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NFL draft grades 2017: Teams reaching for quarterbacks shaped 1st round

Houston and Kansas City made big jumps in the first round, but were they the right moves?

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Posted by SB Nation on Thursday, April 27, 2017

The first round of the 2017 NFL draft was expected to be filled with surprise picks, and that’s exactly what happened. Three wide receivers were picked in the top 10. That wasn’t expected. Three quarterbacks were picked in the top 12. That wasn’t expected. Three tight ends went in the first round. That wasn’t expected.

The moves at wide receiver and quarterback caused players in a rich defense draft tumble. As a result, many of the teams that sat back and picked off cornerbacks and pass rushers garnered high grades in this way-too-early round one assessment. Conversely, those teams that jumped up because they needed quarterbacks were knocked because of value and what they gave up.

Overall, grades were decided on a number of factors: Relative value, need, system fit, risk and potential. Because the value on the quarterbacks in particular didn’t These are early grades that we'll revisit in a few years.

Also, if you disagree with any of my negative grades, I have A’Shawn Robinson on my side.

Anyway, onto the grades:

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns made the smart move in taking Garrett instead of a quarterback with the first overall pick. Cleveland can pair Garrett with Emmanuel Ogbah, a second-round pick from last season, to give the Browns a nice developing duo of edge rushers. Garrett is not a flawless prospect – he needs to get better against the run – but he’s the right pick for the Browns. Simply, the best player goes first overall and fills a big need. What’s not to like?

Grade: A+

2. Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

The Bears made a surprise move trading up a spot to get the player that they wanted. Then they made as surprise pick taking Trubisky over pass rusher Solomon Thomas or safety Jamal Adams. The price they had to give up is steep too. On a team that hasn’t been above .500 since 2012, the Bears have a lot of holes to fill on the roster. If Trubisky doesn’t turn into a franchise quarterback, the Bears will have set themselves backward.

Grade: C

3. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

This is the pick the 49ers were long-expected to make and not only did they get it, extra picks were thrown in to make it happen. Suffice to say, this grade is partly due to what the 49ers were able to get out of the Bears for the second overall pick. It was a strong play by first-year general manager John Lynch to get extra picks in third and fourth rounds this year and a 2018 pick. Thomas is going to boost San Francisco’s run and pass game thanks to his power playing style and versatility.

Grade: A+

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

If you don’t know how well your quarterback is going to play, build the run game. That’s what the Jaguars did by taking the brutish Fournette. If Blake Bortles’ struggles continue, it won’t matter with Fournette getting 20-25 carries per game. The grade gets knocked slightly because of positional value and it’s a wait and see how well Fournette can run behind an average Jacksonville offensive line.

Grade: B

5. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

I love the fit of Davis in Tennessee. They took Marcus Mariota in the first round in 2015 but haven’t surrounded him with great targets. Davis can be one. I just don’t like the choice at fifth overall. I understand the idea of getting the player you want as soon as you can, but Davis was projected by most outside of the top 10. The fit is a need, which is good. I question the value.

Grade: B-

6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S, LSU

With Adams, the Jets get the safest player in the entire draft. It was a surprise to see Adams go outside the top five. So forget the Jets needing a quarterback or pass rusher. This is a smart choice. Adams can come up and stop the run, he’s comfortable in both man and zone coverage and, as a bonus, he can even get after the quarterback. The Jets need sure things, and they got one in Adams. The knock here is about the Jets. They’ve taken a player on defense in the first round every year since 2009. When is it going to pay off?

Grade: A-

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

As long as you’ve got Philip Rivers, the Chargers have to get pieces for him, whether it’s on the offensive line or at receiver. At least that’s the rationale you can use if you want. It was a surprise the Chargers didn’t jump on Ohio State safety Malik Hooker who could be the deep playmaker on defense Los Angeles desperately needs. Williams can be a No. 1 the Chargers need because Keenan Allen can’t stay healthy and Travis Benjamin has always been better as a complimentary piece.

Grade: B-

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

The choice many expected came true with the Panthers getting McCaffrey. When Carolina great Thomas Davis announced the pick, he announced McCaffrey as “wide receiver, I mean running back, Stanford.” They both make sense, and that’s what Carolina will do with him. The Panthers need a speed back. He’s it. They need a slot receiver. He’s it. They need a return specialist. He’s it. The issue: Can McCaffrey and his playing style hold up in the NFL. I compare him to Reggie Bush, who had some injury issues.

