clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL draft 2018: Grades from the 1st round

It’s the year of the QB! So we’re told!

No. 32 pick: The Ravens trade up to get Lamar Jackson

Too low, just right, or too high? Like 15 damn spots too low, but whatever. Jackson fell into a nice spot, getting to serve as understudy before unleashing hell when he overtakes 33-year old Joe Flacco (who hasn’t been particularly effective in about three years) down the line.

I’m frustrated that in this QB-heavy draft, someone with Jackson’s immense skill set went this low. But this isn’t a bad landing spot.

Take it away, Richard Johnson.

When it comes to the field, no one can say that Jackson hasn’t done his best to prove he should be a quarterback up to this point. He is no longer that skinny kid in purple, or that freshman at Louisville. Jackson has been dodging the same questions for a long, long time now, and he knows how to navigate these narratives as well as anyone can.

Jackson is going into the NFL insisting he is a quarterback after a college career that was as good as could be hoped. Depending on who you ask, he could be a paradigm-expanding NFL player, or something much more innocuous. How you choose to see him is up to you, though whichever way you choose probably says more about you than it does about him.

Lamar Jackson knows what he is.

No. 31 pick: The New England Patriots select Sony Michel

Too low, just right, or too high? I’m really confused by New England spending two first-round picks on offensive players and not taking Lamar Jackson — so, too low, I guess, or maybe just right (since he should’ve gone where Penny went) — but I like Michel. His first step after finding a seam is absolute dynamite. It feels like he’s at full speed by the time he gets to the line of scrimmage.

Michel’s not the greatest at taking what he can get and falling forward to create three yards out of minimal blocking. But he’s a thoroughbred if given even a sliver of open field. And since I was reminiscing with the Hughes clip below, I’ll use Michel’s selection as an excuse to post this:

No. 30 pick: The Minnesota Vikings select Mike Hughes

Too low, just right, or too high? Since I like Josh Jackson more than NFL guys, apparently, I’m going to stick with too high. Potential character concerns aside, Hughes did defense 15 passes last year. He also did this in one of the most amazing college football games of the 2017 season:

He’s good! But I like Jackson more.

No. 29 pick: The Jacksonville Jaguars select Taven Bryan

Too low, just right, or too high? I thought he’d go earlier, but I’ll still say too high. He’s explosive and athletic at 291 pounds, and he has some swagger that’ll play well in this increasingly nasty Jacksonville defense. But he certainly didn’t produce just a ton last year — just six tackles for loss out of a 4-3 front, and took part in just seven run stuffs.

He wasn’t even Florida’s most productive defensive lineman. Athletically, he’s a first-rounder for sure. We’ll see if he can carve out a niche on that defense, though.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Florida
Taven Bryan
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No. 28 pick: The Pittsburgh Steelers select Terrell Edmunds

Too low, just right, or too high? Lamar Jackson is still on the board, and Big Ben is almost as old as Tom Brady, so ... too high. That said, Pittsburgh’s aggressive pass defense gave up some really big big plays last year, so choosing a safety makes sense. And I mean, Edmunds comes from a Bud Foster defense and combines a nearly 220-pound frame with a 41-inch vertical. He’s a freak. So, okay, fine, I’ll say it’s just right.

He’s going to get razzed by his brother for being only the second Edmunds taken in the first round, though.

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-Arkansas vs Virginia Tech
Terrell Edmunds
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

No. 27 pick: The Seattle Seahawks take Rashaad Penny

Too low, just right, or too high? Okay. I love Rashaad Penny, and Seattle really stunk at running the football last year, so taking a running back makes sense. But ... wow. Above Derrius Guice? And Sony Michel? And Nick Chubb? And Royce Freeman? And, once more, Derrius Damn Guice, the most Beast Mode back in the draft?

I guess I thought I loved Penny, but that was when I was considering him a second- or third-round pick. Damn.

He can do this, though:

So yeah, if the Seahawks schedule Army, they’re gonna roll.

Seriously, I hope he succeeds. I like him a lot. But wow, this feels like a gamble.

