Day 1 NFL Draft Grades

   The draft is in the books and now starts rookie camps for the young prospects coming into the NFL. Some rookies will already have a place on the team before they ever even step onto a practice field. For others though, it’s the time to prove why they should (or should not) be on a roster this upcoming season. The following prospects belong to that first group of players as they have proved themselves enough in college to be worth a first-round pick.

(1.01) Jacksonville Jaguars –

A+ / Trevor Lawerence / QB / Clemson

   Trevor Lawrence was simply the right pick. He is the top player in the draft and possibly the best prospect since Andrew Luck. Congratulations to Jacksonville on their franchise QB.

(1.02) New York Jets –

A- / Zach Wilson / QB  / BYU

   No surprise here too. Zach Wilson was the second-best quarterback in the draft and deserved to be chosen right here by the Jets. But in a tough market like New York and the fact that he is a bit undersized; he is going to have to prove a title of not being a bust.

(1.03) San Francisco 49ers –

B / Trey Lance / QB / North Dakota St.

   Trey Lance is quite possibly the most interesting prospect we saw this year. He was my favorite quarterback in this year’s draft due to his insanely high ceiling. With that comes an insanely low floor too but if Kyle Shanahan can develop this young QB, the future shall be very bright for the 49ers.

(1.04) Atlanta Falcons –

B+ / Kyle Pitts / TE / Florida

   Kyle Pitts was not just the best tight end, nor just the best receiver; he was a top 3 prospect in the draft. He dominated the SEC with the Florida Gators and it will be no different in Atlanta. But the reason this pick gets a B+ is because of the pressing needs on the Falcons’ defense. The Falcons already received Hayden Hurst in a trade with the Ravens last year and while it is never a bad deal to get the best receiver in the draft, just about every position on defense is a hole. Trading down a few picks and acquiring more draft capital while picking up a top-tier defensive player would have been the best-case scenario for Atlanta.

(1.05) Cincinnati Bengals –

B+ / Ja’Marr Chase / WR / LSU

   Picking up the best wide receiver in the draft is not the worst move the Bengals could have made. With that being said, the Bengals have not learned from Joe Burrows ACL tear. He is not invincible and when a generational talent at offensive tackle is right in your lap, no matter how great that wide receiver is, you have to protect your quarterback.

(1.06) Miami Dolphins –

B+ / Jaylen Waddle / WR / Alabama

   Unlike the Bengals, Miami went with the right position, but the wrong player. DeVonta Smith was the all-around more polished player and could give this Dolphins team a push over the playoff hump. While Waddle is certainly a great receiver, he is not as all-around polished.

(1.07) Detroit Lions –

A+ / Penei Sewell / OT / Oregon

   Detroit has hit the draft lottery landing the best prospect in the draft (excluding Trevor Lawrence). Jared Goff will likely not work out in Detroit, so putting a franchise left tackle on the line for a future quarterback makes the most sense for their rebuild.

(1.08) Carolina Panthers –

B+ / Jaycee Horn / CB / South Carolina

   The first defensive player in this draft was a surprising one when the Panthers picked up freakishly athletic defensive back, Jaycee Horn. While on many boards, he was CB2 in this draft, the South Carolina product was the best man-to-man cornerback. The Panthers didn’t play much man-to-man this past season though if the Panthers do play to his strengths, Horn will dominate in the NFC South.

(1.09) Denver Broncos –

B+ / Patrick Surtain II / CB / Alabama

   The Broncos surprised many by selecting Patrick Surtain II with their first-round pick. Cornerback was certainly not a position of need for Denver, but you can only fault the Broncos so much for picking up possibly the best defensive player in the draft. The value at cornerback isn’t there for the Broncos, but Surtain might just be worth it. In the draft, you draft value and potential over need and this was a clear example of that advice.

(1.10) Philadelphia Eagles (Via: Dallas Cowboys) –

A / DeVonta Smith / WR / Alabama

   The Eagles traded up with inner division rival Dallas Cowboys to select a wide receiver in the first round for the second year in a row. This trade included swapping first-round picks and Philadelphia giving up a third-round pick. I love this pick for the Eagles and everything about it. The need for a wide receiver is there in Philadelphia; the value of DeVonta Smith (my WR2) is 100% there, and so only giving up a third-round pick for a cornerstone on your offense seems like a great deal to me.

(1.11) Chicago Bears (Via: New York Giants) –

C- / Justin Fields / QB / Ohio State

   Chicago trades up for my QB5 with the New York Giants. In this trade, it includes swapping first-round picks and the Bears receiving a 2021 5th rounder, while the Giants received a 1st and 4th round pick next year. While the Giants just robbed Chicago, the Bears just lost two 1st round picks. One thing the Bears and Ohio State have in common is that their quarterbacks do not work out in the NFL. Justin Fields has not played in a pro-style system which has crippled many players’ careers when it comes to the quarterback position. Adjusting to the NFL will be hard for Fields, especially in Chicago, and if I were to point out a quarterback who would have already had a hard time adjusting, it would be Fields

(1.12) Dallas Cowboys (Via: Philadelphia Eagles) –

A / Micah Parsons / LB / Penn State

   The Cowboys were likely going to take one of the top two cornerbacks before they went #8 and #9. Once Dallas was on the clock at #10, they moved back to #12 receiving another 3rd rounder from inner division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. With the 12th selection, they picked up a top 5 talent in this draft with Micah Parsons. This move comes after longtime Cowboy, Sean Lee, announced his retirement which left another hole in the Dallas defense.

