For me giving out grades at the end of the NFL Draft is a big premature. Even though you can grade drafts on paper based on how you had kids ranked, you still haven’t seen any of these kids play a snap in the NFL. You want to try not to overreact because you don’t want to be one of these people:
Yeah I’ve been that guy before. Thankfully Ziggy Ansah is now a great player for the Detroit Lions and I’ll happily eat my words any day of the week.
Anyways, let’s take a look at some of the teams I thought did a fantastic job in this year’s draft…so far at least.
For my money my favorite draft out of any team. Vic Beasley fills a major need on the edge and I think he is the best pass rusher in the entire draft. He’s a physical freak and if he can get more involved in stopping the run, he will be a huge asset. The Falcons then added Jalen Collins, who has a few question marks, but could make for a formidable pair with Desmond Trufant. Tevin Coleman was a fantastic value pick and will likely supplant Devonta Freeman as the lead back at some point this season. Then they added Justin Hardy who will have an instant impact in the slot and then the best value pick in the draft in Grady Jarrett in the fifth round. I have no idea what caused Jarrett to slip, but the Falcons defense got a helluva lot better during the Draft. The only thing they didn’t do was address any offensive line needs early on, but with the way the board fell, they knocked their first five picks completely out of the park.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been caught in a serious predicament with their elite defense getting older and retiring and having cap issues. But, their last two drafts have done a great job in trying to get that fixed. Bud Dupree will need some time to develop, but Dupree and Jarvis Jones will make for an absolute force rushing the passer. They then add some much-needed secondary help with Senquez Golson and Doran Grant. Golson is on the smaller side, but he has a knack for making some big plays. Jesse James will be the heir apparent to Heath Miller at the tight end spot and Sammie Coates was a solid addition for the receiving core. If Coates can progress catching the ball, he’s going to see a lot of open space thanks to Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Anthony Chickillo was a great value pick and he will also help provide some pressure as a situational pass rusher. And like Chickillo, Gerod Holliman was a solid value pick in the 7th round. Holliman has a lot of issues but picking the ball off is not one of them. He had the most interceptions in the country last year and if he can get better in coverage and at tackling, he could be a contributor down the road.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the process of turning their franchise around and it’s nice to see them not taking punters in the third round anymore. Dante Fowler is a fantastic pass rusher and is a hard hitter. He’s going to provide instant juice to the Jaguars defense and will take pressure off the secondary. T.J. Yeldon was another solid pick and should make for a good pair with Denard Robinson. I’m not sure either back is able to carry the full load but they should be a formidable pair (though I wish Denard had been given a chance to take the job for his own). A.J. Cann will help add depth to the offensive line and should eventually start in the interior. James Sample has the ability to be a starting safety and though Gerod Holliman had more interceptions at Louisville, Sample is the better player. Rashad Greene will be a great player to round out their top four wide receivers and I still don’t know how they managed to nab Michael Bennett in the 6th round. NFL teams must know something about Bennett medically that isn’t known to the public because it was thought he would go in the 2nd or 3rd round.
I will have a more in-depth review of the Lions Draft later this week, but just know that I really liked this draft. It wasn’t perfect, by any means, but adding these 7 players plus Manny Ramirez is huge for this team. Laken Tomlinson is going to be the instant starter at left guard and Ameer Abdullah will provide instant juice in a run game that was brutal last year. I personally preferred Duke Johnson or Tevin Coleman because of Abdullah’s fumbling issues and inability to pass block, but he can make some serious plays with the ball in his hands. I didn’t love the Alex Carter pick, but he’s not going to have to play big minutes right away and neither will Quandre Diggs. Both of them though could end up starting down the line. Gabe Wright is a player that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin really liked and so I’m quite alright with him joining the defensive tackle rotation. I didn’t love taking Michael Burton in the 5th round, but the Lions clearly wanted a fullback and decided to forego wide receiver. Corey Robinson is a raw tackle and is purely a developmental player that seems a lot like Cornelius Lucas. It’s clear that the Lions wanted to provide a boost to the offensive line and the run game this year.
