Rang: First-round grades and Day-2 projections: NFC

By Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com

Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But waiting is no fun. As such, let's take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2018 draft with a quick current look at the first round.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys thrilled the hometown fans with the selection of Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch at No. 19 overall, an ascending prospect with the instincts, athleticism and perhaps most important, durability. Dallas lacked the latter at that position and saw only flashes from Jaylon Smith and even star Sean Lee. With nine more picks including No. 50 and 81 on Friday), the Cowboys have plenty of ammo in their six-shooters to hit needed targets (OK, nine-shooters. So is there a nine-shot revolver or do they need a magazine?). There is discussion of a trade for Seahawks All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas as well as filling the massive shoes left behind by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Barring a trade for Thomas, expect the Cowboys to nab at least one pass-catcher Friday.

  • Grade: B

New York Giants

General manager Dave Gettleman wasted no time making Penn State running back Saquon Barkley the No. 2 overall selection, raising criticism by some that he should have used up the allotted 15 minutes to pursue potential trade-down opportunities with Sam Darnold unexpectedly (more or less) still available. While it is true that the running back depth in this class could have afforded the Giants to look at other options, let's be clear, Barkley is an exceptional talent who complements the win-now moves already made in acquiring veterans Nate Solder and Alec Ogletree. Barkley is the hands-down favorite at this point to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year and New York will take a Giant step up in the win column in 2018 based largely on Gettleman's (and head coach Pat Shurmur's) wise decision to not get too cute.

  • Grade: A

Philadelphia Eagles

Because the contracts given to players in the first round contain a team-friendly fifth-year contract option rather than a maximum four-year deal for later rookies, the No. 32 overall selection can be much more valuable than No. 33 overall. Still, savvy general manager Howie Roseman believed it was more beneficial to ship the pick to Baltimore and acquire a pair of second-round selections, including one next year. The decision puts Philadelphia in position to still take a talented running back - one of the reigning champs' few areas of concern - while acquiring extra, cap-friendly selections to help Philadelphia win over the long-term. The Eagles' first pick (and only one on Day 2 this year) is currently at No. 52 overall.

  • Grade: Incomplete

Washington Redskins

Many will suggest that the Redskins (like the Cincinnati Bengals) had their preferred top pick stolen one selection ahead of them when Tampa Bay secured massive defensive tackle Vita Vea at No. 12. While that may be the case, don't expect me to quibble with Washington's selection of Alabama's Da'Ron Payne, whom I personally ranked as the ninth best player available this year and, therefore, an ideal value, especially given that Washington surrendered an NFL-worst 134 yards on the ground per game last season. With their lone Day-2 selection (No. 44 overall), expect Washington to find similar value while addressing key needs at running back or defensive back.

  • Grade: B-plus

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

It is appropriate that the year legendary linebacker Brian Urlacher will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame that the Bears found their next star in the middle with Georgia's Roquan Smith, who possesses the instincts and elite athleticism to live up to this legacy. The expensive trade up a year ago for Mitchell Trubisky left the Bears with only two picks over the first three rounds, including No. 39 overall on Friday. But the club should feel good that its quarterbacks on offense and defense are secured for a long time. Help along the trenches and on the perimeter in the form of both receivers and cornerbacks is on the way.

  • Grade: A

Detroit Lions

The NFC North was long considered the NFL's so-called black and blue division, with physicality and toughness as primary characteristics. The Lions appear dedicated to regaining that image, adding a plug-and-play, lunch-stealing interior lineman in Arkansas' Frank Ragnow. Many (including myself) projected Ragnow to go one pick later to Cincinnati (which also selected a center). While center was Detroit's biggest need, interior linemen rarely provide the same caliber of immediate impact edge rushers and running backs give, making these positions the ones to watch on Day 2 when Detroit is back on the assembly line at picks No. 51 and 82, overall.

  • Grade: B minus

Green Bay Packers

If there were any nerves from first-year general manager Brian Gutekunst Thursday he certainly didn't show it, first trading down (while acquiring the Saints' first-round pick in 2019) and then back up (with Seattle) to add a terrific cover corner and returner in Louisville's Jaire Alexander. The movement and player are a significant departure from the style of Green Bay's previous general manager Ted Thompson. It is worth noting that in moving down the Packers passed up on the opportunity to nab Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds (selected by Buffalo, Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch (Dallas) and Florida State's Derwin James (L.A. Chargers), each of whom the club heavily scouted and may wind up producing more of an obvious immediate impact for their respective NFL teams. The Packers only have one pick currently on Day 2 (No. 45 overall) but have 10 selections on Day 3 with six of them coming in rounds four and five to address needs at pass rusher and along the trenches.

  • Grade: B-plus

Minnesota Vikings

Boasting one of the league's deepest rosters, the Vikings took the same strategy as Green Bay, adding a playmaking cover corner and returner in UCF's Mike Hughes. He should add immediate help inside at nickel corner to complement former first-round picks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, each larger than Hughes. Expect Minnesota to reinforce the offensive line on Day 2 with at least one of their selections (No. 62 and 94 overall).

