New England Patriots
The Patriots needed a wide receiver so it was something of a shock for Bill Belichick to actually go with what many analysts expected in the first round.
In fact, our own Jay Parker called the pick perfectly! N’Keal Harry wasn’t the most explosive pass catcher still available with the 31st overall pick, but that doesn’t matter to a contrarian like Belichick. Harry’s physical strength at 6’2” and 228lbs gives the Patriots a physically imposing wideout that they haven’t had at the position since…Rob Gronkowski split out wide in the playoffs. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein noted Harry’s upside as a pass blocker, and perhaps this illustrates that New England will continue with the run orientated offense they unveiled last season.
Similarly stout players were drafted following Harry including cornerback Joejuan Williams and edge rusher Chase Winovich. As the league moves towards replicating the intricate passing offences of Andy Reid and Sean McVay, the Patriots move the other way. This is all moot anyway as this time next year Phillip Dorsett or Braxton Berrios will have had a Randy Moss style season…
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans only had five picks overall, with only two of those outside the draft’s final two rounds. In the fourth round, GM Mickey Loomis got a steal in safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who has physicality and ball skills and was projected as a second rounder. That makes him a valuable backup to Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams, whilst the Saints can see which role suits Gardner-Johnson’s play best.
The way the picks fell for the Saints meant they were unable to add another weapon for Drew Brees at wide receiver. As a result, Sean Payton and his staff will be hoping Cam Meredith and Ted Ginn can stay healthy, or Tre’Quan Smith can take a step forward in his development. Someone in that position room needs to take the pressure off Michael Thomas and his 2000 targets a season..
New York Giants
Much maligned GM Dave Gettleman was certainly aggressive in addressing the three major concerns on the G-Men’s roster: a successor for Eli Manning at quarterback; a replacement for Damon Harrison on the defensive line; and quality in the secondary.
The pick of Daniel Jones was controversial, with many seeing him as nowhere near a first-round talent. That evaluation is difficult given the talent (or lack thereof) that the Duke QB was surrounded by in college. A big reason for the negative comments on social media around the Jones pick probably stem from the lack of trust many have in Gettleman given the moves made prior to the draft.
The Lawrence pick is a good example of why many don’t trust the process that the Giants are going through as it illustrates how trading away Harrison to Detroit for simply a fifth rounder created a need for New York at that position. As a result, Gettleman had to dedicate one of his first rounders to a defensive tackle, when he could instead have had his pick of all the offensive tackles other than Alabama’s Jonah Williams who the Bengals had already taken.
On the bright side, Big Blue will have a secondary stocked full of potential next year with the additions of Deandre Baker at the end of the first round, as well as fourth rounder Julian Love. They will combine with last year’s supplemental draft pick Sam Beal in an attempt to turn this position of weakness into a strength for James Bettcher’s unit.
New York Jets
Let me start this by saying Quinnen Williams is absolutely a top three talent. In fact, I think he should have been the first overall pick for the Cardinals. But given the fact the Jets needed to add a pass rusher for Gregg Williams’ defence, I’m perplexed why they passed on Josh Allen who seems to be just what Gang Green were looking for.
I know you’re supposed to draft based on talent and not for need, but in reality many GMs still take need into account. Whilst Williams will play a similar role to his namesake Leonard on that defensive line, perhaps general manager Mike Maccagnan felt he needed a surefire success with the third overall pick. It would be difficult to pass on Quinnen Williams given that most analysts and scouts see him as a future Pro Bowler.
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden pegged Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell as the man to help replace Khalil Mack and improve the Raiders’ league low sack rate. Ferrell seems to be a better fit than fellow pass rusher Josh Allen for Oakland’s 4-3 scheme, though he will be easily identified as the main pass rushing threat by opposing teams. That will be an adjustment for Ferrell given how stacked the Clemson defensive line was with talent. The other edge rushing options for Oakland at number four, similar to Allen, perhaps didn’t quite fit the defensive gameplan that the unit is likely to run on a weekly basis.
I really like the Josh Jacobs pick who can offer some diversity at the running back position as both a runner and pass catcher. That provides another option for QB Derek Carr in the passing game, besides the talented receivers acquired in free agency.
The pick of safety Johnathan Abrams is perhaps a mark against Mayock in his first draft as a decision maker rather than an analyst. I think I’d have preferred to see a cornerback drafted at that position and then pick up a strong safety in the second round, given that Abrams is a similarly physical player to Karl Joseph.
The rich get richer right? The Eagles offensive line, which has been the envy of many in the league for a number of seasons, now has a first round draft pick in the form of Andre Dillard, who was also rated as the premier left tackle in the draft. And he won’t even start this season! Imagine what a season of learning behind Jason Peters could do for the Washington State blindside blocker.
Howie Roseman further doubled down at the running back position following the trade acquisition of Jordan Howard from the Bears, by adding Miles Sanders in the second round. The Eagles rotated their running backs plenty last season out of necessity, though that could happen again this year to get pass catching back Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Sanders.
