Grading the NFL Draft the day after it’s finished is a long and fruitless tradition. Since nothing is a sure thing, it’s impossible to tell which picks are destined to be busts and which will stand the test of time.
That doesn’t mean the first day of the 2017 draft won’t have its share of visceral reactions. Every team has a blueprint to impress mock draft analysts like Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, and Dan Kadar during the first two days of the draft. Taking players like Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen, and Jamal Adams with premier picks will earn praise across the league. Reaching for second-round talent in the first — regardless of fit — will raise eyebrows.
Here’s how each team can earn the approval of fans and pundits alike in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. Conversely, we’ve also included how they can earn their scorn the Sunday after the event concludes.
1(1): Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
1(12): Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC
2(33): Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
2(52): Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn
1(1): Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC
1(12): Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
2(33): Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
2(52): Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
The Browns earn their best possible draft grade by playing it safe and hoping Trubisky falls to the 12th overall pick. They stumble over themselves by taking the UNC passer at No. 1, then overcompensate after losing Garrett by reaching for Lawson, an injury-prone pass rusher, at No. 12.
San Francisco 49ers
1(2): Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2(34): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
1(2): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
2(34): Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
The beneficiary of Cleveland’s darkest timeline is San Francisco, which would add Garrett in a heartbeat. If Watson finds a way to slip all the way to the 34th pick, the 49ers would gladly make him their quarterback of the future. Taking him at No. 2 would be an overpay, however. Though the draft is deep with pass rushers, the player they’d take in the second round would be a tier below guys like Garrett, Solomon Thomas, and Derek Barnett.
1(3): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
2(36): Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
1(3): Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC
2(36): Zay Jones, WR, ECU
The Bears gave Mike Glennon a three-year, $45 million deal to audition as their quarterback of the future, making a reach for a first-round passer superfluous. With all the holes in the team’s defense, failing to get a premier player on that side of the ball would be wholly disappointing.
1(4): Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
2(35): Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
1(4): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
2(35): Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Sensing a trend yet? Reaching for an underwhelming quarterback prospect with a top-five pick is a surefire way to drag down a team’s draft grade. Allen may be the event’s safest pick, an impact defensive lineman with all the tools to be an All-Pro.
1(5): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
1(18): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
1(5): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
1(18): Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
The Titans have two areas in desperate need of upgrades: secondary and receiving corps. Fournette may be a revolutionary running back, but Tennessee already has DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Reaching for the LSU standout would look like a Day 1 mistake in Nashville.
New York Jets
1(6): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
2(39): Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
1(6): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
2(39): Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
Picking up either Trubisky or Watson in the second round would be a coup, but both will probably be gone by then. Instead, the Jets’ best-case scenario may be Mahomes, a prolific quarterback from Texas Tech looking to shed concerns he’s just a program passer. Reaching for an offensive tackle in a weak draft for blockers — and stretching for Kupp in hopes of bringing back memories of Wayne Chrebet — would only further frustrate the league’s most frustrated fanbase.
Los Angeles Chargers
1(7): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
2(38): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
1(7): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
2(38): Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
The Chargers struck gold by adding All-Pro Casey Hayward in free agency last spring. Drafting Lattimore would allow him to move back to the slot — where he’s most effective — and give Los Angeles one of the league’s scariest secondaries. The team needs to upgrade a mediocre offensive line, but shouldn’t reach for one at No. 7.
1(8): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
2(40): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
2(64): Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
1(8): Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
2(40): Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
2(64): Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
Barnett adds some life to a pass rush that includes old timers Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers, while McCaffrey and Moton would give Cam Newton some much-needed support. The Panthers’ “F” draft suggests they scramble for a pass rusher once guys like Willis are off the board, then invite a media maelstrom by adding Mixon in the second.
1(9): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
2(41): John Ross, WR, Washington
1(9): John Ross, WR, Washington
2(41): Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Bengals pad both sides of the ball with explosive athletes, though hoping Ross falls this far after setting the combine’s 40-yard dash record may be excessive. Picking up him at No. 9 could ultimately work out, but it’s high for a team whose biggest need is defensive end. Jones is an excellent player, but questions surround him after he tore his Achilles during the Huskies’ pro day.