  • Grade: B

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Former NFL MVP Matt Ryan had to be all smiles when the Falcons nabbed former Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley in one of the surprise picks of the first round. The silky-smooth route-runner should serve as a complement to superstar Julio Jones, in a fashion similar to that of Roddy White, a first-round Falcons pick in 2005. Ridley and fellow Bama alum Jones likely will engage in friendly competition that might help each of them. Don't expect former defensive line coach Dan Quinn to wait long to push for a defensive tackle given the loss of big boy Dontari Poe in the offseason. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has six picks remaining, including two (No. 58 and 90) on Friday.

  • Grade: B-plus

Carolina Panthers

Count former Panthers Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith Sr. among those impressed with the club's decision to make Maryland pass-catcher D.J. Moore the first receiver off the board in 2018. Moore offers a similar skill-set as Smith, projecting as the perfect complement to a running game featuring Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey and big receiver Devin Funchess. Adding yet another pass-catcher, including one at tight end, is likely among the Panthers' next targets with help at edge rusher and along the offensive line also key needs. The Panthers have seven picks remaining, including three (No. 55, 85 and 88) on Friday.

  • Grade: B-plus

New Orleans Saints

You must admire the win-now mentality that led general manager Mickey Loomis to make the aggressive trade up from No. 27 to No. 14 overall to land UT-San Antonio edge rusher Marcus Davenport. Finding a complementary threat opposite Pro Bowler Jordan Cameron was a clear need and Davenport possesses the raw traits scouts drool over. The cost (which included next year's first-round pick) and Davenport's relative inexperience against top competition, however, are significant. The Saints still have six selections left (though just No. 91 overall on Friday) to aid a roster that still could use reinforcements at multiple positions, most notably pass-catcher.

  • Grade: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It usually doesn't work out this way, but the Bucs and Buffalo Bills pulled off a memorable trade, even among the nine for the night. Tampa Bay grabbed the player they probably would have selected at No. 7 overall in Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, although five spots later at No. 12 and they added a pair of second-round selections in the deal. General manager Jason Licht deserves credit for reading the board correctly, landing one spot ahead of the Redskins, who took the No. 2 defensive tackle on NFLDraftScout.com's board one pick later (Da'Ron Payne). Vea is every bit the run-stuffing monster that his 6-foot-4, 346-pound frame suggests, projecting as a true difference-maker inside. With the extra picks now giving them three Day-2 picks (No. 38, 53 and 56), the Bucs are now in terrific position to fill other areas of concern, including running back, pass-catcher and the defensive backfield, arguably the richest positions available.

  • Grade: A

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Rather than gamble their target would fall further, the Cardinals flew up five spots from No. 15 overall to land UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, alas chosen No. 10 overall. In my mind he is the most gifted passer in this year's draft. The selection is interesting given that his struggles with durability are what has plagued incumbent starter Sam Bradford. But like Bradford, a former No. 1 overall selection, nobody questions Rosen's natural talent. Nicknamed Chosen Rosen for years, the former Bruin is motivated after a self-perceived slip to No. 10 overall. Rosen could make general manager Steve Keim and new head coach Steve Wilks look brilliant. The opposite, however, is also possible, which is why the Cardinals would be wise to add weapons and plenty of protection for both of their quarterbacks, starting with Day-2 picks No. 47 and 97 overall.

  • Grade: B

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams did not have a selection Thursday night due to the trade for veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The club has eight picks this year, though only one is among the top 100 selections and that is at No. 87 overall, making the 2018 draft likely destined to find depth rather than starters.

  • Grade: Incomplete

San Francisco 49ers

Demonstrating yet again that he is committed to winning in the trenches, general manager John Lynch selected the most reliable tackle in this draft class in Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey at No. 9 overall. That move is obviously aimed at protecting the investment made last season - the acquisition of burgeoning star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. While not the dancing bear scouts would prefer as a blind-side pass protector, McGlinchey is the kind of blue-collar blocker that will serve as the foundation to this rapidly improving team. The 49ers still have eight more picks to mine for gold (including No. 59, 70, 74 and 95 on Friday), with needs at running back and receiver, along with potentially inside linebacker depending on how the club feels about the long-term future of Reuben Foster.

  • Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks

Since the end of last season, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll preached returning to the power running game that helped him lead the franchise to consecutive Super Bowl appearances, including the only championship in team history. The selection of San Diego State's Rashaad Penny - after a trade down that netted the club a much-needed Day-2 pick - was a reflection of that. Despite leading the country in rushing yards and touchdowns a year ago, Penny did not receive the same national attention as other backs in this class. But his combination of size, power and speed made him highly valued among scouts with one team even attempting to trade for him seconds after the selection was announced, according to general manager John Schneider. The starting job won't be handed to him, but if Penny improves his pass protection and is Seattle's primary ball-carrier next season he can become the immediate spark this team needs and a dark-horse rookie of the year candidate. Seattle still has key needs at pass-catcher, edge rusher and defensive back but has eight picks remaining and a proven track record of success for finding late-round steals.

  • Grade: B

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