Few mocked Iowa tight end TJ Hockenson to the Lions before Thursday night in Nashville, particularly because of the signing of Jesse James from the Steelers during free agency.
In fact, most expected the Lions to go defence at either cornerback or along the defensive line. The two Clemson defensive tackles, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, were still available and may have helped free up Trey Flowers to get after the QB.
Hockenson is undoubtedly an all-round talent at the position and GM Bob Quinn clearly couldn’t pass that up. That means the Lions passing offence is pretty impressive now with an adequate O line, two wideouts (Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson) who could rack up 1,000 yards each and two TEs able to contribute down the seams and in the red zone.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay continued to accumulate talent on the defensive side of the ball, adding edge rusher Rashan Gary to free agent additions Za’Darius Smith and Preston Brown, as well as safety Darnell Savage.
If Kyler Fackrell can replicate some of his sack production from last year, the Packers could be known for taking down opposing quarterbacks, rather than for the quality of their own signal caller. In fact, Green Bay didn’t do a lot to seriously upgrade the talent around Aaron Rodgers, particularly on the offensive line which stunk it up after injuries to the starters last year. The drafting of center Elgton Jenkins could be seen as a vote of confidence in right tackle Bryan Bulaga, whose expected replacement didn’t come in the draft.
I’d be very concerned for the safety of Deshaun Watson if I were a Texans fan. The Eagles jumped one spot ahead of them to take left tackle Andre Dillard, forcing the Texans to reach for Tytus Howard.
In Howard, and second rounder Max Sharping, Houston have a couple of players on the O line who will need to learn quickly if Watson is to avoid the battering he took last season.
In addition to the offensive line, the franchise managed to get younger at corner, but the draft weekend would have left me distinctly underwhelmed as a Houston fan. The team seems slow to respond and lacks aggressiveness in tackling the persistent problems they face on the roster, including finding someone to take the heat off receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
GM Chris Ballard managed to pick up two rookies in the second round who should contribute right away in cornerback Rock Ya-sin and receiver Parris Campbell, meeting at least two of the team’s needs.
Ballard may have made the move down once some of the elite pass rushers came off the board, though in the spot he gave up to Washington, Dan Synder’s team picked up outside linebacker Montez Sweat.
After details emerged of a possible misdiagnosis of Sweat’s heart condition at the NFL Combine, it’s a little surprising the Colts didn’t take a chance on him given they’re already taking on one pass rushing linebacker in veteran in Justin Houston. Perhaps it indicates Ballard’s trust that Houston can help the development of last year’s drafted rookies on the defensive line.
Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin made that D line in Sacksonville even more terrifying with the pickup of Josh Allen at number 7 overall.
It was surprising to see Allen fall that ‘low’ given he was regarded as the second-best edge rusher in the draft behind Nick Bosa.
In the second round, the Jags also pounced on a sliding talent with right tackle Jawaan Taylor who will immediately step into the same role in Duval. Caldwell and Coughlin get top marks for clearly sticking to the draft board with Allen and reinforcing a strength, whilst Taylor was a perfect example of talent and need meshing together.
The team clearly expects Nick Foles to elevate the play of a young receiving corps, which lacked explosiveness last year. DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and Marqise Lee will have an excellent opportunity under new coordinator John DeFilippo, who loved to have Kirk Cousins drop back to pass for the majority of the Vikings offensive plays last season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is going to have to play at an MVP level again this season to compensate for the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs have shed more talent than they’ve picked up there this offseason and their trade for Frank Clark from Seattle, whilst picking up a much-needed edge rusher, robbed them of the chance to add an impact cornerback to upgrade their sieve like unit.
By the time Kansas City were on the clock in the second round with the 56th overall pick, eight cornerbacks were off the board, starting with Deandre Baker and culminating with Lonnie Johnson Jr two picks before KC. Whilst the Chiefs used that as an opportunity to safeguard against the potential (eventual) release of Tyreek Hill, Andy Reid’s ability to create offense out of nothing, perhaps should have led the front office to focus on taking the pressure off Mahomes from having to score 50 points every game.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers already had a loaded offense with top level playmakers at every skill position, and the defence wasn’t exactly too shabby either.
Second round pick Nasir Adderley’s ball skills will combine well with Derwin James’ physicality to help maintain the turnover generating secondary Chargers fans have come to expect. This roster looks fantastic on paper and has to be amongst the early candidates as AFC Championship hopefuls.
Los Angeles Rams
You have to wonder why Les Snead and Sean McVay opted to move out of the first round, pushing themselves further down the pecking order for a potential future replacement for left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Someone like Greg Little could have made sense at that spot, as well as an interior blocker like Cody Ford or Dalton Risner.
The Rams had success last year calling on a number of unheralded players at linebacker and safety, but it would have been nice to see the franchise add a first-round talent, especially seen as they lacked a first-round pick last year, trading it away to the Patriots. Whilst churning the bottom of the roster is important, as well as giving yourself more tickets in the draft lottery, it’d be nice to see the Rams move away from relying on free agency to restock their roster with veterans changing a ring each offseason.
Picking up Josh Rosen for a second-round pick and a 2020 fifth rounder was an absolute steal for the Fins. They essentially got a first-round talent with a year of NFL experience for those picks. The former UCLA pick entered the league last year, regarded by many as one of the most pro-ready prospects in the draft class.
Despite the Cardinals nightmare season last year, Rosen has had another year of seasoning in the league and may preclude Miami from taking a quarterback next year if they end up with a high pick.
The addition of Christian Wilkins should also give fans in South Beach cause for optimism in demonstrating the direction the franchise’s new GM and head coach combination will be heading in building this roster. Wilkins was regarded as one of the safest picks in the draft and a high character guy which will be essential on a rebuilding team such as this one.
Hold the phone! Rick Spielman didn’t take a cornerback in the first round! The Vikings GM had even been told to not bother coming home by his wife, if he picked up another piece for the secondary on Thursday night. Instead the team picked up center Garrett Bradbury which should push Pat Elflein to guard. If the new combination in the middle of the line can click, Minnesota might be able to get Dalvin Cook and the run game going, taking pressure off Kirk Cousins to put the offense on his back.