I've never been a huge fan of handing out draft grades early on. These young men have not even seen the field yet for their respective teams, yet armchair quarterbacks the world over have already started in with the over-the-top constructive criticism.
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Nice call, Mel.
So if people are going to hand them out this early, what makes the grades? Is it based solely off the ratings of the prospects? Is it the best available pick theory, or is it drafting by need, regardless if you don't think all that highly of the player available?
There's probably no universally correct answer, but hopefully these final marks will turn out to be a little more accurate than the aforementioned example.
With that, here are my biggest winners and losers from the 2013 NFL Draft.
1. Minnesota Vikings
They started this year's draft with two first round picks and finished it with three, trading second, third, fourth and seventh-round selections to the Patriots for the 29th overall pick, which they used to take Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver out of Tennessee. The other two players they took in the opening round also fill big needs in Shariff Floyd and Xavier Rhodes, both of whom were top 15 talents on every mock draft I saw. While other people may not think as highly of Minnesota's draft as I do, if the criteria is need or even best player available, the Vikings hit it out of the park in both cases. So much so, that the other guys they selected with their remaining picks need not even be mentioned.
Final Grade: A+
2. Cincinnati Bengals
In the first round, they stole Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert to play opposite of Jermaine Gresham, and in the second round, they took running back Giovani Bernard, one of the top rated backs in this year's class. Those guys are nice, but the trio of Margus Hunt, Shawn Williams and Sean Porter is why the Bengals receive one of the top grades. Hunt is a player that will be put in a position to succeed because of the depth of Cincinnati's defensive line. The athletic end will be able to come in on passing downs, pin his ears back and go get the quarterback. The other two are very good football players as well, and I expect Sean Porter to be in the mix for a starting job. Nice draft top-to-bottom by the Bengals.
Final Grade: A
3. Baltimore Ravens
How the hell does Ozzie Newsome do it? Better question is, why do people let him do it? Why did Dallas not take Matt Elam? Why did coaches pass on Arthur Brown, who will have a better career than Manti Te'o? Yeah, I said it. Newsome landed Brandon Williams in the third round, and the only reason he was still on the board at that point was because he could not get into a big time college due to grades. This is just mind boggling, but it's not luck when you do it every year. Newsome drafted three starters on defense, and the heir apparents to Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata in the process. I tip my hat to you, Ozzie. Well done.
Final Grade: A-
1. Dallas Cowboys
Nice job by Jerry Jones to trade out of the 18th overall spot to get more picks. Too bad it was basically downhill after that. You trade down to take a second-to-third-round center? You take him at 31, when you easily could have gotten him in Gavin Escobar's spot? Don't get me wrong, I believe Escobar will end up being one of the better tight ends to come out of this draft, but he isn't necessarily the type of tight end Dallas needs. The Cowboys had to address the position because Jason Witten is getting very long in the tooth, but the problem is, they need a blocking tight end. Escobar can develop, but not overnight. The team did manage to get a solid player in safety J.J. Wilcox, and he's the only reason I'm not giving them a failing final grade. Terrance Williams is a good football player, but again, not a need. Jerry Jones, look at who Baltimore picked, because most of those guys should have been taken by you.
Final Grade: D-
2. Cleveland Browns
This is a young team with multiple needs that wiggled and worked their way into five picks, but just two in the top 167 selections. They took Barkevious Mingo at No. 6, and while he has great upside, he's put together like Olive Oyl. Simply put; he needs to gain some weight. Leon McFadden will be the Week 1 starting corner opposite Joe Haden. He has tremendous athleticism, and although he's only 5'10, he plays much bigger. They got a safety late for depth in Jamoris Slaughter, but it bothers me that they made a deal with division rival Pittsburgh, trading their fourth-rounder for a third next year. The Browns also lost out on signal caller Ryan Nassib, as the Giants moved up to take him.
Final Grade: D
3. Buffalo Bills
The Bills had the No. 8 overall pick, yet traded down to No. 16 only to take a project quarterback in EJ Manuel, who probably would have still been available in the third or fourth round. Chance Warmack should have been the selection, since they lost both starting guards to free agency. They picked wide receiver Robert Woods in the second, which was fairly nice, but then turned around and took linebacker Kiko Alonso later in the round and wideout Marquise Goodwin in the third, when both could have been taken later. The only instance where Buffalo took the best player available was Woods. They took a need with Manuel, but to say they reached there would be an understatement. Remember how Ryan Tannehill went to the Dolphins last year? Do you think his former college coach being the offensive coordinator for Miami had anything to do with that? Point being, Ryan Nassib should have been a Bill.
Final Grade: D+