Even though it couldn’t take place in Las Vegas and had to be done remotely, it’s safe to say that the 2020 NFL Draft went smoothly. However, that doesn’t mean each team performed at the same level. Obviously, every team feels great about their draft class, and it’s true that we can’t be certain about how these prospects pan out. Yet, there’s no reason to not grade their process, as building through the draft is essentially for long-term team building. Today, we’ll go over the draft classes of each AFC team, looking at their performance on the first, second, and third day, as well as undrafted free agency, before assigning them with a final grade.
Round 1, Pick 28: LB Patrick Queen, LSU (C+)
Round 2, Pick 55: RB JK Dobbins, Ohio State (D+)
Round 3, Pick 71: IDL Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M (B+)
Round 3, Pick 92: WR Devin Duvernay, Texas (A+)
Round 3, Pick 98: LB Malik Harrison, Ohio State (C+)
Round 3, Pick 106: OL Tyree Phillips, Mississippi State (B)
Round 4, Pick 137: IOL Ben Bredeson, Michigan (A)
Round 5, Pick 170: IDL Broderick Washington, Texas Tech (C+)
Round 6, Pick 201: WR James Proche, SMU (A+)
Round 7, Pick 219: S Geno Stone, Iowa (A+)
Whereas the Chargers had to trade up to get their linebacker in Kenneth Murray, the Ravens were able to stand pat and select LSU linebacker Patrick Queen with the 28th overall pick. I understand the logic behind this selection, as Queen has a lot of potential in pass coverage and is a major upgrade in the middle of their defense. Yet, it’s not usually a great idea to target non-blue-chip linebackers in the first round, as it’s a very unpredictable position in terms of projection to the next level.
The Ravens rely a lot on a rushing offense that is as efficient as some passing offenses, but it’s success is more reliant on the offensive line and scheme that the running back itself. JK Dobbins is a great fit for what they want to accomplish, but with Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards already on the roster, that felt like a superfluous pick, while taking a running back in the second round isn’t a great use of resources. Now, they then made up for it with their next two selections, as they were able to trade down and land a developmental interior rusher in Justin Madubuike, before landing Texas slot receiver Devin Duvernay. Duvernay’s speed, run-after-catch-ability, and elite hands make him the perfect receiver in that offense, and I’m super excited to see how offensive coordinator Greg Roman uses him. To top it off, they selected thumping linebacker Malik Harrison earlier than I would’ve for a player who won’t be good in coverage, though he does complement Queen well and works well in their scheme as a pass-rush weapon, while Tyree Phillips adds offensive line depth.
Though Phillips was drafted earlier, I think that Ben Bredeson, whose athletic limitations won’t be an issue in this power/gap scheme, may start for the Ravens on the interior of their offensive line. Plus, while I don’t see much potential with interior defender Broderick Washington, he’s a “tweener” type that they may be able to get the most out of. Yet, it’s their last two picks that take the cake. James Proche may have the best ball skills of any receiver in this entire draft, while Geno Stone is immediately their their third safety and could be starting for them. To land two impact players in the last two rounds in addition to a starting guard in the fourth round, is exceptional.
The Ravens signed a lot of undrafted free agents, but the most notable one is Tyler Huntley. He’s a mobile and accurate quarterback, and could seriously challenge for the backup quarterback spot.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
Many are claiming that the Ravens “won” the draft, and I can understand why. The value that they got with some of their later round selections is exceptional, and they were able to add reinforcements to the offense. Yet, their early selections left me a bit unsatisfied, and taking a running back in the second round when you have such a running back-friendly scheme puzzles me. Nevertheless, they did accomplish enough with their abundance of picks.
Round 2, Pick 54: EDGE AJ Epenesa, Iowa (A)
Round 3, Pick 86: RB Zack Moss, Utah (C)
Round 4, Pick 128: WR Gabriel Davis, UCF (A)
Round 5, Pick 167: QB Jake Fromm (A+)
Round 6, Pick 188: K Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern (C-)
Round 6, Pick 207: WR Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State (A+)
Round 7, Pick 239: CB Dane Jackson, Pittsburgh (A+)
The Bills did not have a first-round pick due to the Stefon Diggs trade, but that’s fine. Diggs is a superstar receiver locked up to an affordable contract, and the value he’ll provide is far greater than what Buffalo would’ve gotten from whomever they selected in the first round.
Not only were the Bills able to trade for Diggs, but they were still able to get a first-round-caliber prospect in AJ Epenesa. He doesn’t have the athletic traits teams are covet, but he’s powerful and technically sound, and can come in immediately and be a productive edge rusher for them. Zack Moss does stack up well in the most predictive running back statistics, but not only is he redundant to Devin Singletary, but they passed on some intriguing prospects, such as Mississippi State cornerback Cameron Dantzler.
