The NFL Draft was wild, leaving us with both revelations and questions. Plus, which teams added the most talent, and who has more work to do?
t’s all over. The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, and everyone can finally take a step back and breathe for a minute.
Of course, nobody will actually do that. The 24/7 news cycle requires immediate takes and, let’s be honest, that’s why you’re here. Since I’m a man of the people, that’s what you are going to get, premature or not.
Throughout the three days of the draft, it appears a handful of teams legitimately improved themselves. Of course, the headliners all came on Thursday, with five quarterbacks going off the board, the most in the first round since 1983. Baker Mayfield to the Cleveland Browns was a mild stunner, while the Baltimore Ravens trading back into the first round at No. 32 for Lamar Jackson was a master stroke from Ozzie Newsome.
Still, maybe the best fit was Josh Rosen going to the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen, who has plenty to say at all times, is going to a sleepy market where he can learn from a true professional in Larry Fitzgerald in how to handle his business. Additionally, Rosen will have David Johnson in the backfield and Christian Kirk on the outside, helping him get his career off the ground.
Conversely, good luck to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills traded both of their second-round picks to move up five spots for Allen, who had a 56.2 percent completion rate at Wyoming. You can read all about why I think Allen will be a bust here, but that was before I knew his NFL situation. Buffalo ranked dead last in 2017 for receiving yards between receivers and tight ends, and did nothing to improve that group this offseason.
Beyond the quarterbacks, there were some intriguing picks. Most everyone thought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would take one of the top defensive backs, but instead went with the hulking Vita Vea to play on the line alongside Gerald McCoy. Tampa Bay, which ranked last in total defense, pass defense and sacks, now has Vea and McCoy inside with Vinny Curry, Noah Spence and Jason Pierre-Paul coming off the edge.
The Buccaneers will need to pressure quarterbacks quickly in the NFC South, especially after the addition of Calvin Ridley to the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta nabbed Ridley to pair with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, giving Matt Ryan a deadly trio of receivers to accompany Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Staying in Florida, the Jacksonville Jaguars continued to add to their loaded defense. In the first round, general manager Dave Caldwell took Taven Bryan to play on the line before adding Quenton Meeks as an undrafted free agent. Many thought Meeks would be a late-second day or early-third day selection out of Stanford.
Also, it must be said that the New Orleans Saints took a gigantic — and perhaps unnecessary — risk by trading up 13 spots for Marcus Davenport. Davenport played at a small school in UTSA and never had 10 sacks in a season, but general manager Mickey Loomis gave away his 2019 first-round pick to select him. If Davenport doesn’t have some All-Pro seasons, this move will be looked upon as a mess in the Bayou.
Lastly, the New England Patriots had an interesting three days. Bill Belichick stayed put with his pair of first-round picks, taking tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel, a pair of former Georgia Bulldogs who roomed together in college. However, Belichick was trading left and right in the subsequent rounds, netting himself a 2019 second-round choice from the Chicago Bears in the process.
At some point, one wonders why Belichick doesn’t cash in on his bounty of picks and give Tom Brady all the help imaginable before it’s too late.
Now, all 32 teams head toward OTAs and minicamp before the heat of training camp, hoping that they have the right stuff this time around.
Top10 draft classes
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Los Angeles Chargers
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. New York Jets
7. Cleveland Browns
8. Miami Dolphins
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Chicago Bears
“Trust me, there were people that would’ve given an unprecedented amount of draft picks, all with a No. 1 (pick) behind them, for him, and we wouldn’t even think of drifting in that direction,” Irsay said. “He’s our guy. We feel 100 percent confident that he is going to come back and lead this football team with some of the new teammates he’s accumulated to great things.”
– Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay on his expectations for Andrew Luck
After missing all of last season following shoulder surgery, Irsay is once again stating that Luck will return in time for training camp. This dance was originally played out a year ago, and of course, that began a waiting game that is still ongoing.
If the Colts are right about Luck, terrific. However, if he isn’t ready for the start of camp, serious questions have to be raised about his future. It’s bad enough to look foolish once on a topic this important. Twice, and the franchise loses any credibility it still has on this subject.
Matt Verderame and Josh Hill cover all the news and rumors around the NFL every Monday on both Facebook Live (FanSided page at 1 p.m. ET) and iTunes. Make sure to check it out!