No. 26 pick: The Atlanta Falcons pick Calvin Ridley

Too low, just right, or too high? Too low! Ridley’s better than Moore, and he thrived as a junior despite being basically the only read his quarterback made before running quite a bit of the time. I’m not sure the Falcons needed another receiver, necessarily — the Falcons needed far more defensive help than offensive — but I’ll never complain too much about a Best Player Available (Non-QB Division) pick.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama Celebration
Calvin Ridley
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 pick: The Baltimore Ravens select Hayden Hurst

Too low, just right, or too high? If you need a tight end, I guess it’s fine. Benjamin Watson just left, so sure.

But he’s only my second- or third-favorite tight end in this class, it does sort of appear that you can craft a pretty good tight end later in the draft instead of spending a first-rounder on one.

So that’s seven of the last eight picks that I thought went too high. Maybe it’s me, not them.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Michigan vs South Carolina
Hayden Hurst
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 pick: The Carolina Panthers pick D.J. Moore

Too low, just right, or too high? Uh, too high. Calvin Ridley probably should have been the No. 1 receiver off the board. I might be biased by Moore’s 2017 stats, though — under 13 yards per catch, a horrible 44 percent success rate — and those stats were produced with a set of exploding-drummer Maryland quarterbacks. He probably would have had stronger production with QBs who could actually stay on the field. And he’s a good return man, too.

Still, not a huge fan of this pick.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Maryland
D.J. Moore
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 pick: The New England Patriots select Isaiah Wynn

Too low, just right, or too high? Tom Brady’s next understudy was on the board, and he has said really nice things about Lamar Jackson, so I was hopeful. And that makes the Wynn pick feel disappointing/too high. Kinda thought Harold Landry would make a lot of sense, too, and if the Pats were going to take a lineman, a more natural tackle might have made more sense.

Make no mistake, Wynn is an awesome lineman, a better player than the two centers picked above him. He’s big and versatile and athletic, and he seemed to constantly improve at Georgia. So it makes some sense. But only some.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Auburn
Isaiah Wynn (77)
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 pick: The Tennessee Titans select Rashaan Evans

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. Tennessee didn’t need a quarterback (oh man, the Patriots are next, and that would be perfect for Lamar), and Evans has lovely size (6’2, 232) and led Alabama in TFLs and was second in sacks despite missing a couple of games with injury. No complaints here. And he’s a slick dresser, apparently.

NFL: NFL Draft-Red Carpet Arrivals Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 pick: The Cincinnati Bengals take Billy Price

Too low, just right, or too high? IT’S A RUN ON CENTERS. And I guess if I said Ragnow was too high because of the other dudes available, then this one definitely is because I’m pretty sure that, like Washington with Payne, Cincinnati freaked out and took the next center on the list after Ragnow. He’s good, but ... two centers have now gone before Lamar Jackson. I just wanted to type that out.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California
Billy Price
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 pick: The Detroit Lions select Frank Ragnow

Too low, just right, or too high? Another one that feels too high, but only because I like some of the remaining names on the board more (LAMAR FREAKING JACKSON, Josh Jackson, Harold Landry, Rashaan Evans, Calvin Ridley, Will Hernandez). None of those guys play center, though. Ragnow’s an awesome center, and it never hurts to have one.

That’s tremendous analysis right there, if I do say so myself.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri
Frank Ragnow (72)
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 pick: The Dallas Cowboys pick Leighton Vander Esch

Too low, just right, or too high? I was not expecting him to go here, so I guess that means too high, but I love this dude. He’s a freaky athlete who led a tremendous Boise State defense in tackles and run stuffs and was second in second in tackles for loss and third in sacks. And his “played 8-man football” story is tremendous.

Bonus points for that and for being absolutely ecstatic to get picked by the Cowboys. He’s a little bit of a one-year wonder, but BSU coaches knew he was going to erupt last summer, and then he did.

