3rd edition of my re-grading series of previous drafts. Enjoy.
1. Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield was the quintessential underdog story of college football during his tenure in Norman. He transferred to Oklahoma in 2015 as a walk-on and proceeded to dominate college football in 2016 and 2017, winning the Heisman Trophy in the latter season. While the 6’0 Mayfield didn’t have the stature of a typical 1st rounder, he showcased near-perfect accuracy and a great arm that gave him the ability to make all the throws needed for the NFL. He also possessed rare leadership skills and moxy that resonated with everyone other than Colin Cowherd. There was a clear-cut top 5 for QB prospects, and GM John Dorsey had the pick of the litter for the pathetic Browns, who were coming off a historically bad 0-16 season. Dorsey ended up choosing Baker, presumably because he deemed his underdog persona as a perfect fit for Cleveland. After 4 years, we can safely say Baker was the wrong choice as the clear QB3 from this class. However, he is still a solid starter who led the Browns to their first playoff win since 1994. Plus, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson were projects who landed in ideal situations, so they may not have worked out in Cleveland. I still think Baker can reach that B+/A- tier of Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, Dak Prescott; he just needs to prove it in 2022.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
I never would have thought Barkley would be a poor grade when the Giants took him, but here we are. The Giants had a decrepit Eli Manning and needed a successor, and they passed on two of the top-10 QBs in the NFL today for a spectacular running back prospect. At the time, Saquon was regarded as a generational talent—a running back who is elite in every aspect. But that's all he is: a running back. He had an amazing rookie season for the Giants in 2018, winning OROY. Since then, unfortunately, everything has gone downhill. This turned out to be a big mistake by Dave Gettleman because he passed on Josh Allen. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I believe owner John Mara forced his hand with this selection. The toxic fanbase would have revolted had he taken Allen to replace their beloved noodle-armed Eli. Like many at his position, Barkley has been bitten by the injury bug, which is yet another reminder of why taking a RB this high in the draft is blasphemy. Smart organizations would have taken Allen here and Nick Chubb in Round 2.
3. New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
I never bought the Sam Darnold hype. Much of the media and especially Colin Cowherd, who has corrupted casual fans with flawed analysis for years, declared Darnold to be the second coming of Christ before he was even drafted. When I watched him at USC, I didn’t see anything special about him; he never had the arm of Allen, the accuracy/moxie of Baker, or the athleticism of Lamar. Hell, he didn’t even have the elite smugness of Josh Rosen–there was literally nothing special about him, good or bad. On one hand, Adam Gase is a terrible head coach and probably didn't help matters for Darnold, and neither did the disaster of a front office. Their GM at the time of this pick, Mike Maccagnan, was fired immediately after the draft; he was the one who hired Gase, but Gase had just gotten there, so ownership allowed him to stay as coach while hiring a new GM. What a shit show! To be fair, Darnold was pummeled seemingly every play behind a poor offensive line, while having no running game or notable receivers to speak of. However, he was exposed this year in Carolina as painfully mediocre. He has an OK arm, OK accuracy, OK athleticism, OK intangibles… underwhelming for a top 3 pick, to say the least. I do think he’ll stick around in the league for 10 or so years as a journeyman spot starter, but this is yet another colossal failure by a pathetic franchise.
4. Cleveland Browns: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Browns surprised many with this pick, but they got the last laugh as this pick has mostly worked out. Ward has been great whenever he's been on the field. My only concern with him is his small stature; it scares me durability-wise and for future matchups with big wideouts (Chase Claypool, Tee Higgins x2 per year). That being said, Ward has developed into a top-10 corner and covers the opposing WR1 every week for the Browns’ defense. To this point, he has met expectations as the 4th overall pick. (Note: they already took Baker #1 so the Allen-Lamar factor is nullified with this pick).
5. Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
"The Astronaut" Bradley Chubb began his career as a force off the edge across from Von Miller and looked to be completely worthy of the #5 pick after his rookie campaign. However, they passed on Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson here which has to hamper this grade, and Chubb always seems like he’s hurt. Since 2019, he has only played in 25 of 48 games. His athleticism/size combination for an EDGE (runs a 4.6 at 6’4, 275 lbs) is still rare, and his power moves (especially his bull rush) can be deadly, especially against the run. 2022 is a huge year for Chubb and the judgment of this selection, especially without Miller there to draw attention away from him. I think he’ll rebound if he can stay healthy. However, unless Chubb turns into Reggie White, this will always be a negative grade because they passed on Allen and Lamar.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The first A-caliber pick in this draft is all the way down at #6. The Colts had Andrew Luck at the time, so they didn't need a QB--they needed to protect him. Nelson has been as phenomenal as advertised coming out of college, dominating even the most powerful of defenders on a weekly basis since Day 1. He has so much power and competitive toughness to his game that is unparalleled. He is on his way to becoming one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history.
7. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
This is an obvious A+ for my favorite player in the NFL. Coming out of Wyoming, the media thought he was going to be a bust because they looked at his low completion percentage, a generic stat that is usually misleading, and did not watch any of his games at Wyoming. He played in horrible weather on a regular basis with zero-star recruits surrounding him, which can make it difficult to produce. He has improved every season, and is now one of the best players in the entire NFL, despite much of the media still trying to smear him with every negative stat they can dig up. Meanwhile, they bring up every positive stat they can about Tua because they also refuse to admit they were wrong about him. No wonder no one watches ESPN other than airports, bars, and boomers.
8. Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
An All-Pro caliber inside linebacker, Roquan Smith has been a sound tackler in the run game and a good hole defender in zone coverage, and has the man coverage skills and foot speed to smother most TEs and keep up with good RBs coming out of the backfield. He has good mental processing too in diagnosing the play early and causing disruption. He has already met expectations for a #8 overall pick with more room to grow.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
McGlinchey has met expectations as the 9th overall pick thus far, but has more room for growth that I think he can achieve. He is a massive human being who nobody can bull rush or get around on outside zone runs. Will be starting for at least a decade at RT, but may never get the recognition he deserves because Trent Williams is on the other side.
10. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
I’m sure Rosen still thinks he deserves an A+. Rosen’s inspirational “9 mistakes ahead of me” speech is right up there with the funniest press conferences in NFL history. Ironically, you could make the argument that this should be an A+, because it led the Cardinals to Kyler Murray the following year. However, they could have used this selection on a good player, and Rosen is one of the biggest busts ever. Why? He is a statue in the pocket, offers zero mobility, and has horrible intangibles. His skill set failed to translate to the modern day NFL. He has not adjusted or improved his game either because his confidence is completely shot. His politics are even more embarrassing; he’s a wannabe version of former 49ers QB Unnamed Social Justice Warrior. I’m sure he’ll quit football in the near future to work for his real dream organization, ANTIFA. Double-masked and quadruple-boosted, of course.
11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Alabama
Fitzpatrick was a ballhawk from Day 1 for the Dolphins until he demanded a trade ahead of the 2019 season when they were obviously tanking. While they did trade Fitzpatrick, he is one of the best safeties in the league, and they got another 1st round pick in return to help with their rebuild. Ultimately, this selection yielded tremendous value for the Dolphins.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
A couple of great picks in a row. Vita Vea has been a monster for the Bucs on the interior clogging up running lanes and improving his pass rushing skills every year. While Vea was hurt for most of 2020, he was still one of the best players on the team for the defending Super Bowl champions. He has taken his game to another level in 2021 and is now one of the best interior DL in the NFL. Many criticized the Bucs for not taking Derwin James here, but GM Jason Licht turned out to be right for taking Vea.
