by Cale Clinton
The 2018 NFL draft has officially come and gone, and in its wake all we're left with are some hot takes. These fine young men haven't even put on pads yet, but draft experts have already come out to tell the nation how all 32 teams fared this past weekend.
We've taken the time to take grades from the most prominent sports sources and the best football minds and done all the reading for you. This article will examine the highest and lowest graded teams, as well as which teams created the most disparity in the minds of draft analysts.
Our panel looks a little different this year. Steve Silverman wrote up Bleacher Report's draft grades this year, and Andy Benoit has replaced Chris Burke at Sports Illustrated. We've also expanded our panel to include Nate Davis of USA Today and Chad Reuter of NFL.com. Our panel now consists of:
- Mel Kiper, ESPN Insider
- Mark Maske, Washington Post (AFC, NFC)
- Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout (AFC, NFC)
- Nate Davis, USA Today
- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News
- Chad Reuter, NFL.com
- Steve Silverman, Bleacher Report
- Evan Silva, Rotoworld
- Dan Kadar, SB Nation
- Andy Benoit, Sports Illustrated
- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Highest Draft Grades
1. Denver Broncos
Highest: A (Five tied)
Lowest: B (Silva)
Comments: Despite all the pre-draft buzz out of Denver revolving around taking a quarterback, the Broncos managed to pass on an arm and still walk away with the best draft class of the weekend. Bradley Chubb falling to fifth overall was a gift for John Elway, considering Chubb has been touted as the best non-quarterback prospect in this draft. Pairing Chubb with the likes of Von Miller has given several graders flashbacks to that formidable Denver defense from just a few years ago. Denver was also able to acquire some assets in wide receiver Courtland Sutton and running back Royce Freeman who will bolster the Case Keenum-led offense. Freeman specifically looks to hopefully fill in the hole left by the departure of C.J. Anderson. Lastly, there seems to be some small debate around cornerback Isaac Yiadom with regards to his projected value. Some, like Iyer, believe Yiadom has the ability to be groomed into becoming Aqib Talib's full-time replacement. Silva, however, believes Yiadom is "a better gunner than cornerback prospect." Regardless, Denver addressed all their biggest pre-draft needs and amassed a great draft class without taking too big a risk.
2. Green Bay Packers
Highest: A (3 tied)
Lowest: B (Silva)
Comments: Green Bay Packers fans should be overjoyed with the draft class that new general manager Brian Gutekunst just put together. After giving up an NFL-high 21 touchdown passes to receivers and posting the No. 23 pass defense last season, the secondary was obviously the biggest concern for the Packers. To answer that, Gutenkurst went out and got two of the top cornerbacks in the draft in Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. Graders especially loved the value they got in Jackson. Many analysts had him as a Day 1 prospect, so getting him at 45 overall was a steal. The Packers also set themselves up nicely for next year by trading down on Thursday and netting themselves the Saints' first-round pick next year. Linebacker Oren Burks has also been praised as a high-level athlete who can make a big impact early in his Packers tenure. There are only two prominent knocks against this Packers draft. First, could the Packers have given Aaron Rodgers more help in this draft? Second, did Gutenkunst really have to draft a punter and a long snapper?
3. Chicago Bears
Highest: A (Benoit, Prisco)
Lowest: B- (Silva)
Comments: Out of the highest-graded teams in this draft, no team did a better job of addressing team-specific needs than Chicago. The general consensus among the graders is that the Bears' first three picks were all home runs. Roquan Smith was one of the top non-quarterback prospects in the draft, and not many expected him to even be on the board at the eighth overall pick. Smith is going to be a big asset in the Bears' front seven for a long time. General manager Ryan Pace did a lot to help Mitchell Trubisky in his sophomore season. Center James Daniels was a great addition and will help to bolster the interior line. Wide receiver Anthony Miller also looks like a great pickup and a good weapon for Trubisky to target. However, a lot of graders dropped their scores for just how much it took to get Miller. That 2019 second-rounder they sent to New England would've been a great asset to have for a team rebuilding.
4. New York Giants
Highest: A (Iyer, Benoit)
Lowest: C- (Silva)
Comments: The Giants had one of the more polarizing drafts, and it all stems from one player: Saquon Barkley. Graders either loved the Giants taking the Penn State playmaker or thought they could have gotten a lot more value out of the second overall pick. Regardless of the depth of the running back position in this draft or the questionable logic of taking a back No. 2 overall, nobody can deny that Barkley is a phenomenal athlete and the early favorite to lock up Offensive Rookie of the Year. Pairing him with the Giants' young, electrifying receiving corps sets New York up to be a very exciting offense for years to come.
