Culture of Hoops

2015 NFL Draft: Time for Draft Grades

Image courtesy of the NFL.

Image courtesy of the NFL.

The NFL draft is barely over. The coals are still warm from the firestorm that is the aftermath of trades, deals, picks and “what-ifs”. There is still a long road before any of these players picked (and those signed that were not drafted) get to play a down in the NFL. That doesn’t stop everyone from reviewing the selections and giving their opinion as to who did a good job, and who didn’t (including myself in the mock draft).

When I review a draft I look at a few things. First, I look at what sorts of things a team needs. Next, I look at who is left. Finally, I review how the player fits the scheme of the team drafting them. Some players are too good not to take despite a lack of true need at the position. Sometimes though, no matter how good the player is, you still shouldn’t take him.

Arizona Cardinals: B+

Many people thought Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries would have gone higher than the 24th pick. He had a few injury concerns that had him slide down to the Cardinals. I had him going at 28, so I guess I wasn’t that far off. Given that the Cardinals went through quarterbacks the way most of us go through batteries, there was a need to improve the offensive line. They did that in a big way with Humphries. The Cards also added Missouri defensive end Markus Golden, running back David Johnson and DE/OLB Shaquille Riddick. Golden is the type of player with an NFL body and should be a steady starter. He won’t flash the way some of the other guys do, but he was also a second round pick. Arizona did a good job of finding good value picks for positions of need without over extending to get them.

Atlanta Falcons: A-

New coach Falcons head coach Dan Quinn came from the Seattle Seahawks. To say that the two teams were slightly different on defensive ability is like saying Shaquille O’Neal is slightly taller than I am. Getting Vic Beasley with the 8th overall pick was somewhat of a steal. I really thought he was going to go in the top five. More defensive help was added in the second round with corner Jalen Collins, projected by many to be the most physical corner in the draft (read “a poor man’s Richard Sherman”). Adding a pure speed rusher like Tevin Coleman should help out the special teams game if nothing else, but the hope is that he adds depth and change of pace to the running game. Strangely, their best value pick may have come even later when in the fifth round the team stole defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who many projected as a second round player. The Falcons still need a ton of work, but certainly they’ve taken large steps in the right direction.

Baltimore Ravens: B-

While 26th overall pick wide receiver Breshad Perriman was a need, the team may have stretched a bit. The Ravens also traded to move up and draft tight end Mazz Williams. Both players will help the offense, but both players were not the best people on the board for the Ravens (especially when trading up). The Ravens did well in the late rounds. DT Carl Davis could have gone in the first round, but instead the Ravens stole him in the third which fills a huge defensive front hole.

Javorius Allen is thought to be the ideal back for the teams’ offensive style, and they got him in the 4th round. Tray Walker is a very raw corner, but will excel in press coverage due to his size. The team added a ton of rotational depth in later rounds, even if none of these guys really pan out into starters.

Buffalo Bills: D

Remember Sammy Watkins? The Bills gave up a lot to get the star wide receiver of last year’s draft. Like their first round pick this year. Rex Ryan didn’t make that trade, so it’s not fair to handcuff the grade because of it. Ronald Darby was a solid corner that could have easily gone in the first round. The issue here is really that the team didn’t need a corner that badly. He may be a good edition for sub packages, but that seems like a waste for your top pick. The teams third round pick John Miller has the best shot to crack the starting roster as a very strong and physical guard that fits the Ryan “bully” mantra. The rest of the players drafted were basically head scratchers. Running back Karlos Williams has issues on and off the field. Tight end Nick O’Leary looks very similar to the other tight ends on the roster. Seventh round pick Dezmin Lewis is about the only guy who seems to be a solid choice, as he has shown flashes of greatness, and has good size for a wide receiver a 6’ 4”.

Carolina Panthers: C+

The Panthers needed some help in a lot of places, but linebacker really wasn’t one of them. So when they took Shaq Thompson out of Washington there were some puzzled faces. He’s actually a little small to play linebacker. I had him converting to a safety, but his combine numbers really did have him as a sub package player, as opposed to a starter in the NFL. Which is why I had him slide out of my first round draft. Wide receiver Devin Funchess was a better pick as he has great size and will be a big red zone target for Cam Newton. Similarly, third round guard Daryl Williams can move people in the run game, and has value as a third round selection. The same goes for fifth round pick Cameron Artis-Payne, who is a thumper, and should be able to pick up some carries to take the burden off other backs.

