The 2017 NFL Draft is officially in the books. The excitement and intrigue is sadly over and we now set our sights towards the offseason programs and training camps around the corner. However, before we head on to the next phase of the football offseason, we are closing off the draft season with our final draft grades across the league. While it may be jumping the gun to dole out grades on prospects who have yet to hit the field, we can look at the teams who appear to have hit the mark filling their needs, and those who fell short. Alex starts us off with a look at the NFC, and I end things covering the AFC.
49ers grade: A
I am not being biased here. I truly felt like the 49ers had a fantastic draft. John Lynch hit a home run in his first rodeo and came out impressive. The 49ers were able to obtain two top 10 overall prospects in DE Solomon Thomas and LB Reuben Foster in the first round. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is a tall press corner who has a high ceiling. There are some questions about his tackling abilities but I believe this will improve. Joe Williams is great value in round 4, who plays like he could have been selected in the 2nd round. Trent Taylor led all receivers in yardage this past season. George Kittle offers depth at the tight end unit that needs all the help they can get. LB Pita Taumoepenu, CB Adrian Colbert, and DL DJ Jones are intriguing developmental prospects.
Lastly, I like CJ Beathard. Overdrafted ... Yes! Could be had on day 3 ... Absolutely. However, he played in a pro style offense in Iowa. Called plays from the huddle, and called blocking packages from the line of scrimmage. If our coach believes in him, then so will I. Let's see how he develops and progresses. Overall, a job well done by Lynch in his first draft that had so many trades and made it fun and exciting for 49ers fans to watch and follow.
New York Giants: B+
The Giants had a solid and balanced draft for the most part. They addressed their tight end need selecting Evan Engram in the first round. Engram is a top 3 tight end prospect from this class and gives Eli Manning a big target in the receiving department. The big knock on Engram is his blocking abilities. He will need to improve in this area at the next level. They added depth and talent along their defensive line with prospects DT Dalvin Tomlinson and DE Avery Moss. New York also invested in QB Davis Webb out of Cal. I liked the value in round 3 and with Eli Manning in the driver’s seat there will be no rush to get Webb on the field. He will have a golden opportunity to learn and study a two time super bowl winning quarterback. Webb couldn’t have landed in a better situation. They also added workhorse running back Wayne Gallman out of Clemson. The only reason the Giants don’t get an A is waiting till round 6 to add an offensive lineman (Adam Bisnowaty). Eli needs more protection, and it would have been helpful to add an OL in the earlier rounds. Still, a good draft for the G-Men.
After moving up in last year’s draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz, the host’s of this years draft were committed to building on the defensive side of the football. Derek Barnett was a great first selection. Sidney Jones when healthy might challenge to be the best corner in this draft. The debate will be if he was drafted too high. I just thought they would have invested in getting Wentz more weapons on offense. Still, a good haul for the Eagles who dedicated this draft to the defensive side of the football.
After a roller coaster off-season, Washington came out of the draft as big winners. Defensive player of the year Jonathan Allen fell in their laps in the first round. He is a day 1 starter who will make an immediate impact. They returned to the Alabama pool and selected Ryan Anderson who can be a high impact linebacker and was great value in round 2. Moreau addresses and adds depth at cornerback. Washington then addressed positions all over including wide receiver, tight end, and safety. The front office might be the most dysfunctional in the league but they didn't show it in this draft.
The Cowboys already have a talented team and they addressed exactly what they needed to in this draft. I felt the biggest needs for Dallas was a pass rusher, cornerback, and wide receiver. They did just that in the first four rounds adding DE Taco Charleton in round 1, cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in rounds 2 and 3 and receiver Ryan Switzer in round 4. The Cowboys are an example of a talented team who knew what their needs were and addressed each of them.
There were picks I liked from Carolina and some picks I felt they missed in. Christian McCaffrey is going to be such a versatile weapon in this offense and help to re-establish the run game for the Panthers. Curtis Samuel is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. I think he will be a great addition. My only question: is Samuel too similar to McCaffrey? Regardless, two impact picks in rounds 1 and 2. My biggest criticism of the Panthers draft is not addressing the secondary till round 5. The secondary hurt Carolina big time last season and in a draft that was secondary rich, especially on day 2 gave Carolina a golden opportunity that I felt they missed. At least the offense will be fun to watch!
