by Cale Clinton
In a weekend dominated by Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, the REAL nerds were focused on one thing: the 2019 NFL Draft. Despite the massive weekend in pop culture and a lack of massive stars in the rookie class, it still managed to draw in record-high TV ratings.
Now that we are a few days removed from the process, the experts have weighed in. We've done the heavy lifting for you: we've consolidated draft grades from the most prominent sports sources and football minds all in one place. Today, we'll break down the consensus best, worst, and most polarizing draft classes of 2019. This is … the 2019 Draft Report Card Report.
As always, let's go through our panel of football minds. We have many incumbents returning this year, with some small changes. Bleacher Report's draft grades are now being done by Kristopher Knox. In addition to Evan Silva's contributions to Yahoo! Sports subsidiary RotoWorld, we've also added Yahoo! Sports' Eric Edholm into the mix. Sadly, we have failed to include NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang in this year's calculations because, well, he didn't post grades this year.
- Mel Kiper (ESPN+)
- Evan Silva Rotoworld (AFC) (NFC)
- Eric Edholm NFLDraftScout.com (Yahoo Sports)
- Nate Davis (USA Today)
- Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
- Chad Reuter (NFL.com)
- Kristopher Knox (Bleacher Report)
- Mark Maske (Washington Post)
- Dan Kadar (SBNation)
- Andy Benoit (Sports Illustrated)
- Pete Prisco (CBS Sports)
- Finally, our old buddy Doug Farrar (USA Today)
Highest Draft Grades
1. New England Patriots
Highest: A+ (Knox, Prisco)
Lowest: B+ (3 Tied)
Comments: Oh, how the rich get richer. The Patriots didn't just have the highest GPA this year; they also had the second-lowest standard deviation of grades -- everyone liked this draft. The reigning Super Bowl champions were drained of a lot of high-end talent this offseason. Tight end Rob Gronkowski called it a career, while offensive tackle Trent Brown, defensive end Trey Flowers, tight end Dwayne Allen, wide receivers Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson, and defensive tackle Malcom Brown all found new homes and bigger contracts. It didn't seem possible for New England to replace all those snaps. Yet the Patriots' "next man up" mentality was on full display this past weekend.
With five picks made in the first three rounds, every analyst seemed to love the selection of the big-bodied playmaking wide receiver N'Keal Harry out of Arizona State. Prisco, who gave the Patriots the ever-elusive A+, loved the selection of Vanderbilt cornerback Joejuan Williams in the second round. Almost every analyst identified Michigan edge rusher Chase Winovich as the prototypical player that Bill Belichick seems to manufacture in a lab every year on Draft Night. New England's offensive line addition Yodny Cajuste seemed to be a universally praised selection, while Hjalte Froholdt was met with mixed reviews. The only selection that seems to be frowned upon is the trade-up for Stanford punter Jake Bailey in the fifth round. When New England identifies a punter as the best-value selection in the fifth round, maybe it's time to turn off your television and return to your loved ones.
2. Arizona Cardinals
Highest: A+ (Knox)
Lowest: B- (Maske)
Comments: The Arizona Cardinals find themselves high atop our highest-graded draft classes once again, despite drafting a quarterback in the top 10 in back-to-back years. Yes, the selection of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray seemed relatively polarizing just a few weeks ago with second-year quarterback Josh Rosen still on the roster, but draft analysts have begun to warm up to the former Sooners passer. Many cite the relationship between Murray and rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury as a sign that the Cardinals at the very least have a plan. Prisco, who gave the Cardinals an A, cited the Murray selection as the team's worst pick of the draft only because he prefers Rosen.
With the number of holes on this roster on both sides of the ball, Arizona really couldn't help but address needs. The selection of cornerback Byron Murphy drew a lot of praise, as did that of defensive lineman Zach Allen. The Cardinals also managed to surround Murray with weapons outside of running back David Johnson and aging wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Wide receivers Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson will all hopefully be able to give the rookie quarterback some good options downfield. While this draft class will certainly hinge on the success of Murray, the Cardinals were able to make solid additions on both sides of the ball.
3. Washington Redskins
Highest: A+ (Knox)
Lowest: C- (Davis)
Comments: When Redskins owner Dan Snyder announced that he would be in control of selections on Day 1 of the NFL Draft, Washington fans must have been terrified. This was, after all, the same Dan Snyder who infamously traded three firsts and a second for quarterback Robert Griffin III. Well, now you can sleep soundly, Redskins fans. Your guys nailed it.