NCAA Football: Las Vegas Bowl-Boise State vs Oregon
Leighton Vander Esch
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 pick: The Green Bay Packers trade up to select Jaire Alexander

Too low, just right, or too high? Too high, if only because that means Lamar Jackson somehow isn’t the first Louisville player off the board. That doesn’t make any damn sense. That, and I like Joshua Jackson more at CB.

He’s still good, though. Mel Kiper just compared him to Deion Sanders, which seems ... like a reach ... but he had five picks, nine breakups, and a 10.5-yard punt return average in 2016 before missing a good chunk of 2017 with injury. He’s good. I’m still confused about liking him enough to trade up for him, though. The Packers already stole the Saints’ 2019 first-rounder, so they’ve already won tonight, but I don’t love this.

NFL: NFL Draft-Red Carpet Arrivals
Jaire Alexander
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 pick: The Los Angeles Chargers select Derwin James

Too low, just right, or too high? WAY too low. He was quite possibly Florida State’s best safety, cornerback, and linebacker last year. He reads plays quickly, he breaks quickly, he runs downhill, and he’s smart as hell.

And he has exactly the highlight film you want to see from the safety you just selected.

The Chargers have to be ecstatic that he fell this far.

No. 16 pick: The Bills trade up to take Tremaine Edmunds

Too low, just right, or too high? I didn’t really expect him to still be on the board at this point, so ... too low! Edmunds isn’t Roquan Smith, but he’s a lovely, balanced option — he’s built like a pass rusher (6’5, 250), but he was one of the nation’s better run-defending LBs despite what the analysts on the broadcast are calling a lack of physicality.

Edmunds took part in 23 run stuffs to go with his 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He’s already good, and if he does figure out how to get more effectively physical? Yikes.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Virginia
Tremaine Edmunds
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

No. 15 pick: The Oakland Raiders select Kolton Miller

Too low, just right, or too high? On physical numbers alone, we’ll say just right. Dude’s almost 6’9, 300-plus, and he seems to get low really well. And he kept Josh Rosen’s sack rate pretty low even though everyone knew UCLA was passing. Could do worse there.

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-Kansas State vs UCLA
Kolton Miller
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 pick: The New Orleans Saints trade up to select Marcus Davenport

Too low, just right, or too high? Considering the cost, this feels too high. The Saints gave up next year’s first-round pick to move up to get Davenport, which means he pretty much HAS to be awesome.

He might be! He’s 6’7, 255, and he can line up in a bunch of different positions. But he was only productive and not really productive, and even though he was likely facing a lot of double-teams and whatnot, I kind of wanted to see a little more there. But after nailing the draft the way the Saints did last year, they get the benefit of the doubt for now.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl
Marcus Davenport
Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 pick: Washington selects Da’Ron Payne

Too low, just right, or too high? I’m gonna say too high. I’m betting they expected Vea to still be on the board, freaked out, and took the next tackle on the list instead of the best available player.

Kiper says “Here’s where you throw stats out the window.” I mean, out of principle, I want to say no to that, but he’s not completely wrong — the 2-gap Alabama front three doesn’t produce too many guys with absurd play-making stats, and Payne (one sack, four passes defensed, took part in seven run stuffs) certainly didn’t have any absurdity there. But he’s fun to watch. And he definitely saved his best performance for when the most people were watching. He was absolutely incredible against Clemson in 2017’s CFP semifinals.

So there’s that. This feels like a bit of a freak-out pick, but Payne’s pretty good.

No. 12 pick: The Tampa Bay Bucs select Vita Vea

Too low, just right, or too high? Aesthetically, this is just right. You’re putting a quick 347-pounder next to Gerald McCoy, and there’s maybe nothing I enjoy more about a defense than a pair of really fun tackles picking fights on the interior.

In terms of need? Leans more toward “too high.” Sure seemed like the Bucs needed help in the secondary, and Derwin James was still on the board. There’s value in trying to maximize the strength of a unit, but it better be really good to protect a shaky secondary.

NCAA Football: Utah at Washington
Vita Vea
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 pick: The Miami Dolphins select Minkah Fitzpatrick

Too low, just right, or too high? Too low. Aside from probably Roquan, Fitzpatrick’s football IQ is just about the best in this class.

