Lots of football writers assign draft grades. Most of them are draft experts. But how many of them are grading experts?
Your friendly neighborhood draftnik and former teacher is here to give the post-draft experience it desperately needs: a dose of pedagogy! These are draft grades for the era of high-stakes assessment.
Most experts assign A through F grades. What is this, 1957? My grades are based on the concept of differentiated instruction, a principle that recognizes that different students (or teams) have different needs that require different strategies. The 49ers and Raiders are both trying to "get better" in the draft, but that means something different to the inches-from-a-championship 49ers than it does to the boat-bailing Raiders. They set out to accomplish different things in the draft and should be evaluated on different terms.
My grades use a also use a three-point holistic rubric to assess each team along three distinct spectrums: Finding Talent, Meeting Needs and Using Resources. Talent is the pure amount of high-quality manpower acquired. Needs are both specific (a starting left tackle) and broad (set the tone for a new coaching staff). Resources are the picks the team had and the trades it was involved in: getting three players in the top 100 is not that impressive if you have seven of the top 100 picks.
Teams are given Outstanding, Satisfactory or Needs Improvement scores in each category. Finally the team is given one overall evaluation: Advanced, Proficient or Remediation. Each team capsule looks like the kind or report card any parent of a kindergartner should easily recognize.
The result of all of these pedagogical horsefeathers is a series of grades that are arbitrary, subjective, insanely premature and only tangentially attached to real-world strengths and weaknesses. Just like real scholastic grading! The system works!
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Finds Talent: Outstanding. Quarterback E.J. Manuel was atop many of the quarterback draft boards that matter. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin offer two different flavors of wide receiver: the possession guy and a whoosh. Defensive back Duke Williams is a lot like Kenny Vaccaro, making him a heck of a grab in the fourth round.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Reshaping the offense was a major necessity that the Bills took care of, but the team did nothing to reinforce the offensive line, and last year's sometimes brutal run defense added only linebacker Kiko Alonso, a thumper the Bills could use about three of.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Alonso came with the second-round pick the Bills received for trading down, and trading down turned out to be a wise move when it became clear that there would be no first-round quarterback run. Drafting a kicker (Dustin Hopkins, sixth round) is rarely a wise move for a rebuilding team, but the Bills did a lot of other things right.
Final Assessment: Proficient. Bills drafts have a habit of looking good on paper but coming apart on the field. Fair enough. This one looks very good on paper, or on a tablet screen, or whatever.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Dion Jordan was not very productive in college but is one of those "rare talent" types teams must gamble on to move forward. Cornerback Jamar Taylor, like Jordan, is a great overall athlete whose flaws (his footwork gets all mixed up) can be fixed. Tight end Dion Sims (a little like former Dolphin Anthony Fasano) and running back Mike Gillislee (a backfield multi-tool) can play useful roles.
Meets Needs: Outstanding. The Dolphins have had solid rank-and-file players for years but have lacked blue chips. Jordan has the potential to be one; Taylor could be another (though he is more likely to settle in as a second cornerback). The Dolphins set themselves up with a short punch list in free agency, then came out punching.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Trading up to third to select Jordan was risky: He may be a low-dividend player while he figures things out in 2013. Trading Davone Bess, on the other hand, brought Gillislee and speedy coverage linebacker Jelani Jenkins -- a great haul in exchange for a pesky slot receiver whose best years are behind him.
Final Assessment: Proficient. But add the free agency haul to the draft and the Dolphins earn a healthy "Advanced."
New England Patriots
Finds Talent: Needs Improvement. Edge rusher Jamie Collins is a high-upside prospect at a position where the Patriots have an excellent track record of development. Receiver Aaron Dobson is a high-upside prospect at a position where the Patriots have an abysmal track record of development. Josh Boyce looks like Generic Big-12 Receiver to me: Others rave about his route-running and blocking, I see lots of "run to spot on the field" production and a guy who is often looking for someone not to block. As for the New Brunswick Trio, Logan Ryan is an OK nickel corner and "force" type of cornerback on plays in front of him. Duron Harmon is a limited-range camp body at free safety. Steve Beauharnais is a seventh-round pick.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Dobson and Boyce add needed depth at receiver. Collins, Ryan and Harmon play positions where the Patriots need depth and competition. Some offensive line reinforcement would have been welcome.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Trading down in the first round was a vintage Patriots move, and it allowed them to address multiple needs: The Patriots' roster is not as deep as the rosters of some other contenders. But then, who knew that their greatest need was to reunite the 2012 Scarlett Knights? Ryan, Dobson and Beauharnais would have made a great fourth=rounder and two undrafted free agents.
