NFL Draft Recap
It’s been nearly a week since the draft ended. Since then we have had plenty of time to fire up our hot take cannons and completely overreact to the results before any of these players have even put on a helmet and pads for their new team. With that, here are my hot takes and overreactions from an exciting weekend in Philadelphia.
The Browns may finally be on the right track as a franchise. There is no two ways about it, they crushed this draft. They had the first overall pick and didn’t overthink it, which is an accomplishment all on it’s own for this team. I was more impressed with what they did for the rest of the draft. Instead of taking a quarterback at 12th overall, they traded back with Houston and got playmaker Jabrill Peppers with the 25th pick. Then, they traded up from the 33rd pick to nab tight end David Njoku and give them their best offensive weapon since Josh Gordon. On the second day, they were able to stay put and get DeShone Kizer (a once touted top ten pick) to give them a legitimate quarterback to build around. They were able to add some more depth pieces in the next few rounds and got another top-75 talent in the sixth round with defensive tackle Caleb Brantley. Brantley does have a possible assault charge coming his way, which is why he fell, but this could pay off big for them. They were then able to lock down the kicker position in the seventh round. Cleveland nailed this draft and this may finally be the moment they turn their franchise around.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unlike Cleveland, Tampa Bay appear ready to start making some noise in the always unpredictable NFC South. With a young defense and a franchise quarterback, the Buccaneers set out to add some more weapons for Jameis Winston. In the first round, they were given a gift when OJ Howard fell into their laps. Howard very easily could have gone to a number of teams in the top ten, but inexplicably fell on draft night. They also were able to add explosive target Chris Godwin at wide receiver in the third round. In the fifth round, they were able to add Christian McCaffrey lite, in Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols, which should compliment Doug Martin well. McNichols may even be able to split out and play some slot receiver if need be. Winston should be more than pleased with his new toys (plus DeSean Jackson) to challenge for a wild card or division title. On the defensive side they were also able to fill their biggest hole at strong safety. Texas A&M’s Justin Evans is always there to make the big hit and can start from day one and even has the potential to play some free safety.
Frankly, I think most teams did a great job of drafting, so narrowing this down to three was a tough task. The Chargers, Bengals, Bills, Ravens, Cowboys, Packers, Steelers, Texans, and 49ers could all make an argument for this spot. The Eagles were able to address every major need that they had going in. Defensive end Derek Barnett may not blow it up his rookie year, but once he gets more playing time he will turn heads. With their second pick they were able to get injured cornerback Sidney Jones, who pre-injury was a top-20 selection. Once he gets healthy, he will be a force in a division that likes to throw the ball. They were able to add two more defensive backs and two wide receivers to add some depth. They also got their replacement for Darren Sproles when they took San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey is undersized but you don’t rack up 7,446 total yards and 67 touchdowns by accident. With their final pick they were able to get Washington defensive tackle Elijah Qualls who can give them some more depth on the interior of their line. This Eagles class is mostly future-oriented, but so is the franchise, so this was a great class for the hosts.
Favorite picks by round
First round: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama (San Francisco 49ers)
We finally know why Reuben Foster fell. There is the potential that he will miss his whole rookie year with an injury, but fortunately for San Francisco they are not looking to be competitive this year. Foster was good enough to be taken with the third overall pick, so getting him at 31st is a massive bargain. San Francisco were another team that had a good draft that, like Cleveland, should set them up for the long run.
Second round: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (Minnesota Vikings)
Without the off-field issues, Cook probably does not get past the Eagles at 14th or maybe even out of the top ten. Unfortunately, Cook had a number of questions about some incidents while he was at Florida State, and the rumors that he might slip out of the first round came into fruition on the first night. Cook didn’t have to wait long on Friday, and went to a team that just lost one of the best players in their history at the position. Cook will be far away from Florida, and if he stays out of trouble, the Vikings may have their next star at the running back position.
Third round: Jordan Willis, Edge, Kansas State (Cincinnati Bengals)
After a stellar combine, Willis was in the conversation as a late first round pick. By draft night it was clear he may not be a first round pick, but he would go early on on the second night. However, he slipped all the way to the third round when the Bengals finally pulled the trigger. The Bengals are getting significantly older in their pass rush, so getting younger was an objective. Willis can play either defensive end or outside linebacker, and should be able to make an immediate impact in a division that all heavily addressed the pass rush this year.
