2015 NFL Draft Grades: Report Cards for All 32 GMs
Everyone in NFL-watching circles agrees: The draft is the best way to build a franchise into a contender. In fact, it's the only way.
With today's salary-cap restrictions and emphasis on young players, getting cheap talent that can contribute immediately trumps having experienced players who know the system. General managers who can get scouts looking for what their coaches want—and identify and acquire such players with good use of pick value—are going to consistently put winners on the field.
Over the three days of the 2015 NFL draft, the NFL collectively did a better-than-usual job of drafting sensibly, balancing need and value, without a lot of trades (and no blockbusters).
As much as we'd like to give NFL teams credit for drafting smarter, not harder, part of this newfound prudence was inspired by this draft class' flat and shallow talent pool.
Bleacher Report graded all 32 teams' front offices for how they executed their draft, with emphasis on fit, value and immediate impact in the first two rounds and fit and potential in later rounds. Decision-makers got higher marks for making aggressive moves or inspired choices.
A reminder: These are letter grades, and "C" is supposed to mean "average." A team with an unremarkable draft for straight need won't do much better than that. That's the beauty of the draft: Even the worst drafting team got better.
Round 1, Pick 24 (24): D.J. Humphries, Florida OT
Round 2, Pick 26 (58) (from Ravens): Markus Golden, Missouri DE
Round 3, Pick 22 (86): David Johnson, Northern Iowa RB
Round 4, Pick 17 (116) (from Browns through Texans): Rodney Gunter, Delaware State DE
Round 5, Pick 22 (158) (from Ravens through Lions): Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia DE
Round 5, Pick 23 (159): J.J. Nelson, UAB WR
Round 7, Pick 39 (256) (compensatory selection): Gerald Christian, Louisville TE
The Arizona Cardinals have needed to rebuild the offensive line for years on end, and they've been trying to since the moment head coach Bruce Arians took over. Taking a tackle this low in the first round usually means rolling the dice, but the presence of left tackle Jared Veldheer and free-agent addition of guard Mike Iupati means Humphries should be able to step in on the right.
Golden isn't a flashy player, but he fits in perfectly with the Cardinals' lunch-bucket defense. Riddick fits the profile too. David Johnson stuck out in the evaluation cycle as a small-school back with old-school size and should add a missing between-the-tackles rushing element.
Round 1, Pick 8 (8): Vic Beasley, Clemson OLB
Round 2, Pick 10 (42): Jalen Collins, LSU CB
Round 3, Pick 9 (73): Tevin Coleman, Indiana RB
Round 4, Pick 8 (107): Justin Hardy, East Carolina WR
Round 5, Pick 1 (137) (from Vikings through Buccaneers and Bills): Grady Jarrett, Clemson NT
Round 7, Pick 8 (225): Jake Rodgers, Eastern Washington OT
Round 7, Pick 32 (249) (from Patriots through Rams): Akeem King, San Jose State DB
Pass-rusher, pass-rusher, pass-rusher. It's only a small exaggeration to say former head coach Mike Smith was fired, and executive Tom Dimitroff was reassigned, because they failed to acquire an obviously needed pass-rusher in two straight offseasons.
Beasley is that pass-rusher. Off-the-charts athleticism, though, may not translate into immediate full-time production. New head coach Dan Quinn had better get a lot of sacks out of a situational No. 8 pick. Jalen Collins could eat No. 2 wide receivers alive across from Desmond Trufant.
Some analysts see a player like Tevin Coleman and project him as a better NFL committee member than he was a Big Ten feature back. To me, he is the next in a long parade of intriguing but flawed Falcons backs; it's hard to see how he solves the problem.
Grady Jarrett is a big body for a defensive line that has struggled to find a useful one, and massive tackle Jake Rodgers could develop into a swing backup.
Round 1, Pick 26 (26): Breshad Perriman, Central Florida WR
Round 2, Pick 23 (55) (from Cardinals): Maxx Williams, Minnesota TE
Round 3, Pick 26 (90): Carl Davis, Iowa DT
Round 4, Pick 23 (122) (from Lions): Za'Darius Smith, Kentucky DE
Round 4, Pick 26 (125): Javorius Allen, USC RB
Round 4, Pick 37 (136) (compensatory selection): Tray Walker, Texas Southern CB
Round 5, Pick 35 (171) (compensatory selection): Nick Boyle, Delaware TE
Round 5, Pick 40 (176) (compensatory selection): Robert Myers, Tennessee State OG
Round 6, Pick 28 (204) (from Cowboys): Darren Waller, Georgia Tech WR
Breshad Perriman has the No. 1 wideout size and speed the Ravens lost with Torrey Smith's departure—but even though Perriman's measurables might top Smith's, he's even less of a polished, complete receiver than Smith was coming out of Maryland. Perriman is a perfect fit for Joe Flacco's strengths, but he has a long way to go before he fulfills that potential.
Go ahead and put little stars and hearts around the Ravens' next three picks. Maxx Williams was, by far, the best tight end in this draft and a perfect fit for a Ravens offense that desperately missed Dennis Pitta in 2014. Even better, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, they moved up in front of the rival Steelers to take him.
Subtraction by addition!
Walker adds a little size, speed and depth in a secondary that needs all three. Even more size came in Myers, a 6'5", 326-pound guard who can mash like the Ravens love, and Waller, who at 6'6", 238 pounds could end up being a tight end.
Round 2, Pick 18 (50): Ronald Darby, Florida State CB
Round 3, Pick 17 (81): John Miller, Louisville OG
Round 5, Pick 19 (155): Karlos Williams, Florida State RB
Round 6, Pick 12 (188) (from Vikings): Tony Steward, Clemson OLB
Round 6, Pick 18 (194): Nick O'Leary, Florida State TE
Round 7, Pick 17 (234): Dezmin Lewis, Central Arkansas WR
The Bills, who lacked a first-rounder because of the crazy Sammy Watkins trade of 2014, took one of the draft's best athletes in Ronald Darby. They didn't have much need for a corner, but new head coach Rex Ryan loves fluid athletes with great recovery speed at that spot. Darby is a mismatch against slot receivers and should challenge for an outside spot sooner rather than later.
