Draft weekend has officially come to a close. It will go down as the most memorable in history for a laundry list of reasons, starting with Roger Goodell’s ever-changing wardrobe and incredibly comfy chair. 255 players heard their names called and 50 or more so players have signed on as undrafted free agents. I think it way too early to start handing out grades on draft classes. It takes about five years to be able to begin appropriately evaluating how teams did.
That being said, I think we can start handing out some winners and losers tags. Balancing filling team needs with taking the best player available. Some teams did that really well. Others, not so much. Here are the teams that crushed the draft and the teams that could have fared better.
Biggest impact: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma (17th overall)
Best value: Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah (179th overall)
I think it would be hard to qualify the Cowboys as anything other than the winners of this draft. They landed a top-10 talent in CeeDee Lamb at 17, then filled a major need at great value with Trevon Diggs in the second round. Dallas filled another need with Neville Gallimore, who slid into the third. Reggie Robinson is an interesting smaller school prospect to develop with decent size and speed. Tyler Biadasz has the potential to be a starter this season, which is great to find at the end of the fourth round. Travis Fredrick retired this offseason, so that was a huge hole to fill. I had a second-round grade on Bradlee Anae as well, who fell into the fifth. Taking a flier on a developmental quarterback in the seventh is never a bad idea either. Everyone other than Ben DiNucci has the potential to contribute this year. I think the Cowboys scored a really good core to develop.
Biggest impact: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson (8th overall)
Best value: Josh Jones, OT, Houston (72nd overall)
Arizona didn’t overthink things with Isaiah Simmons on the board. It definitely wasn’t their biggest need, but he is an incredible defensive playmaker. The Cardinals had no second-round pick because of the DeAndre Hopkins trade. However, all 32 teams would take Hopkins in the second round in a heartbeat. Josh Jones was one of the biggest steals of the draft. His drop to the third round was stunning. Leki Fotu and Rashad Lawrence help beef up the interior of the defensive line. Evan Weaver will contribute on special teams right away and provides solid depth at linebacker. Nabbing local kid Eno Benjamin in the seventh round was another impressive move to work into the backfield rotation. In two years, this roster has been thoroughly turned over.
Biggest impact: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (1st overall)
Best value: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson (33rd overall)
Sure they had it easy picking up Joe Burrow, but the Bengals filled some big needs and found solid value down the line. Tee Higgins probably should have gone in the first round and gives Burrow a huge target to grow with. Logan Wilson is quick cover linebacker and no team in the league needed help at the position more than Cincinnati. Akeem Davis-Gaither is a similar player to Wilson, but that isn’t bad thing given how much talent the group lacked. Khalid Kareem should be a rotational player up front capable of eating up plenty of defensive snaps. Hakeem Adeniji is a developmental tackle to work with and Markus Bailey is worth a flier in the seventh. He has some major history, but when healthy, he could be a starting caliber NFL player. There will be a learning curve as the Bengals continue to rebuild, but they have some solid pieces in place now.
Biggest impact: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU (31st overall)
Best value: Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State (255 overall)
Minnesota let the board come to them, traded back well and reloaded at some key positions. Having Justin Jefferson fall to them was a bit of luck, but trading back and still taking Jeff Gladney was a very skillful move. Ezra Cleveland is a tackle prospect worth developing. He might not be totally pro ready, but he is a future starter. Cameron Dantzler, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch and Troy Dye are all high-upside players who can provide depth right away. Harrison Hand is an intriguing option on the back end as well. I thought K.J. Osborn was a reach, especially given the other receivers on the board. Kenny Willekes and Josh Metellus were very productive starters in college and well worth kicking the tires on in the later rounds. It wasn’t a very sexy draft for the Vikings, but this sets them up well for this season and beyond.
Biggest impact: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU (28th overall)
Best value: James Proche, WR, SMU (201st overall)
Very few teams draft as consistently well as the Ravens. Patrick Queen is a perfect fit in a massive position of need and J.K. Dobbins adds another dynamic player to potentially the scariest backfield in football. Devin Duvernay and James Proche are instant impact players at receivers that should work well with Lamar Jackson. Justin Mandubuike is a solid prospect to work with on the defensive line and could eventually take over for the 31-year-old Brandon Williams. Malik Harrison plays downhill and could become an extremely disruptive player in a few years. Tyree Phillips and Ben Bredeson offer offensive line depth too. Geno Stone isn’t a flashy player, but he was really good value in the seventh round. Give Eric DeCosta a lot of credit. This has the makings of a very good class that sets them up really well for the future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Biggest impact: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa (13th overall)
Best value: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota (161st overall)
When filling needs meets finding great value, you tend to have a solid draft. Tristan Wirfs is the perfect player to anchor the right side of the line for Tom Brady. Antoine Winfield Jr. is a ballhawking playmaker who should add some explosiveness to an underrated secondary. Ke’Shawn Vaughn provides another dimension to a Buccaneers backfield that has really struggled in recent years. Tyler Johnson provides great depth at receiver after a stellar career at Minnesota. This team got better at important positions and positioned themselves well to compete this year. I don’t need to explain how important that is with a 44-year-old quarterback.
