1st-Round Draft Grades

1. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU

Grade: A

We all knew this was coming. Last year, Joe Burrow had arguably the best season in college football history at the quarterback position. He won the national championship and the Heisman and has been America’s favorite Macaulay Culkin look-alike ever since. 5,671 and 60 touchdowns in 15 games is nothing short of godly, and the Bengals were in desperate need of a quarterback to build their franchise around. He has great accuracy, vision, movement in and out of the pocket, and pristine footwork. The Bengals believe  Burrow can be that guy and I do too. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bengals made the right call with the first overall pick.

2. Washington Redskins: DE Chase Young, Ohio State

Grade: A

Chase Young is the best pure prospect in this draft and will be an instant game-wrecker at the next level. Young has countless pass-rush moves in his arsenal to compliment his physical gifts: size, strength, and speed. Young led the FBS in sacks last year with 16.5, and he didn’t even record a sack in his last three games; he recorded all 16.5 in nine games. That’s pretty ridiculous. Young is vicious in both the pass and run game and should have no trouble acclimating to the NFL game flow. Again, no reservations about this pick.

3. Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

Grade: B+

Okudah is the best corner in this draft and it’s not up for debate. He was shut-down at Ohio State, he has great footwork, can read the quarterback with ease, and can shadow any receiver in man coverage. Matt Patricia needs a new number one corner now that Slay is gone and they got one with Okudah. I think he will be following opposing #1 receivers from day one and could even be a Pro Bowl player in his rookie season.

The reason I give this a B+ instead of an A is because the Lions thought they could trade back to pick number 5 or 6 and still get Okudah but were unable to get a deal done. They made an outstanding pick, but it would have been ideal for the Lions to trade back to gather more picks for their rebuild. 

5. New York Giants: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Grade: B+

I LOVE this pick by the New York Giants. Dave Gettleman is a wild card if I’ve ever seen one, but man, did he get it right this time. Andrew Thomas is probably the most ready-to-play offensive lineman in this draft. He is a straight-up bully in the run game, and they need that to protect Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley.

Again, they could have traded down to collect more picks and get this guy later, but nonetheless, I wouldn’t change the pick. Thomas’ pass protection technique/hand placement could use some refinement, but overall, I believe he will be the best lineman from this class and he fits the offense the Giants want to build in New York.

5. Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Grade: B

The question looming around Tua’s Hawaiian Lei on draft night was and still is his durability. After undergoing hip surgery late last season, Tua’s draft stock has been all over the place. I think the Dolphins made the right call drafting him at 5, especially considering how the rest of the first round played out, but there are still question marks surrounding Tua’s game.

He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but he does have elite accuracy and mobility. He can survive in this league as a pocket passer with the ability to slip tackles in the backfield. If Tua is able to stay healthy, he should be fun to watch in the league.

6. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

Grade: C+

Justin Herbert should not have been a top-10 pick. He makes poor decisions with the football, he is inconsistent with his accuracy, and his footwork is questionable at best. Herbert has an ideal frame, a great arm, and good athleticism for his size, but that doesn’t make up for his inconsistency over the past two seasons. If I am Tom Telesco, I would have taken Isaiah Simmons with this pick.

Herbert has a long way to go before he should be considered for the starting role in Los Angeles. If I were the Chargers, I would start this season with Tyrod Taylor at the helm and let Herbert learn a bit more before throwing him in the right. I don’t hate this pick because of the player, I hate it because of the spot. 

7. Carolina Panthers: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn

Grade: A-

As a Panthers fan, this pick was slightly disappointing at first. But now that the draft is over, I’m confident that Marty Hurney made the right decision. Derrick Brown is a great player. He hasn’t missed a tackle since 2018….that should tell you something about his consistency on defense, consistency that the Panthers desperately need, but how do you pass up on Isaiah Simmons on this pick? Well, you trade up from 69 to 64 to draft Jeremy Chinn, that’s how. Chinn can fill many of the roles that Simmons would have. He plays safety over the top and in the box with the ability to cover in the slot and outside.

