NFL Draft Review 2016: Grading Every First-Round Pick
Rams – Jared Goff
The Rams needed a quarterback and they got the best one. Simple as that. Goff easily has the highest football I.Q. of any quarterback in this draft class, and his accuracy is also spectacular. The most underrated aspect about Goff was that he built up that Cal program from a 1-11 season to an 8-5 season. The Rams haven’t seen the playoffs in years, so having a quarterback that has the experience of turning a team around is invaluable. Goff may not be the best player in this draft class, but getting your franchise quarterback is never a bad deal.
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz
Unlike Goff, Wentz came from a program that won the last five FCS titles! While Goff knows about rebuilding a program, Wentz knows how to win. Both traits are fantastic to have in a quarterback. Goff and Wentz were so close in skill level that it didn’t really matter who the Eagle drafted as the future signal-caller, either way they would get a top talent. The quarterback class wasn’t amazing this year, so trading all the way up to get Wentz may have been a stretch. Same goes for the Rams and Goff. That is why both of these picks get B-. While these players will lead their respective teams, neither one is a top-5 player in this class.
San Diego Chargers: Joey Bosa
Many thought that this pick would be between Buckner, Tunsil, or Ramsey. It turns out it was none of them. Joey Bosa was an absolute monster at Ohio State, and while his stats last year may not show it, he was the most disruptive defender in college football. At 6’6” and 276lbs, Bosa will either have to shed weight to play outside linebacker in the Chargers 3-4 scheme, or gain weight to play defensive end. Bosa could end up staying the same weight and switching between both positions (a la Khalil Mack, except in a 3-4). Wherever he plays, Bosa will consistently be an 8 to 14 sack player in the NFL. As the Chargers lose one great defender in Eric Weddle, they pick up another force in Joey Bosa.
Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott
As a Cowboy’s fan (don’t click off of the article yet!), I was really hoping to see Jalen Ramsey come to Dallas. Ramsey was widely regarded as the top player in this class, and one of the top defensive backs in the draft that we’ve seen in the past five years. The Cowboys needed to bolster their secondary as well, so this pick would’ve been a match made in heaven.
While I would’ve liked Ramsey, I’m still fine with seeing Elliott rush for 1,200+ yards a year behind the Dallas O-line. Alfred Morris may not be the happiest about this pick, but grabbing a guy like Elliott helps the Cowboys get back to that historical 2014 season with DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys found their next great back. Hopefully this ends up better than the last time a running back was drafted in the top five!
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars have managed to turn one of the worst secondaries in the league into one of the best, on paper, in just one offseason. Grabbing Prince Amukamara and Tashaun Gipson were both fantastic moves for the franchise. The exclamation point was drafting the best prospect in the draft, by most people’s opinions. It was smart of the Jaguars to pick Ramsey once he fell to them, instead of trying to go O-line and pick up Tunsil. This was easily one of my favorite picks in the entire draft. Ramsey has been compared heavily to Charles Woodson, so even though re retired, we already found his successor.
Ravens – Ronnie Stanley
There was a report released a couple of days ago stating that the Ravens would have taken Tunsil at No. 6 overall if not for the notorious video of him that went up just minutes before the draft. The Ravens got the next best thing in Ronnie Stanley.
The whole “Eugene Monroe Project” doesn’t seem to be working out as well as the Ravens had wanted it to. While Monroe is still a decent left tackle, Stanley offers them the ability to have one of the best offensive lines in the league with him, Marshal Yanda, and Ricky Wagner. I love this pick, but it would’ve been nice to see a guy like DeForest Buckner get picked here as he fits the need and scheme of the Ravens.
49ers – DeForest Buckner
It’s official, there is a new Great Wall of China, and it’s in San Francisco. With Arik Armstead standing 6’8” and DeForest Buckner measuring in at 6’7”, Russell Wilson is going to have a hard time just seeing over these two! I love this pick! We all know Chip Kelly loves his Oregon players, and drafting Buckner just helps him on his path to replicating his former program in the NFL the best he can. The other great aspect about this pick is that Buckner will join forces with his former teammate and fellow skyscraper Arik Armstead.
Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin
Considering that the Titans were pretty much a lock to draft Laremy Tunsil with the top overall pick before trading with the Rams, many thought that when the Titans traded up to pick No. 8 and Tunsil was still on the board, they would draft him in a heartbeat. Things didn’t exactly go like that perfectly because the NFL Draft is apparently the definition of imperfect and unpredictable. When the Titans drafted Conklin, I felt like this pick was more telling of Tunsil than it was of Conklin. Pick No. 8 was the moment when fans realized just how detrimental the video was to Tunsil’s draft stock. He apparently missed out on a possible $7 million due to the slide. Getting to the actual pick though, I’ll make it short. Jack Conklin is not a top ten pick, he will never justify the pick value, and trading up get the third-best tackle -- maybe the fourth-best tackle -- in the draft is just confusing to me.
