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NFL draft grades

There was a lot to like -- and some to hate -- about this year's draft.

There was a lot to like -- and some to hate -- about this year's draft.

Here's what we saw, from New England and elsewhere.

Bill Belichick's drafting: B

You can't argue (too much) with LT Nate Solder at No. 17. The Patriots desperately need help on that side of the line, and getting a solid youngster there should wrap up Tom Brady's blindside for years to come. Ditto for CB Ras-I Dowling and RB Shane Vereen. They're decent players, and could play big roles in two or three years.

But one things stands out: Where were the D-linemen? As nice as Solder is, Cameron Jordan was available when the Pats picked. He could have given an immediate boost to the entire defense by putting pressure on opposing QBs. As it is, there's still a whole lot of nothing there. Dowling had better develop quickly; that secondary's going to be tested again and again.

The Ryan Mallett pick: A

What's not to like? By this stage in the draft, there weren't a ton of huge-impact guys left on the board. Mallett could become a total stud ... or he could wash out. Let's be honest: By No. 74 overall, it's not that huge of a deal.

It's not like the Patriots gambled with the No. 1 overall pick. Speaking of which ...

The Cam Newton pick: D

Really, Carolina? We'll admit there was no true No. 1 talent out there this year. But there were a dozen guys more suited to the role than Newton, a total wild card.

The Panthers were clearly looking to sell tickets with this pick. Too bad. Trading down or taking a cornerstone defensive player would have been a better move.

The Julio Jones pick: B

The Falcons are clearly "all in" with their current core. Otherwise, they wouldn't have sold the farm to get someone like Jones high in the first round. But they did. Can't argue with a team playing for everything.

(On a related note, draft BC's Matt Ryan in your fantasy league this year.)

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