Table of Contents
There is nothing that infuriates teams, general managers and personnel guys las much as draft grades immediately after the NFL Draft.
So here goes.
Yeah, I know we can’t really grade a draft until three years after the conclusion. That’s why I always go back and re-grade the draft and my own grades three years later. Sometimes, we all look like idiots — general mangers included.
In this draft, which was considered a weak draft at the top, there are four teams that stood out, four teams that earned ‘A’ grades from me. They were the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. I loved what those teams did. That might not synch up with other graders, but those are my teams that did really well over three days of drafting.
The Eagles and Bengals were already Super Bowl contenders, the Cowboys were close and now some think this draft will get the Lions into the mix in a weakened NFC.
As for the losers, there were no major disasters, so no ‘D’s or ‘F’s, but I did give out a few ‘C-‘ grades.
Just remember, we have to wait three years for this draft. Well, we used to. The Jets gave up on Zach Wilson after two years and it seems like the Titans have given up on Malik Willis after one, so that used to be the formula.
For me, it remains that way.
So grades now and a re-grade in three years.
Eat them alive.
Best Pick: Second-rounder B.J. Ojulari can rush the passer with speed, which they need in a bad way. He was a little undersold in this draft, but he can be a 10-sacks-a-season player on the next level.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love the choice of third-round corner Garrett Williams. He’s coming off a torn ACL and there were better options. But they are turning over the roster, so I get it. They can be a little more patient.
The Skinny: Monti Ossenfort did a nice job trading down from the third spot and still getting tackle Paris Johnson in the first round. They added a 2024 first-round pick from the Texans in doing so, which is huge. The rest of the draft was filled with talented players who need to fill a roster that lacked a lot of top-level players. They also have a bunch of picks next year, including two in the first round. It was a good start for Ossenfort.
Best Pick: I love fourth-round corner Clark Phillips. He is a small corner, but he can cover and will hit. He will be a really good slot corner for a long time in the NFL.
Worst Pick: I like Bijan Robinson as a player. I just don’t think backs in the top 10 make sense anymore. Arthur Smith likes to run the ball, but this is a passing league. Check back with me in four years.
The Skinny: It’s obvious by their draft what Smith’s top priority is for this team. He wants to run the ball like he did with Derrick Henry in Tennessee. Getting Robinson and second-round pick Matthew Bergeron as a starting guard will help that run game. But did they really need a back with Tyler Alllgeier on the roster? I didn’t love this draft.
Best pick: It was their first one. I really like receiver Zay Flowers for their new offense. New coordinator Todd Monken and Lamar Jackson will come to love this kid. He has the tools to give them a true outside playmaking threat for the next five years or so.
Worst Pick: I didn’t like the pick of linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round. He’s inconsistent. By drafting him, they are admitting they missed on 2019 first-round pick Patrick Queen since Simpson will be a replacement in 2024.
The Skinny: I liked the pick of Flowers, but the rest of the draft didn’t excite me. Fifth-round corner Kyu Blu Kelly has talent and fits the defense. But there’s not a ton to like about this draft. Then again, the draft was a sideshow this year to getting Lamar Jackson signed just before the draft began. That’s the best thing that happened this past week for the Ravens. That makes them competitive in the AFC North.
Best Pick: Second-rounder O’Cyrus Torrence has first-round talent, which makes this a heck of a pick. The guard is a nasty, violent player who will amp up a run game that badly needs it. He does need to get in better shape. But he moves people.
Worst Pick: The Bills needed help at linebacker with Tremaine Edmunds gone in free agency, but I think there were better options than Dorian Williams, their third-round pick. He has speed, so that has to be what they loved about his game.
The Skinny: They took tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first, which will help the passing game. He is a move tight end who will make things easier in the middle of the field. He’s not a great blocker. Torrence will be a brute if his knees hold up. Fifth-round receiver Justin Shorter is a taller receiver who can run.
Best Pick: It would be easy to say it’s Bryce Young, but I am going to go with second-round receiver Jonathan Mingo. I think Mingo has the tools to be their No. 1 receiver in a year, which Young will love. He is strong and really was a player who scouts loved more than maybe draft Twitter did.
