Grading the first round of 2014 NFL draft (again)

Everyone says it takes three years to truly evaluate an NFL draft.

But we already know it’s not much fun to wait even one night to hand out unofficial draft grades. That means we’re already overdue for letter-imperfect analysis. While a trio of linebackers are the head of the new class, it’s easy to put every wide receiver on the honor roll:

A+

1. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Ravens. He was perfect fit for what Baltimore wanted to do in the middle two years removed from Ray Lewis, and between run thumping and versatile coverage, he just does it all as the defensive rookie of the year candidate. Pick: 17

2. Anthony Barr, OLB, Vikings. He was billed as an active, athletic pass rusher, and he has lived up to that. With the great defensive coaching of Mike Zimmer, Barr has racked up four sacks, 58 tackles and a game-winning fumble return TD in starting all nine games. At this rate, he can still upset Mosley as DROY. Pick: 9

3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Raiders. It’s been difficult for Mack to get respect playing on a defense that isn’t very good otherwise. He has done everything for them, though; it’s just not showing up to stuff the stat sheet. Pick: 5

4. Aaron Donald, DT, Rams. Donald has delivered even more than expected as a nine-game starter, with his three sacks and consistent push against the run. It helps he has elite d-line coaches in Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams. Pick: 13

5. Zack Martin, G, Cowboys. Remember when Jerry Jones took him instead of Johnny Manziel? As good as Dallas’ offensive line was before Martin, it’s gone to a whole new level of run blocking with the Notre Dame product who played at high level everywhere up front in college. Pick: 16

A

6. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers. Evans was criminally under-used early and their quarterbacks couldn’t get him the ball in position for big plays. That’s changed the past two weeks (249 yards and 3 TDs combined). He’s looking the part of a Megatron sequel. Pick: 7

7. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills. Watkins looked like the rookie of the year a few weeks ago, but the competition has been revved up at his position, and he’s now slowed by a bad groin. His numbers are still strong: 42 catches, 617 yards and 5 TDs. Pick: 3

8. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants. He’s made up for lost time the past five games after missing time since the preseason with a hamstring injury. Already up to 25 catches, 370 yards to 3 TDs, Beckham is starting to look like he can emerge as the best all-around receiver in this class. Pick: 12

A-

9. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers. Benjamin just misses the group ahead of him because of his drops and still developing route running. That said, his size and hands have allowed him to overcome consistent double-teams, adding up to 659 yards and 7 TDs. Pick: 28 MORE:Benjamin vs. Fuller

10. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints. Cooks has been excellent on the fast track of the Superdome, but just like their entire offense, inconsistent and not as reliable on the road. He’s bound to shoot up from his 48, 503 and 3. Pick: 20

B

11. Taylor Lewan, T, Titans. Lewan got his chance to start on the left side in Week 6 after Michael Roos was declared out for the season with a knee injury, and hasn’t looked back as the advanced heir apparent. He’s a long-term rock. Pick: 11

12. Kyle Fuller, CB, Bears. Fuller hasn’t turned into a shutdown-type quite yet, but he’s showing the ball skills to be what Charles Tillman has been for a long time in Chicago. See his three interceptions and three forced fumbles. Pick: 14

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