By Dan Kadar, SBNation
The initial outlook for the first round in the 2016 NFL Draft is mostly a positive one. Even though we saw several trades in the first round, a lot of teams navigated the draft to their favor.
Ultimately how well they navigated the first round won’t truly be known for a few years, but way too early grades need to be handed out. These grades were decided on a number of factors: Relative value, need, system fit, risk and potential. These are snap reaction grades that we’ll revisit in a few years.
1. Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, QB, California
As expected, the Rams took Goff after making the blockbuster trade with the Titans. Goff is the draft’s best quarterback who excels at doing the small stuff. With the way he reads a defense, works progressions and fits the ball in a tight window. This grade is only lower than you may expect because of the amount of picks the Rams had to give up. It was a steep price to pay for a quarterback who doesn’t enter the NFL with a grade as high as Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota a year ago.
2. Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
There is a real risk with Wentz. Obviously taking him second overall, you assume the best. You assume he’s going to be the franchise quarterback who leads the Eagles to the playoffs consistently. You assume his impressive tools will translate to the NFL. But you also have to assume he can transition from the FCS level where he had limited starting experience. Similar to the Rams’ grade, this one gets knocked a touch because of the amount of picks the Eagles had to give up to move up six spots in the draft. Still, if you’re giving up that many picks, you do it for a quarterback you think can be a star.
3. San Diego Chargers – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
This was the first surprise of the first round of the draft, but if the draft was in January a lot of people probably would have expected this choice. Bosa is the draft’s best player but got unfairly picked apart during the combine process. It’s almost like we all got bored of Bosa. The Ohio State junior is a good combo end who can stop the run and get after the quarterback. His pass rush skill will get negated some if the Chargers use him as an end in a three-man front. That’s the big issue with this choice.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
There’s no mistaking that Elliott is one of the draft’s best players. He’s a complete running back who can do everything. But this is high for a running back, especially when you have Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden on the roster. Sure, they’re not world beaters or superstars like Elliott, but having them is a waste of money. Still, Elliott should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year front runner. With Elliott along with quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant, they have their new Triplets.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
This had to be one of the more effortless picks in the top 10 to make. Ramsey is an NFL-ready superstar who can star at cornerback. Ramsey fits perfectly in Gus Bradley’s defense thanks to his size and physicality. With Ramsey and the addition of safety Tashaun Gipson, the Jaguars now have an imposing pass defense.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Just when you thought Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome would zig, he zagged. Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil grades out higher than Stanley. He’s more athletic and more physical as a run blocker. But you wonder if the Ravens went with Stanley due to some issues about Tunsil off the field. Stanley goes this high because he’s a high-level pass blocker. Stanley can keep Joe Flacco upright, and that’s priority No. 1 for the Ravens. The grade is average solely because Tunsil has the potential to be so good.
7. San Francisco 49ers – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
The expected pick happened as expected. With Buckner and Arik Armstead, the 49ers have an imposing and young defensive front. Buckner fits the system San Francisco is going to run. He’s a powerful end who fits the Calais Campbell comparison perfectly.
8. Tennessee Titans – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
This is a safe pick. It’s a smart pick. It’s a pick the Titans gave up a lot to make. The Titans must have been another team really anxious about Laremy Tunsil. Conklin is a good fit, though. He’s a tough and hard-nosed blocker who will pair nicely with Taylor Lewan. Which one of them ends up on the right or left will be decided, but now the Titans have bookends to protect Marcus Mariota.
9. Chicago Bears – Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
The Bears moved up to get Floyd because the Giants would have taken him at No. 10. The fit in Chicago is there. The Bears needed another pass rusher to go with Pernell McPhee. The risk here is that Floyd has some playing strength issues. He bulked up during the offseason process, but will it lead to better strength in the NFL? The great fear is that he becomes Barkevious Mingo – a light but rangy and athletic pass rusher who can’t hold against NFL blockers.
10. New York Giants – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
New York’s pass defense was terrible last year, so they were fine letting Prince Amukamara leave and bringing in Janoris Jenkins on a big dollar deal. But apparently that wasn’t enough. Apple can become a great player, but boy was he up and down at Ohio State last season. The tools are there. He’s big and gets physical with receivers, but his technique needs refined. It’s unfair to say the Giants panicked after Floyd came off the board, but this is early for Apple.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
The Buccaneers could have stuck at No. 9 and taken Hargreaves and it would have been fine. They were able to drop down a couple picks and acquire an extra choice and get the guy they wanted. That’s how a good general manager works the draft. If Hargreaves’ on-field negatives can get fixed (he can get beat deep), the Buccaneers have the top-line corner they’ve need for several seasons.
12. New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Rankins, DE, Louisville
The Saints had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last season, so they were widely mocked defensive linemen in the first round. They get the best athlete for a defensive tackle in this year’s class. Rankins is going to effortlessly fire into the backfield to help disrupt things, allowing the linebackers the Saints brought in this offseason to clean things up. This is a perfect example of drafting best player at a need.
13. Miami Dolphins – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Imagine, a month ago Tunsil was in position to being the first player taken in the draft. Then he should have been picked third by the Chargers. Then he should have been picked sixth by the Ravens. But off-field questions, as well as some injury issues, doomed Tunsil. The benefactors are the Dolphins, who get one of the five best players in the draft. If he can stay clean and healthy, this is one of the steals of the draft.
