Review of the 2016 NFL Draft

Movie quote of the day:

“I admire a person who’s willing to do whatever’s necessary.”

Jack Sparrow, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)

The NFL draft ended a little less than three weeks ago. Most of the 253 draft picks have been signed to their rookie contracts and assigned jersey numbers. I’m aware I’m little late to the party and this is old news to a lot of people, but it’s time for me to dissect each team’s draft and determine which teams drafted well or poorly.

Draft winners:

Buffalo DE Shaq Lawson.
Buffalo DE Shaq Lawson.

Buffalo Bills
Draft grade: A-
Notable players drafted: EDGE Shaq Lawson, LB Reggie Ragland, and DT Adolphus Washington.

Buffalo’s defense had a significant drop-off in 2015. The Bills were ranked No. 4 in total defense in 2014, and finished No. 18 last year. The Bills needed to get more talent and that side of the ball and they did. Lawson should be an effective edge rusher to replace Mario Williams. Ragland was a steal in the second round. Washington gives the Bills some power on the defensive line. Plus, don’t sleep on Eric Striker from Oklahoma as an undrafted free agent.

Cleveland WR Corey Coleman.
Cleveland WR Corey Coleman.

Cleveland Browns
Draft grade: A-
Notable players: WR Corey Coleman, EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, and QB Cody Kessler.

I liked Cleveland’s strategy to focus on quantity this draft. The Browns had an exodus of talent in the offseason that included Travis Benjamin, Tashaun Gipson, and Alex Mack. Plus, the organization released Dwayne Bowe, Karlos Dansby, and Donte Whitner. Cleveland decided to obtain a ton of picks – 14 to be exact – to piece together its depleted roster. Coleman is going to be a special player because he has incendiary speed. Ogbah was one of the draft’s top edge rushers. Kessler was a sleeper prospect at quarterback this draft, and has a pretty good chance to be the starting quarterback.

Jacksonville CB Jalen Ramsey.
Jacksonville CB Jalen Ramsey.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft grade: A+
Notable players drafted: CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Myles Jack, EDGE Yannick Ngakoue and DT Sheldon Day.

Jacksonville is going to be a sleeper team for the playoffs this year after this draft class. The Jaguars managed to get two top-five picks with their first two selections. Granted, some of that was due to medical questions surrounding Jack. Ramsey and Jack are getting a ton of hype, but don’t sleep on Ngakoue and Day. Last season, Ngakoue recorded 13.5 sacks and Day had 15.5 tackles for loss. The draft board fell in Jacksonville’s favor and its front office capitalized.

Oakland SS Karl Joseph.
Oakland SS Karl Joseph.

Oakland Raiders
Draft grade: A-
Notable players drafted: S Karl Joseph, DL Jihad Ward, and EDGE Shilique Calhoun.

Oakland decided to focus on defense for this draft. That makes sense since the Raiders ranked No. 22 last year in total defense. As a WVU fan, I’ve seen Joseph play a lot. Oakland is getting a special player with him. Ward gives Oakland another playmaker on the defensive line. He recorded 104 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in two years at Illinois. Calhoun was a steal in the third round. He recorded 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last year. With this draft, and its free agency pickups, Oakland got a lot better on defense.

Tennessee OT Jack Conklin.
Tennessee OT Jack Conklin.

Tennessee Titans
Draft grade: A-
Notable players drafted: OT Jack Conklin, EDGE Kevin Dodd, RB Derrick Henry, and DT Austin Johnson.

It’s hard to not have a great draft when a team has five of the first 64 picks. Tennessee got its quarterback (Marcus Mariota) last year and looks to have started a foundation to build a winning roster around him. Conklin gives the Titans some help on the offensive line. DeMarco Murray is getting close to 30, it makes sense to take Henry as a potential replacement. Plus, Murray and Henry will be a dynamic one-two punch in the backfield. Johnson gives Tennessee another playmaker on the defensive line to take the attention away from Jurrell Casey.

Other teams with solid drafts:

Chicago OLB Leonard Floyd.
Chicago OLB Leonard Floyd.

Chicago Bears
Draft grade: B+
Notable players drafted: EDGE Leonard Floyd, OG Cody Whitehair, and DT Jonathan Bullard.

