2017 NFL Draft Grades: Analysis Of Each First-Round Pick Made Thursday

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PHILADELPHIA — The City of Brotherly Love kicked off the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday night with all 32 picks of the first round.

This can be a make-or-break time for many teams. Striking out on a first-round selection can be quite costly for a team’s rebuild, sometimes even setting it back several seasons. On the flip side, one great pick can turn around a team’s fortunes in a hurry, especially if that home-run selection is a quarterback.

Here are our first-round grades for every pick made Thursday night.

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

Garrett is an elite pass rusher, something the Browns’ defense sorely lacked last season. Cleveland tallied the second-fewest sacks and allowed the third-most passing yards per attempt last season. Most of those struggles stemmed from not putting consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback, and Garrett should address that starting in Week 1. The Browns could have addressed their QB need with this pick, but taking the best player available and filling another major need was the smart move.

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

Mitchell Trubisky could be a fine NFL QB, but he has just 13 games of starting experience at the collegiate level and played poorly in North Carolina’s bowl game loss to Stanford. The real issue with this pick is the Bears giving up the No. 3 overall pick, third- and fourth-round picks this year and a 2018 third-round selection to move up one spot for Trubisky. That’s a ton of quality assets to surrender for a quarterback who’s far from a sure thing.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Grade: B+

Thomas is a fantastic pass rusher and addresses a major need on a 49ers defensive line that needs upgrades. The Stanford defensive end has great strength, sheds blocks with quick hands and is versatile enough to play multiple defensive line positions.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Grade: A-

Fournette is a powerful back with good speed for his size — he’s drawn comparisons to former NFL MVP Adrian Peterson as a result. The Jaguars’ eight rushing touchdowns were the second-fewest in the NFL last season, so this certainly is a position of need. Fournette should compete and win the starting job over veterans Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.

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

The Titans had to give quarterback Marcus Mariota a No. 1-type receiver and Davis certainly has that potential. He dominated college football last season with 97 receptions for 1,500 yards and a career-high 19 touchdowns.

Davis also said Wednesday that Mariota is his favorite quarterback.

6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Grade: A

Adams was the first- or second-best player in this draft, depending on which expert you believe. The Jets needed a ton of help in the secondary, and Adams will improve it right away with his smarts and athleticism. He was a major reason why LSU had an elite defense last season.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Grade: B+

The Chargers needed to get younger pass-catchers with tight end Antonio Gates aging and wideout Keenan Allen consistently dealing with injuries. Williams is a big, strong and athletic wide receiver who can make spectacular catches in traffic. He played a pivotal role in Clemson’s national title-winning 2016 season.

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Grade: B+

McCaffrey didn’t have the Heisman Trophy-winning 2016 campaign that many experts predicted, but he still had a solid season for Stanford. He tallied nearly 2,000 total yards with 19 total touchdowns as a junior last season. McCaffrey will take some of the rushing workload off of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who needs to save his body from huge hits in the open field.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, WR, Washington
Grade: B+
Ross is a tremendous athlete, evidenced by his record-breaking 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this year. The Bengals needed to bolster their wide receiver depth after losing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency before last season.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills): Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Grade: B-
This was a risky move by the Chiefs to trade up 17 spots and take Mahomes over Deshaun Watson. Mahomes threw for more than 5,000 yards and 35-plus touchdowns for the Red Raiders last season, but his pocket awareness is just average and he throws off his back foot too often.

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

Lattimore is an excellent cover corner and tackles very well. He’s a perfect addition to a Saints secondary that was torched last season. The Saints defense as a whole allowed 28.4 points per game in 2016, the second-most in the league. Drafting Lattimore might also end New Orleans’ interest in a possible trade for New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.