Worst Pick: Third-round pass rusher D.J. Johnson went a little high for my liking. He has some talent, but he didn’t play to it. He was a tight end at some points of his college career, which shows he has athletic ability.
The Skinny: Their entire draft will be decided by how good quarterback Bryce Young is after they moved up to take him. He’s the best passer in this class, but you can’t ignore his size. The question is whether he can hold up. We’ve never seen a player like him before in terms of size at the quarterback position. If he’s a star, this is a killer draft. If not, it will cost people their jobs.
Best Pick: Fourth-round running back Roschon Johnson is the type of back who can come in and push for carries right away. Would it shock anybody if he were a starter in a year or two? It wouldn’t shock me.
Worst Pick: Second-round defensive tackle Gervin Dexter from Florida looks the part, but he didn’t always play to his talent. If he can get more consistent, this will be a good pick. If not, it could be a major miss.
The Skinny: I didn’t like them trading down and passing on Jalen Carter in the first round. They moved down one spot and took tackle Darnell Wright, who is a good player, but they had a chance to get Carter, the best player in the draft. They added a lot of big bodies the rest of the way. They made a smart move to trade the top overall pick to land a great package from the Panthers, including a first next year. They are moving this team in the right direction.
Cincinnati Bengals: A
Best Pick: I like second-round corner D.J. Turner from Michigan. He is fast and can fit into Lou Anarumo’s scheme. They are getting younger and cheaper in the secondary, which they had to do. That works.
Worst Pick: I really liked their draft, so it’s nitpicking when I say what I didn’t like was them not picking an offensive lineman. They need more help up front, so that’s the only flaw of this draft. You can never have enough big people to protect Joe Burrow.
The Skinny: Duke Tobin, the Bengals’ director of player personnel, knew that his defense had to be replenished for a chance to get to the Super Bowl. Plus, they need cheap guys to help save money to pay the explosive offensive players. He did just that. He added a pass rusher in Myles Murphy, a fast corner in Turner and a smart safety in Jordan Battle. That’s how you keep a team moving forward, especially one with a dynamic offense. Well done.
Best pick: I love third-round pick Siaki Ika from Baylor. He is a big, powerful man who will help their run defense in a big way. He is also better pushing the pocket than people think. He needs to keep his weight in check.
Worst Pick: Their worst pick could end up being their best. How? It’s fourth-round right tackle Dawand Jones. If he can get his weight down — and there were stories of him being close to 400 at his pro day — he can be a quality starter. If not, major bust.
The Skinny: I really like their draft. They didn’t have picks in the first or second (see: Deshaun Watson trade), but they made the most of the rest of the draft. I love Ika and fellow third-round pick, receiver Cedric Tillman. Sixth-round center Luke Wypler has starter qualities, especially in their offense. If Watson reverts to from, this draft is sensational. Until then, we can’t give it an ‘A’.
Dallas Cowboys: A
Best pick: Fourth-round edge rusher Viliami Fehoko was the captain of my Better-Than team. He is a power player who plays with violence. He isn’t twitchy, but he has the ability to get 6-7 sacks a season. He will be in the rotation as a rookie.
Worst Pick: I wasn’t as high on third-round linebacker Demarion Overshawn as some. He can run, but he’s just too inconsistent. They have to love his speed as a converted safety, but the tape was inconsistent.
The Skinny: I loved first-round defensive tackle Mazi Smith, who will be a force on their front, especially in the run game. Fehoko will prove to be a quality rotational player. Second-round tight end Luke Schoonmaker was a nice pick. They picked three players on my Better-Than team in Smith, Fehoko (captain) and Schoonmaker. So I like this draft. Sixth-round running back Deuce Vaughn isn’t big, but he can play.
Best Pick: Second-round receiver Marvin Mims can fly. He averaged over 20 yards per catch at Oklahoma, which will help the passing game and get Russell Wilson going.