Final Assessment: Remediation. If your boss just hired three kids who all happened to go to school with his son, what would you think? Sure, Greg Schiano vouched for the New Brunswick Trio; notice that he did not draft them. Bill Belichick knows the Scarlet Knights better than any other college team, but Rutgers is not Alabama, and the Patriots became the Patriots by knowing a lot about all college teams. Belichick has earned 10 tons of benefit of the doubt, and you are welcome to give him some of yours. Too many great teams have rotted from within because they grew insular when they needed to evolve.
New York Jets
Finds Talent: Outstanding. Cornerback Dee Milliner, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and quarterback Geno Smith all have exceptional upside, and lineman Brian Winters is also destined to make a real contribution.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. The Jets did essentially nothing to upgrade their non-quarterback skill positions. Too much is being made of Richardson's ill fit to the Jets scheme (both Richardson and Rex Ryan are more versatile than their resumes suggest), but the two defensive selections in the first round were an example of a team making its strength 5 percent better when it could have made its weakness 50% better.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Milliner, Richardson and Smith can justifiably be called three top-15 talents. The Jets do not get an "Outstanding" because: a) they had to lose Darrelle Revis to gain Richardson, and b) they run out of ideas after Waters.
Final Assessment: Proficient. It would not be a series of Jets decisions if it did not get a decidedly mixed grade. But avoiding summer school is an accomplishment for the Jets, and they really pulled themselves together at exam time.
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Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown will be productive starters. Try not to think about the guys they are replacing.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Free agency made the Ravens very needy champions. They ticked off their checklist well. Double-dipping at positions like tackle and the defensive line made sense: The Ravens paired a small-school project with a major-program starter at these positions, which will make for some interesting and productive competition.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Ravens picked some interesting cats with their supplemental picks. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is the most aggressive blocker this side of Sam Gash, while Ryan Jensen (Colorado State-Pueblo) is a "specimen" type who gets high marks from people who have seen him.
Final Assessment: Proficient. It would have been impossible to gain back what the Ravens lost in free agency. This draft keeps the infrastructure sound and stays the team's slow-and-steady course.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Tight end Tyler Eifert gives the Bengals the best 1-2 punch at that position west of Foxborough. Running back Giovani Bernard is the kind of player who produces 1,400 yards from scrimmage in the right system. Pass rusher Margus Hunt is a project with upside at a position where the Bengals are fairly deep and have a good track record. Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton looks like a superstar at times (and a mess at others, like many recent Razorbacks) and was a steal in the sixth round.
Meets Needs: Outstanding. The Bengals need to graduate from "solid 10-6 type of team" to "scary playoff contender," and that requires high-impact weapons. Eifert and Bernard will allow them to dictate matchups on offense; Hunt's pass rushing can upgrade a moderate strength into something special. The Bengals did not ignore their infrastructure: Several late-round picks provide reinforcements on the offensive line.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. Bernard arrives as the final booty in the Carson Palmer trade. It's not right that the Bengals are still getting dynamic playmakers from a deal that feels like it took place in 1998.
Final Assessment: Advanced. The best thing a team in the Bengals' position can do is add a potentially special player or two who can change their personality and put them over the top. The Bengals may have gotten two or more from this class.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Pass rusher Barkevious Mingo joins free agent Paul Kruger on what should be a scary front seven. Safety Jamoris Slaughter gets high marks for his ability to play all over the field and come up in option run support, which is needed in the post-Kaepernick landscape. Pass rusher Armonty Bryant of East Central sounds like an interesting duck (top athlete with lots of injuries, transfers and weed in his background), and small-school experts say he is an athlete worth taking a chance on.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. The Browns need a quarterback, whether they care to admit it or not, and they ignored the position in a draft where developmental starters were available in the fourth round. They also needed a cornerback with higher upside than Leon McFadden, a Senior Bowl standout whose size will limit him in the NFL. Mingo made a strong front seven stronger, which is great, but the Browns do not want to be the Jets of the Cuyahoga.
Uses Resources: Needs Improvement. Trading for Davone Bess made no sense, especially when you look at the receiver talent available in the draft pool when they made the deal.
