NFL Draft 2018: Instant grades, analysis and knee-jerk reactions


With the NFL Draft finally here, it’s important that we grade these rookies as soon as they walk across the stage in Dallas.

We don’t know what these guys are going to look like until they hit the field in September, but until then let’s take a knee-jerk reaction to the first round and breakdown our thoughts.

Cleveland Browns. Baker Mayfield. 1. player. 53. <h3>GRADE: B</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>It’s hard to hate this pick if you’re a Browns fan. Taking Baker Mayfield is a risky proposition, and he has upside to spare. If Mayfield can mentally buy into the Browns, they could finally have their franchise player. What he provides is spunk, personality and some edge that Cleveland has been lacking ever since it came back to the NFL in 1999.</p>. QB

2. player. 31. <h3>GRADE: A</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Not taking a quarterback is going to be something that Giants fans pay very close attention to this year but they have perhaps a Hall of Fame running back. The offseason was about helping Eli Manning, not replacing him, and he now has a monster running back behind him.</p>. RB. New York Giants. Saquon Barkley

<h3>GRADE: A+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>No one thought the Jets trading up from No. 6 overall was going to pay off — until the board fell the way that it did. Sam Darnold was a pipe dream when the team traded up a month before the draft. They gave up a lot to get him and now the Jets have a franchise future.</p>. QB. New York Jets. Sam Darnold. 3. player. 30

4. player. 53. <h3>GRADE: C</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>This is a gigantic shock, but one that could pay off. Ohio State has a great track record of producing fantastic cornerbacks, and the Browns are banking on that streak continuing.</p>. CB. Cleveland Browns. Denzel Ward

player. 45. <h3>GRADE: A</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Denver was gifted a potential defensive stud in Bradley Chubb, who fell right to them at No. 5 overall. A quarterback would have been nice but this is a guy who can help give Von Miller assistance on defense while the offense slowly figures things out.</p>. DE. Denver Broncos. Bradley Chubb. 5

46. <h3>GRADE: A</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Protecting Andrew Luck is critical to the success of the Colts moving forward, and Nelson very well could be a Hall of Famer when his career is over. It was a no-brainer move.</p>. OG. Indianapolis Colts. Quenton Nelson. 6. player

16. <h3>GRADE: C</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>It’s not that Josh Allen to the Bills is a bad move — he fits their system as a pocket passer who can be developed for the future. Rather, it’s that they moved up to get him and sacrificed a pair of second rounders in the process.</p>. QB. Buffalo Bills (From Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Josh Allen. 7. player

Chicago Bears. Roquon Smith. 8. player. 57. <h3>GRADE: A</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Chicago got a steal of a pick here thanks to the way the quarterbacks shook up the board. Linebacker is a sacred position for the Bears and Smith might end up being the best player of this draft.</p>. LB

42. <h3>GRADE: B+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>After investing heavily in Jimmy Garoppolo, the Niners made the right choice in investing further in his protection. McGlinchey wasn’t mocked often to San Francisco but he’ll go a long way in making sure Jimmy G rests easy at nights.</p>. OL. San Francisco 49ers. Mike McGlinchey. 9. player

32. <h3>GRADE: A-</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Rosen taking a slide in the draft was something we didn’t fully expect, but he landed in a perfect spot. Without the need to rush into a starting role — and a fire lit under him — the Cardinals hit it out of the park with Rosen where they got him.</p>. QB. Arizona Cardinals (From Oakland Raiders). Josh Rosen. 10. player

59. <h3>GRADE: B</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>He’ll be a dual threat member of the Dolphins secondary, but Minkah Fitzpatrick is the right guy here. You want a safety that can cover and a cornerback that can tackle — Minkah is both of those things at once.</p>. S. Miami Dolphins. Minkah Fitzpatrick. 11. player

12. player. 48. <h3>GRADE: B</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>With Derwin James on the board, this is a bit of a head-scratcher. Tampa upgraded its defensive front this offseason, but Gerald McCoy finally has a Robin to his Batman and that’s the most important piece of this selection.</p>. DT. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Vita Vea

DT. New Orleans Saints (From Green Bay Packers). Marcus Davenport. 14. player. 15. <h3>GRADE: C+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>The low grade here is for the price paid rather than a reflection of Davenport’s skills. New Orleans became Super Bowl contenders by nailing last year’s draft so fans will have to give them the benefit of the doubt that this <em>massive</em> trade up will pay off.</p>

<h3>GRADE: C+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Again, this is a grade for where the Raiders got Kolton Miller so much as it is a knock on him. Jon Gruden just invested in a potential franchise tackle to protect his most valuable asset — Derek Carr. The question is whether they could have traded down and gotten more picks and still snagged Miller.</p>. OT. Oakland Raiders. Kolton Miller. 15. player. 28

Tremaine Edmunds. 16. player. 16. <h3>GRADE: B</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Two trade ups snagged the Bills two players that can make an impact. Tremaine Edmunds might end up being a guy we look at in a few years as the one Buffalo should have traded up to No. 7 to get, rather than luckily having him slide here.</p>. LB. Buffalo Bills

<h3>GRADE: B</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Los Angeles got an absolute steal of a pick with Derwin James falling this far. He’s a leader in the locker room who will take charge of the unit from Day 1. He’s also a physical freak, someone that fans of other AFC West teams will come to hate in the coming years.</p>. S. Los Angeles Chargers. Derwin James. 17. player. 13

