My grades are based heavily on slot value. Addressing needs and in-draft trades are also considered. Slot value is a subjective thing, of course, but below I’ve attempted to least quantify my subjectivity — to show my work, if you will.
Below, along with each team’s grade, you’ll note three additional categories: draft capital, talent acquired and value. Draft capital calculated via Rich Hill’s trade chart. Talent acquired is based on scoring the prospects on my Thor500 board through the prism of Hill’s trade chart in the same way.
The points from each team’s haul were added up, and then divided by its draft capital to ascertain the value it got in its slots. The numbers you’ll see are where the given team ranked in the NFL in that metric.
The only other thing you need to know is that I grade on a strict curve. Which means we’ve got a pair of class’ to flunk and only precious few A’s and B’s to divvy.
Away we go.
ARIZONA CARDINALS | Snap grade: B-
Draft capital: 22 | Talent acquired: 20 | Value: 14
Strong, workmanlike draft for the Cardinals. Arizona targeted high-octane athletes at positions of need. This strategy sounds bullet-proof, but can manifest in tunnel-vision and stubborn reaching. Not the case here: Arizona managed to get above-average value in their draft slots. Moore could be special if Kliff and crew can coax him from a screen-and-sprint and gadget guy into a receiver that can at least stress in the intermediate area. Wiggins was a superb flier in R7 that fit the class’ ethos. Class provides short-term help with upside.
ATLANTA FALCONS | Snap grade: A-
Draft capital: 4 | Talent acquired: 5 | Value: 10
Banner weekend for the Falcons. Atlanta did the right thing by standing pat and taking TE Kyle Pitts, arguably the most physically-gifted tight end to ever enter the NFL. Taking a QB was tempting, but would have alienated franchise face Matt Ryan and put a shot clock on his time in Atlanta, which, as Green Bay is seeing with Aaron Rodgers, is a short-term awkward move that can kill trade leverage when it inevitably comes time to split. Trading down may have been tossed around. But the forecasted fervor to trade up for QB4 and QB5 (which turned out to be Justin Fields and Mac Jones) never materialized. Pitts will infuse a rookie Randy Moss-like impact on the Falcons’ offense. Meanwhile, Richie Grant and Jalen Mayfield were solid values at positions of need.
CAROLINA PANTHERS | Snap grade: A
Draft capital: 9 | Talent acquired: 7 | Value: 8
Last year, I felt that Carolina should have taken Javon Kinlaw instead of Derrick Brown in R1, but I agreed with most of the other decisions. This year, same thing, with Jaycee Horn playing Brown and Patrick Surtain playing Kinlaw. This is nitpicky, though, as Carolina took my No. 13 overall player in the class at 1.8, not terrible value if you have a conviction. The rest of the class is what won me over. Reuniting Terrace Marshall Jr. with his college passing-game coordinator Joe Brady was a stroke of genius when the NFL shied from Marshall due to reports of a leg issue. The Panthers scored enormous value with the Christensen, Tremble and Nixon picks, and I think they found a couple long-term roster cogs in R6 with Brown and Smith.
CHICAGO BEARS | Snap grade: A+
Draft capital: 17 | Talent acquired: 8 | Value: 3
The trade-up for Justin Fields was a franchise-altering decision, yes. Also a life-changing one for members of the Ryan Pace-led Bears front office, who were heading into a Green Mile season, a 16-game walk towards their inevitable execution and a franchise restart in Chicago. Instead, the Bears, directionless and hopeless only three days ago, are now back in business with a stud young quarterback thanks to the NFL’s evaluation hubris. It cost next year’s first-rounder (and fourth) plus a fifth-rounder this year, juice worth the squeeze from a long-term value perspective if Fields even plateaus as a league-average starter (and if I’m right about Fields, it will be highway larceny). Another genius move came in Round 2 when the Bears dealt a third-round pick to move up for free-falling top-25 talent OT Teven Jenkins (Chicago also moved up 53 slots on Day 3 as part of pick-swap sweetener in trade). I’ll repeat what I said on our live post-draft show Thursday night after Round 1: Ryan Pace just saved tacked at least one more year onto his reign. More importantly: The Bears are relevant again.
