These are among the many takeaways from the 2018 NFL Draft.
1. New York Giants stood their ground
It looked like for a while there leading up to the draft that New York was going to be choosing between three quarterback prospects it probably didn’t have rated extremely high and a running back in Saquon Barkley who the team became smitten with during the pre-draft process. That all changed once Cleveland selected Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. This made the Giants’ decision a bit more difficult. At the very least, that’s what we thought. Barkley or USC quarterback Sam Darnold were now the options.
Instead of a last-minute change of heart, GM Dave Gettleman and Co. made the pick they wanted to make all along. Barkley was their guy. He’s now going to join Odell Beckham Jr. as the face of the franchise. Questions will continue to be raised about the decision to select a running back over that franchise quarterback. As they should. But the Giants stayed true to their process. They committed to Eli Manning for a couple more seasons. And by adding guard Will Hernandez in the second round, the Giants have now built a bully on the ground.
2. Denver Broncos soar
GM John Elway and Co. had to be licking their chops when they saw Cleveland select Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward No. 4 overall. It meant that the best defensive player in the draft, North Carolina State EDGE rusher Bradley Chubb, would be available at five. Having already said they were open for business in a trade down, the Broncos made the wise decision to stand pat and select Chubb. He now teams up with Von Miller to form the best pass-rush tandem in the entire NFL.
Then in the second round, Denver stood pat at 40 to watch SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton fall on to its laps. At 6-foot-3, Sutton will provide a massive outside target for Case Keenum moving forward. Considered by some to be the best receiver in the class, he also boasts a huge catch radius. It was a perfect pick that combined both need with value. Later on Day 2, Denver picked up a potential starting running back in Oregon’s Royce Freeman. No matter what how the rest of the Broncos draft played out, their 2018 class will be defined by these three picks.
3. Patriots ace the process, again
If there was ever any question about Bill Belichick somehow being past his prime, that was answered and a whole lot more during the three-day draft. Despite speculation that the Pats might move up for a quarterback, they didn’t bite. Instead, the two-time defending AFC champs stood pat to add offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel in the first round. These were two major needs after New England lost Nate Solder and Dion Lewis in free agency. They also represented a nice amount of value with the former Georgia teammates having jumped the draft board in recent weeks.
Before Day 2 even got started, New England then worked out a trade with San Francisco to bring in right tackle Trent Brown. In doing so, the team yielded a low third-round pick in exchange for a high fifth-round pick. Conditioning issues aside, Brown is an upgrade for New England. If that wasn’t enough, Belichick and Co. found a way to add the top slot corner in the draft, Florida’s Duke Dawson, in the second round while picking up a 2019 second-round selection from Chicago. Staying true to form, the Pats were then able to turn a fourth-round selection into a sixth-round pick and another third-rounder next year. Whew.
4. Colts finally address pressing needs
In his second draft with the Colts, GM Chris Ballard did something his predecessor refused to do — get Andrew Luck some help along the offensive line. In the first round, it came in the form of a player in Quenton Nelson who some considered to be the best overall prospect in the draft. Nelson will now man left guard for Luck, giving Indy a Day 1 All-Pro performer. That’s how good he is. Though, Indy wasn’t done along the offensive line quite yet.
It then decided to double down with fellow guard, Auburn’s Braden Smith, at the top of the second round. These aren’t just quick fixes. Nelson and Smith give the Colts two 10-year starters along the interior of their offensive line. It’s now clear that Ballard and Co. are investing a lot more than just cash in an injured Luck moving forward. Good for them.
5. The Saints’ baffling trade
When it was announced Thursday evening that New Orleans had moved up from 27th overall to the 14th pick with Green Bay, most figured the team was going to select former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson as an heir apparent to Drew Brees. As details trickled out noting that the Saints had given up both their first-round picks in 2018 and 2019 to move up to that spot, it seemed obvious Jackson was going to be the guy.
