As the smoke clears on the first ever virtual NFL Player Selection Meeting, we grade each American Football Conference team on the strength of their acquisitions.
Buffalo Bills: Given that they gave up their first pick for Stefon Diggs, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane did an outstanding job across all three days. AJ Epenesa should contribute immediately, and Gabe Davis will really help out Josh Allen. Speaking of the erratic QB, the drafting of Jake Fromm gives him such much needed competition. Dane Jackson at pick 239 was tremendous value.
Miami Dolphins: They tanked for Tua and succeeded, ending up with the Alabama passer at five without having to trade a single selection in the process. The quality of this draft will live and die on Tagovailoa’s arm (or hip), but our number one overall prospect has a shot at greatness. Chris Grier did a fine job across all three days, addressing the OL: Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley, the DL: Raekwon Davis, Jason Strowbrige and Curtis Weaver, and bringing in an Austin Ekeler type in Malcolm Perry of Navy. Giving up a fifth rounder for speedy Matt Breida to play with FA Jordan Howard was a great use of day three picks.
New England Patriots: Perhaps the biggest winner of the entire weekend was Jarrett Stidham as Bill Belichick, given ample opportunity to take either Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, James Morgan or Jake Fromm, spurned the chance to do so. In Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche, they brought in perfect scheme fits and although doubling up on tight ends in a bad year for the position is questionable, they offer the new starting QB a pair of security blankets. All fifth-round kicker Justin Rohrwasser has to do is replace two of the greatest of all in Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. Oh, and get rid of his Nazi tattoo.
New York Jets: GM Joe Douglas was having a lot of fun at home and no surprises given how brilliantly he played this draft. Even Adam Gase looking like he wanted to kill his children couldn’t take the edge off a really nice three days. There wasn’t a single bad pick, although Mekhi Becton has boom-or-bust potential. Trading a six for former second-rounder Quincy Wilson from Indy was smart. Drafting Bryce Hall from Virginia at 158 was even smarter. He’s a stud if healthy.
Baltimore Ravens: Hard to understate just how good a draft this was. In fact, if it were a painting, they’d hang it in the Louvre. Impossible to highlight one standout because the value was so good at every pick, but the final two selections of James Proche and Geno Stone at 201 and 219 respectively underline GM Eric DeCosta’s mastery. Patrick Queen, J.K. Dobbins, Devin Duvernay and Malik Harrison were superb picks and should make major contributions very quickly to an already packed roster. This was a statement of intent from the Ravens.
Cincinnati Bengals: Outstanding draft from top to bottom with value all the way through it. Joe Burrow is the headline act, but all seven players should make the team and contribute in 2020. Tee Higgins has a chance to develop into a really nice player, Khalid Kareem and Hakeem Adeniji should play a lot and if Markus Bailey (215) can only stay healthy then he might be the steal of the entire draft as he has first round talent.
Cleveland Browns: Hats off to new GM Andrew Berry, who looks to have wiped away the disastrous Freddie Kitchens era. A solid start in FA was backed up by a really good draft. If Jedrick Wills can make the switch to LT then he should be a fine player, whilst Grant Delpit at 44 was incredible value. Jordan Elliott, Jacob Phillips, Harrison Bryant and Nick Harris should all contribute early and, if someone can get the light to go on for Donovan Peoples-Jones, then he could be anything. No more excuses for Cleveland.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Without a first rounder after the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, Kevin Colbert once again went to the WR well with Chase Claypool. Given their remarkable drafting history at the position, it makes their decision impossible to question. Where they play the 239-pounder is another question. Alex Highsmith and Kevin Dotson are small school studs, although the decision to take Anthony McFarland — with James Connor, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell on the roster — was an interesting one. Carlos Davis will be given the chance to replace Javon Hargrave.
Houston Texans: Perhaps the best thing about this draft was Bill O’Brien’s meltdown on day two, captured by his video camera. Tempered by the Laremy Tunsil trade, they did good work with Ross Blacklock who could be a star and will heal interior DL issues. Overall, they picked scrappy, hardworking, under the radar types epitomised by Charlie Heck and John Reid.
Indianapolis Colts: Chris Ballard is one of the best in the business and showed why yet again. Michael Pittman Jr could be Michael Thomas or Brandon Marshall, and Jonathan Taylor should combine with Marlon Mack to give the Colts an incredible running attack. Julian Blackmon, Danny Pinter, Robert Windsor and Jacob Eason are nice value picks and the latter surely spells the beginning of the end for Jacoby Brissett. Throw DeForest Buckner in as the cherry on top and this was a terrific haul.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The de-facto favourites for Trevor Lawrence in 2021 resisted the temptation to draft a starting type, instead focusing on really solid players with upside across the board. Dave Caldwell, free from the shackles of Tom Coughlin, hit it out of the park with his first five picks: C.J. Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson, Laviska Shenault, DaVon Hamilton and Ben Bartch, then scrapped around and picked up solid contributors like Josiah Scott, Shaquille Quarterman, Daniel Thomas, Collin Johnson and Jake Luton on day three.
Tennessee Titans: The best thing about this draft were Mike Vrabel’s kids and family friends on night one. That’s not to say the Titans drafted badly because they didn’t, but anytime an adult male can appear dressed in spandex during the first round of the NFL Draft, behind a coach who went to the AFC Championship, it’s always going to be a highlight. As for the selections themselves, GM Jon Robinson is very comfortable in his own skin: He knows the formula which took his team to the brink of the Super Bowl, so simply replaced behemoth RT Jack Conklin with behemoth RT Isaiah Wilson. Kristian Fulton was a brilliant day two pick, as was the speedy Darrynton Evans, who will be the lighting to Derrick Henry’s thunder. Larrell Murchison and Cole McDonald have talent too.
Denver Broncos: Taking the anti-Green Bay approach (see NFC North), John Elway surrounded his young QB with skill position talent, and Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler will combine with Courtland Sutton to give Drew Lock some serious weapons on the outside. Albert Okwuegbunam is a seam buster to back up Noah Fant, whilst Lloyd Cushenberry and, especially, Netane Muti were great value picks on the OL.
Kansas City Chiefs: Hard to make a huge splash with only six picks, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the end of round one was an inspired selection and the LSU standout should be a huge contributor. If Willie Gay can stay trouble-free then he has All-Pro upside, whilst L’Jarius Sneed and, especially, Lucas Niang could be long-time contributors, although the latter will have to kick inside to G.
Las Vegas Raiders: Nobody seems to have more fun on draft day than Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock and, for the second year running, they stuck faithfully to their way of doing things. Only time will tell whether Henry Ruggs was a better choice than Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb, but he’s more than just a burner. Damon Arnette was a reach at 19, but Lynn Bowden and Brian Edwards were great picks, as were John Simpson and Amik Robertson on day three. The latter could become one of the best nickel corners in the NFL.
Los Angeles Chargers: Tom Telesco came away with two fascinating talents on either side of the ball in Justin Herbert and Kenneth Murray, who he traded up to take at the back-end of R1. The former has some issues, notably with accuracy and consistency, but has bags of talent if he can be coached up; the latter is a stud who should quickly become a Pro Bowl type. Joshua Kelly and K.J. Hill were nice additions, but the lack of any picks on the offensive line damages this overall haul.
This article originally appeared in Issue 3 of the new Gridiron Weekly digital magazine – for subscriptions, click HERE