Grading an NFL draft before players ever set foot on the field has been and always will be a silly process.
No one can properly judge how well a player will fit with a scheme or whether a defender will be able to shoot an A-gap the on Sundays the same way he did in college. And even after these young men get 16 games under their belts, it's probably still a little early to judge.
After all, we all once thought Vince Young was revolutionizing the quarterback position after one solid rookie season.
How did that work out?
Instead, like anything in sports, judging a draft takes nuance. We could all probably sit down with a sharpie and grade the 2010 class at this point, noting where the market deficiencies lied and where scouts just flat out missed. NFL scouting remains and probably always will be an inefficient science. The translation from the college game to the NFL remains a completely different language, even as the two sides get closer.
Nevertheless, as we head into the final day of the 2013 NFL draft, we can judge picks on one important factor: value. Value and leverage determine everything around draft time. Had a slew of quarterbacks come off the board after the Buffalo Bills took EJ Manuel at No. 16, that pick wouldn't have looked like such a reach. It would have been seen as the catalyst to a run of picks rather than the overzealous reaching of a desperate franchise.
And the process is the same for many other teams in this year's draft, including those who may or may not have been fleeced in trades.
With that in mind, let's take a look at every team's grade through three rounds and break down a few teams worth highlighting along the way.
2013 NFL Draft Grades
|Kansas City Chiefs|| |
1st (1): Eric Fisher (OT, Central Michigan)
|Jacksonville Jaguars|| |
1st (2): Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M)
|Oakland Raiders||1st (12): D.J. Hayden (CB, Houston) |
2nd (43): Menelik Watson (OT, Florida State)
3rd (66): Sio Moore (OLB, Connecticut)
|Philadelphia Eagles|| |
1st (4): Lane Johnson (OT, Oklahoma)
|Detroit Lions||1st (5): Ezekiel Ansah (DE, BYU) |
2nd (36) Darius Slay (CB, Mississippi State)
3rd (65): Larry Warford (OG, Kentucky)
|Cleveland Browns||1st (6): Barkevious Mingo (DE/OLB, LSU) |
3rd (68): Leon McFadden (CB, San Diego State)
|Arizona Cardinals||1st (7): Jonathan Cooper (OG, North Carolina) |
2nd (45): Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
3rd (69): Tyrann Mathieu (CB, LSU)
|Buffalo Bills||1st (16): EJ Manuel (QB, Florida State) |
2nd (41): Robert Woods (WR, USC)
2nd (46): Kiko Alonso (LB, Oregon)
3rd (78): Marquise Goodwin (WR, Texas)
|New York Jets|| |
1st (9): Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
|Tennessee Titans||1st (10): Chance Warmack (G, Alabama) |
2nd (34): Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
3rd (70): Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
3rd (97): Zaviar Gooden (OLB, Missouri)
|San Diego Chargers||1st (11): D.J. Fluker (OT, Alabama) |
2nd (38): Manti Te'o (LB, Notre Dame)
3rd (76): Keenan Allen (WR, California)
|Miami Dolphins||1st (3): Dion Jordan (OLB, Oregon) |
2nd (54): Jamar Taylor (CB, Boise State)
3rd (77): Dallas Thomas (OG, Tennessee)
3rd (93): Will Davis (CB, Utah State)
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2nd (43): Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State) |
3rd (73): Mike Glennon (QB, N.C. State)
|Carolina Panthers||1st (14): Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah) |
2nd (44): Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
|New Orleans Saints||1st (15): Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas) |
3rd (75): Terron Armstead (OT, Arkansas Pine-Bluff)
3rd (82): John Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
|St. Louis Rams||1st (8): Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia) |
1st (30): Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
3rd (71): T.J. McDonald (S, USC)
3rd (92): Stedman Bailey (WR, West Virginia)
|Pittsburgh Steelers||1st (17): Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia) |
2nd (48): Le'Veon Bell (RB, Michigan State)
3rd (79): Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
|Dallas Cowboys||1st (31): Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin) |
2nd (47): Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
3rd (74): Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)
3rd (80): J.J. Wilcox (S, Georgia Southern)
|New York Giants||1st (19): Justin Pugh (OT/G, Syracuse) |
2nd (49): Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
3rd (81): Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
|Chicago Bears||1st (20): Kyle Long (OG, Oregon) |
2nd (50): Jonathan Bostic (LB, Florida)
|Cincinnati Bengals||1st (21): Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame) |
2nd (37): Giovani Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
2nd (53): Margus Hunt (DE, Southern Methodist)
3rd (84): Shawn Williams (S, Georgia)
|Washington Redskins||2nd (51): David Amerson (CB, N.C. State) |
3rd (85): Jordan Reed (TE, Florida)
|Minnesota Vikings||1st (23): Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida) |
1st (25): Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
1st (29): Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
|Indianapolis Colts||1st (24): Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State) |
