2022 NFL draft grades for NFC teams: Cowboys lag behind Eagles, and is it OK to be excited for Lions?

·35-min read

The picks are in, from No. 1 (Travon Walker to the Jacksonville Jaguars) through No. 263 (Brock Purdy to the San Francisco 49ers), and we have broken down all of them.

Here are our final NFC team-by-team grades — we did the AFC grades too — for the 2022 NFL draft (picks listed by round and overall pick):

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Picks: 1-24: Tulsa OT Tyler Smith; 2-56: Mississippi EDGE Sam Williams; 3-88; South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert; 4-129: Wisconsin TE Jake Ferguson; 5-155: North Dakota OT Matt Waletzko; 5-167: Fresno State CB DaRon Bland; 5-176: LSU LB Damone Clark; 5-178: Arkansas DT John Ridgeway; 6-193: Oklahoma State LB Devin Harper

Favorite pick: Tolbert

There is absolutely a path for Tolbert to be the third receiver after CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, provided he can beat out James Washington, who signed for one year and a little over $1 million. Tolbert must prove he belongs with the big boys, but a big-time performance at Tennessee and a solid showing at the Senior Bowl give us indication he can. A big-play perimeter receiver at South Alabama, Tolbert attacked every part of the field with his good length and big hands, even if he lacks ideal size and blazing speed. Still, we like Tolbert quite a bit — there’s a player here.

Least-favorite pick: Smith

This is really tough because we came to embrace Smith as a member of the 2022 All-Juice squad, and it’s hard not to see what he can become in time. But there’s no guarantee that the hulking blocker will make the proper strides he needs to immediately to contribute in a big way as a possible guard conversion in 2022. We definitely understand Smith’s appeal, but right now he’s a penalty-prone bear hugger when he gets beat outside, and we worry a little about his adjustment to a new spot. The Cowboys’ development plan for Smith will be interesting — and crucial to his short- and long-term success.

Overall: The Cowboys undoubtedly are armed with a strong scouting staff, headed up by the respected Will McClay. We don’t always see eye-to-eye with their picks, but they’ve made us look bad before. Still, our gut says this isn’t one of our favorite draft hauls of 2022. Smith clearly can render our grade silly in a few years, Williams has terrific ability if the concerns about his character don’t come to roost, and the Clark pick might be inspired in a year or two, though he figures to miss the entire 2022 season following spinal surgery. We also liked Tolbert, as we said, but there’s so much volatility here. It could go very well or very poorly.

Grade: C

Grade in 2021: C-

Grade in 2020: A

Grade in 2019: C+

New York Giants

Picks: 1-5: Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux; 1-7: Alabama OT Evan Neal; 2-43: Kentucky WR Wan'Dale Robinson; 3-67: North Carolina OG Joshua Ezeudu; 3-81: LSU CB Cordale Flott; 4-112: San Diego State TE Daniel Bellinger; 4-114: Iowa S Dane Belton; 5-146: Indiana LB Micah McFadden; 5-147: Arizona State DT DJ Davidson; 5-173: North Carolina OG Marcus McKethan; 6-182: Cincinnati LB Darrian Beavers

Favorite pick: Thibodeaux

When the pick was initially called in, we wondered if they shouldn’t have taken Neal first, given that OL-needy Carolina theoretically could have nabbed him before the Giants’ pick at No. 7. But after making some calls, it was clear that new GM Joe Schoen really played his hand beautifully. Yes, they risked losing Neal, but the Giants seemed to have good intel on Carolina’s intentions, knowing how desperate they were to move down. Anyone trading up into that spot very likely could have been coming up for Thibodeaux, and the Giants likely had a fallback OT option they’d have liked almost as much as Neal (we suspect it was Charles Cross). So in the end, Schoen looked like a 10-year GM — not a rookie — and had to give Giants fans some real comfort in seeing two of the draft’s best prospects get vacuumed up. Outstanding work.

Least-favorite pick: Robinson

If they’re not trading Kadarius Toney, which is what they said this weekend, then we’re not too wild about this move. Robinson has nice quickness and some real dash and creativity in the open field, but taking a tiny-framed slot receiver with the 42nd pick feels quite rich. He fell just on the outskirts of our top 100 prospects, and though we appreciate Robinson’s skill set, we just can’t justify that value with so many needs elsewhere. They likely could have gotten him with their next selection without moving.

