Comments: 2013 NFL Draft Report Cards: for all 32 teams
Grading the draft after just a single season only counts for so much. Some players need more time to marinate and develop their skills. It's also difficult to quantify the impact of some positions, such as a defensive tackle that is strong against the run or an offensive guard who filled in admirably for a few games after an injury. How do you factor in value? If a third round pick was a team's best rookie, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Grades are simply a snapshot; a still-foggy Polaroid photo that you are still shaking into focus. These grades are one man's opinion, among many, about the instant impact and undefined new trajectory of a franchise. Let's look back on the 2013 NFL Draft and the subsequent 2013 season to discuss who got it more right or more wrong after one full season.
Arizona Cardinals: B+
The Cardinals addressed some key needs by drafting two guards in the first four rounds. It was just bad luck Jonathan Cooper was unable to contribute due to injury. He is a stud and will make this team much better in 2014. Kevin Minter barely cracked the field, but that could change if Karlos Dansby doesn't return. Tyrann Mathieu more than exceeded expectations and appears to be one of the big steals of the draft. Finally, excellent value selections taking Stepfan Taylor in the fifth (140th overall) and Andre Ellington in the sixth (187th overall). They will come together as a formidable duo for years to come.
Atlanta Falcons: B-
They threw their first two picks right into the lion's den. CBs Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford anchored one of the worst pass defenses the NFL has ever seen, but it was a team effort (or lack thereof). Hopefully their added experience helps them develop soon. Beyond the pair, not much else was added in the draft. Fourth-round TE Levine Toilolo will have to show he can be more than a red zone target as he is the team's new No. 1 option. Undrafted free agent Paul Worrilow came on strong as a reserve and may be a future starter because of his nose for the ball-carrier.
Baltimore Ravens: C-
In the immediate short-term, the Ravens could have done better. First rounder Matt Elam was decent, but I would rather have Johnathan Cyprien who was drafted one pick later by Jacksonville. LB Arthur Brown played very little and produced even less. The remaining draftees have not done much else. G Ricky Wagner may see some starting time and undrafted free agent WR Marlon Brown emerged as the team's second-best receiver. That isn't saying much since Ravens receivers not named Torrey Smith are awful. Any optimism stems from Ozzie Newsome's track record and a lot of players with even more to prove.
Buffalo Bills: B+
The selections of Robert Woods and Kiko Alonso in the second round is what a good draft is all about. The Bills obviously identified two players who were ready to contribute immediately. Alonso was seriously robbed of a defensive Rookie of the Year award. The wildcards are E.J. Manuel and Marquise Goodwin. If both players continue to improve and contribute as starters, this draft then has A+ upside. Manuel was average, but far from great as a rookie. Goodwin has crazy speed so if it clicks for him, it will have been well worth the risk. Going by potential though caps their grade at a B+ since they committed early to a quarterback. Kicker Dustin Hopkins was placed on IR and TE Chris Kragg is a solid low-end backup with some size and athleticism.
Carolina Panthers: C
Star Lotulelei is and was an excellent pick. Carolina's tough as nails defensive line greatly improved the entire squad. Kenjon Barner has yet to make an impact and we will have to wait in the wings to earn more snaps. Ultimately, the positions they did not improve in the draft, like wide receiver, was an oversight. An inability to stretch defenses vertically limited Carolina's offensive firepower. Moving ahead, that should be a primary concern.
Chicago Bears: B+
Chicago made the right choice to select two tackles and two LBs. Their offensive line had issues for multiple seasons and their linebacking core was dwindling. LBs Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene weren't ready for Day 1, but will grow into viable starters. OLs Kyle Long and Jordan Mills will also be looked to start. The Bears addressed key needs and have starters to show for it. It's hard to argue with that. The question remains though whether these guys can flourish in their second seasons and beyond. None of them displayed elite potential.
Cincinnati Bengals: A+
Quantity and quality collide in Cincinnati. The Bengals drafted ten players and nine of them are still on the roster. Whether discussing starters or reserves, the key to their good draft is that the team can continue to develop their young talent while bringing in future draft classes. This foundation sets them up well for the future. Lastly, they already have seen some good return on their investment from Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard. Margus Hunt may have been a bigger project than expected, but they have the flexibility to be patient. The remaining players can be found peppered around their depth chart and will compete for larger roles. They enter 2014 with a new batch of draft picks that can come in and challenge 2013's former rookies. This is how great teams build depth like San Francisco and Seattle.