Outside of selecting a kicker, which was strange, the Bills absolutely dominated the third day of the draft. Gabriel Davis, who has a limited route tree but has the size and ball skills that make him worth a fourth-round flyer, while Isaiah Hodgins has tremendous hands and is a pretty fluid route runner; they add lots of receiver depth. Plus, even though they didn’t land Dantzler, they still got an ideal cornerback for their scheme, as Dane Jackson’s zone coverage skills could have challenging for a spot as their nickel back soon. Yet, their best pick in this entire draft has to be the selection of Jake Fromm. So what you want about the Georgia quarterback, but his intelligence, pocket presence, and efficiency make him at least a low-end starter, and regardless of how you feel about Josh Allen, Fromm can at least be a high-end backup (though he’s better than Allen). That’s exceptional value in the fifth round.
The Bills weren’t super active in undrafted free agent, though they were right to take a chance on Washington tackle Trey Adams. Once upon a time, he was as a future first-round pick, but injuries and a poor combine caused him to fall out of the draft completely.
OVERALL GRADE: A
Coming into the draft, I thought Buffalo needed to plan for the future with their limited picks, and they did that for the most part. They added two receivers who could play a role for them in the future, a young first-round-caliber pass rusher, a very reliable quarterback, and a potential starting cornerback. It’s incredible that they were able to pull that off, and although it all comes down to Josh Allen, it’s safe to say the front office has done enough to build a tremendous roster around him.
Round 1, Pick 1: QB Joe Burrow, LSU (A+)
Round 2, Pick 33: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson (A)
Round 3, Pick 65: LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming (B)
Round 4, Pick 107: LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State (A)
Round 5, Pick 147: EDGE Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame (A)
Round 6, Pick 180: OL Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas (A)
Round 7, Pick 215: LB Markus Bailey, Purdue (A+)
What a year for the Bengals to bottom out! Cincinnati wasn’t expected to be a two-win team, but their shortcomings were actually the best thing that could’ve happened to them. Joe Burrow is a blue-chip quarterback prospect with elite accuracy, pocket presence, play extension, and poise; he has true top-tier quarterback potential, and was the easiest #1 overall pick since Andrew Luck.
The Bengals had a lot of options with the first pick in the second round, and they took the player who, in my opinion, was the top player on the board. Tee Higgins can be AJ Green’s long-term replacement, but for this season, the trio of those two and Tyler Boyd is quite the receiving core for Burrow. Meanwhile, I’m a fan of Logan Wilson, who is a solid cover linebacker, though I think they would’ve been better off taking an offensive tackle like Josh Jones with that pick.
Cincinnati clearly came to the draft wanting to revamp their linebacking core, as they also added Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey to the mix. Both have injury concerns, but each should be starting-caliber players for them if healthy. Davis-Gaither, in particular, has the athleticism to be the perfect comparison to Wilson. Additionally, Khalid Kareem has the power and versatility to be groomed to replace edge rusher Carlos Dunlap, while Hakeem Adeniji is an effective zone-blocker who is a nice development piece for them on the offensive line.
The Bengals didn’t make any major signings during the undrafted free agency period.
OVERALL GRADE: A
Should the Bengals have added an offensive lineman? Between the third and fourth round, they probably should’ve exchanged one of those linebackers, specifically Wilson, for an offensive tackle such as Josh Jones, Matthew Peart, and Jack Driscoll. Yet, I’m not going to fault a team for taking talented players, especially when they all were drafted lower than I would’ve been comfortable selecting them. Burrow and Higgins should bring life to the offense for years to come, while the defense, including their free agency splashes, should be significantly better this season.
Round 1, Pick 10: OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama (A)
Round 2, Pick 44: S Grant Delpit, LSU (A)
Round 3, Pick 88: IDL Jordan Elliot, Missouri (A+)
Round 3, Pick 97: LB Jacob Phillips, LSU (D+)
Round 4, Pick 115: TE Harrison Bryant, FAU (B+)
Round 5, Pick 160: IOL Nick Harris, Washington (A+)
Round 6, Pick 187: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (A+)
The Browns were rumored to be interested in trading down, but in the end, they stood pat and took the best offensive tackle in this draft in Jedrick Wills Jr. Wills Jr. has all the athletic tools to fit seamlessly into head coach Kevin Stefanski’s zone-blocking scheme, while I’m not worried about him transitioning to left tackle. This season, Baker Mayfield’s play can’t be tied to the offensive line, as with Jack Conklin, Cleveland has suddenly transformed their offensive line into an above-average unit.
In addition to offensive tackle, Cleveland needed to improve their pass coverage over the middle of the field, and the top safety in the class fell right into their laps, to the point that they were able to draft Grant Delpit after trading down three spots. Speaking of excellent-value picks, how about Jordan Elliot, who was the highest-graded interior defender from Pro Football Focus last year? He was an absolute steal in the third round, and fills a long-term hole for their interior pass rush. However, I’m not as supportive of the selection of linebacker Jacob Phillips. It was a position of need for them, but Phillips just doesn’t do anything particularly well, and it seemed like a reach with better prospects on the board.
Stefanski is going to run a lot of sets with multiple tight ends, so the Browns need at least three solid tight ends. Harrison Bryant isn’t an exciting prospect, but he’s a very capable tight end who can run block and be a receiving option, and provides insurance in case the team decides to trade David Njoku. However, Cleveland’s dominance on the third day of the draft came from their next two picks; Nick Harris should be an immediate starter for them in this zone-blocking scheme, while Donovan Peoples-Jones has all the athletic traits you want in a developmental receiver.
