Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama: A+ Grade One-Year Grade: A Grade
Jonathan Allen was a huge steal in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was a top-five prospect who fell to No. 17 overall because of injury concerns. Allen played very well in five games, but was lost for the year because of a Lisfranc injury. Still, Allen has a tremendous outlook for the future, and the Redskins deserve an "A" for this re-grade.
I bet the Redskins never would've imagined in a billion years that they'd land Jonathan Allen in the 2017 NFL Draft without trading up. Allen is a top-five prospect, but has fallen because of a shoulder issue. I'd say his shoulders must be bad, but he has been tremendous at Alabama, and his shoulders definitely weren't an issue last year when he was the best player in college football. Washington is getting an insane steal with Allen, who will fill a huge need for them in the team's poor front seven.
Tennessee Titans: Adoree Jackson, CB, USC: B Grade One-Year Grade: A Grade
Adoree Jackson had a great rookie season for the Titans as both a cornerback and return specialist. He wasn't a shutdown corner like Marshon Lattimore or Tre'Davious White, but Jackson still proved to be a terrific pick at No. 18 overall.
I had Adoree Jackson going to the Titans, so I definitely think he fits the range at No. 18 overall. Some had Jackson falling into the late 20s, which I thought was crazy, given his talent level. However, O.J. Howard fell right into Tennessee's lap, so I think the Titans should've taken the extremely talented tight end. He would've provided a great intermediate weapon for Marcus Mariota for the next dozen years. That said, Tennessee did take Corey Davis earlier, so I understand why they'd want to add a defensive player, and Jackson fills a huge need. He'll also be a big weapon on special teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: A+ Grade One-Year Grade: B Grade
The Buccaneers were planning on taking Dalvin Cook before O.J. Howard dropped to them. They should have taken Cook, but Howard had his moments during his rookie campaign. He started slowly, taking a back seat to Cameron Brate, but Howard became a bigger part of the offense during the final few weeks of the season.
I thought the Buccaneers would select Dalvin Cook, but I never would've imagined that O.J. Howard would still be on the board. With that in mind, this is a no-brainer. The Buccaneers are getting a prospect many thought would be chosen either fourth or sixth overall, making this a crazy value pick. Howard was the best player available, and he'll fill a need for Tampa. Cameron Brate played well last year, but he's limited athletically. Howard will provide Jameis Winston with a matchup nightmare weapon, and Winston will improve because of Howard's presence. This is an easy A+.
Garett Bolles had a mixed rookie season. He run blocked very well, but struggled in pass protection. However, that was to be expected, as Bolles was considered raw entering the pros. Bolles has great upside, so he could be much better in a couple of years from now. I'm downgrading this from a B+ to a B-, but it wouldn't surprise me if this were a B+ again in five seasons.
I thought the Seahawks were going to jump the Broncos for Garett Bolles, but apparently not. Bolles is the most athletic offensive tackle in this class. He has some off-the-field issues, but not anything major. The Broncos have taken chances on players like that before though, and it's worked out, so Bolles seems like a solid pick. He obviously fills a massive need on the roster, as Denver had arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL heading into the draft. It's unclear if Bolles will pan out, but the Broncos actually have a chance to block well now.
Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: B Grade One-Year Grade: D Grade
Jarrad Davis had a rough rookie season. He was decent against the run, but was completely abused in coverage. Bill Belichick recognized this early in a preseason game against the Lions, scheming against Davis, and other teams followed suit. Davis should get better, but I have to imagine the Lions really regret passing on Reuben Foster right now.
Over Reuben Foster? Hmm... Jarrad Davis saw his stock rise late in the process once teams realized that he had top-five intangibles, so he projects to be a great team leader for the Lions. He also fills a huge need here, as the Lions lost DeAndre Levy this offseason. Detroit still has many defensive holes to fill, but selecting Davis is a nice start. That said, the Lions could regret not taking Foster down the road.
Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: B+ Grade One-Year Grade: B- Grade
Charles Harris had just two sacks as a rookie, but played better than that. His future is bright, though the Dolphins could've made better picks at this juncture, including Evan Engram, Tre'Davious White and Reuben Foster.