Roseman seemed to be on a mission this year to add younger copies of the starters on his roster and this was further exemplified with wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside who will mirror the physical play of Alshon Jeffrey. Roseman’s continued ability to work his magic within the relative confines of the salary cap, and his willingness to trade aggressively to continuously improve the Eagles roster, makes a draft like this, with one eye on the future, possible.
Another year, another first round linebacker for the Steelers. Since 2013, Pittsburgh have drafted a linebacker in the first round in every draft apart from 2016 (cornerback Artie Burns) and 2018 (safety Terrell Edmunds). That’s pretty incredible and perhaps indicates how the play the Steelers have got from those picks hasn’t been what they anticipated.
To be fair, this year the pickup of Devin Bush out of Michigan was necessary given the serious injury to Ryan Shazier. Whilst the position addressed was a case of deja vu, the aggressiveness of GM Kevin Colbert in trading up was a refreshing change in the Steel City. Additional note: Bush becomes the first top 10 pick for Pittsburgh since Plaxico Burress 19 years ago.
San Francisco 49ers
Like the Steelers but with defensive linemen, the Niners are putting together quite the collection. Nick Bosa joins fellow first round defensive ends Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner, and will attempt to provide more of a pass rush than his predecessors have managed to bring to Levi Stadium.
Similarly, at the receiver position Kyle Shanahan’s team is pretty well stocked with a young core in addition to veterans Marquise Goodwin and Jordan Matthews. 2nd round pick Deebo Samuel and third rounder Jalen Hurd join a crowded receiver room made up of fellow young guns Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis who all had stand-out moments last year. Samuel is an unusual pick as he would seem to be a similar type of player to Taylor in the slot. Hurd offers an additional big bodied option to tight end George Kittle.
Last year the Seahawks were seen as having taken their first round pick Rashaad Penny a round or two early and the same could be said about this year’s pick LJ Collier. However, if there’s one thing that GM John Schneider loves more than trading out of the first round, its bucking convention.
The Hawks have a specific type of player that they target and that isn’t always based on college production. They know the character of the players they want and clearly trust their coaching staff to help develop those prospects into high calibre NFL players.
I do feel a little sorry for Russell Wilson with regards to the weapons he has had at his disposal during his time in Seattle. The offensive skill positions (besides running back) haven’t always seemed to be focused on as areas to really focus high value draft resources, with the exception of Tyler Lockett. This year the Hawks though took DK Metcalf in the second round, providing Wilson with a receiver with blazing speed. Only time will tell if Metcalf turns out to be a workout warrior, or the real deal…
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In the first round, Tampa did what most expected in picking up linebacker Devin White from LSU. That pick was necessitated by the departure of Kwon Alexander to San Francisco in free agency and White will form an athletic linebacking pairing with Lavonte David in the middle of Todd Bowles defense.
GM Jason Licht then followed up the White pick with two cornerbacks in the second and third rounds (Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean) in his almost perpetual attempt to solve the Bucs secondary woes. For an almost countless number of seasons, Tampa Bay has had one of the worst performing collection of defensive backs in the league.
2016 first round pick Vernon Hargreaves III hasn’t developed into a franchise cornerstone at the position and 2018 second round picks MJ Stewart and Carlton Davis didn’t prove to be the solution either. Last year Licht took a different approach in spending big on the D line in free agency but to no avail. The front office will be counting on Bowles and his assistants to turn the collection of early to mid round picks in the defensive backfield into a unit that can at least hold its own in a division consisting of top tier quarterbacks.
The Titans added two first round talents in defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons and receiver AJ Brown with their first two picks in the draft. Brown should help add a more explosive element to the Titans offense as a complement to Corey Davis. That will be important if the Titans are mulling a decision on QB Marcus Mariota’s long-term future with the franchise.
The addition of Simmons gives the Titans a prospect with the potential to be an elite player at his position though they will have to wait to see him paired with Jurrell Casey following Simmons’ injury earlier this year which will sideline him for most of his rookie year.
The Titans didn’t add a young tight end to take over for veteran Delanie Walker who isn’t getting any younger. Mike Vrabel will be hoping the offense can diversify away from its reliance on Walker with the addition of Brown and the emergence of Derrick Henry late last year.
This appears to have been the year in which much maligned football decision makers, like Elway and Washington’s Bruce Allen, have shocked the NFL world by being amongst the best performers in the draft.
Washington saw their preferred QB prospect fall to them without having to invest draft capital to move up and get Haskins. It was an absolute necessity that they came away with a young QB in some way on draft weekend given the uncertainty around Alex Smith’s ability to recover from his broken leg.
Allen was able to then utilise the picks he hadn’t needed to expend on Haskins, by trading back into the first for edge rusher Montez Sweat. The Mississippi State star will replace Preston Smith and is stepping into a great situation in which to make an immediate impact across from Ryan Kerrigan and with the benefit of a talented and disruptive defensive line.