Looking for the trend in this year’s draft?  While there was plenty of noise about quarterbacks and running backs, the underlying trend was the about-face NFL front offices have done on offensive line prospects. Overreached

After seeing the impact Zack Martin had on the Cowboys last season, suddenly interior linemen aren’t being drastically under valued while offensive tackles get treated like they’re made of solid gold.

Washington went with an offensive guard in the top five, and you saw a number of centers and guards get drafted in rounds 1 through 3 when just a few years ago it was almost unheard of for teams to look at a center any higher than 3rd round or lower.  That was dumb, as any running back who ever tried to gain a few yards up the middle will attest.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t the usual number of reaches (for my money, the first few rounds featured more reaches than usual, actually) and of course the draft steals everyone loves to handicap.

Here’s how my draft report cards graded the action.

The As

Oakland Raiders – I love that the Raiders added bona fide weapons like Amari Cooper and TE Clive Walford while also plugging holes on defense and the offensive line.  If Derek Carr continues to improve and pan out, Oakland will soon be the best team in the Bay Area, something that was unthinkable just one year ago. (A)

Chicago Bears – The Bears didn’t get to the 7th pick in the draft by being good at this personnel stuff, but they kicked ass this year.  Kevin White was a necessary addition to the offense, but after that the Bears scored with picks that bolstered the offensive line and provided much needed help to a staggering defense.  Even Dick Butkus was happy. (A)

Minnesota Vikings – You can forgive the Vikings for not going after one of the top receivers when you consider that they addressed every other need they had going in and did so with flying colors.  This was a great draft for Minnesota, and if they do in fact have the services of Adrian Peterson this year I figure no one will notice they didn’t draft a receiver in the first couple of rounds. (A)

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons didn’t quite hit a homerun with Vic Beasley at #8, but they scored value pick after value pick in the later rounds.  My personal favorite is Indiana running back Tevin Coleman in the 3rd.  Keep that name in the back of your mind. (A-)

Jacksonville Jaguars – I went back and forth on whether to give the Jags a B+ or not (I would have preferred they give Blake Bortles a weapon like Amari Cooper instead of taking Dante Fowler at #3), but the Jags did such a good job in this draft from top to bottom I really can’t deny them the “A”.  Finally things are looking up in Jacksonville.  (A-)

The Bs

Baltimore Ravens – I didn’t love the Ravens’ first round pick of Breshad Perriman, but they came up with a number of steals in the subsequent rounds, and I’m always a fan of scoring the highest ranked player at any given position, which Baltimore did with Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams. (B+)

Dallas Cowboys – Once again, the Cowboys nailed it in the early rounds, in particular the round 2 pick up Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, who I still maintain is the best rusher in this draft. (B+)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Let’s face it:  you can throw this grade out.  If Jameis Winston is a star, then the Bucs get an A+, and if he busts, well there will be a whole lot of ex-football executives in western Florida looking for jobs.  Nevertheless, I give Tampa credit for immediately looking for o-line help to try to protect Winston in his first year while he’s learning.  That’s doing it the smart way.  (B+)

Denver Broncos – I feel like the Broncos did exactly what they should have done:  they made one high-risk/reward pick in the person of Shane Ray (expect that to pay off) and then spent the rest of the draft bolstering the o-line to protect Peyton Manning and occasionally adding depth to the defense.  (B)

Detroit Lions – The Lions are another team that scored big on days 1 and 2 and then mostly coasted through the later rounds.  Watch for Stanford’s Alex Carter, picked in the 3rd round, in particular to shine next season. (B)

New York Jets – Give the Jets some credit – they came out of this draft with Leonard Williams, who many people consider the best overall player available.  That also gives them roster flexibility in terms of moving Muhammad Wilkerson. Despite missing out on a top 3 receiver, moreover, the Jets were able to pick up Devin Smith from Ohio State, who shows great potential.  They even got a quarterback out of the deal, although Baylor’s Bryce Petty won’t be ready to make any kind of an impact this year. (B)

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers probably had the best day 3 of any team in the NFL, as they got value every single time they were on the clock.   Oh, their early round picks weren’t chopped liver either.  (B)

Tennessee Titans – I guess we can assume no one was willing to pay the Titans’ king’s ransom for the #2 pick, but good for them for sticking to that.  Why do some other team a favor.  And let’s face it, Marcus Mariota, while not my favorite of the two top prospects is leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else on Tennessee’s roster.  Time will tell with this pick, as with Tampa’s.  (B)

Arizona Cardinals – I like what the Cardinals did on days 1 and 2 and that, despite what you may hear from analysts, is when teams absolutely must get returns on their picks.  I don’t think Arizona did much to improve their team on day 3, and overall their draft lacked the oomph you would think they’ll need to challenge the top of the division. (B-)

Buffalo Bills – It’s always tough to make a big splash when you don’t have a first round pick to spend, but Rex Ryan and the Bills did their best by taking corner Ronald Darby at pick #50.  Darby’s the kind of raw talent Ryan can build a secondary around.  The rest of the Bills’ draft, sadly, was devoid of this kind of impact player. (B-)

