The intrigue in the NFC West moving towards the draft centered on the St Louis Rams, who held a top ten pick. Would they move up? Move down? Or stay pat? With Seattle no longer in round one it was front and center for the other teams in the division.
The feeling was the Cardinals would address needs on the defensive side of the ball early in the draft but they surprised some by selecting offensive tackle D.J.Humphries. The athletic junior was on the of better pure left tackles in this draft, which made the pick even more intriguing as the Cardinals have pricey free agent Jared Veldheer protecting the blind side. Humphries is not yet NFL ready but comes with an upside which makes this an interesting one to watch. Hoping to improve their pass rush the team went with Markus Golden in round two. Golden will move from defensive end to outside linebacker but should due well as a situational pass rusher this season. David Johnson swiftly charged up boards in the weeks leading to the draft and the Cardinals snagged him in round three. He’s a versatile back with the power to grind it out on the inside while also displaying competent hands as a pass catcher. Rodney Gunter was a head scratcher in round four. We were one of the few who completed a report on the defensive lineman and though witnessing flashes of skill on film the past two years there was also a lot of inconsistency and I saw a player who disappeared for stretches. Those who played against Gunter have labeled him soft. Conversely I love the pick of Shaq Riddick in round five. One of the most overlooked pass rushers in the draft, Riddick was snubbed from the combine but has the underlying skill to start at the next level. Small but explosive, JJ Nelson brings great speed to the Cardinals offense and could make it as a fifth receiver if he shows well returning kicks this summer. Gerald Christian is a consistent pass catcher with size/speed limitations. Receiver Jaxon Shipley, cornerback CJ Roberts and outside linebacker Zack Wagenmann could be great free agent signings.
Grade B: The top three picks should see action as rookies while both fifth round choices can also contribute this season. I’m really looking forward to see if the UDFA’s mentioned make an active roster or are stashed on the practice squad. Gunter in round four is the only thing holding this draft back half a grade.
St Louis Rams
The Rams were one of the biggest mysteries even before the first round got underway. Rumors were rampant they would try and move up for Marcus Mariota. I reported several times the team would add a linebacker in the early rounds to improve their interior run defense. There was also word they would look towards Andrus Peat in round one. In the end they did none of the above rather selected Todd Gurley. Once Gurley received positive medical reports on his surgically repaired knee his draft stock understandably soared. I thought there were other areas of need but the Rams claim Gurley was the second best player on their board and this is a franchise that had a lot of success with Steven Jackson, a former first round back. While I understand the Gurley pick I can’t say the same for the rest of the draft. I thought Rob Havenstein was selected at least a round and a half early and available blockers such as Ty Sambrailo as well as Ali Marpet were much higher rated. Havenstein is a big bodied lineman who plays smart football but must develop a nasty streak. I was one of the few who thought Jamon Brown would be drafted, albeit in the sixth round. Brown has the skill and an NFL body but needs to properly condition himself and pick up the intensity. In the end he’s best at offensive guard. There are a variety of opinions on third round selection Sean Mannion and mine is not complimentary. As a sophomore I thought Mannion had the tools to be a big time prospect but on film his game never took off the past two years. Hopefully the Rams coaching staff maximize his talents. Fourth round choice Andrew Donnal is a versatile lineman with upside but was no better than a 7th round pick. Larry Sasser in round six was another head scratcher as was the other choice in the frame, Cody Wichmann. Sasser offers nice size, good hands but poor speed and quickness. Wichmann is a size prospect with very limited athleticism and upside. Bryce Hager was a solid last round pick who could help solve their run defense woes on the interior. He lacks great size but is instinctive and tough as hell. I don’t see how final pick Martin Ifedi fits the Rams defense. He’s small for the interior and lacks pass rushing skill for end.
Grade C- : The Rams received my lowest grade to date as I see a collection of players that represent need over value. They best hit on a few of these offensive linemen for the sake of this draft and the performance of Todd Gurley.
