“I had a perfect mock draft” said nobody ever, because once again, this draft had some unexpected trades, some odd picks, and a quarterback frenzy that was crazy as expected. There were a lot of odd picks in the later parts of the first round and second round as well, as well as some funny moments that defined the draft experience, including the Bucs parrot gone wrong and the David Akers trolling of Cowboys fans. But it was two very inspiring moments that defined this draft, Shaquem Griffin hearing his name getting called, and Ryan Shazier walking out and announcing the Steelers pick, which warmed our hearts that night. Amidst all that craziness and inspiration, here are my power rankings, from worst to first, on how teams bolstered their squad during this NFL draft.
32. Detroit Lions
This team never fails to fail. There’s a reason they don’t have a Super Bowl appearance in the Super Bowl era, nevertheless a division title or playoff win since 1991. It’s the fact of they can’t nail the draft and draft very strange players. Amongst their six draft picks, there was 1 pick that I can see being valuable, and that is DeShawn Hand, just because he will help their run defense a little bit if he plays, alongside former teammate A’Shawn Robinson. Beyond that, they botched their draft big time. Their first round pick should have been Josh Jackson. They have been missing that #2 corner along side Darius Slay for the longest time, and Nevin Lawson is terrible and just not cutting it, and there’s no other way to rotate the DB’s to help out that side of the field. Drafting a good running back might have been fine in that situation too, because they haven’t had a good pure runner since the great Barry Sanders. To showcase that stat, the Lions haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher in a season since 2013 and a 100-yard rushing game since 2014, both accomplished by Reggie Bush in his brief tenure in the Motor City. The third thing that made sense was trading up. You saw Buffalo and New Orleans trade up in the middle of the draft to get some top defenders. With Derwin James, who I believe is the #3 propsect in this draft, sliding the way he was, why wouldn’t Detroit make a move there? It might have been tough with Green Bay, being that they are a division rival, but I’m sure they could’ve negotiated something with the Ravens at 16. So what did they do instead? Reached for a one-way blocker in Frank Ragnow. First of all, offensive line is not their biggest need when it comes to a talent perspective. While they did have a down year, Taylor Decker, Rick Wagner, T.J. Lang, and others are a talented bunch. The other thing is that Ragnow is a guy that is a good pass blocker, but not a good run blocker, and is also a bit undersized for an interior lineman. And then their second round running back, Kerryon Johnson, is a reach as well. He is a good downhill runner inside but isn’t overly fast and does not create well. There were only a couple games in college at Auburn where he was a consistently effective outside runner, and that concerns me, especially when they signed LeGarrette Blount to be that effective inside runner. If they don’t have an outside run game, their style of play becomes more predictable, and that has hurt them. Derrius Guice would have been ideal for them in this situation, a much better combo runner with better speed and vision to the outside. But again, I will elude to the #2 corner hole as well. Isaiah Oliver is still sitting on the board in that spot. Why not him either? Just doesn’t make any sense, and the Lions haven’t been a successful team as a result.
#31: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys drafted some good players, but didn’t necessarily fill team needs, and that’s why I have them at 31 in these rankings. They had one very good value pick in Connor Williams, which I had as the second best tackle in this draft and a mid-to-late first round pick. However, elsewhere I thought they could have gone in different spots. The two biggest needs for Dallas coming into this draft were wide receiver and secondary. They did take a receiver in Michael Gallup, who I don’t think will be bad, but I don’t think was the best receiver to take in that spot. Even some of the receivers that fell to the seventh round in Auden Tate, Equinamenous St. Brown, and Marcell Ateman were better options in that spot than Gallup, especially with Dallas needing that big-bodied receiver once they cut Dez Bryant. Like I said, I don’t think Gallup is bad, but is very similar to Allen Hurns, which will give Dallas a one-way passing identity. In terms of their first round pick, there were many helpful players in that spot at the receiver and cornerback position. Josh Jackson and Calvin Ridley were very ideal for them in that situation, but selected Leighton Vander Esch instead, a linebacker that is exactly like every other linebacker they have, but worse. He is a nice coverage linebacker and has good size and physicality, but isn’t a good run-stopper or block shedder to rush the passer or play against screen plays and quick passes. Being that Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith are there in that spot, and that Rod Marinelli plays a lot of nickel packages, it just didn’t make sense for him to be picked in that spot. Not to mention, passing on outstanding prospects at positions of need will hurt the Dallas Cowboys big time, as Calvin Ridley and Josh Jackson were some of the best and most well-rounded prospects at their position. And with the Dallas Cowboys having the roster of a borderline playoff team in the NFC and a competitive team in their division, their inability to fill their holes with the picks sitting right there for them is something that can and will haunt them this upcoming season.
#30: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have drafted very well in Pete Carroll’s tenure, especially in later rounds. However, this year, in my opinion, was not one of those drafts. The Seahawks created an inspiration in drafting Shaquem Griffin, which was a great moment for the young man for sure. And I will not take anything away from that pick that the whole world loved to see. However, their draft strategy as a whole was very flawed. Their first round pick in Rashaad Penny was a massive reach. Penny was a player that would have definitely been available in the second round and probably would have been in the third as well, despite his recent rise up draft boards. The Seahawks struggled to run the ball last year for sure, but that had a lot to do with injuries more than not having the talent on their roster, as Pete Carroll did well platooning the backs they did have. With them needing offensive line help and there also being some good receiver values there, drafting Penny was a major mistake for that reason too. Players such as Connor Williams, Will Hernandez, and James Daniels were available in this spot, and that would have helped their offensive line big time. They did get a good prospect in the 5th round in JaMarco Jones, who I projected as a 3rd round value, which will help their right tackle spot. But partner that with one of these interior prospects, and all of a sudden their line doesn’t look so bad, and their backs don’t look so bad either. In terms of receiver prospects, only Moore and Ridley were gone at that point, so they still could have gotten a James Washington or a Courtland Sutton in that spot, which would give them a more consistent option along side Doug Baldwin, because the Seahawks for years have platooned wide receivers with random guys breaking out but also falling off the next week and throughout the season. In terms of their other picks, they got some more pass rushers in Rasheem Green and Jake Martin, which I don’t think are as big of needs for them either. Despite losing Bennett, they still have Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, Naz Jones, Jarran Reed, Malik McDowell, and Marcus Smith. That is a good platoon of veterans and young players that can still generate a nice pass rush, which is why I don’t think bolstering the front 7 was necessary. And with their draft, they only got two picks that really help their team out, and both came in the 5th round. While those can usually make or break a team, the Seahawks still reached a lot in other areas and didn’t solve team needs well at all. And with the NFC West improving a lot, they may find themselves in the basement this year despite still having a decent roster and identity.
#29: Minnesota Vikings
It’s tough to bash a team very talented, so I didn’t put them as low because there is less of an urgency to fill their needs. However, their draft picks were still not great. I thought the Vikings needed to bolster their offensive line, being that their starting linemen last year were all average at best. Despite overperforming last year, it is tough to tell if they can do it two years in a row. And being that they invested so much money into Kirk Cousins in the offseason, they have to do a good job protecting him, which I thought needed to come in this draft. Like I was saying with the Seahawks, the Vikings had Connor Williams, James Daniels, and Will Hernandez available to them, and passing on that kind of talent in that spot was a mistake. Not to mention, the player they did draft in Mike Hughes doesn’t strike me as a team need. Despite Terence Newman being 39 years old, they still have Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander to be a #2 corner alongside superstar corner Xavier Rhodes. The other factor to consider is that the lineman they did draft, Brian O’Neill, is very undersized at just 297 pounds. Despite having good length and overall size (6’7″ and 34″ arms), his lack of size may be concerning, especially in pass protection, which was not his strong suit at Penn State. Playing against bigger and more skilled pass rushers will be a weakness for him, and because of that, I don’t believe he can be a player that can start, which the three linemen that I mentioned above would have been on this team. Among their later picks, I did like the pick of Jalyn Holmes as a value pick, but I don’t think this team needs much pass rush depth. If they were to upgrade anywhere defensively, it would have come at the strong safety position or left outside linebacker. But with Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Anthony Barr and free agent acquisition Sheldon Richardson, they certainly have enough guys that can get to the quarterback. So overall, with Aaron Rodgers back and with other teams getting better still in the NFC, winning 13 games will still be difficult for the Vikings, and failing to improve their roster this draft may hurt those chances.
#28: Chicago Bears
Another team that struggles to draft year in and year out is the Chicago Bears. And despite getting good players with their first two picks, the rest of their draft was odd and the two good players they did get don’t fill needs, with needs looming on the board throughout that part of the draft. I said in my will take mock draft that the Bears will make the mistake and take Ro’Quan Smith despite better defensive backs potentially being on the board at that time. While I was wrong on who would be there between Denzel Ward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, I was right on the Bears making that mistake being the linebacker oriented franchise that they are. Even with Jerrell Freeman suspended for 4 games for violating the NFL’s drug policy, they can live with a linebacking core of Danny Trevathan, Aaron Lynch, and Nick Kwiatkoski, with either Sam Acho or Leonard Floyd as left outside linebacker dependent on the play call (Floyd sometimes plays DE). What is more of an area of concern is in their secondary. Kyle Fuller is their best corner, and I believe he’s more suited to be a #2. Had they had taken Fitzpatrick in that spot, they would have a Tyrann-Mathieu like player that can play either corner or safety, and they can rotate a declining and aging Prince Amukamara and whoever starts at free safety out of the game and have a much better option at safety. In taking Smith, they take a talented player for sure, but a player that will serve as a #2 middle linebacker in a 3-4 defense, which won’t be on the field all the time. And that would take guys that are more talented off the field on nickel and dime packages on 3rd down, which has been an issue for the Bears defense. So with those reasons in mind, botching this pick is something that will hurt their team defense, as good as a player as Smith will be individually. Now moving on to James Daniels, this is a good player as well that can play both guard and center. However, the problem with the Bears line is not in the middle, but outside. Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long are a good middle of the offensive line, but trusting Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie outside? Yikes. Where I’m getting at is they should have taken Williams in this spot rather than Daniels, because I think the inside line can help whoever is the weaker guard out. As a tackle, you don’t have as much leeway, and that is why the left tackle especially is known as the most important position of the offensive line. The Bears will not be able to give Mitch Trubisky effective pass protection as a result, and being that he’s not great at throwing on the run, it will be hard for them to have an effective passing game despite upgrading their receiving cores (I learned that last year as a Giants fan). As for the rest of the draft, all of them were odd selections, taking receivers that were reaches and just more front 7 depth, which they definitely don’t need. Ryan Pace continues to botch drafts year in and year out, and it is not getting this franchise competitive anytime soon.