The Bucs are All-In with Winston and dedicated this off season to give him all the weapons he needs to be successful. This trend continued in the draft with tight end O.J. Howard in round 1 and WR Chris Godwin in round 3. Safety was another need they addressed with Justin Evans in round 2. I like Evans but I thought he was a bit overvalued in round 2. Still, he should be productive after he transitions to the speed of the NFL. Doug Martin will be back but just in case he has setbacks the Bucs drafted insurance in running back Jeremy McNichols out of Boise State in round 5.
New Orleans: B+
Let me start off by saying I thought the Saints had a plan and executed well with it. With limited draft picks at their disposal. The Saints were the worst team against the pass and had the number 1 cornerback fall in their lap in Marshon Lattimore. They backed that up with free safety Marcus Williams in round 3. Drew Brees needed more protection on the line and received it with the selection of Tackle Ryan Ramczyk. I wasn't a big fan of Alvin Kamara with AP and Ingram on the roster.
The Falcons also had limited draft capital. They moved up to select Takkarist McKinley. I like the pick but I don't love the pick which cost them draft capital. Atlanta addressed their offensive line Sean Harlow and added linebacker Duke Riley in round 3. Atlanta did good addressing needs, however some of their picks could have been better in my opinion.
Chicago Bears: C-
To overdraft a quarterback is one thing. To overdraft one and give up a handful of draft capital is confusing to say the least. We will see if Mitchell Trubisky makes me eat my words. I have been critical all draft process. I felt Adam Shaheen was overvalued in round 2. Eddie Jackson was the first pick I liked from the Bears and that wasn't till round 3. I suppose we will find out in the next handful of years if this grade should go up.
The Packers were on the cusp of returning to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately their defense ran into the buzz saw that was the Atlanta Falcons. They responded brilliantly by dedicating most of their draft towards the defensive side of the ball with cornerback Kevin King, free safety Josh Jones, DL Montravious Adams, and LB Vince Biegel. Green Bay is a better team after this draft and a favorite to get back to the big game.
The Vikings were without a first round pick this year. They started their draft selecting running back Dalvin Cook. Take away off the gold concerns and Cook is a first round talent. He should be productive along with Murray in the backfield. The Vikings saw their season crumble when their offensive line crumbled. They addressed the O- line by selecting Pat Eflin out of Ohio State. I thought they got great value selecting tight end Bucky Hodges in round 3. He was a steal in round 6.
Detroit Lions: D+
Detroit had a big need at linebacker and passed on the best prospect in Reuben Foster and instead selected Jarred Davis. Davis is good not great. Cornerback Jalen Tabor had a good career in Florida but there are plenty of questions about his character. In a cornerback rich class there were better options. Overall I felt many of their selections were over drafted, leaving better talent on the board. I am intrigued to see what they do with Brad Kaaya in round 6. Develop and see what happens.
Haason Reddick is going to be a star in this league. It was interesting to see how far they traded up to obtain Budda Baker. The dynamic safety out of Washington will be asked to start early and often. Arizona has a great eye spotting talent in smaller schools. They did it again selecting wide receiver Chad Williams. Adding depth at the line doesn't hurt either with guard Dorian Johnson. The only other thing I thought they would address would be a quarterback. Maybe next year.
Make it six years in a row For the fourth time in five years, the Seahawks have gone without selecting a first round pick. They once again traded back into the 2nd and selected Malik McDowell. Like the pick, don't love the pick. McDowell is a hot and cold player. However if anyone can bring the best out in him it's Seattle. They get points for trading back on multiple occasions and gathering draft capital. However I question whether they traded back one too many times instead of addressing a pressing need on the offensive line. They did add talent there, however I thought Cam Robinson was bound to be a Seahawk. I thought wrong. Overall, a good draft for the Seahawks who will more likely than not develop their secondary selections and get them in game action.
Los Angeles Rams: B+
Even without a first round pick, the Rams had a productive draft. They did what they set out to do in finding weapons for Jared Goff. They selected big target tight end Gerald Everett and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynold. I like didn't love the John Johnson selection but he can develop into a productive free safety. With more weapons to work with we shall see if Goff can have a better sophomore campaign. A first round pick would have been great for a team needing talent...but that’s the price you pay to select your QB of the future.