Granted, he’s only 6’0, 205 or so, so he’s no physical freak. But he’s not small either, he knows football, and he stood out on a dominant-as-ever Bama defense. Not every great Bama defender ends up being a great pro, but getting a guy this proven at No. 11 is good work.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 pick: The Arizona Cardinals trade up to select Josh Rosen

Too low, just right, or too high? Too low, if only because he’s better than Allen. Otherwise, just right, I guess. Rosen’s by far the most polished of all of the QBs on the board, and he’s been groomed for exactly this moment. And while his career efficiency numbers are a bit disconcerting, that’s mostly because he played as a true freshmen when most QBs don’t. His last two seasons were fine statistically.

Rosen missed time with multiple injuries, though, and we never know if that means you’re injury-prone, or if you were just unlucky in a small sample. And he’s not exactly a play-maker in the Mayfield or even Darnold mold. When things break down, he’s going to throw interceptable passes toward pretty well-covered guys. As long as Larry Fitzgerald plays another, oh, 10 years or so, maybe that’s not a problem.

Fitzgerald’s never retiring. Ever.

All the other stuff about Rosen being too smart or having interests other than football or his teammates not liking him or whatever? Wad it up, throw it in a garbage can, and light it on fire.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at UCLA
Josh Rosen
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone got their story line, by the way. Though a couple probably went later than expected, four QBs did go in the first round. HISTORY. WE ARE WITNESSING HISTORY.

No. 9 pick: The San Francisco 49ers select Mike McGlinchey

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right, I guess. His highlight film isn’t as sexy as that of his now-former Notre Dame teammate Quenton Nelson, but he’s solid. And when you just paid your life savings in the hopes that Jimmy Garoppolo will reproduce last year’s small sample over the long haul, you better make sure you’re stocked at tackle. I don’t feel I’m good enough at evaluating linemen to feel strongly one way or another here, but he’s McGlinchey was good at ND.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame vs Syracuse
Mike McGlinchey (68)
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 pick: The Chicago Bears select Roquan Smith

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. He’s maybe a little undersized. He was also the best defensive player in college football last year.

You rarely see someone read and pursue as well. It felt like he made every tackle in the second half of the Rose Bowl against Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma. If he fails in the pros, I’m assuming it’ll be because he’s less-than-perfect in terms of pro prototype. But he’s awesome. That means something.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oklahoma vs Georgia
Roquan Smith
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 pick: Buffalo trades up to draft Josh Allen.

Too low, just right, or too high? Too high.

But hey, the Bills fans in attendance are happy, so that’s fine. And for those couple games a year where it’s blowing snow and gross outside, they’ve got a guy who can throw hard through the wind. Not sure where the ball will go, but it’ll spin.

Mel Kiper just compared him to Randy Johnson. Randy Johnson threw strikes.

Then again, Johnson also led the league in walks for a few years before he found his hall-of-fame form. So maybe there’s hope. And getting picked this high, Allen will get chances that some fourth-round afterthought probably wouldn’t get. Maybe he’ll figure things out.

That’s the best I could do in attempting positive spin.

No. 6 pick: The Indianapolis Colts select Quenton Nelson

Too low, just right, or too high? Too low. He might be my favorite player in this draft. I realize you don’t draft offensive guards too high, but ... he’s really, really good. He’s a refrigerator with legs and an unlimited capacity for chicken parms.

And he gets a 99 in Awareness. And is Viciousness a category on Madden? Because he’s got a 99 in that, too.

No. 5 pick: The Denver Broncos select Bradley Chubb

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. Maybe too low. Denver is a pretty good home for good defensive ends, and he’s is an incredibly complete end. He had 10 sacks and took part in 27 run stuffs last year. And my goodness, 46 tackles for loss in two years from a 275-pounder. That’s ridiculous.