Final Assessment: Remediation. This has been an odd offseason for the Browns, and that's before the FBI raid. Kruger and Mingo are two blue chips who do about the same thing. The rest of the Browns' acquisitions, from Bess to Jason Campbell to some of the later draft picks, are guys you rely on when you are trying to build a 6-10 team.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, running back Le'Veon Bell and receiver Markus Wheaton are incomplete players, but they are flat-out talented. Jones is a blur off the edge, Bell looks like a Tecmo Super Bowl power back at times and Wheaton is an everything-but-size receiver. Quarterback Landry Jones does not have franchise-starter upside, but he does not need it for what the Steelers expect from him.
Meets Needs: Outstanding. Jones, Bell and Wheaton are all Steelers types. The team's track record with edge rushers is incomparable, they know how to get the most out of bruising running backs, and Wheaton fits right in among recent Steelers receivers like Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace. Jones' special talent is his ability to step into the lineup when Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt in November and be neither a long-term rookie project or a 30-something medical marvel.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Steelers did what passes for "wheeler-dealing" in their arch-conservative personnel strategy by taking a fourth round hot-potato of a pick from the Browns and Dolphins. They grabbed Shamarko Thomas, an ornery little missile of a safety who could be special when groomed about the Steelers Way, which involves (among other things) not launching at a ballcarrier and missing at least once per game.
Final Assessment: Advanced. The Steelers were an old team on the verge of watching a success cycle unravel last year. They did as much as possible to turn back the clock in this draft.
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Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has some 75-catch seasons in his future. D.J. Swearinger has a lot of talent and will play behind two of the best mentors a safety can ask for as a rookie. Defensive lineman Sam Montgomery looked like the heart and soul of the LSU defense at times, collapsing one side of the offensive line so Mingo, Kevin Minter or someone else could finish a play. Montgomery is the kind of versatile lineman Wade Phillips slides all over the formation and turns into an offensive headache.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Hopkins fills a clear, obvious need. Brennan Williams and David Quessenberry will keep the Texans stocked with Kubiak-style linemen. What the Texans needed more than anything else was a sudden-impact player, the kind that takes them from division champions to Patriots or 49ers land. Hopkins or Montgomery could be that player, but the Texans should have swung for more fences in middle rounds.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Montgomery came on a compensatory pick. Quessenberry -- a converted tight end whose calling card is quickness when move-blocking, making him the ultimate Texans lineman -- came on a sixth--round pick that landed in the Texans lap after about 30 trades. It would have been nice to see a team with so few glaring needs trade around a little more, but then Hopkins appears to be the player they had targeted all along.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The Texans got better. It's not 100 percent certain, however, that they gained ground.
Finds Talent: Outstanding. Luke Joeckel was the top player on about 80 percent of draft boards until 36 hours before the draft. Even if you like Eric Fisher better, like Andy Reid and I do, it is only by a matter of percentage points, and Joeckel can be a 12-year starter and frequent All-Pro. Wide receivers Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson (a converted quarterback who the Jaguars list as a running back) give the Jaguars two different looks in the slot. Sanders is an experienced, gritty little spark plug; Robinson has heavenly athleticism and a developing clue about what the heck is going on at his new position. Jonathan Cyprien was everyone's favorite "draft riser" at safety: Coaches love his size-speed-personality combination.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. The Jaguars are sticking with their "this would have been Blaine Gabbert's draft class" story, and perhaps better the Gabbert you know than the Glennon you don't, but competition at quarterback was cheaply available. Joeckel and the receivers fill glaring needs, and late-round saturation drafting in the secondary will help Gus Bradley sort out his "type" of players. (Two cornerbacks over six feet tall with the last two picks? Message received!)
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Jaguars did not do anything funky, but they got the talent they needed in the slots where it was available, and the multiple dips at receiver and in the secondary were wise choices.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The Jaguars could have earned an "advanced" rating by adding a quarterback. They are a team trying to set a tone, and while this draft did not mark a sea change, it does suggest that the Jaguars are about to change their personality, or at least acquire one.
Finds Talent: Needs Improvement. Defensive lineman Bjoern Werner is a great talent and a fine fit. After that … welp. Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes are try-hard interior linemen who would have been great for Peyton Manning, whose audibles and quick-releases could protect physically overmatched blockers. Defensive tackle Montori Hughes is an interesting project, but there is not a lot to get enthusiastic about in the later rounds.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. The Colts needed a talent upgrade on the offensive line and somehow managed to avoid one despite the greatest tackle-and-guard crop of the last 20 years. They needed an upgrade at cornerback and did not bother.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Holmes came at a fair price as a developmental center in the fourth round, acquired from one of the picks the Browns were tossing around. The Colts lacked the second-round pick they needed to get one of the leftover high-upside tackles, but this crop would look much better if they tried somehow.
