2016 NFL Draft Grades/Recap

2016 NFL Draft Analysis

When it comes to sports everyone prides themselves on being able to correctly predict how things will unfold.  People will bet on Super Bowl victors before the season starts, fantasy websites highlight their “amazing sleeper” that nobody knows about that you HAVE to select in this year’s fantasy drafts, daily fantasy sports make oodles of cash because everyone thinks they know which players are going to have a breakout performance on a given day; the truth is that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, knows exactly what is going to happen in sports.  Injuries, weather conditions, fans, and what an athlete ate for breakfast can all affect what happens in a particular game, multiply that by each player and every play in the game and you get a variable that is completely unpredictable.  Sports analysis isn’t about coming up with crazy theories; it’s about taking what you know and what you observe, and mixing that a gut feeling.  That is the recipe for success.  This analysis wasn’t created to grade how great each draftee will be in the upcoming seasons because as I’ve said, nobody knows what’s going to happen.  All I am analyzing is whether or not a team attempted to fill their respective holes through their draft picks, and if they did so by getting good perceptive value and minimizing risk where they picked.  That being said, here we go!

American Football Conference

AFC East

Miami Dolphins: B-
2015 record: 6-10 (.469)
Top need: Cornerback
Other needs: Offensive tackle, offensive guard, defensive end
Players Drafted: OT Leremy Tunsil, CB Xavien Howard, RB Kenyan Drake, WR Leonte Carroo, WR Jakeem Grant, S Jordan Lucas, QB Brandon Doughty, TE Thomas Duarte
Analysis: The Dolphins took a risk by selecting Leremy Tunsil after the Twitter video was released just before the draft but it’s a smart risk to take; they had a strong need on the OL and they picked up one of the most talented players in the draft to fill that gap.  They also picked Xavien Howard in the 2nd round to fill their biggest hole on the defense.  WR play has been pretty inconsistent outside of Jarvis Landry so the taking of 2 WR with the upside both Carroo and Grant have was also a smart move.  Overall the Dolphins did what they needed to do to fill some of their weaker positions but they still have more to fill before they can be considered strong contenders.

Buffalo Bills: A-
2015 record: 8-8 (.508)
Top need: Right tackle
Other needs: Defensive line, wide receiver, linebacker, kicker
Players Drafted: DE Shaq Lawson, LB Reggie Ragland, DT Adolphus Washington, QB Cardale Jones, RB Jonathan Williams, WR Kolby Listenbee, CB Kevon Seymour
Analysis: The Bills defense as a whole needs to be revamped and they did pretty well at beginning that process with this year’s draft.  Selecting Shaq Lawson in the 1st round will drastically help them in the pass rushing department which they struggled mightily in during the 2015 season.  Cardale Jones was a great selection primarily to create competition at the QB position for the Bills with Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel.  The Bills used the rest of their picks to help supplement their struggling defense as well as get a downfield threat to put across from Sammy Watkins which they desperately needed.  Overall the Bills knew their defense was too inconsistent in 2015 to get them to the playoffs so they used the majority of their picks to cover their needs.

New York Jets: C-
2015 record: 10-6 (.441)
Top need: Edge rusher
Other needs: Offensive line, tight end, cornerback
Players Drafted: LB Darron Lee, QB Christian Hackenberg, LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Juston Burris, OT Brandon Shell, P Lac Edwards, WR Charone Peake
Analysis: Darron Lee as a first round pick will add a speedy defender that the Jets were lacking in 2015, beyond that though, the draft was questionable.  Christian Hackenberg being taken where he was shocked many experts.  He has the tools but there is a lot of work that needs to be done with him before anyone will change their minds on the Jets decision to select him where they did.  Also surprising was how long the Jets waited to select and offensive linemen, one of their bigger team needs.  The Jets were on the cusp of being a playoff contender in 2015 and they needed a boost this offseason to get them over the hump in 2016, I think they are going to need another offseason before anyone can comfortably call them a playoff team.