Overall: After a scorching-hot start, the Giants’ draft simmered a bit for our taste. Ezeudu was a popular name in the scouting circuit, gaining steam as we got closer to the draft, and Bellinger was a nice later pull where they got him. Taking two smaller players in Robinson and Flott was interesting. But when it comes down to it, this draft boils down to two men: Thibodeaux and Neal. And both were home runs. Thibodeaux carries some measure of risk if he’s distracted by the glitz of New York, but we really think he’ll feed off that and fuel it to become a star there. Neal is a less flashy pick, but his value to Brian Daboll’s operation could be very significant. So if in five years we look back, and Thibodeaux and Neal are the only real hit makers, the Giants still will have had a successful draft. We just couldn’t quite push it up now to elite-grade level because of the sum of the other picks.

Grade: B+

Grade in 2021: B+

Grade in 2020: C+

Grade in 2019: C

Philadelphia Eagles

Picks: 1-13: Georgia DT Jordan Davis; 2-51: Nebraska C Cam Jurgens; 3-83: Georgia LB Nakobe Dean; 6-181: Kansas LB Kyron Johnson; 6-198: SMU TE Grant Calcaterra

Favorite pick: Davis

There was a heartstrings sentiment to go with Dean here, but his concerning medicals leave his status for this season up in the air. But we respect the Eagles’ outside-the-box thinking in regards to Davis. When a unicorn comes trotting by, you grab it. Sure, he’s different from the type of nose tackle the Eagles have had in recent years, but that’s the point. Offenses must account for him when he’s on the field, and even if he never becomes a 50-snap-per-game player, his value when he’s out there could change the dynamic of this defense in a big way.

Least-favorite pick: Jurgens

Really, the value was fine and the player one we liked. He likely wouldn’t have lasted more than a dozen or so more picks had they not taken him. The only minor quibble is that it’s more of a longer-term investment, with Jurgens not guaranteed to make a big impact until Jason Kelce retires. But boy, that’s a pretty good mentor from whom Jurgens can soak up knowledge and follow around like a puppy. Practicing daily against the massive Davis also can help Jurgens’ issues vs. power players, so we think that investment return will be good in time.

Overall: Whether some want to admit it or not, Howie Roseman is become the GM that other GMs should be scared of making trades with — the Andrew Friedman of the NFL, if you will. Not everything the Eagles do works out, but there’s often a chance that Roseman and his crew are the ones doing the fleecing. Parlaying the three first-rounders into they had into A.J. Brown, Davis, a 2023 first-round pick and a second-rounder in 2024 is future Executive of the Year-type stuff. The wheeling and dealing left them with a smaller class, but the Dean pick and a few quality fliers late with Johnson and Calcaterra made this one of our favorite efforts of the weekend. They’re sticking with Jalen Hurts for now but have positioned themselves to get almost any QB they want next year if they feel the need.

Grade: A-

Grade in 2021: B+

Grade in 2020: C

Grade in 2019: B

Washington Commanders

Picks: 1-16: Penn State WR Jahan Dotson; 2-47: Alabama DT Phidarian Mathis; 3-98: Alabama RB Brian Robinson; 4-113: Louisiana S Percy Butler; 5-144: North Carolina QB Sam Howell; 5-149: Nevada TE Cole Turner; 7-230: Tulsa OG Chris Paul; 7-240: Oklahoma State CB Christian Holmes

Favorite pick: Howell

Expectations need to be measured properly with this pick. Just as the Titans didn’t go into the weekend thinking they were going to draft Malik Willis in Round 3, the Commanders most likely did not have grand designs to catch a falling Howell on Day 3. It just sort of fell that way, to the point where there was no risk at all. Fifth-round picks are, callous as it is to say, fodder. On the record, GMs will disagree with this, but check back on cutdown day, and as much as half of this year’s Round 5 picks could be looking for work. But perhaps Howell fell into a strangely perfect spot: with an eminently replaceable starting QB (Carson Wentz) and a former folk hero (Taylor Heinecke) whose 15 minutes might be up. Howell and Ron Rivera share a stoic calm, and offensive coordinator Scott Turner might just be the man to coax the most out of the under-appreciated Howell.

Least-favorite pick: Mathis

What is it with all the Bama guys? Kidding. That doesn’t bother us a bit. But in the case of Mathis, we never quite could fall in love with him. He’s a rock-solid performer who showed a little more flash last season than he ever had before. But we barely noticed him at the Senior Bowl, and there’s not much beyond his length and play temperament that grade out as top traits for us. A solid player no doubt, but we see him more as a rotational guy with limited box-score imprint.