Worst Pick: It was giving up the first-round pick for Wilson and paying him. He didn’t come close to playing to that value last year and might be on the decline in a big way. Can Sean Payton turn his career back around?
The Skinny: They didn’t have a first-round pick, trading it to Seattle in the Russell Wilson deal, then giving up one they acquired from Miami for Bradley Chubb to New Orleans to make Payton their coach. But they added some good players. Their draft wasn’t great, but it was solid. Third-round linebacker Drew Sanders has tools to become a quality starter.
Detroit Lions: A
Best Pick: I love the pick of tight end Sam LaPorta in the second round. He’s a playmaking tight end who can run like a receiver. Jared Goff will love him. The offense will be better with his skills.
Worst Pick: Can you like a player and not like the pick? That’s the way I see it with 12th overall pick Jamyr Gibbs. He is a running back who is more of an air back, but I still think he went too high. You don’t take backs that high.
The Skinny: The Lions and general manager Brad Holmes did some really good things over the weekend. They have positioned their roster for now and the future if third-round quarterback Hendon Hooker is good. I don’t like taking a back high, but Gibbs might be more than that. Watch out for third-round defensive tackle Brodric Martin. He is a power player inside. Nice job.
Best pick: Second-round tight end Luke Musgrave will be a nice addition to their offense for Jordan Love. Tight ends are security blankets for young quarterbacks and Musgrave will be that.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love second-round receiver Jayden Reed with better options on the board. Reed can run, but he wasn’t one of my top-10 receivers.
The Skinny: It was obvious that they wanted to get help for Jordan Love in the passing game and also for their defensive front, which the did. They added four pass catches and two defensive front players, including first-round edge rusher Lukas Van Ness. This draft would have made Aaron Rodgers happy. Too bad it’s all for Love.
Houston Texans: B
Best Pick: Third-round pick Tank Dell will bring electrifying speed to the passing game, which will make rookie C.J. Stroud a happy man. Dell will be an immediate impact player as a return man.
Worst Pick: It’s not the player in Will Anderson Jr., but it’s what they gave up to get him. They moved up to the third spot in a trade with Arizona, but they gave up way too much. Anderson better be a Hall of Fame rusher, and I don’t think he will be.
The Skinny: They feel like they got two long-term important positions solved here by taking Stroud with the second overall pick at quarterback and Anderson as their edge guy. I just think they gave up way too much for Anderson. If Anderson is Von Miller, this could be an all-time drat. Dell will be a steal. Stroud has to prove to be their franchise quarterback, which they think he can be. Center Juice Struggs was over-drafted in the second round in my book.
Best Pick: Second-round corner Julius Brents fits perfectly into the Gus Bradley scheme. He is a long corner who has a lot of cover ability. Nice pick.
Worst Pick: Third-round receiver Josh Downs went a little higher than I would have taken him, He’s a solid player, but I don’t think he will be as good as some others do.
The Skinny: Their draft will be decided by what quarterback Anthony Richardson becomes as a player. He was taken in the first round with the fourth overall pick, which could pay off in a big way. Richardson has the tools to become a star with development. I liked Will Levis more, but I see why the Colts took him. They had some nice picks after Richardson, including Brents, fellow corner Darius Rush and tight end Will Mallory in the fifth.
Best Pick: I really like fifth-rounder Yasir Abdullah from Louisville. He is a tough, physical player who can rush off the edge, which the Jaguars need. He was on my Better-Than team.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love the pick of running back Tank Bigsby in the third round. He’s a solid enough back, but there were better options and they could have used that pick for defense. He was picked to help their problems in short-yardage situations.
The Skinny: Trading down and adding picks and still getting tackle Anton Harrison makes sense, considering they have to give Trevor Lawrence a mega-deal, which means cheap labor will be needed. That’s also why having 13 picks matters. But I didn’t love the second-round pick (TE Brenton Strange) or Bigsby that much. They better hope a lot of those third-day guys play. I liked fifth-round safety Antonio Johnson and sixth-round corner Christopher Braswell in addition to Abdullah.
