Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Browns are the first team since the 1992 Colts to have two picks in the top four heading into the draft season (the Redskins picked second and third in 2000, but they moved up from No. 12 a couple of months beforehand.) Cleveland has just one win in the past two years, and needs to do something special. The team must select Saquon Barkley first overall, as it has an extremely rare luxury of also obtaining a franchise quarterback with the fourth pick. Unfortunately, it appears as though the Browns are going with the homoclitic route instead, meaning they're going to lose out on Barkley for no good reason.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The consensus among analysts and casual fans is that the Browns bungled the top picks, but there are varying opinions on why they did this. There are those questioning Baker Mayfield over Sam Darnold and Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb. I thought they were the right players in the scenario that the Browns felt they needed to go quarterback with the top pick. Mayfield is a great leader and a hard worker, unlike Johnny Manziel, and he stands a good chance of being successful in Cleveland. As for Ward, the Browns should've traded down, but taking him over Chubb made sense because the Browns wouldn't have been able to afford three $100 million contracts in a span of 12 months in 4-5 years.
The Browns, however, made a mistake of not selecting Barkley first overall, as they also would've obtained Mayfield at the No. 4 spot. The Browns' inability to think heteroclitically could cost them in the future, but I don't have a big issue with the players they obtained in the top four. Cleveland will certainly be much better in 2018.
Elsewhere, Cleveland acquired some intriguing weapons around Mayfield in Nick Chubb and Antonio Callaway. Unfortunately, Callaway comes with off-the-field problems, and I wonder if he'll be a bad influence for Josh Gordon. I don't think the Browns should've made that pick, and I also don't think they should've reached for Chad Thomas in the third frame.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Giants have lots of holes and are transitioning into a new defensive scheme, so it would be in their best interest to trade down. Being able to pick up a 2019 first-round pick from the Bills, for example, would be a tremendous move. Otherwise, New York absolutely has to bolster its offensive line so that its next quarterback is well protected.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Giants general manager David Gettleman told the media he didn't listen to any trades for the No. 2 overall pick, as he was dead set on picking Saquon Barkley. I think this was a mistake. The Giants had tons of needs heading into the draft, and Gettleman could've obtained tons of draft capital in the process.
The lack of trading aside, the Giants had a terrific haul in this class. Barkley is a Marshall Faulk-type projection, and he'll transform the offense entirely. Will Hernandez should be an effective replacement for the departed Justin Pugh, and he'll blast open some huge lanes for Barkley. Lorenzo Carter was a steal atop Round 3, as he easily could've gone a frame earlier. He'll help the Giants generate a pass rush despite the departure of Jason Pierre-Paul.
New York's final three grades were all B+ or higher. The team added two talented linemen for the new 3-4 defense in B.J. Hill and R.J. McIntosh, both of whom could've been chosen earlier than where they were taken. Meanwhile, quarterback Kyle Lauletta has the potential to one day become a starter in the NFL. He was a steal in Round 4.
It's clear that the Giants are headed in the right direction with Gettleman running the show. Thus, despite his reluctance to trade, I have to give the Giants a high grade.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Jets moved up to No. 3 to secure their franchise quarterback. Once they obtain that signal-caller, they'll have to surround him with enough talent so he'll succeed. Upgrades are needed on the offensive line, as well as in the receiving corps and backfield.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Jets wanted either Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield, so thanks to the Giants passing on a quarterback, they were able to get their man. Darnold will be able to learn behind Josh McCown, and I suspect he'll make some starts by sometime in October.
The problem is that by trading up for Darnold, the Jets couldn't obtain much talent around him. They spent a fourth-round selection on tight end Chris Herndon, who could become a nice intermediate weapon for Darnold. However, another offensive player wasn't obtained until the 200s.
Meanwhile, the Jets couldn't address their many defensive needs. They spent a third-round pick on a defensive tackle in Nathan Shepherd, which was a solid choice, but no edge rusher was acquired. The Jets also failed to find a cornerback until the sixth round.
Overall, the Jets had a somewhat underwhelming draft, but only because they gave up so many resources for Darnold. Still, the good news is that they were able to acquire their quarterback of the future.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Texans don't have a pick until the third round, so it'll be difficult for them to make wholesale changes to their 2018 outlook. Luckily for them, their forecast is already bright because of Deshaun Watson. Houston needs to spend some energy finding better blockers for Watson. Some help in the secondary is needed as well.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Houston's draft was a tale of two days, partly because they didn't have a pick on the initial day of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Texans weren't on the clock until the third round, when they obtained an absolute steal in Justin Reid. A versatile safety, Reid could've been chosen at the end of Thursday night. At the very least, he should've been taken in the top 50.
Houston's next three picks were all about helping Watson. Martinas Rankin should provide an upgrade on the offensive line; Jordan Akins might finally fix the woes Houston has had at tight end since Owen Daniels left; and Keke Coutee could contribute as a slot receiver.
That said, the Texans didn't make any late picks I liked, as their third-day choices weren't nearly as strong as the ones they made on Day 2. They also failed to upgrade the offensive front outside of Rankin. I think this was a big mistake, as at least two or maybe even three selections should've been used on blockers. This is my primary problem with Houston's haul; otherwise, the team did fairly well for not being able to pick until No. 68.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Broncos won a Super Bowl with a decrepit Peyton Manning, so John Elway must believe that he can do so with Case Keenum. For that to happen, he'll need to plug the holes on his offensive line, find a new running back and address some needs in his defense (inside linebacker, edge rusher, cornerback, safety.) Finding a quarterback of the future is another goal he may want to pursue.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Denver made some stellar picks. Bradley Chubb deserved an A+. He was the top defensive player in the class, and he'll form a terrific duo with Von Miller. It might make Denver fans recall the days of Miller being paired with DeMarcus Ware. Meanwhile, the Broncos were able to obtain Courtland Sutton in the second round. Sutton doesn't fill an immediate need, but he should be a starter in 2019 and beyond.
