Grading Each Team’s First Round Selection

As we approach the halfway point of the season, let’s look at how each team’s first-round selection has graded out so far.

  1. Browns – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma  The Browns have built a roster full of talent and the only thing missing was a QB to go along with it. After passing on several high-level QB prospects in the past couple drafts to acquire assets, the Browns finally cashed in drafting Baker Mayfield first overall in 2018. He has played very well as a rookie passing for over 800 yards in his first two-and-a-half outings, but he needs to limit his interceptions and sacks taken. Mayfield has given the Browns fanbase hope and his confidence on the field has improved those around him.
  2. Giants – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State The Giants passed on several signal callers to take Barkley 2nd overall. Even if he fully reaches his potential and becomes a Hall of Fame running back, there is limited value in drafting an RB so high. The false narrative pairing high running back draft picks with overall team success is taking a nosedive. Previous teams such as the Cowboys and Jaguars improved their records after selecting RBs in the top 10 but it was due to many other factors than the RB itself. The Giants followed suit and passed on landing their QB of the future with Eli Manning nearing the end of his career. Maybe Eli will continue to play so poorly that the Giants can land their future franchise QB early in the 2019 draft.
  3. Jets – Sam Darnold, QB, USC B+ Darnold has been inconsistent but that is expected of a rookie QB. The Jets did the right thing in getting a young QB on a franchise friendly deal who looks like the future. Whether or not he was the right QB to select will be answered over the course of his career, but they selected their franchise QB nonetheless, and that is exciting for the Jets’ fanbase.
  4. Browns – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio StateThere was a huge uproar against this selection as soon as it was made due to the overwhelming number of analysts (myself included) who thought Bradley Chubb should have been the player taken. Ward is playing like the defensive rookie of the year and has been a cog in the Browns defense that leads the league in takeaways with 15, 4 more than the next group of teams. Ward has terrific footwork, coverage skills, and a nose for the football. He looks like a slam dunk pick early on.
  5. Broncos – Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State C+ The Broncos needed to add a pass rusher to help take some pressure off Von Miller. Chubb was the clear-cut top EDGE prospect in the draft and the Broncos grabbed their top option on the board. The only downside of this pick is the fact that they failed to grab their future signal caller because Case Keenum doesn’t look like the answer.
  6. Colts – Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame The Colts have had a rough stretch of talent acquisitions over the past 6 years. Grabbing a player of Nelson’s caliber to help protect Luck is paying off early. Nelson made PFF’s team of the week for week 5 and he could quickly become one of the top guards in the league. The Colts haven’t had the ideal start to the season, but Nelson is a huge factor in pointing them in the right direction.
  7. Bills – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming C– Allen has squeaked out 2 wins this season and the fanbase is optimistic about their first round QB. He doesn’t look like the passer that can elevate the team around him and his below average passing percentage has followed him to the league. Allen currently has a 60.4 passer rating which ranks 4th among rookies and 41st overall. The team lacks talent across the board which makes it hard for a rookie to succeed but there were better QBs on the board when the Bills selected Allen.
  8. Bears – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia Smith is a difference-maker and has played well so far. He has terrific range and his transition to the NFL game has been smooth. The Bears improved their defense this offseason and Smith is a big part of it. The holdout leading into the preseason wasn’t ideal, but Smith has been able to make up for it. He doesn’t have the gaudy stats, but his play has been that of a first-round linebacker.
  9. 49ers – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame B+ The 49ers needed to add to their offensive line and potentially grab Joe Staley’s future replacement. McGlinchey has come in and played at a high level from the start. He has been below average as a pass blocker but has more than made up for it in the run game. Even though the 49ers have lost Jimmy Garoppolo they can take some positives from this season as McGlinchey is playing terrific as a rookie.
  10. Cardinals – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA A+ Josh Rosen has been an absolute difference-maker. The Cardinals ran into a little luck when Rosen fell past the top QB-needy teams in the draft and was sitting there at 10 overall after trading up. Rosen is advanced as a passer and has been the best rookie QB so far with his ball placement. He has shown the willingness and ability to place the ball in tight windows and he has been able to elevate the team around him. The Cardinals have a QB that can play at a high level for years to come.
  11. Dolphins – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama A- The Dolphins were off to a hot start with great play from their secondary and Fitzpatrick is a big part of it. He is a versatile safety who has racked up 34 tackles and an interception through the first 5 weeks. He struggled in coverage against AJ Green but that is a tall task for any rookie. The Dolphins made a fine selection with Fitzpatrick and his play speaks for itself.