Fourth round: Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU (Green Bay Packers)
This was probably one of my favorite picks of the entire draft. This running back class was stacked from top to bottom, so some very talented backs were lost in the shuffle. The Packers’ running back issues are well-documented, so securing a true three-down back was a top priority for them. Williams spent a year away from football, but he came back to BYU this year and smashed nearly all of the rushing records for the Cougars. In his senior year he ran for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns to push his career numbers to 3,901 yards and 35 touchdowns. He never had to do much catching out of the backfield at BYU (only catching sixty passes his entire career), but he can be the power back that Green Bay has needed, and should pair nicely with Ty Montgomery in the backfield.
Fifth round: Iowa Hawkeyes George Kittle and Desmond King
I went back and forth on who to put here so I ultimately went with both. George Kittle was one of my favorite players in the draft and he only helped strengthen San Francisco’s class. In a tight end class full of explosive receiving tight ends, Kittle was the best all-around tight end (blocking and receiving) behind only OJ Howard. Desmond King was slated as a first round pick towards the end of last year but the cornerback returned to school. The further evaluation made many think that King would likely have to move to safety in the NFL. The Chargers pulled the trigger and he can immediately plug into their team as either a corner or safety and help an already burgeoning young defense.
Sixth round: Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech (Minnesota Vikings)
The Vikings were able to grab another player that slid on the third day. Hodges has a lot of athleticism, but he is a converted quaterback and you can see that in his route running and catching. He still needs some time to clean all that up, but he should be a red zone monster for the Vikings. Minnesota has had an up and down track record with tight ends recently, but this could finally give them a big, athletic target for Sam Bradford, and hopefully the return of Teddy Bridgewater.
Seventh round: Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State (Cleveland Browns)
Finally, some kicker love! Memphis’ Jake Elliot was the first kicker taken in the draft when he went in the fifth round to Cincinnati, but Gonzalez is the better kicker. Gonzalez is the FBS record holder for mast career made field goals with 96, and did so at a very good 83% conversion rate. He also has a strong leg, getting nearly 75% of his kicks back for touchbacks. Gonzalez will battle Cody Parkey for the starting job and I would expect him to win out.
Top 7th round “fliers”
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU (Green Bay Packers)
Seventh rounders often face an uphill battle to make the roster, but every now and then teams find gems in the seventh round like Julian Edelman or Marques Colston. Malachi Dupre may be able to add his name to that list. Dupre’s stats are underwhelming, but that is mostly due to LSU’s lackluster passing offense the last few seasons. He isn’t a burner, but he has the size and athleticism to become a great receiver. Due to the inconsistent quarterback play at LSU, Dupre hasn’t fully developed, so he is definitely a project, but when you go from Brandon Harris to Aaron Rodgers, he may very well turn some heads. I fully expect him to battle Jeff Janis for the fourth wide receiver spot.
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss (Denver Broncos)
Kelly has both serious medical questions and maturity questions. It is entirely understandable why he was this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant.” I still think Paxton Lynch is the future starter in Denver but Kelly is good enough to play in this league if he can get all the off-field issues sorted out. Should Denver only opt to keep two quarterbacks, Kelly could be a practice squad candidate or eventually find a backup job elsewhere next season like Seattle, if they move on from Trevone Boykin. Regardless, if Kelly stays clean, than he should find himself on an NFL roster. If not, he could very well become the next Johnny Manziel.
Top UDFA signings
Ben Boulware, LB, Clemson (Carolina Panthers)
Boulware is undersized, but he has passion and plays with a ton of energy (for better or worse) and can find a spot on a team at least as a special teamer. Luke Kuechly has also had some concussion issues over the years, so adding depth at the position may not be a bad idea for a Panthers team looking to recapture their 2015 form after an awful 2016 season.
Tyrone Swoopes, TE, Texas (Seattle Seahawks)
This one may not work out, but it intrigues me. Swoope played quarterback at Texas before switching to tight end for the draft. His measurements alone make him an intriguing prospect, and with Seattle losing Brandon Williams in free agency, there is a spot to compete for. I am also not entirely convinced that he will only play tight end if he made the roster. Seattle are in the market for a backup quarterback because Trevone Boykin can’t stop getting arrested. Boykin is a player who many thought would have to become a wide receiver at the next level, but Seattle kept him at quarterback. In limited situations I think that Swoopes could be utilized and at the least help reduce the wear and tear on Russell Wilson.
