NFL Draft grades: Winners and losers of first round, from 49ers to Raiders

49ers rookie Solomon Thomas told Sporting News what he has been doing while away from the team, and he is ready to show off what he has learned from new mentor DeMarcus Ware.

What were the best and worst first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft? What teams and players scored big wins, and which came out hard on the losing end?

Here the highlights and lowlights of the draft's wild first night.

MORE: NFL Draft board, full analysis

NFL Draft grades: Winners

— John Lynch and 49ers

What a defensive-minded debut for Lynch as general manager. He made a terrific, immediate trade with the Bears to stockpile picks and was still able to get two cornerstones for the defensive front-seven in end Solomon Thomas (No. 3) and inside linebacker Reuben Foster.

San Francisco is seeing great early results with its hire, including him not panicking and forcing QB.


— Deshaun Watson and Texans

Houston no longer has a QB problem as it contends for an AFC title. The defense and offensive supporting casts are good enough to lift Watson into more winning ways after he led Clemson to a national title.

The Texans had to be aggressive to get him once Mitchell Trubisky (Bears) and Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) went earlier than expected.

MORE: Texans make a winning move for Watson

— Jets

New York had only one pick, but it avoided the quarterback trap and got the needed stud for Todd Bowles' secondary in Jamal Adams. The safety's natural playmaking ability makes him a good bet to be the front-runner for defensive rookie of the year.

— Browns

Cleveland didn't get a quarterback, but it got a few more picks and ended up with three needed prospects instead of two.

Getting Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett at the top alone would have made for a stellar first round, but the Browns also got intriguing, athletic chess pieces for both sides of the ball in Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers and Miami tight end David Njoku. Sashi Brown should be very happy.


— Wide receivers

This was supposed to be a weak draft for high-end, impact pass-catchers, but then came Western Michigan's Corey Davis at No. 5 (Titans), followed quickly by Clemson's MIke Williams at No. 7 (Chargers) and Washington's John Ross at No. 9 (Bengals).

Other than Tennessee, which had a glaring need, it was a weird mini-run with both Los Angeles and Cincinnati passing on good values at more pressing positions.

— Saints

Good things come to those who wait and take the best player available. New Orleans should be thrilled it got a potential shutdown cornerback all the way down at No. 11 with Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore.

When offensive skill talent didn't shake out for New Orleans at No. 32, it was smart to take the likely starting right tackle of the near future in Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk.

— Jabrill Peppers

For all that talk of a dilute sample and position uncertainty causing Peppers to slide into the late first or early second round, the Browns gave him a shot to find a home at either safety or linebacker in a defense that needs more playmakers of his ilk.

MORE: Will Peppers boom or bust?

— Giants and Evan Engram

New York didn't reach. It went can't-miss in a fellow Ole Miss product who will connect with Eli Manning.

Given the additions of Engram and Brandon Marshall, the Giants are trying to own intermediate routes when Odell Beckham is busy drawing attention downfield. It was the most underrated excellent pick of Round 1.

— Patriots

They didn't have a first-round pick, and they didn't really need to have one, instead able to sit back and enjoy the fun of other teams trying to catch up to them.

New England already has done plenty with free agency and trades to stamp its status as a strong favorite to repeat.


NFL Draft grades: Losers

— Raiders

There was no justification to take a massive risk on a cornerback who gambles in coverage when Reuben Foster was on the board to help them at their biggest defensive need. It's made worse when the player is Gareon Conley, who is facing uncertain legal action after news of his alleged sexual assault broke just days before the draft.

It was extremely disappointing, on and off the field, for Oakland to go in this direction.

STEELE: Raiders give Conley a rare chance

— Bears

If it weren't for the Raiders' bad judgment, Chicago easily would be the most clueless team so far in the draft. Piling on their terrible pick-up of Mike Glennon as an expensive, short-term stopgap, the Bears blew their draft pick currency on a questionable franchise passer in Trubisky.


— Marshon Lattimore

The Saints were a good landing spot for him, but he was rumored to be going as high as No. 3 to the Bears before that big trade with San Francisco.

The Titans at No. 5 and the Jets at No. 6 both surprisingly passed, too. That cost him a much nicer top-10 guaranteed contract.

— Chiefs

Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes is a big-armed, poor fundamental quarterback. Last time we checked, Alex Smith was not either of those things. Andy Reid sees some Brett Favre qualities in Mahomes, but the coach's offense is based on rhythm, footwork and good decision-making. Mahomes is a major project for whom to trade up.

— O.J. Howard

Howard was supposed to go much earlier than No. 19 to the Buccaneers as the first Alabama player taken, but as a luxury tight end pick, he was third off the board from the Tide. He was doomed to free-fall as soon as the Bills traded out of No. 10.

On the bright side, he's a great fit as another big, field-stretching target for Jameis Winston.

— Reuben Foster

Unlike Peppers, Foster carried a little more so-called "character" concern. He got passed up by many teams who could have used him, including the Bengals, Cardinals, Colts, Redskins, Lions and Raiders.

Expect him to pay off for the 49ers and make everyone else pay for not taking a sure tackling machine.

— All Alabama players

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was the first taken, and that was No. 16 to Baltimore. Along with Howard and Foster, one-time projected first overall prospect Jonathan Allen fell to No. 17 (Redskins). In the end, it was nuts to see that many teams ignore high-level, pro-style talents out of Nick Saban's program.

MORE: Best players available for Day 2

— Dalvin Cook

LSU's Leonard Fournette and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey went quickly in expected spots to the Jaguars (No. 4) and Panthers (No. 8), respectively. But Cook, with some mysterious off-field issues, didn't hear his name despite, maybe, being a more complete back than either of the others.

He will be off the board early in Round 2.

— Offensive linemen

Often the darlings of first rounds past, tackles and guards weren't expected to go before No. 20 in this draft, and that's how it played out. But it was worse than expected.

Utah's Garett Bolles got his name called, as many expected, by the Broncos. But Ramczyk had to wait until the very last pick Thursday. Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp and Alabama's Cam Robinson, both trending upward late, were shut out. Expect the position to dominate the second and third rounds.


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