NFL Draft: First round grades


  1. Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett: DE – Texas A&M

A+: The Browns made the correct choice by drafting the best player in the draft. There were rumors that they wanted Mitchell Trubisky, but that would’ve been a big mistake. Cleveland has a lot of holes on their roster, so it was smart to take the best player available and worry about getting a quarterback later.


  1. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers) select Mitchell Trubisky: QB – North Carolina

D+: I like Mitchell Trubisky as a mid-first round pick, but I have major issues with him being drafted in the top five. The Bears gave up multiple picks to move up one spot when they could’ve drafted Trubisky with the third pick. Although this was a stupid trade to make, nobody will care what the Bears gave up to get Trubisky if he develops into a top tier quarterback. I think he’ll be an average starter at the next level, so I’m not a fan of the move.


  1. San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears) select Solomon Thomas: DE – Stanford

B+: I’m not a Solomon Thomas guy like most people in the draft community, but I like that the 49ers were able to get their guy and trick the Bears into giving them multiple picks to move down one spot. They fleeced the Bears in this trade. First year GM John Lynch did a fantastic job. I had Thomas ranked lower than most people, but I understand the pick.


  1. Jacksonville Jaguars select Leonard Fournette: RB – LSU

A: Although I’m usually against drafting a running back early in the first round, I think the Jaguars made an excellent pick drafting Fournette. He’s a once in a generation type of running back. He was picked at the same spot that Ezekiel Elliot was picked last year, and he’s much more talented as a runner. He’s not as versatile as Elliot and won’t be as productive as a rookie, but that’s because he won’t be running behind the best offensive line in the league in Dallas. Blake Bortles struggled last season, so getting a bell cow running back like Fournette will help alleviate some of the burden for Bortles. Tom Coughlin wants a physical runner being the focal point of this offense, and nobody in the draft can provide that like Fournette.


  1. Tennessee Titans select Corey Davis: WR – Western Michigan

B+: Although I had Mike Williams ranked a bit higher, I like the draft pick of Corey Davis. He wasn’t able to work out for teams, but he shows that he’s a great athlete on tape. He’s a versatile receiver that can play inside and outside, and he’ll instantly become Marcus Mariota’s number one receiver. They needed a wide receiver and cornerback in the first round, so they decided to take the receiver and wait on the corner until the 18th pick. The cornerback class was deep, so this ended up being a smart decision. The other two first round wide receiver prospects were drafted in the top nine, so they would’ve missed out on a receiver if they didn’t take Davis. This was a bit of a reach, but I think it will pay off handsomely in the long run.


  1. New York Jets select Jamal Adams: SS – LSU

B+: I’m not as high on Jamal Adams as most people in the draft community, but I really like the fit in New York. Adams is a leader and a winner, and will help change the culture in New York. He’s a versatile safety that will play his best ball in-the-box. He can cover tight ends and running backs in man coverage, and is a sure tackler. I like Malik Hooker more as a safety, but Adams fits the Jets’ scheme better. This was a safe pick and will make the New York’s defense better right away.


  1. Los Angeles Chargers select Mike Williams: WR – Clemson

A-: I’m higher on Mike Williams than most people in the draft community. I think he has an elite skill set that reminds me of Dez Bryant. He isn’t the fastest receiver, but he’s extremely physical and makes contested catches look easy. The Chargers are trying to make one last run with Phillip Rivers, so getting him an elite receiver should help right away. Keenan Allen is extremely talented, but it’s hard to depend on him because of the plethora of injuries that he’s suffered. There are a lot of good receivers in Los Angeles, but Williams should separate himself from the pack as a rookie.


  1. Carolina Panthers select Christian McCaffrey: RB/WR – Stanford

B: I’m not a big McCaffrey fan, but I love the fit in Carolina. There were rumors that the Panthers wanted Fournette, but he doesn’t run well out of the shotgun. Cam Newton is at his best in the shotgun, so McCaffrey is the better fit in Carolina even though Fournette has a lot more talent. Fournette was off the board anyways, so this was an easy choice for Carolina. I had McCaffrey as a late first round grade because I think he’s a gadget player. I don’t think he can run between the tackles consistently in the NFL. I like McCaffrey more as a slot receiver than pure running back. But I think he can be great if he’s properly used in both roles. The Panthers need to be creative in how they get him touches. Newton doesn’t like to throw the ball close to the line of scrimmage or to running backs, so I have my concerns that this might not work. But he’ll have to learn to make these short throws because they invested an early pick in McCaffrey’s talents.


