Now is a good time to take a step back, look at what happened over the weekend, and evaluate how we think each team did in the draft. Such analyses may prove silly within months; players drafted highly might struggle, and “project” players who were selected late could prove to be hidden gems.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: C+
What went well: They chose Travon Walker at #1, which was the right move due to his upside. Jacksonville traded back into the first round to select Devin Lloyd, a badly needed sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Luke Fortner was obtained to replace Brandon Linder at center.
What didn’t go well: The team was unable to trade down from #1. The Jaguars traded up for Chad Muma, who is a good player but a redundant pick considering they already took Devin Lloyd. They wasted a pick on a two-down back in Snoop Conner; James Robinson is plenty good.
Final thoughts: Jacksonville improved its defense with some impact players, but aside from drafting a center, I don’t think they helped Trevor Lawrence enough for his crucial second season.
- Detroit Lions: A-
What went well: They were able to obtain their desired prospect, Aidan Hutchinson, at #2, keeping the Michigan man home. Detroit obtained the most dynamic receiver in the draft in Jameson Williams. The Lions obtained prospects with upside throughout the later rounds, especially Kerby Joseph.
What didn’t go well: Detroit probably shouldn’t have traded up from 32 all the way to 12 given the holes on their roster. Trading down from 2 would’ve been nice, even if it wasn’t likely. They did not obtain a developmental QB despite how far players like Sam Howell fell.
Final thoughts: Based on the state of their roster, Detroit needed to obtain impact players all over, and they did that well while still balancing the need to build for the future.
- Houston Texans: B-
What went well: They got the best CB in the draft class in spite of the noise. The Texans obtained a lot of help for Davis Mills as they continue to evaluate him as their potential QB of the future. Jalen Pitre was one of my most underrated players, and Houston got him in round 2.
What didn’t go well: A few of their picks were egregious reaches. More quantity than quality in the back half of their class.
Final thoughts: Houston plugged a lot of holes, but none of this matters unless they identify their franchise quarterback. This team is still far away from truly competing.
- New York Jets: A+
What went well: Honestly? Pretty much everything. They got their ideal CB, their (and my) top WR, and an edge rusher they loved…and that was just round 1! They added a quality RB, a TE with upside, depth on the offensive line, and a value pass rusher pick.
What didn’t go well: They didn’t have any pick after round 4 to take cheap players? I’m nitpicking here because even those picks were used well in trades.
Final thoughts: Zach Wilson has everything he needs to take the next step. If he fails, it certainly won’t be GM Joe Douglas’s fault after this weekend.
- New York Giants: C
What went well: NYG strategized extremely well with their two top-10 picks. They also added a potential replacement for Kadarius Toney at a nice value.
What didn’t go well: The team didn’t have a pick with a high grade from rounds 3-5 (6 selections). Their two top-10 picks were both spent on players who I did not have as the top available options at their respective positions. Daniel Jones is still their QB.
Final thoughts: That last point sadly defines this team. Assuming they keep James Bradberry, the Giants’ defense can carry this team to a division crown in the weak NFC East…if they have quality QB play.
- Carolina Panthers: A
What went well: The consensus top OT in the draft was there for the taking at #6. They got their developmental QB well later than they expected. CAR selected quality athletes with extreme upside, as well as a solid guard.
What didn’t go well: I didn’t love the team trading a 2023 pick to select a QB in this class. Brandon Smith really has no football instincts whatsoever.
Final thoughts: Sam Darnold is still their best option at QB. With better protection provided by Ikem Ekwonu, he may stand a chance. In any case, this team got much faster, particularly on defense.
- Chicago Bears: C+
What went well: The Bears got a real sleeper WR prospect in Velus Jones. Kyler Gordon could be a solid starter for them as soon as week 1. They added a bunch of linemen.
What didn’t go well: Brisker was a pretty big reach in round 2. Even though they took an RB, they didn’t get the best prospects available.
Final thoughts: Chicago’s entire season hinges on Justin Fields’ development. Their new linemen will be crucial to that effort, as will Jones. However, none of them are replacements for Allen Robinson or even James Daniels.
- Atlanta Falcons: C-
What went well: They took some raw guys with upside, which fits their wise strategy of playing for 2023. Their 6th-round picks were stellar.
What didn’t go well: The team selected the first WR, but didn’t take one of the 3 best prospects. They tossed a pick on a QB, but fortunately it wasn’t a pick in the first two rounds.