The Barkley pick can be debated, but the Giants seemed to nail their draft picks from then on out. Guard Will Hernandez was a great pick in the second round and will hopefully help improve the very weak Giants offensive line. Pass-rusher Lorenzo Carter will be a good addition to the Giants front seven. If Kyle Lauletta isn't necessarily the heir apparent to Eli Manning's throne, at least he'll be able to provide some competition for second-year quarterback Davis Webb during training camp this summer.
5. Arizona Cardinals
Highest: A (3 tied)
Lowest: C+ (Kiper, Rang)
Comments: Much like the Giants and Saquon Barkley, graders' main point of contention in Arizona stems from quarterback Josh Rosen. Kiper, who gave Arizona the lowest grade on his report card, seems to be particularly low on the former Bruin. In his post-draft review, he spent a considerable amount of time dissecting Rosen's value and injury history. Considering the only starter-caliber quarterback on the roster is the very fragile Sam Bradford, it didn't make a whole lot of sense for the Cardinals to take the least-durable quarterback out of the top arms of the draft. A lot of other graders, however, loved the selection. Iyer made the claim that Rosen would be a Day 1 starter and can outplay the other quarterbacks in this class, while Davis pondered whether Bruce Arians regretted retiring now that Arizona looks to form a promising young trio with Rosen, wide receiver Christian Kirk, and fourth-year running back David Johnson. Outside of Rosen and Kirk, the Cardinals added great depth to the offensive line and running back positions by adding center Mason Cole and running back Chase Edmonds respectively.
Lowest Draft Grades
32. Seattle Seahawks
Highest: B (Rang)
Lowest: D+ (Silva, Prisco)
Comments: Seattle left a whole lot of analysts scratching their heads on Thursday night when they selected running back Rashaad Penny with the 27th overall pick. Some graders like the prospect on paper; Silva said in his overview that Penny was his second-favorite back behind Saquon Barkley, but was shocked to see him come off the board before the first round concluded. Now that the Legion of Boom is a distant memory in the minds of the 12s, it was also surprising to see Seattle not address the defense until they took defensive lineman Rasheem Green in the third round. Seattle also failed to address glaring holes in their offensive line until very late. While they did draft offensive tackle Jamarco Jones in the fifth round, it was only after drafting a punter 19 picks earlier. The lone bright spot in the Seahawks draft is linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who is not only a great story, but could also make significant contributions early in his rookie season. However, all these criticisms could look foolish in just a few years. As Davis put it, "GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have built a powerhouse while making draft 'graders' look silly."
31. New Orleans Saints
Highest: B+ (Benoit)
Lowest: D (Rang, Silva)
Comments: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The New Orleans Saints had a phenomenal draft last year, selecting both the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year. This draft, however, went very differently. A team that was already without a second-round pick sacrificed a 2019 first and this year's fifth to trade up and take defensive end Marcus Davenport. While Davenport has good upside, that's a great deal of value to give up, especially when considering the fact that Davenport has very little experience against top-end talent. Wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith could be a solid complement to Michael Thomas, but the rest of New Orleans' draft picks weren't exactly big late-round steals. While there were needs addressed by the Saints, those needs weren't addressed with any prospects of high value.
30. Oakland Raiders
Highest: B (Kiper)
Lowest: D- (Silva)
Comments: Oakland seemed like a team with a clear road map for this year's draft going in. The Raiders finished with the 26th-best passing defense in the NFL last year with significant needs at cornerback and linebacker. With a good handful of defensive players still on the board, the Raiders decided to take a risk and fill another need with offensive tackle Kolton Miller. Miller was projected all over the board prior to the draft, but many think that he was probably taken too high. Risky picks seemed to be Oakland's MO this past weekend. Defensive tackle P.J. Hall is an interesting prospect with a lot of upside, but few projected him to go as early as the second round. Offensive tackle Brandon Parker was also considered a reach given where he was taken. Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, arguably Oakland's best value pick this draft, may just end up being a throwaway pick considering his medical issues. Even the trade for wide receiver Martavis Bryant could be considered a boom-or-bust move. While he could be a great complement for Amari Cooper and a second weapon for Derek Carr, Bryant has been sporadic with regards to his effectiveness. While the Raiders could walk away with some great assets if the stars and planets all align, they passed on too many surefire prospects for a lot of graders' liking.
29. Kansas City Chiefs
Highest: B- (Iyer, Benoit)
Lowest: D (Silva)
Comments: Kansas City's draft didn't really begin until Friday, given that they gave up this year's first-round pick to draft Patrick Mahomes last year. When they did have their picks, however, they were incredibly aggressive. They spent five of their six picks on defense after spending all offseason building a stable of young offensive weapons. This draft for the Chiefs lost all of its flash and pop when they sent their first-round pick away last year, but even then, the guys they selected in the later rounds seem to just be "quality reinforcements" for the defense as opposed to early impact players.
