One of the best parts of the NFL draft is digging and finding out who the next major surprise pros will be.
The hype machine churns up big expectations and ratings for the first round of the draft, but the meat of any roster gets carved in the later rounds. An NFL roster consists of 53 active players, after all, so the mid-rounds and beyond provide quality backups and potential stars.
Still, one cannot knock those who didn't want to sit through all 253 picks, especially after digesting the first two days of the three-day spectacle. After looking at each class and assigning an overall grade, let's highlight some of the hidden gems to know.
2016 NFL Draft Grades
|Arizona Cardinals||B||Bruce Arians and Arizona were one of the few teams that could properly handle the risk-reward that is Robert Nkemdiche. The rest of the class was odd, though.|
|Atlanta Falcons||D||There was plenty of better value on the board when Atlanta took Keanu Neal. A narrative which applies to all of Atlanta's picks, really.|
|Baltimore Ravens||B-||Baltimore stood tall and got its guy (Ronnie Stanley), which should help Joe Flacco stay healthy. A deep class bolsters depth at key spots.|
|Buffalo Bills||B||Shaq Lawson in a Rex Ryan front speaks for itself. Good value. Reggie Ragland was great value, too.|
|Carolina Panthers||C||Vernon Butler is a great player, but he is nowhere close to an important need. James Bradberry seemed like a reach.|
|Chicago Bears||B||No. 9 seems a bit high for Leonard Floyd, but nobody can argue the fit or need. Cody Whitehair is a steal.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||A||Cincinnati stuck with its board for better or worse and got William Jackson III, a guy who could be the best corner from the class in time. The mid-round picks were either bad value or unnecessary. Andrew Billings was the steal of the draft.|
|Cleveland Browns||A||It feels weird not to type a "D" next to Cleveland, but the Browns traded down twice and still got the best wideout in the draft, Corey Coleman. Landing Emmanuel Ogbah is a boon to the grade. Cody Kessler doesn't make any sense. Overall, a wildly important, solid class.|
|Dallas Cowboys||C+||Is DeMarco Murray that bad? Cowboys didn't need to splurge but did on Ezekiel Elliott. Better hope Tony Romo can stay healthy. Taking a risk on Jaylon Smith instead of hitting a big need hurts.|
|Denver Broncos||C||Moving up for a project player reeks of desperation, even if it does possibly escape a Mark Sanchez era. Adam Gotsis so high didn't make sense.|
|Detroit Lions||B||Detroit hit offensive line with Taylor Decker. Now the Lions have to hope it's not too late for Matthew Stafford.|
|Green Bay Packers||B||Right need, wrong player, as Kenny Clark seemed more like a second-round value. Jason Spriggs in the second round was a silly steal.|
|Houston Texans||B||Houston wanted speed and got it with Will Fuller, though he's a drop machine. Offense the priority, though, Houston knocked it out of the park.|
|Indianapolis Colts||A||Perhaps the surest lineman in the draft, Ryan Kelly, is just what Andrew Luck needed. T.J. Green and Le'Raven Clark are high upside guys with bright futures.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||A+||Jalen Ramsey was the best player in the draft and joins Dante Fowler Jr. to create a solid young core. Two more words: Myles Jack.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||A||Getting Chris Jones in the second round is as good as having a pick in the first. The rest of the class was decent value.|
|Miami Dolphins||A+||Not much to say here. Laremy Tunsil was in the conversation for the top pick, and Miami got him at No. 13.|
|Minnesota Vikings||A+||Minnesota needed to get Teddy Bridgewater some help and hit it out of the park with Laquon Treadwell. The team then got one of the steals of the draft with Mackensie Alexander.|
|New England Patriots||C||New England didn't make a notable pick at all in the mid-rounds.|
|New Orleans Saints||B||Geno Atkins-lite Sheldon Rankins should have come off the board higher. Huge win. Bolstering offense in the second round didn't make a lick of sense.|
|New York Giants||B||New York gets docked a full letter grade for Eli Apple-Big Apple puns. Kidding. Solid pick. Ditto for Sterling Shepard.|
|New York Jets||D||Darron Lee slots right in with the Jets and improves a good unit. Christian Hackenberg is a major whiff with Ryan Fitzpatrick on the market.|
|Oakland Raiders||B-||No. 14 is a bit high for Karl Joseph, but he's certainly in the right hands with that great Oakland coaching staff. Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun just make the defense even scarier.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||C||Moving up to draft Carson Wentz in a weak quarterback class isn't worth it. The rest of the class wasn't more encouraging.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||B-||Pittsburgh got robbed by Cincinnati, but Artie Burns will have a role for a long time. Most picks, though, seems out of line with value.|
|San Diego Chargers||C+||Joey Bosa creates a mean rush with Melvin Ingram. Surprise, but not a bad pick. Taking a tight end? Odd.|
|San Francisco 49ers||A||Getting one of the draft's best players, DeForest Buckner, at No. 7 is a massive win. Many considered Joshua Garnett the best run-blocking guard in the draft.|
|Seattle Seahawks||C||Gaining assets and better protecting Russell Wilson with Germain Ifedi is hard to complain about. Going defense in the second round hurts the grade. Tripling up on running back? Yikes.|
|Los Angeles Rams||C||Jared Goff might be a potential franchise quarterback, but it's a weak class and feels more like a PR move.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||B||Smartly not content with existing secondary, Tampa Bay gets a big-play guy in Vernon Hargreaves and made a smart gamble on Noah Spence.|
|Tennessee Titans||B-||Jack Conklin might be the best tackle in the draft, and it's good to see Tennessee put an emphasis on Marcus Mariota's health. Odd run on defenders after, though.|
|Washington||A||Josh Doctson at No. 22 is a silly steal, and he pairs well with DeSean Jackson. Su'a Cravens is an impact player, as is Kendall Fuller.|
Notable Hidden Gems in Later Rounds
No. 134. Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
Running back isn't one of the biggest question marks around the Baltimore Ravens anymore.
