- Mel Kiper Jr., Football analyst
Everybody knows you can't grade an NFL draft on performance the day it ends. You can't do it for years, which is part of the reason why I audit old drafts. What I do here is assess three main things:
• How much overall talent did a team add based on board position?
• How effectively did they address key personnel needs?
• How efficient were they in maneuvering on the draft board?
And I use my player grades as the prism. I'm well aware all NFL teams see players differently -- I might have a third-round grade on a safety many teams see as a late-round pick. That's the reality of player evaluations.
Grading Scale: In my mind an "A" means it's exceptional; a "B" is pretty good; a "C" means average, with hits and misses; a "D" means below average with some big questions. An "F" well, I didn't have one.
Top needs: ILB, S, LT, TE, WR
Summary: The Ravens needed to come out of this draft with an inside linebacker and a safety, and with their first two picks, they got two really good players at those positions. Matt Elam has played high-level football at Florida, can move around (particularly up to the line of scrimmage) and make hits. He plays with fearlessness, can make plays in coverage with his good instincts and long arms and slotted in next to Michael Huff at strong safety, provides immediate impact. Baltimore used its pile of picks to move up and take Arthur Brown, a player the Ravens really liked. He's a steal at No. 56 overall and takes over the void left by Ray Lewis. Brandon Williams gives them a rotation player at nose tackle and gives them depth behind Terrence Cody. Kyle Juszczyk is the best fullback in the draft, and makes plenty of sense in the fourth round. Ricky Wagner is an interesting pick because if you asked me a year ago I'd have told you he probably lands in Round 2 this year. He just didn't play to that level this season, but you have to wonder if he can get back to that point. I see his future at right tackle, or even guard. Tackle was a need, and we'll see if he helps there. I think it's a good bet on upside. John Simon is an interesting player, because it's hard to say what position he'll play. For now he provides depth at linebacker and should be a good special-teamer. The Ravens had another excellent draft because they needed starters at some key spots and pulled it off. That's not easy to do when you're slotted in at No. 32.
12hEric D. Williams