Washington was able to address their dire need for a quarterback when Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins fell into their lap at 15 overall. Washington then made a move that was praised by many analysts in trading two second-round selections to move up for pass-rusher Montez Sweat. Sweat was some people's top defensive player behind the likes of Nick Bosa and Ed Oliver, so snagging him at 26 overall has been praised as a steal by many. Pairing Haskins with speedy wide receiver and college teammate Terry McLaurin isn't just a great story, it has also been a highly celebrated selection. Washington has needed someone to take the top off of defenses, and McLaurin will be able to do just that. The lone blemish in some people's eyes seems to come from the selection of Stanford running back Bryce Love. While Love was a Heisman runner-up in 2017, the back tore his ACL on the last play of his 2018 regular season. Some analysts are scratching their head as to why Washington would back up injury-prone running back Derrius Guice with a back coming off his own massive knee injury.
4. Buffalo Bills
Highest: A+ (Knox)
Lowest: B- (Silva)
Comments: Don't celebrate your consensus best draft class award just yet, Patriots fans. The Buffalo Bills are stacking up for a post-Tom Brady AFC East, and they just might make his life hell for his last few years on top of it. Many of the draft graders identified Buffalo's selection of defensive tackle Ed Oliver at nine overall to be the steal of the draft. The Houston Cougars lineman addresses a big need on the defensive line for Buffalo and may be a potential All-Pro player once developed. The Bills made another great selection while addressing need when they selected Oklahoma lineman Cody Ford in the second round. The Bills placed a first-round grade on Ford in their pre-draft process, so chalk that up as the second steal in as many rounds for the Bills.
The selection of Florida Atlantic running back David Singletary seems to be the point of divergence for graders. While some think that Buffalo faltered in drafting a new face into an already crowded running back room, others have Singletary's pro comp as LeSean McCoy. Seeing as McCoy's production dropped considerably in 2018, Singletary may get featured early and often during the 2019 season. Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox is also seen as a bit of a controversial selection, seeing as he played only 18 college games at Ole Miss and never found the end zone. However, others see Knox as a high-ceiling project with an already-established ability to block well.
5. Denver Broncos
Highest: A (Reuter, Farrar)
Lowest: C+ (Davis)
Comments: Iowa tight end Noah Fant may not be the all-around player that former teammate T.J. Hockenson is touted as, but he will certainly make his name known in the Mile High City. Fant is going to be a strong pass-catching option for veteran quarterback Joe Flacco on a team whose offensive weapons have slowly dissipated since their Super Bowl run only three seasons ago. The Broncos were even able to get their guy after landing a considerable haul trading down with the Pittsburgh Steelers, adding even more draft picks to their stable.
With back-to-back selections in the second round, the Broncos continued to address the offense with Kansas State lineman Dalton Risner and Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. These two selections have been the source of consistent praise across draft report cards, with Reuter citing it as potentially being "the team's battery for a decade." Davis, Denver's biggest detractor, thinks moving up for Lock was a move done solely because of John Elway's penchant for quarterbacks. He may be right, but I can't see Flacco being the man in Denver for the long-term.
Lowest Draft Grades
1. New York Giants
Highest: B+ (Prisco)
Lowest: D- (Davis)
Comments: Oh boy. Nearly everybody has been extremely critical of the selection of Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at six overall. Prisco is the lone analyst with a cautious optimism in Jones' abilities. Despite general manager Dave Gettleman's claims that multiple teams were interested in selecting Jones, most believe that New York could have selected him at 17 with the pick they acquired in the Odell Beckham trade. This draft class will be staked on the success of the quarterback that many have dubbed Eli Manning with a worse arm.
While some consider later first-round selections Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker to be immediate contributors, Davis panned the Giants for reaching three times in the first round. Many of the Giants' later picks, such as Old Dominion defensive end Oshane Ximines and Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love, seem like projects that will be thrown to the wolves very early.
2. Houston Texans
Highest: B (Benoit, Iyer)
Lowest: D (Davis, Knox)
Comments: According to many of our draft gurus, a lot of the picks the Houston Texans made in this draft were reaches. After the Philadelphia Eagles leapfrogged the Texans in the first round to select Andre Dillard, Houston went on to select Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard. While many cite Howard's potentially high ceiling, most consider the selection a massive reach. Kiper had Howard and Houston's second-round selection, Illinois tackle Max Scharping, as third-round linemen. Addressing the offensive line was a necessity for Houston, seeing as they surrendered a league-leading 62 sacks last year. They just happened to address the need in the wrong way.
Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson was brought on to address needs in a depleted secondary; it may be the lone praised selection for Houston this offseason. Many also like the selection of Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu, who was considered a Day 2 selection. However, the Texans failed to address wide receiver, their second-biggest need, altogether.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Highest: B+ (Reuter)
Lowest: D (Farrar)
Comments: The biggest failure of the Atlanta Falcons in this draft was not addressing their needs in the front seven until the 111th overall pick in the draft. Atlanta went with offensive line help twice in earlier rounds, with Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom at 14 overall and Washington tackle Kaleb McGary at 31. Lindstrom feels like a safe pick that borders on tepid, and trading up for McGary feels like a reach to many. The selections are especially interesting when thinking about all the money Atlanta dedicated to their offensive line in free agency.
One of the biggest criticisms lobbed at Atlanta is that they managed to waste draft capital. The Falcons traded up three times, sacrificing a handful of picks over this year and the next in doing so. With no picks on Day 2, one would think that Atlanta would be more careful with their selections. Yet Silva has already labeled their last three picks (Pittsburgh running back Qadree Ollison, Washington cornerback Jordan Miller, and Louisiana-Monroe wide receiver Marcus Green) as "throwaways." It just didn't seem like the Falcons had much of a plan coming into a draft praised for its massive depth. "Overall, this draft had the Falcons taking developmental and low-ceiling players," Farrar writes, "when they needed to hit home runs to stay competitive in the NFC South."
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Highest: A- (Benoit)
Lowest: D (Iyer)
Comments: What a rough showing for the NFC South in this draft, huh? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected what graders believe is a longtime starter in LSU linebacker Devin White, but have received criticism for passing up on both Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver after they slid down from the top of the draft. The rest of the Buccaneers' selections can be labeled as question marks. Central Michigan's Sean Bunting is labeled a reach at 39, while Auburn's Jamel Dean has been considered incredibly inconsistent on film. While the Bucs did need a kicker, Utah's Matt Gay wasn't considered the best in the draft and was drafted way too high. Have you learned nothing from Roberto Aguayo?
5. New Orleans Saints
Highest: B (Benoit, Farrar)
Lowest: D+ (Davis)
Comments: The New Orleans Saints had limited resources in this draft, with only five picks made in seven rounds. Trading up for a Day 1 starter in center Erik McCoy was a highly regarded move after the retirement of Max Unger, yet criticism came from the team's continued pattern of mortgaging the future for present success. (The Saints traded a second to get McCoy and didn't have a first to begin with after trading up for Marcus Davenport last year). The team's later selections, like Florida safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, are good additions in addressing need, but we have to wonder if the trading track record of New Orleans will come back to bite them down the road.
Most Polarizing Grades
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Highest: A- (3 Tied)
Lowest: D (Knox)
Comments:The Bengals started their draft with a popular pick in Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams. He was a polished, safe pick and addressed one of Cincinnati's biggest needs coming into the draft. It was every selection after that where the Bengals drew dissenting opinions. The selection of Washington tight end Drew Sample was Cincy's first polarizing selection. While some, like Reuter, believe Sample is a good combo tight end with a lot of upside, nearly everyone considers the pick a massive reach.
For a team that needed a number of players who could potentially start Day 1, the Bengals went for depth in a lot of places. North Carolina State linebacker Germaine Pratt has been called everything from a great replacement for Vontaze Burfict to doing "too little too late" in an area of need. Quarterback Ryan Finley, also from North Carolina State, has been a source of debate for some as well. All of our graders believe that the Bengals will need to move on from quarterback Andy Dalton sooner rather than later. While some believe Finley could be that successor, others see his ceiling being comparable to … Andy Dalton's.
2. Tennessee Titans
Highest: A (3 Tied)
Lowest: C- (Iyer)
Comments: As you can see by the highest and lowest scores listed above, the Tennessee Titans had a relatively successful draft. How successful that draft was, however, varies from grader to grader. Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who suffered a torn ACL in February, would have been selected much higher if not for the injury. While some consider it a savvy move to take a potential top-5 player at 19, detractors believe that the Titans, a team that has sat on the cusp of playoff success the past two years, needed to think about the present rather than the future. Iyer, who gave the team a C-, thought that both Simmons and Georgia linebacker D'Andre Walker, the Bulldogs' top pass rusher who is recovering from a sports hernia surgery, were too big of projects for a team this close to success.