28. Detroit Lions
Highest: B (Benoit, Prisco)
Lowest: D (Silva)
Comments: The low grades for Detroit seem to spring up due to the fact that their best picks in the draft weren't very sexy. The Lions' two best picks came at No. 20 with center Frank Ragnow and No. 153 with offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby. While those were both excellent picks in the minds of the graders, it's whom those linemen will be blocking for this season that left analysts scratching their heads. The Lions traded up to take Kerryon Johnson, a running back with a high ceiling but major injury concerns. The decision to sacrifice picks in order to get Johnson becomes even more questionable when you realize that that the Lions didn't address holes at the linebacker and tight end positions during the draft.
Most Polarizing Grades
1. Buffalo Bills
Highest: A (Kiper)
Lowest: D (Iyer)
Comments: I'm not quite sure I've ever seen a team simultaneously have the best and worst draft depending on who you read. A lot of graders were so disgusted with one specific Bills draft pick that they failed to even acknowledge some of their better acquisitions, like linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. No, every analyst has been focused on one man: Josh Allen. Allen was Kiper's favorite quarterback prospect in this draft, while Iyer referred to him as a "big-armed bust" in his draft overview. Going into this draft, just about everyone recognized that Allen was going to be the quarterback who needed the most work in this class. If he can sit behind A.J. McCarron for a year and learn the Bills' system, he'll be better set up for success. If the Bills decide to throw Allen to the wolves this year, let's all hope Kiper's pre-draft praises were well-placed.
2. Carolina Panthers
Highest: A (Prisco)
Lowest: C- (3 tied)
Comments: The Carolina Panthers surprised a good deal of analysts when they took Maryland's D.J. Moore over Alabama's Calvin Ridley as the first wide receiver off the board. Those who love the pick say that Moore is more than the workout warrior he proved to be at the combine -- he's a player with an impressive highlight tape who can make an immediate impact in the Panthers' offense. Those who dislike the pick either think Ridley was the better option at wide receiver, or don't think Moore brings anything to the table that Carolina doesn't already have. There was also some contention over cornerback Donte Jackson. Jackson was one of the fastest players in the combine, posting a 4.32-second 40-yard dash time. He's an elite athlete, there's no denying that. However, many consider it a reach to take a cornerback so undersized (5-foot-10 and 178 pounds) in the second round.
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3. Philadelphia Eagles
Highest: A (Reuter)
Lowest: D+ (Silverman)
Comments: David Akers' on-stage presence delivering the Eagles' draft pick while simultaneously riling up Cowboys fans was probably the most exciting thing about Philadelphia's draft weekend. Reigning champions usually draft for depth, and this year's Eagles were no exceptions to that. Philadelphia traded out of the first round in order to secure more future picks, then took tight end Dallas Goedert with their first pick of the draft. Those who love the Eagles' draft this year cite Goedert as someone Eagles fans should be excited about going forward. Reuter went as far as likening him to Jimmy Graham. Others merely refer to Goedert as "a decent contributor."
4. New Orleans Saints
Highest: B+ (Benoit)
Lowest: D (3 tied)
Comments: Welcome back, Saints fans! The Saints draft was polarizing for some due to the fact that New Orleans is seemingly in win-now mode. Instead of building depth around their electrifying young offensive core or looking to replace 39-year-old Drew Brees, the Saints took players who would have an immediate impact. How effective the Saints were at achieving that goal remains to be seen. New Orleans' first-round pick, edge rusher Marcus Davenport, is a player with a lot of upside. If the pick hits, the Saints are going to have a very scary defensive line. However, a lot of analysts think that Davenport, formerly of the University of Texas at San Antonio, hasn't seen much top-level competition and would be more of a project than an immediate impact guy. There's also the fact that trading up for Davenport cost the Saints next year's first-round pick. Whether or not that was worth it is all contingent on Davenport's early performance.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Highest: B (Davis, Reuter)
Lowest: D (Silverman, Silva)
Comments: The Chiefs spent five of their six picks in this draft on defensive players, but many analysts question whether or not the Chiefs spent those picks on the right defensive players. A lot of our graders all shared the same sentiment -- they liked the aggression Kansas City showed trading up to take defensive end Breeland Speaks at No. 46, then trading again to take defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi. What those graders thought about the players they traded up for is a different story. Speaks specifically has been tagged by several graders as a guy who was taken too high, especially for a team that just gave up picks to trade up for him. Some also think that Kansas City's late run on defensive backs was too little too late, going on to say that one of those early picks should've been used on better defensive back prospects.
