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.
First-round pick Sylvester Williams' quickness and overall athleticism stunned talent evaluators who watched him at the UNC Pro Day, and he has certainly flashed playmaking ability for the Tar Heels. His motor, however, was too inconsistent for many. I've compared Montee Ball to Curtis Martin, so I'm clearly high on his talent. And, considering how much John Fox loves running the ball, Ball has the opportunity to be successful immediately. He's a workhorse who left Wisconsin as the NCAA leader in touchdowns, but I wonder how much tread he has left on his tires. I like cornerback Kayvon Webster's athleticism but thought there were more pro-ready defensive backs still on the board. On the other hand, I really liked Denver's picks on the third day. Wideout Tavarres King and offensive tackle Vinston Painter are legitimate talents, as is pass rusher Quanterus Smith, who will prove a steal if he recovers fully from a torn ACL. Grade: B
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Kansas City Chiefs
A smooth pass-protector and a more physical run-blocker than Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher provides the Chiefs with a physical presence and insurance in case the club elects to trade franchised left tackle Branden Albert. While Fisher is safe, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Knile Davis are definite gambles on upside, though each could pay off significantly. Of the Chiefs' third-day picks, I like the physicality and size of defensive back Sanders Commings and linebacker Nico Johnson. This is a solid class, overall, but, frankly, I would've taken Joeckel with the first pick and thought that the Chiefs gambled too much on upside throughout much of the rest of their draft. Grade: C
Give general manager Reggie McKenzie credit; he found the playmaking cornerback in D.J. Hayden that he was considering at No. 3 but was able to drop down, add a second-round pick and still get his guy, though No. 12 overall was still a bit rich. Al Davis might be smiling from the heavens with the way that McKenzie is drafting as OT Menelik Watson and OLB Sio Moore are highly athletic (despite Watson's slooow 40-yard dash) and pop on tape. The Raiders plucked several diamond-in-the-rough prospects on day three, not the least of whom is quarterback Tyler Wilson, a strong-armed pocket passer whose toughness could push him into contention for playing time earlier than assumed starter Matt Flynn might like. Former defensive linemen-turned tight end Nick Kasa as well as a more experienced tight end, Mychal Rivera, will help Flynn, Wilson or Terrelle Pryor as reliable options down the middle. Grade: B
San Diego Chargers
They continued a three-player run on Crimson Tide stars, adding the physically imposing D.J. Fluker to bring some toughness and stability to an offensive line greatly needing both. San Diego will love Fluker ... as long as they don't expect him to play on the left side. Manti Te'o is going to take his fair share of ribbing from teammates and opponents (and their fans). But once he proves himself to be a quality starter in the NFL, all of the heckling will quiet down. I love (make that LOVE) the addition of Keenan Allen in the third round for a team that has struggled with consistency at receiver. Te'o will be solid; Allen will prove a steal. Of the Chargers' third-day picks, cornerback Steve Williams is my favorite. While lacking elite size, he possesses terrific feet and good ball skills and is more physical than you might think. Quarterback Brad Sorensen impressed me at the Combine. Grade: B+