The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft is over, and I give and explain a grade for each player selected on Thursday night.
2016 NFL Draft First Round Grades
1. The Los Angeles Rams
Quarterback, Jared Goff, Cal
This grade isn’t as much an indictment of the team or even the player drafted as it is how much they gave up to pick this high. If Jared Goff comes in and becomes the Rams’ franchise quarterback, then it was worth it, and this was an A+ pick. However, if he doesn’t pan out, or he’s just a decent quarterback, then the Rams have to feel like this pick was a bust.
Goff is a smart, accurate passer, and the Rams will expect him to come in and start for them on day one. While Los Angeles lacks a real number one receiver, Goff will have the benefit of relaxed coverages as he shares the backfield with 2015’s offensive rookie of the year, Todd Gurley.
2. The Philadelphia Eagles
Quarterback, Carson Wentz, North Dakota
This pick and the last pick are very similar in that the pick isn’t under review as much as what they gave up to pick this high is. Trading up for a quarterback doesn’t always work, and the Eagles have many pressing needs that will be neglected as they invest everything in their young passer. Quarterback was a huge need for the Eagles, but perhaps not at the cost they paid.
The reason Wentz’s grade is lower than Goff’s is because Wentz will likely ride the bench as a rookie. Trading that many picks for a player that won’t come in and play immediately is a huge gamble. Sure, he can still pan out, and there’s a good chance that he will. He’s a great athlete who has already played in a pro-style offense. But until he proves that he is worth what the Eagles gave up for him, this pick gets a C+ grade.
3. The San Diego Chargers
Defensive End, Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Joey Bosa was considered one of the safest prospects in this draft class. He’s a high motor, high energy guy who plays with a mean streak, and is already a very good player. The biggest issue is that he might have already reached his peak. Many scouts worry that he’s hit his ceiling and this is the best he’ll be. Beyond that, the Chargers want to run a 3-4, and Bosa isn’t big enough to play on the defensive line. The Chargers will likely ask him to stand up and play outside linebacker, and while he’s athletic enough, it remains to be seen how well he adjusts to a new position against superior competition.
4. The Dallas Cowboys
Runningback, Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
Ezekiel Elliott should be the first player taken in fantasy football this year. Behind that offensive line? He’s going to have a freak year. He’s locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year next year. Elliott is a very talented back, and he should give the Cowboys a reliable workhorse in the backfield that they haven’t had since DeMarco Murray left two years ago. However, a runningback at number four is ridiculous. Especially a runningback with almost 700 touches before his first pro game. The Cowboys could’ve picked up a runningback in a later round while shoring up their defense with someone like Jalen Ramsey. Elliott is an A+ player, but this was a rushed, ridiculous pick.
5. The Jacksonville Jaguars
Defensive Back, Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
The Jaguars didn’t wait long to capitalize on Dallas’ mistake, grabbing arguably the best player in the draft in Jalen Ramsey. Last year, the Jaguars’ defense was atrocious. They were 29th in pass defense last year, and gave up 29 touchdowns through the air alone. The Jaguars spent a ton of money on pass rushers this off-season, and now they have a talented corner and/or safety to shore up the defensive backfield. Andrew Luck will be back in 2016, but the AFC South won’t be the pushover like it once was.
6. The Baltimore Ravens
Tackle, Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
This wasn’t a sexy pick by the Ravens, but it was a smart one. Baltimore probably would’ve preferred a flashy defensive player, but instead they get someone that can protect their best interests. It was a big need for Baltimore, and they got a huge, athletic, smart kid to fill that role. Joe Flacco is coming back from IR, and he’ll need a clean pocket and a run game while he gets back up to speed. Thanks to Stanley, he’ll have that now.
7. The San Francisco 49ers
Defensive End, DeForest Buckner, Oregon
It’s easy to see why the 49ers picked Buckner so high. He’s huge, strong, and fast. As far as ceilings go, this kid might not even have one. The biggest problem is that there are holes in his game. He might not be devastating right away, but he’ll be good in time. It’s funny that after all these years, Chip Kelly still goes back to Oregon for his playmakers.
8. The Tennessee Titans
Tackle, Jack Conklin, Michigan State
The most amazing thing about this is that the Tennessee Titans were able to trade out of the first overall pick, collect several high profile draft picks, and still grab a great tackle. They could have drafted Laremy Tunsil, the guy that was originally projected to be number one, but terrible timing and even worse decisions convinced the Titans to go with Conklin.
The reason that this pick isn’t an A is that Conklin is a bit inconsistent. He’s not a great athlete and sometimes his play is lazy. He has the tools to be a good guard in this league, but he’s not a day one starter like Tunsil might have been. He’ll probably start on the right side while Taylor Lewan protects Mariota’s blindside.
