The 2018 NFL Draft is over and it was a wild ride, man. We won't know anything about the draft classes taken by these teams for a few years, but contractual obligations dictate we start to make some knee-jerk reactions. Believe me, no one is more aware of the inherent danger in judging a draft class within hours of it being secured than yours truly.
But you can see some patterns emerging in these classes, and you can see some teams who got appreciably better and some teams who made questionable decisions or were denied an opportunity to nab the players they wanted in the draft due to various circumstances. (Note here: the Saints might have well lost last year after missing out on Patrick Mahomes and Reuben Foster, being forced to draft Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramcyzk. That worked out OK for them.)
The Pick Six Podcast went all week long for the draft, including a Saturday night/Sunday morning show recapping the entire NFL Draft. Myself, John Breech and Ryan Wilson dove in to break down our winners and losers. Even once the draft ends, you can still get a daily dose of football in your podcast inbox, about 30 minutes each day and ready by 6 a.m., just hit the subscribe button of your choice: via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google Play.
You're going to hate some of these picks and you're going to like some of these picks and you might even throw some of these picks back in my face down the road. If you want to do any of that, holler at me on Twitter @WillBrinson.
The Cardinals were mentioned in the first two days of these recaps, but with good reason. They had a great draft! You never see a team move up five spots in the draft and snag a franchise quarterback by only giving up a third- and a fifth-round pick, but the Cardinals did just that. Teams should be able to auction off picks when a guy like Josh Rosen is available, and the Cards snared the UCLA quarterback without surrendering any current or future first- or second-round picks (outside of the obvious first-round swap). It wasn't highway robbery but what a gambit for Arizona. Smart move by GM Steve Keim the following day, as well, when he added Christian Kirk as a future and current receiving asset for his quarterbacks in 2018 and beyond (who knows if Sam Bradford actually starts, but he's the current plan with Rosen having the option to challenge him). Mason Cole gives them a ton of versatility on the offensive line at the guard and center positions.
I banged on Dave Gettleman for using the second-overall pick on a running back Thursday and I still think you are smarter to go with positional value, but I understand why the Giants GM wants to stick to his board and take the best player available. You have to respect that sensibility. It makes more sense to grab Barkley when the Giants plan is viewed as a whole -- adding Will Hernandez in the second round gives them a nice left side of the line when you pair him with Nate Solder. Adding Lorenzo Carter, the pass rusher out of Georgia, gives them an injection of speed, and B.J. Hill will make an impact rushing the passer from the interior of the defensive line. If he hits on Kyle Lauletta, the fourth-round quarterback out of Richmond, there's going to be some ring smooching going on in the greater Tri-State Area.
We know the Packers are going to be good on offense next year, right? (Spoiler: they are.) Now they're going to be good on defense too, thanks to getting Mike Pettine some weapons in the draft. Gutekunst, the Packers first-year GM, went defense-heavy early in the draft, picking up Louisville corner Jaire Alexander in the first round and Iowa corner Josh Jackson in the second round. Green Bay then added linebacker Oren Burks in the third round. The real power move by Gutekunst in all of this was him somehow managing to walk out of Thursday with an extra first-round pick next year despite moving down only three spots: he let the Saints come up, took their first next year, then moved back up at a cheaper cost when the Seahawks were looking to trade down. It was some David Blaine-level trickeration. Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth round might have been one of the biggest steals in the whole draft. For a fanbase that got tired of the team not spending in free agency and standing pat in the draft and taking what came down the pipe, Packers fans should be thrilled at the way Gutekunst spent this offseason being active and this draft whipping up some serious defensive improvements.
The only reason I'm not leading this column with Cleveland again is their decision to pass on Bradley Chubb in order to snag Denzel Ward. And that's personal preference more than anything; Ward is a great player but give me the pass rusher all day, especially with Chubb being the best player in the draft. Otherwise I love what they did.
Baker Mayfield at No. 1 will define this draft in the end. I had him as the QB1 in this class and believe in what he can bring to a modern NFL offense, but there is absolutely "get you fired" potential with Mayfield because of his brash personality, the nature of this No. 1 pick and the difficulty in evaluating quarterbacks. If anyone can save Cleveland it's Mayfield.
