- WOW! Every year there’s the inevitable trades and surprise picks, but this year had the flare for fireworks. In a draft characterized by it’s depth of defensive talent, no one could have predicted that offensive players would go in seven of the top 10 picks. From the Bears casually swapping picks with the 49ers in order to shockingly take quarterback Mitch Trubisky, to the Chiefs and Texans leapfrogging teams to select their respective future starting quarterbacks, offense littered the early selections on Thursday. Adding that Jonathan Allen fell out of the top 15 and the Browns madeking more Moneyball-esque moves, round one wasn’t short on theatrics.
- It was the year of the offensive player. Earlier in the day, if you told someone that this year’s top three wide receivers — Corey Davis of Western Michigan, John Ross of Washington and Mike Williams of Clemson — wouldn’t make it out of the top 10 picks, they’d think you were crazy. All three had too many question marks to go that high in most people’s minds. Davis, Ross and Williams all had health concerns. Additionally, Davis had issues with dropped balls and the level of competition in the MAC conference. Many people thought it was too risky to take any of the three in the single digits, considering that even the top receivers in the NFL typically only get the ball in their hands five to 10 times a game. The fact that all three were gone by pick 10 shows how much value is placed on talented wide receivers. The Titans, Bengals and Chargers, respectively, felt that these guys can make enough of an impact on a team without a winning record (with the exception of the Titans) that they overlooked other positional needs.
- Cleveland Browns. If we didn’t talk about the Browns, would it really be draft day? The Browns did a solid job, although they employed a hoarding technique once again. They nabbed the best player in the draft with defensive end Myles Garrett, took a solid defensive prospect who can play at the front or back of the defense with hybrid linebacker/safety Jabrill Peppers and finally got a good receiving tight end when they traded back into the first round to take tight end David Njoku. In the process, they also got, drumroll please … more picks! In addition to filling positions of need with first-round talent, what impressed me the most was that Cleveland didn’t pick a quarterback. This time around, they were so committed to revamping their roster with talented players that they weren’t willing to take a chance on any of the first-round quarterbacks. For a team that’s in rebuild mode, this was the right move. This is especially true considering that next year’s quarterback draft class is supposed to be cream-of-the-crop. Instead of attempting to employ the desperation mode technique (see the Chicago Bears), the Browns attempted to do things the right way and take the most talented players possible.
- Dropping prospects. Although several players fall further than expected every year, there were two shockers in this year’s draft that I don’t think anyone saw coming. Both Allen, the defensive lineman from Alabama who dropped outside the top 15, and Malik Hooker, the safety out of Ohio State who was picked 15th, fell way further than expected. Both were presumed top-10 picks up until draft day. Although there was slight concern with Allen’s shoulders, nobody expected him to fall as far as he did. Considering the fact that there wasn’t a huge difference in talent, if there was any difference at all, between Allen and Solomon Thomas (the third overall pick), the Redskins got an absolute bargain when Allen fell in their lap. What ultimately forced both players stock to drop was the demand for skilled offensive players. Hooker’s luck in this regard was particularly brutal.
Winners: Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers
Washington Redskins: The Redskins, who ranked 24th in run defense a season ago, did better than I feel they could’ve ever imagined. As I wrote above, they had arguably the best run-stuffer in the draft fall into their lap with Allen. In a division where they face the likes of Ezekiel Elliot twice a year, they were in need of this talent. With Allen, the Redskins shored up a struggling front seven that was in desperate need of help. This was something the Skins had to do if they wanted any chance of winning in the NFC East next year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I slotted David Njoku (the second best tight end prospect) to the Bucs on the basis that adding a top tight end would make this team’s offense lethal. As luck had it, the top tight end prospect, Alabama’s O.J. Howard, was available when they picked. Adding Howard gives an immediate boost to their offense on all levels. In addition to being a great receiving tight end, Howard is a literal giant at 6 feet 6 inches with the ability to aid Jameis Winston in pass protection. He can open up holes for whoever lines up in the backfield next season. Facing Tampa’s offense next year is going to be downright scary.
Carolina Panthers: In Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers added a player who fits their system perfectly, as I wrote about in my mock draft. I could almost hear Cam Newton’s sigh of relief from my couch. Get ready for these two to utilize a variety of formations and take opposing defenses to a track meet next year.
Losers: Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans
Chicago Bears: With the signing of Mike Glennon it seemed like the Bears put a big old band-aid on the quarterback position. I think a lot of people were fine with that. Last season, the Bears run defense ranked 27th overall, and there was a definite need to improve in the secondary. With a guy like Jamal Adams, the Bears could have shored up both.
Even if they opted for Thomas or Allen, they could have improved their defense against the run. Instead, the Bears opted to swap picks with the 49ers and take Trubisky. They clearly saw him as the future of the franchise. Not only did they trade up to vastly reach on this pick, they missed out on elite talent that could have significantly helped them going forward.
Even if Trubisky goes on to have a solid (or even average) career, with a great defensive draft class this year, a great quarterback draft class lined up for next year and a bridge quarterback in place for this season, this move just didn’t add up. Maybe Chicago’s front office hasn’t realized it yet, but it doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback when you have a defense that can’t keep up.
With their choice, the Bears will not only be unable to stop their opponents’ offense, but they will keep their own offense comfortably seated on the bench for most of the game.
Cincinnati Bengals: This was another team that made an extremely questionable move. With the losses of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler on their offensive line, coupled with a run defense that ranked 21st in the NFL, you would’ve expected the Bengals to address one of two positions.
In an ideal scenario, they could’ve traded back, nabbed the best player available at either linebacker or defensive lineman. They then would have snagged a worthy offensive lineman with their early second-round pick. In this situation, the Bengals would possess extra picks, which potentially could have been used to pick up a viable number two receiving option. Instead, they opted to take the speed burner, John Ross, way earlier than expected.
Although Ross will likely provide an impact, especially when lining up across from A.J. Green, the Bengals had much more pressing needs they should have addressed. Additionally, if any of Ross’s injury nightmares come true, they may find themselves without their first-round pick.
Tennessee Titans: If the Titans are big on “value” picks, they certainly didn’t show it. With their fifth pick, they chose a wide receiver many people didn’t even feel was worthy of a top-ten selection. Davis is good and will likely at least be average in the NFL. I still feel they could’ve gotten better value here.
With Adams, Hooker and Marshon Lattimore still on the board, they could’ve done more to shore up their defense with an elite playmaker. The three best receivers were taken in the top ten, which does make this move seem a lot better than it was at the time. Although this pick was somewhat questionable, this wasn’t the move that raised a red flag for me.
With the 18th pick, I felt the Titans would’ve taken a more proven lockdown corner than Adoree Jackson. Although Jackson flashed glimpses of greatness, and is a speed burner who can play in a variety of roles, I feel they needed someone who could better cater to the role of a shutdown defensive back rather than a utility player. This isn’t to say Jackson won’t become a solid cornerback in the NFL. However, his height, inability to defend the double move and questionable technique raise some serious questions about how his play will translate to the next level.
Here, they definitely reached for Jackson in the sense that they didn’t get the player who best fits their system or the one they should’ve been looking for.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Jack Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org.