  1. Cincinnati Bengals select John Ross: WR – Washington

D+: I like John Ross the football player, but this was a big reach. I had Ross as a late first round pick without the medical concerns. With his lack of stature and injury concerns, I thought he should be an early second round pick. This seemed like a luxury pick for a team that has way too many holes to be making this type of pick. I understand that Ross can stretch the field vertically and open things up for A.J. Green, but I think Ross will be a slot receiver because he struggles getting off of press coverage. He has elite speed, but Andy Dalton doesn’t have a strong enough arm to get him the ball on deep routes. Ross can run past the coverage but it doesn’t do the Bengals any good if Dalton can’t get him the ball. I don’t like the fit and I think it was a huge reach for a team that needed to address other positions.


  1. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills) select Patrick Mahomes: QB – Texas Tech

C: In the long run, this pick will either be an A or an F. Mahomes is the classic boom-or-bust prospect that will either be elite or terrible. Since I’m not sure if he’ll be great or terrible, I split the difference and gave this pick a C. I like the fit with Mahomes playing for Andy Reid and I love Kansas City’s aggressiveness to get their guy. Alex Smith is a nice quarterback, but he’s not a quarterback that will lead them to a championship. Mahomes is basically the exact opposite of an Alex Smith. He’s a wildcard that plays every play like backyard football. He reminds me of a mix between Brett Favre and Johnny Manziel. I wouldn’t have taken a chance on him in the first round, but I understand why the Chiefs did. This will either ended up being the best or worst pick of the first round.


  1. New Orleans Saints select Marshon Lattimore: CB – Ohio State

A+: The Saints lucked out by getting the top cornerback in the draft with the eleventh pick. Their defense needs a lot of work, and they were able to get a top ten player to fall into their laps. Lattimore will be able to start day one for a secondary that was terrible last season. This was one of the best picks in the draft.


  1. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns) select Deshaun Watson: QB – Clemson

A+: Deshaun Watson was my favorite quarterback in this draft class. He was the third quarterback off the board, but he got drafted to the perfect team. I think situation plays a bigger role in a quarterback’s success than most people realize. Bill O’Brien is a quarterback guru, and should be able to coach the mistakes out of Watson. The Texans have one of the best defenses in the NFL and have offensive weapons that will help Watson adjust to the NFL game. They just needed a quarterback, so they traded up to get the best one in this year’s draft. It’s a gamble, but I think it will pay off handsomely.


  1. Arizona Cardinals select Haason Reddick: LB – Temple

A: This is a fantastic pick for the Cardinals. They love versatile defenders (Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon), and Reddick fits that mold. He can play all four linebacker spots in their 3-4 defense and defensive end in their nickel packages on passing downs. He’s an elite athlete and has great pass rushing abilities. He’ll probably be used in a variety of spots on this defense. I like Reddick and think he’ll be properly utilized in Arizona.


  1. Philadelphia Eagles select Derek Barnett: DE – Tennessee

B-: Derek Barnett is a very polarizing prospect in this year’s draft. Some people don’t like him because he’s a poor athlete, and others like him because of his production. I think that he’ll be able to overcome his athletic limitations because of his stellar technique. Barnett understands how to use his hands and leverage to get to the quarterback. He’s good at stuffing the run too, so he’ll be a three down player for the Eagles. I think there were other players on the board that would’ve filled their needs better, but I think Barnett will be a good player for them.


  1. Indianapolis Colts select Malik Hooker: FS – Ohio State

A+: Hooker was a top three player on my board, so this was one of the steals of the draft. He has durability concerns, but has elite traits that could make him an All-Pro safety. He reminds me of Earl Thomas by the way he tracks the ball as a centerfielder. He’ll be able to start day one and should be one of the top candidates for defensive rookie of the year.