Chicago Bears: Leonard Floyd
I felt like this pick was a bit of a reach, especially as the Bears traded up to get Floyd, but I am not as opposed to it as I am the previous pick. The Bears are switching schemes, and that can be a tough time for any franchise. The Bears need players that fit in their scheme, and Leonard Floyd fits perfectly. He’s long, fast, and is able to get after the passer. Pairing him with fellow offseason additions, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, gives the Bears one of the best groups of linebackers in the league. The only issue with Floyd is, like many players in the draft, he is a bit of a project. The Bears are hoping that he keeps trending upwards and doesn’t peak soon.
New York Giants: Eli Apple
What?! I mean I understand that the draft is unpredictable and illogical at some points, but this seems like it’s crossing the line to me. I think all of America, at the same time, did their best impersonation of the “Nick Young Confused Face”. First off, cornerback wasn’t even one of the Giants biggest needs. Second, if you are going to go the route of drafting the best player available, Eli Apple was far from it. You had players like Tunsil and Vernon Hargreaves still on the board. Third, if you did want to go after a cornerback, then why go after Eli Apple? Vernon Hargreaves is one of the best players in this draft class and unanimously thought of as the second-best cornerback in this class. I had Eli Apple as my fifth-best cornerback, behind Ramsey, Hargreaves, William Jackson III, and Mackensie Alexander. Reaching big-time on Ereck Flowers last year and now this? I’m starting to wonder if the Giants are just picking players out of hat at this point!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III
The Buccaneers must have been laughing when they heard who the Giants drafted. Vernon Hargreaves was widely thought of as a top-10 pick and the Buccaneers were candidates to select him at No. 9 before the trade. The fact that they still got him two picks later makes the Bucs big winners in the first round. Pairing Hargreaves with aging veteran Brent Grimes and decent cover man Alterraun Verner gives Tampa a stable secondary for the future. While Hargreaves is only 5’10”, he is one of the best technical corners in this draft. What makes him so special is that he plays bigger than his actual size and his footwork is impeccable. Hargreaves has also played against some great receivers, such as Amari Cooper, Laquon Treadwell, Calvin Ridley, and Rashad Greene. He has the potential to be a true shutdown corner for the Bucs.
New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins
Sheldon Rankins is the best defensive tackle in this class. New Orleans needed a defensive tackle desperately. It was pretty predictable that if Rankins was there at pick No. 12, then the Saints would take him. The Saints get a “poor man’s Aaron Donald” with this pick, but even though he may never be as impactful as Donald, he should become a cornerstone for the Saint’s defense in a couple of years.
Miami Dolphins: Laremy Tunsil
Well, this was a match that I never predicted. Laremy Tunsil’s slide finally ended at pick No. 13. The Dolphins have been notorious for having a bad offensive line for the past three to four years, but it finally looks like after years of building it back up, they have finally fixed it. Branden Albert is the starter at left tackle now, but at 31 years old, he shouldn’t be playing at a high level for much longer. Tunsil will be breathing down Albert’s neck until the latter slows down. When that does happen, Tunsil will step up and should be one of the best tackles in football in a few years. Only concern is Tunsil’s sudden off-field concerns and injury history.
Oakland Raiders: Karl Joseph
The Raiders don’t really have a whole lot of needs on their team, maybe defensive tackle and middle linebacker could be needs, but drafting any players at those positions at pick No. 14 would be a bit of a reach. Getting Karl Joseph might have been a bit of a reach as well, but it solidifies that Raiders secondary. Combining the hard-hitting safety with ball-haw safety Reggie Nelson makes for one heck of a safety tandem. Joseph should see a lot of balls thrown his way in year one, with Sean Smith and Nelson playing alongside him. Joseph is a good cover safety as well, but I’m not sure he will really be able to hold up in the NFL. His injury history scares me a little too.
Can we just take a moment and flashback two years ago when the Raiders were the laughingstock of the NFL? Now they have the best young quarterback-wide receiver duo in the NFL and their defense is shaping up to be one of the best, led by Khalil Mack.
