2018 NFL Draft Grades for all 32 teams: Bears, Bucs, Ravens, Panthers get top marks
There’s nothing like draft grades to ignite the angry fans. So here we go.
There are my team-by-team grades for each team, a print-and-save column that always comes back to haunt me.
I am giving out four “A” grades here. Those teams are the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I thought all four teams had outstanding drafts, and all four also have a chance to make major improvement after having those good three days of drafting.
So dive in, look around, complain a lot and then remember to look back at this when it’s really time to analyze a draft.
For now, this is what you get.
Arizona Cardinals: B+
They made a smart move to go up and get the second-best quarterback in this draft in Josh Rosen. He can spend time behind Sam Bradford before taking over next year. I also liked the pick of receiver Christian Kirk in the second, and Mason Cole will push for the starting center job. Keep an eye on fourth-round running back Chase Edmonds from Fordham. He will help back up David Johnson.
Atlanta Falcons: B-
Picking a receiver in the first round might seem like a luxury, but they need a third option to go with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, which is why picking Calvin Ridley makes sense. He does need to get stronger. Second-round corner Isaiah Oliver fits with what they do and was a nice choice. Third-round defensive tackle Deadrin Senat will be a nice addition next to Grady Jarrett. Not getting an offensive lineman at all hurts.
Baltimore Ravens: A
The Ravens had two trade downs to pick up a bunch of extra picks, which really helped make their draft. They took tight end Hayden Hurst with their first-round pick, and he will be an immediate impact player. They then traded back into the first round to take quarterback Lamar Jackson. He will be their quarterback of the future. I liked the pick of Orlando Brown in the third round, but I am not as sold on tight end Mark Andrews, their other third-round pick, as others. Keep an eye on fourth-round receiver Jaleel Scott. He should contribute as a rookie. Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta had another good draft.
Buffalo Bills: B+
They made the move up to get quarterback Josh Allen at No. 7, which was the right thing to do. Allen will finally put to end their quest to replace Jim Kelly, who retired a long time ago. They also took linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the first round, and he will be their starting middle linebacker, a three-down player. That’s a great first round. Third-round pick Harrison Phillips will be a big-time player. He will be a steal. Waiting until the sixth round to take a receiver is a bit questionable.
Carolina Panthers: A
They needed to get help for Cam Newton, and they did just that. It started with receiver D.J. Moore in the first round, who I believe is the best receiver in this draft. He will give them a different dimension for their passing game. They also got a needed corner in Donte Jackson, who was the fastest player in the draft, and then took a quality safety in third-round pick Rashaan Gaulden. I love fourth-round tight end Ian Thomas, who will be a nice second option behind Greg Olsen. Fourth-round edge player Marquis Haynes will help the outside pass rush as a situational player early in his career. They had a nice haul.
Chicago Bears: A
The Bears knocked it out of the park with their first three picks. They landed linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round, and he will immediately become a big part of their defense. In the second round, they hit on interior lineman James Daniels, who will play left guard for them, and then hit big on receiver Anthony Miller, who has star potential. He might end up being the best receiver in this class. If they get a little out of the rest of the class, it’s a bonus. They had an impressive first two days.
Cincinnati Bengals: C
The pick of Ohio State center Brian Price was a bit of a surprise since he is coming off a torn pec muscle suffered at the combine. He is a nice player — one with a mean streak — but it’s risky. Second-round safety Jessie Bates will push for time as a rookie. Third-round edge Sam Hubbard was a solid player in college, but I think third-round linebacker Malik Jefferson didn’t make enough plays at Texas. Keep an eye on fifth-round defensive tackle Andrew Brown from Virginia. He has a chance to be a nice inside player.
Cleveland Browns: B-
They took quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick, which I think is a bit risky. They then took corner Denzel Ward with the fourth pick when pass rusher Bradley Chubb was a better option. Mayfield and Ward will be good players, but I think they had other choices that were better. They did follow with some good things like taking tackle Austin Corbett and running back Nick Chubb in the second round. Fourth-round receiver Antonio Callaway could be a steal, but he has character concerns. I love sixth-round linebacker Genard Avery.
Dallas Cowboys: C+
I love the pick of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round. He has a chance to be a special player. I won’t say he’s the next Luke Kuechly like some scouts told me, but he will be an impact player for a long time. They plan to play second-round Connor Williams at guard after he was a tackle at Texas. Some scouts said he lacked toughness. Third-round receiver Michael Gallup has good size and made a lot of plays, but he doesn’t solve the speed problem outside. They did trade to get Tavon Austin from the Rams, which does add speed. Fourth-round tight end Dalton Schultz could be a steal.
Denver Broncos: B+
They landed the best edge rusher in the draft by taking Bradley Chubb with the fifth pick in the first round. He will be an immediate force off the edge opposite Von Miller. I wasn’t as high as some on second-round receiver Courtland Sutton, but I do like the pick of fourth-round receiver DaeSean Hamilton. He runs great routes. I also liked the pick of fourth round of Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell. He will be a special-teams force right away.