I would have preferred Will Hernandez at No. 33 but going Austin Corbett and then picking up Nick Chubb at No. 35 was a really nice way to kick off the second round. (Kudos to Dorsey for not going running back off the bat; the Giants already took one in Round 1 and weren't going to grab Chubb or trade based on how Dave Gettleman operates). Chubb could make Carlos Hyde expendable after just one year, in the same way Mayfield will likely make Tyrod Taylor a free agent after 2018.
Chad Thomas is a part-time rapper who can rush the passer and Antonio Callaway, who is loaded with red flags, could be the most talented receiver in the draft. Good value in the third and fourth rounds.
Sashi Brown should get some credit for the Browns having lots of draft picks, but John Dorsey will be guy reaping the rewards if these picks hit, and justifiably so.
John Elway needed a big draft to help Denver get back into the hunt in the AFC West after a disappointing year that saw the Broncos finish with the No. 5 overall pick. Signing Case Keenum didn't necessarily take them out of the discussion for a quarterback, but Bradley Chubb falling to fifth overall sure did. The Broncos were thinking about trading down, and had a deal in place with the Bills, until Chubb landed in their lap with their first-round pick. Elway turned on his heel and sprinted to get the card in. Understandably: Von Miller and Chubb are a filthy pass-rush combo. And Von knows it.
Combined with Chris Harris, Bradley Roby and Justin Simmons on the back end, plus Brandon Marshall/Todd Davis at linebacker, and the Broncos defense could be reminiscent of the unit that fueled their Super Bowl 50 run.
Receiver was going to be an issue after 2018, assuming Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders stuck around that long (Elway decided to keep them in order to help woo a free-agent quarterback). Word on the street is Denver hasn't been thrilled with the production of the receiving duo recently and they could result in big cap savings next offseason. The Broncos added Courtland Sutton out of SMU in the second round and DaeSean Hamilton out of Penn State in the fourth round -- those are guys who could be home runs. Sutton is a big-body receiver who can get downfield; Hamilton probably plays in the slot, but he's a bigger receiver for that area and a seriously high-character guy (he has been serving as his autistic brother's caregiver for a long time).
Josey Jewell is the type of mid-round selection who ends up being a home run, a guy with a stupid motor who doesn't fit the upside part of what teams look for in drafts and ends up being closer to his college production than his draft projection.
The running back situation in Denver merits watching. C.J. Anderson was released, which signaled the team's interest in having Devonte Booker serve as a feature back. But drafting Royce Freeman out of Oregon in the third round points in a different direction. They also added David Williams of Arkansas in the seventh round.
If you want to nitpick the Broncos for their draft, it's reasonable to question why they didn't invest enough in the offensive line. Sam Jones, a sixth-round center, was the only addition in that regard.
The NC State football coach just broke a program record by having seven players drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, tying him with Ohio State -- and behind only Alabama -- for most players taken this year. The truly impressive parts of that? It was Doeren's first real recruiting class, and it featured only two guys who were given higher than a three-star rating (Kentavius Street, Nyheim Hines) according to the 247 Sports composite score. What that shows is Doeren's building a program in Raleigh -- the coaching staff and strength coaches bring in guys and develop them into potential high-level pros. In any other year Chubb might've been the top overall pick, and the entire starting defensive line was taken in the first 130 picks of the draft -- it would have been sooner but Street went 128 because he tore his ACL just a few weeks ago on a visit to the Giants. Notable coaches to watch from this program: Kevin Patrick (defensive line), who coached up Chubb, Street, B.J. Hill and Justin Jones; Dwayne Ledford (offensive line), who helped develop a stout unit headlined by Will Richardson (drafted by the Jaguars) and Tony Adams (UDFA to Jacksonville); and Dantonio Burnette (assistant AD and director of strength and conditioning). If you want proof of what Burnette's staff does, go look at a picture of Chubb in 2011 and look at him now. I guarantee at some point next year one or both of Hines and Jaylen Samuels make an impact in your fantasy football league. Hines could lead the Colts in rushing and I wouldn't blink.
