Login

Rang: Grading the AFC

By Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Give first-year general manager Brandon Beane credit for his aggression, boldly trading up twice for quarterback Josh Allen who best fit his team and town, as well as a budding superstar in linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Each boast exciting upside, having arguably the highest ceiling of any player at their respective positions in this year's draft. There is some bust factor with each of them, however, given Allen's well-documented 56.2 percent career completion percentage and the fact that Edmunds - just 19 years old - is still growing into his body and remains an unfinished product. Quite the opposite, Stanford's Harrison Phillips is as pro-ready as it gets but lacks the athletic upside that earned fellow interior defensive linemen earlier selections. The Kyle Williams clone will outplay his 96th overall selection. Day 3 picks Taron Johnson and Wyatt Teller have the tenacity and talent to stick.

Grade: C-plus

Miami Dolphins

No team filled a bigger hole with better value than the Dolphins with the selection of Alabama star Minkah Fitzpatrick, the most versatile and dependable defensive back in this draft. After working with Nick Saban at LSU and Michigan State, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase knew better than most how important Fitzpatrick was to Alabama's success the past three seasons. After struggling to defend seam threats for years, the Dolphins found a dynamic threat of their own in the second round in Penn State's Mike Gesicki, whose remarkable combination of size, speed and body control will make him a legitimate matchup nightmare and fantasy football relevant red-zone weapon early in his career. Speedy outside linebacker Jerome Baker should help Fitzpatrick eliminate Miami's defensive liabilities. Of Miami's Day-3 selections, Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage offers the most upside, projecting as the power back to complement the speed already on the roster at the position.

Grade: B-plus

New England Patriots

With Tom Brady teasing retirement, it was clear the Patriots viewed this draft with a win-now mentality, investing early picks in immediate impact prospects and setting themselves up for a splashy 2019 with several trade downs. Fans sometimes forget the human element that comes into play when drafting players, who sometimes struggle to acclimate to new environments. That is why from both a schematic and personality standpoint, the Patriots' selection of former Georgia teammates Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel make perfect sense. Wynn was among this year's top pass blockers and Michel - besides being an elusive runner - is also a reliable receiver and pass protector. Expect each to contribute big time as rookies, which is saying something on a team as loaded with veterans as New England. Versatile Florida cornerback Duke Dawson is the quintessential Bill Belichick player, showing the instincts and playmaking chops to earn immediate playing time. Of New England's Day-3 picks, Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam's production and collision power stand out.

Grade: B

New York Jets

Rejoice, long-suffering Jets fans, your franchise quarterback is now on the roster in the form of USC's Sam Darnold, whose physical talent is matched by his intangibles. Few of the quarterbacks in this draft have the mettle to handle the bright lights and expectations of Broadway but Darnold does. Ideally, the 20-year-old Darnold would have time to master the Jets' playbook before being thrown into the fire but he is more gifted than any of the veterans on New York's roster and could push for playing time sooner than some think. Given his journey as a virtual unknown from Canada and tiny Fort Hays State, Nathan Shepherd is the polar opposite of Darnold in many ways but the raw power he showed during Senior Bowl practices projects very well to Todd Bowles' scheme. Of New York's Day-3 picks, I'm most intrigued by the dual tight ends Chris Herndon and Tyler Conklin, who are similarly gifted intermediate targets with reliable hands.

Grade: B

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

It is hard to imagine a more fitting final first round for retiring general manager Ozzie Newsome than the one he and the Ravens pulled off Thursday, nabbing the Hall of Famer's favorite prospect at his former position -- tight end Hayden Hurst (after a trade down). Newsome then jumped back up to secure the future at quarterback with the draft's most dynamic athlete in Lamar Jackson. Each player is a terrific fit in head coach John Harbaugh's system, who features the tight end and is the patient, player-friendly coach that can aid in Jackson's development. The Ravens doubled down at tight end with Oklahoma's Mark Andrews, the reigning Mackey Award winner, who offers similar size, mobility and soft hands as Hurst, showing that Baltimore's tight-end-heavy looks are likely to continue. It didn't get the same national attention as the Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin reunion in Seattle but in drafting Orlando Brown Jr. (whose late father played for Baltimore and Cleveland), Newsome simultaneously addressed one of its biggest needs with a public relations home run. The Ravens are not likely to see much immediate impact from its Day-3 prospects but New Mexico State wideout Jaleel Scott, in particular, offers intriguing upside.

Grade: B

Cleveland Browns

It takes bold moves to turn around a franchise with the losing streak Cleveland has endured and that is precisely what general manager John Dorsey and his staff provided, nabbing lightning rod quarterback Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall and then this draft's premier cover corner, Denzel Ward at No. 4. Neither measures big in size, but as playmakers they are both huge. Nevada tough guy Austin Corbett was asked to slide inside to guard at the Senior Bowl but he starred at left tackle for the Wolfpack (like Joel Bitonio) and might get a chance to stay outside in Cleveland. Regardless of his ultimate position, Corbett has the build and makeup of a longtime NFL starter, as does Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who may very well push free-agent addition Carlos Hyde aside as the Browns' featured back. A very good draft could prove great if Miami defensive end Chad Thomas and Florida receiver Antonio Callaway can focus on football. Callaway reminds me a lot of Tyreek Hill, who overcame off-field issues to emerge as one of the most dangerous all-purpose players in the NFL for the Chiefs after Dorsey selected him in the fifth round two years ago.

Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals addressed the biggest hole on the roster Thursday, literally and figuratively, with the selection of Ohio State center Billy Price. Whether the Bengals actually preferred Arkansas' Frank Ragnow (who went one pick earlier to Detroit) matters little as Price is a rock-solid first-round talent who only slipped on some boards due to the partially torn pectoral suffered at the Combine that is not expected to keep him from playing this season. The Bengals nabbed instinctive, productive players in safety Jessie Bates III (Wake Forest) and Sam Hubbard (Ohio State) before gambling on the ridiculously gifted Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson and arguably the best special teams defender in the draft in Clemson linebacker Dorian O'Daniel. With recent early picks Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard on the roster, the selection of Miami running back Mark Walton was a bit of a head-scratcher but he is an instinctive, elusive runner who will impress if given the opportunity. Like Jefferson, fifth-round pick Andrew Brown (Virginia) has the raw traits to prove more effective in the NFL than he was in college, exactly the type of project Mike Brown and the Bengals have shown a willingness to gamble on in the past.

Grade: C-plus

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers value size and physicality at safety more than most and they certainly found those qualities in Virginia Tech's Terrell Edmunds, who was overshadowed by his younger brother with the Hokies but was viewed as a Kam Chancellor (another former V-Tech star) clone by scouts. It is possible that he would be available early in Round Two but probably not at Pittsburgh's next selection, No. 60. The family theme carried through with Pittsburgh's next two selections with Oklahoma State's dynamic duo of wide receiver James Washington and quarterback Mason Rudolph, who jointly announced a year ago their plans to return for their senior seasons and collectively dominated the Big 12 throughout their respective careers. Few clubs have shown a better track record with receivers outside of the first round than Pittsburgh and Washington - one of the best deep-ball receivers in this class - fits the mold of previous stars. His squareish body gives him more of a running back-like frame than receiver. A lack of elite velocity pushed him down the board but Rudolph has a Ben Roethlisberger-like frame, touch and trajectory to fit into Pittsburgh's downfield attacking offense. Like Washington, perception differs from reality with the Steelers' selection of do-everything back Jaylen Samuels, who didn't run well during workouts but might just possess the softest hands and route-running savvy of any back in this draft.

Grade: B

AFC South

Houston Texans

Due to the Deshaun Watson trade a year ago, the Texans did not have a first- or second-round pick but that did not stop general manager Brian Gaine from adding a couple of potential early contributors in Stanford safety Justin Reid and Mississippi State tackle Martinas Rankin, each of whom had earned some buzz as potential top-50 selections. The Texans are hoping a pair of Jordans can "just do it" at tight end, investing a third-round selection in UCF's Jordan Atkins and doubling up with the equally intriguing Jordan Thomas from Mississippi in the sixth. Texas Tech speedster Keke Coutee is a potentially dynamic slot target. Watch out for underrated edge rushers Duke Ejiofor (Wake Forest) and Peter Kalambayi (Stanford) to surprise as developmental projects behind superstars J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Grade: B-minus

Indianapolis Colts

General manager Chris Ballard gave quarterback Andrew Luck quite the gift Thursday night with consensus top-rated blocker Quenton Nelson at No. 6 overall and another pro-ready tough guy in Braden Smith 31 picks later. Ballard and the Colts corralled potential impact defenders throughout Day 2, nabbing FCS (and Senior Bowl) star Darius Leonard from South Carolina State, as well as Rutgers' Kemoko Turay and Ohio State's Tyquan Lewis. Leonard did it all at SCSU, showing the instincts and range to project as a three-down standout in the NFL if he can develop a little more take-on strength. I'm just as intrigued by the quick first step and bend of Turay, a first-round talent available at No. 52 overall because of durability issues. The Colts' backfield got a lot faster with the addition of speedy running back Nyheim Hines. Sixth-round pick Deon Cain could prove a steal if he commits to his craft.

Grade: B

Jacksonville Jaguars

All due respect to flashy running back Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville made it to the AFC Championship Game last season on the strength of their defense and that mentality showed again Thursday with the selection of twitchy three-technique defensive tackle Taven Bryan, who has time to learn alongside Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and the rest of the Jaguars' fearsome front. Fournette could find running lanes that much easier to find with explosive vertical threat D.J. Chark operating outside. Accustomed to blocking as often as catching the ball after playing with Fournette at run-heavy LSU, Chark is a particularly good fit for this offense. An already physical defense got that much more intimidating with heavy-hitting strong safety Ronnie Harrison in the third round. Will Richardson possesses the size and physical nature to out-perform his fourth-round selection, ranking as Jacksonville's most intriguing Day-3 pick.

Grade: B-plus

Tennessee Titans

Put simply, no team did more with less than Tennessee which is why I'm giving them a solid grade despite using only four selections. The Titans haven't necessarily been flashy while drafting under general manager Jon Robinson but one of the tougher, more physical teams in the AFC got even more so Thursday with the addition of blue-collar (and still ascending) linebacker Rashaan Evans, who fills a key need with the ability to drop, rush and, of course, be the enforcer against the run you would expect from a linebacker from Alabama. Edge rusher Harold Landry slid due to concerns that he will struggle to duplicate his college production against the longer, stronger tackles he will face in the NFL but his burst and bend off the edge are exciting. Similarly, Dane Cruikshank comes with questions about his ultimate NFL position, but he possesses the physicality to make the switch to safety and eased concerns about his athleticism in workouts. Finally, after a slip to the sixth round, the Titans could prove an ideal landing spot for Washington State quarterback Luke Falk. While he lacks ideal arm strength, Falk throws with terrific accuracy and anticipation - traits that can take advantage of the one-on-one matchups that come with defenses focusing on Tennessee's powerful running game. Furthermore, with the injury-prone Marcus Mariota and journeyman Blaine Gabbert ahead of him, Falk has a good chance to make the roster as the 199th overall pick.

Grade: B

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Most of the pre-draft buzz for Denver revolved around the quarterbacks and so therefore some will knock the Broncos' draft due to the fact that the club did not invest a selection in the position. Few can boast a more impressive class overall, however, starting with superstar edge rusher Bradley Chubb, who was unexpectedly available at No. 5 overall. Pairing Chubb with Von Miller, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett gives Denver as fast and physical a group of edge rushers for next season as there is in the league. It also gives the franchise flexibility with Miller turning 30 next year and due a massive raise. Wideouts Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are two of the more polished pass-catchers in this draft, which had better put the veterans already on the roster on alert. Similarly, running back Royce Freeman is a bigger, faster version of former Broncos' back C.J. Anderson and has starting caliber talent. The Broncos found intriguing length at cornerback in Isaac Yiadom, another reliable pass-catcher in tight end Troy Fumagalli and one of the draft's most instinctive linebackers in Josey Jewell, among others.

Grade: A

Kansas City Chiefs

After sitting out the first round due to the trade last year for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs were on the warpath on Day 2 and 3, dedicating all five of their selections to defense. Breeland Speaks played defensive line at Mississippi but his agility allows Kansas City to move him wherever they like, including at outside linebacker. Derrick Nnadi is a shorter, stouter defender with the power to plug running lanes with the quickness and unrelenting style to contribute as a pass rusher. Of Kansas City's Day-3 selections, Kahlil McKenzie Jr. - the son of Raiders general manager Reggie - possesses the ability to outplay his No. 198 overall selection, projecting as a five-technique defensive end.

Grade: C

Los Angeles Chargers

For years the AFC West was known for its offense rather than defense but much like Denver and Kansas City, the Chargers focused more on lighting up opponents in this draft than the scoreboard, dedicating early picks on sliding Florida State safety Derwin James and Southern Cal edge defender Uchenna Nwosu. Each are moveable chess pieces tasked with improving a run defense that allowed an NFL-worst 4.9 yards per carry a year ago, as should defensive tackle Justin Jones and West Virginia's Kyzir White. Melvin Gordon is obviously the Chargers' lead back but don't be surprised if slippery seventh-round runner Justin Jackson provides some juice as a change-of-pace option.

Grade: B

Oakland Raiders

Full disclosure, I personally ranked the Raiders' first pick - UCLA tackle Kolton Miller - as the 62nd best player in this draft so I see this pick through that perspective. That said, many scouts were considerably higher on him than I was. The Raiders' selection of him at No. 15 overall (especially after a trade down) will not be perceived as a reach by most. Clearly, he fits a need. One consideration is the age, cost and future of left tackle Donald Penn, who turned 35 Friday. But the overriding concern here is that franchise quarterback Derek Carr is coming off an injury. The Raiders need to re-establish the running game and Miller's size and elite athleticism are perfect fits in offensive line coach Tom Cable's scheme. Unless there are significant improvements to Miller's technique, however, I believe he will struggle to handle the awesome pass rushers he will face in the AFC West, including during practices. Frankly, I liked Oakland's Day 2 and 3 picks more. North Carolina A&T's Brandon Parker dominated the lower levels and impressed at the Senior Bowl. Arden Key is as dangerous off the edge as he is unreliable off the field, which is why the top-20 talent slipped to No. 87 overall. Head coach Jon Gruden could be laughing all the way to the playoffs if Key, interior rusher Maurice Hurst Jr. and linebacker Azeem Victor remain on the roster long enough to make it to their second contracts.

Grade: B-minus