Image Credit: (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick
The 2023 NFL Draft is 53 days away. As a hype-up for the NFL Draft, I will start my journey regarding the past few drafts. With this article, I focus on the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Of course, a reminder if I label a grade a HACKENBERG it is obviously an F Grade. So let's get this started by looking at the 1st Overall Pick which was held by the Cleveland Browns.
1. Cleveland Browns - QB Baker Mayfield Grade C-
This one is a tough one right off the bat, because Baker Mayfield is not terrible. He was the first QB that actually looked well for Cleveland throughout their return to the league (Excluding maybe Derek Anderson). He brought this team to the playoffs in 2020 but last season was a disaster mainly because Baker was dealing with a shoulder injury the whole season. Since acquiring Watson he was traded to the Carolina Panthers for pennies on the dollar. He has not worked out and has now been released. Baker was playing with the Los Angeles Rams and was solid for them last season. As a 1st Overall pick, he just has not worked out.
2. New York Giants - RB Saquon Barkley Grade B-
The Saqoun Barkley selection was looking to pan out well having 1,000 rushing yards in his first two seasons. But he has just not been able to stay healthy as in 2020 he Tore his ACL and in 2021 he had a foot issue that affected his play all season. Barkley has not been awful and his performance in the 2022 season has benefited from his grade not being lower than a B-.
3. New York Jets - QB Sam Darnold Grade D
This one again is a sad one for me to grade as I thought Sam Darnold was going to be the next big QB in the NFL. He showed promise during his rookie season and then Adam Gase or as I like to call him Adam Headcase became the head coach and it all fell apart. Darnold had issues with consistency, turnovers, and could not stay healthy. The Jets ruined him so much that they traded him to the Carolina Panthers for a 2nd Round Pick in 2022, 4th Round Pick in 2022, and a 6th Round Pick in 2021.
If you want to know the 6th Round Pick turned into OG Trey Smith but the Jets traded this pick and with the picks they got the team drafted CB Jason Pinnock and DT Johnathan Marshall. The 2nd Round pick that the Jets got turned into DE/EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, but the Jets used this pick in a trade up to draft RB Breece Hall. The 4th Round Pick was used to draft OT Max Mitchell.
I was rooting for Sam to do well in Carolina but of course it did not turn out well and he once again struggled along with getting injured. It is looking like Darnold will be a Journeyman backup in the NFL. Such a shame...
4. Cleveland Browns - CB Denzel Ward A
Ward has been a great selection for the Cleveland Browns and is the best cornerback this team has had since Joe Haden. The only reason why this grade is not an A+ is that he has never played a full season due to injuries. Plus he did not have a fantastic 2022 season, thank Joe Woods for that as he was a horrendous defensive coordinator. Despite that Ward is a fantastic pick and should continue to play this well for years to come.
5. Denver Broncos - DE/EDGE Bradley Chubb B-
Chubb is a very good player and when healthy he is a big part of the Broncos defense. A big issue is that Chubb could not stay healthy. He has missed a total of 24 games due to injuries throughout his career. In 2019 he suffered a Torn ACL, in 2020 he had an ankle injury, and in 2021 his ankle injuries got worse which took him out most of the season along with a nagging shoulder issue..
He played great when healthy and looked like he recaptured his talent in 2022. Denver decided to trade Chubb to the Miami Dolphins for RB Chase Edmonds, a 2023 1st Round Pick and a 2024 4th Round Pick. This was to give Miami another piece in their playoff push, but the Dolphins could not make it past the wildcard round. I am giving the Chubb selection a B for the player, but a - is for the injuries.
6. Indianapolis Colts - OG Quinton Nelson Grade A+
Nelson is the Joe Thomas of this generation of football. He is one of the best offensive lineman that I have ever seen. This is a slam dunk pick as it helped protect the many Colts QBs that have come and gone. He may have declined a bit this season, but it is still an A+ grade.