The Broncos' fourth-round choices were solid ones as well. Josey Jewell could've gone in the second frame, and he should emerge as a solid starter at some point in the near future. The same could be said of receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
While Denver added some great talent, the team faltered in failing to address its poor offensive line. The Broncos spent just one pick on a blocker, taking guard Sam Jones at the end of the sixth round. This was disappointing, as Case Keenum will not be protected very well.
Despite the Broncos not receiving an individual grade worse than a "B" for any of their picks prior to the seventh round, their inability to upgrade the front suppresses this grade a bit.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: Excluding quarterback, the Colts have the worst overall roster in the NFL. They've already traded down once. Doing so again would be ideal, as it would allow them to plug tons of holes on both sides of the ball. That said, Indianapolis should stay put if a non-quarterback blue-chipper like Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson is available.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Colts were able to obtain one of those non-quarterback blue-chippers, selecting Quenton Nelson sixth overall. While many thought they'd go after Roquan Smith, taking Nelson was the right choice, as protecting Andrew Luck is paramount, whenever he comes back from his injury.
Indianapolis' next four selections were used on an offensive lineman and front-seven players. Braden Smith was a questionable choice at No. 37, as the Colts already had three quality guards on their roster. Kemoko Turay wasn't very logical either, as he doesn't seem like a great fit in a 4-3 defense. Conversely, Darius Leonard was a fine pick atop Round 2, as he addresses a huge need at linebacker.
The Colts made some decent picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds - Daurice Fountain at No. 159 was the best one - but there was a fatal flaw in their draft, and that was not addressing the secondary at all. The Colts have a poor group of cornerbacks, so failing to to fix that position seems like an egregious error.
That said, I don't want to drag down Indianapolis' grade too much because of this. The Colts had a mixed draft overall, but should be better as a result of it.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Buccaneers' coaching staff and front office will likely be fired if their team doesn't make the playoffs in 2018. Thus, the front office needs to put Jameis Winston in the best possible position to succeed, bolstering his shoddy protection and making sure the running game is much better.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Buccaneers really wanted Quenton Nelson, so when they saw that he was off the board, they traded down five spots with the Bills. Derwin James, a popularly mocked player to them, was still available at No. 12, but Tampa eschewed the safety upgrade in favor of Vita Vea.
Vea is a very talented nose tackle, but spending a top-12 pick on a two-down player is questionable. Still, the Buccaneers did well to acquire more assets, as they had three picks in the second round as a result. One turned out to be a major reach (M.J. Stewart), while the other two choices were just fine. Ronald Jones has game-breaking talent, but I worry about him being in Tampa's crazy party environment.
The Buccaneers finally found some offensive line help near the end of the third round, taking Alex Cappa, a very powerful blocker who should be able to spring open holes for Jones. Two of Tampa's third-day choices were solid, but the team failed to find more offensive line help for Jameis Winston, who desperately needs it.
If it wasn't for the trade, this would've been a dud of a draft for the Buccaneers. It was still mildly disappointing because Winston's blocking hasn't improved very much. However, Tampa's play in the secondary will at least be better, and that's crucial when considering all of the quarterbacking talent in their division.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Bears didn't have a good record last year, but they were very competitive in most games, beating the Steelers and Panthers and nearly upsetting the Falcons and Vikings (in their first meeting.) They need to build around Mitchell Trubisky and also strengthen their defense even more, given all of the offensive talent in their division.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: General manager Ryan Pace was charged with providing Trubisky with as much support as possible, so I imagine he would've hoped for Quenton Nelson to fall to him at No. 8 overall. The Colts snatched Nelson, but Pace found a great alternative, taking Roquan Smith instead. Smith is arguably the top defensive player in this class aside from Bradley Chubb, and he'll be a force in the middle of Chicago's defense moving forward.
The Bears' next two picks were used to bolster Trubisky's supporting cast. James Daniels, a steal in Round 2, will be an upgrade in the interior of the offensive line, while Anthony Miller should make for a fine replacement for Cameron Meredith. I wouldn't have traded up for Miller, but he should help nonetheless.
Chicago's day-three choices were used to provide upgrades to the front seven. The best choice was sixth-rounder Kylie Fitts, who should help strengthen the edge rush. Fitts was a steal, as he could've been chosen in the third frame.
I like what the Bears did overall. Pace found help around Trubisky and acquired upgrades for the defense. Getting Nelson would've been ideal, but the Bears couldn't have done anything about that besides trading up, and that would've been a mistake.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The 49ers seem to be poised to make a playoff run with Jimmy Garoppolo. They need some things first, however, including better guard play, as well as help in their linebacking corps and secondary. A top-notch receiver would also be a huge boon for Garoppolo.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: John Lynch made three mistakes in the 2018 NFL Draft. The first was picking Mike McGlinchey. The strength of the 49ers last year, prior to Jimmy Garoppolo starting, was the tackle play, so someone at that position wasn't needed. McGlinchey's arrival meant Trent Brown's departure, but this was a lateral move, and San Francisco wasn't able to improve based on what happened in the opening round. There were some stellar defenders available like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds. One of them should've been the pick.
