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The 2017 NFL Draft First-Round Grades

The Browns keep gathering athletes, the Texans pay for another quarterback, and the Bears … did what?

(AP Images/Ringer illustration)
(AP Images/Ringer illustration)

The 2017 NFL draft kicked off Thursday night with a first round that included picks both long-expected and totally shocking. We made sense of the selections by handing out grades throughout the evening, which you can find below.

1. Cleveland Browns: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Garrett’s the best player in the draft, and the Browns had to take him here. With rare size (6-foot-4, 272 pounds) and explosiveness (4.64 40 and a 41-inch vertical), he should slot right in as a day-one starter at the weakside defensive end spot for Cleveland’s new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. He’s got the first-step quickness and power to rush from the inside in some passing situations, too. His upside is as a perennial double-digit sack producer and All-Pro end. The only real concern is his motor — he even admitted to loafing on a few too many plays in college — but at worst, he should be a solid starter on Cleveland’s defensive line.

Fit: A+

Value: A+

2. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers): QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

The Bears are betting on Trubisky’s tools — he displayed a strong arm, solid accuracy, sound decision-making, and mobility for North Carolina last year — but he comes to the NFL with just 13 starts to his name and almost no experience taking snaps from under center in a pro-style passing offense. Chicago just signed Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million contract in March, and Trubisky could benefit from a year backing up the veteran signal-caller, particularly given the Bears’ lack of weapons in the passing game. This pick would be a huge risk on its own, but Chicago gave up a sizable chunk of draft capital (no. 3, third- and fourth-round picks this year, and a third-rounder in 2018) to move up just one spot to grab the raw signal-caller.

Fit: B

Value: C-

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears): DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

This was an easy choice even before the 49ers gained all those draft picks to move down one spot and still get the guy they wanted. Thomas combines size, fluid athleticism, and strength with a nonstop motor. The versatility he showed at Stanford playing both inside and on the edge conjures images of Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett. Thomas should quickly become a cornerstone in new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4–3 scheme, lining up at defensive end on first and second down, then bumping over to the three-technique spot on third downs. At 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds, he’s earned the "tweener" label from some critics — not quite long enough to consistently win as an outside pass rusher and not quite big enough on the inside — but he’s got the explosiveness and technique to overcome those concerns.

Fit: A

Value: A+

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

Fournette is a downhill-running battering ram who weighed in at 240 pounds at the combine. But the former Tiger has rare explosiveness — when he takes a handoff, it looks like he’s been shot out of a cannon — and if his offensive line gives him a sliver of room to get into the second level, he’s a threat to score a touchdown from anywhere. The physical run game he’ll help create in Jacksonville should take the pressure off of quarterback Blake Bortles to carry the offense. Using the no. 4 pick on a running back is dangerous, though. Fournette lacks lateral agility and foot quickness — he’s not a shifty creator behind the line of scrimmage — so his impact could be limited by what the Jaguars offensive line can do in front of him. Plus, his ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield is a question mark: He caught just 41 passes for 526 yards in his three-year career at LSU.

Fit: B+

Value: C+

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams): WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Davis has everything you look for in a no. 1 receiver: excellent size, speed, quickness, and an unshakable swagger. He’s dominant over middle of the field on slant routes, shielding cornerbacks away from the ball to secure the pass. He’s a physical box-out target in the red zone who can go up in traffic and make the catch. And he’s also a strong runner after the catch who could feature in the screen game. GM Jon Robinson just got Marcus Mariota a guy who can make plays all across the field.

Fit: A+

Value: A

6. New York Jets: S Jamal Adams, LSU

Adams is hard-hitting against the run, can cover tight ends and running backs over the middle, and is a vocal leader on and off the field. Todd Bowles can deploy the LSU product all over his defense — up in the box to make plays against the run, as a lurk defender intimidating receivers in the middle of the field, or as the last line of defense downfield. Safeties rarely go this high, but Adams is a special talent who should make his mark early on a team that’s firmly in rebuild mode.

Fit: A+

Value: B-

7. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Mike Williams, Clemson

Philip Rivers has never been afraid to throw the football into tight quarters, and he just picked up the best contested-ball catcher in the draft as his newest downfield target. Williams has prototypical size to play on the outside, and makes up for a lack of quickness in and out of his breaks with excellent body control, great positioning, and vice-grip hands to pluck the ball out of the air. He’s a playmaker in the red zone and should be a frequent target over the middle on third downs.

Fit: A+

Value: A

8. Carolina Panthers: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

McCaffrey is not a normal running back. Not only can he run between the tackles with vision and burst, he’s also an incredible route runner with soft hands in the passing game and an explosive return man. Carolina can utilize the former Heisman candidate across four downs, whether it’s taking handoffs on first and second downs, running routes and giving Cam Newton a reliable target over the middle of the field on third down, or as a dangerous punt returner. McCaffrey’s versatility all but negates the idea that running backs shouldn’t go this high.

