|Charles Cherney / Associated Press|
|Gabe Carimi (with offensive line coach Mike Tice) should help fortify a porous Bears front line.|
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks recently handed out grades for each team for the 2011 NFL Draft. Here are the teams that were at the bottom of the class, scoring the lowest marks in the league for draft hauls.
Chicago Bears: C
The Bears didn't make any draft-day friends with their mishandling of a first-round trade, but the team came away with solutions to their biggest issues. Gabe Carimi is a significant upgrade over their incumbent starters. He will keep Jay Cutler upright in the pocket, while also adding some punch to their running game. Stephen Paea gives Rod Marinelli a high-energy replacement for Tommie Harris at defensive tackle. Chris Conte was added to address the team's safety issue, but he joins a long line of possible solutions at the position. Although the Bears suitably filled some of their biggest needs, the failure to add an impact receiver makes it tough to get overly excited about their draft haul.
Round 1 (29th overall): Gabe Carimi, OL, Wisconsin
Though he is ideally suited to play right tackle, Carimi could move inside to guard to fortify the interior of a leaky offensive line. Regardless of where he winds up, he is a significant upgrade at either position for the Bears.
Round 2 (53rd overall): Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Paea is a dynamic one-gap penetrator with outstanding strength, power and quickness. He plays with an active motor and adds a disruptive presence to their interior. He gives coach Lovie Smith the active defender in the middle that he needs to make his Tampa-2 scheme work.
Round 3 (93rd overall): Chris Conte, DB, California
Conte spent the early part of his career operating as a "rover" at Cal before transitioning to safety this season. His toughness and tackling will upgrade the Bears' back end, and he should be expected to make immediate contributions as a special teamer early in his career.
How others graded the Bears' draft
ESPN: B | CBSsportsline.com: C+ | Foxsports.com: B | Sports Illustrated: A- | Sporting News: B- | Yahoo! Sports: F
Minnesota Vikings: C
Leslie Frazier threw one of the draft's biggest curveballs with his selection of Christian Ponder at No. 12. Although the quarterback was regarded as a late first-round possibility, he becomes the new face of the franchise and has to carry the weight of the team's title hopes as a possible first-year starter. Second-round pick Kyle Rudolph will team with Visanthe Shiancoe to create an athletic tight end tandem that will stress defenses with their versatility. Christian Ballard gives the Vikings a young interior defender to groom behind the aging Williams Wall. The grade of this draft will ultimately come down to Ponder's performance, but the addition of two highly regarded players makes it hard to dismiss the Vikings' draft haul as a bust.
Round 1 (12th overall): Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Ponder has all of the leadership skills, intelligence and intangibles to be an effective starting quarterback, but the Vikings will need to tweak their offense to suit his skills as a quick-rhythm passer. He might not be ready to assume the mantle in Week 1, but he could be better than anyone anticipates as a pro quarterback.
Round 2 (43rd overall): Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
He allows offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to implement some multiple tight end formations with Visanthe Shiancoe and Rudolph creating mismatches in the passing game. If he can become more stout as a run blocker, he could help the Vikings utilize a dynamic offense that is balanced in all facets.
Round 4 (106th overall): Christian Ballard, DL, Iowa
Ballard gives them a rugged interior defender with the size and strength to be effective at the point of attack. He is a tremendous value pick for the Vikings at this point.
How others graded the Vikings' draft
ESPN: C+ | CBSsportsline.com: B- | Foxsports.com: C+ | Sports Illustrated: C- | Sporting News: C+ | Yahoo! Sports: D
Seattle Seahawks: C
The Seahawks entered the draft hoping to build on the momentum of their unlikely divisional title and postseason run. Pete Carroll has repeatedly voiced his desire to field a power-running offense, and his first two selections reflected his desire to become more physical upfront. James Carpenter and John Moffitt are rugged run blockers with the ability to move defenders off the ball, and they are ideal fits in Tom Cable's zone-based blocking scheme. Though there are some questions about where they came off the board, they should be immediate starters on the Seahawks' rebuilt offensive line. Kris Durham and Richard Sherman are intriguing developmental prospects, but they might be a year or two from being key contributors. Although the team picked up some vital young pieces to an emerging contender, the lack of sizzle surrounding the class leaves the team with some work to do in free agency.
Round 1 (25th overall): James Carpenter, OL, Alabama
The Seahawks add a utility player to their offensive line with the selection of Carpenter. He can play immediately at right tackle or slide inside to play along the interior at guard. The team needed to fortify their frontline, and Carpenter gives them talent, toughness and versatility.
Round 3 (75th overall): John Moffitt, G, Wisconsin
Pete Carroll wants to showcase a punishing ground attack, but he lacked the interior presence to execute the tactic a season ago. However, the addition of Moffitt gives the offense a rugged interior blocker with the strength and power to move defenders off the point. He will compete immediately for playing time at one of their guard spots.
Round 4 (99th overall): K.J. Wright, LB, Mississippi State
Pete Carroll takes a flyer on a rangy athlete with the selection of Wright. He brings some rush skills to the table and has the explosiveness to be an effective chase player on the backside. He also provides some much-needed speed to their special teams unit.
How others graded the Seahawks' draft
ESPN: C- | CBSsportsline.com: C- | Foxsports.com: D | Sports Illustrated: B | Sporting News: D | Yahoo! Sports: C
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.