The NFL draft has become its own three-day holiday, filled with the dreams of 254 men coming true and the re-sparking of interest in the United States' new national past time (sorry baseball).
But by the time Mr. Irrelevant is crowned, just about everyone is excited to get the heck out of Radio City Music Hall. For all of its excitement, the draft boils down to little more than hours upon hours of a man at a podium and five others telling us what to think about what the man in the podium just said. It's truly a wonder that dysentery doesn't set in after a while.
That being said, those hours upon hours always feel worth it—even for the most casual fans. These seven rounds are meant as an initial introduction, a proverbial shaking of the hands with someone who will hopefully become a part of your regular Sunday viewing for the next decade. You're hoping he becomes the next Mad Men, not the next Do No Harm.
For some teams, those future stars were found at Radio City Music Hall. For others, well, fans better hope their team's veterans step up to the plate. And while it's always dangerous (read: a little silly) to evaluate these three days before anyone even sets foot on the field, the concept of need and value are tangible.
We can look at a team's roster and theoretically evaluate how those players drafted this week will fit—even if it's only an educated guess.
With that in mind, here is a team-by-team report card, where we'll highlight each team's best and worst selections.
|Team||Best Selection||Worst Selection||Grade|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Nico Johnson (LB, Alabama)||Knile Davis (RB, Arkansas)||B-|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Jonathan Cyprien (S, Florida International)||Denard Robinson (WR/RB, Michigan)||B|
|Oakland Raiders||Menelik Watson (OT, Florida State)||Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)||B-|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)||Earl Wolff (S, N.C. State)||B+|
|Detroit Lions||Larry Warford (G, Kentucky)||Sam Martin (P, Appalachian State)||B-|
|Cleveland Browns||Leon McFadden (CB, San Diego State)||Jamoris Slaughter (S, Notre Dame)||B-|
|Arizona Cardinals||Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)||Andre Ellington (RB, Clemson)||A-|
|Buffalo Bills||Robert Woods (WR, USC)||EJ Manuel (QB, Florida State)||C-|
|New York Jets||Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)||Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)||A-|
|Tennessee Titans||Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)||Zaviar Goodness||A-|
|San Diego Chargers||Keenan Allen (WR, California)||D.J. Fluker (OT, Alabama)||B+|
|Miami Dolphins||Jamar Taylor (CB, Boise State)||Dion Sims (TE, Michigan State)||B-|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois)||Mike Glennon (QB, N.C. State)||C+|
|Carolina Panthers||Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)||Kwann Short (DT, Purdue)||C+|
|New Orleans Saints||Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)||Kenny Stills (WR, Oklahoma)||A-|
|St. Louis Rams||Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)||Brandon McGee (CB, Miami)||A|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Shamarko Thomas (S, Syracuse)||Le'Veon Bell (RB, Michigan State)||B-|
|Dallas Cowboys||Joseph Randle (RB, Oklahoma State)||Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin)||D|
|New York Giants||Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)||Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)||B|
|Chicago Bears||Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)||Jon Bostic (LB, Florida)||B-|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Giovani Bernard (RB, North Carolina)||Rex Burkhead (RB, Nebraska)||B+|
|Washington Redskins||Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State)||Jordan Reed (TE, Florida)||C|
|Minnesota Vikings||Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)||Jeff Locke (P, UCLA)||A-|
|Indianapolis Colts||Hugh Thornton (G, Illinois)||Montori Hughes (DT, Tennessee-Martin)||B-|
|Seattle Seahawks||Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)||Christine Michael (RB, Texas A&M)||B|
|Green Bay Packers||Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)||J.C. Tretter (C, Cornell)||A-|
|Houston Texans||D.J. Swearinger (S, South Carolina)||Brennan Williams (OT, North Carolina)||B-|
|Denver Broncos||Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)||Kayvon Webster (CB, South Florida)||C+|
|New England Patriots||Aaron Dobson (WR, Marshall)||Duron Harmon (S, Rutgers)||C-|
|Atlanta Falcons||Robert Alford (CB, Southeast Louisiana)||Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)||C+|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tank Carradine (DE, Florida State)||Eric Reid (S, LSU)||B+|
|Baltimore Ravens ||Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)||Kyle Juszczyk (FB, Harvard)||B+|
Highlighting Teams of Note
Minnesota Vikings: A-
It's pretty easy for anyone to fall in love with a team's draft when they have three first-round picks. Those inherently tend to be the most highly regarded players, and first-round steals tend to get way more attention than, say, grabbing someone with a fourth-round grade in the seventh.
What's more, we cannot forget that one of those picks was acquired by trading Percy Harvin. Just 24 years old (he'll turn 25 in May), Harvin is a burgeoning superstar whose effect in the Vikings offense was made quite clear after he was injured. Harvin's versatility made everything easier for Minnesota, and he'll be sorely missed. Cordarrelle Patterson, himself quite versatile, can only hope to develop into a Harvin-like difference-maker.
