Grading each NFC team’s NFL draft performance. Article

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This is part two of the draft grades article. It teases and
pleases you with the Cowboys and Giants, climaxes with the 49ers
and cuddles with the Seahawks. If you want to read about the AFC,
or need an explanation of the wonky pedagogy-challenged
categories,
read yesterday’s article
!

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Zack Martin
will be a great guard and could slide over to become a very good
right tackle. I am not sold on Demarcus Lawrence as a system fit
— he’s the kind of underweight, elongated defensive end who could
get steamrolled in an old-school 4-3. Ben Gardner is stouter but
less dynamic. The seventh-round pick brigade is full of guys like
linebacker Will Smith of Texas Tech: major-program starters with
high motors and just enough to offer athletically to make them
viable prospects. Meets Needs: Satisfactory. The
Cowboys got the guard they needed, then just hammered on the
defense, grabbing Devin Street in the fifth round because you
would be crazy to ignore wide receiver in this draft. (Hear that,
Raiders and Chiefs: crazy!) Uses Resources:
Satisfactory. The Cowboys clearly love Lawrence, but they are a
little too needy to be trading out of the third round.
Stockpiling seventh-round picks may not seem like a wise Cowboys
move — Jerry Jones is on his second Bombay Sapphire martini by
the seventh round — but the team chose with care and got
potentially useful players. Final Assessment:
Proficient. The fingerprints of Rod Marinelli can be seen on much
of this draft. The new defensive coordinator stresses
aggressiveness above most other traits, and prospects like
Lawrence, Smith, Gardner and Ahmad Dixon play like they are
leading a cavalry charge. At the same time, Marinelli will
sometimes sacrifice too much for a gung-ho attitude. The Cowboys
defensive line will be pretty small if Lawrence climbs atop the
depth chart, and Anthony Hitchens is more of a try-hard than a
can-do. There are few players here who point the way to a
brighter future, but the defense has been duct taped up as much
as possible, there will be no calling Rayfield Wright out of
retirement for a guard emergency, and the decision to avoid a
Manziel circus in favor of quiet defensive rebuilding is its own
small triumph.

New York Giants

Finds Talent: Excellent. Odell Beckham is
such a gifted deep threat — with the potential to be a 90-catch
every-down threat as well — that he could reshape Eli Manning’s
late career. Weston Richburg is the center who earns a starting
job by the end of his rookie year, then let’s you forget about
the center position for the rest of the decade. Andre Williams
would have been a top-20 pick in the 1980s or early 1990s as an
exceptional thumper between the tackles who will give the Giants
offense a Frank Gore vibe. (Or to put it in Giants terms, an
old-school Ottis Anderson vibe. Devon Kennard can be a sleeper
hit at outside linebacker if he stays healthy. Meets
Needs:
Satisfactory. Richburg was a natural need pick,
as were Beckham and Williams. Jay Bromley will be an important
part of the defensive line rebuild: He’s a big beefball who is
tenacious and has surprising, subtle little block-slipping
techniques. Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The
Giants stayed in their lane for the whole draft, with no crazy
reaches or sudden shifts. Final Assessment:
Advanced. The Giants get a high score for the overall shape of
their draft. Beckham and Williams are personality changers for a
team that needed an adjustment at the skill positions. A
Williams-Rashard Jennings running back tandem gives the Giants
ball-pounding capability after several seasons of sending rushers
off-tackle to get injured and fumble. Beckham and Victor Cruz
give the receiver corps back some 2011 dynamism. The rest of the
draft brought infrastructure guys for a team with crumbling
infrastructure. The Giants may not be back to Super Bowl form
(and we would not be able to tell, anyway, since their Super Bowl
teams look no different than their wild-card teams), but we won’t
be watching Peyton Hillis in a major role again, so hooray.