Cleveland Browns: F
Barkevious Mingo has not shown to be very good at the one thing he was brought in to do: pass rush. And with only one other pick in the first five rounds, third-rounder Leon McFadden, the cupboard is bare. The Browns have just as many needs, if not more, than they did entering the 2013 NFL Draft. All in all, that makes it a pointless draft class. Mingo has to make a huge leap in Year 2 to salvage this class. A small glimmer of hope comes from G Garrett Gilkey who is poised to start at RG next year.
Dallas Cowboys: A-
The Cowboys succeeded on hitting some key needs. Travis Frederick plugged in right away at center. Gavin Escobar will play opposite Jason Witten for his remaining years and Terrance Williams is poised to take Miles Austin's starting gig in 2014. Two additions to the secondary, B.W. Webb and J.J. Wilcox are still on the depth chart and could push to start this year. The only small critique is that the Cowboys are now very thin along the defensive line following their shift to a 4-3. Joseph Randle was called to duty for a brief period and he proved servicable.
Denver Broncos: B-
The early returns on Sylvester Williams and Montee Ball look favorable. Williams earned more and more playing time as the season went along and deserved it. The same could be said for Ball who is in line for a starting gig in 2014. The rest of the picks are a bit spotty and third round CB Kayvon Webster looks like a big reach. If he can eventually earn more playing time, the grade jumps toward a B+.
Detroit Lions: A-
The Lions did very well on their first three picks. Ezekial Ansah was as raw as everyone thought, but he still managed to lead all rookies in sacks. Darius Slay already beat out two 2012 CB draft picks . He had an up and down rookie season and will have to endure some growing pains in his development. Third rounder G Larry Warford is the real deal and should be a starter for his whole career. Beyond that, some solid depth choices like Devin Taylor, Theo Riddick and Corey Fuller could blossom into role players. This is what a really good draft looks like and that is not even including the undrafted guys they brought in.
Green Bay Packers: B
The only pick who may have been a miss in this draft is Johnathan Franklin. Luckily for the Pack, their biggest hit was Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy. JC Tretter is set to start in 2014. Datone Jones and Josh Boyd did not play a whole lot; however the franchise certainly feels both players are on the right developmental path. Green Bay also brought in Seattle's fourth round WR pick which is a position they will likely address in the 2014 draft.
Houston Texans: C+
DeAndre Hopkins looks like a legit WR2. D.J. Swearinger closed the season as a starter. Between David Quessenberry and Brennan Williams, both players are projects they hope can eventually be paired opposite Duane Brown. Houston's defense is very young and needs help across the board. Not addressing more of those defensive problems really hurt them in 2013, which is why I must deflate their grade significantly.
Indianapolis Colts: D
Never believed in Bjoern Werner and he showed very little as a rookie. Hugh Thornton should do well as a starting RG. He is a really physical player. Khaled Holmes and Montori Hughes are still a long way from heavy playing time. Their remaining picks did nothing. Indy no longer has a first rounder after dealing for Trent Richardson. Most concerning has to be their secondary. No depth to speak of and the position went completely ignored in last year's draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A+
When you hit on your first four picks, it's hard to be wrong. Luke Joeckel will be okay once he is healthy. Johnathan Cyprien was a beast in the second half of the year. Dwayne Gratz looks like a capable starter and Ace Sanders was very quietly a solid short-yardage receiver. Denard Robinson earns a pass from me as everyone knew he needed time. The final three picks, all defensive backs, provide much-needed depth for the future at what had been a critical team weakness for years. The Jags needed to add a foundation and did that successfully with this 2013 class.
Kansas City Chiefs: D+
By using a second rounder to add Alex Smith, the Chiefs fixed their biggest problem area and were free to use draft picks elsewhere. Eric Fisher still has a lot to prove in his second year when it was thought he would be ready immediately. TE Travis Kelce fit a need but failed to beat out Anthony Fasano. Nico Johnson has a bright future ahead of him and may start next season. RB Knile Davis should be a steady backup behind RB Jamaal Charles and looks dangerous if given the chance. There is no one who sticks out from this class and they all need to take big leaps forward over the next year. The addition of Smith saved their final grade from failing.