3rd (86): Hugh Thornton (G, Illinois)
|Seattle Seahawks||2nd (62): Christine Michael (RB, Texas A&M) |
3rd (87): Jordan Hill (DT, Penn State)
|Green Bay Packers||1st (26): Datone Jones (DE, UCLA) |
2nd (61): Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
|Houston Texans||1st (27): DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson) |
2nd (57): D.J. Swearinger (S, South Carolina)
3rd (89): Brennan Williams (OT, North Carolina)
3rd (95): Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
|Denver Broncos|| |
1st (28): Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
|New England Patriots||2nd (52): Jamie Collins (OLB, Southern Miss) |
2nd (59): Aaron Dobson (WR, Marshall)
3rd (83): Logan Ryan (CB, Rutgers)
3rd (91): Duron Harmon (S, Rutgers)
|Atlanta Falcons||1st (22): Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington) |
2nd (60): Robert Alford (CB, Southeastern Louisiana)
|San Francisco 49ers||1st (18): Eric Reid (S, LSU) |
2nd (40): Cornellius "Tank" Carradine (DE, Florida State)
2nd (55): Vance McDonald (TE, Rice)
3rd (88): Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
|Baltimore Ravens ||1st (32): Matt Elam (S, Florida) |
2nd (56): Arthur Brown (OLB, Kansas State)
3rd (94): Brandon Williams (DT, Missouri Southern State)
Highlighting Teams of Note
New York Jets: A
1st Round (9): Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
1st Round (13): Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
2nd Round (39): Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
3rd Round (72): Brian Winters (G, Kent State)
New Jets general manager John Idzik was left a mess to clean up by predecessor Mike Tannenbaum. New York was in salary-cap hell with high-priced veteran players whose salaries far outweighed their productivity, a quarterback situation that was arguably the worst in the league and a disgruntled superstar who wanted a fat new contract.
Taking over in January, Idzik went right to work reconstructing the entire roster, and his brilliant draft thus far may mark the beginning of the Jets' revival.
Though it's impossible to justify the Darrelle Revis trade under any circumstance—you don't trade a future Hall of Famer in his prime for a mid-first-round pick—Idzik has made some major headway ingratiating himself to those distraught fans. Dee Milliner won't ever replace Revis, but he will step in Week 1 and combine with Antonio Cromartie to give New York a good set of corners. There's little reason to think the Jets won't wind up inside the top 10 in pass defense in 2013.
As for Sheldon Richardson, the player who was ostensibly acquired for Revis, that pick is Idzik's riskiest. Both Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd were available at No. 13, and the former would have been a safer pick who was equally dominant in college. Richardson had scouts drooling over his potential.
Friday, believe it or not, was an even busier night for the Jets. They made the night's second big move—the first being San Diego taking Manti Te'o—in ending Geno Smith's precipitous fall down the draft board. The notion that Smith, whose intermediate-accuracy and arm-strength issues are concerning, was a top-10 pick was always absurd, but to land him early in Round 2 was a win. It signals that the end of Mark Sanchez's reign of terror at the quarterback position is fast approaching, while giving Smith an opportunity to prove himself on a big stage.
Third-round pick Brian Winters is a solid interior lineman who might develop into a starter some day as well. But just when you thought the Jets were done making waves, they came to an agreement on a deal that will go underrated—at least until September.
As first reported by The New York Times' Judy Battista, New York was able to land running back Chris Ivory from the New Orleans Saints for a fourth-round pick. Ivory should step in and replace the departed Shonn Greene, who signed with the Titans this offseason.
But more than anything, the Ivory trade continues to signal a new era. Out with the old, in with the new. And based on the season they had in 2012, Jets fans will more than welcome these moves.
San Francisco 49ers: B+
1st Round (18): Eric Reid (S, LSU)
2nd Round (40): Cornellius "Tank" Carradine (DE, Florida State)
2nd Round (55): Vance McDonald (TE, Rice)
3rd Round (88): Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
Heading into Radio City Music Hall with the most picks of any team, the 49ers were expected to wheel and deal their way through the entire seven-round process. Through three rounds, San Francisco has done anything but disappoint.
Each of their four selections thus far has come with a trade attached. The 49ers started their draft festivities by making a leap up 18 spots in a deal with the Dallas Cowboys to take LSU safety Eric Reid. The important thing was they didn't give up a king's ransom, having only lost a third-round pick for their trouble, per ESPN's Mike Sando:
49ers gave up 31 and 74 for 18.— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@espn_nfcwest) April 26, 2013
The selection of Reid—especially at No. 18—was a little curious. Most had San Francisco pegged as a possible Sharrif Floyd destination when the team moved up, as its need for a defensive lineman seemed to create a perfect fit.