Overall: You know, there are some solid players in this group. Dotson is the sure-handed, natural-separation target a scattershot QB like Wentz can really use, an he feels like a nice sidekick to Terry McLaurin, even if 16 felt a shade high. The two Bama picks certainly add toughness to the room. Howell adds a wildcard quality to the class, and Rivera seemed particularly fascinated by Turner, who always kept us interested as a prospect. There’s just not a pick in here that immediately works us into a frenzy. Drafts such as these can be foundational elements, but there’s no obvious future Pro Bowl player.

Grade: B-

Grade in 2021: C

Grade in 2020: B+

Grade in 2019: A-

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Picks: 2-39: Washington CB Kyler Gordon; 2-48: Penn State S Jaquan Brisker; 3-71: Tennessee WR Velus Jones; 5-168: Southern Utah OT Braxton Jones; 5-174: Miami (Ohio) EDGE Dominique Robinson; 6-186: San Diego State OG Zach Thomas; 6-203: Baylor RB Trestan Ebner; 6-207: Illinois C Doug Kramer

Favorite pick: Robinson

The first player to really stun us at the Senior Bowl was Robinson. We’d seen him give North Texas some trouble — off the bench — in the bowl game prior to that. But in Mobile, he looked like one of the better edge rushers down there. He’s not really that refined, having just moved over from wide receiver (!) in 2020. But Robinson just got after tackles in OL-DL drills and showed up in team work, too. The Bears' former staff used a similar-range pick on Trevis Gipson and might have struck some gold. Gipson and Robinson are similar-grade athletes, too, so keep an eye on this pair in a few years.

Least-favorite pick: Velus Jones Jr.

We’re not going to go overboard, but Jones felt like the kind of luxury item a contender could afford — maybe 20-25 picks after where the Bears got him. Look, you won’t find bigger fans of 25-year-old jacks of all trades/masters of none (think poor man’s Cordarrelle Patterson) than us. But the first two picks of the Ryan Poles era sent a message that the Bears were casting a wide net, were not hellbent to lock into specific needs, and appeared to be thinking down the road a bit. So that’s why Jones just felt like a stranger pick when we felt there were some more complete receivers still out there, such as David Bell.

Overall: We are not nearly as down on what the Bears did as others seemed to be. Gordon and Brisker will help this team, probably more in 2023 than this season. Still, those moves should look good in a few years. Jones still should have a chance to earn one of the top three receiver roles and be impactful on returns. The three late OL picks all add depth to a unit of uncertainty. Was it a gorgeous draft, top to bottom? Maybe not. But the cost of Justin Fields factored in, there are some elements of this group that have some real sense behind it, starting with the all-important secondary.

Grade: C

Grade in 2021: A

Grade in 2020: C

Grade in 2019: A-

Detroit Lions

Picks: 1-2: Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson; 1-12: Alabama WR Jameson Williams; 2-46: Kentucky DE Joshua Paschal; 3-97: Illinois S Kerby Joseph; 5-177: Virginia Tech TE James Mitchell; 6-188: Oklahoma State LB Malcolm Rodriguez; 6-217: Jackson State EDGE James Houston; 7-237: Arizona State CB Chase Lucas

Favorite pick: Williams

Nothing against Hutchinson, our top-rated prospect, but let’s face it: He pretty much fell in their laps. But Williams required effort to land. This might have been Brad Holmes’ most impressive pick, as it came at a reasonable cost and perhaps landed them this class’ WR1 … as the fourth receiver taken. The run was very much on, and Holmes wasn’t about to miss out. If Williams can return by training camp, that’s an even bigger bonus, but for the long haul he might be the fastest wideout the Lions have had since Calvin Johnson. Williams’ build is far different, but he could be an absolute blur on the Ford Field turf.

Jameson Williams can be a home-run draft pick for the Detroit Lions in time. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Jameson Williams can be a home-run draft pick for the Detroit Lions in time. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Least-favorite pick: Joseph

And by no means did we dislike the pick. We just had a hard time picking one player we didn’t agree with. Joseph was a senior-year breakout player (five INTs) who primarily had been a special-teamer — and a good one — before last season. That’s likely where he earns his keep early in his career, as Joseph has been a quality gunner in the past and even had a safety in the opening game for the first points of the college football season last year. If Joseph never rises past quality special teamer and the Lions’ third safety, it will be a solid pick — just not a tremendous one.

