I really need to just come up with a blanket opening paragraph for the NFL Draft Winners and Losers article. It’s getting harder and harder to limit the winners list and to find teams to put on the losers list each year. Then you fast-forward 4 years and you look at the 2016 NFL Draft class and you see 14 1st round picks not having their 5th year options picked up and then it’s like oh yeah, that’s why picking winners and losers immediately after the draft is so difficult and such a crapshoot.
At any rate, here are the top 5 teams that I thought did a particularly good job at addressing needs and made their team better. We’ll get to see how well this ages.
(Check out the 2019 NFL Draft Losers here)
The Washington Redskins truly had an unbelievable offseason and all at the Giants expense. They were able to add Landon Collins for nothing more than money, which is obscene that the Giants let him walk. Then the Giants jump onto a grenade and drafted Daniel Jones so the Redskins could just hang out and land the 2nd best quarterback in the draft in Dwayne Haskins. Then they managed to trade up from the 2nd round, and even though it cost them a 2020 2nd round pick, they managed to snag Montez Sweat. If his heart issue ends up being nothing more than a rumor, then they will end up getting a guy that was thought of as a top 10 player late in the first.
Terry McLaurin is a great pick up in the 3rd round and he will contribute on offense and special teams right away. I also love the Ross Pierschbacher pick and think that he will be an eventual starter on the interior line. Bryce Love is an intriguing pick and since they have an absolutely loaded depth chart, they will likely put him on the PUP list to start the year and will not need anything from him any time soon. I’m not sure if it was really a necessary pick with their depth, but if he can make a complete recovery from this injury, he and Guice could form a potent pair in the future.
The Steelers did an absolutely phenomenal job with their first four picks in the draft. They had to give up some value to go get Devin Bush, but he’s a perfect fit for their defense and they have been desperate for MLB help ever since Ryan Shazier was hurt. Diontae Johnson is an intriguing pick and while I thought it might have been a little early for him, you have to trust the Steelers brass when it comes to wide receivers.
Justin Layne is incredible value in the third round and Benny Snell is going to be a great back to go with James Conner. Zach Gentry is absolutely horrible value in the 5th round, but getting Sutton Smith and Isaiah Buggs in the 6th makes up for it. Gentry probably should not have even been drafted with his athletic profile and drop issues, but this is the lone blemish of their class. Smith will be a good depth addition and if Buggs can get his life together, he will outperform that 6th round pick slot.
Last year I was not sure what to expect with the Colts and I bagged them for taking a guard in the first round. Not because Quenton Nelson was a bad player, but just because of the positional value. I listed them as a boom or bust draft because they went with a lot of unrefined athletes and I did not know what to expect. Landing two rookie All-Pros though is certainly going to give you the benefit of the doubt with your drafts moving forward.
Trading down and adding Rock Ya-Sin was a big time move for Chris Ballard, but then they added Ben Banogu, who is a great fit for their defense, and then Parris Campbell all in the second round. Campbell is an absolute burner and he simply torched every defense he went against last year. I’m not sure if they’re going to try to play him in the slot since TY Hilton lines up there frequently, but Andrew Luck has major weapons for next year with TY, Parris, Devin Funchess, Eric Ebron and Joe Doyle…not to mention a fantastic offensive line and Marlon Mack.
Then the Colts went back to defense with their next two picks and added Bobby Okereke and Khari Willis, two players that I’m a fan of and I think they will both be eventual starters on that defense…esepcially Okereke. I don’t know anything about E.J. Speed, but he has an all-time great football name.
New England Patriots
I don’t know how Bill Belichick continues to do it, but he does. Letting guys walk each year, getting more comp picks, and then moving around the board and making great pick ups. I like N’Keal Harry a lot and I’m very intrigued to see if the first WR taken in the first round by Belichick will pan out. Adding Joejuan williams and Chase Winovich were fantastic for their next two picks and I think both of them will end up starting/being major contributors this year. Damien Harris joins a crowded backfield and while they may not need him this year, Rex Burkhead can be cut next year and save the Pats $3 Million.
The next three picks are developmental guys, but if you give Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt time to get coached up, they could very well become starters on the offensive line for the Pats. As for Jarrett Stidham? Who knows what to expect, but it’s not like he has to start any time soon. I do not think he’s going to be the heir apparent to Tom Brady, but in the 5th round he’s worth the risk. The one pick that I really hate is taking a punter in the 5th round. It’s especially suprising since Bailey is the Pats first right footed punter in about 10 years. I’m sure he’ll end up being a pro bowler or something in his first year just to spite me, but really no reason to draft a punter. That being said, Ryan Allen might want to put his house on the market because if he is cut before June 1st, the Patriots will save $1.4 Million.
If the Detroit Lions had the draft that the Bills had, I think Lions fans would be calling Bob Quinn a god. Standing pat and landing Ed Oliver has to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. Then they traded up and added Cody Ford to help protect their questionable QB pick from last year in Josh Allen. Ford can play tackle or guard, but I think he’ll end up as a starting tackle for the Bills. I like the addition of Devin Singletary and it could spell the end of LeSean McCoy with the free agency additions of TJ Yeldon and Frank Gore. It would save them $6.4 Million to cut him this year, but if they decide to keep him this year, he’s a free agent next summer.
Dawson Knox was a nice addition at tight end and while he’s not very refined as a route runner, he’s explosive, has sure hands and is a solid blocker. Vosean Joseph should start on special teams this year and could even develop into a starter.
Boom or Bust: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens draft is a highly intriguing one. They did not spend a lot of resources to address their defense after letting some key players walk, but I would be that Jaylon Ferguson is going to start for them next year. Earl Thomas was a great addition in free agency and they now have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. So even though they did not really address their front seven, they went out and got some big time weapons for Lamar Jackson.
Adding Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Justice Hill with three of their first four picks lets you know that the Ravens are working HARD to get weapons around Lamar and they are going to be absolutely explosive. Miles Boykin may have a few issues as a wide receiver, but his athleticism is most certainly not one. Marquise and Justice are two explosive weapons and this offense might cause major problems next year. Adding Ben Powers gives them some depth on the offensive line and Iman Marshall can be a backup in multiple spots in the secondary. Daylon Mack is going to get some run in the interior DL and he is an absolute space eater at 336 lbs.
So after gushing about the Ravens, why did I list this as a boom or bust draft? Brown and Hill are coming off of injuries and their starting front seven is quite thin after losing Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za’Darius Smith. Jaylon Ferguson is a good addition but those are some big shoes to fill and their middle linebacker spots are being addressed internally. If their draft picks all pan out and stay healthy, and Lamar takes a step forward as a passer, then basically ignoring their front seven will not hurt them too much. I lean towards boom with this draft, big time.
You essentially add Odell Beckham Jr with your first round pick and then still get a first round talent in Greedy Williams in round 2? Then you add Takitaki in the third? Helluva first two days for the Browns. The rest of their draft was just okay and I absolutely hate the Seibert pick. He did not make a field goal over 51 yards in his college career…pass.
Really loved them adding Josh Allen and Jawaan Taylor with their first two picks. Josh Oliver is a sneaky good pick in the third but the rest is very meh. Quincy Williams went really early for me and I do not see the others as contributors any time soon. Those first 3 picks were real solid though.
[Photo via: Hogs Haven]