NFL Draft Grades - 1st Rd
May 1, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Cleveland Browns #1 QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma): Cleveland hasn’t had a quality quarterback since Bernie Kosar, spanning a period of multiple decades and covering its entire time since getting the franchise back after Art Modell bolted for Baltimore. Translation: The Browns suck at choosing QBs! I don’t want to trash Mayfield, who coming out of high school was a walk-on at Texas Tech and accomplished so much that he was taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Props to him! With that said, he’s only 6-foot. The Browns need help everywhere. They’re horrible, limping to a 1-31 record during Hue Jackson’s tenure the last two seasons. Why not take RB Saquon Barkley or Bradley Chubb first and then go with Josh Rosen at No. 4?
We may never know if Cleveland was offered a king’s ransom for the first pick but if it was, that would’ve been the best option. There were 5-6 QBs with first-round grades on them (I’m counting Mason Rudolph, who will come off the board early in the second round), so an elite signal caller could’ve been had with picks 5-10 (Josh Allen went seventh; Rosen went 10th). If the Browns turned down trades for the first selection that would’ve given them a top-10 pick, other picks such as a second or third this year and a future first or second, in addition to a quality player or two (I’m not implying what Mike Ditka gave up for Ricky Williams, nor what Jimmy Johnson got in return for Herschel Walker from the Vikings), then they messed up. Grade: C
New York Giants #2 RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State): I think he’s a future Hall of Famer. The G-Men have needed a franchise back for a long time. Barkley, who can run it, catch it and even return it if needed, gives Eli a second star weapon for the sunset of his career. Grade: A+
New York Jets #3 QB Sam Darnold (USC): Darnold was intercepted twice in each of the Trojans’ first three games last season. He had a 9/8 touchdown-interception ratio through his team’s first five contests last year. Darnold was outplayed by Luke Falk in a loss at Washington State. He orchestrated only two TD drives in a 49-14 loss at Notre Dame and merely one in a 24-7 setback against Ohio State. Rosen would’ve been the better choice. Grade: C
Cleveland Browns #4 CB Denzel Ward (Ohio State): Ward may turn into an elite cover corner, but you have to shake your head at not going with Bradley Chubb in this spot. Grade: B-
Denver Broncos #5 DE Bradley Chubb (N.C. State): Like Barkley, I think Chubb is a future Hall of Famer. With Von Miller on the other side, Philip Rivers, Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr are going to have nightmares about this duo. Chubb dominated FSU’s o-line and was the catalyst in an upset win over the ‘Noles in Tallahassee this past year. Grade: A+
Indianapolis Colts #6 OG Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame): Protecting Andrew Luck is of the utmost importance, but No. 6 seems high for an offensive guard. In other words, Nelson better go to some Pro Bowls to justify this selection. Grade: B-
Buffalo Bills #7 QB Josh Allen (Wyoming): Buffalo traded up from No. 12, giving up the No. 36 and 53 selections to Tampa Bay. Allen has the highest ceiling of any player in the Draft with his incredible arm strength. Accuracy has been an issue for him, however. Coming from Wyoming, he is accustomed to playing in the cold weather that awaits him in Orchard Park. Grade: B+
Chicago Bears #8 LB Roquan Smith (Georgia): Dude is an absolute beast. I say he’ll be a perennial Pro Bowler. Congrats, Chicago. You just got your next Brian Urlacher. Grade: A
Sam Francisco 49ers #9 OT Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame): I’m ok with the 49ers looking to protect its franchise QB who went 5-0 leading a team that was 1-10 without him. Grade: B-
Arizona Cardinals #10 QB Josh Rosen (UCLA): Arizona traded picks No. 15, 79 and 152 to Oakland to move up five spots and get who I believe to be the Draft’s best QB. Rosen showed his moxy and skills in leading the Bruins back from a 44-10 deficit late in the third quarter to capture an epic 45-44 victory over Texas A&M in last year’s season opener. The Cardinals had to get a QB, too, so giving up only two extra picks was well worth the return. Grade: A
Miami Dolphins #11 CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama): Winner. Playmaker. Scores TDs on defense. Miami has an elite cover corner for the next decade. Grade: A
