The 2017 NFL draft is complete, so no time like the present to grade it, right?
In all seriousness, it’s not fair to issue final report cards on this draft until some time in 2020. Still, it’s valid to assess early impressions of each team’s performance with the caveat some of these grades will almost surely change drastically … just as some general managers (and likely ex-GMs) will wish in a few years – maybe fewer – that they’d gone in a drastically different direction when choosing players.
Cleveland Browns: They didn’t pull off what seemed to be their dream scenario, adding both DE Myles Garrett and QB Mitchell Trubisky. But credit executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown and Co. for not overthinking the selection of Garrett at No. 1 and not overpaying for a quarterback with 13 college starts. Agree with their analytics or not, the Browns also stuck to their board and dealt out at No. 12 (rather than take Clemson QB Deshaun Watson), yet sprung for Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer, who may have more upside than Watson anyway, when he was available at No. 52. Punting at 12 netted Brown a 2018 first rounder, meaning Cleveland owns five picks in the first two rounds next year – still more than enough ammo to pursue a veteran or rookie QB in the near future.
Jabrill Peppers, picked 25th overall, doesn’t have a defined position, but he’ll surely fill a gap somewhere on a defense full of them while adding special teams value. The third first rounder, David Njoku, could have more potential than any of this year’s tight ends and excited team brass enough to cut Gary Barnidge. Sixth-round DT Caleb Brantley could be a wasted pick – Brown has already acknowledged as much – or a nice gamble if his legal issues don’t sink him.
San Francisco 49ers: New GM John Lynch heard the Matt Millen comparisons after his surprise hire in January. But after brilliantly manipulating his first draft, maybe he’s earned more faith he can restore the Niners to their former glory. Lynch picked up two third rounders and a fourth for simply flipping his No. 2 choice for Chicago’s No. 3 – a nice payout given the rebuild facing Lynch and new coach Kyle Shanahan.