about three seasons to accurately evaluate an NFL draft. It doesn't take 24 hours to unfairly grade it. So based on first impressions, USA TODAY Sports hands out report cards (written in pencil) for the just-completed 2013 draft:

St. Louis Rams: They might have hit on all seven players. West Virginia WRs Tavon Austin (No. 8) and Stedman Bailey (Round 3) give QB Sam Bradford needed options; LB Alec Ogletree (No. 30) is a steal if his head is on straight ... and Jeff Fisher is happy to help him; S T.J. McDonald (Round 3) is filling for another cavity; OL Barrett Jones (Round 4) plays anywhere, assuming he's healthy, and might take a guard spot in 2013; CB Brandon McGee (Round 5) looks like a dime back and special teams contributor out of the chute; and all-SEC RB Zac Stacy (Round 5) caps the haul. GM Les Snead opted against taking Robert Griffin III in 2012 but is doing his best to make that look like a smart move given the bounty he got in return. GRADE: A

Baltimore Ravens: It's difficult not to respect any draft run by GM Ozzie Newsome. He said in February that improving the guts of the defense was Priority No. 1, and he might have found three new starters in the first three rounds who should do exactly that: S Matt Elam, ILB Arthur Brown and DT Brandon Williams. Brown, in particular, backfills the ability and leadership departments after Ray Lewis' retirement, though any comparisons obviously are unfair. DE Kapron Lewis-Moore could surprise if healthy, and ex-Wisconsin T Ricky Wagner might get a look on an O-line also in transition. GRADE: A

Tennessee Titans: If the Mike Munchak era is to extend beyond this season, it's time to win now. No better way to do that than by importing quality rookies, four seemingly capable of making their marks instantly. G Chance Warmack (No. 10) and C Brian Schwenke (Round 4) complete an offensive line makeover that should benefit QB Jake Locker and RB Chris Johnson. WR Justin Hunter (Round 2) is a deep threat who might supplant Nate Washington, while CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Round 3) is a big corner who could take the nickel role and allow Alterraun Verner to shift into the slot. GRADE: A

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If they'd traded their entire draft for CB Darrelle Revis, who is only 27 and still has quite a few years to re-stake his claim as the NFL's best defensive player, GM Mark Dominik and Co. would probably look pretty smart. They look even better by getting another good cover guy (Johnthan Banks, Round 2) and young arm (Mike Glennon, Round 3) who might give the team negotiating leverage when QB Josh Freeman's deal runs out in 2014. GRADE: A

Cincinnati Bengals: They've quietly become a strong-drafting club, and it appears they nailed it for a fifth consecutive year. TE Tyler Eifert and RB Gio Bernard represent needed options for QB Andy Dalton when WR A.J. Green is double covered - which is usually. DE Margus Hunt ought to be a force on passing downs and special teams. Third-round SS Shawn Williams could crack the starting lineup. (For what it's worth, finally getting RT Andre Smith re-signed was an excellent sidebar from draft weekend.) GRADE: A

Kansas City Chiefs: Hard to argue with T Eric Fisher at the top, nor the trade of their second-round pick for QB Alex Smith. Fourth-round RB Knile Davis could more effectively assume the battering ram role behind Jamaal Charles after vets Thomas Jones and Peyton Hillis struggled in recent seasons. Former Alabama LB Nico Johnson (Round 4) might start, and Round 7 pass rusher Mike Catapano of Princeton is a developmental prospect to monitor. GRADE: A-

San Diego Chargers: It's not hard to argue they got first-round value on their first three selections, only one of whom actually cost them a Round 1 choice (T D.J. Fluker, No. 11). ILB Manti Te'o (Round 2) and WR Keenan Allen (Round 3) fell for various reasons, but new GM Tom Telesco was there to catch them and just might be rewarded with Pro Bowl dividends. One bit of advice: Go back to the free agent market, which still has quality blockers QB Philip Rivers really needs. GRADE: A-

Pittsburgh Steelers: Round 1 OLB Jarvis Jones? Bargain, should start. Round 2 RB Le'Veon Bell? Bargain, should start. Punishing Round 4 S Shamarko Thomas? Bargain and overdue investment. Round 4 QB Landry Jones? Intriguing. The rest is gravy. GRADE: A-