|2018 NFL Draft Grades|
|DEN||A (5 tied)||B+ (Kiper, Prisco)||3.66||1||0.37||32|
|GB||A (4 tied)||B- (Kadar)||3.51||2||0.46||29|
|CHI||A (4 tied)||B- (Silva)||3.47||3||0.46||28|
|NYG||A+ (Davis)||C- (Silva)||3.46||4||0.71||10|
|ARI||A (3 tied)||C+ (Kiper, Rang)||3.39||5||0.63||13|
|BAL||A (Kadar, Prisco)||B- (Silva, Benoit)||3.34||6||0.47||27|
|NE||A+ (Benoit)||C+ (Silverman)||3.30||7||0.62||14|
|TB||A (Rang, Prisco)||B- (3 tied)||3.28||8||0.51||25|
|LAC||A (Silverman)||B- (Maske, Silva)||3.21||9||0.39||30|
|NYJ||A- (Davis, Silva)||C (Iyer)||3.08||10||0.53||23|
|MIA||A- (Kadar)||C+ (Kiper)||3.08||11||0.39||31|
|ATL||A (Davis)||C+ (Silva)||3.05||12||0.49||26|
|JAX||A- (Davis)||C- (Silva)||3.04||13||0.54||21|
|WAS||A (Kadar)||C- (Davis)||3.02||14||0.62||15|
|TEN||A (Iyer, Peuter)||C+ (Silva, Prisco)||2.97||15||0.58||17|
|CAR||A (Reuter, Prisco)||C- (Silverman, Silva)||2.92||16||0.93||2|
|IND||A- (Reuter)||C- (Benoit)||2.85||17||0.64||12|
|MIN||A- (Reuter)||C- (Davis)||2.83||18||0.56||18|
|CIN||A- (Benoit)||C (Maske, Prisco)||2.82||19||0.55||19|
|PHI||A (Reuter)||D+ (Silverman)||2.79||20||0.91||3|
|BUF||A (Kiper)||D- (Silva)||2.78||21||1.06||1|
|SF||A (Silva)||C (Maske)||2.76||22||0.52||24|
|DAL||A (Rang)||C- (Maske)||2.73||23||0.74||6|
|HOU||A (Reuter)||C (3 tied)||2.67||24||0.61||16|
|PIT||A- (Reuter)||C- (Silva, Kadar)||2.61||25||0.67||11|
|CLE||A (Rang)||C- (3 tied)||2.53||26||0.74||5|
|LAR||A- (Iyer)||C- (3 tied)||2.44||27||0.74||9|
|DET||B (Benoit, Prisco)||D (Silva)||2.27||28||0.74||7|
|KC||B- (Iyer, Benoit)||D (Silva)||2.06||29||0.74||8|
|OAK||B (Kiper)||D- (Silva)||2.00||30||0.54||22|
|NO||B+ (Benoit)||D (Rang, Silva)||1.93||31||0.89||4|
|SEA||B (Rang)||D+ (Silva, Prisco)||1.84||32||0.55||20|
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The graders stayed course with previous years' marks. The Average GPA was 2.87, compared to 2.86 from last year and 2.88 the year prior. Graders did seem to be slightly more together this year. This year's standard deviation fell to 0.62, lower than in either of the last two years. NFL.com's Chad Reuter was by far the most generous grader, posting a 3.47 average GPA. Reuter handed out eight A-grades, and his average GPA was 0.43 higher than the next most generous grader, Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit. (Mel Kiper gets a special "generous grader" asterisk, giving out only one A but nothing below a C+. Apparently this year's NFL draft took place in Lake Wobegon.) Evan Silva retained his title belt for being the harshest grader, posting a 2.31 average GPA. Vincent Iyer, who came into this year with a five-year streak of having the highest average standard deviation, finally passed his crown to Bleacher Report's Steve Silverman. Silverman posted a 0.92 average standard deviation.
In terms of consistency among the individual graders' scores … there wasn't much. Despite teams' average GPAs falling right in line with previous years, the graders were very much all over the place. While most graders finished within the same ballpark of last year's average GPAs, the Washington Post's Mark Maske became a whole lot harsher of a grader. His average GPA dropped from 2.91 last year to 2.58 this year.
|2018 NFL Draft Graders|
|Reuter||A (8 tied)||C (SEA, OAK)||3.47||0.53|
|Benoit||A+ (NE)||C- (IND)||3.04||0.63|
|Iyer||A (6 tied)||D (BUF)||3.02||0.80|
|Kiper||A (BUF)||C+ (6 tied)||2.98||0.46|
|Rang||A (6 tied)||D (NO)||2.92||0.68|
|Kadar||A (BAL, WAS)||D+ (OAK, KC)||2.90||0.68|
|Davis||A+ (NYG)||D (NO, SEA)||2.82||0.90|
|Silverman||A (3 tied)||D (NO, KC)||2.74||0.92|
|Prisco||A (4 tied)||D+ (SEA)||2.73||0.73|
|Maske||A- (DEN)||C- (8 tied)||2.58||0.74|
|Silva||A (SF)||D- (BUF)||2.31||0.83|