Miller, the third of 10 Louisville players off the board, brings a road-grading punch to the Bills offensive line—one that has been lacking for a long, long time.
Then, apparently just for fun, general manager Doug Whaley added two more Florida State Seminoles—Williams and O'Leary, the latter of whom has standout hands.
Darby could be a great player, but the lack of a first-rounder and a dearth of urgency in either drafting for the future or meeting needs was uninspiring.
Round 1, Pick 25 (25): Shaq Thompson, Washington OLB
Round 2, Pick 9 (41) (from Rams): Devin Funchess, Michigan WR
Round 4, Pick 3 (102) (from Raiders): Daryl Williams, Oklahoma OG
Round 5, Pick 33 (169) (compensatory selection): David Mayo, Texas State LB
Round 5, Pick 38 (174) (compensatory selection): Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn RB
It's only fitting that Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, as the NFL's 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year, announced the selection of Thompson. He is practically a Mini-Me version of Davis, with a little more speed and a similar 'tweener's conundrum. A fantastic playmaker whom head coach Ron Rivera will find many ways to use, he was high on everyone's board until his pedestrian combine performance.
Once the pads go on, no one will doubt this pick.
Funchess gives the Panthers a trio of pass-catchers all 6'4" or taller, giving them another weapon in the height arms race. Questions about his ability to separate, concentrate and make the easy catches make him a lesser copy of, rather than a natural complement to, Kelvin Benjamin.
Williams is a big, strong flex guard/tackle prospect who can restore some of the attitude to the Panthers' run game. The question is, can he protect quarterback Cam Newton? Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman gave up a lot of value to get Williams, so the answer had better be yes.
Round 1, Pick 7 (7): Kevin White, West Virginia WR
Round 2, Pick 7 (39): Eddie Goldman, Florida State DT
Round 3, Pick 7 (71): Hroniss Grasu, Oregon C
Round 4, Pick 7 (106): Jeremy Langford, Michigan State RB
Round 5, Pick 6 (142) (from Jets): Adrian Amos, Penn State FS
Round 6, Pick 7 (183): Tayo Fabuluje, TCU OT
Goldman adds beef to a defensive line that suffered the loss of Stephen Paea—Goldman doesn't have Paea's upfield motor, but he'll hold the line. Grasu is a fine addition to a fine and young offensive line.
The Bears have relied a huge amount—a foolhardy amount—on the versatility and durability of tailback Matt Forte. Langford has similar tools, frame and vision and maybe a little more speed to the outside. He showed a more NFL-ready skill set than Le'Veon Bell while both were at Michigan State. Great value, great fit.
Round 1, Pick 21 (21): Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M OT
Round 2, Pick 21 (53): Jake Fisher, Oregon OT
Round 3, Pick 21 (85): Tyler Kroft, Rutgers TE
Round 3, Pick 35 (99) (compensatory selection): Paul Dawson, TCU ILB
Round 4, Pick 21 (120): Josh Shaw, USC CB
Round 4, Pick 36 (135) (compensatory selection): Marcus Hardison, Arizona State DE
Round 5, Pick 21 (157): C.J. Uzomah, Auburn TE
Round 6, Pick 21 (197): Derron Smith, Fresno State FS
Round 7, Pick 21 (238): Mario Alford, West Virginia WR
Whatever else the Bengals have and have not done well in the Marvin Lewis era, they've drafted offensive linemen early, often and well. After steps back from both left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher will challenge for time early (once Ogbuehi is healthy) and often.
Tyler Kroft adds yet another promising tight end to the Bengals' tight end logjam—but for a defense that desperately needed an edge-rusher, they passed on a lot of help to restock a position of strength. Come to think of it, the same is true of the tackles.
Paul Dawson, like many of the TCU Horned Frogs, had a disappointing evaluation cycle, but he's an instinctive player who will help a thinning, aging Bengals linebacker corps. No slight intended to Shaw, but he's on the bottom of a stacked depth chart for now.
Hardison ticks the pass-rusher box, but it's hard to see him being an instant difference-maker. The Bengals decision-makers had nine picks, four in the first three rounds, and got maybe zero Week 1 starters. Drafting to anticipate needs is smart, but ignoring current needs almost entirely on a team desperately trying to take the next step is not.
Round 1, Pick 12 (12): Danny Shelton, Washington NT
Round 1, Pick 19 (19) (from Bills): Cameron Erving, Florida State C
Round 2, Pick 19 (51) (from Texans): Nate Orchard, Utah DE
Round 3, Pick 13 (77): Duke Johnson, Miami RB
Round 3, Pick 32 (96) (from Patriots): Xavier Cooper, Washington State DT
Round 4, Pick 16 (115) (from Bills): Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern SS
Round 4, Pick 24 (123) (from Cardinals): Vince Mayle, Washington State WR
Round 6, Pick 13 (189): Charles Gaines, Louisville CB
Round 6, Pick 19 (195) (from Texans): Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State TE
Round 6, Pick 22 (198) (from Cardinals): Randall Telfer, USC TE
Round 7, Pick 2 (219) (from Patriots through Titans): Hayes Pullard, USC ILB
Round 7, Pick 24 (241) (from Cardinals): Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon CB
It's awfully hard to fail to get better when you have two first-rounders, five picks in the first three rounds and 12 overall. Browns general manager Ray Farmer did much better, though, than not fail.
Shelton should provide a massive impact right out of the block after the loss of nose tackle Phil Taylor (knee) imploded the Browns run defense in 2014. Erving is a huge upgrade at guard today and insurance against Alex Mack's eventual free-agent departure later. Orchard is the anti-Barkevious Mingo: an instinctive, polished pass-rusher with relentless motor.
