Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu rather than actually waiting to taste the food. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But waiting is no fun. As such, let's take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2014 draft.
It looked for a few minutes there like Jerry Jones might throw caution to the wind and nab Johnny Manziel but he exercised restraint and the smarter football choice, nabbing the ultra-safe Zach Martin in the first round. A day later, the gambler in Jones returned with an aggressive move to go get Demarcus Lawrence, a gifted pass rusher who fills a glaring hole with Demarcus Ware now with the Denver Broncos. With only Day Three picks left, the Cowboys are likely to only get special teams contributions from the rest of their class. I'm highest on the first three of them in linebacker Anthony Hitchens, wideout Devin Street and versatile defensive lineman Ben Gardner as quality developmental prospects. Grade: B
Chip Kelly received (and earned) a great deal of respect as a coach during his time at Oregon but I don't believe he gained enough as an evaluator of talent. Perhaps after this draft, he and general manager Howie Roseman will get some. Now, let's be clear. I did not expect Marcus Smith to get drafted in the first round. I do, however, like the pick. The former quarterback was one of my favorite players in this draft because of his athleticism, instincts and hustle and he's a good schematic fit for the Eagles. Though neither offers the elusiveness of Desean Jackson, I also like the additions of Jordan Matthews and former Oregon Duck Josh Huff as pro-ready receivers well equipped to be effective in Chip Kelly's offense. Jaylen Watkins flashed talent throughout his career at Florida and was highly impressive at the Senior Bowl. He and former Stanford safety Ed Nelson could fill significant needs. I also like the additions of Taylor Hart and Beau Allen on Day Three, a couple of players who are more athletic than they look and also could surprise. Grade: B+
New York Giants
The Giants started off their 2014 class with a surprise in playmaker Odell Beckham and the year's top center in Weston Richburg, each of whom should be able to help Eli Manning return to form. Three of their next four picks were spent on instinctive, passionate defenders with underrated athleticism in defensive tackle Jay Bromley, safety Nat Berhe and pass-rusher Devon Kennard. Running back Andre Williams is a no non-sense grinder who could give Tom Coughlin the featured back that David Wilson has failed thus far to become. Each of the four comes with question marks, however, as Bromley and Berhe lack ideal size, Williams has only average top-end speed (despite a solid 40-yard dash time) and Kennard has struggled with durability. Other than Beckham, this wasn't a flashy draft for the Giants with some luck it could be very effective in restoring Big Blue pride. Grade: B-
As if there was any question that Washington was operating with different principles in mind with Jay Gruden rather than Mike Shanahan at head coach it was obvious with the selections of big, broad, physical linemen to start off their draft. Versatile edge rusher Trent Murphy starred out of the two and three-point stance at Stanford and gives the team some flexibility behind established rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, each of are nearing the end of their contracts. Morgan Moses didn't always play up to his talent while at Virginia but he boasts first round traits and is an upgrade over incumbent right tackle Tyler Polumbus. Spencer Long also adds toughness and size (6-5, 310) up front. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland and running back Lache Seastrunk offer exciting athleticism. Inconsistency and durability issues pushed them down the board a bit. Wideout Ryan Grant isn't as explosive but he's a reliable route-runner and pass-catcher. Grade: C+