Keionta Davis, DE, Chattanooga (Unsigned)
Davis was good enough to go in the fifth round, but a bulging disc in his neck caused him to go undrafted and he still remains unsigned. Davis will eventually get a roster spot, and a team in need of more pass rush like New England, Cincinnati, or Dallas should give him a call.
NFL Draft Awards
The John Schneider Wheelin’ and Dealin’ Award: Green Bay Packers
Description: Given to the team that were able to move up and down and address their needs
This award should probably go to all of the teams, as there was constant movement in the draft board and we saw the most picks ever traded in one draft. Three teams in particular took advantage of the market and those were the Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks (whose GM the award is named after), and the Green Bay Packers. I have already talked about how much I liked the Browns draft class, so the tiebreaker for Seattle and Green Bay was the class I liked better and that was the Packers. Green Bay moved out of the 29th selection and still got one of the top corners in Washington’s Kevin King. For moving down, Green Bay got Wisconsin LB Vince Beigel in the fourth round to give them a boost at inside linebacker. They also were able to add some offensive depth at running back and wide receiver with the extra picks they received. John Scneider is Packers GM Ted Thompson’s protégé, so it makes sense that he would win this award.
The “Uh, duh” Award: The Houston Texans
Description: Given to the team that feels the need to tell us what is already obvious
When Tony Romo chose to become an analyst instead of signing with another team, the Texans found themselves in quite a predicament. They went all in on clearing up space for Romo, and then found themselves stuck with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden at quarterback. The Texans addressed that by trading up and selected DeShaun Watson with the 12th overall pick. Immediately after the draft we were told that Tom Savage was the starter and that was that, but the Texans GM eventually changed his tune and said that Watson would have a chance to start. It is not surprising in the slightest that the Texans are not content with handing over the reigns to Tom Savage. I expect Watson to start the most games out of all of the rookie quarterbacks and the ones currently on the Texans’ roster.
The Tank-A-Thon Award: The New York Jets
Description: Given to the team that clearly have no plans of being competitive this season
It became evident what the Jets’ plans were when they neglected to take a quarterback with the sixth pick or any pick thereafter. It was also pretty obvious what their intentions were when it was reported how badly they wanted Josh McCown. No team thinking seriously about being at least halfway decent covets Josh McCown…ever. Their quarterback room is already clogged anyway after taking Christian Hackenberg in the second round last year and signing the aforementioned McCown, but they will need to add a real quarterback if they ever want to get out of mediocrity. Luckily for them, there should be a number of talented options at the top of the draft next year, which is likely where they will be picking.
The Aaron Rodgers “R-E-L-A-X” Award: Bears fans
Description: Given to the fan base (or media) that need to just calm down and chill a bit
The draft’s most surprising moment came only twenty minutes into the draft when Chicago traded up and took Mitchell Trubisky. Everyone (myself included) spent the next 24 hours roasting the Bears for giving up so much to move up one spot for a somewhat unproven quarterback. While many still think it was a terrible decision and we won’t have a real answer to the decision for several years, the move was not as bad as many believe. For starters, I love Trubisky in Chicago. Mike Glennon is not the long-term answer for the Bears, and they can pretty much let Glennon go after this year if they want. Letting Trubisky sit for a year or two will do him a lot of good and you need a quarterback to win in this league, and Trubisky has all the tools to be a successful one. The question of how much they gave up is a legitimate argument against the move, but Chicago was able to take advantage of the many trades in this draft and move down to recoup some of the selections they lost. Again, we will not have a real answer to how smart this was for a few years, but it was certainly not the highway robbery that we made it out to be.
Rookie minicamps have already begun, and full training camp is not that far off. We are only a few months away from preseason football and 125 days from the first real game again. Meanwhile, the NHL and NBA playoffs are in full swing and NBA Draft is right around the corner. Let me know your draft thoughts on Twitter (@Rookie_Rhino) and stay tuned for more coverage of the many summer sports and events this summer!