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2018 NFL Draft Grades – 1st Round

By on April 27, 2018

From Baker Mayfield actually being the first overall pick, to Ryan Shazier walking out to announce the Steelers pick, to Lamar Jackson being the final pick…the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft did not disappoint. As expected, my mock drafts were mostly flops, but Mock drafts are less accurate than March Madness Brackets.

1. Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield

GRADE: A

We didn’t even make it one pick in before a shocker. The rumors started floating around about Baker Mayfield being the pick a couple days before the draft, but they were kinda hard to believe. The guys at PFF have been on Team Baker all along, but it was hard to think that he was truly 1st overall pick material because NFL teams have traditionally hated small QBs. It was cool to see John Dorsey look past the measurables and select the guy that passed the eye test and seemed like the best overall QB on the field.

2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley 

GRADE: C

This one blew my mind. The Giants basically spent multiple 1st round picks on a RB. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got potential to be really, really good, but Eli is 37 and hasn’t looked good in a while and the OL is shit. They should’ve maneuvered some kind of trade down IMO, but this is one that we’re going to have to see how it translates in the Fall because it still doesn’t make much sense to me.

3. New York Jets (via Colts) – Sam Darnold

GRADE: A+

This was such a ballsy trade up for the Jets and it paid off in spades. The Jets got potentially the best QB prospect in the draft with a high ceiling and lands in a spot that has been deprived of good, consistent QB play since Chad Pennington. Darnold has to be thrilled with this too because he joins a solid roster and doesn’t have to start immediately. The Sam Darnold-Josh Allen rivalry should be fun to watch in the AFC East, especially after Tom Brady retires, and hopefully they both have long NFL careers.

4. Cleveland Browns (via Texans) – Denzel Ward

GRADE: B-

This was the 1st pick where I knew we were in for a wild ride. I don’t know why the Browns made this selection at #4. I know this isn’t Madden, so trading down is not as simple as making the numbers work, but the Browns must have really like Ward and the fact that he’s a local product probably factored in too. Ward fills a big need, but a good pass rush makes average CBs look like all pros and Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb would’ve provided that.

5. Denver Broncos – Bradley Chubb

GRADE: A-

I didn’t expect Bradley Chubb to be available for the Broncos, but it makes a lot of sense for them to take the best pass rusher in the draft. He pairs up with Von Miller for a duo similar to what I envisioned if the Browns had taken him. Drafting for need will get you in trouble, but there was a player of equal talent in Quenton Nelson that also filled more of a need.

6. Indianapolis Colts (via Jets) – Quenton Nelson

GRADE: A+

This is was the safest player in the draft for me, and the only pick I really saw coming. Assuming Andrew Luck comes back, he’ll be happy to finally see some protection brought in. This is going to transform the Colts OL and they will be able to run the ball more consistently behind Nelson.

7. Bills (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Josh Allen

GRADE: C+

I can’t believe that the most pro ready QB in the draft fell to #7, and the Bills traded up to take the biggest boom or bust player in the draft. The only thing saving the initial grade of this pick is the fact that the Bills didn’t have to give up the 22nd pick. Maybe the Bills are the ones that reported the racist tweets from Allen while in High School, but that was just speculation from Adam Schefter. At least he’s going to a place where…. Never mind, let’s move on….

8. Chicago Bears – Roquan Smith

GRADE: A-

I figured the Bears were going to draft a LB to get back to their roots, but I assumed it was going to be Tremaine Edmunds. Roquan Smith seems like he’d be a better fit for an indoor team that plays on a fast track, but I’ll be interested to see how Vic Fangio uses him.

9. San Francisco 49ers – Mike McGlinchey

GRADE: B+

This was another shocker. It’s crazy how different teams value these players vs fans and analysts. This is a smart pick though. You’ve gotta protect your investment in Jimmy G.

10. Cardinals (via Oakland Raiders) – Josh Rosen

GRADE: A+

I’ve been talking down the Cardinals QB situation all offseason and they just had the best fortune imaginable. The most pro ready QB in the draft fell to #10 and they jumped up to snag him. Sam Bradford doesn’t have to play a snap for the Cardinals and is relegated to backup QB duties. He should be a great mentor regarding what not to do to avoid injuries, which was the biggest knock on Rosen.

