2015 NFL Draft Grades: Cowboys might, might have gotten a steal

Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) scores a touchdown on a pass (that was reviewed and ruled a touchdown) as Washington cornerback David Amerson (39) tries to defend in the first quarter as the Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, Dec. 28. CREDIT: Washington Post photo by John McDonnell)

The NFL draft has ended. And while it will take years to sort out the true winners and losers, there is something to be said about which teams did the best jobs of squeezing the maximum value out of the picks they had based on the current evaluations of the players they chose and passed up.

So here goes one attempt at an immediate assessment.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Brandon Scherff is a good player and if he becomes a reliable starter at right tackle, all is well. But if he ends up playing guard, he might not have been worth the No. 5 overall pick. Will the Redskins regret passing up DE Leonard Williams, perhaps the draft’s top defensive player? The pass rusher they took in Round 2, Preston Smith, might not be an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense if the Redskins try to use him at outside linebacker, at 271 pounds. First-year GM Scot McCloughan did manage to trade for additional picks, as he’d said he wanted to do. The Redskins have to hope it turns out that he cashed in on some final-day selections like WR Jamison Crowder or G Arie Kouandijo. Grade: B-minus minus

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DALLAS COWBOYS: The Cowboys ended Randy Gregory’s plummet by taking him late in the second round. He has been a highly productive pass rusher and he could be the steal of the draft if all works out, giving the Cowboys a potential replacement for suspended DE Greg Hardy. But other teams were wary of Gregory’s off-field issues after his admission of testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine. Could the Cowboys really afford to take such further risks after signing Hardy? Dallas didn’t trade for Adrian Peterson or use an early pick on a running back, as some had anticipated, to replace DeMarco Murray. That leaves the Cowboys open to criticism if the running game falters. CB Byron Jones was worth the 27th pick and T Chaz Green, taken in the third round, could be next in line behind starting tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free. Grade: B-minus

NEW YORK GIANTS: The Giants reportedly had Brandon Scherff rated ahead of Ereck Flowers on their draft board but had to settle for Flowers at 9th overall when Scherff went to the Redskins four picks earlier. Still, Flowers should be able to step into the lineup immediately, whether it’s at right tackle or guard, and bolster the offensive line. The Giants traded up in the second round and got good value with S Landon Collins, who’d been projected by many to go in the opening round. DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, taken in the third round, should vie for immediate playing time. Grade: B-plus

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: The Eagles tried desperately to trade up for Marcus Mariota, people close to the situation said Thursday. They tried far harder than they have been willing to admit in the aftermath, and their failure to complete such a deal undoubtedly leaves Coach Chip Kelly feeling like he will have a less-than-ideal situation at quarterback. Now he must make things work with Sam Bradford after reportedly being willing to include him in the potential draft-night trade package. The Eagles did add players who should contribute immediately with their first-round pick of WR Nelson Agholor and second-round selection of S/CB Eric Rowe. Grade: B-minus


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CHICAGO BEARS: The Bears did very well, getting immediate difference-makers on both sides of the ball. Kevin White is a potential game-breaker at wide receiver. Some thought he might go fourth overall to the Raiders but Chicago didn’t have to move up from the seventh spot to get him. The Bears were able to get DT Eddie Goldman, considered a potential first-round choice, seven picks into the second round, and adding C Hroniss Grasu in the third round fortifies the middle of the offensive line. Grade: A-minus

DETROIT LIONS: The Lions passed on taking Malcom Brown late in the first round despite a significant need at defensive tackle after losing both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency. They did add greatly to the interior of their offensive line by trading down, getting G Manny Ramirez in the deal, and then selecting G Laken Tomlinson. Detroit got a potentially explosive runner in the second round in Ameer Abdullah, but some draft analysts raised questions about the pick because of his issues with fumbling. Grade: C-plus

GREEN BAY PACKERS: The Packers focused on their secondary early in the draft, taking defensive backs with their first two picks. There is room to question whether they went with S Damarious Randall a little too soon at 30th overall. His tackling has been questioned. But his pass coverage has been praised and it’s possible that the Packers will use him at cornerback. Green Bay also added an interesting quarterback alternative for far, far down the road by using a fifth-round choice on Brett Hundley after trading up. Grade: C-plus

