Adam Kaplan of FOX Sports released a set of hastily written draft grades this morning. In the wave of analysis that follows every draft, there is always a tendency to over emphasize the importance of drafting for need early. Sports analysts decide early on what positions they think a team needs to address early in the draft, then cling desperately to their early ideas no matter what. These writers often issue harsh, reactionary evaluations of smart teams, and that is exactly what Kaplan has done here to the New England Patriots. Kpalan also fails to fully appreciate the majesty of the Cleveland Browns' draft haul this year.
Kaplan gives the Patriots' draft a "D" grade for reasons that I find totally impossible to understand. According to Kaplan, the Patriots effort was a near failure merely because they did not select anyone who could help their pass rush. This is absolute foolishness. While I do not dispute that acquiring a pass rusher would've helped the Patriots, it is important to remember that the Patriots won 14 games last year. The Patriots did exactly what a good team should do: draft for value. With picks like Ras-I Dowling in the second, Ryan Mallett in the third, and Marcus Cannon in the fifth, I just can't see how anyone could call the Patriots' draft a near failure.
Kaplan was also lukewarm on the Cleveland Browns, who should obviously be regarded as one of the biggest winners of the draft. The Browns ridiculous trade with the Atlanta Falcons alone should seal this draft as an amazing success. The Browns got an enormous number of picks, some of which they used this year to land truly impressive talent. The Browns' first three selections, DT Phil Taylor, DE Jabaal Sheard, and WR Greg Little are all incredible picks that will contribute immediately, but the value does not stop there. The Browns also got several late round steals, including highly regarded CB Buster Skrine in the fifth round. This kid an athletic specimen whose 4.37 40 yard dash at the combine does not begin to approximate his explosive play. In the same round they also selected Pitt product Jason Pinkston, a future interior lineman to whom many scouts gave second and third round grades. How anyone could grade this draft with anything less than an "A" is beyond my understanding.