Hello, all! The NFL Draft is one of the best few days of the year, specifically on Thursday when the unexpected becomes expected. I’ll be handing out grades with a short analysis on every pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. If you want more analysis or grades/analysis on picks outside of the first round, send me a message on Twitter (@BalesSJustin), and I’ll answer to the best of my abilities!
Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma – Grade: C+
Mayfield was my third ranked quarterback. This is the flashy pick that the Browns did not need to make. He’s still a great talent, and could have a solid career.
New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State – Grade: C+
The Giants needed a quarterback here. If Barkely is as good as advertised, the Giants may not have the chance for a quarterback like Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen through his prime. Keep in mind, Barkley is arguably the best player in this draft, but this was not the spot to pick him.
New York Jets – Sam Darnold, QB, USC – Grade: A+
The Jets needed a franchise quarterback, and they were gifted the best QB in the draft at the third pick. This is the definition of an ideal pick.
Cleveland Browns – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State – Grade: A-
Bradley Chubb was available, which made this pick questionable, but what isn’t to like about Ward? He has the potential to be a shutdown cornerback for the next 10 years.
Denver Broncos – Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State – Grade: A
This was the biggest need for the Broncos, but Chubb’s an elite player. He’s a safe pick that comes with All Pro upside, and he will help the Denver defense get back to the level they were at.
Indianapolis Colts – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame – Grade: A
Some think this is high for a guard, but why? Nelson has All Pro potential, and this is more of a pick for Andrew Luck. Keep him healthy is the top priority, and they were gifted multiple seconds for this pick, as well.
Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming – Grade: C-
I have Rosen ranked higher than Allen, so Buffalo reached on the second (or third) best quarterback on the board. They traded up for someone they may have gotten at their original pick.
Chicago Bears – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia – Grade: A
Smith is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker that can change your defense. He’s a leader and will take their group to the next level. It’s tough not to like Smith as a pick, regardless of where he would have landed.
San Francisco 49ers – Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame – Grade: B
Everyone focuses on Nelson for Notre Dame, but McGlinchey is a dominant player. This would have had a lower grade if he were not Oakland preferred player. San Fran went out and got their guy.
Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA – Grade: A+
Rosen was my second ranked quarterback in this class, and Arizona got him after three other quarterbacks. He’s the future of this franchise.
Miami Dolphins – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama – Grade: B+
It would have been difficult for Miami to miss on this pick. Fitzpatrick fell down draft boards a bit in recent weeks, but the can immediately help a Miami defense that is in desperate need of improved play in the secondary.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vita Vea, DT, Washington – Grade: A
Tampa Bay trading down for their guy was genius. I feel Vea has nearly as much upside as anyone in this draft, and with teams focusing on Gerald McCoy, Vea won’t consistently see double teams.
Washington Redskins – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama – Grade: B-
I like Payne as a player, but if this was the pick, why not trade up to get Vita Vea? Regardless, they need a run stopper for Elliott, Barkley, and Ajayi.
New Orleans Saints – Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA – Grade: C+
New Orleans just traded a 2019 first for a small school prospect with tons of risk. While that’s the case, he also comes with tremendous potential. It was an odd move, though.
Oakland Raiders – Kolten Miller, OT, UCLA – Grade: C+
This is a bit high for Miller, but Oakland needed to address their offensive line. It was a smart move to trade down with Miller being the target, though.
Buffalo Bills – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech – Grade: A
I wouldn’t have been shocked if Edmunds was a top-10 pick. He’s an ultra-athlete, who is still learning football. His potential is through the roof, and he has the chance to be a defensive difference-maker.
Los Angeles Chargers – Derwin James, S, Florida State – Grade: A+
The Chargers have far and away the best secondary in the NFL. He’s versatile enough to find the field, and LA could possess the best overall defense with this pick.
Green Bay Packers – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville – Grade: A
Green Bay had a huge hole at cornerback, and Alexander is one of the top available. He’d likely have been a higher pick if it weren’t for injuries, as well. They also were gifted a 2019 first from New Orleans.
Dallas Cowboys – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State – Grade: B
If his medicals check out, Dallas got a great player. He can be the new leader of their defense, and they now have one of the best linebacker groups in the entire NFL.
Detroit Lions – Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas – Grade: B
The Lions needed to upgrade their interior offensive line, and Ragnow is a versatile way to do that. He’ll immediately be an upgrade at guard, while also potentially moving to center at some point.
Cincinnati Bengals – Billy Price, C, Ohio State – Grade: B+
Price likely would’ve been the first center off the board if he were healthy. If you can look passed the injury at the NFL Combine, Price is a player that can immediately help Cincinnati.
Tennessee Titans – Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama – Grade: B
Evans is a great fit for the Titans. Some even believe he is a slightly better prospect than Roquan Smith, but I am not one of those people. He’s a solid option here, though.
New England Patriots – Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia – Grade: B-
New England [somewhat] needs help at tackle, but I’m not sure Wynn can play tackle at the NFL level. He’s better suited for guard, although bolstering their line is far from a bad idea.
Carolina Panthers – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland – Grade: A-
Courtland Sutton is my top WR in this class, but Moore fits Carolina well. He can potentially be the first dominant WR for the Panthers since Steve Smith.
Baltimore Ravens – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina – Grade: C+
Hurst is an older tight end that has flashed great tape. He is a position of need, which makes sense, but there are some red flags here.
Atlanta Falcons – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama – Grade: C
I don’t love Ridley to begin with, and this is somewhat of an odd pairing. The Falcons do not “need” a WR, although drafting one is not the worst pick. I can’t get behind this pick with Sutton still on the board, though.
Seattle Seahawks – Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State – Grade: D-
Why? Seattle had bigger needs than running back and Penny was far from the best on the board. I understand they like their guy, but reaching this much is an awful idea.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech – Grade: C+
Edmunds was rising up draft boards late in the process, but this is still a reach. Pittsburgh needed help in the secondary, though. At worst, it was fun to see brothers selected in the first round.
Jacksonville Jagaurs – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida – Grade: B-
Jacksonville did not truly need him, but he is a high upside option that can learn from some of the best in the NFL. He can take over once other players’ contracts end, making this a smart pick for the future.
Minnesota Vikings – Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida – Grade: A-
If Hughes had more tape, he would have likely been a top-15 pick. This is great value for a player that will not need to consistent cover top wide receivers in Minnesota.
New England Patriots – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia – Grade: B-
I don’t fully understand why the Patriots opted for a running back here. I’m sure they have a plan, though, and Michel comes with tremendous talent if you aren’t worried about his health.
Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – Grade: A-
Jackson is not a normal quarterback. He needs the offense to focus around his skillset, and if Baltimore does that, they will have a steal at the end of the first round.
By: Justin Bales (Twitter)