Houston Texans: WR DeAndre Hopkins could finally be the guy to complement and, perhaps one day, replace Andre Johnson. Hard-hitting S D.J. Swearinger probably won't start right away, but it may be tough not to find a role for him. DE Sam Montgomery's talent exceeds third-round value if coordinator Wade Phillips can light a fire under him. OL Brennan Williams and David Quessenberry could vie for roles on the right side. GRADE: A-

Green Bay Packers: Looks like GM Ted Thompson's usual haul of potential starters, including DE Datone Jones and quality depth (OL David Bakhtiari). And don't be shocked if fourth-round RB Johnathan Franklin pushes second-rounder Eddie Lacy (but nice value at No. 61) for playing time. GRADE: A-

Carolina Panthers: They only had five picks, but new GM Dave Gettleman appeared to get impact players. DTs Star Lotulelei (Round 1) and Kawann Short (Round 2 with Round 1 talent) could form one of the league's scariest lines in between DEs Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. Sixth-round RB Kenjon Barner could be a slippery change-of-pace option who could potentially allow Gettleman to trade Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams down the line. GRADE: B+

Chicago Bears: Not everyone viewed G Kyle Long as a first rounder, but the Bears did and think he might even be able to eventually nail down one of the tackle posts. Regardless, GM Phil Emery improved the protection in front of QB Jay Cutler and replenished the depleted linebacking corps with promising Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, who should be starting no later than 2014. Sixth-round DE Cornelius Washington is an exciting project. GRADE: B+

New Orleans Saints: A pretty nice job for a team that lost its second rounder in the aftermath of Bountygate. S Kenny Vaccaro (Round 1) is the playmaker the defense has lacked; OL Terron Armstead (Round 3) is a gifted athlete, and the Saints have a penchant for finding O-line gems; John Jenkins (Round 3) is the nose tackle the new 3-4 defense was lacking; and WR Kenny Stills (Round 5) could replace Devery Henderson as QB Drew Brees' deep threat. GRADE: B+

San Francisco 49ers: We're going to nitpick. First, kudos for getting first-round talents in RB Marcus Lattimore (Round 4) and DE Tank Carradine (Round 2), who can essentially redshirt in 2013 without counting against the Niners' already stacked 53-man roster. But given this team's talent, we would've liked to see them convert more of their picks into future selections rather than pick 11 players this year. S Eric Reid, whom the Niners came up to get at No. 18, may not be the slam dunk Vaccaro seems to be but does fill the vacancy created by Dashon Goldson's departure. With Delanie Walker also gone, TE Vance McDonald (Round 2) should play now in the team's favored double-tight sets. Like Lattimore, pass rusher Corey Lemonier (Round 3) and WR Quinton Patton (Round 4) could be impact players down the road. GRADE: B+

Jacksonville Jaguars: New GM Dave Caldwell's first draft looks like a very solid one, starting with T Luke Joeckel at No. 2. Much of the rest was devoted to the secondary, and new coach Gus Bradley oversaw an exceptional one while coordinating the Seahawks defense the past four years. Former Michigan QB Denard Robinson brings an X-factor element to the offense, but he's not going to compete with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne (nor is anyone else barring the addition of a free agent arm). GRADE: B+

New York Jets: If you purely judge this draft off the selection of QB Geno Smith in Round 2, alarm bells sound - though given Smith's talent, at least they didn't overreach. Still, his presence creates yet more distractions, and his arrival came at the cost of patching other holes on offense. But he wasn't the only player new GM John Idzik picked. Two potential impact defenders came via Round 1 (CB Dee Milliner, DT Sheldon Richardson), and needed O-line depth was selected in Smith's wake. Idzik also acquired 25-year-old RB Chris Ivory for a fourth rounder then signed him to a very reasonable three-year, $10 million deal - all things considered, a fairly deft stroke. GRADE: B

Arizona Cardinals: Guards aren't sexy picks, but they're invariably good ones, and Jonathan Cooper immediately improves a shaky line. Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor upgrade the depth of the defense, and Minter's likely to play immediately for suspended ILB Daryl Washington. RBs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington brought great value at the back of the draft, and either could push Rashard Mendenhall for carries. The Tyrann Mathieu selection is an intriguing risk. It's a plus that former LSU teammate Patrick Peterson can look after the erstwhile Honey Badger. But is this the best spot for Mathieu to succeed given he has to learn a new position (free safety) and may not get a chance to return many punts given how well Peterson already does that job? GRADE: B


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