Tampa Bay Buccaneers #12 DT Vita Vea (Washington): The Bucs trade down five spots to fill a need and get the No. 36 and 53 picks. The two extra picks in return elevate this grade. Grade: B+
Washington Redskins #13 DT Da’Ron Payne (Alabama): Payne joins his former teammate Jonathan Allen to give Washington a strong interior d-line to defend against NFC East RBs Ezekiel Elliot and Saquon Barkley. Grade: B+
New Orleans Saints #14 DE Marcus Davenport (UTSA): New Orleans gave up its No. 27 overall pick, a fifth-rounder (No. 147) and next year’s first-round selection to Green Bay to move up 13 spots. Davenport made a splash as a junior in 2016 when he recorded 11.5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack against Texas A&M. Mickey Loomis think he’s found a big-time pass rusher, and he might be right. Grade: B-
Oakland Raiders #15 OT Kolton Miller (UCLA): Well, division-rival Denver has a pair of elite pass rushers, so the Raiders fill a need here with Miller. You must keep Carr healthy, so I get it. They need to add some defensive talent in the later rounds and can so with the two extra picks obtained from the Cardinals. Grade: B-
Buffalo Bills #16 LB Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech): He’s only 19 so he’s going to mature even more physically. Good get here. Grade: B
San Diego Chargers #17 S Derwin James (FSU): James is a top-10 talent. Chargers get a steal with this ‘Nole. Grade: A
Green Bay Packers #18 CB Jaire Alexander (Louisville) Alexander led the nation in interceptions two years ago. He didn’t have great numbers last year due to missing a bunch of games with an injury. Excellent pick that fills a need. The Packers traded up nine spots with Seattle by giving away a third-rounder (No. 76) and a sixth-rounder (No. 186). They got a seventh-rounder in return (No. 248). Grade: B+
Dallas Cowboys #19 LB Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State) As I’m writing this early Friday afternoon, we’re less than an hour removed from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeting that veteran TE Jason Witten is planning on retiring and joining the Monday Night Football crew as an analyst. Per Mortensen, Witten is going to meet with Jerry Jones today before finalizing this decision. Well, I thought Witten shot down similar reports a few back? If I’m Dallas, I would’ve gone with South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst had I known Witten was going to retire. Regardless of Witten’s situation, I would’ve rather taken Calvin Ridley in this position. Grade: F
Detroit Lions #20 C Frank Ragnow (Arkansas): Think Alex Mack. Ragnow has an excellent shot at being a perennial Pro-Bowler. Grade: A
Cincinnati Bengals #21 Billy Price (Ohio State): I would’ve taken 7-8 different players before Price. Grade: C-
Tennessee Titans #22 LB Rashaan Evans (Alabama): The Titans moved up three slots from No. 25 and sent Baltimore its fourth-round pick, getting a sixth-rounder (No. 215) back in return. With Avery Williamson bolting via the free-agency route, the Titans fill a need with a proven winner. Grade: B
New England Patriots #23 OT Isaiah Wynn (Georgia): Pats fill a need with an OT in Wynn. Grade: B
Carolina Panthers #24 WR D.J. Moore (Maryland): Trust me, Ridley will be a much better NFL WR. Grade: B-
Baltimore Ravens #25 TE Hayden Hurst (South Carolina): As I was touting my favorite college football season win total last summer (South Carolina ‘over’ 5.5 wins), one of the ways I justified the pick was the presence of Hurst, who I said was a guaranteed first-round NFL Draft pick. Well, I get one right every now and again. Hurst is a high-character guy with a fantastic work ethic, greats hands, good size and speed. Love this selection by the Ravens. Oh, and they got a fourth-rounder in exchange for their sixth-round pick and moved down three picks. Ozzie Newsome got his guy anyway in yet another shrewd draft-day move. Grade: A+
Atlanta Falcons #26 WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama): How on earth my Falcons got this lucky to have Ridley, a top-10 talent in my estimation, fall to them from the heavens late in the first round is beyond me. Again, love this pick! Grade: A+
Seattle Seahawks #27 RB Rashaad Penny (San Diego State): Penny had an outstanding season for the Aztecs in 2017. But Penny isn’t in Sony Michel’s league. There were better options here and Penny might’ve been available 15 picks later than this. Grade: D