The addition of Jeremy Chinn completely changes my perspective on the Derrick Brown pick. Brown is a force on the inside who demands double teams because of his brute strength and surprising quickness at 317 lbs. I think Brown will be a Pro Bowl player in the NFL. The Panthers’ defensive line is suddenly very appealing with Brown, Short, Gross-Matos, and Burns. The Panthers’ defense just got bolstered in a huge way. 

8. Arizona Cardinals: LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Grade: A

Isaiah Simmons at eight is a great pick for the Cardinals. The man can do anything. He is a great fit for the Cardinals defense as well because they love their speed, and Simmons is an absolute freak of an athlete. At 6’4” 229 lbs, he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine… as a linebacker/safety/anything else you want him to do. I expected the Cardinals to go with an offensive lineman after having one of the worst o-lines in the league last year and almost getting Kyler Murray squashed.

I was going to grade this pick at a B+ because of that gaping hole that seemed to remain unaddressed, but then the Cardinals went and got OT Josh Jones out of Houston in the third round. Jones is a first-round talent and a steal in the third. Suddenly, the Simmons pick has no reservations and the Cardinals are a huge winner in this draft. 

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB CJ Henderson, Florida

Grade: B-

This pick doesn’t seem like the best fit for the Jaguars. Yes, they are in desperate need of a corner, but they also need help at almost every spot on defense and Henderson doesn’t really fit their scheme. Henderson is primarily a man coverage corner and he struggles with mental mistakes in zone coverage. He is a great athlete with all the physical skills to succeed at the next level, but his strength is man coverage and the Jaguars don’t play man-to-man all that often.

Henderson is a great player and will adapt to the Jaguars’ defensive scheme, but I don’t see the appeal for Henderson at 9 for the Jaguars. Overall, I think the Jaguars reached on Henderson and will regret not trading back or taking someone like Javon Kinlaw, who fits their game plan much better.

10. Cleveland Browns: OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama

Grade: A+

Wow, did the Browns get lucky on this one. Wills was projected to go much earlier in this draft, but with the Giants’ selection of Andrew Thomas and three quarterbacks being taken in the top-6 by OT-needy teams, Wills fell to 10. Wills is a great fit for what Kevin Stefanski wants to bring to Cleveland. He is an agile tackle that will do well in the run game as well as play-action, and will be Baker Mayfield’s new best bud. The Browns have improved greatly this offseason to the point where we should now consider them legitimate contenders in the AFC. 

11. New York Jets: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville

Grade: B+

Becton is a very large and surprisingly athletic tackle who straight-up bullies defensive linemen. He is a freakish athlete at his size, but his technique could use some work. Becton is a great fit for the Jets, who need offensive line help desperately so that Le’Veon Bell can get some running room. Personally, I think Tristan Wirfs is the better player and would have chosen him here. However, I think they got the right position. The Denzel Mims steal in late round two makes this pick so much better. The Jets are huge winners in this draft.

12. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

Grade: A-

Henry Ruggs III is one of the most interesting players in this draft. He’s got blazing speed, great route-running, and outstanding hands, and should be a perfect fit for Jon Gruden’s West Coast offense. In his career at Alabama, Ruggs scored a touchdown on 25% of his catches. One in four of Ruggs’ catches at Alabama went for a touchdown. That touchdown rate is unprecedented and incredibly impressive.

Ruggs will be a great weapon for the Raiders in the passing game, especially playing across from the big and physical Tyrell Williams. Slants, screens, deep balls, Ruggs can do it all. He has some trouble in press coverage and will need to work on his physicality, but he has time to develop and should get a lot of volume in Jon Gruden’s offense. Overall, a great pick by Jon Gruden and the Raiders.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via San Francisco via Indianapolis): OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Grade: A-

Tristan Wirfs, another freakish athlete at OT, is an outstanding pick for the Bucs. The Bucs’ offensive line was abysmal last season, and Wirfs can be a huge help in the passing game for them. He can play tackle or guard, possessing great athleticism and technique at both positions. The Bucs need even more protection this year with a 43-year-old Tom Brady under center. The GOAT is no ageless wonder. He has been declining steadily for some time now and the addition of Wirfs will help keep his pocket clean in Tampa. I don’t quite understand why the Bucs needed to trade up one pick to get Wirfs when the Niners were most likely not planning on taking him. Regardless, Wirfs is a great pick.