7. Buffalo Bills - QB Josh Allen Grade A+
No brainer here as Allen is the best quarterback to come out of this class. You can debate Lamar Jackson, but overall I think Allen is the better quarterback. It got a bit nervous as Allen had growing pains and often got referred to as a hidden running back playing quarterback. Well he proved them wrong and became the franchise QB for the Bills for many years to come. Well done Bills.
8. Chicago Bears - LB Roquan Smith Grade A
Another great pick we are on a roll here. Smith has been a transcendent talent being a main piece on any defense he is on. He has led the Bears defense many times and was a leader in high moments along with low ones. It is just a shame that the Double Doink happened a sthat was the downfall of that era of Bears football and yet again entered a rebuild. Smith realizing he was not going to win in Chicago and the organization trading Robert Quinn, who Smith was close with during his time, was done in Chicago. The Bears successfully traded him in Baltimore and he played well for them. He did so well that Smith finally got paid the big bucks in Baltimore. I think it is safe to say that this gets a great grade.
9. San Francisco 49ers - OT Mike McGlinchey Grade B+
I was very high on Mike McGlinchey entering this draft class. After all he came from Notre Dame, which is a college that builds great NFL prospects. McGlinchey has been a good player but I would not call him an elite player. He has to be a little more consistent as a run blocker and he has durability concerns as last season he tore his quadriceps plus had a knee injury during the 2019 season. But overall this is a solid pick made by the 49ers.
10. Arizona Cardinals - QB Josh Rosen Grade HACKENBURG
The most obvious HACKENBURG grade in the 1st round no question. Now, many can argue that he never got a true chance in the NFL and they have points. However when looking at Rosen as a whole it is not a good look when a QB has been on 5 teams in 5 years. He of course got screwed in Arizona as the team decided to choose Kyler Murray the next season. It was at this point when Rosen was traded that I believed former GM Steve Keim was a goner, but it turned out to be the right choice. He was traded to a terrible Miami Dolphins team that wasn’t hiding the fact that they were tanking. Rosen then got released in Miami and spent time with the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I mean, it is pretty much over for Rosen’s chances in the NFL. It would not shock me if Rosen plays in the XFL or USFL as I doubt another team will sign him another contract.
11. Miami Dolphins - S Minkah Fitzpatrick Grade A+
Gosh I remember being so excited, yet scared when Minkah Fitzpatrick got drafted to the Dolphins. He was one of the five prospects that I really wanted the Jets to draft in the 1st round of this class when they originally had the 6th overall pick. The other four were OG Quinton Nelson, OT Mike McGlinchey, QB Sam Darnold, or QB Baker Mayfield. Minkah Fitzpatrick scared me when he was a Miami Dolphin and he became the type of player I envisioned. He has been phenomenal on any defense he has been a part of and is an easy A+. I bet Dolphins fans now wish, Minkah Fitzpatrick was still a Dolphin. When they blew it up in the Tank for Tua, the Dolphins shipped Fitzpatrick off to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 1st Round which turned into OT/G Austin Jackson. I think they regret trading one of the best safeties in the league for a terrible o-lineman.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DT Vita Vea Grade Grade B+
Vea was one of the main pieces to the Buccaneers defensive line during their Super Bowl run when he got healthy. Vea has been a great defensive tackle and has been a big part of their run defense and rushing the passer. It got him a nice 4 year extension with the squad. If this was a few years ago this grade would have been a C-, but now His regrade is a B+.
13. Washington Redskins - DT Daron Payne Grade B+
While doing research apparently the Redskins really wanted to draft Vita Vea at this time, but the Buccaneers stole him so they had to stick with Payne. Turns out either or it would have been a fine choice as I am giving both picks the same grade. Payne has been a great piece to that Redskins/Football Team/Commanders defenses being effective as a pass rusher and stopping the run. Payne even got franchise tagged as well which shows that the Commanders really value him. Excluding the 2019 season where he was injured and regressed Payne has worked out here. He even got franchise tagged recently. Well done Commanders.