Fit: A+

Value: B+

9. Cincinnati Bengals: WR John Ross, Washington

Ross broke the combine’s 40-yard dash record when he ran it in 4.22 seconds, and that doesn’t even accurately capture how fast he is on the field. Joining A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert in Cincinnati, he will be a home run threat down the field for Andy Dalton on every snap. And since the former Husky is going to see a steady dose of big cushions from cornerbacks, he should factor into the short and intermediate areas, too. With four kick-return touchdowns in college, he also has plenty of value in the return game.

Fit: A

Value: A

10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills): QB Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech

The Chiefs just got the heir apparent to Alex Smith, but in many ways, Mahomes is Smith’s polar opposite: The son of a former MLB pitcher, he has an incredible arm, and he’s never been afraid to use it. But unlike Smith, Mahomes lacks discipline and consistency — both when it comes to playing within the constructs of the offense and with his accuracy and decision-making. Andy Reid has a project on his hands, and it will take some time for Mahomes to acclimate and adapt to Reid’s West Coast offense, but the former Red Raider is going to a team with plenty of playmakers, including Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. It’s a high-risk, high-reward move for the Chiefs, who gave up this year’s 27th pick, another third-rounder this year, and a first-rounder next year to move up to this spot.

Fit: B

Value: C

11. New Orleans Saints: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

This is a dream scenario for New Orleans. The Saints came into the draft with cornerback as their top need, and without having to move up, they grabbed the top corner in this year’s class. The former Buckeye struggled with hamstring injuries in college — and he joins a team whose cornerbacks were devastated by injuries last year — but Lattimore possesses prototypical size, speed, and playmaking ability. He has the talent to be the league’s next shutdown corner and could start on day one in Dennis Allen’s defense.

Fit: B+

Value: A+

12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns through Philadelphia Eagles): QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Watson’s an experienced field general and clutch playmaker who starred in the past two national championship games for Clemson, winning it all this past season. There are concerns about arm strength and bouts of inaccuracy in the midrange and deep down the field, but Watson’s a dynamic and versatile talent whose confidence never wavers. He’ll compete with Tom Savage for the starting spot as a rookie, but it’ll surprise no one if he wins the job outright. The cost here is more than just one pick, though: Houston gave up this year’s 25th-overall pick and next year’s first-round pick to move up to the no. 12 spot. Like his fellow first-round quarterbacks, Watson has little experience under center in a pro-style scheme, but he enters a good situation, with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller to target downfield and a top-tier defense to support him.

Fit: A

Value: B

13. Arizona Cardinals: DE/LB Haason Reddick, Temple

Reddick is one of the best athletes in the draft, with a great first step and the fluid athleticism to drop back in coverage. While he lacks prototypical size as a pass rusher, his versatility makes him an ideal fit in Arizona’s multiple blitz-happy scheme: on first and second down he can cover or blitz from the linebacker spot, then on third down, he can put his hand in the dirt and rush off the edge of the line. A full-time end in college, he has no linebacker experience, but he’s got plenty of upside.

Fit: A+

Value: B+

14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings): DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Barnett isn’t a phenomenal athlete, but he makes up for it with physicality and toughness. He’s not going to run past many offensive tackles, but he beats them around the edge with powerful hands and the ability to dip his shoulder and bend around the corner. Per Pro Football Focus, he racked up 75 total pressures last year, fourth most in the country among edge rushers. It’s unclear, though, how well he’ll fit into Philly’s wide-9 rush alignment, which typically employs explosive quick-twitch rushers.

Fit: B-

Value: B+

15. Indianapolis Colts: S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Hooker is a true single-high safety, with the elite instincts to break quickly on passes and the range to break them up. He also has the ability to shut down huge swaths of the secondary. There’s some concern with his consistency as a tackler, and he started for just one season at Ohio State. Still, Chris Ballard’s first pick as the general manager in Indianapolis is on a player he can build a defense around. Hooker should start from day one for a Colts defense badly in need of a ball hawk.

Fit: A+

Value: A+

16. Baltimore Ravens: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

Humphrey has Ravens cornerback written all over him: He’s tough, physical, athletic, and tenacious as a tackler. The former Crimson Tide playmaker can be susceptible to the deep pass at times, but boasts elite size and speed — and the mentality to develop into a true no. 1 on the outside for Baltimore. He fills a big area of need for one of the league’s best defenses, which had a vacancy at that spot opposite Jimmy Smith.

