2018 First Round NFL Draft Grades by Team
You cannot deny evolution. Some creatures are just born to thrive while others are meant for elimination.
And we were treated to this cold, unrelenting fact of nature again on Thursday in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are three loser franchises. They are three of the most hopeless, inconsequential organizations in sports, perpetual failures that serve as minor stepping stones for the elite teams in the NFL. And they all proved why that is once again by failing to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities they were given to alter their histories.
Cleveland had two selections in the Top 5. Buffalo had two first-round picks and six selections in each of the first three rounds. The Jets had the No. 6 overall pick to go along with two second-round selections, giving them dibs on three of the Top 50 players in this year's NFL Draft.
And they all blew it. Through trades and sheer incompetence, the Browns somehow came away with next to nothing, the Bills spent three picks to move up twice and still came away with just one viable player, and the Jets dumped their two second-round picks to move up when they could've stayed put and still landed their potential quarterback for the future.
They are all losers.
Conversely, the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Baltimore Ravens are three of the best franchises in football. Each one of these organizations oversees a team with multiple Super Bowl trophies, dozens of playoff appearances, and hundreds of wins and positive moments. And all three walked away from Thursday's first round as winners by virtue of making the simple choice based on decades of what should be common football wisdom.
These teams are successful in part because they are smart enough to take advantage of others' stupidity.
These are the Laws of Nature. And they are immutable.
Here are first-round NFL Draft grades by team, based on divisional order:
New England (B+) - I felt vindicated by some of Bill Belichick's quotes about the draft because they echoed what I have been saying for decades. The basic gist is this: drafting for need is ridiculous! When you draft a rookie to play a position of need you didn't solve your problem. Instead, you compounded your problem because now you have an in-over-his-head rookie playing a position that you were already weak at. Teams in the first round should be drafting the best player available and they should be drafting for depth, with an eye toward the future. That's what the Patriots did, and they got a potential Pro Bowl back in Sony Michel.
New York Jets (D-) - I know people are lauding the Jets because Sam Darnold, the player some thought was the best quarterback, "fell into their laps". He didn't fall into their laps! They had to trade two second-round picks to get Darnold when they could've stayed put at No. 6 and taken Josh Rosen. Or they could've taken one of the top players at No. 6 and then traded those two second rounders to get Lamar Jackson late in Round 1. Instead, they drafted a turnover-prone quarterback from a school (USC) that has failed to produce anything but busts over the last 20 years. Obviously, the Jets had so much fun with the Mark Sanchez Experience that they decided to relive it.
Miami (B+) - Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the top secondary players available and is extremely versatile. This was a solid play by the Fins, who could've been tempted to reach for an offensive player.
Buffalo (F) - It should've shocked absolutely no one that the Bills would out-stupid the Browns. Josh Allen is what would happen if Jake Locker carried Blaine Gabbert's baby to term and that baby grew up to be a terrible quarterback. I don't mind Buffalo's second pick, Tremaine Edmunds, but they didn't need to trade up to get him! Buffalo actually traded three extra picks in the first three rounds to trade and get a bust quarterback and a linebacker.
Cincinnati (C+) - I don't mind that the Bengals went with a center. But they get dinged because the guy that they really wanted, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow, literally went one pick before Cincinnati could grab him.
Baltimore (A-) - Look, Ozzie Newsome is one of the best general managers in NFL history, period. He has made a trade in every draft since 2001 and is constantly fleecing people. The Ravens were an afterthought heading into Thursday. But with some savvy moves they landed a defensive talent and a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. This is also the perfect spot for Lamar Jackson, as he can sit for two years, learn the ropes, and harness his physical attributes.
Pittsburgh (C+) - It made for a nice story that Terrell Edmunds, brother of Tremaine, went in the first round. Good for the Edmunds family. But a lot of people didn't think that Terrell was a first-round talent. And Pittsburgh needs beef, not speed, on defense.
Cleveland (F) - The Browns draft would've been tragic if it wasn't so completely and utterly predictable . I can't say enough bad things about what the Browns did here. They passed on Adrian Peterson Version 2.0 to draft a 23-year-old man-baby with limited upside and a ton of red flags. This team has obviously learned nothing of its past quarterback failures, so they are doomed to repeat them. The Browns could've had Barkley and Bradley Chubb, the consensus best players on both sides of the ball and two physical freaks. That would've been amazing! They also could've taken Barkley and then still got Josh Rosen (or if they wanted him for some reason, Josh Allen) at No. 4. Or they could've traded down and gotten a boatload more picks. They literally could've done anything other than what they did and been better off. Instead, they took Baker Manziel and then reached for a corner. It's just unreal. But that's why the Browns are the Browns. Losers.
Indianapolis (A) - The Colts took advantage of the Jets impetuousness and landed some extra selections. Then when it was their turn Indy stepped up and did what the Browns could've or should've: drafted the biggest, best offensive lineman in the draft. Great job.