14. New Orleans Saints - DE/EDGE Marcus Davenport Grade C-
I remembered when the Saints traded up with the Green Bay Packers and it was a move that many including myself thought was going to be QB Lamar Jackson as the Saints traded 2 1sts for this deal to go through. You should have seen my face when I heard Goodell announce Davenport’s name at this spot. At the time I was not a big fan of Davenport as he was more of a project defensive prospect. This was a roll at the dice pick for a team that’s goal was to win now. Davenport has not been abysmal as he is a decent player, but he has definitely been a disappointment. He has not been able to play a full season and has never had double digit sacks. He came close in 2021 with 9 sacks, but he has just been super inconsistent and had more downs than ups. I definitely think the Saints regret the trade up which is why the grade is a C-, but they were lucky that the picks traded became RB Rashaad Penny and CB DeAndre Baker. Just ignore that the Packers used those picks in a trade up to acquire CB Jaire Alexander and S Darnell Savage who both became main pieces in the Packers secondary.
15. Oakland Raiders - OT Kolten Miller Grade A-
It was looking like a terrible selection in the beginning as Kolten was abysmal during his rookie year. But, Miller was more of a project selection for the Raiders and needed time to adapt in the NFL. Let's say Kolten successfully adapted, becoming the blindside blocker for the Las Vegas Raiders. Miller improved so much overtime that he was given a three-year, $54.015 million contract extension with the team. This was a great pick and all but I can’t ignore the abysmal start. I applaud Kolten for improving and being the star player he is today.
16. Buffalo Bills - LB Tremaine Edmunds Grade B+ Tremaine Edmounds was at one point projected to be a Top 5 pick in this draft class. But watching his career he has been pretty solid. Edmunds has been extremely athletic, has strong awareness, great tackler, and is solid in coverage. Edmunds has been a big part of the Bills linebacker core. I however would not call Tremaine Edmunds an elite player as he has a habit of being out of position, and he struggles stopping the run. But, overall a great pick by the Buffalo Bills.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - S Derwin James Grade A
Not a hard one to grade. Derwin James is one of if not the best safety in the NFL today. He is one of the main pieces to that defense since being drafted. The only thing holding this from being an A+ grade is that James could not stay healthy in the beginning of his career. Luckily the injuries have not been persistent later in his career. James is going to be a Los Angeles Charger for many more years to come.
18. Green Bay Packers - CB Jaire Alexander Grade: A+
This was a Home run selection and trade up made by the Green Bay Packers as Alexander has been a shutdown cornerback for the many time he is on the field. It is a shame that he had that shoulder injury in the 2021 NFL Season which not only hindered him for a large chunk of the season, but hurt the Green Bay Packers as well in their playoff push. Besides that the Packers did a phenomenal job with this selection and Alexander should be a piece of the Packers defense for many years to come.
19. Dallas Cowboys - LB Leighton Vander Esch Grade: B-
Vander Esch showed a ton of promise during the first few seasons of his career. However with his constant injury issues it has been a problem for him. Especially as most of those injuries involve his neck. I keep saying back and neck injuries are no joke and I only wonder how great Vander Esch would have been if he never had those injuries. Luckily he is still a Cowboy and has been pretty good when he is healthy. I am giving him a B for the player and a minus grade for the injuries he is dealing with.