New England Patriots: B-
2015 record: 12-4 (.473)
Top need: Offensive tackle
Other needs: Cornerback, wide receiver, running back
Players Drafted: CB Cyrus Jones, OT Joe Thuney, QB Jacoby Brissett, DT Vincent Valentine, WR Malcom Mitchell, S Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Elandon Roberts, OG Ted Karras, WR Devin Lucient
Analysis:  As usual the Patriots used the draft to fill many of their weaknesses as a team.  Their biggest need was addressed with their 3rd round selection of Joe Thuney.  Drafting Jacoby Brissett was very confusing for most as Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo are certainly 1 and 2 for the QB position for the Patriots, maybe they simply needed a backup for Garoppolo as Brady serves his 4 game suspension.  Malcom Mitchell was regarded as having the best hands out of any WR in the draft; he and Devin Lucien (also known for having good hands) should help the Patriots reduce their large drop rate from 2015. The Patriots did a good job at addressing their issues through the draft, they are one of the teams that are known for drafting well and I expect nothing less from the group they’ve selected this year.
*Note: The Patriots were stripped of a first-round pick in the 2016 draft (plus a third-rounder in the 2017 draft) for the team’s role in the deflated footballs scandal.

 

AFC North

Cleveland Browns: C+
2015 record: 3-13 (.531)
Top need: Quarterback
Other needs: Wide receiver, defensive line, inside linebacker, offensive line
Players Drafted: WR Corey Coleman, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Carl Nassib, OT Shon Coleman, QB Cody Kessler, LB Joe Schobert, WR Ricardo Louis, S Derrick Kindred, WR Seth Devalve, WR Jordan Payton, OT Spencer Drango, WR Rashard Higgins, CB Trey Caldwell, LB Scooby Wright
Analysis: The Browns are utilizing the “moneyball” approach and are going for quantity over quality, hoping they can hit on a number of picks instead of hitting a homerun on 1 single pick.  The Browns have a ton of needs as a team but didn’t feel pressured to over pay for their biggest need which everyone knows is the QB position (they did select at QB in Cody Kessler with their final 3rd round pick but his value will remain to be seen as RGIII is likely the week 1 starter).  That being said, I find that drafting 5 WR is a little overkill.  Their first round pick of Corey Coleman was a great selection in that he was the first WR off the board, good value at the 15th pick, but they could have potentially addressed one of their other many issues instead of one of their later WR selections.  The Browns had a plethora of picks at their disposal and many of them were in the earlier rounds.  They have a lot of younger talent to begin to develop in the 2016 season but rebuilding is a marathon, not a sprint.

Baltimore Ravens: B+
2015 record: 5-11 (.508)
Top need: Offensive line
Other needs: Cornerback, outside linebacker, wide receiver
Players Drafted: OT Ronnie Stanley, LB Kamalei Correa, DL Bronson Kaufusi, CB Tavon Young, WR Chris Moore, OT Alex Lewis, DT Willie Henry, RB Kenneth Dixon, DE Matt Judon, WR Keenan Reynolds, CB Maurice Canady
Analysis: The Ravens had an injury ridden season in 2015 that lead them to getting a high draft pick in this year’s draft, they used that to their full advantage.  Once heralded as a ground-and-pound team, the Ravens have struggled running the ball in recent years, 1st round selection Ronnie Stanley will be able to help the team in the run game as well as protect their most important investment, Joe Flacco.  The Ravens did their best to atone for their biggest need again in the draft by selecting Alex Lewis, OT from Nebraska.  Their running game will receive a boost with the selection of Kenneth Dixon, drafted in the 4th round just as Javorius “Buck” Allen in the 2015 draft.  Finally, the Ravens used 6 of their 11 picks on defensive players, most importantly Kamalei Correa.  Correa gets to learn the ropes from Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs; look for him to be a potential leader for the Raven’s defense in the new era.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B-
2015 record: 10-6 (.504)
Top need: Cornerback
Other needs: Safety, offensive guard, outside linebacker
Players Drafted: CB Artie Burns, CB Sean Davis, DT Javon Hargrave, OT Jerald Hawkins, LB Travis Feeney, WR Demarcus Ayers, LB Tyler Matakevitch
Analysis: The Steelers are usually known for drafting talent over need, taking the best player available instead of a positon they are weak at.  This year they must have decided that it was finally time to attack their biggest need by drafting a CB with their first 2 picks.  Artie Burns was a surprise pick after William Jackson III was taken by the Bengals the pick before; many safeties were available with the Steelers pick that many believe would be less risky than Burns.  The Steelers later went on to address depth questions at the DL and OL by selecting Javon Hargrave and Jerald Hawkins with their following picks.  Hargrave played weaker competition as South Carolina State but the Steelers have had a lot of success selecting from smaller schools in the past (Ben Roethlisberger from Miami of Ohio and Antonio Brown from Central Michigan).  The Steelers surprised many with their selections but nobody is accusing them of reaching too much just yet, they are one of the teams who has seemingly hit on their selections year in and year out.