Chicago Bears: A-

In my mock draft I had the Bears drafting wide receiver Kevin White. The Bears actually drafted … Kevin White. If the Raiders had gone with White than the Bears would have taken Amir Cooper, but it really didn’t matter. The top two receivers in the draft went to the teams that really wanted them. Second round selection defensive tackle Eddie Goldman is a very large man, there are questions surrounding his ability to stay in the game on passing downs. The balance of the draft for the Bears was full of players that should be able to split time, and have the potential to become starters if they can continue to grow. A very solid draft for the Bears.

Cincinnati Bengals: C-

I’m sure when the Bengals were looking over their draft board they were not expecting tackle Cedric Ogbuehi to be sitting there at 21. I had him going 9th to the Giants in my mock draft. Both tackles for the Bengals are going to have their contracts end at the end of this season, so there is some need to get some depth there, but I question the need to do so in the first round. I question it even more when they used their second round pick on tackle Jake Fisher. Fisher could start tomorrow if they needed him to, and was projected to go towards the end of the first round, but do you need both of these guys? No team had fewer sacks than the Bengals last year. They didn’t go with a pass rusher until the 4th round, and Marcus Hardison is really more of a run stuffer. The team has some needs (despite making the playoffs) and didn’t do a great job of addressing them, even if many of their picks were good value for position.

Cleveland Browns: A

The Browns had two picks in the first round and they went very different ways with their picks. As the worst team against the run, the first selection of nose tackle Danny Shelton was a brilliant choice. I had the Vikings taking him at 10, so he was a good pickup at 12. With the 19th pick, Cleveland took center . Now Erving can play anywhere on the offensive line, but the line doesn’t need a ton of help, particularly at center. The Browns may lose Alex Mack to free agency next year, meaning that Erving could be the long term solution, but I still question the pick as there were tons of needs for this team that could have been addressed here, and better players available. Third round pick defensive end Nate Orchard is going to make the defensive line even better as he plays with a nasty sense of purpose. Poor measurable had him slip, but his tape is perfect. Similar things can be said for defensive tackle Xavier Cooper who the Browns got in the third round. The defense is going to be much tougher to run against. Though the absolute steal of the draft might be corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. He hurt his knee at the end of last season, but was projected in the first round regardless. I had him going 32nd to the Patriots. Yet the Browns managed to get him in the 7th round. Although Ekpre-Olomu is slightly small, his skill set is unreal. If he comes back at 80% of the player he was, the Browns have a starting corner for the next five years.

Dallas Cowboys: B

The Dallas Cowboys did really well at getting value for their picks. Byron Jones maybe the best athlete in the draft and has versatility to play corner or safety, which are both need positions for the Cowboys. While Randy Gregory is a monster of a player on the field, his off-field antics leave a lot to be desired. That’s why he slipped from a top 10 pick to being the 60th pick overall. The balance of the picks are basically depth defenders which are things the Cowboys needed and wanted with their rotating defense. Where the Cowboys lose marks here is the fact that they didn’t draft a running back. There were scores of good players out there, and I really saw them taking one in the third round, but alas, no such move was made. Had they drafted one in the third or fourth round this grade would have been an “A”.

Denver Broncos: C

When you move up (and give up picks in the process), you’re going to come under a little more scrutiny. Defensive end Shane Ray was a guy I had going with the 18th overall pick, so with him still on the board trading up to 23 wasn’t a horrible idea; however, I felt like the team lost a lot of offensive players, and this wasn’t a huge need. The offensive line did need help, like immediate help, so drafting Ty Sambrailo was an odd choice as he really needs a few years to get stronger to be a true competitor in the NFL. Tight end Jeff Heuerman is also a little odd, as he is more of a run blocker than a pass catcher. I’ve heard the team would like to run the ball more, to take the pressure off of Peyton Manning, but then why draft center Max Garcia, who is a pass blocker? A pair of defensive backs in the 7th round and a quarterback in the 7th may just be bodies for the Broncos training camp, but there is hope they will make the squad.

Detroit Lions: B-

So when Denver moved up, someone had to move down, and that was the Lions. The team fell apart last year so acquiring more picks (even if they were not this year) was a solid game plan. The draft of Laken Tomlinson was a bit of a stretch. He’s a very good guard but primarily a run blocker, and someone the Lions may have been able to get in the second round. Running back Ameer Abdullah is a great replacement for Reggie Bush as he catches well, but there has big problem with ball security. Their best pick was 6th round corner Quandre Diggs. He’s physical and started for four years at Texas. He is the younger brother of Quentin Jammer, and only slid due to poor combine measurables.

