Another draft is in the books and ready or not it’s report card time:
- Five A’s, three D’s and a whole lot in between
- Best and worst trades
- Plus a mini-wave of free agency with the draft done
There is nothing like draft season to bring out the strong opinions from people. Whether it’s on specific prospects or team-building, mock drafts or draft grades, the hot takes are flying this time of year.
The very idea of mock drafts or draft grades also comes under fire. And I get it! The draft is hard to predict. There were 32 picks in the first round and the best mocks got 10 of them right. Draft grades can look silly three years later when careers play out in ways we never expected, good and bad. You’ll find no shortage of people critiquing grades as pointless and just for clicks.
Setting aside the fact that all of this is for entertainment value anyway, I would posit that you can indeed grade a draft right after its completion. The draft is a game. Every player (team) starts with the same resources and it’s up to them to allocate them in the most effective way to acquire good players and win while competing against each other. We know enough about how the game works to be able to give at least an initial grade, even if these players will ultimately determine their destiny on the field.
The two primary components in the 32 draft grades below are how the players the team drafted fit their respective teams — factoring in systems, player evaluations and team needs — and whether those teams got good “value.” Again, you’re competing with other teams for these players, so it does matter if you reach for a guy.
That said, a reach to us on the outside might not look as bad to people in the league who have seen the actual draft boards. There’s obviously no way to know for sure, as most NFL execs with the exception of Jerry Jones guard those like nuclear launch codes. But there are resources like the Athletic’s consensus big board that historically have proven to be fairly accurate overall.
Lastly, these grades are broken up into their respective letter grade tiers, then sorted alphabetically within those:
New York Jets
|1||Jermaine Johnson II||DE|
*traded a 2nd (35), 3rd (69) and 5th for a 1st to use on Johnson and a 3rd (101). Traded another 5th to move up a couple of spots for Hall
The Jets got three players they had rated in the top 10 on their draft board and just had to give up a 5th plus some position in the third round to do so. It’s hard not to be excited about that. The players still have to produce but Gardner and Wilson were very highly regarded around the league. Johnson obviously wasn’t as much but late in the first that’s a gamble worth taking.
Hall has actually been the most controversial pick in the class as the war on running backs continues. The Jets seemed fine with last year’s fourth-rounder Michael Carter leading the backfield but Hall has three-down potential and adds another weapon on offense for QB Zach Wilson. Ruckert slots in as third on the depth chart given the Jets signed C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in free agency but given how much of a black hole the position was last year, I don’t mind that.
The Ravens were busy in the first round, trading Hollywood Brown for a pick they then flipped to the Bills for an additional fourth, giving them six in that round. They turned Brown into Linderbaum and Stout, which is not bad at all if Linderbaum is as good as they think he could be. The theme of Baltimore’s draft was capitalizing on sliding value, as Hamilton, Linderbaum, Ojabo and Jones were all rated significantly higher on the consensus big board. Obviously the NFL had some questions about them, otherwise they wouldn’t have slid, but the Ravens draft as well as any team which should assuage some questions.
Then we get into the fourth round where it’s hard not to like what the Ravens came away with. Faalele is a mountainous offensive lineman who should fit well in an offense that will ask him to go forward as a run blocker more often than any other in football. Armour-Davis is a decent swing as a developmental corner, while Kolar and Likely are solid depth. You could quibble about double-dipping with Likely but he’s more receiver than tight end. A punter in the fourth is rich but this was a good class for the position.
Kansas City Chiefs
*traded 3rd and 4th to move up 8 spots in Round 1 for McDuffie. Traded down 4 spots in 2nd for a 5th, gave up a 7th to move up 13 spots in 5th
The trade up in the first round is interesting but for a team with 12 picks like the Chiefs had entering the draft, it makes more sense to land a player at a position of need they clearly had highly rated. With their second first-rounder, they hit another big need position with Karlaftis, who slid a little inexplicably. Both players are widely thought to have Pro Bowl potential.
Moore gives them another weapon in what looks like a committee approach to replace WR Tyreek Hill. Cook, Chenal and Williams all could be key role players if not starters on defense. Chiefs GM Brett Veach said they think Kinnard could start at right tackle, which is a huge expectation for a fifth-round pick but not crazy with the team’s draft history at the position. And Pacheco is a top-tier athlete for the position.
