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NFL Draft: Five-Year First-Round Review for Every Team

Apr 20, 2020

Lamar Jackson headlines Baltimore’s highly successful haul of recent first-round picks.

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Building through the draft is the best way to elongate a team’s success. Having a consistent influx of young talent that can consistently contribute or take over for veteran starters is the key to building a dominant team. The most important picks to hit on are the first-round selections. Those players should be building blocks that help set the drafting team’s identity.

In this article, I will take a look at each team’s first-round picks from the last five years. I will list each pick, grade the overall haul, and give a quick summary of my thoughts on the class and the grade I gave them.

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Arizona Cardinals

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C-

The results of the last five years of first-round draft picks are almost all on one end of the spectrum. Murray and Humphries look like franchise pieces, especially after Humphries’ recent extension. On the other hand, Nkemdiche isn’t currently on an NFL roster, and Josh Rosen is a backup on another team. This averaged them out to a C, but Haason Reddick, while still on the team, isn’t the impact player many projected him to be in 2017 after starting only 20 of the 48 games he has played.

Atlanta Falcons

2015-2019 First Round Picks

One of the Falcons’ biggest draft needs this offseason is an edge rusher. That really hurts the team and their grade here because two of their first-rounders from the last five years were drafted to fill that role. Vic Beasley was a decent performer year to year, but he wasn’t worth re-signing in their eyes. McKinley has been an under-performer after having a career-high seven sacks in his second season. Keanu Neal looks like one of the best box safeties in the NFL, but he can’t stay healthy. The bright spot of this class is third-year receiver Calvin Ridley, who looks to step into a full-time WR2 spot as a reliable target for Matt Ryan. Last year’s first-round picks appear to be long-term answers along the offensive line if they can stay healthy. That didn’t happen last year, as Lindstrom missed 11 games with a broken foot.

Baltimore Ravens

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: A

Great teams draft their franchise cornerstones. That is exactly what the Ravens have done the last four years. The only thing keeping the Ravens from an A+ is the Perriman pick, which seemed like a reach at the time and didn’t work out. The worst pick after that is Hurst, but the Ravens managed to turn him into a second-round pick in a trade with the Falcons. That’s great value for a player who looked like he wasn’t going to have a huge role. As for the rest, the Ravens couldn’t have done better. They drafted the reigning NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson. They drafted one of the best young corners in the league in Humphrey. They drafted their franchise left tackle who will protect Jackson for the next 10 years. The Ravens have dominated the draft the last half decade, and it shows in their results. Big things are coming for them this season.

Buffalo Bills

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B+

The start of the last five years didn’t go well for the Buffalo Bills. They didn’t have a first in 2015 because they traded it away to move up and draft Sammy Watkins in 2014. Shaq Lawson never became the pass-rusher many thought he would be and was allowed to leave in free agency for division rival Miami. From there, though, the Bills have made great selections that really saved their grade. White is in the conversation for best cornerback in the league. Edmunds is the leader in the middle of the defense and looks like he will be for the long haul. Josh Allen continues to improve while leading the Bills to wins and playoff appearances. Lastly, Ed Oliver is an up-and-coming force along the interior of the defensive line for one of the best defenses in football.

Carolina Panthers

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B-

This is a hard class to grade. There are difference-makers here, but it isn’t resulting in wins, as the Panthers have had a losing record in three of the last five years. That is what held down their grade a bit. Plus, Shaq Thompson has been serviceable, but not impactful. We will see if Luke Keuchly retiring will open up more work for him. Vernon Butler never really made an impact and isn’t on the team anymore. The reasons that the grade is even in the B range are the last three picks. McCaffrey is the best running back in football. Moore is an up-and-coming receiver who just had his first 1,000-yard season while playing with backup quarterbacks, and Brian Burns should make an impact rushing the pass around the edge.

Chicago Bears

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: F

This is the best example of what happens when you draft terribly. Of all the players above, Smith has had the most success. To make matters worse, the Bears didn’t have a first-round pick last year and don’t have one this year. The 2015-2016 picks are no longer on the team. White actually isn’t on any team. Trubisky hasn’t shown that he will develop into a franchise QB, and it’s made worse by the fact that they could have had Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. This looks more like a worst-case scenario than an actual five-year review.