There was some speculation that Charles Harris could be chosen in the top 15. I wasn't quite sure even though I slotted him to the Colts because he tested poorly at the combine. Harris had great tape, however, and the Dolphins are getting a great talent at defensive end. Miami has some aging players there and needed some young blood at the position. Harris could be a double-digit sack artist for Miami over the next decade.
New York Giants: Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss: C+ Grade One-Year Grade: A+ Grade
Evan Engram was prolific as a rookie tight end in 2017, catching 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns. He was a big part of the New York offense right away, and he'll only improve in the coming seasons. This was a terrific pick for the Giants, as they made the right move to pick Engram over David Njoku.
This seems like a bit of a reach, especially with David Njoku still available. It's not an egregious reach though, so I won't grade this selection too poorly. I think a C+ is about right, as Engram fills a big need at tight end and also provides the declining Eli Manning with an intermediate mismatch weapon. At the very worst, Engram can sell some of his memorabilia at Eli's store. In all seriousness, this is an OK pick, but with better players available, the Giants should have moved down a bit. They probably could've gotten Engram (or Njoku) a bit later.
Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: A or F. Maybe A? Grade One-Year Grade: B- Grade
The Raiders took a big chance on Gareon Conley, who had legal issues entering the 2017 NFL Draft. He escaped those problems, but played just two games because of lingering shin problems. Conley had a decent showing in those two contests, giving the Raiders hope for 2018. Still, it was disappointing that Conley played, while Tre'Davious White, taken three picks later, had so much more success.
Whoooaaaa... This is crazy. I don't even know how to grade this, in case you couldn't tell.
I never thought Gareon Conley would be chosen in the first round in the wake of his rape allegations. It's worth noting that several teams thought the charge was bogus, as Conley interviewed extremely well at the combine and everywhere else. The thing is, you never know about a person, and Conley could be guilty. He hasn't even met with police yet. If Conley is charged and found guilty, this will go down as one of the worst first-round picks ever. However, Conley is an amazing prospect, so if he's found innocent, Oakland's defense will improve tremendously. Thus, the Raiders are getting an "A" or an "F." I don't know.
Jabrill Peppers had a terrible rookie year. He looked completely lost in coverage and was guilty of whiffing on lots of tackles. Peppers has the physical ability to develop into a solid safety, but as for right now, the critics who claimed that Peppers doesn't have a natural position in the pros appear to be right.
I'm going to factor in the trade a little bit here, which takes this grade from a "B" to a B+. I'll grade the actual draft trades later tonight. As for this actual selection, Jabrill Peppers definitely provides the Browns with the athleticism their new front office has been looking for with their analytics. However, Peppers doesn't have a true position, and some teams thought he belonged in the second round. This is a bit earlier than I expected Peppers to go, but I don't have a huge problem with taking him No. 25 overall, especially when taking the trade into account.
Atlanta Falcons: Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA: C Grade One-Year Grade: A Grade
I was concerned about Takkarist McKinley's health, which is why I gave the Falcons a "C" grade for the pick. However, unlike other players with medical red flags like Jonathan Allen and Malik Hooker, McKinley was able to have an injury-free rookie campaign. McKinley recorded six sacks despite playing limited snaps, and he was actually more effective than Vic Beasley. In fact, I actually argued that McKinley should be getting more snaps than Beasley, and perhaps that'll happen in the near future.
So, let me get this straight? Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster fell because of injury concerns, yet Takkarist McKinley doesn't? Maybe McKinley could've gone a bit earlier, but he won't be able to play to open the 2017 season, unlike Allen and Foster. The Falcons are attempting to reach the Super Bowl this year, so not being able to have McKinley at full strength isn't ideal. He could be a great player for the Falcons once he's healthy, but the injuries are a concern. I'm giving the Falcons a "C" as a result. I don't like giving up the third-rounder to get McKinley when there were lots of good pass-rushers on the board.
I gave the Bills a B+ for selecting Tre'Davious White, but even I underestimated how great this pick was. It was the best selection in the entire first round. Like Marshon Lattimore, White emerged as a shutdown cornerback despite being a rookie. Yet, White was chosen 16 picks after White. Not only that, but the Bills moved down prior to selecting White! Thanks to that savvy move, they now own the 22nd-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If I gave out A++ grades, this selection would earn one.
