Mel's NFC Grades
Mel Kiper Jr. hands out his NFC draft grades.
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Tuesday, May 1

NFC report card: Rams rise with defense

Here's how I graded each NFC team in the 2001 NFL draft:

Arizona Cardinals: Leonard Davis will more than likely be moved to guard, which will give them an opportunity to potentially have a good offensive line. By adding Davis after drafting Thomas Jones and L.J. Shelton to go with Jake Plummer over the last few years, the Cardinals may just try to outscore people. They did address their defense from the second round on. They drafted Kyle Vanden Bosch, a real hustler. I would have taken Aaron Schobel instead. Michael Stone isn't a bad player; he could move inside, but he should play corner, something they desperately need. I like Adrian Wilson as a pure safety. He has a lot of potential. Bill Gramatica should become their kicker. I thought they reached for Marcus Bell, and overall, their second-day choices didn't impress me. Grade: B-

Tommy Polley
The Rams took Florida State LB Tommy Polley in the second round.
Dallas Cowboys: I have major problems with the Cowboys' draft and was critical of them on both days of the draft. I thought quarterback Quincy Carter, whom they took in the second round, was at best a fifth-round pick. Tony Dixon, a safety from Alabama, isn't a bad player, but I thought he was more of a fourth- or fifth-round pick. He, like Morgan, was a major reach. Defensive tackle Willie Blade isn't a bad third-round pick if his shoulder holds up. I thought linebacker Markus Steele was overrated going into the draft, but I can live with him as a fourth-round pick. Center Matt Lehr was their best choice. He can play center and guard and is both strong and tough. Drafting Lehr in the fifth round saved the Cowboys from an "F" grade. Defensive tackle Daleroy Stewart had an injury, which clouds his status going into training camp. Colston Weatherington is a developmental defensive end. Char-ron Dorsey may have a chance as a backup tackle. Grade: D-

New York Giants: I like aggressive teams that make a move when they see a player who may not be available at their pick. The Giants made a good move to draft Will Allen, a solid corner. He didn't play as well as a senior, but he has all the physical skills and is a bright player. He could be a No. 2 cornerback opposite Jason Sehorn. Cornerback William Peterson was outstanding early in his career at Michigan before transferring to Western Illinois. He has ideal size and a lot of upside. Ultimately, I wouldn't be shocked if he turned out to be a better cornerback than Allen. The Giants really solidified the cornerback spot. Defensive end Cedric Scott was productive at Southern Mississippi. I really like the selection of quarterback Jesse Palmer. Kicker John Markham was a reach. With his speed and kickoff-return ability, receiver Jonathan Carter could be a factor. He's one of the fastest players in the draft. Defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej is a battler and hustler from Wisconsin. Grade: B

Philadelphia Eagles: I like the Freddie Mitchell pick in the first round. The Eagles need weapons for Donovan McNabb. Mitchell is a big-play receiver with a positive approach and a lot of confidence. Linebacker Quinton Caver made sense in the second round. Defensive end Derrick Burgess went early than I thought, but he has some pass-rush ability. I really like the selection of running back Correll Buckhalter in the fourth round. They needed a backup and some insurance behind Duce Staley, who is coming off a foot injury. Buckhalter is an excellent, underrated back who runs downhill, has breakaway speed and good size. He can also catch the football. Tony Stewart is an H-back type of tight end because he has great pass-receiving skills, although he is a suspect blocker and is not really fast. His receiving skills, though, could make him a factor for coach Andy Reid. And I know Reid likes quarterback A.J. Feeley. Even though he backed up Joey Harrington at Oregon, Feeley could become like Brad Johnson, an overlooked quarterback who backed up Casey Weldon at Florida State. Grade: B

Washington Redskins: Receiver Rod Gardner was an outstanding pick and is a big-time talent. He makes their draft because they needed a top-quality receiver. He dropped into their laps at No. 15. He could have a major impact opposite Michael Westbrook. Fred Smoot was a first-round possibility for a number of teams, but he needs to get in the weight room and improve his strength. He only did one bench-press rep and is 178 pounds. If he stays focused, the Redskins got the best cover cornerback in the draft. They liked quarterback Sage Rosenfels, but I would have opted for Jesse Palmer. Darnerian McCants is a sleeper at receiver who made sense as a second-day selection. Mario Monds was overrated at defensive tackle. He doesn't always play the ball well or play up to the level of his physical ability. He's not an instinctive player. Grade: B-

Chicago Bears: After Andre Carter -- the player they targeted -- was off the board, they audibilized to receiver David Terrell, who could be a weapon for whomever the Bears have at quarterback, whether it's Cade McNown, Shane Matthews or Jim Miller. Running back Anthony Thomas went about where he was projected, but he was a little overrated because he benefitted from Michigan's great offensive line. I like the pick of guard Mike Gandy. Defensive end Karon Riley was a nice choice, as was center Bernard Robertson. Receiver John Capel could help out as a return man. They managed to fill some needs. Grade: B-

Detroit Lions: Tackle Jeff Backus was a nice first-round choice. Center Dominic Raiola was taken about where he was expected to go. He needs some experience in pass protection. We will have to see how defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, with his injury, responds this season. He is more of a pick for the future. Receiver Scotty Anderson, quarterback Mike McMahon and linebacker Jason Glenn weren't bad in the late rounds. Grade: B-