After Justin Forsett only managed 641 yards and two scores last year over 10 games, the backfield was one of the bigger issues in Baltimore, so it was somewhat strange to see the Ravens not hit the spot over one of the first two days.
Now the picture seems clear—Baltimore wanted Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech.
Dixon doesn't sound like much on paper at 5'10" and 215 pounds, and his level of competition wasn't anything to rave about, but he's arguably the best pass-catching back in the class.
Pro Football Focus expanded on his talents: "The Ravens end Kenneth Dixon’s fall, who was our No. 2 running back in the draft. Dixon was the highest-graded running back as a receiver out of this class and will be an asset in the passing game. He’s also an excellent zone runner with the vision and patience to set up blocks."
In other words, Baltimore landed a back who will contribute in a committee right away, reinforcing an important piece of the puzzle to take pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco.
No. 172. Cleveland Browns: Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State
The Cleveland Browns might trot out an all-rookie wideout corps in 2016, and nobody could blame them.
Cleveland's fourth wideout selected in the draft, Rashard Higgins out of Colorado State, might have the biggest impact right out of the gates, too.
Sounds silly, but Higgins was one of the most pro-ready wideouts in the class based on the style of offense he found himself in with Colorado State. His stock fell due to a 4.64 40-yard dash time at the combine, but he plays much faster on the field.
A decent-sized target at 6'1" and 196 pounds, Higgins has some of the most reliable hands in the class, something that will act as a boon in new coach Hue Jackson's offense as Higgins gets immediate run as a chain-moving presence.
No. 185. Chicago Bears: DeAndre Houston-Carson, S, William & Mary
A guy who tallied 10 interceptions and nine blocked kicks on special teams over his collegiate career is an impact player from the get-go.
DeAndre Houston-Carson out of William & Mary joined the Chicago Bears at No. 185 and figures to have zero problems holding onto a roster spot thanks to his prowess on special teams.
Houston-Carson is a physical, nasty safety cut from the same cloth the Bears want to flaunt on the field. He's 6'1" and 201 pounds with plenty of leadership skills and an instinctive, violent playing manner.
In fact, he compares to one of the game's best, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
Houston-Carson still needs to add bulk and will take some time adjusting to the pro level, but safety isn't exactly a strong point in Chicago with names like Antrel Rolle, Adrian Amos and fourth-round rookie Deon Bush vying for starting gigs.
No. 253. Tennessee Titans: Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Mississippi
Mr. Irrelevant is anything but this year.
In fact, Kalan Reed out of Southern Mississippi might have a shot at being one of the best Mr. Irrelevant selections ever.
While only 5'11" and 195 pounds, Reed is a physical press corner who didn't have many problems shutting down bigger receivers and preventing the big play. On film, he looked quite pro-ready, hype from major media or not.
PFF's Steve Palazzolo listed Reed as one of the draft's biggest sleepers:
Few analysts are discussing Reed, but we like him a lot as a prospect who brings athleticism and scheme-diversity to the secondary. His +13.7 coverage grade ranked third among the cornerbacks in the class, as did his 14 passes defensed. He intercepted or defended over 20 percent of his targets on the year, and those ball skills put him in the second-round range on the latest PFF Draft Board.
After the Titans selected him, the reaction was as expected, such as this nugget from Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com:
Granted, this could be a dramatic example of the NFL seeing things quite differently from the rest of the globe.
But on paper, Reed has it all. It won't be much of a shocker if the early reports out of camp come with glowing praise and the small-school prospect makes the final roster—and maybe even helps out right away.