You can’t have a draft without the long and drawn out post-draft evaluation. First, the good; here are 10 teams, in no particular order that made good use of their draft picks last weekend:
Baltimore – The Super Bowl Champions didn’t pick early, but they had a lot of picks and they used them wisely. Baltimore’s two biggest losses in the offseason were Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and they wasted no time replacing them with safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown. Addressing those two needs in the first two rounds was great to see.
Their other eight picks don’t stand out as much, but they added a lot of depth at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which never hurts. Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore could end up being quite a steal in the sixth round and wide receiver Aaron Mellette from little known Elon College could be an interesting guy to watch as well.
St. Louis – The Rams were maybe a little too proactive by trading up to get Tavon Austin, but they clearly wanted him, and drafting him along with his West Virginia teammate Stedman Bailey conjures up memories of “the greatest show on turf” with the amount of speed they added on offense with those two players.
Getting Alec Ogletree 30th overall is going to be a very valuable pick if he’s able to clean up his act and stay out of trouble away from the field. St. Louis was also to take advantage of a deep group of safeties at grab T.J. McDonald in the third round. It’s hard not to like the addition of Barrett Jones, who is extremely valuable with his versatility along the offensive line. Also, don’t sleep on former Vanderbilt running back Vac Stacy, as he was 3rd in the SEC in rushing in 2011 and 5th in 2012.
San Francisco – The 49ers entered the draft with 13 picks, and they made good use of them. The biggest need they had was at safety and they took care of that right away by trading up to take Eric Reid. San Francisco also did well to improve their defensive front with a pair of great pass rushers in Cornellius Carradine and Corey Lemonier, as well as run stuffer Quinton Dial. Linebacker Nick Moody was also a nice pick up late in the draft to help their front seven. In terms of offensive playmakers, the 49ers made some real nice additions as well. With so many picks at their disposal, taking a chance on running back Marcus Lattimore was a brilliant move. They don’t have to rush him back from injury and if he ever returns to full health he can be a difference maker. Wide receiver Quinton Patton didn’t get a lot of publicity, but he’s a great sleeper out of Louisiana Tech. The same goes for Rice tight end Vance McDonald, who will pair up well with Vernon Davis.
Detroit – The Lions were the final team to sneak onto this list, as taking cornerback Darius Slay in the second round, before Mississippi State teammate Johnthan Banks, was a questionable choice, as was going after a punter in the fifth round. But the rest of their draft went well. Ziggy Ansah has a high ceiling at defensive end, and getting Devin Taylor, a seasoned veteran of the SEC, to pair with him was a smart move. They couldn’t find an offensive tackle, but Larry Warford was a real nice pick up at offensive guard, especially in the third round. Detroit couldn’t get Matthew Stafford any game breakers to get the ball to, but the three offensive skill players the Lions found late in the draft should be able to help out. Wide receiver Corey Fuller is a solid pick in the sixth round and versatile running back Theo Riddick could end up being a steal that late in the draft. Alabama tight end Michael Williams should also be a useful player for them going forward.
New York Giants – New York didn’t make a big splash with Justin Pugh in the first round, but if he can stick at left tackle he has the quickness and athleticism to handle some of the quicker pass rushers in the league, and if not he’s still talented enough to start somewhere else along the offensive line. In rounds two, three, and four the Giants got great value with their picks. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive end Damontre Moore both had borderline first-round grades and will help the Giants up front if their pass rushers don’t bounce back from subpar seasons last year. In the fourth round the Giants picked up quarterback Ryan Nassib, who easily could have gone in the first or second round. Nassib is the ideal backup quarterback with a high ceiling to develop into something much more. One area of disappointment is that the Giants didn’t address their secondary early in the draft, although safety Cooper Taylor of Richmond is a big defensive back they took in the fifth round and could become a contributor for them.
Jacksonville – It was disappointing to see the Jaguars not take a quarterback to compete with Blaine Gabbert (especially with Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib falling so far), but the rest of their draft went pretty well. Getting Luke Joeckel will obviously help take some pressure off their quarterback, and the addition of Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson give them a pair of quick and potentially dynamic playmakers, both on offense and special teams. Other than that, Jacksonville was focused on the secondary, which was a big priority for them. John Cyprien was a good pick up for them at the top of the second round and third rounder Dwayne Gratz should start for them right away at cornerback. They also added some depth in the secondary in the late rounds, which was a necessity.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers had a lot of areas to address after a bit of a down year last year and they seemed to have taken care of them all. The first two defensive players they drafted, linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Shamarko Thomas, and both perfect fits. Jones gives them the edge rusher they needed after the departure of James Harrison and Thomas is the kind of physical and hard-nosed safety that they’re going to love in the Steel City. Second round pick Le’Veon Bell is a big and physical running back that is emblematic of the city and fits what the Steelers covet. With Mike Wallace gone at wide receiver, the Steelers picked up Markus Wheaton to give them some speed and Justin Brown to give them some size at that position. Taking Landry Jones in the fourth round was an interesting decision, but he at least gives the Steelers a young quarterback to develop, as well as a quarterback with a lot of experience in college that should be ready to fill in if Ben Roethlisberger has more problems with injuries.
Cincinnati – There’s a lot to like about what the Bengals did in the draft. Tight end Tyler Eifert is a versatile playmaker that will give Andy Dalton another big target to throw to, and sixth rounder Cobi Hamitlon is a nice and underrated addition to their corps of wide receivers. Getting Giovani Bernard in the second round gives Cincinnati the running back they needed, and their offensive line was strengthened by three late-round selections. Defensively, they addressed their biggest need at safety with the addition of hard-hitting safety Shawn Williams in the third round. The Bengals also added a lot of versatility on the outside with defensive end Margus Hunt and linebacker Sean Porter, two guys that should help the defense right away.
Minnesota – The Vikings sacrificed the second and third round to get three first-round picks, and it seemed to work out for them. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes were both guys that could have been top-10 picks and somehow Minnesota managed to get them 23rd and 25th overall respectively, which makes them incredibly valuable picks in addition to being great players that will make an impact for Minnesota’s defense. The Vikings were also lucky to take Cordarrelle Patterson 29th overall, as he has outstanding talent and potential at wide receiver. Those three picks alone give Minnesota one of the best drafts in the league, but they were also able to add depth at positions of need in the late rounds.
Miami – The Dolphins focused on defense early on, and did some really good work on that side of the ball. Trading up for Dion Jordan was a nice move, as it gives them arguably the best pass rusher available. In dire need of cornerback help, Miami picked up two players that could be potential starters for them in Jamar Taylor of Boise State and Will Davis of Utah State. In the fourth round they picked up linebacker Jelani Jenkins, a player that could have been a second round pick with another year in college, so there’s good value there. Miami didn’t do much on offense that stands out, but tight end Dion Sims fits a need and could end up being one of the better tight ends to come out of this draft, running back Mike Gillislee was overlooked by many teams, and place kicker Caleb Sturgis is extremely accurate and should have a nice NFL career.