In a weekend that included “Avengers: Endgame” and Game of Thrones’ “Battle of Winterfell,” the NFL draft kicked off the weekend’s festivities.
After months of detailed projections and redundant biweekly mock drafts, there was no trade frenzy at the top of the draft, nor was there a run on quarterbacks in the top five. That doesn’t mean the draft was without it’s fair share of drama. Leave it to the NFL to have a draft full of players most people don’t know but could still hold the nation hostage for an entire weekend.
3. Houston Texans
Notable Picks: Tytus Howard OT, Alabama St. (1, 23), Lonnie Johnson CB, Kentucky (2, 54), Max Scharping OT, Northern Illinois (2, 55)
The Texans are one of the most talented teams in the NFL. They have a dynamic young quarterback, a loaded defense and arguably the top wide receiver in the league. The only (glaring) hole in the roster is their offensive line, which isn’t something a little window shine can cover up.
Deshaun Watson was absolutely pummeled last year, getting sacked a league-leading 62 times. It got so bad Watson reportedly played with a partially collapsed lung against the Dallas Cowboys in week five. It was clear that the Texans’ mandate for the offseason was protecting their franchise QB.
In a deep free agency class, Houston only landed journeyman bust Matt Kalil, who missed the entirety of the 2018 season with a knee injury. In a draft loaded with defensive talent, the Texans were in position to draft an elite tackle prospect at the end of the 1st round. Despite being hopped by the Philadelphia Eagles for OT Andre Dillard and with Alabama tackle Jonah Williams off the board, the Texans still had a chance to grab Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, who by some estimations was the best tackle in the draft, versatile linemen Cody Ford or Dalton Risner.
Instead, Houston opted for a developmental project in Tytus Howard, who wasn’t even a top five tackle on most boards. Reaching for a position is fine so long as the player has instant-starter potential. It’s no guarantee that Howard nor 2nd rounder Max Scharping will make an instant impact.
Lonnie Johnson could be a good addition to a retooled secondary, but getting cute with Watson’s blindside is unforgiveable.
2. Oakland Raiders
Notable Picks: Clelin Ferrell EDGE, Clemson (1, 4), Josh Jacobs RB, Alabama (1, 24), Jonathan Abrams S, Mississippi State (1, 27)
The predraft rumors were that Jon Gruden was expected to pull a surprise with their selection at four. Boy, they wasn’t lying. With Josh Allen and Ed Oliver still on the board, the Raiders opted for Clemson lineman Clelin Ferrell.
Confused Raiders fans’ reactions aside, Ferrell is no scrub.
He tallied 21 sacks in his final two seasons with the Orange — albeit as a recipient of many cleanup sacks on a loaded D-line.
That being said, Ferrell was projected as mid-late 1st round pick at best, and was largely not even considered the best player on that defensive line. If Ferrell was the bull Gruden envisioned to lead his defensive front, he could have traded down to the middle of the first round, gained additional draft capital and most likely still landed the man. If they were hearing whispers about another team reaching for Ferrell in the mid-1st round, they could have sacrificed one of their late two 1st round picks to secure him without sacrificing their top pick.
No one had more flexibility than the Oakland Raiders; with questionable reaches they squandered it. Ultimately, the haul for the Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack trades looks pretty pedestrian.
1. New York Giants
Notable picks: Daniel Jones QB, Duke (1, 6), Dexter Lawrence DT, Clemson (1, 17), Deandre Baker CB, Georgia (1, 30)
The Giants front office are quickly making Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins laughingstocks of the past. At the draft, Giants GM Dave Gettleman was in a league of his own.
Let’s start with the biggest surprise of the draft. Daniel Jones could end up being a fine (or at least average) quarterback — Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and of course Tom Brady were all overlooked coming out of college — but objectively, Jones was not a good college quarterback.
He has the prototypical size and athleticism that coaches salivate over (6’5, 221 lbs), but his career completion percentage of 59.9% is frightening, especially in modern standards. Last season, supposedly the strongest of Jones’ career, had some eye raising performances against weak ACC competition.
He went 22-40 with two interceptions in a loss to Virginia, 17-35 and an interception for 130 yards against Miami and 17-36 for 145 yards and an interception against Wake Forest. These are far from SEC-caliber teams with NFL talent. How does a guy figure it out in the NFL when he couldn’t figure out against subpar college defenses?
Gettleman watched Jones for three series at the Senior Bowl before making his decision. That’s supreme arrogance. Even if you buy into the David Cuttcliffe lore — Jones’ coach at Duke who coached both Manning brothers — the Giants completely misvalued the pick.
No matter how much Gettleman wants to float the idea that Washington or Denver was eyeballing Jones, it’s a fantasy to believe that anyone else would select the Duke QB in the top 10. Just like Oakland, New York could’ve landed their top pick with their second selection at 17.
Speaking of which, their second pick wasn’t that great either. Dexter Lawrence had his moments on a dominant Clemson line, but drafting a run-stuffing DT in today’s day and age as a mid-first rounder is a total reach.
