2016 NFL Draft grades

  • By Bucky Brooks
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Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the AFC East. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
Miami Dolphins, Round 1, No. 13 overall

The ultra-athletic edge blocker was rated as the No. 1 overall prospect on most draft boards heading into Thursday night, but an epic, surreal social-media sabotage caused Tunsil to fall out of the top 10. While the vivid image of Tunsil apparently taking a bong hit in a gas mask brought his character into question, there are few concerns about his ability to thrive as a franchise tackle in the NFL. He exhibits rare balance and body control on the edges, which means few pro defenders will be able to blow past him on speed rushes from the corner. In addition, Tunsil flashes the lower-body strength to anchor against bull rushes and power maneuvers. Considering the Dolphins' sack woes and offensive-line issues over the past few years, the risk-reward gamble on the No. 1 tackle in the draft could pay off handsomely for Mike Tannenbaum and his staff.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
New York Jets, Round 2, No. 51 overall

It's not surprising the Jets snagged a quarterback in this draft, but few expected the team to opt for a traditional dropback passer with accuracy issues to potentially step right into the franchise quarterback role. While Hackenberg's supporters will point to his promising freshman season under Bill O'Brien in a pro-style system as a harbinger of his potential, the skeptics wonder if a quarterback who has never completed 60 percent of his throws in a season can become a pinpoint passer at the highest level. Considering his slow trigger and penchant for taking sacks (104 in three college seasons), the Jets are hoping coordinator Chan Gailey can work his magic on a naturally gifted developmental QB who needs plenty of work on his footwork and fundamentals.

Miami Dolphins, Round 7, No. 231 overall

The emergence of the "move" tight end as a matchup weapon has prompted more NFL teams to take chances on hybrid pass catchers (tight end/receivers) with crafty route-running skills and sticky hands. Duarte fits the mold as a sleek pass-catching tight end with polished routes and exceptional ball skills. He is an ideal TE2 in the red zone, and his pass-catching prowess could remind Dolphins fans of the work Charles Clay put in during his time in Miami.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) Miami Dolphins

» Round 1: (No. 13 overall) Laremy Tunsil, OT.
» Round 2: (38) Xavien Howard, CB.
» Round 3: (73) Kenyan Drake, RB; (86) Leonte Carroo, WR.
» Round 6: (186) Jakeem Grant, WR; (204) Jordan Lucas, SS.
» Round 7: (223) Brandon Doughty, QB; (231) Thomas Duarte, TE.

Risk management is always a part of the draft process, but the Dolphins might've snagged the top prospect in the entire class in the middle of Round 1. Laremy Tunsil is a freakish athlete who not only possesses the balance, body control and lateral quickness of a true franchise tackle, but he also flashes the power and anchor-ability that coaches covet in a premier edge blocker. Although he might start his career at right tackle or inside at offensive guard, Tunsil could give the Dolphins an elite blind-side protector for the next decade. The Dolphins also upgraded the offense with the additions of Kenyan Drake and Leonte Carroo on Day 2. Drake, in particular, is a dynamic playmaker with potential to create explosive gains as a runner-receiver out of the backfield. Jakeem Grant is an electrifying return man with a spectacular combination of speed and open-field running skills. He could emerge as a difference maker for the Dolphins in the return game. GRADE: A-

2) Buffalo Bills

» Round 1: (No. 19 overall) Shaq Lawson, DE.
» Round 2: (41) Reggie Ragland, ILB.
» Round 3: (80) Adolphus Washington, DT.
» Round 4: (139) Cardale Jones, QB.
» Round 5: (156) Jonathan Williams, RB.
» Round 6: (192) Kolby Listenbee, WR; (218) Kevon Seymour, CB.

The Bills entered the draft intent on rebuilding a defense that failed to live up to the hype in Rex Ryan's debut season. The team's first three picks were designed to improve a front seven that needed a little juice. Shaq Lawson and Adolphus Washington are energetic defenders with hand skills and agility. Lawson should set the edge against the run and provide a spark as a polished pass rusher. Washington is a sack-hungry interior defender with the quickness to press the pocket on finesse moves. With Reggie Ragland also adding some thump as a downhill player with outstanding instincts and awareness, the Bills' defense should return to prominence in 2016. On offense, the Bills scooped up a couple of wild cards with the selections of Cardale Jones and Jonathan Williams on Day 3. Jones is a talented gunslinger with a big arm and sneaky athleticism. If he diligently works on his craft and masters the mental side of the position, "12 Gauge" could emerge as a potential starter down the road. Williams missed all of 2015 with a foot injury, but scouts believe he has the tools to be an RB1 in the right environment. Kolby Listenbee is a sleeper pick to watch. The track star has speed to burn and adds a big-play element to a run-first offense that creates one-on-one chances on the perimeter. GRADE: B+

3) New York Jets

» Round 1: (No. 20 overall) Darron Lee, OLB.
» Round 2: (51) Christian Hackenberg, QB.
» Round 3: (83) Jordan Jenkins, OLB.
» Round 4: (118) Juston Burris, CB.
» Round 5: (158) Brandon Shell, OT.
» Round 7: (235) Lac Edwards, P; (241) Charone Peake, WR.

Despite serious questions surrounding the quarterback position, the Jets elected to fortify their defense in Round 1. Darron Lee is a sideline-to-sideline chaser with the cover skills and pass-rush ability to be a monster as a "dollar" backer in sub-packages. The Ohio State product adds much-needed speed, athleticism and playmaking ability to the Jets' linebacking corps. Jordan Jenkins gives Gang Green a rock-solid defender on the edges. He isn't the most explosive pass rusher, but his workmanlike approach should produce a few disruptive plays. On offense, the Jets took a chance on Christian Hackenberg in Round 2. The selection could be viewed as a reach, based on Hackenberg's spotty play over the past two seasons, but his physical dimensions, arm talent and football aptitude could help him improve his production as a pro. Keep an eye on Charone Peake as a sleeper. The explosive pass catcher has the potential to contribute as a WR4 in Year 1. GRADE: B-

4) New England Patriots

» Round 2: (No. 60 overall) Cyrus Jones, CB.
» Round 3: (78) Joe Thuney, OG; (91) Jacoby Brissett, QB; (96) Vincent Valentine, DT.
» Round 4: (112) Malcolm Mitchell, WR.
» Round 6: (208) Kamu Grugier-Hill, OLB; (214) Elandon Roberts, ILB; (221) Ted Karras, OG.
» Round 7: (225) Devin Lucien, WR.