The second was trading up for Dante Pettis. A receiver was needed, and Pettis is a solid prospect, but there was no run on receivers, so San Francisco would've been able to obtain a quality wideout had they remained at their pick. The third, meanwhile, was spending a fourth-round choice on Kentavius Street, a player who tore his ACL in pre-draft workouts. He won't be able to contribute this year.
I don't want to be completely negative about the 49ers because they added some solid players. I do like McGlinchey and Pettis, and they found some nice bargains in linebacker Fred Warner and cornerback D.J. Reed. However, the mistakes Lynch was guilty of have to push this grade down. The 49ers could've done much better than this.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Raiders have to find a new receiver and a right tackle, but their primary needs are on defense. They need help at every level. Their interior defensive pressure is lackluster; their linebacking corps is in shambles; and a No. 1 cover corner must be obtained.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Everyone seems down on the Raiders' draft, but I am not. Kolton Miller is the primary complaint, as the consensus is that he was a reach at No. 15. However, the Ravens were also targeting him with the 16th pick. Just because most mock drafts had Miller in the 20s doesn't mean that he was a reach. Addressing a big need at tackle with a talented prospect is never a mistake.
Oakland made better picks in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. Arden Key is a first-round talent, but fell to the third frame because of character concerns. He presents some great upside as a potent edge rusher across from Khalil Mack. Meanwhile, Nick Nelson and Maurice Hurst were great picks on Day 3. Hurst, like Key, was a first-round prospect who fell, albeit for a different reason. Hurst has a bad heart, but the upside was well worth it in Round 5.
It wasn't all positive for the Raiders; they reached a bit with Brandon Parker atop Round 3 and then wasted a pick on a punter. They also dealt a third-round choice for the perennially disappointing Martavis Bryant.
That said, I think Oakland had a fine draft. It could've been better for sure, but the team made some nice picks and filled needs. Many other teams had worse hauls than the Raiders did.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: Miami might be the worst team in the NFL this year. Numerous veterans are gone, and there are glaring holes everywhere. It's impossible for the Dolphins to fix everything now, so this has to be a 2-year rebuilding process. Trading down would be great, as it'll allow Miami to pick up some much-needed assets.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Dolphins had to take the best players available, and they wanted Roquan Smith to fall to them at No. 11. Smith was chosen three picks earlier, so Miami had to pick Minkah Fitzpatrick. This was not a bad consolation prize, as Fitzpatrick will be able to help the team contain Rob Gronkowski and other dynamic tight ends.
Despite Miami's requirement of obtaining the top prospect on the board, the team had to find a tight end and a strongside linebacker, as there were no viable players at those positions on the roster. That would explain the Mike Gesicki and Jerome Baker on Day 2. Both were logical choices, though taking Gesicki over Dallas Goedert was a questionable decision.
None of the Dolphins' third-day picks really stood out. Running back Kalen Ballage has upside, but never lived up to his ability at Arizona State. Durham Smythe should be a good blocking tight end, but he was taken a bit too early.
Overall, Miami made some nice selections, but this draft overall felt pretty hollow. It doesn't seem like the Dolphins have improved very much, and their reluctance to bolster the offensive line seems like a mistake.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Bills are rebuilding, yet they have no franchise quarterback for the future. They'll have to move up to obtain one, even if it costs them a first-round pick in the spectacular 2019 NFL Draft. Buffalo will then have to add tons of talent around this signal-caller, and that would involve fixing one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Buffalo acquired its franchise quarterback, and it didn't even cost them a 2019 first-round choice. The Bills didn't even surrender the 22nd-overall pick. They gave up two second-rounders, which was perfectly acceptable for a franchise signal-caller.
Many might argue that Josh Allen didn't deserve to be the seventh-overall pick, but he's a hard-working, massively strong-armed, mobile prospect with immense upside. His accuracy needs work, and he struggles to anticipate throws, but he can be coached up to eventually become a solid starting quarterback. He'll need help, namely a strong offensive line. Unfortunately, the Bills didn't touch their blocking unit until the fifth round. I liked the Wyatt Teller pick, but Buffalo needed to obtain other talented blockers.
That said, the Bills made some other solid picks. Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips provided quality value at the end of the third round. Trading up for Tremaine Edmunds was even better. Edmunds, a high-upside prospect like Allen, was a steal at No. 16 overall. The extremely athletic linebacker could have easily been taken in the top 10, so moving up to obtain him was well worth it.
I didn't like some of Buffalo's late choices - primarily Taron Johnson and Siran Neal - but I think the Bills did a good job otherwise. Again, the fact that they didn't give up any additional first-round picks to obtain Allen is a huge win.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Redskins will be competitive with Alex Smith if they address some of their glaring needs. Among those are nose tackle, guard and running back. Otherwise, filling out the roster with the best players available makes sense.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: General manager Bruce Allen addressed his needs, taking a nose tackle, running back and offensive lineman with his initial three picks. Da'Ron Payne was first, and while he was a solid choice, he wasn't what Washington wanted; the team was hoping for Vita Vea, as was widely reported. Still, Payne wasn't a bad consolation prize, as he'll help the team's woes in run defense.
Guice, meanwhile, offered better value at No. 59. The Redskins traded down and were still able to obtain him, which was a great move. Guice fell because of character concerns, but he's a very talented runner who should bolster Washington's ground attack. Geron Christian, meanwhile, was a somewhat questionable choice, but definitely not a bad one, as he'll provide some much needed depth on the offensive line.
