John McMullen - NFL Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Here's an early look at how the NFC teams fared during the 2015 NFL Draft:
Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut) Round 1 (27); Randy Gregory (DE/OLB, Nebraska) Round 2 (60); Chaz Green (OT, Florida) Round 3 (91); Damien Wilson (ILB, Minnesota) Round 4 (127); Ryan Russell (DE, Purdue) Round 5 (163); Mark Nzeocha (OLB, Wyoming) Round 7 (236); Laurence Gibson (OT, Virginia Tech) Round 7 (243); Geoff Swain (TE, Texas) Round 7 (246)
The Cowboys are talent-deficient on the defensive side of the ball and addressed that fact early with workout-warrior cornerback Jones and the free- falling Gregory, the best natural pass rusher in this draft who has significant red-flag issues. Green, meanwhile, is a natural right tackle who should get a year or two to learn.
Best Value: The Cowboys got a top-10 talent at number 60 overall with Gregory and although the risk is significant, the reward is off the charts.
Questionable Call: Nzeocha is a very raw project with little chance to even challenge for a roster spot.
Grade: This might be the ultimate risk-reward draft. In three years, we could be talking about two All-Pros in Jones and Gregory or two guys who derailed quickly and are out of the league. For now we will settle on a B-.
The Giants got three players who were at least in the mix as first-round talents in Flowers, Collins and Odighizuwa, so it was an impressive haul for a talent-starved franchise. Bolstering the offensive line to help extend Eli Manning's stretch as a competent option at the quarterback position made the most sense early and Flowers should fit in nicely at right tackle, which also enables Justin Pugh to kick inside, solidifying two spots. "Big Blue" then traded up for the top spot on Day 2 to land Collins, who will step in as a Day 1 starter at strong safety. Meanwhile, Odighizuwa should push to be part of the rotation on the defensive line.
Best Value: Collins was talked about as a potential top-15 pick earlier in the process but tumbled due to a perceived lack of coverage skills. For a team that came into the draft with Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe at the position, however, Collins looks like Ronnie Lott.
Questionable Call: Thompson lacks the strength to be an NFL safety and often takes poor angles as a tackler.
Grade: General manager Jerry Reese got really good value with is first three picks before tapering off a bit. Give him a B+
Nelson Agholor (WR, USC) Round 1 (20); Eric Rowe (CB, Utah) Round 2 (47); Jordan Hicks (ILB, Texas) Round 3 (84); JaCorey Shepherd (CB, Kansas) Round 6 (191); Randall Evans (CB, Kansas State) Round 6 (196); Brian Mihalik (DE, Boston College) Round 7 (237)
Chip Kelly couldn't pull off a trade for the apple of his eye, Marcus Mariota, but he got a pair of immediate starters in Agholor and the rangy Rowe. Agholor is a Jeremy Maclin clone, absent the eight-figure price tag. He's a really precise route runner, something that is nearly extinct in college receivers these days, with the ability to play inside or outside the numbers. Rowe is versatile, having played three seasons at safety before shifting to corner, and has the length that is en vogue now for CBs in this league. He should be a Day 1 starter opposite Byron Maxwell.
Best Value: Rowe was a bridge prospect and could have gone late in the first round, so trading to secure him at No. 47 overall was the one standout move in Kelly's first stand-alone draft.
Questionable Call: A run of offensive lineman in the fourth round caused the Eagles to trade out of their spot at No. 113 and acquire a third-round pick in 2016. Sounds good on the surface if you are looking long term, but Pitt's T.J. Clemmings, who went No. 110 to Minnesota or Florida's Tre' Jackson (No. 111 to New England) could have helped right now. Furthermore, third-round linebacker Hicks, a player who shows little feel for the game, was regarded by most scouts as a Round 4 or 5 talent.
Grade: If you believe Kelly is in over his head when it comes to the personnel aspect of the game, this performance isn't going to change your mind. The only real value pick was Rowe with every other selection, including Agholor, going a little higher than they probably should have. C
Scot McCloughan's first draft inside the Beltway produced the safest pick in this draft, Scherff, as well as a potential starter on the defensive edge in Smith. Scherff is this year's Zack Martin, the best offensive lineman in this draft who could project either inside at guard or outside at right tackle. Smith will fit in nicely with the Redskins as a replacement for the departed Brian Orakpo opposite the underrated Ryan Kerrigan.