San Francisco 49ers
“Defense! Defense!” was the cry of Niners fans heading towards the draft as, amongst other reasons, several unexpected retirements made the defensive side of the ball a priority. The team’s desire for Arik Armstead was documented long before the draft and the Niners were able to get their man after moving down a few slots. In Armstead they are getting a physically gifted three down lineman with incredible upside. There will be bumps in the road early on, but if properly coached he’ll cause an impact up front. Considering the team drafted a safety in the first round during each of the previous two draft’s selecting Jaquiski Tartt in round two was a head scratcher. From a physical skills standpoint I understand the selection but Tartt needs a lot of work on his game and may take a while before he’s NFL ready. The team came back with Eli Harold in round three and it was a terrific selection. Considering the tenuous situation surrounding Aldon Smith, Harold is a prospect they can line-up as a pass rusher this season then develop as a fulltime starter should Smith implode. The team had three selections in the fourth frame and all are boom or bust type picks. Blake Bell is a physical beast who showed flashes of dominance at tight end last season but is far from the finished product. Mike Davis is a nice ball carrier but offers no outstanding attribute to his game. DeAndre Smelter is a big bodied receiver with dependable hands and the ability to contribute returning punts but is coming off a serious knee injury which he sustained last December. Fifth round pick Bradley Pinion was one of the best punters on the board. Ian Silberman in round six was another head scratcher. I scouted him at Boston College the past two years and while I like his game, I never rated him as draftable. He’s a nasty mauler with potential as a back-up. Trenton Brown and Rory Anderson were both worth a roll of the dice in the final round. Brown is a massive lineman with a solid game but a prospect who must loosen up and improve his mechanics. Anderson was hampered by a hamstring issue throughout the pre-draft process but is an athletic move tight end that creates mismatches in the secondary. San Francisco signed two free agents of note after the draft. Dres Anderson was highly rated entering the 2014 season but was sent to the sidelines midway through the campaign with a knee issue. Looking at the depth chart he’ll have a real opportunity to make the Niners roster as the number four receiver if he’s healthy. Marcus Rush was a terrific college player who turned in a tremendous pro-day workout. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make the active roster as a designated pass rusher/core special teamer.
Grade C: Armstead and Harold aside, there’s a lot of risk in this draft. Better players were available in the second and fourth rounds. Many of the selections are try hard guys, which team’s need on a roster, but it seems San Francisco selected need over best available player.
The Seahawks entered the draft without a first round pick after trading it away for tight end Jimmy Graham. That filled a need for a pass catcher though the team still wanted to add receivers and offensive linemen with the picks at their disposal. Seattle turned to the defensive side of the ball with their initial pick, the 63rd of the draft, and chose pass rusher Frank Clark. I had reported that Clark was rising up draft boards as most teams believed the well documented off the field issues were not as bad as reported. He’s a tremendous edge rusher who could eventually take over for veteran Cliff Avril. There next selection, Tyler Lockett, immediately injects much needed speed at receiver and the return game. Lockett is a game breaker who can score from any point of the field. This selection along with the trade for Graham just makes quarterback Russell Wilson that much stronger. The team addressed offensive line needs with a pair of picks in round four. Terry Poole was a college tackle who can also play guard and a player I believe will start in the future. Mark Glowinski is probably more NFL ready than people believe and a natural guard with underrated athleticism. Seattle took a risk with Tye Smith in round six and why not? Smith shutdown opponents on the IAA level then held his own at the Shrine Game. I could definitely see him lining up in dime packages/special teams this season. Back in September I brought the name of Obum Gwacham to the forefront as the former high jumper turned wide receiver then defensive end displayed a lot of natural pass rush skills. He’s an incredible athlete with great upside but I’d expect to see him on the practice squad this fall. Kristjan Sokoli drew a lot of pre-draft press when people took notice of his measurables. Sokoli is a smart, tough football player and a terrific athlete but needs a lot of work before he’ll be NFL ready. Safety Ryan Murphy does not have great speed but is smart, efficient and can line-up in zone coverage. UDFA Ronald Martin is a prospect I like and someone I expect to compete for the fourth safety spot. Martin was a terrific player at LSU then impressed scouts when he showed up at pro-day just over 202-pounds, down 16lbs from his playing weight.