  1. Baltimore Ravens select Marlon Humphrey: CB – Alabama

A: I’m much higher on Marlon Humphrey than the consensus. Most people in the draft community think this was a reach, but I would’ve taken Humphrey in the top ten if I needed a cornerback (if Lattimore was off the board). Humphrey is an elite athlete and has the traits to become an All-Pro corner. He has issues tracking the ball down the field, which was a major issue that plagued him in the National Championship Game against Mike Williams. If he cleans up that part of his game, he’ll make Baltimore’s investment in him worthwhile.


  1. Washington Redskins select Jonathan Allen: DE/DT – Alabama

A+: Jonathan Allen was one of the top ten players in this draft. He fell to the seventeenth pick because of injury concerns, but he shouldn’t have issues with his arthritic shoulders until after he retires. He didn’t test well at the combine, but he’s a great football player that wins because of technique and leverage. This was one of the steals of the draft.


  1. Tennessee Titans select Adoree’ Jackson: CB – USC

C-: I like that Tennessee was able to get a wide receiver and cornerback in the first round, but I think taking Adoree’ Jackson this high was a big gamble. I had him as a second round prospect, but I understand why they’d take this risk. He hasn’t been able to focus on football during his offseasons until this draft season. Now that he’s fully invested in football (and not track), he should make improvements to his technique that could allow him to dominate at the next level. He’s a great athlete that should be an elite returner right away (and could play some offense), but it will take him time to become a great defensive player. He has the traits, but I think he might be at his best as a nickel corner. This was a boom-or-bust pick that I wouldn’t have made, but I understand what Tennessee was thinking.


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select O.J. Howard: TE – Alabama

A+: Tampa Bay made one of the best picks in the draft by selecting O.J. Howard. I had Howard as a top ten player in this class. He’s a versatile tight end that can block and catch, and is a great athlete for his position. He has an extremely high floor and high ceiling. I can’t imagine him busting at the next level. The Buccaneers need to get Jameis Winston weapons, and they did just that by selecting Howard.


  1. Denver Broncos select Garett Bolles: OT – Utah

B: The Broncos needed to improve their offensive line, so they took the top tackle in the draft. I had Forrest Lamp as my top offensive lineman, but most teams view him as a guard prospect. Bolles needs to improve his technique in pass protection, but he has the size and skill set of a starting left tackle. He’s already a mauler in the run game and has the mean streak that teams covet in offensive lineman. There isn’t a ton of upside with this pick, but Bolles should be a solid starter for at least the next five years.


  1. Detroit Lions select Jarrad Davis: LB – Florida

A: The only reason that this pick doesn’t get an A+ is because Reuben Foster was still on the board. I think Jarrad Davis is going to be a star middle linebacker for the Lions. They replaced former Pro Bowler DeAndre Levy with a future Pro Bowler. Davis wasn’t as good last season as he was two years ago, but his inconsistencies on tape were due to injuries that he was playing through. Davis is a downhill thumper with enough athleticism to cover tight ends and running backs in man and zone coverage. He was the leader and best player on the elite Florida defense from two years ago. When I was trying to watch other Florida prospects during the last two draft seasons, I kept getting distracted by Davis. He was making plays all over the field. Davis should be a day one starter at middle linebacker and will become the leader of Detroit’s defense.


  1. Miami Dolphins select Charles Harris: DE/OLB – Missouri

C+: I’m not a big Charles Harris fan, but I understand the pick. Miami needs a pass rusher to take over for Cameron Wake when he moves on, so they drafted his eventual replacement in Harris. I think Harris has some upside, but he’s not a great athlete. It’s hard for me to doubt a Missouri pass rusher because of how successful many of them have been recently, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris doesn’t live up to the hype. He’ll be learning from one of the best ever in Cam Wake, but I think this was a bit of a reach.


  1. New York Giants select Evan Engram: TE/WR – Mississippi

C+: I like Evan Engram, but I’m a bit confused with this pick. I understand that the Giants are getting Eli Manning weapons for one last Super Bowl run, so I get it from that perspective. But the Giants are at their best in 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers). Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard will be their three wide receivers. Evan Engram is basically a large wide receiver. Although he is considered a tight end, he doesn’t block and will be used as a receiver. So this will basically force the Giants to be in 10 personnel (1 running back, 0 tight ends, 4 wide receivers). With Engram on the field as a “tight end” that cannot block, the defenses will know that the Giants won’t be running the ball. They’ll be able to keep two safeties deep to make it difficult for Manning to find open receivers. If they want to run the ball, they’ll probably put a blocking tight end in the game with Engram. That will force emerging star receiver Sterling Shepard to get off the field. I like Evan Engram and understand what the Giants were thinking, but I’m not sure that he fits their personnel. They have other needs on their team and should’ve addressed them with this pick instead of picking Engram.