14. San Francisco 49ers (via Tampa Bay): DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

Grade: B-

I don’t really understand this pick. They traded their young stud defensive tackle in Deforest Buckner to the Colts to get the 13th pick. Most people expected them to take a wide receiver to solidify their offense, but instead, they chose to draft a replacement for the young star they just traded away? Kinlaw is an absolute nightmare on the inside and I think he is more than worthy of a top-15 pick, but I just don’t understand this pick. Kinlaw is going to be an instant starter and a difference-maker for the Niners, but the whole process they went through to get him seems like a waste. 

15. Denver Broncos: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Grade: A

Jerry Jeudy is going to be a star in Denver. The Broncos now have an excellent young offensive core in Drew Lock, Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler, and Jerry Jeudy on offense. If the Broncos can keep this core together and develop Lock into a true franchise quarterback, they could have an explosive offense for years to come. Jeudy is the best route-runner in the draft, he has great speed, and he is excellent in space and after the catch.

He should be a nice complement to the big, physical Courtland Sutton on the other side of the field and speedster KJ Hamler in the slot. Jeudy is a better fit for their offense than CeeDee Lamb is and I am excited to see how this offense fares in the coming seasons.

16. Atlanta Falcons: CB AJ Terrell, Clemson

Grade: C+

AJ Terrell was not worthy of a top-20, or maybe even a first-round selection. He got beat consistently by no-name wide receivers at Clemson, has trouble with pass interference, and doesn’t read the quarterback as well as other corners in this draft. He just isn’t as good as players like Jeff Gladney, Jaylon Johnson, or even Kristian Fulton in my opinion. He has great physical attributes, but lacks the coverage skills that make cornerbacks worthy of a first-round pick. I like that the Falcons used this pick on a corner, but I think they could have chosen a much better player.

17. Dallas Cowboys: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

Grade: B

This one is going to get me a lot of hate, but just hear me out. Lamb was the best player on the board and was my #1 receiver in this draft. But, the Cowboys have other needs that needed to be addressed in the first round. They need major help in the secondary and pass rush and there were still great options at corner, safety, and edge rusher available at 17. They did pick Trevon Diggs in the second round, but I am pretty low on Diggs, who is not the greatest athlete and lacks discipline in coverage.

The Cowboys do not have the luxury of picking the best available player when they have such gaping holes on the defensive end. The only reason this pick gets a B is that CeeDee Lamb is just that good and will make the Dallas offense elite. Diggs will be an adequate player, but not a problem solver on the defensive end. Defense wins championships and Jerry Jones doesn’t seem to get that, seeing as their last one was 24 years ago. 

18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh): OT Austin Jackson, USC

Grade: A-

This was the right pick for the Dolphins. Plain and simple. They just drafted a quarterback who needs protection badly, so you draft some protection for him. Jackson is good in pass protection and should prove to be useful down the stretch. That’s pretty much all there is to this pick. The Dolphins are doing this rebuild the right way and I see them being real contenders in a few years.

19. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago): CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State

Grade: D+

I mean, it’s the Raiders… you can’t expect them to make more than one good move on any given day. It’s a bit too much responsibility for them. After the pickup of Henry Ruggs III, the Raiders shocked just about everybody by drafting Damon Arnette in the first round. He’s just not a first-round talent by any means. He was projected to go in the late second or third round.

