So with a crazy Draft weekend in the books and a chance for me to evaluate every team’s draft class, I decided to determine who really helped themselves and who was hurt by some moves made. In addition to that I’ll name the biggest surprises that came up and which players were the greatest value-picks. Let’s dive right into it:
I know I’m repeating myself, but Ozzie Newsome to me is the best GM in the league, and last weekend he showed me once again why. I had every single player they drafted ranked higher than where they selected them – that’s called value picks. They improved their offense with wide receiver Breshad Perriman (UCF) in the first round, Maxx Williams (Minnesota) for whom they moved up only two spots to be ahead of their division rival Steelers, a proven receiver out of the backfield and great fit for their one-cut scheme in Javorius Allen (USC) in the fourth, a versatile tight end and reliable blocker in Nick Boyle (Delaware) and a huge target in Darren Waller (Georgia Tech) at wideout in the sixth round who wasn’t able to really show his skill set in a run-heavy scheme. Also they picked up dominant small school prospect Robert Myers (Tennessee) at guard. While this was one of the most offense-heavy Raven drafts in recent time, they got great talent with defensive tackle Carl Davis (Iowa) in the third who dominated the Senior Bowl and an underrated edge rusher in the fourth with Za’Darius Smith (Kentucky). I like every single pick they made, also the raw corner Tray Walker (Texas Southern) who has the size to be a press man guy.
I’m so impressed with what Gus Bradley has done with this Jaguars team since he took over the head coach position a couple of years ago. Their development may not have shown on their record so far, as they picked third overall once again, but this roster and the team’s mentality has been improved so much. This is year three for the Bradley-era, so it’s time for some more wins and their 2015 draft class will play a big part in their success. Dante Fowler (Florida) was my number two player on the board, so I’m not disappointed with them not taking Leonard Williams. They selected a big back in T.J. Yeldon (Alabama) in the second round who I didn’t rank this high, but once again I thought he could become the best running back ever coming out of Alabama after watching his first game there, a mauler in the run game in guard A.J. Cann (South Carolina), a former number-one wide receiver and great route runner in Rashad Greene (Florida State) in the fifth and Ben Koyack (Notre Dame) as one of the school’s many solid tight ends. James Sample (Louisville) is an in-the-box safety a lot like what they already have in Jonathan Cyprien and one of the top defensive tackles Michael Bennett (Ohio State) falls to Jacksonville in the sixth round. Watch out for the Jaguars to be a team not being down by double digits once the fourth quarter starts.
Another team selecting in the top ten looks to turn it around via the draft. The Falcons defense was ranked near to last in every major category other than takeaways, so they needed to address some of their holes at various positons. Grabbing the most natural pass rusher in the Draft in Vic Beasley (Clemson) and a corner with prototype measurables and skill set in Jalen Collins (LSU) in the first two rounds should clearly upgrade their second-to-last ranking in sacks (22) and league-worst ranking in passing yards allowed. With Tevin Coleman (Indiana) as a homerun hitter and a replacement for Harry Douglas with a reliable option in Justin Hardy (East Carolina) in the next two rounds they address two areas of need, but don’t completely sell out on D to get better prospects. Grady Jarrett in the fifth round is an absolute steal as he may be their starting nose tackle week one because he has that kind of talent. In the seventh round they bring in a tackle and a corner who certainly have the athletic ability and size to develop and compete for roster spots. What I really like about their draft class is that they addressed some of their needs while not reaching for them.
With ten picks in the Draft the Vikings had a chance to both address some of their needs and also taking great value picks. With the 11th overall pick they select the clear number one corner available in Trae Waynes (Michigan State) and with the 45th they get my number one linebacker Eric Kendricks (UCLA). Getting the best players at two positions they could use help seems like a bingo to me. In rounds three and four they draft two athletic specimen in defensive end Danielle Hunter (LSU) and offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh) who both have first round ability but haven’t yet shown that on the field. In fact most experts think Hunter should have stayed at school for one more year and Clemmings was often even mocked in the first rounds, but a bad Senior Bowl week and injury concerns really hurt his draft stock. Stefon Diggs (Maryland) who they got in the fourth round is an offensive weapon who can be lined up anywhere and could step right in as a return man (where they already have Cordarrelle Patterson). In rounds six and seven they drafted two very different offensive tackle prospects with Tyrus Thompson (Oklahoma) and Austin Shepherd (Alabama). While Thompson certainly has NFL traits he lacks the consistency coaches would like to see Sheperd is an extremely high working and coachable player who doesn’t have the desired physical skillset.
I recently read something say homefield advantage referring to the Bears’ outstanding draft. Most people thought they’d go defense with the seventh overall pick, but they took the best player available and someone to replace Brandon Marshall when they went with Kevin White (West Virginia). In the second round they immediately upgraded their run defense with D-tackle Eddie Goldman (Florida State) and got a leader up front on the offensive line with center Hroniss Grasu (Oregon) in the third round. Then they selected one of the most underrated players and add a reliable backup for Matt Forte in Jeremy Langford (Michigan State) before addressing their secondary by taking one of the rangiest safeties available with Adrian Amos (Penn State) in the fifth round. I’d still like to see the Bears be a more defense-oriented team, but they didn’t sell out on their needs.
Darren McFadden (Running back, Dallas Cowboys):
This guy was at home just waiting to see who will take away his carries this year. The Cowboys didn’t draft anyone at the running back position and so McFadden, luckily for him, at the moment looks like their main runner.
Shane Ray (Defensive end, Missouri, to Denver Broncos):
Just look how far Randy Gregory slid down the draft board with a failed drug test himself. While Gregory wasn’t drafted until the 60th overall pick, Denver even traded up four spots to grab Ray. Fortunately for him, he still ends up in the first, earning more money and landing with a championship caliber team where he can learn from two studs off the edge named Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
Other teams that got it right:
New York Jets
New York Giants
I don’t want to say they made bad picks, but some of their moves made me scratch my head. They took a very versatile but largely considered mid-second round pick player in linebacker/safety Shaq Thompson (Washington), moved up 16 spots to draft the offensive weapon Devin Funchess (Michigan) who certainly is a matchup nightmare, but doesn’t have the speed to run by people nor does anything as a blocker and therefore only had three more total picks. Of those three I like guard Daryl Williams (Oklahoma) who lacks great athleticism and the addition of a value pickup in Cameron Artis-Payne (Auburn) to a backfield that just lost DeAngelo Williams. Still, I think of other teams did a much better job.
Zach Mettenberger (Quarterback, Tennessee Titans):
I really thought this guy could be the Titans quarterback at least for a couple of years, but with Ken Whisenhunt saying he will start his rookie quarterback if they picked him at number two overall, which they did by taking Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Mettenberger probably won’t see the field very much. Just when you get the feeling this is your team, it’s already over again.
Those guys thought it would happen as much as I did, but Mariota is not heading to Philadelphia to reunite with Chip Kelly. Instead they drafted five defensive players (including three cornerbacks) and Nelson Agholor (USC) at number 20 overall. They absolutely had to upgrade their defensive backfield, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one just not being able to see Sam Bradford fit in the Eagles’ offense.
Andrew Whitworth (Offensive tackle, Cincinnati Bengals):
After he dared the Bengals to draft a replacement for him they took two offensive tackles with both their picks in the first two rounds – not a good sign. Neither will this make starting right tackle Andre Smith very happy, as both those guys begin the final year of their respective contracts. With two talented young players in Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) and Jake Fisher (Oregon) on their roster now they better watch out.
Tre Mason (Running back, St. Louis Rams):
Just as Mason looked as if he’d take over the starting role as the Rams’ running back they selected Todd Gurley (Georgia) with the 10th overall pick. Zac Stacy immediately took his talents to New York and while Mason might be the starter once week one comes up, you certainly expect a team taking a running back this early, when there hasn’t been one taken in the first round over the last three years, to be a major contributor sooner rather than later.
Branden Oliver (Running back, San Diego Chargers):
The situation for this guy is pretty similar. Oliver looked like a special talent once he came onto the scene, but cooled off as quickly as he got hot. I don’t blame it that much on him as the O-line was a mess at some point, with about the eleventh center on their roster starting for them (actually it was their fifth). Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) has proven to be a workhorse who can stay on the field at all times. I’m not quite sure how much we’ll see of Oliver.
T.J. Clemmings falling to the 4th round:
This guy has everything you would like to see out of a franchise left tackle when it comes to measurable, athleticism, height, weight and so on, but neither his tape nor his Senior Bowl week performance show that he’s able to convert that to the field. Still, this is a first round talent if you let him develop a year or two. His medical scared some teams, but I never thought he’d fall this far.
I already mentioned this with DMC benefitting from the Boys not grabbing one of the running backs in a very deep draft class for the position. I understand them not moving up in the first round and they probably got one of the most talented players in the second round as they grabbed Randy Gregory (Nebraska), but here are a couple of names that where still out there when they selected in the third round – Jay Ajayi (Boise State), Jeremy Langford (Michigan State), Mike Davis (South Carolina), David Cobb (Minnesota), Matt Jones (Florida), Karlos Williams (Florida State) and Buck Allen (USC). I’m not saying they did the wrong thing, but I certainly would have expected them to pick up any of them.
Shaq Thompson being drafted 25th overall:
I know a lot of scouts and coaches like versatility and Thompson is the definition of that word, as he played linebacker and running back for Washington and was projected by the majority of people as a safety. He’s fluid flipping his hips and making plays in pass coverage while also being big enough to make an impact in the box, but I’m not even sure where he will play at the next level, although I also rather see him as a safety. Most first-rounders already have a clear position, not meaning this won’t pay off the Panthers.