That being said, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman had himself a virtuoso three days.
Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was bar none the best value of the first round. Expected by many to go within the first five picks—ESPN's Todd McShay (membership required) had him pegged at No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders—Floyd shockingly fell out of the top 20.
The Florida product can play on the inside of 4-3 sets (which he'll do in Minnesota) or the outside in a 3-4, and he should give the Vikings a top-notch tandem with the aging Kevin Williams.
Xavier Rhodes was another solid value at a need position at No. 25, and if you're going to trade Harvin, landing Patterson is a godsend. His productivity as a receiver probably won't be great in 2013—his route-running needs a ton of work—but he can affect a defense in a myriad of ways.
After the first round, Minnesota only continued to find value at need positions. Gerald Hodges could start Week 1, and his former teammate at Penn State Michael Mauti should make the roster as depth. Guard Jeff Baca should work as a Mauti for guards and fits yet another need.
The only pick Spielman kind of blew was taking punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round—and that's only relatively speaking. Locke was the best punter in this class, but we've seen too many times how disposable kicking positions are; Minnesota won't hesitate to send him packing with his first big mistake.
If Locke works out, this could be a 4.0 draft. But drafting a punter in Round 5 with other needs to fill and giving up a king's ransom for Patterson is enough for a slight downgrade.
Dallas Cowboys: D
The criticism of Jerry Jones, general manager, has always been a bit overblown, more rooted in the schadenfreudian glee that comes with rooting against the Cowboys. After all, he's the man who nabbed Dez Bryant when everyone was hesitant, and few other teams have ever had Dallas' level of luck with undrafted free-agents (Tony Romo, Miles Austin, etc.). Yes, some of those triumphs date back to the Bill Parcells era, but Jones has never stopped having say in his team's day-to-day operations.
This year, though? The criticism is completely warranted.
It's very possible we look back on this draft five years from now and see the Cowboys took a chance on Jeff Saturday 2.0. And if that's the case, we should all send the Jones family a bouquet of flowers and chocolate like a husband who forgot an anniversary. Even at a non-premium position, drafting a perennial Pro Bowler like Saturday is worth it at No. 31.
However, if Travis Frederick turns out as anything less than one of the three best centers in football, Dallas essentially punted its first-round pick. Frederick was an unnecessary overdraft, a guy most had pegged anywhere from a second- or third-round pick. On some draft boards, he wasn't even the best player at his own position, sitting behind Alabama's Barrett Jones.
This is about the time we note that Jones went in the fourth round—Frederick is signing a multi-million dollar contract. And let's be clear that the begrudging of the selection is not directed at Franklin himself, who seems like a humble kid and was a solid player at Wisconsin (even he thought he was overdrafted).
After Frederick, Dallas' draft didn't get much better. The Cowboys either spent their picks on non-need positions (tight end Gavin Escobar) or took project players when they desperately need depth (J.J. Wilcox).
We of course won't know the true value of these selections for a couple years. But it looks like a complete mess from start to finish at this point.
Green Bay Packers: A-
It almost seems unfair at this point how well the Packers draft seemingly every April. This franchise has been a bastion of developing young talent for years, which helps cultivate its draft reputation, but it also helps that Ted Thompson is just really, really smart.
Datone Jones was simply another case of that. While he's not the most explosive player at his position, nor was he the best player overall on the board at No. 26, he's a perfect schematic fit. He should start Week 1 on the outside and give Green Bay one of the best young defensive line corps in football.
Second-rounder Eddie Lacy was the top running back in the draft for a ton of pundits. I had him graded behind North Carolina's Giovani Bernard (who went to Cincinnati early in Round 2), but only because of his versatility out of the backfield. Lacy is unquestionably the best inside-the-tackles runner in this class, an evaluation that made the decisions by the Steelers (Le'Veon Bell) and Broncos (Montee Ball) extremely questionable.
Barring injury, Lacy should be the Packers' Week 1 starter behind Aaron Rodgers. Alex Green was dandy down the stretch, but he was little more than "another guy" who ran in a straight line just to keep defenses honest. Lacy has Pro Bowl potential, which is the best thing anyone could say about a Packers running back since Ryan Grant's heyday.
After the first round, the Packers understandably started plugging away at glaring needs (offensive tackle David Bakhtiari being the most notable), but they still found some potential gems. UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin was a pilfering at the end of Round 4 and gives the Packers an intriguing one-two punch at the position.
And while seventh-round picks amount to little more than "oh what the heck, let's try him," wide receivers Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey are intriguing fliers. Green Bay has done a great job at developing late-round draftees at that position, so it'll be interesting to see if either sticks.