Green Bay Packers: The Packers really wanted a receiver, but they needed a pass rusher like defensive end Jamal Reynolds. And he is a natural pass rusher. Getting Robert Ferguson in the second round diminishes the criticism of them not getting a receiver in the first round. Ferguson is a great talent, so the Packers did a nice job rebounding. Bhawoh Jue has a chance to be a corner in their defensive system. Torrance Marshall is the type of versatile linebacker they needed. I like the pick of guard Bill Ferrario because he's a battler. Tight end David Martin was a receiver who put on weight. He caught the football well in workouts before the draft. Grade: B

Minnesota Vikings: I know they had to replace Robert Smith, and Michael Bennett has speed and is a game-breaker, but I thought defense took precedence over running back, especially when you know they could have taken running backs later in the draft. Willie Howard, however, made sense at defensive end. He can play tackle or end. Defensive back Eric Kelly didn't play as well as a senior as he did as a junior. I thought he should have gone later than the third round. I also thought defensive tackle Shawn Worthen and receiver Cedric James were reaches. Linebacker Patrick Chukwurah and defensive back Carey Scott have a chance to be contributors, but the Vikings still didn't get enough defensive help. Grade: C

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tackle Kenyatta Walker fell into their laps after Jacksonville took Marcus Stroud. Walker has a chance to be their left tackle of the future, something they need. Defensive back Dwight Smith made a ton of big plays at Akron and is a nice third-round pick. John Howell, an in-the-box safety like John Lynch, is a tough kid who played a similar style at Colorado State. Guard Russ Hochstein was a reach. Running back Jameel Cook didn't excite me as a sixth-round pick. The other picks weren't too interesting. Grade: C+

Atlanta Falcons: Michael Vick has enormous potential. There is no question he's worth a roll of the dice if you consider someone who could develop into a Pro Bowl quarterback. And Atlanta believes that. Along with Vick, the Falcons tried to address other need areas. They took tight end Alge Crumpler. They drafted a quality center in Robert Garza, who I thought was a steal in the fourth round. Matt Stewart, in addition to being a reserve linebacker, should be their deep snapper. I like Vinny Sutherland; he is a Tim Dwight type as a return man, with good speed at receiver. As a late-round pick, tackle Kynan Forney has a chance to make the team. Corey Hall brings some versatility at either corner or safety. Quentin McCord was a nice seventh-round pick at receiver. Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers: I like the Dan Morgan selection in the first round. He can play outside linebacker with Lester Townes in the middle. Morgan gives their defense an attitude. I really like defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. His stock was rising, and he can be an outstanding pick. Steve Smith is a versatile receiver who can also help in the return game. Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, a fourth-round pick, could be the heir apparent at quarterback to Jeff Lewis and be starting pretty quickly, considering how Lewis has struggled. Of their late-round picks, safety Jarrod Cooper went about where he was projected. Tight end Mike Roberg could be a nice seventh-round pick. Grade: B

New Orleans Saints: They drafted running back Deuce McAllister, who has been one of my favorites all year. His selection is a wakeup call to Ricky Williams. Even if Williams is there, McAllister can be worked in as a punt or kickoff returner and as a receiver. Linebacker Sedrick Hodge, a third-round pick, needs to use his hands better to get off blockers quicker, but he's a great physical talent with tremendous speed. Defensive tackle Kenny Smith played really well early in his career at Alabama, but his play leveled off. Moran Norris was the No. 2 fullback on the board, but he did not play as well as senior as he did as a junior and was banged up. Receiver Onome Ojo could be a decent sleeper pick in the fifth round. Defensive tackle Ennis Davis, at one time in his college career, looked like a first- or second-rounder. He didn't play well last season. Grade: C+

St. Louis Rams: Defensive tackle Damione Lewis, because he is a penetrator with quickness, is a nice pick. With his toughness, safety Adam Archuleta will be ideal paired with Kim Herring. Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett was a bit of a reach, but he came out as a junior and has some upside. He's worth the risk as a third first-round pick. Tommy Polley came back from a knee injury and didn't make as many impact plays, but he got his weight up to the 235 pounds and is an excellent football player. He can fill a hole at outside linebacker. The Rams also drafted his teammate, linebacker Brian Allen. He is only six feet tall, but he is super strong and fast and was productive. Receiver Milton Wynn could be a steal. At more than 6-foot-2 with 4.5 speed, he gave Utah cornerback Andre Dyson all kinds of problems last season. Brandon Manumaleuna could be a backup tight end. Jerametrius Butler was on the rise before the draft because he was running outstanding 40 times. He also played well in coverage at Kansas State. Francis St. Paul is a similar player to Az Hakim. He has the same size and tremendous 4.31 speed as a return man. Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers: I like the aggressive move they made, trading up to get defensive end Andre Carter. They know they needed to get ahead of Chicago to the No. 7 pick, and they did. Carter is an excellent, solid football player. Linebacker Jamie Winborn is a tackling machine. He will work well in their system. The 49ers needed a running back, and Kevan Barlow is a big back who can bounce plays outside, run up the gut, or catch balls as well. I really like receiver Cedrick Wilson. He's a spunky player who can run the inside routes or get deep. He is a good third or fourth receiver and a solid return man. Cornerback Rashad Holman had his moments at Louisville, but he lacked consistency. Menson Holloway has some pass-rush ability. Alex Lincoln could be a backup linebacker and special-teams player. Eric Johnson has decent hands and was a productive pass-catching tight end at Yale. Grade: B

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