Houston (NA) - The Texans don't have a pick until Round 3.
Tennessee (B) - The Titans grabbed a plug-and-play linebacker from Alabama in Rashaan. He also happens to fit a position of need, but one where he won't be overburdened as a rookie.
Jacksonville (A-) - This is another example of taking the best player available, needs be damned. The Jaguars know where their bread is buttered right now and that their defense is the crux of their success. Taven Bryan will fit right in and this was a great value pick.
San Diego (B+) - The Chargers may have walked away with the best safety in the draft in Derwin James. He can be an instant impact player on that defense. I also like it that the Chargers didn't try to reach for a quarterback. They played smart and simple.
Denver (A-) - And I love it that the Broncos didn't reach for a quarterback. Instead they walked away with a beast of a defender to throw into an already stacked front seven. Denver's best pass rushers aren't getting any younger. But they drafted the best player and in two years he will be ready to fill those shoes.
Oakland (A-) - The Raiders get bonus points for trading down and acquiring more picks. Then they drafted one of the best offensive tackles in the draft. No, Kolton Miller doesn't fit an immediate need. But that's good! His selection gives the Raiders depth at a critical position and gives them a replacement when aging Donald Penn moves on. That's how it is done.
Kansas City (NA) - The Chiefs traded away their first-round pick in the Patrick Mahomes deal. It is still way too early to tell how smart that was.
Dallas (C+) - The Cowboys took a linebacker with major injury concerns. There were too many other good players still on the board.
Philadelphia (B+) - The Eagles traded away their first-round pick to stockpile some more selections. Smart move.
New York Giants (A+) - Winners. Whoever got Saquon Barkley was going to be the winner of the draft. I know some people wanted the Giants to trade down. But why? I thought it would've been hilarious if the Giants had only taken about 20 seconds after the Browns took Mayfield to hand in their selection. But the Giants are too classy of an organization for a troll move like that.
Washington (B+) - The Redskins are doing it right. John Allen showed a lot of promise last year. Now they loaded up their defensive line with another stud Alabama player in Da'Ron Payne. They are countering Dallas and Philadelphia's offensive line strength and the fact that they now have to deal with Barkley for the next few years. Well played by the Skins.
Minnesota (B) - Mike Hughes is a really good corner. And he will have to play right away because Terrance Newman just isn't going to last much longer.
Green Bay (C) - The Packers just keep humping the dog with these secondary players. Maybe instead of drafting guys in the first two rounds and throwing them in to start at corner they could, I don't know, address short-term problem in free agency and then allow their young corners to develop?
Chicago (A) - The Bears held their breath when Tampa Bay was on the clock. But once the Bucs traded with the Bills that cleared the path for Chicago to land the best linebacker in the draft and one of the best defensive prospects in this class. Roquan Smith is a player. And Chicago stole him thanks to the incompetence of the teams reaching for quarterbacks. (You know, what they did last year.)
Detroit (B+) - I will almost never criticize a team for drafting an offensive or defensive lineman in the first round. That is how you win in the NFL: in the trenches.
New Orleans (D) - Why on earth would you sacrifice a future first-round pick to move up in the draft and take a pass rusher in a class stacked with pass rushing talent! The Saints got terrible value last night and walked away with a player with serious bust potential.
Atlanta (B+) - At one point Calvin Ridley was thought to be a Top 10 talent. I am not as high on him as some other people. But the last Alabama receiver that the Falcons snagged was Julio Jones. If Ridley can have half of Jones' impact then this was a solid pick.
Carolina (B-) - The Panthers needed a receiver. But you know how I feel about drafting for need. Especially at receiver, where the bust rate is pretty high. Also, they better be right about taking D.J. Moore over Ridley.
Tampa Bay (B+) - Vita Vea is a physical freak and will fit in well on a defensive line that has been neglected for too long. The fact that the Bucs were able to trade down and steal some extra picks was the cherry on top.
Arizona (B+) - Josh Rosen was my favorite quarterback in this draft . So the Cardinals definitely deserve credit for landing him. It stinks that they had to trade up to do it. But the fact of the matter is that they wanted a quarterback and they walked away with the best one. Good on them.
San Francisco (A-) - Maybe the 49ers didn't have the offers. But I think they would've been better served trading down and grabbing a skill position player. But hey, landing the best offensive tackle in the draft is never a losing strategy, so good for them.
Seattle (D) - Seattle, as a franchise, is coming apart at the seams. So what did they do? They went out and reached for a running back that wasn't a first-round talent - with Sony Michel still on the board! - when they have so many more pressing needs. The Seahawks did not have a good night.
St. Louis (NA) - The Rams didn't have a draft pick, so I won't give them a grade. But let me say that I think it was absolutely ridiculous that they gave up a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks.
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Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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