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 Texans had holes to fill from a position standpoint, but I like this draft class most because of the physicality that Houston gained. With a superstar like Andre Johnson on one side, DeAndre Hopkins' sharp route running and better field-than-40 speed could make him an immediate impact rookie. Safety D.J. Swearinger is a versatile, highly physical safety who'll add to the toughness of the secondary. In a similar way, Sam Montgomery could surprise (if he remains focused on football) as an edge rusher. People tend to gloss over the fact that he was a much more consistent and productive defender at LSU than Barkevious Mingo, whom the Browns took at No. 6 overall. Finally, offensive tackle Brennan Williams earned first-round grades from a number of scouts and lasted until the third only because he is coming off a torn labrum. Massive and highly athletic, he's a perfect fit at right tackle. The Texans added another developmental tackle that I like in San Jose State's David Quessenberry, as well as another productive pass-rusher to watch in Connecticut's Trevardo Williams. Grade: A-
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Critics say Bjoern Werner isn't a great athlete ... but it wasn't just terrific instincts and technique that resulted in his leading the ACC in sacks in 2012. He's a bit stiff but locates the football quickly, uses his hands well to rip free from blocks and pursues with passion. I think he'll perform well as a rush linebacker. Interior linemen Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes should help solidify things up front. I like Montori Hughes' length as a developmental defensive lineman in the Colts' odd-man front as well as the athleticism and ball skills from John Boyett, who clearly convinced the Indianapolis medical team that he's recovered from surgery on both knees. Grade: B
If the Jaguars continue to build through the draft like they did this year, general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are going to turn things around in Jacksonville quickly. Luke Joeckel gives the Jags a top tackle to complement Eugene Monroe and is a future Pro Bowler. I love the physicality of safety Johnathan Cyprien and cornerback Dwayne Gratz on day two, and free safety Josh Evans could surprise as a third starting caliber defensive back from this class. Of course, the most exciting additions might prove to be playmakers Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson, who could help Blaine Gabbert realize some of his potential. If he's unable to do so, the Jaguars have the foundation laid to look towards a better QB class in 2014. Grade: B
Even with the addition of expensive free-agent Andy Levitre, the Titans wanted to get more physical up front to give Jake Locker and Chris Johnson breathing room. Chance Warmack certainly will do that, and center Brian Schwenke, a former guard, will prove a quality center early in his career, as well. No one found better pure athletes on the second day than the Titans, who, with wide receiver Justin Hunter, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson and outside linebacker Zaviar Gooden might have three quarters of an Olympic track team. The only concern is that each has shown thus far to be better athletes than football players ... The Titans' draft won't get mentioned by many as one of the top classes. But if some of these athletes turn out, Tennessee might have put itself in position to jump into real playoff contention with their aggressive off-season. Grade B+