DALLAS COWBOYS | Snap grade: D+
Draft capital: 8 | Talent acquired: 15 | Value: 21
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. The Cowboys were rumored to be sitting dead-red on CB Patrick Surtain, with a strong fallback option in CB Jaycee Horn, to address their long-standing need. Instead, the two teams in front of them, Carolina and Denver, ended up trading for quarterbacks and removing themselves for the class’ QB derby. Falling in love with their respective corners may have pushed both over the edge in that regard, to Dallas’ chagrin. The audible — picking up a third-round pick (No. 84, DE Chauncey Golston) to move down two spots to take Parsons — was a much better idea than reaching for CBs Greg Newsome or Caleb Farley. But the restraint that move showed was lacking in Day 2, when the Cowboys, clearly still smarting from the double-snipe of corners in front of them in R1, began the day by reaching for talented problem child Kelvin Joseph and ended with a breathtaking reach for Oregon CB Nahshon Wright, a skyscraper with 4.49 speed. Unfortunately, it’s the build-up variety (5th- and 26th-percentile splits with a 4th-percentile vertical), and he changes directions like the captain of the stuck Suez Canal tug. Keith Taylor, a player so athletically similar that they show up on each other’s Mock Draftable pages, was taken at 5.166 (I prefer Taylor, but that isn’t even my point). I saw Odighizuwa and Golston as fourth- and sixth-round talents, respectively — those, two, felt like reaches based on position-need tunnel vision.
DETROIT LIONS | Snap grade: A
Draft capital: 7 | Talent acquired: 6 | Value: 9
Lions GM Brad Holmes took advantage of good fortune — Miami’s audible to Jaylen Waddle when Cincy decided on WR J’Marr Chase over Sewell in what have been a bitterly-debated decision — and a thrift-shopper’s eye for value throughout in bringing in one of the most impressive Lions drafts in years. In all seven picks, the Lions took a prospect in a slot that was lower than where I had him ranked on my board — the ever-rare zero-reach draft with a full complement of picks. The Lions managed to do that while addressing all of their needs save arguably quarterback. This team’s gonna stink next year and will thus will give itself a shot to swap out Jared Goff. But with this class, that new hypothetical quarterback will be stepping into a situation with an intriguing young roster.
GREEN BAY PACKERS | Snap grade: F
Draft capital: 26 | Talent acquired: 29 | Value: 32
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst appears to be in over his head. Last year, with a Super Bowl contending roster and only one glaring need — receiver — Gutekunst elected to trade up in R1 to select QB Jordan Love, a raw developmental dice-roll of a quarterback coming off a 16-interception season in the Mountain West. In last year’s snap grades, I called that decision “bizarre, organizationally.” With QB Aaron Rodgers reportedly unwilling to return to the Packers under Gutekunst, Gutey is facing loaded revolvers from both sides that he himself loaded for reasons that remain unclear: Unload Rodgers in order to save his job, almost assuredly on a discount; or call his bluff and put the organization to a decision — a plan that, even if it works and both he and Rodgers are in Green Bay next fall, seems assured of alienating the prickly Rodgers and dividing the locker room while leaving last year’s R1 pick, Love, to rot on the bench. Last draft, following the Love pick, Gutey continued to eschew position need — no receivers were taken whatsoever — but did so with a series of bizarre reaches. There wasn’t a flashy, controversial pick to light up talk radio this time around. And Gutey even more or less attempted to address his positions of need. But he seems to have a habit of zeroing in on specific prospects and targeting them with pre-delineated picks, not only missing the potential to steal prospects who are falling, but locking himself into over-picking. For instance, he finally did get around to that receiver need with 3.85, but bizarrely took Amari Rogers, a glorified running back in the Ty Montgomery mold that only catches screen passes and the like. Gutekunst’s decisions in the last two drafts have ironically put him on his own sort of shot clock. His predecessor is going to step into a situation far worse than he did barring a rabbit-in-the-hat revelation of Love turning out to be a star.
LOS ANGELES RAMS | Snap grade: C-
Draft capital: 30 | Talent acquired: 30 | Value: 28
The Rams entered another draft with very little draft capital due to their wont of trading for established veteran players. This strategy appears like it will lead to a dystopian future sooner rather than later because the apathy displayed towards capital appears to extend towards pick ideology. For the second consecutive year, the Rams took a receiver with a second-round pick instead of addressing of the future of an offensive line badly in need of young blood — but whereas last year, the Rams finally took an interior iOL in R7, this year they didn’t pick one at all. I actually like Tutu, but would have preferred him in the top-half of R3, not the middle of R2. The Rams shot the moon late with talented prospects who have a low shot of sticking — maybe not the best idea when you have so little cheap young talent on the roster.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS | Snap grade: C+
Draft capital: 14 | Talent acquired: 18 | Value: 17