Best Pick: Second-round receiver Rashee Rice is a big-bodied receiver who doesn’t have blazing speed, but he can help try to fill the void that JuJu Smith-Schuster left when he departed in free agency. I think they had better choices on the board when they picked Rice.
Worst Pick: First-round pass rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah fills a need, but his tape wasn’t as impressive as I expected. He did play reduced to an interior alignment too much for Kansas State, which he won’t do for the Chiefs, which will help.
The Skinny: It’s hard to doubt this organization, but I didn’t love this draft. I think they left meat on the bone. I think there were better options when they picked the positions they did. After what they did in last year’s draft, pinging them is tough. This wasn’t a wow draft, yet with Patrick Mahomes they don’t really need those anymore.
Best Pick: I went with fourth-round corner Jakorian Bennett. He is a speedy corner who was on my Better-Than team because he really impressed on tape. The Raiders nailed this one. He will be a starting corner at some point as a rookie.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love third-round receiver Tre Tucker. He was a reach. Despite great speed, he had three 100-yard games in his career. There were better options, but we know how this team loves speed.
The Skinny: In addition to Bennett in the fourth, I liked their first three picks. First-rounder Tyree Wilson has the tools to be a Pro Bowl player on a consistent basis and second-round tight end Mike Mayer was the best at his position in this draft. Third-round defensive tackle Byron Young is a rising player who plays hard all the time. If Wilson is who they think he is, which is a dominant pass rusher, they got a solid haul.
Best Pick: I love third-round linebacker Daiyan Henley, who is a fast, speedy linebacker. The Chargers have run-defense issues and adding help in the front seven was a top priority.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love the pick of receiver Quentin Johnston in the first round. There were better options on the board at receiver and they needed help inside on defense. He does fit their receiver profile.
The Skinny: By getting Henley and third-round edge Tuli Tuipulotu, the Chargers addressed a defense that needed it. But they didn’t get a run stuffer inside, which they need, although sixth-round defensive tackle Scott Matlock has talent. Johnston has to be a Pro Bowl-type of talent for this draft to really hit.
Best Pick: Second-round offensive lineman Steve Avila is a nasty mauler who can play both guard and center. The Rams need help on their line, which is why Avila was a perfect pick.
Worst Pick: I didn’t like the pick of Stetson Bennett in the fourth round. Will he ever be anything more than a backup? I doubt it. So why bother?
The Skinny: The Rams didn’t have a first-round pick — shocking, right? — but they made the most of the picks they did have. They picked a lot of good players. In addition to Avila, I liked a lot of their picks, including third-round edge Byron Young. Sixth-round corner Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is a quality player, who could be a good nickel. This team is being overhauled and this is the kind of draft that gives a team some good, young bodies to help make it happen.
Best Pick: I like third-round running back Devon Achane. In this scheme, with his one-cut ability and speed, he will be a home-run threat as soon as this season. Maybe the Dolphins won’t abandon the run as quickly as they did last season.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love taking South Carolina corner Cam Smith in the second round. He has talent, but he didn’t always play to it. He needs to be more consistent, but Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard will help that.
The Skinny: They lost their first-round pick because they violated the league’s policy on integrity of the game when they tampered with Tom Brady. So their first pick was Smith, which I didn’t like. The rest of the draft was just OK, and they didn’t take an offensive lineman with their first three picks, waiting until the seventh round when they took tackle Ryan Hayes. That could end up being a problem.
Best Pick: It’s first-round receiver Jordan Addison. I think he was the best receiver in this class, so they got value after three others were taken before him. He will be a nice 1-2 complement to Justin Jefferson.
Worst Pick: I didn’t like the pick of USC corner Mekhi Blackmon in the third round. There were a lot better options on the board when they picked Blackmon, even though corner is a major need.
The Skinny: After Addison, I didn’t love their draft. I do like fifth-round defensive tackle Jacquelin Roy from LSU. He has talent and he’s strong. Seventh-round running back DeWayne McBride was on my Better-Than team, so I like him. He does have some health issues and he doesn’t catch the football.