I really liked what the Redskins did on Day 3. They secured some steals then, getting Tim Settle, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Trey Quinn as incredible values. Settle will be a nice backup for Payne, ensuring that Washington will be better versus the run. Hamilton will challenge for playing time in the linebacking corps, while Quinn, despite being the final pick in the draft, could eventually become a contributing slot receiver.
I gave the Redskins one grade below a B-, which was the 109th pick of Troy Apke, a slight reach. Washington had a solid draft overall, and the team should be competitive in 2018 as a result.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: Defense, defense, defense. Green Bay's secondary is atrocious. Help is needed elsewhere as well - edge rusher, inside linebacker - but the defensive backfield has to be the primary concern because the Packers can't defend the pass whatsoever.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Brian Gutekunst replaced Ted Thompson as general manager this offseason, so this was his opportunity to select NFL prospects. If his initial foray into the NFL Draft is any indication, the Packers are in great hands.
Gutekunst proved to be a masterful wheeler and dealer in the first two days of the draft, moving around and obtaining value. He won the trades he was a part of, and he ended up acquiring talented players who filled needs. The first two prospects will help the secondary, as cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Joshua Jackson should both provide upgrades. Jackson was an especially great pick; he was chosen at No. 45, when it was argued that he was a viable option at the 14th-overall choice!
The Packers found some help in the linebacking corps with their next pick, Oren Burks. Wide receiver J'Mon Moore went after that, earning a B+ grade just like Burks did. Another wideout, Equanimeous St. Brown, provided ridiculously high value toward the end of the sixth frame. In fact, all but two picks Gutekunst made scored in the "A" or "B" range. One was a punter in the fifth round, while the other was some seventh-round long snapper.
Once again, Gutekunst performed above expectations. He seemingly came away with a terrific haul, and I'm willing to give him an "A" for his results.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Cardinals can't count on Sammy Sleeves - as Kenny calls Sam Bradford on our podcast - staying healthy for more than a month. They have to find a quarterback of the future at some point. They also have some other glaring holes to address, including some on the pedestrian offensive line. Otherwise, receiver, cornerback and the defensive line must be addressed.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Josh Rosen is a scary prospect. He's a great passer, which makes him so tantalizing. However, there are concerns about his passion for football as well as his partying ventures. Injuries are also a worry. I did not blame teams that didn't want to take him in the first round despite their need at quarterback.
That said, the Cardinals can't be blamed for trading up for him either. It would've been a mistake to surrender a first-round pick next year, but Arizona didn't do that. The Cardinals didn't even give up their second-rounder. They sent one of their two third-round choices, as well as a fifth-rounder, to Oakland for Rosen. They certainly won the trade, obtaining a potential franchise quarterback in the process. This was brilliant management by Steve Keim.
Rosen actually tied for the worst individual grade ("B") for all of the Cardinals' choices. The highest grade was given to Christian Kirk in the second round. Some thought Kirk could have been selected at the end of the first frame. He's a play-maker who will be a nice secondary weapon in the offense. Meanwhile, center Mason Cole will help bolster Arizona's hapless offensive line.
Keim did a great job with this draft. Again, I'm not crazy about Rosen, but Keim did the best he could with what he had to work with.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Ravens' roster continues to regress as a result of Joe Flacco's albatross of a contract. It's imperative for Ozzie Newsome to hit almost every single selection to keep Baltimore in playoff contention. The Ravens have holes at many offensive positions, so it's a matter of taking the best offensive player available with most of their selections.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Ravens made an interesting decision by trading up into the very end of the opening round to take Lamar Jackson. Flacco was not pleased by this, refusing to talk to the media about it. Flacco has been very sub par since winning the Super Bowl. It's not completely his fault - his protection has been poor, and he's had several injuries - but there's no questioning his decline. Newsome was correct in pursuing a quarterback of the future.
The problem with Jackson is that he needs lots of time to develop. His accuracy is inconsistent, and his mechanics are poor. It could take him two years to fully be prepared to start, and that's fine, as Flacco can continue to get the nod in the meantime.
Besides, it's not like Newsome didn't give Flacco some weapons to work with. After wisely trading down twice, Baltimore selected Hayden Hurst, who will be a big upgrade at tight end. Mark Andrews, another tight end, will also boost the offense. I'm not so sure about tackle Orlando Brown; the talented Oklahoma blocker has work-ethic issues, so Baltimore fans shouldn't expect him to match the play of his late, great father. Elsewhere, the Ravens found some third-day values in cornerback Anthony Averett, safety DeShon Elliott and center Bradley Bozeman.
Newsome had a strong final draft as general manager of the Ravens. He helped upgrade the current roster, all while finding an answer at quarterback for the future. Baltimore is certainly going to miss him.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Chargers are in a tough position. On one hand, they need to add some talent around Philip Rivers (blockers, better interior defenders) to make one last playoff push with him. On the other hand, they must prepare for the future, finding a quarterback to eventually replace Rivers. I don't envy general manager Tom Telesco's position.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Telesco was certainly in a tough spot entering this draft, but I think he did a good job of accumulating talent. In fact, only one individual grade scored worse than a "B," which was Uchenna Nwosu in the second round. Nwosu was a slight reach and doesn't fill a substantial need.