Arnette will play well in the Raiders’ primarily zone coverage defense, but there were better options on the board that both fit their system better and just play cornerback better. The fact that three of their first four picks were wide receivers is also extremely disheartening for their defense and makes this pick even worse. He is not the solution to the Raiders’ defensive issues.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams): OLB K’Lavon Chaisson

Grade: A-

Chaisson is only 20 years old and has all the physical skills to succeed at the next level. He is quick off the snap, strong, and fast off the edge of the line. He needs to add more pass rush moves to his arsenal, but he has time to develop as the Jaguars continue to rebuild. It is becoming unclear whether the Jaguars will find a trade partner for Yannick Ngakoue, but nonetheless, he most likely won’t be playing for the Jaguars next season (even if he’s still on the team). Chaisson and Josh Allen should form one of the league’s top pass-rushing duos in a few years.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU

Grade: B-

This is a risky pick for the Eagles. Reagor’s sophomore season at TCU was phenomenal as he topped 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns, but his junior season was spectacularly average as he only managed 611 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has decent size at 5’11” and 206 lbs, and he’s got crazy speed. At the combine he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, but at his pro day he ran a sub-4.3. If Reagor shows he can maintain that speed consistently in his route running at the next level, then he could be a star.

He has great ball skills; if you throw a 50/50 ball his way, there is a good chance he’ll reel it in. But, his hands are definitely something to worry about. He dropped 9.7% of his passes last season, which is by far the most of any first-round wide receiver. He also has great value as a punt returner, a role he played extremely well at TCU. Overall, I don’t know if he was worth the risk in the first round, but he has great potential and could very easily prove me wrong. Keep an eye out for him over the next couple years.

22. Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo): WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

Grade: B+

I really like Jefferson as a player, the only question is whether he will be able to transition into the role the Vikings have waiting for him. He took most of his snaps out of the slot at LSU, but the Vikings run a lot of two tight end sets with two receivers out wide, which means he would have to transition to a primarily outside receiver. Personally, I think his skill set will transfer. He is one of the best route-runners in this class and is immaculate after the catch (sounds like Stefon Diggs to me). Jefferson will do great things if he is able to acclimate to running routes on the outside. 

23. Los Angeles Chargers (via New England): LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

Grade: A-

The Chargers love fast guys on defense, and Murray has spectacular speed and quickness at linebacker. Murray is a great blitzer, he can cover well in a zone, and he can guard the second level from sideline-to-sideline. After the Chargers chose Justin Herbert over touted linebacker Isaiah Simmons at 6, it was a great move to move back into the first and draft the second-best linebacker in this draft. Tom Telesco did well with this move and Murray should be a great addition. Gus Bradley is going to have a great plug-and-play guy with Murray. 

24. New Orleans Saints: C Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

Grade: F

Why? This pick makes no sense. The Saints drafted Erik McCoy in the second round of last year’s draft and he started all 16 games at center for the Saints last year. I know that the Saints have no glaring holes on their roster, but they could use some help at linebacker and Patrick Queen was still on the board when they made this pick.

Ruiz may have to move to guard after McCoy’s solid rookie campaign, but even then, he probably won’t be able to play at either position for at least a year, maybe more. Saints OG Larry Warford’s contract is up after this season, but he is only 29 and is playing very well. I think Ruiz will be traded or cut without ever being named a starter for the Saints. 

25. San Francisco 49ers (via Minnesota): WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State

Grade: B+

Aiyuk is a controversial pick with guys like Denzel Mims, Michael Pittman, and Tee Higgins still on the board, but I think he fits very well in the Niners’ offense. Aiyuk is magical after the catch, and that is exactly what Kyle Shanahan likes in his receivers. Shanahan’s timing-based, run-first offense will allow him to have room to run after the catch on short passes, screens, and pick plays as well as the occasional deep ball. Aiyuk may not have been the best player available at wide receiver, but his skill set fits Kyle Shanahan’s offense to a T and he should be very productive. 

26. Green Bay Packers (via Miami via Houston): QB Jordan Love, Utah State

Grade: D

To Packers fans everywhere: I’m so sorry. So, after an NFC Championship run last season with an aging Aaron Rodgers, the Packers decide not to give Rodgers a long overdue weapon at wide receiver in this stacked draft class, but draft his replacement instead.