Cleveland Browns: Corey Coleman
I like the Brown’s decision to trade down. They need more players as they have pretty much lost all of their stars expect for Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. With the amount of picks that the Browns had, at least one of them should pan out into a great contributor. Losing Travis Benjamin was a big loss for the Browns, and it doesn’t look like Josh Gordon is coming back to the Browns any time soon, so long as he keeps screwing up. The Browns were in a unique situation where could draft for need and draft best available at the same time, because they are really that devoid of talent. You can’t fault the Browns for going with the boom-or-bust pick in Corey Coleman. The only problem is that it’s the Browns, so it will most likely be a bust pick. I don’t even think Coleman is one of the top two receivers in this class.
Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker
The Lions were hoping that Rankins fell to them, but the Saints snagged him with the 12th overall pick. Offensive line is still a need for the Lions, so grabbing Taylor Decker at No. 16 was still a good pick. The Lions could’ve used a wide receiver or a defensive back, but you can never have enough offensive lineman. There is nothing crazy about this pick, but it was solid. Decker should be a stable left tackle during his career.
Atlanta Falcons: Keanu Neal
Two hard-hitting safeties drafted in the top 20? Don’t worry, I was confused too when I heard this pick. I really wanted to see the Falcons take Darron Lee with this pick, but they took the safety out of Florida. This pick was a huge, I mean huge reach. Neal didn’t start getting any first-round hype until about a week and a half ago. Even then, he was never considered to be drafted in the top-20. Even though I am not a fan of drafting him this high, I am a fan of the way that Neal plays. It’s hard to choose between Karl Joseph and Keanu Neal as the harder-hitter, but either way you go, you are choosing a Kam Chancellor-esque player. The Falcons don’t exactly have the most intimidating secondary outside of Desmond Trufant, so this pick was actually justified, but I still feel he may have fell to them in the second round.
Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly was about the surest lineman in the entire draft. Ryan Kelly was drafted to be the next Jeff Saturday for them. The Colts needed help at linebacker and along the defensive line, so I would have liked Noah Spence, Reggie Ragland, or Shaq Lawson with this pick. Getting probably one of the top five centers in the league come four years doesn’t hurt though. Overall, this was a decent and expected pick for the Colts.
Buffalo Bills: Shaq Lawson
One year removed from a 12+ sack season, Mario Williams is now on the Miami Dolphins. Buffalo looked like it could have some concerns at the defensive end position, but after this pick, all of those doubts went away. Shaq Lawson is the perfect size for a 4-3 end and is one of my favorite prospects in this draft class. Lawson saw double teams on most plays during college, and he still managed to put up great stats for a Clemson team that made it to the National Championship game. Rex Ryan is known for being able to develop defensive players to their full potential, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see 10+ sacks next to Lawson’s name in a few years.
New York Jets: Darron Lee
I am a huge fan of Darron Lee. His speed and coverage are excellent, but he also is an underrated pass rusher, collecting 11 sacks in just two seasons at Ohio State. I personally would’ve chosen Paxton Lynch here, but getting Darron Lee to replace Trevor Reilly or Erin Henderson should prove to be an excellent pick down the line. Lee embodies the new “coverage- specialist” linebacker that a lot of NFL teams covet. I am excited to see how he fits in with the loaded Jets defense next season.
Houston Texans: Will Fuller
Will Fuller may not have been the best receiver on the board, but the Texans picked him for his incredible 4.3 speed. Pairing the speedster with DeAndre Hopkins should help Brock Osweiler sleep a little better at night. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Fuller get 1,000 yards next season, as Hopkins should still be seeing lots of attention going his way. The Texans just improved their offense drastically.
Washington Redskins: Josh Doctson
As you may or may not know, I am a huge TCU fan. I have been watching Doctson for the past two years and have been impressed with his hands and leaping ability. While I do love Doctson, I have to question this pick by the Redskins. The Redskins have Pierre Garcon, who is still a good contributor despite not being able to replicate his 2013 season, DeSean Jackson, and Jamison Crowder, who showed a lot of promise last season, at the wide receiver positions. Adding Doctson could cause a logjam there. I would have liked to see a cornerback be picked here, and William Jackson and Mackensie Alexander were projected to go right around this range too.
Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell
The unquestioned top wide receiver about six months ago, Treadwell fell due to concerns about his lack of speed. At this pick, I think all of America knew who the Vikings would draft. Treadwell is still going to be a great player in the NFL despite his speed concerns, so grabbing him at No. 23 overall could prove to be one of the steals of this draft. It was no secret that the Vikings needed help at the wide receiver position, and they went out and got one. With an already young and formidable defense, the Vikings just added a top target for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. This team is looking like playoff contenders next season.