Grade: B+

9. Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, WR, Washington

Three wide receivers in the top 10. Whew. After the NFL Scouting Combine, this was the pick for the Bengals. Then it dropped because there are concerns about Ross staying healthy in the NFL. With his 4.22 speed Ross is obviously a speed player, and he knows how to utilize it. But what happens in the bigger, faster, stronger NFL when he gets hit?

Grade: B-

10. Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

The Chiefs gave up pick Nos. 27, 91 and a 2018 first-round pick to take a backup quarterback. At least for a season, that’s what this pick is in reality. While this move helps Kansas City in the future, what does it do immediately in 2017 and 2018? It doesn’t give them a top cornerback opposite Marcus Peters. It doesn’t give them a linebacker they need. It gives them a developmental player. Look, I like Mahomes as a person and prospect. I just don’t like the value at all. Of course, I’ll look like an idiot if the Brett Favre comparisons come true.

Grade: D

11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Saints had to target a pass rusher or a cornerback with this spot. To get the draft’s top cornerback with the 11th pick is a coup. As long as Dalvin Breaux can stay healthy, one of the weaknesses of the Saints is now a strength. Lattimore just has to stay healthy, which is why he dropped to this spot.

Grade: A

12. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Houston was desperate to get a quarterback, and they certainly got one who can win big games in Watson. The intangibles for Watson are off the chart. On the field, he needs to get better in the pocket and needs to read the field better. It’s just hard to bet against Watson. Giving up a 2018 first-round pick and in addition to No. 25 overall was exorbitant. If Watson works out, it ultimately doesn’t matter. This grade isn’t about Watson, it’s about the cost.

Grade: C+

13. Arizona Cardinals: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

With the flurry of quarterbacks going in the first 12 picks, that left the Cardinals to go defense with Reddick, a player who can be moved around and do anything he’s asked. In that regard, he’s a perfect fit with Arizona’s defense. In sub packages he’ll rush the passer. In normal situations he’ll work inside. Reddick to go with Robert Nkemdiche, Chandler Jones, Deone Bucanon and Tyrann Mathieu? Scary stuff.

Grade: B+

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

If the Eagles were after production, they got it with Barnett. Philadelphia is stacking defensive linemen who can get after the quarterback with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Timmy Jernigan. The four man rush in Philadelphia will improve the team’s pass coverage. The only knock is that Barnett isn’t the cornerback the Eagles desperately need, and there are a bunch available.

Grade: B-

15. Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

From a value standpoint and a need standpoint, this pick grades off the chart. Hooker can be a superstar thanks to his ability to read a quarterback and get a jump on the ball. The Colts don’t have a player who can do what Hooker can do. If he can get a little bit better as a tackler and stay healthy, the Colts have a Pro Bowl player with Hooker.

Grade: A+

16. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

All along the Ravens have needed to get a cornerback this offseason. Humphrey is a big body cornerback who can handle big receivers and quick enough to handle speed guys. Humphrey, a redshirt sophomore, isn’t fully developed but he has great tools.

Grade: B

17. Washington: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Allen played like a top five pick and got worn out at Alabama, which caused this drop.

Still, I rate him as the second-best player in the draft this year and Washington should be elated to get him 17th overall. Allen can play anywhere on the line and creates havoc. If he can play well for two contracts, this is a great pick. If he can’t the value diminishes.

Grade: A-

18. Tennessee Titans: Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Southern California

This is the position the Titans needed to get because they were awful covering wide receivers outside in 2016. Jackson is a player teams liked more than the media. I had a higher grade on Tre’Davious White of LSU than Jackson, but a fit is a fit.

Grade: B-

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

For some reason Howard dropped, and the Buccaneers were the benefactor. Much of the speculation about the Buccaneers was a tight end, but David Njoku of Miami with Howard being gone. Howard, along with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, should accelerate the development of Jameis Winston.

Grade: A+

20. Denver Broncos: Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah

Everyone knew the Broncos were going to take an offensive tackle. In Bolles they get a stupendous athlete and can play left tackle thanks to his foot quickness. I preferred Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin because he’s more of an all-around blocker, but you can’t fault the pick totally. His attitude will rub off on teammates.