The Chargers did very well elsewhere. They were given a gift when Derwin James slipped to them at No. 17. It was the opposite of transpired last year when the Chargers mistakenly passed on Malik Hooker, who also tumbled into the teens. James will provide a huge upgrade at safety, which was one of the top needs.
Telesco found help on the defensive line with Justin Jones, a strong value in Round 3, and the offensive front with Scott Quessenberry, who was a bargain in the fifth frame. A quarterback wasn't obtained, but the Chargers can find one next year (check out our 2019 NFL Mock Draft here.)
I think the Chargers had a very strong draft. They filled their key needs with value selections for the most part. They should be better as a result in 2018.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Seahawks have tons of holes, yet they don't pick again after the opening round until No. 120. They must trade down to accumulate draft capital so that they can fill many of the voids on their decaying roster.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Seattle managed to trade down once from 18th overall. The team shifted to No. 27, picking up a crucial third-round pick in the process. That was nice, yet the front office still reached on Rashaad Penny, a running back who teams had rated in the second or third round. One team that tends to draft well considered him a tertiary option in the middle of the second round.
Penny was the beginning of an underwhelming haul. I liked the Rasheem Green pick in the third round, as he'll replace Michael Bennett on the defensive front. Shaquem Griffin also earned a high mark; the athletic linebacker was a nice choice in the fifth frame. However, those two choices were the only ones that scored higher than a C+ until Round 6.
The Seahawks made a number of mistakes beyond Penny. They spent a fourth-round choice on a blocking tight end even though those grow on trees. They traded up for a punter in the fifth round. They reached a bit earlier on safety Tre Flowers.
I don't know what happened to Seattle. John Schneider used to be a great drafter, but his past couple of classes have been duds. He had 11 combined picks in the first three rounds in the 2016 and 2017 NFL Drafts, and only two, Shaquil Griffin and C.J. Prosise, have enjoyed any amount of success thus far. The jury is still out on some prospects (and Prosise has injury woes), but it's not looking good right now. And I'm not confident based on the 2018 selections.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Cowboys obviously need a receiver, but they don't necessarily have to take one in the first round. They need to improve their back seven to be able to contain Carson Wentz and Philadelphia's offense in an attempt to re-claim the NFC East crown.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Dallas certainly addressed the front seven with its first pick, taking Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall. Charlie Campbell was the first to report that teams had medical concerns with Vander Esch, and one NFC franchise even medically flunked him. The Cowboys had a different medical evaluation of him, as they weren't concerned enough to pass on him in the first round. Vander Esch, if healthy, will be a tremendous upgrade in the linebacking corps, but he obviously carries some risk with him.
The Cowboys found help for their other big holes with two of their next four picks. Michael Gallup was a nice choice in the third round, as he could be one of Dallas' starting receivers by Week 1. Dalton Schultz, chosen at the very bottom of Round 4, was a nice bargain as a replacement for the newly retired Jason Witten.
The other selections didn't seem very good, however. Connor Williams was a major reach in Round 2, as it was a panic move when the preferred choices - Courtland Sutton, Dallas Goedert - were both taken. Williams drew fifth-round grades from some teams, as they deemed him not lengthy enough to play tackle and not strong enough to play guard. Elsewhere, defensive end Dorance Armstrong seems like a poor fit in the 4-3, while Mike White seems like a wasted pick, given that the Cowboys are already set with their No. 2 quarterback.
I wouldn't say that this was a horrible draft for the Cowboys, by any means, but it definitely was a risky one. Vander Esch may not be healthy; Williams doesn't have a fit up front (and didn't even fill a need); and Armstrong's transition to an NFL 4-3 is questionable. Dallas took some promising players, but there could end up being many busts in this class.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: Despite the hiring of former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as head coach, the Lions absolutely have to bolster their defense. Help is needed at every level, especially on the defensive line, where there are multiple holes that must be plugged.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: While their mentor spent lots of energy trading down in this class, Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn moved up on a couple of occasions. They did so in the second round, getting running back Kerryon Johnson at No. 43. They then gave New England a 2019 third-round pick to get Da'Shawn Hand in the fourth frame. Hand should help the defensive front, but using multiple resources to get him, including a second-day choice in next year's superior class, seems like a mistake.
Speaking of errors, the Lions made a horrendous pick in the third round, reaching greatly for safety Tracy Walker, who may have been available in the fifth frame. This selection alone will weigh down Detroit's overall grade. There were plenty of safeties available - teams don't value that position very highly right now, which is why they all fell - so there was no reason to make a desperation grab for a mid-round prospect.
The Lions did some nice things in this draft - they bolstered their offensive line with center Frank Ragnow, and they found a great bargain in tackle Tyrell Crosby in the fifth round - but their unnecessary trades and reaches, as well as their reluctance to address the defensive front beyond Hand, will ensure that they won't have a positive overall grade.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Bengals traded for Cordy Glenn, but they need to continue to repair their atrocious offensive line. The decline in blocking ability is the primary reason why Cincinnati struggled so much in 2017, so that needs to be addressed. The Bengals should also consider drafting a quarterback to potentially replace the disappointing Andy Dalton.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Cincinnati wanted Frank Ragnow, but the Lions selected him one pick earlier. Luckily for the Bengals, they also loved Billy Price as a prospect, so they were able to select him 21st overall. Price tore his pectoral at the combine, but recent medical reports suggested that he would be ready by August, if not earlier. Price, as a result, should be Cincinnati's day-one starter at center.