Overall: The Lions keep getting more interesting. Passing on a quarterback was an interesting call, especially as Malik Willis trickled into the late Day 2 range. They also could have touched up the offensive line a bit more. But they landed two franchise cornerstones – Hutchinson and Williams — and have to be thrilled with that. A draft class with two difference makers, historically, is a home run. Hutchinson is a perfect culture fit and a darned good football player. He and Paschal make this front seven really deep all of a sudden, if not quite young. The later picks were about filling out the team’s infrastructure, which complements the star picks well. This team is going places and still has two first-rounders to think about for 2023. You are allowed to be excited about the future of the Lions.

Grade: B+

Grade in 2021: B+

Grade in 2020: B-

Grade in 2019: C

Green Bay Packers

Picks: 1-22: Georgia LB Quay Walker; 1-28: Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt; 2-34: North Dakota State WR Christian Watson; 3-92: UCLA OL Sean Rhyan; 4-132: Nevada WR Romeo Doubs; 4-140: Wake Forest OL Zach Tom; 5-179: South Carolina LB Kingsley Enagbare; 7-228: Georgia Tech S Tariq Carpenter; 7-234: Miami DT Jonathan Ford; 7-249: Penn State OT Rasheed Walker; 7-258: Nebraska WR Samori Toure

Favorite pick: Wyatt

We mocked him to Green Bay 22nd (he went 28th), feeling that Green Bay needed one more body up front to handle significant snaps. He is a true disruptor with elite competitiveness who can penetrate, scrape down the line and do some different things with his athleticism. We think Packers fans will grow to appreciate him once their annual draft hangover wears off.

Least-favorite pick: Watson

Tough call here, as Watson was a really fun player to scout and watch grow. He averaged more than 20 yards per catch in college, was used as a returner and in the run game, and played with selflessness in a run-first Bison offense (including giving good effort as a blocker) that anyone should appreciate. We’ve said since before the Senior Bowl that Watson was basically a tailor-made Packers wide-receiver starter kit; this is exactly their type at the position. But it cost Green Bay a pretty penny to move up to No. 34 for Watson, which is the cost of going defense-defense to kick off the draft. Watson’s hands — he dropped about one in every 11 passes thrown his way in college — also bear watching. Nothing can kill Aaron Rodgers’ trust in a young receiver more than unreliability. They might feel obligated to add another veteran body here just in case.

Overall: The picks of Walker and Wyatt might not have been received warmly locally, but there’s sound thought behind both. Walker could become an absolute monster in time, just as Rashan Gary has. That’s a snapshot of Green Bay’s draft-and-develop process, and you can’t say it hasn’t borne fruit. Their WR approach this year was similar to the 2018 draft when they also tripled down (J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown), albeit a bit later in that class, which yielded a predictable hit rate of one out of three. If Watson hits, it’s a net win, but it’s a risk. The Day 3 picks were mostly strong, adding major OL depth and plucking a free-falling Enagbare, who could be another fun piece in time. Some disliked the class, but we can appreciate it.

Grade: B-

Grade in 2021: C-

Grade in 2020: C

Grade in 2019: C+

Minnesota Vikings

Picks: 1-32: Georgia S Lewis Cine; 2-42: Clemson CB Andrew Booth; 2-59: LSU OG Ed Ingram; 3-66: Oklahoma LB Brian Asamoah; 4-118: Missouri CB Akayleb Evans; 5-165: Minnesota DE Esezi Otomewo; 5-169: North Carolina RB Ty Chandler; 6-184: Illinois OT Vederian Lowe; 6-191: Michigan State WR Jalen Nailor; 7-227: South Carolina TE Nick Muse

Favorite pick: Cine

Many Vikings folks might go with Booth here, and we certainly can get why. No arguments there. But for us? Give us Cine. The pairing of Harrison Smith and Cine could be the best safety duo in the NFL in a year or two, no joke. Cine is a fast, smart and instinctive striker at safety who will bring NFL-caliber athleticism and physicality to the table immediately, having been the back-end sheriff for one of the best college defenses in recent memory. Some have knocked Cine’s ball production, but having seen his tape, we’re not worried; that playmaking will develop, we believe. Safeties aren’t sexy to some, and this was not a pick many predicted, but fortifying the secondary absolutely was crucial. The Vikings' first two selections did just that, we believe.