  12. Buccaneers – Vita Vea, DT, Washington Vita Vea has only played in one game as a rookie due to injury, but he clogged up the middle against the Bears. He demands attention from his defensive tackle position and should develop into a top defender in the league. The Bucs could’ve gone a different route with their selection to better improve their team in the secondary and get a better return on investment with their high pick.
  13. Washington – Daron Payne, DT, Alabama C+ Payne has already logged 2 sacks in his rookie career and his snap counts more than doubled after the first few weeks. Payne has been a terrific piece on Washington’s defensive line and although there were higher graded players on the board at the time of this selection, Washington’s choice seems to be just fine. Winning in the trenches is still a huge factor in this league and Payne gives his team a promising advantage each week as he develops.
  14. Saints – Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA B- The Saints gave up their first-round selection in 2018 & 2019 to move up and select Davenport which already puts them behind the 8 ball. As for his play, he has learned quickly and has 2 sacks with a forced fumble this season. Davenport looks like he can be a difference maker in this league and the Saints did need to add someone to compliment Cameron Jordan on their defensive line to get after the quarterback. Although they gave up a lot to get Davenport, the selection itself has been just fine.
  15. Raiders – Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA Miller was thrown into the starting left tackle position early and has struggled. He showed some grit playing through an MCL sprain but got tortured by a Chargers’ pass rush in week 5. Miller could eventually develop into good starting tackle, but he felt like a reach during the draft and continues to look like one now. There were several needs for the Raiders such as adding another pass rusher or defensive back and they failed to do so. After trading Khalil Mack to the Bears, the need for a pass rush has been even more pressing and it makes this selection look even worse.
  16. Bills – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech Edmunds has surprised people with his ability to pick up the playbook and command the Bills defense. His play-making ability was apparent on his college tape and the ceiling as high as any player selected in the draft. Edmunds is long and rangy at his linebacker position and played an absolute gem against the Titans. He has shown the versatility to play the run and excel in coverage. The Bills look to have their young centerpiece on the defense with this selection.
  17. Chargers – Derwin James, DB, FSU A+ The Chargers are the huge beneficiaries of the Derwin James slide. They were able to select a top 10 talent at 17 overall and he’s made the most of his selection. James has lined up in the box, at nickel cornerback, deep safety, and even on the edge a time or two. He looks like the most versatile defender in the league and he’s off to a hot start as a rookie with 31 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, and 6 pass defenses. He currently looks like the steal of the draft.
  18. Packers – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville Jaire Alexander was viewed as the top CB in the draft for many evaluators. He came in and played early, helping reshape the secondary for the Packers. The Packers moved back up in the draft to select Alexander and it was a key need that the team was able to fill. Alexander has a chance to be a pro bowl caliber player at his position with his confidence and overall play. The Packers rank second in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and although Alexander sat out against the Lions, he is a big part of their improvements in the secondary.
  19. Cowboys – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State I was a fan of this selection during the draft and even more so now. The Cowboys defense has always played drastically different when Sean Lee was out versus the time he was on the field. Vander Esch gives them the ability to replace Lee when (not if) he gets hurt. He is playing at a very high level, showing a good understanding of the position and diagnosing plays early. Vander Esch has shown his tackling prowess and range from day one and pairing him with Jaylon Smith was a smart move for the Cowboys.
  20. Lions – Frank Ragnow, OC/OG, Arkansas B+ The Lions needed improvement at several positions but protecting the QB was a priority. Ragnow started off slow allowing 13 pressures in his first two weeks but has only allowed 2-total since. The Lions run game has improved and he is a big reason for it. Ragnow has shown promise as a run blocker and is developing nicely as a pass blocker. He improved a Lions offensive line which is what they set out to do with this selection.
  21. Bengals – Billy Price, OC, Ohio State Price has been out after hurting his foot against the Ravens in week 2. The Bengals needed to improve their offensive line and their willingness to address their issues with this pick is promising. Price was a highly thought of prospect and when he returns the Bengals should have options across their offensive line.
  22. Titans – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama Evans hasn’t quite panned out the way most thought through the first part of this season. He failed to receive much play early on and looks like he might be behind in development at the NFL level. Evans is a very savvy linebacker with good range and versatility. It should only be a matter of time before he gets going and has an impact on the Titans defense.
  23. Patriots – Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia C+ The Patriots lost Wynn to a torn Achilles in the preseason. Wynn can play both guard and offensive tackle. This selection should pay off in the future and despite the injury to the Patriots first round pick, they continue to trudge through the season being the team to beat in the AFC East and likely the entire AFC conference.