I thought the Bengals would make more upgrades to the offensive line, but they didn't draft another blocker until the seventh round. This was a mistake, but Cincinnati at least obtained some other talented players. Defensive end Sam Hubbard, chosen 77th overall, was expected by some to be a first-round pick. Hubbard has great potential, but was very inconsistent at Ohio State. He presented great value in the third round. Jessie Bates, chosen a bit earlier, should provide a much-needed upgrade at safety.
Cincinnati found some nice bargains on Day 3 as well. Running back Mark Walton and defensive tackle Andrew Brown were both solid choices. I wasn't as crazy about third-rounder Malik Jefferson, whose passion for football has been questioned. However, Jefferson earned the only grade worse than a "B" outside of Round 7.
It seems like the Bengals came away with a decent haul this year, as several players from this class figure to make impactful contributions in 2018. I just wish more energy was spent on the offensive line.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: Thanks to the Patrick Mahomes trade, the Chiefs don't pick until No. 54. The good news is that they have three picks on Day 2, so they can add some talented players to plug their biggest needs, which include cornerback, inside linebacker and edge rusher.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: John Dorsey took a job with the Browns, and his absence was very apparent. Kansas City has drafted well with Dorsey, but this was certainly a step backward.
The Chiefs had three second-day choices, yet they didn't make a quality selection prior to Saturday. They began by trading up for defensive end Breeland Speaks in the second round despite the fact that Speaks was widely considered to be a third-round prospect. Nose tackle Derrick Nnadi, the next pick, was a reach, yet that was nothing compared to Dorian O'Daniel, chosen at the very bottom of Round 3. The sub-package linebacker probably should have been chosen in the fifth frame.
Kansas City made some decent selections during the third day, including safety Armani Watts. However, this won't save the Chiefs from earning a poor grade. They ignored their needs until the 100th-overall pick, and they made numerous reaches. It could be argued that they came away with one of the worst classes in the entire 2018 NFL Draft, rivaling what the Seahawks did.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Rams traded the 23rd pick to the Patriots for Brandin Cooks, so they don't get to select until No. 87. They don't have many needs, so they can focus on taking the best players available. Also, they have three fourth-round choices, so they can afford to trade up.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I thought that just taking the best player available, regardless of position, was the right strategy for the Rams. For a while, however, it seemed as though they were taking the worst player available.
The first choice was a decent one, as Joseph Noteboom is an athletic tackle who could one day replace Andrew Whitworth. However, the next two picks, center Brian Allen and defensive end John Franklin-Myers, were both major reaches. Franklin-Myers wasn't even considered to be anything more than a seventh-round prospect by some teams, yet the Rams selected him in the fourth frame.
Things seemed pretty dubious for the Rams, but they began making some solid choices. Linebacker Micah Kiser, running back John Kelly and guard Jamil Demby were all quality value selections who filled needs. The best pick was arguably edge rusher Ogbo Okoronkwo, a third-round prospect who fell to No. 160 overall. The edge rush was the Rams' greatest need heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, and Okoronkwo could compete for a starting role as a rookie.
Considering the Rams didn't have a pick in the first two rounds, they did relatively well. I hated two of their initial three picks, but their third-day drafting was strong.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: Carolina has two major glaring areas of need: the receiving corps and the secondary. It would be a big mistake if they left the draft without upgrading both of these spots. They have some other needs, but they absolutely have to acquire a receiver, a cornerback and a safety.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Panthers' first three selections were used on their biggest needs, as they took a receiver, cornerback and safety in the initial three rounds. While some teams completely ignored needs this weekend, Carolina made a point to address them, all while selecting some of the top players on the board.
There was some question about D.J. Moore, taken 24th overall, given that Calvin Ridley was still available. Some thought Ridley was the superior receiver, but I know for a fact that Moore was heavily considered by two teams in the teens, yet they passed on him only because some superior talents unexpectedly fell to them.
Meanwhile, cornerback Donte Jackson provided excellent value at No. 55 overall. Jackson could have been chosen at the end of the first round without any complaints, so getting him near the bottom of Round 2 was a steal. Rashaan Gaulden, taken in the third frame, is a talented player who will help at safety. The Panthers will be hoping that Gaulden, like some other recent Tennessee prospects, will do much better in the NFL than they did in college. This has been a pattern because Tennessee players have been extremely poorly coached by Butch Jones.
Carolina's great drafting continued into Day 3. Ultra-athletic tight end Ian Thomas will be a nice heir for Greg Olsen, while defensive end Marquis Haynes provided solid value at No. 136. In fact, the only pick I didn't like of Carolina's was fifth-round linebacker Jermaine Carter.
This was an A+ draft for the Panthers. I loved pretty much everything they did, as they grabbed some very talented players and filled most of their biggest needs.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Titans don't have very many needs, so they can afford to select the best player available. Three areas that should be focused on are edge rusher, linebacker and receiver, but Tennessee can otherwise just focus on adding talent.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: There were four first-round off-LOS linebackers in this class - Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, Leighton Vander Esch, Rashaan Evans - so when the first three were taken off the board, the Titans correctly realized that they had to trade up to get one in the wake of Avery Williamson's departure. They moved up three spots to secure Evans, leaping the Patriots, who could have snatched him off the board. This was a great decision; having talented off-LOS linebackers is extremely important in today's NFL, given the intricacies in the passing game. For example, we all saw what happened to Pittsburgh's defense once it lost Ryan Shazier. The Cowboys, Panthers, Bears and Bengals have all seen similar declines without Sean Lee, Luke Kuechly, Danny Trevathan and Vontaze Burfict, respectively.