Things went so badly for Joe Flacco over the weekend that he showed up to a Ravens draft party and declined to talk. One could point out that he would have better not going to the draft party at all, although fans who showed up probably were promised some Flacco, and he's not the type of dude to disappoint them. And if he had said something, Flacco was probably going to speak honestly, and what he said would involve something like "no I'm not happy my team used a first-round pick on a quarterback." The reality is Flacco's time in Baltimore is probably running out and nothing made it more clear than the selection of Lamar Jackson in the first round. Ozzie Newsome put his stamp on this franchise multiple times, including with the selection of Flacco back in 2008 in the first round. And he just did it again with Jackson, the second first-round pick of his final draft.
2018 looms as Flacco's last year with the Ravens given his contract status -- Baltimore will save $10.5 million if they release him before 2019.
All we've heard from the Cowboys the last few weeks of the offseason is they're trying to make the team's offense more "Dak friendly." But when you look at how things unfolded over this weekend, and in the offseason in general, it's hard to see how that's the case. Allen Hurns (189 career catches) tops the depth chart, followed by Terrance Williams (230), Cole Beasley (254), Deonte Thompson (77), Noah Brown (4), Lance Lenoir (0), K.D. Cannon (0) and Michael Gallup (0), the only receiver they added in the draft. Throw in newly-acquired running back/wideout Tavon Austin (194) and you have 948 career receptions. Add in the tight ends -- Rico Gathers (0), Geoff Swaim (9) and Blake Jarwin (0) -- and you get 957 career catches.
Jason Witten's career total? 1,152 catches.
Witten, who is leaving for the "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth, wasn't going to be some superstar in 2018. But he's still the ultimate security blanket, the most consistent weapon in the NFL over the last decade or so. He averaged 80 catches from 2004 through 2017.
Maybe this receiver corps is better than we think, and maybe Scott Linehan has some design where he's just going to have Dak run dink-and-dunk spread concepts with a bunch of short-yardage guys. Maybe the offensive line bounces back and Ezekiel Elliott has a monster year like he did as a rookie. But in April, "Dak Friendly" looks like it's going to be asking a lot more out of the third-year quarterback.
The draft started with a trade down from No. 10 to No. 15, allowing the Cardinals to get a quarterback, with the Raiders receiving only a third- and fifth-round pick in return. They flipped that third-round pick to the Steelers (who would use it to draft Mason Rudolph) for Martavis Bryant, a receiver with a lot of upside, but also a lot of baggage. It says a lot the Steelers finally parted ways with him. Arden Key is a top-10 talent but has baggage of his own. Maybe don't make Key and Bryant roommates.
Maurice Hurst in the fifth round was a steal, but he has heart issues that could ultimately limit his ability to play. Clearly enough teams had him off their boards that he dropped to the third day.
Jon Gruden explained the two early picks on offensive linemen (Kolten Miller and Brandon Parker) as needing to protect Derek Carr, but the offensive line has been the Raiders' strength for several years. Trusting Tom Cable and going all-in on draft picks feels like a risky play.
New Orleans Saints
This is not an indictment of the 2018 New Orleans Saints. I like that team. They feel like the kind of team I'll end up picking to lose the Super Bowl to the Chargers in August. It's not hard to imagine the formula that made them good in 2017 working very well in 2018 and the Saints rolling up points with a dominant rushing attack spearheaded by Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees having a "down" year while carving people up and throwing for 4,500 yards. But this isn't about next year, it's about this draft, and I question what the Saints did, which is a dangerous proposition after Sean Payton whipped together one of the greatest classes we've seen in modern drafts last year.
Marcus Davenport will probably lead the NFC South in sacks or challenge for DROY and make me look stupid, but they spent two first-round picks acquiring him. That is a lot of capital to spend on a guy who is, ultimately, raw. He has piles of upside. I love the pick. I just don't like spending multiple firsts on him, especially when the NFL is fickle enough to send a would-be contender hurtling towards the top of the draft.
Add in the Saints lacking a second-round pick (courtesy of the Alvin Kamara pick last year; well worth it!) and they came away with one standout player in the first two rounds for a pretty exorbitant cost. They got Brees another weapon in Tre'Quan Smith, although it felt like a bit of a reach in the third round.
The benefit of having a great roster is minimal holes to fill -- the Saints didn't have lots of needs. But they also didn't feel like a team that had to swing for the fences early on. Adding more depth and talent would have been a fine move. Win a Super Bowl next year and no one blinks, obviously.