(1.13) Los Angeles Chargers –

A+ / Rashawn Slater / OT / Northwestern

   Rashawn Slater is just another top-tier talent that dropped out of the top ten in this year’s draft. Slater will be a fan favorite for the Chargers for years to come.

(1.14) New York Jets (From: Minnesota Vikings) –

A- / Alijah Vera-Tucker / OL / USC

   Alijah Vera-Tucker was considered the top interior offensive lineman in this draft. After the Jets selected Zach Wilson #2, they needed to find some protection for the young BYU quarterback. And when the Vikings were considering trading down, New York swooped in exchanging first-rounders and giving up another two 3rd-round picks to get a cornerstone on their offensive line.

(1.15) New England Patriots –

B / Mac Jones / QB / Alabama

   The Patriots get bonus points for sitting back and letting Mac Jones fall to them, but Mac Jones as a prospect is not my favorite. He was almost entirely dependent on the team around him and he doesn’t bring much to the table except for some above-average arm talent at best. But Jones also has the potential to become a franchise quarterback if you can put the team around him which saves this grade. If Mac Jones is developed correctly, the Patriots empire could just be revived.

(1.16) Arizona Cardinals –

D+ / Zaven Collins / LB / Tulsa

   With what became one of my least favorite picks in the first round, the Arizona Cardinals drafted Tulsa linebacker, Zaven Collins, with the 16th pick. The obvious criticism is that Collins was a prospect that should have been picked between the late first round to the second. This pick was especially bad when you consider Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was on the board. On May 12th, the Arizona Cardinals announced that Collins will be playing MIKE linebacker while giving permission to let Jordan Hicks seek a trade. Hicks is a respected veteran leader on the Cardinals defense and is nowhere near considered “a hole on the defense.”

   The Cardinals have bigger needs in other places too like their underwhelming secondary with Malcolm Butler and Robert Alford as their starters at cornerback. The more you look at this pick, the worse it gets. The bright side of selecting Zaven Collins is that he can help out a bit with the secondary and that he offers a lot of potential.

(1.17) Las Vegas Raiders –

C- / Alex Leatherwood / OT / Alabama

   Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden did what they normally do when it comes to drafting; selecting prospects from winning programs and drafting those prospects whether they are projected in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or further. Alex Leatherwood was no exception this year as the offensive tackle was considered a 2nd to 3rd round pick. Leatherwood was a great run-blocking tackle in college, but his pass blocking was less than average which made him a huge reach in the mid 1st round. Nonetheless, Mike Mayock and the Raiders believe that the Alabama tackle is the best player to fit the Raiders scheme.

(1.18) Miami Dolphins –

B+ / Jaelan Phillips / EDGE / Miami

   Jaelan Phillips is up there with some of the best pass rusher in this class. The risk with him is that he had to medically retire at UCLA due to concussions and other injuries before transferring to Miami. It looks like if Phillips has even just one more concussion, he might not play football ever again and at his position, it is hard to avoid those. He might just be the riskiest pick in this draft but if he does stay healthy, he is a dangerous player.

(1.19) Washington Football Team –

B / Jamin Davis / LB / Kentucky

   Jamin Davis was just getting some traction near the end of the draft process after catching everyone’s eyes on pro day. I believe Washington selecting him is a good pick that fills a hole on the defense while not reaching too far.

(1.20) New York Giants (Via: Chicago Bears) –

B- / Kadarius Toney / WR / Florida

   While I believe theirs much bigger needs on the Giants roster, moving down and picking up a 1st round pick next year for a decent wide receiver who you only reached a bit on is certainly not a bad deal.

(1.21) Indianapolis Colts –

B+ / Kwity Paye / EDGE / Michigan

   Kwity Paye is another top edge rusher in this class. He relies too much on his physical skills instead of technique which could possibly not turn out well in the NFL. He also can have a tendency of “taking plays off” which was a big knock on his former teammate, Rashan Gary, as well. With good coaching, these problems can easily be fixed. Paye has the potential to be a dominant pass rusher.

(1.22) Tennessee Titans –

A / Caleb Farley / CB / Virginia Tech

   Caleb Farley was largely recognized as the top cornerback in the draft before a back surgery that dropped his stock tremendously. The back surgery is certainly a big worry, but the skill and potential are undoubtedly there. The Titans became one of the luckiest teams in the 1st round.

