The Good, the Bad and the Mediocre: NFL Draft Grades

The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, and we all deserve a ‘congratulations’ for surviving the endless mock drafts and mindless speculation from talking heads.

Now it’s time to examine draft grades and predict how each team’s new players will fit into their system as we count down the days until training camp.

But instead of breaking down every selection and offering up a bunch of analysis on a sixth-round pick from Wagner in an attempt to come off like we watched a bunch of film on a prospect we’ve never heard of, let’s take a closer look at a few picks that caught our eye—for better or worse (and in between).

A Perfect Fit

Pick #31: New England Patriots – Sony Michel (RB, Georgia) Thanks to excellent awareness and vision behind the line, the 5-foot-11, 214-pound ball carrier will have the chance to make an immediate impact on New England’s loaded backfield. Even though he’s able to avoid would-be tacklers due to his excellent burst, he prefers to immediately hit the hole as a north-south runner, which is what young RBs often struggle with. An underrated aspect of his game is his above-average blocking abilities, which will not only make Bill Belichick fall in love with him, but also get him on the field on third down sooner than the average rookie RB.

Pick #45: Green Bay Packers – Josh Jackson (CB, Iowa) The Pack got a serious steal with Jackson, who was predicted by many analysts to go in the first round. “Ball hawk” is a common cliché used to describe talented corners, but with eight interceptions and 27 passes defended in 2017, it’s the perfect descriptor for the six-foot, 196-pound playmaker. With only 14 career starts in college, he’s still raw, but he should thrive in new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme alongside fellow rookie Jaire Alexander.

Pick #141: Seattle Seahawks: Shaquem Griffin (LB, UCF) In a story that’s destined for Hollywood, the Seahawks drafted the one-handed linebacker to play with his older brother, Shaquill, on their new-look defense. As media outlets shared Griffin’s heartwarming story leading up to the draft, it felt like the casual football fan might not have realized just how good the six-foot, 227-pounder truly is. The former AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Griffin ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, had a knack for sacks and tackles for loss during his time with the Knights. Griffin’s new NFL defense allows for undersized and speedy LBs to shine, which is why the younger Griffin could soon become a fun chess piece for Seattle’s front seven.

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Pick #7: Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming) By falling to a team that hasn’t had a franchise QB in over two decades, Josh Allen will be welcomed by a fanbase that is desperate for some stability behind center. They’ll gush over Allen’s rocket arm. Grown men will crash through flaming tables in celebration of the soon-to-be 22-year-old’s first career win. They’ll also curse him when he overthrows a receiver or forces a ball into a tight window that results in an interception with the game on the line. Luckily for Allen, he’ll get to sit behind AJ McCarron until he’s ready to play, which could give him the time needed to adapt to the NFL from the FCS. If his intangibles and mobility allow him to thrive on the next level, this will be remembered as a franchise-altering pick. But if he struggles to read the field and protect the football, the Bills will be back to square one.

Pick #105: Cleveland Browns – Antonio Callaway (WR, Florida) There’s no question that the speedy wideout is capable of torching defenses in the NFL, but will he be able to stay out of trouble long enough to catch touchdowns for the Browns? From testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine to being suspended at Florida for credit card fraud, Callaway acquired enough red flags to make some scouts wonder if he’d even be drafted. Regardless of those circumstances, Cleveland took a risk and drafted the 21-year-old with the intentions of lining him up along with Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon. If he stays out of trouble, the Browns could be scary on offense, but if he doesn’t, we’ll always wonder what could have been.

Pick #199: Tennessee Titans – Luke Falk (QB, Washington State) The Pac-12 record holder for total offense, passing touchdowns, passing yards, completions, and attempts will have the opportunity to be groomed into Titans QB Marcus Mariota’s backup if he can eventually beat out Blaine Gabbert for the #2 spot on Tennessee’s depth chart. It’s not clear how new OC Matt LaFleur’s offense will look in Nashville, but if it plays to Falk’s strengths as a rhythm passer, he could develop into a solid QB in the NFL. That being said, the likelihood of pick #199 evolving into a legitimate signal caller is still very unlikely. Unless you’re Tom Brady.

What Are You Thinking?!

Pick #4: Cleveland Browns – Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State) It’s very possible that CB Denzel Ward could become a perennial Pro Bowler, which would probably guarantee that the 0-16 seasons from the Browns are over. But by passing on star pass-rusher Bradley Chubb, Cleveland missed out on a shot at pairing up former #1 pick Myles Garrett with another stud on the edge. If Chubb turns out to be a game-wrecker while Ward fails to become an upper-tier corner, Cleveland will come to regret their selection with the fourth pick.

Pick #32: Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville) After months of debate, the most polarizing prospect in the draft was selected in the first round and won’t play wide receiver in the NFL. The Heisman Trophy winner also doesn’t have to worry about the pressure of playing right away since Pro-Bowlers Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III are ahead of him on Baltimore’s depth chart. Some analysts believe that Jackson has the potential to win the starting job regardless of the veterans ahead of him, but it’s unlikely. With a 57 percent career completion percentage at Louisville, Jackson is destined to struggle with his efficiency against teams that aren’t Duke or North Carolina. His unworldly speed and mobility will make it tough for defenders to tackle him in the open field, but if he doesn’t learn to slide he’ll be opening himself up for costly hits from 250-pound linebackers. It’s impossible to be the next Mike Vick when you can’t stay healthy.

Pick #198: Kansas City Chiefs – Kahlil McKenzie (OG, Tennessee) Considering that NFL teams often draft “projects” in the later rounds, it’s not surprising that the Chiefs took a flier on an underachieving DT from an SEC school in the sixth round. It IS surprising that the Chiefs plan on converting the defensive tackle into an offensive guard. Multiple teams chatted with McKenzie about switching to offense, but it’s hard to believe that Kansas City wouldn’t have been able to convince the former five-star recruit to play guard and then sign him as an undrafted free agent if he had went undrafted last weekend. Thanks to his pedigree – his father, Reggie, is the GM of the Raiders – the 6-foot-3, 314-pound lineman now has a chance to fight for an NFL roster spot, but it will be shocking if he evolves into a serviceable player at guard.