Getting Evans was a win, as was securing Harold Landry in the second round. The Titans once again moved up, recognizing that Landry was a steal at No. 41 overall, given that Landry easily could've been chosen in the 20s. Had the Titans taken Landry at No. 25, I would've given that a B+ grade.
Tennessee made just two other picks, both of which were solid. Dane Cruikshank will provide some needed depth in the secondary, while Luke Falk was a solid bargain at No. 199 overall. The Titans had just four overall selections because of all the trades they conducted, but they came away with two players who will make a big impact as rookies, as well as two prospects who should serve as solid backups despite being chosen after the 150th-overall pick. General manager Jon Robinson did a great job in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Falcons need to focus on their defensive line. Even if they spend three of their first five picks on the unit, they must address this area. Otherwise, they need help at receiver, guard and linebacker.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: If you do a Twitter search of "Calvin Ridley Falcons," you'll find some interesting posts from Atlanta fans back in March, heavily criticizing Mel Kiper for mocking Ridley to the Falcons in a mock draft. The Ridley choice surprised many, but it was a good one. Atlanta's offense has fallen apart whenever Julio Jones has been hurt. A secondary receiver was desperately needed, and Ridley will be able to serve as the top option whenever Jones gets injured. He was arguably the best player available.
"Best player available" can certainly be used to characterize the Falcons' next pick, Isaiah Oliver. The Colorado product doesn't fill a substantial need, but he was a steal at No. 58 overall. Oliver, a tall, lengthy, athletic cornerback, could've been chosen in the 20s or 30s without any complaints. It was shocking that he fell so late in the second round.
The rest of the Falcons' haul wasn't as exciting, though their third-round choice, Deadrin Senat, will fill a huge need in the interior of the defensive line. I wish the Falcons would've taken another defensive lineman over fourth-round running back Ito Smith, who was a major reach. However, Smith was the only pick who earned worse than a "B" grade.
I really like what the Falcons did in the 2018 NFL Draft. They added some very talented players and addressed some needs. The one issue I have is that not enough energy was spent on the defensive line, but Atlanta fans have to be happy with what the front office was able to accomplish.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: New Orleans is caught in between the present and future. The team is on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl, but it must also focus on finding a quarterback to replace Drew Brees in two or three years. For the present, the Saints need some help in the front seven, plus a new tight end after missing out on Jimmy Graham.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Only one player made sense for the Saints when it was announced that they surrendered their 2019 first-round pick to trade up from No. 27 to 14. That would be Lamar Jackson. Only a quarterback is worth using two first-round picks on, yet the Saints opted to go in a different direction, selecting ultra-raw defensive end Marcus Davenport. There's a chance Davenport could develop into a talented edge rusher, but considering that the 2019 NFL Draft class is packed with great defensive line prospects - six of the top 10 picks in the current 2019 NFL Mock Draft are defensive linemen - the Saints could've just addressed the position a year from now, all while using the 2018 first-rounder on help elsewhere.
While the decision to trade a 2019 first-round selection for Davenport was horrible, it wasn't even the worst pick the Saints made. That would be fourth-round offensive tackle Rick Leonard, who was not a draftable prospect by most accounts. Excluding the seventh round, the Saints had just three individual grades higher than a C-, and all three were Bs. Third-round wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith was probably the best selection the Saints made, and yet that wasn't even all that great.
The Saints had a legendary 2017 NFL Draft class, so it was very disappointing to see them make so many dubious decisions this year. It's inevitable that the front office will regret not owning a first-round pick in next year's loaded draft class.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Steelers absolutely must find a new inside linebacker to replace Ryan Shazier. After that, they should find other upgrades to a defense that couldn't stop Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco or even Brett Hundley to close out the year.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Pittsburgh was rumored to be enamored with Leighton Vander Esch, but he was long gone by the time they were on the clock. So was Rashaan Evans. With those two prospects gone, it didn't seem like the Steelers had a concrete plan in place, as they were forced into selecting Round 2-3 prospect Terrell Edmunds at No. 28 overall. Edmunds is a safety-linebacker tweener, and it's unclear which position he'll be able to play successfully. He's not the sort of prospect who should be chosen in the opening frame.
The Edmunds pick set the tone for what was a disappointing draft for the Steelers. Mason Rudolph was a waste of a third-round selection, as the Steelers haven't learned their lesson from Landry Jones; Big XII quarterbacks with pop-gun arms aren't going to be successful in the pros, and Rudolph will fail in a similar fashion. The other third-round choice was spent on tackle Chukwuma Okoafor, who has talent, but lacks passion for football.
It wasn't all bad for the Steelers. Receiver James Washington was a decent choice in the second frame, and there were quality selections made on Day 3. Fifth-rounder Jaylen Samuels, a Swiss Army Knife player who can be used at multiple positions, was especially intriguing.
Despite these positive late picks, Pittsburgh can't be graded favorably. There were major reaches, and the defense wasn't addressed very well. It appears as though Pittsburgh's severe defensive struggles from late last season will continue into 2018.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Jaguars were lucky last year, enjoying great health while the other three starting quarterbacks in their division were all injured at some point. Jacksonville won't be as fortunate in 2018, so it needs to put Blake Bortles in the best position possible to succeed. Adding more blocking and receiving talent is a must, and even an insurance policy for Bortles makes sense.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Taven Bryan was very unexpected at No. 29 overall, partly because many didn't think he would be there. Bryan was widely projected to the Lions (No. 20) and Falcons (26), so the Jaguars may have been surprised that he was available. Bryan doesn't fill a current need, but he was the best player available, and he'll make for a great replacement for Calais Campbell in the future.
