NFL Draft Grades 2016: Full Results, Analysis and Reaction from Round 1

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2016

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The mock drafts are done, the picks have been turned in and the first round of the 2016 NFL draft has come to a close. Just like that, potential future Pro Bowlers have found their new homes as they look to parlay their collegiate success into productive NFL careers.  

It is no secret the teams that draft well are the ones who typically find themselves in the playoffs on a consistent basis, and this year's first round will be no different. Some teams performed better than others and added important building blocks to the foundation of their franchises, while others missed on opportunities to add difference-makers at critical positions.

With that in mind, here are results, grades and analysis for every first-round pick before a closer look at some notable selections who will turn in impressive rookie seasons for their new teams.

First-Round Grades and Analysis
1Los Angeles RamsJared Goff, QB, CaliforniaB+: There may be questions about the system Goff played in, but the Rams need a quarterback next to a strong defense and Todd Gurley. Worth the risk.
2Philadelphia EaglesCarson Wentz, QB, North Dakota StateB: May be the better quarterback of the top picks, but this only exacerbates the situation with Sam Bradford.
3San Diego ChargersJoey Bosa, DE, Ohio StateA-: It's somewhat of a surprise pick, but he's an impact pass-rusher who can step in right away and bolster the defense.
4Dallas CowboysEzekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio StateA+: Arguably the best player in the draft. May not have been a glaring need, but Elliott has superstar potential.
5Jacksonville JaguarsJalen Ramsey, CB, Florida StateA: Like Elliott, there is superstar potential with Ramsey. Even at No. 5, the Jaguars get good value.
6Baltimore RavensRonnie Stanley, OT, Notre DameB: Laremy Tunsil would have been a more talented pick, but he fills a need for the Ravens.
7San Francisco 49ersDeForest Buckner, DE, OregonB+: San Francisco still needs depth in the front seven, and Buckner brings a high ceiling and plenty of athleticism.
8Tennessee TitansJack Conklin, OT, Michigan StateB: Conklin's a versatile player who will help keep Marcus Mariota upright next season.
9Chicago BearsLeonard Floyd, OLB, GeorgiaC+: A high-risk, high-reward pick. If his athleticism outweighs any concerns about his physicality, he could be a better long-term pick than projected.
10New York GiantsEli Apple, CB, Ohio StateB-: A bit of a reach in the top 10 but worth the risk if he develops into the best corner in the draft.
11Tampa Bay BuccaneersVernon Hargreaves, CB, FloridaB: Tampa Bay grabs the in-state corner who brings plenty of instincts to the field.
12New Orleans SaintsSheldon Rankins, DT, LouisvilleA: The Saints were perhaps higher on Rankins than most, but he's an impact defensive tackle who can immediately bolster the run defense and pass rush.
13Miami DolphinsLaremy Tunsil, OT, Ole MissB+: It wasn't that long ago Tunsil was the projected No. 1 pick. Great value here.
14Oakland RaidersKarl Joseph, S, West VirginiaB: Somewhat of an under-the-radar name, but gives the Raiders some depth in the secondary after Charles Woodson retired.
15Cleveland BrownsCorey Coleman, WR, BaylorB+: The Browns needed wide receiver help, and they got some. Will be questions about whether Coleman was a product of Baylor's system, but he has the speed and elusiveness to be a big-play threat.
16Detroit LionsTaylor Decker, OT, Ohio StateA-: The Lions fill a need and get impressive value with Decker. The Ohio State product was a veteran presence in college and a solid run-blocker.
17Atlanta FalconsKeanu Neal, S, FloridaB-: There were bigger secondary names available in this draft, but Neal brings a physical presence at a position of need for Atlanta after William Moore left in free agency.
18Indianapolis ColtsRyan Kelly, C, AlabamaB+: Kelly is a safe pick and bolsters an offensive line in need of some depth.
19Buffalo BillsShaq Lawson, DE, ClemsonB+: Great value near the bottom of the top 20 for the Bills. Lawson is physical on the edge and will take the place of Mario Williams.
20New York JetsDarron Lee, OLB, Ohio StateB: Lee is all about athleticism in space, and the Jets will find a way to have him attacking passers this season.
21Houston TexansWill Fuller, WR, Notre DameB-: There were other receivers on the board, including Josh Doctson, who would have been better options. He has some drop concerns, although he is a speed threat.
22WashingtonJosh Doctson, WR, TCUA: Great value for Washington outside of the top 20. The thought here is Doctson is the best wide receiver in this class.
23Minnesota VikingsLaquon Treadwell, WR, Ole MissB+: Outside of Doctson, may be the top pass-catcher in the draft. Another solid value pick at the position.
24Cincinnati BengalsWilliam Jackson III, CB, HoustonB-: The Bengals needed a receiver, but most of the value was already gone by No. 24. Jackson will help with Cincinnati's aging cornerback group.
25Pittsburgh SteelersArtie Burns, CB, MiamiB: The Steelers needed help in the secondary, and they got just that. Personally like Mackensie Alexander better, but solid value here.
26Denver BroncosPaxton Lynch, QB, MemphisB-: Lynch is a project, although the Broncos need depth at the quarterback position after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler left in free agency.
27Green Bay PackersKenny Clark, DT, UCLAB: The Packers have plenty of talent on the offensive side, so they went with someone who will plug right into the defense and help them contend for a Super Bowl title.
28San Francisco 49ersJoshua Garnett, OG, StanfordC: This was a reach for the 49ers on a guard they likely could have gotten in the middle of the second round.
29Arizona CardinalsRobert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole MissA-: Nkemdiche is a top-10 talent. This is the best value pick of the first round.
30Carolina PanthersVernon Butler, DT, Louisiana TechB: Butler didn't play for a powerhouse school, but he is a physical force who will slide right into what is already a strong defense for the defending NFC champions.
31Seattle SeahawksGermain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&MB+: The Seahawks need depth along the offensive line, and they seized an opportunity at the end of the first round. There is nothing wrong with filling a need at No. 31.
Personal grades

Notable First-Round Selections

No. 4 Dallas Cowboys: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

The Dallas Cowboys were 4-12 last season and finished in last place in the NFC East, but their offense will be so explosive in 2016 that they will be back in the playoffs. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is a major reason why. 

