NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Chad Reuter are handing out grades for every team following the 2012 NFL Draft. Click the team name to see each team's entire class.
Rick Smith used the draft to accentuate an already potent roster. The selection of Whitney Mercilus in the first round appeared to be a luxury pick, considering the production of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed in Mario Williams' absence a season ago, but a team can never have too many pass rushers with the proliferation of the passing game in today's NFL. DeVier Posey gives the Texans a flashy No. 3 receiver, but his inconsistency could prevent him from developing into a key contributor. Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones and Jared Crick are sleeper picks with extraordinary promise. If the trio plays up to their collective potential, the Texans have quietly hit a home run with this year's class.
Best pick: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois (Round 1, 26th overall pick).
The nation's sack leader in 2011 has been pegged as a "one-year wonder," but Mercilus displays the explosiveness and rush skills to develop into a dominant edge player in Wade Phillips' scheme. If his game continues to grow, there is no reason why he shouldn't blossom into a double-digit sack producer as a pro.
A tip of the hat should go to Ryan Grigson for assembling a draft class that will enable Andrew Luck to have immediate success as the Colts' new franchise quarterback. The selections of Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen give Luck a pair of dynamic tight ends to target over the middle of the field, while T.Y. Hilton provides him with the explosive home-run threat to feature on vertical throws. Vick Ballard is the big, physical runner needed to alleviate pressure on the passing game, and his presence could create big-play opportunities off play action. Although the reconstruction of the Colts remains a work in progress, this talented class of playmakers could serve as the foundation for a team that jumps back into contention quicker than anyone anticipates.
Gene Smith shed his conservative approach to make a big trade in hopes of landing a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Justin Blackmon was the most dominant wideout in college football the past two years, and he possesses the size, athleticism and ball skills to take over the game from anywhere on the field. Andre Branch is the explosive edge rusher the Jaguars desperately need for their defense to rank among the elite. The early selection of Bryan Anger raised some eyebrows, but a defensive-oriented team places immense value in winning the field-position battle, so it's hard to downgrade Jacksonville for taking the best punter in the draft.
Sleeper pick: Mike Harris, CB, Florida State (Round 6, 176).
Harris only has one year of starting experience at the major-college level, but he is a polished slot corner with size and speed.
The Titans wanted to become more explosive on both sides of the ball, and their first two picks are indicative of that philosophy. Kendall Wright was an electrifying playmaker at Baylor, and he gives Tennessee another explosive option in the vertical passing game. Zach Brown is one of the best athletes in this class, but he doesn't display natural instincts or awareness at the position. Although selecting a project in the early rounds isn't ideal, his immense talent and potential could pay significant dividends for the Titans. Coty Sensabaugh and Markelle Martin are underrated talents capable of quickly outplaying their respective draft slots.
Sleeper pick: Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State (Round 6, 190).
Martin slid down draft boards after unimpressive showings in workouts, but he is a ball hawk with range and speed. Although he enters the league viewed as a backup, he certainly has the skills to be a legitimate starter in Tennessee.