Grade: B+ You have to factor Jimmy Graham as part of this draft, and that alone is worth half a grade. I expect Clark and Lockett to produce as rookies and they’ll have another future first teamer coming from the fourth round. I would expect the rest of the draft to make a roster or practice squad for Seattle or somewhere else in the league.
Despite not replacing DeMarco Murray in a deep running back class, the Dallas Cowboys had one of the best draft hauls in the league thanks to the UDFA signing of projected first-rounder La’El Collins. The Giants, Redskins and Eagles also did well for themselves. Chris Tripodi has our NFC East draft grades.
In need of depth in the secondary, the Cowboys drafted cornerback Byron Jones with 27th overall pick. A freak athlete who blew up the combine, Jones has good size (6-0, 199) and ball skills and understands the game. He’s an immediate upgrade over 2012 first-round bust Morris Claiborne behind Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick. With pick No. 60, Dallas stopped the fall of Nebraska’s Randy Gregory towards the end of the second round. His failed marijuana test at the combine hurt his stock significantly, along with teams’ concerns over his mental capacity as well as other issues we’ve alluded to which have not hit the mainstream press. On the field, Gregory is a great athlete that plays with good leverage and uses his hands well. If the Cowboys can develop him and keep him on the right path, he has Pro Bowl potential. The Cowboys added to a strength in the third round, drafting Florida tackle Chaz Green. An athletic player who finishes blocks, Green won’t move defenders against the run and has an injury history. We had him rated as a sixth-rounder but if he stays healthy the Cowboys could have the surprise of the draft. Shifting their focus back to defense in the fourth, the Cowboys grabbed Minnesota linebacker Damien Wilson. Wilson is extremely effective defending the run, making plays in the backfield and showing good range to the sideline. A good fit in the Cowboys’ 4-3 defense, Wilson will need to improve his block shedding to see significant snaps. Purdue defensive Ryan Russell was the choice in round five, offering length and athleticism as a potential five-technique. He lacks the bulk to take on blocks and hold up consistently, but has upside if he can add strength as a pro. The Cowboys capped their draft with a trio of seventh-rounders; Wyoming outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha, Virginia Tech tackle Laurence Gibson and Texas tight end Geoff Swaim. A knee injury ended Nzeocha’s senior season, but the 232-pounder makes up for a lack of size with 4.5 speed. He has potential on the weak side and on special teams. Sticking with the measurable theme of Dallas’ draft, Gibson is an athletic 305-pounder with upside who took a step forward as a senior. Continued improvement could make him a nice value here. Swaim is a blocking tight end who lacks great measurables and doesn’t stand out in any aspect of the game, but could be a solid third tight end behind Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar. Post-draft, the Cowboys reeled in the big fish of the UDFA market, signing LSU tackle La’El Collins. A player who was in the top-10 discussion at times and ranked 18th on our board, Collins fell out of the draft due to a murder investigation and an ultimatum to teams not to take him on Day 3. Receivers Deontay Greenberry and Antwan Goodley were also quality post draft adds for depth purposes.
Grade: A- The Cowboys added a great deal of athleticism with this year’s draft class, despite numerous reaches in the middle rounds. Signing Collins after the draft made up for that and more, as Dallas came away with three of our top 24 players. The only caveat is that they didn’t draft a running back to replace DeMarco Murray, but improving their offensive line was just another way to build their run game.
