Its always tough to pick winners and losers in the middle of the draft because one just never knows how the players are actually going to perform on the field until they actually get on the field. It was hard not to like what several teams were able to accomplish during last night’s opening round.
Let’s start with San Francisco where rookie G.M. John Lynch, who had never worked for a minute in an NFL personnel department prior to taking over the 49ers, put the boots to the theory that you need tons of experience to get the job done. The 49ers were able to steal a couple of mid-round picks as well as future selection from Chicago and still got the guy they were going to take all along in Stanford DE Solomon Thomas. Then they used one of the picks they got from the Bears to move back up into the latter part of the first round to take Alabama LB Reuben Foster, a player they had seriously considered with the 2nd pick, at #31. Of course, Foster slipped all that way because of health concerns, but a nice haul for the rebuilding 49ers.
Cleveland still doesn’t have its QB of the future, but the Browns did add three really nice building blocks for the future in DE Myles Garrett, the consensus top prospect overall, along with former Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers, arguably the most versatile player in college football the past couple of seasons, and Miami TE David Njoku, one of the three dynamic players at the position this year. To boot, the Browns also added yet another 2018 first rounder in the trade in which Houston moved up from the 25th to the 12th spot to take QB Deshaun Watson.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than in the good at the draft and several teams were able to grab really good players that they really didn’t expect to be there when they picked. New Orleans, which desperately needs coverage help, had to be doing cartwheels when Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore fell to them at #12; Lattimore had been considered to be a top 5 candidate, but he slipped when so many teams picking at the top of the board went with potential impact players on offense. And the Saints may have been singing the same tune at the end of the round were then able to land Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk, arguably the top offensive line prospect this year who dropped because of injury concerns, with the 32nd pick acquired from New England. The only quibble we might have with the Saints picks is that OT didn’t appear to be a major immediate concern for the defensively-challenged team.
Meanwhile, other teams that got lucky when players unexpectedly landed at their door steps included Indianapolis (Ohio State FS Malik Hooker at #14); Washington (Alabama DE Jonathan Allen at #17); and Tampa Bay (Alabama TE O.J. Howard at #19).
At the same time, one of our favorite picks on the day included Arizona getting Temple OLB Haason Reddick with the 13th pick. The Cardinals reportedly really wanted one of the top three QBs, but they should be able to address their QB-of-the-future needs at next year’s QB-rich draft, while Reddick could instantly upgrade their defense today. A couple or three other bold picks of players who maybe weren’t rated quite as highly included Tennessee taking super athletic USC CB Adoree Jackson at #18, Detroit nabbing Florida LB Jarrad Davis at #21, and the Giants selecting dynamic Ole Miss TE Evan Engram at #23. The latter could make what was already the NFL’s best receiver corps downright scary.
Because in the NFL one just never knows, we might to say teams were losers so let’s just put them in the ‘time will tell’ file for now. It is certainly possible for example that Mitch Trubisky will end up being a fine NFL QB, but it appeared that the Bears may have panicked a little by giving up three picks to move up one spot to get the former North Carolina star. And that may be especially the case for a team with plenty of holes that already has a young developmental QB in free agent signee Mike Glennon.
There were also three teams – Philadelphia, Miami and Dallas – that took DEs who were productive enough in college, but who just don’t have the speed of speed and explosion teams are usually looking for in a first-round edge rushers. In fact, one could pretty much look forever to find a 259-pound DE with 4.88 speed, a 253-pounder with a 4.82 40 clocking, or a 277-pounder who runs over 4.9 who currently excel at getting to the QB in the NFL. As we say time will tell.
The other big ‘loser’ on the day may have been Alabama. The Tide were expected to dominate the last night’s top ten, but instead DE Jonathan Allen, LB Reuben Foster and TE O.J. Howard all dropped into the bottom half of the opening round. In fact, it was a little bit of a shock that CB Marlon Humphrey, who had been thought might fall right out of the first round, was the first Alabama player taken when he was selected 16th overall by Baltimore. In fact, four schools – LSU, Clemson, Stanford and Ohio State – each had two players selected before the 1st Alabama player came off the board. However, in the end, Alabama still did lead all college programs with four players taken in this year’s opening round, while LSU and Ohio State had three each.
In fact, led by Alabama and LSU, the SEC dominated the opening round with a total of 12 players selected. The SEC was followed by the Big Ten with 7, the Pac-12 with 6 and the ACC with four. On the other hand, the Big XII had only one player taken, while the MAC and American conferences also had one each.