20. Detroit Lions - OG Frank Ragnow Grade A-
It was looking like this was going to be a HACKENBERG grade after year one, but luckily I give 2-3 years as sometimes prospects are late bloomers. Well, turns out he was a late bloomer and became a very great offensive lineman for the Lions. What really helped Ragnow was moving him to center and it resulted in him being a Top 10 maybe Top 5 center in the league. I am giving this grade an A-. A for the player and the minus being how he sucked his rookie year along with missing a majority of the 2021 season due to injury.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - OG/OC Billy Price Grade HACKENBURG
At the time the Bengals delayed the inevitable by refusing to build the o-line. Their goal was to fix it not only by getting OT Cordy Glenn via trade, but by selecting Billy Price. They really wanted Frank Ragnow, but had to go to there Plan B by taking Billy Price. This pick had a risk as Billy Price suffered a Torn Pec at the Combine while bench pressing. Since he suffered that injury he has never really been the same player he was in college. The injury bug kept popping up and even when he played he was terrible. The Bengals then offloaded him in a trade with the New York Giants for DT BJ Hill in a deal that helped bolster their defensive line. He still is in the NFL, but it is as a journeyman which is not a great sign. I think it is obvious that this is a HACKENBURG grade.
22. Tennessee Titans - LB Rashaan Evans Grade B
Evans is a tougher grade as he has been up and down his career along with having durability concerns. However, he is a tackling machine having three seasons where he made at least 95 tackles. He has been solid in many departments for a linebacker, but he was very mediocre when in coverage. There were moments where he blew coverage and did not recognize who to cover on occasion. Overall though he has been a good player in the NFL and has been having a renaissance season with the Atlanta Falcons. If the Titans were not in cap hell along with having to resign other players Evans would probably be a Titan today.
23. New England Patriots - OT Isaiah Wynn Grade HACKENBURG
The Patriots acquired this pick in the Brandin Cooks trade and needed to protect Tom Brady at the time. Isaiah Wynn had a ton of potential entering the league especially as a tackle. Since being drafted he has been a disappointment. He has had a ton of durability concerns and has struggled playing tackle in the NFL. The Patriots tried moving him to guard, but it has not worked out at all. I am just more stunned he is still with the Patriots today as Wynn has been a liability. So this grade is a HACKENBURG grade.
24. Carolina Panthers - WR DJ Moore Grade A
DJ Moore has been the clear number 1 receiver since he was drafted by the Panthers. Yes I know Devin Funchess was there, but Moore was specifically drafted to be that. He has done a really great job in Carolina and has been a very dependable receiver. He has had multiple 1,000 yard seasons. He has not been a touchdown machine only having 1 season above 5 touchdowns, but he has still been a great receiver. I only wish he had a consistently good quarterback as he would be a top receiver in the league. Moore has not had consistent QB play as he had the later years of Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Will Grier, and Sam Darnold. This pick was a great selection for the Panthers and I just wish Moore had a true franchise QB throwing the ball to him.
25. Baltimore Ravens - TE Hayden Hurst Grade: C
I never completely hated the Hayden Hurst selection as I had him as a 2nd round pick, but it was a little early for him to go. Hurst was just never a fit in Baltimore’s offense. He struggled and also had durability issues. It did not help that Mark Andrews (We Will Get to him later) Emerged as a more consistent and talented player. Now Hurst is still a decent option as when he got traded to the Falcons he had a career high in 2020 as he had 56 receptions, 571 passing yards, and 6 touchdowns. He had an ankle injury which made Atlanta not want to bring him back, but the Cincinnati Bengals gave him another shot this season. He is mainly mediocre, but not an awful player. I am going to give him a C here and it probably would have been higher if he was taken in the 2nd or 3rd round.
26. Atlanta Falcons - WR Calvin Ridley Grade B
I was super close in 2021 giving the Ridley selection an A as he was a great receiver for them and one of the main pieces to that offense. Then the midway point of the 2021 season occurred and it went downhill. He took the rest of the 2021 season off to focus on his mental health issues. Which I supported him doing as mental health issues are serious and are no joke at all. I was very excited for him to play in the 2022 NFL Season, but then we found out that Ridley was an inductee to the Pete Rose Betting Association, as he was suspended the whole 2022 season for gambling on football games. The Falcons then traded him to the Jacksonville Jaguars as it was clear Ridley no longer wanted to play in Atlanta and they wanted to get some value for him then lose him for nothing. So I had to downgrade this selection from an A to a B grade. I hope he performs well in Jacksonville in 2023.