New York Giants
With Collins’ legal issues and the Redskins pick of Brandon Scherff at No. 5, New York drafted Miami’s Ereck Flowers to bolster their offensive line. An excellent athlete for a 330-pounder, Flowers has violent hands and shows the ability to anchor in pass protection and block in motion. He’s also a waist bender who struggles protecting the edge, but flashed dominance at times and has great upside. The Giants traded up in the second round to begin Day 2, drafting Alabama safety Landon Collins. A strong run defender with good speed, Collins will slide immediately into the starting lineup and just needs work on his instincts in coverage. If the Giants keep him in the box, it should minimize his center field responsibilities and accentuate his strengths. Concern over a 2013 hip injury dropped Owamagbe Odighizuwa to the 74th overall pick, but the Giants let him slide no further. An explosive edge rusher who turns speed to power extremely well, Odighizuwa shows great functional athleticism and is a first-round talent if his health cooperates, although he’ll struggle with larger tackles until he adds strength. New York stayed on the defensive side of the ball in the fifth round, drafting Texas safety Mykkele Thompson. A solid center fielder in college, Thompson’s lack of speed makes him a liability covering downfield in the pros and he lacks the size to match up with tight ends. He’ll have to make his living on special teams. In the sixth round, the Giants added depth to their passing game with receiver Geremy Davis from Connecticut. At 6-2, 215 pounds with 4.49 speed, Davis shows the ability to make difficult catches but lacks separation speed to get open at the NFL level. He disappointed as a senior in part due to poor quarterback play at UConn, but has the physical profile to stick on the roster. Seventh-rounder Bobby Hart played tackle at Florida State, but should move inside to guard in the NFL. A strong run blocker, Hart isn’t the most fluid athlete but represents nice depth and value for the Giants.
Grade: B Many viewed Flowers as a big reach, but as our No. 13 prospect the pick makes some sense from a value and need standpoint. Stealing Odighizuwa in the third round could make this draft for New York, and Collins can be the run-stopping safety the Giants needed.
Looking to replace Jeremy Maclin, Chip Kelly and the Eagles took USC receiver Nelson Agholor at No. 20 overall. A solid route-runner with consistent hands and the ability to play outside as well as in the slot, Agholor isn’t a dominator in the big receiver game at just 6-0, 198 but should be a reliable playmaker for Kelly on offense. He compares favorably to Maclin from a skills standpoint. Philadelphia drafted another versatile player in the second round, taking Utah defensive back Eric Rowe 47th overall. Rowe played both cornerback and safety with the Utes, but is expected to start across from Byron Maxwell on the outside. A solid tackler with terrific range and closing speed, Rowe excels facing the action and has big upside now that he’ll be focusing on one position. In the third round, the Eagles took linebacker Jordan Hicks. With Mychal Kendricks on the trading block and entering a contract year, Hicks will provide depth on the inside. Injuries over the past two seasons have sapped the former Texas star of some speed and quickness and he struggles getting off blocks, but Hicks can be a useful player if kept clean thanks to good instincts. Philadelphia didn’t pick again until the sixth round after dealing two fifth round selection in order to move up for Rowe, and finally drafted Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd. A former wide receiver who lacks a standout trait, Shepherd shows enough coverage and ball skills to be useful in nickel and dime packages. The Eagles drafted another cornerback later in the round, taking Kansas State’s Randall Evans. A quality zone cover corner who plays the ball well, Evans is fundamentally sound and strong against the run, but his struggles in downfield coverage will limit him to sub-package duties. Seventh-round pick Brian Mihalik stands 6-9, 288 and played multiple positions on the Boston College defensive line. He will likely settle in as a five-technique in Philadelphia’s 3-4 defense, as he flashes strength and explosiveness but is in need of added bulk to his lean frame.
Grade: B- The Eagles picked up two Week 1 starters in the first two rounds, and addressed a need for secondary depth later on. Only having six picks limits the potential contributions from this class, but if Agholor and Rowe turn out to be plus starters, it will prove to be just fine in the long run.