Detroit Lions: B
The Lions need to run the ball better, and their first two picks show they know that all too well. They took interior lineman Frank Ragnow in the first round, and he will be a big part of that improvement up front. I love second-round running back Kerryon Johnson from Auburn. He will be their lead runner. Third-round safety Tracy Walker has good range, and fifth-round offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby could be a steal.
Green Bay Packers: B+
They needed to get better at corner, and they did just that with their first two picks, trading down to add more picks in the process. They took Jaire Alexander in the first round, and he is a perfect man-cover player for new coordinator Mike Pettine. Second-round corner Josh Jackson was great value, but he isn’t as good in press as Alexander. Third-round linebacker Oren Burks can run. Getting two receivers on the third day also made sense, but I don’t like drafting a punter in the fifth round.
Houston Texans: C+
They traded their first-round pick this year to take quarterback Deshaun Watson last season, so they didn’t pick in this draft until the third round after also trading a second-round pick to Cleveland to dump Brock Osweiler. They did have three third-round picks. The first one was used on safety Justin Reid, and he will be a nice addition on the back end. They followed that by taking tackle Martinas Rankin, who could start as a rookie and then added tight end Jordan Akins. They also added tight end Jordan Thomas in the sixth. Getting Watson was worth the move last year, but this draft was limited.
Indianapolis Colts: B+
They took the cleanest player in the draft in the first round in guard Quenton Nelson, but that’s high for a guard in my book. Even so, it was a need pick. They added another guard in the second round in Braden Smith, a player a lot of teams wanted in that round behind them. That gives them a real upgrade inside on their line. Second-round linebacker Darius Leonard is a thumper who will help the defense. They also added defensive linemen Kemoko Turay, a raw edge rusher, and Tyquan Lewis in the second. Fourth-round running back Nyheim Hines will be the change-of-pace back.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B
Taking defensive lineman Taven Bryan in the first round was a smart move. He was great value at No. 29 and will provide a young body for a line that has age in Calais Campbell and some beefy contracts that could be a problem next year. Second-round receiver D.J. Chark will add some much-needed speed outside, but his production wasn’t what it should have been at LSU. But you can’t teach speed. Third-round safety Ronnie Harrison is a box safety who will eventually take over for Barry Church, and fourth-round offensive tackle Will Richardson is the likely right tackle in a year or two. The latter two did have some character concerns.
Kansas City Chiefs: C
The Chiefs didn’t have a first-round pick because they used to it to trade up last year to take quarterback Patrick Mahomes. I think they’re OK with that decision. They did trade away a third-round pick to move up in the second round to take Breeland Speaks from Ole Miss. He played defensive tackle in college, but the Chiefs plan to stand him up as an edge rusher. That’s risky. Third-round linebacker Dorian O’Daniel will help address a major need inside.
Los Angeles Chargers: B
I thought Chargers general manager Tom Telesco had a solid draft. They needed defensive help, and they got it. They started by taking Florida State safety Derwin James, and he will be a star. They followed that up by taking USC edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu, who will play a variety of spots in their defense. Third-round nose tackle Justin Jones will help improve the run defense.
Los Angeles Rams: C-
The Rams didn’t have a first-round pick (traded away to get receiver Brandin Cooks from the Patriots) or a second-round pick (traded away for a one-year rental on Sammy Watkins). Their first pick in this draft was in the third round and they used it on TCU tackle Joseph Noteboom, who is the down-the-road replacement for Andrew Whitworth. Fourth-round center Brian Allen was taken as the player who will likely take over when veteran John Sullivan is done. Sixth-round running back John Kelly could be a nice backup to Todd Gurley.
Miami Dolphins: B+
The Dolphins did a really nice job with their first three picks. They landed safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round to upgrade the secondary. He is a great kid who will also help the culture change that coach Adam Gase wants. Second-round tight end Mike Gesicki from Penn State will add a pass-catching threat to the offense and third-round linebacker Jerome Baker will add a lot of speed to the linebacker group. Fourth-round tight end Durham Smythe will give them more of an in-line player than Gesicki.
Minnesota Vikings: B-
They took a good corner in the first round in Mike Hughes, passing on offensive line help there. Hughes will push Mackensie Alexander in the slot as a rookie. They took tackle Brian O’Neill in the second, a pick I really like. He’s a former basketball player who needs to get stronger. Fourth-round defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes will add nice depth to a good defensive line.
New England Patriots: B
The Patriots did a lot of moving up and down this draft, and ended up with nine selections. They had two in the first round and used the first of those on Georgia tackle Isaiah Wynn. He is short to be a left tackle, but he’s a good player. They then took Georgia runner Sony Michel with their other first-round pick. He is perfect for their system. Both Georgia players do come with injury concerns. They traded up in the second round to take Florida corner Duke Dawson, which was probably a little high for him. After that, they addressed linebacker need and then took Miami receiver Braxton Berrios in the sixth to play the slot.
