Emoji Grading the NFL Draft
Put your letters back in your Tyson Campbell Soup
I am so tired of boring, redundant, meaningless NFL draft grading columns. So I wrote one too. Look, people read these, okay? So what if I know next to nothing about anyone drafted in the last 4 rounds. No one does. Don’t believe me? Teams that spend a year studying these players often pick ones that don’t make it through training camps. James Robinson went undrafted last year and was almost Rookie of the Year. Here’s another thing. The people doing these grades, have forgotten there are letters below B in the English alphabet and have no idea how a grading curve works. Writers are afraid of enraging fan bases and looking like an idiot later when someone gets an F and uses those players to win a Super Bowl. So, they use +/- to create six options (A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-) instead of 5 (A, B, C, D, E… uh, I mean F). It’s clever, I guess. The mistake here is the writers trying to protect their dignity. Here, at the Duckpin, my dignity doesn’t mean anything to me. I will grade these drafts using MODERN English. Emojis. What’s less impressive than grading players when I don’t really know what I am talking about it? Doing it while using the same letters Logan Paul uses. Let’s do it.
Here’s the deal. I am going to look at players taken in the first 3 rounds (the ones most likely to matter), any trades made on draft day(s), and the thought process the teams probably went through to do it.
Arizona Cardinals: Zaven Collins, Rondale Moore, Shoe throwing guy and a trade to move up from the 5th round to get him. And some others.
It’s easy to say Collins and Moore are both physical marvels. It’s harder to say why these picks make the Cardinals better. The Cardinals have drafted and signed a mountain of WR in the last 3 years, and at this point, it’s fair to say… it’s all set. Meanwhile Collins is a physical marvel, but not a pass rusher (which they could have used). He is like a bigger version of the exact player they drafted and struggled to lose last year with Isaiah Simmons. Trading up for a guy who cost his team a game by throwing a shoe caps off a confusing set of picks.
Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, Richie Grant, Jaylen Mayfield, other players. They also traded down in the second round to add a day 3 pick.
This draft’s real valuation will likely come from Richie Grant. They ignored their porous defense to add uber-talent Kyle Pitts, and then traded town and didn’t take two safeties generally rated above Grant (and ignored defense again in the 3rd round). If Grant ends up standing out, that will help this draft. But if Trevon Moehrig and Jevon Holland end up being superior, this will be a disaster for a team that thinks it can compete right away. They also didn’t trade down at 4, so now there will have to be a serious salary pare down, and rumor was Julio Jones is on the block. If that happens, because they didn’t trade down, add that to the cost of the Pitts pick. Until they take defense seriously with their cash or picks, this team won’t have any D.
Emoji: *what do you mean this thing doesn’t have a fence option?*
Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, Odafe Oweh, Ben Cleveland, traded up prior to draft by sending RT to Chiefs.
The good news is they finally addressed wide receiver with a player who should offer a good balance with Hollywood Brown. The less good news is that they totally ignored center, where they still have no clear, good option. Odafe Oweh was an interesting pick, higher than some had projected. There were a lot of EDGE options available at that point, so it will interesting to see how it all shakes out there. Trading up to get him at that spot seems a little silly, given he, or an equivalent option, would probably have been available in the second round. I’m positive the Ravens needed help and EDGE at WR, and these were both reasonable selections, so I am going to go easy here. I’m still not excited though.
Buffalo Bills: Gregory Rousseau, Carlos Basham Jr., Spencer Brown, other players
Typical of the Bills, they made smart picks all along. They seem to be maintaining a policy of BPA (best player available) despite being in a position arguably where they could decide filling needs might put them over the top. They didn’t really improve the running situation a whole lot (although Spencer Brown is basically The Mountain from Game of Thrones), so I don’t want to go over the moon for them. Still, Rousseau and Basham could both be seen as values where they were picked. You can never have enough pass rushing. Solid scores.
Carolina Panthers: Jaycee Horn, Terrace Marshall Jr., Brady Christensen and Tommy Tremble
The Panthers had holes on offense and defense all over the place, so they really couldn’t take the wrong positions. It’s not really fair to question the positions they chose to address, when pretty much any one could be justified. The biggest question that will haunt them, was whether Patrick Surtain II was the better CB option than Horn or not. A lot of people felt like he was, and the tape revealed him to be the more consistent (if less dynamic) option. Personally, I would prefer great consistency to dynamism in my cornerbacks. We will see. For now, let’s call it…
Chicago Bears: Justin Fields, Teven Jenkins… and mannnyyyy moooore. Traded up in the first round to get Fields, selling of next year’s first pick and several others.
Look, the Bears had to do SOMETHING to get fan hope out of the crapper. They did indeed do that by selecting Fields, my second favorite player in this year’s draft. So that part I liked. Teven Jenkins also seemed like a good idea in the second round for a team that had offensive line issues last year. So why am I not showering them with flowers and sunshine? Because this team is not one piece away. Trading away their assets with holes all over the roster and letting a management team riddled with incompetence make that selection is a broken process. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but if you let that clock keep running incorrectly, good luck figuring out when that clock is ever going to get it right. It’s time to pull out the batteries and find some new ones. At this point, they are stumbling around aimlessly like a drunken frat boy.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, Jackson Carman, Joseph Ossai, and others. The Bengals traded down in the second round for Day 3 picks.
The Bengals wisely identified that they have a lot of holes. They traded down in the second round to gain access to additional opportunities. This draft will be defined, however, by their decision to go with Ja’Marr Chase and leave addressing the line for the mid-second round. This feels a lot like the Falcons, ignoring key elements of team need, then trading down rather than address them early in the second round. The difference is, the Bengals’ problem directly affects their franchise star, while, for the Falcons, it just affects their winning. The Bengals NEED to sign another offensive lineman now, and it won’t be cheap now that everyone knows it. On the plus side, thanks to Chase, jersey sales should skyrocket, so they can afford it.
Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome II, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Anthony Schwartz and some dawgs. They traded up in the second round to get the draft’s most massive slide in Owusu-Koramoah.
The Browns did a fantastic job of letting the draft come to them, right up until they needed to make a move. Getting Owusu-Koramoah was a complete coup. NFL teams were scared by Isaiah Simmons last year, when the Cardinals took him, and didn’t know what to do with him. It appears they decided to take it out on Koramoah instead of the Cardinals defensive coordinator. Koramoah should be successful in the right scheme, since he was one of the best players in all of college football last year. Successful in this context means getting a high first round pick for peanuts. Browns fans should be celebrating their front office’s sudden savvy.
Dallas Cowboys: Micah Parsons, Kelvin Joseph, Osa Odighizuwa, Chauncy Golston and lots, lots more. Traded down from 10-12 and added an extra third round pick, to likely get who they were picking at 10. Here is a team that GETS what the problem is. They took an avalanche of defensive players to address the obvious reason they didn’t win last year. They also made a smart trade down, and avoided taking the flashy pick to get business done. I barely recognize the Cowboys anymore. It remains to be seen if the picks are the right ones (Parsons has some questionable character issues and some of the others seemed like a bit of a reach), but at least they are trying to build a winning team, which is a shocking development.
Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, Javonte Williams, Quinn Meinerz, Baron Browning and the Broncos made a string of trades, first to move up in round 2, then down in round 3 twice.
I actually liked almost all of the this team’s actual selections. All of this wheeling and dealing lead to the team having a slew of later round picks, which I suspect will yield at least a couple valuable players. The real question mark with this draft is the team’s obsession with obtaining running backs while going cheap with picks/money at quarterback. For the last several years, this franchise has continued to use lower picks and sign cheap options at the most important and rare position, while spending a fortune in picks and cash to keep repopulating the position that is most disposable and cheap. We will see if following the same script will ever produce a different result, now that they passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones.
Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeil, and Ifeatu Melifonwu
The Lions did exactly what they said they would, drafting guys that seem really hungry. They clearly value winning the trenches. They have very little at wide receiver and in the secondary, so they are going to lose a lot on the boundary next year. In fairness, however, they were not going to fill every gap in a team that is basically one big hole in one draft. My only confusion stems from them taking two defensive tackles when they just traded for one, but I guess having a rotation is important when you have nothing at several other positions.
Green Bay Packers: Eric Stokes, Josh Meyers, and Amari Rodgers. They also infuriated the greatest player in franchise history so intensely he is considering retiring rather than come back.
The Packers bombed this whole weekend so intensely that I can’t rationally grade this. Eric Stokes and Josh Meyers were both widely regarded as reaches, and one year after picking Aaron’s replacement, they even replaced him as the Rodgers on the roster. While Aaron is notoriously bitter and resentful, it’s hard to bemoan him of frustration. This team seems to be actively driving him away with poor decisions (in the draft/free agency et. al), overt disinterest in Rodgers himself, and a firm commitment to mediocrity by refusing to pursue real upgrades for positions that need them. They are wasting Rodgers’ last years, and he knows it.
Houston Texans: David Mills, Nico Collins and other picks. They traded up, sacrificing picks from this year and next.
Why on earth are the Texans trading up and giving up future picks at this point? What possible good can one player do for this team? I don’t care how good they think Nico Collins is, they desperately need help everywhere and should be getting as many picks as humanly possible right now. Virtually every position on their roster needs improvement. David Mills was also a bizarre pick. I understand they have needs at quarterback, but maybe, before investing their little precious draft capital on a long shot, they should just let the Watson thing play out. This team is so lost, they should thank God every day the NFL can’t relegate them to the XFL.
Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo and other than a late round draft trade, not much else of interest.
Overall, I continue to be bored with this team. So little goes on that is exciting or interesting. As usual, their picks were fine. Not great, not terrible. Just solid. The players they took even play relatively bland positions. When the most interesting thing I can say about a team is they took an ordinary quarterback in the later rounds, there isn’t much to say.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Tyson Campbell, Walker Little, Andre Cisco, and Jay Teufele. Also like 6 other people.
Look, this team did what they needed to do. Take a lot of players. They need a lot, and they took a lot. They fought the urge to do much trading up, and hung onto their assets they so desperately need. I hated their Travis Etienne pick (and said so here). He is a luxury for a team that is currently the team equivalent of being 100,000 underwater on a mortgage. Still, he is good at football, so it might work out.
Kansas City Chiefs: Nick Bolton, Creed Humphrey and some others. They traded their top pick before the draft for Pro-Bowl Tackle Orlando Brown
This team has now totally addressed the problem with their offensive line that cost them the Super Bowl. This is how Aaron Rodgers wants the Packers to act, but they won’t. They also threw in a solid pick in Bolton, but this draft is all about scratching the back of the man who scratches theirs, Patrick Mahomes. When you love someone, you show them.
Las Vegas Raiders: Alex Leatherwood, Trevon Moehrig, Malcolm Koonce, Divine Diablo and more. They obtained an extra third round pick for trading away their All-Pro center.
I panned the Raiders first round pick of, once again, being indicative of them not understanding value, but in the second round they rallied by recognizing the value of a rapidly dropping Trevon Moehrig, who should be a good fit in their secondary. Still, this team continues to be all over the map with their decision making. These moves filled holes they themselves opened up, so I am stumped as to how they are going to get better.
Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, Asante Samuel Jr., Josh Palmer, Tre Mckitty and some other dudes.
The Chargers did a fantastic job getting what they needed, without reaching, or using excess draft capital. It was probably tempting to move up, but given their needs, having more options is always a good move. This team also might seem farther away than they really are after being horribly coached last year, but it is wise to not assume that. This draft was an unabashed success for a team that needed one.
Los Angeles Rams: Tutu Atwell, Ernest Jones and some others.
This team traded their top pick to get their hands on Jalen Ramsey a couple years ago, so that is good. I have no idea why they took Atwell though. It’s true he is fast and quick, but he is so small, I just don’t see how he will end up being a meaningful player. They still have plenty of needs, but they didn’t address those, they took a toy for Sean McVay, when that is the last thing they need. They need meat and potatoes players. This team fell apart when the offensive line did, not because there was a shortage of 5’9” 155 pound gadget players.
Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips, Jevon Holland, Liam Eichenberg, Hunter Long and others. The Dolphins unloaded their 5th round pick for a 4th next year (smart). They also traded their 4th prior to the draft.
The Dolphins finally got some dynamic players, something they were desperately missing heading into the offseason. Waddle, Philips and Holland are all exciting players who can make big plays in their own ways. Their first round picks, however, have medical question marks that might rear their ugly head, just like last year’s… Tua. If everyone can stay relatively healthy, this is all a fantastic idea. If.
Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, Kellen Mond, Chazz Surratt, Wyatt Davis, Patrick Jones II, and lots more folks. They traded down in the first round and loaded up on picks in later rounds.
The Vikings intelligently observed that their wasn’t much to be lost between 14-23, getting a player similarly valued to who they could have taken at 14. This is the proper way to manage a draft board. I was not in love with Kellen Mond in the second round. The problem they have right now is starting a QB who is below the top options. I don’t really see how Mond will be anything but the next Kirk Cousins. Chazz Surratt feels like an appropriate roll of the dice at that point, but I doubt he becomes much. Those last second position switches rarely end well. Still, it’s a lot of new pieces. Overall, I like the approach by the Vikings, but the some of the pieces seem to be from the wrong puzzle.
New England Patriots: Mac Jones, Christian Barmore, Ronnie Perkins, and more.
The Patriots wisely held steady with their early pick, refusing to give up assets to go up and get a QB. They were fortunate that one of what we assume to be their top choices fell to them. This allowed them to get a strong pick by moving up to get Christian Barmore later in the second round. One good decision lead to another. Ultimately, I don’t really know how good Mac Jones will really end up being, but this draft will be reviewed more for the wisdom the Pats showed on when to, and not to, go for it.
New Orleans Saints: Peyton Turner, Pete Werner, Paulson Adebo, etc. The Saints made a move up in round three.
It’s hard not to look at this draft and not see the Saints just trying to save money. They took players at affordable positions, and made backup quarterback as cheap as they could. These guys will fill depth roles on the roster this year, and that is about it. They are starting over in a lot of ways this season, and as they rebuild, they have their eye on one thing this year.
New York Giants: Kadarius Toney, Azeez Ojulari, Aaron Robinson and so on. The Giants made a major trade down with the Bears to get a first round pick next year and more.
The Giants did the right thing trading down after getting stuffed by the Eagles and Cowboys. Getting extra picks was important for a team that isn’t very good. This team is still in massive denial though. They refuse to acknowledge that Daniel Jones isn’t the answer. Admitting that pick was a miss should have had them drafting a quarterback. Instead, they are a dead man walking, headless and directionless, despite having a jacked body filled out with incredible skill position players. Eventually, the ownership group will realize this, fire Gettleman and Judge, and restart things. In the meantime, this is just going to keep dragging out, the Giants filling out a roster with a defined ceiling of “almost the playoffs”.
New York Jets: Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore, people named Michael Carter, and more. The Jets traded up in the middle of the first round, sacrificing a little of their war chest of draft assets.
I don’t think that much of Zach Wilson. He seems good in theory, but I wonder how he will hold up in NY. The Jets went up to get their guy with their second first round pick, and I can’t really hold that against them. They had plenty of spare assets. My only thought about this draft for them is that they STILL do not have any particularly good skill options, which they have been missing for years. Moore is a nice piece, but he basically just replaces Jamison Crowder, their best skill position player from last year. Michael Carter is a fine player who will enter the running back rotation. This is just phase 1 of what will probably take at least 3 drafts. That’s pretty much where they have been for a decade.
Philadelphia Eagles: Devonta Smith, Landon Dickerson, Milton Williams and others. They traded up in the first round (after trading down) to get Smith, giving up a third round pick.
I was fine with the small trade up after the big trade down. They essentially swapped a third round pick for a first and added an elite WR. That’s a win. Dickerson might work out okay, although that felt like a reach to me, when the other (healthier) centers went way later. They desperately needed offensive line help, although other than Dickerson, they didn’t really address it. With Hurts, you have a QB who can move around and buy time. Smith seems like a good player to pair with Hurts, because he knows how to find space against zones, and with Hurts running ability, zones will be aplenty. Overall, I think they did fine, even if they still have a ways to go.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green and others. They traded a fourth round pick next year for an extra fifth round pick this year.
That trade was dumb, but it probably won’t end up being a huge deal either way. I have no idea why they took a running back and a tight end, when their quarterback is completely immobile and their offensive line is a disaster. Do they think Harris is going to fare dramatically better than their RBs did last year behind the same aging line that is in decline? I don’t follow the logic of saving that line for 3-4 rounders when you desperately need it for your offense. To me, they simply missed the mark in addressing a massive need that is too severe to be ignored for BPA (BTW, BPA shouldn’t tell you to take a RB in the first round, even a very good, complete one like Harris).
San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, Aaron Banks, Trey Sermon and Ambry Thomas. Plus other players. The 49ers traded up to 3 to get Lance.
It felt a bit like a relief to see the 49ers select Lance at three, because Mac Jones quickly fell to 15. They were EXTREMELY close to selecting him 3 over all after moving up from 12 which would have been completely unnecessary. Even that reveals some of the truth with this decision. There would have been a good QB there for them to pick at 12. They themselves said any of 5 players would fit in their system. As it was, two were there at 12. Maybe even Lance would have made it. This draft comes down to their decision to trade up and lose two future first rounders. At this point, Lance has to outplay Fields and Jones considerably to prove this pick was worth it. I just don’t see that happening. I think they made a mistake. The rest of their picks don’t move the needle a lot.
Seattle Seahawks: D’Wayne Eskridge and two others. They traded away their first round picks and others in various trades.
Unlike the Rams, who got a truly great player via their lost first rounders, the Seahawks over spent on Jamal Adams who didn’t do much to adjust their trajectory last year. The Seahawks desperately need a youth movement on defense and the offensive line. They have had a lot of success in the draft in the past, so not having picks is especially painful for them. I like Eskridge, but that wasn’t the part of the team that needed the most help. This was a bad time to have no real options in free agency because of a lowered cap, and no picks. The Seahawks aren’t going to be significantly better next year. We are limiting this to the draft for grading though, and they did almost nothing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joe Tryon, Kyle Trask, Robert Hainsey and more.
The Bucs didn’t do much during the draft and didn’t need to. They already are the first team in NFL history since free agency began to keep all 22 starters from a Super Bowl Champion, and they just re-signed Antonio Brown. They added some depth competition and it will help them keep their roster cheap. I thought they reached for Trask a little, because I don’t really see how that helps them, God help them if he has to play. The day Tom leaves, he takes the Tompa magic with him. For now though? The magic is still in place.