Cincinnati Bengals: B
2015 record: 12-4 (.477)
Top need: Wide receiver
Other needs: Nose tackle, linebacker, center
Players Drafted: CB William Jackson, WR Tyler Boyd, LB Nick Vigil, DT Andrew Billings, G Christian Westerman, WR Cody Core, S Clayton Fejedelem
Analysis: The Bengals showed great restraint by not selecting a WR in the 1st round .  There was a small run of WR ahead of them and they instead took William Jackson, one of the better CB in the draft.  They decided to go with the better player available instead of one of their pressing needs heading into 2016.  The Bengals attacked their primary need with their second selection of WR Tyler Boyd.  Boyd isn’t going to dazzle anyone with his skills but he has reliable hands that are needed opposite A.J. Green.  The Bengals also addressed needs at both DT and LB with their picks following Tyler Boyd.  Overall they didn’t reach for any of their needs and seemingly took players who will be able to grow into a prominent role for their team in the years to come.

 

AFC South

Tennessee Titans: B+
2015 record: 3-13 (.492)
Top need: Offensive tackle
Other needs: Cornerback, safety, defensive end
Players Drafted: OT Jack Conklin, DE Kevin Dodd, DT Austin Johnson, RB Derrick Henry, S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe, CB Leshaun Sims, G Sebastian Tretola, LB Aaron Wallace, CB Kalan Reed
Analysis: The Titans realized that they had many needs across the defense and wisely traded away their #1 overall pick in order to get a plethora of picks in a defensive laden draft (as well as in 2017).  They desperately need an OL that can keep their franchise QB safe as well as create holes for their newly acquired RBs Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry.  Henry was a great pick in order to keep competition in the backfield as well as to take some touches off of Murray who is known as a work horse back who struggles to stay on the field.  They attacked their primary need by trading back up in the draft to get Jack Conklin in the 1st round and by later selecting Sebastian Tretola in a later round.  The rest of their picks mainly covered their defensive needs which should be able to get Mariota the ball back more often than it did in 2015.

Jacksonville Jaguars: A-
2015 record: 5-11 (.473)
Top need: Cornerback
Other needs: Center, outside linebacker, guard, defensive line
Players Drafted: CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Myles Jack, DE Yannick Ngakoue, DT Sheldon Day, DE Tyrone Holmes, QB Brandon Allen, DE Jonathan Woodard
Analysis: The Jaguars are in a similar situation to the Tennessee Titans, their offense seemed to be improving in 2015 while their defense was terrible.  The first round selection for the Jaguars directly covered their biggest need, a star CB by the name of Jalen Ramsey.  Along with CB the Jaguars also have a gaping hole at the OLB positon, one that Myles Jack could easily fill.  Jack seemed to fall in the draft before the Jags scooped him up.  The biggest concern with Myles Jack is regarding his health, if he can stay on the field the Jags will hit a homerun with him.  The Jaguars also went on to select 4 players on the DL to help them improve their struggling pass rush, filling another one of the team’s needs.

Indianapolis Colts: B
2015 record: 8-8 (.500)
Top need: Offensive line
Other needs: Outside linebacker, cornerback, free safety
Players Drafted: C Ryan Kelly, S T.J. Green, OT Le’Raven Clack, DT Hassan Ridgeway, LB Antonio Morrison, OT Joe Haeg, LB Trevor Bates, C Austin Blythe
Analysis: The Colts have had issues with the OL for years now, they decided to take the initiative and fill their holes with their 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 8th selections in the 2016 draft.  Ryan Kelly will be a staple of the OL for the Colts for years to come, bringing Andrew Luck some peace of mind.  The rest of the OL selected by the Colts should bring in some depth and promote some competition amongst starter in 2016.  OLB and FS were two of the other major needs for the Colts which lead them to selecting T.J. Green in the 2nd round and Antonio Morrison in the late 3rd.  The Colts covered their bases here in the 2016 draft with the main focus on keeping Andrew Luck on the field; the Colts have taken big steps forward toward a potential Super Bowl title.

Houston Texans: B+
2015 record: 9-7 (.496)
Top need: Defensive end
Other needs: Wide receiver, offensive line, tight end
Players Drafted: WR Will Fuller, C Nick Martin, WR Braxton Miller, RB Tyler Ervin, S KJ Dillon, DT D.J. Reader
Analysis: The Houston Texans have arguably one of the best defense in the game, so what do they do?   Draft 4 consecutive offensive players to make up for it.  DeAndre Hopkins showed that he has the talent to be considered one of the best WR in the league, and the Texans made sure that he won’t be able to be double covered every down in 2016 by taking speedster Will Fuller in the 1st and slot receiver Braxton Miller in the 3rd.  Tyler Ervin should be able to give Lamar Miller some breaks on 3rd down and Nick Martin should be able to unite their OL to pave way for Ervin and Miller.  The Texans may not have attempted to fill their biggest need at DE through the draft but they did seem to remodel their entire offense this offseason.