Fit: A+

Value: B+

17. Washington Redskins: DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Most projections had Allen going somewhere in the top 10, but he dropped into the teens because of concerns about the health of his shoulders. The Chuck Bednarik Award winner as college football’s top defensive player, he should contribute to Washington from day one, slotting right into free-agent departure Chris Baker’s spot on the defensive line. Allen is a versatile and disruptive talent, capable of knifing into the backfield and stuffing the run.

Fit: A

Value: A+

18. Tennessee Titans: CB Adoree’ Jackson, USC

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

After releasing starting cornerback Jason McCourty in April, the Titans entered the draft needing to find his replacement at the spot opposite Logan Ryan. They’ve found one in the former Trojans playmaker. There’s concern about Jackson’s lack of size (just 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds), and it’s hard to forget the time that John Ross broke his ankles en route to a touchdown catch, but Jackson makes up for those worries with Olympic-caliber speed and agility, as well as a nose for the football. With Jackson, the Titans not only pick up a starter at corner, but also a high-impact return man and a player with the talent to take on some role in head coach Mike Mularkey’s "exotic smashmouth" offense.

Fit: A-

Value: B

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama

Howard joins a stacked Buccaneers pass offense that already features Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. He’ll serve as a dual-threat tight end with the ability to stay in and block for the run game and streak up the seam and catch passes from Jameis Winston. Howard is a rare athlete — 6-foot-6, 251 pounds, and 4.51 40 speed — but was underutilized in Alabama’s run-heavy scheme. That shouldn’t be an issue in Tampa Bay: Howard has the upside of a double-digit touchdown-maker and All-Pro, and the Bucs get him at a spot much later than most mock drafts projected.

Fit: A+

Value: A

20. Denver Broncos: OT Garett Bolles, Utah

After declining to pick up Russell Okung’s option, the Broncos came into the draft with one glaring need: offensive tackle. But due to a serendipitous and historic drop among offensive linemen, they had their pick of the figurative litter at that position. In Bolles, Denver comes away with a day-one starter at left tackle. Turning 25 next month, the Utah product is old for an NFL rookie, which diminishes his value at this spot, but he plays with a nasty demeanor and finishes his blocks. With smooth athleticism and quick feet, he’s a great fit in the Broncos’ zone-blocking scheme.

Fit: A+

Value: B-

21. Detroit Lions: LB Jarrad Davis, Florida

Davis is a ferocious downhill tackler capable of lining up in the middle or on the weak side. A rangy athlete who’s comfortable in space, he’ll be a three-down impact player, capable of playing the run and covering against the pass. For a defense that desperately needs an infusion of speed at the second level, he’s a great fit. The former Gator comes with some injury concerns after he missed time last year (and had to skip the combine) with an ankle injury, but a strong pro day, where he ran a 4.62 40 with a 38.5-inch vert, confirmed the ability you can see on tape.

Fit: A

Value: B

22. Miami Dolphins: DE/LB Charles Harris, Missouri

Cameron Wake isn’t getting any younger, and Mario Williams is no longer in the picture for the Dolphins, so the selection of Harris at no. 22 makes plenty of sense. Harris has a quick first step, a motor that never stops running, and the flexibility to bend around the edge and get to opposing quarterbacks. He transformed those traits into production at Missouri, racking up 12 tackles for loss, including nine sacks, in the 2016 season. He’ll factor into Miami’s rotation as a rookie, pass rushing alongside Wake and Andre Branch.

Fit: A

Value: B+

23. New York Giants: TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss

The Giants’ 26th-ranked scoring offense badly needed a boost, and Engram is the guy to provide one. He should fit their scheme perfectly, running routes up the seam between Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. The former Ole Miss playmaker is the prototype for the move tight end of the modern game: The 6-foot-3 234-pounder runs a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, displays excellent body control and reliable hands, and has a history of production (65 catches for 926 yards with eight scores in 2016). Engram won’t help the Giants much when it comes to blocking, but that’s not how the offense likely plans to use him anyway.

Fit: A+

Value: B-

24. Oakland Raiders: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State

Conley’s status entering draft night was unclear: The Ohio State cornerback, who is widely viewed as a top-15-type talent, was accused of rape earlier this week. No charges have been filed in the case, which is under investigation by the Cleveland Division of Police Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit. Conley reportedly passed a polygraph test at the request of one interested NFL team, and the Raiders felt comfortable picking him at no. 24 despite the allegations. From a strictly on-field standpoint, Conley has prototypical size (6-foot and 195 pounds), length (33-inch arms), and athleticism (4.44-second 40-yard dash; 37-inch vertical leap; 6.68-second three-cone drill) for a corner. He limited opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 14.0 in coverage last season. Out of respect for the investigation, we’re going to hold off on assigning a grade for this pick.

25. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans): S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Peppers is a top-tier athlete who racked up 15 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks, in a hybrid linebacker/safety role for the Wolverines last season. How the jack-of-all-trades defender — who also played some running back and featured as a return man for Michigan — will be used in Cleveland now becomes the big question: Peppers needs to prove that he has the ball skills to hang in coverage in the NFL (he had just one interception in his college career), but he’s the type of playmaker Cleveland can deploy in a number of roles, whether in the box as a safety, in the slot as a coverage defender, or back deep as the last line of defense. Hue Jackson seems like a coach who would be willing to incorporate Peppers into his offense, too.

Fit: B

Value: B-

26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks): DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

McKinley lived in opposing backfields during the 2016 season, finishing with 18 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks. He has an explosive first step and plays with incredible intensity — anyone watching the draft saw that part of his personality in action — and he fills a big area of need for the defending NFC champs. Atlanta gave away third- and seventh-round picks to move up five slots to select McKinley, who’s still raw with his technique and will need to develop a more refined repertoire of moves. But his effort and athleticism should allow him to factor in on the weak side on obvious passing downs, opposite Vic Beasley in coach Dan Quinn’s defense.

Fit: B+

Value: B-

27. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs): CB Tre’Davious White, LSU

After losing Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots in free agency, the Bills came into this draft with a major need at cornerback. They addressed that by grabbing White, who should be a day-one starter, and they picked up an extra 2017 third-rounder and a 2018 first-rounder in the process by trading back in a deal with Kansas City. White is a versatile and talented cover corner who can play both on the outside and in the slot.

Fit: A

Value: A+

28. Dallas Cowboys: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan

At 6-foot-6 and 277 pounds with 34-plus-inch arms, Charlton possesses ideal size and length — but he hasn’t put it all together as a pass rusher. He can be inconsistent at times, and he failed to impress at the combine, clocking in at 4.92 seconds in the 40. That time doesn’t paint an accurate picture of who he is, though: He has a quick first step, displays powerful hands, and shows flashes of an intriguing spin move that could develop into his signature at the next level. Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has a history of getting the most out of his defensive linemen; Charlton could contribute early for a Cowboys team bereft of edge rushers.

Fit: B+

Value: A-

29. Cleveland Browns (from Green Bay Packers): TE David Njoku, Miami

When Cleveland gave up its fourth-round pick to move up four spots, most thought it’d be to select a quarterback — but nope! Turns out Hue Jackson was telling the truth when he told reporters at the combine that he wanted to build a complete, talented offense before throwing a quarterback-of-the-future into the fray. Instead, the Browns went with Njoku, an über-athletic tight end who could be the new version of Tyler Eifert, who thrived under Jackson in Cincinnati. With a 6-foot-4 frame, 35-plus-inch arms, and a 37.5-inch vertical jump, it may not matter who’s throwing him the football in 2017; all they’ll need to do is put it somewhere nearby.

Fit: A

Value: B

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Watt, who blew up the combine with a 37-inch vertical jump and a 6.79 three-cone drill time, joins a growing list of athletic early-round selections for Pittsburgh: outside linebacker Bud Dupree, safety Sean Davis, and linebacker Ryan Shazier. J.J.’s talented younger brother gives the Steelers yet another versatile playmaker on defense, and the heir to James Harrison is a high-effort, disciplined rusher with the ability to drop back into coverage, too. The former Badger likely got a pretty decent stock boost due to his last name, but he should be a solid early contributor in Keith Butler’s defense.

Fit: B+

Value: B

31. San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks through Atlanta Falcons): LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

Foster’s stock tanked after he got kicked out of the combine for an altercation with a hospital worker and then later failed a drug test due to a diluted sample. He’s a top-10 talent and a day-one starter on the weak side of Robert Saleh’s defense in San Francisco. Next to NaVorro Bowman, the Niners now have a pair of three-down linebackers, both capable of playing the run and dropping back into pass coverage on third down. The 49ers had to give Seattle their early fourth-round pick to move back up into the first round, but if Foster’s bad offseason is more of a blip than a sign of things to come, GM John Lynch got amazing value with this pick.

Fit: A+

Value: A+

32. New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots): OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

Ramczyk wasn’t a huge need pick for the Saints, but many saw him as the top left tackle in the class, and that represented far too great of a value for New Orleans to pass up. The quick-footed former Badger isn’t likely to be an early-impact starter in New Orleans, but in the short term, he’ll provide excellent depth as a swing tackle behind Terron Armstead and 33-year-old Zach Strief. Eventually, Ramczyk should take over for Strief.

Fit: B-

Value: A