Instead, the 49ers went with Reid, who will look to replace the departed Dashon Goldson. A hard-hitting safety whose aggressiveness is palpable, the former LSU star will fit right in with a 49ers defense that loves tackling. Though Reid's work in coverage will need some work, veteran Craig Dahl's presence should help that transition.
And the Reid pick arguably looked better once the 49ers came on the clock for Round 2. Seeing little they liked at No. 34, San Francisco moved back to No. 40 in a deal with the Tennessee Titans that netted them a seventh-round pick this year and a third in 2014, per the San Jose Mercury News' Cam Inman.
Once the 40th pick came around, the 49ers pounced on a solid value in Tank Carradine. While he's just a little over four months removed from knee surgery and it's unclear when he'll be ready for full contact, Carradine might be worth the wait—especially for a team like San Francisco that can afford it. When coupled with the Lemonier selection, it's clear that management was going after underrated talent where it saw fit.
The 49ers' most questionable move of the evening came when they traded up to land Vance McDonald, a tight end from Rice. McDonald will ostensibly be a replacement for the departed Delanie Walker, who signed with Tennessee this offseason. Though he fits the bill of an impressive athlete who was productive at Rice, McDonald's hands and separation skills leave a ton to be desired.
The 49ers were playing with house money by trading up, and they didn't have to pay a hefty sum, but McDonald is a questionable second-round talent. Add that to the slight over-draft of Reid, and that's enough to pull San Francisco out of "A" territory.
San Diego Chargers: B
1st Round (11): D.J. Fluker (OT, Alabama)
2nd Round (38): Manti Te'o (LB, Notre Dame)
3rd Round (76): Keenan Allen (WR, California)
No matter whether you like the picks, hate the picks or are indifferent about them, folks at Radio City Music Hall didn't have to look very deep at the programs before recognizing the names heading to San Diego. The Chargers picked players whose production on Saturdays was hardly anything short of brilliant.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean they knocked every pick out of the park. Most notably, I'm speaking about No. 11 overall pick D.J. Fluker.
Yes, the Chargers needed an offensive tackle. But they needed a left tackle, someone who can protect the blind side of Philip Rivers, who has become battered over the past two seasons. Fluker, while he has the potential to reach Andre Smith-level heights, is a right tackle. His strength is in mauling slower rush ends and creating holes in run-blocking schemes.
It's at least noteworthy that Cyrus Kouandjio, not Fluker, played the right side at Alabama. In the hours since Fluker's selection, there has even been some talk of him playing guard for San Diego. That won't happen—at least initially, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune's Michael Gehlken:
Some talk that D.J. Fluker could move to guard in NFL. Hear Chargers plan to employ him at right tackle, his position at Alabama.— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) April 26, 2013
It wasn't necessarily a bad move for San Diego to grab the top tackle available. But Fluker was a bit of a reach considering that he plays the non-premium tackle position and may ultimately transition to guard.
Luckily, general manager Tom Telesco more than made up for the Fluker pick with his next two. The Chargers made the first major headline of Friday night by moving up to the No. 38 spot at the expense of a fourth-rounder in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals, as reported by Kent Somers of AZCentral.com:
Chargers take Te'o. Cardinals pick up a 4th rounder. Down 7 spots for a pick. good trade? Depends on who they get at 45— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) April 26, 2013
For all of the criticism of Te'o's off-the-field craziness and his slow feet at the combine, scouts could never say he was unproductive at the collegiate level. Spurring Notre Dame to a BCS National Championship Game berth as the leader of the nation's top defense, Te'o had one of the most decorated collegiate seasons in history in 2012. He finished with 11 tackles and seven interceptions en route to winning about every major defensive award possible and finishing second in the Heisman balloting.
Seeing him slip out of the first round was a major shock on Thursday, one that San Diego smartly pounced on in Round 2. Te'o should be an opening-week starter for the Chargers next season.
And if Te'o wasn't enough of a bargain, San Diego might have gotten the steal of the draft in Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen. Playing alongside awful quarterbacks for nearly his entire college career, Allen still managed to put up elite numbers. Bill Polian, who might know a thing or two about these things, compared Allen to Reggie Wayne, per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Bill Polian compared Chargers third-round pick Keenan Allen to Colts WR Reggie Wayne.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 27, 2013
Allen may never become Wayne, but a broke man's version is still a steal in the third round.