Grade: B

21. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Although the Lions needed to get a player who can get after the quarterback, they also need a linebacker like Davis. He’s a three-down linebacker who can replace DeAndre Levy and do a little bit of everything. Health has been an issue, but he should start straight away for Detroit.

Grade: B

22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

The Dolphins needed another player who can get after the quarterback, and that is Harris’ specialty. Harris will probably start his career as a rush specialist, which makes him a player who can come on the field when William Hayes comes off it. I still think getting a guard here was the smarter choice.

Grade: B-

23. New York Giants: Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

Coming into the draft the Giants needed to get an offensive tackle and a tight end. In that regard, Engram will fill a need for New York. They get terrible production from their tight ends, and he should fix that issue. He creates mismatches with his size and ability to line up split out wide. I’m surprised he was picked before Njoku.

Grade: C

24. Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

To take Conley in the first round, the Raiders have to be sure that the allegations made about him are false. If that’s the case, the Raiders get a player who was suspected of going in the first 15 picks. Some teams had a higher grade on Conley than teammate Marshon Lattimore. He has good speed, a good vertical and can play outside and in the slot. With Davis gone, this is a position the Raiders needed to target early. The grade is assuming Conley is innocent.

Grade: B+

25. Cleveland Browns: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan

Whatever you think of this pick is dependent on whether or not you think Peppers has a position. I do. “What do I look like? I’m a safety,” Peppers declared at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s right. Michigan misused Peppers playing him as a hybrid linebacker/safety near the line of scrimmage. I had him rated as the 16th best player in the draft. With Garrett, Ogbah, Jamie Collins and now Peppers, the Browns are stacking their defense with athletes.

Grade: B-

26. Atlanta Falcons: Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA

When Atlanta moved up to make this pick, the feeling was that maybe it would be for guard Forrest Lamp. Nope. Instead they get a pass rusher who can line inside, outside and standing up. And he has a motor like no other player in this draft. More importantly, he can keep blockers off Vic Beasley. Here are my knocks: Lamp fills a greater need at guard, McKinley was a one-year star who is recovering from a shoulder injury and the Falcons had to give up a third-round pick to jump up from No. 31. But after Harris was picked, McKinley was the most logical choice as a pass rusher.

Grade: B

27. Buffalo Bills: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

Bills general manager Doug Whaley had an excellent first round. He acquired more picks from No. 10 and was still able to find a starting cornerback while dropping all the way back to No. 27. White isn’t a super athlete, but that’s his only knock. He can play anywhere and can fit in any style. And he’ll come up against the run.

Grade: A

28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

The Cowboys have a preference for big defensive ends, and they certainly get one in the 6’5 Charlton. This is about where he should have come off the board. He allows Dallas to play three- and four-man fronts. Charton had bouts of inconsistency, but when he was on he warranted a first-round pick.

Grade: B

29. Cleveland Browns: David Njoku, TE, Miami

So much for the Browns needing to get a quarterback in the first round to get a fifth year rookie contract season. The Browns have an excess of picks, so we should see them continue maneuvering all weekend. But was this actually a good pick? Many thought Cleveland would take Howard, so it’s not a surprise from a positional standpoint. Njoku isn’t much of a traditional tight end. Instead, he’s more of a true replacement for what Terrelle Pryor brought to the offense. But now you’re left with Cody Kessler as your starting quarterback. That’s why the grade gets knocked.

Grade: C+

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin

Hey look, a pick I got right in my final mock draft. Watt is the type of player the Steelers needed to get. He’s a solid outside pass rusher who can come up and stop the run. With James Harrison nearing retirement, Watt can be his understudy while also stealing some snaps on run downs.

Grade: B+

31. San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

At some point in the draft process this was the pick for San Francisco. At No. 2 overall. To jump back into the first round and get Foster is a stroke of brilliance by Lynch. That, of course, is assuming that Foster’s injuries don’t hold him back. If they don’t, the 49ers just got a 100-tackle linebacker who can be the leader of the defense almost immediately.

Grade: A+

32. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Despite taking Andrus Peat in the first round in 2015, the Saints are back taking an offensive tackle. Ramczyk isn’t a stellar athlete, but he’s sound both as a run blocker and a pass blocker. But in New Orleans, Ramczyk isn’t guaranteed a starting spot. At best he’ll compete with Zach Strief for the starting right tackle job. The Saints really need a pass rusher and now they’re gambling one will be there at No. 42.

Grade: C+