Premature 2018 NFL draft grades for Round 1

The walk-on of the century got his moment in his home state. The Buffalo Bills seemed to stumble on their QB of the future. And what were the New Orleans Saints thinking with their wild trade up?

Here’s a look at our premature draft grades from Round 1 of the NFL draft. Feel free to hold this against us in the coming years, just as we reserve the right to say, “told ya so.”

QB Sam Darnold fell to the Jets at No. 3 in Thursday’s NFL draft. (AP)
QB Sam Darnold fell to the Jets at No. 3 in Thursday’s NFL draft. (AP)

1) Cleveland Browns: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma – There were early signs that the Browns were intrigued with Mayfield. “A lot of what he is as a player fits with the mentality of [Browns general manager] John Dorsey,” a source told Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson at the Senior Bowl in January. Is the power of personality big enough to lift the Browns when he’s ready to assume the No. 1 job from Tyrod Taylor? More important, how does his game translate to the next level? Greg Cosell offered this in a film breakdown: “Mayfield will be at his best if he’s in a structured passing game.” Structure and the Browns have been lacking, but a move this bold was done in confidence. Grade: B

2) New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State – The Eli Manning era continues as the QB gets tremendous help in the running game with Barkley. The Penn State product is a three-down back with tremendous hands. In a film study, Greg Cosell noted: “Barkley is a better overall runner than Leonard Fournette, for example, but he’s not the finisher Fournette is.” If that’s deemed a knock on Barkley’s game, then the Giants will take it. Grade: A-

3) New York Jets: QB Sam Darnold, USC They went with the “safe” pick. And by “safe,” they mean the Darnold from 2016, not the turnover machine of 2017. “He’s still the most NFL-ready QB in the 2018 draft,” says Yahoo Sports’ Tank Williams. Darnold might not be asked to start right away, so there’s a chance the Jets get this right. Grade: B

4) Cleveland Browns: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State – This was the first surprise of the draft. The Browns passed on Bradley Chubb – which surprisingly sits well with Myles Garrett – to go after this alpha corner from the Buckeyes. A bit of a reach? Grade: C+

5) Denver Broncos: DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State – Von Miller said Chubb is a combination of himself and the Raiders’ Khalil Mack. If this is remotely accurate, then Chubb had every reason to go first in the draft. He had back-to-back 10-sack seasons for N.C. State, showing enough power to be widely projected as the first defensive player to be selected Thursday. This fell in John Elway’s lap. Grade: A 

6) Indianapolis Colts: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame – His vicious blocking made him a highlights star on social media. Preserving Andrew Luck is the clear mandate here for the Colts. Feels like a 10-year starter as the safest pick in the draft. Grade: A

7) Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming – Accuracy be damned. The Bills took the plunge with the project player with an immense ceiling largely based on his monster arm. However, it’s hard to shake this observation from Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde, who got a look at the Wyoming QB at Senior Bowl: “Then there are his numbers in Wyoming’s games against opponents from Power Five conferences. Facing Iowa and Oregon in 2017 and Nebraska in ’16, Allen was 48 of 96 for 427 yards, with one touchdown and eight interceptions. Disastrous numbers.” Good luck, Bills. Grade: C-

8) Chicago Bears: OLB Roquan Smith, Georgia – Feels like the Bears got the next great young linebacker. In an evolving NFL where linebackers who can play coverage are prized – along with maintaining a hard edge against the run – Smith is a standout for his versatility. Grade: A

9) San Francisco 49ers: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame – Jimmy Garoppolo should be in good hands. Notre Dame allowed just 24 sacks during the 2017 season, which shows McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson, who was picked ahead of him, put in some serious work in protecting QB Brandon Wimbush last season. Grade: B

10) Arizona Cardinals: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA – There’s an argument to be made that Rosen was the best QB in this class. He was widely lauded for his mechanics and feel for the game. The Cardinals were aggressive in moving up to grab him. It wasn’t the Aaron Rodgers-like fall, but it should be enough of a draft night snub to add fuel to his fire. And yes, he was salty about the slide. Grade: B+

11) Miami Dolphins: CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama – The temptation was there to transition from QB Ryan Tannehill. Instead, the Dolphins picked up one of the most exciting defenders in the draft. Fitzpatrick would have been a fine pick in the top 5. In a choice between Fitzpatrick and Derwin James, Miami couldn’t have gone wrong with either of them. Best all-around DB in the draft. Saban sic’d him on any top receiver the Tide was facing or had him cover over the top as a safety. Considering Alabama’s DBs typically do well in the league, this was a solid pick. Grade: A

12) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Vita Vea, Washington – They passed up Derwin James for Vea, who is good at what he does (plugging the middle) but isn’t going to add much pass rush value in a division with Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Drew Brees. Grade: D+

13) Washington Redskins: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama – It was clear, “Oh no, Vita Vea is gone, what do we do?” was the conversation in the Washington war room after Tampa’s pick. Payne is a solid player but is Washington trying to rebuild Nick Saban’s Alabama defensive lines? Grade: C

The Saints expect big things out of UTSA’s Marcus Davenport . (AP)
The Saints expect big things out of UTSA’s Marcus Davenport . (AP)

14) New Orleans Saints: DE Marcus Davenport, UT San Antonio – The price the Saints paid for him is insane. New Orleans’ run as the most impulsive team in the NFL continues. They made a huge move to take an athletic but largely unproven pass rusher. Grade: D-

15) Oakland Raiders: OT Kolton Miller, UCLA – Oakland moved down and reached for protection for Derek Carr. Miller is very athletic and the Raiders need to replace Donald Penn at left tackle. Still, for a team that needs so much help on defense, this lacked pop. Grade: C+

16) Buffalo Bills: ILB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech – The 19-year-old is a solid fit with coach Sean McDermott, who will know how to make the most out of all of Edmunds’ abilities. Trading up is questionable, but Edmunds can be a difference-maker. Grade: B

17) Los Angeles Chargers: SS Derwin James, Florida State – Had James gone 10 picks earlier, nobody would have been surprised. He’s another star for a D that has a lot of talent (though L.A. still doesn’t have a QB of the future). Tremendous value with possibly the best secondary player in the draft. Grade: A

18) Green Bay Packers: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville – The Packers needed a cornerback. Alexander is a good player and an instant starter. Done and done. This is a value pick for the Packers, who moved back in the draft and probably still ended up with the guy they wanted. Grade: B+

19) Dallas Cowboys: ILB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State – Vander Esch is a plug-and-play linebacker who can succeed Sean Lee as Dallas’ do-it-all guy. It was odd seeing Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson take the stage in dramatic fashion only to see the Cowboys pass on Dez Bryant’s replacement. Oh well, the Cowboys got a solid rookie. Grade: B

20) Detroit Lions: C Frank Ragnow, Arkansas – The Lions got a guy who will start for a decade and help alleviate running game issues while keeping Matthew Stafford happy. But Detroit needed a pass rusher. Grade: B-

21) Cincinnati Bengals: C Billy Price, Ohio State – The Bengals could use some pass rush. But there’s apparently something in the water with teams in Ohio picking Ohio State players. The Bengals filled their biggest hole at center. Will they regret passing on James Daniels, though? Grade: B

22) Tennessee Titans: ILB Rashaan Evans, Alabama – The Titans lost their No. 2 tackler in Avery Williamson but moved up to grab his replacement who may end up being better. Evans can line up at any linebacker spot and will be a productive player for a bunch of years. He could be a Pro Bowler very soon. Grade: A.

23) New England Patriots: G Isaiah Wynn, Georgia – So much for the Lamar Jackson possibility. Wynn might end up at left tackle, though he could play guard too. New England needed to replace Nate Solder, a tackle. Grade: C+

Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with a fan after the New England Patriots selected Georgia’s Sony Michel. (AP)
Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with a fan after the New England Patriots selected Georgia’s Sony Michel. (AP)

24) Carolina Panthers: WR D.J. Moore, Maryland – Finally, a receiver. It’s a surprise Moore was the first receiver off the board over Calvin Ridley. He might have more potential. Moore didn’t have a stable quarterback situation with the Terrapins, so don’t look at his college stats as a good indicator of his value. Grade: B

25) Baltimore Ravens: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina – The Ravens traded back 13 spots and passed on filling a big need with Calvin Ridley on the board. Hurst was not expected to be the first tight end off the board. But GM Ozzie Newsome should know a thing or two about the position. Grade: C+

26) Atlanta Falcons: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama – Ridley and Julio Jones for Matt Ryan? Great value for a player some thought was the top WR in the class. Grade: A

27) Seattle Seahawks: RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State – A true shocker. Not Derrius Guice, or Sony Michel, or Nick Chubb or … you get the point. Penny has a lot going for him, and had a great 2017 but … wow. Seattle had a golden opportunity to fill Richard Sherman’s spot with Josh Jackson … and reached for a RB? Grade: D

28) Pittsburgh Steelers: SS Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech – Edmunds fits a need with the departure of Mike Mitchell, but will the Steelers regret passing on Justin Reid? Edmunds seems to be a bit of a reach in the first round, but without a great inside linebacker available, Pittsburgh helped its defense in another way. Grade: C+

29) Jacksonville Jaguars: DT Taven Bryan, Florida – The Jaguars have a fantastic defensive line, and Bryan adds to it. He isn’t going to see many double teams. Grade: B

30) Minnesota Vikings: CB Mike Hughes, UCF – Minnesota needed a lineman to protect its new investment (Kirk Cousins) and passed on a good one in Will Hernandez. Hughes is a fine pick but the Vikings didn’t need much. Grade: C

31) New England Patriots: RB Sony Michel, Georgia – Michel was the second-best running back in the draft. He’s a great weapon who can do anything for Tom Brady. The Patriots will get the most out of Michel, who helps replace Dion Lewis. The Patriots rarely invest in running backs so he must be special. Grade: A-

32) Baltimore Ravens: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville – Just when it looked like the most intriguing QB in the draft was slipping, the Ravens made a bold move for Joe Flacco’s assumed heir. It was very smart of the Ravens to move up to the final pick of the first round, and secure a fifth-year option on his rookie deal. Jackson is electric, and he’ll be fun to watch. Grade: B+ 

More NFL draft coverage from Yahoo Sports:
Dan Wetzel: Browns bet on monster gamble in Mayfield
Giants take Barkley with No. 2 pick instead of Darnold
Did Cardinals get NFL draft’s best QB with 10th pick?
NFL draft grades 2018: The emoji edition

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