It is hard to take shots at the Patriots' draft-day work, given their dominance of the AFC East for the past 15 years, but their acquisitions are sometimes difficult to comprehend when assessing team needs. New England often bypasses seemingly pressing needs to select players who fit specific roles that Bill Belichick envisions. In this class, the Pats collected a number of two-phase playmakers capable of making contributions as traditional players and special teams demons. Cyrus Jones is an exceptional nickel-corner prospect with outstanding feet, ball skills and instincts. The 'Bama product is well-schooled in the fundamentals, and his disciplined approach is a perfect fit in New England. In addition, Jones is arguably the best punt returner in the draft -- his presence on the roster gives New England yet another option in the return game. Malcolm Mitchell is a talented pass catcher with big-play potential. He is an ascending wide receiver, but also offers versatility and special teams value based on his previous experience as a collegiate defensive back. The selection of quarterback Jacoby Brissett raised some eyebrows, based on the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo and the general value of a top-100 pick. Although the N.C. State product is an intriguing developmental prospect, the quarterback room could have an interesting dynamic with a pair of young gunslingers vying for the No. 2 spot behind Tom Brady. GRADE: C

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the NFC East. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Dallas Cowboys, Round 1, No. 4 overall

Kudos to Jerry Jones for avoiding a "need" pick to grab the most impactful prospect for the Cowboys. Elliott is a spectacular playmaker with exceptional skills as a runner-receiver out of the backfield. He not only gives Dallas an explosive workhorse to lean on, but he allows coach Jason Garrett to return to the blueprint (strong running game + dynamic play-action pass attack + ball-control approach = division crown) that led to an NFC East title and a 12-4 record in 2014. With Elliott poised to play behind the best offensive line in football, the team can alleviate the pressure on quarterback Tony Romo to carry the offense while drastically reducing the number of defensive possessions behind a "keep-away" game plan. This pick alone makes the Cowboys the overwhelming favorites to capture the division and push for Super Bowl contention.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Philadelphia Eagles, Round 1, No. 2 overall

OK, so this selection was one of the NFL's worst-kept secrets heading into Thursday night, with the Eagles having traded into the No. 2 overall slot presumably with the purpose of taking Wentz. And it was a brilliant move on the surface. But it was still a bit of a shocker, based on the amount of money the Eagles previously had invested in the position during the offseason. Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel inked lucrative deals during the free agency period -- Bradford signed for just under $36 million over two years, with $22 million guaranteed, and Daniel later signed for $21 million over three years -- to seemingly shore up Philly's quarterback situation. Yet coach Doug Pederson and his staff still targeted Wentz to be the face of the franchise for the next decade. Sure, the presence of a pair of veteran quarterbacks will provide the rookie with plenty of time to develop before he is thrown into the fire, but the capital expended (Philly gave up a first-, third- and fourth-round pick in 2016, a first-rounder in 2017 and a second-rounder in 2018) to move up the charts limits the amount of homegrown talent the team can use to build up the roster. Wentz's play as a starting quarterback down the road ultimately will determine whether or not the risk was worth the reward.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Washington Redskins, Round 3, No. 84 overall

The Virginia Tech standout becomes the fourth member of his family to reach the NFL via Virginia Tech, following Vincent (seven seasons with the Titans and Lions), Kyle (entering Year 3 with the Bears) and Corey (entering Year 4 with the Lions), but he could be the best of the bunch. Injuries robbed Fuller of the majority of his final season with the Hokies, but he is unquestionably a premier cover guy when healthy. If he bounces back from his injuries and regains his swagger, he could shine as a CB2 in a zone-based scheme that places a premium on ballhawks with superb instincts and playmaking skills.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) Washington Redskins

» Round 1: (No. 22 overall) Josh Doctson, WR.
» Round 2: (53) Su'a Cravens, OLB/SS.
» Round 3: (84) Kendall Fuller, CB.
» Round 5: (152) Matthew Ioannidis, DT.
» Round 6: (187) Nate Sudfeld, QB.
» Round 7: (232) Steven Daniels, ILB; (242) Keith Marshall, RB.

The Redskins quickly are rounding into a legitimate contender under general manager Scot McCloughan's direction. The savvy evaluator has assembled another strong class that should help Washington make a push to repeat as division champ. Josh Doctson is a dynamic WR1 with the ball skills and bounce to dominate in the red zone. He gives quarterback Kirk Cousins another big body to target in critical situations. Su'a Cravens is the kind of enforcer the Redskins have lacked since Sean Taylor roamed between the hashes. Although he isn't an explosive athlete, Cravens possesses the high football aptitude, grit and toughness that should lead to plenty of splash plays in the middle of the field. Kendall Fuller was a nice get on Day 2 as a corner with outstanding potential. If he is healthy and on his game, there is no reason he can't develop into a premier cover corner on the perimeter. Keith Marshall is a speedster with home-run potential out of the backfield. It will be interesting to see if he can earn a spot in the rotation as a change-of-pace back. GRADE: A

2) Dallas Cowboys

» Round 1: (No. 4 overall) Ezekiel Elliott, RB.
» Round 2: (34) Jaylon Smith, OLB.
» Round 3: (67) Maliek Collins, DT.
» Round 4: (101) Charles Tapper, DE; (135) Dak Prescott, QB.
» Round 6: (189) Anthony Brown, CB; (212) Kavon Frazier, SS; (216) Darius Jackson, RB; (217) Rico Gathers, TE.

Any team that lands a pair of blue-chip prospects with its first two selections in a given draft deserves a high grade. The Cowboys, who nabbed Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith before the end of Day 2, earned a gold star. Each guy is considered a transcendent talent at his position -- and both are also blue-collar workers with the requisite intangibles to step into leadership roles early in their careers. Although Smith, who suffered ACL and LCL tears in January, might need a redshirt year before he is able to step onto the field to make an impact, Elliott could be the Cowboys' most pivotal player as a rookie. He will anchor the offense as the bell cow in the backfield and help the team follow the 2014 blueprint that resulted in an NFC East title. Dak Prescott could be the franchise quarterback of the future, based on his ruggedly athletic game and superb leadership skills. He will push Kellen Moore for the backup quarterback job while serving as Tony Romo's apprentice. Will Rico Gathers be the next former hoops player to earn Pro Bowl honors as a pass-catching tight end? The late-round pick will get a chance to carve out a role as a developmental prospect. GRADE: A-

3) New York Giants

» Round 1: (No. 10 overall) Eli Apple, CB.
» Round 2: (40) Sterling Shepard, WR.
» Round 3: (71) Darian Thompson, S.
» Round 4: (109) B.J. Goodson, OLB.
» Round 5: (149) Paul Perkins, RB.
» Round 6: (184) Jerell Adams, TE.