3. Cleveland Browns
Highest: A (Davis, Farrar)
Lowest: C- (Benoit)
Comments: It felt weird this year that the Cleveland Browns didn't pick first overall, right? Given the success of recent first-round picks by the Browns, Cleveland finally found themselves picking in the bottom half of the first round for the first time in a while. The Browns then traded that pick in a package for wide receiver Odell Beckham, who is inarguably better right now than any one draft prospect that would have been on the board at 17. Some are factoring that into the Browns' draft grade, which is understandable. Their first selection of the draft didn't come until Friday night, when they traded up to take LSU cornerback Greedy Williams. Many had placed a first-round grade on Williams and could not explain his slide into Day 2 of the draft, but others think Williams will be more of a project than his pedigree suggests. BYU linebacker Sloane Takitaki is a fun name to say, sure, but in terms of football skills, there are a lot of question marks. Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson is also touted as a great value selection in the fifth round. Cleveland's need at the linebacker position, however, has some analysts questioning whether Wilson will be ready to be an impactful player as early as Week 1.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Highest: A- (3 tied)
Lowest: D (Silva)
Comments: After a tumultuous, overly dramatic offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers, you would think the draft would be a return to form. Alas, questions remain about Pittsburgh's current plans. Linebacker was an obvious need for the Steelers after losing team leader Ryan Shazier in 2017 to a devastating spinal injury, and they addressed that need by trading up to 10 overall for Michigan linebacker Devin Bush. While Bush is a genuine talent at the position, Silva describes the move to get him as "desperate." The team sacrificed the 20th overall selection, a second-round pick and next year's third-rounder to get Bush.
Pittsburgh was also forced to address the wide receiver and running back positions after trading Antonio Brown and allowing Le'Veon Bell to get his bag elsewhere. The Steelers filled those gaps with Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson and Kentucky running back Benny Snell. The selection of Johnson seemed to leave some scratching their heads, but it is undeniable at this point that Pittsburgh knows how to develop young wideouts. Despite Snell selecting Bell's old number 26 as his jersey number, the two players couldn't be more different. Snell will be a good backup to James Conner, but some cite his inability to catch the ball and "brutal athletic results" as major negatives in Snell's game.
Silva also refers to fifth-round Michigan tight end Zech Gentry as a "Jesse James clone." You can decide on your own if that's a good or bad thing.
5. Chicago Bears
Highest: A (Reuter)
Lowest: C (4 Tied)
Comments: The Bears used their first- and sixth-round picks in this year's draft last year, picking up a pair of players named "Khalil" and "Mack." (They also lost some 2020 picks in the deal, but we'll deal with that next year.) "Khalil Mack was 100 percent worthy of the Bears' interest," Reuter writes. "He played lights-out in 2018 and I suspect will be a force over the next few seasons, barring injury (which was a bit of a concern last year)."
The Mack trade complicates the evaluation of Chicago's draft, which certainly had its warts -- notably the decision to trade up for Iowa State running back David Montgomery. "Forfeiting two picks to trade up for a third-round running back with 4.63 speed was unnecessary," Silva writes, "and it’s entirely possible Chicago gets very little from the other four players [general manager Ryan Pace] selected."