Duke Johnson will be a flashy addition to the Browns' tailback committee; taking "luxury picks" is an ideal way to maximize a glut of selections. Cooper is another big defensive lineman that head coach Mike Pettine will find ways to deploy.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, to cap it all off, is a second-round talent who was available at the end of the draft due to injury. He's a perfect fit for the Browns' nickel role and an incredible talent no matter where he lines up.
Round 1, Pick 27 (27): Byron Jones, Connecticut CB
Round 2, Pick 28 (60): Randy Gregory, Nebraska OLB
Round 3, Pick 27 (91): Chaz Green, Florida OT
Round 4, Pick 28 (127): Damien Wilson, Minnesota ILB
Round 5, Pick 27 (163): Ryan Russell, Purdue DE
Round 7, Pick 19 (236) (from Chargers): Mark Nzeocha, OLB Wyoming
Round 7, Pick 26 (243) (from Ravens): Laurence Gibson, Virginia Tech OT
Round 7, Pick 26 (243) (from Ravens): Geoff Swaim, Texas TE
Byron Jones adds sparkling athletic talent to the Cowboys secondary, but, as I wrote for Bleacher Report, the gap between his measurables and production is significant.
If I were in an NFL front office, Randy Gregory would not be on my board. Drug tests and personality aside, he's too far too slight to rush the passer as a Tampa 2 defensive end—and he may not even be able to maintain that weight, let alone get bigger. The Cowboys seem to be assembling an all-red-flag team, and that's not a good thing.
Green is another fine plug-in addition to the beefy young offensive line, and Wilson is an OK need pick.
Round 1, Pick 23 (23) (from Lions): Shane Ray, Missouri DE
Round 2, Pick 27 (59): Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State OT
Round 3, Pick 28 (92): Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State TE
Round 4, Pick 34 (133) (compensatory selection): Max Garcia, Florida C
Round 5, Pick 28 (164): Lorenzo Doss, Tulane CB
Round 6, Pick 27 (203): Darius Kilgo, Maryland NT
Round 7, Pick 33 (250) (compensatory selection): Trevor Siemian, Northwestern QB
Round 7, Pick 34 (251) (compensatory selection): Taurean Nixon, Tulane CB
Round 7, Pick 35 (252) (compensatory selection): Josh Furman, Oklahoma State DB
A tiny amount of marijuana at the worst possible time cost Ray millions—and gave the Broncos an opportunity to get DeMarcus Ware's replacement at an enormous discount. Giving up two fifth-round picks and lineman Manny Ramirez to move up to No. 23 overall, the Broncos got a talented pass-rusher at an incredibly low spot. They just have to hope he makes better choices going forward.
The Broncos know the straw that stirs their drink. In a draft full of "right tackle only" mashers, they got a lean, fitness-oriented pass protector in Sambrailo. If he develops into a starting left tackle from the 59th overall pick, that's a home run.
Versatile interior lineman Max Garcia should help replace Ramirez.
Round 1, Pick 28 (28) (from Broncos): Laken Tomlinson, Duke OG
Round 2, Pick 22 (54): Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska RB
Round 3, Pick 16 (80) (from Vikings through Chiefs): Alex Carter, Stanford CB
Round 4, Pick 14 (113) (from Eagles through 49ers and Bills): Gabe Wright, Auburn DT
Round 5, Pick 32 (168) (from Buccaneers through Patriots): Michael Burton, Rutgers FB
Round 6, Pick 24 (200): Quandre Diggs, Texas CB
Round 7, Pick 23 (240): Corey Robinson, South Carolina OT
Every football fan watching the draft wondered what the Lions were doing reaching for a guard with the No. 28 overall pick. Then they heard Tomlinson's inspirational story, and they all wanted the world's biggest future neurosurgeon on their team. Tomlinson, second-year center Travis Swanson, third-year guard Larry Warford and veteran swing guard/center Manny Ramirez—acquired in the trade down to 28—form an imposing interior line.
Not only will they help keep quarterback Matthew Stafford clean, they'll open holes for Abdullah, who ran behind Tomlinson at the Senior Bowl. Abdullah should give the Lions the explosive, versatile back they never quite had in Reggie Bush.
Carter roomed with the son of Lions legend Barry Sanders at Stanford, and his father Tom played with Lions general manager Martin Mayhew. All nepotism aside, he fits well in the Lions' scheme and has time to learn behind aging Rashean Mathis.
Wright is a need pick who might be underwhelming if forced to start his rookie season. Waiting this long for a defensive tackle when they lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley was a big gamble (even though they added Haloti Ngata).
Diggs and Robinson are both overlooked potential contributors who slot into immediate team needs.
Green Bay Packers
Round 1, Pick 30 (30): Damarious Randall, Arizona State FS
Round 2, Pick 30 (62): Quinten Rollins, Miami (OH) CB
Round 3, Pick 30 (94): Ty Montgomery, Stanford WR
Round 4, Pick 30 (129): Jake Ryan, Michigan OLB
Round 5, Pick 11 (147) (from Patriots through Browns): Brett Hundley, UCLA QB
Round 6, Pick 30 (206): Aaron Ripowski, Oklahoma FB
Round 6, Pick 34 (210) (compensatory selection): Christian Ringo, Louisiana-Lafayette DE
Round 6, Pick 37 (213) (compensatory selection): Kennard Backman, UAB TE
There's no question Randall fits a need. For the second straight year, Packers general manager Ted Thompson has added a coverage safety to help keep opposing quarterbacks from keeping up with Aaron Rodgers. He may be a reach—maybe not even the best flex coverage safety on the board—but he's a fit.
Then, Green Bay doubled down. Between Rollins and Randall, Thompson may have plugged all the holes in the secondary. Montgomery is a great fit for the Packers offense and will benefit from the extensive bench time he'll see in 2015.
If Clay Matthews is sriracha sauce, Jake Ryan is boneless skinless chicken breast. Together, they'll cover inside and outside linebacker as situations and matchups demand. Ryan was unremarkably competent at Michigan, and the team will need him to be the same thing in the pros.
Brett Hundley is a great value pick for the Packers, and he is well-positioned for a Matt Flynn-style undeserved payday in four years.