Draft coverage:

The Giants elected to go for substance over sizzle in a critical draft for GM Jerry Reese and his staff. The team opted for proven commodities with the requisite physical dimensions and intangibles to step into key roles as rookies. Cornerback Eli Apple is a classic Giants pick, with the size/speed ratio (he checks in at 6-foot-1, 199 pounds, and clocked a 4.40-second 40-yard dash) the team covets in the position. Although he didn't consistently play like a top-10 talent during his time at Ohio State, Apple is certainly a big-bodied corner capable of ascending from a nickel gig to a full-time starting slot in a year or so. Sterling Shepard might be the most pro-ready slot receiver to enter the league in the last few years. He is a terrific route runner with strong hands and exceptional running skills. He could put up big numbers in the Giants' catch-and-run system. B.J. Goodson is a legitimate tackling machine with superb instincts and awareness within the tackle box. He could crack the starting lineup as a rookie. Jerell Adams could become the next unheralded tight end to play a prominent role on the perimeter. He has the prototypical physical dimensions (6-5, 247 pounds) and athleticism to shine as a playmaker between the hashes. GRADE: B

4) Philadelphia Eagles

» Round 1: (No. 2 overall) Carson Wentz, QB.
» Round 3: (79) Isaac Seumalo, OG.
» Round 5: (153) Wendell Smallwood, RB; (164) Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT.
» Round 6: (196) Blake Countess, CB.
» Round 7: (233) Jalen Mills, FS; (240) Alex McCalister, DE; (251) Joe Walker, ILB.

We won't be able to fully assess the Eagles' draft class until Carson Wentz hits the field, but the blockbuster trade to nab a potential franchise quarterback certainly robbed the team of some ammunition to upgrade the roster in other areas. Thus, we have to take a conservative approach when applying a grade to the Eagles' draft class. I love Wentz's potential in Doug Pederson's offense. He is an athletic dropback passer with A-plus arm talent and exceptional movement skills. If the Eagles are able to stick to their guns and redshirt him for a year or two, he could emerge as the best quarterback in the draft down the road. Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai add depth to the offensive line. Each guy will have a chance to grow into a more prominent role down the road. Defensive backs Blake Countess and Jalen Mills are competitive prospects with the potential to crack the rotation as special teams standouts/sub-defenders as rookies. Ultimately, the grade on the Eagles' draft class will come down to the performance of the quarterback when he eventually steps onto the field. GRADE: C+

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the AFC West. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Denver Broncos, Round 1, No. 26 overall

The Broncos aggressively moved up the draft board to grab their franchise quarterback of the future. Although Lynch is far from a finished product, he is an upgrade over Brock Osweiler and offers Gary Kubiak an athletic, strong-armed passer to build his offense around. With at least one other team trying to trade up on Day 1 to select the ultra-talented playmaker, the Broncos deserve credit for doing what it took to land their guy.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Oakland Raiders, Round 1, No. 14 overall

There isn't any disputing Joseph's game-changing potential as an MOF (middle of the field) playmaker, but it's always a risky decision to grab an injured prospect with an early selection. Joseph is still recovering from an ACL injury that prematurely ended his senior season. While it is possible that the West Virginia standout will fully return to form following a grueling rehab, the risk-reward scenario could backfire if Joseph fails to display the athleticism and playmaking prowess he flashed as the monster in the middle of the Mountaineers' defense.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
Denver Broncos, Round 4, No. 136 overall

The marriage between the silky smooth-running Booker and the Broncos' zone-based system could produce fireworks for Gary Kubiak's squad in 2016 and beyond. The Utah standout is an Arian Foster-like playmaker capable of creating splash plays as a runner-receiver out of the backfield. In a zone-based scheme that emphasizes stringing together positive runs, Booker could become a 100-yard machine for a Broncos team that will rely heavily on the running game this season.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) San Diego Chargers

» Round 1: (No. 3 overall) Joey Bosa, DE.
» Round 2: (35) Hunter Henry, TE.
» Round 3: (66) Max Tuerk, C.
» Round 4: (102) Joshua Perry, ILB.
» Round 5: (175) Jatavis Brown, OLB.
» Round 6: (179) Drew Kaser, P; (198) Derek Watt, FB.
» Round 7: (224) Donavon Clark, OG.

The Chargers surprised the football world when they selected Bosa with the third overall pick, but the move is sensible when considering the team spends 70 percent of its snaps in the nickel defense. Boss is a polished pass rusher with impressive hand skills, and he is capable of attacking the quarterback from a defensive end or defensive tackle position. With the Chargers intent on dialing up the pressure on passing downs, Bosa's presence could help the defense deliver more impact plays.

Joshua Perry and Jatavis Brown both add depth to the linebacker corps. Both should push for time within the rotation while making immediate contributions on kick coverage units. Hunter Henry not only gives the team a successor to Antonio Gates at Y, but the Arkansas product could quickly emerge as Philip Rivers' favorite target on third down because of his polished route-running skills and strong hands. Max Tuerk should upgrade the center position with his athleticism and mobility. GRADE: B+

2) Oakland Raiders

» Round 1: (No. 14 overall) Karl Joseph, S.
» Round 2: (44) Jihad Ward, DE.
» Round 3: (75) Shilique Calhoun, DE.
» Round 4: (100) Connor Cook, QB.
» Round 5: (143) DeAndre Washington, RB.
» Round 6: (194) Cory James, OLB.
» Round 7: (234) Vadal Alexander, OG.


Draft coverage:

The Raiders continue to add weapons to a defense that's beginning to look like a monster on paper. The additions of a hard-hitting safety and a couple of big-bodied defensive linemen should help Khalil Mack and his cohorts wreak havoc on opponents in 2016. Joseph was unquestionably one of the top defensive playmakers in the draft, exhibiting outstanding hands, ball skills and instincts as a deep-middle player. In addition, he adds some toughness to the secondary with his penchant for delivering big hits between the hashes. Although his knee injury does give some cause for concern, there's no disputing his potential as a game changer when healthy.

Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun will make immediate contributions as rotational front-line defenders. Ward will add size and strength to the defense, while Calhoun could make his mark as a pass rusher off the edge. On offense, the Raiders added a third-down back with juice when they selected DeAndre Washington. Vadal Alexander adds depth to the offensive line as a road grader with size, strength and power. GRADE: B

3) Denver Broncos

» Round 1: (No. 26 overall) Paxton Lynch, QB.
» Round 2: (63) Adam Gotsis, DT.
» Round 3: (98) Justin Simmons, FS.
» Round 4: (136) Devontae Booker, RB.
» Round 5: (144) Connor McGovern, OG.
» Round 6: (176) Andy Janovich, FB; (219) Will Parks, S.
» Round 7: (228) Riley Dixon, P.

John Elway has done a masterful job of building a perennial contender in Denver since coming on board in 2011, cleverly using the draft and free agency to constantly upgrade the roster. Faced this year with the daunting task of retooling a team while still making a run at a repeat title, Elway made a bold move to nab a franchise quarterback in Round 1. Although most observers believe Paxton Lynch needs at least one season before he can seriously compete for the starting job, the Broncos could view the young gunslinger as a potential Day 1 starter based on his exceptional arm talent and natural fit within the scheme. Devontae Booker, with his knack for finding creases between the tackles, could emerge as a surprise starter in the backfield by the end of training camp.