This is the second year in a row that I’ve loved the Minnesota Vikings draft. Trae Waynes may not be a perfect corner, but I think he is the best corner in the Draft right now. He has to improve as a tackler, but they needed secondary help badly in a division that is loaded with marquee wide receivers. Eric Kendricks was a fantastic pick in the second round and will have instant chemistry with his old teammate Anthony Barr. Danielle Hunter is an athletic defensive end that will help rush the passer with Barr and T.J. Clemmings can be a developmental tackle if he can get past his injury issues. I was also a huge fan of the Stefon Diggs pick, who is an explosive wide receiver and will be able to help stretch the field for the offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a very good draft, which is always important when you have a very, very bad team. Jameis Winston is a fantastic player on the field, despite the interceptions, and if he can stay out of trouble, will be a great franchise quarterback. They then spent their next two picks shoring up the offensive line and Ali Marpet is going to be one helluva guard. Donovan Smith gives them a future starting left tackle and should get used to protecting Winston’s backside sooner rather than later. Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay add two offensive weapons at wide receiver to go with Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson and I expect Clay to battle for a spot as a returner as well. Provided he doesn’t drop the football before crossing the goal line ever again.
Honorable Mentions (alphabetical order):
The Houston Texans had a very good first three picks and the last part of their draft is the only reason they didn’t make it into the winners column. Kevin Johnson has some work to do, but has a lot of potential. He fills a big need in the secondary, just like Benardrick McKinney does at linebacker. I fully expect McKinney to be a starter from day one and Jaelen Strong should be starting opposite Nuk Hopkins right away as well. Losing Andre Johnson made wide receiver a pretty big need and Strong should help fill that hole. Picking three day one starters with your first three picks is a very efficient way to help out your team.
The Phillip Dorsett pick may seem like a bit of a luxury pick, but it is going to make this offense extremely explosive. Adding Dorsett to TY Hilton and Andre Johnson makes for an incredible top three wide receivers with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen at tight end. D’Joun Smith will help out the secondary and is one of the best tackling corners in the whole draft. I would also slide Henry Anderson into the steal category and can play any position along the defensive line. Like the Texans, they used their first three picks very well.
New York Giants
You’ll see a theme here at this point…it’s another team that spent their first three draft picks in a very good way. Ereck Flowers will be the future starter at right tackle and would allow Justin Pugh to slide in to the interior. Landon Collins will start from day one and provide some help at a safety position that has absolutely no depth for the G-Men. Owamagbe Odighizuwa won’t start right away, but he will add a strong passing rushing flavor as he joins the defensive end rotation early on. Helping out the defense and providing Eli Manning with more time and protection should help the Giants improve right away.
Lions fans who hate when they draft wide receivers in the first round should thank the Eagles here, because the Lions were going to take Nelson Agholor with their pick at #23 and not trade down. I personally love Agholor and think he is a great fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. Losing Jeremy Maclin made wide receiver a pretty large need and Agholor and Jordan Matthews give the Eagles a nice young pair of route runners. Eric Rowe is likely to move to safety but if he doesn’t, his versatility and size make him a major asset. You can’t teach size or speed and Rowe has both. Jordan Hicks will be a starter at ILB eventually and he is a tackling machine with solid size. If Sam Bradford can return to form, the Eagles will be a dangerous team again.
San Diego Chargers
I absolutely loved the Chargers first two picks. They didn’t have a true starting running back on the roster prior to the NFL Draft and Gordon is going to take major pressure off of the passing game. He’s an elite running back that has a fantastic downhill running style and I’m a huge fan. If Denzel Perryman went to a smaller school, most would call him a sleeper. If he was bigger, he would have gone in the first 20 picks. He’s got fantastic instincts and will provide instant impact in the middle of the Chargers defense.