Best Value: Fifth-round linebacker Spaight of Arkansas led the SEC in tackles last season and is a monster as a two-run thumper.
Questionable Call: In a deep running back draft, the third round was way too early to reach for Florida's Jones, who is a pile-mover but shows little patience or wiggle as a runner.
Grade: McCloughan didn't produce a sexy class but it's something to build on because Scherff will be a star in D.C. for a decade. B
Kevin White (WR, West Virginia) Round 1 (7); Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State) Round 2 (39); Hronnis Grasu (OC, Oregon) Round 3 (71); Jeremy Langford (RB, Michigan State) Round 4 (106); Adrian Amos (S, Penn State) Round 5 (142); Tayo Fabuluje (OT, TCU) Round 6 (183)
As the commish said to kick off the festivities, "Chi-Town is Draft Town," and the home-field advantage produced a solid class in Ryan Pace's first try as the Bears' general manager. With Brandon Marshall now with the New York Jets, Chicago needed a legitimate complement to Alshon Jeffery and the Bears got it with the best triangle prospect (size, strength and speed) at the position in this draft, White, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound physical freak. The Bears added help on the offensive line in the third round with Grasu, a solid player with a lot of starting experience at Oregon who will serve as the heir apparent to 32- year-old stop-gap center Will Montgomery. On the other side of the ball, there has been a sharp shift in defensive philosophy in the Windy City now that John Fox and Vic Fangio have arrived and plan to run a 3-4. Finding a top-tier nose tackle was key and the 336-pound Eddie Goldman is stout at the point of attack.
Best Value: Fourth-round running back Langford should lap last year's fourth- round pick, Ka'Deem Carey, as the caddy for Matt Forte pretty quickly. Langford is well-rounded and could develop into a starting running back down the road.
Questionable Call: Still waiting for one. Pace was very sensible and his late-round picks were at positions where Chicago needs help.
Grade: A solid if unspectacular effort by Pace. White has a chance to be a star and some had a first-round grade on Goldman. Meanwhile, Grasu should be the starter at center by 2016. B+
Laken Tomlinson (OG, Duke) Round 1 (28); Ameer Abdullah (RB, Nebraska) Round 2 (54); Alex Carter (CB, Stanford) Round 3 (80); Gabe Wright (DT, Auburn) Round 4 (113); Michael Burton (FB, Rutgers) Round 5 (168); Quandre Diggs (CB, Texas) Round 6 (200); Corey Robinson (OT, South Carolina) Round 7 (240)
Lions GM Martin Mayhew struggled early before steadying himself a bit. Tomlinson may end up being a really good guard in this league because he can beat people up in the phone booth, but taking the Duke product at No. 28 overall defines reach. Abdullah, meanwhile, is spectacular in the open field, but he's a gimmick player at this level because he doesn't block well enough to be a third-down back and he doesn't have the frame or ball security to handle it 20 times a game. Carter is versatile and could project on the inside of the defensive backfield at free safety or stay on the outside.
Best Value: The Lions lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency while adding Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker. That's not a great trade-off and more help was needed. Enter Wright, who has the first step to be a handful in a 1-gap defense.
Questionable Call: Much like the Travis Frederick pick for Dallas in 2013, the Tomlinson selection might look good in a few years for the Lions, but that fails to understand what the draft is about. Detroit could have had Tomlinson much later, so if that's who Mayhew wanted, trade out and pick up another asset.
Grade: There just wasn't enough value at the top of this draft board to be impressed. C+
Ted Thompson has a history of carpet-bombing needs and he did it again by adding to the secondary with Randall and Rollins. This wasn't a great safety draft, but Randall emerged as the most well-rounded of the bunch and should solidify the back end in Titletown alongside last year's first-round pick, Ha- Ha Clinton-Dix. Rollins is very athletic and has top-tier ball skills, while Montgomery figures to be the latest receiver to benefit from playing with Aaron Rodgers.
Best Value: Some thought Montgomery would be a first-round pick before a disappointing senior season at Stanford. Watch him flourish with A-Rod.
Questionable Call: Ripkowski is a John Kuhn-clone, limited at fullback but with a great name for Lambeau chants.