The Redskins surprised many by passing on Leonard Williams to draft Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick. Expected to play right tackle in Washington, Scherff has the versatility to slide inside to guard as well. Explosive and athletic, Scherff is a tough player who blocks until the whistle and can dominate his opponents. He will immediately help the Redskins’ offensive line. Mississippi State defensive end Preston Smith was the pick at No. 38, giving Washington a pass rusher to replace the departed Brian Orakpo. A solid athlete with good hand moves and a terrific closing burst, Smith is a natural rusher who will help take pressure off Ryan Kerrigan on the other side. With Alfred Morris entering the final year of his contract, the Redskins drafted Florida’s Matt Jones in the third round as insurance. Jones consistently beats first contact with good size (6-2, 231) and shows enough speed to turn the corner along with good vision and agility. His good hands out of the backfield should give him an early role in the offense on passing downs. The Redskins had two picks in the fourth round, taking Duke receiver Jamison Crowder and Alabama guard Arie Kouandijo. Crowder is small (5-8, 185) but slippery with the ball in his hands, showing the ability to separate from defenders and play bigger than his size on balls in the air. He should make an immediate impact as a returner and can make plays on offense despite his size. Kouandijo has good explosiveness and terrific hand punch, but lacks great skills in space or blocking in motion and must improve his balance to be a legitimate NFL backup. The Redskins added Arkansas outside linebacker Martrell Spaight in the fifth round. More of a run stopper than pass rusher, Spaight is limited by his size (6-0, 236) and speed (4.81), but shows good instincts and efficiency as a defender. He should settle in as a backup with some special teams value. Washington had three sixth-round picks, taking Virginia Tech safety Kyshoen Jarrett, Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel and Ohio State receiver Evan Spencer. Jarrett is another player with limited size and athleticism who shows ability against the run, and he could find a sub-package role in addition to special teams work. Mitchel struggled with injuries and inconsistencies with the Razorbacks and has a tendency to get beat down the field, but is quick enough and shows the timing to be effective backed off the line in dime situations. Spencer is 6-2, 212 pounds with 4.5 speed, but never caught more than 22 passes in a season with the Buckeyes. He shows soft hands and an ability to make tough catches, but struggles to separate and doesn’t attack the ball while on the ground. The measurables are there for Spencer, but they haven’t yet translated to the field. For their final pick, Washington grabbed South Florida center Austin Reiter at No. 222 overall. A consistent blocker in the AAC, Reiter brings good athleticism to the table and could find his way into a backup role down the line.
Grade: B Washington had 10 draft picks this year and came away with some potential year-one contributors. Scherff and Smith should start immediately, while Jones could wind up with a starting job in 2016. Crowder will be an upgrade on Andre Roberts as a returner, and the Redskins added good depth on both sides of the ball on the third day. It wasn’t a flashy draft for the Redskins, but that’s a good thing under new general manager Scot McCloughan, considering the history of owner Dan Snyder.
Chris Tripodi has been writing draft reviews and rookie reports for Draft Insider since 2008. He is also an ACC and C-USA scout for Optimum Scouting and writes about the New York Jets for Pro Football Spot. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi to talk NFL Draft and Jets football.
The AFC North is turning into one of the more competitive divisions in all of football with potentially three playoff teams in 2015 and a third franchise on the rise. The Ravens looked to add some final pieces in the draft while the Browns hoped to plug more holes. Here’s our final analysis on the efforts of all the team’s in the division.
The team most affected by deflategate entered the draft with a need at receiver and filled it selecting Breshad Perriman with the 26th pick. Few receivers in the draft can match Perriman’s physical skills but his game is very inconsistent in all areas. Perriman flashes greatness but often times looks very ordinary. His awesome potential must now be developed by Joe Flacco and the coaching staff. Second round pick Maxx Williams could quickly break into the starting line-up and is another with great upside. He’s not a true deep threat rather a solid pass catcher who will create mismatches with his size and Williams comes with the body type necessary to effectively block on the line of scrimmage. Carl Davis was tremendous value late in round three and offers a back-up for nose tackle Brandon Williams or an eventual replacement for the departed Haloti Ngata. Why did Davis slip? Inconsistent production and game film. Though he tore it up during the Senior Bowl he also disappeared for stretches during his senior season which raised red flags. The team had three selections in round four and started off with another great value pick, Za’Darius Smith. The pass rushing defensive end had a solid two year career at Kentucky then performed reasonably well in pre-draft workouts. I feel he’s best served in a four man front so it will be interesting to see how Smith adapts as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I posted prior to the draft the Ravens were considering two running backs in the fourth round; David Cobb or Buck Allen and they were happy when Allen fell into their laps. The Ravens stated all along they felt Allen was a middle round running back that will produce as a rookie. Few people wrote or spoke about Tray Walker as much as I had in the weeks leading to the draft but I’m still surprised the small school corner went in the fourth frame. Walker has the size, speed and skill to play Sunday football and only needs to polish his technique. Nick Boyle is a great compliment to Maxx Williams and a tremendous blocker at the tight end position. Fifth round pick Robert Myers is a solid developmental prospect whom I expect to make the active roster. Selecting Darren Waller in round six was interesting. Many believe Waller’s future lay at tight end but the three deep at the position is very crowded for the Ravens. Alas he’ll likely stay at receiver and if he realizes his potential, Waller could be dominant at the next level. One UDFA of note is Darryl Baldwin, the offensive tackle from Ohio State. There’s room for competition and depth at both tackle spots and Baldwin could surprise this summer.