The Vikings had one of the finest Thursday nights in the NFL, with a big assist from Mike Mayock, who we will discuss later. The Vikings picked up a pair of badly-needed third-round picks (while flipping back a mid-R4) in trading down from 1.14 to 1.23 — receiving 370 trade chart points in the deal with the Jets and sending back 340 — and somehow ended up with OT3 Christian Darrisaw anyway… likely the player they would have taken at 1.14 anyway. That trade essentially erased the mistake of the Yannick Ngakoue trades, which was the reason Minny didn’t have a R2 pick. The Darrisaw and Davis picks were both no-doubt winners, great values at a spot of glaring need. Both will start from Day 1. The rest of the draft didn’t go the same. Using a R3 pick on Kellen Mond was odd for a roster with so many needs. Mond projects as a solid backup, but his arm talent doesn’t extend to the deep sector, and both he and the defense knows it. If the idea was to prepare for a Kirk Cousins future, that pick achieved the goal only in providing Cousins’ successor a low-ceiling backup of his own. Surratt is athletic and vacuums up tackles, but he’s old for a prospect (24), only has two years’ experience at LB, is poor in coverage, and has T-rex arms and an unrefined approach that led to a bloated missed-tackle rate. I loved the flier on Davidson — if he impresses, he could get on the field immediately as the inline TE… in my opinion, the Vikings have zero of those, and two H-Backs in Irv Smith and Tyler Conklin.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS | Snap grade: D-
Draft capital: 25 | Talent acquired: 27 | Value: 29
Paulson Adebo was one of my favorite defensive sleepers in this class. I absolutely adored that pick at 3.76. A few tweaks to his game could yield a top-20 overall player from this class. The rest of the Saints’ haul was didn’t impress as much. New Orleans clearly wanted to pump athleticism into its roster — every prospect the Saints picked outside of Ian Book had a 90th-percentile or above size-adjusted athletic composite. But they passed on superior players at the positions they were taking time and time again. Guarantee you the Bills, Ravens and Bucs — who went on a three-EDGE run of Gregory Rousseau, Jayson Oweh and Joe Tryon to close shop on Thursday night — were thrilled the Saints reached for Peyton Turner. I actually like Turner, an ascending prospect with an untapped ceiling. But does he have more ceiling than Rousseau or Oweh? Is he a better player than Tryon? I just didn’t get the decision. Lighting a fourth-round pick on fire to take Ian Book, Trace McSorley’s doppelganger, was bad enough, but it feels even worse when you consider they dealt their sixth-round pick last draft in a silly Sean Payton pissing match with Carolina over in-draft UDFA negotiations for Tommy Stevens, whom Payton took with his acquired R7 pick. Stevens was cut in November and is now on… the Panthers. Instead of being able to use that wasted R6 pick along with the R4 pick air-mailed on Book as part of a package to move up to late-R2 or early-R3 to get in on the Kyle Trask–Kellen Mond–Davis Mills run, the Saints chased developmental losses and very likely added to its debt ledger.
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NEW YORK GIANTS | Snap grade: C
Draft capital: 20 | Talent acquired: 23 | Value: 26
Gettleman unplugged! Trader Dave! After years of sticking in his slot and taking trench players — prior to Thursday night he had never traded back — Gettleman let his freak flag fly, trading down in the first round and doing so again in the second. That was good fun. During a delicious stretch of NFC East parlor intrigue on Thursday night, the Cowboys traded back two slots with the Eagles after getting sniped on the class’ top-two corners and, in so doing, facilitated Gettleman himself getting sniped when the Eagles popped Devonta Smith, assuredly on strong intel he was going to New York a pick later if he didn’t. Gettleman actually did well in the immediate aftermath of that bombshell, acquiring Chicago’s 2022 R1 and R3 picks along with a fifth-rounder Trader Dave swapped in another bit of swashbuckling later on. Make no mistake: That was fabulous value, taking advantage of Ryan Pace’s desperation-is-a-stinky-cologne need to move up the board to stop Justin Fields’ fall and save his job. Gettleman then picked up Miami’s 2022 R3 by dropping back a mere eight spots in R2. Gettleman got exceptional value even after that second trade down when he stole Azeez Ojulari at 2.50. I didn’t really have a problem with the other picks. But this grade is dragged back to middle-of-the-pack because of the one poor decision I felt Gettleman made over the weekend — taking older gadget player Kadarius Toney at 1.20. It was clear in the aftermath that Gettleman had made a decision well in advance to take a receiver in R1 — that’s his prerogative. But he ought to have considered taking Rashod Bateman or Elijah Moore — who each have both higher floors and ceilings than Toney — or put the Trader Dave hat back on and moved down again.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES | Snap grade: B
Draft capital: 11 | Talent acquired:10 | Value: 11