14. Oakland Raiders – Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
The Raiders have their corners in Sean Smith and David Amerson, but needed an enforcer. That’s Joseph. He’s a monster hitter who got better every year before getting hurt last season. This was a touch early for Joseph, but he fits what the Raiders need.
15. Cleveland Browns – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
The Browns have needs everywhere, so of course they got a starter here. The issue is that the Browns already have some smaller, speedy receivers on the roster. But in Hue Jackson’s deep-ball offense, Coleman is a fit. I just have a couple receivers rated higher than Coleman, so that dings the grade a little bit.
16. Detroit Lions – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The gap between Decker and the next group of offensive tackles in the draft is vast. If the Lions wanted to help protect Matthew Stafford, it’s the smart pick. Decker is an imposing blocker who excels on power run plays. I slotted him further down the first round, but offensive tackles rise in the draft.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Keanu Neal, S, Florida
The pick makes sense from the standpoint that the Falcons need a sure tackler in the back seven. This is really early, though, for a player who will probably fill the Kam Chancellor role in Atlanta. It’s just a role that could have been filled later in the draft.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
The Colts had a hole in their offensive line, and it was stopping franchise quarterback Andrew Luck from actualizing his potential. With Kelly playing the pivot, maybe now we can find out how good Luck can be. My rating on Kelly isn’t as high as some, but he fills a big need.
19. Buffalo Bills – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Leading up to the draft, it was clear the Bills needed to get a player on the defensive line. With Mario Williams in Miami, it was especially important to get a player who can rush the passer. That’s what Lawson can do, and likely why he was the pick over the number of other defensive linemen who were available.
20. New York Jets – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
The Jets needed to add speed and talent on their defensive front, and that’s what they get in Lee. He’s a rangy linebacker who has some potential as a pass rusher. Getting him at the No. 20 pick in the draft is something of a steal.
21. Houston Texans – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
It was clear the Texans needed to get a receiver opposite star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The addition of Fuller will take some of the pressure (and attention) off him. Fuller can open up the whole field thanks to his speed and route running. This is a little early for me, though, and I have Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson rated higher. Fuller also has some drop issues. If he can get that figured out, however, it won’t matter.
22. Washington – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
The run on wide receivers continued with a surprise pick of Doctson. Most thought Washington was going to go front seven on defense, but threw a curve ball by picking the talented TCU receiver. With Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson entering contract years, the need was there for an outside receiver of the future.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Three wide receivers went before the best one in the draft mostly because Treadwell ran an unimpressive 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine. Treadwell is a big and physical receiver who can be a top target for Teddy Bridgewater. If he can play a little faster and concentrate through the catch, he can put up big numbers in the NFL. Oh, and he’ll help Adrian Peterson. Treadwell is one of the best run blocking wide outs in this year’s draft.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – William Jackson III, CB, Houston
The Bengals cold have reached on a wide receiver here, but wisely went another direction. With Jackson, they get a playmaking outside cornerback who can push 32-year-old Adam Jones for a starting job. It’s just a bonus that the Bengals grabbed him in front of division rival Pittsburgh.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Artie Burns, CB, Miami
The Steelers haven’t drafted a cornerback in the first round since 1997. It really showed last season when they finished 30th in the NFL in pass defense and have no clear No. 1 corner on the roster. Burns is big and athletic but was inconsistent at times last season. The grade gets dinged because I had Burns rated in the 50s. He’s a player who runs hot and cold, but if he’s coached up, he can be a good player. It’s just a matter of how fast that and adapting to more of a zone system can happen.
26. Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
The Broncos get their quarterback. Leading up to the draft, the best comparison for Lynch was Brock Osweiler. From a tools standpoint, he should fit fine in Denver’s offense. It’s just a matter of how fast he can adapt to the NFL game. This is about the proper range for Lynch to come off the board.
27. Green Bay Packers – Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
As expected, the Packers took a defensive lineman in the first round. They had their choice of several, and took a dependable one with Clark. He’s experienced playing in a 3-4 defense and can play the nose or at end. My preference would have been one of the Alabama linemen like Jarran Reed or A’Shawn Robinson, but Clark can step into a prominent role early.
28. San Francisco 49ers – Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford
This was one of the real surprise moves of the first round with the 49ers jumping back into the first round. The immediate thought after trading back into the first round was that maybe a quarterback could be the pick. That wasn’t the case. Instead, the 49ers get a powerful guard who most thought would be available late in the second round. It does fill a need, however, for a team that gives up a lot of sacks. Still, it’s a trade that maybe didn’t need to happen.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
The talent of Nkemdiche warrants a top 10 pick. The risk of Nkemdiche is what caused him to drop this far in the draft. Arizona is a good landing spot for him because of the locker room that took in Tyrann Mathieu and made him a star. Coming out, Mathieu had some of the same question marks off-the-field that Nkemdiche does. If Nkemdiche can stay on the straight and narrow, the Cardinals could have a star.
30. Carolina Panthers – Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
The Panthers could have a hard time re-signing both Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short along the defensive line. If they can’t be brought back, Butler is the perfect bit of insurance. He’s more like Lotulelei than Short, in that he’s already stout against the run. He got better last season as a pass rusher, and will start his career as a super rotational player.
31. Seattle Seahawks – Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
The Seahawks very obviously needed offensive line help following the departure of Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy this offseason. Where Ifedi fits will be determined. He has experience at guard and tackle, but needs to be coached up. Fortunately, the Seahawks have arguably the best offensive line teacher in the NFL. Ifedi is the perfect piece of clay for Cable to shape. The value may not be there with Ifedi, but the potential is.
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