Philadelphia Eagles

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Jordan Mathews
would have been a first-round pick in a draft without epic wide
receiver talent. Jaylen Watkins has a future as a starting
cornerback. Marcus Smith will never be a 10-sack guy, but he will
be a six-sack guy who stuffs some runs and does more in coverage
than stand there and serve as a deterrent. Josh Huff and Taylor
Hart were not indulgent “Oregon pipeline” picks in the third and
fifth round: Huff is a smooth all-purpose depth receiver, Hart a
strong and ornery wave lineman. Meets Needs:
Satisfactory. There was no NEXT BRIAN DAWKINS in this draft
class, which is a shame, because Eagles fans desperately need to
anoint a NEXT BRIAN DAWKINS and tend to see the face of the NEXT
BRIAN DAWKINS in the burn marks on the side of a burrito. Ed
Reynolds is more of a low-mistake, sure-tackling cleanup safety,
so he at least passes the ANYONE IS BETTER THAN PATRICK CHUNG
test. The receivers ease DeSean Jackson anxiety, and swapping out
Bryce Brown for Darren Sproles increases backfield diversity.
Uses Resources: Needs Improvement. The Eagles
stood still in the first round and waited for either Ha Ha
Clinton-Dix or Brandin Cooks to fall. The Saints leap-frogged for
Cooks, the Packers pulled a Nelson Muntz with Clinton-Dix and the
Eagles traded down to ease the sting of selecting Smith, a fine
player but clear consolation prize. Final
Assessment:
Proficient. The quiet key to this class may
be Watkins. He could develop rapidly into a quality starting
cornerback, making him an exceptional fourth-round value.
Otherwise, Smith and Matthews are safe selections, Sproles
provides a short-term boost and the Eagles did roughly what they
had to do to prevent a Chip Kelly “the league has figured me out”
sophomore swoon.

Washington Redskins

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Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Trent Murphy,
Morgan Moses and Lache Seastrunk represent a pretty fine haul for
a team with no first-round pick. Murphy is a polarizing prospect,
but when he replaces Brian Orakpo next year he will likely be the
“other” outside linebacker to Ryan Kerrigan, so a little less
pass-rush ability and a little more versatility will not hurt.
Moses has starting-tackle upside, as his technique has
continuously smoothed out over the years. Seastunk is a big-play
guy in line for a 10-touch role in support of Alfred Morris.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Seastrunk adds
offensive explosiveness in just the right place. Murphy shows the
Redskins planning for the future (shudder). Spencer Long
may move from guard to center; the team needs to be planning
ahead at both positions. And I don’t mind kicker Zach Hocker in
the seventh round. He has a touchback leg, which will help a team
rebounding from a special teams crisis. Just sending a noisy
message about being serious about fixing the darn special teams
is worth a seventh-round pick. Uses Resources:
Excellent. Trading down twice to get extra picks — including an
extra third-rounder that became Long == was a wise move, and a
bold one. It’s not easy to wait through Day One, stare at the top
of the Day Two draft board all day Friday, and then commit to
plunging even further, but the Redskins made it work. And for the
record, Demarcus Lawrence (who the Cowboys drafted with the
Redskins’ second-round pick) may grade out as a better athlete,
but he was a 4-3 defensive end, whereas Murphy played a similar
role at Stanford to the one he will play with the Redskins.
Final Assessment: Proficient. Trading three
years’ worth of draft picks for Robert Griffin was a huge
mistake. I said it when it happened, long before Griffinfall. If
Redskins fans imagine a Redskins team with Kirk Cousins or Ryan
Tannehill at quarterback and Desmond Trufant (taken with one of
the picks the Redskins traded) and Janoris Jenkins (taken with
another) at cornerback, and with Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson or
Khalil Mack coming aboard this year, they might sigh heavily. And
don’t go all Delicate Sound of Thunder on me: I know the
draft orders and needs would all be different. The point is that
Griffin is here and still an outstanding prospect, the Redskins
have to make the best of the lemons they gave themselves and this
draft class is pretty drinkable lemonade.