Final thoughts: Atlanta needs to take this year to develop their young players and escape salary cap purgatory. I expect them to target a QB early in 2023, and that will tell us how this team will truly progress.
- Denver Broncos: B
What went well: Their premium picks were spent on Russell Wilson, who is far superior to any QB they could have drafted here. They obtained some quality depth pieces for a roster they think is ready to win now.
What didn’t go well: They probably should have addressed the offensive line sooner. The team probably had better TE options on the board when they took Greg Dulcich, and they will have to depend on the development of their current receivers because they didn’t obtain a quality one this weekend.
Final thoughts: Denver has believed that they are a QB away from competing for Super Bowls. Now they have Wilson. Depending on how this season goes, we may look back on the Broncos’ first-round pick as the best one.
- Seattle Seahawks: B+
What went well: They obtained the best pass-blocking tackle in this class. SEA obtained some extreme values in Tariq Woolen and Bo Melton.
What didn’t go well: Their top pick was obtained by trading their franchise QB. They spent an odd pick on an RB even though that was not a position of need (I love the player however). They didn’t take a flier on a QB, leaving them with Drew Lock and Geno Smith.
Final thoughts: I suppose Pete Carrol was telling the truth when he said he was comfortable with his QB room as it was. I suspect that was code for “we don’t like the 2022 QB class.” Nobody did except perhaps the Steelers.
- Washington Commanders: C-
What went well: They got a WR I really liked at 16 after trading down and obtaining more picks. My #1 QB, Sam Howell, was obtained in the 5th round.
What didn’t go well: They spent their second- and third-round picks on extremely redundant positions (the players themselves are fine). The offensive line was not addressed until the 6th round.
Final thoughts: The Commanders finally have weapons for whoever is under center. Before it was Terry McLaurin and *insert replacement-level player here*. I think they’re still behind the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East, but if Carson Wentz returns to form or Howell plays really well and takes the job, they can be dangerous.
- Minnesota Vikings: B
What went well: The Vikings targeted their abhorrent secondary early and often. They didn’t make many bad picks despite their high number of selections.
What didn’t go well: They traded down an unusual amount of times within their own division, enabling both the Lions and Packers to get good WRs. The RB selection was not necessary.
Final thoughts: Kirk Cousins’ contract has been viewed as the factor holding the Vikings back, but it looks far less outrageous than it did now that similar QBs are topping $40 million. This team is clearly second in the NFC North, but they need to hope that Green Bay takes a step back without Davante Adams.
- Cleveland Browns: F
What went well: The team thinks it has its franchise QB. They spent a pair of 7th-round picks on decent fliers.
What didn’t go well: CLE had no picks in the first two rounds as a result of the Deshaun Watson deal. They spent a 4th-round pick on a kicker. They took an RB despite being 3-deep at the position. Their only high receiver choice was spent on a player who can’t separate.
Final thoughts: This draft must viewed in context, as the Watson trade dictated their direction. That trade was horrific. Cleveland spent 3 first round picks and more just to give $230M fully guaranteed to a guy who hasn’t played in over a year, already had 4 years and nearly $160M on his deal, and is still facing 22 lawsuits and counting. Regarding the picks they did make, they either took major reaches or players who were redundant and didn’t fill needs. The Browns are hilarious.
- Baltimore Ravens: A-
What went well: They had 6 straight amazing picks that were all steals, starting with their selection of Tyler Linderbaum after trading down. David Ojabo was likely a top-15 pick without his injury, and the Harbaugh connection allowed the Ravens to become comfortable with his medicals. They arguably obtained 3 first-round talents and 3 second-round talents. They sold high on Marquise Brown.
What didn’t go well: I did not like their first pick, as I think Kyle Hamilton could be a bust. Their 2nd TE choice was not necessary because of Mark Andrews’ presence and their drafting of Charlie Kolar. They spent a 4th-round pick on a non-Araiza punter.
Final thoughts: If not for a few missteps on day 3, this would’ve been an A+ draft. Nobody did better between picks 25 and 128, and it’s not close. I think the Brown trade was good for a team whose QB can’t throw outside the numbers. Lamar Jackson is the only question mark on this roster now (other than injury luck). He still hasn’t proven he can win in the playoffs, and it would be a shame to waste such a great draft.
- Miami Dolphins: D-
What went well: Tyreek Hill is a game breaker. Channing Tindall infuses a ton of speed into their linebacking corps.
