By Greg Lehr
(Round 1, Pick 19) LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St. — Dallas did not hide their love for Vander Esch at any point in the draft process. His combination of size, athleticism, and playmaking ability has drawn some comparisons to Brian Urlacher. He also fills arguably the biggest need after the loss of Anthony Hitchens in free agency and ongoing durability concerns for incumbents Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. Dallas is betting on his elite upside.
(Round 2, Pick 18) G Connor Williams, Texas — Excellent value at this point of the second round and should be a plug-and-play starter at left guard after playing left tackle in college. He fortifies the team’s offensive line and will help them regain their dominant form. This also indicates that Dallas is committed to keeping La’el Collins at right tackle, where he worked through some inconsistencies but showed promise in his first year on the outside.
(Round 3, Pick 17) WR Michael Gallup, Colorado St. — He’s not the DJ Moore or Calvin Ridley that many people expected them to take in the first round, but he belongs in the second-tier of receivers in this class and offers good value here. In fact, Gallup was PFF’s highest graded college receiver in 2017. His outstanding production comes from his route-running and physicality, particularly on contested catches.
(Round 4, Pick 16) DE Dorance Armstrong, Kansas — Dallas likes his upside enough that they were trying to trade back into the third round to get him at one point before deciding to stay put, and they ended up keeping their picks while still getting their guy in Armstrong. He shows good bend and burst off the edge and his high-motor playing style is exactly what defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli looks for in his defensive line rotation.
(Round 4, Pick 37) TE Dalton Schultz, Stanford — Even before the Jason Witten retirement reports, it was expected for Dallas to at least look at adding to the position, which is largely inexperienced and unknown behind Witten. Once an offensive lineman, Schultz’s run-blocking toughness is evident in how he plays. He’s not going to wow anyone athletically, but he has soft hands and can offer reliability to Prescott underneath.
(Round 5, Pick 34) QB Mike White, Western Kentucky — Selecting White in the 5th round was a great value. Dallas needed someone to compete with Cooper Rush for the backup job to Dak Prescott, and White offers a higher upside than Rush, regardless of who is QB2 on the depth chart at the start of the season.
(Round 6, Pick 19) LB Chris Covington, Indiana — It’s not a surprise to see the team double-dip at linebacker for more depth. Covington will need to earn his roster spot by excelling on special teams to help fill the void of Kyle Wilber, who signed with the Raiders as a free agent.
(Round 6, Pick 34) WR Cedrick Wilson, Boise St. — Another receiver? Another Boise St. player? That’s what many fans were probably thinking when Dallas selected Wilson, but he has potential to be much more than just a camp body. Wilson had outstanding production at Boise St. and has all the intangibles you could want in a player. Size, deep speed, route-running, and kick-returning all stand out in Wilson’s game.
(Round 7, Pick 18) RB Bo Scarborough, Alabama — A true one-cut runner that fits the type of team Coach Garrett wants to be — physical. He doesn’t offer any third down help and is a poor pass blocker for his size, but he can help Zeke finish off defenses in the fourth quarter.
For the most part, Dallas did a nice job addressing the pressing needs on their roster, especially in the first three rounds. Vander Esch, Williams, and Gallup should all see significant snaps right away. Connor Williams in the second round is my favorite pick. He’s a near lock to start and absolutely shores up the biggest weakness on the offensive line. The interior of the line should once again be a strength and La’el Collins should take a step forward now that he has a full year under his belt at right tackle. The Armstrong pick will probably require some patience as a rotational pass rusher who still needs some time to develop, but he does offer good upside if he can return to his 2016 form when he posted 10 sacks. The other day 3 picks did a solid job of filling in some gaps on the depth chart. The positions of need that they did not address were safety and defensive tackle. They offered their 3rd-round pick to the Seahawks for Earl Thomas when they were on the clock, but that wasn’t enough. They did trade for Tavon Austin, who they plan to use as a receiver and running back, and fills the need for an explosive/dynamic playmaker that could create chunk plays on third down. Once they got Austin, it made last year’s 4th-round pick WR Ryan Switzer expendable, so they sent him to Oakland in return for DT Jihad Ward, someone they had a 3rd-round grade on two years ago. Overall, between draft picks and these trades, the only position they didn’t address was safety…a big vote of confidence in Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier.