NFC NORTH

kadeemcarey_draftBears fourth-rounder Ka’Deem
Carey ran for over 1,800 yards each of the last two years at
Arizona. (USA TODAY Sports)

Chicago Bears

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Kyle Fuller
arrives ready to play. Ka’Deem Carey can take pressure off Matt
Forte immediately, and if you understand running back aging
patterns, you know the Bears will need a new featured back sooner
than later. There was not a lot of specialness in the late draft
class. Meets Needs: Excellent. Three straight
picks on defense to start the draft tell the tale. Ego “The
Living Planet” Ferguson and Will Sutton are future starters at
defensive tackle. Ego is the nose guy, Sutton the three-tech, and
both can ease into their roles because the Bears retained some of
their geezer gang (like Jay Ratliff) for an extra year. As
mentioned above, Carey closes a hole that may soon open. David
Fales is a quick-witted short passer; he is strictly a backup,
but he will allow Marc Trestman to explore his West Coast roots.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. Some think of Ego
as a reach, but if you flip him and Sutton, the Bears draft board
looks more like my little draftnik doodle pad. Final
Assessment:
Proficient. This was a very good effort,
bordering on a great one. A post-Urlacher, post-Peanut defensive
core is taking shape: You can see a Fuller-Ego-Sutton-Lamarr
Houston-Jon Bostic defense gelling into something great in a year
or two. In the short term, these rookies can help Peanut Tillman,
Lance Briggs, Jared Allen and the other graybeards climb to the
top of the NFC North. Remember, folks: The Bears offense is now
pretty good, so the defense does not have to go into Super Bowl
Shuffle mode for a playoff run. They just have to cut out the
200-yard rushing days for opponents. They have done that, and
then some.

Detroit Lions

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Eric Ebron and
Kyle Van Noy get your attention. Ebron is that coveted Jimmy
Graham type, while Van Noy provides a pass-rush threat (plus
versatility) at outside linebacker, meaning that the days of
never blitzing and using exactly one defensive front are over in
Detroit. Caraun Reid is a tough, high-energy dependability guy to
provide depth and wave production behind the Lions’ marauding
Visigoth tackles. Meets Needs: Satisfactory.
Ebron was not exactly a need pick: The Lions re-signed Brandon
Pettigrew to a lucrative deal and have Joseph Fauria dancing in
the wings. Then again, Travis Swanson arrived as the center of
the near future in the third round, Nevin Lawson is ready to play
an immediate role at cornerback and if you have no experienced
kickers on the roster, splurging on Nate Freese in the seventh
round is not a terrible idea. Uses Resources:
Satisfactory. The Lions traded up a few slots for Van Noy but
still had picks in every round, with two in the fourth. The team
whiffed on its alleged effort to move up for Sammy Watkins, but
using “only so many footballs to go around” logic, upgrading at
tight end — while still having picks available to clean up other
messes — makes more sense than lunging for a #2 receiver.
Final Assessment: Proficient. This draft could
have been flashier (Watkins!) or more obvious (more
cornerbacks!), but it still accomplished a lot. Opponents will
have a brutal time covering all of the Lions offensive weapons.
Van Noy adds a new dimension to the pass rush. And players like
Larson, Swanson, Reid and pass-rush prospect Larry Webster point
the way to a not-so-distant future when the Lions will be too
cap-strapped to keep second-tier stars like Nick Fairley. Like
the Bears, the Lions made themselves viable playoff contenders in
the short term while still keeping an eye on the horizon.