 

AFC West

San Diego Chargers: B+
2015 record: 4-12 (.527)
Top need: Defensive line
Other needs: Safety, tight end, offensive line
Players Drafted: DE Joey Bosa, TE Hunter Henry, C Max Tuerk, LB Joshua Perry, LB Jatavis Brown, P Drew Kaser, FB Derek Watt, OG Donavon Clark
Analysis: The Chargers biggest hole was DL and they took Joey Bosa with the 3rd pick, surprising many after he struggled during the Combine.  Unfortunately they didn’t take another defensive lineman for the rest of the draft.  Their second biggest need was OL which they filled pretty well.  Taking Max Tuerk in the 3rd and Donavan Clark in the 7th should help their OL need quite a bit, they only needed a Tackle to complete the set.  Finally, the Chargers found the successor to Antonio Gates with Hunter Henry in the 2nd round.  This may have been too early in the draft for a TE but the FA signing of Ladarius Green to the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason made the TE spot a need for the Chargers.

Oakland Raiders: C+
2015 record: 7-9 (.512)
Top need: Offensive tackle
Other needs: Cornerback, inside linebacker, safety, running back
Players Drafted: S Karl Joseph, DE Jihad Ward, DE Shilique Calhoun, QB Connor Cook, RB DeAndre Washingon, LB Cory James, OG Vadal Alexander
Analysis: With the departure of Charles Woodson after a lifetime of service to the NFL, the Raiders needed to bolster their secondary.  They made a statement by taking Karl Joseph in the 1st round.  The hard hitting S from West Virginia will become the staple of this defense for the future.  The Raiders decided to improve their front 7 instead of giving him more support in the secondary, a risky decision for a team with the possibility of making the playoffs.  The bigger shock to everybody was the selection of Connor Cook in the 4th round.  He was tremendous value here in the draft but the Raiders seem to be happy with Derek Carr leading their young offense.  I’m assuming Cook will be used as trade value somewhere in the future because his value here just may have been too much for the Raiders to pass up.  Overall the Raiders had a number of needs that they didn’t seem to compensate through this year’s draft.

Kansas City Chiefs: C+
2015 record: 11-5 (.496)
Top need: Outside linebacker
Other needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line
Players Drafted: DT Chris Jones, CB Keivarae Russell, G Parker Ehinger, CB Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson, QB Kevin Hogan, WR Tyreek Hill, CB D.J. White, LB Dadi Lhomme Nicolas
Analysis: The KC Chief’s biggest need going into this draft was the OLB position, good news for them is that even though this is their “biggest” need they are a talented team on both sides of the ball and really had few weaknesses in 2016.  The other biggest need for the Chiefs was primarily depth; they got a good backup for Alex Smith through Kevin Hogan who will provide competition at the backup QB slot with Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray.  After losing a number of members in the secondary during the offseason, the Chiefs selected Keivarae Russell, Eric Murray, and D.J. White, hoping that 1 or 2 can stick.  Overall the Chiefs didn’t make any noise by selecting any high risk players or by trading up in the draft, they decided to try and fill their need at depth and see if 2016 can turn out much like 2015 did for them.

Denver Broncos: B-
2015 record: 12-4 (.500)
Top need: Quarterback
Other needs: Offensive line, defensive line, linebacker
Players Drafted: QB Paxton Lynch, DT Adam Gotsis, S Justin Simmons, RB Devontae Booker, G Connor McGovern, FB Andy Janovich, S Will Parks, P Riley Dixon
Analysis: In a surprising trade the Denver Broncos traded up for Paxton Lynch at #26 overall.  The Broncos had just won the Super Bowl and were looking for a new franchise QB, not common in the NFL by any means.  The fact that they went out and attacked this pick should inspire a lot of Bronco fans.  Beyond the 1st round the Broncos primarily added depth to their defense, they lost a few players this offseason and did a pretty good job at covering their needs.  Adam Gotsis is coming off ACL reconstruction but he should be good to go by September.  Justin Simmons is good at forcing turnovers which is something that will help him slide comfortably into the Bronco’s defensive scheme.  Finally the Broncos signed Devontae Booker, promoting more competition at their RB spot.  CJ Anderson is here to stay but he needs a complimentary back to completely shine, don’t be surprised if that man is Booker.