Final Draft Grade: B+
New York Giants
(Round 1, Pick 2) RB Saquon Barkley, Penn St.- A lot of momentum leading up to the draft pointed to the Giants going in this direction. They got arguably the best overall player in the draft, one who offers incredible value as a player and also as a teammate in the locker room. Barkley should help extend Eli Manning’s career as a runner and a pass-blocker, and he is simply an elite playmaker with the ball in his hands.
(Round 2, Pick 2) G Will Hernandez, UTEP- The perfect pick after taking Barkley in the first round. Hernandez is an absolute mauler and is exactly the kind of player the Giants needed on the interior of the OL. Lining up next to Nate Solder on the left side would turn at least half of the line from a weakness to a strength and is a good step in the right direction.
(Round 3, Pick 2) Lorenzo Carter, Georgia — A great fit in new DC James Bettcher’s 3–4 hybrid scheme. With a little more development as a pass rusher, Carter should be able to work his way into a 3-down role at OLB opposite Olivier Vernon. He has the length and speed necessary to excel.
(Round 3, Pick 5) DT BJ Hill, NC State- The Giants are aware that each of their division foes has a solid offensive line with young studs in the backfield (Zeke Elliott, Jay Ajayi, and Derrius Guice). Hill is a great one-gap DT who can pair well with Snacks Harrison on the defensive line on running downs or spell him in other situations.
(Round 4, Pick 8) QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond — After passing on Sam Darnold at #2 overall, it was wise to grab a QB with high upside later in the draft. Lauletta gives the Giants another guy to look at over the next season or two (along with Davis Webb) to try and develop into a starting-caliber quarterback.
(Round 5, Pick 2) DT RJ McIntosh, Miami — Offers some versatility and penetrating ability. He shows flashes of disruption but must become more consistent in order to be more than a rotational piece.
With only six picks, the Giants did a nice job of injecting talent into various places. Barkley and Hernandez are locks to start right away and immediately upgrade the offense. Having the threat of a run game alone should help Eli, not to mention the return of All-Pro receiver OBJ. Combine these factors with the addition of Nate Solder and further development of TE Evan Engram, the Giants are back in business on the offensive side of the ball. Carter is a fluid athlete who has a high ceiling if he can continue to improve as a pass rusher. I like that they took a developmental QB later in the draft, but time will tell if they missed out on the next franchise QB in Darnold, Rosen, or Allen all available at #2 overall.
Final Draft Grade: A-
(Round 2, Pick 17): TE Dallas Goedert, San Jose St.- Zach Ertz is a stud, but the Eagles needed another tight end after losing Trey Burton to the Bears and releasing Brent Celek for cap purposes. Goedert is within the top 2–3 tight ends in this draft class and Philly made sure to grab him by jumping ahead of the Cowboys. Goedert gives Philly another weapon in the red zone and allows them to continue utilizing their multiple tight end sets that are so important to their offensive scheme.
(Round 4, Pick 25): CB Avonte Maddox, Pittsburgh- It’s tough to find a major weakness on the Eagles defense, but slot corner is not a bad position to show some attention to. Maddox is small (5'9", 184 lbs) but very quick and extremely competitive. He needs some work on technique, but has the potential to play a role in Jim Schwartz’ defense.
(Round 4, Pick 30) DE Josh Sweat, Florida State- Excellent athlete for his lengthy 6'5" frame. He has great upside and will benefit from the Eagles’ already deep pass rush, giving him time to develop into a more polished rusher. If he lives up to his potential this is a 4th-round steal, but the durability concerns are there for a reason.
(Round 6, Pick 32): OT Matt Pryor, TCU- He has great size and has the versatility to play both tackle and guard (experience playing both in college). He adds depth and is a decent developmental prospect.
(Round 7, Pick 15): OT Jordan Mailata, Australia- One of the most intriguing picks of the entire draft. This former rugby star will look to use his massive frame (6'8", 346 lbs) and length (35.5" arms) and line up as a tackle. He certainly has the raw traits, and in the 7th-round, why not take a flier on him?
