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Grading the First Round of the 2017 NFL Draft


The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is in the history books and every club around the league believes they’ve got a future Hall of Famer in the process. We’ve still got two more days and six more rounds left to go but this year’s draft process has already been fascinating to see play out.

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Which team did the best when they were on the clock? Which ones reached for somebody they could have gotten later and lost value? Which whiffed completely and will have fans questioning what the front office is doing? Here’s a look at how each team did with their first-round pick and why it will — or won’t — work out down the road.

2017 NFL Draft: First-Round Grades

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

All the talk of grabbing Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 1 overall pick ended up being just a smokescreen for the Browns doing the right thing and selecting the best player on everybody’s board in Garrett. He should be able to contribute right away and, with a little seasoning, has the tools to blossom into an All-Pro coming off the edge. You shouldn’t get too much credit for not screwing this pick up but given that it’s the Browns and the draft, we’ll make an exception.

NFL Power Rankings: Cleveland Browns

Grade: A

2. Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Giving up multiple top-100 picks to move up a spot to draft a quarterback who started just 13 games in college? That is some confidence being displayed by GM Ryan Pace. It’s also the kind of move – especially in light of Mike Glennon’s free agent deal – that gets people fired in a season or two. Trubisky may certainly prove us all wrong, and he has the tools to, but this was a bold bet in Chicago that was simply puzzling when viewed from 30,000 feet.

NFL Power Rankings: Bears

Grade: F

3. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford

When John Lynch was hired as the 49ers general manager, many expressed a heavy load of doubt about how he would do. Well, in his first major move in charge, he moves back just one spot in the draft, gets the guy the franchise wanted all along and picks up multiple top-100 picks in the process. That’s a heck of a haul to get one of, if not the, safest players in the draft to help with a massive rebuild.

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers

Grade: A+

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

So much for the running back position being devalued. The Jaguars are making a big bet on Fournette with a pick this high given his injury history in college but these types of backs with out-of-this-world power and speed only come along once a decade. He’ll form a great combo with T.J. Yeldon in the backfield and be able to take pressure off Blake Bortles or whoever is at quarterback. It would have been nice to trade back a few spots to select him, but you can understand the driving force behind the move.

NFL Power Rankings: Jaguars

Grade: B

5. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Row that boat to the Cumberland! Another surprise at the top of the draft came with this pick. Was it too early? Possibly given where many mock drafts had him, but Davis has a whole bunch of positives and might be one of the cleanest prospects at the receiver position in this year’s draft. The Titans had to get some weapons for Marcus Mariota and they get an excellent target in Davis.

NFL Power Rankings: Tennessee Titans

Grade: B+

6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S, LSU

The Jets needed a good player at every position given how thin that roster is with playmakers and they grabbed the best player left on many folks’ boards in Adams. The physical safety should delight head coach Todd Bowles and provide a much needed enforcer in a division that forces you to face Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill twice a season.

NFL Power Rankings: Jets

Grade: A

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

The move to L.A. means increased expectations for the Chargers and they landed a great pick for the immediate future of the franchise as well as the long term. Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger but he can still sling it like the best of them and has to be ecstatic about this pick as he gets another big wideout on the outside. Williams was a player many thought was the best in the draft at receiver and that makes it good value in this spot.

NFL Power Rankings: Chargers

Grade: A-

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

The Panthers needed to take some pressure off Cam Newton and get a player who can do that in spades with McCaffrey. He’ll contribute all over the board from Week 1, from the return game to the passing game as an outlet for Newton. McCaffrey is a way better runner between the tackles than he gets credit for and he’ll develop even more by learning from the veterans in the Carolina backfield.

NFL Power Rankings: Panthers

Grade: B+

9. Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, WR, Washington

Andy Dalton gets a ton of heat for his record but he doesn’t care about any of that upon learning about this draft pick. I mean, having A.J. Green and Ross as your wide receiver combo is borderline unfair given what those two can do running routes. The only issue is that the value for this pick is a little low, especially factoring what teams offered for the pick behind this one.

NFL Power Rankings: Bengals

Grade: B-

10. Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

In a vacuum, this makes sense. Alex Smith is clearly bumping against the glass ceiling, but his presence allows a rookie quarterback to sit behind him and learn until he’s ready. Mahomes can be that guy with the physical tools he possesses but needs a ton of development transitioning to the NFL. Still, that is a ton to go up and get him in this draft (especially when he could have been available later). Like the Bears, the front office and Andy Reid are making a big bet and better be sure because there will be plenty of calls to force Mahomes into the lineup early.

NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs

Grade: C

11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, DB, Ohio State

That run on offensive talent in the top 10 had to benefit one defensive-needy team later on and that comes right away with the Saints and Lattimore, a player many consider to be the best corner in the draft. There are few minor injury concerns that may have helped him fall a bit but this a great value selection at a huge area of need. Facing Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston six times means you need to be good on the outside and the team improved in this area. 

NFL Power Rankings: Saints

Grade: A-

12. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called Watson the Michael Jordan of this draft and Alabama’s Nick Saban praised the QB for two and a half years. By that measure, this is a phenomenal pick by Houston to get the Tigers’ signal-caller and it could solidify the franchise long term by finally getting somebody at the position to be “the guy.” Texans fans have to be thrilled at landing a player of this caliber, and that goes doubly so for the coaching staff. Maybe Watson can even live with ex-Tiger DeAndre Hopkins.

NFL Power Rankings: Texans

Grade: A

13. Arizona Cardinals: Hasson Reddick, LB, Temple

There was a ton of talk about the Cardinals going offense with this selection but they wisely opted to go defense with Reddick. He should be able to make an impact early on and adds pass-rushing depth to a team with a number of players who can get to the backfield. There’s lots of upside to this pick if Reddick’s trajectory in football continues.

NFL Power Rankings: Cardinals

Grade: B

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, DL, Tennessee

The organization that grabbed Reggie White ends up with the guy who broke his college sack record in front of the home crowd. Cool moment made even better by getting a guy that loves to get after opposing quarterbacks and has all the measurables to make an impact in a division with some big-time passers. Great marrying of need with value here for the Eagles.

NFL Power Rankings: Eagles

Grade: B+

15. Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Hooker was a one-year wonder with the Buckeyes but many believe he’ll turn into the next Ed Reed given his ability to cover the entire field and snatch the ball out of the air. It’s no secret that the Colts need tons of help defensively and this could be a stellar addition that helps on the back end for a decade. There was talk about him going in the top five so the value here is tremendous.

NFL Power Rankings: Colts

Grade: A-

16. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, DB, Alabama

Surprising: Humphrey being the first Crimson Tide player drafted this year. Not surprising: That GM Ozzie Newsome got another Bama player. Humphrey checks off almost every box when you are looking for a corner and he’ll need all those physical skills given the division he’ll be playing in. This fills a big opening in the secondary for the team and he lands in one of the pest spots possible to develop.

NFL Power Rankings: Ravens
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Grade: B+

17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

There were many who pegged Allen as the second best player in the entire draft. There are some medical concerns but goodness it’s hard to beat the value of a player like that with the No. 17 pick. He provides plenty of positional flexibility and adds to some nice pieces on a defense that needs more. This is a flat-out steal in the eyes of anybody who watched him in college.

NFL Power Rankings: Redskins

Grade: A+

18. Tennessee Titans: Adoree’ Jackson, DB, USC

Jackson isn’t the biggest corner on the board nor the fastest but he just might be the most fun player to watch in college making the jump to the NFL. He fills a big hole on defense for the Titans, which badly need help in the secondary and will be an impact return man from day one. With Mariota at quarterback, don’t be shocked if there’s a package of plays that see him catch a few passes out of the slot either.

NFL Power Rankings: Tennessee Titans

Grade: B-

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

There are a lot of happy quarterbacks around the league coming out of the first round of the draft but the smile on Jameis Winston’s face is going to be the biggest. It’s borderline unfair, actually, to add a physical specimen of a tight end like Howard to an offense that already has DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and Cameron Brate. Good luck to opposing defensive coordinators, you’re going to need it.

NFL Power Rankings: Buccaneers

Grade: A

20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OL, Utah

It’s amazing it took 20 picks for an offensive lineman to go off the board but nobody is surprised that Denver nabs somebody at the position. Bolles doesn’t have a ton of experience at a high level, which makes the bust potential here a little bit higher than normal. At the same time, he’s so physically talented that the potential is off the charts and he lands in a perfect spot to develop. Lots of value for John Elway right here while addressing a big need up front.

NFL Power Rankings: Broncos

Grade: B+

21. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

It’s a tad surprising to see Detroit pass on Reuben Foster in this spot but the medicals seemed to scare them away. They land the next-best option at a huge area of need though in Davis, who can really come down hill and make life difficult for opposing offenses. He might end up starting from day one and spend a decade making plays in the division.

NFL Power Rankings: Detroit Lions

Grade: B

22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, DL, Missouri

When you play in this division, you better be able to pressure the quarterback and make life difficult in the backfield. This team really needed a boost off the edge and Harris provides just that. In terms of pass-rushing impact, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him wind up with the most sacks out of all these first-rounders.

NFL Power Rankings: Dolphins

Grade: B+

23. New York Giants: Evan Engram, TE/WR, Ole Miss

Eli Manning may actually have shown some emotion upon seeing that the Giants’ front office picked a fellow Ole Miss star in Engram. Some folks may have thought David Njoku would be the pick here but Ingram is a little more polished and lands in the perfect spot to help out an old Rebels quarterback. That’s quite the receiving corps in New York and Engram is yet another mismatch opportunity.

NFL Power Rankings: Giants

Grade: B

24. Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, DB, Ohio State

What an interesting pick this one is given what has been swirling around Conley with allegations that surfaced earlier this week. Talent-wise, Conley should have gone much higher and he’s somebody many evaluators think is the best corner on the board. The Raiders have got to be pretty confident in what they’ve found out in the days leading up to the draft to make this move, which represents as good of value as it does a massive risk to the franchise.

NFL Power Rankings: Raiders

Grade: B

25. Cleveland Browns: Jabrill Peppers, ATH, Michigan

Browns fans are going to be beside themselves if the franchise did indeed pass on a big-time quarterback in this draft but there’s no question that they added some top-tier pieces on the defensive side of the ball. Peppers is a very good football player and because he can excel at numerous positions, his value is a little different than others. There were some questions about where he lines up at the next level but given the holes in Cleveland’s back seven, Peppers can move freely and still contribute.

NFL Power Rankings: Cleveland Browns

Grade: B-

26. Atlanta Falcons: Takkarist McKinley, DL/LB, UCLA

Based on how fired up McKinley was after getting picked, it’s hard not to like this selection. Dan Quinn continues to build up that Atlanta pass rush and the former Bruins star is relentless off the edge. Not only is it good value in this position, but it’s a valuable piece going forward to build around on that side of the ball. Great job going up to get him.

NFL Power Rankings: Falcons

Grade: A

27. Buffalo Bills: Tre’Davious White, DB, LSU

It’s not too surprising to see the Bills keep moving up in the draft but it was pretty impressive how they kept sliding back and still wind up with solid value in White. The team has invested quite a bit at this position in recent years so they’ll have to hope that White sticks around, but he has excellent tape and the physical skills to make an impact in the AFC East.

NFL Power Rankings: Bills

Grade: B

28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DL, Michigan

It was either cornerback or edge rusher for the Dallas defense and the Cowboys not surprisingly went with Taco time with their first-round pick. He’s a high upside player who can rush the passer early in his tenure and just makes a ton of sense. You may wonder if Jerry Jones was getting an itchy trigger finger and would have tried to move up but they stay put and land a great pick.

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys

Grade: B+

29. Cleveland Browns: David Njoku, TE, Miami

The Browns going up and down the board and then landing three potential starters is a bit strange to see from a lot of observers. But this does seem to be a new era for the Dawg Pound and they land a tight end who is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. The team may not have a long-term answer at quarterback just yet but one has to think that adding a weapon like this will take some pressure off the position regardless who’s behind center.

NFL Power Rankings: Cleveland Browns

Grade: B

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin

T.J. joins brother J.J. as a first-round pick and the Steelers get a player who perfectly mirrors what they want in a defender. He’ll fit right in to that locker room and should get the benefit of getting mentored by James Harrison. By the way, Steelers at Texans on Christmas will be quite the present for the Watt family now.

NFL Power Rankings: Steelers

Grade: A-

31. San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

John Lynch is making this GM thing look pretty easy and had maybe the best night of anybody on Thursday. That 49ers’ front seven is not only young, but it’s a huge building block and now they add maybe the most instinctive defender in the draft. Steal of the first round? San Francisco landing Foster sure seems like it.

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers

Grade: A+

32. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin

The team probably wasn’t comfortable with the offensive line depth trying to protect Drew Brees and rectified that with the selection of an offensive lineman that many thought was the best available. The upside on Ramczyk isn’t as high as somebody like Garett Bolles but he’s very polished and has the potential to step in right away at right tackle.

NFL Power Rankings: Saints

Grade: A-

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

(Top photo by Getty Images)