NFL Draft Round 1 – NFC Grades

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys: CB Byron Jones (No. 27)
Grade: B-
I didn’t see the quick hips and closing speed I would have liked from Jones. I can’t write him off without seeing more tape, though.

New York Giants: Ereck Flowers (No. 9)
Grade: B-
Flowers is a beast in the run game, but he might lack the agility to ever defend against good edge rushers effectively. #9 felt too high for a player who might end up at guard.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Nelson Agholor (No. 20)
Grade: A
Agholor is quick in and out of breaks, sets up defenders, and has breakaway speed. He also sports very reliable hands and won contests for the ball. I’ll take that over Kevin White’s acrobatics any day.

Washington Redskins: OL Brandon Scherff (No. 5)
Grade: B+
I saw one media outlet describe Sherff as a “reach” while in the same breath touting Leonard Williams as the obvious pick here. Williams showed inconsistent effort for most of 2014; I’d venture Sherff has never played a down at anything less than top effort and commitment to technique. Who’s the “reach,” again? (By the way, with their talent at the skill positions and improvement up front, the Washington offense could make a little noise this year.)

NFC North
Chicago Bears: WR Kevin White (No. 7)
Grade: B
He’s good, I just liked other players better.

Detroit Lions: OG Laken Tomlinson (No. 28)
Grade: B
Most linemen I viewed as vastly superior to Tomlinson had come off the board by now, so I can’t hate the pick. But Detroit has a serious opportunity in this draft to restock its defensive line — where talent is a rarer commodity — with players like Jordan Philliips and Eddie Goldman available. They might regret letting that opportunity slip by.

Green Bay Packers: S Damarious Randall (No. 30)
Grade: B+
This team has two young starting safeties that can play the back end and roll up and cover a slot receiver man-to-man. If they want to rush 6 on passing downs, they’re probably free to do it. Sounds a little scary, right?

Minnesota Vikings: CB Trae Waynes (No. 11)
Grade: B+
I liked him, and he went high in the first round. No story here.

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons: LB/DE Vic Beasley (No. 8)
Grade: C+
Beasley struck fear in the hearts of college offensive tackles, okay? He’s lightning fast off the edge, and tackles looking to jump out and defend him often fell victim to agile pass rush moves back inside. I think he has heavy hands for a 225-pound player, too. So there’s potential. But NFL tackles will probably never stay awake at night over Beasley, largely because he doesn’t generate the power into them that makes speed so effective as a complement. The Seahawks apparently want none of Bruce Irvin just four years after drafting him; what makes us applaud Atlanta for taking a similar player in the Top 10?

Carolina Panthers: LB Shaq Thompson (No. 25)
Grade: A
This defense scares the daylights out of me.

New Orleans Saints: OL Andrus Peat (No. 13), LB Stephone Anthony (No. 31)
Grade: B-
Stephone Anthony plays fast and bullies players twice his size. Andrus Peat plays too high and gets bullied by players Anthony’s size. Mixed bag here. (By the way, not sure how many pundits ranked Stephone Anthony the highest inside linebacker in the draft, but yours truly did. Wasn’t the least bit surprised to see him go here.)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston (No. 1)
Grade: A
Jameis Winston is about as prepared to learn the position of NFL quarterback as almost anyone leaving college: good arm, good touch, toughness in the face of pressure, experience making pro-style reads. And not for nothin’: where else were the Bucs going to turn for a quarterback?

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals: OL D.J. Humphries (No. 24)
Grade: A+
Love this pick. Humphries compares favorably to Tyron Smith. ‘Nuff said.

St. Louis Rams: RB Todd Gurley (No. 10)
Grade: A
Best available player. (And weird to see St. Louis draft only once in the first round, right? Zing, DC!)

San Francisco 49ers: DL Arik Armstead (No. 17)
Grade: B
Just like Leonard Williams, whom I wrote about my AFC Grades, Armstead’s motor runs hot and cold. A gamble like that is much more forgivable at 17, but the 49ers may regret passing on superior talent on the offensive line or a player like Agholor.

Seattle Seahawks: No picks
Grade: Incomplete
They lost this pick as a penalty for that terrible play call at the end of the Super Bowl, right?

Three Potential NFL Draft Smokescreens

Don’t forget: keep an eye out for sportsthink’s first annual Most Valuable Players in the Draft this week. 

The season of misinformation is upon us.  I scrounge for any insight into the Chargers’ draft plans, just like any fan.  But the leaks that grab the headlines?  Some of them are clearly untrue.  Here are a few anonymous “team evaluations” that seemed designed to try to throw people off the scent.

The Cardinals want nothing to do with a quarterback this year – Clearly there’s no Andrew Luck in the 2013 Draft.  There’s probably no one that projects to outplay Carson Palmer in 2013.  But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t draft a quarterback at number seven, and the most likely candidate is Geno Smith.  Smith has two stand out attributes that Bruce Arians has historically coveted in quarterbacks: some touch on the deep ball and the ability to stay alive and reset his feet in the pocket.  Whether those skills outweigh Smith’s accuracy problems is another question.  But don’t be surprised to see the Cardinals take him, despite all their bluster to the contrary.

Teams rate Jonathan Cooper higher than Chance Warmack – These scouts, they’ve seen both players play, right?  Jonathan Cooper is a physical specimen: he not only moves like a tight end, but he has the strength to throw around defensive linemen.  The thing that distinguishes offensive guards from other massive, professional athletes, though, is their ability to latch onto other large humans and move them where they want to go.  In this latter respect, Warmack vastly outclasses Cooper.  For anyone thinking that Cooper will “fit better” in an NFL zone blocking system, put on the tape of the BCS title game, and watch Warmack slapping around Notre Dame linebackers at the second level.  Warmack projects to be a much better pro than Cooper, and will likely be drafted as such.

Johnathan Franklin is threatening Eddie Lacy to be the first running back drafted – The aforementioned BCS title game?  That was Lacy, not Franklin, exploding through tacklers en route to 7 yards per carry against the best defense in the country.  Lacy gets to the hole quicker; makes better, more consistent reads; and takes more decisive cuts than Franklin.  Plus he outweighs him by 50 pounds.

Now appearing in any future post for which I can find an excuse to include her: Halle Berry!

Now appearing in any future post for which I can find an excuse to include her: Halle Berry!

I like Franklin in the later rounds, but I think he’s a bit of wildcard.  The fumbling issues stand out as one glaring problem.  He apparently put on the ball on the ground a ton of times his first three years at UCLA.  Franklin reportedly addressed the issue after a summer at the Omar Epps school for fumble prevention.  Good that he was able to make strides, but doesn’t this beg the question: if all he needed to stop fumbling was to carry a ball with him around campus, why didn’t he start a few years earlier?