Final Assessment: Remediation. The Colts have spent this whole offseason reacting to last year's success as if they just got kissed by the pretty girl while playing post office after the middle school dance and suddenly think they are Justin Timberlake. From overpriced second-tier free agents to ho-hum filler draft picks, they have taken a willy-nilly approach to building upon last season. Either we have completely misjudged their strengths, weaknesses and needs, or they have.
Finds Talent: Outstanding. The Titans came away with tons of high-quality building materials. Chance Warmack provides much of that tonnage. Justin Hunter is probably better that college teammate Cordarrelle Patterson, who was taken before him. Blidi Wreh-Wilson is one of those tall cornerbacks everybody is talking about. Zaviar Gooden is one of those pass rushers who has a quick get-off and nothing else: You hate them in the first round, but you love them at the end of the third.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Actually, it is hard to figure out what the Titans' needs really are. Their whole depth chart was .500-ish vanilla before the draft. Like the Jaguars, they decided to reinvest in their developmental 2011 quarterback (Jake Locker) and not screw around with any of the competition in this year's somewhat screwy class. Guard, their biggest need, was met with the biggest guy.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Hunter was worth trading up for, and Gooden came at the right point in the draft.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The Titans got good players, and they also got a lot of players. "Chris Johnson needs holes" and "Locker needs weapons" are no longer storylines. We will learn this year if they were actually just excuses.
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Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Sylvester Williams adds talent and versatility to the defensive front. Montee Ball is Willis McGahee junior; he will be a useful battering ram against six-man fronts. The rest of the picks were paint-by-numbers, which is not a bad thing when there are few open spots on the depth chart.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Williams and Ball will fill roles right away. Quanterus Smith is the kind of developmental pass rusher you take when you can afford to look down the road a little bit. Ditto quarterback Zac Dysert, who will push Brock Osweiler for "heir apparent" status. More talent at inside linebacker, and more options than Kayvon Webster at cornerback, would have been swell.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Broncos more-or-less waited their turn and took what was useful.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The Broncos are a tricky team to appraise, draft-wise. They are working on a tight Super Bowl window, and many of their decisions must be evaluated on a NEED HELP NOW basis. At the same time, Pat Bowlen, John Elway and John Fox are all long-range thinkers who know that there will be life after Peyton. The Wes Welker acquisition (and the Elvis Dumervil fiasco to a lesser extent) defined this offseason and will define 2013. This draft only provides a tiny glimpse of what happens next.
Kansas City Chiefs
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Eric Fisher was the right choice. Knile Davis looked like a Trent Richardson-level running back a few years ago, before the Time of Great Petrino Sadness. Some of the Chiefs selections are more "good little building block" than "cornerstone of a new era:" Travis Kelce will be just an average H-back in the NFL, and linebacker Nico Johnson is a zero-risk, minimal-return savings bond.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. The Chiefs did an outstanding job filling holes via trades and free agency but needed to keep going. They ignored the front seven until taking Johnson in the fourth round and punted on the idea of a developmental quarterback behind Smith. Besides Fisher and maybe Davis, this crop is short on potential stars.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Alex Smith is going to help the Chiefs more than any second-round pick would. Offensive credibility is going to help on both sides of the ball, by giving offensive players an opportunity to develop and defensive players a chance to get off the field. The Branden Albert situation, however, should have been resolved before the draft.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The Chiefs have more talent than most teams in their situation, so they did not have to hit a home run with every pick. They still could have done more.
Finds Talent: Outstanding. Giving the Raiders a little benefit of the doubt on cornerback D.J. Hayden, we find a bumper crop in later rounds. Menelik Watson has the potential to be as good as the top three tackles in this year's draft class by 2014. Quarterback Tyler Wilson is in the right place at the right time: He could start right away without a catastrophe, or he could reclaim some of his 2011 luster with a year of development. Seventh-round pick David Bass recorded 23 passes defensed in his Missouri Southern career and was considered a top sleeper by Football Outsiders.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. The Raiders grabbed a lot of warm bodies, which they needed, but they focused on players can grow into greatness while providing some immediate help. Hayden, Watson, Wilson and Bass are all good players with real developmental potential. Tight end Nick Kasa (who played defensive end) also falls into that category.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. No matter his talent and upside, Hayden was a reach with the 12th pick. A scary injury history and limited mid-major experience, coupled with the lack of size-speed sizzle, make him the kind of player you trade down to get. That said, the Raiders did trade down (they had a lot of down to work with), Watson was a heck of a reward for that trade and the team did what teams should do when they have four picks in the sixth and seventh round: Load up on greatness gambles like Kasa and Bass.