12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns via Philadelphia Eagles): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Grade: B+

The Texans’ most glaring need was at quarterback, so it made sense for them to trade up from No. 25 to No. 12 to take arguably the best QB in this class. Watson is a dual-threat quarterback with an excellent record in big games. He dominated Alabama’s elite defense in each of the last two College Football Playoff National Championship Games. Houston, which already had a top defense, now is better equipped to compete with the Patriots in the AFC title race.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Grade: B+

Reddick had an outstanding senior season at Temple with 59 tackles, 9.5 sacks and one interception. He adds much-needed athleticism and youth to Arizona’s linebacker corps.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings): Derek Barnett, DE/LB, Tennessee
Grade: B

Barnett is Tennessee’s all-time sack leader, and even though he doesn’t have elite athleticism, his impressive strength and football intelligence allows him to give opposing quarterbacks nightmares as a pass rusher. With the addition of Barnett, the Eagles might have a top five defensive line in the league. It also includes Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Graham.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Grade: B+

The Colts defense allowed the third-most total yards per game, the sixth-most passing yards per game and the 10th-most points per game last season. The secondary, in particular, needs a lot of fixing. A very good safety like Hooker should produce immediate benefits in 2017.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Grade: B+

The Ravens defense is getting old, and it’s time to inject young, high-end talent into the mix. Humphrey was a key part of Alabama’s excellent defense last season. His excellent coverage ability stems from his impressive speed, anticipation and leaping ability.

17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Grade: B+

Allen was a top 10 pick in many mock drafts throughout the season, so for him to fall all the way to No. 17 is a huge win for the Redskins. Allen commands double teams as a big, strong defensive lineman, and his run-stopping ability is above average.

18. Tennessee Titans: Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
Grade: B

Jackson is an elite athlete and excelled in zone coverage for the Trojans in 2016. He also tallied 55 tackles and five interceptions last season. The Titans filled a big need in their secondary with this selection.

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

Tight end wasn’t a huge weakness on the Buccaneers’ roster, but Howard is a top-1o talent in this class and it would’ve been hard to pass on him this late in Round 1. He’s an excellent pass catcher, a reliable blocker and played very well in important games, evidenced by his touchdown catches in each of the last two national championship games.

20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Grade: A-

Bolles arguably is the best offensive lineman in this class and certainly could start as a rookie. Denver’s biggest need was on the O-line, so this pick makes perfect sense.

21. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Grade: B+

Davis is an exceptional run defender with his impressive lateral quickness and focused pursuit of the ball carrier. He’ll be expected to make an immediate impact on a Lions defense that struggled last season. Detroit gave up 4.4 rushing yards per attempt and 106.3 rushing yards per game in 2016.

22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
Grade: B

Harris joins an already fearsome group of Dolphins pass rushers. He’s explosive off the edge, closes gaps well and shows patience when shedding blocks and pursuing the ball carrier.

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

Engram is a dynamic tight end, but the Giants’ weaknesses don’t involve pass-catchers. This offense already has enough of those players with the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. Engram also is a below average blocker.

24. Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Grade: D

The Raiders have invested a lot of money and draft capital in their secondary over the last few years, so adding another cornerback, especially one with off-field concerns, was a strange move.

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

The Browns continued to add to their defense in Round 1, this time in the secondary with the versatile Peppers. The Michigan safety is an excellent tackler and brings elite athleticism to Cleveland’s defense.

26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks): Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
Grade: B+

McKinley is one of the hardest-working players in this class, and when you combine that with his above average athleticism, it’s no wonder he was a solid pass rusher at UCLA. An edge rusher was a huge need for Atlanta, and it did well to trade up and address this weakness.

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

The Bills needed to bolster their talent and depth at cornerback after losing veteran Stephon Gilmore in free agency, and White has the potential to be a really good pro after excelling as a cover corner at LSU.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE/DL, Michigan
Grade: A-

The Cowboys really struggled to rush the passer last season, and Charlton will help draw double teams that will allow other Dallas pass rushers to have an easier route to the opposing quarterback.

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

The Browns moved back into the first round for their third pick and took an exceptional pass-catching tight end from Miami. Tight end has been a position of need in Cleveland ever since the departure of Jordan Cameron.

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

The Steelers needed to get younger at linebacker, and Watt’s infectious energy and relentless pursuit of the ball will bring a little more energy to Pittsburgh’s defense.

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

Foster inexplicably fell all the way to the end of the first round, where the 49ers were smart to grab him. He’s a smart, athletic linebacker who could play an important role on the 49ers defense as a rookie.

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

It’s hard to argue with the Saints adding a good pass blocker to an offense that generates most if its success with Drew Brees’ prolific passing attack.

Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images

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