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Adrian Peterson stayed put, with the Vikings doing as they said they’d do and not trading the running back. Minnesota improved considerably on defense, and its first two picks should be immediate contributors. The Vikings got the draft’s top cornerback, Trae Waynes, at 11th overall, and came back in the second round to add LB Eric Kendricks. But their best move probably was getting T T.J. Clemmings in the fourth round. He could be a starter relatively soon. WR Stefon Diggs could be a pleasant fifth-round surprise. Grade: A-minus

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ATLANTA FALCONS: The Falcons were thought to be considering a trade-up in the first round for Dante Fowler Jr. Instead, they stayed put and still managed to add a potentially disruptive pass rusher in Vic Beasley. They also did extremely well in the next two rounds by getting CB Jalen Collins in the second and RB Tevin Coleman in the third. Collins only made 10 starts at LSU but clearly is talented and could develop into an NFL standout. Coleman illustrates that it doesn’t take a first- or even a second-round choice to get a runner capable of stepping into the lineup and producing. Grade: A

CAROLINA PANTHERS: The Panthers made a debatable pick in the opening round by taking Shaq Thompson. There are questions as to whether he will be a safety or a linebacker in the NFL. If the Panthers project Thompson as a safety, they could have taken Landon Collins instead. They did get an interesting player in the second round in Devin Funchess but will have to figure out whether he will be a tight end or a wide receiver. Carolina lacked a third-round pick and probably needed to do more to maximize its early choices. The Panthers did make a fourth-round bid to address their ongoing issues on the offensive line by taking G Daryl Williams. But that might not have been enough in that area. Grade: C-

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: This is a deep and interesting draft class for New Orleans. The Saints used their two first-rounders on T Andrus Peat and LB Stephone Anthony. They got the nation’s sack leader in the second round in LB Hau’oli Kikaha. Anthony, Kikaha and CB P.J. Williams, an excellent third-round value, all should help right away on defense while the Saints also added a potential quarterback of the future in the third round in Garrett Grayson. Remember, New Orleans had to trade away Jimmy Graham to get its second first-rounder. Even so, the Saints had an abundance of early picks and used them relatively well. Grade: B-plus

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: The Buccaneers surprised no one by using the top overall selection on QB Jameis Winston. Now they must cross their fingers and hope their confidence that he can avoid further significant off-field issues is justified. On the field, he is a pro-ready quarterback. The Buccaneers rightly addressed Winston’s offensive line soon after taking him. But there is room to wonder if they chose the right offensive tackle, in Donovan Smith, near the top of the second round and if C Ali Marpet will make a seamless transition to the NFL from Division III Hobart. Grade: B


ARIZONA CARDINALS: The Cardinals, after signing G Mike Iupati in free agency, continued to work on the offensive line by choosing T D.J. Humphries 24th overall. He was a good value at that point and Arizona was able to come back in the third round and get the help at running back that it needed by selecting David Johnson. Grade: B

ST. LOUIS RAMS: The Rams got a potentially dynamic and productive runner when they used the 10th overall choice on Todd Gurley. There was talk of some teams having Gurley rated as one of the draft’s top few players. It is nevertheless fair to question whether the Rams needed to use such a lofty pick to get a productive running back, given the recent history of the NFL draft. They did fortify the offensive line by taking Ts Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown. They made Sean Mannion the fourth quarterback taken in the draft, ahead of Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley. Grade: B

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The 49ers focused intently on their defense, and the defensive front seven in particular, early on, which is understandable after the retirements of LBs Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. DT Arik Armstead, chosen 17th overall after the 49ers traded down two spots, has obvious talent but some draft analysts have questioned his consistency. The 49ers were fortunate to get LB Eli Harold in the third round. Grade: B-minus

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: The Seahawks get credit here for the trade that sent the 31st overall selection (along with C Max Unger) to the Saints for TE Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round choice. There certainly was not a player of Graham’s caliber available for the 31st pick, and the deal greatly strengthened Seattle’s bid for a third straight Super Bowl appearance. The Seahawks traded up to get a potential contributor in the third round in WR Tyler Lockett, who could help on offense and is a dynamic returner. They gave up quite a bit to the Redskins in that trade but, in their enviable situation, could afford to do so. Grade: B