Final Assessment: Proficient. In terms of making the most of a bad situation, though, the Raiders deserve an "Advanced."
San Diego Chargers
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. D.J. Fluker, Manti Te'o and Keenan Allen are all players of a type: big, physical performers at their positions, to heck with the 40-times.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. The Chargers did not need one offensive lineman. They needed somewhere between two and five of them. Will Brinson of CBSSports.com brought the point up on Twitter: tackles like Menelik Watson and Terron Armstead were both on the board when the Chargers traded up for Te'o. Both filled a more immediate need and have more upside. Philip Rivers will need to be replaced sooner than later (it's year two of the slump, folks), but Brad Sorensen is an unlikely heir apparent.
Uses Resources: Needs Improvement. Fluker was the fourth best tackle, taken with the 11th overall selection. There were better options than the fourth-best tackle at that point, particularly when Fluker's limitations are factored in. Trading a pick to get Te'o was also odd; the Chargers are not in dire shape like the Raiders, talent-wise, but they needed quantity in addition to quality.
Final Assessment: Remediation. General manager Tom Telesco has been fast-tracked into his position, and his inexperience may have been a factor when an early-draft run on premiere linemen left him to rummage at a position of critical need. The Chargers may find themselves in two years with a right tackle who cannot handle speed rushers, a linebacker who cannot cover running backs and a wide receiver who cannot get open 10 yards downfield.
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Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Jerry Jones reached so far across the table for center Travis Frederick that his necktie fell in the gravy boat. Then he settled down. Terrance Williams will have a long career as a possession receiver, Gavin Escobar is no Jason Witten but will be a productive "flex" tight end, and running back Joseph Randle can be a solid committee member.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. Someone inform the Cowboys that they are making a radical defensive scheme change. Safety J.J. Wilcox was their only nod to the fact that a Monte Kiffin Tampa-2 is completely different from a Rob Ryan 3-4. Some better scheme fits at key positions (i.e. linebacker) should have been brought in.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Cowboys traded down to get Frederick, putting them in position to take Williams with the extra pick, but if Frederick was really their man they could have dropped even lower to get more picks. A "we are about to take Jonathan Cyprien" rumor would have gotten phones ringing. Come to think of it, they could have taken Cyprien.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The offensive upgrades are intriguing. The defensive shoulder-shrug is perplexing.
New York Giants
Finds Talent: Outstanding. Justin Pugh, Johnathan Hankins, Damontre Moore and Ryan Nassib were all on many top-50 lists. Pugh, Hankins and Moore can play roles immediately.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. LINEBACKERS (taps microphone). Hello? Is this thing on? Pugh and Hankins are also "high floor, low ceiling" players for a team whose talent ceiling may be dropping on top of them. Nassib, the pick that got the most criticism, makes sense: The Giants are in perfect position to give a developmental quarterback tons of reps (established starter, backup, and offensive staff) and need a contingency plan if Eli Manning ever misses more than a quarter.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Giants just showed up and drafted, nuttin' fancy.
Final Assessment: Proficient. This draft would have looked better coming off a Super Bowl season, where the Giants could inject three more starters to a smoothly-running engine. After last season, the Giants appear to need more of an upgrade than a continuation of the Reese-Coughlin Way. Then again, that continuation leads to a Super Bowl every few years.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Matt Barkley would have been a risk in the first round but was a steal in the fourth. Lane Johnson would have been the first offensive tackle off the board in a typical year. Zach Ertz was lower on my draft board than most, but I know when I'm outnumbered. The seventh round brought Jordan Poyer, who has starter potential at cornerback, and defensive end Joe Kruger, whose brother is awesome.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. In Barkley, the Eagles finally acquired the perfect quarterback to run Andy Reid's West Coast Offense. (rimshot.) The Eagles needed more than Johnson on the offensive line and more than Bennie Logan (and Kruger) on the defensive line. Since the team is throwing pebbles down a well at this point, they deserve credit for acquiring some pretty good pebbles.
Uses Resources: Needs Improvement. The third-best tackle with the fourth overall pick is bad form, particularly when a team has tons of needs. The Eagles are the kind of team that should try to stockpile mid-round picks, but they did minimal wheeler-dealing.