Grade: Thompson has the big reputation for a reason and he produced another solid class despite starting behind the majority of the league. B+
"Trader" Rick Spielman bolstered every level of Mike Zimmer's defense before snaring depth for the offensive line and a couple of high-ceiling prospects for Norv Turner during Day 3. Waynes should fit in nicely next to the emerging Xavier Rhodes on the outside of the Minnesota defense while Kendricks will reunite with ex-UCLA teammate and up-and-coming star Anthony Barr at linebacker. Hunter, meanwhile, is a raw, triangle (size, speed, strength) prospect who will have an opportunity to learn behind Everson Griffen and Brian Robison.
Best Value: Clemmings is a first-round talent who fell due to a stress fracture injury. If he's healthy, he'll settle in as the swing tackle behind Phil Loadholt and Matt Kalil as well as provide insurance for Kalil, who struggled last season.
Questionable Call: Robinson was the first Division II player selected. He looks the part, but is a long way from being even a practice squad player.
Grade: Spielman has been one of the NFL's best drafters since swinging and missing badly on Christian Ponder back in 2011. That trend continued here. B+
A nice haul for Dan Quinn's first go-round in Atlanta starting with Beasley, a freak off the edge thanks to his rare speed/strength ratio. If Beasley was 6-5 instead of 6-2, he would have been rated a as the top defensive product in this draft. Collins, meanwhile, is a first-round talent with marijuana issues, and Tevin Coleman was very productive at Indiana and should be in the mix at running back from Day 1.
Best Value: Jarrett, Beasley's teammate at Clemson, is undersized for a nose tackle, but he's got great quickness and good contribute as a 1-gap disrupter.
Questionable Call: King is a converted receiver who has great size, but he's so raw that he wasn't a draftable commodity.
The Panthers spent too much time reaching in my mind. Some teams see Thompson as a Kam Chancellor-type, but it remains to be seen if he has the coverage skills to prosper in a pass-happy league. Funchess, meanwhile, projects as a matchup nightmare from the slot, but he just doesn't have the speed to scare teams outside the numbers.
Best Value: Williams was a three-year starter at Oklahoma and is an old school road-grader who should help upgrade a shaky offensive line in front of Cam Newton.
Questionable Call: Mayo was pretty productive at Texas State, but Dave Gettleman could have had him later and used his fifth-round selection more wisely.
Peat was a polarizing prospect with some scouts loving him and others pointing to his inconsistency at Stanford. He'll likely start on the right side, where Jahri Evans and Zach Strief are both north of 30, but his athleticism projects to left tackle if everything falls into place. Anthony is a monster-sized inside linebacker who may lack the lateral speed to stand out. Kikaha led the nation in sacks at Washington, but he lacks functional NFL strength and was a risk at 44, while Grayson, a true pocket passer, will be able to redshirt behind Drew Brees and could be the heir apparent.
Best Value: Some observers had Williams rated as a bridge pick (late first- round or early second-round selection) and he's got the size and coverage skills to project at corner or free safety.
Questionable Call: Call it a tie between Anthony or Kikaha, who were both plucked off the board much sooner than they should have been.
Grade: Too much early reaching by Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton. Call it a C.
Winston will obviously make or break this draft for the Buccaneers and largely determine the future of both coach Lovie Smith and GM Jason Licht. In a pure football sense, Winston is a plug-and-play option with the football IQ and innate pocket awareness to be a superstar in this league. The character concerns, however, are real and could continue to derail him. All of Central Florida will be holding its breath. After Winston, the Bucs did everything they could to better protect him by snaring the fast-rising Smith and Division III standout Marpet.
Best Value: Alexander is undersized, but he has the speed needed to play linebacker in Smith's preferred cover-2.
Questionable Call: Marpet has the physical skills to play in the NFL, but the leap in competition from Hobart to the pros is as steep as it gets and the guess is he will need time to develop.
Grade: If Winston matures this will go down as an all-timer for Tampa, but that's a big if. For now, give the Bucs a B.
D.J. Humphries (OT, Florida) Round 1 (24); Markus Golden (OLB, Missouri) Round 2 (58); David Johnson (RB, Northern Iowa) Round 3 (86); Rodney Gunter (DT, Delaware State) Round 4 (116); Shaquille Riddick (DE West Virginia) Round 5 (158); Gerald Christian (TE, Louisville) Round 7 (256)
A nondescript effort by Arizona GM Steve Keim although Humphries is just the latest piece in what is an increasingly improving offensive line, joining offseason pickup Mike Iupati and last year's prized free-agent signee Jared Veldheer. Golden is a motor-based edge rusher while Johnson should be penciled in as the big-back complement to Andre Ellington.