With the firing of General Manager Doug Whaley and the Bills entire scouting staff, it looks like first year head coach Sean McDermott's control of the roster is cemented. The cornerback position was a glaring need for the team, especially with the loss of Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots. Taking advantage of a deep and talented cornerback class, the Bills traded down 17 slots and were still able to select a top corner in LSU's Tre'Davious White (No. 27), as well as garnishing a third-round pick (No.91) and a first-round pick in 2018 from the Chiefs. The Bills quickly took advantage of their recent third-round pick (No. 91) packaging it with their second-round pick (No. 44) to move up in a trade with the Rams to select East Carolina's wide receiver Zay Jones (No.37). Jones provides a boost to a depleted wide receiver corps and a fine compliment to Sammy Watkins.
Miami Dolphins: B+
Similar to the 49ers of 2016, the Dolphins mightily struggled against the run ranking 30th in the league; therefore, it does not surprise me the Dolphins favored heavily towards the defensive side of the ball during the draft. With Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake continuing their Pro Bowl play, the Dolphins selected a highly talented edge prospect in Missouri's Charles Harris in the first-round to help solidify the depleted defensive line. Continuing to add to the defensive line, the Dolphins nailed it in the late rounds drafting LSU's defensive tackle Davon Godchaux in the fifth-round (No.178) and Oklahoma State's defensive tackle Vincent Taylor in the sixth-round (No. 194). Moreover, the Dolphins ended the draft with incredible value in selecting Virginia Tech wide receiver Isaiah Ford in the seventh-round (No. 237).
New England Patriots: B+
The Super Bowl winning Patriots were already having a spectacular offseason blowing people's minds with some impressive pre-draft trades picking up Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, and Kony Ealy, as well as adding Stephon Gilmore in free agency just for starters. Although the pre-drafts trades diminished the Patriots' draft capital to only four selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick did not squander the opportunities he had. With basically back-to-back picks in the third-round (No. 83 and No. 85), the Patriots snagged two excellent development players with high upsides in Youngstown States' edge rusher Derek Rivers and Troy's offensive tackle Antonio Garcia. I'm a big fan of the Garcia pick as he was one of my favorite tackle prospects in the draft.
New York Jets: C-
Although I'm a big fan of the Jets first-round selection in LSU's strong safety Jamal Adams (No. 6), following it up in the second-round picking another safety in Florida's free safety Marcus Maye (No. 39) is over-kill for my taste, especially when there is a definite need at quarterback. Josh McCown was signed to be a bridge quarterback, but how long do you want this lackluster bridge to last. Bryce Petty is still raw and has not looked good, and Christian Hackenberg is struggling to pick up the offense. With nine draft picks at their disposal, you'd think one of those picks would at least attempt to shorten the McCown bridge of despair. Nevertheless, I really liked their picks of Cal's wide receiver Chad Hansen in the fourth-round (No. 141) and Clemson's tight end Jordan Leggett in the fifth round (No. 150).
Baltimore Ravens: B+
After losing and releasing several players, the Ravens appear to be in the "retooling" mode. With the retirement of Steve Smith Sr., the wide receiver position is in desperate need of a playmaker. Unfortunately, the wide receiver position was ignored and Ozzie Newsome and Co. went all in with the vast majority of their picks taking care of the defense. The first four picks the Ravens selected were excellent high quality talent with all four being starter caliber in Alabama's cornerback Marlon Humphrey (No. 16), Houston's edge rusher Tyus Bowser (No. 47), Michigan's defensive tackle Chris Wormley (No. 74), and Alabama's edge rusher Tim Williams (No. 78). Moreover, the Ravens helped bolster their offensive line in drafting two offensive guards in the fourth and fifth rounds: San Diego State's Nico Siragusa (No. 122) and Texas A&M's Jermaine Eluemunor (No. 159). Once again, Ozzie Newsome shows his prowess in drafting.
The Bengals had a huge selection of picks at their disposal, all in all tallying a total of eleven players. Although I'm a big fan of Washington's wide receiver John Ross, selecting him and No. 9 overall is a bit rich for me, considering he has some durability concerns. It does not surprise me the Bengals taking a chance in drafting Oklahoma's running back Joe Mixon in the second-round (No. 48), since history has shown they have no qualms in bringing in players with red flags/character concerns. Nevertheless, focusing on football only, Mixon is arguably the most talented all-around complete running back in the draft, but his off-field past could be problematic. My two favorite picks were Kansas State's defensive end Jordan Willis (No. 73) and Auburn's defensive end Carl Lawson (No. 116). Both edge prospects help fortify the Bengals pass rush presence, especially with Michael Johnson's play taking a nose dive. Also, I am not a fan with the selection of a place kicker in Memphis' Jake Elliott, especially in the fifth-round (No. 153). Too early for me.
