I don’t do draft grades. There is nothing positive or intellectually honest about them.
Instead, I like to look at the picks and find which ones I liked the most. It could be player/team fit, it could be scheme fit, it could be value for the pick. Here are my 10 favorites from last weekend’s seven rounds.
Pittsburgh moving up for LB Devin Bush. It’s a big move from 20 to 10, and it cost the Steelers some serious draft capital (No. 20, No. 52 and next year’s 3rd). But Bush is the player the Steelers desperately wanted and they aggressively went and got him. He’s exactly what they need at the second level of the defense, a hard-hitting backer with both blitzing and coverage skills. Bush was my No. 4 overall prospect and his style of play calls to mind both Ray Lewis and Thomas Davis. Bold comparisons befitting a bold move by a team in desperate need of positive energy.
Washington landing QB Dwayne Haskins without trading up. Give GM Bruce Allen credit. He rolled the dice that nobody after the Giants at No. 6 would take a QB, and he landed a player who was often projected as a top-5 pick at No. 15. The franchise sorely needs a long-term solution at quarterback and they landed the first Big Ten QB taken in the first round since Kerry Collins. If Haskins has the career Collins did, Washington won here. And Haskins’ ceiling is significantly higher than that.
Washington trading up for EDGE Montez Sweat. It cost them two 2nd round picks, but for a team that just lost Preston Smith, it’s worth it. Sweat is a more kinetic version of Smith off the edge, a power-to-speed guy who happens to be faster than most of the wide receivers in the class. There was a steep falloff from Sweat to the remaining EDGEs in the class and Washington took the gamble. He fell a lot farther than expected due to some (since mollified) heart concerns and questions about his interviews. Even so, he’s got double-digit sack potential as a rookie.
Chargers taking DT Jerry Tillery in the first. If I had to crown a team as having the best draft, I would bestow that honor to the Chargers. It began with their first choice, Tillery. The best player on the field when he wanted to be at Notre Dame, his inconsistent play and a late injury dropped Tillery in the eyes of many. His ability to crash gaps and disrupt the passing game should play very well in Los Angeles.
Broncos landing OT Dalton Risner and QB Drew Lock back-to-back in the 2nd round. Risner was worthy of a first-round pick for me, and his ability to play multiple spots up front opens up possibilities for the Broncos to field the best 5 linemen instead of having rigid roles. He’s also a positive leader and a physical tone-setter. He and Garrett Bolles will not be fun to play against on the Broncos OL. Lock was long-rumored to be their target at No. 10. They traded back (the Devin Bush trade) and still got him at a spot where there is less pressure to thrust him ahead of Joe Flacco right away. I’m not crazy about Lock’s potential but John Elway had to get a QB and the Missouri gunslinger could be worth the gamble.
Seahawks scoring D.K. Metcalf at No. 64 overall. After his ridiculously impressive speed showing at the Combine, many fans were convinced the Ole Miss receiver was a top-10 lock. That was very rich for my blood for a guy with limited route-running experience coming off major neck surgery. I do still worry he’s too bulked up to be effective, but I feel a lot better about finding out at the end of the 2nd than the middle of the 1st. Given their need at WR, it’s a brilliant pick for GM John Schneider. As a bonus, the shirtless encounter between Metcalf and coach Pete Carroll was one of the highlights of draft weekend.
Patriots land EDGE Chase Winovich at No. 77. He got overshadowed by overhyped teammate Rashan Gary at Michigan, and then got unfairly pigeonholed as a Clay Matthews wannabe for his flowing locks. Winovich is a damn good football player, too good to fall to 77 overall. His game reminds me of two former first-rounders who have become above-average starters without much fanfare, Whitney Mercilus and Ryan Kerrigan. If Winovich comes close to either guy, the Patriots landed their replacement for Trey Flowers in the third round. Something about good teams staying good…
Jets steal DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the 4th. “CGJ” was my best player available for quite some time. The versatile Florida defensive back likely fell to concerns about his size and lack of a true defined position. Is he a corner, is he a safety, is he a nickel? I suspect the Jets will have great fun figuring it out. Gardner-Johnson has a decent chance to be A LOT better than many DBs taken ahead of him. The NFL annually undervalues hybrid CB/S prospects who are under 6 feet tall.
Lions pluck CB Amani Oruwariye in the 5th. I would have taken the Penn State CB in the 2nd, and in a pre-draft piece I opined he was the best CB fit for the Lions in the entire draft. His size and ability to disrupt before the ball is thrown is a perfect complement to playmaker Darius Slay. Getting him at No. 146 overall is insane value.
Cardinals select C Lamont Gaillard in the 6th. Kyler Murray is going to need a better OL than the one which helped exile Josh Rosen to Miami (a move for MIA I really like). Gaillard is an instant starter at guard or center and a player revered by both his Georgia teammates and coaches for his leadership and effort. Don’t be surprised if he plays every snap and is Arizona’s best lineman.
Browns select OL Drew Forbes in the 6th. Sometimes the story is as important as the player. Forbes hails from Southeast Missouri State and was the mystery “Prospect X” in Sports Illustrated. I’ve never seen him play. Normally I wouldn’t care about a late-round offensive lineman on a team that realistically has room on the 53-man roster for no more than 3 rookies. But I’m captivated by the story and cannot wait to see Forbes in action in training camp.
Bonus: 3 picks I hated
Because not every pick can make you sing “Shiny Happy People” by REM. Sometimes the death metal cover of that insipid earworm is more appropriate…
Seattle taking L.J. Collier at 30. He has some traits to work with. Alas, Collier didn’t show those often enough at TCU. He doesn’t have any one defining thing he does great to help him stand out. And now he steps into the shadow of Frank Clark, who was a very effective EDGE they had to trade away for financial purposes. That’s an unfair burden to put on a player most folks expected to go between 25 and 50 picks later. I don’t think Collier is a bad player at all, but he’s been set up to fail by his draft situation.
The Giants taking Dexter Lawrence at 17. The beefy Clemson DT is a good player, don’t get me wrong. And at 17 overall he’s not much of a reach, not enough for anyone to really kvetch about. But Lawrence is entirely redundant with Dalvin Tomlinson in the middle of the Giants defensive line. They desperately need EDGE help and reinforcements in the secondary (which they addressed by trading up for Deandre Baker) but instead chose a lower-impact position where they already have a pretty darn good starter. Lawrence and Tomlinson can play together and eradicate the interior run, but it doesn’t help where they need it. I know everyone will focus on their first pick, Daniel Jones, but to me, this pick more than the first one shows a clear lack of team vision from GM Dave Gettleman.
The 49ers taking a punter in the 4th round. It doesn’t matter what his name is. It doesn’t matter if he becomes a 4-time Pro Bowler in his 15-year career. No punter is worth a 4th round pick. That’s not anti-punter hate, either; what other team was going to take a punter that early, and was there really any difference between Mitch Wishnowsky and Jamie “The Scottish Hammer” Gillan, who went undrafted? Terrible pick.