Cornerback AJ Green fits Cleveland’s new cover-three defensive scheme well, while offensive tackle Alex Taylor is an absolute freak with the amount of length he has.
OVERALL GRADE: A
The goal in the draft should be to put your team in a better position to compete for years to come, and that’s exactly what the Browns did. Their first three picks were absolute home runs, while they absolutely crushed it with the selections of Harris and Peoples-Jones. Had they gone a different route than Phillips with the 97th overall pick, this would’ve been a flawless draft; we should all be buying stock into this team before it’s too late.
Round 1, Pick 15: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (A+)
Round 2, Pick 46: WR KJ Hamler, Penn State (B-)
Round 3, Pick 77: CB Michael Ojemudia, Iowa (A-)
Round 3, Pick 83: IOL Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU (C-)
Round 3, Pick 95: IDL McTelvin Agim, Arkansas (B)
Round 4, Pick 118: TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri (B)
Round 5, Pick 178: LB Justin Strnad, Wake Forrest (A-)
Round 6, Pick 181: IOL Netane Muti, Fresno State (A+)
Round 7, Pick 252: WR Tyrie Cleveland, Florida (B)
Round 7, Pick 254: EDGE Derek Tuszka, North Dakota State (A-)
Heading into the draft, it looked like the Broncos would have to trade up if they wanted one of the elite receiving prospects in this draft. Yet, they actually had their pick between Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, and although I think Lamb is the better prospect, Jeudy was the better fit for them. His elite separation ability will pair well with Drew Lock, who isn’t known for being an accurate quarterback, and he should immediately come into the NFL and be a true #1 receiver.
The Broncos weren’t content just adding one receiver, as they also brought in Penn State’s KJ Hamler. I wasn’t as high on Hamler entering the draft, but I do recognize the potential pay-off with this pick, as he’s a big play waiting to happen, while I’ll never fault a team for stocking up on playmakers. Hamler’s role is also fantastic in Denver, as he can be a vertical slot threat for them, and is only their third option in the passing game. As for Michael Ojemudia, it’s a similar case to Hamler in that there were a couple better cornerbacks available, but he’s a zone corner who’ll start immediately in Vic Fangio’s defense. On the contrary, McTelvin Agim is a developmental player, but someone with a lot of pass-rush potential who fills a long-term need in the middle rounds. Meanwhile, I personally don’t understand they hype with Lloyd Cushenberry, who was the weak link on LSU’s offensive line, but there’s also a chance he could be a starting center for them.
If you thought the Broncos were done adding athletic playmakers, they also brought Drew Lock’s former college teammate into the mix. Albert Okwuegbunam isn’t a refined player whatsoever, but he does have rare speed at the tight end position, and is the perfect backup to Noah Fant. Furthermore, Netane Muti was the best interior offensive lineman in this draft, and assuming he’s healthy, he could seriously start for them at a high level immediately. Heck, even Justin Strnad is an athletic linebacker with coverage upside, while edge rusher Derek Tuszka was productive in college and Tyrie Cleveland adds more receiving depth.
The Broncos even made an impact signing during the undrafted free agency period, as Essang Bassey is a starting-caliber nickel corner who provides insurance behind Bryce Callahan, who has missed time with injuries in the past.
OVERALL GRADE: A-
The Broncos didn’t have a flawless draft, but I absolutely loved their approach. With their additions on the perimeter and offensive line, they’ve done more than enough to put Drew Lock in a position to succeed, while they also were able to add some youth to their defense as well. I may have picked different players at a couple spots, but the positions they addressed were the right ones- they targeted players at valuable positions early on.
Round 2, Pick 40: IDL Ross Blacklock, TCU (C)
Round 3, Pick 90: EDGE Jonathan Greenard, Florida (B)
Round 4, Pick 126: OT Charlie Heck, North Carolina (B-)
Round 4, Pick 141: CB John Reid, Penn State (A-)
Round 5, Pick 171: WR Isaiah Coulter, Rhode Island (A-)
The Texans will be without a first-round pick for the next two seasons as a result of the Laremy Tunsil trade. Tunsil is one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL, but between the trade and his $22 million price tag, that was a trade I definitely wouldn’t have made.
When the Texans were finally on the clock, they had a chance to land a premier cornerback or safety prospect, but they instead focused on the interior of their defensive line? Ross Blacklock was a lot of athletic traits, but he’s not going to make a major difference for Houston like a player in the secondary would have. As for Jonathan Greenard, he’s a fine third-round pick, but not one that’s super exciting.
Houston did a much better job on the final day of the draft, as receiver Isaiah Coulter and slot cornerback John Reid help fill long-term holes. So could Charlie Heck as their swing tackle, but I didn’t like that they traded up to select him.
The Texans did not sign an undrafted free agents of note, which is surprising considering they didn’t have much draft capital.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
The Texans added some help on the perimeter, but it came too late. This is a team that has invested way too much on the trenches, and they continued with that problem. Right now, Deshaun Watson appears to be all they really have going for them in the future.
