Part of the beauty of the draft is that while it answers some of our offseason questions, it opens up a slew of new ones in the process. Why did they take him that high? Where does the coaching staff plan to use him? What does this mean for the future of the franchise?
We don’t have the answers right now, but it’s fair to make an educated guess based on where a player was projected to fall and how they fit a certain roster’s needs. Here’s the grade for every NFC team this weekend in Vegas.
The Cardinals traded the no. 23 overall pick to the Ravens for wide receiver Marquise Brown. While I don’t love giving up a first for a no. 2 receiver, the Cards did make some interesting picks on Day Two. Trey McBride was the clear-cut best tight end in a weak class, although it is an odd fit for a contending team that has a top TE in Zach Ertz that they just gave a three-year extension to. In the third, Arizona took two of my favorite defensive linemen, Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders. The pass-rushing duo salvaged what could have been an uneven draft. Regardless, roster needs like cornerback and offensive line were largely ignored; that could haunt the organization next season.
It was an exciting draft for Atlanta, as they added premier playmaker Drake London in the first round and quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third. The front office balanced things out with two promising defenders in round two. More offensive line help would have been nice, but it’s hard to poke too many holes in a well-rounded weekend for the rebuilding Falcons. They didn’t reach on anyone and still got their favorite quarterback late in the draft.
The Panthers made the most of their limited draft capital. Ikem Ekwonu is an immediate difference-maker from anywhere on the offensive line, while Brandon Smith could prove to be good value in the fourth round. The story of their draft will likely be the deal to trade away next year’s third-round pick to select Ole Miss QB Matt Corral. This is a team with holes; giving away more valuable picks might not be the wisest move, even for a promising quarterback.
Like many other teams, the Bears entered the draft with no first-round pick thanks to last season’s Justin Fields trade. However, they had a clear plan heading into Day Two: upgrade the secondary. The team added two defensive backs, CB Kyler Gordon and S Jaquan Brisker, within 10 picks in the second round. While taking one of the draft’s better wideouts at one of those spots would have been nice, it’s hard to knock a team for taking value picks at an area of need. Given what they had to work with, Chicago did well.
Of the teams that could have used a trade-up in the draft, Dallas tops the list. Premium talent at wide receiver, cornerback, and offensive line flew off the board in the middle of the first, leaving the Boys with a thinner talent pool at pick 24. Offensive tackle Tyler Smith is a good prospect, but he might be a project for a team trying to win now. Based on talent, Sam Williams was a bit of a reach in the second even before factoring in a troubling off-field history. Receiver Jalen Tolbert adds some much-needed juice to the offense, but it’s difficult to give Dallas a great grade for an underwhelming haul.
The Lions’ headliner will obviously be Aidan Hutchinson, a high-floor edge that can set the tone Dan Campbell is looking for on defense. However, Jameson Williams was my favorite receiver in the draft, and Detroit didn’t sacrifice all that much to move up 20 spots in order to take him. I like how Detroit focused in on defense for most of this draft. Relying on Jared Goff is difficult, and now the Lions have pieces to slow down offenses across the league.
Green Bay Packers
A weird draft for Green Bay, but not necessarily a bad one. Wide receiver jokes aside, the first-round selections of Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt solidify the Packers’ defense as one of the game’s best. Wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs should offer enough firepower to keep Aaron Rodgers happy, and the offensive line was also boosted in the middle rounds. Overall, good work after a questionable start.
Los Angeles Rams
Hard to judge a team that didn’t really do much in Vegas (pre-draft teasers aside), but I didn’t love L.A.’s draft. The team went offensive line (Logan Bruss) and corner (Decobie Durant) with their rounds three and four picks, selections that don’t address their biggest area of need: edge rusher. Kyren Williams offers great value in the fifth; Sean McVay will certainly look to get him involved as soon as next season.
The Vikings traded out of pick #12 with division rival Detroit, netting a subpar return to move back 20 spots. However, the rehauling of Minnesota’s secondary was long overdue; safety Lewis Cine and corner Andrew Booth give the Vikes a terrific tandem to build around. Later selections of Ed Ingram and Brian Asamoah fill out some weak spots and fifth-round running back Ty Chandler could be a chess piece in the right offensive scheme.
New Orleans Saints
To the surprise of no one, the Saints were aggressive on draft night. They traded up to pick 11 to snag wide receiver Chris Olave and didn’t reach for offensive tackle Trevor Penning at pick 19. Olave is pro-ready, but Jameson Williams was a better fit for Jameis Winston‘s strengths as a passer. Another notable selection was defensive back Alonte Taylor in the second round, a player that can fill in at various positions in the New Orleans secondary.
New York Giants
The bad about the Giants draft: they reached a bit on talent after the first round, and went after positions like wide receiver that weren’t pressing needs. Yet, it really doesn’t matter all too much. New York landed arguably the two best players in the entire draft class, edge Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal. These two building blocks, along with the team’s nine other selections, usher in a promising new era of Giants football. Not to mention, getting linebacker Darrian Beavers in the sixth round was a fantastic move by the front office on Day Three.
While I’m basing these grades primarily off of players drafted, the Eagles got better in a major way by bringing in A.J. Brown from the Titans for a first and third-round pick. Even before the deal, the Birds beefed up their defensive line with Jordan Davis at pick 13, a massive roadblock in the running game. Linebacker Nakobe Dean may be the steal of the draft in the third round, but his health issues are concerning. Getting center Cameron Jurgens in the second round to replace longtime starter Jason Kelce was another solid move by Howie Roseman. All in all, a fun night to be a Philly fan.
San Francisco 49ers
Edge Drake Jackson to the 9ers in the second round was one of my favorite player-team pairings of the whole weekend. Jackson has loads of potential, and San Francisco seems to always do well with molding long, athletic pass rushers into stars. I also thought former SMU wide receiver Danny Gray was a good pickup, especially given the team’s current Deebo Samuel drama. The biggest miss for the 49ers was the selection of running back Tyrion Davis-Price in the third round; this team just spent a third on Trey Sermon last year and had the undrafted Elijah Mitchell lead the team in rushing. San Francisco went for a shiny new toy over bigger needs on the offensive line and secondary.
For the first time in a while, the Seahawks had a logical, normal draft. It started out with offensive tackle Charles Cross at pick nine, a nice selection at a spot the Seahawks have been trying to fill with stop-gaps for most of the past decade. Across the board, Seattle had a fairly cohesive strategy of building up the trenches, nabbing both edge Boye Mafe and lineman Abraham Lucas past where they should have been selected. I really like Kenneth Walker III, and the team needed insurance for Chris Carson at running back. The ‘Hawks capped off Day Three with value picks in the fourth and fifth rounds via cornerbacks Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen. Look for at least one of the two to earn a starting spot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs traded out of the first round but nabbed plenty of difference-makers anyways. Logan Hall is a versatile defensive lineman that would have been a good pick in the first; he’s a great fit in Tampa’s defensive scheme. Then, they traded up to select Luke Goedeke, Alex Cappa‘s replacement at guard. The best thing about this draft is the Bucs did splurge on luxury picks, but only after they had sufficiently patched up their biggest needs. Not to mention, cornerback Zyon McCollum, the team’s fifth-round pick, could be a diamond in the rough. Solid work this weekend by Jason Licht and Tampa Bay’s front office.
The Commanders started out by trading back to pick 16 with the Saints. Rather than take Trent McDuffie, someone who could have helped Washington’s secondary, the team took wide receiver Jahan Dotson. Dotson is a good player, but his fit in the offense is questionable with Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel; a bigger red zone threat would have made more sense than another undersized pass catcher. While Phidarian Mathis was one of the better picks of the second round, grabbing his teammate in the third, running back Brian Robinson Jr., was a head-scratcher. It’s logical to want to reduce Antonio Gibson‘s workload. That shouldn’t mean bypassing bigger holes on the roster for a backup in the third round. These are valuable picks, and it’s hard to say Washington made the most of their draft opportunities.