This year’s NFL draft brought an insane amount of depth, with potential starters being drafted as late as the 5th/6th Round and I think it’s fair to say that there’s a good chance that at least 26 teams probably had a very good draft, with the others having just a good one. So I thought I’d go into a little detail on some of the picks I liked more than others. Note this is subject to my opinion and I’ll generally avoid the “winners and losers” or “draft grade” route due to the simple fact that we don’t know anything with 100% certainty.
Anyway lets take a look at my standout teams of this year’s draft (some for better… some for worse).
Not Your Daddies Cleveland Browns:
The Browns will leave this weekend with perhaps one of the greatest draft hauls I’ve seen in 10 years. The sheer amount of talent they’ve picked up is insane. Considering most people were just hoping they picked Garrett with the no.1 pick, they have exceeded any expectation that anyone had for them, whilst accumulating more draft picks.
The theme seems to be raw talent and physical freaks. Jabrill Peppers is one of the most physically gifted players in the draft. Whilst many experts have issues finding a position for him, the simple truth is that he is a modern day mismatch killer. Trading back to pick up arguably the best pass catching tight end is another work of genius. No one could have predicted David Njoku dropping to 29. The Browns were quick to notice an insane talent dropping and leapt on him before he got away.
DeShone Kizer is a player that has played in a relatively conventional offence and in my opinion is the most likely of the QB’s to come in and start on day one… he went in the 2nd round. Finally, Larry Ogunjobi is once again, a physical freak. Not only that, but he’s a great story. Ogunjobi is the 1st ever player to be drafted from the Charlotte 49ers, having played every single defensive snap in the university’s history.
This might all be hyperbole, backed up by the fact that these are 5 of my favourite players in the draft, but I genuinely believe the Browns have had the kind of draft that changes the course of a franchise, long overdue for some success. Finally though Caleb Brantley is an insane talent that they managed to get in the 6th round. Brantley has an impending investigation regarding a really nasty nightclub altercation. If innocent, the Browns added a player 4 rounds lower than he was valued at, if not, they’ll simply let him go.
With Brantley, Ogunjobi and Garrett they now have a defensive line with insane potential.
A New Look Defence for the Niners:
There’s a few teams with big holes coming in to the draft, with in my opinion, the Niners leading the way. On top of an abundance of needs, the Niners are switching from a 3-4 defence to a 4-3 under, meaning they have a lot of “square peg” players for their “round holes”.
The Niners negotiated the draft like pro’s, drumming up interest in the number 2 spot, between reportedly multiple teams. In the end the Bears gave up a handful of picks, the Niners moved down and pick the same player they were always going to pick. Solomon Thomas, who can play anywhere along the line. Niners then moved back into the 1st to pick up a free falling Reuben Foster, who brings with him Luke Kuechly potential and sadly Kuechly injury concerns.
With these 2 picks though they have what we talk about all the time on the pod. A spine. The Niners picked up their centre pieces for their new defence. This is a long term rebuild and they still need some standout talent in the secondary, but having these pieces to build a team round certainly helps.
On offence the addition of C.J Beathard at QB is interesting. Beathard’s been the subject of conversation between the gents, with the belief that he could be a sneaky pick to eventually become a starter. Beathard played in a pro style offence in college, but was considered “streaky”. Now he’s got Kyle Shanahan teaching him, which could see him reach his potential to a consistent level.
Washington Pick up the Talent that Drops
Washington’s draft was sneaky good. That’s not meant as an insult, but in fact very much a compliment. Jonathan Allen was, in my opinion the best player in this draft, but injury concerns saw him plummet leaving space for Washington to pick him up. In round 2 Washington picked up a solid linebacker and ex team mate of Allen, in Ryan Anderson. Once again he just dropped to them, with no need to move up.
With the final pick of day 2 they then picked up a corner who can start from day one. Moreau is a big corner who can start opposite Norman, with Breeland pushing in to play nickel after rough season last year. Samaje Perine was one of the top players left in round 4 and Washington got a potential steal. Perine should work hand in hand with Rob Kelley, whilst it becomes increasingly more likely that Matt Jones is going to be released. What I like most about the picks is that they filled obvious needs, whilst not selling the farm to get them.
Washington had a free agency full of controversy, but quietly through the off season they’ve put together, at least a defence that could be very good, if even a couple of their rookies are as good as we expect.
A New Look Panthers Offence
The moves Carolina made were subtle, but completely changed the face of the Panthers offence. Last year was cruel to the Panthers and in particular Cam Newton, who was given the impossible task of moving the ball, pretty much on his own (well, with help from Greg Olsen), this year he’s been given some talent that should mean Cam hits the ground a lot less and were creative in how they did it.