Cleveland Browns – I really like what the Browns did early, getting top prospects on the line on both sides of the ball.  Too bad Days 2 and 3 of the draft didn’t have more moments like that for Cleveland, who didn’t seem to have an encore. (B-)

Houston Texans – The Texans’ defense got better still – look out rest of the NFL – but Houston also was able to score WR Jaelen Strong all the way down at #70.  How the heck did that happen? (B-)

New York Giants – Washington stole the Giants first round pick, but they luckily had a backup plan in mind.  I’m not crazy about Landon Collins in round 2, but give New York credit for aggressively going and getting the player they wanted.  And no one should doubt whether overall the Giants came out of this draft better than when they went in.  They did.  (B-)

San Diego Chargers – So much for the crazy trade rumors surrounding the Chargers.  They had a rather predictable draft, selecting Melvin Gordon as their big move and then shoring up the defense.  Gordon’s success or failure will be the measuring stick for this draft.  I’m guessing they come out of it pretty good.  (B-)


The Cs

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid seems to have gone after players with substantial talent but who need some coaxing to get the best out of them.  I’ve seen Reid do this before with success, but not always.  Let’s see how many of these guys stick.  (C+)

Miami Dolphins – I do like the Dolphins first round snag of Devante Parker, but after that they waited far too long and did too little to address ongoing needs on the offensive line.  Someone in the Dolphins organization must hate Ryan Tannehill.  (C+)

Seattle Seahawks – I really don’t know how to grade Seattle’s draft, because if you went back a few years and tried to grade picks like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor you’d have no idea what you were talking about.  This doesn’t look like a particularly great crop, but they haven’t taken the field yet, either.  (C+)

Washington RacialSlurs – Some people will call the selection of Brandon Scherff at #5 a “reach,” but the Giants were absolutely locked in to taking him at #9, so how much of a reach could he really have been.  I like the pick.  He’s this year’s Zack Martin.  I wish the rest of Washington’s draft showed as much promise, but there really were some reaches in those later rounds, so it remains to be seen what the ‘Slurs will walk away with.  (C+)

Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals had nine picks in this draft and yet I walked away feeling like I probably won’t remember any of them in a few years.  Too many reaches early and a lack of needed impact players makes this draft uncommonly ordinary. (C)

New England Patriots – You have to assume that with 11 picks the Pats likely scored some hits, but I find their draft class quite underwhelming.  The exception, of course, was the selection of DT Malcolm Brown at the end of the first round.  Vince who?  (C)

New Orleans Saints – Unlike past years when they had multiple high picks at their disposal, the Saints didn’t make much of an impact this year, and seemed to be a team that was just plugging holes instead of gearing up for the new season.  I suppose the real question is whether you covet Garrett Grayson, who can learn for a few years under Drew Brees before taking over.  That has the potential to work out nicely, although I wonder how Brees feels about it. (C)

Green Bay Packers – The Packers may have addressed their needs in the defensive secondary, but they did so at the expense of much better value picks at need positions in the early rounds.  UCLA’s Brett Hundley was a good value pick on day 3, but let’s face it, if Hundley plays more than token snaps this season the Packers are dead meat. (C-)

Indianapolis Colts – The fact that Phillip Dorsett will probably turn out to be a terrific player keeps this grade in the Cs, but why in the world were the Colts looking receiver in the first round instead of o-line help to protect Andrew Luck or more talent on defense?  (C-)

Philadelphia Eagles – I am bored to death with Chip Kelly and his load of bull crap.  While his early round picks look good, they solve roster problems he himself created, so the net gain to the Eagles is basically nothing.  At least Philadelphia finally addressed their dreadful secondary.   In two more years, when Kelly’s back in college and the Eagles are back at square one, at least that will be a problem they no longer have.  (C-)

St. Louis Rams – I like the Todd Gurley pick for the Rams, and if he has some breakout season no one will notice the shit hash they made of the rest of the draft, but after taking Gurley St. Louis reached in their efforts to bolster their offensive line and then inexplicably took Sean Mannion.  Unless they think he’s their QB of the future, I don’t get it.  (C-)

Ds & Fs

Carolina Panthers – To be fair, Carolina’s first round pick of Shaq Thompson was one of those all or nothing swing for the fences type picks that might turn out to be genius or might blow up in everyone’s face.  This guy’s upside is Kam Chancellor.  His downside is a wasted first round pick on a player without a position.  The rest of the Panthers’ draft was decidedly downhill from there.  Thompson could ultimately bring this grade up several spots but for now. . .(D)

San Francisco 49ers – This draft was a disaster was San Francisco.  They came in needing to replace key losses on defense.  Instead they wound up panicking and reaching for pick after pick.  And since when does a reeling franchise go and use a 5th round selection on a punter?!  Boo!  (D)


Featured image via Gator Zone News