The WWE Draft is officially complete. Last night was a brand new start for two brands that appear to be going in different directions. Like any draft, we won’t know the true success of the draft for at least three years, but that’s not going to stop me from handing out some grades.
Raw Grade – B
Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley did a lot of things right at the draft. Taking Seth Rollins with the first pick was the right call. He was the obvious choice and they didn’t try to get cute with the #1 overall pick. Taking Charlotte and Finn Balor in the first round looked like reaches, but it was clear that those picks threw off Smackdown management and forced them to react with their draft picks. They took a couple of risks in the second round with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, but both are top-end talents who only slipped on my big board due to out of competition issues. If they can clean up their act outside of the ring, the sky is the limit inside it. Raw did a nice job using the extra pick they had in each round to really maximize their draft. My biggest criticism of Raw’s draft is that they completely misused their NXT picks. There were six NXT picks up for grabs and Raw only got two of them. Balor is a good pick, even if he wasn’t top five worthy, but Jax was way off the board. Sources have it that they didn’t expect to get both Charlotte and Sasha, and once they did, they felt they needed to add size alongside those two athletes. However, there were still high-end NXT talent available like Bayley, Nakamura, and Joe in the supplemental draft and Raw completely passed on them. Overall, they had a great draft and managed to be a very strong roster filled with star power and role players.
Best Overall Pick – Seth Rollins at #1
Sometimes the obvious thing is still the best thing.
Worst Overall Pick – Nia Jax at #25
I get the strategy, but she could’ve been had much later.
Best Value Pick – Cesaro at #28
I had Cesaro as the #2 overall pick in the draft following the combine. His stock fell during the draft for some odd reason, but that’s only going to fuel Cesaro. Remember Aaron Rodgers? That will be Cesaro.
Biggest Reach Pick – The Big Show at #23
Could’ve been taken much later and they risked losing out on a guy like Cesaro.
Best Strategy – Grabbing Banks and Charlotte then getting Paige a little later.
Worst Strategy – Taking two guys with recent failed drug tests in the top ten.
Smackdown Grade – D+
I don’t know what Smackdown was thinking. Shane McMahon has been gone a long time and Daniel Bryan has never been tasking with running a brand, so I can only chalk their draft up to inexperience. I thought their top four picks were solid. Amrbose was a reach with their top pick, but at least he has championship pedigree. Styles and Cena were both in my top five and Smackdown secured them both, even getting Cena little later than expected. Orton has a ton of out of the ring issues and is injury prone, but he’s a proven commodity. So things were going well for Smackdown up until this point. Then it all fell apart. They became reactionary. Raw picked a couple of females, Smackdown felt obligated to pick females. Raw took some tag teams, Smackdown needed to take tag teams. Raw took a secondary champion, Smackdown took the other. It looked like Bryan was going to take Indy guys that he was familiar with, but then completely abandoned that strategy. Smackdown preached that it would be about “the new guys with potential” and they went out and drafted Cena, Orton, Miz, Kane, Ziggler, Natalya, and Del Rio. It’s nice to have veterans around, but it went against everything they talked about in the pre-draft interviews. Maybe they were trying to fool Raw and get them reacting, but obviously Stephanie and Mick saw right through that. Like Raw, I can’t believe they wasted their NXT picks on Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Mojo Rawley. All tested well at the combine and would’ve been solid depth picks, but there was better talent on the board and Smackdown needed to make a splash. I liked that Smackdown bought into the later rounds.
Best Overall Pick – John Cena at #7
They got a franchise guy outside of the top five.
Worst Overall Pick – Becky Lynch at #14
Lynch isn’t a bad pick, but she also wasn’t a top 15 pick. Smackdown got desperate after Raw drafted Charlotte and Sasha.
Best Value Pick – American Alpha at #22
These two were thought to be top five picks by some scouts. They do everything right and are as “can’t miss” as you can get.
Biggest Reach Pick – Bray Wyatt at #12
Tested horrible at the combine, rambled way too much in pre-draft interviews, and just seem generally confused about his overall direction.
Best Strategy – Strong top four picks.
Worst Strategy – Everything else.