The old saying is that you can’t really grade a draft for 2-3 years. The old saying is actually wrong. What you find out after 2-3 years is whether your picks actually worked out. The question today is whether team’s got good value for their picks which is something quite different and to be honest something much harder to gauge as fans and the media because we don’t usually don’t have enough information to make that kind of judgement. That said, it isn’t all that hard identifying the drafts that we liked last night along with several head scratchers.
For starters, hard not to see that its good to be a fan of an east coast team that wears green uniforms this fine morning. Indeed, while great drafting and the NY Jets have never exactly been synonymous, New York’s green team had a great first round last night. The Jets got the guy they really wanted at #4 in CB Sauce Gardner and then added a nice target for young QB Zack Wilson in WR Garrett Wilson with the tenth pick. On paper, that would have been a very nice draft, but then the Jets traded back into the late first round to steal OLB Jermaine Johnson who had dropped in part because of questions about his age. That’s three top ten prospects in one draft for the Jets and it didn’t cost them much more than a third to move up to get Johnson.
Ironically, it was the Philadelphia Eagles that actually entered the draft period with three first round picks, but they actually ended up only using one last night. That was after a short trade up to the 13th pick to get DT Jordan Davis who it says here was arguably the most underrated guy in the opening round. Then they traded their second #1 to Tennessee to get star WR AJ Brown who they’ll pair with last year’s #1 Devonta Smith to give them one of the more dynamic receiving duos in the league. And, oh yes, they used their third 2022 first rounder to get a package of picks in next year’s rich draft.
Great drafts and Detroit also sounds a tad oxymoronic, but the Lions were absolutely thrilled when Michigan star DE Aidan Hutchinson was available at #2 and then they made a great deal with division-rival Minnesota to move up from the 32nd spot to #12 to get star Alabama WR Jameson Williams, who likely would have been a top 5-10 guy this week if he hadn’t torn an ACL in this year’s national championship game. And all it really cost them to move up those 20 spots in the opening round was a third round pick.
Same story for the other New York team which has been treading water at the draft for several years, but had two of the best players in this draft literally fall into their laps at the 5th and 7th picks. Indeed, former Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux has the talent to transform what was already a decent Giants defense into a very good unit, while former Alabama OT Evan Neal plugs up that huge hole on the right side of their often leaky offensive line.
As we said, these grades are about getting value for money where a team picked and Kansas City may have gotten the best value for where they picked of any team. The Chiefs came into the draft with two very late first round picks, but came out of the opening round with two players generally considered to have mid-round quality in CB Trent McDuffie and DE George Karlaftis, both of whom fill big needs with the Chiefs. And some kudos to Pittsburgh who sat tight and got a potential QB of the future to replace Ben Roethlisberger in Pitt’s Kenny Pickett.
Then there were some real head scratchers. I hate to ever criticize what Bill Belichek does at New England, so I’ll let the guys who run the Super Bowl champion LA Rams do it for me. In fact, I’m not sure in all the years of following the draft, I’ve ever seen one team react that openly about another team’s pick. In the end, the Patriots passed on the chance to select CBs Trent McDuffie and Kaiir Elam and ER Jermaine Johnson to take Chattanooga OG Cole Strange, who is a nice place but was still only considered to be a late third, early 4th round type prospect. And all the Patriots got out of the deal was an extra third and 4th round pick.
And speaking of hard-to-figure trades. Minnesota, a team which one has to figure sees itself as ‘close’, had a chance to grab a potential impact player like WR Jameson Williams, S Kyle Hamilton, DT Jordan Davis or CB Trent McDuffie with the 12th pick, but instead traded down to the end of the round where they took S Lewis Cine, who is a nice player but hardly an impact type. And it might have made sense had they gotten a 2023 first rounder out of the deal, but in the end all they really got extra was a 3rd rounder this year.
We also have to wonder if this is really what New Orleans had planned when they acquired a second first-round pick from Philadelphia earlier this spring. They did end up WR Chris Olave and OT Trevor Penning last night and both have the potential to be useful players that fill needs. But they were going to get one anyway at their own pick but in effect traded a 1st, a 2nd, two thirds and a 4th to get the other guy. Meanwhile, we remain a little surprised that Washington, which was looking for a big-time receiver to pair with Terry McLaurin, passed on the chance to take Olave or Alabama’s Jameson Williams with the 11th pick, but instead traded down to #16 where they did get WR Jahan Dotson who again is a nice player but not at the level of the other two and and all they got was the equivalent of a couple of 4th round picks.