Chicago’s front office did a good job of improving its roster with this draft class. Floyd is a playmaker as an edge rusher. He should make a good pair opposite of Pernell McPhee. Whitehair is a versatile offensive lineman that can play any position. Bullard will be a force in Chicago’s run defense. He had 18 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last year.

Cincinnati CB William Jackson III.
Cincinnati CB William Jackson III.

Cincinnati Bengals
Draft grade: B+
Notable players drafted: CB William Jackson III, WR Tyler Boyd, and DT Andrew Billings.

Cincinnati did an excellent job of taking the best player available. With Jackson, Cincinnati now has four former first-round picks in its cornerback group. In today’s pass-happy league, it never hurts to have as many talented cornerbacks as possible. Boyd is the perfect player to line up with A.J. Green. Green will be the explosive deep threat, and Boyd has the ability to get the ball in many ways. Billings was a steal in the fourth round and he’ll be able to wreak havoc stopping the run. With him and Geno Atkins, the Bengals have solid players in the interior of the defensive line.

Green Bay DT Kenny Clark.
Green Bay DT Kenny Clark.

Green Bay Packers
Draft grade: B
Notable players drafted: DT Kenny Clark, OT Jason Spriggs, and LB Blake Martinez.

Once again, Ted Thompson puts together a quality draft class for Green Bay. It’s not sexy by any means – both literally and figuratively since Green Bay spent four of its seven picks on linemen – but it fills needs. Clark will replace B.J. Raji on the defensive line – where he should dominate. In his senior year, he had 73 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. Spriggs is an extremely athletic offensive tackle. He’ll serve as a swing tackle for now and could potentially become a starter. Martinez is a tackling machine that could work his way into the starting lineup.

Miami OT Laremy Tunsil.
Miami OT Laremy Tunsil.

Miami Dolphins
Draft grade: B+
Notable players drafted: OT Laremy Tunsil, CB Xavien Howard, RB Kenyan Drake, and WR Leonte Carroo.

Miami got the steal of the draft when it pulled the trigger on Tunsil after he fell to the No. 13 pick. It makes a perfect match for the Dolphins. Since 2012, Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 184 times. Tunsil was the best pass blocker in this draft class. He should help improve Miami’s offensive line. The Dolphins’ pass defense ranked No. 21 last year, and they improved it by trading for Byron Maxwell and drafting Howard. Drake and Carroo are both dynamic players that can add different dimensions to Miami’s offense.

Seattle OT Germain Ifedi.
Seattle OT Germain Ifedi.

Seattle Seahawks
Draft grade: B+
Notable players drafted: OL Germain Ifedi, DT Jarran Reed, RB C.J. Prosise, TE Nick Vannett, and OG Rees Odhiambo.

Seattle had five of the first 100 picks and its front office managed to fill needs with those selections. Seattle’s offensive line was a mess last year and it’s now improved with the additions of Ifedi and Odhiambo. Seattle needed a playmaker in the interior of its defensive line and Reed fills that need. Prosise is an exciting player that could be insurance in case Thomas Rawls doesn’t recover from his ankle injury last year.

Draft losers:

Atlanta SS Keanu Neal.
Atlanta SS Keanu Neal.

Atlanta Falcons
Draft grade: D+
Notable players drafted: S Keanu Neal, LB Deion Jones, and TE Austin Hooper.

Atlanta didn’t get value for its picks until the third round when the Falcons drafted Hooper. Neal is hard-hitting safety that has a bright future in the NFL, but many – including myself – projected him as a second-round pick. The same goes for Jones, taking him in the second round was too early. Bottom line, Atlanta needed pass rushers after its defense only registered 19 sacks last year – ranking last in the league in that category. The Falcons completely ignored that area of need when drafting.

Carolina DT Vernon Butler.
Carolina DT Vernon Butler.

Carolina Panthers
Draft grade: D+
Notable players drafted: DT Vernon Butler, CB James Bradberry, and CB Daryl Worley.

After the departure of Josh Norman, Carolina had needs at cornerback, edge rusher, and offensive line. It’s understandable why the Panthers took Vernon Butler in the first round. He was the best player available and Carolina’s starting defensive tackles, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, are going to be free agents after this season. However, Carolina decided to take three cornerbacks with its five picks. The Panthers’ front office never picked an edge rusher or offensive lineman. Carolina failed to improve its team with this draft class.

