I'm not sure if giving grades out right after a draft is more like critiquing a meal right after you've ordered it, or reviewing a book just after you've cracked Page 1. At the very least, it will take one full season before a team's selection process can be accurately assessed in the long-term view. As to the validity and accuracy of immediate grades, you should ask the guys who didn't know who Tom Brady was in 2000, or saw Russell Wilson as a third-round waste pick in 2012. So, with that in mind, consider this a series of early reflections, more based on how the players performed in college, potential scheme fits, and overall team quality.
Left tackle was an obvious need for the Bears -- J'Marcus Webb started all 16 games for Chicago at that position in 2012, and per Pro Football Focus, he allowed seven sacks, five quarterback hits, and 29 hurries. Oregon's Kyle Long (son of Howie and brother to Chris) is a raw prospect, which had some questioning his first-round selection, but new GM Phil Emery understands that there's nowhere to go but up, and Long has some pretty freakish upside. The former Florida State pitcher and junior college defensive end made tracks with the Ducks in just one season despite the fact that he didn't play spring ball. Long can play multiple positions along the line, but projects best as a left tackle, though Chicago signed former Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod to a five-year, $35.965 million deal in March.
With Brian Urlacher gone and Lance Briggs getting up there in years, Emery then addressed the linebacker position with two interesting picks -- Florida's Jon Bostic is a pure thumper who may max out physically at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, but he's the kind of future team captain this team will need as the roster churn continues. Khaseem Greene from Rutgers is a different breed of cat -- he's about Bostic's size, but has the athleticism and range common to today's breed of NFL coverage linebacker, a position Urlacher helped to define. Louisiana Tech tackle Jordan Mills, the cousin of Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, needs finishing work before he's ready for prime time, but he's a bruiser who could project well to guard. Chicago finished off its 2013 draft with two players who could be steals if they live up to their potential -- Georgia OLB Cornelius Washington is an edge rusher with every physical attribute you could want, and Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson is a high-cut speed target best known for landing in Mike Leach's doghouse, a journey that got him booted off the team and seriously affected what probably would have been a third-round grade based on pure talent.
Detroit Lions: 5. DE Ezekiel Ansah, 36. CB Darius Slay, 65. G Larry Warford, 132. DE Devin Taylor, 165. P Sam Martin, 171. WR Corey Fuller, 191. RB Theo Riddick, 211. TE Michael Williams, 245. LB Brandon Hepburn.
The Lions went hard on physical potential in their draft -- it wasn't just the primary theme in Martin Mayhew's draft room, it was basically the only one. BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has rare and special strength and athleticism, but he needs to better use leverage in his game, and he must develop an array of hand moves. One underrated aspect of Ansah's potential is that he's already played well all over a defensive line -- from standing up as an endbacker, to his traditional end position, to tackle in some passing down situations. Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham know how to coach linemen up, and Ansah has none of the off-field baggage other high Detroit picks have come with. Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay ran an official 4.31 40 at the scouting combine, and that speed transfers to the field. However, Slay has just one year of BCS-level starting experience under his belt, and that shows up on the field, as well. Kentucky guard Larry Warford plays with rare strength, but he also lets his weight get out of control, and though he shows good awareness on the field, one wonders how the Lions, who pass more than any other team in the league, will reconcile a very slow blocker into their system.
South Carolina end Devin Taylor is another physical marvel whose play doesn't always reflect it -- the 6-foot-7, 266-pound pass rusher has legit 4.6 speed but iffy production. Virginia Tech receiver Corey Fuller is a former track guy who's still figuring out the ins and outs of the position. This is a player to watch. Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick gained more than 1,000 yards rushing, receiving, and returning for the Fighting Irish, and the Lions would love for him to develop into a Reggie Bush- or Jahvid Best-style player.