This pick would maybe have gotten a higher grade if the Packers managed to get a good wide receiver in round 2, but they ended up with RB AJ Dillon instead. Jordan Love sitting and learning behind Rodgers could be good for the franchise in the long run, but the Packers have probably 2 more years of adequate, healthy Aaron Rodgers to compete for a championship and they decide not to help him, but to draft an unproven, raw quarterback for him to “mentor.”

Somehow, the Packers have disrespected Rodgers, they have disrespected the fans, and they have disrespected their coaching staff all in one pick. What this pick says to me is that they either think Love will be the next Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers (which I sincerely doubt), or that they don’t think they can win with Aaron Rodgers anymore and they are looking to rebuild as soon as, if not before, he retires. Either way, this is the wrong pick. 

27. Seattle Seahawks: LB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech

Grade: B

Again, my man Patrick Queen is still on the board and he is getting passed on for a mid-late second-round prospect. But unlike the Saints’ selection, I don’t hate this pick because Jordyn Brooks was a tackling machine at Texas Tech. He topped 100 tackles last year and posted a 4.54 40-time at the combine. When you turn on his tape, you can tell that he has a knack for getting to the football. He is a great tackler and is extremely aggressive when shaking blocks and making tackles. Brooks could be a great player at the next level, but he was taken much too early in this draft. 

28. Baltimore Ravens: LB Patrick Queen, LSU

Grade: B+

Finally, Queen is off the board and the Ravens are a perfect fit. Queen is a bit undersized at the linebacker position at 6’0” 229 lbs, but he makes up for that with his speed and quickness off the snap. He has some trouble shedding blocks due to his size, but Queen is still young and only has one year of starting experience under his belt. He is a great tackler and is disciplined in coverage. Queen is definitely a project who can start right away but probably won’t play at a high level for a year or two.

29. Tennessee Titans: OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia

Grade: B-

Wilson is a massive tackle who should become Derrick Henry’s new best friend in the run game, but he lacks sound technique. In both the pass and run protection, Wilson has trouble with balance and footwork which causes him to get beat by speed off the edge. I love that the Titans are addressing their OL needs, but I think Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones would have been a better pick in this spot.

30. Miami Dolphins (via Green Bay): CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

Grade: C

Igbinoghene would be a very intriguing pick… in the second round. He is a very raw prospect who converted from wide receiver to corner only two years ago. He should do well in Miami’s man coverage scheme due to his physicality in the slot, but that is where he’ll have to stay, seeing as Miami now has two of the highest-paid corners in the league on the outside in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. The pick just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at pick number 30. The Dolphins could have gotten a more natural slot corner later in the draft and used this pick on a more immediate need.

31. Minnesota Vikings (via San Francisco): CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

Grade: A

I am in love with Jeff Gladney and drooling over this pick by the Vikings. Gladney isn’t the biggest corner at 5’10”, but he is extremely physical and has great ball skills. He can play man or zone coverage on the edge or in the slot, and the Vikings were in desperate need of a cornerback after the departures of basically their entire cornerback stock from last year. Rhodes, Waynes, and Alexander are all gone, but the Vikings may have just drafted their star corner of the future in Gladney. I love this pick and think he will fit in well in Minnesota.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

Grade: B+

This is an interesting pick. I love the vision of Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the Chiefs offense. He has great route-running and catching ability out of the backfield and you know Andy Reid loves to use backs in the passing game. He is also a very tough runner even though he is only 5’8”.

He can stop on a dime, break tackles with his strong build and low center of gravity, and his acceleration is extremely impressive. That being said, I probably would not have taken a running back at this point in the draft because there were still so many talented DBs on the board and they could have gotten another scheme-fit running back later in this draft. However, I love this fit so much that I was forgiving with my draft grade. 

Sources:

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/jalen-reagor-1.html

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/joe-burrow-1.html

http://www.nfl.com/combine/top-performers#year=2020&workout=FORTY_YARD_DASH&position=QB-RB-WR-TE-S-EDGE-DL-LB-CB-OL-SPEC

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