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After taking a few days to digest the NFL draft, here are the teams that fared the best and worst:
The Vikes got arguably the top DT in the draft, Sharrif Floyd, at pick No. 23, and filled a huge need by drafting CB Xavier Rhodes at No. 25 (the pick they received from Seattle for Percy Harvin). They followed those two solid picks by trading back into the first round to grab Tennessee WR Cordarelle Patterson, an outstanding physical talent who could blossom into a No. 1 receiver. Minnesota also selected a pair of Penn State LBs in Gerald Hodges (fourth round) and Mike Mauti (seventh) who could push for playing time right away.
New York Jets
The Jets may never truly be able to replace the greatness of CB Darrelle Revis, but drafting Dee Milliner is a good way to start. If his shoulder injury is fine by Week 1, he'll step right into the starting lineup. The Jets then used the pick they got from Tampa for Revis to select DT Sheldon Richardson, who is perhaps the best pass-rushing interior player in the draft. Yes, he'll probably have to play a lot of DE in their 3-4, but he should get plenty of opportunities to slide inside on passing downs. Drafting QB Geno Smith may have added another ingredient to the circus that is the Jets, but at pick No. 39 they may have found their next long-term starter. Versatile offensive lineman Brian Winters in the third round was a fantastic pick, too. He should be able to start at either RT or RG from Day 1.
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners had a slew of picks to work with and ended up with a bumper crop of players who should help them sustain their success. They traded up to No. 18 in the first round to select safety Eric Reid. While a bit of a reach, Reid is a smart and solid player who should start immediately in a depleted secondary. San Francisco then grabbed a group of players that may have bit roles to start but should be big contributors two to three years down the road -- DE Tank Carradine (second), TE Vance McDonald and OLB Corey Lemonier (third), WR Quinton Patton and RB Marcus Lattimore (fourth), and DE Quinton Dial (fifth). I don't see any superstars here, but all have qualities that will help the team and provide superb depth.
I understand the need to protect your franchise QB, but to reach for someone like OL Travis Frederick in the first round was nuts. Now I'm not saying I don't think Frederick is going to be a good player, but general manager Jerry Jones probably could have grabbed Frederick in the middle of the second round. Dallas would have been better off selecting a DT like Floyd or North Carolina's Sylvester Williams. The remainder of the draft, including second-round pick TE Gavin Escobar and third-round WR Terrance Williams, are solid, but that first-round reach just ruins the lot.
New England Patriots
Head coach Bill Belichik loves to maneuver on draft day, and this year was no exception, as he traded out of the first round for the Vikings' second- and third-round picks. Which is fine, but when you select projects like LB Jamie Collins (second), WR Aaron Dobson (third) and CB Logan Ryan (third), you have to wonder if he's looking to win now while Tom Brady is still playing at a very high level, or if he's conceding that he's looking years down the line. These are perfectly fine players, and at positions of need in New England, but I don't think any of them are ready to produce consistently on Sundays. If I were the Pats, I would have selected a more NFL-ready CB like Boise State's Jamar Taylor with their first second rounder and a more dynamic WR like Markus Wheaton instead of Dobson.
This grade is strictly based on the selection of E.J. Manuel with the 16th overall pick. Manuel, for all his physical tools, has never won a big game in his life, and he makes too many questionable throws to give me any confidence that he can correct that in the NFL. This will continue Buffalo's terrible string of early-round QB choices since Jim Kelly (Todd Collins, J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards). They would have been much better served trading down and selecting a defensive play-maker like Jarvis Jones or Patterson or DeAndre Hopkins, then selecting a Ryan Nassib or Smith in the second round -- both better than Manuel.