  1. Oakland Raiders select Gareon Conley: CB – Ohio State

C: This was a very risky pick. If the allegations against Gareon Conley are proven false, then the Raiders got a steal by picking him towards the end of the first round. If the allegations are proven true, they will have to cut him and will be the laughingstock of the league for wasting a first round pick. He’s extremely talented, but they better be right when they say that he’s innocent. It’s not a risk I would’ve taken, and it could have dire consequences if Conley is proven guilty.


  1. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans) select Jabrill Peppers: ATH – Michigan

A-: Peppers is one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft. I called him an athlete (like in college football recruiting) because there are a plethora of places that he can play. I think he’ll be a great returner and has a chance to play a bit on offense (if Hue Jackson uses him correctly), but he’s a defensive weapon that can play all over the field. I think his best position is as an in-the-box strong safety, but I think he has the ability to be a free safety, dime linebacker, or nickel corner too. Gregg Williams will love his versatility and will likely line him up all over the field. Some people hold it against Peppers that he didn’t dominate at one position in college, but I consider his versatility a strength. I might be in the minority, but I think this was a fantastic pick.


  1. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks) select Takkarist McKinley: DE/OLB – UCLA

A-: I’m not usually a fan of trading up in the first round for someone that isn’t a quarterback, but I’m such a big Takk fan that I can’t blame the Falcons. Atlanta values speed and toughness on their defense, and there isn’t a faster or tougher defensive end than Takkarist McKinley in this draft class. He has the best motor of any pass rusher in this class. He needs to improve his technique, but I know Dan Quinn will get the best out of him. Atlanta needs a pass rusher opposite of Vic Beasley, and McKinley should be that guy from day one. Don’t be surprised if he becomes one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. He has the heart and traits to be an elite pass rusher, and in time will develop the technique under Dan Quinn’s tutelage to become a ten sack per year defensive end.


  1. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs) select Tre’Davious White: CB – LSU

A-: The Bills traded back from the tenth pick and drafted a solid cornerback. Tre White won’t be a home run, but he’s a solid double all day long. He doesn’t have the upside that some other corners do, but he’s an extremely safe prospect. He can be an outside corner or nickel corner, and is scheme versatile enough to play both man and zone coverages. This was a great value pick and filled a need. White should be a day one starter in Buffalo.


  1. Dallas Cowboys select Taco Charlton: DE – Michigan

C: I’m not a big Taco Charlton fan, but I understand the pick. The cornerbacks that Dallas wanted were already drafted, so they took the best defensive player left on their board. I think Charlton could be a great pass rusher, but he needs to refine his technique. He played at a high level this season, but there’s a chance that he is a one-year wonder. He’s big enough to bump inside on obvious passing downs, so his versatility will be a strength. I had a second round grade on Charlton, so I’m not a huge fan of the pick.

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  1. Cleveland Browns (from Green Bay Packers) select David Njoku: TE – Miami

A-: I wasn’t a big Njoku fan like most draft experts, but I think this is right around where he should’ve been picked. Some people thought he was a top 20 prospect, but I think that’s a bit rich. He has a ton of upside and athleticism, but it might take him a while to reach his potential. Cleveland is years away from competing, so Njoku will be given an opportunity to learn without being rushed. I’m not usually a fan of trading up in the first round if it’s not for a quarterback, but Cleveland had a lot of assets and got a player that will fit in nicely on their offense.


  1. Pittsburgh Steelers select T.J. Watt: OLB – Wisconsin

D+: I’m not a fan of this pick. I have T.J. Watt as a third round prospect. If he wasn’t related to future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt, I don’t think he’d go in the first round. He has upside as a pass rusher and improved drastically last season, but he didn’t show enough consistency on tape to warrant a first round selection. I think he’s a nice fit in Pittsburgh, but this was a giant reach.