  24. Panthers – DJ Moore, WR, Maryland C+ It has taken some time for Moore to see snaps and develop for the Panthers. The play-making ability has been on full display when Moore has been given opportunities. Moore has only been able to rack up 103 yards and 1 touchdown this season as the Panthers ease him into the lineup. The Panthers have needed playmakers on the outside since Cam has been with the Panthers and Moore is a very gifted athlete with a high ceiling at the position. He should continue to develop and eventually produce the way the Panthers thought he would when making this selection.
  25. Ravens – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina Hurst is a good blocker and pass-catcher at the tight end position, but this looked like a reach from the beginning. Ozzie Newsome is in his last year as the Ravens GM and he wanted to go out with a bang selecting two TEs in the first 3 rounds of the NFL draft. Hurst was an older prospect and has already had a rough start to his career with an injury, finally making his debut against the Browns with 1 catch for 7 yards. Hurst can develop into a good playmaker for the Ravens, but the value didn’t seem to be there when making this selection
  26. Falcons – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama WR seemed like the last of Atlanta’s needs heading into the draft but they still decided to select Ridley and it looks to be paying off. The Falcons could have used help elsewhere and Matt Ryan’s offense would’ve continued to produce with or without Ridley. He has had a tremendous start to his rookie season and his play alone looks to make him worthy of this selection. The defense has a few playmakers on IR which is a big reason why they are 1-4 on the season but they have something in Ridley.
  27. Seahawks – Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State This is by far the worst selection in the draft. The Seahawks had way more pressing needs at several positions, especially on the defensive line. They have lacked pass rush this season and even if Rashaad Penny ends up being a great player it doesn’t justify the Seahawks passing on other positions. They have had three 100-yard rushing games in a row and none of those games came from Penny. He has been a non-factor this season and having 7th round running back Chris Carson and journeyman Mike Davis both produce the way they have, further illustrates that Penny was a wasted first-round pick.
  28. Steelers – Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech The Steelers reached with their selection of Edmunds. He has played well up to this point with a few miscues, but it is hard to imagine him living up to his first-round billing. Edmunds can develop into a solid defensive back with his change of direction, physicality, and athleticism but it hasn’t been quite there yet. The secondary was a need for the Steelers and they were able to fill it, it just might have come a little too soon in the draft given the player selected.
  29. Jaguars – Taven Bryan, DL, Florida C- The Jaguars had no pressing needs outside of their QB and WR positions and adding depth to their defensive line will pay off in the future. The Selection itself is that of a good player with a very high ceiling. The decision to pass on their future QB (Lamar Jackson) given their current state at the position is horrendous. Blake Bortles has never been the answer and hurts his team more than he helps them. The Jaguars should’ve gone a different route. However, Bryan is a very athletic defensive lineman that needs time to develop. Fortunately, the Jaguars have the current talent to let Bryan watch and learn while still seeing his limited snaps on the field. He has made little impact up to this point.
  30. Vikings – Mike Hughes, CB, UCF The Vikings added a very solid CB to their strong defense and he has played well so far. Hughes is middle of the pack as far as corner play goes this season which is fine for a rookie and looked great up until their game against the Eagles. Hughes was thought to fall further in the draft due to past issues and character concerns, but the Vikings did a good job in selecting him where they did and look to have grabbed a corner that can develop into one of the better players in the league.
  31. Patriots – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia C- The Patriots have been able to find production at the running back position for years without spending much draft capital, so it was odd to see them select Michel in the first round. Their team always overachieves based on the talent on their roster, but they could’ve filled needs at other positions with this selection instead of grabbing a running back. Michel has finally hit his stride and looks good on the field rushing for 4.4 yards per carry and topping 100 yards once. He is a versatile back and fits well within their scheme.
  32. Ravens – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville The Ravens understand what they have at QB with Joe Flacco and know they need to look to the future. They were able to do what the Giants weren’t willing to, and that’s grabbing their future signal caller with a super bowl winning QB already rostered. This pick won’t pay off this season, but it puts them in good hands for the future so long as Jackson develops how they think he will. He can be one of the most dynamic QBs this league has seen. The Ravens were smart in moving up and selecting Jackson in the first round so they didn’t risk another team grabbing him. They also have the 5th year option when that time comes. Good job by Ozzie Newsome setting his team up for the future, although he won’t be there to see it unfold.

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DFF Co-Owner. VP College Scouting & Development. Host of The Devy Watch Podcast. Focused on watching the development of athletes all the way from high school to the NFL.

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