The Browns' first round selections are bringing much needed joy in the Factory of Sadness. Walking away with Texas A&M's phenom Myles Garrett (No. 1), Michigan's playmaker Jabrill Peppers (No. 25), and Miami's athletic freak of a tight end David Njoku (No. 29), would make any fan don a grin from ear-to-ear. Moreover, drafting their hopeful quarterback of the future in Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer (No. 52) without sacrificing a bevy of draft capital, or giving up a king's ransom for the Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo, is good decision making. I also love their last pick of the draft in NC State's running back Matt Dayes (No. 252), one of my favorite running backs in this draft class. Also, adding the best place kicker in the draft in Arizona State's Zane Gonzalez in the seventh-round (No. 224) was a nice touch. This is how you do it Cincinnati.
I am absolutely a huge fan of Wisconsin's edge pass rusher T.J. Watt (No. 30) and I am looking forward to see him grow. Watt and the Steelers are a perfect marriage, and I think Watt will learn a lot from James Harrison. As for their second-round pick in USC's wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (No. 62), initially it was a head scratcher for me, considering Martavis Bryant is set to return for the 2017 season. However, upon second thought, I really like the selection, since Smith-Schuster provides an excellent compliment to Antonio Bryant as a physical tough and strong possession receiver with a good blocking game. With Ben Roethlisberger pondering retirement, drafting Tennessee's quarterback Joshua Dobbs (No. 135) was a good move in hopes to start developing the quarterback of the future, ideally a long-term project. The pick that disturbed me was the selection of Louisville's long snapper Colin Holba in the sixth-round (No. 213). A long snapper in the sixth-round, come on!
Houston Texas: A-
As we have all come to see, Brock Osweiler was not the answer for the Texans and their desperate need of a quarterback. It was an expensive mistake, but kudos to the Texans to cut the cord and move on as quickly as possible. Unlike other quarterback needy teams, the Texans are, for the most part, a quality quarterback away from a deep run into the playoffs. With the glaring need evident, the Texans took another risk trading up to the Browns first-round pick (No. 12) giving up their own first-round (No. 25) and their future first-round pick in 2018 to select Clemson's quarterback Deshaun Watson. A true dual-threat athletic quarterback, Watson is a mature person with tremendous leadership skills, a true gamer and is clutch in big games - he's a winner and the Texans desperately need a winner at the helm. Moreover, the selections of Vanderbilt's linebacker Zach Cunningham (No. 57) and Texas' running back D'Onta Foreman (No. 89) are excellent picks and should provide immediate impact to the Texans.
It appears the decision of hiring General Manager Chris Ballard is destined to provide tremendous dividends, because the Colts had a fantastic draft. Right off the bat the Colts took advantage of the incredible value dropping to them in selecting Ohio State's free safety Malik Hooker (No. 15). Hooker was my ideal choice for the 49ers first-round pick, and I was a bit surprised to see him fall down this low. The rest of the Colt's draft wisely filled needs across the board. Florida's cornerback Quincy Wilson (No. 46) is a perfect match for what the Colt's do on defense (man coverage), and Ohio's edge pass rusher Tarell Basham (No. 80) provides the necessary edge presence the Colts need, especially with the loss of Robert Mathis and Trent Cole. With the ageless wonder Frank Gore still grinding it out, solid depth at the position is required and the Colts addressed that need adding South Florida's Marlon Mack (No. 143). Mack is solid change of pace running back with a big-play threat skill-set.
It appears the Jaguars are finally ready to give Blake Bortles some help, and that help is a powerful running game. With their first pick in the draft, the Jaguars selected the powerhouse running back LSU's Leonard Fournette (No. 4). Continuing the power move was drafting one of top run blocking maulers in Alabama's offensive tackle Cam Robinson (No. 34). Moreover, the Jaguars capped their draft selection with a massive 280 pound fullback in Miami's Marquez Williams in the seventh-round (No. 240). The selection of Oklahoma's wide receive Dede Westbrook (No. 110) is concerning, considering his off-field issues; nevertheless, on talent alone, the value of the pick is ideal. Plus, the Jaguars took advantage of more value picks in Ohio's underrated linebacker Blair Brown (No. 148) and the explosive and speedy (4.28 40) cornerback from Minnesota, Jalen Myrick (No. 222).