Green Bay Packers: B+

The Packers’ offense looks about as good as you could ask for, and their defensive front is solid. For those reasons, it wasn’t a shock Green Bay took two defensive secondary players with their first two picks. Free safety Damarius Randall was the best safety on many people’s draft boards. To get him with the 30th pick is almost a dream come true. With the 62nd overall pick the Packers got Quinten Rollins, who measured up almost the same way. Both players can flip from corner to safety, and will make the secondary much better. The rest of their picks are a mixed bag. Wide receiver Ty Montgomery was a first round pick before a disappointing senior season. Jake Ryan is a linebacker who can line up anywhere but lacks elite speed. Quarterback Brett Hundley was expecting to go to a team that needed a QB sometime in the near future (but not this season). Green Bay may end up trading him before his rookie contract is up as Rogers will still be in his prime. The first round guys project well right now, and the low round guys may project well for the future. A solid draft from the Pack.

Houston Texans: B+

Despite a good end to the season, the Texans still need a lot of help especially when you look at what the Colts are doing inside that division (more on them next). Drafting Kevin Johnson with the 16th overall pick may have been a slight stretch for need, as I had him going 23rd, but the team did address a need with a very clean player on and off the field. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney is exactly how you’d want to build an NFL linebacker, so getting him in the second round was a bit of a steal, and fits a need for the team. After losing Andre Johnson, the selection of a wide receiver was necessary, and Jaelen Strong was a great find in the third round. Strong could have very easily gone in the first round (as I had him going 17th). The balance of the picks are depth guys that all can play this year if they come in as relievers or sub-package guys. Talk about well done. It would have been even better if they’d found a QB.

Indianapolis Colts: C

If you’re delusional and you know it take a wide receiver…(clap, clap). Was there a need for a wide receiver on this team? Not really. Did the Colts reach with the 29th pick on a guy like Phillip Dorsett make any sense when most people had him graded in the second or third round? No! Did you need a 5’ 10” burner that only weighs 185 pounds? Not at all! The balance of the draft is full of guys who can compete at defensive positions, something the Colts did desperately need, but I really am having a hard time getting past their first pick. Unless this team is going to run a three wide set all year than I see this as a waste of a pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars: A

When the top two quarterbacks go one, two and you have the third pick you basically have anyone you wanted (as I don’t think the Jags wanted a QB). So when you take Dante Fowler Jr. than I’m a little lost. He’s a first round talent to be sure, but he wasn’t a guy I had in the top 10, or 20. I really hope Leonard Williams comes back to haunt the Jags here. With that said Fowler should still be a good player in the NFL. Running Back T.J. Yeldon is the hopeful replacement for Maurice Jones-Drew that the team has been looking for, but his injuries have me thinking this guy will be a bust at the NFL level. Guard A.J. Cann is going to start right away, but the question is where along the offensive line will he start. Fourth round safety James Sample could develop into a starter and has a high ceiling based on his athletic ability. Sixth round defensive tackle Michael Bennett is a guy that many projected to go much higher, as he has great measurable and was very productive in college.

Kansas City Chiefs: C+

From the Dallas Cowboy school of thinking, Marcus Peters was a corner that could have gone in the top 10 had there not been character issues. Unlike Dallas, the Chiefs used the 18th overall pick. With so many other options, this seems like a gamble with more risk potential than reward. Second round select Mitch Morse is going to crush it at guard or maybe even center. He’ll likely start from day one and looks to have a long and productive career in the NFL. Third round wide receiver Chris Conley addresses a need and did so with some value as he will try to help take the tops off the defense and give underneath room to Jeremy Maclin. The later rounds produced a lot of players that KC may not get into games for some time. This appeared to be a long term thought process that may not pan out.

Miami Dolphins: B

The Dolphins did a very good job of filling positions of need with their picks. I had DeVante Parker going 15th overall, he ended up going one spot higher to the Dolphins at 14. He’ll be a good target for Ryan Tannehill this season. While I’m not sure there was a real need for second round pick Jordan Phillips, he is a beast of a nose tackle and could have gone in the first round although concerns about how badly he wants to play football probably affected his stock. Fifth round corner Bobby McCain has the potential to be a fantastic slot corner in the NFL. Also in the fifth round, the Dolphins got a guy who started at both corner and wide receiver at Michigan State in Tony Lippett. There is a lot of versatility there.

