Grading a draft immediately after it concludes is akin to giving your compliments to the chef before the meal has been served. Sure, the food might sound good (or bad) based on the ingredients listed on the menu, but the true evaluation won't come until after the product has been tested.
It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But what is readily apparent is the different approaches that were taken, from going for the best available talent to focusing on team needs to gambling on character concerns and long-term potential.
The Bills will be highly criticized for the selection of EJ Manuel, but one has to wonder if general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Doug Marrone would get as many questions if they'd taken "safer" options like Matt Barkley or Ryan Nassib. Manuel wasn't asked to make complicated reads in Tallahassee and impressed coaches at the Senior Bowl when forced to do so. He's too much of a projection to warrant No. 16 overall but is the most dynamic dual-threat passer in the draft, and his upside is through the roof. Manuel will have a sure-handed receiver like he had at Florida State with the ultra-smooth Robert Woods, landed in the second round. Kiko Alonso was the guy making all of the plays that Dion Jordan (Miami, No. 3 overall) was supposed to make and could surprise, as could Texas' highly-athletic (and surprisingly tough) wideout, Marquise Goodwin. Of Buffalo's third-day selections, I'm highest on Nevada safety Duke Williams, who would've gone at least a round higher if he'd made more big plays. Grade: B
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In the days leading up to the draft, there was a lot of buzz that Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland might continue his aggressive offseason. He certainly did so, moving up to nab Jordan, a dynamic athlete to complement Cameron Wake. But shouldn't the No. 3 overall have more big plays? While I'm not nearly as high on Jordan, I did like the Dolphins' second- and third-day picks. Cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are more athletic than given credit for, and each plays with the physicality needed to be successful in the NFL. Dallas Thomas is quite possibly the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft and, ironically enough, considering he was the No. 77 overall pick, could take over for Jake Long (who wore No. 77) at left tackle. Of their third-day selections, I like Michigan State's Dion Sims and Florida's Mike Gillislee to surprise with key roles early in their respective careers. Grade: B-
New England Patriots
The Patriots traded out of the first round and started off hot on the second day. Southern Miss linebacker Jamie Collins is a former safety who just kept getting bigger. He has exciting athleticism and physicality but needs significant polish. I love the Aaron Dobson pick and actually projected this match here. His size and speed should give Tom Brady the vertical threat that he has been missing since Randy Moss, another Marshall product, left town. I'm not quite as high on the former Rutgers teammates in the third round. Logan Ryan is more smooth than explosive. Duron Harmon, like several Patriots picks in the past, was a surprise and, frankly, a reach. Fourth-round receiver Josh Boyce is going to prove a steal. Grade: B-
New York Jets
If the Jets had just drafted quarterback Geno Smith at No. 9 overall rather than waiting until No. 39, a lot of people might be celebrating their haul. Instead, the perception is that they reached to fill needs, which I don't believe is fair. Ultimately, the Jets filled the hole left by the trade of Darrelle Revis to the Bucs with the best and most physical cornerback in the draft with Dee Milliner and added to an already stout defensive line with Sheldon Richardson four picks later. Smith, of course, is the key to this draft and has the talent to be successful. It will be up to him to prove his critics wrong. I love the physicality and toughness of the two offensive linemen added later, Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi. Grade: B