Miami Dolphins: C-
Dion Jordan's limited playing time concerns me. CB Jamar Taylor looked solid for the most part. The best pick here may be the kicker, Caleb Sturgis. RB Mike Gillislee did not impress enough to overtake RB Daniel Thomas, but that was could change next year. Most every pick is listed as second or third on the depth chart right now and that is not including all the free agents who would overtake them if they were currently under contract. Reaching for Jordan may have been a mistake. There isn't a whole lot to show from this class yet.
Minnesota Vikings: B+
The Vikes put all their eggs in three baskets named Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson. Of these three, "C Patt" is a player to watch for sure. Floyd and Rhodes however only played up to depth standards. Floyd has all the potential in the world, as does Rhodes to a lesser extent. Minnesota needs all three of these guys to take a big step in 2014. Jeff Baca, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hughes all have a shot to start in 2014. It is really promising considering those guys were all in the fourth or later.
New England Patriots: A-
Love Jamie Collins and WR Aaron Dobson. Both of these guys will be starting their whole careers. CB Logan Ryan may already be the Pats' best corner, excluding times when Aqib Talib is healthy and motivated, and any additional contributions from WR Josh Boyce would be welcomed. Even more impressive, they brought in undrafted talent (WR Kenbrell Thompkins, Chris Jones and Joe Vellano). These three may all be diamonds in the rough.
New Orleans Saints: A
Quality over quantity. Kenny Vaccaro displayed flashes of long-term brilliance. Terron Armstead will be a force at tackle for years. John Jenkins should be a rotational player at a minimum his whole career and WR Kenny Stills just might push Marques Colston for the top spot on the WR depth chart. For a team that made the postseason so they were hampered by a later pick and further limited to so few picks, they nailed it.
New York Giants: D
Passing on a LB was a mistake and needs to be addressed already. Just ask any mock draft writer from the last five years. New York has stitched together linebackers for long enough. First rounder Justin Pugh felt like a reach at the time and was okay, but not exactly on par with the No. 19 overall pick. New York really needs Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore to make a leap next year because they added very little in this draft class. Moore had one-year wonder concerns and Hankins' motor concerns me.
New York Jets: A-
Dee Milliner's serious inconsistencies are forgiven thanks to Sheldon Richardson's surprising defensive Rookie of the Year win. Richardson was a monster against the run and Milliner will have to re-establish himself in 2014. QB Geno Smith will probably get another crack at starting next year, but how long will his leash be? The silver lining is the Jets drafted three offensive linemen from Rounds 3 to 6 and they figure to compete for starting time next season. This should all be very impressive for a franchise which missed in the draft recently far more than they've hit. The Jets even drafted a starting fullback. If it weren't for Milliner, it'd be a near-flawless draft in the sense that every player made the team at least a little better.
Oakland Raiders: D
My criteria, as we have well established, boils down to is a team that better off than where it was 365 days ago. The Raiders failed in this regard. Nearly the entire draft class is among the top two on the depth chart at every position. While there is the potential for improvement, not a single draftee improved this team. The Raiders had the No. 3 pick last year and are clearly lacking a big-name, superstar player, or even an All-Pro player, to push them or lead them in the right direction. D.J. Hayden was a reach, Sio Moore did not wow me, and Menelik Watson is serviceable on the left side. The Raiders used ten draft picks last year and their roster is not significantly or partially improved.
Philadelphia Eagles: C+
Lane Johnson grew into the position, as did TE Zach Ertz. Both players should be regular starters sooner rather than later. Bennie Logan did not play significant time until late in the season, but looked to have established himself as key cog in their defensive line rotation. QB Matt Barkley is trade bait at least since Nick Foles turned out to be a big hit. The remaining players could go either way. Earl Wolff has an outside shot at being the SS starter, but that largely depends on upcoming free agency moves.