Kansas City DT Chris Jones.
Kansas City DT Chris Jones.

Kansas City Chiefs
Draft grade: C-
Notable players drafted: DT Chris Jones, CB KeiVarae Russell, and OG Parker Ehinger.

This isn’t necessarily a knock against Kansas City, more of a knock on trading back. The Chiefs traded back in the first round, and again later in the second round. Those first-round picks are important and it’s not like the Chiefs have a perfect roster to get away with it. Kansas City’s front office drafted positions of need but the team needed players of higher value. For example, there were still some good players available in the first round that could’ve helped the Chiefs, but they passed on them. Also, Russell is a good player but there were better names on the board at cornerback in the second round before Kansas City decided to trade back.

San Francisco DT DeForest Buckner.
San Francisco DT DeForest Buckner.

San Francisco 49ers
Draft grade: C-
Notable players drafted: DL DeForest Buckner, OG Joshua Garnett, and CB Will Redmond.

Buckner is a solid pick, but San Francisco made a mistake by trading up for Garnett. Granted, Garnett was one of the top guards in this class. However, he would’ve been there in the second round, maybe even the third. In that unnecessary trade, the 49ers gave up a second- and fourth-round pick. Also, San Francisco’s front office never addressed edge rusher either. The 49ers were one of the league’s worst in sack defense – No. 29 in the league – and Ahmad Brooks isn’t getting any younger.

Tampa Bay CB Vernon Hargreaves III.
Tampa Bay CB Vernon Hargreaves III.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Draft grade: C-
Notable players drafted: CB Vernon Hargreaves III, EDGE Noah Spence, and K Roberto Aguayo.

I liked Tampa Bay’s draft class until the organization decided to trade up to draft a kicker in the second round. In that trade, the Buccaneers gave up a third- and fourth-round pick. Are you kidding me? Yes, Aguayo is the most accurate kicker in college football history, but he’s a kicker. It’s likely Aguayo would’ve been there in the third or fourth round for Tampa Bay to draft. After the trade to acquire Aguayo, Tampa Bay’s draft class went downhill.

Other teams with subpar drafts:

Los Angeles QB Jared Goff.
Los Angeles QB Jared Goff.

Los Angeles Rams
Draft grade: C+
Notable players drafted: QB Jared Goff, TE Tyler Higbee, and WR Pharoh Cooper.

Los Angeles finally got its quarterback with Goff. However, the organization surrendered a lot of picks to get him. I’m not criticizing the move to get Goff because it was necessary and Goff should work out in the long run. Higbee is a questionable choice since he was arrested for assault a few weeks prior to the draft. Cooper looks like a future playmaker as a slot receiver, but the Rams already have Tavon Austin (just get him the ball and he’ll do the rest). It’s hard to judge this class without seeing how Goff performs.

New England CB Cyrus Jones.
New England CB Cyrus Jones.

New England Patriots
Draft grade: C
Notable players drafted: CB Cyrus Jones, OG Joe Thuney, QB Jacoby Brissett, and WR Malcom Mitchell.

It’s hard to have a great draft class when a team doesn’t have a first-round pick – like New England. Jones should be a good player down the road, but the second round felt a little early to take him. New England took two offensive linemen and neither were tackles – after that AFC championship game against Denver, adding an offensive tackle wouldn’t have hurt. The Patriots never addressed running back either. I understand they already have a plethora of running backs, but the Patriots ranked No. 30 in rushing offense last year.

Jets LB Darron Lee.
Jets LB Darron Lee.

New York Jets
Draft grade: C-
Notable players drafted: LB Darron Lee, QB Christian Hackenberg, and EDGE Jordan Jenkins.

Once again, the Jets put together another subpar draft class. Lee is going to be a future playmaker in the middle of the Jets’ defense for years to come. However, the Jets made a horrible decision to pass on Paxton Lynch in the first round and take Hackenberg in the second. Hackenberg had the largest “bust” potential of any of the quarterbacks in this class. That’s why the Jets are the Jets.

Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz.
Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz.

Philadelphia Eagles
Draft grade: C+
Notable players drafted: QB Carson Wentz, OG Isaac Seumalo, and RB Wendell Smallwood.