9. The Chicago Bears
Linebacker, Leonard Floyd, Georgia
Floyd is a great athlete. He has great size, great speed, and versatile. The only problem is that he has a problem keeping weight, and is a little thin, especially when you consider that he has to take on bigger, strong NFL linemen. He’ll need to bulk up if he wants to be a star in the NFL, but if he can, he absolutely has all the tools. The Bears are trying to rebuild their defense this year, with the addition of players like Danny Trevathan, and at number nine, Floyd is a great pick.
10. The New York Giants
Cornerback, Eli Apple, Ohio State
Eli Apple has a rare combination of size and speed that was obviously very attractive for the Giants, but this was a bad pick. Apple was far from the best corner in the draft, has been very shaky in coverage, and as the media has made sure we know, doesn’t have life skills. He struggles with penalties, isn’t a great tackler, and doesn’t always go after the ball. With Hargreaves on the board, this selection is a headscratcher.
11. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
This pick was a “duh” moment if I’ve ever seen one. The Bucs needed a corner badly, and for a reason that isn’t known to the rest of us on planet earth, he was still available at 11. Tampa Bay was able to trade down and still get their guy. Hargreaves might not have prototypical NFL size, but he’s a great athlete with phenomenal instincts and good ball skills. Paired with Verner and Grimes, he’ll join a very talented secondary in Tampa.
12. The New Orleans Saints
Defensive Tackle, Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
The Saints haven’t had a good defense since they were targeting quarterbacks like Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. Rankins will look to change that. Rankins is a dynamic, athletic, and versatile playmaker that should step in and make New Orleans better right away.
13. The Miami Dolphins
Tackle, Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
Despite the fact that Tunsil may have made some questionable personal choices and have off the field issues, there’s no question that he’s a talented player. The Miami offensive line has been a mess since Jake Long, and if Tunsil can keep his nose clean, he’ll help create a good pocket for Ryan Tanehill moving forward. Getting someone who is potentially the best player in the draft at 13 is incredible, and a great value pick.
14. The Oakland Raiders
Safety, Karl Joseph, West Virginia
With this pick, the Raiders solidify a great secondary on top of a young, hungry defense. Joseph joins Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith, and David Amerson in a very talented secondary. The Raiders defense is beginning to come together in a big way, and while many fans would’ve preferred Myles Jack here, Joseph will come in when he’s healthy and play the Earl Thomas role in their defense.
15. The Cleveland Browns
Wide Receiver, Corey Coleman, Baylor
After trading back several times, the Browns finally use one of their picks, and they use it well, selecting the speedy Coleman. Coleman lacks the prototypical NFL size, but he makes up for it with exceptional athleticism. He’s physical for his size, and is great after the catch. The Browns have plenty of holes to fill, but this is a great start.
16. The Detroit Lions
Tackle, Taylor Decker, Ohio State
Decker is a big, strong player. At 6’7, he’s an absolute monster. If the Lions are going to commit to running the ball more, they’ll be doing it behind this guy. He’s not an exceptional athlete, and may struggle in pass protection, but at his size, he’ll get his chance to develop in the pros.
17. The Atlanta Falcons
Safety, Keanu Neal, Florida
Neal struggles in coverage, isn’t exceptionally fast, and is undersized. Sometimes he tries to “hitstick” too often and completely misses tackles, and much like Bob Sanders, might find himself on the injury report often because of this playing style. At best, Neal had a second round grade, and with a player like Myles Jack on the board, it doesn’t make sense for Atlanta to have drafted him this high.
18. The Indianapolis Colts
Center, Ryan Kelly, Alabama
This pick was easy. Kelly is a versatile, talented player that can start anywhere between the tackles and improve the Indianapolis offensive line right away. This will help the Colts run the ball, and unlike last year, the Colts need to be able to protect Andrew Luck when he comes back from injury, and this was a good first step.
19. The Buffalo Bills
Defensive End, Shaq Lawson, Clemson
The Bills needed a new pass rusher to replace Mario Williams and give their vaunted defense some muscle, and that’s exactly what Lawson does. He’s a big, physical guy that should be a solid double digit sack kind of guy for the Ryan brothers. He’s versatile enough to be moved around by Rex and Rob Ryan, and be the big star that Buffalo desperately needs.
20. The New York Jets
Linebacker, Darron Lee, Ohio State
It must have been tempting for the Jets to take quarterback Paxton Lynch here, but instead, they chose to strengthen their defense with the talented linebacker, Darron Lee. He has great instincts, and is a phenomenal athlete. He can play all three downs, and is a great piece for a very good Jets defense. He is a little undersized, which is why Lee didn’t earn an A grade, but make no mistakes, the Jets drafted a good player.