1(10): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
2(44): Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
1(10): DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
2(44): Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
If Adams should fall to 10th, he’d be a no-brainer. Adding him and Cunningham would revamp the Buffalo defense. An early rush on passers could stress a franchise not 100 percent on Tyrod Taylor behind center. Kizer has had an up-and-down pre-draft process, likely playing his way out of the first round. Taking him at No. 10 would be at least 4-8 spots too high.
New Orleans Saints
1(11): Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
1(32): David Njoku, TE, Miami
2(42): Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
1(11): David Njoku, TE, Miami
1(32): Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
2(42): Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
The Saints still need to fix their defense, so a situation where they invest both their first-round picks on skill players would set off pundits’ alarms. Drafting Drew Brees’ eventual replacement isn’t a bad idea — it’s just not one worth a first-round pick, and certainly not Peterman.
1(13): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
2(45): Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
1(13): Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
2(45): Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
As fun as it would be to draft another prolific receiver as Larry Fitzgerald’s eventual replacement, Kupp would likely be available for Arizona in the third round. Instead, adding the draft’s most impressive tight end and Carson Palmer’s heir apparent would be a much more palatable set.
1(14): Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
2(43): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
1(14): John Ross, WR, Washington
2(43): D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
The Eagles need defensive backs. The 2017 draft is loaded with them. Philadelphia can afford to wait until the second round to get its man, but waiting until Day 3 to get a cornerback would earn some scorn. After running LeSean McCoy and Murray out of town, the team could use an all-purpose tailback like McCaffrey.
1(15): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
2(46): Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
1(15): Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
2(46): Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
A weak group of blockers makes taking any offensive lineman in the top half of the draft at least a partial stretch. Lamp is a solid value at 46, but not 15. Taking a blocker at 15 would keep Indianapolis away from an elite group of defenders, which is an unacceptable risk when the team could get a similar interior lineman in the second round.
1(16): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
2(47): Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
1(16): Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
2(47): Ryan Anderson, LB, Alabama
The Ravens have been waiting for a true No. 1 receiver since Derrick Mason donned black and purple. Davis, an ultra-productive wideout from the MAC, could be that guy. Lamp and Anderson could both be solid pros, but they have limited ceilings and likely would be around at later picks.
1(17): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
2(49): Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
1(17): Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
2(49): Corn Elder, CB, Miami
Worst-case scenario, an early run on QBs and concerns about keeping Kirk Cousins force Washington to panic and grab Mahomes earlier than anyone expects. Best case? The team adds a dynamic playmaker on each side of the ball.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1(19): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
2(50): Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
1(19): T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
2(50): Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
The Buccaneers could also add an impact offensive player like O.J. Howard to earn a solid A, but the combination of Hooker and Bolles would give the team two high-ceiling players to balance out an emerging roster. Watt may be a foundationally solid player, but he projects to be around well into the second round.
1(20): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
2(51): Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
1(20): Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
2(51): Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
The Broncos desperately need offensive line help, and No. 20 is a much more agreeable spot for Ramczyk, a physical blocker who has just one season of Division I experience under his belt. Jones may be worthy of the 20th pick, but wouldn’t make much sense for a team that already has solid wideouts, but not the quarterback or offensive line to allow them to thrive.
1(21): Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
2(53): Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
1(21): Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
2(53): Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
Detroit has many needs: an explosive pass rusher to play alongside Ziggy Ansah, a reliable wide receiver, and a versatile linebacker foremost among them. McKinley looks like a boom-or-bust prospect, but No. 21 isn’t a bad landing spot for a player with All-Pro talent. Adding Jones to play alongside Marvin Jones and Golden Tate would be a major benefit for Matthew Stafford, who put himself in the MVP discussion midway through last season.
1(22): Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
2(54): Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
1(22): Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
2(54): Isaac Asiata, OL, Utah
Todd McShay thinks Cunningham could slip all the way to the end of the second round, which would make the All-American a tremendous value. Adding his SEC colleague, Tabor, would be a major risk after his awful performances at the NFL Combine and Florida’s pro day.
New York Giants
1(23): Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
2(55): Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
1(23): Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
2(55): Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Reddick walked on to Temple’s football team and turned into one of the nation’s most productive linebackers. With experience playing safety and elite athletic gifts, he’d be a versatile addition for the Giants. If Robinson somehow falls to 55th, he’d be a smart pick for a line that needs to replace Ereck Flowers at left tackle.