11. Miami Dolphins – Minkah Fitzpatrick

GRADE: B+

The Dolphins have a need at CB and Reshad Jones can’t play forever, so Minkah has potential to play wherever the Dolphins feel like is the best fit. But when it comes to being just a straight up football player, Fitzpatrick is a top 5 player in the draft.

12. Buccaneers (via Buffalo Bills) – Vita Vea

GRADE: B

The Bucs passed on one of my favorite players in this draft and a player they were heavily linked to taking at #7 in Derwin James. Vita Vea was a shocker here, but the Bucs must have absolutely LOVED him next to Gearld McCoy. This is going to help their EDGE rushers get free, and honestly it’s hard to poke holes in this move.

13. Washington Redskins – Da’Ron Payne

GRADE: B-

The Redskins must have been banking on Vita Vea to fix their run defense, so for them to settle for the 2nd best NT is disappointing. Da’Ron Payne has a high ceiling, but I don’t think he was worth the 13th pick in the draft, so the Redskins must not have had many trade down offers.

14. Saints (via Green Bay Packers) – Marcus Davenport

GRADE: C

This pick probably got me really hyped because I was assuming it was for Lamar Jackson and I have been preaching how awesome it would be for Lamar Jackson and Sean Payton to pair up, but when I found out the Saints gave up next year’s 1st round pick for Marcus Davenport, I couldn’t believe how ALL-IN the Saints are for 2019. Drew Brees probably gives this pick an A+, but Davenport has a steep learning curve and the Saints have given up quite a bit for him.

15. Raiders (via Arizona Cardinals) – Kolton Miller

GRADE: B-

The Raiders didn’t get a ton back for their trade down, but they felt like securing an OT for the future was important for them so taking something to take a OT in this draft at a more appropriate slot makes sense rather than reaching like the Redskins did. Mike McGlinchey was probably at the top of their board, so they settled for the next guy on their board. I’m not a fan of Miller this early, but the trade down earns partial credit.

16. Bills (via Baltimore Ravens) – Tremaine Edmunds

GRADE: B+

The Bills secured a leader for their offense and then made another move for a leader for their defense. Edmunds was a player I never expected to make it out of the top 10, but teams must have shied away due to how raw he is.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Derwin James

GRADE: A+

The Chargers filled a need with a top 5 player in the draft and allowed him to fall right into their lap. They might have wanted Lamar Jackson, but they couldn’t let Derwin James go here. This Chargers defense is going to be a scary unit in 2018.

18. Packers (via Seattle Seahawks)- Jaire Alexander

GRADE: B

I wonder if the Seahawks convinced the Packers that they were going to take Jaire Alexander here is they didn’t trade up with them… The Packers must have really liked Jaire Alexander. He’s going to bring a ton of swag to their secondary and should bring confidence to the entire group.

19. Dallas Cowboys – Leighton Vander Esch

GRADE: B

The Cowboys had to be hoping for Derwin James, but Leighton Vander Esch was a predictable pick for them months ago. The reports of the potential neck issues made it seem like he might fall, but the Cowboys must have really liked him. LVE (that’s what we’re calling him now) can be their new MLB and allow Jaylon Smith to play SAM and Sean Lee to play WILL and now their LB corps is no longer a weakness. I actually called this on my Cowboys 7-round mock draft, so go check that out when you’re done here.

20. Detroit Lions – Frank Ragnow

GRADE: B-

When in doubt, build in the trenches. The Lions were probably hoping for Marcus Davenport, but this pick makes sense from where Matt Patricia comes from. There were some other C/Gs available that were expected to go before Ragnow, but there’s some guys that really love Ragnow and the Lions must see similar traits in him.

21.  Cincinnati Bengals – Billy Price

GRADE: B

The Bengals were probably laughing at the Lions pick because they probably had Billy Price as one of the C/Gs rated higher than Ragnow. Billy Price is made for the Bengals. He’s a mauler with some attitude and should really help get their running game back on track.

22. Titans (via Ravens via Buffalo Bills via Chiefs) – Rashaan Evans

GRADE: B

This is another scenario where I think the Ravens basically held Rashaan Evans hostage for a team that they knew were interested in trading up for him. Evans also might have been taken by the Patriots with the following pick. Mike Vrabel taking a LB was predictable, but I definitely expected it to be Harold Landry.

