Why wait to watch this year's 2013 NFL Draft picks take their first snaps to find out how good they will be when Mel Kiper already has it all figured out? The slick-haired ESPN draft guru released his draft grades for all 32 teams in the NFL (ESPN Insider required).
In fairness, Kiper acknowledges the silliness of trying to evaluate a draft before these players' pro careers even begin. That doesn't stop him from doling out some fun speculation, nor us from breaking down what he has to say. So without further ado:
Ravens, Bengals and Rams had the best overall drafts
The Ravens had two enormous needs at middle linebacker and safety after losing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, respectively, after their Super Bowl season. They filled both needs with their first two picks, selecting Florida safety Matt Elam at the end of the first round and trading up to get Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown in the second round. Kiper had a lot of praise for Brown in particular, calling him a "steal" at No. 56 overall.
The Bengals earned an "A-" rating for the value of their draft. Kiper loved the selection of tight end Tyler Eifert at No. 21 overall, even if it didn't fill a glaring need. Eifert was Kiper's No. 8 prospect on his big board, and he considered the Notre Dame prospect a steal late in the first round. In the seventh, the Bengals may have made another good move in Ohio State offensive tackle Reid Fragel, according to Kiper.
The Rams apparently filled their needs better than any team in the draft. They were the only team to earn an "A" rating from Kiper in that category, after selecting wide receiver Tavon Austin, linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety T.J. McDonald with their first three picks. In the third round, the Rams were able to find Austin's West Virginia teammate Steadman Bailey. With the two paired together, the Rams "crushed the WR question" according to Kiper. Outside of potential reach for McDonald at No. 71, Kiper had no complaints.
No team scored a failing grade in Kiper's mind, but he wasn't afraid to dish out some criticism. The Buffalo Bills earned a "C-" rating to earn the distinction of having the worst draft in the NFL.
Kiper gave the Bills a "D" for value. Unsurprisingly, quarterback E.J. Manuel was the sticking point. Kiper liked the move to trade down in the first round, but still didn't think Manuel was worth the No. 16 overall pick.
The bad is I just think the No. 16 pick was way too high for EJ Manuel. For me, there's simply too much projection here. He needs to prove that he's capable of getting through progressions quicker and getting the ball out. He was my No. 6-ranked QB. But that was a need position, and you take the guy you feel can pan out. It's just remarkable in hindsight to see the top QBs still available into Round 4.
Kiper also felt that Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso and Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin were potential reaches in the second and third round, respectively. Both players have potential, but haven't proven enough to be considered safe draft prospects, according to Kiper.
Chargers, Packers, Eagles unearth best deals
The Chargers' best pickups were linebacker Manti Te'o at No. 38 overall and wide receiver Keenan Allen at No. 76 overall. Both players had the tape of first-round talents, according to Kiper, and to get them in the second and third rounds, respectively, is a tremendous coup.
The additions of running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin were the Packers' biggest bargains, according to Kiper. Lacy was the No. 1 ball carrier on Kiper's board despite entering the draft with injury concerns. Franklin, meanwhile, has starter potential despite falling to the fourth round. Kiper called running back a "position of strength" heading into the 2013 season.
Kiper felt that tight end Zach Ertz and, unsurprisingly, quarterback Matt Barkley were the Eagles' best finds. Ertz was Kiper's No. 2 tight end on his board, and fell to the early second round for Chip Kelly. Barkley, as you are probably well aware, was considered a surefire top 10 prospect once upon a time.
Jets and Raiders don't drop the ball
The New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders have a reputation for making some silly decision on draft day. Both organizations made out relatively well, however, earning "B" and "B-" grades from Kiper, respectively.
Geno Smith earned some grief for slipping out of the first round, and jokes were had due to the circus he is about to enter. According to Kiper, however, the organization should be praised for grabbing who he (and many others) felt was the best quarterback in the draft at No. 39 overall. The Jets could have made a better effort to help Smith by targeting a wide receiver or offensive lineman with one of their two first round picks, but overall fans should be happy.
In fact, Kiper didn't have a problem with the much-maligned selection of Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson at No. 13 overall. The Jets earned a "C" from SB Nation's Dan Kadar on Day 1 in part because he wasn't sure where Richardson would fit along the defensive line. Kiper trusts Rex Ryan to find creative way to use the versatile defensive lineman, however.
Kiper also like the Raiders' draft, though he believes that the team under-leveraged the No. 3 overall pick, getting just a second-rounder to trade down to No. 12 with the Miami Dolphins. He is also skeptical of taking D.J. Hayden in the first pick due to the cornerback's injury history, though Hayden's talent is excellent. Otherwise, however, the Raiders got better-than-average value out of their 10 draft picks.