On defense, Adam Gotsis and Justin Simmons could carve out roles as situational players on a star-studded defense. Simmons, in particular, could thrive as an MOF playmaker behind one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. GRADE: B

4) Kansas City Chiefs

» Round 2: (No. 37 overall) Chris Jones, DT.
» Round 3: (74) KeiVarae Russell, CB.
» Round 4: (105) Parker Ehinger, OG; (106) Eric Murray, CB; (126) Demarcus Robinson, WR.
» Round 5: (162) Kevin Hogan, QB; (165) Tyreek Hill, WR.
» Round 6: (178) D.J. White, CB; (203) Dadi Nicolas, DE.

General manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid take a workmanlike approach to the draft, preferring prospects with prototypical physical dimensions and athletic traits. Chris Jones was a nice addition as a rugged five-technique (defensive tackle) in Round 2. He has big upside, but the coaches will need to rev up his motor to help him maximize his potential. KeiVarae Russell and Eric Murray add depth to the secondary as athletic cover corners with solid instincts. If they can quickly master the playbook, both players could carve out roles as sub-defenders.

On offense, the Chiefs are hoping gambles on Demarcus Robinson and Tyreek Hill on Day 3 reap big rewards. Each pass catcher flashes big-play potential, but both carry character concerns that make them risky selections. GRADE: C+

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the NFC West. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Seattle Seahawks, Round 2, No. 49 overall.

It's hard to find big-bodied defenders with non-stop motors and excellent hand skills in Round 2. Yet, the Seahawks were able to grab the standout interior defender on Day 2 to fill the void created by Brandon Mebane's departure. Reed not only steps into the lineup as a rugged nose tackle on early downs, but he could create bigger "run-through" lanes for linebacker Bobby Wagner by occupying multiple blockers at the point of attack.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
San Francisco 49ers, Round 1, No. 28 overall.

The 49ers shocked the football world when they moved up several spots to grab Garnett at the bottom of Round 1. Although the mauler/brawler was considered one of the top offensive guards in the class, it is hard to quantify the value of a road grader in Chip Kelly's zone-based system. Sure, the 49ers will likely execute some "down and around" schemes in the running game, but Garnett's physical style appears better suited to a power-based system that allows him to mash defenders at the point of attack. Time will tell if the 49ers employ a running scheme that allows him to play up to the lofty expectations that will accompany his arrival as a top pick.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
Los Angeles Rams, Round 4, No. 117 overall.

Cooper is the kind of "catch and run" specialist who shines in a spread offense that gets the ball to playmakers on the move. He flashes exceptional quickness and wiggle in the open field, but he also possesses the strength and power to run through arm tackles in tight quarters. With the Rams poised to incorporate more bubble screens and RPOs designed to make young quarterback Jared Goff comfortable, Cooper could play a big role opposite Tavon Austin in Los Angeles' revamped offense.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) Seattle Seahawks

» Round 1: (No. 31 overall) Germain Ifedi, OG.
» Round 2: (49) Jarran Reed, DT.
» Round 3: (90) C.J. Prosise, RB; (94) Nick Vannett, TE; (97) Rees Odhiambo, OG.
» Round 5: (147) Quinton Jefferson, DT; (171) Alex Collins, RB.
» Round 6: (215) Joey Hunt, C.
» Round 7: (243) Kenny Lawler, WR; (247) Zac Brooks, RB.

The Seahawks have assembled one of the most talented rosters in football through shrewd draft-day moves and superb player development. The team has traditionally knocked it out of the park in the later rounds, but the Seahawks also scored well on their early-round selections in 2016. Germain Ifedi and Rees Odhiambo will anchor a revamped offensive line with their collective size, strength and athleticism. Position coach Tom Cable should quickly whip them into shape and insert the young duo into the lineup. Nick Vannett could make key contributions as a TE3 behind Luke Willson and Jimmy Graham. At running back, the Seahawks grabbed three players (C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks) to fill the void created by Marshawn Lynch's retirement. Prosise and Collins should push Thomas Rawls for playing time as role players in a deep and talented backfield. Keep an eye on receiver Kenny Lawler as a red-zone playmaker with excellent potential. The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder is a terrific jump-ball specialist with outstanding hands and ball skills. And, as documented above, Jarran Reed was an absolute steal in Round 2. GRADE: B

2) Los Angeles Rams

» Round 1: (No. 1 overall) Jared Goff, QB.
» Round 4: (110) Tyler Higbee, TE; (117) Pharoh Cooper, WR.
» Round 6: (177) Temarrick Hemingway, TE; (190) Josh Forrest, ILB; (206) Mike Thomas, WR.

The grade on the Rams' 2016 class will hinge on the performance of Jared Goff as the team's new franchise quarterback. Los Angeles essentially mortgaged the farm to jump up to the top overall spot for the Cal product, so the pressure will be on him to help the Rams become perennial contenders in the NFC. Some observers question whether Goff can transition effectively into a pro quarterback after honing his skills in the "Bear Raid" system, but the pinpoint passer is deadly accurate, and his distribution skills could make the Rams' offense more dangerous with a cast of "catch and run" specialists on the perimeter. To that point, the Rams deserve credit for snagging Tyler Higbee, Temarrick Hemingway, Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas to provide their young passer with athletic weapons to target on quick-rhythm passes. With coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead surrounding Goff with a host of young, athletic playmakers on the perimeter, the top pick could make an immediate impact as a Day 1 starter. GRADE: B-

3) Arizona Cardinals

» Round 1: (No. 29 overall) Robert Nkemdiche, DT.
» Round 3: (92) Brandon Williams, CB.
» Round 4: (128) Evan Boehm, C.
» Round 5: (167) Marqui Christian, SS; (170) Cole Toner, OT.
» Round 6: (205) Harlan Miller, CB.

The Cardinals certainly aren't risk-averse under GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians. The team's ultra-confident leaders have a knack for getting maximum production from enigmatic prospects, which is why the Robert Nkemdiche pick didn't come as a surprise to the scouting community. The freakishly athletic defender flashes a rare combination of size, strength and explosiveness for a 6-3, 294-pounder. Yes, his pedestrian numbers and potential character concerns made him a tough evaluation for some observers, but the Cardinals snagged a Darnell Dockett clone with tremendous upside as an interior disruptor. Brandon Williams is an intriguing prospect as a converted cornerback with limited experience. The former running back possesses the speed and athleticism to run with receivers down the field, but he must refine his fundamentals and footwork to become more effective on underneath coverage. Cornerback Harlan Miller could surprise as a late pick. The Southeastern Louisiana product has the length and aggressive temperament to thrive in the Cardinals' aggressive scheme. GRADE: C+

4) San Francisco 49ers

» Round 1: (No. 7 overall) DeForest Buckner, DE; (28) Joshua Garnett, OG.
» Round 3: (68) Will Redmond, CB.
» Round 4: (133) Rashard Robinson, CB.
» Round 5: (142) Ronald Blair, DE; (145) John Theus, OT; (174) Fahn Cooper, OT.
» Round 6: (207) Jeff Driskel, QB; (211) Kelvin Taylor, RB; (213) Aaron Burbridge, WR.
» Round 7: (249) Prince Charles Iworah, CB.

The Chip Kelly era begins with a host of rookies poised to play pivotal roles on both sides of the ball. DeForest Buckner will join former Oregon teammate Arik Armstead on the front line to give the 49ers a long, rangy set of defenders to build around. Will Redmond and Rashard Robinson will compete for playing time on the perimeter as sub-package corners. Each corner is a bump-and-run specialist with the agility and quickness to challenge shifty receivers at the line. Ronald Blair is a productive pass rusher with a non-stop motor. He could crack the rotation as a situational rusher on passing downs. On offense, the 49ers pulled off a head-scratcher with the selection of Joshua Garnett at the bottom of Round 1, as I mentioned earlier. Yes, he is a powerful run blocker, but the 49ers might've expended more capital than needed in trading up to acquire an interior blocker with a game that doesn't appear to suit the athletic blocking scheme Kelly used in his previous stops. GRADE: C+

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the AFC North. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Cincinnati Bengals, Round 2, No. 55 overall.

The Bengals grabbed an ideal complementary receiver to pair with A.J. Green on the perimeter. Boyd is an exceptional playmaker with strong hands and superb ball skills. Yet, it is his versatility and running skills that could make him a dangerous weapon in the Bengals' dynamic offense. Boyd has a knack for turning short passes into big gains, but he also flashes the toughness and courage to serve as a "chain mover" over the middle of the field. Considering how important the WR2 role is in the Bengals' offense, Boyd's acquisition is a major play for Marvin Lewis' squad.

Cleveland Browns, Round 3, No. 93 overall.

Hue Jackson has a sterling reputation as a quarterback developer, but his latest project has raised eyebrows across the NFL. While Kessler is lauded for his leadership skills and impressive intangibles, there are questions about his ability to make tightrope throws in inclement conditions. Granted, plenty of "dink and dunk" passers (see: Chad Pennington) have succeeded in the NFL, but Kessler must develop into an excellent distributor and anticipation thrower to overcome his arm-strength deficiencies to if he is to be a cold-weather playmaker. Jackson will certainly craft an offense that plays to his strengths, but the USC standout must master the nuances of the position to thrive as a starter.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State
Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 3, No. 89 overall.

The Steelers grabbed one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft with the selection of Hargrave on Day 2. The South Carolina State product is a disruptive force as a pass rusher due to his exceptional first-step quickness and agility. Hargrave has a killer spin move that overwhelms unsuspecting offensive guards, which makes him a dangerous weapon as an interior defender on passing downs. Most importantly, he displays a non-stop motor and relentless spirit that should help him knock down quarterbacks consistently in key situations.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) Cleveland Browns

» Round 1: (No. 15 overall) Corey Coleman, WR.
» Round 2: (32) Emmanuel Ogbah, DE.
» Round 3: (65) Carl Nassib, DE; (76) Shon Coleman, OT; (93) Cody Kessler, QB.
» Round 4: (99) Joe Schobert, OLB; (114) Ricardo Louis, WR; (129) Derrick Kindred, FS; (138) Seth Devalve, TE.
» Round 5: (154) Jordan Payton, WR; (168) Spencer Drango, OG; (172) Rashard Higgins, WR; (173) Trey Caldwell, DB.
» Round 7: (250) Scooby Wright III, ILB.

The Browns' analytical approach has been met with skepticism in league circles, but the philosophy of building through the draft has been the preferred model of the most successful franchises in the NFL. Thus, the team's decision to accumulate and use 14 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft could help return it to prominence in a few years. On offense, the Browns addressed their biggest needs (pass catchers and playmakers) by selecting four wide receivers and a tight end. Corey Coleman will serve as the team's WR1, but Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins will compete for playing time as complementary receivers on the perimeter. The Browns surprised many scouts and observers with the selection of Cody Kessler, as I mentioned earlier. The former USC Trojan lacks an elite arm, but Hue Jackson values his intangibles and winning pedigree. He will have a chance to vie for the QB1 job against long odds. On defense, the Browns doubled down on a pair of pass rushers with a proven track record for getting to the quarterback. Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib are talented rushers with the skills to wreak havoc off the edges. GRADE: B+

2) Baltimore Ravens

» Round 1: (No. 6 overall) Ronnie Stanley, OT.
» Round 2: (42) Kamalei Correa, DE.
» Round 3: (70) Bronson Kaufusi, DE.
» Round 4: (104) Tavon Young, CB; (107) Chris Moore, WR; (130) Alex Lewis, OT; (132) Willie Henry, DT; (134) Kenneth Dixon, RB.
» Round 5: (146) Matt Judon, DE.
» Round 6: (182) Keenan Reynolds, RB; (209) Maurice Canady, CB.

Ozzie Newsome has consistently struck gold on draft day throughout his tenure with the Ravens. The astute evaluator appeared to knock it out of the park again with his 2016 draft haul. Although some critics questioned the selection of Ronnie Stanley with Laremy Tunsil on the board, plenty of teams rated the Notre Dame standout as a better run-blocker, and that could've been the deciding factor in the debate. Kenneth Dixon is a sleeper prospect to watch as a potential RB2 for the Ravens. The shifty playmaker is a talented runner, but his pass-catching skills could make him a star in a retooled offense. On defense, the Ravens grabbed a versatile hybrid edge defender with a non-stop motor in Kamalei Correa. The Boise State star is an athletic rusher with the speed and quickness to create chaos off the edges. Bronson Kaufusi and Matt Judon will join the rotation as complementary run/pass defenders. Tavon Young might be the best nickel corner in the draft. He will upgrade the Ravens' secondary with his instincts, awareness and ball skills on the perimeter. GRADE: B+

3) Cincinnati Bengals

» Round 1: (No. 24 overall) William Jackson III, CB.
» Round 2: (55) Tyler Boyd, WR.
» Round 3: (87) Nick Vigil, ILB.
» Round 4: (122) Andrew Billings, NT.
» Round 5: (161) Christian Westerman, OG.
» Round 6: (199) Cody Core, WR.
» Round 7: (245) Clayton Fejedelem, S.


Draft coverage:

The Bengals have assembled one of the most talented rosters in the NFL by consistently adding blue-chip players to the team on draft day. The trend will certainly continue, with the 2016 class featuring a number of intriguing playmakers on both sides of the ball. On defense, the addition of William Jackson III and Nick Vigil gives the team a pair of future starters in the back seven. Jackson, in particular, is a versatile cover corner with the instincts to create turnovers on the perimeter. Andrew Billings was a steal on Day 3. The powerful nose tackle displays a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism as a run defender. If he plays to his potential, he could be a destructive force in the middle for the Bengals. On offense, the addition of Tyler Boyd gives the team a solid WR2 to place opposite A.J. Green, as I mentioned earlier. The sticky pass catcher shows impressive running skills in the open field, which could make him a dangerous weapon in the Bengals' "catch and run" offense. GRADE: B

4) Pittsburgh Steelers

» Round 1: (No. 25 overall) Artie Burns, CB.
» Round 2: (58) Sean Davis, CB.
» Round 3: (89) Javon Hargrave, DT.
» Round 4: (123) Jerald Hawkins, OT.
» Round 6: (220) Travis Feeney, OLB.
» Round 7: (229) DeMarcus Ayers, WR; (246) Tyler Matakevich, OLB.

Mike Tomlin is intent on retooling the Steelers' defense with athletic defenders who have a strong nose for the ball. The Steelers' draft haul reflects that philosophy, with a number of prospects possessing exceptional instincts, awareness and nasty attitudes. Artie Burns and Sean Davis should immediately upgrade the secondary with their ball-hawking skills. Each player possesses the footwork, athleticism and instincts to thrive in a zone-based system that places a premium on keeping vision on the quarterback. Javon Hargrave is an interior pass rusher with a knack for knocking the quarterback down. He should add some sizzle to the Steelers' pass rush as an inside playmaker. Keep an eye on Tyler Matakevich, a tackling machine with exceptional instincts and awareness. He could make the squad and contribute as a special teams ace. GRADE: B

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the NFC North. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
Minnesota Vikings, Round 1, No. 23 overall.

The Vikings desperately needed a WR1 to help Teddy Bridgewater maximize his potential as a franchise quarterback. Treadwell is a big-bodied pass catcher with strong hands and exceptional ball skills. He will not only thrive in his role as a "chain mover," but he will help the Vikings score more points as the team's designated red-zone weapon.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Detroit Lions, Round 2, No. 46 overall.

Hailed as a possible top-20 pick for most of the pre-draft process, the mammoth Alabama standout slid out of Round 1 and into the Lions' laps on Day 2. Robinson is a dynamic run-stuffer with outstanding strength and power. He will occupy multiple blockers at the point of attack and allow the Lions' linebackers to flow freely to the ball between the tackles. Considering his potential value and impact, it is quite a surprise that he was available in the middle of Round 2.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Trevor Davis, WR, Cal
Green Bay Packers, Round 5, No. 163 overall.

Jordy Nelson's absence in 2015 exposed the Packers' lack of speed and explosiveness on the perimeter; the receiving corps couldn't produce big plays when opponents utilized press coverage. Davis' addition could be a game-changer. The Cal product is a speedster with the burst and acceleration to blow past defenders on vertical routes. With Aaron Rodgers looking to add the deep ball back into the mix in 2016, Davis' emergence as a big-play threat could help get this squad back on track after Green Bay finished out of first in the division for the first time since 2010.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) Minnesota Vikings

» Round 1: (No. 23 overall) Laquon Treadwell, WR.
» Round 2: (54) Mackensie Alexander, CB.
» Round 4: (121) Willie Beavers, OT.
» Round 5: (160) Kentrell Brothers, OLB.
» Round 6: (180) Moritz Boehringer, WR; (188) David Morgan, TE.
» Round 7: (227) Stephen Weatherly, OLB; (244) Jayron Kearse, S.

The Vikings have crushed it on draft weekend the past few seasons, which is why the "Purple People Eaters" are considered legitimate heavyweight contenders in the NFC. Mike Zimmer's defense, in particular, has carried the team to title contention behind a young, athletic crew that is as fast as any unit in football. The defense will continue to pose problems for opponents with cornerback Mackensie Alexander joining former first-rounders Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes to create a formidable trio on the perimeter. He will need to master the nuances of the position (footwork, transitions and ball skills) to make a contribution as a rookie, but the Vikings can patiently wait for him to develop on the practice field. Kentrell Brothers and Stephen Weatherly will vie for playing time as backup/special teams players. On offense, the addition of Laquon Treadwell gives the Vikings a legitimate WR1 to target in critical situations. International sensation Moritz Boehringer is a height-weight-speed athlete with the potential to grow into a role as a WR4. He will need some time to develop, but the upside and potential certainly make it worth the wait. GRADE: B+

2) Green Bay Packers

» Round 1: (No. 27 overall) Kenny Clark, DT.
» Round 2: (48) Jason Spriggs, T.
» Round 3: (88) Kyler Fackrell, LB.
» Round 4: (131) Blake Martinez, LB; (137) Dean Lowry, DE.
» Round 5: (163) Trevor Davis, WR.
» Round 6: (200) Kyle Murphy, T.

General manager Ted Thompson's conservative draft approach rarely generates splashy headlines, but the Packers' consistent presence as playoff contenders is the result of the team's "draft and develop" philosophy. Their 2016 class includes a few picks who should grow into core players in time. Kenny Clark is a versatile interior defender with the athleticism, agility and movement skills to create penetration at the point of attack. In addition, he displays the strength and power to hold his ground against double-teams, which creates run-through lanes for the Packers' linebackers. Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell are intriguing talents capable of cracking the starting lineup by the end of the season. Martinez, in particular, is a tackling machine with a strong nose for the ball. On offense, the Packers added a pair of tackles (Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy) who will fortify the depth along the front line. Spriggs could be groomed to take over for Bryan Bulaga on the right side. Trevor Davis could be the sleeper to watch as a big-play threat with speed to burn. GRADE: B

3) Detroit Lions

» Round 1: (No. 16 overall) Taylor Decker, OT.
» Round 2: (46) A'Shawn Robinson, DT.
» Round 3: (95) Graham Glasgow, C.
» Round 4: (111) Miles Killebrew, SS.
» Round 5: (151) Joe Dahl, OG; (169) Antwione Williams, LB.
» Round 6: (191) Jake Rudock, QB; (202) Anthony Zettel, DT; (210) Jimmy Landes, LS.
» Round 7: (236) Dwayne Washington, RB.

The Lions wanted to reinforce the depth on both front lines, and they expended top draft choices to do so. On the offensive side of the ball, the approach is designed to protect the franchise's biggest investment (quarterback Matthew Stafford) and give the team the flexibility to morph into a rugged group down the stretch. Taylor Decker certainly adds athleticism, toughness and versatility to the front line. He can line up at left or right tackle as a rookie, solidifying the edges in a division that features a number of dynamic pass rushers. Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl give the team a pair of interior blockers with the size and strength to move bodies off the ball. The duo should help the Lions find better running lanes between the tackles. On defense, the addition of A'Shawn Robinson fills a void created by the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley a few years ago. The big-bodied run-stuffer not only occupies space at the point of attack, but his disruptive presence should allow the Lions' linebackers to flow freely to the ball. Keep an eye on Miles Killebrew as the designated enforcer in the middle. The Southern Utah standout is a big hitter with a knack for separating receivers from the ball with bang-bang hits. GRADE: B

4) Chicago Bears


Draft coverage:

» Round 1: (No. 9 overall) Leonard Floyd, OLB.
» Round 2: (56) Cody Whitehair, OG.
» Round 3: (72) Jonathan Bullard, DT.
» Round 4: (113) Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB; (124) Deon Bush, S; (127) Deiondre' Hall, CB.
» Round 5: (150) Jordan Howard, RB.
» Round 6: (185) DeAndre Houston-Carson, FS.
» Round 7: (230) Daniel Braverman, WR.

John Fox is intent on building a physical team that dominates the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Thus, Chicago invested heavily on the front line, with Leonard Floyd and Jonathan Bullard adding athleticism and playmaking ability to the front seven. Floyd doesn't offer great size, but his pass-rush skills could help the Bears slow down the high-flying aerial attacks that dominate the NFC. To bolster the secondary, the Bears added three playmakers (Deon Bush, Deiondre' Hall and DeAndre Houston) with the size and athleticism to make plays on the ball. If the pass-rush addition can quicken the clock in the quarterback's head, the trio could help the secondary feast on tips and overthrows down the field. On offense, Cody Whitehair fills a huge hole along the offensive line at guard. The Kansas State standout should be a Day 1 starter, with rock-solid technique and a nasty demeanor helping him thrive at the point of attack. Daniel Braverman could carve out a role as a slippery slot receiver in spread sets. GRADE: B-

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the AFC South. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Jacksonville Jaguars, Round 1, No. 5 overall.

The Jaguars not only snagged the best football player in the 2016 draft, but they selected a world-class athlete with a perfect set of skills to thrive in the team's hybrid Cover 3 (press-man) scheme. Ramsey is an explosive playmaker with exceptional length, speed and leaping ability, which makes him an ideal bump-and-run corner at the NFL level. If the former Seminole can quickly master the Jaguars' "kick-step" technique on the perimeter, he could swiftly emerge as the team's CB1 and help the defense rise to prominence in the AFC.

Indianapolis Colts, Round 2, No. 57 overall.

It's hard to fault a defensive coach for falling in love with a 6-foot-2, 209-pound athlete with 4.3 speed and fluid movement skills. While it was surprising to see Green come off the board before some more experienced players at the position, he has the potential to develop into an "eraser" (designated defender capable of matching up with a WR2 or TE1, based on game plan) for the Colts. If he can grasp the footwork, fundamentals and technical skills of the position, Green has the natural ability to outplay his initial rep as a height-weight-speed athlete.


Draft coverage:

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Houston Texans, Round 3, No. 85 overall.

The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year -- as a quarterback -- is unquestionably one of the most electrifying playmakers in the 2016 class. But questions surrounding his transition to wide receiver led to a surprising fall down the charts despite his immense talent and potential as an offensive weapon. Miller will give Bill O'Brien a versatile playmaker to deploy in the slot like Julian Edelman, while also adding more speed and quickness to the lineup. Considering his big-play potential in an offense that features one of the NFL's top WR1s (DeAndre Hopkins) and an electric runner (Lamar Miller), the Ohio State product's output and performance could exceed expectations for a mid-round pick.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) Houston Texans

» Round 1: (No. 21 overall) Will Fuller, WR.
» Round 2: (50) Nick Martin, OG.
» Round 3: (85) Braxton Miller, WR.
» Round 4: (119) Tyler Ervin, RB.
» Round 5: (159) K.J. Dillon, S; (166) D.J. Reader, NT.

Hats off to Rick Smith and Bill O'Brien for supplying their new franchise quarterback (free-agent addition Brock Osweiler) with enough weapons for him to succeed as a playmaker. The Texans upgraded their speed and big-play potential on the perimeter with the additions of Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. Each pass catcher displays the burst and acceleration to run past defenders on vertical routes, yet both are also crafty catch-and-run specialists capable of turning short passes into big gains. Tyler Ervin gives the team another explosive weapon out of the backfield and adds some sizzle to the return game. On defense, the Texans picked up a pair of intriguing prospects (K.J. Dillon and D.J. Reader) with the potential to carve out roles as rotational players. GRADE: A+

2) Jacksonville Jaguars

» Round 1: (No. 5 overall) Jalen Ramsey, DB.
» Round 2: (36) Myles Jack, OLB.
» Round 3: (69) Yannick Ngakoue, DE.
» Round 4: (103) Sheldon Day, DT.
» Round 6: (181) Tyrone Holmes, OLB; (201) Brandon Allen, QB.
» Round 7: (226) Jonathan Woodard, DE.

The Jaguars are committed to building a defense capable of complementing an electric offense that boasts the firepower to lead a playoff run. Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell used the 2016 offseason to add some talented veteran free agents, but the team needed to acquire blue-chip prospects in the draft to spearhead a quick turnaround. Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack are top-five talents with the athleticism, speed and playmaking ability to make splash plays all over the field. While Jack is a bit of question mark due to his knee injury, he is an absolute beast when healthy and could give the Jaguars the spark they need on the second level. The team also added a trio of front-line defenders (Yannick Ngakoue, Sheldon Day and Jonathan Woodard) to beef up the pass-rush rotation. Day stands out in particular, as a high-motor rusher capable of providing a push from an inside or outside position. He could be one of the draft's biggest steals when we look back in a few years. GRADE: A+

3) Tennessee Titans

» Round 1: (No. 8 overall) Jack Conklin, OT.
» Round 2: (33) Kevin Dodd, DE; (43) Austin Johnson, NT; (45) Derrick Henry, RB.
» Round 3: (64) Kevin Byard, S.
» Round 5: (140) Tajae Sharpe, WR; (157) LeShaun Sims, CB.
» Round 6: (193) Sebastian Tretola, OG.
» Round 7: (222) Aaron Wallace, OLB; (253) Kalan Reed, CB.

Jon Robinson is on the verge of quickly transforming the Titans into a playoff contender with his shrewd offseason moves. He continued his rebuilding efforts with a strong draft class that features a number of "hard hat and lunch pail" guys with the blue-collar mentality needed to turn around the program. Jack Conklin is a natural fit at right tackle, but the decision to bypass Laremy Tunsil raised eyebrows in some circles, based on the discrepancy in athleticism and talent. However, the plug-and-play scenario with Conklin and Taylor Lewan on the edges might be the better move because it minimizes the transition along the line. Derrick Henry gives the Titans an Eddie George-like runner to pair with DeMarco Murray in the backfield. The 1-2 punch should help the Titans play keep-away from opponents behind an "exotic smashmouth" approach. On defense, the Titans added talented playmakers on all three levels. Kevin Dodd, Austin Johnson and Aaron Wallace will provide Dick LeBeau with some ammunition up front to attack opponents with fire zones. Kevin Byard and LeShaun Sims are intriguing players with high football IQs and strong ball skills. In an aggressive system that forces the ball to come out hot, each player could snag interceptions on tips and overthrows. GRADE: A-

4) Indianapolis Colts

» Round 1: (No. 18 overall) Ryan Kelly, C.
» Round 2: (57) T.J. Green, DB.
» Round 3: (82) Le'Raven Clark, OT.
» Round 4: (116) Hassan Ridgeway, DT; (125) Antonio Morrison, ILB.
» Round 5: (155) Joe Haeg, OT.
» Round 7: (239) Trevor Bates, LB; (248) Austin Blythe, C.

