It’s premature, it’s probably not perfectly accurate, but it’s the kind of speculation we all crave following the first round of the NFL Draft. Some teams got who they wanted, others reached for players they knew they needed, and still others decided that not getting involved was better than trying to participate in the mad scramble.
Without further ado, here are the B&T Editor’s Grades for the first 32 picks.
- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: A If you didn’t see this coming you were crazy. While some draftniks have been saying that RGIII was the better quarterback before the draft, they were simply buying into hype that will be proven wrong with time.
- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: A RGIII is a superb athlete and will be an excellent quarterback in the NFL. Props to the Redskins for leapfrogging up in order to get the quarterback they think will lead them to a more rosy future.
- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: B+ While I love strong running games and Richardson may be the best thing to come at the position since Adrian Peterson, he just wasn’t what the Browns really needed. If Cleveland is able to get a solid wide receiver over the next few rounds, this pick will look a lot better paired with Brandon Weeden.
- Matt Kalil, OT, USC: A Matt Kalil will be in the NFL for a long, long time. The Vikings made a good deal with the Browns for mutual benefit. It was a smart play and well planned out move by a franchise that needs to focus on true cornerstones in their rebuilding.
- Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU: A Justin Blackmon will give the Jags a receiving threat they desperately need. Don’t believe the speculation that other receivers will be his equal any time soon. He won’t be super explosive, he won’t be super fast, but he’ll be the guy that catches the ball no matter where Blaine Gabbert throws it. Good move by Gene Smith to jump up and get the player he wanted when he knew he could. That man has balls.
- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: A How Claiborne made it to be the last player in the top “elite” six is kind of beyond me. The Rams were smart to trade out to the Cowboys after Blackmon was off the board and the Cowboys have finally found a solution to their secondary problems.
- Mark Barron, SS, Alabama: B+ While I’m not a fan of listing reaching for a player as bad, this probably could have waited a couple picks. That said, Barron will be a great addition to a young (but maturing) defense down in Tampa Bay.
- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: B Ryan Tannehill will be worse than Brandon Weeden. Yes, I believe that. Firmly. Tannehill is the quarterback Miami wanted and successfully marketed himself well to be taken in the top ten. I just can’t see him being that good with the Dolphins. It’s too bad, because I think in the right system and in a place that isn’t bogged down in terrible front office management, Tannehill could have been a great pick and superb player.
- Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: A Luke Kuechly was the best linebacker in the draft and made the Panthers a very happy suitor. I was shocked to see him go this high, but to be honest he was good enough. The Panthers defense just got considerably more reliable.
- Stephon Gilmore, CB, S. Carolina: A Getting Gilmore (a possible top seven pick) at ten was great for the Bills. The team is rebuilding their defense very, very well this offseason and made some teams very nervous with this selection.
- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: A- Poe will be good and I commend the Chiefs for sticking with their draft board, but with Fletcher Cox still on the board I was shocked they went with Poe. Maybe the combine does matter more?
- Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: A The Eagles are great at drafting defensive line talent. Andy Reid knew what he wanted, saw an opportunity after seeing Poe go off the board and took it. Cox will be great and should solidify the line forever. (FOR-EV-ER!)
- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: A- With Larry Fitgerald and a porous line, I figured this wouldn’t be the Cardinals’ pick. But hey, I don’t manage the franchise. Floyd is a very good wide receiver with great size and speed. Expect him to complement Fitz well.
- Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: A- Brockers is a very good player and was the best selection left when the Rams finally decided they wanted to participate in the draft after trading back twice. They stuck to their board and came away just fine.
- Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia: B- “Who in the world is Bruce Irvin?” Everyone at the bar asked in wonder while Chris Berman expounded on a gifted defensive end that was on nobody’s first round mock. He’s got skills, but he’s also got problems off the field that may conflict with NFL success. The Seahawks either know something we don’t or there isn’t something to know here. My money’s on the latter.
- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: B+/A I have two rankings for the taking of Mr. Coples. The first is what I think is the actual value of this selection for the Jets. The second is what I think is the actual value if Quinton Coples decides that he actually wants to play football like a big boy. It was smart of the Jets to pick up the fast falling Coples, but maybe it won’t turn out to be so great in the long run. He was taking after Bruce ‘Who are you again?’ Irvin…
- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: A- Kirkpatrick is a very good corner and will help the Bengals get further in the playoffs next year. Well done to them getting a premium talent this late in the first!