BUFFALO BILLS: The Bills might not get all that much immediate help out of this draft. They were without a first-round pick after dealing it last year as part of the trade to move up for WR Sammy Watkins. That turned out well, although productive wide receivers were practically everywhere to be found in last year’s draft. CB Ronald Darby, taken in the second round Friday, might have a tough time securing playing time on this defense. But third-round G John Miller has a chance to be a starter. Grade: Grade: C-plus

MIAMI DOLPHINS: The Dolphins did well to get another dangerous receiving option for QB Ryan Tannehill. DeVante Parker was the third wide receiver taken in this draft, after Amari Cooper and Kevin White, and was the right choice for Miami at 14th overall. DT Jordan Phillips, taken in the second round, could be effective if given a chance to play alongside Ndamukong Suh. RB Jay Ajayi might emerge as a superb fifth-round find. Grade: B

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: The Patriots made one of the best selections in the entire draft on the final choice of the first round, and all it took was a little bit of luck. They stayed put and DT Malcom Brown fell to them. He fits in nicely after the Patriots parted with veteran Vince Wilfork earlier in the offseason. Some questioned whether the Patriots took S Jordan Richards too soon by selecting him late in the second round. But third-round DE Geneo Grissom could play a role on the defense. Grade: B

NEW YORK JETS: The Jets made sensible moves throughout. They had good fortune when DE Leonard Williams, probably the best defensive player in the draft and perhaps the top overall player, fell to them at No. 6. They got WR Devin Smith early in the second round. He should step right in and help. The Jets traded down in the third round and ended up with solid LB Lorenzo Mauldin. A badly needed prospective quarterback of the future arrived in the fourth round with the selection of Bryce Petty. He immediately becomes the most promising quarterback on the roster but the Jets will have to resist the temptation to go to him too soon. He faces an adjustment from Baylor’s offense to the NFL game and won’t be ready to play in the foreseeable future. Grade: A


BALTIMORE RAVENS: There is no better general manager in the league than Ozzie Newsome and he helped out QB Joe Flacco quite a bit by adding WR Breshad Perriman in the first round and TE Maxx Williams in the second round. Perriman’s dropped passes have drawn attention. But he has the ability to develop into a very good receiver who could be an integral part of the Ravens’ passing game with Torrey Smith gone and Steve Smith not getting any younger. Williams is the draft’s top tight end. The Ravens failed to address the secondary in a meaningful way but gave their defensive line a boost with third-round DT Carl Davis and fourth-round DE Za’Darius Smith. Grade: B

CINCINNATI BENGALS: The Bengals solidified their future offensive line by using their first two picks of the draft on Ts Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. Those were wise moves long-term, with starting tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith entering the final season of their contracts. But as the Bengals seek the playoff victory that has eluded them under Coach Marvin Lewis and with Andy Dalton at quarterback, should they have done more early in the draft to improve their team immediately? Maybe Ogbuehi, once he recovers from his torn anterior cruciate ligament, or Fisher could be given a rookie-year look at guard. TE Tyler Kroft and LB Paul Dawson, each picked in the third round, have the potential to help out, and there perhaps could be a role for fourth-round CB Josh Shaw. Grade: B-minus

CLEVELAND BROWNS: The Browns had five picks in the first three rounds and they clearly got better on the offensive and defensive lines. Both first-rounders, DT Danny Shelton and C Cameron Erving, should become mainstays. Cleveland also added defensive linemen Nate Orchard in the second round and Xavier Cooper in the third. RB Duke Johnson, also taken in the third round, should contribute. But the Browns did not fix their problems at quarterback. There was no trade up for Marcus Mariota and no deal to land Sam Bradford. They did not add a receiver early in the draft to compensate for Josh Gordon’s suspension. So while they got good players, it’s not at all clear that the bottom-line result will be meaningful improvement. Grade: B-minus