What didn’t go well: They spent two of their four selections on a WR (the position they should have avoided above all others) and a project QB. The Hill trade cost them a ton of premium picks.
Final thoughts: This is the problem with trading for Tyreek Hill. He’s great, but you now have a $30M player on your team and many less picks to round out the roster with cheap players. Regardless, this season is all about Tua, so I get surrounding him with top-shelf talent. I still have faith in him, so this could pay off.
- Indianapolis Colts: B
What went well: The second Wentz trade recouped some of their lost capital. Pierce and Woods will provide a lot of juice to the offense, which didn’t have much in the way of pass catchers beyond Michael Pittman and an injured TY Hilton. Raimann could finally replace Anthony Castonzo if he develops well.
What didn’t go well: The first Wentz trade cost them a 1st rounder. They shouldn’t have traded up for an average safety. The second TE pick was unnecessary.
Final thoughts: The Colts are another team that thinks their new QB will put them over the top. I’m not sure they’re that good in this AFC (it took a lot more than Wentz struggles to get demolished by the Jaguars after all), but this draft was definitely a positive infusion of talent. I like the class, but the original Wentz trade brings down their grade as we can officially call it a whiff on a 1st-round pick.
- Los Angeles Chargers: B-
What went well: Justin Herbert should be better protected with Zion Johnson. They finally obtained a run-stuffing DT. The Bolts obtained an OL steal in the 6th round.
What didn’t go well: They reached on a couple of their early picks, especially in round 1. I thought they left some better prospects on the board. The RB pick was a nice value, but it wasn’t necessary.
Final thoughts: This draft was alright, as the players they obtained will be useful for them. That said, I don’t think they got as much value as they could have based on who was available when they picked. Still, if the run defense improves even slightly, this team should be a playoff contender.
- New Orleans Saints: B
What went well: Trevor Penning is a high-upside player who can replace Terron Armstead. The team added solid depth pieces on defense in each of their last 3 picks.
What didn’t go well: The Saints traded a 2023 first-rounder to acquire a first in this weaker class. They traded up for Chris Olave, who wasn’t one of my top-3 WRs.
Final thoughts: This was a tough grade. I liked the picks the team made, but I wasn’t fond of how they got there. I think they’ll regret their traded first rounder next year, but this is a team that’s all-in for some reason despite their lack of a high-end QB and Tom Brady’s return.
- Philadelphia Eagles: A+
What went well: They obtained the best available receiver, even though he wasn’t in the draft; AJ Brown was well worth the 18th pick. Jordan Davis was my favorite player in this class, and the Eagles were the team to land him. The team got the ideal heir to Jason Kelce, and they might have landed the steal of the draft in Nakobe Dean.
What didn’t go well: Their trade from 15 to 13 was too expensive relative to what New Orleans paid to go from 16 to 11.
Final thoughts: If not for the Jets, this would be the best draft class of the year. Even my one gripe involved them getting an absolute stud. I don’t think Jalen Hurts is their franchise QB, but he’s getting every opportunity to succeed. The defense should be greatly improved with the addition of the two Bulldogs, and nobody can say that the Eagles lack offensive weapons any longer.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: C+
What went well: Their 2nd-4th picks were all fantastic. Pickens has legit WR1 upside, Leal could be great with some development from the Steelers’ strong coaching staff, and Austin could have easily been picked a full round earlier. Those values were some of the strongest obtained by any team.
What didn’t go well: They drafted a 1st-round QB when there was nobody with a first-round grade available. The team then spent a 7th-round pick on another QB. It was only a 7th-round pick, but that was a dumb throwaway. The offensive line was completely ignored.
Final thoughts: I’m saddened by what the Steelers did, because I truly LOVED three of their picks. But when you waste the #20 overall pick on a QB from the worst class in at least 9 years, I can’t grade you highly. Mitch Trubisky is honestly still the best QB on their roster, but no matter who plays, he and Najee Harris will still have blocking woes. This could spoil a great defense.
- New England Patriots: D-
What went well: Their last two picks were their best, as Hines and Stueber could both develop into quality protectors for Mac Jones. I also love Marcus Jones in spite of his size; if nothing else, he projects as an elite return man.
What didn’t go well: Just about everything else. They spent a 4th-round pick on a QB, a 1st-round pick on a 4th-round guard, and managed to take a player even I hadn’t heard of. That’s actually impressive come to think of it.
