As the 2018 NFL draft inches closer -- seriously, it's next month -- it's time for my annual tradition of evaluating last year's draft, tearing up my grades that come out the night the draft ends and starting from scratch based on how each rookie performed in Year 1. We saw several injuries crush several of these classes, but there were also a lot of surprises and sleepers who outperformed their draft positions. Either way, it's a good time for a progress report.
As a reminder: The updated grades are just a fun exercise in seeing how the draft class appears to be shaping up. It's a check to see how players are coming along. A few parameters:
I look at first-year impact from the rookie class based on relative value -- contributing to a winner is worth more than piling up reps for a bad team.
I included rookie undrafted free agents added after the draft, as those are an important part of the process. And there were a few teams that had big contributors from UFAs.
As with the rookie rankings, I try to ask whether players who contributed could do so for most teams. Again, relative value matters.
We'll start with the highest-graded class -- it should be no surprise -- and go in order of best to worst grades, with teams in alphabetical order for grades that are the same. And click the links below to go directly to a team:
Post-draft grade: B
Where do we start with the class that had both the offensive and defensive rookies of the year? It was sensational, one of the best rookie groups since I've been covering the draft. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore locked down one side of the field and had five interceptions. Ryan Ramczyk started every game, making a flawless switch from left tackle to right tackle once Terron Armstead came back healthy. Safety Marcus Williams is going to be remembered for the touchdown he gave up in the divisional-round loss to the Vikings, but he's a really good player. He had four interceptions and 71 tackles.
Then there's running back Alvin Kamara, a pick I questioned last year. Here's what I wrote: "A big question mark here was the value given up to draft Kamara. Even if you question any possibilities beyond 2017 for Mark Ingram or Adrian Peterson, trading a second-rounder to move up and take my No. 88 overall player is iffy."
OK, so the Saints traded a 2018 second-round pick to move into the third round in 2017 -- and got one of the most versatile backs in the NFL. Kamara led all rookies in receptions (81) and yards after the catch (696), and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. He had 14 total touchdowns. I got this one wrong. Absolutely.
New Orleans also got meaningful snaps from Alex Anzalone, who started the first four games before hurting his shoulder and being placed on injured reserve, and defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who had two sacks.
Again, this is a fantastic class. Enjoy this A, Saints.
New grade: A
Post-draft grade: A-
This is a great class, and it gets a boost with Buffalo picking up an extra first-round pick in 2018 for trading down from No. 10 with Kansas City. The Bills already have used that extra draft capital to get in contention to move up in April's draft and pick their quarterback of the future, though they still like fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman -- I wrote last year that I wouldn't be surprised if Peterman, now known for his disastrous five-interception debut, "is the starter in a year or two" -- and added AJ McCarron on a short-term deal. After moving on from Tyrod Taylor, they have to find an answer there. This was a 2017 playoff team, but the Bills overachieved.
As for the picks, first-round cornerback Tre'Davious White started every game and had four interceptions. Now they need to figure out the spot across from him. Dion Dawkins was so good filling in for Cordy Glenn at left tackle that Buffalo traded Glenn and installed Dawkins on the blind side. Linebacker Matt Milano had 43 tackles in limited snaps and looks like a useful Day 3 pick. I liked the pick of wide receiver Zay Jones on Day 2, but he did not have a great rookie season, catching only 27 of 74 targets.
If Jones improves and Peterman turns into a competent starter, this class is an A without question.
New grade: B+
Post-draft grade: C+