Minnesota Vikings: A-

Even though I had Trae Waynes being selected at 21, the Vikings didn’t really reach in taking him at 11. He was the top corner on my board, and the Viking did need some help in the secondary. They also found a nice compliment to Anthony Barr in the second round with linebacker Eric Kendricks. The third round saw a project player be drafted – Danielle Hunter has all the physical attributes to be a stellar player in the NFL, but he isn’t ready to be one. Many scouts have stated publicly that he should have stayed at LSU. That pick is going to need a lot of work over the next few seasons. Fourth round tackle T.J. Clemens was the steal of their draft as I still had him as a first round player despite some injury concerns. There is no reason he should have slipped out of the second or third round.

New England Patriots: B-

When the team opted to let Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork walk out the door you knew they were going to have to do something at those positions. They certainly did look to the defensive line as three of their first four picks were right there, but they didn’t draft a corner until the seventh round. Darryl Roberts has a great deal of physical ability, but hasn’t really put it together on the field. Their first round pick of defensive tackle Malcolm Brown fits their need, but I saw this guy as a second round pick (though last pick in the first round is pretty much there). Like with Brown, I thought second round safety Jordan Richards was a reach. He has great football I.Q., but could still have been there next round. The two ends picked in rounds three and four are both good athletes and can provide some punch in a rotational defense. Still, the lack of a true corner hurts.

New Orleans Saints: B

I felt like the Saints needed some help on the offensive line, and Andrus Peat is a big man. He really only works as a tackle though, and the team has two starting tackles right now. The team had bigger needs. Secondary Stephone Anthony makes a lot more sense. He’ll thrive in a Rob Ryan run defense, and could continue to get better as his large frame and speed only get larger and faster. He’ll pair well with second round pick Hau’oli Kikaha, an outside linebacker who invents ways of getting to the quarterback. Speaking of quarterbacks, Garrett Grayson has a QB skill set similar to that of Sean Payton. He was a good pick in the third round.

New York Giants: B

The bad news is that the first round pick of guard Ereck Flowers was a reach. While big and strong he’s an interior lineman and there were too many good players sitting around at nine to justify this pick. Moving up to get Landon Collins seemed like an amazing move, especially with the number of teams within the NFC East who enjoy running the ball. Then getting a defensive end like Owamagbe Odighizuwa in the third was a steal. He has some injury problems, but he doesn’t have to play every snap this coming season, and can learn behind Jason Pierre-Paul. There was some picks that were given up to go and get Collins (like their 4th rounder this year), but the team has improved immensely through this draft.

New York Jets: C+

So there is good news and bad news here. Leonard Williams was considered by many to be the best player in the draft. He has been compared to Reggie White, his size and speed make him unreal when it comes to measurables and tape. So the good news is the Jets got him with the sixth overall pick. The bad news is they really didn’t need another defensive lineman. Devin Smith is an outstanding deep threat and was a good pick in the second round, but who is throwing him the football? The Jets did get Bryce Petty in the fourth round, but he is still a few years away from being NFL ready. I’m not entirely sure what this team was thinking.

Oakland Raiders: B

My mock draft had the Raiders taking Amir Cooper at number 4 and they did. He fits a need. He is their type of player. Cooper is everything they could ask for. The second round defensive tackle Mario Edwards Jr. was less of a consensus. His weight has ballooned to 310, or been as lean as 272. It’s hard to say what version of this player you’re going to get, and he may have been a stretch as the third pick of the second round. Tight end Clive Walford could add a dimension to the passing attack, though he could be a liability in the run game. There are also lots of late round picks of guys who measured well at the combine, but did not produce on the field. Typical Raiders.

