It’s impossible to say which teams are truly winners so soon after the NFL Draft, but the whole point is to shoot your shot early on and declare which players you like to see what kind of evaluator you are and to see which GMs got it right. It’s impossible to plan for players that have historically obscure development paths or players that have incredible college careers only to be incapable of handling the professional setting. Either way it’s always fun to take a guess and see if your gut reaction was right or not.
I know what you’re thinking…the end of society must be soon because I’m listing a draft that included a 4th round punter as a winner. As much as I totally despise drafting a punter, the rest of this draft was just too good to overlook. The Ravens did what they do best and they let the draft come to them and scooped up talent that fell right in their lap. Kyle Hamilton had some abysmal testing at the Combine and I have concerns about his athleticism, but his tape was good enough that he would have been a Top 10 pick if he had just skipped the Combine. Then they scooped up the best center in the draft who will be a plug and play day one starter in Linderbaum and managed to add a first round talent in David Ojabo in the 2nd round. Ojabo may not play this year because of the freak achilles injury that happened during draft prep, but he has an unbelievable toolset and will be playing for the defensive coordinator that unlocked his potential in college. An easy scheme fit and a great value. Travis Jones was rumored to go much higher than pick 76 after his testing at the Combine and he could very well start for the Ravens on day one as well. So you’re looking at three potential day one starters in your first four picks and one future starter that would had gone in the first round had he not gotten hurt. That is a helluva way to start the draft.
Then you mix in adding Faalele to shore up your offensive line depth and two more pass catching weapons in Kolar and Likely. I’m guessing they will use Likely as a big slot given they have Mark Andrews. The Andrews and Kolar tandem will give them some great blocking in two tight end sets as they likely shift back to an even heavier run first offense than before. The only question mark for me here was not taking a stab at another WR after they traded Hollywood Brown to the Cardinals for pick 25. I’ve got to assume that they will add a free agent wide receiver at some point, but all in all this was a fantastic draft.
It’s not often that I put the Detroit Lions on here, but after this past draft I had to do it. If you want to read my full write up, check it out here.
The Eagles started the offseason with picks 15, 16 and 19 in the Draft and it was assumed they would not use all of them this year. What played out worked out better than any Eagles fan probably could have imagined. First, they traded picks 15, 19 and a 6th round pick to the Saints for pick 18, 101, a 7th, a 2023 1st and a 2024 2nd. This was a monumental move to set them up for the future and allowed them to not have to make three first round picks in a draft that was not as highly thought of as in past years. The Eagles then waited until the draft to make a pair of splashes which consisted of them moving up for Jordan Davis and then flipping pick 18 and 101 for AJ Brown. So with two first round picks and a late 3rd, you were able to get a ridiculous athletic freak to plug holes in the middle of your defense and one of the best young WRs in the game. Instead of hoping Jahan Dotson or someone fell to them at 19 (which he would not have) they went out and ponied up the cash and capital to get a dynamic playmaker to pair with Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. They will find out this year if Jalen Hurts is their quarterback of the future and if he is not, they have plenty of capital in the next pair of drafts to go and get their guy.
Then in the second round they added the second best center in the draft, who will replace Jason Kelce whenever he decides to hang them up and then caught a falling Nakobe Dean. Dean has some medical issues and some teams thought he was undersized but he was an incredible value to get at pick 83. It’s been months and I’m still not sure how he fell that far. They added some depth with their two 6th round picks but that was hardly of any consequence after how they handled the start of the draft. Truly a masterful performance by the Eagles front office.
New York Jets
Hmm…the Lions and the Jets both in an NFL Draft Winners post…maybe it really is the end of days.
The Jets had a ton of capital coming into the Draft and they were not shy about using it. Adding Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson adds immediate help on both sides of the ball. The Jets were absolutely desperate for a corner and while Wilson may seem like a bit of a luxury with Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, it gives Zach Wilson a ton of pass catching options and they will be able to see early on if Wilson is going to be the guy or not. The video of them trying to trade up for a falling Jermaine Johnson was pretty cool to watch and shows you just how much they coveted him. Whether or not they are right about Johnson or everyone else is remains to be seen, but you have to respect a GM that is committed to going and getting players they feel strongly about.
In the second and third round they added more help to the offensive side of the ball which was interesting, but the players they got are without a doubt talented. I thought Michael Carter’s emergence last year would keep them from spending early capital on another running back, but clearly they view Breece Hall as the starter with Carter as a change of pace back. It’ll be a committee for sure, but Hall has the superior tools and will add even more juice to the run game. Jeremy Ruckert, meanwhile, did not catch a ton of passes in college but he has a great deal of talent. If they had not signed CJ Uzomah AND Tyler Conklin this offseason the move would have made even more sense. Now both Uzomah and Conklin have outs in their contracts after the 2nd year of their deal so it is quite possible they bring Ruckert along slowly (TE is one of the hardest positions to adjust to in the NFL) and then he takes over as the guy of the future. Ruckert turns 22 in August so it’s not as though he is an older prospect. In the 4th, they added two prospects that will provide depth in the trenches and while Mitchell has starter traits, I was slightly surprised they did not address offensive tackle earlier so they are not rolling with Fant and Becton. Either way, they added enough talent that this draft was a winner.
Kansas City Chiefs
Trading Tyreek Hill is still not a move that I can endorse, but if you do not want to pay him what he is worth and he was frustrated with his role, you had to do it. The Chiefs wasted no time using the picks to beef up their defense. Trent McDuffie is a future starter (if not day one starter) at corner and George Karlaftis is a good player. His ceiling may not be as high as you would like it to be but he will be a solid starter in the NFL. You have to wonder if the wide receivers going early deterred them from drafting a replacement for Tyreek, even though they spent money on Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. I’m a big Skyy Moore fan and he checks a lot of boxes in terms of his dominator rating and his early breakout. I think there will still be an adjustment period for him and I would temper expectations for him as a rookie, but he will get on the field. Clearly it is make or break time for Mecole Hardman.
Bryan Cook and Leo Chenal have future starter potential and I would not be surprised to see Chenal grab a role this year. The rest of the draft they took players that all have traits and could start, but they will need time to develop. But any time you can acquire five starters (either day one or in the future) in the first 103 picks, you’re doing a damn good job. The cherry on top was getting Justyn Ross as a UDFA, who would have been a first round pick if not for a laundry list of injuries that kept him from being drafted. If he could stay healthy in any form or fashion, I would not be surprised to see Ross as a future starter at wide receiver.
Honorable Mention: New York Giants and Green Bay Packers
The Giants and Packers make the honorable mention list for crushing their first two picks and then following it up with a bunch of question marks. The Giants may have a future starter in Daniel Bellinger, but taking Wan’Dale Robinson so early when you just drafted Kadarius Toney the previous year and have Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay under contract was a head-scratcher for me. The Packers, meanwhile, drafted a toolsy wide receiver with drop issues early in the second round and found solid depth pieces later on. Zach Tom and Sean Rhyan could be starters and I’m not so sure that Romeo Doubs won’t be better than Watson. I don’t mind either of these drafts but they took a few too many question marks after the first two picks to be slam dunk winners.
Photo via: Bleacher Report