Biggest surprise: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (53rd overall)
Biggest reach: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU (21st overall)
Now some of this is personal preference, bordering on being a premature grade, but I was not a huge fan of the decisions the Eagles made in this draft. Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson drew a lot of scrutiny and rightfully so. That was one of the biggest surprises of the first round. Philadelphia then had the biggest surprise of round two by taking Jalen Hurts. Carson Wentz has an injury history, but this team was desperate for receivers, corners and linebackers. Finding a sub-package quarterback given the other holes on this roster is questionable at best. Davion Taylor and K’Von Wallace are solid mid-round picks. The Eagles did eventually find receiver depth in John Hightower and Quez Watkins in addition to trading for Marquise Goodwin. They might have also found a steal in Prince Tega Wanogho. Not taking a corner was a big miss though and waiting until the late third round to take a defensive player could cost Philly in the short term.
Green Bay Packers
Biggest surprise: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State (26th overall)
Biggest reach: A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College (62nd overall)
No team’s draft confused me more than the Packers. Coming off an NFC championship appearance, it was clear Green Bay needed some more reliable receivers and an injection of talent at linebacker. Instead, the Packers traded up to take a project quarterback, despite having one of the best passers in the league. Then they drafted a running back in the second round despite having Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams already on the roster. Josiah Deguara and Kamal Martin finally hit on some needs and Green Bay built a lot of offensive line depth in the later rounds. The fact that the front office didn’t draft a single receiver is shocking. In what was the deepest receiver draft in at least a decade, not finding more options for Aaron Rodgers to work with borders on malpractice in football. This was a perplexing approaching by Brian Gutekunst.
Biggest surprise: Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech (27th overall)
Biggest reach: Damien Lewis, G, LSU (69th overall)
Seattle stayed true to form, reaching in the first round before taking some high-upside prospects to develop later in the draft. Jordyn Brooks is an enticing player, but I had an early third-round grade on him. I think Darrell Taylor could be a good get for the Seahawks, but they reached on Damien Lewis in the third in an attempt to find some more protection for Russell Wilson. I like Alton Robinson in the fifth round, but Freddie Swain came from off the radar with much better prospects on the board. At least Colby Parkinson and DeeJay Dallas should be solid roll players as rookies.
Biggest surprise: Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane (173rd overall)
Biggest reach: Mooney
It is amazing how different the league feels about the Khalil Mack trade two years later. Given the amount of cap space he takes up and draft capital it took to acquire him, Chicago probably would’ve been better off without the pass rusher. Given that the Bears were already down a first round draft pick, the team decided to take their 10th tight end. Their second pick of the round was much better in Jaylon Johnson at a big position of need. Darnell Mooney was another example of a team passing on better prospects at the position. Kindle Vildor is a really solid add in the fifth, but I can’t get behind waiting to find offensive line help until the seventh round. Chicago just does not seem like it had a great plan in place entering the draft.
Biggest surprise: Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis (66th overall)
Biggest reach: Gibson
It is hard to put Washington in this category after landing a star edge player in Chase Young. However, they didn’t have a great draft after that. With Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, Derrius Guice and Peyton Barber on the roster, taking a third-down back is a questionable move alone. I didn’t think Antonio Gibson was worth going before the fifth round either. Josh Jones was on the board there, which would have been a great get after not getting a ton in return for Trent Williams. I don’t think Saadiq Charles will be able to fill that void in year one either. There took a couple of fliers on players from big-name programs that often got lost in the shuffle at their respective school. Ron Rivera is a great coach, but I don’t think this set him up super well for success in his first season.
New England Patriots
Biggest surprise: Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech (101st overall)
Biggest impact: Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall (159th overall)
Dare I put them in this category??? New England is often playing chess while the rest of the league is playing checkers. This year, it felt like the Patriots were trying too hard to out think the rest of the league. Kyle Dugger is raw, but if anyone can get the most of out his skills, it will be Bill Belichick. Josh Uche should also be a solid situational rusher as well. The Pats overdrafted two tight ends and then spent a fifth-round pick on a kicker that it seemed like no one else was even thinking about drafting. Failing to select a quarterback to develop as part of this class is a little surprising as well. I never thought Belichick would be aggressive in finding a passer, but ignoring the position all together seems like a mistake. You know that Dustin Woodard will be a Pro Bowler within two years though undrafted free agent will turn into Jarrett Stidham’s equivalent of Julian Edelman making me look like a fool for ever suggesting they had a bad draft.