Bryan was the initial part of the 4-of-4 "A" grades the Jaguars received. Wide receiver D.J. Chark, safety Ronnie Harrison and tackle Will Richardson all were outstanding choices. Only Chark and Richardson filled needs, but all four prospects provided great value, especially Harrison at No. 93 overall. There was some speculation that Harrison would sneak into the opening round!
Excluding the seventh round, the only pick of the Jaguars that wasn't graded an "A" or higher was sixth-round quarterback Tanner Lee. The Nebraska product is a strong-armed prospect who doesn't know how to play quarterback, so he's a lot like Bortles. However, Jacksonville needed to find someone to challenge Bortles, so the Lee choice is at least understandable.
Jacksonville had one of the top hauls in the 2018 NFL Draft class. The team found great value with nearly every pick, and it addressed a couple of key needs.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to an unprecedented fully guaranteed contract, so it would be foolish of them to not protect him as well as possible. Two new blockers are needed, while help should also be acquired on the defensive line.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Minnesota didn't exactly target the offensive line. Only one blocker was obtained prior to Round 7, and that was tackle Brian O'Neill at No. 62 overall. O'Neill has plus athleticism for his position, but lacks functional strength right now. It might take a while until he's ready to start.
That said, the Vikings made a couple of quality picks. The Mike Hughes selection at 30th overall was an especially great one. Hughes would have been chosen in the teens had he not been guilty of an off-the-field issue in the past. Hughes is a supremely talented cornerback, and he'll help improve a Minnesota secondary that was absolutely shredded in the NFC Championship. Meanwhile, there was nice value obtained with defensive end Jayln Holmes atop Round 4. The Vikings were able to trade back and still secure Holmes, who was seen as a third-round prospect. Holmes will provide some much-needed depth on the edge.
The Vikings didn't really do anything exciting on Day 3 following the Holmes selection. Tyler Conklin was a decent choice, as he could become a nice secondary tight end. The other pick prior to the seventh round was wasted on a kicker.
This was a decent draft class for general manager Rick Spielman. He obtained some quality players and addressed a couple of key needs. However, there wasn't nearly enough energy spent on the offensive line, and the one blocker who was acquired will take some time to become an effective starter. Given all the guaranteed money Spielman gave to Cousins, you'd think he would have targeted blockers more aggressively.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Patriots have plenty of holes for a Super Bowl runner-up. They have issues on the offensive line; they have no pass rush; their linebacking corps is in shambles; they must replace a starting cornerback; and to top it off, they'll be looking to find a successor for 41-year-old Tom Brady.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: There was plenty of speculation that the Patriots would pick Lamar Jackson or trade up for Josh Rosen, yet Bill Belichick appeared to mock the media, refusing to select a signal-caller until the seventh round. Given that this was an underwhelming quarterback group, it's understandable why Belichick eschewed all of the players at the position.
That said, Belichick made a couple of questionable decisions. The first occurred at No. 23 when Isaiah Wynn was announced as a tackle. Given his 32-inch arms, Wynn may struggle at the position, and he seemingly would be better off in the interior. After that, the Patriots traded up into the middle of the second round for cornerback Duke Dawson. The Florida product was considered a third-round prospect, so it was unnecessary to make a move for him. Dawson wouldn't have been a bad pick in a vacuum, but the trade is the negative part.
New England's worst choice was fifth-round linebacker Ja'whaun Bentley, a UDFA-caliber prospect. Belichick infamously will raise the white flag and take UDFA guys when no one remains on his draft board, and that is what he appeared to do at No. 143 overall.
That said, the Patriots had some positives in this class. Sony Michel is a dynamic running back who resembles Alvin Kamara, and he was an outstanding choice at No. 31 overall. Also, the Patriots obtained extra second- and third-round choices for the 2019 NFL Draft in trades with the Bears and Lions, respectively. Given that the 2019 NFL Draft class appears to be absolutely loaded, this was a terrific strategy that Belichick utilized.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Eagles must trade down because they don't pick after the first round until No. 130 overall. Then again, they barely have any significant needs, so they can focus on selecting the best player available every step of the way.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Philadelphia decided that trading down was the way to go, especially after its preferred target, Sony Michel, was snatched off the board one spot earlier. This was a wise move, as picking up extra picks was essential. The Eagles acquired two second-round choices, one of which will be in the loaded 2019 NFL Draft class.
With some extra ammo the Eagles moved ahead of the Cowboys to take athletic tight end Dallas Goedert at No. 49 overall. Philadelphia obtained a talented player to fill a need, all while stealing a player its biggest rival coveted. This was yet another example of why Howie Roseman is arguably the best general manager in the NFL.
The Eagles made some quality choices on Day 3. They began with cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was a slight bargain at No. 125 overall. Maddox will be able to cover the slot, and the Eagles needed someone like that in the wake of Patrick Robinson's departure. Five selections later, Philadelphia landed an absolute steal in defensive end Josh Sweat. The Florida State product would've been a first-round pick if it wasn't for injury concerns. He would've been a risk as a Friday pick, but getting him near the bottom of Round 4 provided incredible value.
It's no surprise that the Eagles did very well. They didn't have much to work with entering the draft, but they landed some talented players who will help in an effort to repeat as Super Bowl champions. The extra second-rounder acquired for 2019 is the cherry on top.