Cincinnati Bengals

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: D+

The Bengals have had some terrible luck with injuries. Their 2019 and 2017 picks either have never seen the field or have missed the majority of games because of injuries. I do hold high expectations for Williams and Price to develop into solid contributors. There isn’t much else to show. Ogbuehi is not on the roster. William Jackson hasn’t made a huge impact in coverage, and John Ross was over-drafted for his speed. The recent linemen need to make a splash to have any shot of saving this group.

Cleveland Browns

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C

This is another draft group with players on opposite ends of the spectrum. Besides Njoku, a backup now, every player is either a major piece of the team or no longer on it. Mayfield can be the franchise QB they need. Ward has been up and down, but he should be a CB1 or 2 for years, and Garrett is one of the league’s best pass-rushers in the league. They also sent Peppers to the Giants along with their 2019 first-rounder to acquire star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. With so many picks and such differing results, I felt forced to balance it out and put the Browns’ grade at a C.

Dallas Cowboys

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: A-

The Cowboys have done a great job recently finding difference-makers in the first round, and when they traded away their first, it was for an excellent talent. Vander Esch, if healthy, is a great LB. Elliott is one of the best RBs in football, and Jones was a good corner. Cap issues are the reason that the Cowboys don’t still have him under contract. The only miss was Charlton, who was traded to Miami during the 2019 season. I look for the Cowboys to keep finding good mid-Round 1 talent this year with pick 17.

Denver Broncos

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C-

This is another team that seems to either find an impactful starter or a complete dud. Ray and Lynch were both huge busts. Lynch has been on multiple teams, and Ray hasn’t been on a roster since the 2018 season. On the other hand, Bolles seems to be an adequate left tackle. He does have an issue with penalties, but that could maybe be fixed with a move to the right side. Chubb, when on the field, has proven to be a dominant pass-rusher. He needs to come back strong from his ACL tear last season. Fant looks like the real deal at tight end. Rookie TEs usually struggle, but Fant performed better as the year progressed. He will be a receiving threat for Drew Lock for years to come.

Detroit Lions

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C

None of the Detroit Lions’ recent first-round picks have busted, but few have been game-changers. All of the linemen still with the team are serviceable. Tomlinson was traded during his third season. The most upside comes from 2019 rookie T.J. Hockenson. He started the season hot, but then came back to earth and suffered the usual struggles of a rookie tight end. He was a very reliable blocker, though, and I expect him to break out this season.

Green Bay Packers

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B+

In 2017, the Packers traded down and selected current CB2 Kevin King. The only pick that didn’t work out is the 2015 Randall pick. He has been a part of several teams after the Packers traded him to the Browns for backup QB DeShone Kizer, who isn’t on the current roster either. From there, the picks have been mostly outstanding. Clark is one of the best defensive linemen in football. Alexander looks more and more like a lock-down corner every year, and Savage may be the answer to Green Bay’s safety woes. The only reason this isn’t an A- is because the Gary pick wasn’t a high priority, and he didn’t get a chance to play much last season.

Houston Texans

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B

Only Kevin Johnson was a bust of these prospects. Fuller is very injury prone, but he is also one of the best deep threats in the NFL. The Texans spent two years of first-round picks to lock up what they hoped was a franchise QB, and it appears to have been the right move. Before getting injured in his rookie year, Howard was improving every week and really came into his own when moved to right tackle after starting out at guard. The Texans will have to add talent in later rounds, as they don’t have a first this year.

Indianapolis Colts

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B+

This is actually an interesting team to look at. The Colts added All-Pro Quenton Nelson and leader of the line in Ryan Kelly. Those are two cornerstones on any team. Outside of that, there isn’t much to see. Hooker has a nose for the ball and could become an All-Pro if he stays healthy. Last year, they traded down, so there isn’t anything to add to the grade there, and Dorsett was a reach then and is still one today; he isn’t even on the roster anymore. This shows how deep the Colts’ hauls have been recently; the first rounds have been good, but the overall classes are much more impressive.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B-

This is a difficult collection of picks. The picks themselves are great. The problem is the team was such a hostile environment that none of the stars wanted to stay. Ramsey was traded before his rookie contract expired. Jacksonville also moved Fowler Jr., a great edge rusher, while under his rookie deal. Although Fournette has proven he can handle a heavy workload, he doesn’t fit today’s game as a limited receiving threat. Bryan might be in the best situation, as he may get on the field more and break out with Calais Campbell departed. Josh Allen might be the best player on the team after his rookie year. He will be a presence off the edge for years to come. Hopefully the Jaguars can hold onto him.