Offensive line talent was lacking in this draft, which was made clear by how many linemen dropped to the later rounds, so the Panthers gave Cam some new options (as well as drafting an offensive lineman, yes). In round one they picked up a player that was probably the “buzziest” (real word?) of them all in Christian McCaffrey, a multi-talented player that can line up all over the field. In round 2 they picked up Curtis Samuel, a multi-talented player who can… you get the idea.
Both of these players give the Panthers something they haven’t had outside of their QB in a long time. Legitimate mismatch potential. Both can line up in the backfield, both can line up in the slot and you can keep both on for 3 downs if you want, knowing that you have flexability in scheme. These additions add an immense amount of speed to the Panthers, replacing an aging Tedd Ginn Jr. Neither of them will ever be a power back you can give the ball to on the goal line, but with their QB they’ve already got that.
One last thing. I like the addition of Daeshon Hall on defence, a player that’s been underrated because he played opposite Myles Garrett. Hall is a great player and could provide some much needed pass rush to Panthers team that is seriously lacking in that particular area.
Bad News Bears? (Too Obvious?)
Anyone that follows me on twitter will know that I wasn’t a huge fan of the trade the Bears made with the Niners to pick up Trubisky. With more than 140 characters I have a chance to elaborate, which I think is important. It’s fair to say I committed the cardinal sin when getting excited for the draft. I got hung up on one player. It is fair to say that I was all in on Jamal Adams wearing Blue and Orange this year, even believing he was the reason the Bears had traded up to the number 2 spot. This wasn’t the case.
The Bears picked arguably the best QB in the draft with the pick, which I found somewhat disappointing. Here’s the thing though. I don’t hate the trade. It seems the Niners had taken a number of calls regarding the no.2 spot with the belief that teams want to take Trubisky before he fell to the Bears at 3. With this information, the Bears trading up 1 spot in exchange for a handful of mid-round picks seems actually pretty sensible. If he’s their guy, they’ve got to move up to pick him up and when compared to what other teams were giving away to get a QB, it seems pretty light. The problem for me is that although he’s “their guy”, I’m not convinced he’s my guy and would have preferred to improve a secondary that had some much needed leadership issues. If I’m wrong then so be it, I’ll admit it, whilst enjoying the success for probably the 1st time ever of a Bears QB being a standout player.
If I’m wrong, I’ll endure another rebuild as almost certainly Pace will be looking for another job. That seems like a great place to end, but I did like the pick up of Adam Shaheen and Eddie Jackson. Both fit considerably closer to what the Pace and the Bears have done in the draft than what they did with their 1st round pick.
Bowlesy Moves for the Jets
Urgh I need to stop with the puns. Anyway, this years draft for the Jets had a definite Todd Bowles feel to it. You have to think that despite the rebuild, it’s make or break for this current Jets set up, so why not add the players Bowles feels comfortable with, which includes a double hit of safeties in the 1st 2 rounds. Jamal Adams was who I wanted the Bears to take at 3, but at 6, for the Jets he is both an excellent scheme fit, as well as a steal. Adams will be bossing around the Jets secondary from day one next year and looks set to be Bowles’ Honey Badger.
Marcus Maye is very similar in stature to Adams and is similarly a sub-package mismatch killer. Bowles will have the chance to have 2 big safeties on the field at all times and whilst the future of Pryor and Gilchrist is now in question, you have to wonder if there is not a home for all of these guys with the Jets. Whilst they’ll probably see limited time on the field, the addition of Jeremy Clark and Derrick Jones, 2 big corners, says everything you need to know about the Jets intentions this year, as does the fact that they didn’t pick up a QB.
One final point. I’d expect ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen to compete for starting jobs, potentially pushing Decker down the depth chart or out of the team. Let’s just hope McCown can stay healthy for the season.
Top Player Pick ups
Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross
If someone was to tell me that 3 receivers would go in the top 10 along with 0 corners, I’d have laughed in their face and shown them tape of Marshon Lattimore and Jonathan Allen. As it was that’s exactly what happened, with all these moves making perfect sense.
Mike Williams gives the Chargers a big target if Keenan Allen simply can’t stay healthy. If he can then they’ve got 2 great outside threats. Corey Davis was the Gents consensus, best receiver in the draft. I’d imagine he’ll fit in very nicely in Tennessee, so long as the team isn’t actually cursed when it comes to receivers.
John Ross feels like the best kind of luxury pick, but makes the Bengals no. 1 players life a lot easier. AJ Green should get open more if a defensive back has to sit deep on John Ross. I can see all these guys having great success with their teams and I can’t wait to see it unfold.