Chubb’s an every-down guy, not just a third-and-long attacker. Denver should figure out some fun things to do with him.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at North Carolina State
Bradley Chubb (9)
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 pick: The Cleveland Browns select Denzel Ward

Too low, just right, or too high? Hmm. It’s too high, simply because Quenton Nelson and Bradley Chubb are both awesome and should’ve gone higher. Plus, Ward has only decent size, not the prototype size we’ve been told the NFL cornerback position is moving toward. (And if you’re reading the optics, the first highlight of his that ESPN showed was him getting beaten for a touchdown. Granted, he played it well, and it was basically a 50/50 ball as they hit the ground. It was also a touchdown for the other team.)

He’s good, though. He had 26 passes defensed in two seasons. If you believe that your pass rush will improve as Myles Garrett further gets his footing, and if you believe your offensive line — not the Browns’ biggest problem last year — is stable already, then I guess go with a corner.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin
Denzel Ward
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 pick: The New York Jets select Sam Darnold

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. Darnold had the second-best base of efficiency of any of this year’s QBs, and I’m not all that worried about his 2017 turnover problems at USC.

For one thing, as others have written, throwing interceptions might just be a sign of confidence in your arm. That shows you’re willing to attempt big throws. That only matters, of course, if you can occasionally make those throws, but other high picks with INT problems — Deshaun Watson, Jameis Winston — have obviously held their own in the pros.

Plus, a lot of Darnold’s interceptions came early in the season. He had six picks in the first three games, then only threw seven more in the final 10 games. Plus, while 12 fumbles is just about as much as you’ll ever see from a QB in a college football season, the fact that he lost nine of them — instead of closer to six or so — made it seem worse than it was.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State
Sam Darnold
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 pick: The New York Giants select Saquon Barkley

Too low, just right, or too high? Too high, if only because running backs might not ever be worth the No. 2 pick. But I get it.

No running back is a sure thing in making the transition from college to pro. Big-play guys find it a lot harder to make those big plays against better defenses, and Barkley doesn’t have a résumé of extreme efficiency to lean on. He was also a damn human highlight film. He does stuff like this.

There’s risk, sure, but he also brings strong receiving and return abilities to chip away a bit at the “you can’t pick a running back No. 2” narrative. Head says this wasn’t the greatest pick, but heart gets it.

No. 1 pick: The Cleveland Browns select Baker Mayfield

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. The Browns picked the only guy in the QB class that I would actually consider with the No. 1 pick.

He’s also, to me, the closest thing to a finished product. ESPN’s Louis Riddick very fairly pointed out that quite a bit of Cleveland’s endless failure with quarterbacks is on Cleveland. They chose a lot of pretty bad signal callers, but they also failed to develop them and failed to put them in position to succeed.

Mayfield is the exact opposite of a blank slate, an unmolded lump of clay. He’s got the quickest eyes and decision making I think I’ve ever seen at the college level, he’s accurate, and he’s got far better arm strength than what the generic Big 12 spread offense quarterback is supposed to have.

He grabs his crotch, sure. He got tackled spectacularly by an Arkansas cop last offseason. That makes him a risk just like all the other eligible quarterbacks. But he’s also the best of the bunch. And unlike Johnny Manziel, he works his butt off and doesn’t hide out to avoid practice.

Mel Kiper referenced his 40 time as a reason for doubting him and noted that defensive linemen have better times. Well, great, he’s in trouble if he has to race a lineman for 40 yards. I’ll take my chances. Well done, Cleveland.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oklahoma vs Georgia
Baker Mayfield
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Mock Draft season is over — it’s time for the actual draft to begin. The draft is an opportunity to grab seven (or so) players who can help your team, without having to outbid other players for them and without having to trade for them. (I mean, you can trade for them, but you don’t have to.)

Even better, these are seven (or so) guys who will be under rookie contracts for the foreseeable future. The more good rookie-contract guys you find, the more you can spend on other good players beyond the rookie pay grade. Teams that draft well, win a lot of games.

Let’s see who takes advantage!

This is such a strange draft. Everybody, even on the ESPN coverage, agrees that the best players are going to go in the middle of the first round, after a metric ton of QBs have been selected. I am forever on Team Trade Down, but ... if you’ve got a top pick, and all the good players are further down ... I mean..

Anyway, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock.