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.
Considering that the most important players on the Cowboys' roster -- quarterback Tony Romo and pass-rusher Demarcus Ware -- are aging, I was surprised to see Dallas trade back 13 spots in the first round and didn't think they received enough picks from the 49ers (No. 74 overall) to do so. Center/guard Travis Frederick is a good player who'll help solidify Dallas' offensive line and, therefore, the pick makes sense, though I thought it was a reach. The selection of wideout Terrance Williams with the selection gained via the trade makes this a more palatable exchange. The Baylor product ranks as one of the elite vertical threats in the 2013 draft. I'm also high on tight end Gavin Escobar's height and soft hands as a complement to Jason Witten, as well as the athleticism of small-school defensive backs B.W. Webb and J.J. Wilcox. Finally, running back Joseph Randle possesses a very similar skill set to starter DeMarco Murray and could surprise. Grade B-
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New York Giants
General manager Jerry Reese is one of the league's best evaluators of talent and has unearthed diamonds in the rough from all corners of the country. But in 2013, the most buzz-worthy prospects whom he selected were relatively local products from Syracuse -- offensive lineman Justin Pugh and quarterback Ryan Nassib. Pugh, 6-5, 307 pounds, has the height to play left tackle but lacks ideal arm length, which could push him inside to guard. The Giants have depth concerns throughout the offensive line and might see Pugh as a moveable chess piece. Nassib's fall could prove to be the Giants' gain. While Eli Manning's job is certainly safe, Nassib possesses the ideal toughness and professionalism to serve as a backup quarterback. The highly competitive Nassib will prepare for each game in case he's called into action at a moment's notice -- which not all prospective backup quarterbacks necessarily do. Of the Giants' other selections, I love the upside that they gambled on throughout the second and third days. The Giants love to re-stock their defensive line, and they certainly have two athletes in 6-3, 320-pound defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and hybrid defensive end Damontre Moore who could do it. Each has the tools to be a standout but struggled at times with dedication. Head coach Tom Coughlin is old school, so this could be an interesting combination. Grade: B
Chip Kelly's offense requires great athleticism, not only from the skill positions but from his offensive line so far. Lane Johnson's quickness and speed will help him get out on the edge for Kelly's beloved bubble screens. Kelly took great advantage of tight ends while at Oregon, and he'll have a moveable chess piece with Zach Ertz to manipulate defenses geared toward stopping the established stars. Bennie Logan was a surprise, as many saw him as a better fit as a DT in a 4-3. Logan was far from the only schematic surprise, however, as the Eagles pulled one of the stunners of the draft with the selection of Matt Barkley in the fourth round. Having coached against him, Kelly certainly knows Barkley well and must really like him (as I do). While Barkley does not possess elite straight-line speed, he does have the intelligence to make decisions quickly as well as excellent accuracy while on the move, making him a potentially very nice fit in this offense. The USC product possesses the best combination of the three traits that I've found to be the best indicators of future success in the NFL -- accuracy, anticipation and awareness -- and I believe he'll prove his doubters wrong and emerge as the most successful of the 2013 quarterback class. Of the Eagles other day three selections, I really like the schematic fits of Utah defensive end Joe Kruger and Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer, two more highly productive Pac-12 performers whom Kelly (and GM Howie Roseman) know well. Grade: A-
With no first-round pick due to the trade up a year ago for quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins had to wait until selection No. 51 overall before joining the action. Once they did, however, it became clear that the Redskins made finding ball-hawks in the secondary their top priority. The Redskins began their draft by selecting David Amerson, a lanky ball-hawk who left NC State after his junior season with an NCAA-leading 18 career interceptions. The Redskins continued this search for playmaking defensive backs through the third day, nabbing safeties Phillip Thomas (NCAA-leading eight interceptions in 2012) and Bacarri Rambo (who led SEC with eight interceptions in 2011). Tight end Jordan Reed is a virtual clone of former Florida Gator Aaron Hernandez and could prove to be similarly effective as the Patriots' standout as a move tight end or H-back in this scheme. I also like the late-round gambles on injured pass-rusher Brandon Jenkins (Florida State) and running back Jawan Jamison (Rutgers). Overall, a very solid class, especially considering the lack of a first-round pick. Grade: A-