After losing the franchise quarterback to an injury behind a battered O-line, the Colts made a strong commitment to upgrade the offensive front on draft weekend. The team expended four of its eight picks on offensive linemen, including a first-round selection on Ryan Kelly to shore up the pivot position. The Alabama product is an excellent communicator with solid technical skills and a nasty temperament. He could team with Le'Raven Clark and Joe Haeg to add some toughness to the front line. On defense, the Colts took a flier on T.J. Green in Round 2 to give the secondary a possible "eraser" to use against slot receivers and tight ends. Although skeptics question whether Green is worth an early-round pick as a developmental prospect, the move offers potential to hit a home run on an explosive athlete with tremendous upside. GRADE: B-

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the NFC South. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
New Orleans Saints, Round 1, No. 12 overall.

It's uncommon for a team sitting outside of the top 10 to address its biggest need with the best prospect at the position, but that's just what the Saints did with Rankins. The former Louisville star is an explosive rusher with outstanding first-step quickness and hand skills, which makes him nearly impossible to block in tight quarters. Most importantly, Rankins is a high-motor player with a relentless spirit that overwhelms opponents at the line. The Saints had significant defensive woes in 2015 (New Orleans ranked 31st in total D and dead last in points allowed), but Rankins' arrival should help the unit get back on track.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Round 2, No. 59 overall.

The kicking game is frequently touted as a vital phase, but few teams are willing to commit top picks to the unit, let alone trade up to do so. Aguayo is a "knockdown" kicker with impeccable accuracy on PATs and short kicks (40 yards or less). He'll provides the Buccaneers with guaranteed points following touchdowns and virtually assures points when the offense reaches the red zone. Although Aguayo isn't necessarily money on intermediate kicks (he has a 72 percent conversion rate on kicks of 40-49 yards), he displays the leg strength and technical skills to improve his accuracy as a pro. The Florida State standout will also upgrade the kickoff unit with pinpoint placement on "sky" kicks (high pooch kicks directed at the corner of the field) to help the kickoff coverage team corral returners inside the 20-yard line.

Atlanta Falcons, Round 2, No. 52 overall.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is all about speed, speed and more speed on defense. He believes a collection of players pursuing the ball at a breakneck pace will not only corral free-runner backs and wide receivers on the perimeter, but also produce turnovers when multiple defenders get a hat on the ball. Based on that premise alone, Jones should quickly emerge as a star. The LSU product could be a hybrid player (linebacker/safety) in Atlanta's lineup.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1) Carolina Panthers

» Round 1: (No. 30 overall) Vernon Butler, DT.
» Round 2: (62) James Bradberry, CB.
» Round 3: (77) Daryl Worley, CB.
» Round 5: (141) Zack Sanchez, CB.
» Round 7: (252) Beau Sandland, TE.

General manager Dave Gettleman believes in developing through the draft, and he has stuck to his guns when the team has lost key players. It shouldn't surprise observers that the Panthers used three draft picks on cover corners to fill the void created by Josh Norman's departure. The team snagged James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez to vie for playing time in base and sub-packages. Each member of the trio possesses the size, athleticism and ball skills to thrive in the Panthers' zone-based system. Most importantly, they are high-football-IQ guys with the necessary instincts to play in a scheme that emphasizes pattern-reading and quarterback-clueing. Carolina also fortified the defensive-line depth behind Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with the selection of Vernon Butler in Round 1. The Louisiana Tech standout serves as insurance for a potential free-agent defection down the road. Keep an eye on Beau Sandland as a complement to veteran tight end Greg Olsen in the team's "12" personnel packages. GRADE: B+

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

» Round 1: (No. 11 overall) Vernon Hargreaves, CB.
» Round 2: (39) Noah Spence, DE; (59) Roberto Aguayo, K.
» Round 4: (108) Ryan Smith, CB.
» Round 5: (148) Caleb Benenoch, OT.
» Round 6: (183) Devante Bond, OLB; (197) Dan Vitale, FB.

Despite beginning the head-coaching tenure of former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the Buccaneers concentrated their draft-day efforts on upgrading the defensive side of the ball. The team grabbed a couple of dynamic cover corners in Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith. Both guys should contribute in sub-packages, but Hargreaves could crack the starting lineup by the end of training camp, after he's mastered the Buccaneers' scheme. Noah Spence could give the defense the edge rusher it has desperately needed. The Eastern Kentucky/Ohio State product has quick hands and natural rush skills off the corner. If he can stay focused off the field, he could develop into a sack artist early in his career. The second-round selection of kicker Roberto Aguayo was met with skepticism, but the Florida State standout is deadly accurate on PATs and field-goal attempts from close range. While his accuracy on intermediate kicks is suspect, he should be a solid pro based on his superb mechanics and leg strength. GRADE: B+

3) Atlanta Falcons


Draft coverage:

» Round 1: (No. 17 overall) Keanu Neal, SS.
» Round 2: (52) Deion Jones, OLB.
» Round 3: (81) Austin Hooper, TE.
» Round 4: (115) De'Vondre Campbell, OLB.
» Round 6: (195) Wes Schweitzer, OG.
» Round 7: (238) Devin Fuller, WR.

The Falcons are committed to upgrading the defense in Dan Quinn's second season. The team added a few veterans during the offseason, but the draft-day haul should bring more speed, quickness and playmaking ability to the second level. Florida's Keanu Neal and LSU's Deion Jones will act as sideline-to-sideline chasers from their box-area spots. Neal, in particular, gives the Falcons a Kam Chancellor-like presence between the hashes to discourage receivers from venturing over the middle. De'Vondre Campbell is a speedster with intriguing skills to develop. He could be a star special teams player early on. On offense, the Falcons added an electric playmaker at tight end in Austin Hooper. He has the ability to sneak past linebackers down the seams, but he also excels at posting up defenders down the red zone. Wes Schweitzer will compete for a backup spot as a road grader at the point of attack. He brings much-needed toughness and physicality to the unit. GRADE: B

4) New Orleans Saints

» Round 1: (No. 12 overall) Sheldon Rankins, DT.
» Round 2: (47) Michael Thomas, WR; (61) Vonn Bell, FS.
» Round 4: (120) David Onyemata, DT.
» Round 7: (237) Daniel Lasco, RB.

Sean Payton is looking to quickly rebuild the Saints by adding a few blue-chip players to the roster from the draft. Sheldon Rankins and Vonn Bell should be immediate difference makers as rookie starters on defense. Rankins is a disruptive interior rusher with active hands and slick moves. He overwhelms opponents with his overall athleticism, which is why he is nearly impossible to slow down in long-yardage situations. Bell is an instinctive centerfielder with outstanding range and communication skills. On offense, Michael Thomas gives the Saints a polished pass catcher to work into the rotation. He is a precise route runner with strong hands and superb ball skills. Thomas should thrive on the perimeter with Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead commanding attention. GRADE: B



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