Draft grades are always skewed towards teams with more picks, but that’s the way the game works. More picks equals more chances to hit. If only a third of these picks, let alone half, live up to the potential here, this will be a huge win for the Chiefs.
*Traded a 4th and two 5ths to move up two spots for Davis. Traded No. 18 and No. 101 for WR A.J. Brown. Traded a 5th for two 6ths and then one of those picks for a 6th and 7th.
Getting Brown for a mid-first was a huge get for the Eagles and instantly makes this draft a success. Davis is a little bit more polarizing given there are questions about how exactly he translates to the NFL and what his impact will be as an interior defender. Philadelphia is obviously willing to take the 6-6, 340-pound mega-athlete and figure it out, though.
Jurgens slots in as an heir apparent to C Jason Kelce whenever he’s ready to hang up the cleats. Dean fell to the third round even though he was one of the best player’s on Georgia’s NFL defense because of questions about his health, size and measurables. Even if those turn out to be well-founded, it’s worth the risk in the third. Johnson and Calcaterra are also intriguing for sixth-rounders. Johnson might have some utility as a Genard Avery style player while Calcaterra was a highly regarded prospect entering the 2019 season before concussions derailed his career for a time.
|6||James Houston IV||LB|
*traded picks 32, 34 and 66 for picks 12 and 46. Traded down in the 6th and added a 7th
Ordinarily it’s not great business to trade up in the draft, particularly huge leaps like the Lions did of 20 spots in the first round. But GM Brad Holmes looks like he benefited from a buyer’s market for trading down and paid a very reasonable price to go and land Williams, someone who might have been the first receiver off the board if not for a torn ACL in the national championship. He turned 32 and 34 into Williams and moved up 20 spots back into the second round to grab Paschal, who will combine with Hutchinson to give the Lions’ defensive line a big upgrade.
Outside of that, Joseph could develop into a starter for the Lions on the back end. Rodriguez and Lucas have some interesting upside for late-rounders, too. It’s really easy to see four potential starters out of this group, which would be a home run and dramatically accelerate Detroit’s rebuild.
*traded a 4th (130) to jump two spots for Elam, picked up two 6ths by trading down two times and six spots in Round 2.
Elam’s interview with the Bills at the Combine where he showed the level of detail he’s already operating at in college was impressive, and the team clearly thought so too. He has great size and some really bright moments on tape, so this could be a home run down the line given Buffalo’s success developing cornerbacks.
That was the biggest need for the Bills, as their roster doesn’t have a lot of holes. That allowed them to be really specific with fits the rest of the way. Cook and Bernard were reaches according to the big board but Buffalo struck out on RB J.D. McKissic in free agency and clearly wanted someone in that same mold. Bernard is undersized but can add depth on special teams and in a dream world develop the same way Matt Milano did. They made up for it by landing Shakir and Araiza lower than most expected them to go. Shakir is on a lot of sleeper lists and could push for the starting slot job long-term, while Araiza’s nickname of “Punt God” speaks for itself.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
*traded from 27 to 33 for a 4th and 6th. Traded three spots up for Goedeke for that 6th. Traded a 2023 4th for a 5th and 7th, traded the 7th and another 7th for a 6th.
Tampa Bay traded out of the first to pick up a couple more Day 3 picks but the rest of the draft was about consolidating a little more, which makes sense given this is a contending team looking to maximize probably their last year with Tom Brady. Hall could be an instant starter or brought along more slowly if they bring back DT Ndamukong Suh. Goedeke could also compete to start at left guard. Otton will play a lot if TE Rob Gronkowski retires and Camarda should take over right away given his draft capital.
White and McCollum were picks with an eye toward the future. Tampa Bay needed to bolster its running back group and goes back to the third round well in case Ke’Shawn Vaughn doesn’t put it together. McCollum is one of the most athletic cornerback prospects to enter the draft in a while and can develop as a rookie, with the Bucs set to have a number of pending free-agent corners in 2023.