Best Pick: I liked fifth-round guard Atonio Mafi more than I liked their fourth-round guard Sidy Sow. Mafi is a mauler who just needs to improve his technique since he was a defensive player to start his college career. The Patriots will do that for him.
Worst Pick: They took a a kicker in Chad Ryland from Maryland in the fourth round. Why? You can find kickers. And it’s not like Ryland was automatic. Kickers come and go. Don’t like it. At least they waited to take the punter in the sixth.
The Skinny: They had seven picks in the first five rounds, but I am not sure they used them very well. First-round corner Christian Gonzalez will be a star. The kicker made no sense. I didn’t love second-round edge Keion White or Sow. Sixth-round receiver Kayshon Boutte has a ton of talent, but has off-field issues that Bill Belichick will have to fix. Smallish receiver Demario Douglas is one of my Better-Than guys in this draft. A kicker and a punter in the same draft? That’s over-thinking it.
Best Pick: Third-round running back Kendre Miller is a tough runner who will give them a nice combo with Alvin Kamara. Miller will bring back the power part of the offense like Mark Ingram used to do when he split carries with Kamara.
Worst Pick: I didn’t like edge Isaiah Foskey as much as some scouts. They took him in the second round, but I think that was in large part because they had to take somebody at the position. The need was there, but does he solve it?
The Skinny: They took defensive tackle Bryan Bresee in the first, which filled a major need. Bresee has a ton of talent, but injuries and other issues prevented him from truly playing to it. If healthy, he can be dominant. Foskey also filled a need, but there were better options. I like Miller and fourth-round guard Nick Saldiveri as major bargains. Sixth-round receiver A.T. Perry has talent and was productive in college.
Best Pick: Third-round receiver Jalin Hyatt will give them a speed threat on the outside. If he learns the entire route tree early, he will give them a home-run threat.
Worst Pick: I differed from a lot of evaluators, but I didn’t like second-round center John Michael Schmitz as much as some. I know he fills a need, but there were better options.
The Skinny: First-round corner Deonte Banks fills a major need and he has the tools to be an outstanding man-cover player. Hyatt will help the passing game, but I didn’t love their draft as much as others. Fifth-round running back Eric Gray has talent. They did fill some important spots.
New York Jets: B
Best Pick: Jarrick Bernard-Converse, their sixth-round pick, is a talented player with a lot of starts. He’s a bigger corner who can play safety. Love the pick.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love first-round pick Will McDonald. I know he was miscast some in Iowa State’s defense, but I think he went too high. At this spot, he has to be a dynamic edge player. Can he be?
The Skinny: They took a defensive lineman and an offensive lineman with their first two picks, which is alway a good strategy. Joe Tippman, the second-round center-guard, is a good player who could push for time as a rookie as they upgrade their line. I liked their down-the-line guys more in Bernard-Converse, tackle Carter Warren and running back Israel Abanikanda. The best news they had: Aaron Rodgers is in the fold. They have their quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles: A
Best Pick: It’s their first pick, defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Yes, he has some off-field issues, but he is the best player in this draft. As one scout told me, he’s generational. If he can stay away from issues, and work harder at the game, he will be a Hall of Fame player.
Worst Pick: It’s hard to find a bad pick, so I will nitpick and say I didn’t love safety Sydney Brown in the third as much as others did. They did need a safety, but I liked some other guys better in that spot.
The Skinny: Howie Roseman killed it with his haul this year. Getting Carter and Nolan Smith in the first round with their two picks is an impressive draft for a team that needed to get young players up front. Third-round guard Tyler Steen is a good player, who will be a starter in a year to two. Then they traded to land running back D’Andre Swift from the Lions. Nice job.
Best Pick: I like fourth-round edge player Nick Herbig from Wisconsin. He is a perfect fit for that the Steelers want in their rush players. He will be a hit on the outside in their scheme, although some think he should play inside. I don’t.
Worst Pick: I didn’t like the pick of Darnell Washington in the third round. I just don’t think he’s sudden enough, and he has knee issues. Please put weight on him and make him a tackle. He can be Jason Peters 2.0.