To keep score, the Giants traded a generational talent in Odell Beckham Jr. for a young safety who’s never really found his stride (and a major downgrade from Landon Collins), a run-stopping DT and a defensive end from Mid-Major Old Dominion (who’s also replacing a departed talent in Olivier Vernon).
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Notable Picks: Josh Allen EDGE, Kentucky (1, 7), Jawaan Taylor OT, Florida (2, 35), Josh Oliver TE, San Jose State (3,19)
Last year, arguably the best defender in the class, Bradley Chubb, fell into the Broncos lap at #5 thanks to a run on quarterbacks at the top of the draft. This year, arguably the best defender in the draft fell into the Jaguars lap at #7, thanks to reaches (Ferrell), prioritizing need over value (Devin White) or Gettleman being Gettleman (Jones).
Of course — just like Denver last year — the Jags don’t need another stud edge rusher. But when Allen slipped to them it was a no-brainer. Coming off a dominant 17-sack season, the Kentucky linebacker is the best edge rusher coming out of the draft. Pair Allen with Yannick Ngakoue, Calias Campbell and Marcell Dareus, and the defense suddenly has its bite back.
Don’t sleep on the Jawaan Taylor pick either. Some rankings had Taylor as the top tackle coming out of the draft. Jacksonville landed another steal in the second round and potentially a long-term protector of their new franchise quarterback’s blindside.
The biggest downside to their draft was the lack of skill players drafted. The priority for Jacksonville coming into the draft had to be surrounding Nick Foles with reliable weapons, but the Jags only selected a 3rd round TE (Josh Oliver) and a 5th round RB (Ryquell Armstead). That being said, the former has the potential to be a safety blanket in an anemic offense for the new arm.
2. Denver Broncos
Notable Picks: Noah Fant TE, Iowa (1, 20), Dalton Risner G/C, Kansas State (2, 41), Drew Lock QB, Missouri (2, 42)
A lot of words can be used to describe John Elway these days, patient isn’t one of them. Despite trading for Flacco in the offseason, there was no way Denver would exit the draft without a rookie QB in tow. Drew Lock and Jones seemed like the most likely candidates and, sitting at 10, many figured they’d have the pick of the litter in an unheralded QB class.
But this time Elway resisted the lure of reaching for a tall QB with a big arm and little accuracy. Instead, in an almost Belichickean move, Elway moved down 10 spots, landed a weapon in Fant as well as the 52nd overall pick, which was used to trade back into the 2nd round to select their man, Lock.
Elway’s succeeded by not panicking. In an underwhelming QB class, he didn’t jump at with the first chance a QB dropped to them, cough-Gettleman-cough. Instead, he racked up two day one starters before taking a flier on their future QB. Even if Lock doesn’t work out they filled two desperate needs: a matchup nightmare at TE, for a team that hasn’t had a decent one since the Julius Thomas days, and a versatile lineman in Dalton Risner who can start in multiple positions right away.
For the first time in a while, the Broncos draft class won’t live and die by the flawed QB. And who knows? Maybe this one will work out.
1. Washington Redskins
Notable Picks: Dwayne Haskins QB, Ohio State (1, 15), Montez Sweat EDGE, Ole Miss (1, 26), Bryce Love RB, Stanford (4, 112)
This almost reads like a typo.
Yes, the dysfunctional Washington team, who had loudmouth owner Dan Snyder take over draft day decisions, actually weren’t a complete trainwreck. They actually had a hell of a weekend.
It was no secret that Washington was infatuated with Dwayne Haskins. A local kid, Haskins was it spitting distance of FedEx Field. However, after a subpar but not horrific 2018 season, Washington sat at 15, hardly an ideal position to land a man hyped as one of the top quarterbacks in the draft.
With the quarterback-hungry Giants, Broncos and Miami Dolphins all sitting above Washington, it seemed like Washington’s only chance was trading up to land their man. But Gettleman preferred Jones to Haskins and the Dolphins and Broncos passed on first round quarterbacks all together. Voila, Haskins dropped right into Washington’s laps.
The pressure will be on Haskins from day one, as he will likely be expected to start at some point next season. That being said, Case Keenum isn’t a horrible placeholder, while Haskins can lean on the running back tandem of a suddenly resurgent Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, who’s returning from his season-ending injury, and Bryce Love fresh from a nearly 4000-yard Stanford career.
Scoring Montez Sweat at the end of the first round is just icing on the cake. Sweat was once heralded as a top-10 pick in the draft. But after pre-draft scares about an abnormal heart condition — that was reportedly misdiagnosed — Sweat flew down the board, again right into the waiting laps of Washington. Sweat will join a defensive front with fellow SEC monsters Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.
After Alex Smith exploded his leg, Washington seemed destined for another trip to the gutter; after the draft they look like they can be darkhorse candidates to take the NFC East.