27. Seattle Seahawks - RB Rashaad Penny Grade D-
When the draft was finalized I labeled this selection as the worst one in the 1st round. I thought Penny was a late 3rd/ early 4th round prospect who was over drafted. Excluding the 4 games at the end of last season he has been absolutely terrible. He constantly gets hurt, lacks awareness, and is a poor route runner. Penny was a bad pick no question and yes the Seahawks re-signed him to a one year deal but he has just not performed well. Hopefully he can have consistent performances next season but I just don’t see it when he keeps getting hurt all the time. Just as I expected Penny yet again suffered a season ending injury during the 2022 NFL Season. His flashes of brilliance have helped not make it a HACKENBERG Grade.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - S Terrell Edmounds Grade C- Many will disagree with me here but I have never liked this pick at all. First off I thought Edmounds was a 4th round prospect at best. Yes he has had an impact on the field but he is such a liability on this team and is horrendous in coverage. The only reason why I can’t grade this as a D or HACKENBERG Grade is that he is a solid tackler, can stay healthy, and has solid hands. Despite that Edmounds was a complete reach.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars - DT Tavon Bryan Grade HACKENBERG
Yikes, this pick did not turn out well. In fact it was mainly seen as a depth pick as Sacksonville was booming at this time after a strong season. It did not work out as Bryan just failed to take the next step of his development and was a liability on the Jags defense. Bryan to his credit did start every game for the Cleveland Browns, but was absolutely terrible with one of the worst run defenses in the league. He did have 3 sacks that year, but as a 1st round pick it did not work out well. This is a clear HACKENBERG Grade.
30. Minnesota Vikings - CB Mike Hughes Grade HACKENBERG
Hughes was a player I thought was going to be a solid player in the league, however it just has not gone to plan. It was looking like a good pick early on when Hughes had that Pick 6 in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers in 2018. Unfortunately that was the peak of his career due to injuries. In his rookie season he suffered a Torn ACL, in 2019 he had a nagging neck issue which only got worse in 2020. He did get traded to the Kansas City Chiefs along with a 7th round pick for a 6th Round Pick. If you want to know, the pick turned into WR Jalen Nailor. Hughes did not work out with the Chiefs and even signed with the Detroit Lions. Where he also has not been playing well. I only wonder what type of player he could have been if he stayed healthy.
31. New England Patriots - RB Sony Michel Grade B-
Michel in my opinion is the toughest grade to give for a 1st round pick in this draft class. He has been a great player and in my opinion is the MVP of the Patriots 2018 playoff squad. He even scored the only touchdown in SuperBowl 53. However he just fell apart in his third season with the Patriots due to injuries/inconsistent playing. He got traded to the LA Rams for a 4th (2023) and 6th Round Pick (2022). The 2022 6th Round pick turned into OG Chasen Hines. Michel was solid for them in the 2021 Regular season, but did not contribute a lot in the 2021 Postseason. Luckily Michel got another ring as the Rams beat the Bengals in SuperBowl 56. Ever since then, he has regressed a lot. He signed with the Miami Dolphins earlier in the 2022 season, but did not make the roster and the Los Angeles Chargers picked him up, but he has not impressed. I really went back and forth here. On one hand I wanted to give him an A- as he was a big part of the Patriots 2018 Playoff run and Contributed to the Rams in the 2021 season. On the other hand I debated a C- as he has never really been that consistent and has heavily regressed. I decided to go in the Middle and give this grade a B-.
32. Baltimore Ravens - QB Lamar Jackson Grade A
I mean do we have to go further with this one. Jackson has been a franchise QB for the Baltimore Ravens since they parted ways with Joe Flacco at QB. The only thing holding this up from being an A+ is the injuries Jackson has had. Despite that this has been a slam dunk selection for the Ravens.