#27: Carolina Panthers
Another odd drafting team the last 2 or 3 years has been the Carolina Panthers. The reason I didn’t put them as low on this list is, unlike the teams I put below them, they did make an effort to fill their holes. Their first two picks were a receiver and a corner, which is absolutely their two biggest holes. The issue that I have with them is that they were the wrong players. And to make matters worse, they watched the better options at those respective positions go to the Atlanta Falcons. To start with their first round pick, I don’t believe D.J. Moore was the best option for them at wide receiver. Despite being a compliment to Devin Funchess, he is very similar to Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, two of their (also strange) draft picks from last year. Understandably, the Panthers are the closest thing to a college offense, with a lot of exotic running from Cam Newton and read option and triple option plays creating big chunks of yardage for them. That being said, none of their receivers have a well-rounded skillset, besides tight end Greg Olsen. And them taking Calvin Ridley would have given them that guy, as Ridley is a good route runner, has nice hands, and can jump as well. I just don’t see all those traits in D.J. Moore. Steve Smith during the NFL Network draft coverage mentioned how he has a “PHD in route running.” While that isn’t his biggest weakness, the routes that he’ll have to adjust to with Carolina will be much harder, especially for a smaller receiver, than other teams. Not to mention, he, like John Ross last year, had some concerns with bad drops and bringing those tougher catches in. Despite Moore being a better route runner and having slightly better overall hands than Ross, I think the concerns will be similar. And lastly, there is the size factor. With blazing speed like Moore has will cause a size issue. Moore will struggle, at just 6’0″, being able to play against press coverage and may have some trouble outjumping bigger defensive backs and linebackers. So overall, while I think Moore will be productive still in their system, I don’t think it is the best fit with Calvin Ridley still on the board. Now moving on to their second round pick, they selected LSU cornerback Donte Jackson. At 5’11” and 178 pounds, that is not the size you would like at the cornerback position in today’s NFL, where wide receivers are getting bigger and stronger and more skilled. This isn’t to say that there aren’t good small corners in this league. Both Jason Verrett and Ronald Darby are talented options at their position when healthy. However, when you have a class this deep with corners, you can’t afford to reach. Jackson would have been there in the third round because of his lack of size and strength, and his issues when it comes to zone coverage as well. And like I said with Ridley, they let the player they should have taken slip to the Atlanta Falcons in Isaiah Oliver. Isaiah Oliver, who was one of my favorite corner prospects in this class, slipped drastically for somebody who has better size and length and is a good combo coverage corner. The Panthers should have taken him instead, and then maybe gotten Jackson as a slot corner if they liked him that much in the third round. Oliver, at 6’0″ and 201, can do more in coverage and in terms of jumping and playing the ball than Jackson can, and despite Jackson’s versatility, Oliver is the better player that would have risen quickly in a secondary that isn’t very good. So overall, looking at the Panthers’ draft, I didn’t put them as low because they did fill holes. However, the players they took weren’t as overly skilled as the ones they should have taken in that spot. And when Calvin Ridley and Isaiah Oliver play well for their division rival Atlanta Falcons, that front office will be shaking their head on this draft.
#26: Green Bay Packers
The Packers were an odd drafting team this year. They got one of the best value picks in cornerback Josh Jackson in the second round and another great value in the sixth round in wide receiver Equinameous St. Brown. So why are they so low on this list? Because I am one of the few people with the hot take of the Packers did not benefit from the trade they made. The Packers needed secondary help big time. They redeemed themselves by getting Jackson in the second round, but also could have landed Derwin James to play alongside Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix in the defensive backfield. And they trade the pick… to a team looming at Pick 27 in the draft? Getting a future 1st rounder from a team that can win the Super Bowl next year? Doesn’t seem worth it to me when you pass up that good of a talent on your biggest team need. Meanwhile, then they show more instability by trading back up after James went off the board at 17 to the Chargers to get a player they could have had at 27 in Jaire Alexander. Yeah, there are possibilities Dallas or Detroit could have gotten him at their respective picks, but they should realize how much corner depth is really in this draft to know that Alexander isn’t lightyears ahead of the next highest on their board. And like I’ve said in my mock draft articles, I have concerns about Jaire Alexander. He was big play prone and penalty prone throughout his collegiate career. His height (5’10”) and arm length (31″) are concerning in terms of him being able to play physically against bigger receivers, which there are some of in his division and on his schedule this year, especially with the Chicago Bears. I also have some concerns with him in zone coverage despite his great speed just with his coverage against particular routes and all parts of the field, and like I said above he is big play prone. With that pick and trades, I was calling them the losers of the first round on my radio show’s draft coverage. They redeemed themselves with Jackson, but also drafted strangely the rest of the draft as well. Despite getting St. Brown, there were other receivers that weren’t supposed to be drafted as high that the Packers reached on. They also reached on a 5th round offensive lineman in Cole Madison with other more talented players, including Tim Settle, Maurice Hurst, and Shaquem Griffin, still on the board. Being that they’ve drafted a lot of offensive linemen lately, that didn’t make much sense either. So with all those factors considered, Jackson boosts them from potentially bottom-feeding with the Lions. As for the rest of the draft, it left me scratching my head, especially in the first round.
#25: New Orleans Saints
The other end of this trade involved the New Orleans Saints dealing a 5th round pick in this year’s draft and a first round pick in next year’s draft to get premier pass rusher Marcus Davenport. While Davenport was not a major issue for me in terms of what they did, they didn’t do as well with their other ones as I expected a good late-round drafter like Sean Payton to do. Starting with the third round, they selected Tre’Quan Smith over a crop of other talented receivers. Despite having similar size and athleticism to #1 receiver Michael Thomas, there are weaknesses of Smith that aren’t resembled in Thomas or even in some of the receivers taken after him. Smith, despite being the same size as Thomas, isn’t as strong and isn’t as good at making a variety of catches. His speed is not bad and his route running is solid, but it seems worrisome jumping into an offense that is very complicated that has usually favored bigger receivers (Marques Colston, Robert Meachem) with smaller receivers being in the slot, like they have now with Ted Ginn. And to me, being that Brandon Coleman isn’t consistent enough and everybody else is of that slot build, adding another slot build receiver just didn’t make much sense. A receiver like Auden Tate or Marcell Ateman would have made more sense here. In terms of their later picks, the only one I see of good value is 7th rounder Will Clapp, a guy that I projected as a 3rd or 4th round pick in a slim center draft. With the Saints playing many exotic schemes and having a good amount of offensive line depth, I think Payton can get the best out of Clapp. As for the rest of the players, I don’t see much maybe besides an occasional burst. Making the trade will be costly as well, as they will be without a first rounder next year. However, that part of it, I believe, is still worth it considering they got a nice player that fills a need at that right end spot, making their pass rush even scarier. But even though the rest of the draft wasn’t god awful, it featured a lot of reaches and a lot of strange positional picks as well with the value that was sitting there.
#24: Indianapolis Colts
It’s one thing to accumulate draft picks. It’s another to actually hit on them. And throughout this draft, the Indianapolis Colts hit on very few. I like the pick of guard Braden Smith in the second round and I don’t mind Nyheim Hines as a platoon running back, but beyond that, it’s a lot of “this should’ve happened instead.” For those wondering why I am questioning the pick of Quenton Nelson, it has nothing to do with Quenton Nelson’s abilities. It has to do with their glaring holes on their defense. Their defense has four players I can trust on it, and only two to a high extent. Malik Hooker is a nice safety that will develop into a top safety in this league and was one of the biggest steals of the first round last year. Jabaal Sheard has always been an underrated pass rusher who can be both a 4-3 end and a 3-4 linebacker. The other two that are still not bad is young corner Quincy Wilson, who I see as a solid 2 with his size, and Tarell Basham, last year’s 3rd round pick who is a good outside rusher. 4 players don’t make up a defense though, but 3 can make a solid offensive line, and that is my argument here. While it is true that they have awful right guards and iffy right tackles, I think Chuck Pagano also screwed this team over by not giving Le’Raven Clark more of a chance, a player that I think will be good in this league. I also think he hurt Andrew Luck by putting all the best players on one side of the line. Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, and Ryan Kelly are good players, but they all play side-by-side leaving the right side exposed. That leaves no room for good support to the iffier linemen on that line, and can hide decent individual play on the other side. This isn’t to say that any of those three are elite players, but it’s certainly better at that position than what they have on defense for the most part. Regardless, I thought it was better for the Colts to address their defense in the first round with either Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James, or Bradley Chubb right away. With Chubb off the board to Denver, that was no longer an option. But one of the elite defensive backs were. Either player would have bolstered that secondary and can make that the foundation of the defense for years to come, with Malik Hooker, Quincy Wilson, and either James or Fitzpatrick, and maybe even another corner in the second round. Instead, they went Nelson, a guard that will play well for them, but will just be a part of what is already a solid line when healthy, failing to improve other aspects of their team. And speaking of failing to improve other aspects to their team, there were plenty of second round reaches when it comes to defense. Darius Leonard is an undersized linebacker that can cover OK and tackle but not much else, and was more of a third round option. And pass rushers Kemoko Turay and TyQuan Lewis were also reaches towards the end of the second round, with guys like Lorenzo Carter, Arden Key, Chad Thomas, Sam Hubbard, Justin Jones, and Harrison Phillips still sitting there. As for the rest of the draft, Nyheim Hines can pan out as a platoon running back and Deon Cain may be a solid slot receiver for them, but I really don’t see much value there either as those aren’t going to transform the team from what it is, which is a team with a passing game and not much else. Top quarterbacks often times don’t win championships because they don’t have great defenses or running games to help them out. And Andrew Luck is on that path because of this team’s inability to draft the best value they can on defense.
