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 look at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2017 draft.
With longtime defensive standout Calais Campbell heading to Jacksonville on a massive deal, general manager Steve Keim needed a difference-maker in the 2017 draft. He nabbed one of the more dynamic front seven defenders in Temple's Haason Reddick in the first round and arguably the most versatile defensive back in the draft in Washington's Budda Baker a round later. Reddick starred as an undersized pass rusher for the Owls before showing off his instincts and agility as an off-ball linebacker at the Senior Bowl and Combine. Baker starred as a safety and nickel cornerback for Washington, exhibiting the agility and speed to handle both roles in the NFL. The Cardinals have shown a willingness to gamble on small school prospects since Keim took over, and they made Grambling State standout Chad Williams (another Senior Bowl star) the first non-Combine invite selected in the 2017 draft, taking him 98th overall. Athletic and highly competitive, he could be the complement and eventual replacement to Larry Fitzgerald the club had hoped former first-round pick Michael Floyd would become. Though they will be overshadowed by their flashier classmates, battle-tested veterans Dorian Johnson and Will Holden also solidified the Cardinals' offensive line.
With 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff struggling as a rookie, it was obvious that the Rams needed to find him more dynamic weapons. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, after the massive trade up last year to land the former Cal product, the team was missing its first-round pick to do so -- a problem exacerbated by a surprising early run on pass-catchers. The Rams responded by using three of their first four picks on weapons for Goff, landing tight end Gerald Everett with their first pick (No. 44 overall), Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp with their second (69) and Texas A&M's vertical threat Josh Reynolds (117) with its fourth selection. Despite his small-school background, Kupp (whose father and grandfather both played in the NFL) is far and away the most polished of the group, standing out against Pac-12 and Senior Bowl competition. The Rams thought enough of Eastern Washington's talent, in fact, to go back to the Eagles for their top pass rusher in twitchy edge rusher Samson Ebukam, who was not invited to the Combine despite registering 44 tackles for loss and 24 sacks over his career. The Rams gambled on similarly undersized rushers late on Day Three, adding penetrating Tulane defensive tackle Tanzel Smart and Pitt's speedy edge defender Ejuan Price. Third-round safety John Johnson won't get the hype of the rushers or receivers, but he is a solid player at a position of need for this club.
While it may be true that by inheriting arguably the weakest roster in the NFL first-year general manager John Lynch could do nothing but improve the 49ers, he certainly appeared to have done precisely that in his initial draft, landing an impressive collection of talent this year and setting his club up nicely in 2018 with several trades. The 49ers were widely expected to take Stanford's star defensive lineman Solomon Thomas at No. 2 overall but convinced Chicago to part with three picks by dropping down just one selection to still nab the 2016 Morris Trophy Award winner. Lynch found another trophy winner later in the first round by trading up with the division rival Seahawks to land Butkus Award winning linebacker Reuben Foster at No. 31 overall. The 49ers then added length at cornerback in Ahkello Witherspoon and raw speed at running back (Joe Williams), tight end (George Kittle) and wide receiver (Trent Taylor) in the middle rounds. Quarterback C.J. Beathard comes from a pro-style offense from Iowa but may lack the arm strength to be much more than a backup at the NFL level. Watch out for Mississippi defensive tackle D.J. Jones and Utah edge defender Pita Taumoepenu to surprise as sixth-round selections. If Thomas and Foster perform as expected (a legitimate question given that the latter's shoulder was red-flagged by some), Lynch and the 49ers aced their first big test.
After struggling to protect quarterback Russell Wilson (as well as run the football), most presumed the Seahawks would make offensive line their top and perhaps only priority on draft day. Instead, general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll opted to stick with the defensive-oriented strategy that helped the club establish itself as a powerhouse in the first place, using four of the Seahawks' first five picks on that side of the ball. The club led off with Michigan State's freakish (albeit inconsistent) 6-6, 295-pound Malik McDowell at No. 35 overall before re-stocking an aging secondary with UCF's twitchy cornerback Shaquill Griffin, hard-hitting Michigan safety Delano Hill and rugged North Carolina defensive tackle Nazair Jones. The Seahawks did add two offensive linemen -- burly blockers Ethan Pocic and Justin Senior from the SEC --but neither possesses the agility and balance most teams require of their tackles, so expecting either rookie to solve Seattle's pass-blocking woes is probably unrealistic. Seattle prioritizes power, versatility and toughness in its offensive linemen, which the former LSU and Mississippi State blockers do boast. The team also loves length and ball-skills in its defensive backs, which Griffin and Hill -- as well as Day Three picks Tedric Thompson and Mike Tyson -- offer. Carroll's well-documented feud with Jim Harbaugh aside, Seattle won big when adding two of the latter's pupils from Stanford in Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin. The club seemed confident in its post-draft press conference that both Hill and fellow Michigan standout Amara Darboh, a physically imposing wideout, could help this club.
Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for , a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.>www.NFLDraftScout.com