Green Bay Packers: 26. DE Datone Jones, 61. RB Eddie Lacy, 109. OT David Bakhtiari, 122. C J.C. Tretter, 125. RB Johnathan Franklin, 159. CB Micah Hyde, 167. DE Josh Boyd, 193. LB Nate Palmer, 216. WR C.J. Johnson, 224. WR Kevin Dorsey, 232. LB Sam Barrington.
The Packers have been in serious need of an end/tackle hybrid player who can rush the passer and stuff the run since Cullen Jenkins took off for Philadelphia in 2011. UCLA lineman Datone Jones is an absolutely perfect fit at that spot -- Jones plays three-tech tackle, five-tech end, and traditional four-front end with production and conviction. And after years of questionable help from his running backs, Aaron Rodgers could be forgiven if he mistook draft weekend for Christmas morning. Alabama's Eddie Lacy is the ideal power rotation back, and a worthy successor to Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson for the Crimson Tide, but don't be surprised if the fourth-rounder, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, winds up as the best scheme fit in this offense. The Bruins' all-time leading rusher also caught 33 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns last season, and if he can get his pass protection shored up, Franklin's quick acceleration might add up to a nightmare for enemy defenses.
Packers GM Ted Thompson has never been shy about taking calculated risks on players with upside, and Colorado offensive tackle David Bakhtiari fits the bill nicely. Nate Solder's replacement for the Buffaloes could turn into Rodgers' backside pass protector over time -- he needs some development when blocking in space, but he may already be a more evolved pass-blocker than Marshall Newhouse. Keep an eye on Mississippi State defensive tackle Josh Boyd; the 6-foot-3, 310-pound lineman really impressed me with his turn speed and fluidity at the Senior Bowl and he may have a bright future as an end in Dom Capers' 3-4 defense.
Minnesota Vikings: 23. DT Sharrif Floyd, 25. CB Xavier Rhodes, 29. WR Cordarrelle Patterson, 120. OLB Gerald Hodges, 155. P Jeff Locke, 196. G Jeff Baca, 213. OLB Michael Mauti, 214. G Travis Bond, 229. DT Everett Dawkins.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman isn't always mentioned when lists of the league's best personnel men come up, but that could change if the projections pan out, and Minnesota gets five impact starters out of its five first-round picks in the last two years. In 2012, tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith impressed from Day 1, and there are three more to watch in 2013. With their actual first-round pick at 23, the Vikings got an absolute steal with Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, Shutdown Corner's fifth-rated player in the 2013 draft class. Floyd may have dropped due to the NFL bias against short-armed players, and because he didn't absolutely dominate at one position, but those dinging him for that are missing the point -- Floyd was outstanding all over the line, and he gives Minnesota's defensive front a serious does of elite positional versatility. He reminds me a bit of Richard Seymour.
Though the Vikings have preferred zone defenders over the last few years, grabbing Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes with the 25th overall pick acquired in the Percy Harvin trade was too good to pass up. Rhodes needs some work on his pass drop and short-area coverage, but the Vikings are reacting to the very real threats presented in the division by big, productive receivers such as Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Jordy Nelson. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Rhodes is by far the most physical press corner in this class, and he'll present immediate matchup problems for those he goes up against ... with the possible exception of Megatron, who can't be figured out with conventional weapons.
And to replace Harvin, Spielman traded back into the first round with the New England Patriots and took a shot on Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Tyler Bray's favorite target is a little raw in the route department, but he mirrors Harvin's burst off the line and ability to make tough catches in intermediate routes. The Vikes may have picked up a relative steal in Penn State's Gerald Hodges, the latest NFL entry from Linebacker U. Hodges fits the Vikings' defensive mindset as a tough, physical, but somewhat undersized player who can move pretty well in open areas. Keep an eye also on seventh-rounder Everett Dawkins out of Florida State. The defensive lineman is a bit of a size tweener (6-foot-2, 292 pounds), but I really liked his ability to get under blocks and penetrate the pocket during Senior Bowl week.
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