|2019 NFL Draft Grades|
|NE||A+ (Knox, Prisco)||B+ (3 Tied)||3.80||1||0.362||31|
|ARI||A+ (Knox)||B- (Maske)||3.63||2||0.498||27|
|WAS||A+ (Knox)||C- (Davis)||3.57||3||0.679||15|
|BUF||A+ (Knox)||B- (Silva)||3.41||4||0.448||28|
|DEN||A (Reuter, Farrar)||C+ (Davis)||3.40||5||0.445||29|
|BAL||A (Reuter)||B (6 Tied)||3.24||6||0.323||32|
|IND||A (3 Tied)||C- (Davis)||3.18||7||0.742||8|
|CLE||A (Davis, Farrar)||C- (Benoit)||3.15||8||0.822||3|
|JAX||A- (4 Tied)||C (Iyer)||3.12||9||0.569||20|
|PHI||A (Reuter)||C (Farrar)||3.09||10||0.613||18|
|MIA||A (Davis, Benoit)||C- (Silva)||3.08||11||0.664||16|
|CAR||A (Edholm, Reuter)||C+ (3 Tied)||2.99||12||0.521||22|
|LAC||B+ (5 tied)||C+ (Kiper, Kadar)||2.96||13||0.380||30|
|TEN||A (3 Tied)||C- (Iyer)||2.95||14||0.848||2|
|PIT||A- (3 Tied)||D (Silva)||2.94||15||0.818||4|
|MIN||A (Reuter, Benoit)||C- (Davis)||2.91||16||0.734||10|
|SF||A (Davis)||C (Silva)||2.88||17||0.601||19|
|NYJ||A- (Reuter)||C (Farrar)||2.88||18||0.501||25|
|OAK||A- (Benoit)||C (Maske, Benoit)||2.84||19||0.734||9|
|CHI||A (Reuter)||C (4 tied)||2.81||20||0.808||5|
|CIN||A- (3 Tied)||D (Knox)||2.79||21||0.889||1|
|GB||A (Reuter)||C- (Maske)||2.78||22||0.723||11|
|SEA||A- (Reuter)||C (Prisco, Iyer)||2.76||23||0.498||26|
|LAR||A- (Edholm)||D (Iyer)||2.70||24||0.692||14|
|KC||B+ (Reuter, Benoit)||C- (Davis, Iyer)||2.58||25||0.541||21|
|DET||B+ (Benoit)||C- (Farrar)||2.53||26||0.516||23|
|DAL||A (Reuter)||D (Iyer)||2.47||27||0.758||7|
|NO||B (Benoit, Farrar)||D+ (Davis)||2.39||28||0.504||24|
|TB||A- (Benoit)||D (iyer)||2.33||29||0.710||13|
|ATL||B+ (Reuter)||D (Farrar)||2.20||30||0.717||12|
|HOU||B (Benoit, Iyer)||D (Davis, Knox)||1.98||31||0.648||17|
|NYG||B+ (Prisco)||D- (Davis)||1.92||32||0.800||6|
This year's graders continued to stay almost dead-even with years past. The average GPA was 2.88, compared to 2.87 from last year and 2.86 the year prior. Graders were slightly more widely varied than last year's assessments. This year's average standard deviation rose to 0.72, rising by a full tenth from last year's mark of 0.62. NFL.com's Chris Reuter, last year's most generous grader with an average GPA of 3.47, somehow managed to be even more generous. Reuter increased his average GPA to a whopping 3.55 and handed out eleven A-grades compared to last year's eight. Reuters' average GPA was a full half-point higher than the next most generous grader, Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit. Evan Silva finally forfeited his title of stingiest grader to Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer. USAToday's Nate Davis edged out Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox for the highest standard deviation of grades, 0.934 to 0.931.
There seemed to be some relative consistency across graders from last year to this year. Knox may have gotten a little trigger-happy when assigning high marks, as he gave out four A+'s as opposed to the single A+ assigned by all other graders combined. Iyer seemed to particularly dislike this draft, as his average GPA plummeted from 3.02 to a stark 2.56. The biggest rise we saw in grading, funnily enough, came from our second-lowest grader in Evan Silva of Rotoworld. Despite his relatively low average GPA of 2.67, that number is up nearly four tenths of a point from last year's 2.31.
|2019 NFL Draft Graders|
|Davis||A (4 Tied)||D- (NYG)||2.70||0.93|
|Knox||A+ (4 Tied)||D (3 Tied)||2.86||0.93|
|Iyer||A (4 Tied)||D (3 Tied)||2.66||0.91|
|Silva||A (3 Tied)||D+ (NYG)||2.67||0.81|
|Farrar||A (5 Tied)||D (ATL)||2.90||0.78|
|Edholm||A (TEN)||D+ (TB)||2.80||0.75|
|Maske||A- (3 Tied)||C- (5 Tied)||2.75||0.67|
|Benoit||A (3 Tied)||C- (3 Tied)||3.06||0.65|
|Prisco||A+ (NE)||C- (HOU)||2.89||0.62|
|Kadar||A- (4 Tied)||D+ (NYG)||2.76||0.57|
|Kiper||A (IND)||C+ (7 Tied)||2.98||0.49|
|Reuter||A (11 Tied)||C+ (HOU, TB)||3.55||0.49|