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The Northerner

Patriots, Lions get highest grade

Marc Narducci KRT

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PHILADELPHIA – It takes a few years to truly evaluate a draft, but that’s no fun. Here’s a look at the two-day NFL draft and how teams fared:

The big winners

Detroit. First-round pick Roy Williams of Texas will team with Charles Rogers and Tai Streets to form a strong receiving corps.

Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones of Cardinal O’Hara should start from Day One, and second-round pick Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma should challenge for a starting linebacker spot.

New England. The Pats didn’t need to draft a running back after adding Corey Dillon from Cincinnati last week, so New England fortified its defensive line with Miami’s Vince Wilfork and LSU’s Marquise Hill. Georgia’s Ben Watson was the second-best tight end in the draft.

Tennessee. The Titans traded out of the first round, but got three No. 2s and two No. 3s and addressed defensive-line needs with three of their first four picks, including a strong value pick of Maryland’s Randy Starks at No. 71 in the third round.

Points are subtracted for not selecting a running back the first day.

New York Giants. Eli Manning could be a franchise quarterback for more than a decade. Second-round guard Chris Snee of Boston College will help a below-average offensive line.

Solid drafts

Atlanta. DeAngelo Hall (Virginia Tech) could be a shutdown corner, and Michael Jenkins (Ohio State) is a tall possession receiver who may take pressure off Peerless Price.

Carolina. First-round cornerback Chris Gamble (Ohio State) is a great athlete who is still learning the position. Second-round choice Keary Colbert (Southern Cal) was among the most underrated receivers in the draft.

New York Jets. The first two picks, Miami linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Oklahoma cornerback Derrick Strait, could be immediate starters.

Pittsburgh. The grade will be determined by the development of first-round quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio). Second-round cornerback Ricardo Colclough of Tusculum is a small-school player with big-play potential.

San Diego. Philip Rivers of North Carolina State is the team’s quarterback of the future. A weak defensive line was bolstered by two picks in Rounds 2 to 4, including Willingboro’s Shaun Phillips, a speed-rushing defensive end from Purdue.

Improved a bit

Minnesota. The Vikes went for defense with their first three picks. First-rounder Kenechi Udeze of Southern Cal should upgrade a weak pass rush.

Cleveland. The Browns paid a steep price to move one spot for tight end Kellen Winslow of Miami (trading a second-rounder), but he could be the best player in the draft.

The Browns still need receiving help.

Houston. First-round cornerback Dunta Robinson (South Carolina) fills a glaring need.

But the Texans may have reached for their second first-rounder, defensive end Jason Babin (Western Michigan).

New Orleans. At No. 18, the Saints got good value with Ohio State defensive lineman Will Smith.

Second-round linebacker Courtney Watson of Notre Dame could be a find.

Cincinnati. Second-round cornerback Keiwan Ratliff of Florida could make an immediate impact.

Biggest gambles

Buffalo. The Bills traded a No. 1 next year for quarterback J.P. Losman of Tulane, after drafting injury-plagued wide receiver Lee Evans of Wisconsin.

Dallas. The Cowboys traded out of the first round and settled for second-round running back Julius Jones of Notre Dame.

Getting a 2005 No. 1 pick from Buffalo could be a valuable one.

Less than strong

Philadelphia. Nobody knows how first-round offensive lineman Shawn Andrews will fare. The Eagles don’t have a strong recent track record with first-day picks from Arkansas.

Green Bay. The Packers drafted for depth at cornerback with the first two picks.

Third-round corner Joey Thomas of Montana State could be among the draft’s pleasant surprises.

Indianapolis. The Colts’ most pressing need may be linebacker. Third-rounder Gilbert Gardner (Purdue) or fourth-rounder Kendyll Pope (Florida State) may help.

Tampa Bay. Suddenly, receiver is a team strength after the Bucs nabbed LSU’s Michael Clayton at No. 15. Defensive-line concerns weren’t addressed the first day.

St. Louis. Running back Steven Jackson of Oregon State is the eventual replacement for Marshall Faulk. Second-round defensive end Tony Hargrove of Georgia Tech could see immediate playing time.

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Patriots, Lions get highest grade