Final thoughts: You shouldn’t be getting the same grade as Miami when you have more than double their number of picks. I didn’t see Belichick’s dog at the draft this year, so was HE the mastermind all these years? I can’t explain this draft class any other way. Strange was an odd pick (still not taking that low-hanging fruit), and Zappe was a throwaway selection. Did Bill just draft players with names he liked? And why did he apparently feel the need to take Mac Jones’ successor so soon? I’m baffled by all of this, but they’ve now fallen to third in the AFC East.
- Las Vegas Raiders: B+
What went well: Davante Adams. That’s all that really needs to be said. In all seriousness, they got a decent RB for when they move on from Josh Jacobs, a pass-rushing presence on the interior, a run-stuffing DT to complement him, and two good offensive linemen. Not bad.
What didn’t go well: They didn’t get to pick until the 3rd round in a draft hosted in their city. That’s kinda lame. Also, what was with that 7th-round RB?
Final thoughts: The Raiders’ draft must be evaluated in context based on where their first- and second-round picks went. That of course is Green Bay. Based on the return the Chiefs got for Tyreek Hill and the subsequent contract the Dolphins gave him, the Adams trade looks even better now. Reuniting him with his college QB in Derek Carr was the ideal way to unlock Josh McDaniels’ new offense. The rest is just a bonus.
- Arizona Cardinals: C-
What went well: They made some solid picks in the mid-late rounds, such as Myjai Sanders and Marquis Hayes. Chase Edmonds was adequately replaced by Keaontay Ingram.
What didn’t go well: They traded #23 overall for Marquise Brown. The team spent their top remaining pick on a tight end. He’s good, but why invest a premium resource when you just re-signed Zach Ertz?
Final thoughts: I’m aware that I differ greatly from the media with regard to Brown. I maintain my stance even after seeing DeAndre Hopkins get suspended for 6 games. Kyler Murray probably won’t win them a playoff game regardless, so it’s not like that trade will matter in the long run.
- Dallas Cowboys: B+
What went well: The team drafted a raw tackle with upside that could one day take over for Tyron Smith. Damone Clark was an absolute steal. They added some reinforcements with speed across the roster. Jake Ferguson is good insurance in case they lose Dalton Schultz next year in free agency.
What didn’t go well: Dallas selected Sam Williams in the second round. He’s a top-20 player in the class, but he also was suspended for a felony sexual battery charge and comes with major off-field baggage. Not a good look for a team already associated with taking “troubled” players. Amari Cooper and Cedric Wilson were not adequately replaced.
Final thoughts: I hated Dallas’s free agency period. Their draft went much better. All of their picks were at least decent except for one. Even that pick has high upside. We still need to see if the defense that improved so much last year is for real. Some regression to the mean, particularly Trevon Diggs’ turnovers, is expected. Dak might be a better thrower now that he’s further removed from his injuries and has a full offseason, but Amari Cooper is a big loss. His weaponry is definitely worse than it was a year ago.
- Buffalo Bills: A-
What went well: Buffalo attacked its weakest spots early: the secondary and running back. They got Matt Araiza in round 6 when two other punters went in round 4.
What didn’t go well: I didn’t think the trade up for Kaiir Elam was necessary, and I think James Cook was selected too early. They didn’t address the offensive line until the 6th round.
Final thoughts: The Bills had a lower bar to clear than some other teams. They did not have many holes on their roster, and even though I’m not sure about the value of their top picks, I’m rewarding them for identifying their weaknesses and making sure to address them. That’s what good teams do, particularly those with Super Bowl windows that are wide open.
- Tennessee Titans: B
What went well: Their first 3 picks were all exceptional values. The team acquired pieces for the secondary and offensive line early, and they refreshed their receiving corps. Every single selection except Malik Willis addressed an area of need.
What didn’t go well: They traded up to draft Malik Willis. It took trading AJ Brown to get them Treylon Burks. McCreary might be a bit small to play anywhere but the slot. Most of their picks are raw and will need time to develop.
Final thoughts: Tennessee drafted for the future, and even though I’m fond of the picks in general, this is a weird strategy for a team that just earned the AFC’s number 1 seed. I’m not here to argue whether Ryan Tannehill is the answer; he’s an above-average QB whose salary looks a bit better than it did a year ago but is still not fantastic. I just know Malik Willis isn’t the answer. Accuracy is hard to improve at the next level, and it might take 2 years just to get him to read defenses. The Colts are now the favorites for the AFC South Crown.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+
What went well: Tampa filled its vacant guard spot, added a versatile piece on the defensive line, and got Brady another receiving back. Zyon McCollum was a steal with enormous upside.