Final Assessment: Proficient. I expect multiple emails explaining to me that I do not understand Chip Kelly's offense and his plans, and keep them coming, because I don't, and neither do you! I do know enough to know what I don't know, which puts me ahead of most of the people trying to explain the ever-changing Kelly Eagles. This draft and an active free agency period overhauled the roster, but there are so many spare parts, reclamations, and odd fits that it takes a lot of trust to see the coherent team within. See the Patriots comment: This business requires a little trust and a lot of verification.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. David Amerson is another DeAngelo Hall: He will go from boom to bust and back again in the course of three games. As an alleged "shutdown" corner, Hall has been criminally overrated throughout his career. As the 51st overall pick and a developmental player, Amerson is an excellent gamble. Tight end Jordan Reed blocks like a wide receiver but sometimes runs like one. Pass rusher Brandon Jenkins is a good system fit for a team that knows what to do with high-effort pass rushers.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo change the shape of a secondary that had gotten shapeless. The Redskins could still use more depth and better competition at positions like wide receiver and the offensive line.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. With no first-round pick to work with, the Redskins mixed a potential high-impact player in Amerson with quality role players like Reed, Thomas and Jenkins, and grabbing system fits like running back Chris Thompson in late rounds. The upside of this draft class is pretty high.
Final Assessment: Proficient, bordering on Advanced. The Redskins are swinging for blue chippers, a sign that they realize that there is still building to do before they become true contenders. Past Redskins regimes would have flaked out after one divisional title.
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Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Kyle Long may never be an All-Pro, but he can play four positions on the offensive line. His versatility will be important for a team that has to sort out who fits where on the line (positional consistently was the hobgoblin of former coordinator Mike Tice's foolish mind). The rest of the picks are sturdy if unremarkable.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Tackle Jordan Mills joins Long in the kind of thorough overhaul the Bears offensive line has needed for years (Matt Slauson and Eben Britton join the fray as free agents). A developmental center would have been wise, as the Bears have needed one for about seven years, but there may be one lurking among the many guards. Linebacker, another position of need, was thoroughly addressed. The rest of the defense was ignored, and there are some gray beards on the line and in the secondary.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Some consider Long a reach, but it was not much of one. Marquess Wilson, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver with track speed and great 2010-11 production who brain-cramped in 2012, is the kind of player you take in the sixth round, where the upside is huge and the risk is nearly nonexistent.
Final Assessment: Proficient. There is not a lot to jump around about here, but the Bears got both meat and potatoes to add to a roster that already had a fair amount of gravy.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is one of those "sky's the limit" types. Darius Slay should develop into a starting cornerback. Larry Warford, a giant front-end loader of a human, would have been the first guard off the board in many years.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. Ansah is not ready to play in 2013, as he lacks both stamina and fundamentals. Slay will be limited during OTAs because of an injury. The Lions needed more on the offensive line than one guard, and would have been wise to add more to the secondary than Slay. Instead, they took punter Sam Martin in the fourth round and added depth at tight end (one of their deepest positions) with Michael Williams in the seventh round.
Uses Resources: Needs Improvement. Punters should only be drafted by 12-4 teams with set rosters who can noodle in late rounds. When the Patriots drafted Zoltan Mesko, it made sense because of the state of the franchise at that point. When needy teams draft punters, they guarantee that those punters will be extra busy.
Final Assessment: Remediation. This would be a great draft for a division champion: a developmental boom-or-bust edge rusher, a cornerback who might not be needed immediately, some swings for the warning track in late rounds, and a punter. The Lions are far from division champions, and their organizational problem right now appears to be an inability to turn talented pieces into a coherent team. This draft did not help.
Green Bay Packers
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. The Packers found a lot of players with one or two strengths and one or two glaring weaknesses. Datone Jones is a natural two-gap defensive lineman but not a pass rusher, Eddie Lacy a bruising running back with rudimentary receiving skills, Johnathan Franklin an all-purpose runner with no one true purpose, Micah Hyde a high-effort cornerback/free safety tweener, and so on.
Meets Needs: Outstanding. Real running backs, plural: Alleluia. The Packers are built out of square peg-holes, which helps them on draft day. They use two-gap linemen often! They have a role for a power back! Their nickel back position is a good fit for Hyde. Offensive line is always a need for the Packers, and a pair of fourth-round tackles should forestall the annual emergency at that position.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. Ted Thompson shines in the middle and later rounds (and in the days after the draft), and this year's late-draft stockpile features Franklin, Hyde, two linebackers, two "talented project" wide receivers and a pear tree. There is so much to sift through that Thompson won't be dumpster diving outside other team's practice facilities at the start of training camp, though he may do it just for fun.