#23: San Francisco 49ers
Another team that reached a lot throughout this draft is the San Francisco 49ers. Like I said with Carolina, they did fill some needs, and did have some good players in this group, but I wouldn’t say they nailed their picks exactly. Starting in the first round, I’ve always said Mike McGlinchey was a Top 10 prospect and the best tackle by far in this draft. That being said, despite me liking the pick, it wasn’t the best one they could have made in this situation, for the sole purpose of, like the Colts, there were more elite defenders on the board to help out their secondary. Right now, they have a situation like I said with the Lions where their #1 corner is fine and their #2 is not. That is where a player like Minkah Fitzpatrick could have helped in the first round or a player in the second round like Isaiah Oliver. Derwin James also would have been ideal in that situation to go alongside Jaquiski Tartt, who was one of the bright spots on that defense last year. This isn’t to say McGlinchey was a major reach, but I don’t think it was the best pick they could’ve made in that spot with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James still on the board. As for the rest of their draft, there are a lot of reaches and not much value picks. I liked Dante Pettis at Washington, but he is not worth spending a second round pick on. He only can run simple routes effectively and doesn’t have elite hands or speed or size that you would want out of a wide receiver. I think he’ll be productive for sure with Jimmy Garropolo, but I don’t think it is the best pick they could have made by any stretch of the imagination. Not to mention, they actually traded up to get Pettis, and their pick, selected by the Washington Redskins, is better and would have been a lot more helpful in Derrius Guice. They didn’t find great value after that either with a lot of reaches throughout the third round and beyond. Fred Warner was a reach for his spot, and can be a coverage platoon linebacker at best, but doesn’t have the speed to be a starter or the size to be a middle linebacker with his skillset. And despite having a good combine, Tarvarius Moore doesn’t have the skillset to be a starting safety with iffy tackling ability and up-and-down coverages. John Lynch has stepped in as 49ers general manager so far and certainly has progressed this team upward. However, misses and reaches in the last two drafts means the progression will have to be mostly Garropolo and defensive line driven, because they have holes almost everywhere else still.
#22: Philadelphia Eagles
I’m sure the Eagles would take winning the Super Bowl and being lower on this list any day of the week. This isn’t to criticize that they had that awful of a draft, but they just didn’t have a lot to work with. Picking only 5 times with 4 of the picks being 4th round or later causes you to not make it high in these power rankings, but I’m not going to criticize them into making bad decisions. Simply put, they got a nice 2nd round value after trading back with the Ravens in tight end Dallas Goedert. Goedert is a good blocker that will help that running game strive to the outside and also has decent speed for his size as well. And like Trey Burton was last year, he should be productive in an offense that is built around its middle of the field positions in the running back and tight end. They also got a nice 4th round value in Florida State defensive end Josh Sweat, who will join the deepest pass rush unit in the NFL. I guess the only criticism for me was not drafting Holton Hill, who went undrafted and signed with the Vikings, one of my sleeper corners in this draft, but instead drafting a 5’9″ and 184 pound Avonte Maddox. That being said, he does have good speed, so he has potential to help an already strong special teams in return coverage and maybe even as a returner himself. So overall, the Eagles are here, slightly below average, just for not having the draft capital. They are above the teams they are above for not making the mistakes that those teams made.
21. Houston Texans
Another team with not a lot of draft capital to work with was the Houston Texans. They traded their first two picks of this draft to Cleveland to get DeShaun Watson, which was a move that will help them for years to come, as I think Watson will turn into an outstanding quarterback in this league, and will be last draft’s best quarterback by far. With their few picks, they did manage to get some very good value, which is why I put them slightly above the Eagles here. Justin Reid was a potential late first round pick that fills a hole at strong safety. Now he will get to play alongside major free agent acquisition Tyrann Mathieu, which will help his development as well. He will also get to join a defense that, when healthy, has a lot of talent and depth on it, and is versatile in terms of skillsets and packages as well. And Reid is one of those players, who can both blitz, stop the run, and cover effectively, and can be utilized in a lot of different spots on the field as well. The Texans have been missing that effective safety for a while on this defense, and they will get it now with Reid. The other value pick I like is offensive linemen Martinas Rankin, who they took in the middle of the third round. Rankin plays best at center, but can play all three offensive line positions, which is big for a Texans team with an offensive line that has a lot of injury-prone players. They can rotate Rankin in anywhere and he can be an effective blocker in all three of those positions, especially as a run blocker, which a run-heavy Texans team will need. Beyond that, there weren’t any picks I loved, but defensive depth is never a bad thing, especially considering their defensive stars are injury-prone. With that in mind, I couldn’t put them much higher than 21. However, what I thought were the draft champions last year, with D’Onta Foreman, Zach Cunningham, and franchise quarterback DeShaun Watson still found some good value in the third round here.
#20: Los Angeles Rams
The second-to-last team without a first round pick resides here. Despite the Rams not getting an amazing value pick like the Texans did, I like the depth they accumulated throughout this draft, and I think that will help Wade Phillips’ creative defensive scheme. The first two picks they had in the third and fourth round were slight reaches, but they were of position of need in offensive line help. I said the Rams two needs were the right side of their offensive line and linebacker. They drafted TCU tackle Joseph Notebloom and Michigan State center Brian Allen with those two picks to help their line out. I believe there were better players at tackle in this spot, so despite the need, I will criticize them a little here, with Will Henderson, JaMarco Jones, and Chukwuma Okorafor still being on the board here. In terms of Allen, I think there was one better offensive lineman, who fell all the way to the sixth round, and that was Bradley Bozeman, who I think is a good run blocker and would’ve been a nice fit for a team with Todd Gurley, who I think is the third best running back in football. But besides that, I like what Sean McVay and Wade Phillips were able to accumulate. I like the outside rushing depth they got in later rounds, allowing them to rotate linebackers of different skillsets around, which I always found you could do at linebacker and get away with it more than any other position on the defense, because they do the most different things when it comes to play-calling. And with Wade Phillips being a very good play caller defensively, I expect him to utilize these platoon linebackers accordingly, and they got a lot of them, with 6 picks spent on edge rushers and linebackers in this draft. The Rams improved the important areas of the defense in the run defense and secondary to get them championship competitive, and they will now platoon these linebackers to each of their strengths, which is something Wade Phillips has done well everywhere he has been. Overall, the Rams could have been a little higher on this list with value, but with not a lot of needs with all the trades and signings they made, getting depth in their needs helps them a lot.
#19: Baltimore Ravens
A lot of draft analysts are praising the Ravens for what they did in the first round. I will be different here, and praise what they did in later rounds, while criticize the first. I’ll start with the praise. The Ravens got nice value in Oklahoma Sooner big men Orlando Brown and Mark Andrews. While I think they have a one-way skillset, both players are good at what they do, and are good value picks as big offensive linemen and tight ends. Andrews is a deep threat that is physically gifted to make those tough catches with his size. I worry about his route running and his blocking is inconsistent, but the Ravens getting him here for what he is makes him a value. And then there is Brown, the embarrassment of the NFL combine, with his slow 40 and awful bench reps dropping him further than I thought in this draft. However, he is still a decent talent as a football player, and that’s why I thought this was a nice value for a team that could use a gem on the offensive line. Bradley Bozeman was another nice offensive line boost in the 6th round, especially being a very talented run blocker throughout his career at Alabama. With the departure of center Ryan Jensen, he may have a chance to start on this roster, and John Harbaugh got a 3rd or 4th round value in the 6th round, which boosts the Ravens a lot. They also got some nice secondary depth to help out what is an injury prone secondary. Players like Anthony Averett and DeShon Elliott, who I had as the #4 safety on my board, were stolen by the Ravens in the 4th and 6th round, and will get a chance to play between creative defensive packages and their defensive backs being very injury-prone. They will join a secondary that is very good as well, with talented players such as Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle, Tavon Young, and 2017 1st rounder Marlon Humphrey. Between that and all they drafted well last year on defense, this is another foundation for a great Ravens defense like their two Super Bowl winning teams. What I question, however, is the foundation for their offense. They traded up for Lamar Jackson to be the predecessor for Joe Flacco, who I personally don’t think will be a great NFL quarterback in. I think he’ll have his flashes, like RG3 and Vince Young did coming out of college, but I don’t think he will last as he loses speed, as I don’t think he is a great thrower of the football and doesn’t have great leadership either. The Ravens, with a lot of talent on their roster, can afford to think that way that way, so I don’t fault the draft strategy aspect of trading up to get their quarterback of the future. However, I think Jackson will not work as an NFL quarterback. As for pick 25, I don’t think Hayden Hearst was the right pick either. This isn’t to say he’s a bad player, but I did not think he was a first round pick, especially with Connor Williams or Calvin Ridley sitting on the board there too to fill team needs. The Ravens have a lot of tight ends on their roster already and don’t need to spend a first round pick on another one, especially with players of bigger positional need sitting at 25. The trading back element of the Ravens shouldn’t have hurt them, but it did, taking the wrong players. And it may hurt them if the right tackle or #2 receiver position struggles on this offense, because they could have had great value at that #25 pick, which likely would have put them in the Top 10 of my power rankings. Instead, they stay at 19, due to mistakes in the first round hindering their nice values later.
#18: Cleveland Browns
New GM, same problem. They just don’t know how to find the sure thing at quarterback. After trading the picks that eventually spawned Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson, they gambled on the Heisman Hype and off-field issues that came with Baker Mayfield as the #1 pick. But why? The Oklahoma quarterback played in a very simple scheme and doesn’t have a great arm nor accuracy on tougher throws or all parts to the field. Being that the Big 12 didn’t have much when it came to defense, his stats were inflated, and didn’t get many tests when it came to reading defenses, with the exception of their upset victory over Ohio State. I also believe Mayfield is a very basic quarterback. He has nice short and medium accuracy, but like I said, it comes on simple routes and easy looks. And despite having a great completion percentage, that number is hindered by playing in that basic offense with a lot of talent around him and in a conference that has bad defenses. Isn’t that supposed to scare teams away. How many other quarterbacks out of Oklahoma have been good lately? Oh yeah. None. And yet one goes number one overall with quarterbacks in Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold that are more sure things. Might as well add his name in permanent marker and cross it off, and, whoever is the brilliant fan who puts up that brilliant Browns QB graveyard display for Halloween, add him in there too. So if the Browns busted the #1 overall pick, why aren’t they last on my list? Because they did well almost everywhere else. Denzel Ward, the #4 overall pick, fills a major team need of theirs and has a chance to be a star corner in this league, with nice speed, jumping ability, and combo coverages, but especially man-to-man. They also got good value in the second and third rounds as well. Austin Corbett is an offensive lineman that can also play all three positions, and has a chance to start at a tackle spot due to the retirement of future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. Nick Chubb, if he stays healthy, can be a very good running back in this league. He was my second favorite running back after Saquon Barkley on my board, and in my opinion, should start over a very overrated and streaky Carlos Hyde. And in the third round, they got Chad Thomas, who was a big piece of a very successful Miami Hurricanes defense, and can serve as a run stopper in their 3-4 defense alongside 2017 #1 overall pick Myles Garrett and will join an improving young front 7 consisting of Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, and Jamie Collins. So overall, the Browns got very good value that might have gotten them into the Top 10, if they once again didn’t botch the most important position on the field.
#17: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars draft wasn’t anything wrong, but wasn’t anything special either. They brought in some good players and had some value picks, but didn’t have any world class picks that would transform their team either. In my mock drafts, I constantly had Jacksonville targeting offensive line in the first round. However, they went with Taven Bryan, a pass-rushing defensive tackle that, despite being talented, is not a need for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Known as Sacksonville last year, Tom Coughlin’s additions and draft picks made this line one of, if not the best in all of football. And with a good combination of speed rushers and power rushers on this line, they could rotate a lot of different players to create a monstrous unit at any point. That’s why I don’t think the Bryan pick was necessary. He’ll get very little snaps on this defense with the depth they have already, and despite him getting quality reps when he is in with all the help around him, I just don’t see how it would help the team in comparison to getting a quality offensive lineman to help Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette. The second round gave them wide receiver D.J. Chark, a guy who had a nice combine and has decent athleticism for his size. However, like I said with many other teams, I don’t think he was the best receiver on the board at that time. It hurt them that James Washington went the pick before them to the Steelers, but the 6th and 7th round steals that I mentioned with the Bears and 49ers were better options. Not to mention, there were better options that weren’t receivers either, such as Justin Reid, Malik Jefferson, Martinas Rankin, and Chukwuma Okorafor. However, the Jaguars did have some good picks as well. They got a steal in the third round in Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison, who will be a perfect counter to coverage safety Tashaun Gipson as more of the enforcer type of safety. Personally, I also believe that he has a chance to start with Barry Church being overrated and more of a basic tackler in my opinion. I think Harrison is faster and potentially better in coverage than Church is, and I think you will see the Jaguars think the same way potentially during the season. Regardless of where or when he plays, they got a steal with a late 1st or early 2nd round talent late in the 3rd. The other value pick I like is Will Richardson, a projected 3rd round pick who fell to the late 4th round. Richardson was a good run blocker at NC State and has decent strength and athleticism. Like I said, I thought they should have taken offensive line in the first round, but taking it here at this value can still fill the need as well. An overall neutral draft for a Jaguars team with not a lot of holes, but they continue to find good value in later rounds as they have the last 3 or 4 years.
#16: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers had quite an eventful first round, surprisingly trading back when everybody thought they would go for an elite defensive back, and then almost trading up again. Regardless, Tampa did some unconventional things, and they are a mixture of good and bad. Their first round pick was Vita Vea, a guy that is going to help a run defense that has been bad for years now, and will also free up pass rushers for a defense that was last in the league with just 20 sacks last year. Some may argue that Derwin James was the better pick in that spot, and while that is true, Vea would the the next best option in this situation, so it is tough to say they screwed up this pick, especially when it will cause a ripple effect for the rest of their defense, especially against the run. They also got two corners after that in M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis. Carlton Davis has nice size and skillset that I think will allow him to be a successful corner in this league. Stewart, on the other hand, I think will be more of a man and press specialist on a team that has mostly zone coverage corners and safeties. But while that has value, I will elude to the criticism I had with their division rival, Carolina Panthers. Why not Isaiah Oliver who can do both and plays the ball better than both these guys? That’s my main criticism with the corner spot, even though I think Davis will be good. I just think Oliver is that much better and definitely shouldn’t have slipped until late in the first round to Atlanta. The last criticism of Tampa is their choice of running back. With Derrius Guice still on the board, they went with Ronald Jones III, a guy I have some concerns with. Despite him running well to both spots on the field at USC, I worry about his size and vision at the NFL level, especially with the Buccaneers not having the greatest offensive line. I think Guice is the more complete runner that can run with both speed and power, and has better agility and vision as well. I think Jones will have some good games, but doesn’t come off to me as a complete runner in this league, and I think that will cause some issues for this running game. This was one of those teams that I thought would nail this draft. And despite me liking Vea and Davis, I don’t think they made the right picks in other spots, particularly earlier in the second round, despite filling team needs.
#15: New England Patriots
The Patriots stability has always been directly related to smart drafting. Bill Belichick doesn’t draft flashy. Doesn’t draft unconventional. Just drafts solid guys that get the job done. For those of you who believe they were going to trade up for a quarterback or draft Lamar Jackson, I knew that you were highly mistaken. That was just a product of Belichick trying to play mind games with the rest of the division, and evidently the Cleveland Browns as well. In terms of their picks, I’ll start with the two first rounders. I like one and not the other. The pick of Isaiah Wynn was necessary after losing Nate Solder and enduring injuries to other parts of the offensive line. Wynn is a versatile lineman that can play both guard and tackle, which is something Belichick has always emphasized in his player selections. While Wynn is not a guaranteed starter, he should be able to compete for a starting job with Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, and Antonio Garcia at their respective positions (LG,RG,RT). Belichick has always liked linemen that can move around and had good footwork, which Wynn fits. And being that they have a hole at right tackle and possibly some injuries, this was a nice value pick and they did it in the right spot before other teams with offensive line needs might have picked him. I also like their 2nd and 5th round picks of being defensive scheme fits. Like other teams, I will criticize them for passing on Isaiah Oliver for Duke Dawson, but Duke Dawson is more like a Belichick corner, with his best attribute being press coverage. The Patriots love pressing and double-teaming star receivers, which is why talented players like Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and T.Y. Hilton have always struggled with New England. Dawson will work his way onto the team with the departure of Malcolm Butler, and will be used as a matchup corner wherever Belichick wants him. As for Ja’Whaun Bentley, he fits the big coverage linebacker mold that Belichick likes. At 6’2″ and 260 pounds, he has the size and coverage ability that fits what he has liked, Tampa 2 linebackers with size and that can be used on those double teams to physcially rattle star receivers and create some bulk over the middle of the field. While he won’t play every snap or even every game, he will be used against teams with smaller receivers or one star receiver or teams with prolific passing attacks with his ability. The Patriots have always been looking for that second coverage linebacker alongside Hightower since Jamie Collins was traded, and they may have just found it in Bentley. However, round 1 pick 31 is the one I will criticize. Sony Michel will be a nice player for the Belichick offense. He loves pass-catching running backs, and Michel is another one of that crop. He will be productive as another option to go with James White and Rex Burkhead, and Michel will also be a better pure runner than both of them as well. So while I like the fit, I don’t love the pick. I mentioned how much the Patriots need pass rush help. They had many losses after their Super Bowl comeback and the combination of injuries and underperforming players hurt their defense the next season in the Front 7. They had to blitz more often than usual, which Matt Patricia doesn’t normally like doing, which hurt their pass defense. Trey Flowers was their only consistent pass rusher, and despite their defense improving in the second half of the season, that was also against the easier part of their schedule. With that in mind, passing on a player like Harold Landry, who can play both outside linebacker and defensive end, was a mistake for New England. With Landry going right before their original second pick (they eventually traded it back) to the Titans, the Patriots lost their chance at a premier pass rusher. And honestly, with the Giants taking Saquon Barkley and Cleveland taking Nick Chubb where they did as more of a better pure runner, I believe Michel would have been there at Round 2 pick 11. But you knew a team wanted a great value pick in Landry, which the Patriots could have had at 31. So overall, I believe that was the one mistake the Patriots had, and they’ll have to rely on Adrian Clayborn to stay good and guys like Lawrence Guy and Derek Rivers to come through for them as well. While they may be good, Harold Landry can be dynamic, and I think they made a mistake passing on him.
#14: Kansas City Chiefs
And here are our winners of teams without a first round pick. The Kansas City Chiefs did well in this draft accumulating defensive depth and fixing a major hole with two nice players in the second round. With the departure of Dontari Poe, the Chiefs run defense was not the same. They were 8th worst in the NFL in run defense, allowing 118.1 yards per game, including allowing 156 yards to Derrick Henry in their playoff loss. So what did they do? Get two nice defensive tackle prospects in Breeland Speeks and Derrick Nnadi. Speeks can play both 3-4 end and 4-3 defensive tackle and has good strength for his size. And at 6’3″ and 283 pounds, he has good agility that can help him be an effective pass rusher. They have always been looking for help up front to help their talented outside rushers, and they will get that in Speeks as well, who will likely start at right end over Allen Bailey. As for Nnadi, he possesses the size and athleticism for what will be the nose tackle in their defense. Nnadi was a force at Florida State both in run stopping and in pass rushing, and is also scheme-versatile for a very creative Bob Sutton defense. And like I was saying with Speeks, Nnadi has the agility to move around and clog different gaps on the line, rather than just making one move or clogging with size and strength alone, which will allow the Chiefs to guard outside runs well as well. Those were the two biggest moves, but they weren’t done yet bolstering their defense. Outside linebacker Dorian O’Daniel and safety Armanti Watts are players that can help their defense as well. O’Daniel is a speedy coverage linebacker that can move around nicely and help out against faster receivers. Size is a concern with him, but he will likely be limited to outside linebacker coverage against running backs and slot receivers more than anything else, and let Justin Houston and Reggie Ragland guard the middle against more athletic receivers and tight ends. Regardless, O’Daniel will add a new element to their coverage game, and will help them on the right side of the field that was exposed badly due to bad #2 corner play. It will also give more freedom for Justin Houston to blitz more often, which being the prolific pass rusher he is, is better for the team defense than him being forced to cover. As for Watts, he was one of my underrated safety prospects that teams could use as their nickel and dime safeties due to his coverage ability. He has good speed and ability to range all over the field, and can also play shallower coverage like a nickel or dime corner. Bob Sutton can use Watts as a better version of Eric Murray and line him up all over the place dependent on the play call, because Watts has good awareness for a young player and can cover a good variety of routes. While he isn’t the greatest tackler in the world, I think that can be improved over time. And once he improves as a run defender and an overall tackler, I feel like he can also start as a free safety. The Chiefs have Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray platooning in that spot right now, but I think Watts has more potential than both of them. Defensive depth matters for a team as well as filling holes after losing stars, and the Kansas City Chiefs nailed their picks overall, doing very well despite not having a first round pick after trading it to get their potential franchise quarterback in Patrick Mahomes last year.
#13: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers had the best value pick in the first round at scooping up Derwin James, who I had as the #3 prospect overall, at #17 overall. Not to mention, safety was their second biggest team need after defensive tackle. They lost Eric Weddle two years ago and haven’t found his replacement since. Now they nailed it with a player that is very similar. James can blitz and stop the run and tackle the same way Weddle did for them, and he has even more speed as a young player than Weddle did, which will help him cover just as well and do chasedown tackles even better. The Chargers also need run defense badly, and after Vita Vea went to Tampa Bay and Da’Ron Payne went to the Redskins, there was better value in taking the run-stopping safety and getting a DT later, which they did in Justin Jones. James is like a Landon Collins where he can load the box against the run and go after the quarterback with safety blitzes, which will help the Chargers up front big time. As for the rest of the draft, they got nice value in Justin Jones as well, who can help as a 3-4 end and a defensive tackle in the nickel package. And personally, I think he will become a far better run stopper at the defensive tackle position than Corey Liuget is doing right now. Jones with good size and strength will help their run defense, which was 2nd worst in the league, improve a little bit. Another thing that can help is safety Kyzir White, who at 6’2″ and 218 pounds, gives great size and tackling ability for a safety. White could load in the box like a linebacker and help their run defense out too and can also play physically in the secondary, especially with them having smaller corners in Jason Verrett and Casey Heyward. The Chargers have struggled with bigger receivers the last 3 or 4 years, and a player like White, despite not being a spectacular coverage safety, will help in those jump ball situations, especially with big receivers like Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, and Sammy Watkins now in their division. However, the reason I put them a little lower than some of the top drafting teams is due to reaching in the second round for a position they have tons of depth for, which is pass-rushing outside linebacker. With Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Jerry Attaochu, Hayes Pullard, and others. Uchenna Nwosu will just join that rotation and probably won’t get much playing time. That pick was better spent on an offensive lineman or maybe another cornerback with the group that was available. So with that one criticism, they fall to 13 as an overall draft. However, their whole body of work was nice, especially getting a tremendous value in the first round in Derwin James, who will be a star for that defense for years to come.
#12: Oakland Raiders
For many draft analysts, the Oakland Raiders were lower on their lists after trading back, reaching, and drafting unconventionally. For me though, I think they did well getting good value and filling a major team need in defensive tackle and possibly getting the best value pick in this draft. Starting with their first round pick, after trading back with the Arizona Cardinals, they took Kolton Miller to sure up their right tackle position. Again, Derwin James was on the board, but with the Raiders having two good young safeties in Obi Melifonwu and Karl Joseph and also still having Reggie Nelson, James didn’t come off as a need. The only other player I think that would have been a better value for them was Tremaine Edmunds being that they needed a well-rounded linebacker that can cover. Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack are improved coverage guys since they got there and they have a platoon of youngsters as well that weren’t bad at times last year. However, Edmunds could have fit in coverage as a middle linebacker better than all of them. However, at the same time, I won’t bash them too hard for Kolton Miller either. After losing Austin Howard in the offseason and Donald Penn tearing his ACL last year, tackle does come off as a hole. They had trouble in pass protection to that right side, eventually leading to Derek Carr getting hurt for some time and him not looking the same last year. Miller, who has good technique and footwork for his position, will help a line that needs help guarding against good outside rushers in their division. While Miller doesn’t have great size or amazing strength, I think his ability to move around and pass block against those speed rushers are something the Raiders need. As for the rest of the draft, 3rd round pick Brandon Parker was a bit of a reach, as a lot of talented players were drafted after him both at the tackle position and at other positions, including more at defensive tackle and linebacker. But after that, they struck gold with two of the best value picks in the draft. Arden Key is a pass rusher that had 1st round talent that slipped into the late 3rd round, where the Raiders can rotate him as an outside linebacker and defensive end, along with Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack. Jon Gruden loved having pass rush depth while he was in Tampa and now brings it to Oakland with a great pick of Key. Combined with those players as well as Mario Edwards and 3rd-year player Shilique Calhoun, they have a nice group of pass rushers, and expect Key to be very valuable in their defensive scheme. In the 7th round, they drafted receiver Marcell Ateman, who a lot of people had tabbed as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Ateman was a productive receiver in college who has good hands and jumping ability. While I think he is a project when it comes to route running, I think Gruden will work him in well with his talent. Expect him to be a project with Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, and the newly acquired Martavis Bryant already there. And then, there was the best value pick in this draft, 5th round pick Maurice Hurst. The same guy I thought should have gone to the Chargers at #17 overall. He was there in the 5th round for the Raiders’ second biggest need? Talk about the best value pick in this draft. And with the Raiders drafting another DT in P.J. Hill in the second round, their run defense that was weak last year, especially within the division, will be a lot better this year even without a spectacular middle linebacker. Hurst, despite being undersized, can rush for both speed and power, and has nice strength for his size as well, allowing him to be powerful against the run. After the Raiders traded back and the Buccaneers took Vita Vea, I knew Oakland had to address the DT position later on in the draft, which they did perfectly and surprisingly in the 5th round with Hurst. Not to mention, P.J. Hill is not a bad player who is also scheme-versatile in what is currently a hybrid defense. Value can come anywhere within the draft, not just with your first pick, or your guy solving the biggest need. Winning the back end can make a team, and Gruden struck gold with a lot of picks at the end, putting the Raiders just outside the Top 10 in my power rankings.
#11: Cincinnati Bengals
Marvin Lewis, as bad of a head coach as he is, knows how to find talent. The Bengals arguably had the best Day 3 draft and did very well in the third round as well. The reason I don’t crack them into the Top 10 was because of their first 2 picks being a little concerning. They definitely needed offensive line, so taking Billy Price filled that kind of need. But with a torn pectoral muscle and being a bit undersized, there is a concern. And with Connor Williams, James Daniels, and Will Hernandez still available at 21, I believe they are safer picks, especially Daniels who has versatility to play both guard and center. Price could be a long term option in the future if he isn’t consistently injury prone, but this injury for an offensive lineman, especially one as mobile as Price, is a concern for drafting him in the first round. As for the second round, there were certainly better players, both at safety and elsewhere, than what they took in Jessie Bates. While Bates has good speed and OK coverage ability in simple zone coverages and deep zones, I don’t think he is as well-rounded of a player as somebody like Justin Reid. And like the Chargers, the Bengals had issue run defending, and sometimes young safeties can help that in today’s game. That is why a player like Justin Reid would have made more sense in that spot, who is better at run-stopping and coverage than Bates. Bates comes off, to me, as a 4th or 5th round talent that seems more like a 3rd safety or coverage specialist in 3rd down packages, which makes sense if you’re a good team, but the Bengals are just an average team as of right now, so nailing their second round picks are essential to retool and keep up with the Ravens and Steelers. So with that in mind, the Bengals are only #11 on this list. However, after the first two rounds, you can make a case they had the best draft. Malik Jefferson and Sam Hubbard were excellent picks in the third round, Mark Walton is a solid 4th round pick at running back, and they got two nice 7th round options in Auden Tate and Logan Woodside. Starting with Jefferson, he is a linebacker that is fast and can both run stop and coverage. I had him as a 2nd round value that the Bengals got in the 3rd. He may not be great rushing the passer, but the Bengals don’t blitz a lot with their linebackers, so I’m not as concerned with that flaw in his game. As for Hubbard, he will provide some pass rush depth and is also a decent run stopper as well. He will play run formations instead of Jordan Willis and may play pass rush formations as defensive tackle or even as a 3rd defensive end. Pass rush depth in the 4th quarter is a big key to how to finish close games, which the Bengals had trouble winning, and I think that will help them out too. Mark Walton will be a power back to compliment Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon. And then there was the 7th round. Auden Tate is a great receiver prospect who I think should have been taken in the late second or early 3rd round. He can make a nice variety of catches and is a decent route runner, not to mention has good size and athleticism. He doesn’t have great raw speed and will need time to develop a more well-rounded route tree. But even last year, he still had good productivity with a backup quarterback for most of the year, after starter DeAndre Francois went down with a torn ACL in the first week of the college football season. And that is the kind of receiver that I think can play on the outside for a team that has been needing a #2 receiver for A.J. Green’s entire career. Assuming Marvin Lewis is smart and doesn’t baby him in, this move will help their offense big time with Tate outside and John Ross in the slot. As for Woodside, he is a quarterback that has decent accuracy despite being undersized and can make a good variety of throws. He doesn’t have a big arm to make those tougher deep throws, but definitely can be worked in as a backup quarterback after the Bengals let A.J. McCarron walk in free agency. He is also a smart quarterback that is good with decision-making and reading defenses, so he won’t be an issue when it comes to turning the ball over. I can see Woodside being a good backup quarterback in the NFL for the Bengals, especially with Andy Dalton being injury-prone the last couple of years. And for the seventh round and a lot of good quarterbacks taken already, this is a nice value right at the end of the draft. So as a whole, their first two picks weren’t great, but they had so many draft picks afterward and accumulated some nice value players to fit team needs. If Price stays healthy it may be a bonus for this Bengals team, but you can’t criticize the draft as a whole too much with all the value they got later.
#10: Miami Dolphins
A team I would not have expected to strike gold struck gold in this draft. I thought they would be the dumb front office they are and reach on Baker Mayfield. The Browns front office saved them from making that mistake, and they were rewarded by what is, in my opinion, the best player in this draft defensively in Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is so valuable as a prospect due to his ability to play at a high level at both corner and safety. I would think that he would play corner for the Dolphins, with Reshad Jones at strong safety and the best corner n their roster being Xavien Howard. However, I expect him to rotate in both, because they have holes in both areas. All of a sudden, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and Xavien Howard doesn’t seem like such a bad secondary anymore. And again, they can use him matchup dependent, based on the team they are facing and the plays they like to call. Again, I expect him to play corner most of the time, but expect rotation for sure because he has a strong skillset at both, and Nick Saban proved that throughout his collegiate career at Alabama. Amazing pick at an unexpected value that puts them in a good spot. There were other good picks in this draft in 2nd round tight end Mike Gesicki, 3rd round edge rusher Jerome Baker, and 4th round running back Kalen Ballage. Gesicki was labeled as my favorite tight end in this draft with his speed and route running ability. He ran routes of many different distances and difficulties in route to being the #2 offensive option and the #1 receiving option on that team. I think he can certainly take that to Miami, with a coach in Adam Gase that loves attacking the middle of the field and a receiving situation that is iffy with the departure of Jarvis Landry. Adam Gase did well with Martellus Bennett in Chicago, very consistent in both his years there, even with Alshon Jeffery still on the team at that time. Even though they are different builds, I expect Gase to get the best out of Gesicki who is the most well-rounded tight end (as a receiver) in this draft. As for Baker, Jerome Baker is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker prospect that is a nice run stopper and pass rusher. He will play 3-4 outside linebacker along side either Charles Harris or newly acquired Robert Quinn. With the front 7 being solid for Miami, I don’t expect him to get a tremendous amount of snaps. But I expect him to have quality performances in his limited snaps as a depth pass rusher like Harris was last year, especially on 3rd down. Ballage is a sneaky good running back that can serve as a power runner in different situations. I don’t expect him to have instant impact barring injury, with DeMarco Murray and Kenyan Drake still there, but if he develops right, he can serve as a future starter or compliment with Murray injury-prone and aging. While he doesn’t have great speed, Ballage has good vision and a good downhill running style allowing him to break tackles at the second level. Not sure how good of an outside runner he will be at this level, but it also took Jay Ajayi time to develop into a more well-rounded back. So I think Ballage is worh the gamble for the running back-needy Dolphins in the 4th round. And overall, with those four picks, I think they get good quality players in positions of need. There is a long way to go with all the holes on this roster, but this is a step in the right direction.
#9: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted well at many different positions over the years, no matter who the coach is, to create a balanced identity with an emphasis on having championship caliber-defenses. This draft was nothing different, but the reason I am not putting them Top 5 is with one obvious thing: a MAJOR reach in the first round. The Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny at pick 27 and just when I thought that there couldn’t be a further reach in this draft, the Steelers told everybody “hold my beer!” and selected Terrell, not Tremaine Edmunds, with the 28th overall pick. I put him as the biggest reach in terms of talent, not need, as I was not having Edmunds on my radar until at earliest the 4th round. That being said, it does fill a need both on paper and within the identity of their team, as they haven’t had a big safety since the great Troy Polamalu. Regardless, they could have had Edmunds in the 4th round, and could have gotten a FAR better value to help their secondary in Josh Jackson and even later on in somebody like Isaiah Oliver or Ronnie Harrison. So with that in mind, I believe Edmunds is the biggest reach of this draft, and despite their other great picks, I just can’t put them into the top 5 because of that. As for the rest of the draft, they did very well landing some late first round talents later on in the draft throughout the second and third rounds. James Washington is an electrifying receiver and I believe was the #2 receiver prospect in this draft after Calvin Ridley. For a bonus, he fits the Steelers’ scheme perfectly. They alsways like guys that have good raw speed and can be a deep threat and run all kinds of complicated routes. While I expect it to take time to learn Todd Haley’s playbook for Washington, he has the speed and release to be a talented slot guy for this team. It took a while for Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster to master the routes that they showed success with last season, especially with Brown making a lot more tougher catches than we’ve seen in previous years. I can argue as well that Washington is not far behind Juju Smith-Schuster in terms of route development, as I think Juju’s numbers were skewed both with a couple games and a lot of exclusively screens and straight on streaks. Regardless, that is where Washington will have to grow as well, with Oklahoma State not having a very complicated playbook. That being said, the Steelers have done this before, taking these speed demon receivers, and working them straight into their system, and I expect Washington to be no different. In terms of other good values, Chukwuma Okorafor in the late third round is also a steal. I had Chuks labeled as a late first/early second round talent that I think with good development could turn into an effective starting tackle in this league. The Steelers, with good interior lineman but iffy outside linemen, could make Okorafor that with some help. While I don’t think he will start this season, Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert are aging and both, in my opinion, are overrated tackles. While Villanueva did have a pro bowl season last season, I don’t expect it to keep up long term, and that is why taking Okorafor could help them in the long run. Okorafor has good strength and decent movement for his size, and with the proper development, could turn into an effective combo blocker. I think he is already a suitable run blocker, especially on inside runs. Pass blocking will take some improvement and technique, but I don’t think it is a major hole in his game either. With that in mind, I believe Okorafor will be a solid starter 2-3 years down the road, and certainly a great value pick in this 3rd round. They also got a decent value in 5th round safety Marcus Allen. Like Edmunds, he has good size at 6’2″ and 218 pounds. But unlike Edmunds, he wasn’t a reach. Allen was a difference maker in coverage on that Penn State defense, and wasn’t too bad of a run-stopper either with his size. When he was out with injury against Ohio State and Michigan State last year, they could not hold a 4th quarter lead in either game. That’s valuable when it comes to big game situations, and combined with his coverage ability, jumping ability, and size, I think he can be a good prospect for a Steeler team that desperately needs size in their secondary. But let’s not talk about value picks without their biggest one of all… Ben Roethlisberger’s predecessor Mason Rudolph. Rudolph was taken with the 12th pick in the third round and has a chance to sit for a year or two to learn the playbook behind Big Ben. To me, Rudolph fell into the perfect situation for him. Being he played for Oklahoma State, he doesn’t have great knowledge of playbooks or defense recognition because Oklahoma State ran about 15 plays. And this is why sitting is more crucial for him especially in a complicated Todd Haley offense with talented playmakers all around, assuming they keep running back LeVeon Bell. While I made that same argument with Baker Mayfield, I think Rudolph’s attributes are much better. He can throw the deep ball better, make those tougher throws better, and is just as good if not a better decision maker than Mayfield. While his raw accuracy still has to be improved, I think that can develop over time, and I’d much rather have a quarterback with skills and a 5% dropoff in completion percentage than a quarterback who completed 72% of his passes, most of them being short of first down yardage or on simple routes. Not to mention, Rudolph has very similar attributes to that of Big Ben, with his size, rollout ability, and arm strength. Roethlisberger had a little more raw accuracy and better decision making skills when he came out of college, but the physical attributes are close to parallel. And that is what I think will make the transition smooth for Mason Rudolph, learning under a quarterback more similar to him than somebody like Eli Manning, Sam Bradford, or Drew Brees. So overall, these great value picks rise the Steelers draft to 9th place on my board with their great value in the second and third rounds. I just couldn’t put them at the Top 5 though with that major first round reach, hindering a great Ryan Shazier moment to go along with it.
#8: Tennessee Titans
I was critical of the Titans hiring Mike Vrabel as their new head coach after only one year as a Texans defensive coordinator. However, despite only having 4 picks, he nailed it with some nice players and great value picks throughout this draft. After trading up with the Ravens to get in front of the team he played for in the New England Patriots, they took Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans. Evans is a nice replacement for the departed Avery Williamson and has potential to be even better. With a lot of smaller, outside rushing linebackers, the Titans needed somebody that can cover and stop the run inside, an area that they weren’t bad in last season, but still could use some improvement. Evans is an upgrade over Jayon Brown as well, who played a lot of 3-4 middle linebacker last season. Even though I think Brown is a good player, I think his skillset and physical attributes are more suited for an outside linebacker. Evans has the build and skillset of a modern-day middle linebacker and can work his way into the #1 spot as well with Wesley Woodyard getting older. Evans can also bring a good physical presence to the middle of the field, to help out their corners that were allowing big plays and first downs over the middle last year. They were a team that struggled against the Top 2 tight ends in their two playoff games this past season, and if Kelce didn’t get injured, they may not complete the 21-3 comeback they did against the Chiefs. While Evans probably won’t be able to guard Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski 1-on-1, it certainly gives them a better chance than what they had. Evans can also be used in, if Vrabel incorporates his old coaches’ system, double teams on wide receivers with his speed, physicality, and coverage ability. All that in mind makes Evans a nice prospect that Vrabel will want to mold into somebody like him. Their second round pick was also a tremendous value pick in Harold Landry. This will help an already talented group of outside rushers that the Titans have, but has a chance to turn into the best of that group as well. Landry is a talented pass rusher and has a nice combination of speed, strength, and agility that allows him to be versatile as a hybrid linebacker. He can line up on the line of scrimmage as a 4-3 defensive end or as a nickel or dime pass rusher, and also can play 3-4 outside linebacker as well, which I would say is his stronger suit. Barring injury, I don’t expect him to play on the 3-4 defensive line, just because there are two guys with bigger size in Derrick Morgan and Kevin Dodd that can fill that void. We also saw DaQuan Jones in that kind of role for them as well, even though I don’t think he is as good. However, Landry will be dominant everywhere else he plays, because he is that good of a raw pass rusher that can rush lining up in different areas and also with various different kinds of moves. And getting a first round talent like that in the middle of the 2nd round is a great move as well. In terms of their later round picks, they also got good value. Dane Cruikshank is a physical safety that can help in coverage with his 38″ vertical and his 4.41 40-yard dash. While he definitely wouldn’t start on this team with them having Jonathan Cyprien and Kevin Byard, he may be rotated into the 6 defensive back dime and dollar formations to help against tight ends, in zone coverage, or even in deeper zones. This is something that could help them because Cyprien was prone to allowing big plays last year on his side of the field. With Cruikshank, Mike Vrabel can now put Cyprien in more medium and shorter zones which he is stronger with. Don’t expect Cruikshank to turn into a full-time starter, but he will serve a role on this team, not to mention it’s always good to have secondary depth. And finally, there is their new backup quarterback, Luke Falk, one of my sleeper quarterbacks in this draft. I was impressed with Falk’s ability to make a good variety of throws as well as his poise and arm strength showed in the pocket. He can make a lot of tough throws and has a very tight spiral on a lot of those areas of the field, which will help his accuracy. And to be honest, I have no idea how he slipped to the 6th round with that kind of balance in his attributes. I would understand if he slipped to the 3rd or 4th round just with the nature of teams needing quarterbacks, but the 6th seems like a lot for him to drop. And when the Titans scooped him up, they got a nice player that can learn under a talented offensive staff and a decent quarterback in Marcus Mariota. And with Mariota being injury prone, he may get a chance to play some this year as well, and I believe the kid is more ready than people think with his skillset and attributes as a passer. Falk also spreads the ball out nicely, which will help him fit in better with a Titans team that doesn’t have one standout wide receiver. Overall, the Titans got a great steal with this pick, and especially in the 6th round getting a quarterback of that value. Combined with all they loaded on defense, they had a very successful draft.
#7: New York Jets
Did the Jets finally find their franchise quarterback? This is a question that has been asked since Joe Namath retired after the Jets have constantly blundered the most important position on the field. But in this draft, Sam Darnold falling right to their laps is an amazing sight for Jets fans, after many believed he would be the #2 overall pick to the New York Giants. Despite what many people believe about the USC quarterback jinx, there are experts saying this guy has the best chance to be a superstar among the quarterbacks in this draft. Even though I don’t believe that way, I believe Darnold’s skillset and attributes is everything you need in a franchise quarterback. He can make a nice variety of throws both in the pocket and on the run rolling out to his right. His deep accuracy, while I don’t think it is as good as Josh Rosen, is still good, and the Jets have lacked that gunslinger for a while with a lot of very basic quarterbacks. He will need time to develop, as his decision making and pre-snap reads are something he will have to grow more if he wants to be a successful quarterback at the NFL level. But with the combination of Josh McCown, who has mentored a lot of younger quarterbacks in his journeyman career, and new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, a former quarterback coach, I think Darnold will be able to learn through their insights as well as through watching tape. I don’t expect Darnold to start right away as a result, I see him more as a guy that can come in week 9 or 10, very similar to what we saw with Jared Goff. If the Jets are in contention with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback at that point, you might not see him the whole year. And with the way they improved their roster, there might just be a wild card run in them in what has been a weak AFC as of late. Moving on to their other picks, there weren’t any others that were massive standouts to me, which is why they’re only #7 on my list. However, they had two solid picks to fill team needs in Nathan Shepard and Chris Herndon. Shepard is a 6’4″ 315 pound nose tackle that has nice run stopping ability and decent speed and agility for his size as well. With Steve McLendon being injured a lot and losing Muhammad Wilkerson, Shepard could see some playing time for a Jets team that was worse against the run than usual. My criticism for this pick comes with the fact that the Jets could have had a lot of better players in that third round, both at the DT position and elsewhere. Not to mention Maurice Hurst and Tim Settle fell into the 5th round, two DT’s that I think will be better than Shepard. So while I don’t hate the pick, I think there were better options available throughout the third round and beyond. And there is Herndon, a player that has a chance to start on a team that does not have good tight ends right now. Herndon has good size and athletic ability and is a pretty good jumper as well. He will be a project where he’ll have to grow his blocking ability and hands to make it to starting level on this team, but being that their best tight end is Clive Walford currently, it’s worth a gamble due to the position need. Overall, Sam Darnold is the prized possession of this draft for the New York Jets, with the best chance of becoming the franchise quarterbacks Jets fans have been begging for for decades now. And trading up to do it and not having to give up a future first round pick like some other teams in previous years had to do is an even greater discount when it comes to getting your franchise quarterback.
