NFL Draft: Winners and Losers
After the dust has settled, who did Draft weekend right, and who failed miserably?
I’m imagining the collective eye rolls and scoffs toward the declaration of draft winners and losers a mere week after the draft. It’s a largely ridiculous practice. Nobody truly knows what the future holds and don’t listen to the asinine “zero bust potential” statements from certain members of the media. Every player has bust potential. Some just have more than others. Unless you’re Mr. Irrelevant – then you technically don’t have bust potential.
Anyway, the 2016 NFL Draft Class – based on projections – felt a lot like Weezer’s last album. Nothing particularly stood out, but the depth across the board was rather impressive, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Other highlights included the unfortunate sabotage of Laremy Tunsil’s draft stock – as an aside, the Dolphins made the smartest single pick in the draft when they stole him at No. 13 – and the top two picks were held by teams who gave up way way too much in order to get there. Don’t the LA Rams and Philadelphia Eagles kind of remind you of Finn from The Force Awakens? He clearly is desperate to date, and of all the people, he chooses Rey? I’m not so sure if I see the inherent value in dating someone like Rey, as I don’t see the inherent value in drafting quarterbacks like Jared Goff and Carson Wentz with the top two picks.
But I digress. This is sports, so there has to be winners and losers in everything. Here’s three of each from the draft last week.
Ozzie Newsome really is the “Wizard of Oz.” Although I would have preferred the Ravens drafted Tunsil at No. 6, by that time, they reportedly erased him off their board after the infamous gas-masked bong video on his Twitter account surfaced. So they drafted Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley instead. It’s a great choice and more than likely the choice they would have made had the Tennessee Titans remained at No. 1 and the social media escapades never transpired. I like the addition of Boise State defensive end Kamalei Correa in the second round, who fits like a glove in a base 3-4 defense and whose high motor matches Baltimore’s culture perfectly.
The true magic happened in the fourth round, where the Ravens made five outstanding value picks on both offense and defense. Standouts include Temple cornerback Tavon Young and Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon. Both should provide valuable input early on. Sprinkle in the feel-good and overall solid pick of former Navy quarterback – who will play wide receiver and return punts in the NFL – Keenan Reynolds in the sixth round and you have one of the best draft classes of 2016.
Ignoring the outlandish overreaction toward its draft class, Jacksonville did perform impressively this time around. They’ve spent a living drafting offensive busts this decade such as Blaine Gabbert, Justin Blackmon and Luke Joeckel. After finally finding some rhythm on offense last season, the Jaguars shifted their focus on beefing up a defense that annually finishes in the cellar in most defensive categories.
While I’m personally not as high on Jalen Ramsey as others, it’s still the right pick at No. 5 for a secondary that is roasted consistently. If Ramsey lives up to his athletic potential while continuing to make strides in play-making, then he will be a special player. Grabbing Myles Jack in the second round was the team’s best pick. Jack does have the knee question, but assuming it’s not a problem, then the Jaguars successfully drafted two players with ridiculously high ceilings.
Never has a draft performance left me feeling more perplexed than Dallas’. Most are highly critical, while the minority isn’t necessarily praising the performance either. But after much deliberation, I’ve decided that I absolutely love what the Cowboys accomplished. They made a number of high-risk, high-reward selections. For a 4-12 team, you normally would be skeptical of that method, but remember, Dallas was a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2014 and were decimated by injuries last season. Assuming they stay healthy, I view this draft as a reload, not a rebuild.
Ezekiel Elliot is an absolute stud who can run, catch and block. Imagine the damage he can do behind that offensive line. Jaylon Smith is a monumental risk given his knee issues, but assuming he stays healthy, what a steal he is in the second round. Had Smith never suffered that knee injury against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, he’s getting selected in the top ten easily. And they addressed their defensive line problems with the drafting of Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper in the fourth round, an underrated prospect who should contribute immediately.
Honorable Mentions: Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tennessee Titans
This was supposed to be the year Cleveland got it right. They wisely traded down from the No. 2 pick, received a number of valuable draft picks and even managed to trade down from No. 8 to No. 15 in exchange for additional picks from Tennessee. In total, the Browns had 14 picks in this year’s draft, which led all teams.
In typical Cleveland fashion, they messed it up by drafting four wide receivers. I understand this team needs weapons, but four wide receivers in one draft? With your top pick being Corey Coleman from Baylor? To make matters worse, they drafted USC quarterback Cody Kessler in the third round, a huge reach. As a fan of this organization, I don’t know how much longer I could stay on board after this performance. This team has holes basically every where, but without a solid option at quarterback, the stockpile on wide receivers makes no sense.
Los Angeles Rams
I immediately dubbed the Rams a loser after they bet their future on a quarterback prospect not worthy of the top pick. Jared Goff is a nice quarterback, but isn’t the top overall pick supposed to be a franchise-changing option? Goff is great at throwing the deep ball, but let’s not forget his issues with accuracy, rushing throws and reading zone coverage. Too many questions marks for a franchise quarterback going No. 1 overall.
San Francisco 49ers
I love the DeForest Buckner pick, but after that, it gets a little shaky for the 49ers. They traded valuable draft picks to reach for Stanford guard Joshua Garnett late in the first round, selected a huge quarterback development project in Jeff Driskel and didn’t address their need at wide receiver until the sixth round. In addition, the lack of pursuit toward drafting a linebacker adds another question mark.
Honorable Mentions: Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles