The saying goes all good things must come to an end, and the saying rings true for the 2018 NFL Draft. The biggest event of the NFL off-season is officially over, and every team in the league has received an influx of young talent. This installment of the 2018 NFL Draft grades takes an in-depth dive into the moves made by every team in the NFC East and NFC West.
NFC East and NFC West 2018 NFL Draft Grades
Dallas Cowboys: B-
The Dallas Cowboys started the draft off by addressing one of their biggest needs in linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. Dallas doesn’t have much linebacker depth behind Sean Lee, so the Boise product should be a day one starter. Additionally, with Lee’s injury history, Vander Esch could realistically spend a sizable portion of the season as the team’s top linebacker.
The Cowboys have one of the thinnest receiving corps in the league, so third-round selection Michael Gallup should be able to immediately contribute for a starting position. Fortunately for the Cowboys, Gallup fell all the way to the third round and could be the teams best receiver by the end of the year.
While he doesn’t boast the size or physical tools of departed Cowboy Dez Bryant, he’s a much more polished route runner. He’s able to gain separation at all three levels of the field, which is something Bryant struggled with over the past few seasons. With a quarterback like Dak Prescott, who prefers safe, conservative throws, this duo has the potential to create a lot of yardage.
The biggest question in this draft is if Dalton Schultz can adequately fill Jason Witten’s shoes. Granted, Witten didn’t announce retirement until after the NFL Draft, but the Cowboys had to know Witten wouldn’t be around for long. Expecting a fourth rounder to match a Hall of Famer’s production is ridiculous, but it’s surprising the Cowboys didn’t invest higher in a potential replacement. Considering all Witten meant to the squad, it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys use Schultz.
New York Giants: B+
The New York Giants made one of the more divisive picks of the draft when they selected running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick. Barkley has undeniable talent, and was arguably the best player in the draft, regardless of position. However, running backs in today’s NFL aren’t worth that high an investment. With Eli Manning entering his age-37 season, the Giants should have invested in one of the top-tier quarterbacks like Sam Darnold. Nonetheless, the Giants still got a fantastic player, so it’s still a good pick.
Every other pick from there on addressed a need. The Giants offensive line was a mess in 2017, and second-round pick Will Herandez should help to fix it. New York won’t have a top-five offensive line in 2018, but Hernandez and free-agent signee Nate Solder should make it a respectable unit.
Perhaps the reason the Giants felt so comfortable passing on a top quarterback is that they believed in Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta. While Lauletta doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world, he’s a great leader who makes smart decisions with enviable accuracy. He’ll need a year or two to learn behind Manning, but he could become the quarterback of the future. If he pans out, selecting Barkley second overall becomes a much more justifiable decision.
The Giants added six players in the draft, but none beyond the fifth round. Much like the Titans, the Giants may suffer from not building depth. Injuries are a big part of the game and having depth players capable of playing make the difference between good teams and great teams. New York should have thought about trading back for more late-round selections.
Philadelphia Eagles: C
The defending champion Philadelphia Eagles only added five players, but that was mostly due to previous trades. They sent away 2018 Draft capital in exchange for Carson Wentz, Jay Ajayi, Ronald Darby, and Michael Bennett.
Nonetheless, these grades are based solely on the draft talent added, and the Eagles didn’t add much. Having only one selection in the first 100 selections, the Eagles selected tight end Dallas Goedert in the second round. He won’t start, as fellow tight end Zach Ertz is one of the top ten players at his position. However, the duo has the potential to form a dominant grouping similar to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez from the 2010-2012 New England Patriots.
While neither tight end matches Gronkowski’s talent, the Eagles love tight ends. With Wentz expected to be healthy for the start of the season, Goedert should put up stats immediately. There’s too much talent on offense, so Goedert should see a lot of single coverage.
The Eagles are clearly in win-now mode, trying to obtain as many championships as possible while Wentz is on his rookie contract. Trading draft picks for established veterans is a good way to ensure early wins in exchange for mortgaging the future. If the Eagles can avoid major injuries, this team should remain in the thick of the Super Bowl hunt.
Washington Redskins: B+
The Washington Redskins began their draft with two great selections. Washington had one of the worst run defenses in the league last season, and immediately addressed that need with the selection of Da’Ron Payne. While most didn’t have Payne going off the board at 13, he’s exactly what Washington needed. He’s great at eating space and should immediately help the Redskins run defense.
Guice could go down as one of the best steals of the entire draft. At the conclusion of the college football season, Guice was generally seen as the second-best running back in the draft, only behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. However, questions about his devotion arose, causing him to fall to the 59th overall pick. Guice will need to show he’s committed to football, but there’s no denying his talent. He’s one of the most physical runners in the draft, capable of ferociously running through the middle while also having the pop to take runs outside.
The biggest surprise of the Redskins draft was the selection of Geron Christian in the third round. While he was projected to go in the third round, it didn’t make much sense for the Redskins to take him here. They already have two solid starters at tackle in Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, so Christian’s presence is redundant. This wasn’t a case of talent being too high to ignore, so it’s confusing as to why Washington didn’t select a player at a position of need. And even if they didn’t like the talent on the board, why not trade down?
Arizona Cardinals: A
The Arizona Cardinals had arguably the best draft in the entire league, and it’s hard to pick out a bad or even questionable move. Initially holding the 15th overall selection, Arizona traded up to the tenth spot to select quarterback Josh Rosen. While getting a franchise quarterback is always a great move, it only cost the Cardinals a third- and a fifth-round pick to make the jump. That’s highway robbery.
Rosen comes with injury concerns, but several analysts had him as the best quarterback in the draft. At the very least, most agreed he was the most pro-ready quarterback. Rosen had a natural feel for the game, strong intelligence, and an arm capable of making most NFL throws. Sam Bradford currently tops the quarterback depth chart, but Rosen should usurp him before long.
Christian Kirk was considered a top-five receiver heading into the draft, and snagging him at 27 was a great steal for Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald can’t play forever (probably), and he doesn’t have much talent surrounding him. With the addition of Kirk, Arizona now has a formidable one-two duo that should help Rosen develop on the NFL level.
The Cardinals offense runs through David Johnson, and the Cardinals offense was never the same after he went down. Adrian Peterson tried to help, but he didn’t have enough left in the tank. While Johnson will return, Arizona drafted a great piece of insurance in Chase Edmunds. He’s not Johnson by any means, but he projects to be a strong third-down back. If he can keep Johnson healthier without a drastic drop in production, then the Cardinals offense should only be better.
Los Angeles Rams: C
Much like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Rams entered the 2018 NFL Draft with minimal draft capital. Thanks to trades for Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, and others, the Rams didn’t get on the board until the 87th overall pick. Once on the board, the Rams selected offensive tackle Joe Noteboom.
While he’s not anything special, Noteboom is a perfectly serviceable tackle capable of playing on both the left and right side of the line. The Rams offensive line is currently set, so Noteboom probably won’t see much playing time. However, current left tackle Andrew Whitworth is 36, and can’t stick around forever. Noteboom landed in the perfect situation, as he can learn behind Whitworth before eventually taking over the starting role.
Of all of their late selections, sixth-round running back John Kelly stands out as one of the best. He won’t be asked to start, but he can be a great change of pace back behind starter Todd Gurley. Kelly was projected as a third or fourth-round pick, so grabbing him at 176th overall was a great value. He also played for Tennessee, the same school as 2017 phenomenon Alvin Kamara. Then-coach Butch Jones was constantly criticized for not utilizing the talent on the roster, so it’s entirely possible that Kelly could have a similar breakout to Kamara.
Given the draft capital they had, the Rams did the best they realistically could. However, the Rams didn’t manage to add any top-end talent, which ultimately hurt their draft grade. Much like the Eagles, Los Angeles is going into win-now mode while their quarterback is on a rookie contract.
San Francisco 49ers: C+
The San Francisco 49ers obtained franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo via a midseason trade, and they spent their first two picks trying to make his life easier. With the ninth overall selection, the 49ers made an interesting choice by selecting tackle Mike McGlinchey.
McGlinchey was the best tackle in the draft, but taking him at nine was a reach. Several future All-Pro’s like Minkah Fitzpatrick were still on the board, while McGlinchey doesn’t have that ceiling. Additionally, the 49ers already had Joe Staley and Trenton Brown at tackle. McGlinchey’s a good player, but he didn’t fit an urgent need and he wasn’t the best player on the board.
Selecting Dante Pettis in the second round was a much better move. While the NFL.com draft profile projected him as a second-round pick, he’s a perfect fit in the San Francisco offense. Pettis is a polished route runner who can line up both outside and in the slot. His best asset is his lateral quickness, and he can separate on all three levels. In many ways, his scouting report describes a lesser Julian Edelman. Pettis could be to Garoppolo what Edelman is to Tom Brady.
Linebacker Fred Warner isn’t built like your prototypical linebacker, and the 49ers know that. Warner was drafted to be a coverage exclusive linebacker, devoted to taking away running backs and tight ends in coverage. He’s not great against the run, so it will be interesting to see how the 49ers use him. If he’s on the field on more than just passing downs, teams may choose to run the ball right at him.
Seattle Seahawks: C-
After a disappointing 9-7 season, the Seattle Seahawks are in something of a transition. They had several needs and should have drafted the best player available. Instead, they selected running back Rashaad Penny. Penny will likely be an NFL starter for years to come, but he wasn’t the best player on the board by any means. He probably wasn’t even the best running back on the board. In today’s NFL, the running back position isn’t nearly as important as it once was. Unless you have a top-five back, investing highly in a running back is a poor value decision. Penny is not going to be a top-five back.
While the Penny selection was something of a head-scratcher, the Griffen pick could go down as one of the best in the draft. Based on film and his combine performance, Griffen was a borderline first-round talent. However, concerns about him only having one hand caused him to fall into the fifth round.
Griffen has been doubted his whole career, and he’s proved the doubters wrong at every level. Look for that trend to continue, as Penny has the heart and physical tools to thrive in the NFL. The Seahawks could have the best linebacking duo for years to come with Griffen and Bobby Wagner.
Once again, Seattle ignored its glaring offensive line problem. Outside of fifth-round tackle Jamarco Jones, Seattle invested no effort in fixing one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Russell Wilson is an incredible quarterback, but he can’t survive without protection. Nobody can. He hasn’t had any serious injuries yet, but that can’t possibly last if Seattle never gives him a decent offensive line.
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