Round 1, Pick 16 (16): Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest CB
Round 2, Pick 11 (43) (from Browns): Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State ILB
Round 3, Pick 6 (70) (from Jets): Jaelen Strong, Arizona State WR
Round 5, Pick 39 (175) (compensatory selection): Keith Mumphery, Michigan State WR
Round 6, Pick 35 (211) (compensatory selection): Reshard Cliett, South Florida OLB
Round 6, Pick 40 (216) (compensatory selection): Christian Covington, Rice DE
Round 7, Pick 18 (235): Kenny Hilliard, LSU RB
All of the evaluators who value film and football IQ must value Kevin Johnson highly. Incredibly smart, instinctive and versatile, he makes the Texans better right away.
With the team perhaps seeing the beginning of the end for oft-injured, oft-suspended linebacker Brian Cushing, McKinney adds run-stuffing thump the Texans needed in 2014.
With franchise icon Andre Johnson gone to Indianapolis, Houston took back-to-back big receivers to start the third day. Jaelen Strong has the athleticism Mumphery lacks, but Mumphery has a little polish to his game.
Sixth-round defensive end Christian Covington is the son of the CFL's all-time sack leader, Grover Covington, and his first step is fantastic for his size. He's a good-character kid.
Round 1, Pick 29 (29): Phillip Dorsett, Miami WR
Round 3, Pick 1 (65) (from Buccaneers): D'Joun Smith, Florida Atlantic CB
Round 3, Pick 29 (93): Henry Anderson, Stanford DE
Round 4, Pick 10 (109) (from Buccaneers through Rams): Clayton Geathers, Central Florida SS
Round 5, Pick 15 (151) (from 49ers): David Parry, Stanford NT
Round 6, Pick 29 (205): Josh Robinson, Mississippi State RB
Round 6, Pick 31 (207) (from Seahawks): Amarlo Herrera, Georgia ILB
Round 7, Pick 38 (255) (compensatory selection): Denzell Goode, Mars Hill
Talk about boom-or-bust. The lightning-quick Dorsett added yet another receiving option to the Colts' now-loaded pass-catching group. General manager Ryan Grigson added even more speed—this time on the other side of the ball—with Smith. Pro Bowl corner Vontae Davis and partner-in-crime Greg Toler did a number on opposing wideouts last fall; in a league where nickelbacks are starters, it's hard to argue value at the top of the third.
Pass-rusher, the Colts' great bugaboo, gets another potential savior in Stanford's Henry Anderson. Pairing him with the guy who ate blocks for him in college, Parry, is a smart team-building move.
Overall, this class comes down to (A) whether you think Dorsett will be good and (B) whether he makes the Colts a lot better. The former seems to be true, but the latter not so much.
Round 1, Pick 3 (3): Dante Fowler Jr., Florida OLB
Round 2, Pick 4 (36): T.J. Yeldon, Alabama RB
Round 3, Pick 3 (67): A.J. Cann, South Carolina OG
Round 4, Pick 5 (104) (from Jets): James Sample, Louisville SS
Round 5, Pick 3 (139): Rashad Greene, Florida State WR
Round 6, Pick 4 (180): Michael Bennett, Ohio State DT
Round 7, Pick 3 (220): Neal Sterling, Monmouth (NJ) WR
Round 7, Pick 12 (229) (from Jets through Texans and Browns): Ben Koyack, Notre Dame TE
Fowler was the most obvious fit in the draft. A blazing fast pass-rusher with legit three-down size, he's an ideal focal point for coach Gus Bradley's defense.
T.J. Yeldon was productive at Alabama despite sharing carries with plenty of other talented backs. Of course, we say that about all of Nick Saban's talented backs, and none seem to pan out. Yeldon has more natural athleticism than Toby Gerhart, but that is not a resounding endorsement. There's a large range of possible outcomes with this pick.
General manager David Caldwell smartly increased the odds of getting the best out of his second-round pick with his third: Cann, a versatile interior lineman who can help the Jaguars right away. Greene, unfortunately, adds yet another interestingly talented, flawed-but-with-upside receiver to a depth chart groaning under the weight of them. Meanwhile, Bennett is an outstanding value whom Bradley should coax into quick contribution.
Both Sterling and Koyack are intriguing pass-catchers who could develop into nice options for quarterback Blake Bortles.
Kansas City Chiefs
Round 1, Pick 18 (18): Marcus Peters, Washington CB
Round 2, Pick 17 (49): Mitch Morse, Missouri OG
Round 3, Pick 12 (76) (from Vikings): Chris Conley, Georgia WR
Round 3, Pick 34 (98) (compensatory selection): Steven Nelson, Oregon State CB
Round 4, Pick 19 (118): Ramik Wilson, Georgia ILB
Round 5, Pick 36 (172) (compensatory selection): D.J. Alexander, Oregon State OLB
Round 5, Pick 37 (173) (compensatory selection): James O'Shaughnessy, Illinois State TE
Round 6, Pick 41 (217) (compensatory selection): Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Southern Miss DT
Round 7, Pick 16 (233): Da'Ron Brown, Northern Illinois WR
If you're OK with Marcus Peters as a person, there's nothing not to love about him as a cornerback prospect—and it's possible the Chiefs got the best corner in the draft all the way down at No. 18 overall. It's a great value and a great fit.
Replenishing an offensive line that's seen many free-agent defections and a notable draft bust during the Andy Reid era, Morse will get inside and mash holes for Jamaal Charles.
Georgia's Chris Conley, one of my favorite players in the draft, is an intelligent, creative, thoughtful kid with stunning measurables. Reid loves to unleash freaky talents like Conley, and he may do better at Kansas City than he did at Georgia.
General manager John Dorsey spent the next three picks adding interesting prospects to the depth chart of the back seven and then snagged an athletic tight end in O'Shaughnessy, who can back up budding star Travis Kelce.
Round 1, Pick 14 (14): DeVante Parker, Louisville WR
Round 2, Pick 20 (52) (from Eagles): Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma NT
Round 4, Pick 15 (114): Jamil Douglas, Arizona State OG
Round 5, Pick 9 (145) (from Eagles through Rams): Bobby McCain, Memphis CB
Round 5, Pick 13 (149) (from Vikings): Jay Ajayi, Boise State RB
Round 5, Pick 14 (150): Cedric Thompson, Minnesota FS
Round 5, Pick 20 (156) (from Eagles): Tony Lippett, Michigan State WR
This is what desperation to win looks like.
Moving around to stock up on talent that can help them immediately, the Dolphins replaced their dismissed wideouts with the last of the three top receivers (Parker), a sliding big body who can replace Randy Starks (Phillips) and a guard who can continue the rebuilding effort on the offensive line (Douglas).
McCain and Ajayi are swings for the fences: a cornerback with a lot of upside and a clearly talented tailback with a scary knee issue. Lippett was a two-way player in college with the size and hands to be a solid depth option at receiver or corner.
The Dolphins knew what they needed and got it. This "shopping list" draft could get them into the playoffs this year or inspire eye rolls in three years.
Round 1, Pick 11 (11): Trae Waynes, Michigan State CB
Round 2, Pick 13 (45): Eric Kendricks, UCLA ILB
Round 3, Pick 24 (88) (from Lions): Danielle Hunter, LSU DE
Round 4, Pick 11 (110): T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh OT
Round 5, Pick 7 (143) (from Lions through Broncos and Bears): MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois TE
Round 5, Pick 10 (146) (from Falcons): Stefon Diggs, Maryland WR
Round 6, Pick 9 (185) (from Falcons): Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma OT
Round 6, Pick 17 (193) (from Chiefs): B.J. Dubose, Louisville DE
Round 7, Pick 11 (228): Austin Shepherd, Alabama OT
Round 7, Pick 15 (232) (from 49ers through Dolphins): Edmund Robinson, Newberry OLB
Trae Waynes is a fantastic athlete who played press-man coverage well in Michigan State's quarters-based defense. However, he wasn't asked to do much other than play press-man coverage in quarters. The Vikings need him to do everything right, right away—and his eye-popping combine numbers might have pumped up expectations. He has the natural talent to meet them, but No. 11 is a high slot for him.
Kendricks, the once-and-future teammate of fire-breathing outside linebacker Anthony Barr, could be the answer the Vikings have lacked in the middle since the retirement of E.J. Henderson.
Clemmings will be on every "steal of the draft" short list; he's a first-round left tackle who is fighting a stress fracture. If he's good to go moving forward, he will quickly replace struggling Matt Kalil; you simply don't get starting left tackles in the fourth. However, there's a reason I said "if" and a reason Clemmings was there in the fourth to take.
The lean, clean Diggs is intriguing as a possible replacement for Greg Jennings, as well as a potential returner.
New England Patriots
Round 1, Pick 32 (32): Malcom Brown, Texas DT
Round 2, Pick 32 (64): Jordan Richards, Stanford SS
Round 3, Pick 33 (97) (compensatory selection): Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma DE
Round 4, Pick 2 (101) (from Buccaneers): Trey Flowers, Arkansas DE
Round 4, Pick 12 (111) (from Browns): Tre' Jackson, Florida State OG
Round 4, Pick 32 (131): Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech C
Round 5, Pick 30 (166) (from Packers): Joe Cardona, Navy LS
Round 6, Pick 2 (178) (from Buccaneers): Matthew Wells, Mississippi State LB
Round 6, Pick 26 (202) (from Browns through Ravens): A.J. Derby, Arkansas TE
Round 7, Pick 30 (247) (from Packers): Darryl Roberts, Marshall CB
Round 7, Pick 36 (253) (compensatory selection): Xzavier Dickson, Alabama OLB
OK, look: The Patriots are the Duke of the NFL. Much like Duke's recruits automatically earn anticipatory honors just for being Duke recruits, sometimes the Patriots get great draft grades because every pick is certified as being made by the Patriots and therefore automatically smart.
Malcom Brown is a legitimately great pick, especially at No. 32. The Patriots have a crying need for athleticism—not necessarily speed but athleticism—and he has it.
Richards is a little more of the former, a guy the world declares a good pick because the Patriots must know something no one else does (or because we know the Patriots coaches will use him appropriately).
Grissom is another perfect fit for the depleted Patriots front seven. He's perhaps a man without a clear position, but Bill Belichick will simply use him wherever he works best. Flowers isn't as versatile as Grissom but again meets that need for beef up front.
Back-to-back interior line picks make sense at the bottom of the fourth round. Both Jackson and Mason are mashers who can develop into more. In the sixth round, Derby, a quarterback-turned-tight-end, is the quintessential Patriots prospect.
New Orleans Saints
Round 1, Pick 13 (13): Andrus Peat, Stanford OT
Round 1, Pick 31 (31) (from Seahawks): Stephone Anthony, Clemson ILB
Round 2, Pick 12 (44): Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington OLB
Round 3, Pick 11 (75): Garrett Grayson, Colorado State QB
Round 3, Pick 14 (78) (from Dolphins): P.J. Williams, Florida State CB
Round 5, Pick 12 (148): Davis Tull, Tennessee-Chattanooga OLB
Round 5, Pick 18 (154) (from Chiefs): Tyeler Davison, Fresno State DT
Round 5, Pick 31 (167) (from Redskins through Seahawks): Damian Swann, Georgia CB
Round 7, Pick 13 (230): Marcus Murphy, Missouri RB
This is what happens when you know what you want and have a plan. The Saints traded for center Max Unger and drafted tackle Andrus Peat in the first round. They're going to have one of the biggest, most talented lines in the NFL in 2015, all the better to protect an aging Drew Brees—and his possible successor, Grayson.
The first of the non-blue-chip quarterbacks off the board, Grayson will have at least a year to develop under Payton and Brees. If he can assume the throne when Brees steps down (or perhaps poison the King of New Orleans' wine), Grayson will be incredible value here.
The rest of the draft was dedicated to getting defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talented, hard-nosed football players, and for good reason. The soft Saints defense couldn't do anything right last season; the reinforcements to the run defense, pass rush and pass coverage were desperately needed.
Kikaha is a tremendous pass-rusher. He didn't post tremendous test numbers, but he had tremendous production.
New York Giants
Round 1, Pick 9 (9): Ereck Flowers, Miami OG
Round 2, Pick 1 (33) (from Titans): Landon Collins, Alabama SS
Round 3, Pick 10 (74): Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA DE
Round 5, Pick 8 (144): Mykkele Thompson, Texas S
Round 6, Pick 10 (186): Geremy Davis, Connecticut WR
Round 7, Pick 9 (226): Bobby Hart, Florida State OG
Ereck Flowers is not athletic, technical or polished enough to protect the passer in the NFL, and that is a fatal flaw for a tackle—no matter which side of the line he anchors.
Drafting him No. 9 overall was a massive reach, even (and perhaps especially) if the Giants expect him to play guard. There were better offensive linemen available who would help more in 2015, and expecting him to develop into an eventual left tackle is a disappointment in the making.
Giving up a ton of value to trade up for Collins makes sense given Antrel Rolle's departure to Chicago, but he's a second straight reach for need. Odighizuwa again fits a need, though assuming he stays healthy he'd be a value pick rather than a reach.
On NFL Network, Charlie Casserly lauded the Giants for getting three immediate contributors. Drafts, though, shouldn't be graded on how thin your roster currently is. They should be graded first on whether you got long-term difference-makers, and second on whether you got value.
The Giants didn't do either.
New York Jets
Round 1, Pick 6 (6): Leonard Williams, USC DE
Round 2, Pick 5 (37): Devin Smith, Ohio State WR
Round 3, Pick 18 (82) (from Texans): Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville OLB
Round 4, Pick 4 (103) (from Jaguars): Bryce Petty, Baylor QB
Round 5, Pick 16 (152) (from Texans): Jarvis Harrison, Texas A&M OG
Round 7, Pick 6 (223): Deon Brown, Northwestern State (LA) NT
The Jets got the best football player in the draft at No. 6 overall, and he happens to be a perfect fit for everything they want to do.
OK, yeah: That makes four first-round picks spent on defensive linemen in five years. Yes, they'll have to deal with the logjam somehow and may have to trade for more offensive help to justify this pick. But you don't pass at Calvin Johnson because you drafted Mike Williams, and you don't pass on Leonard Williams because you drafted Quinton Coples.
The Jets knew they had to come out of this draft with a playmaker, though, and though they had to pass on Kevin White to take Williams, they snagged Smith at the top of the second round. It'll be interesting to see whether the Jets' top two picks from this draft beat out the Chicago Bears' (White and Eddie Goldman).
Harrison is a desperately needed influx of youth on the offensive line.
But buried deep in the middle there? Bryce Petty, one of the best-of-the-rest quarterbacks who some were talking about as potential late climber. Instead, the Jets maneuvered into place to get him near the top of the fourth round. He's not only an excellent value but pushes and covers for third-year man Geno Smith.
Though Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the Jets' best quarterback this season, who's starting under center in 2016 and beyond—and who's traded for whatever can be gotten—could be determined this training camp.
Round 1, Pick 4 (4): Amari Cooper, Alabama WR
Round 2, Pick 3 (35): Mario Edwards, Jr., Florida State DT
Round 3, Pick 4 (68): Clive Walford, Miami TE
Round 4, Pick 29 (128) (from Buccaneers through Colts): Jon Feliciano, Miami OG
Round 5, Pick 4 (140): Ben Heeney, Kansas ILB
Round 5, Pick 25 (161) (from Panthers): Neiron Ball, Florida OLB
Round 6, Pick 3 (179): Max Valles, Virginia OLB
Round 7, Pick 1 (218) (from Buccaneers): Anthony Morris, Tennessee State OL
Round 7, Pick 4 (221): Andre Debose, Florida WR
Round 7, Pick 25 (242) (from Panthers): Dexter McDonald, Kansas CB
Hold onto your butts: The Raiders made a smart, sensible first-round pick again this year. After Khalil Mack set opposing offenses on fire in 2014, Amari Cooper is going to burn opposing defenses deep—and big-armed sophomore Derek Carr will finally be able to rear back and let fly.
Going for the polished, pro-ready prospect, rather than the freaky athlete with less impressive tape, is a breathtaking sign of positive change in Oakland.
Priority No. 1 for the Raiders defense had to be getting some size and power on the defensive line to take blockers off Mack (and maybe even generate some of its own heat). Edwards has the frame and talent to do it; whether new head coach Jack Del Rio can get consistent effort out of him is an open question.
It's tough to see Walford eclipsing Mychal Rivera for reps and targets right off the bat, and Feliciano and the three linebackers are all depth/development picks (at areas where the Raiders, admittedly, need depth players who can develop).
Round 1, Pick 20 (20): Nelson Agholor, USC WR
Round 2, Pick 15 (47) (from Dolphins): Eric Rowe, Utah CB
Round 3, Pick 20 (84): Jordan Hicks, Texas OLB
Round 6, Pick 15 (191) (from Dolphins): JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas CB
Round 6, Pick 20 (196): Randall Evans, Kansas State CB
Round 7, Pick 20 (237): Brian Mihalik, Boston College DE
Agholor is tall without being freaky big and fast without being freaky fast. He's a polished route-runner and a fine complement to young Jordan Matthews, on whom the Eagles will rely. However, he's not (yet) Jeremy Maclin, and Matthews sure isn't DeSean Jackson.
Unless Agholor stuns everyone and plays like one of the marquee receivers in this draft, Kelly's decision to twice let an established star wideout walk and burn his first-rounder on a rookie to replace him will rightly be questioned.
On the other side of the scale, Rowe is a perfect fit for what the Eagles need in the secondary and an outstanding value at No. 47 overall. A flex corner/safety who could have been taken at the bottom of the first, Rowe's contributions will be felt right away.
More reinforcements for the defensive backs came in Round 6 with Shepherd. Almost the opposite of pricey free agent Byron Maxwell, Shepherd could push for time in a threadbare Eagles secondary.
Round 1, Pick 22 (22): Bud Dupree, Kentucky OLB
Round 2, Pick 24 (56): Senquez Golson, Mississippi CB
Round 3, Pick 23 (87): Sammie Coates, Auburn WR
Round 4, Pick 22 (121): Doran Grant, Ohio State CB
Round 5, Pick 24 (160): Jesse James, Penn State TE
Round 6, Pick 23 (199): Leterrius Walton, Central Michigan DT
Round 6, Pick 36 (212) (compensatory selection): Anthony Chickillo, Louisville FS
Round 7, Pick 22 (239): Gerod Holliman, Louisville S
After last season's track-meet iteration of the Pittsburgh offense put up pinball numbers, the Steelers aren't just doubling down with Coates—they're adding freakish measurables to the other side of the roster.
Dupree projects to be an awesome pass-rusher based on his frame and speed. Hopefully, he can make up for the surprise retirement of Jason Worilds and the flameout of Jarvis Jones. Golson and Grant fill desperate needs on a Steelers secondary that was old enough to be getting AARP magazines delivered to the locker room.
Coates is an out-and-out burner who'll fit right in with the Steelers' 4x100 relay team, and James is a big fella who will get better. Walton and Chickillo have the bodies to eventually contribute on the defensive line.
Unless Holliman steps onto the field and makes Steelers fans forget about Troy Polamalu, general manager Kevin Colbert may rue waiting until the seventh round to address the safety position.
San Diego Chargers
Round 1, Pick 15 (15) (from 49ers): Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin RB
Round 2, Pick 16 (48): Denzel Perryman, Miami ILB
Round 3, Pick 19 (83): Craig Mager, Texas State CB
Round 5, Pick 17 (153): Kyle Emanuel, North Dakota State OLB
Round 6, Pick 16 (192): Darius Philon, Arkansas DT
In Gordon, the Chargers hope they'll finally have the full-time services of an every-down back like the one they drafted in 2011. Ryan Mathews could do everything well except stay healthy and hold onto the football. Gordon should be able to carry the load and take a healthy diet of catches, like Mathews never could.
If the blocking holds up, the Chargers offense just got much harder to defend.
Denzel Perryman is the explosive run-stuffer, emotional leader and instinctive playmaker the Chargers thought they were drafting in Manti Te'o. The two of them together could be effective.
At 6'3", 255 pounds, Emanuel comes from a small school—but he has the size and suddenness to become a key cog in the Chargers' scheme.
If Gordon is a stud, this draft class could look great. If not, giving up the value to move up for Gordon turned it into an unremarkable five-pick need draft.
San Francisco 49ers
Round 1, Pick 17 (17) (from Chargers): Arik Armstead, Oregon DT
Round 2, Pick 14 (46): Jaquiski Tartt, Samford SS
Round 3, Pick 15 (79): Eli Harold, Virginia OLB
Round 4, Pick 18 (117) (from Chargers): Blake Bell, Oklahoma TE
Round 4, Pick 27 (126) (from Broncos): Mike Davis, South Carolina RB
Round 4, Pick 33 (132) (compensatory selection): DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech WR
Round 5, Pick 29 (165) (from Colts): Bradley Pinion, Clemson P
Round 6, Pick 14 (190): Ian Silberman, Boston College OG
Round 7, Pick 27 (244) (from Colts through Cowboys): Trenton Brown, Florida OG
Round 7, Pick 37 (254) (compensatory selection): Rory Anderson, South Carolina TE
It's wise to move down when there aren't any players you're in love with left on the board, and the San Francisco 49ers traded down. The problem is, they didn't end up with anyone I'm in love with.
Armstead should be a better prospect than he is. Size, he has. Athleticism, kinda-sorta. Production, not at all. It's easy to see him contributing along the 49ers defensive front, but it's hard to see him ever becoming a replacement for Justin Smith.
Tartt fits in along the line of physical 49ers defensive backs who don't have elite change-of-direction or deep coverage skill. It's worked for them in the past. Harold, too, looks like he'll fit right in with head coach Jim Tomsula's approach.
The 49ers had a bevy of third-day picks, all of whom fit depth needs and recent 49ers molds...but Pinion? They have one of the best punters in the business in Andy Lee, and a fifth-round punter absolutely must be an unquestioned solution to a major problem.
The Armstead pick doesn't just fail to fill a need—it's a first-round pick spent at a need position but on a player who won't help. It drags the whole group down.
Round 2, Pick 31 (63): Frank Clark, Michigan DE
Round 3, Pick 5 (69) (from Redskins): Tyler Lockett, Kansas State WR
Round 4, Pick 31 (130): Terry Poole, San Diego State OG
Round 4, Pick 35 (134) (compensatory selection): Mark Glowinski, West Virginia OG
Round 5, Pick 34 (170) (compensatory selection): Tye Smith, Towson CB
Round 6, Pick 33 (209) (compensatory selection): Obum Gwacham, Oregon State DE
Round 6, Pick 38 (214) (compensatory selection): Kristjan Sokoli, Buffalo DT
Round 7, Pick 31 (248): Ryan Murphy, Oregon State DB
This Seahawks, lacking a first-round pick, went and wasted their second-rounder. Clark didn't make sense this high even without character concerns, and he has major ones.
Lockett adds the searing speed and dynamic return ability the Seahawks have needed since trading away Percy Harvin—heck, since before they traded for Harvin, who barely played for them.
The Seahawks offensive line wasn't great—and then they traded away Pro Bowl center Max Unger. Poole and Glowinski replenish the depth in the interior but may not fill the hold. Smith is a classic Seahawks-shaped cornerback at 6'0", 195 pounds; you have to believe we'll hear his name in a season or two.