*Traded a 4th (114th) to move up five spots for Ebiketie
Pretty much every pick filled a need for the Falcons, which is an indication of where their roster is right now. They took the first receiver off the board with London and cemented a preference for size, as the 6-4 London joins 6-6 TE Kyle Pitts and 6-5 WR Auden Tate as the primary pass catchers. The Falcons moved up for Ebiketie, giving up a fourth-round pick to jump five spots in Round 2. It’s a deep edge rushing class, so they’re planting their flag on him specifically for better or worse. He was seen as one of the best speed rushers in the class.
Andersen is an absurd athlete who still needs some refinement, but fills a need with Foye Oluokun gone to Jacksonville and an out in Deion Jones’ contract next year. Atlanta stayed patient on the quarterback class and you have to like the upside of Ridder in the third round even if he doesn’t pan out. Malone gives them another speedy edge rusher and Allgeier could see a ton of carries right out of the gate after Atlanta released Mike Davis.
|2||Kenneth Walker III||RB|
*traded down 13 spots in the 5th for a 7th
This was a very atypical Seahawks draft. In the past, they would reach for specific needs or fits while ignoring consensus, often to their detriment. This year they seemed to skew back towards a best player available approach. Cross should immediately step in at left tackle while Lucas also has starting potential. Mafe is a toolsy pass rusher they can develop and Bryant and Woolen fit that classic Seahawks mold at the position. If Pete Carroll were to design a cornerback in a lab, he’d look like Woolen.
The Walker pick is the one drawing the most criticism because the Seahawks already had Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson on the roster and analytics types seem to hate any running back pick before Day 3. However, Carson’s status is in jeopardy due to a spinal injury, while Penny has a long injury history of his own. It’s not hard to see Walker being the bellcow in an offense that’s going to lean hard on the ground game.
If you have any other questions about the Seahawks draft, it’s the decision to pass on a quarterback. Especially when there were guys sliding. However, Baker Mayfield remains available, and the 49ers could still release Jimmy Garoppolo at some point. Seattle can let Drew Lock and Geno Smith compete for the rest of the spring and gauge things heading into camp.
*traded No. 23 to Ravens for WR Marquise Brown & pick 100
With the run on wide receivers last week, the Cardinals actually made out better than a lot of other teams by trading their first for an established playmaker in Brown, who has chemistry with QB Kyler Murray and is a better fit in Arizona’s offense. The third-rounder is a nice bonus, which they used to address their pass rush. They double-dipped there in fact. Thomas is bigger while Sanders might fit more as a sub-package rusher given his size. Ultimately it looks like Arizona is going to go pass rush by committee to replace Chandler Jones.
The Cardinals had bigger needs than tight end after signing Zach Ertz to a three-year deal but McBride was widely seen as the best tight end in this class even if he did slip to the middle of the second round. Ertz is 31, so McBride could be starting before the end of his rookie contract. As for the late-rounders, there’s a couple of linemen the team hopes develop. Ingram is an interesting name given the Cardinals didn’t add an established backup behind James Conner.
Smith was not high in a lot of mocks but he was one of the guys who had buzz as a potential surprise first-rounder in April. It’s not really a shocker that a smaller-school OL didn’t get as much hype, so I buy that the Cowboys had to take him where they did. Williams checks a lot of the boxes you want to see for a second-round edge rusher and Tolbert had some fans in the scouting community as well.
Once you get into Day 3, you’re just looking for role players who can make your team. In that regard, you can project the Cowboys’ picks a little better than some other teams. Ferguson should slot in as a No. 2 tight end behind Dalton Schultz and is pretty pro-ready by NFL standards at the position. Waletzko can develop at tackle into long-term depth hopefully, while Ridgeway can be a two-down run plugger. The real upside is with Clark who could have been a second-round pick but will instead miss this year as he recovers from spinal surgery. If he can come back healthy, Dallas may have stole a starter in the fifth.
The Dolphins had almost no picks after dealing away the bulk of their draft for Hill. But they were fortunate when Tindall fell to them in the third. Had he not been buried behind other great players on Georgia’s defense, he could have shown a lot more than just flashes of talent. Ezukanma could push Preston Williams off the roster and brings some size to the receiving corps. Thompson has some huge fans in the scouting community.
New York Giants
|5||D. J. Davidson||DT|
*traded back twice in the second for a 4th and a 5th
New York made out pretty well with Thibodeaux’s slide down the draft board and filled their biggest need with arguably the best tackle prospect. If those two picks hit, the rest of the draft is almost gravy. Which is good because the rest of the draft isn’t quite as impressive. Robinson is a versatile gadget weapon almost in the mold of Kadarius Toney. The latter is a better receiver if he’s locked in and engaged, though. Flott was a surprise in the third round.