Green Bay Packers

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Ha Ha
Clinton-Dix is not a future superstar. He is, however, an almost
immediate quality starter who will get the job done for years to
come. Jared Abbrederis is a fine addition to four- and
five-wideout packages because he works short areas well, catches
everything and blocks. I just received a memo informing me to
refer to Jeff Janis as THE NEXT JORDY NELSON (it must be similar
to THE NEXT BRIAN DAWKINS) but I don’t see it: Janis looked like
a big, tough possession guy to me at the Senior Bowl. I am not a
Carl Bradford fan: He looks to me like a guy whose maximum effort
results in getting pancaked and whiffing on open-field tackles.
But he could become that elusive complementary linebacker to Clay
Matthews, theoretically. Meets Needs: Excellent.
Saturation drafting the receiving corps made sense. Davante Adams
is the top pick of the bunch, but I can see Abbrederis and Janis
staging a depth-chart coup. Either way, the competition will help
offset recent losses. Richard Rodgers is the type of tight end
the Packers prefer: a slightly larger wide receiver. Corey
Linsley is a center for a team that needs a center; it seems
obvious, but the Packers have that Patriots problem of using
differential calculus to count change at times. There was no
disaster relief quarterback (Boston College’s Chase Rettig, a
free agent, is a camp arm), but Scott Tolzien is a passable No.
3, and Matt Flynn in Green Bay is like Aquaman in seawater.
Uses Resources: Satisfactory. The Packers had
extra third- and fifth-round compensatory picks, and they had
several roster needs, so they used the picks to address the
needs. Again, sometimes you have to tell Einstein which drawer
the socks are in. Final Assessment: Proficient.
The Packers were the little Italian restaurant on the corner this
year. The quality is just OK, but the portion is huge, and you
get exactly what you expected. Ted Thompson has served a lot of
fusion cuisine in the past, leaving us intermittently inspired,
confused and hungry, so this feels right. The rest of the
division may have gained a little ground, but the Packers did
what they could to allow Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to keep
setting the pace.

Minnesota Vikings

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. I am a Teddy
Bridgeliever, though the fit is troublesome. The Vikings have a
poor track record with pesky short passers. Anthony Barr gives
Mike Zimmer the kind of chess piece he needs to revamp the
defense. David Yankey is a great fifth-round value at guard.
Jerick McKinnon is a physical runner who will make a smooth
transition from college quarterback to change-up running back. If
McKinnon is taking snaps in December, Joe Webb-style, with
Bridgewater on the bench or IR, I am quitting the draft business
forever. Meets Needs: Excellent. Three
developmental cornerbacks are better than one. Seventh-rounder
Jabari Price could climb above toolsy Antone Exum and
small-school project Kendall James because he is disciplined and
competitive. Barr and Scott Crichton will make the front seven
more Zimmer-like. Quarterback was an obvious need. Uses
Resources:
Excellent. The Vikings won the draft trade
battle. They got the Yankey pick by sliding down one spot so the
Browns could acquire Justin Gilbert. Moving up for Bridgewater
cost little. Several late-round slides brought extra picks in the
sixth and seventh round. Extra picks are important for the
Vikings because … Final Assessment: Advanced. …
one of the things a new coaching regime must do is reshape a
roster in its own image. That can be tricky. Some coaches become
autocratic and make changes for change’s sake; others arrive with
too many needs or cap constraints to do the little things, like
make sure everyone on the depth chart fits the new system. Sixth-
and seventh-round picks are a great way for a new staff to allow
competition to dictate how roster transition will be handled: If
Price and Brandon Watts are better fits at cornerback and outside
linebacker than the incumbent Vikings, then they stick. While the
late-rounders flesh out the roster, Bridgewater and Barr chart a
new course on offense and defense. The Vikings have selected five
players in the first rounds of the last two drafts, so Zimmer now
has everything he needs to form a young nucleus, including a
superstar running back to keep the team competitive while the
puzzle pieces fall into place.

NFC SOUTH

jakematthewsSixth overall pick Jake Matthews
gives the Falcons an instant starter at tackle. (USA TODAY
Sports)

Atlanta Falcons

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Jake Matthews
gets overshadowed by everybody. Teammate Johnny Manziel was more
fun, former teammate Luke Joeckel was drafted higher, Greg
Robinson is bigger and stronger and the Matthews family is full
of great football players. Judged on his own terms, he is a
better player than Joeckel, more prepared to start than Robinson
and a likely starter for a decade. Ra’Shede Hageman was a
first-round talent in the second round. Devonta Freeman is a
tough, versatile change-up back. Meets Needs:
Excellent. Defensive toughness was a major need (besides left
tackle, a more specific and obvious need). Hageman is a brawler,
cornerback Ricardo Allen is ornery and physical and Marquis
Spruill is another undersized “striker” type. Adding seven
defenders sent a message that none of the kids who became
default-choice starters last year can rest easy. Uses
Resources:
Satisfactory. The Falcons used their early
draft position to maximum advantage. They are less needy than
most teams that pick sixth overall, so they were able to target
very good players to solve specific problems. Final
Assessment:
Proficient. The Falcons splurged with a
20-free-agent spree after the draft, grabbing both Wisconsin
tight ends (Jacob Pederson and Brian Wozniak) and a receiver
named Julian Jones who is bound to cause some confusion. Factor
in all of last year’s rookies, and the Falcons have a full-scale
rebuild going on beneath the façade of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
There will be growing pains, and some picks will not pan out, but
this is the right call. The NFC South is a tough division, and
the Falcons will not get good again overnight. By doing some
dirty work this year, they can be ready to attack again when Ryan
is still in his prime and Drew Brees is in a broadcast booth.