- Melvin Ingram, DE, S. Carolina: A How Ingram was taken after Coples and Bruce Irvin is beyond me. This pickup by the Chargers will look amazing after the end of next year. I kept waiting for the Jags to trade back into the first to pick him, but it never happened. Ingram is probably the best pass rusher in the class and just turned a defense that was becoming a problem into a strength.
- Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State: A- I’m really liked what I’ve seen out of McClellin and probably have him better graded than a lot of people. I did expect him to go later in the draft, but apparently the Bears and I have similar opinions on defensive studs.
- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: B- There are too many questions around Wright. I don’t like the pick and I don’t think I ever will. He doesn’t have great size, he’s got some questions lingering about effort on the field and I’m convinced he won’t look as good without RGIII behind center. Sorry Jake Locker!
- Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse: B+ The Patriots greatly improved their defense with this selection and got a player I think they secretly coveted. Jones will work very well in Belichick’s schemes and will make opposing offenses look silly. If he had gone to another team I’d have him ranked lower, but he’ll work super well in New England.
- Brandon Weeden, QB, OSU: A I’m a Weeden fan. He throws the ball at least as well as RGIII and Andrew Luck (the pro baseball may have helped with that). He oozes confidence, he has a carefree approach to life, he has an easy smile. I really can’t find anything to knock him on. His age will be a benefit to the Browns and he will provide leadership on a team that has been desperate for it since their “refounding.”
- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: A Stafford is injury prone. How do you solve this? You draft the second best tackle in the draft. I forgot he was even still available when the Lions announced their pick. Getting a talent like Reiff this late in the first is astounding. Smart move Motor City Kitties.
- David DeCastro, G, Stanford: A I think almost everyone had DeCastro as the top ranked guard prospect. I thought he’d be taken earlier, but I guess not. The Steelers stuck with their draft board and got a top notch talent late in the first.
- Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama: B- Hightower is a great linebacker, but there’s just something that makes me think he won’t translate well to the pros. The Patriots defense has had problems the last few years for a reason. Hightower will be solid, but I just can’t see him becoming the different maker the Patriots may be expecting.
- Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois: B+ Mercilus was a smart pickup at 26. He’s play well in the Texans’ 3-4 system and will help to replace some of the leadership that left in free agency. The kid has game and will bring it each game.
- Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin: B I didn’t think Zeitler would come off the board earlier than his college teammate Peter Konz. Cincinnati obviously disagrees with my assessment. Zeitler will help Dalton in his development during his second year and will help whoever ends up pounding the rock the most.
- Nick Perry, DE, USC: B I really thought the Packers would end up with McClellin. That said, I don’t think they’re going to be too depressed with Perry. Perry was a solid pick this late in the first round, but bolstering the running back stable may have been more beneficial…
- Harrison Smith, FS, Notre Dame: B- The Vikings need help all over the place. Like the Packers I thought high quality insurance behind AP may have been the better move here. That said, the Vikings know what they’re getting and obviously know they’re getting something special or they wouldn’t have moved to 29 to take him.
- A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: C+ Yes, the Niners are short on receiver. No, Randy Moss is not the answer. But what if Moss doesn’t work out? Maybe Stephen Hill here instead? He’s a speedster, but I’m not certain he’s the speedster they should have taken.
- Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: C+ I can’t knock Doug Martin, I really like the guy. But the Bucs trading in to #31 for a running back when they still have Blount is beyond me. Apparently it wasn’t as surprising to some people, but I really don’t like this pick.
- David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech: B Like Martin, I can’t knock Wilson. I think he’ll run well in the NFL. But unlike Martin, Wilson will be coming into an offense that has proven it can win with a running back by committee approach. And they will. Running back really wasn’t a need for the Giants though. I figured Coby Fleener had more utility and upside here.
Sure, these grades are biased. But it’s been a good first round! The Jags made off well, as did the Browns and Bengals. Indy has got to be happy now that the history is officially locked down. I can’t argue too much with a lot of these picks.
Hopefully today’s picks will be just as good!
– Luke N. Sims