23. New England Patriots – Isaiah Wynn

GRADE: B+

The Patriots turned in the pick with Tackle listed as Isaiah Wynn’s position, so they may see him as a replacement for Nate Solder. Wynn played OT for Georgia, so he can play it, but he’s built like a Guard and the assumption was that he was going to move inside in the NFL. He’s definitely got versatility and Bill Belichick loves that in his OL, so this pick makes a lot of sense.

24. Carolina Panthers – DJ Moore

GRADE: A

The Panthers got a Steve Smith clone for Cam Newton and I absolutely love the pick. It makes sense for Moore to be the top WR taken because he’s such a beast with the ball in his hands. I expect him to be their WR1 sooner than later.

25. Ravens (via Tennessee Titans) – Hayden Hurst

GRADE: A

The Ravens get an “A” here because they filled a need and traded down not once, but twice. Late 20s is a much more appropriate place for a TE in this draft. Hayden Hurst wasn’t my favorite TE in this draft, but I’m going to trust Ozzie Newsome in his final draft.

26. Atlanta Falcons – Calvin Ridley

GRADE: B+

The Falcons are in win now mode and adding such a polished WR to an already stacked offense is an unexpected move, but the Falcons roster is so stacked that they were in position to make a luxury pick like this. Let’s just hope that Julio Jones’ weird social media behavior this week is unrelated.

27. Seahawks (via New Orleans Saints) – Rashaad Penny

GRADE: D-

I appreciate the Seahawks for giving me a good laugh with this one. John Schneider and Pete Carroll must be over valuing their roster here because they are not in a position to take a RB this early. They don’t have a RB problem, they have an OL problem. Penny was expected to go in the 2nd round, but never ahead of Derrius Guice. And the knock on Rashaad Penny is that he’s not very good in pass protection… I hate to say it Seahawks fans, but I think dark times are ahead.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Terrell Edmunds

GRADE: B

First of all, the most amazing moment of the draft was Ryan Shazier walking out to announce the Steelers pick. For a moment I was worried that he was about to announce his replacement but the Steelers chose to address the SS position instead. When I saw that both Edmunds brothers were at the draft, I figured Terrell was there to support Tremaine. I love his size and wonder if he’s going to still play some nickel LB for the Steelers.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Taven Bryan

GRADE: B

The Jaguars added a beast to their already dominant defense. The front 7 rotation there should help them maintain their level of play going into 2018 and it gives them a DT to develop in case Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson start to decline due to age.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Mike Hughes

GRADE: B+

The Vikings are so good at this. They draft to fill needs before they actually become needs. Mike Hughes has off the field concerns, but his talent is worth the pick here.

31. New England Patriots – Sony Michel

GRADE: A-

The Patriots are not one to typically take a RB this early in the draft, but they have obviously seen what we all saw last season. The question with Michel on the Patriots is will he be carrying a full load or did they just use a 1st round pick on a rotational guy. They also pair up the Georgia teammates, which is cool for them. I always think having a college teammate has to help a rookie transition into the NFL.

32. Ravens (via Philadelphia Eagles – Lamar Jackson

GRADE: A+

Ozzie Newsome traded 3 times in his final 1st round draft and went out with a bang! I was so worried for Lamar Jackson that he was going to have to sit through another day of uncertainty for his future. The guy is clearly a 1st round talent. With no guaranteed money on his contract after 2018, Joe Flacco’s time is coming to a close. And it makes even more sense now why they signed RG3 to have a backup with a similar skill set for their future offensive scheme they’ll be installing. I knew the Eagles wanted to get out of this spot and that a team would be willing to pay to get the 5th year option and it’s perfect for Lamar Jackson because they’re going to need a year or two to get him ready.

Grading the 1st round of the NFL Draft immediately after it takes place doesn’t have anything to do with the long term impact of the player selected to their respective teams.

These instant reaction grades are more based around how the NFL teams reacted to what took place in a the allotted time per pick and how prepared they were for when things got flipped on their head from the way you expected going into things.

Basically, after plan A might’ve fallen through for a team, how much time did they spend on plans B, C, D, etc…

Mock drafts are fun for fans, but NFL front offices use them internally to see how they can play the draft to make sure the right pieces fall in place for them.

But we also need to grade picks immediately following the draft because when if team “reaches” on Joe Linebacker, while he is having his 3rd All-Pro season in as many years, it’s good to archive a reference point to see where our mindsets were in April 2018.



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