Final Assessment: Advanced. The only thing the Packers did not do was build a time machine and send Franklin and Lacy back to 2011 or 2012 when they could have really helped.
Finds Talent: Outstanding. Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson were on many top-15 lists.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. The three first-rounders all meet clear needs. The Vikings took punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round, which got someone to switch off the game console and hit the gym but was not a good use of the pick. Also, while Toby Gerhart is a swell backup, the Vikings should have grabbed some speed and versatility for their backfield in the event Adrian Peterson runs himself into the ground while carrying the franchise on his shoulders.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. Trading up for a third first-round pick was a bold move. The Vikings then made the seventh round count with players like linebacker Michael Mauti and defensive lineman Everett Dawkins. Some teams should gamble in the late rounds, but the Vikings did their gambling earlier and needed some scaffolding.
Final Assessment: Advanced. The Vikings have not switched into "a player away from the Super Bowl" mode, because they are not a player away. They are many players away, and they may have just gotten three of them.
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Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Desmond Trufant is a solid coverage cornerback. Robert Alford is a slot cornerback type. There is not a lot of sizzle here.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. By drafting three defensive backs, the Falcons revealed that they did not like watching themselves play defense against the Seahawks or 49ers, either. Malliciah Goodman's scouting reports are full of "long arms" and "looks the part;" on tape he is a guy who gets blocked a lot and runs around the edge. Levine Toilolo does not look or sound like an heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Falcons were short on picks, but they are also short on glaring needs.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The Falcons addressed their biggest need at cornerback and tossed some athletes at their second-biggest need at defensive end. Like the Texans (another team a finger-hold from the Super Bowl), they got better but may not have truly gained ground.
Finds Talent: Outstanding. Star Lotulelei was one of the three best players in this draft class. Fellow tackle Kawann Short is a kick-in-the-pants type who will gain a lot from the competition with Star. Running back Kenjon Barner is a heck of a player to get in the sixth round: an electrifying jitterbug who can be a limited-use fuel injector for this offense.
Meets Needs: Needs Improvement. As some readers have pointed out, the Panthers are now rich at defensive tackle but destitute in the secondary. An aging offensive line needed more reinforcements than it got. Much as I like Barner, it is going to be hard for him to find touches in an incredibly deep backfield.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. When a player like Star falls to the 14th spot, you take him and run. The Panthers were short on picks; perhaps with a little mid-round dealing, they could have filled out those cornerback and offensive line depth charts.
Final Assessment: Proficient. The Panthers defense now has an identity: It's a stout-up-the-middle affair. Now that both offensive and defensive identities are established, the Panthers must take a real step forward.
New Orleans Saints
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Safety Kenny Vaccaro, tackle Terron Armstead and behemoth John Jenkins all have a fine mix of pure talent and some clue of how to play football. Vaccaro's clue is lower than it should be, Armstead's is higher than you would think and Jenkins is smart and huge, so it all balances out. Kenny Stills in one of those Big 12 receivers who runs to a spot on the field and catches six-yard passes; some experts probably like him a heck of a lot more than I do.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Frankly, last year was so weird that I have no clear understanding of what the Saints needs are, so I am going to just move on.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. The Saints had no second-round pick and what appears to be a somewhat set roster. Armstead was a fine third-round pick because he could be an All-Pro in three years, Jenkins a fine third-rounder because he can play an immediate role at a position that can always use depth and competition. Getting both was great way to diversify a portfolio despite a minor investment.
Final Assessment: Proficient. There is enough here to get the Saints back to where they were in 2011, assuming last year's decline had more to do with Bountygate than the actual roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Darrelle Revis is pretty talented. Johnthan Banks is a potential starter at cornerback. Mike Glennon is the next John Skelton, and the Bucs go a little downhill, starting there.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. The Bucs needed both Revis and Banks. Taking three defensive linemen feels like overkill for a team that needed a boost at receiver and tight end. Running back/fullback Mike James is a fun little player, the kind the Bucs could have used if they had not already signed running back/fullback Brian Leonard.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Revis came at a fair price. Akeem Spence and William Gholston are high-upside defenders who came cheap in the fourth round. Only one of them has to live up to his potential for the Bucs to be happy with what they did on Saturday afternoon.
Final Assessment: Proficient. This draft comes down to Revis and Glennon. Revis will deliver. I am convinced that Glennon will not. There is a lot of risk in this crop, both in who the Bucs took and who they did not take.
