1st Round Grades – AFC

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AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Player – Sammy Watkins (6)

Pick – 4

Grade – C-

The Bills trade a 1st and a 4th in the 2015 draft to move up from #9 to #4. I have Watkins as the best WR in the class. His RAC will take pressure off Manuel and the running game, and he’s also a deep threat. But trading away a future 1st to acquire a WR in a draft stacked with WR doesn’t sit well.

Miami Dolphins

Player – Ja’Wuan James (outside top 40)

Pick – 19

Grade – C-

James is a fine player and should solidify the RT position. He has very good feet for a RT, but he’s not as physically dominant as your standout RT’s. He is a good fit for a ZBS, and he’s a better RT prospect than Zach Martin. To draft him, though, Miami passed on a number of standout DB’s and WR’s – all rated as significantly better prospects than James. When you draft for need in 2014, you’ll be drafting for need in 2015.

New England Patriots

Player – Dominique Easley (outside top 40)

Pick – 29

Grade – D+

Talented player with medical red flags. Undersized, penetrating 3-technique. Given the available players and Easley’s health, this is a major reach. If everything comes together for him, he has the talent to justify the pick, but New England passed on players with as much (if not more) talent and fewer red flags. Bad betting, BB.

New York Jets

Player – Calvin Pryor (30-40)

Pick – 18

Grade – C

If we’re grading on an AFC-East curve, the Jets aced it! Pryor doesn’t have the coverage ability, versatility, athletic ability, ball skills, or play making ability of Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon. For a SS, his coverage skills are solid, and he can bring the heat in the box, but he’s a limited player for the 18th pick in a very strong draft.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Player – C. J. Mosley (30-40)

Pick – 17

Grade – C+

The best 3-4 ILB prospect went off the board two picks earlier, and there is a drop off after Mosley. He’s a good player and a smart player, but they passed on more productive and dynamic players to take him at 17. He also has medical red flags.

Cincinnati Bengals

Player – Darqueze Dennard (21)

Pick – 24

Grade – B+

Dennard represents good value and scheme fit for the Bengals. With two deep safeties, his physical limitations are less of a concern. He’s a strong tackler and aggressive in press coverage.

Cleveland Browns

Player(s) – Justin Gilbert (16), Johnny Manziel (4)

Pick(s) – 8, 22

Grade – A

Cleveland picked up 2015 1st and 4th RD picks in the trade down with Buffalo, and that does factor into the grade. Even though Gilbert was a significant reach at 8, if the picks were reversed (Manziel at 8 and Gilbert at 22), the value is outstanding for both picks.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Player – Ryan Shazier (3)

Pick – 15

Grade – A

LB’s with Ryan Shazier’s production and athleticism only come around once every 5-10 years. He’s a SPECIAL talent – every bit as special as Clowney and Robinson. Best possible pick for Pittsburgh at 15.

AFC South

Houston Texans

Player – Jadeveon Clowney (2)

Pick – 1

Grade A-

Sometimes the obvious pick is the right pick. They need to address QB pretty soon, but he’s going to be a monster as 2-point or 3-point rusher in the 9-technique.

Indianapolis Colts – pick traded to Cleveland for Trent Richardson. What did the Browns do with the pick? Turned it into Johnny Manziel.

Grade – F

Jacksonville Jaguars

Player – Blake Bortles (32)

Pick – 3

Grade – C-

Wrong QB. Bortles is a solid QB prospect but has too many holes in his game to consider this early. Compound those holes with his only adequate upside, and you have a significant reach. He’s got a shot to do well there, no question, but he’s a bad bet in the top 10.

Tennessee Titans

Player – Taylor Lewan (7)

Pick – 11

Grade – A-

Lewan offers excellent value at 11. Joe Staley is a good pro comp. Strength is solid, but physicality and athleticism are top-notch. Better OT prospect than any of the big 3 from last year (though you can make a case for Lane Johnson). 

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Player – Bradley Roby (22)

Pick – 31

Grade – A-

Roby is an outstanding talent – arguably the most talented CB in the draft. He has to tighten his game, but from what I hear, he’s aware of it. Denver has the leadership to maximize his talents. Couldn’t do much (if any) better if you’re Denver.

Kansas City Chiefs

Player – Dee Ford (30-40)

Pick – 23

Grade – C-

Good athlete and solid player. Poor man’s Brandon Graham. Too early for a player with Ford’s limitations as a LB – given his lack of elite traits.

Oakland Raiders

Player – Khalil Mack (5)

Pick – 5

Grade – A-

Best 1st RD pick for the Raiders in recent memory. Mack is an elite athlete with great versatility and production. Strong pick and appropriate value for Oakland.

San Diego Chargers

Player – Jason Verrett (23)

Pick – 25

Grade – B+

In Verrett, San Diego gets good value at a position of desperate need. Verrett compares favorably to a more athletic Brent Grimes. Look for him to line up against Welker in the slot when SD plays Denver. 

A 7th, a 6th, and a 5th

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A 7th:

Maurice Alexander, Senior, Strong Safety, Utah State

Mo Alexander is a natural athlete and an explosive player around the line of scrimmage (3 ½ sacks and 9 TFL ). He’s a big safety (6’1, 220 with 32 5/8” arms). He can and did play deep—both in 2-deep and single-high, and he possesses the necessary speed (4.54) to do it in the pros. But he’s best in the box. You might attribute his low INT total (1) to his small hands (8 7/8”). His 6 PBU’s indicate that he is active in the passing game.