The Eagles’ punking Gettleman in Round 1 was high comedy. It had to feel especially sweet for Philly to get the last top-tier receiver before a big drop talent drop to Tier 2 while punking Gettleman and leaving his hated Giants out in the cold, only to panic-reach on the limited utility of Kadarius Toney. A strong Day 2 followed, with good value found on both Dickerson and Williams. The Williams pick produced the most hilarious moment of draft weekend, when Howie Roseman’s run around the room for congratulatory fist-bumps hit a snag when he offered knuckles to senior scout Tom Donahue, staring off into space in the corner of the room by himself — as it turns out, seething in rage away from his colleagues who clearly disagreed with whatever alternate approach to the Williams pick he’d proposed. Donahue exchanged terse words to a visibly confused Roseman (who must have known darn well why Donahue was ticked). Incredibly, the exchange was caught during a live ESPN look into the Eagles war room. Don’t tell Donahue, but I’m with Roseman on the Williams pick. Either way, Philly picked up the pieces and made a pair of nice mid-Day 3 picks in Kenneth Gainwell and Marlon Tuipulotu. Strong draft that has the potential to become epic due to Smith’s Marvin Harrison ceiling and whether Donahue’s moment scolding Roseman like a child who came back late after curfew gets GIF treatment and becomes iconic ala Laremy Tunsil’s BongGate.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS | Snap grade: B
Draft capital: 6 | Talent acquired: 12 | Value: 20
The 1.3 pick of Trey Lance provided Thursday night with an epic M. Night Shyamalan twist very early into the plot. I was so giddy I could barely speak — but I didn’t have a choice, having been pre-slotted to do a reaction video for NBCSE immediately after the pick was announced. I did manage to express my main takeaway in that moment: “This is one of the great smokescreens in NFL history.” By Monday, I had a conviction that Lance was going to be the pick, so I wasn’t as much surprised by that as I was in awe of Shanahan and Lynch’s high-risk pony-up and brilliant execution of a targeted media strategy that kept everyone guessing until the end. Just brilliant theater. The fact that it was Lance made all the confusion we’d experienced regarding San Francisco’s intentions in the lead-up suddenly make sense. And, it must be said: Lance himself as the pick made a boat-load of sense. The idea of Mac Jones at 1.3, preposterous on its face, nevertheless captured public imagination to the degree that Jones was the betting favorite to go 1.3 for an estimated 90-percent of San Francisco’s ownership of the pick. San Francisco’s No. 20 ranking in slot value is a bit deceiving — my crude, top-heavy point system, based off the Rich Hill trade chart used by the NFL itself, is penalizing them for taking the No. 7 prospect at the No. 3 slot. If Lance pans out, he’ll be worth his weight in gold. If he doesn’t, a potential Mad Max dystopian future spawning a Dolphin dynasty, as Miami owns San Fran’s next two R1 picks. This is going to be really freaking fun.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS | Snap grade: D
Draft capital: 32 | Talent acquired: 32 | Value: 19
I was sad we didn’t get a Seahawks first-round pick to make fun of this year. Not much to discuss here. I like the Forsythe flier late — especially for an organization that always need offensive line help — but felt any gains Seattle made there only served to help offset the losses of the Eskridge reach. Non-factor draft by a team that doesn’t appear to value it much.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS | Snap grade: D
Draft capital: 28 | Talent acquired: 28 | Value: 30
The Buccaneers earned one of only two A+ grades I gave out after last year’s draft. They had taken my OT1 Tristan Wirfs and S1 Antoine Winfield Jr. prospects I ranked No. 6 and 29 overall respectively, at 1.13 and 2.45. Both turned out to be the steals I thought they’d be, and both were key components of a Super Bowl winning team. This year, I had no earthly idea what Tampa Bay was doing. If they were going to get criticized for a draft strategy, my assumption was it was going to be because they took an RB in R1 and triggered the analytic nerds in exchange for the immediate-help starting lineup upgrade — one of the only positions they could take where the Bucs could expect it. I was okay with the Tryon pick, but the rest of the class provides neither immediate help nor future upside. I assume Tampa is cock-sure in the idea they began the three-QB run at the end of R2, but they ought not be, coming away with the worst prospect of the three. Trask’s an unathletic late-bloomer that didn’t pop until he was playing with all-time CFB TE Kyle Pitts, top-20 NFL Draft pick Kadarius Toney, and Trevon Grimes, who also has an NFL future. When those three skipped the bowl game against Oklahoma, the pixy dust wore off and he was just the statuesque pocket-passer with placement issues that he’d been before. Trey Sermon would have started next year as Tampa’s attempted to defend its title. If Trask even finds himself with a QB1 job, his front office will be actively looking for opportunities to pony-up for his replacement.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM | Snap grade: D
Draft capital: 16 | Talent acquired: 21 | Value: 27
I gradEd Davis as a first-rounder. I don’t have a huge problem with Washington popping him there if it has a conviction — Davis is high-variance prospect, but his risk is mitigated by his athleticism and coverage utility, and his ceiling is obviously quite high — but there were multiple prospects on the board at that point that I felt had similar ceilings but came with lower bust odds. I really liked Washington’s pick of the underrated Cosmi at 2.51. Wasn’t as big a fan of the rest of the haul. St-Juste’s future may be at safety at the next level. I was a vocal critic of Dyami Brown’s all process and expected to criticize whoever reached for him, but it turned out the NFL more or less agreed with my assessment.
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