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Finds Talent: Outstanding. This is the Haul of the Year when it comes to pure talent. Jonathan Cooper will be a 12-year starter and 10-year Pro Bowler. Kevin Minter will be a quality starter at linebacker. Tyrann Mathieu can be all sorts of things, some of which are amazing. Alex Okafor is one of those outside defenders the smart coordinators are looking for: big enough to get by at end, fast enough to get by at linebacker, smart enough to do a lot of things. Running back Stepfan "Kulabafi" Taylor is a high-character hole-finder who will gain 1,200 yards from scrimmage with no fanfare. Ryan Swope is both a canny route-runner and a receiver with long speed. There's a lot to love here.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. The Cardinals needed more help on the line than Cooper and Earl Watford (a sturdy guard prospect), more in the backfield than Kulabafi and a little more reliability in the secondary than the Honey Badger provides. Interestingly, coordinator Todd Bowles is calling Mathieu a free safety and Okafor a linebacker, a sign that he has some outside-the-box plans up his sleeve.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. The Cardinals kept picking and picking, and they loaded up with potential impact players on Saturday. The third round is the exact right time to take a player like Mathieu: It's when the talent-to-risk equation balances.
Final Assessment: Advanced. This is exactly the kind of draft a new regime needs. Someone needs to write a song called "Kulabafi and the Honey Badger" immediately.
St. Louis Rams
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. The early picks will be quality starters. Tavon Austin could be special. Barrett Jones was the best true center in the nation, so getting him in the fourth round was a great value.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Austin and Stedman Bailey represent a "get serious" moment at wide receiver. The team has noodled around with too many long-range projects and developmental gambles in recent drafts; now they have two of the five or six best receivers in the draft class. Alex Ogletree and T.J. McDonald provide good system fits at two layers of defense. The Rams lose "Outstanding" status for ignoring running back, a critical need, until the fifth round.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. The Rams entered the draft with two first-round picks. They realized they needed to trade up for Austin, yet they still managed to remain in the first round by letting the Falcons slide up. As a result, the Rams got Ogletree, then Bailey. Ogletree and Bailey are essentially leftover Robert Griffin trade compensation. Not too shabby.
Final Assessment: Proficient. This effort falls just short of Advanced because the Rams missed a golden opportunity to overhaul running back as well as wide receiver.
San Francisco 49ers
Finds Talent: Outstanding. Good heavens.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Frankly, they didn't have many.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. C'MON 49ERS YOU CAN STOP PICKING AWESOME PLAYERS WE SURRENDER UNCLE UNCLE.
Final Assessment: Advanced. Okay, here is a little more detail. Eric Reid fills the safety need, which is the only real positional need worth mentioning. Defensive end Tank Carradine and running back Marcus Lattimore are perfect gifts for the team that has everything: Both need to run in the pool for a while, but both could grow into superstars after 2014. Corey Lemonier and Quinton Patton are talented die-rolls who might have gone in the second round; the Niners got them in the third and fourth rounds, and of course they can cut bait on either player because their depth chart goes about nine deep at some positions. The 49ers second string is practically a .500 team right now, folks.
Finds Talent: Satisfactory. The Seahawks, like the Packers, have specified roles for odd-duck talents. Rugby beast Jesse Williams, a rotation tackle in most systems, will probably become some kind of disruptive defensive end for Pete Carroll. Christine Michael is fun to watch from a shotgun offense when his head is in the game; the Seahawks often use a shotgun offense, and Carroll is good at tying strings to flighty running backs. The Seahawks drafted exactly 14,000 players, some from schools like Harding and New Hampshire, so you get the impression John Schneider was in hog heaven with three DVD players humming at once in the days leading up to the draft.
Meets Needs: Outstanding. The Seahawks could have reinforced their offensive line a little more thoroughly. But honestly, how many needs do they have? Staving off complacency and generating competition are huge needs for a team that suddenly turns a corner, and the Seahawks sure took care of that.
Uses Resources: Outstanding. Throw Percy Harvin at the top of the Christine Michael-Jordan Hill-Jesse Williams crop and see how it looks.
Final Assessment: Advanced. The NFC West arms race keeps getting wilder. The Niners probably had a better draft than the Seahawks. So did the Cardinals, who have much more ground to cover. But neither superpower is stepping off the accelerator anytime soon, and fans of other perennial contenders need to have a long look at the last two teams on this list to see how high the Super Bowl bar is about to be.