 

National Football Conference

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: C
2015 record: 4-12 (.531)
Top need: Cornerback
Other needs: Quarterback, running back, defensive tackle
Players Drafted: RB Ezekiel Elliott, LB Jaylon Smith, DT Maliek Collins, DE Charles Tapper, QB Dak Prescott, CB Anthony Brown, SS Kavon Frazier, RB Darius Jackson, TE Rico Gathers
Analysis: The Cowboys are complicated.  They have a number of needs on the Defensive side of the ball but decided to take Ezekiel Elliott #4 overall.  I think Elliot may be a rookie of the year candidate come the end of the 2016 season but they have a number of backs in their backfield that can do some damage behind their league best OL.  Jaylon Smith was regarded as a top 10, possibly even a top 5 talent in the draft before his knee injury but he won’t be able to play in the 2016 season.  This again makes you wonder why the Cowboys selected him in the 2nd round; that’s 2 early picks that they didn’t use to improve their poor defense, not wise for a team that will be favored to win their division.  With their 3rd pick they addressed a need on the DL with Maliek Collins and Charles Tapper with their 4th.  Finally the Cowboys addressed their backup QB need with Dak Prescott.  In the near future he will simply be needed off the bench when Tony Romo gets hurt but as the injuries take their toll on Romo’s health, we could see the future franchise QB for the Dallas Cowboys in Prescott.

Philadelphia Eagles: C+
2015 record: 7-9 (.508)
Top need: Running back
Other needs: Offensive line, pass rusher, wide receiver
Players Drafted: QB Carson Wentz, C Issac Seumalo, RB Wendell Smallwood, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, CB Blake Countess, FS Jalen Mills, DE Alex McCalister, LB Joe Walker
Analysis: Everybody knew that going into the draft that the LA Rams were taking Jared Goff and the Eagles were taking Carson Wentz.  The reason for this is that Wentz didn’t play the caliber of competition Goff did in college and taking him #1 would have been too risky.  Well taking him #2 isn’t any less risky.  If Wentz can prove his merit at the NFL level the Eagles have a new franchise QB for the next few years.  If not, well, they gave up a whole lot to get him.  Issac Seumalo was a good pick from Oregon State considering that Kelly neglected the OL during his time with the Eagles, taking an OL early was a must for them.  Wendell Smallwood should make an immediate impact at the RB position for the Eagles.  He displayed some pass catching ability in his college career that MUST translate to the NFL level for the Eagles to be successful.  Finally the Eagles used a few picks to bolster their secondary.  Black Countess will take some reps at S considering the Eagles currently have 9 CB on their roster.

New York Giants: B
2015 record: 6-10 (.500)
Top need: Linebacker
Other needs: Wide receiver, offensive line, running back, safety
Players Drafted: CB Eli Apple, WR Sterling Shepard, S Darian Thompson, LB B.J. Goodson, RB Paul Perkins, TE Jerell Adams
Analysis: The New York Giants were pretty poor at defending the pass in 2015.  Even though they have Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Apple will be used plenty in 5 and 6 man sets in the secondary; he could also learn a lot from those veterans.  I think Apple may have gone a little early based on the talent that was still available but hey, if you really like someone, go and get him.  With OBJ at WR for the Giants they won’t need a great replacement for a long time.  However, it helps when there is someone lined up on the other side of the field that demands some defensive attention as well.  Sterling Shepard will do just that.  Finally the Giants decide to take RB Paul Perkins from UCLA.  Perkins will be yet another RB the Giants have thrown into the mix; will he be the answer they’ve been looking for?

Washington Redskins: B+
2015 record: 9-7 (.465)
Top need: Center
Other needs: Defensive line, wide receiver, cornerback
Players Drafted: WR Josh Doctson, LB Su’a Cravens, CB Kendall Fuller, DT Matt Ioannidis, QB Nate Sudfeld, LB Steven Daniels, RB Keith Marshall
Analysis: The Redskins took Josh Doctson with their 1st pick in the NFL draft.  DeSean Jackson is a speedster who demands attention whenever he is on the field but Doctson just became the biggest threat on the Redskin’s offense.  Su’a Cravens and Kendall Fuller are likely week 1 starters for the Redskins as well.  Their defense was decent at times but they needed a lot more talent if they want to return to the playoffs this year.  2 of their last 4 picks were also defensive players who you will likely see on the field after a few weeks.  The most interesting picks were of QB Nate Sudfeld and RB Keith Marshall in my opinion.  A backup QB is a good decision as Kirk Cousins is still a wildcard at this point, but it wasn’t a pressing matter.  Keith Marshall was the fastest RB in the draft with a 4.29 40 time, this is surprising as Alfred Morris was known as a bruiser and is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