Philadelphia Eagles: B-

Wait?! So the Eagles didn’t do a series of crazy trades to try an acquire Marcus Mariota, or some other guy? That’s weird! The team drafted the wide receiver replacement to Jeremy Maclin in the first round with Nelson Agholor. I didn’t have him in the first round, but I’m not sure the team stretched too much in taking him at 20. Free safety Eric Rowe was a better find with the 47th pick as he can play both safety and corner, and will be able to go up against players like Dez Bryant. The remaining four picks were used on defensive players, and they drafted three cornerbacks in total. Clearly Chip Kelly has something in mind. There were other positions the team could have addressed in the later rounds.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B

Were there ever a fit for the Steelers, linebacker Bud Dupree might be it. He was also a bit of a value pick as I saw him going higher than 22nd. Second round pick Senquez Gordon may have been a stretch though, as his very small frame will be a cause for concern against larger NFL receivers. With a team with so many needs, the rest of the picks were spread out and the hope will be one of them steps up. Those players will get their chance to do so thanks to the Steelers’ thinning, aging roster.

San Diego Chargers: C

The move up to 15 for running back Melvin Gordon cost the Chargers a lot, but they did get one of the best running back to come out of college football in a very long time. Personally I didn’t have any running backs going this high, but leave it to the Chargers to prove me wrong. It’s his ability as a pass catcher that I think make him more valuable than some of the other backs. Second round linebacker Denzel Perryman is undersized, but the abilities are all there for him to be special. Very unlike third round selection Craig Mager, who has amazing measurables, but has a lot of football learning to do. The late rounds produced some project players for the Chargers, who really needed impact players right away.

San Francisco 49ers: B

Defensive end Arik Armstead reminds me of Chris Canty. He’s huge and eats up blockers, but never really blows you away with stats. While a valuable piece to most teams, he’s not the type of guy you want to take with the 17th overall pick. I didn’t even grade him in the first round. Jaquiski Tartt is going to bring some impact from the safety position, and was a good value pick at 46th overall, despite suspect coverage skills. The better value pick was Eli Harold sliding to the 49ers in the third round. The team may have rebuilt their defense in a single draft (and they needed to). Virtually the entire balance of picks were utility players on offense, except for surprising fifth round selection Bradley Pinion, a 6’5” punter.

Seattle Seahawks: C+

The Seahawks didn’t have a first round pick because they acquired Jimmy Graham, but you can’t count that as far as what the team did with their draft. Second round defensive ends Frank Clark is a lot like Randy Gregory. There is no denying the talent, but his off-field issues are so glaring many teams dropped him off their boards entirely. Still, could be a steal at the end of the second round. Third round pick Tyler Lockett might add some depth to the receiving corps and will be a great special teams player either way. A few utility guards and a slew of various defenders Seattle is sticking with its “run the ball, protect the ball” philosophy that has driven them to the Super Bowl two consecutive seasons.

St. Louis Rams: B+

By picking Todd Gurley at number 10, the Rams upped the league wide value on running backs. This pick will really be boom or bust in a few years, after the wear and tear of being an NFL workhorse comes through. Helping pave the way will be second round tackle Rob Havenstein. He should start from day one on the right side. The team is clearly focusing on the offensive side of the ball as all but two of their picks were there, and the two defenders they got were in the seventh round.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B-

Jameis Winston will cement the grade of the Bucs by either being as effective as Andrew Luck or Jamarcus Russell. He will get some added help with offensive tackle Donovan Smith, who was very dominant at the Senior Bowl, and second round center Ali Marpet. The later rounds were very thin, so these are a lot of eggs in the offensive baskets. The lack of quality depth is a big concern for a team that needs so much help.

Tennessee Titans: B+

Much like the Bucs, the Titans are tied to how well Mariota plays, and the scrutiny will be immense for the second overall pick. Unlike the Bucs, the Titans got fantastic value in the second round with wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who I saw as a first round pick despite off-field issues. Mike Mayock has compared him to Randy Moss. The other picks lead towards the idea of a power running game that could spare Mariota from having to do it all. That’s a huge boon for a guy trying to adjust to a pro-style offense.

Washington Redskins: B+

Brandon Scherff is arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft, and was compared to Zack Martin. Taking him with the 5th pick is exactly what I had on my mock draft. A perfect mix of need and value with this pick. He’ll pair well with Arie Kouandjio, who was the team’s fifth round pick. Preston Smith is a large end that will be asked to play linebacker in the NFL, and his measurables suggest he can. He’ll be a good fit in a 3 – 4. Third round running back Matt Jones is enormous for a runner, but that might be enough to wear down some opposition. Jones should be an improved backfield blocker for Robert Griffin if nothing else. Fourth round wide receiver Jamison Crowder is likely to become a special teams player as he lacks the height and weight necessary for a competitive full time player in the NFL. Later picks featured a good assortment of potential role players for a team that needs a lot of help across the board.

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