Ezeudu will have a chance to win a starting job as will Bellinger, but that says more about the state of the Giants’ depth chart at those positions than it does about either Ezeudu or Bellinger as prospects.
The Steelers had their pick of the litter at quarterback and went with the local kid in Pickett. There are questions about just how high his ceiling is but for the style of football Pittsburgh wants to play, he’s a good fit. Pickens could have gone much higher if he hadn’t torn his ACL and lost much of his junior season to injury. He has a great shot to continue Pittsburgh’s strong track record at the position, and if maturity questions are warranted, landing with Mike Tomlin is probably good for him in the long run. Austin is also interesting. He can replace Ray-Ray McCloud right away as a returner and depth at slot receiver, but there’s some upside in the range of Hollywood Brown to his game.
|2||Andrew Booth Jr.||CB|
*traded down from No. 12 to No. 32 for No. 34 and No. 66, also gave up No. 46. Traded 34 for two 2nds, then traded a 3rd and 6th to move back up to 42 and also add a 4th. Traded a 4th for a 5th and 2023 4th. Traded down four spots in the 4th to move up 23 in the 7th. Traded a 4th for two 5ths.
As you can see, new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was very busy in his first draft, making five deals moving both up and down the board, though generally down. Two of those trades were with division rivals, which is an interesting wrinkle. All told he added six picks, which isn’t bad even if he didn’t extract a premium on his first deal. Cine and Booth could be Day 1 starters in the secondary, while Ingram and Asamoah add depth at least and could push to start at their respective position groups that aren’t fully settled.
|6||Michael Woods II||WR|
*traded out of the 2nd for 3rd, 4th and 4th, then traded another 4th for a 5th and 2023 4th, traded CB Troy Hill for a 2023 5th
Cleveland traded back a lot into the meat of this class for extra picks and worked on flipping some future capital as well. That financial flexibility will be important for them down the line. As far as the actual picks, Emerson was a reach judging by most outlets but he’s the type of long corner teams will push up their boards. Wright is another developmental player with traits the Browns are betting on. Bell is in the opposite mold, as he was incredibly productive in college but his workouts, particularly his 40 yard dash, were really bad for a receiver. Then again, so were Jarvis Landry’s.
In the fourth, the Browns landed more help in the trenches and what they hope will be a starting kicker. I ripped the Bengals last year for taking Riley Patterson in the fifth and had to eat my words there. So I’ll be more measured with Cleveland and York. Winfrey has some pass-rushing upside that makes him intriguing. The rest of their day 3 picks don’t move the needle as much but Ford is someone to keep an eye on given the cap hits for D’Ernest Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Kareem Hunt.
Los Angeles Chargers
*traded two 7ths for a 2023 6th
The Chargers are pretty well set as one of the contenders for 2022, so they didn’t have a lot of pressing needs to address. Johnson can help shore up the offensive line even further, and in terms of the value left on the board plus the team’s needs, he makes sense even as an interior OL pick in the first round. Now the Chargers also got a guard in Salyer who most places projected as a Day 2 pick in the sixth round, which is a good illustration of how it’s not hard to find starting guards.
Woods could be termed as a reach, as most places had him as a Day 3 guy. That 4.36-second 40 yard dash time was probably appealing to the Chargers, though, who play a lot of defensive backs. Spiller sliding to the fourth may have given the Chargers their starter for the next several years.
Las Vegas Raiders
|4||Neil Farrell Jr.||DT|
*traded down in 3rd for a 5th, traded two 5ths for a 4th, traded up in 4th to move down in 7th, traded down in 5th for a 7th
Like a lot of teams this year, the Raiders spent most of their draft capital being aggressive for a veteran player. They send their first and second-rounders to the Packers for WR Davante Adams. Their remaining picks, though, show a clear emphasis on how this team wants to play. Two were spent on the offensive line, including the first pick in the third. Parham has quite a bit of flexibility and could win a job at either guard or center. Munford is a tackle but probably projects better to guard in the NFL.