Grade B+: It seems every single year the Ravens do a terrific job during the draft, hence the reason they usually run deep into the playoffs. This April was no exception; Perriman will need some time to develop but has incredible upside, Maxx Williams could quickly break into the starting unit while Davis, Smith, Allen and Boyle should all contribute as rookies.
The Bengals had big needs at nose tackle and receiver entering the draft but instead stocked up on offensive tackles and tight ends. If he’s gets back to health and prior playing form Cedric Ogbuehi will be a major steal. The teams first round pick is a tremendous pass protector and gives the Bengals flexibility with Andrew Whitworth moving forward. Flexibility is the best way to describe second round pick Jake Fisher’s game as he can line up at left or right tackle. It’s a good move for a team who may be ready to cut ties with veteran Andre Smith. Tyler Kroft adds a speed element to the teams tight end position and should grow into a dependable number two on the depth chart. Paul Dawson was tremendous value in round three and will compete for playing time next season. I’m not a fan of Josh Shaw but understand why he was selected in the fourth round. He has the size and athleticism to develop into a starter and could see action in nickel packages next season. I’ll be interested to see how Marcus Hardison does in Cincinnati. I like the player and love the potential but struggle to see how he fits in the Bengals defense. In my opinion Hardison is best at tackle or as a two-gap end. C.J. Uzomah was a reach in round five and a player that’s never done anything other than tease and disappoint scouts. Derron Smith could be a find in round six. He lacks classic size, speed and is coming off a sports hernia but is an instinctive football player with a well rounded game. Mario Alford was a solid choice in round seven and his ability to stretch the field vertically or impact games returning kicks is enticing. Two UDFA’s of note include receiver Jake Kumerow who could latch on as a fifth receiver and corner Troy Hill, who’s a much more polished prospect than fourth round pick Josh Shaw.
Grade B: I like the fact the Bengals bypassed need and took best player available with their initial four selections. You can never have enough talent at the offensive tackle position and the team now has choices. Hardison, Smith and Alford could surprise while Shaw has an upside. Not a great collection rather a very efficient effort from the Bengals.
