NFC DRAFT GRADES: TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORT
- Best pick: Michael Gallup. Simply because the Cowboys need somebody, anybody, to catch the ball. The Colorado State WR combined for 176 catches and 21 TDs over the past two years. Just don’t expect much early.
- Risky pick: Leighton Vander Esch. The former walk-on and one-year starter was a reach at 19. He also has a potentially lingering neck issue. The next Sean Lee, for better and for worse?
- Overview: The Cowboys would have been better served taking the top wideout, Calvin Ridley or D.J. Moore, with their first selection. The receiving core is horrible, and Gallup faces a major adjustment period. They could regret passing on Alabama LB Rashaan Evans for late bloomer Vander Esch. Not drafting a DT is problematic, but Kansas DE Dorrance Armstrong could be good.
New York Giants: B+
- Best pick: Will Hernandez. The brawler/mauler from UTEP was the best run-blocking OG in the draft and a perfect complement to RB Saquon Barkley. A 6-2, 327-pound block of granite.
- Risky pick: Kyle Lauletta. The Giants decided to pass on the top-tier QBs yet cover their tracks with this fourth-rounder who probably lacks the arm strength when blustery weather arrives in Jersey.
- Overview: Perhaps the Giants will rue the day they passed on QB Sam Darnold, but it’s hard to fault them for grabbing the No. 1 overall player on most boards. Barkley and Hernandez will transform a dormant ground game. Georgia OLB Lorenzo Carter is a downhill presence. The Giants whiffed at OT.
- Best pick: Dallas Goedert. The Eagles jumped in front of the Cowboys to snatch the 6-5, 256-pound South Dakota State TE at 17th. Goedert’s upside is that of a Jimmy Graham.
- Risky pick: Avonte Maddox. Cornerback wasn’t a need, so it’s a head scratcher why the Iggles went for a 5-9 nickel-corner type when inside linebacker was a pressing need.
- Overview: The Super Bowl champions already have a stacked roster, and their haul doesn’t look as enticing because of the 2018 picks they surrendered in the trade up for QB Carson Wentz last year. Fourth-round DE Josh Sweat of Florida State could be big if he ever taps into his potential.
- Best pick: Derrius Guice. The explosive LSU RB slid to 27th because of character concerns, but nobody questions his running ability. At times he looked as good as or better than Leonard Fournette.
- Risky pick: Guice. Some teams reportedly took Guice off their boards after rumors about team interviews gone wrong. He’ll need to be pushed and prodded.
- Overview: The Redskins were 32nd (that’s last) in rushing defense, so first-round DT Da’Ron Payne of Alabama is a crucial addition. He played his best in the national title game but wasn’t always dominant. Geron Christian of Louisville rated as the No. 3 OT, according to some, so he could be a third-round steal.
- Best pick: Roquan Smith. The Georgia linebacker won the Butkus Award, SEC defensive player of the year and SEC championship game MVP. He’s a high-character leader who plays sideline to sideline.
- Risky pick: Joel Iyiegbuniwe. The Western Kentucky OLB is undersized and has the markings of a special-teams player. You hope for a bit more as a fourth-rounder.
- Overview: Love the Bears’ first three selections: Smith, Iowa C James Daniels and Memphis WR Anthony Miller. Would be no surprise at all if they each become Pro Bowl players at some point. Daniels is a coaches’ dream. Miller snagged 191 catches over 2016-17 and might prove to be No. 1 in this WR class.
- Best pick: Frank Ragnow. The Arkansas center is a tough guy who can also play guard. He was a team captain, and scouts are nearly universal in expecting him to start quickly and excel.
- Risky pick: Da’Shawn Hand. The Alabama DE was a five-star recruit who never lived up to the hype. He totaled just nine sacks in four years.
- Overview: When’s the last time the Lions ran well? Barry Sanders? They finally made some moves that could bring life to a long-stalled rushing attack. Ragnow will make a difference, as can second-round RB Kerryon Johnson of Auburn. Two SEC guys. Fifth-round OT Tyrell Crosby (Oregon) also could help a line desperate for a talent transfusion.
Green Bay: A-
- Best pick: Josh Jackson. The Iowa CB was an absolute steal at No. 45. He lasted because he timed slow in the 40. But he plays fast. And smart. Picked off three passes vs. Ohio State last year. Expect a Pro Bowl career.
- Risky pick: Oren Burks. For a third-rounder, the Vanderbilt OLB doesn’t excite with a combined 4½ sacks and five interceptions over 42 games. But he won in the combine drills.
- Overview: The Packers aggressively addressed a concern by nabbing a better pair of corners than anyone else, Jackson and Louisville’s Jaire Alexander (18th overall). Plus, they got a 2019 first-round selection from the Saints for moving down in the first round. The quibble is with not doing enough to help the O-line.
- Best pick: Mike Hughes. The Central Florida CB comes with off-the-field questions and is only 5-10, yet he shuts down receivers, and some had him as the No. 2 corner behind Denzel Ward.
- Risky pick: Brian O’Neill. The Pitt OT had a third-round grade by many yet went in the second. He’s not much of a run blocker for a team lacking in that department and must get stronger.
- Overview: Hard to get excited about this class. The Vikings mostly went defense, padding their strength, but at the expense of helping an offensive line that is substandard at RG, LG and RT.
- Best pick: Calvin Ridley. Sure, the Falcons have Julio Jones. But how much do you think defensive coordinators will cringe at the prospect of covering both Alabama alums? Ridley is fast and a refined route runner.