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: The Steelers used three of their first four choices on their defense and provided some badly needed help for their pass rush and secondary. Being able to get pass-rushing LB Bud Dupree at 22nd overall was both fortunate and wise. Addressing the defensive backfield was imperative and Pittsburgh added a pair of cornerbacks in second-rounder Senquez Golson and fourth-rounder Doran Grant. Grade: B


HOUSTON TEXANS: The Texans got probably the draft’s second-best cornerback in Kevin Johnson, who was well worth the 16th overall choice. They added a solid linebacker in the second round in Benardrick McKinney, and they traded up to take advantage of WR Jaelen Strong’s drop to the third round. Strong was a terrific value at that point. Grade: B-plus

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: The Colts added to a position of strength by using their first-round selection on speedy WR Phillip Dorsett. That’s not always the wrong way to go. But with the Colts’ moves in free agency signaling that they’re making an immediate Super Bowl push with some key aging veterans around QB Andrew Luck, maybe that wasn’t the best approach for the circumstances. The Colts’ most immediately useful pick might end up being third-round DE Henry Anderson. Grade: Grade: C-minus

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: The Jaguars went with the draft’s top pass rusher, Dante Fowler Jr., over perhaps its top defensive player, DE Leonard Williams, at third overall. There probably was no going wrong there, although there is the potential for regret if Williams is dominant in the NFL. There’s no issue with taking a running back in the second round but 36th overall might have been just a little bit soon for T.J. Yeldon. A.J. Cann, chosen in the third round, can fortify the interior of the offensive line immediately at guard or center. Grade: B

TENNESSEE TITANS: The Titans did the right thing by taking QB Marcus Mariota second overall. It’s a quarterbacks’ league and if you don’t have a franchise player at the spot, you have to do all that you can do to try to get one. Yes, there are questions about whether Mariota’s skills will translate to the pro game. But the Titans weren’t in position to bypass him and count on Zach Mettenberger to be their starter at the position. Barring an overwhelming trade offer that apparently didn’t materialize, the Titans simply had to go with Mariota. They gave him a potentially dominant receiver in the second round by taking Dorial Green-Beckham. But that is a risky choice because of Green-Beckham’s off-field issues that led to him being dismissed from the team at Missouri. Grade: B-plus


DENVER BRONCOS: No one made a bolder single move during the draft than the Broncos did by trading up in the opening round to end the Thursday night plummet of pass rusher Shane Ray. Ray was an almost-indisputable top-10 talent who plummeted after being cited earlier in the week for marijuana possession. So clearly there is risk involved in the maneuver for Denver. But if it works out, the Broncos will have another pass-rushing threat to go with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, and that potential upgrade to their defense just might be enough to keep them in the conversation about the AFC’s top contenders. It is unclear, though, if the Broncos did quite enough to bolster QB Peyton Manning’s offensive line by getting T Ty Sambrailo in the second round and C Max Garcia in the fourth. Grade: B-plus

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: The Chiefs became convinced that CB Marcus Peters was trustworthy enough to use a first-round selection even after he was dismissed from the team at Washington. They’d better be right on that because it was a significant chance to take with the 18th overall pick. The Chiefs did address areas of major need by taking G Mitch Morse in the second round and WR Chris Conley in the third. Grade: B-minus

OAKLAND RAIDERS: The Raiders did the proper thing by taking WR Amari Cooper with the No. 4 pick. He was the most polished receiver in the draft and should be second-year QB Derek Carr’s primary target for years to come. But it can be debated just how much there is to like about the Raiders’ draft class after that. Some regarded the early stages of the second round as too soon to take DT Mario Edwards Jr. Grade: B-minus

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Philip Rivers stayed put. And while the Chargers didn’t have many picks, they made them count, particularly the first two. They traded up in the first round to get RB Melvin Gordon. Although it has become clear that an opening-round selection isn’t required in today’s NFL to get a useful runner, San Diego at least used a lower first-rounder than the Rams used for Todd Gurley and, in the Chargers’ case, there was a bit of a drop-off from Gurley and Gordon to the draft’s next tier of running backs. The Chargers also added a tackling machine in second-round LB Denzel Perryman. San Diego definitely improved at those positions, although they are not the most crucial positions in today’s pass-first league. Grade: B