With the draft over, there’s going to be a lot of speculation about which team has evolved the most and which team looks poised to succeed in four months’ time and one of the easiest ways to do that is to look at the draft and judge how each team went about their business.
I previously brought you my grades for the NFC teams and now it’s the turn of the AFC sides, as we head into the run up to the preseason in three months’ time.
Cincinnati Bengals – B-
The Bengals came away from this draft a couple nice pieces for their offensive line in first round Tackle Jonah Williams and fourth round Guard Michael Jordan who some had going as early as the second round. They also took QB Ryan Finley in the fourth, a sign that perhaps Andy Dalton’s tenure could soon be over. But in all actuality, they probably need his replacement sooner rather than later and I’m not convinced that Finley is the answer in a now highly competitive AFC North.
Cleveland Browns – A
They didn’t have a first round pick, but when you consider the fact that they got OBJ for it, I don’t think many Browns fans will be complaining, then when you look at their picks in Greedy Williams and Sheldrick Redwine, this looks to be a very exciting roster that arguably could win their division. Time will tell weather this talented squad can break the Browns curse, or if they’re in line for their twelfth consecutive losing season.
Baltimore Ravens – A
There isn’t a Ravens pick in this draft that I don’t like, Marquise Brown is a great pick at 25, getting the best WR in draft, then getting the new NCAA career sack leader in Jaylon Ferguson was a great grab with their next pick. The Ravens also drafted the previous record holder Terrell Suggs, and if Ferguson has even half the career Suggs had, then Baltimore have struck gold. Their day three picks are all smart choices, filling depth needs and fitting schemes.
Pittsburgh Steelers – A-
You can’t deny that the Steelers have faced issues over the past couple seasons in the locker room, and they’ll probably still be hovering around at the back of peoples minds this year. However, this is a good draft to try and change that, they got the right pieces to try on hold on to their slipping grip of the division. Trading up to get Line Backer Devin Bush was a smart decision, he’s a good side line to side line player, who could have an immediate impact on an already strong Pittsburgh defence. Since Shazier’s injury they haven’t looked the same, despite having one of the better defences in the AFC. In the past they’ve had success with WR’s from later rounds and whilst Diontae Johnson is no Antonio Brown, he could shine with a bit of mentoring. Benny Snell looks like a good bruiser who could compliment Conner well.
Team to beat?
This is a tough choice but I’m leaning towards the Steelers. I want to believe the hype around the Browns, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The Ravens also look set to have a good year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they performed well. Essentially with the exception of the Bengals, this is anyone’s division.
Buffalo Bills – B+
They drafted well early on with names like Ed Oliver, Cody Ford and Devin Singletary and they all look like they could perform from day one. However, I feel a little unsure about the back end of the draft. Obviously, you don’t expect to find a star player from the later rounds but there’s no name here to get excited about. I’m not looking forward to watching the careers of some of these players.
Miami Dolphins – A*
My favourite pick of this whole draft goes to the Dolphins, they got Josh Rosen, the 10th selection in last years draft for the 62nd overall pick this year and a fifth rounder next year. When you factor in Christian Wilkins and Michael Deiter, the Dolphins have to be very happy with how they performed.
New York Jets – B-
These selections are similar to the Bills, I like the early round picks, especially Quinnen Williams. He’s the second best player in the draft and in many peoples minds, he’s the number one, and when paired with picks like Jachai Polite and the QB of the future Sam Darnold, the Jets look like they’re ready to strike when the Brady-Belichick dynasty finally ends.
New England Patriots – C
N’Keal Harry looks promising and has a high ceiling, I’m not sure how well he fit’s New England’s style but any one looks good when it’s Brady throwing you the ball. Outside of Harry though, I’m just not excited about the rest of this class for the Patriots. Yodny Cajuste looks good and well-rounded but doesn’t excel in anyone trait. Chase Winovich has his doubters and I’m not sure he can help New England’s pass rush which had the second fewest sacks in the NFL last season.
Team to beat?
