Now that it’s been nearly a week and we’ve had time to let the 2016 NFL Draft digest – it’s time to dig in and dissect each and every team’s respective draft haul. While grades are rather meaningless as no one can predict what will happen, they’re still fun to do and quite necessary as the dullest phase of the offseason approaches.
We kick it off with the AFC East. This division features one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil slid all the way down to the teens after a picture surfaced of him smoking marijuana out of a gas mask bong. While it seems to be one of the riskiest picks on day one, it also carries tremendous upside for the Miami Dolphins who elected to take the risk.
The Patriots were able to haul in a solid draft class – this despite being without a 1st round pick. New York and Buffalo did solid jobs in their respective drafts, but where will they rank within the division? Find out below!
Buffalo Bills: B+
Best pick: LB Reggie Ragland (2nd round, 41st overall)
Worst pick: QB Cardale Jones (4th, 139th overall)
As you could expect from a Rex Ryan led team, the Buffalo Bills went defense with their first 3 picks. They kicked things off with Shaq Lawson at 19 overall. Lawson probably should’ve gone a few spots earlier, but that was his draft range. He provides a more than viable replacement for the departed Mario Williams. Lawson brings a great combination of size, strength and power and can develop into a fine edge setter under Ryan and Dennis Thurman. One of the biggest surprises in the draft was Reggie Ragland slipping all the way to the middle of the 2nd round where Ryan and co. snatched him up with no hesitation. Ragland provides a great leader in the middle of the field. There are questions about his ability to be a 3-down linebacker, but he’ll be lethal on 1st and 2nd downs. Three’s company. The Bills continued defense in the 3rd round as they selected Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington. While an underachiever at Ohio State, the Bills coaching staff very well could untap that and develop him into a starting linemen along that defensive line.
The 4th round is where they really shook things up. There were a lot of questions surrounding Cardale Jones and where he would end up in this year’s draft. As it played out, the Bills were willing to take a flyer on a QB with arguably the most upside of any player in the draft. Jones has elite physical tools, but will he ever be able to handle an NFL playbook and improve his accuracy? A high risk pick in the 4th, but we’ll see how Greg Roman can do with his development. Buffalo continued with skill position players on offense with their next two picks. Jonathan Williams provides good depth behind McCoy and Williams in the backfield. Kolby Listenbee has elite speed and can be a menace on kickoffs and quite possibly a threat vertically. They finished things off with Kevon Seymour to add depth to the corner position.
Overall, I was pleased with how Buffalo managed their draft. Grabbing guys like Lawson and Ragland gives them a solid build up front on defense. While I think Jones carries extreme upside – grabbing a QB of his potential is never a bad thing. However, for a team built like the Bills, I don’t think they should’ve targeted that at that point. Listenbee caries good potential with his speed and worst case can be a special teams contributor. The Bills definitely became a better football team and positioned themselves to make a playoff run.
Miami Dolphins: B
Best pick: OT Laremy Tunsil (1st round, 13th overall)
Worst pick: WR Jakeem Grant (6th round, 186th overall)
The Dolphins were all up in the headlines over the offseason after their trade to acquire underachievers Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell from Philadelphia as they moved down 5 spots in the draft – essentially adding two starters on the defensive side of the ball.
They continued to add solid pieces in the draft as Laremy Tunsil slid all the way to 13 after an increase in character concerns. He fills a need on the offensive line and will keep Ryan Tannehill upright – he’s been the most sacked QB since entering the league. Tunsil gives them an instant franchise tackle at the blindside.
On day 2, the Dolphins kicked things off with their selection of Xavien Howard out of Baylor. Howard fills a huge need at corner and will likely start opposite Maxwell on the outside – fair value at that point in the draft as well. The type of player who brings the hit or miss factor. In the 3rd they started their trend of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. They hope Kenyan Drake can develop into a starting role at some point in the near future. Often the understudy to Heisman winner Derrick Henry, Drake brings a great skillset to the table. They selected Leonte Carroo just over 10 spots later. Carroo was a playmaker at Rutgers who brings versatility to the offense. While Jakeem Grant was solid value in the 6th – a small, speedy slot guy out of Texas Tech, there were other areas of need they should’ve addressed. Jordan Lucas was a great pick – the Penn State defensive back adds a versatile backup to the secondary.
Like the Bills, the ‘Phins got a project, developmental QB. Brandon Doughty out of Western Kentucky is a pure gunslinger and enjoyed a storied, productive career with the Hiltoppers. I don’t think he carries potential as a starting QB in the NFL, but could be a decent backup. They finished things off with UCLA’s Thomas Duarte. A mismatch at TE who should earn a roster spot.