1(24): Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
2(56): Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
1(24): Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
2(56): Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
Cunningham wouldn’t add much to a Raiders’ pass rush that doesn’t have much punch outside of Khalil Mack, but he’s a sideline-to-sideline presence who sniffs out plays and shows up when his teams need him the most. If Wilson somehow lasts to the late second round, he’d be a steal after limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 29.9 rating last fall.
1(25): Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
2(57): DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
1(25): Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
2(57): Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
The Texans may not be able to find their franchise quarterback in the 2017 draft, but finding Kizer late in the second round would be too good an opportunity to let up. Adding Reddick to an already uber-athletic defense would be borderline criminal.
1(26): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
2(58): Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
1(26): Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
2(58): Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State
The Seahawks build from the trenches out in their best-case scenario, adding bulk to both sides of the line with Ramczyk and Brantley. Seattle needs an impact wideout, but reaching for a player like Westbrook once the draft’s top tier of receivers is gone would be a stretch. The team could also use a true No. 1 tailback — it has yet to truly replace Marshawn Lynch (though that may be impossible) — but Samuel, who is more of a shifty slot receiver, isn’t that guy.
Kansas City Chiefs
1(27): Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
2(59): Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
1(27): Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
2(59): Davis Webb, QB, California
With Alex Smith’s career winding down, the Chiefs could look to groom a replacement this draft, but Webb as a second-round pick would be a hasty decision. Mixon, while talented, is a reach at No. 27 and a locker room headache thanks to his troubled past.
1(28): Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
2(60): Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
1(28): Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
2(60): Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
The Cowboys already have one of the best offensive lines in the game, so why spend their top pick on the third-best tackle in a weak draft? Additionally, after losing Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency, not getting a defensive back in a loaded class would be a mistake.
Green Bay Packers
1(29): Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
2(61): Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
1(29): Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
2(61): Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
No player with Peppers’ athletic gifts should fall all the way to 61st, but concerns over his true position could lead to a big slide on draft day. The Packers could use him and Wilson to shore up the team’s biggest weakness in 2016: a patchwork secondary. Engram is a dynamic receiver at tight end, but still needs to work massively on his blocking and it isn’t a pressing need for Green Bay after adding Martellus Bennett in free agency. Jones would be an interesting developmental pick, but the Packers are in win-now mode, and he’ll need at least a year to recover from his torn Achilles.
1(30): Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
2(62): Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
1(30): Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
2(62): Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
Kamara is a solid dual-threat tailback who can take some of the load from Le’Veon Bell’s shoulders — and fill in for the 3-4 games he misses each season. Williams would be a good pickup, just not at the 30th pick. Vanderdoes has yet to fulfill the potential he showed as a high schooler, and while he’s still loaded with size and talent, he’s a reach here. With bigger holes to fill at linebacker and in the secondary, the burly Bruin wouldn’t make much sense.
1(31): Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
2(63): Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
1(31): Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
2(63): Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
The NFC champs can add some extra beef to their trenches with two low-risk picks at the end of the first two rounds. Their less fortunate scenario involves taking two quality players above market price and then fitting them into positions that aren’t exactly needs in 2017.
Los Angeles Rams
2(37): Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
2(37): Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State
The Rams need everything, but they really need defensive backs, as many as they get. The good news is that there should be plenty of help available when they make their first pick in the draft, a second-rounder because they traded the first-rounder to get Jared Goff. Jackson could be their slot corner right away. Even a slight improvement in the secondary will make Aaron Donald and the pass rush that much more effective. Avoid the temptation to draft a receiver, especially a hybrid receiver since they already have Tavon Austin.
2(48): Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
2(48): Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
Teddy Bridgewater’s future is up in the air and Sam Bradford is only signed through 2017. Adding Peterman, the fifth- or sixth- best quarterback in a weak crop, isn’t the answer to that pressing question, however. After flaming out late last season, Minnesota has other pressing issues to answer, primarily related to its run game.
*New England Patriots
3(72): Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
3(96): Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
3(72): Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
3(96): Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
*The Patriots get special consideration in the name of working out a complete rundown of all 32 teams.
New England has zero first- or second-round picks after trading for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy, but could still add a pair of impact players in the third round. Jones would be solid insurance should Malcolm Butler leave in 2017 or 2018 — a first-round talent whose draft stock was crippled by injury. Hunt is a shifty tailback prospect, but he’s a likely platoon back on a roster already filled with them (Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, James White, Brandon Bolden).