Kansas City Chiefs

2015-2019 First Round Picks

Grade: A

This is basically cheating. There are only two names on this list of draftees from the past five years for the Chiefs. Luckily, one of them is the cheat code that is Patrick Mahomes. Drafting a Super Bowl champion and MVP through two years of starting will give you an A. The other player, Marcus Peters, was a very impactful corner that they turned into a few draft picks when trading him to the Rams.

Las Vegas Raiders

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C

This class is loaded with potential, but not a ton of evidence. Mike Mayock’s first draft as GM, which included three first-round selections, looks like a good foundation. Ferrell has the traits to develop into a dominant presence on the line. Jacobs can handle the workload out of the backfield, and Abrams (although injured) is poised to bring the mentality and leadership needed on the defensive side of the ball. Miller also looks like a solid offensive line piece, but there’s a drop-off from previous years. The remaining three picks are all on other teams. Only one, Cooper, brought back anything of great value. Getting a first-round pick in return saves this from dropping any lower. If last year’s picks pay off, this could jump into the B range very quickly.

Los Angeles Chargers

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

I’m on the verge between B+ and A- here. There are some excellent pieces here. Derwin James is a special safety prospect. The Bosa bloodlines are some of the most talented out there. Mike Williams is a really nice jump-ball target and red-zone threat. The thing that bumps them from the A- to B+ is that Tillery seemed like a bit of a reach, and he was rotated minimally. Lastly, Gordon was a decent starting RB, but he held back Austin Ekeler more than anything else.

Los Angeles Rams

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: D+

This is a wild group to cover. The Rams haven’t made a first-round pick since 2016. They traded all the others for top talent like Brandin Cooks, who is no longer on the roster, and Jared Goff, which they moved up in the draft to get. The only other pick besides Goff is Todd Gurley, whom they cut earlier this offseason. I had to drop the grade because Goff hasn’t been great, Gurley is gone, and the trades have created a difficult cap situation. These aggressive win-now gambits didn’t lead to a Super Bowl victory.

Miami Dolphins

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B+

This is difficult. The Dolphins have drafted well in Round 1 over the last five years. The problem is they have traded away all those players for assets in a rebuild. The returns of those deals have been strong, so I decided to grade them well. They have had a miss or two. Charles Harris has been a rotational piece, but nothing special. The best pick still on the team is Parker, who played like a true WR1 last season. While this is a Grade-A haul, the lack of usage keeps them at the B+ above.

Minnesota Vikings

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C-

The Vikings have struggled over the last five years in the first round. The 2015 and 2016 selections are no longer on the roster. They didn’t use a first-round pick in 2017. Hughes seems to be a sufficient CB, but I’m not sure he’s ready to be their CB1. The brightest spot is Bradbury, who quickly became the best player of the group as a rookie. They have work to do if the want to compete for a division title and stay consistently relevant.

New England Patriots

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: D+

This is surprising. Since the Patriots have consistently drafted in the 30-32 range, it is not surprising to see them trade down often. However, the selections they made haven’t been great. Harry is far from ready to be a WR1. Wynn is finally healthy enough to play at LT, but he needs to prove he can hold up season after season after playing eight games in two years. Brown isn’t on the roster anymore after making a minimal impact. Lastly, I’m not sure Michel fits. New England seems to want to use him as a big-bodied, straight-ahead runner, which doesn’t serve him well. Without Tom Brady, it will be important to start hitting on more early picks.

New Orleans Saints

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: A

The Saints have the best overall roster in football, and the last five years of first-round picks point to that being an expectation more than a surprise. They have rebuilt their strong offensive line during these drafts. The gave their pass rush some extra juice in Davenport, who started to figure it out last season. The only reason this isn’t an A+ is because Anthony never made much of an impact after a nice rookie campaign. This was a great haul for the Saints, who they will ride a lot of these players next season.

New York Giants

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C-

This grade could shoot up or plummet. It all depends on the development of Daniel Jones. He has traits to love, but he also has a turnover problem. If he corrects that issue, this could jump into the B range. Barkley is a game-changer on any team. Dexter Lawrence had a nice first year, and Engram is one of the league’s best young TEs when healthy. The rest of the picks are forgettable. Baker got burned on a lot of plays last year. Hopefully he can turn it around. Apple and Flowers were both unimpressive, at best, with the Giants. Flowers has saved his career a bit with a move to guard, but it’s not enough to help the grade here.

New York Jets

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B-

The Jets have drafted pretty well the last couple of years. Darnold can be the franchise QB they need, and Adams is probably the best safety in football. Quinnen Williams had an unimpressive rookie year, but he has the traits to make an impact as he continues to learn the nuances of the game. The 2015-16 picks, however, are less impressive. Lee never lived up to his athletic traits while with the Jets. Leonard Williams didn’t develop into the pass-rusher many predicted, but he has become a good run-stuffer. For this grade to hold, Darnold must take that next step this season.

Philadelphia Eagles

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B-

This is more of an incomplete grade because Dillard only started four games last season. In 2020, we will find out if he is the answer at LT. So far, though, this looks like a decent five-year haul. The Eagles found their franchise QB in Wentz. Barnett is a nice rotational piece, and Agholor was a serviceable receiver during his time in Philly.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B+

The Steelers have had an up-and-down first-round draft turnout. They have drafted defensive studs in Bush, Watt, and Dupree. Each one helped make up one of the best LB corps in the NFL, a Steelers tradition like no other. It’s noticeable that they have dedicated so much capital to the defensive side, and that unit carried them last year. There were a few misses in Burns and Edmonds. Edmonds isn’t really surprising, as he was viewed as a pretty big reach, but he has been a decent addition as more of a box safety.

San Francisco 49ers

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B+

This was a little back and forth for me, but the strengths were just too good to go any lower. Bosa, McGlinchey, and Armstead are cornerstones. Buckner was great while with the team and just got them a first-rounder via a trade with the Colts. Thomas, though coming along slowly, could start to pick it up with Buckner gone. Their only recent misses are Garnett and Foster. While it’s hard to be perfect, the writing was on the wall with Foster. They bought into the talent, but he couldn’t stay on the straight and narrow.

Seattle Seahawks

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: F

Twice the Seahawks either moved down or traded for a veteran. With one of the other three picks they selected Ifedi, who started 60 games in the last four years. However, he was never a dominant player and is no longer on the team. Many labeled Penny as a huge reach on his draft night, and he has yet to take the starting job. Just like in 2018, the Seahawks reached again by selecting Collier. During his rookie year, Collier saw virtual no playing time and needs a lot of refining to make a consistent impact. It’s amazing how the Seahawks have stayed competitive without nailing any recent first-round picks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: C-

Of the last five years worth of first-round picks, the only real long-term impact starters are Vita Vea and Devin White. Howard has potential, but they are reportedly now looking to trade him. Hargreaves never lived up to the hype and is now on another roster, and Winston isn’t drawing strong interest as a free agent. The Buccaneers need to continue the small streak they have started of drafting high-impact players to turn this franchise around further and take the next step with Brady.

Tennessee Titans

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B

The worst pick of these selections is the guy they thought could be their franchise QB in Marcus Mariota. He is no longer on the team. Unfortunately, Conklin left via free agency, but that doesn’t change how good of a pick the All-Pro tackle was. Corey Davis has struggled to make a consistent impact and has fallen to WR2 behind 2019 rookie A.J. Brown. The recent defensive picks have been key contributors. Simmons shocked many with the impact he made when returning from a torn ACL sustained while in college. Lastly, Evans roams the box, collecting tackles at a high rate, and should hold down the spot for the foreseeable future.

Washington Redskins

2015- 2019 First Round Picks

Grade: B+

Washington has used the majority of the last five drafts to build an absolute powerhouse in the defense’s front seven. Sweat, Payne, and Allen all look like key pieces of what should be a stud defense under Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio. This could easily jump into an A- if Haskins takes the next step. Until he does, my grade is a B+, which is not helped by Doctson’s bust.

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Mark Johnson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mark, check out his archive and follow him @MJ_NFLDraft.

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