Two were spent on defensive tackles. Farrell is a nose tackle type while Butler has some pass-rushing juice. If either or both develop into rotational players, that’s a win for their draft slot. And two were spent on running backs, the same week the team declined the fifth-year option on RB Josh Jacobs. Special teams is probably a big part of Brown’s evaluation, but White is a big back who could fill the hammer role for HC Josh McDaniels’ offense. It’s not a flashy draft but I like the emphasis on the trenches and physicality for the Raiders.
*Gave up a 6th and 7th to move up in the 2nd and 5th respectively
The Bengals did a good job of addressing needs in free agency so they could afford to be more forward-looking in the draft. Bolstering the secondary in an AFC loaded with elite quarterbacks and offenses is a smart move and both prospects have some tools. Carter was a reach and Volson a huge reach according to the consensus board, however.
|7||Rodney Thomas II||S|
*traded down 11 spots in 2nd, gave up a 4th, got a 3rd and a 6th. Traded a 2023 3rd to move from the 5th up for Cross
The Colts spent their first three picks on getting reinforcements for QB Matt Ryan. Pierce tore up the Combine and is a physical receiver who specializes in contested catches and blocking. He can get down the field fast in a straight line but at times looks a little stiff. Woods is literally the most athletic tight end prospect of all time, which is a fun developmental project for HC Frank Reich. And Raimann had some buzz as a much earlier selection. He’s viewed as an upside play given he is relatively new to the sport. The Colts are hoping he’s a long-term answer for them at left tackle.
Here’s the downside. Pierce is more of a contributor than true No. 2, Woods turns out to not be able to play even though he’s a great athlete and Raimann’s age (25) limits his potential. Giving up a future third for Cross was also a bold move.
Green Bay Packers
*traded both 2nds to MIN to come up to 34 for Watson. Traded back in the 5th for a 7th.
Going defense instead of wide receiver undoubtedly frustrated Packers fans but the reality is the board was picked pretty clean by the time they got on the clock. If you wanted to make an argument that they should have used those seconds to trade up in the first rather than for Watson, that’s a much better one. Watson has undeniable upside because of his athletic ability but needs a lot of development. Right now he gives them the same thing Marquez Valdes-Scantling did. Walker has the athleticism to help the Packers in coverage by relegating thumper Krys Barnes to a sub-package role, but needs to improve his instincts. Wyatt has pass-rushing upside but concerns about age and character. There’s a lot of upside but also a fair amount of risk to the Packers’ first three picks.
The rest of Green Bay’s draft looks much better, though. Rhyan, Tom and Walker are athletic linemen who fit the team’s mold at the position perfectly — Walker slid a long way to their benefit. The Packers have been a factory for starting linemen and they might have landed three more. Doubs has everything you could want athletically as a receiver, just struggles to catch the football at times. And Enagbare is a powerful edge rusher who might have a limited ceiling overall, but represents outstanding value on Day 3.
*traded a 2023 third to move from the 4th to 3rd for Corral. Also gave up two 5ths for a 4th and a sixth.
Carolina had a pretty stiff challenge for the draft — glaring needs at high value positions like left tackle and quarterback, but only one pick in the top 136 selections to work with. So to come out of the draft with both Ekwonu and Corral is pretty solid, even if they did have to trade another future pick to get Corral. That’s less than ideal but the upside if Corral pans out is worth the swing. Third-rounders at the position don’t have a great hit rate historically but I think this class as a whole might be underrated. Corral, Willis, Ridder, etc probably didn’t deserve to go in the first round, but they do have starter potential if they can develop.
Carolina gave up two fifth-round picks to get back in the fourth for Smith, which I don’t love given the strength of this class was supposed to be the depth. They got a sixth back and got great value on Barno, however, so that makes up for it a little. This entire group is athletes who need refinement, so it’s very high risk but high reward for Carolina, and the grade reflects that.
|1||Derek Stingley Jr.||CB|
|2||John Metchie III||WR|
*Traded down two spots in the first for a 4th and two 5ths, traded that 4th plus another and a 3rd for a 2nd to take Metchie, traded one of the 5ths to move up in the 3rd for Harris, traded a 6th to move up in the 5th for Booker
This was Texans GM Nick Caserio’s first draft in which he wasn’t handicapped by his predecessor’s mistakes, and he juiced his haul with the trade of QB Deshaun Watson. So we learned a lot about him, including 1) he loves Alabama players, and 2) he prefers to trade up. In a draft touted for its depth, Caserio moved up three times and gave up four picks. He still picked nine players, but this Texans team is still pretty barren and could have used all the help it could get.
As far as the actual players, the Texans seem like they were higher on Stingley than rest of the league to take him at No. 3, though he probably wouldn’t have slipped out of the top 10. Taking a guard in the middle of the first when you need help at other higher-value positions seemed sub-optimal. Pitre’s a good pick who should start right away. Metchie has big fans at Alabama but is recovering from a torn ACL and might be more of a solid starter type than someone with a crazy high ceiling. Harris is a solid prospect but the Texans do have a ton of linebackers.
*traded WR A.J. Brown for a 1st and 3rd, traded that 3rd in deal to move back from 26 to 33, picking up a 3rd and 5th. Traded a 5th to move up four spots for Willis.
This draft feels like the Titans acknowledged a reset of the roster is coming and just decided to start preparing for it a year early. In 2023, QB Ryann Tannehill, LT Taylor Lewan, RB Derrick Henry, and WR Robert Woods will all be on the wrong side of 30 and have eight-figure cap hits (Henry will be 29, but that’s close enough to 30 for a running back). The Titans spent four of their first five draft picks on those positions.
Burks has actually drawn some comparisons to Brown for his physicality. He’s a load to bring down as well. He’s not as good of a route runner as Brown yet, however. McCreary has short arms and might end up in the nickel but he’s a feisty competitor and fits in well. Petit-Frere and Willis are developmental players at premium positions. The talent is undeniable but for a league starved for quality tackle and quarterback play, it’s telling that both went in the third. Haskins doesn’t have the juice to stick as anything more than a Peyton Barber type, while Okonkwo and Phillips are intriguing picks for Day 3. Okonkwo is similar in a lot of ways to Jonnu Smith and Delanie Walker, two players the Titans have obviously had a lot of success with.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ biggest need entering the draft was at interior offensive line, yet they seemed to bypass that position almost entirely. Maybe that’s a sign they’re confident C Alex Mack will be back for another season. It’s also worth noting they signed a pair of UDFAs in Dohnovan West and Jason Poe that many people expected to be drafted. Jackson is a solid first pick with the team’s history of developing defensive linemen. He’s got all the tools to become a strong pass rusher. Davis-Price was an interesting pick considering the team just spent a third-rounder last year on Trey Sermon. But he provides a size and power element that no one else on the roster had besides Deebo Samuel. That situation might have created a little urgency.
Gray adds more depth at receiver for a team that needed a vertical threat and returner. There are some interesting developmental guys on Day 3 like Zakelj and Castro-Fields. Overall though this class seemed a little light for the number of picks San Francisco had.
*traded back in 3rd for a 5th, traded another 3rd for 2023 3rd and a 5th, traded up eight spots in 5th for a 7th
The bulk of Denver’s draft capital was dedicated to bringing in QB Russell Wilson but the Broncos still had a few Day 2 picks to play with. They hedged at edge rusher by spending the first pick on Bonitto, as two of their top three players at the position are in contract years. Then they added Dulcich to further bolster Wilson’s pass-catching group on offense. The rest of the draft was adding depth at positions like corner and defensive tackle. They did not add a linebacker, perhaps signifying they’re happy with the players on the roster or don’t view it as that important of a position. Overall, there are some potential role players here but it doesn’t seem like a lot in the way of starters.
|3||Brian Robinson Jr.||RB|
*traded down five spots for a 3rd and 4th. Traded the 4th and a 6th for two 5ths.
Washington got decent value trading back down but you wonder if they would have been better off staying where they were and taking Olave rather than getting Dotson. They clearly dropped out of the top tier of players, although if Dotson pans out and they get a starter or two out of Robinson, Howell or Turner, this could age well.
Howell is great value in the fifth and could develop into a backup, trade chip or even a starter in Washington’s wildest dreams. Turner has some receiving potential and Robinson is an underrated back, which Washington clearly was making a point to add even though they already had Antonio Gibson and McKissic. A nose tackle in the mid second might be kind of iffy but the team did need to restock its depth on the interior.
