Three days of picks and seemingly endless media coverage is finally over. Before we hit the initial 2018 mock draft (sigh), here are some impressions from draft weekend.
- To the AFC South. No division had a collective better draft weekend than the AFC’s traditional weak sister.
Tennessee entered the weekend needing two primary things: weapons for Marcus Mariota and pass defense. Their first five picks directly, emphatically address those needs. Corey Davis is instantly the No. 1 receiver, and Taywan Taylor might be the No. 2 by the end of his rookie season. Tight end Jonnu Smith has nice upside as well. Adoree Jackson might be the No. 1 CB by the end of his rookie year, and linebacker Jayon Brown was one of the best cover LBs in the draft. Brown has good enough cover skills some teams saw him as a free safety.
Indianapolis scored a great haul. Safety Malik Hooker at No. 15 overall is a coup, provided he can stay on the field. The next two picks, CB Quincy Wilson and OLB Tarell Basham, are both good value picks who can contribute right away. I really like their Saturday picks, notably behemoth DT Grover Stewart and LB Anthony Walker.
I’m not a big Leonard Fournette fan, but he unquestionably adds an alpha dog to the Jacksonville run game. Second-round pick Cam Robinson will help create open holes for Fournette. Later picks Blair Brown and Jalen Myrick can both start by the end of their rookie years too. If third-round pick Dawuane Smoot reverts to his 2015 form as a pass rusher, this team got a lot better.
Houston went all-in with Deshaun Watson. It’s a bold move but a necessary one for a team with a championship-caliber defense and ample offensive weaponry in need of a field general. Zach Cunningham in the second round helps free fellow LB Brian Cushing to move outside and rush the passer more, his best attribute. They restocked depth with the rest of the draft, though they still desperately need a right tackle.
Other teams I think did well:
Arizona, getting Haason Reddick and Budda Baker with its first two picks is a home run.
Carolina made the offense a whole lot tougher to defend in adding Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds. Third-rounder Taylor Moton is an instant, NFL-ready starter up front too.
Kansas City, boldly trading up for Patrick Mahomes is a great move. I love Kareem Hunt at the end of the third round too; I had him rated very closely with Fournette.
Tampa Bay landed a top-3 caliber talent in O.J. Howard at No. 19, then followed it with WR Chris Godwin and safety Justin Evans. Both will play significantly right away. I graded both fifth-round picks, RB Jeremy McNichols and NT Stevie Tuikolovatu, as third-round talents.
- To the Buffalo Bills. How bad was the Bills’ draft? They fired their GM and entire scouting department less than 12 hours after the draft was done.
Buffalo traded way back, moving from 10 to 27 overall. The first two picks are fine fits in CB Tre’Davious White and WR Zay Jones, and I like QB Nathan Peterman a lot higher than his fifth-round slot. Turning away from an impact talent hurts, however.
Whaley and the staff got the axe for past failures. I wouldn’t argue they deserved to stay. If that was the case, if ownership knew they were making a change, why wait until after the draft?
To the Chicago Bears. GM Ryan Pace got absolutely schooled by 49ers GM John Lynch, a rookie straight from the broadcast booth. Pace gave up picks to move up to select a player the Niners were never going to draft. They’re taking a huge risk with Trubisky, who has all the traits which portend success but just enough missing pieces to make him a major flop. Pace then took big chances with small-school talents Adam Shaheen, Tarik Cohen and Jordan Morgan. I’m bullish on all three of those new Chicago picks, but small-school players typically need at least a season to adjust to the increased size, speed and pressure of the NFL. Chicago might get precious little quality help from the rookie class.
Other teams I wasn’t crazy about:
The Los Angeles Rams added the most talented pick they took in the fourth round in WR Josh Reynolds. In fact, their Saturday looks fantastic. It doesn’t overcome taking TE Gerald Everett, WR Cooper Kupp and S John Johnson all at least two rounds too early on Friday.
Pittsburgh had a solid overall draft, but taking a long snapper in the sixth round is an instant and dramatic grade reduction. Don’t draft long snappers. Ever.
- On the Cleveland Browns. The Browns hit home runs on the first two days, snagging Myles Garrett No. 1 and adding QB DeShone Kizer in the second round. All five of the players drafted on Thursday and Friday should start no later than Week 1 of 2018. So will kicker Zane Gonzalez, a sixth-round pick.
It’s their Saturday which gives me pause. CB Howard Wilson is fine as a fourth-rounder, but Florida State offensive tackle Roderick Johnson was a bad pick in the fifth round. He’s a technical mess in pass protection who fell from being a first-round fixture in preseason mock drafts for good reason. Then there’s Florida DT Caleb Brantley. Aside from facing charges for smashing a woman in the face, Brantley had a self-admitted bad reputation for being lazy and taking plays off. In his press conference to explain the pick, Exec VP Sashi Brown sheepishly acknowledged Brantley might not even last a week in Cleveland. Why even put yourself in that position?
- On the Detroit Lions. First off, I’m a Lions fan so my prism here is more from a fan perspective. I love the first-round pick (which I correctly predicted!) in LB Jarrad Davis. His skills are a perfect fit for Teryl Austin’s defense. Fourth-round LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin is also a smart choice; his game strongly resembles departed DeAndre Levy but, like Levy, durability is a major issue. And fifth-round tight end Michael Roberts was my dream TE choice for the team dating back to about October. I literally jumped up and did a victory lap when his name was called.
The rest of the Lions draft…sigh. I think third-round wideout Kenny Golladay is a good fit but is no sure thing, either. I wouldn’t have taken second-round CB Teez Tabor in the fourth round. He’s a slow CB who thinks he’s fast, and those guys invariably flop. I understand Tabor’s a great, aggressive ballhawk and the Lions do need to create takeaways, but I’m gravely worried he’ll give up enough conversions and big plays to negate the positives he brings. QB Brad Kaaya is the anti-Stafford, and asking him to do what the franchise QB does in the offense is a recipe for failure.
- To the info-chasing suckers. If you wrote your final mock draft two weeks ago I’ll almost guarantee you it wound up being more accurate than if you chased down all the hot takes and “insider” info in the days leading into the draft.
Mitchell Trubisky will go No. 1!
No quarterbacks will go in the top 10!
Tennessee already has multiple deals in place for the No. 5 pick!
New England still trying to trade Jimmy Garoppolo!
People significantly higher up the draft media food chain than myself bit HARD on these ridiculous, easily dispelled rumors. I’ll admit to biting on some of the info apples too, notably the fall of the wide receivers (3 went in the top 9) and Davis Webb being a top 40 pick (he went No. 87 to the Giants).
I will learn from my mistakes. Others won’t, unfortunately. Take everything you hear in the final week of draft lead-up with a boulder of salt. It’s largely bunk every year but never more than it was in 2017.