Round 2, Pick 34: WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC (B+)
Round 2, Pick 41: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (F)
Round 3, Pick 85: S Julian Blackmon, Utah (B)
Round 4, Pick 122: QB Jacob Eason, Washington (B)
Round 5, Pick 149: IOL Danny Pinter, Ball State (A-)
Round 6, Pick 193: IDL Robert Windsor, Penn State (A-)
Round 6, Pick 211: CB Isaiah Rodgers, Massachusetts (B)
Round 6, Pick 212: WR Dezmon Patmon, Washington State (B-)
Round 6, Pick 213: LB Jordan Glasgow, Michigan (C)
The Colts traded the 13th overall pick for interior defender DeForest Buckner earlier in the offseason. Buckner is a nice young player, but he plays a non-valuable position, isn’t an elite player, and cost $21 million per year with his new extension; trading for him was a very questionable move by general manager Chris Ballard.
With their first pick in the draft, it was almost too obvious that the Colts would select a receiver. Tee Higgins went just one spot before them, but they landed a nice consolation prize in USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., who is a sure-handed target in the intermediate passing game with more speed than you’d expect. However, the pick of Jonathan Taylor was just baffling. Sure, he’s an explosive downhill running back, but Indianapolis’ greatest strength is an offensive line that allows for practically any running back to produce, so investing significant draft capital in one makes zero sense; Taylor doesn’t even impact the passing game. At least they were able to trade down ten spots in the third round, and safety Julian Blackmon could be the long-term replacement for Malik Hooker in a single-high role.
The Colts ultimately ended up selecting a young quarterback, which I have no problem in. However, I definitely wouldn’t have taken Jacob Eason over Jake Fromm, as Fromm has a high floor and has a better chance to either be at least a high-end backup, or even be a long-term starter. Additionally, there’s not much to get excited about with their three six-round picks, especially since they traded a decent young cornerback in Quincy Wilson. However, I did really like the selection of Danny Pinter, who is a former tight end that’ll kick into guard, but has athletic traits and is a nice versatile swing player for them up front.
The Colts’ most notable signing during undrafted free agency was a kicker, which tells you all you need to know.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
The Colts were able to add a couple nice players, but the selection of Taylor was awful, and they may have reached for other players. It’s been a strange offseason for general manager Chris Ballard, but due to the ineptitude of the AFC South, this is still a team in position to be the frontrunners in this division for a long time.
Round 1, Pick 9: CB CJ Henderson, Florida (B-)
Round 1, Pick 20: EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU (D)
Round 2, Pick 42: WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado (A)
Round 3, Pick 73: IDL Davon Hamilton, Ohio State (C)
Round 4, Pick 116: OT Ben Bartch, St.John’s (Minnesota) (A-)
Round 4, Pick 131: CB Josiah Scott, Michigan State (A-)
Round 4, Pick 140: LB Shaquille Quarterman, Miami (C-)
Round 5, Pick 157: S Daniel Thomas, Auburn (C+)
Round 5, Pick 165: WR Collin Johnson, Texas (B+)
Round 6, Pick 189: QB Jake Luton, Oregon State (A-)
Round 6, Pick 206: TE Tyler Davis, Georgia Tech (C)
Round 7, Pick 223: CB Chris Claybrooks, Memphis (B-)
The Jaguars clearly came into the draft targeting athletic defensive players, as CJ Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson both fill that mold. I don’t see the value of taking Henderson with the 9th overall pick, as he didn’t do anything to separate himself from some of the other cornerbacks in this draft, and Jacksonville turned down a trade-down opportunity from the Bucs. Still, the potential pay-off of him being a #1 cornerback makes it a reasonable pick. As for Chaisson, he’s got all the tools to succeed, but didn’t even produce in college; I don’t see him as a first-round prospect at all.
Jacksonville continued on with some questionable defensive selections with Davon Hamilton in the third round, as he’s a nose tackle that wasn’t even the best interior defensive lineman available. However, they lucked into Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr. in the second round, who would’ve been a first-round pick had it not been for some injury concerns that appear to be behind him. Shenault Jr. is a dynamic weapon, and will be a great playmaker for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in 2021.
In the fourth round, the Jaguars got off to a fast start by drafting developmental offensive tackle Ben Bartch and starting-caliber nickel corner Josiah Scott, but the rest of their draft was mostly confusing. Shaquille Quarterman, Daniel Thomas, Tyler Davis, and Chris Claybrooks all appear to be reaches, though at least Collin Johnson and Jake Luton add offensive depth at their respective positions.
The Jaguars made an abundance of moves in undrafted free agency, which is a good approach for a team with a lot of openings for younger players.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
In a way, I like the Jaguars’ approach of targeting high-ceiling players, as the last they wanted to do was improve their floor enough that they weren’t able to land an impact quarterback in the 2021 draft. However, I still didn’t like the players they took, and thought it would’ve been more beneficial to start to build an offensive core. Their draft was simply too predictable, which isn’t a good thing considering how poorly this regime has managed this roster.
