Professor Nicky’s Draft Grades

My analysis of every first-round NFL Draft pick



Roger Goodell, the NFL’s current commissioner, announced every single draft pick in the first-ever virtual NFL draft (photo obtained under fair use via Creative Commons license).

Nicky Varela, Professor

The first-ever online NFL draft has come and gone, and now is the time to debate who got better, and who didn’t. Let’s go.

#1, Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Grade: A

This was the clear choice for Cincy. After months of waiting for the inevitable, the Bengals finally got their guy. Hopefully, he’s a stud, and not another Jamarcus Russell.

#2, Washington Redskins: Chase Young, DE, OSU

Grade: A

Another clear choice. Even though Washington’s defensive line might already have enough talent, Young will possibly cement it as the best in the league. Also, snagging the best player in the draft with the second pick is a plus.

#3, Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, OSU

Grade: A-

Detroit needed a star corner after they lost Darius Slay to Philadelphia this offseason. They probably reached a little bit, but Okudah was the best corner in the draft, so no worries there.

#4, New York Giants: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Grade: B+

There’s nothing wrong with Thomas. After all, he was one of the best tackles in the draft. However, in my opinion, he wasn’t the best, so that hurts this pick. I feel as if they tried to trade down, but couldn’t and just took Thomas. Still a good pick, though.

#5, Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Grade: A-

Tagovailoa had been connected to Miami for months, so this was expected. I definitely think this was a good pick. Miami’s QB play since Dan Marino retired has been, to say the least, not good. My only concern is that Tagovailoa has had his fair share of injuries, so I’m a little worried he could be a flop. His riskiness hurts him a tad.

#6, Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Grade: B+

Herbert was the best QB available, and the Chargers needed one. He has a high ceiling, but also a low floor. Hopefully, his physical tools (6’6″ height) and cannon arm can overcome his weaknesses.

#7, Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Grade: A

Brown is the big boy defensive player Carolina needed. Luke Keuchly’s retirement leaves Carolina without a star on defense, and he will surely fill that role. Being able to snag Brown with the seventh pick was very lucky.

#8, Arizona Cardinals: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Grade: A

I honestly thought New York was going to take Simmons, but he managed to slide down to Arizona with the eighth pick. They got possibly the best athlete in the draft, and his potential is off the charts. I’m a big fan of this guy.

#9, Jacksonville Jaguars: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

Grade: B+

Henderson was the second-best CB in the draft, and Jacksonville made the smart move. They still should’ve pushed to trade down, though. He probably would have fallen to them if they picked in the teens. Still, solid pick.

#10, Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Willis, OT, Alabama

Grade: A-

I would rather have Tristan Wirfs, but Cleveland needed offensive line help, especially after longtime star OT Joe Thomas retired a season ago. Willis should help provide protection for QB Baker Mayfield, who suffered from poor offensive line play last season, resulting in a disappointing year for Cleveland. The Factory of Sadness needs you, Willis.

#11, New York Jets: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Grade: B

I was surprised by this pick, even though the Jets need an OT. Becton surely is a physical freak. I mean, 6’7″ and 360 pounds is insane. However, Wirfs would have been the better pick. If he pans out, he might be the best tackle in the draft, but as of right now, he’s most likely not. That hurts him in the long run.

#12, Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama

Grade: B

Weird pick. Ruggs is the fastest receiver in the draft, but not the best. I would much rather have Jeudy or Lamb, who were both available. Ruggs hasn’t proven that he can be a true #1 receiver, so I’m concerned about him.

#13, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Grade: A

Love, love this pick. He was the second-best tackle in the draft in my opinion, and Tampa stole him at #13 via a swap with the 49ers. Now the 43-year-old Tom Brady doesn’t have to worry about his health during every pass, and has plenty of time to deliver a pass to the now unretired Rob Gronkowski. Smart move by the Bay.

#14, San Francisco 49ers: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Grade: B+

San Francisco traded down for Tampa’s pick one slot after and for a fourth-rounder later in the draft. I think they should have taken a receiver here. Kinlaw’s a beast, though. He should slide in well, especially after San Fran lost DT DeForest Buckner to Indy this offseason.

#15, Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Grade: A

Jeudy was my favorite receiver in the draft. The fact that Denver was able to select him almost halfway through the first round amazed me. QB Drew Lock now has a shiny new weapon, and the Broncos’ passing attack should be fun to watch next season.

#16, Atlanta Falcons: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

Grade: C

This was a big reach, and I didn’t like it. After cutting CB Desmond Trufant, they needed a corner, but they could’ve traded down and easily grabbed him. I don’t see him becoming a star.