Tennessee Titans: B+
The Titans finally got Marcus Mariota some legit receiving weapons, and on top of that a true number one receiver. Although it was a bit of a reach at No. 5, the Titans pulled the trigger on Western Michigan's wide receiver Corey Davis. Two rounds later they grabbed another talented wide receiver with high production in Western Kentucky's Taywan Taylor (No. 72). Another receiving threat selected was a tight end in the Delanie Walker mold in Florida International Jonnu Smith (No. 100). Also, the Titans filled a need when they selected USC's cornerback Adoree' Jackson (No. 18). Although many of the aforementioned picks were reaches, they were picks that filled team needs. Nevertheless, I think Mariota is happy.
The Broncos filled a glaring need that everyone expected they would fill in the first-round drafting Utah's offensive tackle Garrett Bolles (No. 20). Although there may be some minor concerns with the one-year starter and 25 year-old rookie, the Broncos were able to nab arguably the top offensive tackle in a weak tackle draft class. In the third-round, the Broncos drafted one of my favorite wide receiver prospects in Louisiana Tech's Carlos Henderson (No. 82). I was hoping the 49ers were the ones to select Henderson, since he's an explosive and highly productive playmaker with a nose for the end zone, as well as bringing tremendous value in the return game. Another draft pick I was jealous about was the Broncos fifth-round selection of Michigan's tight end Jake Butt (No. 145). Although Butt would have been a Baalke Delight in terms of his torn ACL, the value of the player is hard to pass up. The Chad Kelly (No. 253) selection is a pick I was not a fan of, even though it was the "Mr. Irrelevant" selection. It's not so much Kelly's game that bothers me, his talent is undeniable, rather it is all the red flags that seem unending.
Kansas City Chiefs: B
Kudos to the Chiefs making a bold move trading up in the first-round 17 spots with the Bills to select Texas Tech's quarterback Patrick Mahomes (No. 10). The Chiefs gave up their first-round pick (No. 27), third-round pick (No. 91), and a future first-round pick in 2018 to grab their quarterback of the future. It looks like 2011 for Alex Smith all over again; nevertheless, the incredibly raw Mahomes is in a perfect situation with the opportunity to sit behind Smith and learn from one of the greats in Andy Reid. With Jamaal Charles no longer in the picture, the Chiefs were able to fill the void with a playmaker in Toledo's running back Kareem Hunt (No. 86). Hunt is a physical and aggressive running back that is good inside and outside of the tackles with great quickness and wiggle (terrific feet). He's a nimble bruiser with vision that can play in a zone or gap scheme.
Although it would have probably been a good idea to select Malik Hooker in the first-round to take care of the shaky safety play (struggled defending the deep half) the Chargers dealt with, drafting arguably the top wide receiver in Clemson's Mike Williams (No. 7) is a good option B in my eyes. Tyrell Williams' burst onto the scene is promising, but Keenan Allen's durability is in question; therefore, Williams should fit in nicely as one of Philip Rivers' key weapons. Moreover, it looks like the Chargers are finally giving Rivers some help on the offensive line. With the back-to-back offensive guard selections of Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp (No. 38) and Indiana's Dan Feeney (No. 71), the Chargers solidify their line with the first and second ranked guards in the draft class. One value pick was the selection of Iowa's Desmond King in the fifth-round (No. 151). King, an impressive instinctual player, brings versatility to the defensive back position for the Bolts. I'm still not use to the "Los Angeles" Chargers.
Oakland Raiders: B-
The Raiders first-round selection of Ohio State's cornerback Gareon Conley (No. 24) raised eyebrows with disturbing allegations hanging over his head. If he's exonerated, the pick is an excellent choice, but it is a huge gamble, nonetheless. I am sure Reggie McKenzie is confident on the outcome in Conley's situation, because McKenzie has been on point since his arrival. The Raiders continued to fortify their 24th ranked against the pass defensive back unit with the selection of Connecticut's safety Obi Melifonwu (No. 56). In hopes to help solidify Oakland's run defense - ranked 23rd in the league - the Raider's drafted UCLA's defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (No. 88). Another area of need addressed with a solid selection was Wake Forest's inside linebacker Marquel Lee (No. 168). Lee is a thumper in the box linebacker that excels in attacking downhill.