Carolina Panthers

Finds Talent: Needs Improvement. In terms
of pure talent, Kelvin Benjamin has the goods. He is also about
as ready as a frozen turkey. Think of him as a top-10 talent in
the 2015 draft if you like, but the Panthers need two starting
receivers for Week One and still have zero at this moment. Kony
Ealy’s selection makes sense in light of Greg Hardy’s legal
issues, but the Panthers front seven will still be solid if Hardy
is unavailable, while their secondary and receiving corps will be
ugly no matter what. As for the rest of the draft: It was a bunch
of guys named Trai, Tre and Bene, but it was not tres tres
bien
. (Sorry). Meets Needs: Needs
Improvement. Ugh. Benjamin is the receiver you draft
after you retain Steve Smith to be your go-to guy for
one more year. The Panthers waved at their need in the secondary
by selecting safety Tre Boston and cornerback Bene Benwikere in
the fourth and fifth rounds; this is a team that needed second-
and third-round talent at those positions. Extra wide receivers?
We don’t need no stinking extra wide receivers! Uses
Resources:
Needs Improvement. Double ugh. Remember how
the Falcons selected 20 rookie free agents in the last segment?
The Panthers signed nine as of Tuesday, when all the best ones
were taken. Nine. Two of them were wide receivers, one
was a defensive back. The Panthers also traded out of the seventh
round. You know how great teams keep their rosters strong by
fostering competition — “steel sharpens steel,” and all that? The
Panthers don’t seem to grasp that concept. Final
Assessment:
Remediation. Kudos to Panthers general
manager David Gettleman for putting family first and attending
his son’s graduation on Day Three of the draft. Next time, he
should put family really first by spending draft weekend at home
making pancakes and watching the sunset, leaving someone in
charge who will pick players the Panthers can actually use in
2014. This was an ugly draft, capping one of the worst offseasons
I have ever seen a playoff team inflict upon itself. When the
Panthers are 5-11 next year, people will straight-facedly blame
it on Cam Newton’s regression, ignoring the fact that Peyton
Manning could not make this receiving corps serviceable. If
Gettleman is one of those Cam-blamers, Panthers fans, be
terrified.

New Orleans Saints

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Sean Payton and
Drew Brees will love Brandin Cooks, inserting him quickly into a
Devery Henderson role, with a side of Darrin Sproles shallow
crosses. Rob Ryan has a new toy chest in Stanley Jean-Baptiste
(another of
the Richard Sherman Babies
), Khairi Fortt (linebacker
multi-tool) and Ronald Powell (a gamble-on-greatness pass rusher
with a rough ACL history). Special teams coach Greg McMahon gets
Vinnie Sunseri, a coach’s kid whose skill set screams “special
teams captain.” Meets Needs: Satisfactory. Some
tight end insurance would have been nice, but let’s face it:
Jimmy Graham will be back for at least one more year, and he is
not the kind of guy you replace in the second round. Cooks
replenishes the Saints’ deep-threat capability, and Jean-Baptiste
will get bump-and-run tutelage from Champ Bailey. Uses
Resources:
Excellent. Trading up for Cooks was a
masterstroke. The Saints beat two other playoff teams (Chiefs and
Eagles) to a player all three needed; the cost of a late
third-round pick was a bargain. Powell comes as compensation for
Sproles. He is a battler with great instincts, but he did not
look that explosive last season after a year of ACL rehab. ACL
rehab is often a two-year road, so Powell could be a sleeper.
Final Assessment: Proficient. Now that Ryan has
enough pieces in place on defense, the Saints’ best chance to win
another Super Bowl in the Brees era is to make the offense as
much like the 2009 model as possible, forcing the big-D NFC
defenders to play on their heels. Cooks can make that happen,
assuming a happy Graham reports for duty as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. Mike Evans and
Austin Seferian-Jenkins are not just great, high-upside
prospects, but players who will shape the Buccaneers offense.
Evans and Vincent Jackson are quarterback’s helpers who not only
create mismatches but haul in contested and off-target passes.
Seferian-Jenkins can block for all of Tampa’s power runners while
contributing as a safety valve. The rest of the draft was
uneventful, though Robert Herron was a great sixth-round value at
wide receiver. He provides great pure speed but little else — not
the guy to build a draft around, but an excellent low-price
acquisition as a fourth wideout. Meets Needs:
Satisfactory. Wide receiver was a major need, tight end a
secondary one. Running back was a non-need, so Charles Sims was
an odd choice: He is a power runner on a roster flooded with
them. Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile are both size/strength
prospects on the interior line, where the Bucs might need more
immediate help because of Carl Nicks’ health issues. There is no
quarterback of the future, though it may turn out that there is:
a fellow named Mike Glennon. Free agency brought Brett Smith, who
will be a Jeff Tedford tinkertoy. Uses
Resources:
Satisfactory. The Bucs lost their
fourth-round pick in the Revis deal, but it did not really
matter. They were so active in free agency that there was not
much to accomplish in the draft. Final
Assessment:
Proficient. Lovie Smith handled much of his
overhaul via free agency, and he did not have much work to do on
a defense loaded with young talent. Evans and Seferian-Jenkins
join a new-look offense that’s intriguing on paper and could make
the Bucs instantly competitive again while the Falcons rebuild
and Panthers shoot themselves in the foot. It looks like Josh
McCown in the short term and Glennon in the long term at
quarterback, but that’s not a bad thing. Stack Glennon’s baptism
under fire against anything the Jimmy Garoppolo or Aaron Murray
types in the pool have to offer, and it makes sense to give him a
second look.

NFC WEST

troyniklasNotre Dame’s Troy Niklas gives the
Cardinals even more depth at tight end. (USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Cardinals

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. The theme of
the Cardinals draft is “big and toolsy.” Troy Niklas is not as
athletic or versatile as other recent Notre Dame tight ends, but
he is huge, which counts for something. Logan Thomas looks and
sounds like a Jedi but has the aim of a Stormtrooper. Kareem
Martin looks like an eight-time All-Pro in a T-shirt and has
strength and speed to burn, though it somehow doesn’t add up. Ed
Stinson is another Muscle and Fitness cover model in
need of some better game tape. Like the Steelers class, this one
is full of hopes and projections, though Deone Bucannon is more
of a sure-thing as the capstone. Meets Needs:
Satisfactory. Safety was a big concern, and Bucannon is another
tone setter for Todd Bowles, whose tone is “fly around, hit hard,
accept consequences later.” Bruce Arians loves tight end depth,
and Niklas will have multiple journeyman mentors, including Notre
Dame prototype John Carlson. Thomas counts as a developmental
quarterback of the future, as long as you underline
“developmental” and “future.” Uses Resources:
Satisfactory. The Cardinals were facilitators of the Saints deal
to get Brandin Cooks, netting Pittsburg State’s John Brown with
the extra pick. I have never seen Brown, but I am surprised to
see that he is a little guy (5-foot-10, 180) based on the rest of
the Cardinals draft: I thought you had to be built like a Jack
Kirby drawing to make their draft board. Final
Assessment:
Proficient. The Cardinals drafted players
that Arians and Bowles like to work with, even if they look like
beefy odds and ends to the rest of us. The Cardinals are doing
things their way, and since it is novel for there to even be a
“Cardinals way” of doing things, let’s go with it for a year.