(1.23) Minnesota Vikings (Via: New York Jets) –

A+ / Christian Darrisaw / OT / Virginia Tech

   In quite possibly the steal of the draft, Minnesota traded back to pick 23 with the New York Jets, collecting two 3rd rounders, and still came out with a top-three offensive tackle. The news came out today that the Vikings were planning on drafting Justin Fields if he fell to #14 (Per, Ian Rapoport) and we presume they would have likely gone with Rashawn Slater if he fell to where they were picking. Those outcomes didn’t happen, and so the Vikings decided to trade back to pick 23 and see what fell to them.

   What ended up falling was a top 10-15 pick at offensive tackle with Christian Darrisaw still on the board. Whoever’s playing quarterback for Minnesota in the future will have some great talent protecting them.

(1.24) Pittsburgh Steelers –

B- / Najee Harris / HB / Alabama

   I hate the value of picking up a halfback in the 1st round, but I have to agree with Mel Kiper when he says that Najee Harris might be the exception. Harris is a standout player and has the ability to make a large difference. But with a struggling offensive line and many great offensive tackles on the board including Teven Jenkins, there were more important positions to address.

(1.25) Jacksonville Jaguars –

D / Travis Etienne / HB / Clemson

    I stand with my statement that halfbacks are not worth a 1st round picks except for the very few exceptions. Travis Etienne is not part of the exceptions after an underwhelming final season at Clemson. 2020 undrafted free agent James Robinson was a huge surprise in Jacksonville this past season rushing for 1,070 yards tied at fifth-most in the league. Halfback was not a need and while reuniting Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne was a tempting idea, it should not go over true value and needs.

(1.26) Cleveland Browns –

B / Greg Newsome II / CB / Northwestern

   Greg Newsome was a top 5 cornerback in this year’s class. He was the second Northwestern prospect picked up in the first round and picked up a lot of traction closer to the end of the draft process. All around it is an average selection though. Nothing stands out and Newsome will likely become a solid reliable cornerback in the NFL.

(1.27) Baltimore Ravens –

A- / Rashod Bateman / WR / Minnesota

   The Ravens add another weapon to hopefully resurrect Lamar Jackson MVP season from 2019. Rashod Bateman was many analyst fourth-ranked wide receiver after proving himself as the premier receiver for the Gophers these past two seasons. Bateman has the size, speed, and experience to become Baltimores’ number 1 wide receiver.

(1.28) New Orleans Saints –

D+ / Payton Turner / EDGE / Houston

   Payton Turner came as a surprise at the back end of the first round when the Saints selected him to replace edge rusher Trey Hendrickson after losing him to free agency. Payton Turner fits two out of my three criteria when drafting a prospect who is playing at a position thats valuable at that selection and playing at a position of need. But the most important factor is the value of the prospect themselves and while Payton Turner shows the experience by starting for three years in Houston, he was a projected mid to late 2nd round pick at the very best.

(1.29) Green Bay Packers –

C+ / Eric Stokes / CB / Georgia

   If the Packers wanted to prove to Aaron Rodgers that they are reinvesting themselves into him, they failed miserably. Eric Stokes got a lot of 1st round buzz closer to the end of the draft process and has quite a bit of potential, but after this pick, Aaron Rodgers will likely never wear a Packers jersey on the field again. While I tend to lean to the Packers’ side when it comes to the Aaron Rodgers drama that came out, Rodgers still had an MVP season and was an extremely valuable asset to the Packers. Eric Stokes is a great pick but still does not overrule the value of Aaron Rodgers.

(1.30) Buffalo Bills –

B + / Gregory Rousseau / EDGE / Miami

   The Bills are one of the most complete rosters in the NFL and look to be serious Super Bowl contenders for years to come. Gregory Rousseau was projected to be a top 10 pick at the beginning of the draft process. His draft stock plummeted through the 2021 season and after a less than decent pro day, he looked to at highest, nudge his way into the first round. He has the body size to become a big problem to opposing offenses, but he also has huge bust potential due to his reliance on his physical aspects. With the Bills’ need at defensive tackle, he very likely will become one himself. The Bills have the right coaching staff to make Rousseau someone that opposing teams will have to make game plans around.

(1.31) Baltimore Ravens –

B+ / Odafe (Jayson) Oweh / EDGE / Penn State

   Odafe (Jayson) Oweh has a prototypical NFL build with great explosiveness. These traits give him a strong edge presence and tons of potential in the NFL if he gets the right experience and coaching. He fills a hole at the edge with the loss of Matt Judon.

(1.32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers –

B / Joe Tryon / EDGE / Washington

   To cap off the first round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select a potential future replacement for the aging Jason Pierre-Paul with Joe Tryon. The Bucs could have picked just about any player at this position and it would make no difference in the grade. They have zero needs and therefore no rookie that was on the board could have even had an impact on this team. So although I believe Joe Tryon was a slight reach, the Bucs had no value to lose.

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