As with the Cleveland pick at No. 25, I'm factoring the trade in a little bit, and I'm going to grade each draft trade. As for this actual selection, it's a solid one. Tre'Davious White was slotted to go in this range even though I had him dropping in my mock draft. White is a solid cornerback who will fill a big need for the Bills, as they needed to replace Stephon Gilmore, who defected for New England.
Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: A- Grade One-Year Grade: C Grade
Taco Charlton drew lots of criticism for struggling in the preseason. His poor play didn't improve very much in real action. He was mostly a non-factor as a rookie, registering three sacks, albeit in limited snaps. That said, two of his sacks came in the final five games, so perhaps that's a positive sign going forward.
One team told us early in the draft process that they regarded Taco Charlton as a top-10 prospect. That changed a bit throughout the spring, but Charlton still provides solid value at No. 28 overall. Charlton is a long, athletic player. The concern is that he's a 1-year wonder, but he's very talented and could potentially solve Dallas' pass-rushing woes. I had Charlton going at No. 21, so the Cowboys did well by being patient and taking one of the better players remaining on the board.
Cleveland Browns: David Njoku, TE, Miami: B+ Grade One-Year Grade: B Grade
David Njoku had a very mixed rookie campaign. On one hand, he displayed his athletic ability with some big plays. He caught 32 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns despite being paired with horrific quarterbacking. On the other hand, Njoku dropped lots of passes and proved to be unreliable. He should be able to improve upon those issues, especially if he's paired with a better quarterback in 2018 onward.
I usually don't like teams trading up, but the Browns have a billion picks and almost need to in order to grab some talented players. David Njoku is a bit of a project, but he's an extremely talented tight end who has Pro Bowl potential. The Browns still have Gary Barnidge, but he's not going to be around for much longer, so Njoku could take over as the primary intermediate target in a year or two. By then, the Browns could compete for a playoff spot, provided that they find a quarterback somehow, some way.
Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Wisconsin: B+ Grade One-Year Grade: A Grade
Dallas fans have to be wondering why their team didn't take T.J. Watt two selections earlier. Watt was very productive as a rookie, recording seven sacks. Not only was he an effective edge rusher, but he was also strong in run support.
This is a solid pick by the Steelers, acquiring a player some believed wouldn't be available. I've had Watt slotted either to the Lions (No. 21) or Cowboys (No. 28), so this is solid value. Watt fills a huge need for Pittsburgh as an eventual replacement for James Harrison. He also has the great athleticism the Steelers look for in their prospects, so this seems like a very good fit.
San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama: A+ Grade One-Year Grade: B+ Grade
Reuben Foster had a great rookie season, surprising no one. So, why did I downgrade this from an A+ to a B+? Because some of the concerns that teams had of Foster that caused him to slide are coming to light. Considered very injury-prone, Foster missed six games this past season. There were also some character concerns regarding Foster, so his critics weren't surprised that he was arrested for marijuana possession in January. Foster could be one of the best linebackers in the NFL if he stays healthy and clean, but it's not clear if that's going to happen.
John Lynch is having an amazing first draft, and I may have to redact the poor grade I gave the 49ers for hiring him a few months ago. He picked up some extra selections, landed a talented edge rusher, and he now added a great linebacker prospect to fill a huge need. Reuben Foster is a top-10 prospect and would've gone in that range if he didn't have injury concerns. Foster has drawn Luke Kuechly and Ray Lewis comparisons, so San Francisco is getting a dynamic talent if Foster can stay healthy. Foster was great in college last year, so I don't understand all the worry. The 49ers made out like bandits here, unlike last year, when they traded up for a third-round guard prospect.
New Orleans Saints: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: D Grade One-Year Grade: A Grade
Wow, I was way wrong about this grade. I thought the Saints should've addressed defense with this pick, as Ryan Ramczyk wasn't going to play right away because Terron Armstead and Zach Strief were set to be the starting tackles. However, both got hurt at various points in 2017, and Ramczyk was a big reason why the Saints were so successful.
This pick received a ton of praise on TV, but I don't agree with it. Not one bit. Ryan Ramczyk has major injury concerns with his hip, and he quit on football once in his life. That makes him a big risk. He also doesn't fill a major need. Sure, the Saints could use a right tackle for the future, but Ramczyk isn't projected to play right away. Drew Brees doesn't have much time left, so New Orleans should've added more to its defense.