18. player. 49. <h3>GRADE: B</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Green Bay knocked this draft out of the park. Brian Gutekunst collected a 2019 first-rounder from the Saints and didn’t have to give it up to trade into the Seahawks slot to take a much-needed corner. The Packers secondary was a massive liability, and Jaire Alexander goes a long way in fixing the problem.</p>. CB. Green Bay Packers (From Seattle Seahawks). Jaire Alexander

Dallas Cowboys. Leighton Vander Esch. 19. player. 123. <h3>GRADE: B-</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Vander Esch was a rising star in the latest mock drafts, and the Cowboys made sure he wouldn’t slip outside the teens. Learning from Sean Lee is going to be a massive boost to Vader Esch’s value, and playing alongside Jaylon Smith will make the Cowboys linebackers a deadly force.</p>. LB

player. 50. <h3>GRADE: C+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Ragnow was a head-scratcher simply because he wasn’t on many mocks. He was, however, a guy quickly rising on many boards and would have been an early Day 2 selection. Matt Patricia knows from Bill Belichick that you always get your guy no matter where, and that’s clearly the case here.</p>. C. Detroit Lions. Frank Ragnow. 20

Billy Price. 21. player. 56. <h3>GRADE: C+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>The big question with Price is whether or not he’s going to come back from his Combine injury the same player he looked to be before.  All signs point to yes, but until we see something out of him we’re going to be left wondering how this will turn out.</p>. C. Cincinnati Bengals

35. <h3>GRADE: C+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Mike Vrabel made a name for himself as a linebacker in Bill Belichick’s system and turned that into a coaching career. Trading up to get Evans is a glowing endorsement for a guy that will lead the Titans defense for years to come.</p>. LB. Tennessee Titans (From Buffalo Bills). Rashaan Evans. 22. player

47. <h3>GRADE: B-</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>The Patriots needed an EDGE rusher and passed up Harold Landry to instead take someone who can protect Tom Brady. He’s the most valuable asset New England has, so Wynn is protecting precious cargo.</p>. OT. New England Patriots. Isaiah Wynn. 23. player

87. <h3>GRADE: B+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>No one had Moore as the best wide receiver in this draft, but he’s the perfect fit for Carolina. With Devin Funchess on the outside and Torrey Smith playing a home run threat, Moore will fill a much-needed slot role in Cam Newton’s offense.</p>. WR. Carolina Panthers. D.J. Moore. 24. player

Hayden Hurst. 25. player. 26. <h3>GRADE: C-</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Baltimore gets knocked for horrible value on this one. Hurst is a top tight end, but he’s far from the best available player at this spot and is barely a first-round pick. Joe Flacco needs as many weapons as he can get, but Calvin Ridley might have been a better option.</p>. TE. Baltimore Ravens (From Tennessee Titans)

Atlanta Falcons. Calvin Ridley. 26. player. 44. <h3>GRADE: B</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Atlanta gave up a haul and a half to get Julio Jones back in the day, but had to do a lot less to land their next Alabama wide receiver. This will fuel rumors that Jones is on his way out — and it’s for sure a contingency plan — but the Falcons have a deadly receiver duo now. Roll Damn Tide.</p>. WR

Seattle Seahawks. Brashad Penny. 27. player. 36. <h3>GRADE: D+</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>It can’t be expressed how horrible the value is here. Penny is a decent running back prospect, but Sonny Michel is better. He also has no offensive line to run behind, which would have been a wiser position to fill here.</p>. RB

Terrell Edmunds. 28. player. 55. <h3>GRADE: C-</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>Getting your guy where you can is critical to ensuring front office success, but there’s a limit. This isn’t the worst value pick of the first-round, but Edmunds was a Day 2 player. This was about finding someone who can cover Rob Gronkowski, so we’ll see if it pays off.</p>. S. Pittsburgh Steelers

DT. Jacksonville Jaguars. Taven Bryan. 29. player. 52. <h3>GRADE: A</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>People are going to kill the Jaguars for passing on Lamar Jackson, but they can win a Super Bowl now — even with Blake Bortles. Adding Bryan means the Jaguars have Philadelphia Eagles levels of depth on the defensive front, which worked out well for Philly.</p>

player. 60. <h3>GRADE: B-</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>It’s very clear that Mike Zimmer is going hard in the paint to smother the hell out of teams next year. The ‘No Fly Zone’ already has arguably the best cornerback in football and now adds another anti-aircraft gun to the arsenal.</p>. CB. Minnesota Vikings. Mike Hughes. 30

RB. New England Patriots. Sony Michel. 31. player. 47. <h3>GRADE: B-</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>The major knock on Michel is that he has a short shelf life thanks to that bone-on-bone situation in his knee. But the Patriots don’t need to draft a guy to give him a second contract now, they just need him to slot in and help Tom Brady win Super Bowls over the next five years.</p>

26. <h3>GRADE: A</h3><p><strong>Analysis: </strong>A major underrated part of this trade up for Lamar Jackson is that it gives the Ravens light at the end of Joe Flacco’s tunnel. Specifically, it gives them an out on his contract — one that’s an immovable object. Jackson can learn from Flacco and Robert Griffin III on his way to taking the reigns in a few years. Also, that fifth-year option is so juicy for the Ravens.</p>. QB. Baltimore Ravens (From Philadelphia Eagles). Lamar Jackson. 32. player