The Skinny: They traded up to land Broderick Jones in the first round, which will be an immediate help up front, and that was a must. Second-round corner Joey Porter Jr. was a nice pick as well, playing for the same team as his father. They did a solid job all the way around. Second-round tackle Keanu Benton didn’t play up to his traits, but he has the body.
Best Pick: Sixth-round pick Dee Winters is a perfect 49ers linebacker. He can run and hit and knows how to find the football. This converted safety will be a good special-teams player as he learns behind the 49ers’ special linebacker group.
Worst Pick: Taking kicker Jake Moody in the third round is way too high. I hate that. Kickers come and go, so why not just bring two to camp and let them compete? Haven’t teams learned yet from drafting kickers?
The Skinny: They didn’t have a first- or second-round pick because of the trade up to draft Trey Lance two years ago and the trade to acquire Christian McCaffrey last year. One out of two isn’t bad, I guess. They did have three third-round picks and used them at a variety of spots. Third-round safety Ji’Ayir Brown is a big hitter. I didn’t love this draft
Best Pick: It was their first, corner Devon Witherspoon. He is a talented player, but he weighs 185 pounds. That’s the concern, especially the way he throws his body around.
Worst Pick: I didn’t like the decision to take running back Zach Charbonnet in the second round. He’s a good player, but they have Kenneth Walker. The Seahawks love them some running backs.
The Skinny: Getting Witherspoon and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round will really improve this roster. Both will be starters right away. I didn’t love the rest of their draft, but they had a lot of picks. General manager John Schneider usually does well with those picks and is coming off an outstanding draft last year. So it’s tough to doubt him. Keep an eye on fourth-round defensive tackle Cameron Young and seventh-round running back Kenny McIntosh.
Best Pick: Second-round pick Cody Mauch is a nasty player who will step in and likely be a starter at guard. He was a college tackle, but he is more guard than tackle in my mind. That line will be happy he’s around.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love the pick of pass rusher YaYa Diaby in the third round. I didn’t love his tape, but I get it since they need help at edge. He is athletic, so this is a traits pick in my mind.
The Skinny: First-round defensive tackle Calijah Kancey is a player who can really amp up their interior pass rush. Playing next to Vita Vea, he is the perfect complement. I liked that pick. Mauch is a nice second-round choice. Keep an eye on fifth-round pick SirVocea Dennis, a linebacker from Pittsburgh. Seventh-round receiver Trey Palmer can fly. This was a draft based on speed. They got faster.
Tennessee Titans: B
Best Pick: Yes, it’s taking Will Levis in the second round. They made the move up to go get him, which was the right thing to do. He had a rough first night, but this is a great spot for him to sit behind Ryan Tannehill. He has the talent to be a big-time passer in the league — no matter what the masses think.
Worst Pick: I like third-round running back Tyjae Spears, but he has some injury issues and I think they had more pressing needs. Spears will be a nice change of pace back to Derrick Henry, but it seems like a luxury pick for the Titans.
The Skinny: Getting offensive lineman Peter Skoronski in the first round and Levis in the second were good picks. Skoronski can be an All-Pro, while Levis has the tools to be a big-time starter. The rest of their draft didn’t wow me, but sixth-round tackle Jaelyn Duncan has talent. This is a draft that will be defined by Levis.
Best Pick: First-round corner Emmanuel Forbes is light at 170 pounds, but he can play. He is a big-play specialist who can cover. He is needed in that secondary. He will push for time right away.
Worst Pick: I didn’t love the pick of guard Braeden Daniels in the fourth round. I think there were better options. He is a developmental guy in my book. He played tackle in college, but should move inside.
The Skinny: They needed to get help in the secondary and on the offensive line, which they did. In addition to Forbes, second-round safety-corner Jartavius Martin is a good player who can do a lot of things. Fifth-round pass rusher K.J. Henry has a ton of talent and will help behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat, who will be looking for new deals soon. This draft showed one thing: They firmly believe in Sam Howell — and they should —even if nobody wants to believe it.