What didn’t go well: Their TE picks were not very good; Cade Otton wasn’t the best on the board at the time, and Ko Kieft is a mediocre blocking TE. A 4th-round pick on a non-Araiza punter. Yes, you lose points for this. White was not a top RB on my board at the time he was picked.
Final thoughts: The Bucs did what they should have: pick players that fill holes and can play NOW. Brady is year-to-year, and Gronk may not return at all. This might be the team’s last chance at another ring, and they drafted like it. Their draft was really B quality, but I bumped them up for properly strategizing.
- Green Bay Packers: A
What went well: Three receivers. THREE!! And three linemen. THREE!!! Quay Walker is pretty good too.
What didn’t go well: The Wyatt pick could backfire if his character concerns resurface. I didn’t love a couple of their later picks, but that’s a minor quibble.
Final thoughts: This draft looks a LOT better in hindsight than it did Friday morning. That’s why we do these recaps! Rodgers re-signed with the team, and that completely changed how this draft was approached. Instead of rebuilding to evaluate Jordan Love, they geared up for a couple last Super Bowl runs. Green Bay got receivers with SPEED, and they probably have more reliable hands than Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Davante Adams isn’t replaceable, but Za’Darius is, and they did so admirably. Now they just need to hope SF isn’t in the playoffs.
- San Francisco 49ers: C-
What went well: Deebo is still a Niner. Drake Jackson and Tariq Castro-Fields were great values.
What didn’t go well: No first-round pick due to the Trey Lance trade. Tyrion Davis-Price was a mega reach. They wasted a pick on a QB that could’ve been spent on a legitimate flier.
Final thoughts: This wasn’t a bad draft on its face, but I am definitely penalizing them for trading this year’s pick away for Trey Lance. We have no idea what he is. His upside is great, but so is his bust potential. The team seems to have an issue deciding whether they’re trying to win now or play for tomorrow. The fans may miss Jimmy G more than they thought when this team misses the playoffs.
- Kansas City Chiefs: B+
What went well: KC hit twice in the first round, especially with Karlaftis. Kinnard was a nice steal in round 5. They finally got their WR in round 2 after trading down. The team got great value in the Tyreek Hill deal.
What didn’t go well: Hill wasn’t truly replaced, but nobody expected that. Their trade down in the 2nd frame cost them some superior WRs. Pacheco was a pick thrown in the garbage, but it was only a 7th rounder.
Final thoughts: Like Green Bay, this draft was also looking suspect when they passed on taking a WR twice in round 1. Unlike Green Bay, they didn’t quite make out as well on the receiver front. Patrick Mahomes is going to target Travis Kelce a ton this year. Their mid- and late-round picks were a mixed bag, but they’ll all at least provide depth for a contending team. KC definitely beefed up its pass defense, which was the Achilles heel.
- Cincinnati Bengals: A
What went well: The Bengals attacked their biggest weakness: the secondary (well, mostly Eli Apple). The team added one more versatile lineman with upside in the 4th round. Every pick filled a need and/or had upside.
What didn’t go well: I don’t have any major complaints about these picks. I’m not sure a couple of the trades to move up were worth it, but none were expensive.
Final thoughts: This was a clinic in meshing your draft approach with your free agency results. Pick 31 was earmarked for a lineman; it HAD to be one…until Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’el Collins arrived. That allowed the Bengals to pivot to task 2: fixing the secondary that couldn’t contain Cooper Kupp. Three picks were allocated for that part of the defense. Everything else was depth and upside. Very nice way to reload for another Super Bowl chase.
- Los Angeles Rams: D+
What went well: Their missing picks are worth their rings. They added some decent depth in the secondary.
What didn’t go well: No picks until 104 (last team to make a selection). Kyren Williams and Russ Yeast were not prospects I anticipated being drafted at all. I’m not sure how much some of these picks help them for their Super Bowl defense.
Final thoughts: This was not an impressive class. There were a couple of nice selections later in the draft, but most of them were reaches or low-upside prospects. I could’ve given them a worse grade, especially without first and second rounders, but a certain Les Snead shirt will tell you why I bumped them up a bit…