Gwacham, Sokoli and Murphy are all raw athletes who fit the size/speed theme of the rest of the class. If they can get onto the Seahawks' championship-caliber roster, they could develop quickly.
St. Louis Rams
Round 1, Pick 10 (10): Todd Gurley, Georgia RB
Round 2, Pick 25 (57) (from Panthers): Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin OT
Round 3, Pick 8 (72): Jamon Brown, Louisville OT
Round 3, Pick 25 (89) (from Panthers): Sean Mannion, Oregon State QB
Round 4, Pick 20 (119) (from Eagles): Andrew Donnal, Iowa OT
Round 6, Pick 25 (201) (from Panthers): Bud Sasser, Missouri WR
Round 6, Pick 39 (215) (compensatory selection): Cody Wichmann, Fresno State OG
Round 7, Pick 7 (224): Bryce Hager, Baylor ILB
Round 7, Pick 10 (227): Martin Ifedi, Memphis DE
The Rams surprised everyone by going all-in on a workhorse back for the first time since they drafted Steven Jackson. Gurley is the best feature back prospect in the class, and he instantly makes life easier for Nick Foles and what might be the least impressive receiver corps in the NFL.
Well, if he has any room to run. No team has blown more draft value on offensive linemen since the 2002 expansion, and yet the Rams have one of the least powerful lines in football.
Havenstein is a massive, country-strong offensive lineman with a goofy build. If he can put it all together, he'll be a fine right tackle, but he might always struggle in pass protection. Brown and Donnal add more quality depth for now and might push for more time in the near future.
Mannion is nearly everyone's biggest reach, a low-ceiling guy who could have been had well into the draft's third day.
The investment in the running game was wise, but Gurley had better be healthy and productive immediately.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 1, Pick 1 (1): Jameis Winston, Florida State QB
Round 2, Pick 2 (34): Donovan Smith, Penn State OT
Round 2, Pick 29 (61) (from Colts): Ali Marpet, Hobart & William Smith C
Round 4, Pick 25 (124) (from Raiders through Panthers): Kwon Alexander, LSU LB
Round 5, Pick 26 (162) (from Ravens): Kenny Bell, Nebraska WR
Round 6, Pick 8 (184) (from Rams): Kaelin Clay, Utah WR
Round 7, Pick 14 (231) (from Lions through Dolphins and Ravens): Joey Iosefa, Hawaii FB
Winston is not a bulletproof quarterback prospect on the field, and he's a potential nightmare off it. Drafting him No. 1 overall and making him the face of the Buccaneers franchise backfired immediately, with Winston posing for an Instragram picture of himself eating crab legs in a Buccaneers jersey and hat.
Maturity, decision-making, self-awareness...all lacking. The Bucs have to hope he grows up quickly.
The Bucs wisely invested in two straight second-round offensive linemen, but Smith has a lot of questions about his ability to pass protect, and as a D-III player Marpet has never truly gone against NFL competition. If both pan out, though, they'll hold down the fort together for a decade.
Alexander doesn't fit an immediate need, but the addition of sleeper Kenny Bell makes a lot of sense in Tampa's height-obsessed receiver corps.
Round 1, Pick 2 (2): Marcus Mariota, Oregon QB
Round 2, Pick 8 (40) (from Giants): Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri WR
Round 3, Pick 2 (66): Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah OG
Round 4, Pick 1 (100): Angelo Blackson, Auburn DT
Round 4, Pick 9 (108) (from Giants): Jalston Fowler, Alabama FB
Round 5, Pick 2 (138): David Cobb, Minnesota RB
Round 6, Pick 1 (177): Deiontrez Mount, Louisville OLB
Round 6, Pick 32 (208) (from Patriots): Andy Gallick, Boston College C
Round 7, Pick 28 (245) (from Giants through Broncos): Tre McBride, William & Mary WR
As a certified Marcus Mariota believer, I love this pick even though I don't like the fit with Ken Whisenhunt's offense. What I wouldn't like is if the rumored-to-be-jaw-dropping value packages offered by the Eagles, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, turned out to be real and the Titans turned them down to turn in the card.
Once again, a talented guy with character issues falls, and the question is if he fell far enough (or too far). Green-Beckham has rare physical talent, of the kind rarely (if ever) seen in a Titans wideout, and if he works out he might be general manager Ruston Webster's career-defining pick.
Poutasi could end up pushing free-agent disappointment Andy Levitre on the inside, and Blackson is a typical Ray Horton 3-4 end who gobbles up blocks and doesn't make headlines.
It will be interesting to see how early Cobb can push pedestrian second-year back Bishop Sankey for time.
Round 1, Pick 5 (5): Brandon Scherff, Iowa OG
Round 2, Pick 6 (38): Preston Smith, Mississippi State DE
Round 4, Pick 13 (112) (from Seahawks through Saints): Arie Kouandjio, Alabama OG
Round 3, Pick 31 (95) (from Seahawks): Matt Jones, Florida RB
Round 5, Pick 5 (141): Martrell Spaight, Arkansas OLB
Round 6, Pick 5 (181) (from Seahawks through Jets): Kyshoen Jarrett, Virginia Tech SS
Round 6, Pick 6 (182): Tevin Mitchel, Arkansas CB
Round 6, Pick 11 (187) (from Saints): Evan Spencer, Ohio State WR
Round 7, Pick 5 (222): Austin Reiter, South Florida C
With new general manager Scot McCloughan in charge, Washington had a smart, well-fit draft class that maybe wasn't the highest on value.
Brandon Scherff is either the best guard in the draft or one of the best tackles in the draft, and either way he wasn't the fifth-best player. Scherff, though, should be excellent even though he was drafted a few positions too high.
Smith is kind of an odd fit at No. 38; he projects as Brian Orakpo's replacement at outside linebacker but played defensive end in college. Sometimes we presume the edge-rusher label means all of these players can excel equally standing up or in line, and it just isn't so.
McCloughan may look back on this draft and be glad he got these players, but his draft-day acumen didn't impress right out of the gate.