Best Value: Johnson has the tools to eventually develop into a legitimate three-down back. He has the size to handle the punishment and the pass- receiving skills to worry any linebacker.
Questionable Call: The team's fifth-round pick, Riddick, has more physical gifts than Golden, who may not have the athleticism to stand out in the NFL.
Grade: Nothing here is going to wow you but if the Cardinals are going to be a legitimate Super Bowl threat, they have to keep Carson Palmer upright and continuing to improve the offensive line is the way to do that. B
San Francisco 49ers:
Arik Armstead (DL, Oregon) Round 1 (17); Jaquiski Tartt (S, Samford) Round 2 (46); Eli Harold (OLB, Virginia) Round 3 (79); Blake Bell (TE, Oklahoma) Round 4 (117); Mike Davis (RB, South Carolina) Round 4 (126); DeAndre Smelter (WR, Georgia Tech) Round 4 (132); Bradley Pinion (P, Clemson) Round 5 (165); Ian Silberman (OT, Boston College) Round 6 (190); Trenton Brown (OG, Florida) Round 7 (244); Rory Anderson (TE, South Carolina) Round 7 (254)
GM Trent Baalke really liked the ceiling of Armstead, who at 6-7 and nearly 300 pounds has a lot of Calais Campbell-like traits. He's raw, though and will need to be coached up. Second-round safety Tartt was a bit of a reach at No. 46 overall, but there weren't a ton of back-line defenders in this draft, so if you liked one, you almost had to take the plunge. At 220 pounds, Tartt is a downhill thumper who will struggle in coverage at times. Baalke flipped the script in the third round getting, edge defender Harold, who was considered a first- or second-round bridge prospect by most.
Best Value: Harold is a natural 3-4 pass rusher who is a perfect fit for what Jim Tomsula and Eric Mangini want to accomplish.
Questionable Call: Tartt wasn't a second-round talent especially in this era. He's an intimidator in a game in which that is being discouraged at every turn.
Grade: Baalke usually excels in the later rounds and this was no exception. Picks like Bell, Smelter, Davis and Pinion will ultimately define this draft. B
If Nick Foles is going to succeed where Sam Bradford didn't, the supporting cast had to be upgraded and Gurley is a difference maker who will make things far easier on the QB with some believing he is the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. Bolstering the offensive line was also key and the Rams carpet-bombed that with tackles Havenstein and Brown, who will battle it out for the right tackle spot with the loser likely kicking inside.
Best Value: Donnall, who was Brandon Scherff's bookend in Iowa, could end up being better than either Havenstein or Brown.
Questionable Call: Jeff Fisher always wants big receivers and Sasser fits that bill, but that's the only box he checks off. His route running is well below average and he rarely got separation at the college level.
Grade: Gurley has superstar written all over him and one of the trio of Havenstein, Brown and Donnal should be able to solidify right tackle opposite Greg Robinson. B
Frank Clark (DE, Michigan) Round 2 (63); Tyler Lockett (WR, Kansas State) Round 3 (69); Tyler Poole (OG, San Diego State) Round 4 (130); Mark Glowinski (OG, West Virginia) Round 4 (134); Tye Smith (CB, Towson) Round 5 (170); Obum Gwacham (DE, Oregon State) Round 6 (209); Kristjan Sokoli (DE, Buffalo) Round 6 (214); Ryan Murphy (S, Oregon State) Round 7 (248)
If you add Jimmy Graham to this draft class, it looks a lot better, so remember that, but on its own this is not an awe-inspiring group. Clark certainly has some upside, but he was thrown off the Michigan football team for domestic violence, not exactly a positive in today's ultra-sensitive environment. Lockett is undersized, but receiver is a position of need for the Seahawks and he can play outside the numbers or in the slot as well as contribute in the return game.
Best Value: Glowinski is a very powerful interior blocker who could turn into the kind of bully offensive line coaches love.
Questionable Call: Clark was one of the bigger red flags in a draft filed with them and plenty of teams erased him completely from their draft boards.
Grade: Lockett and Glowinski figure to help right away and Clark is a boom-or- bust type. When you start at No. 63, that kind of result is as good as you can hope for. B