- Risky pick: Ito Smith. The 5-9 Southern Miss RB doesn’t fill a need, and Atlanta could have shored up the OG or TE spots with this fourth-rounder.
- Overview: Got to admire Thomas Dimitroff, who had other needs but just couldn’t pass up the value of Ridley at No. 26. Confident GMs with well-stocked rosters can pull that off successfully. Second-round CB Isaiah Oliver of Colorado has size and ball skills. Third-round DT Deadrin Senat (South Florida) should complement Grady Jarrett well.
- Best pick: D.J. Moore. The Maryland WR is a favorite here. Somehow, he caught 80 passes for 1,033 yards and eight TDs last year despite four QBs throwing to him. Cam Newton will embrace him.
- Risky pick: Marquis Haynes. The Ole Miss DE is a 6-2, 235 disruptor who will have to convert to OLB. Some of his drill results indicate it will be difficult.
- Overview: The Panthers would have earned an A had they done something about OG. There are plenty of choices to like, including CB Donte Jackson (LSU), CB/S Rashaan Gaulden (Tennessee) and TE Ian Thomas (Indiana). Jackson tied Denzel Ward for the fastest 40 at the combine (4.3), and Gaulden is a cocky cover man.
New Orleans: D
- Best pick: Tre’Quan Smith. The 6-2, 210-pound third-round WR from Central Florida averaged 20 yards per catch (54 for 1,082) with 13 TDs in 2017 for the unbeaten Knights. He is not a polished route runner.
- Risky pick: Marcus Davenport. The UTSA DE from San Antonio is a great story for his rise from recruiting anonymity. However, the 6-6, 264-pounder is all projection for the moment. It was stunning to see the Saints pay a steep price to trade up to 14th to take him.
- Overview: The Saints knocked it out of the park last year and scored an A++, securing the AFC offensive rookie of the year in RB Alvin Kamara and the NFC defensive rookie of the year in CB Marshon Lattimore. This year? Ooofff. Shaky picks most of the way.
Tampa Bay: A
- Best pick: Vita Vea. The 6-4, 355-pound man mountain from Washington can be the next Haloti Ngata. Now the Buccaneers have to discover whether he can keep his weight under control and be a three-down player.
- Risky pick: Jordan Whitehead. Gotta say, we’re nit-picking here. For a fourth-round safety, the Pitt ex is smallish (5-10/195) and probably has a low ceiling.
- Overview: The first five selections each have tons of upside and address pressing needs. RB Ronald Jones II, a Texan at USC, could take over for Doug Martin. M.J. Stewart (North Carolina) and Carlton Davis (Auburn) are two of our top 10 corners. Alex Cappa (Humboldt State) is a raw but physical OT.
- Best pick: Josh Rosen. When the UCLA QB started sliding, the Cardinals were wise to trade up and grab him at No. 10. Everyone agrees he is the best pure passer in this year’s class.
- Risky pick: Mason Cole. There is a sharply divided opinion over the third-round center. He is the only freshman to ever start on the O-line for Michigan. However, his upside is in question.
- Overview: It’s all about Rosen. He throws a beautiful ball, but he’s injury-prone, and some question his dedication to the game. Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, taken in round two, will be his new best friend. Kirk is a smart, smooth, quick slot receiver who caught 234 balls for 2,856 yards and 26 TDs for the Aggies.
Los Angeles Rams: D+
- Best pick: Joe Noteboom. The RT from TCU is a finesse blocker joining an old offensive line. The 89th overall selection ranked as high as fifth on some offensive tackle lists.
- Risky pick: John Franklin-Myers. Believe it or not, Franklin-Myers’ high school team in Greenville never won a game in his four years there. That’s right: 0-40. He did, however, become a disruptive DE at Stephen F. Austin.
- Overview: Nothing remotely resembling a showcase pick here, although there could be a hidden gem or two among late-rounders Obo Okoronkwo (Oklahoma OLB), Trevon Young (Louisville DE) and Travin Howard (TCU LB).
San Francisco: B
- Best pick: D.J. Reed. The Kansas State CB lasted all the way to the fifth round because of size and top-line speed concerns. Don’t be surprised if he not only sticks but eventually gets into the rotation.
- Risky pick: Kentavius Street. His late fourth-round selection meant all four North Carolina State D-linemen were drafted. Street looks the most iffy of the group.
- Overview: GM John Lynch has quickly turned the 49ers around, thanks in large part to Jimmy Garoppolo. This haul brings several more pieces, starting with first-round LT Mike McGlinchey to protect the new franchise QB. Second-round WR Dante Pettis (Washington) can fly, and third-round ILB Fred Warner (BYU) is polished.
- Best pick: Shaquem Griffin. The inspirational story of the draft, the Central Florida OLB had his left hand amputated as a 4-year-old after being born with a birth defect. Playing for Pete Carroll, Griffin will find a way to make it in sub packages and on special teams.
- Risky pick: Rashaad Penny. Yes, the Seahawks need an RB. And, yes, Penny is crazy productive (2,248 yards, 23 TDs in 2017). Yet taking him 27th overall when he had a third-round grade was unwise.
- Overview: Seattle has had more misses than hits in recent years, but we love the pick of The Punter. Texas’ Michael Dickson and his booming leg went in round five. On a team that failed to shore up its weak O-line, Dickson might be called on early and often.