21. The Houston Texans
Wide Receiver, Will Fuller, Notre Dame
Will Fuller made headlines with his 4.32 40 time at the combine, and that’s probably what elevated him to the first round. Because outside of that, he’s just not a first round talent. He was able to blow past college defensive backs for long touchdownss, but he won’t be able to do that in the pros. He’s undersized, is very skinny, and has bad hands. He’s a one dimensional burner, and the Texans might have to get creative to get him the ball in space.
22. The Washington Redskins
Wide Receiver, Josh Doctson, TCU
Doctson is a good pick for the Washington Redskins. They’ve got a ton of money invested in quarterback Kirk Cousins this year, and he’ll need some good young weapons. Doctson has some solid size and respectable speed, he highpoints the ball well, and has reliable hands. He can play all over the field, and assuming his wrist injury doesn’t flare up, he should be a good target for the Redskins.
23. The Minnesota Vikings
Wide Receiver, LaQuon Treadwell, Ole Miss
Treadwell was the best receiver available for the Vikings, and they had no choice but to grab him. Treadwell has great size, great hands, and is extremely physical after the catch. If Teddy Bridgewater is ever going to develop into a true franchise quarterback, he’ll need weapons. Treadwell isn’t particularly fast, but neither are DeAndre Hopkins or Keenan Allen, and they’re both dominant when they’re on top of their game. The Vikings believe Treadwell is only going to get faster, and if that’s true, then he’ll be a very scary weapon indeed.
24. The Cincinnati Bengals
Corner, William Jackson III, Houston
For the Bengals to grab arguably the best corner in the draft at 24 is just ridiculous. Cincinnati probably wanted a wide receiver here, but the Vikings, Texans, and Browns took the only three guys that merited first round picks. Jackson III has good size, amazing speed, and is great in coverage. Not only do they grab a great young player that can be the back of their defense for ten years, but they rob the Steelers of the chance to draft him.
25. The Pittsburgh Steelers
Corner, Artie Burns, Miami
This is what happens when a team drafts for needs instead taking the best player available. Burns is a phenomenal athlete, but is also wildly inconsistent in coverage. He’s a flag-magnet, gives up on games and routes, and plays with the wrong kind of attitude. He’s not someone who can step into the starting role on day one, and it seems obvious that the Steelers were panicking about the best corners going off the board.
26. The Denver Broncos
Quarterback, Paxton Lynch, Memphis
The quarterback needy Broncos traded up to take Paxton Lynch, and it’s very uncomfortable. As many people have already pointed out, it’s a little ironic that the Broncos would draft such a raw quarterback in the first round after the whole Tebow fiasco.
Much like Tebow, Lynch is a great athlete. At 6’7, Lynch runs a 4.8 40 and has a cannon for an arm. Unlike Tebow, Lynch is a very good decision maker, and opts to extend the play as opposed to forcing a run. Beyond that, Lynch needs to learn how to pass again. His accuracy, ball placement, and mechanics are just dreadful, and he’ll need to sit behind Mark Sanchez for at least two years.
27. The Green Bay Packers
Defensive Tackle, Kenny Clark, UCLA
This feels like a bit of a reach by the Packers. They needed a replacement for B.J. Raji, and while Clark is a very good player, he’s a little undersized. He lacks the length that you usually want from a nose tackle, and he disappeared in big games. The truly elite collegiate players dominate other collegiate players. If he can’t beat teenagers, how can be beat grown men?
28. The San Francisco 49ers
Guard, Joshua Garnett
To be honest, it feels like Garnett was drafted this high because of the success of the Stanford rushing attack. Regardless, he’s a great player. He’s big, strong, and an absolute mauler. He knows how to use his whole body to ward off defenders and break open runs, and knows how to use his hands. He needs to spend a little more time in the gym, but the 49ers have added a good young player to their offensive line.
29. The Arizona Cardinals
Defensive Tackle, Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Nkemdiche is a monster. Paired with Chandler Jones, there’s no limit to what the Arizona pass rush can accomplish this year. But that’s just it. So much of Nkemdiche’s appeal is his potential. Off the field issues are a big concern, but beyond that, he was just wildly inconsistent last year. The numbers aren’t there, and he wants to buy a pet Panther. A pet panther.
30. The Carolina Panthers
Defensive Tackle, Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
The Panthers were able to grab a monster at the end of the first round. Butler is 6’4, 334 pounds, and surprisingly athletic. The Panthers’ biggest strength is their defense, and with Butler in the middle, it should only get better. He’s still a little raw, and his production isn’t what experts would hope a player like Butler would have, but he’s only going to get better in the pros.
31. The Seattle Seahawks
Tackle, Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
For the Seahawks to draft Ifedi this high, they must really like him. He’s a good athlete, and under the supervision of offensive line guru, Tom Cable, he might have a chance to be something special. He was drafted as a tackle, but he may end up playing guard for Seattle down the road. He’s got a bit of a mean streak, and is very, very strong, but he’s also very raw and may not pan out soon for Seattle.