  1. San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks from Atlanta Falcons) select Reuben Foster: LB – Alabama

A+: The 49ers won the first round of the draft. I’m not as high on Solomon Thomas as most people in the draft community, but they did a great job of getting additional picks and Thomas by moving down one spot. Then they traded back into the first round to get a player that was a potential top five pick with the 31st pick. This was an absolute steal. I know he has injury and character concerns, but Foster is an elite player on tape. This was a risk that they had to take. John Lynch deserves a lot of credit for this pick.


  1. New Orleans Saints select Ryan Ramczyk: OT – Wisconsin

B-: I think this was a nice value pick, but I don’t understand why the Saints didn’t address their defense. They don’t have a need at offensive tackle now, but I understand trying to get Zach Strief’s replacement before it’s too late. Strief is aging and won’t be around much longer, so I can’t criticize them too much for tacking a tackle. The Saints are a good defense away from being Super Bowl contenders, so I’m surprised they didn’t draft a defensive player with both of their first round picks. Lattimore and Ramczyk were both good value picks, but I think they would’ve been better served to take the best defensive player on their board.


First pick for teams not picking in the first round:


33 (1st pick of round 2). Green Bay Packers select Kevin King: CB – Washington

B-: I’m not as high on Kevin King as most draft experts are, but I think he’s a good value pick in the second round. The Packers need defensive back help, and King has more upside than most corners in this class. He has the measurables and athleticism that teams covet, but he needs to refine his technique. I think it might’ve been a wiser decision if the Packers drafted a cornerback that has better technique because they are in the middle of their championship window. It might take King a few years to reach his peak, and the Packers championship window may be closed by then. It’s a risk drafting King, but it could pay off if he becomes an elite corner.


35 (3rd pick of round 2). Seattle Seahawks select Malik McDowell: DT – Michigan State

B+: I’m not a Malik McDowell fan, but I love his fit in Seattle. As a Seahawks fan, I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t draft an offensive lineman. I wouldn’t have liked any team selected McDowell in the first three rounds other than the Seahawks. He’s a perfect fit for their culture. McDowell is a top ten talent but has major issues with his effort. His team struggled this season, so he basically stopped trying. That is a huge red flag, but I trust Pete Carroll to get the best out of him. He’s taken on character concerns before, and they usually thrive under Carroll’s tutelage. He’ll be put into a rotation which will allow him to rest. I don’t think he’ll have motor issues playing in Seattle. There are too many alpha dogs on this defense that won’t let him slack off. I think drafting an offensive lineman could’ve been a smarter move, but this could be a home run if McDowell reaches his potential.

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41 (9th pick of round 2). Minnesota Vikings select Dalvin Cook: RB – Florida State

A: Without the injury and off-field concerns, Dalvin Cook is a top twenty pick in this draft. He’s a versatile running back with the ability to run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield. He didn’t have a great showing at the combine, but his tape shows that he’s a great athlete. The Vikings need a running back to replace Adrian Peterson, and I’d be surprised if Cook doesn’t become the starter before his rookie season ends. They recently signed Latavius Murray, but Cook is a lot more talented if he can stay healthy and out of trouble.


44 (12th pick of round 2). Los Angeles Rams select Gerald Everett: TE – South Alabama

D+: I like Gerald Everett as a third or fourth round pick, but I think this is a reach picking him in the first half of the second round. Everett is a classic move tight end, but they just drafted a move tight end in Tyler Higbee last season. I like Higbee a lot more as a prospect than Everett, so this pick seems redundant. I understand that the Rams want to get weapons for Jared Goff, but I think they made a big mistake reaching for Everett.


83 (19th pick of round 3). New England Patriots select Derek Rivers: DE/OLB – Youngstown State

B+: Although the Patriots’ first round pick was traded for Brandin Cooks (A+ first round pick), their first pick in this draft was Derek Rivers in the third round. Many people in the draft community had a 2nd round grade on Rivers, but I thought this was right where he should be picked. Rivers is a high upside pass rusher that should be a great fit in New England. This was a great value pick that filled a need. Typically the Patriots like to have as many picks as possible, but this year they traded away picks for established players. Although they didn’t have a draft pick until round three, I think New England was one of the winners of the draft.

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