First-Round Grade: B
Overall Grade: B-
Best Value Pick: Isaiah Oliver
Sleeper Pick: Ito Smith
WR Calvin Ridley (No. 26), CB Isaiah Oliver (No. 58), DT Deadrin Senat (No. 90), RB Ito Smith (No. 126), WR Russell Gage (No. 194), LB Foyesade Oluokun (No. 200).
- Stocking up on ‘Bama.
Steve Sarkisian is familiar with Ridley from his time at Alabama and he now has an additional weapon that brings added speed to his offense, Ridley is also more of a true WR2 than Mohamed Sanu.
- Drafting a defensive tackle on Day 2.
Deadrin Senat will help to fill the 350lb hole on the roster created by the departure of Dontari Poe to divisional rivals Carolina.
- Too many luxury players.
Ridley and Gage will join a receivers room already occupied by Jones, Sanu and Hardy, Isaiah Oliver will join a cornerback group of Trufant, Alford and Poole, while Ito Smith will arrive to find the backfield filled with Freeman and Coleman.
First-Round Grade: A
Overall Grade: A
Best Value Pick: D.J. Moore
Sleeper Pick: Ian Thomas
WR D.J. Moore (No. 24), CB Donte Jackson (No. 55), DB Rashaan Gaulden (No. 85), TE Ian Thomas (No. 101), LB Marquis Haynes (No. 136), LB Jermaine Carter (No. 161), LB Andre Smith (No. 234), DT Kendrick Norton (No. 242).
- Finally replacing Steve Smith.
Steve Smith is correct, the Panthers have finally replaced him (or at-least attempted to). Cam Newton finally has a polished play-making wide receiver to throw the ball to.
- Preparing for the eventual departure of Greg Olsen to the broadcasting booth.
The best remaining tight end prospect on the board, Thomas is a raw athletic tight end with significant upside and above average downfield blocking, he is an excellent scheme fit for the Panthers.
- Hitting areas of need early.
Over the past few years the Panthers have consistently fielded lackluster receiver and defensive back units. It was refreshing to see the reinstated Marty Hurney hit receiver, defensive back and tight end using top-100 picks.
- Drafting three linebackers.
Though neither Kuechly or Thompson were drafted when linebacker was a pressing need, it’s puzzling to see Carolina draft three linebackers when they already have a top-tier unit.
- Not drafting anywhere along the offensive line.
Norwell has left a hole to be filled at guard and after Ryan Kalil started only six games this past year due to injury there appears to be another need on the horizon.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
First-Round Grade: D+
Overall Grade: C-
Best Value Pick: Tre’Quan Smith
Sleeper Pick: Boston Scott
EDGE Marcus Davenport (No. 14), WR Tre’Quan Smith (No. 91), OT Rick Leonard (No. 127), S Natrell Jamerson (No. 164), DB Kamrin Moore (No. 189), RB Boston Scott (No. 201), C Will Clapp (No. 245).
- Picking up big-play potential in Tre’Quan Smith.
Smith statistically was one of the best deep-ball receivers in the nation last year (averaging 19.9-yards per catch) and was an excellent blocker, his strengths should lead to immediate playing time over Brandon Coleman.
- Relinquishing a 2019 first-round pick in order to draft a raw prospect.
The kind of draft capital the Saints relinquished to move into pick No. 14 is not befitting of a raw defensive prospect such as Davenport who otherwise is an excellent selection.
- Failure to address depth issues.
New Orleans neglected to draft reinforcements for it’s thin defensive line and linebacker units. Drew Brees is 39 and presumptive tight end starter Benjamin Watson will be turning 38 this season, depth was not addressed at either position.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
First-Round Grade: B
Overall Grade: B
Best Value Pick: Alex Cappa
Sleeper Pick: Alex Cappa
DT Vita Vea (No. 12), RB Ronald Jones (No. 38), DB M.J. Stewart (No. 53), CB Carlton Davis (No. 63), OG Alex Cappa (No. 94), S Jordan Whitehead (No. 117), WR Justin Watson (No. 144), LB Jack Cichy (No. 202).
- Tampa’s new defensive line: Pierre-Paul, McCoy, Vea and Curry.
Vea is a dominant run defender, moves exceptionally well for his size and his interior presence will take pressure off the pass rush.
- Finding a Doug Martin replacement to ease the burden on Jameis Winston.
The explosive Ronald Jones II rushed for over 3600 yards and 39 touchdowns in three seasons at USC and is an instant starter. The big play ability of Jones should help keep defenses honest, this selection could potentially reignite the offense.
- Improving the defense against both aerial and ground attack.
After drafting Vea to both improve the run defense and assist with the pass rush, the Buccaneers then selected three defensive backs: M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis, and Jordan Whitehead. These selections will help address the nickel position, lack of depth and the likely upcoming retirement of Brent Grimes.
Time will tell if passing on the opportunity to select Derwin James (the most talented all-around athlete in this draft) after trading back was the right decision. The future play of both James and the Buccaneers defense will determine the success of this draft class.