 

NFC North

Chicago Bears: A-
2015 record: 6-10 (.547)
Top need: Pass rusher
Other needs: Offensive line, cornerback, defensive line
Players Drafted: LB Leonard Floyd, OG Cody Whitehair, DT Jonathan Bullard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, S Deon Bush, S Deiondre’ Hall, RB Jordan Howard, S Deandre Houston-Carson, WR Daniel Braverman
Analysis: The Bears decided to leap-frog the Giants in the first round and selected Leonard Floyd.  Floyd will be a boom or bust pick, he has very high upside but is a little small in stature.  Cody Whitehair was selected in the 2nd for them and provides the Bears with a few options now at G.  The Bears continued to draft defensive players to help with their rebuilding defense and took 3 S as a result.  All 3 of those S have also spent some time at CB, covering the more pressing need for the Bears.  Finally, the Bears selected Jordan Howard from Indiana.  Howard should help Langford in the backfield as it appears Langford doesn’t have what it takes to be an every down back.

Detroit Lions: B+
2015 record: 7-9 (.535)
Top need: Offensive tackle
Other needs: Cornerback, inside linebacker, defensive line
Players Drafted: OT Taylor Decker, DT A’Shawn Robinson, C Graham Glasgow, S Miles Killebrew, OT Joe Dahl, LB Antwione Williams, QB Jake Rudock, DE Anthony Zettel, LS Jimmy Landes, RB Dwayne Washington
Analysis: The Lions have been trying to repair their OL for the past 5 years but still struggle as a unit.  The addition of Taylor Decker may be what the Lions have been looking for.  A’Shawn Robinson was projected to go in the 1st round but fell all the way to #46, the Lions seemingly struck gold with this pick.  The Lions later went on to select a C and OT with Glasgow and Dahl, further building their OL depth.  The odd pick of the Lions draft came with Dwayne Washington.  The Lions are famous for using the RBBC approach but used a number of good RB last year, the biggest issue for them is turning the ball over which Washington has been known for.

Green Bay Packers: B-
2015 record: 10-6 (.531)
Top need: Inside linebacker
Other needs: Outside linebacker, offensive tackle, tight end
Players Drafted: DT Kenny Clack, OT Jason Spriggs, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB Blake Martinez, DE Dean Lowry, WR Trevor Davis, OT Kyle Murphy
Analysis: The Packers are another team known for bolstering their needs through the NFL draft.  With their first 4 picks they took 2 of their biggest needs off the board and helped supplement depth at positions that the Packers are growing older in.  They have a number of FA hitting the market in 2017 and will be doing their best to have their veterans coach their newest additions to their team.  Trevor Davis could make some noise as the Packers seemingly create great WR from nothing.  After Nelson went down the WR core from the Packers took a large hit.  Adding depth to that position did nothing but good for them.  Overall the Packers did exactly what everyone expected them to do, quietly fill their needs without making a lot of noise.

Minnesota Vikings: A-
2015 record: 11-5 (.504)
Top need: Wide receiver
Other needs: Offensive tackle, offensive guard, punter
Players Drafted: WR Laquon Treadwell, CB Mackensie Alexander, G Willie Beavers, LB Kentrell Brothers, WR Mortiz Boehringer, TE David Morgan II, LB Stephen Weatherly, S Jayron Kearse
Analysis: The Vikings have a very good defense, a franchise QB, and one of the best RB in NFL history.  What they needed was to protect their offensive assets and create space for them to work with.  Laquon Treadwell is exactly what the Vikings need, a possession WR that can come down with those 50/50 balls.  They complimented him with the first draft selection from overseas with Moritz Boehringer of Germany.  Mackensie Alexander was another first round talent that fell in the draft and was too good for the Vikings to pass up.  As I said their defense is solid so he provides either depth or a bargaining chip for the Vikings defensively.  The Vikings later went on to select their only OL in the draft with Willie Beavers.  I think they could have used more picks on their OL to protect AP and Teddy Bridgewater but overall the Vikings walked away with a lot of talent that will keep their defense stocked for years to come.