Overall, you can see a path to upside with this class but also just as easily one where they all turn into forgettable role players.
*traded a 4th and 5th to move up six spots back into the first for Lloyd. Traded two 6ths for a 5th and a 5th and a 7th for a 2023 4th
The Jaguars took one of the biggest risks of the draft with the No. 1 overall pick and history says it is not going to work out well for them. But Walker’s football character and truly special athleticism make you think he could overcome the franchise’s bad juju. Trading up for Lloyd makes sense given how he was seen as the top linebacker in the class in a lot of places. Double-dipping with Muma makes less sense, although Muma also has a lot of fans. Fortner could be a starter long-term and will push Tyler Shatley for the job as a rookie. You can also tell the Jaguars didn’t love their board late in the round, as they traded away six picks in that range to consolidate into higher selections.
Los Angeles Rams
|7||A. J. Arcuri||OT|
*traded a 2023 5th for CB Troy Hill, traded a 7th to move up in the 5th for Williams, traded a 6th for two 7ths
Despite the anti-pick slogan, the Rams do really value selections on Day 3 and think they’ve cracked a code to getting contributions out of players in that range to help keep their team build together. The goal is to focus on projectable roles rather than complete players. They do see their first pick, Bruss, as a starter though, perhaps right away to replace the departed Austin Corbett at right guard. They’re a lot higher on him than the consensus.
Elsewhere, Williams has great pass-blocking skills if subpar athleticism that make him a potential Dion Lewis fit. Or he could end up like John Kelly (real Rams fans know). Kendrick has started for two of the premier programs in the country, so there’s some tools to potentially develop there at corner. Durant has some grittiness to stick as a nickel corner
New England Patriots
|4||Pierre Strong Jr.||RB|
*traded No. 21 for No. 29, 3rd, 4th, traded up four spots in the second with a 5th, traded a third for a 4th and a 2023 3rd. Traded a 5th for a 6th and 7th before the draft
When you talk about understanding how the rest of the league values players, this is the draft to hold up this year. The Patriots took Strange 47 spots ahead of his consensus big board ranking. He might not have been around for them in the third but there’s a good chance he would have in the second. Thornton was drafted 100+ spots over his ranking. Jack Jones too. A fourth-round pick on a backup quarterback and double-dipping at running back were curious decisions as well.
Overall, this looks like a draft where the Patriots said their evaluations were better than everyone else’s and they got their guys, value be damned. If they’re right, good for them calling their shot. History suggests that teams who think they evaluate better than the rest of the league rarely do, however.
|3||Velus Jones Jr.||WR|
The Bears traded back twice, dropping back in the 5th to pick up two 6ths, and move up once by sending a 2023 6th for two 7ths. Day 3 picks rarely move the needle but all it takes is one to turn a massive profit. Most of those picks were focused on the offensive line, which is important.
That’s the good. The bad is that ensuring QB Justin Fields can develop is the No. 1 priority for this franchise and it does not feel like they have treated it that way this entire offseason. Bears GM Ryan Poles will tell you it’s just how the board fell, and there’s no getting around the fact that the Bears are at the start of a pretty significant rebuild. Still, Gordon and Brisker could both develop into solid starters but if Fields doesn’t pan out, it probably doesn’t matter. Chicago had a shot at five of the six receivers that went in Round 2 and passed up all of them. The one they did pick in the third is 25 years old, profiles as more of a return specialist and in my opinion is one of the worst picks of the draft.
New Orleans Saints
*traded 3rd and 4th to move up five spots for Olave
As far as the players the Saints got, I like them well enough. Olave is one of my favorites in the class. He’s incredibly polished and a terrific fit with the Saints’ system. Penning has tools to develop at tackle, he just needs a lot of work to get there. Taylor is a versatile piece in the secondary.
The value the Saints surrendered to get Olave is astronomical, however. To move their first-rounder in 2023 into this year’s class, they gave up a third this year and a second in 2024. To move up again, they added third and fourth-round picks. All told, they spent a first, second, two thirds and a fourth on Olave. That could have gotten them just about any receiver they wanted this year, and they spent it on a rookie.