New England. They might’ve had a poor draft, but they’re still head and shoulders above the rest of their division.
Indianapolis Colts – B-
I think the best part of this draft for the colts had to be Pat McAfee’s speech before he announced their third round pick, but sadly they couldn’t draft as well as they announce the picks. Rock Ya-Sin looks like a top corner, and Ben Banogu and Bobby Okereke look like they could perform in a week linebacking core, but outside of that, this isn’t a draft to brag about.
Jacksonville Jaguars – A
Josh Allen looks good. Jawaan Taylor looks good. Josh Oliver looks good. The Jaguars have had an impressive draft, and I can see many of these players help return Jacksonville to the playoff picture. Ryquell Armstead looks good as a RB on running plays but his pass blocking is questionable. I can’t see him getting much play time behind a back with the skill of Leonard Fournette, however.
Houston Texans – C
I was unsure on how to grade this draft when their highest pick only played at FCS level. Whilst Tytus Howard was dominant at Alabama State, it’s fair to say that his level of competition was not at a similar level to what he’ll see on a regular basis in the NFL. They also took Max Scharping at the same position , so maybe they also have doubts on his ability?
Tennessee Titans – A-
This is a nice group of rookies, Jeffery Simmons looks set to take the NFL by storm, A.J. Brown is a great pick in the second round, as most mock drafts had him gone by this point. Amani Hooker is an underrated Safety who if nurtured correctly could make a difference in a division where you have to face Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck twice a year.
Team to beat?
Whilst the Texans had the worse draft, they’re still in the best position going into next year. The Jaguars have a new QB, and the Titans aren’t a serious enough threat. Unless the Colts can get firing, this is the Texans division to lose.
Denver Broncos – C
Noah Fant is a good player at TE, and I think he could play a pivotal role in a Broncos offense that ranked 19th in aerial attack and 24th in points scored per game. That being said, his value isn’t worth the twentieth overall pick. They made a smart trade with Pittsburgh to move out of the tenth spot, but then selected a player some thought was closer to a second-round talent. They selected a QB in Drew Lock in round two and I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Flacco is displaced as a starter by a rookie two years in a row. Dalton Risner is a good pick in round two at Offensive Tackle, but the rest of the draft lacked any inspirational picks. Overall, this was quite a boring draft by the Broncos.
Los Angeles Chargers – A*
Jerry Tillery, Nasir Adderley, Drue Tranquil. The Chargers have managed to stack their defence with several rookies, making their already strong defence, even stronger. They took Trey Pipkins in the third as well to help sure up their Offensive Line. This is a strong Chargers team, who’ve had a strong draft, in fact my only criticism if any at all is that 5 of their 7 picks played in Division II, FCS or for an Independent College, so their competition levels won’t have been as elite as others.
Kansas City Chiefs – B
It’s really hard to grade a draft that A) only had 5 picks, and B) had no first-round picks. Never-the-less, given these circumstances, the Chiefs haven’t done too badly. Mecole Hardman is a fast WR who can help split the field, just the style of receiver that Mahomes showed he liked last season. I also really like Juan Thornhill, taken in the second. He’s not the fastest Safety in the draft but he’s a good deep ball defender and help sure up any defence over the top.
Oakland Raiders – B+
The Raiders have done a good job in this draft, filling needs and getting stars. Josh Jacobs at 24 is a great pick and I can see him having an instant impact on one of the worst rushing offenses in the AFC. They then took five defensive players in the draft, which is smart seeing as they had the most points scored on them last season in the entire NFL. Players like Trayvon Mullen and Maxx Crosby should help address this. The only reason I haven’t given this draft an A, is because I don’t understand how you take Clelin Ferrell at 4 when you still have players like Josh Allen, Brian Burns or Montez Sweat Available. Maybe they saw something in him that I didn’t, I hope for the Raider Nation’s sake I’m wrong.
Team to beat?
Controversial opinion here but given the off-field problems they’ve been having, I’m not picking the Cheifs. For me, if you look at last season, and how they’ve gotten better in the off-season, I have to go with the Chargers here.