 

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C
2015 record: 6-10 (.484)
Top need: Cornerback
Other needs: Offensive tackle, safety, defensive end
Players Drafted: CB Vernon Hargreaves, LB Noah Spence, K Roberto Aguayo, CB Ryan Smith, OT Caleb Benenoch, LB Devante Bond, FB Dan Vitale
Analysis: The Bucs knew who they wanted in the 1st round and were even able to trade down a few places and still select him.  He fills their #1 need so this was a great option for the Bucs.  Now for the bad news, with the 59th pick in the draft the Buccaneers selected Roberto Aguayo, a kicker.  Why the Bucs felt the need to select a kicker before safety Vonn Bell is beyond me. The Bucs later drafted another CB in Ryan Smith and OT Caleb Benenoch to fill some of their more pressing concerns than a kicker.  Overall the Bucs had a few holes to fill as their defense is rated toward the bottom of the league and they made a few selections to help turn that around.

New Orleans Saints: A-
2015 record: 7-9 (.504)
Top need: Defensive line
Other needs: Outside linebacker, cornerback, offensive guard
Players Drafted: DE Sheldon Rankins, WR Michael Thomas, S Vonn Bell, DE David Onyemata, RB Daniel Lasco
Analysis: The Saints joined a number of teams by using their first selection to fill the largest hole in their team.  To be honest, after having one of the worst defensive seasons in NFL history there isn’t much the Saints could have done to screw up this pick.  Sheldon Rankins will compliment Cameron Jordan well on the opposite side of the field; the Saints may be able to pressure the opposing QB for the first time in a while.  The 2nd round selection of Michael Thomas will immensely help the offense moving forward as well.  Brandin Cooks was a quality WR last year for the Saints but doesn’t quite have the prototypical build of a WR1. Thomas does.  Although he won’t be the WR1 for the Saints he has good speed down the sideline to go along with good size and great hands.  Finally, the Saints gave up a 3rd and 4th round selection to get Vonn Bell, S from Ohio State.  Bell provides good value at pick number 61 as he was projected to go ahead of that but I think the Saints should have gone the quantity over quality approach in attempting to repair this dreadfully broken defense.

Atlanta Falcons: C+
2015 record: 8-8 (.480)
Top need: Pass rusher
Other needs: Safety, inside linebacker, offensive guard, tight end
Players Drafted: S Keanu Neal, LB Deion Jones, TE Austin Hooper, LB De’Vondre Campbell, G Wes Schweitzer, WR Devin Fuller
Analysis: The Falcons landed S Keanu Neal from Florida with the 17th overall pick.  He will be the week 1 starter for the Falcons defense which has given up a lot of yards in the air over the past few seasons but have been successful in coming down with the ball.  He is followed by 2 LB picks with Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell.  Both of these selections will be starters for the Falcons in 2016 thanks to their weak LB core.  If these 2 can mature quickly and listen to Dan Quinn then the Falcons defense should see a decent uptick in value compared to their 2015 form.  Finally, the Falcons selected TE Austin Hooper from Stanford.  Since Tony Gonzales the Falcons have struggled to find a reliable option in the TE slot.  Those are big shoes to fill but after Hooper goes through the TE learning curve that is the rookie season then he should be able to make some noise with his downfield speed.

Carolina Panthers: C
2015 record: 15-1 (.441)
Top need: Offensive tackle
Other needs: Defensive end, defensive back, running back
Players Drafted: DT Vernon Butler, CB James Bradberry, CB Daryl Worley, CB Zach Sanchez, TE Beau Sandland
Analysis: When a team’s biggest need isn’t accounted for in the draft it always makes me wonder.  Maybe the Panthers didn’t like the value any OT had during their picks or maybe they just weren’t fond with any period.  Maybe they think Cam Newton doesn’t need and OL and that he can do it all himself, who knows?  Anyway, the Panthers did atone for their defensive needs in this year’s draft.  First round selection Vernon Butler will have competition at camp this year for a starting spot but will eventually become a building block for the Panthers on the DL in the near future.  He was followed up by 3 CB selections, likely because of the recent departure of Josh Norman.  Bradberry and Worley will both likely receive a crack at the starting roles over the likes of Brandon Boykin and Bene Benwikere but Sandland seems to be more of a work in progress for the Panthers.