This Week In Football
- There’s been a clear dropoff for the Cardinals the past couple of seasons when they’ve had to play without WR DeAndre Hopkins. Unfortunately for them, Hopkins was just suspended for the first six games of the season due to a positive test for a banned substance. They’ll have him for the end of the season at least, but this adds a new layer to their decision to trade for WR Marquise Brown. They needed someone established as opposed to a rookie.
- The Falcons and DT Grady Jarrett have been in contract talks for a while, but finally broke through this week on a three-year, $51 million extension. Atlanta had to do something with Jarrett’s deal one way or another to create enough cap space to sign their rookie class but it does sound like they genuinely wanted to keep him going forward. On the surface, this looks like a major commitment for a 29-year-old DT. But it’s the same APY as the last deal Jarrett signed and has an out when he’s 31. Overall it makes some sense for both sides.
- The deadline for fifth-year options to be picked up or declined for first-rounders from the 2019 class was on Monday, and things largely went as projected. If there was a surprise, it’s that the Raiders declined the fifth-year option for all three of their first-round picks. That wasn’t much of a surprise for DE Clelin Ferrell or S Johnathan Abram, but it was a little bit of a surprise for RB Josh Jacobs. The option for Jacobs would have been $8 million which is pretty reasonable but Jacobs has struggled to stay healthy his first three seasons. To top it off, the Raiders drafted two more running backs. The writing seems to be on the wall for Jacobs.
- Monday also marked another key deadline: the end of the compensatory free agent signing period. What that means is that any players signed don’t count against the comp pick formula, which has ignited a mini-wave of free agency. Several deals were signed but the biggest one was easily the three-year, $33 million deal the Saints gave S Tyrann Mathieu. That’s astronomical for this time of year even if only $18 million is guaranteed. Had this been a week ago, that would have taken a comp pick off the board for the Saints and given the Chiefs a mid-round selection.
- We had another transactional oddity this week as the Chiefs and Ravens dusted off the unrestricted free agent tender for edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Justin Houston. A refresher on what it means, the tender is only for veterans who remain unsigned after the beginning of May. It represents a 110 percent raise on the prior year’s salary and allows players to continue to negotiate with other teams until July 22, at which point they can only negotiate with their original team. If they sign elsewhere, they count as a compensatory free agent lost for their teams. It’s more restrictive than plain free agency but it does help set the market for those two. Ingram’s tender is worth $4.4 million and Houston’s is valued at $2.2 million.
Nickels & Dimes
Quick-hit thoughts and observations from around the NFL…
You know we’re hitting a slow time when Tannehill’s mentor comments dominated the football conversation for multiple days. Personally I think he was taken out of context, but the much more important and interesting things he said were when he opened up about how he went to therapy to work through the emotions of playing poorly in Tennessee’s playoff loss. These athletes are on huge stages and under immense pressure, something we can take for granted from our spot on the couch. Kudos to Tannehill for sharing that and helping to further de-stigmatize therapy and taking care of your mental health.
I have a theory that receiver drops are essentially meaningless. Often top receivers have a lot of them in random years, top slot guys in particular because there are more drops in the middle of the field. There's very little correlation in drops from year-to-year. https://t.co/YmGFgMfZFd
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) April 20, 2022
If you’re about to talk about drops for a wide receiver, go read this article first. Required reading given how important the position is now…
Just to show you how much Detroit loved Hutchinson, a Lions official told Peter King the Lions turned in their pick so fast the league got mad at them…
I'm not breaking any news for people from Pittsburgh, but when people say Kenny Pickett was right next door to the Steelers for five years, it was LITERALLY NEXT DOOR. pic.twitter.com/52TFT3ES0I
— Logan Ulrich (@loganulrich) May 2, 2022
You may have already known this. I didn’t and it’s wild…
BIG "How it started" vs "How it's going" energy from the Panthers + Rock Hill pic.twitter.com/MUcDyqrgmc
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) April 19, 2022
Carolina’s draft went okay, but it’s hard to distract from the overall mess this franchise is still in…
W/only 28 regular 2023 compensatory picks currently on the board, we may see two things that haven't been seen in a decade:
•A "net value" comp pick awarded to the Saints (last time: 2013)
•"Supplemental" comp picks award to get the total number to exactly 32 (last time: 2012)
— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) April 15, 2022
Fascinating tidbit here. Nick is a terrific follow for all things comp pick-related…