#17, Dallas Cowboys: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Grade: A-

I like Lamb. Falling to #17, he was a steal. I just don’t think Dallas really needed a receiver. They just signed a big extension to WR Amari Cooper, and he’s seemingly locked in as their #1 receiver for the foreseeable future. But Lamb is good enough to where Dallas still earned a very good grade for this pick.

#18, Miami Dolphins: Austin Jackson, OT, USC

Grade: A-

Miami needed o-line help, especially for the oft-injured Tagovailoa. He’s a good player and should rebound after a down year at USC. Very nice pick by the Fins.

#19, Las Vegas Raiders: Damon Arnette, CB, OSU

Grade: D

Las Vegas probably partied too hard before making this pick. He’s a good corner, yeah, but I feel as if his off-field issues override his play. This was a waste of a pick for a player who probably would have fallen to the second round. What are you doing, Mayock?

#20, Jacksonville Jaguars: K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU

Grade: A-

Chaisson is a great DE. Now that “Sacksonville” is almost completely disbanded, the Jags needed a defensive player. He should compliment Jacksonville’s pick in last year’s draft, DE Josh Allen, quite well.

#21, Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

Grade: D+

Philadelphia, their fans, and everybody in the universe knew they desperately needed a receiver. After bewilderingly refusing to trade up, Philly selected Reagor at #21. Why they chose to take Reagor over higher-touted receivers still available like Justin Jefferson is beyond me. Speaking of Jefferson…

#22, Minnesota Vikings: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

Grade: A-

Jefferson is better than Reagor, straight up. WR Stefon Digg’s departure to Buffalo left a hole at the receiver slot, and Jefferson will fill that need perfectly. Jefferson and WR Adam Thielen should provide an exciting receiver tandem next season.

#23, Los Angeles Chargers: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Grade: B-

LA needed a linebacker and Murray was one of the best available. However, they gave up a second-round pick and a third-round pick to New England in order to grab Murray at #23. In my opinion, they gave up too much.

#24, New Orleans Saints: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan

Grade: B

Ruiz is a good center, the best in the draft. The Saints didn’t really need one, though. They took one in the second round in last year’s draft, so this fills a hole that doesn’t exist. A move to guard is seemingly the only option for Ruiz. I’m not an expert, but I’d rather have a receiver here.

#25, San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, ASU

Grade: C+

Meh. Not bad. San Fran needed a receiver. They didn’t need to trade up for him, though, so they wasted some picks trading to Minnesota. That’s what hurts this pick.

#26, Green Bay Packers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Grade: F-

Huh? HUH? WHAT!?!? This pick makes me angry just thinking about it. The amount of disrespect to Aaron Rodgers is immeasurable.

#27, Seattle Seahawks: Jordyn Brooks, LB, TTU

Grade: D

Not as bad as the last pick, but still, just why Seattle? Why would you take a linebacker when you already have Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Terrible pick, especially because they could’ve traded down if they were in love with him so much.

#28, Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

Grade: A

The rich get richer. Baltimore snags Queen at #28 and fills a hole where LB C.J. Mosley left behind when he signed with the Jets. Queen is better than Jordyn Brooks, too, adding to the idiocy of the previous pick.

#29, Tennessee Titans: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia

Grade: B+

With OT Jack Conklin’s departure, Wilson might be able to start immediately. Tennessee heavily relies on the rushing attack, and Wilson can only help their offensive line become even bigger bullies.

#30, Miami Dolphins: Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn

Grade: C

Miami already has two solid starting corners in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard, so this didn’t fill a gaping need. They could run a three-cornerback scheme, but I think the smarter option with this pick was to take an offensive weapon for Tagovailoa. He’ll need plenty of help if he wants to succeed, and this pick doesn’t satisfy that.

#31, Minnesota Vikings: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Grade: A-

Gladney is a great corner and should provide major help to Minnesota’s secondary, as #1 CB Xavier Rhoades was cut this offseason (he sucks). Getting a player this needed so late in the first round was a very nice pick.

#32, Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU

Grade: B+

Pretty decent pick by the reigning champs. Edwards-Helaire was the best RB in the draft. He should compliment Super Bowl hero Damien Williams well in the backfield. Kansas City added yet another weapon.

Overall: Not too many huge surprises. Most teams made smart picks. Hopefully, this will be the lone virtual draft in NFL history, as nothing beats the feeling of watching draftees walk across the stage.

Overall Draft Grade: B+

Watch the video above to see what actual football experts think of these picks!