From 1982-91, head coach Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins. Each time, he had a different starting quarterback, going from Joe Theismann to Doug Williams and finally, Mark Rypien.
Info learned this week
1. Ryan Shazier is the highlight of the draft
Forget all the rookies coming into the league and the parrot that froze making the Buccaneers’ fourth-round pick. The best moments of the draft came when the Pittsburgh Steelers had their first-round choice announced not by commissioner Roger Goodell, but by linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Shazier walked to the podium and told the frenzied crowd at AT&T Stadium that Pittsburgh selected safety Terrell Edmunds, but that was academic. The sight of Shazier walking without the use of instruments was truly spectacular. Whether or not Shazier will ever play football again following his serious spinal injury in December remains unknown. However, and far more importantly, he’s walking again, and that’s a tremendous accomplishment.
2. Shaquem Griffin goes to Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks took a chance on a speedy linebacker out of Central Florida in the fifth round, nabbing Shaquem Griffin. Griffin rose to prominence throughout the draft process as he dominated the NFL Combine with an absurd 4.38 40-yard dash at 227 pounds. The 22-year old also put up 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press … with one hand.
Griffin, who had his right hand amputated as a 4-year-old, gets united with his twin brother, Shaquill, in Seattle. Originally, the rookie will likely play on special teams and in subpackages, but that’s beyond the point. Griffin is an incredible story and an inspiration to legions who are without a limb or are suffering from any kind of disability.
3. Dez Bryant sees his options limited
After being released earlier this month by the Dallas Cowboys, wide receiver Dez Bryant figured to catch on elsewhere with ease. Instead, the 29-year-old is yet to take a visit, and now with the draft over, has limited options.
Bryant, who hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2014, still has a few places that make sense. The Carolina Panthers would have been an obvious destination, but their pick of D.J. Moore in the first round finishes that dream. Bryant could consider the Colts, who still need ample help on the perimeter across from T.Y. Hilton. The Cincinnati Bengals also make sense with A.J. Green in need of a running mate.
Finally, what about the Bills. Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin don’t inspire a ton fo confidence, and the Bills need someone to help bring Josh Allen along. The guess here? Bryant signs a one-year deal to reestablish his value before moving on.
4. Jason Witten calls it a career
After 15 years in the battering arena, Jason Witten has decided to trade in his helmet for a headset. Witten, 35, finishes his career with 1,152 receptions, 12,448 yards and 68 touchdowns. In the all-time ranks, those numbers check in second, second and fourth among tight ends.
In five years, Witten will be up for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and one imagines he’ll be in soon afterwards, if not immediately. What a fine career for a player who exemplified all the traits we value in a consummate pro.
5. Rams finally give up on Tavon Austin
On Saturday, the Los Angeles Rams finally gave up on Tavon Austin, shipping him to the Cowboys for a sixth-round pick. Austin, originally taken in the first round of the 2013 draft, has done little in the NFL. In five years, the 27-year-old has a total of 194 catches for 1,689 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In Dallas, perhaps the Cowboys use him as a running back/returner. Austin actually had 434 yards on the ground in 2015 and amassed more than 1,200 in his tenure with the Rams. If the Cowboys plan on getting anything out of him offensively, that’s probably the best route to take.
The Kansas City Chiefs ratcheted up their rivalry with the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round, landing guard Khalil McKenzie, son of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Reggie was a good player in his day, lasting seven seasons as a linebacker in the NFL with the Raiders, Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
The New York Giants had a great draft from a talent standpoint, but it may not be remembered that way. Instead of taking Sam Darnold to be the heir apparent of Eli Manning, general manager. Dave Gettleman selected Saquon Barkley, a wunderkind of a running back out of Penn State.
While Barkley is a better prospect than any of the quarterbacks, he doesn’t play a premium position. Darnold, meanwhile, was gleefully snatched up one pick later by the Giants co-inhabitants of MetLife Stadium, the Jets.
If Darnold ends up becoming a franchise player, Gettleman and the Giants will forever have to listen to the screams of anguished fans on talk radio. The newspapers will be on fire with criticism, and the local television reporters will take jabs whoever possible. After all, this is New York.
Now, if Darnold isn’t great or the Giants can find their quarterback in a year or two (and Barkley pans out), all’s well that ends well. Still, New York took a gigantic risk, allowing its biggest geographical rival and longtime little brother to get a potentially franchise-changing talent.