O.J Howard, TE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tight ends continue to be undervalued in this league, despite the clear game changing ability that a number of the rookie crop have this year. Howard dropped into the Bucs like a lottery win from a ticket that they didn’t know they’d bought. Howard provides Winston with yet another target as well as some much needed help on the offensive line. If a time-traveler was to tell me today that Howard wins the offensive rookie of the year, I’d believe him… just after placing a bet.
Malik Hooker, S – Indianapolis Colts
Hooker was another player that wasn’t expected to drop, but drop he did on the back of some injury concerns. Aside from the match made in heaven of a player with injury concerns heading to the Colts, a team with a history of injury problems, Hooker steps onto the defence and immediately makes everyone’s job easier. Expect to see many Hooker highlight plays as he takes advantage of the young and inexperienced QBs in the AFC South.
Dalvin Cook & Joe Mixon
Running theme of players that drop here… Anyway here’s 2 that dropped for off the field issues, whilst being 2 of the most dynamic backs in the draft. Dalvin Cook brings the Vikings their 1st solid no.1 running back since Adrian Peterson went down injured. Cook is a 1st round pick in the 2nd round. It’s kinda like the Vikings actually had a 1st this year.
Joe Mixon is probably the most controversial player in the draft and will spend his career proving his worth, both on and off the field. Mixon comes into the Bengals backfield with the potential to put both Hill and Bernard out of a job. Both of these guys could be top 10 running backs, but will be dealing with the ghosts of their past on a day to day basis.
Obi Melifonwu, S – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders came into this draft with the eye to improve the glaring weaknesses in the secondary. In the 1st round they picked up their future no.1 corner (Gareon Conley) and in the 2nd round they picked up a player that should solve the tight end problem they’ve faced. Reggie Nelson probably gets the start to begin with, but I don’t think it’ll be long before Melifonwu is in the starting lineup. With a new defensive coordinator, new pieces in the secondary and a couple of free agency additions, the Raiders Superbowl window is very much open.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – Pittsburgh Steelers
The twitter “spat” between Martavis Bryant and Eli Rodgers about who Smith-Schuster is replacing, ignores the obvious fact that it could be both of them. Smith-Schuster is an insane talent and like a lot of receivers in this draft, will make an excellent no.2 and a perfect receiver for some of Roethlisberger’s more maverick moments.
Alvin Kamara, RB – New Orleans Saints
A weird situation where I really like the fit for Kamara, but am well aware that the Saints missed on some glaring defensive needs (if they wanted Foster, they should have gone up and got him). The simple fact is that Alvin Kamara is a bargain in the 3rd round, especially when paired with Drew Brees. Although they already have a loaded back field, Kamara gives the Saints a pass catching, yards after catch monster, which seems to be a theme for the NFC South.
James Conner, RB – Pittsburgh Steelers
James Conner’s life story could be a movie, but that’s not why the Steelers drafted him. The Steelers pick up a big powerful chain moving running back, that will see his fair share of goal line situations. Last year the Steelers regularly lined up with 2 running backs on the field, only to motion Bell out wide. Conner gives them another option in these situation and his level of competitiveness, should shine through in the Steelers locker room.
Dede Westbrook, WR – Jacksonville Jaguars
James would kill me if I didn’t mention Westbrook going to the Jags, so here goes. Westbrook has a small frame, but plays tough as well as bringing some exceptional route running skills to an already talented Jags offence. Westbrook could end the season as Blake Bortles safest pair of hands, possibly keeping him in a job. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
Jake Butt, TE – Denver Broncos
Butt dropped to the 5th round due to injury concerns, one of many players that lost money because they could be coming into the season with a potential injury. Butt is a bargain for the Broncos however. In a class of tight ends like no other that I can remember, Butt is probably the 3rd or 4th best. When healthy there is little doubt that he will become an invaluable tool for whoever is starting at QB for the Broncos.
Nathan Peterman, QB – Buffalo Bills
Peterman will be challenging for a starting job with the Bills sooner rather than later. I actually think a number of teams have slept on him. No way he should have been drafted this low. If Tyrod Taylor is not the man for this organisation, I think Peterman might be, bringing with him and ability to read defences like few others, an NFL mentality and an ability to bring a team back from a deficit, the Bills have picked up one of mine (and James’) favourite QBs in the draft.
Chad Kelly, QB – Denver Broncos
There is a slim chance that this year’s mr Irrelevant could actually challenge for a starting role on the Broncos, but I think this might be the highest profile last pick in the draft I can remember in a long time. In reality Kelly could eventually be a solid back up for the Broncos.
And that’s this year’s draft. We’ll be discussing it some more on this week’s pod so make sure you check it out. Also we’d love to know your opinions on this year’s crop so hit us up on Twitter.