Instead, general manager Mickey Loomis absolutely shocked everyone by picking small-school EDGE rusher Marcus Davenport from UTSA. While Davenport drew high marks during the pre-draft process, he doesn’t play a position that justifies mortgaging the future for. Unless Davenport somehow turns out to be the next Khalil Mack or Von Miller, this is going to go down as one of the worst draft-day trades in modern NFL history. Given that a similar player in Boston College product Harold Landry would have been available at the Saints’ original pick, that’s magnified even further.
6. Making his mark in Nashville
First-year Titans head coach Mike Vrabel technically isn’t calling the shots in the war room. But if we thought he had very little input, we were sadly mistaken. The Titans’ first two draft picks in that of Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans and former Boston College EDGE rusher Harold Landry are prime examples of this.
Not only did the Titans go defense with those two selections, they added much-needed front-seen help. A sideline-to-sideline backer, Evans is similar to a player in Zach Cunningham who starred as a rookie under Vrabel in Houston last season. Tennessee then added an EDGE guy in Landry who could be the Titans’ version of Whitney Mercilus. He acts as the future pass-rush option for the Titans with Brian Orkapo getting up there in age and Derrick Morgan showing regression in terms of production.
7. Josh Rosen’s slide to 10
It just seems that the market was very cool for this UCLA product at the top of Round 1. As we all know, Rosen didn’t take kindly to falling to the final pick in the top 10. Once that happened, Arizona moved up five spots with Oakland to add the potential franchise quarterback as a long-term option. Even then, the Cardinals had to exhaust just a third-and-fifth round pick to move up for him. That’s pennies on the dollars given what other teams have paid in the past.
NFL teams have a certain view of Rosen. That’s the only logical explanation for him dropping behind Josh Allen in Round 1. He’s immature. He is not fully committed to football, because the guy has interest in other things. Imagine that. Fair or not, it’s now up to Rosen to prove them wrong. We’re going to go on record to say he’ll do just that.
8. Browns now baking with a plan
Say what you want about the Browns’ decision to select Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. The team might gone against the grain by picking up this reigning Heisman winner over the likes of Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. That’s fine. First-year general manager John Dorsey saw a player in Mayfield who could potentially change the entire dynamic of this Cleveland franchise. He didn’t see that in any of the other top-end quarterback prospects. Hence, the Browns’ decision to take Mayfield No. 1 overall.
Some might have issues with the Oklahoma product’s personality. Others could conclude that he’s immature. To each is own. What we do know is that Mayfield was among the most dominating college quarterbacks in recent memory. He serves as a team leader and a potential franchise-altering figure. That’s something these Browns desperately needed.
9. Remember, teams know more than we do
In this social media world, hot takes and immediate reactions have been the name of the game surrounding the NFL Draft. Grades within seconds of selections being made, forgetting that we’ll need two or three years before ultimately judging a draft class. This also doesn’t take into account what teams know. Information that might not be available to the fan or writer immediately after a pick is made.
The San Francisco 49ers’ selection of offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey seems to be a prime example of this. While seen as a reach at No. 9 overall, most were concerned about what that meant for incumbent starting right tackle Trent Brown. What would happen with him? Fans and the media alike also expected San Francisco to go safety. Little did we know that Brown showed up to miincamp at around 400 pounds and completely out of shape. He was then traded to New England within hours of Round 1 wrapping up. And about that safety? San Francisco would announce an extension for a Pro Bowl caliber player in Jaquiski Tartt. Hence, teams knowing more than we do about what’s happening behind the scenes.
10. A new sheriff in Green Bay
First-year Packers GM Brian Gutekunst made his mark immediately by signing the likes of Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson in free agency. For a team that had avoided this aspect of the offseason in the past, that was a big deal. Green Bay’s MO then completely changed during the draft.