Least-favorite pick: Ingram

Not only was it rich from us from a value standpoint, but it also was one of the picks the Vikings got from Green Bay in the Christian Watson trade-up. There’s an interesting debate here: Should new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have been so eager to make deals with Detroit (Jameson Williams) and Green Bay (Watson), therefore ushering two talented receivers into the division? The Vikings’ stance is that the trades netted them value. We can see both sides. But back to Ingram — he fell just inside our top 100, as there’s a lot to like about a strong, intense blocker who kept his fire burning even while LSU’s past two seasons went off the rails. But maybe the team could have grabbed another receiver here (Jalen Tolbert?) or a tight end after a mini-run at the position earlier in Round 2.

Overall: We appreciated most of what Adofo-Mensah did in his first year in the captain’s chair. Wide receiver and tight end didn’t receive the reinforcements we thought might come, but the Vikings sought value and criteria fits, taking a similar approach to their division rivals, the Chicago Bears. Cine and Booth could be fixtures for years, and Ingram, Asamoah (quietly a very nice pick as well) and Evans figure to add quality depth and profile as possible future starters. Lowe and Nailor are also later-round picks worth keeping tabs on. An unsexy draft in some ways, but a logical one.

Grade: C+

Grade in 2021: C+

Grade in 2020: B+

Grade in 2019: C+

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Picks: 1-8: USC WR Drake London; 2-38: Penn State EDGE Arnold Ebiketie; 2-58: Montana State LB Troy Andersen; 3-74: Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder; 3-82: Western Kentucky EDGE DeAngelo Malone; 5-151: BYU RB Tyler Allgeier; 6-190: Georgia OG Justin Shaffer; 6-213: Georgia TE John FitzPatrick

Favorite pick: Ebiketie

We had a few choices we could have gone with here, but the Falcons addressed one of the biggest needs of any NFL team: pass rush. Atlanta had a stunning 18 total sacks last season, which was 11 fewer than any other club. Ebiketie could help change that immediately. He’s a workhorse who brings energy, bendiness and finishing ability to the mix, and the cost of moving up (a fourth-round pick) was worth it to grab a player we believe they had a first-round-caliber grade on. The Falcons have needed this kind of defender for some time.

Least-favorite pick: London

This could blow up in our faces, of course, as London is earning some early Offensive Rookie of the Year buzz. It’s less about him, per se, than the fact that they took London over every other receiver available. Time will tell whether he has the long-term upside of Jameson Williams or Garrett Wilson, but it appears that the Falcons are wanting to field a basketball team with London and TE Kyle Pitts as the primary pass catchers. There’s an early opportunity for London to shine, just as he did for the Trojans, in a starring role. But in two or three years, will we look back and say he’s the best of the 2022 receivers?

Overall: This was a quietly impressive draft. No pick felt forced, and yet several needs were addressed along the way. London steps right in as a starter, and he’s young and brimming with talent. Ebiketie, Andersen and even Malone should upgrade the speed and pursuit ability on defense. Watch out for Allgeier, too, who has a big frame and could take over running duties in time if he works on his ball security. And of course, we can’t forget about Ridder, the potential replacement for Mariota, whose style of play overlaps his game quite a bit. With value and talent up and down, this class could prove to be a game-changer for the Falcons.

Grade: B+

Grade in 2021: B+

Grade in 2020: C+

Grade in 2019: C-

Carolina Panthers

Picks: 1-6: North Carolina State OT Ickey Ekwonu; 3-94: Mississippi QB Matt Corral; 4-120: Penn State LB Brandon Smith; 6-189: Virginia Tech EDGE Amare Barno; 6-199: Tennessee OG Cade Mays; 7-242: Baylor CB Kalon Barnes

Favorite pick: Ekwonu

There was no other realistic option. Forget the local connection — Ekwonu could have been from Cherbourg or Chiang Mai and not Charlotte, and we’d have applauded the pick. We had Evan Neal as the more ready-made pick of the two, but Ekwonu could grow into a real force over time. It was the smart play, positionally and value-wise, as taking a QB at No. 6 overall likely would have proven to be foolish in retrospect. The Panthers’ run game should be better immediately, and Ekwonu’s pass protection is something that absolutely can become more reliable.

Least-favorite pick: Corral

It’s a tough call here, as the move to grab a sliding Corral toward the end of Round 3 might have sounded pretty tempting as recently as Thursday. But this indictment is more of an overall reflection of the Panthers’ unappealing QB situation. The Corral pick felt to us more of a fallback option once trade talks with the Browns for Baker Mayfield reportedly broke down. Corral has the arm talent, athleticism and competitiveness to surprise. But did the Panthers try to move up for Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder, who felt like prospects with better chances to succeed? We might never know. Carolina can’t stop finding ways to improve the QB room, even with Corral on board.

Overall: This class was somewhat doomed from the start. Trading their second- and third-round picks (in deals for Sam Darnold and C.J. Henderson) left a huge gap between choices. Landing Corral cost them a 2023 third-rounder, which could end up being a steep price if he doesn’t flourish eventually. Ekwonu (and perhaps Mays) could help in the short term, but the Corral, Smith, Barno and Barnes are gambling-on-traits picks that carry some risk and volatility. It’s a tough class to rank accurately now, clearly, but we’re leaning more toward dubious than auspicious until proven otherwise.

Grade: C-

Grade in 2021: B-

Grade in 2020: B-

Grade in 2019: A-

New Orleans Saints

Picks: 1-11: Ohio State WR Chris Olave; 1-19: Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning; 2-49: Tennessee CB Alontae Taylor; 5-161: Appalachian State LB D'Marco Jackson; 6-194: Air Force DT Jordan Jackson

Favorite pick: Olave

Both of the first-round picks addressed clear needs, but the pressure on Penning to step into Terron Armstead’s stead gives us a little pause. Olave, meanwhile, faces pressure, too, especially after the Saints essentially traded twice (once before the draft) to get into a spot to take him. But they realized the WR run was in full bloom and vaulted to No. 11 to get their man. Olave is lean and not at all a tackle-breaker. But he provides over-the-top ability to stretch the field and give Jameis Winston a big-league threat on posts and over routes all day. Olave is a natural, graceful separator who could look like an ice dancer on the Superdome turf — a strong complement to Michael Thomas, who we assume will return to form.

Least-favorite pick: Taylor

The Saints got in on the CB run almost after it ended from our vantage point, but there was one player (Cam Taylor-Britt) who we had rated vastly higher on our board. Taylor is no slouch, and he brings outstanding intangibles and some positional flexibility (some feel he could play safety, too) to the table. But at No. 49, it was a steep investment for our CB17 and No. 139 overall prospect. Our biggest worries are his feel in coverage, which can look a bit unnatural at times, and his propensity for being an undisciplined tackler (34 missed tackles in 45 career games, per PFF). Andrew Booth went a mere seven picks earlier, but lacking a third- or fourth-rounder likely cost them a chance to move up to get him.

Overall: The Saints’ offseason behavior suggests they view themselves as contenders in 2021. That certainly could prove to be true, even with Tom Brady’s return to the division. Olave and Penning step right into featured roles and look like good pros, even if Penning could have some issues with rushers such as Shaq Barrett and Brian Burns on the schedule twice each. If the first two picks prove to be fixtures, missing on the three later dart throws won’t hurt as much.

Grade: C+

Grade in 2021: C-

Grade in 2020: C+

Grade in 2019: C

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Picks: 2-33: Houston DE Logan Hall; 2-57: Central Michigan OG Luke Goedeke; 3-91: Arizona State RB Rachaad White; 4-106: Washington TE Cade Otton; 4-133: Georgia P Jake Camarda; 5-157: Sam Houston State CB Zyon McCollum; 6-218: Minnesota TE Ko Kieft; 7-248: LSU LB Andre Anthony

Favorite pick: White

Their first two picks both passed muster for sure, but we’re kind of fascinated by White. He showed up at the Senior Bowl and immediately proved he was one of the better backs there. White has a little Fred Jackson to his game — not the fastest or biggest but able to impact games as a runner and receiver with his patience, good receiving ability and open-field creativity. If White can get a bit stronger and more dependable as a pass protector, we think he’ll develop into a quality NFL back.

Least-favorite pick: Goedeke

Goedeke is the type of player whom you root for. He has make-it traits, having turned himself from a Division III tight end into an NFL blocker thanks to his work ethic, terrific effort and surprising power. But there will be a learning curve here, both in terms of the jump in competition and a potential position switch inside to guard. We are not betting against Goedeke making it, and he fits the mold of interior blocker the Bucs have been stockpiling in recent years, but he went about a round ahead of where we imagined he would — and the Bucs used a sixth-rounder to move up for him.

Overall: Moving out of Round 1 once Kaiir Elam went a few picks ahead of them, the Bucs were able to move down to grab Hall, Otton and a sixth-rounder that helped them move up for Goedeke. They came into the draft with few glaring needs but managed to top off a few thinner positions and get rotational players who can assist early. They also drafted a punter. We give GM Jason Licht credit; for a guy who whiffed on two high kicker picks (Roberto Aguayo, Matt Gay) in recent years, taking Camarda in the fourth took some conviction. He and Jordan Stout (who went three picks earlier) were our two favorite punter prospects. If you like Day 3 picks with tangible upside, ball production and silly athleticism, then McCollum is your man.

Grade: C+

Grade in 2021: C

Grade in 2020: B-

Grade in 2019: C-

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Picks: 2-55: Colorado State TE Trey McBride; 3-87: San Diego State DE Cameron Thomas; 3-100: Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders; 6-201: USC RB Keaontay Ingram; 6-215: Virginia Tech OG Lecitus Smith; 7-244: Valdosta State DB Christian Matthew; 7-256: Penn State LB Jesse Luketa; 7-257: Oklahoma OG Marquis Hayes

Favorite pick: Thomas

He wasn’t some absurd value at the end of Round 3, but it was a nice pull for a player we thought had a chance to go 20-30 picks sooner. Thomas has some Zach Allen to his game, which might not thrill Cardinals fans, but Allen has developed into a steady player, and we think Thomas will, too. He’s played inside and out and is a good energy source for a team that lost Chandler Jones and needs talent up front. Thomas had a knack for getting into the backfield last season, ranking among the national leaders in tackles for loss and pressures. He played a ton of snaps and never seemed to tire.

Least-favorite pick: The first-rounder they didn’t make

The trade for Marquise Brown cost nearly the same as what the Eagles paid for A.J. Brown, so when you think of it that way, the trade seems to come at a sunk cost. Don’t think for a minute that Hollywood isn’t expecting to get a deal somewhere in line with what his namesake got with the Eagles, and what other receivers were paid this offseason. The hope clearly is that Brown and Kyler Murray can reprise their Oklahoma magic together, and maybe that happens; they essentially helped turn each other into first-round picks in 2019. But the trade clearly carries some big risk to it, as Brown has as many 100-yard games in the regular season (five) as he does games with fewer than 10 yards receiving.

Overall: They ended up with three picks in the top 100 and five picks after No. 200. Moving out of No. 23 cost them a shot to draft a badly needed cornerback high — Kaiir Elam went in that very spot, followed by Andrew Booth early in Round 2 — which could end up being a regretful decision. McBride can follow in Zach Ertz’s footsteps, but was tight end the biggest need? Sanders and Ingram were two trickier evaluations and could go either way. The terrific value picks of Luketa and Hayes were late saving graces. But for a team that one might assume wants to win now, we didn’t find a lot to latch onto, other than the dice roll on Hollywood.

Grade: C-

Grade in 2021: C

Grade in 2020: A

Grade in 2019: B+

Los Angeles Rams

Picks: 3-104: Wisconsin OG Logan Bruss; 4-142: South Carolina State CB Decobie Durant; 5-164: Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams; 6-211: UCLA S Quentin Lake; 6-212: Georgia CB Derion Kendrick; 7-235: Montana State LB Daniel Hardy; 7-253: Kansas State S Russ Yeast; 7-261: Michigan State OT A.J. Arcuri

Favorite pick: Williams

Running back arguably wasn’t the biggest need, but Williams shouldn’t have lasted as long as he didd. The Rams do a nice job of looking what prospects can do, not what they can’t, and Williams has a clear value on third downs in the NFL as a receiver and pass protector (even if the latter skill might need technique refinement). His testing times likely pushed him down well below where his clear value was, but we see a tough, high-character, driven player whose value belies his size and lack of speed.

Least-favorite pick: Bruss

He’s likely a guard in the NFL, and Bruss wasn’t as stressed in pass protection in 2020, when he started five games inside for the Badgers. But there’s a ceiling to his potential, we believe — perhaps a less-gifted version of David Edwards, who has developed into a middle-of-the-road guard. Bruss isn’t a slobberknocker in the run game and has battled injuries over his career, so we wonder how much value he really will add. Of course, at the 104th pick, they could have done far, far worse.

Overall: The Rams sold out and won a Super Bowl, so this draft class already has paid off in some ways. You know the deal: "F them picks." It hurts that they couldn’t re-sign Von Miller, so some of this cost can’t be recouped. GM Les Snead can afford to take this approach because he has an owner willing to spend on high-salary free agents and because Snead trusts his scouting staff to unearth Day 3 gems. Their hit rate is solid for that part of the draft, and the selections of Durant and Hardy follow the pattern of targeting talented smaller-school prospects later. Kendrick is the kind of Day 3 lottery ticket that could pay off if he proves to be reliable after a slew of suspensions and off-field incidents.

