Sometimes it is better just to be lucky … NFL teams put in literally thousands of man hours in evaluating college football players across the country in preparing for the draft so we are always very reluctant to criticize what they do on draft day because they just have that much more information than we do. It also takes time to see how the players actually turn out. Still, its not hard to have some preliminary guy reactions (of course always based on the evidence) to yesterday’s first round of the 2015 draft. For example, it wasn’t hard to be impressed by the fact that the New York Jets were able to land USC DE Leonard Williams, who many considered to be the best player in the draft, with the 6th pick. In fact, there were some rumblings early in the day yesterday that the Jets might be in the mix to trade up to the #2 pick, not to acquire Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, but Williams who is the prototype 3-4 DE with the strength of a DT, but the quickness of a much smaller DE. Also really liked St. Louis’ selection of Georgia RB Todd Gurley with the 10th pick. What we liked about the pick, though, was that the Rams, who have been chasing the pack in the NFC, the league’s toughest division, for what seems like forever, went for the gusto. Sure, an offensive lineman might have been the safer pick and filled the bigger need, but the Rams need impact players to start closing the gap on the Seahawks and 49ers and Gurley has a chance be the best player in this draft once he is fully recovered from that torn ACL. And in one of those ‘the rich get richer’ moments, defensing super Bowl champion New England may have gotten a real steal in Texas DT Malcom Brown, who fell into their laps with the final pick in the opening. Indeed, heading into the draft, the Patriots probably figured the only way they’d get a talent like Brown was to trade up. Same story for Miami which likely thought the only way they’d end with a potential impact receiver like DeVante Parker was to trade up into the top 10. Also not hard to feel that Cleveland got two really solid players in Washington NT Danny Shelton and Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving with the 12th and 19th picks, but there is still that huge question mark hanging over the Browns at QB.
On the other hand, yesterday’s opening round had its share of head scratcher picks. For example, Cincinnati has appeared to have been been on the cusp of being a real contender the past several years and just needed that one guy to get them over the top. And while former Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi may eventually turn out to be a solid player in the pros, it would have been hard to making him hims the 21st pick overall before he tore an ACL. If there was one player taken in yesterday’s opening round that you could make the case that he’d still be available in the second round it was Ogbuehi. Meanwhile, if I’m a New Orleans Saints fan I didn’t sleep at all well last night. The Saints started the year off by trading away star TE Jimmy Graham for what may eventually go down as peanuts, ostensibly to rebuild a staggering defense; however, while OT Andrus Peat and MLB Stephone Anthony may turn out to be dependable contributors, just how is the Saints defense really any better today than it was yesterday as the pass rush looks like it will still be anemic, while the coverage units are still lousy! One could also make something of a similar case in Houston, which has one of the better defenses in the league, but struggles to score points and its hard to see how they got better adding a corner in the top half of the round who was a marginal opening round pick heading into the draft. There is something of a similar story in Kansas City, another offensively challenged team, which really took a chance on enigmatic former Washington CB Marcus Peters, who managed to get himself kicked off his college team last year, with the 18th pick. And while LB Shaq Thompson could be an impact player at the next level for Carolina, we have always felt that using an opening round pick to replace an aging veteran you couldn’t win with to begin is always going to be something a keep losing proposition, unless of course one plays in the NFC South. Finally, Washington got a quality prospect in Iowa G/T Brandon Scherff, but its hard to make the case he was the 5th best player in this year, especially with Leonard Williams still on the board.