New Orleans Saints: C+
They mold a bold move to trade up with Green Bay — including giving up next year’s first-round pick — to take edge rusher Marcus Davenport with the 14th overall pick. He has the ability to be a double-digit sack player, and he fills a need, but he needs some seasoning. They didn’t have a second-round pick — traded away for the chance to draft Alvin Kamara last year — so they had to be patient. Third-round receiver Tre’Quan Smith will give them some more speed on offense. After last year’s draft it’s hard to knock them, but they better hope Davenport is a star.
New York Giants: B
Taking a back second overall isn’t much to my liking, but they landed a good player in Saquon Barkley. I would have taken defensive end Bradley Chubb in that spot. I did like the pick of second-round guard Will Hernandez, who will bring a tough, nasty style to their line. They added some nice defensive line help in third-round defensive tackle B.J. Hill and third-round edge player Lorenzo Carter. They also took quarterback Kyle Lauletta in the fifth round to help develop behind Eli Manning. It was a good first draft for Dave Gettleman with the Giants.
New York Jets: C+
They landed what they believe is their franchise passer in Sam Darnold, moving up to the third spot to take him. Most rate this as a great pick, but I am not as sold on Darnold. Even so, they had to get a passer in that spot. Third-round nose tackle Nathan Shepherd will help improve the run defense. If Darnold is a star, this draft will be a really good one. I don’t think he will be, but instead he will be just a solid quarterback.
Oakland Raiders: C
Jon Gruden wanted to get better on the offensive line, and he did, but what about the defensive issues? They still need corner and linebacker help, but didn’t take a corner until the fourth round when they took Nick Nelson from Wisconsin. He is coming off a knee injury he suffered at a workout in April. First-round pick Kolton Miller is a good player, and they did add picks to trade down in the first round before taking him. Third-round right tackle Brandon Parker is raw, but he has skills. They got a nice inside player on defense in P.J. Hall in the second round. He’s a smallish, push-the-pocket tackle. Third-round pass rusher Arden Key could be a major steal. He had some off-field issues that drove his value down, but he has the ability to be a major force off the edge. Fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst could be a steal if he’s medically OK.
Philadelphia Eagles: C
The Eagles traded out of the first round with Baltimore and then took tight end Dallas Goedert in the second. He will play a backup role to Zach Ertz as the replacement for Trey Burton. He is a nice pass-catching tight end. Fourth-round edge Josh Sweat has good pass-rush ability, but there are some injury concerns. The Eagles didn’t have a lot of picks, trading a second to move up two years ago to get Carson Wentz and a third to Buffalo to get corner Ronald Darby last year.
Pittsburgh Steelers: C
Some were shocked to see the Steelers take safety Terrell Edmunds in the first round, but he is a good player who will add a physical style on the back end. I didn’t like second-round receiver James Washington as much as some, but the Steelers have a good track record with receivers. Third-round quarterback Mason Rudolph could be their quarterback of the future, and I liked Jaylen Samuels in the fifth. He can play running back or H-back for them.
San Francisco 49ers: C+
They landed a solid offensive tackle in Mike McGlinchey in the first round, and he will be their left tackle when Joe Staley retires. For now, he will start at right tackle after the team traded Trent Brown to the Patriots. I did like the pick of second-round receiver Dante Pettis, who will fit nicely in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Fourth-round pass rusher Kentavius Street is a player who could pay dividends down the road, but he tore an ACL during a pre-draft workout. So he’s a year away.
Seattle Seahawks: D+
Seahawks general manager John Schneider has done such an amazing job of building his roster to win a Super Bowl that it’s tough to question his decisions, but I didn’t like the idea of taking running back Rashaad Penny in the first round. He’s a good player, but it’s not a value position, especially with a defense falling apart. Their second-round pick went for a one-year rental on Sheldon Richardson last season. Not good. Fifth-round pick Shaquem Griffin was the story of the draft, joining his brother in Seattle. Griffin will open as a linebacker, but could also play safety. I was not a big fan of trading up to take a punter (Michael Dickson) in the fifth round.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A
They needed players on defense and they landed a bunch of talented guys who can help, thanks in part to a trade down in the first round. Defensive tackle Vita Vea gives them much needed bulk up front and they took some secondary players who will help. I really like the pick of corner Carlton Davis in the third. Second-round pick Ronald Jones will be a star. Watch out for this team next year.
Tennessee Titans: C+
I liked their pick of Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans in the first round. He will be a three-down player on their defense, which they needed. Second-round pass rusher Harold Landry will be great value if he can play like he did in 2016. Taking quarterback Luke Falk in the sixth round could prove to pay off for a long-term backup to Marcus Mariota.
Washington Redskins: B-
They needed to get stronger up front on defense and Da’Ron Payne will give them that. He will help improve the run defense and is a capable pass rusher. Second-round running back Derrius Guice had first-round talent, but some character concerns drove him down. He will be their primary runner, so good value. Third-round tackle Geron Christian is the replacement when Trent Williams retires. Williams has also had some injury concerns. Christian is a big-time athlete for a tackle. Fifth-round nose Tim Settle will also be a force against the run.