Cincinnati Bengals: William Jackson III
William Jackson was a late riser into the first round. While not as late as Keanu Neal into the discussion, he certainly wasn’t in any mock draft a couple of months ago. Jackson is one of the best all-around corners in this class, and I think he was picked around the range that he deserved. With Reggie Nelson leaving and Leon Hall still a free agent the Bengals lost half of their starters in the secondary. Darqueze Dennard doesn’t look like he can be a quality starter at this point in his career, so drafting Jackson means that him or Dre Kirkpatrick will be the starter come Week 1.
Overall, I think that this is a good pick because of the need and the value. I can’t really see Jackson being a bust in the NFL.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Artie Burns
Another one of those “late-risers”, Artie Burns didn’t really step into the first-round discussion until about a few weeks ago. I love the value of this pick along with filling a need for the Steelers. The secondary for Pittsburgh last year was absolutely atrocious, and picking up Burns, a fast corner with a knack for big plays, Burns will impact the Steelers secondary in Day 1. Personally, I think that Mackensie Alexander is the third-best corner in this class, so I was waiting for him to go at this pick, but he slipped all the way to the late second round. I honestly don’t see Burns as being anything more than a decent corner in a few years. He is fast, but he gives scouts a reason to say their favorite word: “raw”.
Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch
Worst-case scenario, Lynch doesn’t pan out and the Broncos turn to Mark Sanchez to line up under center. Sanchez isn’t a terrible quarterback, but hopefully the Broncos never have to turn to him to lead them.
I don’t see Lynch being a bust, but I don’t get the feeling that he is going to light up the league someday. I see him as a mid-level guy, sort of like an Alex Smith or a Matthew Stafford. This is not a comparison in the way that he plays, but in terms of how he will rank among quarterbacks. Denver proved that they can win with a top defense and a decent quarterback this past season, so Lynch shouldn’t ruin their Super Bowl hopes for next season.
Green Bay Packers: Kenny Clark
Kenny Clark started to get a lot of first-round hype around December and January, but he quickly fell out of the discussion as more and more players started to separate themselves from the pack. Clark is one of the strongest defensive tackles in this draft, with the strongest being the player I thought that the Packers should have selected: Andrew Billings. Billings was a High School powerlifting champion, which is pretty much all you need to know about him to justify his first-round selection. In addition to the strength, Billings also extremely athletic, a recipe for a first-round selection if you’re a defensive lineman. Billings ended up falling to the third round for some strange reason and the Packers ended up choosing Clark. Don’t get me wrong, Clark will still be a solid contributor for Green Bay, but they could’ve hit a home run if they picked Billings.
San Francisco 49ers: Joshua Garnett
Let me first start off by saying that Joshua Garnett wasn’t even the best guard in the draft. I thought he would go in the late-second to early-third round. The fact that the 49ers traded up to get him was just plain stupid. If any team was going to take a guard, it was going to be Cody Whitehair before Joshua Garnett. I get what the 49ers were trying to do. They were trying to get back to their days when they have the best run-blocking offensive line, and maybe the best offensive line in general, in the NFL. Drafting a local player isn’t a bad idea on the part of San Francisco, but I just didn’t see the need for them to trade up.
Arizona Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche
Formerly known as the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school and as a potential top-5 pick, Robert Nkemdiche saw his share of off-field issues during the draft process. If anyone can change a player like Nkemdiche, it’s Bruce Arians and the Cardinals organization. Remember when the Cardinals drafted Tyrann Mathieu, a troubled kid out of LSU? Patrick Peterson took him under his wing, and Mathieu was a contender for Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. If the Cardinals can do the same with Nkemdiche, then every team in the NFL should watch out for the Cardinals, if they weren’t already.
Carolina Panthers: Vernon Butler
Vernon Butler was another late riser in this draft. Coming out of Louisiana Tech, Butler never really faced tough competition, but he consistently showed off his power against every opponent. This pick means that while the Panthers already have two solid defensive tackles, one being top-5 at his position, they can rotate defensive tackles and conserve energy. This means that they can have their defensive tackles going all-out on every play and never having to worry about the stamina of their defensive tackles.
Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi
How many Texas A&M offensive tackles in a row will be drafted in the first-round? They just keep coming and coming. Avery Gennesy is the projected first-rounder for the 2017 Draft. As for the pick, we all knew that Seattle would draft a tackle. After losing Russell Okung, the best player on an atrocious offensive line, the Seahawks just needed anyone who could step in and at least provide decent protection. Ifedi should hopefully be the anchor for the Seahawks offensive line for years to come. Ifedi is one of the most athletic tackles in this draft class, so he should provide Russell Wilson some more time to improvise during plays. This was a very predictable pick by the Seahawks, but you can’t fault them for that.