The Ringer painted an enticing picture for Cowboys fans:

The Ringer @ringer

Forget value for a sec. Darren McFadden rushed for 1,100 yards behind the Cowboys' line last year. Without Romo. This could be silly.

Many rookies are long-term projects, but Elliott is a win-now pick for a franchise with a closing window. Pro Football Focus suggested as much: "With [Tony] Romo's back (and age) the Cowboys' window is short. Elliott is a complete back with positive grades in every major category in 2015."

Elliott was one of the faces of college football the last two seasons as he helped lead Ohio State to a national title and a Fiesta Bowl victory. The defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year scored 41 touchdowns the last two years alone and became a household name when he topped 200 yards rushing in each of the Buckeyes' three final games to end the 2014 campaign with a national championship.

He topped off that streak with four rushing touchdowns against Oregon, and he also scored four times against Notre Dame in his final collegiate game at the Fiesta Bowl this season.

Elliott reached that production because he boasts the vision to see holes develop up front, the speed (4.47 40-yard dash) to burst through them or bounce plays to the outside and the toughness to plow through tacklers and pick up critical short yardage near the goal line or on third downs.

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shared some head-turning opinions and comparisons from scouts regarding Elliott's talent and potential:

'He is the only one with all the traits,' said one scout. 'He's got a chance to be the best player in the draft. He, (Joey) Bosa, (Laremy) Tunsil. He can catch it, he can pass protect, he's got NFL size and he can run. If he stays healthy he's going to be a (Adrian) Peterson-type back.' Smartest RB in years (32 on the 50-question Wonderlic intelligence test). 'Football intelligence might be the best thing he has,' another scout said. 'He goes to the sidelines and tells the coaches the block protections. The coaches tell me he tells them what to do. To me, your intelligence is your blocking.'

Some of the stigma of drafting a running back in the first round was lost last year when the Los Angeles (then St. Louis) Rams took Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick. He proceeded to run for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns on his way to the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Elliott has the pure ability to mirror those numbers right away at the NFL level, which would make this early pick for Dallas well worth it.

No. 22 Washington: WR Josh Doctson, TCU

Washington made the playoffs last season but didn't have a single wide receiver top 800 yards through the air. In fact, tight end Jordan Reed led the team in receiving yards with 952.

Enter 6'2" touchdown machine Josh Doctson.

Doctson was nearly unstoppable at TCU, and production should not be a concern for Washington. He racked up 65 catches for 1,018 yards and 11 scores in his junior campaign and then improved on that with 79 catches for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 on his way to consensus first-team All-American recognition.

His NFL.com draft profile noted he finished his career at TCU with the most touchdown catches (29) and the second-most receptions (180) and receiving yards (2,785) in school history. He did all that even though he began his collegiate career at Wyoming.

Pro Football Focus Draft highlighted just how effective quarterbacks were when targeting Doctson, which is probably music to the ears of Kirk Cousins. 

PFF College @PFF_College

TCU quarterbacks had a 149.2 rating when throwing to Josh Doctson and he led the nation with 4.07 yards per route run #NFLDraft

Doctson's height and his ability to pinpoint jump balls in the air make him a lethal red-zone target, but he also has the speed (4.50 40-yard dash) to burst past cornerbacks on deep balls and the physicality to make difficult catches in traffic. His hand strength will also prove critical at the next level against enforcer-type safeties over the middle of the field.

Washington needs an impact receiver on the outside, and it got just that with Doctson on Thursday.

No. 12 New Orleans Saints: DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

The New Orleans Saints were 25th in the league in sacks, 31st in total yards allowed and dead last in points allowed per game last season. Safe to say, they needed reinforcements on the defensive side, and Sheldon Rankins provides exactly that up front.

Rankins was listed at 6'2" and 303 pounds on Louisville's website for the 2015 season, and his sheer size and physical nature will help his new team plug holes against the run and dictate the tempo at the line of scrimmage. He is strong enough to shed blockers and can open up blitzing lanes for his teammates by taking up space with double-teams.

However, Rankins is more than just a run-stopper. He finished with 14 sacks the past two seasons for the Cardinals and is versatile enough to be a three-down player up front. Pro Football Focus shared Steve Palazzolo's praise of the defensive tackle that highlighted the fact his overall skill set transcends specific defensive schemes:

Pro Football Focus @PFF

From @PFF_Steve: Sheldon Rankins can play in any scheme, forget size. Jacks up blockers and can 2-gap if necessary. 4-3, 3-4—doesn't matter.

Rankins is the ideal mix of power and athleticism along the defensive line, and he will explode through blockers, even at the NFL level. He possesses the speed (5.03 40-yard dash) to get past slower offensive linemen and the strength to bull-rush his way through smaller, quicker foes.

The only way the Saints are bouncing back from their 7-9 playoff-less performance in 2015 is with drastic improvement on defense. It is no surprise they grabbed a potentially elite defensive tackle to anchor the front seven on Thursday. 


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