As expected, GM Howie Roseman found a trade partner in Baltimore to move down and out of the first round to add picks to his arsenal. The Ravens received #32 overall this year, which they used to select Lamar Jackson, and a 4th-round pick (132). In return, Philly received Baltimore’s second (52) and fourth (125) this year, and another 2nd-rounder in 2019. Roseman then gave up a 5th-round pick to jump up to #49 overall to select TE Dallas Goedert. This was marked as the top need in my pre-draft guide and they wasted little time in addressing it. My favorite selection is DE Josh Sweat. He’s in a great situation as he can benefit from not being thrown into the fire right away due to Philly’s already-deep pass rush. I hope his knees hold up long enough for him to tap into his high upside. However, I’m not sure about double-dipping at two developmental tackles. I don’t mind them taking a flier on Mailata, but he’s likely a practice-squad candidate. I would have preferred them take one of the receivers still on the board such as Trey Quinn or Auden Tate. Overall, Roseman didn’t have a lot to work with but he came away with a likely starter in Goedert (counting him a starter with how much time they spend in 12 personnel), a slot cover corner, a high upside pass rusher, and OT depth. Not bad for what they had to work with, but it doesn’t make you jump out of your seat.
Final Draft Grade: B-
(Round 1, Pick 13) DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama — There was no doubt that Washington wanted to improve its run defense, and once Vea was off the board, Payne was the pick. Payne uses his strength, toughness, and agility to be the elite run-stuffer that he is. Paired with last year’s first-round pick Jonathan Allen, also from Alabama, the Redskins DL can be a force.
(Round 2, Pick 27) RB Derrius Guice, LSU — It’s hard to get a better value than what the Redskins got in Guice in the second round. Guice was widely seen as the best runner in the class behind Barkley and figured to go ahead of other running backs taken in the first round, including Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny. He’s powerful, explosive, and a true 3-down back the Redskins have been missing for several years.
(Round 3, Pick 10) OT Geron Christian, Louisville — After having terrible luck with injuries on the offensive line in 2017, it was a smart play to add depth with an athletic guy like Christian, who played both tackle spots at Louisville.
(Round 4, Pick 9) S Troy Apke, Penn State — Picked higher than many expected, Apke comes with only a year of starting experience. However, he has the speed (4.34 second 40-yard dash) to help on the back end where they desperately need some depth. He will also help contribute on special teams.
(Round 5, Pick 26) DT Tim Settle, Virginia Tech — Another great value pick. I thought Settle was a day 2 prospect and think he is an absolute steal in the fifth round. Settle is a rock-solid run-stuffer who also possesses some decent penetrating ability for his size. Too good of value to pass up here, even with the selection of Payne in the first round.
(Round 6, Pick 23) LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama — Durability concerns are the reason he was still available in the sixth round after suffering season-ending injuries the last two seasons at Alabama. Good prospect if he can stay healthy.
(Round 7, Pick 23) CB Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech –Stroman is quick and feisty, but his lean frame raises concerns about his tackling in the NFL. He offers kick/punt return experience as well. Will likely have to compete against Orlando Scandrick for snaps.
(Round 7, Pick 38) WR Trey Quinn, SMU — Does this give the NFC East two Cole Beasley’s? Quinn is bigger and stronger than other slots (like the one just mentioned). If he can make the roster and develop a little rapport with Alex Smith, who likes short, quick throws, Quinn could be a sleeper pick.
It’s hard to find a team that fared better with their first two picks in Payne and Guice, both of whom should start and make an impact immediately. Adding DT Tim Settle in the fifth round could be one of the steals of the draft. Between these players (Payne, Guice, and Settle), they have significantly upgraded their top two needs. Christian adds important depth and is an intriguing talent if he can continue developing, but he’s unlikely to make a big impact with Williams and Moses both locked up for the next couple of years. My least favorite pick is Troy Apke in the fourth round, especially with Kyzir White and Jordan Whitehead still on the board (both went later in the fourth round). After that, you can make an argument that the rest of Washington’s day 3 picks are good values and each has a legitimate chance to make the roster. Overall, this is a very solid haul for Coach Jay Gruden to work with.