His explosive play in the box is backed by outstanding physical talent (38” vertical, 10’3 broad). Perfect SS for a team looking for a distinct SS, one that spends most of his time in the box.

Pro comp? Kam Chancellor. Not quite as big as Kam, Alexander is a better athlete and suited for a similar role as a physical enforcer. After watching Alexander, I think he could have been a Day 2 draft pick. Unfortunately, that’s the problem. Juco transfer as a sophomore in 2011, he had an OK first year as a LB, was dismissed from team after punching a teammate in the eye, before returning as a very good FS for the 2013 season. With his issues and lack of experience, you get an high-level athlete and natural player at very nice discount.

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6th:

Tevin Reese, Senior, Wide Receiver, Baylor

Tevin Reese is shorter than you’d like (5’10), and he’s much thinner than you’d like. He also has small hands (8 5/8). Bad news out of the way, Reese is a dynamic athlete (41” vertical, 11’ broad), and he plays faster than his 4.46 (which is perfectly adequate). Reese looks so much faster than he is, because he doesn’t have to slow down or even break stride to change direction. Once he gets to your safety, it’s over. Prior to his injury, Reese averaged 118 yards per game and had 8 TD’s through seven games. During that time span, he averaged 24.97 YPC. Reese is your rare deep threat from the slot.

For this reason, I have Victor Cruz as his pro comp. Cruz is bigger and stronger, but weight aside, Reese and Cruz put up very similar numbers in the 40, the 10, the vert, broad, 3-cone, and even the 20-yard shuttle. Each player has the ability to change direction without losing momentum, and that allows each to be terrific weapons from the slot.

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5th:

Jerick McKinnon, Senior, Running Back, Georgia Southern

Compact (5’9, 209), explosive (4.41, 40.5” vertical, 11’ broad) runner, and he’s built like a ton of bricks (32 reps). Has the ability to accelerate through small creases, and he’s always a threat to break a big run. When he wasn’t playing QB in the triple option, or carrying the ball as a RB, he made key blocks at the point of attack, but he doesn’t have a lot of experience in pass pro. His excellent build and strength should help. Ran for 1,000+ yards in three consecutive seasons.

Pro Comp? Maurice Jones Drew. Similar build (thick thighs) and explosion. If McKinnon can pick up the nuances of the position, he has a very high ceiling.

Top 32 (+) with Grades

Pretty simple grading system. 1, 2, or 3. The numbers represent likelihood for success. 1) Unlikely to achieve sustained success in NFL. 2) Good chance to achieve sustained success in a system conducive to the given player’s skill set. 3) Very likely to achieve sustained success. “S” indicates Strong, and “W” indicates Weak. And the +’s indicate upside. ++ indicates talent to be top 5 at given position. + indicates talent to be very productive, fringe Pro Bowl. Zero +’s indicate an upside that tops out at solid. You won’t see any on this list, but if a player is given a “-“, it indicates that the player just barely has enough talent to play in the NFL. Upside is not solely predicated upon athletic ability, but it’s obviously a factor.

Aaron Donald, for example is rated a W3+. I believe he’ll be a productive player for a long time, and he’s a freak athlete, but his size (for me) keeps him from being a solid 3, and it also keeps him as a single “+” player.

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  1. Greg Robinson 3++
  2. Jadeveon Clowney W3++
  3. Ryan Shazier 3++
  4. Johnny Manziel S2++
  5. Khalil Mack W3++
  6. Sammy Watkins W3++
  7. Taylor Lewan 3+
  8. Jake Matthews 3+
  9. Aaron Donald W3+
  10. Jimmie Ward S2++
  11. Mike Evans 2++
  12. Marqise Lee 2++
  13. Anthony Barr 2++
  14. Deonne Bucannon W3+
  15. Kareem Martin W3+
  16. Justin Gilbert 2++
  17. Teddy Bridgewater S2+
  18. Donte Moncrief W2++
  19. Jeremy Hill S2+
  20. Kyle Van Noy S2+
  21. Darqueze Dennard S2+
  22. Bradley Roby S2+
  23. Jason Verrett S2+
  24. Kyle Fuller S2+
  25. Timmy Jernigan S2+
  26. Xavier Su-a-Filo S2+
  27. Brandin Cooks 2+
  28. Odell Beckham Jr. 2+
  29. Gabe Jackson S2+
  30. Louis Nix 2+
  31. Ra’Shede Hageman W2++
  32. Blake Bortles W2+

Just missed:

-          Allen Robinson 2+

-          Jordan Matthews 2+

-          Cody Latimer 2+

-          Eric Ebron 2+

-          C. J. Mosley 2+

-          Carlos Hyde 2+

-          Calvin Pryor 2+

-          Dee Ford 2+

-          Antonio Richardson 2+

-          Zach Martin 2+

-          Haha Clinton-Dix 2+

I’m not exactly “fair” when grading WR’s. If Watkins had his combination of physical talent and production at DE or LB, I would have given him a solid 3++. Short of a guy on Calvin Johnson’s level (as a prospect), WR’s don’t get solid 3s.

Same goes for QB’s. It’s a hard game, and most QB’s are like troubled teens. They’re in the wind, but with the right mentor (coach/system), and the right outlet for their talents (scheme fit), they can win at life (SB’s!!)! No, but very few QB’s are even close to bust proof. Luck is the closest thing to bust proof I’ve ever seen. He would have been a 3++.

Two 3++ players in this draft, and you can see how it tiers. 1-3, 4-6, 7-18, 19-oblivion . . . err . . . somewhere in the 40s.

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