Moving up and down the board in the first round, Gutekunst selected 5-foot-10 Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander in the first round. A player of this size lining up at corner for former GM Ted Thompson simply was never in the cards. Then after missing out on corner in free agency, the Packers doubled down at that position in Round 2 by adding Josh Jackson to the mix. The Iowa product was a first-round talent. Him and Alexander figure to be starters on the outside moving forward. And to add a bit more intrigue to the mix here, Green Bay picked up a first-round pick in 2019 from New Orleans in a trade down to ultimately select Alexander in Round 1. Not too shabby.
11. What was that, Mr. Gruden?
Oakland might have picked up some value with high-risk selections after Round 2. That includes LSU EDGE rusher Arden Key as well as injured high-upside defenders, Nick Nelson and Maurice Hurst. But it’s what the Raiders did with their first-three picks that should have fans in Northern California on edge.
First off, Oakland traded down with Arizona to select UCLA tackle Kolton Miller on Day 1. Miller is coming off a disastrous final season with the Bruins and likely wasn’t more than an early second-round pick. If that weren’t enough, Gruden and Co. picked up small school prospects with its next two selections. That included a player in Sam Houston State’s P.J. Hall who admitted he hadn’t even thought of the second round as a possibility for him. Oakland’s 2018 draft is going to be either a massive bust or some sort of surprising success. There’s really no in between here.
12. Steelers get their heir apparent
This one scribe was jockeying for Pittsburgh to pick Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the back end of the first round. Pittsburgh did ultimately select the flame-throwing signal caller, but it didn’t come until the third round. That’s some absolutely amazing value right there.
Rudolph will now learn from Ben Roethlisberger moving forward and gives Pittsburgh a true line of succession down the road. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Rudolph is a spitting image of Big Ben. In fact, Roethlisberger came in at 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds during the 2004 NFL Scouting Combine. There wasn’t a better heir apparent for Big Ben outside of the first four quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.
13. The curious case of Derrius Guice
Projected by most experts to be a top-20 lock, this former LSU standout fell all the way to the Washington Redskins at the end of the second round. Heading into the draft, there were some rumors of maturity concerns relating to Guice. Once he was selected by Washington, reports suggested that said concerns included an altercation with the Eagles during a meeting between the two sides. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has since denied that this happened. So what exactly is going on here?
Guice had noted in the lead up to the draft that a team asked him an inappropriate question. That statement has been taken back a bit. Could this have been the issue? We have absolutely no idea. What we do know is that Washington got itself one heck of a running back. It’s now going to be all about off-field stuff from here on out and whether the narrative surrounding Guice changes for the good.
14. Jets ace their pick
Once Saquon Barkley went off the board to the Giants at No. 2 overall, these Jets had to be doing cartwheels. Having moved three second-round picks in a trade up from No. 6 overall to the third pick, some figured New York would be left going with leftovers at quarterback. Sure Baker Mayfield was selected No. 1 overall. But we’re not too sure the Jets would have taken him over eventual No. 3 pick Sam Darnold. That’s just how darn good this selection was.
For a vast majority of the pre-draft process, Darnold was considered the consensus No. 1 quarterback. In fact, experts were still linking him to the Browns even after reports of their interest in Mayfield broke on Thursday. In picking up this USC product, the Jets have solved their long-term issues at quarterback. He can sit behind Josh McCown for a season and be prepared to take over the keys to the kingdom as a sophomore in 2019. It really was the ideal pick for a New York franchise that might finally be on the upswing.
15. Josh Allen to upstate New York
Linked to Allen throughout the NFL Draft process, the Bills made an unpopular decision to move up in the first round for this divisive quarterback prospect. It included GM Brandon Beane and Co. yielding two second-round picks to move up just five spots, from 12th to No. 7 overall. This came on the same day that old tweets surfaced displaying some racially insensitive remarks from Allen.
On the field, there’s a lot to like about the small-school product. Allen stands at 6-foot-5 and has an absolute cannon for an arm. He’s your prototypical drop back quarterback. He’s also shown accuracy issues dating back to high school and didn’t perform extremely well against lackluster Mountain West competition with the Cowboys. It’s going to be a boom or bust pick. And it will ultimately define Beane’s tenure in Buffalo.