Philadelphia is in the same boat as Los Angeles. The Eagles gave up a lot of picks in order to take Wentz. It’s difficult to get a feel for this draft class, and it’ll be judged by how well Wentz performs since the Eagles put all their eggs into his basket. Regardless, the Eagles managed to get their quarterback for the future. As a WVU fan, watch out for Smallwood. He could be a special player.

San Diego DE Joey Bosa.
San Diego DE Joey Bosa.

San Diego Chargers
Draft grade: C+
Notable players drafted: EDGE Joey Bosa, TE Hunter Henry, and C Max Tuerk.

It’s not that Bosa and Henry are bad picks, it’s just the opposite. However, San Diego needed help on its offensive line and waited until the third round to take a lineman, then took another in the last round. The Chargers had a prime opportunity to draft Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley at the No. 3 pick and didn’t capitalize – somewhere in the world, Philip Rivers is getting sacked right now. This team isn’t going to go far if Rivers isn’t kept upright.

Overrated individual picks:

Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott.
Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott.

RB Ezekiel Elliott to the Dallas Cowboys

Listen, Elliott is going to be a fantastic player in Dallas for the next several years. However, there were other good running backs on the board that would’ve fared well behind Dallas’ offensive line. The Cowboys had the opportunity to draft Jalen Ramsey with the No. 4 pick. Ramsey is a transcendent, Pro Bowl-caliber player. He would’ve helped escalate Dallas’ defense. Defense wins championships, and Dallas needed help on defense. Elliott is a typical Jerry Jones pick: All flash that will grab attention from the media.

Giants CB Eli Apple.
Giants CB Eli Apple.

CB Eli Apple to the New York Giants

Apple has the capability to be a good player in the NFL. However, the Giants pulled the trigger on him too early. Many draft experts thought Apple was the fourth or fifth best cornerback in this class and had him getting selected in the late-first round. The Giants took him with the No. 10 pick. There were better cornerbacks on the board that the Giants could’ve taken.

Houston WR Will Fuller.
Houston WR Will Fuller.

WR Will Fuller to the Houston Texans

Houston needed some speed on the perimeter and got it with Fuller. The problem is that that’s about all Fuller brings to the table. He has blazing speed and a good vertical jump, but he has problems catching the ball. According to Pro Football Focus, Fuller dropped 10-of-72 catchable passes in 2015 for a 13.9 percent drop rate – ranking No. 88 in the draft class. The previous season wasn’t much better, as he posted a 12.6 percent drop rate. That being said, Fuller isn’t going to be asked to be a No. 1 receiver with Houston. He should make a solid deep-threat receiver and an excellent pair with DeAndre Hopkins.

Underrated individual picks:

Giants WR Sterling Shepard.
Giants WR Sterling Shepard.

WR Sterling Shepard to the New York Giants

The Giants follow up an overrated selection with an underrated one. The Giants lost Rueben Randle in free agency and Victor Cruz has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. The Giants needed to get another playmaker opposite of Odell Beckham Jr. and got one with Shepard. He recorded 2,258 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Oklahoma. He also has good hands. Per PFF, Shepard only dropped the ball four times out of 89 catchable balls thrown his way. He ought to be a dangerous slot receiver in the Giants’ offense.

Cincinnati WR Tyler Boyd.
Cincinnati WR Tyler Boyd.

WR Tyler Boyd to the Cincinnati Bengals

Boyd is the perfect type of player that Cincinnati needed to draw attention away from A.J. Green. He was a three-year starter at Pitt. During those three seasons, he tallied 3,361 receiving yards, 520 rushing yards, and 22 touchdowns. Boyd never had a decent quarterback and lacked other playmakers around him either. He’s a versatile player that can line up anywhere on the field, and has the ability to get the ball is several ways. With Boyd, the Bengals can now get creative in their offense.

New Orleans S Vonn Bell.
New Orleans S Vonn Bell.

S Vonn Bell to the New Orleans Saints

New Orleans ranked No. 31 in pass defense last season. After selecting Bell, New Orleans should get a lot better in the secondary. Bell was regarded as the best coverage safety in this class, and many had him going in the first round. He has the ability to play anywhere in the secondary. It’s hard to tell where he’ll fit into the Saints’ defense since they already have two quality players – Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro – as their starting safeties. My guess is he’ll likely start at slot cornerback, or even outside cornerback. Wherever he ends up playing, Bell is going to make plays for New Orleans.

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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