6. Washington Redskins
A team that I thought drafted very well defensively last year continued to do so again in this draft. Not to mention, they got some tremendous value picks in the process on both sides of the ball. The only pick I think that was a mistake was 3rd round tackle Geron Christian, especially with how undersized he is. However, I’m not going to question that as much as I would for other teams, because Washington has always been good at developing offensive lineman, especially ones that can move around well like Christian. In terms of the picks that powered their draft, their first two picks were of great value. Derrius Guice late in the second round, after trading back with the 49ers, who oddly enough drafted Dante Pettis in that spot, was a steal at that point. I had Guice as my #2 running back prospect in this draft after Saquon Barkley, and is very well-rounded too. Guice has an emphasis on power with his game, but also has good speed, vision, and agility. Expect Guice to be used as a pass-catching back as well in an offense that likes to rotate running backs. And with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine being pure power backs, they weren’t involved in the pass-catching game. Expect Guice to accumulate some receiving numbers out of the backfield, especially with not a lot at the wide receiver position on this Redskins team, and especially with Alex Smith as their new quarterback after letting Kirk Cousins walk to free agency, a guy that has always liked getting his running backs involved. Expect Guice to be a nice scrimmage back for this team and to possibly work his way into the starting running back role early in Jay Gruden’s offense. In terms of other strong value picks, they got two in the secondary in safety Troy Apke and cornerback Greg Stroman. Apke has tremendous speed (4.34 40-yard dash) and jumping ability (41″ vertical) that will allow him to be a nice coverage safety. While I don’t think he will emerge into a starting role with D.J. Swearinger still there and Montae Nicholson playing well his rookie year, expect him to get some special teams reps and reps in dime and quarter packages guarding the deep ball. Apke, with his speed, can also cover man-to-man better than some of the safeties in this draft, and that could help take pressure off a weak #2 and slot corner spot that the Redskins now lack having traded Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland becoming a free agent. Speaking of corners, they got a solid value pick in Greg Stroman. Once a projected 3rd or 4th round pick, Stroman slipped to the seventh round due to being undersized and not having tremendous ball skills. While that is true, the Redskins can work him into a slot corner role with his speed and zone coverage ability. This pick is a good value for the seventh round even if he only plays a little bit. And like I said, I expect him, if he makes the team, to be used exclusively in zone coverage with that lack of size. But like I said with the Jets, you can never go wrong getting secondary depth and filling a position of need, especially when you get a value that was supposed to go earlier than Round 7 Pick 23. But finally, there is what made this draft for the Redskins the most. The 2 defensive tackle picks to help save the league’s worst run defense last year. Ideally, the Redskins were hoping Vita Vea would fall to them, but when that didn’t happen, selecting Da’Ron Payne wasn’t too bad either. I will criticize them a little with Derwin James still being on the board, but Payne fills a major need for the Redskins with his run-stopping ability and strength. The Redskins had to rely on Ziggy Hood to be their nose tackle last year, which obviously didn’t work, being that Hood is a 3-4 defensive end playing nose tackle. It is a similar parallel to what I mentioned with the Chargers leaving Corey Liuget at nose tackle being a problem for their run defense. Getting Payne and putting him at a 3-4 end alongside former teammate Jonathan Allen will help their run defense big time. I always say it’s OK to reach a little when it comes to a position of need, and while Payne may have not been projected to go until the 20s, Washington will get themselves a valuable player to solidify their run defense and make their front 7 even deeper. Another pick that will do that is 5th round pick Tim Settle. Settle has tremendous size and the ability to clog the run as a nose tackle, and has decent agility for somebody his size, similar to what I was mentioning about Vita Vea, except not quite at that level. I expect Settle to be used as a nose tackle exclusively in this attacking 3-4 defense, and then come off the field for other more talented pass rushers in passing situations. The Redskins have a lot of good linebacker depth and pass rushers that will be more suitable for those situations. As for Settle and Payne, they were brought here for one purpose, to repair the worst run defense in football. And the Redskins knew that was their biggest thing to fix and nailed both of those picks.
#5: Atlanta Falcons
Rare to see a team picking this late crack the Top 5 in my draft power rankings, but the Falcons got some of the best value imaginable with their first 3 picks to get them to this spot. I have always said Dan Quinn has been one of the best drafting head coaches, winning the 2016 draft with Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, and De’Vondre Campbell, and also doing well in 2015 (I had them #1 that year) with Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Tevin Coleman, and even though he isn’t there anymore, Jalen Collins. This year was just as good for the Atlanta Falcons, especially with it being more impressive that they were picking straight on at 26. I will start backwards with the third round, where they drafted defensive tackle DeAdrin Sadat out of USF. Like the Jets, I will criticize them a little for passing on Hurst and Settle. However, Sadat, at 6’0″ and 314 pounds, has good size and strength for a Falcons line that needs it with a lot of smaller pass rushers on their line right now, including defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. And like I have been saying in my mocks, the Falcons have to target defensive tackle to keep their run defense respectable. While Jarrett, Jones, and Campbell have improved in he run defense department throughout their young careers, a loss like Dontari Poe can drop a run defense from Top 10 to outside the Top 20. Just look at what happened with the Chiefs this season. Sadat is also proved his strength at the combine, bench pressing 35 times, showing how good his upper body strength is. The Falcons will need that to help their run defense, and despite not making the best pick in that situation, I think Sadat will boost their run defense for sure. Moving on to their second round pick, they took a corner in Isaiah Oliver that I really liked as a 1st round prospect. With Atlanta releasing Jalen Collins after drug issues and Alford struggling a bit last season, Oliver will help fit that #2 corner void very nicely. Oliver has a great combination of skills in his game and physical stature. At 6’0″ and 201 pounds, he has good size, strength, and wingspan for his position. Dan Quinn always has prioritized having length at the cornerback position, and Oliver fits that bill perfectly. Not to mention, he is a good coverage corner for both man and zone, and should be able to press at the NFL level as well. His ball skills at Colorado were very good, especially against deeper and more complicated routes, which I like a lot too. And being that Desmond Trufant is the shutdown corner of this team, Oliver will get a lot of attention either in the slot or against #2 receivers. And I think he will strive in the NFL being his skillset is strong and his athletic abilities are nice, and getting him in the second round that late is an absolute steal. And then there is Calvin Ridley, another significant steal in this draft to give them another talented wide receiver. Ridley was definitely the #1 receiver skill wise in this draft and playing alongside Julio Jones will only help him out. Ridley is a good route runner and has nice hands on a good variety of catches. His speed and release allows him to be a viable deep threat on this team, especially with an offense that likes to take shots and run complicated routes. And despite not needing wide receiver as somebody like the Panthers, Cowboys, or Seahawks, it is very difficult to pass on a steal at 26 like Calvin Ridley that, with those weapons around him, has a good chance to win rookie of the year offensively.
#4: Denver Broncos
A lot of questions were looming on whether the Denver Broncos would and should draft a quarterback in this year’s draft. While I always thought it was possible, especially with Josh Allen being used to the altitude, I think they made a good decision avoiding that and taking players of tremendous value. And with a lot of draft picks, they made good use of nice value picks both to fill holes and get well-rounded players. Despite rumors they were going to trade back at 5, they kept their pick, and in my opinion made the best pick they could’ve made in that spot in Bradley Chubb. Chubb will help contribute to a run defense that hasn’t been the same since their championship team, and will also give them defensive presence in their front 3, which I believe was their biggest weakness coming into this draft, with their previous best player being Derek Wolfe, who I think is just average at best. I like DeMarcus Walker, last year’s second round pick, as a prospect that can grow and be effective on that front line as well. But adding Chubb automatically makes him the best player on that line. Chubb has a tremendous skillset and athletic ability at the defensive end position, and will help a team that is already loaded at linebacker and still has a good secondary, and will likely see a lot of single blocking techniques with Von Miller playing on the same side as Chubb. With that, Chubb can use his power and agility to get into the backfield quickly and get a lot of sacks and tackles for losses on that team. Since losing Malik Jackson, that front has not been very good, and this defense has struggled worse than usual due to having to rely exclusively on outside rushers. Now with Walker and Chubb, they have a nice foundation up front that will be good for years to come. Their second round pick in Courtland Sutton was a nice value pick for Denver as well. Sutton was a projected first round pick with his size and athleticism and good hands, but I believe he slipped because many teams were concerned about his route running. The Broncos have always developed wide receivers well, and I expect Sutton to learn better route running from a team that has done it well with many different guys. Sutton may start as a #2 receiver this year giving some size on the outside over the smaller Emmanuel Sanders if he develops properly. With Case Keenum now at quarterback for Denver, expect him to spread the ball around and get Sutton production no matter where or how often he plays. Overall, I think Sutton is more of a project at wide receiver, but at the same time somebody that can be productive with the Broncos needing skill players to be successful on offense. Regardless, picking him in the 2nd round at pick 8 is a nice value for a guy that was supposed to be a mid-1st round pick. Some other picks that they got in nice value are their two third round picks, Royce Freeman and Isaac Yiadom, and 5th round pick wide receiver DeaSean Hamilton. Starting with Hamilton, he was a productive receiver that played both outside and slot at Penn State, and was the top wide receiver target for quarterback Trace McSorley. Hamilton has good speed, release, and route running ability that will allow him to be a productive receiver in this league from both spots. While I think he has to work a little more on the complicated routes, he is a project receiver, and I think Denver is a good place for him to learn it over time. I expect him to play both spots kind of like what the Giants have done with Sterling Shepard and the Dolphins have done with Jarvis Landry the last two years. While I don’t expect him to play right away in meaningful situations, he will be a key piece of their future receiving corps when Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas age. As for Yiadom, I didn’t have him flying on my radar as a 3rd round pick, but I think he is a nice player that has good length and jumping ability that will make him a valuable slot corner on this team. I don’t think he’ll ever develop into an outside corner, due to not having great athleticism or raw coverage ability, but I think he can be a valuable press corner on this team with his length and can certainly defend against slot receivers in the near future. With the depth the Broncos have at corner, I don’t think he’ll be playing much this year besides special teams, but expect Vance Joseph to utilize him in the future in the situations mentioned above. And finally, there is Royce Freeman, who I also believe is one of the sleeper running backs in this draft class. And Denver made a nice selection of Freeman to bring in a power back to compliment DeVontae Booker. While I think Booker is the better all-around runner, Freeman has great size and strength that will make him a good downhill runner at the NFL level. He will have to improve at the NFL level when it comes to running outside, but he certainly had a lot of experience with that at Oregon in their exotic spread offenses. He can do well as a short yardage runner and a change in pace back for Booker, and also can be an effective blocker with his size as well. Freeman will back up Booker but I think can emerge into a solid backup, and as a whole, the Denver Broncos’ draft provided them a good foundation for the future when it comes to offensive skill players. Not to mention, getting Bradley Chubb isn’t too shabby either.
#3: New York Giants
My New York Giants, for the first time in a long time, had a very well-rounded and impressive draft. They got good value all throughout the draft, and most of which coming in positions of need for the Giants. The only criticism I have of the Giants is not taking a cornerback in this draft, in what I thought was a very deep corner class. In terms of the players they got though, it’s tough to go wrong with any of them. Passing on a quarterback was a risk at 2 for the Giants not knowing how many good quarterbacks would be in future drafts, but they got the next best option in Saquon Barkley. Barkley is such a well-rounded runner and great athlete that has nice speed, strength, vision, and agility. Barkley will also contribute as a pass-catching back with the Giants losing Brandon Marshall and not pursuing another receiver. Expect Barkley to line up as a receiver in some spread formations and empty backfield looks that was very common with Pat Shurmur when he was offensive coordinator with Minnesota last year. Barkley also has a good combination of routes he can run, including routes that can stretch the field, which will add a new element to the Giants offense. Barkley has the talent to do it all, and it will be great watching him do his magic in a Giants uniform. However, the question will loom if they should have taken their quarterback of their future as well, which will be known in 2 or 3 years. Moving on to the second round, they got a very good value pick in Will Hernandez. With the Giants desperately needing to improve their offensive line, Hernandez was a perfect pick for them in terms of both value in need. Hernandez is a good combo blocker with excellent strength and size. I had concerns with him when it came to his mobility and footwork, but he changed all that with a very impressive combine in those particular drills. And with that improved footwork and technique, I expect Hernandez to be a decent outside run blocker in addition to being the mauler of an offensive lineman that he is in inside run blocking and pass blocking. He will also be somebody on the right side that can help out the strugglesome Ereck Flowers if he gets into trouble. While I think Flowers did fine at right tackle his rookie year, he also didn’t play next to somebody with the potential that Hernandez has. He will also help out center Brett Jones, who did OK last year, but isn’t a special talent on his own. Hernandez will help out big time on the interior after improving their outside with the signing of Nate Solder, and they got Hernandez of nice value in the second round to give them some help on the right side. Moving on to their third round picks, they got two nice players in Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill. Carter is the perfect kind of linebacker for James Bettcher’s blitz-happy 3-4 defense. Carter has nice speed and agility to loop around the edge like a finesse rusher and is also an effective run stopper that can develop into a nice player, like what Bettcher did with Chandler Jones and Markus Golden last year. As for Hill, he will contribute likely as a 3-4 end platooning with 4th round pick R.J. McIntosh, who is a similar build and skillset to Hill, in addition to Jay Bromley and Dalvin Tomlinson. Their run defense took a step back last year, and the additions of Hill and McIntosh along side the depth they have and starters Olivier Vernon and Snacks Harrison will make their defensive line one of the best 3-4 lines in all of football. And lastly, there is their quarterback pick, in Kyle Lauletta. This was a strange pick in terms of the timing after just drafting Davis Webb last year. However, I think he has good attributes, especially with medium accuracy, that could warrant sleeper potential. As long as Eli Manning is there, Lauletta won’t dress, but still will have a chance to learn Pat Shurmur’s system and have the potential to fit in later with the right coaching and development. While I still have more faith in Webb getting that starting job between those two when Eli’s contract is up, I think Lauletta has the attributes and the accuracy to give him some competition. So overall, despite some picks being position-repetitive, there is not a single player on this Giants draft class that I don’t think was a reach or unproductive player. And Barkley and Hernandez in particular gives them a new element to their offense that will make them much more well rounded.
#2: Arizona Cardinals
And now presenting… the team that made the single best draft pick in this draft. No costly trade ups, a great discount, and the best quarterback in this draft, going to a team that has very little holes. The Arizona Cardinals had the perfect draft strategy when they first heard that Josh Rosen was going to slide. And while I don’t think there were 9 mistakes before him, I believe Josh Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback in this class, and will have the best career for sure with a team that is very talented already. With the Cardinals falling off due to injuries and special teams blunders the last 2 years, they lock down their young quarterback with a roster that is still very good. And Rosen, due to having more weapons around him and a quarterback that is very injury prone, will have the best chance among the young quarterbacks to play his rookie year, especially with the return of David Johnson. And even though they don’t have a great offensive line, I expect Rosen to still make a good variety of throws and the Cardinals to still run an effective offense with a lot of route variety. And then there is the second part to all this, the discount. The Cardinals only had to trade up 5 picks and sacrifice a 3rd rounder and 5th rounder to move up with the Raiders, and being that they got what I think is the best quarterback, that kind of thing makes it even more of a steal. After making the NFC Championship game three years ago, they have had an iffy passing game the last two years despite having Bruce Arians as coach, they struck gold with Rosen, and that will keep this team competitive despite everybody hyping the Rams and 49ers. As for the rest of their draft, they filled some team needs with Christian Kirk and Mason Cole in the next two rounds. While I think there were better receivers on the board at the time than Kirk, he is a good counter to the bigger, more possession-based receiver Larry Fitzgerald. And with Rosen likely to start most of the season, Kirk should be productive as a #2 receiver, despite not necessarily being a #2 overall option with David Johnson, Ricky Seals-Jones, J.J. Nelson, and obviously Larry Fitzgerald. As for Cole, he was arguably the best center on the board at that time, and for a team that has had Lyle Sendlein and A.Q. Shipley as center for a long time, that is a nice pick. Like I said with Kirk, I don’t know if it was necessarily the best overall player, but it does fill a major need. Cole was a good pass blocker at Michigan and can develop into a better run blocker over time playing alongside Justin Pugh and Mike Iupati. The final player that can turn into a decent player is 6th round cornerback Chris Campbell. Campbell was a solid corner at Penn State with good length and overall coverage ability. Like I was saying with Yiadom for the Broncos, I think Campbell can contribute as a slot corner or exclusively press corner, because his strengths lie in those areas as an NFL player. I don’t think he’ll develop into anything special as an outside corner just with not having amazing ball skills or raw athleticism, but he can certainly cover man-to-man and with press, which is something the Cardinals defense has done very often. So overall, I was concerned about Steve Wilks’ first draft after losing arguably a Top 5 head coach in Bruce Arians. However, the trade they made to get their franchise quarterback was as good as you will ever see.
#1: Buffalo Bills
Whatever new regime is going on in Buffalo is continuing to prove me wrong. While the Cardinals got the best trade for a quarterback in this draft, the Bills made two trades to get two outstanding players to fill team needs, and some other good ones outside the first round as well. I was mentioning in my mock drafts how the Bills should be aggressive being that their primary needs were not deep in this draft. However, with those trades and those two first round picks, they were able to fill needs with outstanding players. Josh Allen is a good fit for a Bills franchise that has been needing that gunslinger quarterback. Again, I think Rosen is a more talented quarterback, but I think Allen can fit this team more. For one thing, he is a better cold-weather quarterback playing in snowy conditions in the Mountain West. And also being a big armed quarterback with the Bills fits their system with Kelvin Benjamin, a huge receiver that is good with the deep ball, Charles Clay, who is a faster tight end, and LeSean McCoy, a very good scrimmage running back, Allen is a very good fit for that kind of team. Not to mention, with an iffy offensive line after losing three starters from last year, they get a quarterback who is big and is hard to bring down because he moves so well. His throwing on the run will need to improve, but being prepared with a terrible offensive line in college will make him more battle tested for scrambling and extending plays. So while I think Rosen is the better quarterback and will slightly bash the Bills for that, I do understand, in terms of a scheme fit and team structure fit, why Allen was their pick. And like the Cardinals, the Bills got a discount in terms of trading because they didn’t have to give up a future first round pick. And because of that, they were able to make another big splash. With their #22 pick, they were able to trade up and take Tremaine Edmunds to help up their linebacking core. Tremaine Edmunds is a great fit for Sean McDermott’s attacking 4-3 defense, with his speed, coverage ability, and pass rushing ability as a right outside linebacker. And with Buffalo not having good linebackers before that, this is an even better pick for them. Honestly, he may already be the best linebacker on their team talent wise, and he hasn’t even taken a snap. And because they didn’t have to trade both first round picks to get the deal done with Tampa, they were smart in staying aggressive and getting and outstanding, talented linebacker that will help their run defense big time and will cover well as well with good speed and zone coverage ability. And speaking of run stopping ability, they got another phenomenal talent in Harrison Phillips who will help their run defense along side Kyle Williams. I had Phillips as a late 1st or early 2nd round talent that can play both defensive end and defensive tackle. With Marcell Dareus now in Jacksonville and them having good pass rushers with Shaq Lawson, Jerry Hughes, and the newly acquired Trent Murphy. That being said, they also acquired Star Lotulelei from the Carolina Panthers to bolster Sean McDermott’s defense, so Phillips may get some end reps in those run-stopping schemes and then play DT in the pass rushing schemes. Phillips is good at both and will certainly contribute in both areas with his versatility, moves, and strength for his size. Phillips doesn’t have bad speed or agility either, and that will help him develop different ways to get to the quarterback or running back, especially with the talent surrounding him on that line. So overall, with two great trades and three great players to fill needs, the Bills were as aggressive as they should be in this draft to fill holes and get quality players as well. And with that, the Bills are my #1 team in terms of who had the most successful 2018 draft.