Grade: C+

Grade in 2021: C-

Grade in 2020: C+

Grade in 2019: A-

San Francisco 49ers

Picks: 2-61: USC EDGE Drake Jackson; 3-93: LSU RB Tyrion Davis-Price; 3-105: SMU WR Danny Gray; 4-134: Texas-San Antonio OG Spencer Burford; 5-172: Toledo CB Samuel Womack; 6-187: Fordham OT Nick Zakelj; 6-220: UCF DT Kalia Davis; 6-221: Penn State CB Tariq Castro-Fields; 7-262: Iowa State QB Brock Purdy

Favorite pick: Jackson

There are pitfalls with Jackson, whose weight fluctuated dramatically during his USC (as coaches asked him to play different roles) and also during the pre-draft process, going from 254 pounds at the NFL combine to 273 at USC’s pro day — in the span of a month. (We can relate.) But if Jackson finds the sweet spot weight-wise, where his dynamic twitchiness and flexibility are able to be maximized, the 49ers will find themselves with a player who could be a better pro than he was a college player who was hyped to an unfair level. He was not a huge sack producer in college, but we could see him developing that ability more in time. Jackson turned 21 a few weeks ago and is just starting to realize his vast upside.

Least-favorite pick: Davis-Price

A curious selection at a position the team spent two draft picks on last year. Is Trey Sermon just a lost cause at this point? We don’t know, but spending a top-100 pick on another back with some similar traits feels like a message has been sent. Davis-Price finished strong last season and might be able to use his power running to complement Elijah Mitchell’s speed and comes into the NFL relatively fresh with barely 400 college touches. But the Niners must love the guy to have bypassed higher-ceiling prospects, including ones at seemingly needier positions.

Overall: The 49ers’ drafts always seem to have a beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder quality to them, and later-round hits such as Mitchell, George Kittle, D.J. Jones, Dre Greenlaw and others prove that they deserve some benefit of the doubt. But with part of the value of this draft tied to Trey Lance’s future performance, it’s truly difficult to issue a grade here in ink and feel great about it. Price, Burford and Castro-Fields were our favorite later picks of theirs, but we can’t yet get too excited about Davis-Price or Zakelj (who looked overmatched at times at the Senior Bowl).

Grade: C

Grade: C+

Grade in 2020: C+

Grade in 2019: C+

Seattle Seahawks

Picks: 1-9: Mississippi State OT Charles Cross; 2-40: Minnesota EDGE Boye Mafe; 2-41: Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III; 3-72: Washington State OT Abraham Lucas; 4-109: Cincinnati CB Coby Bryant; 5-153: Texas-San Antonio CB Tariq Woolen; 5-158: Ohio State EDGE Tyreke Smith; 7-229: Rutgers WR Bo Melton; 7-233: Lenoir Rhyne WR Dareke Young

Favorite pick: Walker

After our initial ambivalence over the pick, we’ve come full circle and embraced it. Even with Rashaad Penny’s emergence last season, the Seahawks could use a complement for him — especially in an offense currently guided by Drew Lock at QB. Chris Carson’s days could be numbered, so Walker’s tackle-breaking prowess will be a nice addition for a coach who will always run the ball, no matter whether it’s fashionable or not. Walker has some juice as a runner, and though he’s not that comfortable yet catching the football, that first- and second-down ability can be maximized in Seattle as well as anywhere.

Least-favorite pick: Lucas

We’re in the Lucas fan club, and he and Cross might end up starting right away and right and left tackle, respectively. But both come from Air Raid systems, which means that we truly don’t know how they’ll fare as run blockers. For a team that has invested in the run game as heavily as the Seahawks have, this is a fascinating but highly confusing approach. So again, this isn’t really about the OT prospects themselves as it is about how they’ll adapt to a vastly different blocking system.

Overall: This was a shockingly conventional Seahawks draft (at least by their standards), and our only real gripe was with the run-heavy team taking two tackles who might not be great at blocking for that out of the chute. But when you consider the later-round CB talent they procured, as well as making what could be a strong pick in Mafe, if he can add some edge-setting skill to his bag of tricks. The lack of a quarterback in this class is quite interesting, even as some QB prospects they did a lot of work in slipped. But they are very well-armed to make a run at one of the 2023 NFL draft’s top prospects if Lock doesn’t show anything or the team doesn’t swing a deal for a veteran in the interim.

Grade: B

Grade in 2021: C-

Grade in 2020: C

Grade in 2019: C+

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting