Best Team Drafts
Cleveland Browns: I can’t believe I’m writing this about the Browns, but they managed their situation extremely well and that allowed them to leave the draft with one of the deepest and most talented rookie classes in the league. In the first round, Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers join other recent additions Emmanuel Ogbah and Jamie Collins as part of a young defensive nucleus with an identity built around athleticism and versatility, while David Njoku adds another dynamic playmaker to an underrated offensive supporting cast. Not reaching for and/or trading up for a quarterback allowed them to acquire these three ultra-talented players, and I believe Deshone Kizer (who they were able to take at pick 52 without any maneuvering) is in the same tier as Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky, leaving them with a potential franchise quarterback to go along with their aforementioned talent. Howard Wilson, Roderick Johnson, and Caleb Brantley (all taken on Day 3) add even more upside as players whose talent exceeds their draft slots while Zane Gonzalez was this draft’s best kicker, and when it’s all said and done, it’s clear to see that the Browns have significantly improved their roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Despite only making six draft picks, Tampa Bay certainly made them count. In the first round, no one thought they’d be able to draft OJ Howard, one of the most complete tight end prospects in recent memory who had garnered consistent Top 10 buzz, at pick 19. His presence gives Jameis Winston something he hasn’t had in his tenure with the team: a true passing game threat over the middle of the field. Staying on offense, while wide receiver wasn’t a huge need for the team, they got tremendous value in the third round with Chris Godwin, who I believe is the most underrated offensive player in the draft and could eventually establish himself as a long-term starter opposite Mike Evans. Moving on to defense, second rounder Justin Evans’ elite athleticism and ability as a hitter in the box should allow him to play right away at strong safety, where Tampa Bay has long lacked quality talent, and Kendall Beckwith (4th round) could be an immediate contributor at strong side linebacker against the run. Already armed with plenty of young talent, this draft class could be the final push that the team needs as it seeks to get back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers were more talented than last season’s 5-11 record indicated, putting pressure on them to have a good draft as their window to win with Philip Rivers continues to close. While wide receiver may not have been the Chargers’ number one need in the first round, Mike Williams was one of the best players on the board and brings both stability (Keenan Allen hasn’t been able to stay on the field) and size (6’4”) to a receiving corps that was otherwise lacking. Staying on offense, guards Forrest Lamp (Round 2) and Dan Feeney (Round 3) should help on the interior of the offensive line by protecting Philip Rivers, who has been sacked 76 times over the last two seasons. In the secondary, the Chargers found tremendous value in Desmond King (5th round), who should contribute at nickel corner. I believe that his instincts and ball skills could also translate very well to free safety, a position the Chargers desperately need. Rayshawn Jenkins (4th round) gives them an option at strong safety and should be a quality special teamer. After doing as good of a job as anyone at filling their needs by getting Philip Rivers help and potentially addressing the biggest hole on one of the NFL’s most underrated defenses, don’t be shocked when the Chargers compete with the Raiders, Chiefs, and Broncos in a loaded AL West division.
Worst Team Drafts
New York Giants: The Giants should contend for a playoff spot this year, but after the draft I feel a lot less optimistic about their chances. In Round 1, taking Evan Engram at pick 23 made little sense, as I see him as more of a “Big Slot” (he can create mismatches out of the slot but he lacks both the quickness of a wide receiver and the blocking ability of a tight end → a la Marques Colston or Jordan Reed) than a true Tight End. Eli Manning already had Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard to throw to, but if they really wanted to get him another weapon a true in-line tight end like David Njoku would’ve been much more practical. In Round 2, Dalvin Tomlinson could be a good rotational defensive tackle against the run, but offers next to nothing in the passing game and thus makes little sense as a complement to the similar (but better) Damon Harrison. Davis Webb (Round 3) has a strong arm but struggles with his accuracy and decision making and faces a steep learning curve, making it unlikely that he’ll turn out to be the solution after Eli Manning retires, and Wayne Gallman (Round 4) showed flashes of intrigue as a power back in college but had a down senior year and is unlikely to be the answer at the position right away. Overall, the Giants missed a big opportunity to gain some ground on the Cowboys in the NFC East and seem like the only team in the division that didn’t do much to get better.
Tennessee Titans: Armed with two first round picks, the Titans entered a deep draft with an upper hand over other teams and failed to fully take advantage. Corey Davis is a good player who put up strong statistics and game tape, but at the end of the day a receiver from a small conference who wasn’t able to test athletically during most of the pre-draft process due to injury has no business cracking the top 5. It’s very conceivable to think that they could have gone a different direction and picked a defensive player like Marshon Lattimore at 5 and still have been able to get Davis at 18. Adoree’ Jackson was a sneaky value at 18, however, as his college production, athleticism, and versatility (can play outside and slot corner as well as return man on special teams) indicate he’ll be able to help the team right away. From there, it made little sense that the Titans only spent one other pick (Jayon Brown in Round 5) on defense in the first six rounds, as Marcus Mariota wasn’t hurting for support with Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry at RB, Delanie Walker at TE, Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews at WR, and one of the league’s best offensive lines. Needless to say, it will be very hard for WR Taywan Taylor and TE Jonnu Smith (Round 3 picks) to make an impact, and Tennessee could’ve really used those picks to upgrade a subpar defense. Regardless of how much their young offense develops, it will be very hard for the Titans to make the postseason without stronger play on the other side of the ball, and while they could walk away from this draft with a few impact players I don’t believe they did a good job of allocating their vast resources.
