The 78th edition of the NFL Draft is in the books and what a ride it was. I noted winners and losers from the first and second days of the draft and now it’s time to see who I think did the best and worst jobs drafting as a whole.
The Top Five:
1. San Francisco 49ers
Unfortunately for the NFC, the defending conference champions had what I consider the best overall draft. Trent Baalke brought his “A+ game” to this year’s draft, hauling in players that both fit and provide depth at positions of need. Baalke addressed the franchise’s biggest need in the first round by selecting safety Eric Reid. He used the 49ers’ 2nd and 3rd round picks to add versatility and depth to their defensive front in the form of Tank Carradine and Corey Lemonier. Finally they found the successor to Frank Gore in the 4th round, selecting running back Marcus Lattimore. These picks should keep San Francisco near the top of the NFC West for years to come. Grade: A+
2. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore should really just be listed as 1B to San Francisco, that’s how close this decision was. The defending Super Bowl champions Ozzie Newsome did a great job finding value while also filling positions of need, starting with the selection of strong safety Matt Elam in the first round. He found a possible replacement for the retired Ray Lewis in Arthur Brown and depth at other positions in the 4th round. Later in the draft he found fullback Kyle Juszczyk and wide receiver Aaron Melette. Juszcyk should contribute in two-back formations this year and could take over for Vonta Leach as soon as 2014. Melette meanwhile could develop into the next Anquan Boldin. They may fall off a bit in 2013, but this draft puts the Ravens right back in the running for a playoff bid this season. Grade: A+
3. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers haven’t had a 100+ yard rushing performance in their last 49 games. That streak could end early in the 2013 season after Ted Thompson picked up the drafts two premiere backs in Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. The Packers also picked up some help on the defensive end in the form of Datone Jones and Josh Boyd. These picks should put the Packers right back in the hunt for an NFC championship and another Super Bowl title in 2013. Grade: A
4. Minnesota Vikings
When Shariff Floyd fell into the lap of Rick Spielman it was good to be a Viking. When they picked up Xavier Rhodes a couple picks later, it was great to be a Viking. And when the Vikings was able to trade back into the first round to get Cordarrelle Patterson, it must’ve felt like Christmas in Minnesota. Three picks that fill major needs made the Vikings a winner after the first day. Throw in Gerald Hodges and Jeff Baca and the Vikings draft is among tops in the league. Grade: A-
5. St. Louis Rams
I may be a bit biased here, but the Rams filled every need they had a draft that could make them a serious playoff threat this year. First and foremost, Les Snead needed weapons for Sam Bradford. Cue the selections of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Zac Stacey. All three will see substantial time in the St. Louis offense this year and could turn that unit into one of the most explosive in the league. The Rams also added depth in the secondary, picking T.J. McDonald and Brandon McGee, and also got one of the the most athletic linebackers available in Alec Ogletree. I also think it’s important to highlight the selection of Barrett Jones. St. Louis might need a center or a right tackle in 2013 and beyond, this pick makes sure they have at least one of those positions filled. This team was competitive in 2012, expect the Rams to be a major threat in 2013 and beyond if these picks all pan out. Grade: A-
Other notables: Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos.
The Bottom Three:
1. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys entered this draft with a couple of big needs and I don’t think they did a good job of meeting either. First and foremost on their list should have been safety and with the 18th overall pick they were in prime position to get one of the drafts top prospects at the position. After watching Kenny Vaccaro go off the board, Dallas traded down, a move that I could understand if it weren’t with San Francisco; a team also in need of a safety. Even more puzzling to me was the Cowboys eventual first round selection of center Travis Frederick with the 31st overall pick. I understand Dallas may want to run a no-huddle offense, and that they needed a smart center to make that a reality, but in the first round? Moving past the first selection, Jones took tight end Gavin Escobar and Baylor receiver Terrance Williams in the second round. Again not necessarily position of needs, but at least there is some value there. Dallas finally addressed the secondary in rounds 3 and 4, picking up safety J.J. Wilcox and cornerback B.W. Webb. The Cowboys also managed to add depth in the backfield in the form of Joseph Randle. Jerry Jones and his staff did address needs, but missed out on noteworthy talent in doing so. Grade: C-
2. New York Jets
After sending Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay the Jets needed to pick up a corner. John Idzik did that by drafting Dee Milliner in the with the first of their two 1st round picks. Sheldon Richardson was their other first rounder, picked with the 13th overall pick. The wheels came off the Jets’ train in the 2nd round with the selection of Geno Smith. Yes, he is an dynamic playmaker but he now becomes the 6th passer currently under contract, creating a huge mess for the Jets. Think this locker room was a circus last year with Tim Tebow in the mix? You haven’t seen anything yet. Rex Ryan is likely on the hot seat and if Mark Sanchez isn’t released before the season starts fans could turn on him during the preseason and the Jets could be forced to play Smith early. This has the potential to be a huge mess for the Jets franchise and a blast for the New York media to cover. Grade: C
3. San Diego Chargers
I might be one of the few who are overly critical of the Chargers draft. They secured a much needed weapon in wide receiver Keenan Allen and added depth on the offensive line with D.J. Fluker. However, Fluker is known for his ability to run block, not to protect the quarterback. The big reason I put the Chargers here is because they drafted linebacker Manti Te’o. Yes, he fits a need, but he brings a lot of baggage with him and if things go poorly in San Diego the Te’o story might be the only one coming from Charger country this year. Grade: C
Other teams who might want a redraft: Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns
Of course my grades may be different from any other writer and to be honest there grades are just preliminary. The true grades from this draft won’t be accurately reflected until 2-3 years from now.