Randy Gregory falling this far:
I thought the failed drug test at the Combine moved Gregory out of the top five (where I didn’t have him ranked), but even I had him mocked to the Falcons at number eight. This is a dynamic playmaker and he wasn’t suspended from school or anything like that, so seeing him last until number 60 overall was really surprising to me. I’m pretty sure a lot of teams will regret not taking him earlier.
Leonard Williams sliding to No. 6:
I was sure about the Bucs making Jameis Winston the first overall pick, but from there on starts the craziness. The Titans took a quarterback at number two who will need a system that is built around him, the Jaguars rather went with edge rusher Dante Fowler (Florida) (who was number two on my board, so I understand that), the wide receiver-hungry Raiders grab the polished Amari Cooper (Alabama), the Redskins decide to go to the other side of the line and grab Brandon Scherff (Iowa) and there sits the best player available at number six. Kudos to the Jets for selecting him even though they already had a strong D-line.
The Browns not drafting a wide receiver:
I’m not sure if I’ve seen any first round Mock Draft on the internet that didn’t have any wide receiver go to the Browns especially since they lost Josh Gordon for another year. If you’ve read my winners you’ll see the Browns among the notable mentions and they deserve it, but I absolutely thought they’d pick up a wideout before pick number 123.
La’el Collins not getting a call:
He just got a fully guaranteed three year deal and went to the best O-line in football talking about the Cowboys, so he might even see this a blessing at some point, but I clearly thought some team would give him a call near the end of day three. This is a guy with top ten talent and the combination of athleticism and versatility to play either guard or tackle. To get someone like him as an undrafted free agent is unheard of.
Jay Ajayi (Running back, Boise State), Miami Dolphins, Middle of the fifth round:
I’m not a doctor and I haven’t seen this guy in person or anything else to be able to evaluate his medical status, but if he was able to dress for Boise every single week and put up the kind of number he has there should be no way he has to wait this long.
Paul Dawson (Linebacker, TCU), Cincinnati Bengals, Last pick in the third round:
I know this guy ran the 40 at the Combine in just under five seconds, but just watch his tape and tell me he’s slow. He’s always flying around and near the ball. This guy is so instinctive and has ruined offensive gameplans already at the collegiate level.
Grady Jarrett (Defensive tackle, Clemson), Atlanta Falcons, First pick of the fifth round:
This to me is the biggest steal of them all, but it once again shows how much the NFL is about measurables and statistics. Let me tell you one thing: This was one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the country last year. He’s a beast.
Michael Bennett (Defensive tackle, Ohio State), Jacksonville Jaguars, Early sixth round:
You can pretty much take the same I just said about Jarrett and read it for Bennett. He had better statistics and played for the national champions, so this is even more shocking to me.
Tre’ Jackson (Guard, Florida State), New England Patriots, Middle of the fourth round:
This could easily be among my biggest surprises as well when you consider that Jackson was referred to as maybe a top five interior offensive lineman. If he gets his body right he’ll start for the Patriots week one.
Carl Davis (Defensive tackle, Iowa), Baltimore Ravens, Late third round:
I know a lot of people aren’t sure about this guy’s tape, but just watching him dominate the Senior Bowl he really caught my attention. He will need to learn to be more consistently disruptive, but when he’s at his best he can do whatever he wants to do.
Eli Harold (Outside linebacker, Virginia), San Francisco 49ers, Middle of the third round:
I was very surprised Harold lasted this long as he was even mocked into the first round by some analysts. I like his athleticism, upfield burst, strength and most importantly his tape. You usually don’t get a player like him that late.
Anthony Chickillo (Defensive end, Miami), Pittsburgh Steelers, Late sixth round:
This is a techniqually sound, once highly recruited defensive lineman who was asked to do the dirty work and therefore people questioned his explosiveness. Then he went out and was in the backfield every single play at the East-West Shrine game when he played on the edge. He can play the 5-technique or be split outside.
T.J. Clemmings (Offensive tackle, Pittsburgh), Minnesota Vikings, Early fourth round:
I already had him among my biggest surprises, but this needs to be mentioned once again – he has starting left tackle talent. Whenever you get someone like that in the fourth round that’s a steal.
Other great value pickups:
Davis Tull (Outside linebacker, Tennessee-Chattanooga), New Orleans Saints, Early fifth round
Landon Collins (Strong safety, Alabama), New York Giants, First pick of the second round
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Cornerback, Oregon), Cleveland Browns, Late seventh round
Randy Gregory (Outside linebacker, Nebraska), Dallas Cowboys, Late second round
Nick O’Leary (Tight end, Florida State), Buffalo Bills, Middle of the sixth round
Jaelen Strong (Wide receiver, Arizona State), Houston Texans, Early third round
Rory Anderson (Tight end, South Carolina), San Francisco 49ers, Late seventh round
Christian Covington (Defensive tackle, Rice), Houston Texans, Late sixth round
Darren Waller (Wide receiver, Georgia Tech), Baltimore Ravens, Late sixth round
Leonard Williams (Defensive lineman, USC), New York Jets, 6th overall pick
For all the draft selections made just two go to the official NFL Draft Tracker!