13. Washington Redskins: Daron Payne, DT, Alabama
Daron Payne has been a disruptive force for the Redskins. Most people wouldn’t know because they only care about generic stats, but Payne has been a Pro Bowl caliber player. He has tremendous power and functional strength which is showcased more against the run than the pass. While he is not a great pass rusher, he still has room to grow. He had a huge game in the 2020 playoffs against the Buccaneers, recording two sacks against arguably the best OL in the entire league. Solid value for a top-15 pick.
14. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Grade (with trade): C-
Whichever way you look at this pick, the Saints made a mistake here with the trade. Trading a future 1st round pick to go up and get an athletic but unproven pass rusher from a small school is risky, and sometimes it doesn’t work out as well as hoped. Davenport is a solid albeit inconsistent EDGE player who has battled injuries, but still has a decent ceiling if he gets fully healthy. Considering the trade though, this was brutal.
2022 Update: Finally healthy, Davenport showed significant improvement in 2021, notching 9 sacks and playing the run very well. He has the ability to be a big time pass rusher, but still has yet to justify the big trade.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Human beings as big as Kolton Miller do not come around often, and his size has been an advantage for him in the NFL. Miller has been a decent blindside protector for the Raiders, who did not hesitate in giving him a big extension. While not an All-Pro by any means, Miller is another player with room to grow.
16. Buffalo Bills: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds was a freak of nature coming out of college, having a monstrous stature (6’5, 250 lbs) and the athleticism of a running back. As one of the youngest players ever to be drafted, Edmunds was expected to be raw out of the gate, which definitely rung true. While he got off to a rocky start in his rookie campaign, looking lost in coverage, he has improved his game every year and is still extremely young at just 23 years old. He offers a rare combination of elite size and athleticism; he is another player who still has plenty of untapped potential.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, SS, Florida State
LAC getting James at #17 was seen as robbery at the time, and that has held true after 3 seasons. James is one of the best DBs in the game when healthy. He missed 2020 with an injury, but rebounded in 2021 with a very good year. James is a freak athlete that can do it all; I believe the sky's the limit for him.
18. Green Bay Packers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Derwin James has been fantastic, but Alexander has been even better because he’s been on the field consistently since his rookie year. He is a lockdown corner who takes care of the opposing WR1 every week. It can be argued he is the best corner in the NFL right now. Amazing pick.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Taking Micah Parsons in 2021 solidified this pick as a mistake for the Cowboys. Vander Esch was phenomenal in his rookie year before tragically suffering from the same neck problems that he was flagged for at the combine. He has been constantly injured the past 2 seasons and not anything special when on the field. This is an example of what can happen when you overlook medical red flags for the quality of the player.
20. Detroit Lions: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
The Lions have gotten a lot wrong in recent years, but this is an exception. Ragnow has been everything they hoped he would be, getting better every year and signing a long-term extension this offseason to make him the highest paid center in football. He is a jack-of-all-trades and has no glaring weaknesses to his game. The Lions found their center for the next decade.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
Oops. Price has been terrible every time he has stepped on the field. This was seen as an underrated pick at the time of the draft, but he has been far worse than anyone imagined. He is now buried on the depth chart for the Giants. The fact that they don’t play him despite having the worst OL in the entire league indicates just how bad he is. If he wasn’t a first round pick, he’d easily be out of the league by now.
2022 Update: He did end up playing a bit for the Giants in 2021, surprisingly showing some promise at times. However, I think this was likely a mirage and he will be out of the league shortly.
22. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Meh. Evans was viewed as a safe prospect and a steal at the time for the Titans, and while he has been a decent player, the Titans expected more. He still has room to grow as a player, having the athleticism to be capable of covering tight ends. He has been a good run defender and inconsistent in coverage. Overall, this is an OK pick on the fence of B-/C+, but still has some potential.
23. New England Patriots: Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia
The Patriots have always had a good eye for offensive line talent, and they hit a home run once again with this pick. Wynn missed his rookie season with an injury, but rebounded spectacularly in his sophomore year. He is an excellent starting offensive lineman that can play all 5 positions effectively, which nobody thought was possible at the time of the draft. He possesses that classic Belichickian versatility.
24. Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Arguably one of the most underrated offensive players in the league, Moore has been an electric playmaker for some mediocre Carolina teams recently. Excellent value getting an explosive WR1 at the 24th selection. With a competent QB, he could become one of the best receivers in the game.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
At 25 years old at the time of the draft, Hurst was expected to be an immediate contributor in the passing game. While he has shown flashes of big time talent, he has been bitten by the injury bug and is an underwhelming blocker. As a weak run blocker, he was never a good fit in the Lamar Jackson offense. This pick was certainly disappointing, but it did yield the Ravens a high 2nd round pick from the Falcons. Ultimately, they got mediocre value with this selection.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Ridley’s well-rounded game has translated to the next level, as he has blossomed into WR1-caliber. He is explosive as hell, has great hands, and runs excellent routes. Unfortunately, Ridley left the team due to mental health issues in the middle of the 2021 season, and it’s looking like the Falcons are going to trade him in the offseason. That won’t affect this grade because they could not have foreseen that happening; there were zero prior off-field concerns with Ridley.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Ouch--with an asterisk. Chris Carson has developed into a quality RB1 for Seattle so this pick is forgotten, but Seattle took Penny here to be their starter and he did show flashes during his first 2 years in the league. Since then, unfortunately, he has constantly battled injuries. Even when he did become healthy again last year, they did not activate him, which is not a good sign. It is safe to say the Seahawks made a mistake here, but it didn’t hurt them at all in the long run.
Update: Upgraded this grade from an F to a C due to his breakout towards the end of the 2021 season, where he looked the part of a top-10 RB. We’ll see if he can stay healthy, but this grade has the potential to go even higher in the near future.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrell Edmunds, SS, Virginia Tech
The other Edmunds brother has not shown as much as his brother so far, being an inconsistent tackler as a box safety (the role he was drafted for). He is also mediocre in coverage, at best. He still has time to improve, but does not have anywhere close to the potential his brother does. At first, I actually thought the Steelers drafted Edmunds because they felt bad for him getting drafted later than his younger brother.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Jags wanted to add to their DL arsenal with Bryan, who had a high ceiling coming out of Florida. Turns out, he had a low floor too because he has done nothing in the NFL to this point, being invisible on the field or injured throughout his career. The clock is ticking for Bryan in the NFL.
2022 Update: I moved this up from an F to a D because he had a decent 2021 season as a rotational guy. Bryan is a functional player, but I’d still call him a bust.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Hughes had some bright moments with the Vikings as a capable returner and solid boundary corner, but has been plagued with injuries that have stunted his growth. The Vikings had enough of Hughes’ injury problems this offseason and shipped him to Kansas City for a late round pick. Useful player that can be a solid contributor for a team on both defense and special teams, but must get over the injury bug.
31. New England Patriots: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Combined with Todd Gurley to lead a legendary Georgia rushing attack in college, Michel had some hype surrounding him as an NFL prospect. His excellent quickness and vision compelled the Patriots to take him here as another backfield threat. Unfortunately, Michel has inexplicably regressed since his solid rookie season, and is now on the roster bubble entering his 4th year as they declined his fifth-year option. He has a serious lack of explosion due to persistent knee injuries and offers nothing as a receiver. Players like Michel can be found as UDFAs.
2022 Update: Michel surprisingly rebounded with a solid season for the Rams in 2021. Unsure of what happened with the Patriots but he has seemingly revived his career (at least for a bit). Players like Michel can still be found as late round draft picks and UDFAs.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
What a way to end the 1st round! Jackson has been sensational in the league thus far, winning NFL MVP in only his 2nd year. Despite what the comment section says, Jackson has proven to be a spectacular quarterback. He has a cannon of an arm to go along with his generational athleticism, and has developed into a solid pocket passer. In my opinion, he has already proven to be the most athletic quarterback of all time. While he is not quite as good as Allen overall, he is a Hall-of-Fame talent and one of the greatest draft steals ever.