Pittsburgh Steelers: B-
Jarvis Jones will get better, so I am not stuck on his mediocre rookie year. RB Le'Veon Bell really came on strong when healthy and finally gives the Steeles' the power runner they've needed. WR Markus Wheaton , on many dynasty radars, probably needs another season before he overtakes Emmanuel Sanders but there is a possibility that happens sooner rather than later. Shamarko Thomas and Landry Jones are long-term prospects so their minimal contributions are no problem. Vince Williams could surprise as a starter in the next two seasons.
San Diego Chargers: B+
My concern for D.J. Fluker was his pass-blocking so he will need to continue developing in that regard. Manti Te'o will be a starter for the rest of his career, book it. WR Keenan Allen was likely the biggest steal of the draft. They said he was NFL-ready, comparing him to a young Reggie Wayne and they were right. The Chargers remaining three selections provide depth and it should be noted the Chargers only have one other QB under contract right now not named Philip Rivers: seventh-rounder Brad Sorensen.
San Francisco 49ers: B
It's hard to know what to expect from this class since only one player was expected to start heading into the season. Eric Reid fulfilled most expectations and looks to be a good and still developing young talent. The next two picks to address were what amounts to redshirt years for Tank Carradine and RB Marcus Lattimore. Both players get a free pass until 2014 and Lattimore has a great opportunity to pick up where Gore is falling off. TE Vance McDonald saw some playing time as the team's No. 2 TE. WR Quinton Patton was the team's No. 3 or 4 receiver by the playoffs. Corey Lemonier filled in admirably when Aldon Smith was suspended. No wow players, but a lot of bodies to fill the depth chart with some surprise upside still possible.
Seattle Seahawks: C+
Chris Harper is already gone. RB Christine Michael might not have overtaken Robert Turbin on the depth chart. Jesse Williams is not a great fit. TE Luke Willson did play some due to injuries and he impressed. He's a dynasty buy. Third rounder Jordan Hill looks more promising than the aforementioned Williams. Some late round offensive line guys (Ryan Seymour and Jared Smith) will need more grooming, but could provide depth for multiple seasons. A solid, but underwhelming class here.
St. Louis Rams: A
RB Zac Stacy proved to be the fantasy steal of the draft. He dispatched any possibility of Daryl Richardson or Isaiah Pead becoming the lead back. His numbers defied his draft spot and it's likely if you don't already own him, you're not going to tear him from the clutches of his fantasy owner. The #1 Rookie pick and 8th pick of the draft last season, WR Tavon Austin, showed flashes but certainly did not light it up. ILB Alec Ogletree, the other first round selection on the other hand did. He has All-Pro potential. A healthy Sam Bradford would help Austin and an unhealthy Bradford gives Austin a pass for one season. T.J. McDonald quietly had a pretty good year and should challenge for a starting job next season. WR Stedman Bailey is on the outside looking in at a crowded position, but given the competition will likely have another good opportunity to excel. Barrett Jones disappointed. All in all, Stacy and Austin put this draft over the top and provide help to an offense that was in desperate need of it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+
The Bucs did trade a first-rounder for Darrelle Revis, so that counts for something. Besides that? Meh. QB Mike Glennon will get another year, but I was not impressed with him. Johnthan Banks is probably a nickel corner. Akeem Spence earned a lot of snaps; however, he was average. William Gholston and Steven Means will likely compete against each other this offseason and only one will survive. RB Mike James looked good filling in for Doug Martin, so it was not a total loss. Using a pick on Revis saves this draft, barely.
Tennessee Titans: B
Chance Warmack will eventually blossom into the real deal and Brian Schwenke was a decent value considering they saw starting snaps from him. Where this draft takes a bit hit is WR Justin Hunter. He was unable to generate much of anything to instill any hope in me regarding his future. Blidi Wreh-Wilson looks very good and flew past some recent drafts' prospects at corner. Tennessee also extracted good value out of their selection of Daimion Stafford. If Hunter can turn it around, this is the type of class that establishes a real core of a roster. Editor's note: Scott loves him and points to his impressive yards per catch. Meh. Developmental player.
Washington Redskins: C-
TE Jordan Reed is the big catch of this class and he will start next season. David Amerson should have fallen into the third round and probably is a better fit at safety. Problem is, the Redskins drafted two other safeties: Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, yet are no closer to having solved their secondary issues than they were a year ago. Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison are both unlikely to be retained by a new coaching staff, especially with three backs clearly ahead of them on the depth chart.