St. Louis Rams

Finds Talent: Excellent. Greg Robinson and
Aaron Donald were the best players on the boards at their
positions, assuming you classify Robinson’s position as right
tackle or guard. Lamarcus Joyner is one of those cornerbacks
whose height is a big deal throughout the draft process; then, he
suddenly grows two symbolic inches by his third season. E.J.
Gaines was a heck of a cornerback prospect to stumble into in the
sixth round. Tre Mason carried eight times for 35 yards while you
were reading this paragraph, even though it is mid-May.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. It’s hard to imagine
how much better Donald can make the Rams defense. At some point,
the difference between giving opposing quarterbacks 0.55 and 0.53
seconds to throw does not amount to much. Robinson and Mason give
the Rams so much inside-running beef that we might not notice the
lack of downfield passing, but some of us were looking for a more
emphatic quarterback statement than SMU’s Garrett Gilbert.
Uses Resources: Excellent. The second overall
pick in the draft is a lovely thing to have gift-wrapped two
years in advance, of course. But the Rams knew what to do with it
— not only taking a potential great in Robinson, but using the
surplus to trade up without incident to get Joyner. Extra
bottom-round picks allowed the Rams to do more than
make history with Michael Sam
: Gaines will stick as a nickel
player, and Mitchell Van Dyk looked like a dad playing in a Pop
Warner game in the Portland State-Southern Utah game I watched.
(Yes, I watch PSU-SUU tape on beautiful spring days. Please
recommend a good therapist in the 856 area code and a Blue Cross
network. Many thanks.)
Final Assessment:
Advanced. The Rams would be my pick to win the AFC South hands
down, and they would at least merit serious wild-card
consideration in several other divisions. As it is, they are
stuck in a battle for third place, but assuming the team’s Sam
Bradford faith is even semi-warranted, it is hard to see what
more a team can do over three days to improve itself. Unless, of
course, you read the next four paragraphs.

San Francisco 49ers

Finds Talent: Excellent. Drool. Here,

read Russ Lande’s breakdown
. Meets Needs:
Excellent. The 49ers barely have needs, so they respond by
drafting injured players to stash on IR like guard-tackle Brandon
Thomas. That way, they will never have needs. Uses
Resources:
Excellent. The best part was getting Steve
Johnson for nothing. Or hanging around on the third day, when it
seemed impossible that they would find a player they could use,
and getting pesky slot receiver Bruce Ellington and Kaleb Ramsey,
another injury case who could help some future defensive line.
Final Assessment: Curve Blown. If the current
configuration of 49ers does not win a Super Bowl, it will likely
not be the fault of Jim Harbaugh, his Lennon-McCartney
relationship with the front office or Colin Kaepernick, but
simply the cruel vagaries of chance, plus the Seahawks. This
roster looks ready to win in 2014 through about 2019.

Seattle Seahawks

Finds Talent: Satisfactory. There’s a
temptation to give the Seahawks leniency based on their ability
to find late-round gold. Without assuming that Schneider-Carroll
can turn Eric Pinkins into Kam Chancellor with a magic wand, the
Seahawks added a dose of speed to the receiving corps in Paul
Richardson and yet another pass rusher in Cassius Marsh.
Meets Needs: Satisfactory. The Seahawks
receiving corps lacks elite speed when Percy Harvin is hurt, so
Richardson is a plus. Justin Britt will be called upon sooner
than later on the offensive line. The Seahawks are not
particularly needy. Uses Resources:
Satisfactory. The Seahawks traded down twice to stockpile picks,
something you can do when you have some of the NFL’s best players
locked under contract and don’t see anyone on the draft board
that thrills. Final Assessment: Proficient. The
Seahawks get an “Advanced” when the Richard Sherman extension is
thrown in. But in isolation, this draft does not do much to help
the 2014 team, and the Niners gained ground. You can see
Schneider’s cap management ideas at work, however: He wants
multiple swings at a mid-round home run, and he wants plenty of
low-priced options as the Seahawks brace for the next round of
major cap decisions. In other words, the best move of this draft
may occur in 2017, when one or two of these players gets
extended. * * *
Click here for Mike Tanier’s AFC draft grades
.

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