Kansas City Chiefs
Round 1, Pick 32: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU (F)
Round 2, Pick 63: LB Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi State (A)
Round 3, Pick 96: OT Lucas Niang, TCU (A+)
Round 4, Pick 138: CB/S L’Jarius Sneed, Louisiana Tech (A-)
Round 5, Pick 177: EDGE Mike Danna, Michigan (B+)
Round 7, Pick 237: CB Bopete Keyes, Tulane (B+)
The Chiefs have an elite offense, but it’s logical for them to continue to add pieces to continue to dominate. What’s not logical, however, is doing so at the running back position, when they have the perfect system for an average running back like Damien Williams to succeed in. Box counts and offensive line play are the main aspects of running back production, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be able to produce like an elite player as a result. Yet, the upgrade of him over Williams doesn’t move the needle at all, and a player like Laviska Shenault Jr. or a cornerback would’ve made a far greater impact. This was essentially a wasted pick for Kansas City, who may be overvaluing how sound of a roster they have.
Luckily for the Chiefs, they absolutely destroyed the second day of the draft. If not for character concerns, Willie Gay Jr.’s elite athletic tools and coverage ability may have made him a first-round pick, and he fills a major void in Kansas City’s defense. Also, the Chiefs need to continue to fortify this offense for years to come, and selecting Lucas Niang, a tackle who can be developed into a starter for them, is a home run pick.
Even Kansas City’s picks in the final rounds were good value. L’Jarius Sneed and Bopete Keyes are long corners that fit Steve Spagnuolo’s defense well and could be steals based on where they were selected, especially Sneed. Also, Mike Danna is a high-floor edge rusher that’ll give them the depth needed to feel comfortable moving on from Alex Okafor.
An underrated aspect of the Chiefs’ haul of rookies is how many quality undrafted players they signed. Cornerback Lavert Hill, receiver Kalija Lipscomb, cornerback Javaris Davis, interior offensive lineman Darryl Williams, and tackle Yasir Durant were all draft-able players. Heck, the signing of punter Tommy Townsend even allows them to save some money on a punter.
OVERALL GRADE: B-
Had the Chiefs not taken a running back in the first round, this would’ve been potentially an “A+” draft. However, they perhaps feel a bit too invincible as the defending champs, when the reality is that they actually couldn’t afford the luxury pick of Edwards-Helaire. However, their performance in the final two days of the draft, as well as in undrafted free agency, was practically flawless, so they still earn a very respectable grade. This is a draft where I really wish we could just swap Edwards-Helaire for Shenault, as it was Shenault could do everything Edwards-Helaire can do, but he actually plays a valuable position.
Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1, Pick 12: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (B)
Round 1, Pick 19: CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State (C-)
Round 3, Pick 80: RB/WR Lynn Bowden, Kentucky (C-)
Round 3, Pick 81: WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina (B+)
Round 3, Pick 100: S Tanner Muse, Clemson (C+)
Round 4, Pick 109: IOL John Simpson, Clemson (C-)
Round 4, Pick 139: CB Amik Robertson, Louisiana Tech (A+)
The Raiders came into this draft rightfully looking for a receiver and cornerback, and they addressed both of those long-term needs on the perimeter. However, they probably didn’t take the right players at those positions. Henry Ruggs III may have the highest ceiling in this draft with his 4.27 speed, but he’s not as polished as a receiver as Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, and Las Vegas could’ve really benefited from a true #1 receiver. Furthermore, the selection of Damon Arnette was far more confusing, as although I never want to fault a team for drafting a cornerback, he was expected to be drafted in the third round; he’s also an older prospect with middling athleticism, and was drafted over superior prospects at the position.
Initially, I understood the Lynn Bowden Jr. selection in the third round, but it appears the Raiders are covering him to running back. At that point, it’s a very head-scratching pick given all the other holes on their roster, though at least they added another receiver with South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards. Meanwhile, Tanner Muse is the ultimate “Gruden grinder” and had a great combine, but he doesn’t really fit as a linebacker, safety, or a hybrid player- the third round was too early for my liking.
Still in need of youth on the interior of the offensive line, the Raiders felt obliged to trade up for Clemson guard John Simpson. Simply put, there were better interior offensive linemen available, so there wasn’t a reason to trade up for him. However, they did compensate for that strange pick by taking slot corner Amik Robertson, an instinctual slot corner that should be able to start right away and lets safety Lamarcus Joyner move back to a single-high role.
The Raiders’ most intriguing undrafted free agency signing was cornerback Madre Harper, who some people saw as a draft-able prospect out of Southern Illinois.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
Ruggs III, Edwards, and Robertson can all be building blocks for the Raiders moving forward, and technically the same can be said for Arnette. However, for the most part, Las Vegas reached on some players for a second straight draft, and without a second-round pick, it’s very confusing why they didn’t try to trade down and felt obliged to take certain players. The specific positions they targeted were fine, but the players they selected aren’t as inspiring. The Raiders needed a strong draft to complement a productive free agency period, but in the end, I don’t feel like they were helped their future roster.
Los Angeles Chargers
Round 1, Pick 6: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (F)
Round 1, Pick 23: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma (F)
Round 4, Pick 112: RB Joshua Kelley, UCLA (D)
Round 5, Pick 151: WR Joe Reed, Virginia (B+)
Round 6, Pick 7: S Alohi Gillman, Notre Dame (A-)
Round 7, Pick 220: WR KJ Hill, Ohio State (A+)
The Chargers’ future was always going to be dictated from this draft, and unfortunately, that happened to be the case, but in the wrong way. Apparently, they viewed Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa as quarterback prospects who were similar in quality, which I just can’t get on board with whatsoever. Between his lack of pocket presence, inconsistency, inability to go through progressions, and tepidness, he looks like a clone of Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky, which would obviously hurt the Chargers. Yet, that may have not even been their worst move in the first round. It’s one think to take a very flawed linebacking prospect in Kenneth Murray, who struggles in zone coverage, in the first round, but to trade your second and third-round picks to do so? To be worth both those picks at the linebacker position, he’ll need to be an immediate Pro Bowl player, which is a lot of pressure to place on a rookie prospect.
Due to the ill-fated Murray trade, the Chargers did not have a pick on the second day of the draft.
Los Angeles continued on with their poor draft in the fourth round, selecting UCLA running back Joshua Kelley. Kelley doesn’t have any exciting traits to be worthy of a fourth-round selection, and for a team that seemed set with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in the backfield, I don’t get why they felt compelled to take a running back- why not take a shot on an offensive tackle like Jack Driscoll or Ben Bartch? At the very least, they added much-needed receiving depth with run-after-catch specialist Joe Reed and slot receiver KJ Hill, and a hybrid safety in Alohi Gillman who provides insurance behind Derwin James. Unfortunately, those picks came too late to salvage this draft.
The Chargers signed a lot of undrafted free agents, which the most notable being edge rusher Joe Gaziano.
FINAL GRADE: D
There were some poor draft decisions made by teams, but the Chargers performed the worst, in my opinion. Between taking a very flawed quarterback in the top ten, trading up for a linebacker, and not selecting a single offensive lineman, you could say that the front office did more damage to the team’s long-term well-being than they helped it. At least they had some nice late-round selections, but I fear that they just wasted the construction of a very sound roster.
Round 1, Pick 5: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (A)
Round 1, Pick 18: OT Austin Jackson, USC (D+)
Round 1, Pick 30: CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn (B-)
Round 2, Pick 39: IOL Robert Hunt, Louisiana (B)
Round 2, Pick 56: IDL Raekwon Davis, Alabama (D+)
Round 3, Pick 70: S Brandon Jones, Texas (D+)
Round 4, Pick 111: IOL Solomon Kindley, Georgia (B)
Round 5, Pick 154: IDL Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina (C+)
Round 5, Pick 164: EDGE Curtis Weaver, Boise State (A+)
Round 6, Pick 185: LS Blake Ferguson, LSU (D)
Round 7, Pick 246: WR Malcolm Perry, Navy (B+)
Heading into the draft, the rumors indicated that the Dolphins liked Justin Herbert, but it was all smoke in the end, as they may have saved their franchise by opting to select Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa’s accuracy and big-play ability make him worth the injury risk, as he’s a much safer prospect than the erratic Herbert, and has tier-two quarterback potential. Next, it was time for Miami to select someone to protect Tagovailoa, and that’s where they may have made a major mistake. They did select an offensive tackle, but Austin Jackson is a developmental tackle, and developmental tackles shouldn’t be taken in the first round. Since it’s all about avoid weak links on the offensive line, it really doesn’t matter if you have a high upside, and Jackson will likely be asked to start right away- he’s the type of player you select in the second or third round, as multiple teams were able to do. Meanwhile, cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was probably a reach in the first round, as if they wanted a nickel corner, they could’ve waited to select a player like Darnay Holmes. However, he’s a perfect fit in their man-heavy defensive scheme, and it’s hard to fault a team too much for drafting an athletic cornerback.
There was still a lot of hope with the Dolphins heading into the second day of the draft, as plenty of talented offensive players were available. I liked the selection of Robert Hunt, who has guard/tackle flexibility and can be an immediate starter for them. After that, however, Miami decided to add a run-stopping interior defender and a box safety? It doesn’t matter if they fit the defensive scheme; not only were they drafted way earlier that they should’ve, they have replaceable skillsets, and Miami passed on tackle Josh Jones, as well as receivers like Denzel Mims, multiple times.
Between taking a long-snapper, a gimmick player, an interior defender, and a guard, I wasn’t thrilled with what the Dolphins came away with on the final day of the draft. However, they did come away with one of the major steals in the draft, as edge rusher Curtis Weaver is a finesse pass rusher that was ultra-productive in college and should immediately be an impact player for them.
The Dolphins weren’t very active in undrafted free agency, which isn’t surprising considering all the picks they had.
OVERALL GRADE: B
The Dolphins got their franchise quarterback, which gives them a high floor with their overall grade, and the Weaver pick was incredible value. Yet, between selecting a developmental tackle, non-valuable defensive players, and even wasting a pick on a long snapper, the rest of the draft didn’t accomplish much for them. I don’t know why they were so low on Josh Jones, or why they didn’t feel the need to add some speed to their receiving corps, but they had a real chance to set themselves up to be the “top dog” of the AFC East, and I believe they came up short.
New England Patriots
Round 2, Pick 37: S Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne (A-)
Round 2, Pick 60: EDGE/LB Josh Uche, Michigan (A-)
Round 3, Pick 87: EDGE/LB Anfernee Jennings (C+)
Round 3, Pick 91: TE Devin Asiasi, UCLA (C)
Round 3, Pick 101: TE Dalton Keane, Virginia Tech (C-)
Round 5, Pick 169: K Justin Rohrwasser, Marshall (D)
Round 6, Pick 182: IOL Michael Onwenu, Michigan (A-)
Round 6, Pick 195: OL Justin Herron, Wake Forrest (A)
Round 6, Pick 204: LB Caash Maluia, Wyoming (B)
Round 7, Pick 230: IOL Dustin Woodard, Memphis (B-)
The remote draft may have caused teams to not trade as much as they normally would, but that didn’t stop the Patriots from smartly trading out of the first round. They got exceptional value from the Chargers for the 23rd overall pick, adding the 37th and 71st overall picks.
When they finally were on the clock, the Patriots made the predictable move to add a safety, and honestly, they may have picked the perfect one for them. Kyle Dugger is almost 24-years-old and needs some development, but he’s an athletic freak who can be Patrick Chung’s eventual replacement in a hybrid safety/linebacker role- if anyone is going to develop him into a star, it’s Bill Belichick. Sticking with defensive players that fit Belichick’s mold, they traded up in a reasonable exchange with the Ravens to land edge rusher Josh Uche, who can replace Kyle Van Noy as a linebacker/edge rusher hybrid; he was very productive in college and will thrive in that role. It’s a similar role to what Anfernee Jennings will play, but he’s more of a run stopper, so the third round was a little soon for him. As for the multiple tight ends New England selected, not only are neither top-five prospects at the position, and they traded up for both, including surrendering multiple fourth-round picks for Dalton Keane.
Compounding the fact that they didn’t have a fourth-round pick, the Patriots selected a kicker in the fifth round over quarterback Jake Fromm, among other valuable prospects, and simply put, you shouldn’t draft a kicker. Still, they were able to add multiple pieces to their offensive line, which is important since they’ need some youth up front, and Michael Onwenu could even start for them if they trade guard Joe Thuney. Caash Maluia and Dustin Woodard, meanwhile, aren’t well-known prospects and will compete roster spots.
Defensive back Myles Bryant fits the Patriots’ mold, while some saw receiver Jeff Thomas as a draftable prospect. New England didn’t sign many undrafted free agents, however.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
The Patriots made some questionable moves with their tight end selections and drafting a kicker in the fifth round, but their first two selections will be long-time productive starters for their defense; their trade down with the Chargers was also a mark of brilliance. It was an uneven draft, but they did improve their future defense and add offensive line depth, and it’s clear that Bill Belichick is all in on them taking a step back this season to secure a top quarterback prospect. I’m very surprised they didn’t add some speed to their receiving corps, but there was definitely more good than bad in this draft.
New York Jets
Round 1, Pick 11: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville (C)
Round 2, Pick 59: WR Denzel Mims, Baylor (A)
Round 3, Pick 68: S Ashytn Davis, California (A-)
Round 3, Pick 79: EDGE Jabari Zuniga, Florida (C-)
Round 4, Pick 120: RB La’Mical Perine, Florida (D)
Round 4, Pick 125: QB James Morgan, FIU (C)
Round 4, Pick 129: OL Cameron Clarke, Charlotte (B+)
Round 5, Pick 158: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia (A+)
Round 6, Pick 191: P Braden Mann, Texas A&M (B-)
Heading into the draft, the Jets were destined to add either an offensive tackle or receiver to help Sam Darnold, with tackle seeming like the more logical option given how the draft would play out. Mekhi Becton was worth a first-round pick for a lot of teams, but not a team like the Jets. New York needs someone who can come in right away and be a sure thing protecting Darnold’s blindside, and Becton simply isn’t refined enough to be that. With all the top receivers on the board, as well as Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs, selecting a project in Becton was questionable.
After taking Becton, it was the worst-kept secret that the Jets were going to select a receiver in the second round. Yet, they were able to trade down and secure an extra third-round pick, while still landing a receiver with a lot of potential in Denzel Mims- if he pans out, he can help elevate the offense. Meanwhile, teams need three safeties in the modern NFL, and Ashytn Davis is a rangy free safety who complements Jamal Adams perfectly. I didn’t like the Jabari Zuniga pick, as he’s a pass rusher with no pass-rush moves, but New York did very well on the second day of the draft.
Between taking a non-special running back, passing on Jake Fromm for James Morgan, and taking a punter, the Jets mostly struggled on day three of the draft. However, they were the team to take a risk on cornerback Bryce Hall, which may work out perfectly for him. A broken ankle is not an injury that a player won’t recover from, and as a press cornerback, he’ll probably start for them right away.
The Jets had one of the more productive undrafted free agency periods. Cornerback Lamar Jackson is a long corner who fits defensive coordinator Greg Williams’ scheme well, Shyheim Carter is a versatile cornerback/safety, Javelin Guidry is an explosive defensive back, and Bryce Huff was an edge rusher that should’ve been drafted. Heck, even Jared Hilbers can be a depth piece on their offensive line.
OVERALL GRADE: B-
The Jets made some nice picks, but they also made some poor picks. Becton just doesn’t mesh with what they needed from their first-round pick, while Perine, Zuniga, and Morgan were all strange picks. However, trading down and still getting Mims was fantastic, while Davis and Hall will be future starters for them in the secondary. Heck, they even came away with a nice haul in undrafted free agency. I can see what general manager Joe Douglas is trying to accomplish, but I can’t help but wonder how strong their draft could’ve been with a different first-round selection, as I’m not sure Darnold has enough to lead this team and to take the next step in his progression.
Round 2, Pick 49: WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame (C+)
Round 3, Pick 102: EDGE Alex Highsmith, Charlotte (C)
Round 4, Pick 124: RB Anthony McFarland, Maryland (B-)
Round 4, Pick 135: IOL Kevin Dotson, Louisiana (B-)
Round 6, Pick 198: S Antoine Brooks Jr., Maryland (B-)
Round 7, Pick 232: IDL Carlos Davis, Nebraska (B)
Despite being without Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of the season, the 0-2 Steelers decided to ship their first-round pick for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. It was a questionable move at the time, but considering how cheap Fitzpatrick is, it’s clear he’s worth the 18th overall pick in the draft.
Without any glaring needs, the Steelers planned for their future with their day-two selections. Chase Claypool is a tight end/receiver hybrid that they’ll need to be creative with, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just target a pure receiver like Denzel Mims. However, the potential pay-off of the Claypool pick could be huge, and the same goes for the selection of Alex Highsmith, who was a very productive edge rusher, albeit at Charlotte. I’m not a fan of either prospect, but the overall process regarding the positions they targeted was fine.
Running backs aren’t ever going to move the needle, but in the fourth round, Anthony McFarland was drafted right around where he should’ve been. His explosiveness complements Pittsburgh’s power backs well, and he just turned 22-years-old. Meanwhile, Kevin Dotston was the best interior offensive lineman on the board, but the Steelers have done a nice job developing those types of players, and he’s a powerful player. Going back to the defense, Antoine Brooks Jr. doesn’t bring a lot of excitement as a box safety and interior defender Carlos Davis is 24-years-old with no pass-rush moves, and those two selections were the perfect way to cap off a very average draft.
Former Ohio State interior defender Josiah Coatney is very similar to Carlos Davis in that he’s unrefined and 24-years-old, but is explosive; hopefully, one of those two players can be developed to be a rotational player.
FINAL GRADE: C+
The Steelers were never going to have an exciting draft after trading for Fitzpatrick, which doesn’t factor into the final grade here. However, passing on more complete receiver prospects, as well as some offensive linemen, prevented them from making the most of the draft. If this draft was about planning for the future, why not select a quarterback like Jake Fromm to be the backup and potentially a starter down the road? It wasn’t a poor draft, but it just wasn’t a very inspiring one.
Round 1, Pick 29: OL Isaiah Wilson, Georgia (D)
Round 2, Pick 61: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU (A+)
Round 3, Pick 93: RB Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State (C)
Round 5, Pick 174: IDL Larrell Murchison, NC State (C+)
Round 7, Pick 224: QB Cole McDonald, Hawaii (A-)
Round 7, Pick 243: CB Chris Jackson, Marshall (B)
I’m all for taking shots on offensive lineman with the ability to play tackle early on, but not if they’re a project player. Isaiah Wilson weighs 350 pounds and moves well for his size, but he’s very unrefined, and although he’s just 21-years-old, is a massive work-in-progress. That’s a player you would take in the middle rounds of the draft, and even if he can start right away as a guard, it’s not worth a first-round pick.
Luckily for the Titans, they were able to make up for it tremendously by having LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton fall to them. Adjusting for positional value, Fulton was a top-ten player in this draft class for me. I don’t know why he fell, but he’s a balanced cornerback with no major weakness, and will come in an immediately be a high-quality starter for them. Considering that Malcolm Butler is a looming cap causality, and they need to make a decision on Adoree’ Jackson’s future soon, this was a very important pick for them. When you have one primary running back, I’ve never going to understand spending on early pick on a complement, but at least Darrynton Evans will fit in nicely as an explosive, Raheem Mostert type of player.
The Titans were without a fourth-round pick due to the Ryan Tannehill trade, which obviously worked out for them. They finally added an interior defender in Larrell Murchison, though he’s mostly a run stopper, while defensive back Chris Jackson (seventh round) probably was drafted to play special teams for them. The most intriguing day-three pick they made, however, was Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald, who has tons of big-play ability, and could be an effective backup; his strengths line up well with Tannehill’s.
The Titans actually got a better interior rusher in undrafted free agency than they got with Murchison, as Teair Tart produced on college, albeit with fewer than 700 career snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
OVERALL GRADE: B
If you flipped the Titans’ first two picks, it looks significantly better. However, Tennessee didn’t add a receiver, could’ve used more cornerback depth, and didn’t add pass rush depth. Obviously, you don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself into taking a specific player, but taking a complementary running back in the third round, as well as a project offensive lineman, isn’t ideal.