The Browns had a bunch of needs entering the draft and a ton of picks at their disposal to fill those needs. Many of the needs were on the offensive side of the ball and the team tried to package picks prior to the start of the draft and move up for Marcus Mariota. When that never came to fruition they went back to the draft board. With the 12th pick they chose nose tackle Danny Shelton, who should be a playmaking version of the departed Ahtyba Rubin. I’m not as high on Shelton as many others and felt Cleveland would’ve been better off with receiver DeVante Parker but regardless, Shelton brings great intensity to the defensive line and offers an upside. At the bottom of round one the team selected Cameron Erving, who’s listed as a center. My belief is Erving will compete for the starting right tackle spot as Cleveland has been looking for an upgrade over Mitchell Schwartz the past two years. And if Erving continues to develop there’s no reason to believe he won’t win the job. Pass rusher Nate Orchard was an interesting choice in round two considering the teams depth chart. I expect Orchard to line up on passing downs as the team develops him to take over for Paul Kruger. Cleveland got great value with both third round picks. I firmly believe Duke Johnson was top 45 worthy as he’s a complete ball carrier that can develop into a feature runner. He’ll ease into what is a crowed running back unit in Cleveland but will produce as a rookie. Xavier Cooper was drafted later than his grade warranted and should develop into an outstanding 3-4 end. The Browns finally took a receiver with the first of two picks in the fourth round, selecting Vince Mayle. The Washington State senior is a terrific underneath pass catcher with excellent size. He’ll offer reliable hands for whomever plays quarterback for Cleveland this season. Ibraheim Campbell is a devastating run defender at safety with underrated cover skills. He should line up as a dime back/special teams player this season and potentially develop into the incumbent under Donte Whitner. Charles Gaines offers solid ball skills and should compete for the fourth cornerback spot while Malcolm Johnson offers a change of pace at the tight end/H-back spot. Johnson had an ordinary career at Mississippi State but wowed teams with his pro-day performance. Cleveland went back-to-back Trojans in the late rounds. At the top of his game Randall Telfer has the skills to make a roster as a third tight end. He’s an adequate pass catcher but a terrific blocker. Then again his commitment and intensity was questioned throughout the pre-draft process. Hayes Pullard is a terrific football player but comes up short in the areas of size/speed. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could be a steal if he gets healthy and regains prior playing form. I could see the Browns stashing him on IR for the year then easing him back onto the field in 2016. I was glad to see the Browns sign De’ante Saunders after the draft. The Tennessee State product has terrific ball skills and can also lend a helping hand returning kicks.
Grade B+: Of the Browns dozen selections I count two immediate starters, five additional selections who will contribute as rookies and good “down the road” prospects.
Moving towards the draft the belief was Pittsburgh would spend most of their picks on the defensive side of the ball and that proved to be true. The untimely retirement of Jason Worilds coupled with Jarvis Jones’ inability to establish himself meant the team needed to add a pass rusher and they hope Bud Dupree fills the role. I’m big on Dupree and love his athleticism as well as the suddenness he plays with but there is a lot of cynicism about him in front offices. On several occasions NFL people compared Dupree to Aaron Curry to me, claiming Dupree is a good athlete but not a great football player. I’m predicting they’re wrong as are the Steelers. Though I like Senquez Golson and understand he fills a need for Pittsburgh, round two was a bit early for his services. He’s feisty and fast but short (5-feet/8.5-inches) which will create mismatch problems. Though I never bought into the first round hype for receiver Sammie Coates, he was good value in round three. He’ll partner well with Martavis Bryant to give Ben Roethlisberger another big bodied target. Doran Grant was a solid fourth round choice. At the very least he should line-up in dime packages next season and has starters potential down the road. Down the road is the best way to describe Jesse James as he’s a massive tight end with rare athleticism but someone who must consistently translate those skills into football production. It would also be nice to see James develop a nasty attitude. Though I like the player I scratch my head to see how sixth round pick Laterrius Walton fits the Steelers scheme. He’s an intense lineman who plays with great quickness but shows little in the way of strength at the point. I felt Walton was much better situated as a three technique tackle rather than a 3-4 end. I have similar feelings on Anthony Chickillo, the teams other pick in round 6; better fit as a 4-3 end rather than outside linebacker in a 3-4. Chickillo’s intensity is infectious and he’ll bring potential on coverage units. Gerod Holliman was a good choice in the last round. I’m not a fan of his game but taking a player who recorded 14 interceptions in the final frame is worth a roll of the dice. The signings of Kevin Whimpey and Cameron Clear after the draft could help the Steelers in short yardage situations as both are nasty, powerful maulers.
Grade C+: I’m a fan of Dupree and expect him to succeed but there are no guarantees. If he plays to his potential the Steelers hit a home run in the draft. And while Coates and Grant were solid choices there’s a lot of risk in this collection of players from the standpoint of poor fits for the system or prospects that may need a bit of time before they are NFL ready.