Pittsburgh Steelers #28 S Terrell Edmunds (Va. Tech): Had a helluva collegiate career. Solid choice. Grade: B
Jacksonville Jaguars #29 DT Taven Bryan (Florida): Some mock drafts had Bryan going in the top 15. This Wyoming Wild Man loves getting down and dirty in the trenches. Excellent addition to a defense that’s already stacked with talent galore. Grade: B+
Minnesota Vikings #30 CB Mike Hughes (UCF): Solid pick to add depth to a secondary on one of the NFL’s best defenses. Grade: B
New England Patriots #31 RB Sony Michel (Georgia): The rich get richer. Here’s my sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year. Michel can take it to the house on any given touch. He hits the hole fast. I think he starts immediately and provides the Patriots with a real game breaker. Grade: A
Baltimore Ravens #32 QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville): Newsome strikes again with a boom-or-bust move that I’m bullish on. The former Heisman Trophy winner has had elite coaching from Bobby Petrino during his collegiate career. He’s a Michael Vick like talent but taller. The Ravens traded up into the first round by shipping the Eagles their second-round pick (No. 52), a fourth-round selection (No. 125) and next year’s second-rounder. Baltimore got Jackson and a fourth-round pick (No. 132) in return from Philadelphia. You have Joe Flacco in place so Jackson won’t get thrown to the wolves immediately. This move might pay huge dividends. Grade: A-
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Don't be surprised to see a team in need of a QB trade up into the early second round to take Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph.
-- Here’s a few players who are listed in most mock drafts as fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh-rounders that I believe are extremely undervalued: Indiana WR Simmie Cobbs Jr., New Mexico State WR Jaleel Scott, Tennessee RB John Kelly, Washington State LB/DE Hercules Mata’afa, Missouri WR J’Mon Moore, Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy, Pittsburgh safety Jordan Whitehead, South Carolina LB Skai Moore, Memphis QB Riley Ferguson, Washington State QB Luke Falk, Florida PK Eddy Pineiro, Florida punter Johnny Townsend, Ole Miss DE Marquis Haynes and Middle Tennessee WR Richie James.
-- I didn’t include Florida WR Antonio Callaway because I’m not sure the dude can stay out of trouble. I think the Raiders, Patriots or Cowboys will take him in the fifth round. He’s a first-round talent who can also serve as your punt and kick returner. If I’m a GM, I probably take the risk in the fourth round. Mel Kiper Jr. had him at No. 12 overall on his first Big Board for this draft at this time last year. Callaway will be a source of major conversation on the third day. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.
-- If you don’t think UF’s Townsend and Pineiro are worth using a late-round pick on, you’re nuts. Think about how absolutely atrocious the Gators were on offense during Jim McElwain’s three-year tenure. Yet they somehow won a pair of SEC East titles (in what was admittedly a division that way WAYYYY down), but still. Townsend was a big reason why, constantly flipping the field position and giving the defense some wiggle room. Pineiro only played on the second SEC East title winner, but he has a Sebastian Janikowski like leg. A team in need of a kicker would be wise to take him perhaps as early as the fifth round.
-- Luke Falk certainly benefitted from a system offense that had a lot of high-percentage throws that made the stats look great. He doesn’t have a monster arm like a Josh Allen, but this guy is going to be on a roster for at least a decade. Falk is smart, has good size, makes great decisions and rarely throws interceptions. I’m not saying he’s going to be a full-time starter but for teams in need of QB depth, he’s an excellent choice if he’s still available in the fifth round.
-- I probably should’ve included Miami RB Mark Walton in my undervalued players above. Miami’s offense turned into garbage with the quickness after Walton went down with an injury last season. He’d be an excellent choice on Day 3.
-- Somebody is going to get a special-teams game breaker in Washington WR Dante Pettis. I think he’s worth a mid-to-late second round pick even if he doesn’t develop into a quality NFL WR. Yes, he’s that nasty in the return game.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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