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2016 NFL Draft grades: Cardinals, Patriots, 49ers raise eyebrows

Some draft classes come with more questions than others. Here is Bucky Brooks' take on the five teams that earned "C" grades for their efforts in the 2016 NFL Draft:

NOTE: Draft classes are grouped by grade and ordered alphabetically.

» Round 1: (No. 29 overall) Robert Nkemdiche, DT.
» Round 3: (92) Brandon Williams, CB.
» Round 4: (128) Evan Boehm, C.
» Round 5: (167) Marqui Christian, SS; (170) Cole Toner, OT.
» Round 6: (205) Harlan Miller, CB.

The Cardinals certainly aren't risk-averse under GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians. The team's ultra-confident leaders have a knack for getting maximum production from enigmatic prospects, which is why the Robert Nkemdiche pick didn't come as a surprise to the scouting community. The freakishly athletic defender flashes a rare combination of size, strength and explosiveness for a 6-foot-3, 294-pounder. Yes, his pedestrian numbers and potential character concerns made him a tough evaluation for some observers, but the Cardinals snagged a Darnell Dockett clone with tremendous upside as an interior disruptor. Brandon Williams is an intriguing prospect as a converted cornerback with limited experience. The former running back possesses the speed and athleticism to run with receivers down the field, but he must refine his fundamentals and footwork to become more effective on underneath coverage. Cornerback Harlan Miller could surprise as a late pick. The Southeastern Louisiana product has the length and temperament to thrive in the Cardinals' aggressive scheme. GRADE: C+

» Round 2: (No. 37 overall) Chris Jones, DT.
» Round 3: (74) KeiVarae Russell, CB.
» Round 4: (105) Parker Ehinger, OG; (106) Eric Murray, CB; (126) Demarcus Robinson, WR.
» Round 5: (162) Kevin Hogan, QB; (165) Tyreek Hill, WR.
» Round 6: (178) D.J. White, CB; (203) Dadi Nicolas, DE.

General manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid take a workmanlike approach to the draft, preferring prospects with prototypical physical dimensions and athletic traits. Chris Jones was a nice addition as a rugged five-technique (defensive tackle) in Round 2. He has big upside, but the coaches will need to rev up his motor to help him maximize his potential. KeiVarae Russell and Eric Murray add depth to the secondary as athletic cover corners with solid instincts. If they can quickly master the playbook, both players could carve out roles as sub-defenders. On offense, the Chiefs are hoping gambles on Demarcus Robinson and Tyreek Hill on Day 3 reap big rewards. Each pass catcher flashes big-play potential, but both carry character concerns that make them risky selections. GRADE: C+

» Round 1: (No. 2 overall) Carson Wentz, QB.
» Round 3: (79) Isaac Seumalo, OG.
» Round 5: (153) Wendell Smallwood, RB; (164) Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT.
» Round 6: (196) Blake Countess, CB.
» Round 7: (233) Jalen Mills, FS; (240) Alex McCalister, DE; (251) Joe Walker, ILB.

We won't be able to fully assess the Eagles' draft class until Carson Wentz hits the field, but the blockbuster trade to nab a potential franchise quarterback certainly robbed the team of some ammunition to upgrade the roster in other areas. Thus, we have to take a conservative approach when applying a grade to the Eagles' draft class. I love Wentz's potential in Doug Pederson's offense. He is an athletic dropback passer with A-plus arm talent and exceptional movement skills. If the Eagles are able to stick to their guns and redshirt him for a year or two, he could emerge as the best quarterback in the draft down the road. Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai add depth to the offensive line. Each guy will have a chance to grow into a more prominent role down the road. Defensive backs Blake Countess and Jalen Mills are competitive prospects with the potential to crack the rotation as special teams standouts/sub-defenders as rookies. Ultimately, the grade on the Eagles' draft class will come down to the performance of the quarterback when he eventually steps onto the field. GRADE: C+

» Round 1: (No. 7 overall) DeForest Buckner, DE; (28) Joshua Garnett, OG.
» Round 3: (68) Will Redmond, CB.
» Round 4: (133) Rashard Robinson, CB.
» Round 5: (142) Ronald Blair, DE; (145) John Theus, OT; (174) Fahn Cooper, OT.
» Round 6: (207) Jeff Driskel, QB; (211) Kelvin Taylor, RB; (213) Aaron Burbridge, WR.
» Round 7: (249) Prince Charles Iworah, CB.

The Chip Kelly era begins with a host of rookies poised to play pivotal roles on both sides of the ball. DeForest Buckner will join former Oregon teammate Arik Armstead on the front line to give the 49ers a long, rangy set of defenders to build around. Will Redmond and Rashard Robinson will compete for playing time on the perimeter as sub-package corners. Each corner is a bump-and-run specialist with the agility and quickness to challenge shifty receivers at the line. Ronald Blair is a productive pass rusher with a non-stop motor. He could crack the rotation as a situational rusher on passing downs. On offense, the 49ers pulled off a head-scratcher with the move for Joshua Garnett at the bottom of Round 1. Yes, he is a powerful run blocker, but the 49ers might've expended more capital than needed in trading up to acquire an interior blocker with a game that doesn't appear to suit the athletic blocking scheme Kelly used in his previous stops. GRADE: C+

» Round 2: (No. 60 overall) Cyrus Jones, CB.
» Round 3: (78) Joe Thuney, OG; (91) Jacoby Brissett, QB; (96) Vincent Valentine, DT.
» Round 4: (112) Malcolm Mitchell, WR.
» Round 6: (208) Kamu Grugier-Hill, OLB; (214) Elandon Roberts, ILB; (221) Ted Karras, OG.
» Round 7: (225) Devin Lucien, WR.

It is hard to take shots at the Patriots' draft-day work, given their dominance of the AFC East for the past 15 years, but their acquisitions are sometimes difficult to comprehend when assessing team needs. New England often bypasses seemingly pressing needs to select players who fit specific roles that Bill Belichick envisions. In this class, the Pats collected a number of two-phase playmakers capable of making contributions as traditional players and special teams demons. Cyrus Jones is an exceptional nickel corner prospect with outstanding feet, ball skills and instincts. The 'Bama product is well-schooled in the fundamentals, and his disciplined approach is a perfect fit in New England. In addition, Jones is arguably the best punt returner in the draft -- his presence on the roster gives New England yet another option in the return game. Malcolm Mitchell is a talented pass catcher with big-play potential. He is an ascending wide receiver, but also offers versatility and special teams value based on his previous experience as a collegiate defensive back. The selection of quarterback Jacoby Brissett raised some eyebrows, based on the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo and the general value of a top-100 pick. Although the N.C. State product is an intriguing developmental prospect, the quarterback room could have an interesting dynamic with a pair of young gunslingers vying for the No. 2 spot behind Tom Brady. GRADE: C

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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