I really like the way Miami started with their selection of Laremy Tunsil. Howard was solid as well as he fills a need and adds a playmaking factor to the secondary. While it’s never bad to support your offense with weapons, I feel they could’ve added another defensive player or two. Tunsil salvages their grade, but they get a solid B.
New England Patriots: B-
Best pick: WR Malcolm Mitchell (4th round, 112th overall)
Worst pick: DT Vincent Valentine (3rd round, 96th overall)
Even without a 1st round pick which was forfeited in the notorious “deflategate”, Bill Belichick and the Patriots were able to bring in a solid haul during the draft. They even made a blockbuster trade pre-draft where they sent Chandler Jones to Arizona as they attempted to acquire more draft picks.
The Patriots started at the tail-end of the 2nd round. Their first pick was Alabama’s Cyrus Jones. A well-coached cornerback under Nick Saban, Jones brings good ball skills and adds value as a kick returner. They held another 2nd rounder but elected to trade back and gave them a handful of 3rd round picks.
Their first of three 3rd round picks was Joe Thuney out of N.C. State as the Pats look to shore up their offensive line which is much needed. Thuney is a perfect fit in New England and will be a starting quality linemen in Foxborough. Next came Thuney’s QB. Jacoby Brissett was my #5 QB and brings great upside. He has tremendous size, athleticism with a powerful arm. If anyone can develop him, it’s Bellichick and Tom Brady. Brissett finds himself in a great situation with the Pats. They rounded out day two with Vincent Valentine. He showed great signs of flashes at Nebraska as an imposing nose tackle, but is far too inconsistent and could’ve been available in the 4th or 5th rounds.
On day three, the Patriots held five picks. They started with what was my favorite pick in their draft in their selection of Malcolm Mitchell. The always reliable WR out of Georgia has great potential in the slot. Think Sterling Shepard. They went LB with their next two picks in Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts. Two guys I’m not too familiar with, but both guys who can be good role players. Ted Karras is another interior linemen who is known for his outstanding work ethic. A tough guy who could develop into a starting caliber guard. To finish things off, the Pats went with another receiver. Devin Lucien out of Arizona State was a guy PFF was extremely high on. A flashy receiver known for his big plays in college.
Being without 1st round pick made it a little tough for New England. However, they still brought in some solid pieces. I love the additions of Jones, Thuney and Mitchell – I think all can make an impact from day one. Brissett is a great developmental QB. Valentine isn’t going to be a Vince Wilfork, but he could be a starting nose tackle if he improves his stamina and conditioning. The consecutive LB picks were underwhelming. As a whole, the Pats did a solid job even without bringing in the most flashy of players.
New York Jets: C
Best pick: LB Brandon Jenkins (3rd round, 83rd overall)
Worst pick: QB Christian Hackenberg (2nd round, 51st overall)
There was a lot of speculation what the Jets would do holding the 20th pick, many thought Paxton Lynch would be the pick there. Ultimately, the Jets decided to bypass that option in favor of Ohio State’s Darron Lee. I had a 2nd round grade on Lee and wasn’t as high on him as many others. To me he’s just not a strong overall football player and doesn’t have what it takes to get it done in the NFL. I don’t think he’s a good fit in a 3-4, although, Todd Bowles scheme is probably ideal for him. Despite my cited flaws, Lee is a tremendous athlete and has outstanding cover skills. A solid option on passing downs, but nothing more.
After the Jets went LB in the 1st round, the drama began. When would they address QB? They didn’t wait long. With the 51st pick, New York drafted the popular Christian Hackenberg. While he brings tremendous upside to the table, he was far too inconsistent at Penn State to be a justified 2nd round pick. He especially won’t be ready to start from day one. After their worst pick in the draft came their best pick. Jordan Jenkins out of Georgia is a great football player. He may not be the biggest, or the fastest, but he has great football instincts and a nose for the ball. I think he’ll pan out better than college teammate Leonard Floyd who went 9th overall, and new teammate Darron Lee.
On day three, the Jets kicked things off with Justin Burris. Usually an under the radar defensive back, Burris fits what Bowles wants to do with his size and press skills. I think he brings good upside to the Big Apple. Brandon Shell was a solid pick in the 5th round. A strong offensive tackle who could be groomed into a starter on the right side of the line. A need at punter led to the selection of Lac Edwards. Charone Peake if a flashy 7th round pick. Usually mocked earlier than that, the Jets got solid value. He’s a speed/size guy who could make some big plays.
Drafting Lee at 20 really threw me off. Following that up with Hackenberg didn’t make matters worse. As much as I loved the Jenkins pick, he couldn’t salvage the beginning for New York. I give them a C right now – if Hackenberg actually pans out, I’ll come back in a few years and tear this to shreds.