 

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers: C+
2015 record: 5-11 (.539)
Top need: Quarterback
Other needs: Inside linebacker, offensive tackle, offensive guard, wide receiver
Players Drafted: DE Deforest Buckner, G Joshua Garnett, CB Will Redmond, CB Rashard Robinson, DE Ronald Blair, OT John Theus, OT Fahn Cooper, QB Jeff Drisket, RB Kevin Taylor, WR Aaron Burbridge, CB Prince Charles Iworah
Analysis: With Chip Kelly now the HC for the 49ers the 49ers take Deforest Buckner from Oregon.  How much affect did Chip have on this selection?  Likely not much as Buckner was a force to be reckoned with at Oregon and he will be a future star for the 49ers for years to come.  The 9ers 2nd pick addresses their need at the G position and creates some competition now in their locker room.  With the 3rd pick for the 49ers they selected Will Redmond.  Like every player coming off an injury, he has more talent than where he was selected but comes at a potential risk for further injury.  The 49ers are a long way off from competing for a championship so I think this is a good choice for them.  After 4 of their first 5 picks were defensive help, the 9ers selected 5 consecutive offensive specialists, including Louisiana Tech QB Jeff Driskel.  As a 6th round pick there is no guarantee that he even makes the team but the 49ers need a long term answer at the QB positon, worth a flier in my book.

Los Angeles Rams: C+
2015 record: 7-9 (.527)
Top need: Quarterback
Other needs: Wide receiver, center, defensive back, tight end
Players Drafted: QB Jared Goff, TE Tyler Higbee, WR Pharoh Cooper, TE Temarrick Hemingway, LB Josh Forrest, WR Mike Thomas
Analysis: Taking Jared Goff was the smartest decision the Rams could have made.  Being stuck at or around .500 for consecutive years can agitate an organization.  If Goff can enter the season by making quick reads and not turning the ball over there is no reason to expect the Rams to be anything less than .500 in 2016.  If Goff turns out to be a Jamarcus Russel, well, they won’t be starting out their move to LA on a good note.  The Rams didn’t have another selection until the 4th round where they selected one of their 2 TE picks of the draft.  TE selections are never sexy, rare is the day that a TE is selected in the draft and produces at a high level during the upcoming season.  There is such a learning curve between the NCAA and NFL level that not many can make the jump but TE are used in a much more versatile role in the NFL when compared to college.  That being said if any TE in this draft is to make an impact in 2016 it might be Higbee, if only because there are no other options for the Rams.

Seattle Seahawks: B+
2015 record: 10-6 (.520)
Top need: Cornerback
Other needs: Offensive tackle, offensive guard, defensive line
Players Drafted: OT Germain Ifedi, DT Jarran Reed, RB C.J. Prosise, TE Nick Vannett, OT Rees Odhiambo, DT Quinton Jefferson, RB Alex Collins, C Joey Hunt, WR Kenny Lawler, RB Zac Brooks
Analysis: The Seahawks still have one of the league’s best defenses, a franchise QB, and a running game that should continue to dominate.  The big wildcard here for Seattle is their OL.  The running game struggled early in 2015 so Seattle decided to start attacking through the air.  With a rough WR core they ended up being pretty successful.  Germain Ifedi will help Seattle return to the basics and start running the ball with authority once again.  C.J. Prosise will also do his best to return the Seattle run offense back to prior form.  Prosise adds depth at the RB positon for Seattle but most importantly becomes an immediate 3rd down threat for Wilson to utilize on 3rd and long; Prosise is a WR converted to RB so his hands are reliable.  Nick Vannett joined the Seahawks with the 94th overall pick, bringing to the table a traditional TE skill set for a team that likes to run the ball often.  The Seahawks later went on to fill some of their holes on the OL, DL, WR, and more depth at RB.  If the Seahawks once again found some quality later in the draft then they could remain a dangerous team in the NFC for a time to come.

Arizona Cardinals: B-
2015 record: 13-3 (.477)
Top need: Safety
Other needs: Outside linebacker, cornerback, tight end
Players Drafted: DL Robert Nkemdiche, CB Brandon Williams, C Evan Boehm, S Marqui Christian, OT Cole Toner, CB Harlan Miller,
Analysis: Last but not least we have the Arizona Cardinals.  After a successful 2015 trip the Cardinals will be looking to make that next step and become world champions.  They took their first step toward that championship with the selection of Robert Nkemdiche.  Nkemdiche is a high-risk, high-reward player that has all the talent in the world.  If he can translate that into a successful rookie season there is no reason to doubt that Arizona’s defense won’t be as good as last year.  CB Brandon Williams seems to be just as versatile as the Honey Badger is for Arizona currently.  Filling their need in the secondary it will be fun to watch Williams and the Honey Badger blaze all over the field, defending balls and making takles.  The rest of the Cardinals draft attended to 2 major points, keeping Carson Palmer from getting knocked around and rebuilding the secondary.

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