Detroit Lions: Coming off of a surprising 9-7 season in which Matthew Stafford led 8 (!) fourth quarter comebacks, the Lions were already expected to regress, and they did not do anything to help matters in the draft. Jarrad Davis is the epitome of the modern NFL linebacker as a “run and chase” player who excels in space and coverage, but he had major injury issues in college and won’t help the Lions’ abysmal pass rush (ranked 30th in sacks in 2016). To me, a defensive end like Taco Charlton would’ve made much more sense here, and as things went the Lions didn’t even add an edge rusher until the 6th round. Teez Tabor (Round 2) was one of the best cornerbacks in college football at Florida but should not have been taken this high given his off-field issues and lack of speed (4.62 second 40 yard dash at the NFL combine followed by an abysmal 4.75 second performance at his Pro Day). This draft gets especially poor after Round 2, where no one taken gets me particularly excited (Kenny Golladay, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Michael Roberts, Jamal Agnew, etc) and while they could chip in as role players none figure to make a real difference, at least initially. All things considered, it has to be looked at as an underwhelming haul and is unlikely to produce many impact players for the team.
Best Value Picks
Fabian Moreau, Cornerback, UCLA (Redskins, Pick 81) → A prototype corner who combines speed, short area quickness, and tremendous upper and lower body strength with a feel for both press and off coverage, Moreau has undeniable first round talent and could’ve gone much higher than this if he hadn’t torn his pectoral muscle. If he can prove he’s healthy and answer lingering questions about his ball skills, he could establish himself as a quality starter opposite Josh Norman for what should be an improved Redskins defense.
Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Penn State (Buccaneers, Pick 84) → A true vertical threat with deep speed and the ability to catch the ball in traffic, Godwin is one of the best athletes at his position (tested in the 89th percentile at the NFL combine) and played well against quality talent in the Big 10, accumulating a 128/2083/16 slash line in his last two seasons (highlighted by a 9 catch, 187 yard, 2 TD performance against Adoree’ Jackson in the Rose Bowl). While he doesn’t have an immediate path to playing time with Mike Evans and Desean Jackson in front of him, he could make a big-time impact down the road.
Samaje Perine, Running Back, Oklahoma (Redskins, Pick 114) → While Perine may never be a three-down back, he has the potential to be a force between the tackles thanks to elite leg drive and a strong, compact frame. He leaves Oklahoma as their all-time leading rusher despite often splitting time with Joe Mixon, and currently holds the NCAA record with 427 rushing yards in a single game. Don’t be surprised if he immediately pushes Robert Kelley for early-down work for the Redskins.
Dorian Johnson, Guard, Pitt (Cardinals, Pick 115) → A five-star recruit coming out of high school with prototypical size, length, and hands, Johnson has been a regular starter at LG since his sophomore year and has been one of the most consistent and productive players at his position over that time. While he may not be the strongest or most athletic, Johnson is solid all around and should be a quality starter for a team that has long had issues on the offensive line.
Carl Lawson, Edge Rusher, Auburn (Bengals, Pick 116) → While Lawson lacks the height and length of a prototypical edge rusher and dealt with injuries throughout his college career, he broke out in a big way in 2016, using his strength to set a strong edge against the run and convert speed to power when rushing the passer. The Bengals may not have been the perfect spot for him since they covet length on the defensive line and he could’ve benefitted from standing up at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but he should still become a solid starter if his health permits.
Marlon Mack, Running Back, USF (Colts, Pick 143) → A true home run hitter with NFL size, Mack combined explosive speed and plenty of wiggle to be one of the most productive players in the AAC and leaves USF as their all-time leading rusher. While Mack needs to work on his ball security and discipline when running between the tackles if he really wants to break through, and standing out in the metaphorical fish bowl that is the AAC is much different from swimming with the sharks in the NFL, he should provide the Colts’ offense with some additional punch and could even establish himself as the successor to Frank Gore if he makes the necessary strides.
Desmond King, Defensive Back, Iowa (Chargers, Pick 151) → One of the most productive cornerbacks in the NCAA over the last four years, King has exceptional ball skills (14 INTs in college) and instincts to go with toughness and durability. His size (5’10”) and lack of elite speed and quickness may preclude him from playing on the outside in the NFL, but he could help the Chargers right away in the slot, and if they decide to move him to free safety (which I think they should do) he would fill a huge need and could be an intriguing fit thanks to his aforementioned skillset.
Corn Elder, Cornerback, Miami (Panthers, Pick 152) → Similarly to Desmond King, Elder played on the outside in college but likely won’t stick there in the NFL thanks to his size (5’10”) and lack of elite speed. His toughness, coverage ability, and underrated production as a blitzer makes him an ideal fit for the slot, and unlike King I believe that’s his long term home. He should immediately push for snaps in dime packages for the Panthers while helping on special teams, and could eventually take the starting slot corner job from Captain Munnerlyn.
Nathan Peterman, Quarterback, Pitt (Bills, Pick 171) → While Peterman won’t wow with his arm strength and doesn’t possess upper-tier athleticism, he’s one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in this draft class thanks to advanced accuracy and anticipation, good pocket awareness, and Pitt’s pro-style offense. He produced in the ACC with 5142 yards, 47 TDs, and 14 INTs in two seasons as Pitt’s starter, and led an undermanned team to wins over both Penn State and the future-champion Clemson Tigers in 2016. This isn’t a sexy pick, but guys like this tend to hang around the league and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up developing into a solid starter.