The Most Interesting Picks In the First Round, With a Very Critical Eye
By George Kurtz
The first round of the 2018 NFL Entry Draft is complete. Like just about any draft, we had some head-scratchers and quite a few trades. In all honesty no one can tell you whether a player will work out or not at this point. So much of this seems to be educated guesswork, even by the professional teams. If this wasn’t true, then NFL Draft history wouldn’t be littered with so many highly-rated quarterbacks that were complete busts. With that in mind we are going to look at highly compelling picks made yesterday. Including some that were either good values or that have a chance to go belly up.
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns: Mayfield is a skilled athlete but is that enough to be the first overall pick in a QB heavy draft? It shouldn’t be. He doesn’t have the size of a prototypical NFL QB (6’0, 215 lbs.), so if he is going to be scrambling around, there is a good chance he’s not going to survive in the NFL. He’s also had maturity and legal issues in his past. It’s surprising that with all of the top QBs that Cleveland has passed up in previous drafts, that they didn’t go with Sam Darnold, a player who would seem to check quite a few more boxes than Mayfield does. This pick could go belly up.
2. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants: The problem with this pick has nothing to do with the player. He’s going to be good, maybe even great, but in today’s NFL, a team needs a QB to compete. An optimist has to admit that Eli Manning is on the down side of his career. It’s not all that often that a team has a Top 5 pick. It’s not like the Giants are a terrible team than can expect to pick early in the draft again any time soon. How can they pass up a chance to draft their franchise QB for the next 10-plus years? What’s going to happen in two years when Eli is completely done and the Giants’ only chance to get a top QB is either to give up draft capital to move up or to sign a mediocre free agent? We won’t even mention that the offensive line is poor and there won’t be many lanes for Barkley to run through. Those of you who believe Barkley will lead the Giants back to the promised land, ummm, how many Super Bowls has Adrian Peterson appeared in? This one will not go belly up, but it was the wrong pick.
3. Sam Darnold, New York Jets: You can look at this pick in one of two ways. First, perhaps the Jets received a gift from God when Darnold fell to them at third overall. Quite a few had him ranked as the top QB in this draft. He’s quite the leader and can make all the throws. Second, if the Jets had stayed at the sixth overall pick and not traded their first-round pick and three second-round picks to move up three spots, they still would’ve had their choice of either Josh Rosen or Josh Allen. Yeah, that’s back seat driving and all, but still true. None of this will matter, of course, if the Jets have their QB of the future in Darnold.
4. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns: This pick really comes down to philosophy. Almost everyone had Bradley Chubb rated as the top defensive player on their board. Even though the Browns have Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah already, the old axiom is that you can never have enough pass rushers. The Browns may have passed on the best defensive player because it wasn’t a position of need and instead went with a slightly lesser player, but one that does fulfill another need. Cleveland going this direction really isn’t a problem, but this draft was CB heavy. They could’ve just taken the best CB available at 33rd overall, traded back into the bottom of the first round, or traded down a few slots from 4 to grab Ward later. It doesn’t seem like they maximized their value here.
5. Bradley Chubb, DE, Denver Broncos: The Broncos had a trade all worked out with Buffalo depending upon who was available when it was their turn to make a selection. In the end, they couldn’t pass up on Chubb. They pair Chubb with Von Miller and the Broncos may go back to having that championship defense that led them to a Super Bowl win just a few years ago.
6. Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianapolis Colts: Well it would be nice to maybe, you know, protect Andrew Luck this season. He has taken a beating for years because the Colts ignored upgrading the OL. Not this year. Nelson should go a long way towards keeping Luck healthy once he is cleared for a return to action.
7. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: Did the Bills take Allen over Rosen purely because he played in poor weather at Wyoming? The weather in Buffalo does get bad, but for only a couple of games each season. It’s not like they will play eight games in horrific conditions. If they thought that Allen was a better QB in bad weather, that should’ve only been used as a tiebreaker if he and Rosen were close, not as the determining factor.
10. Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals: The Cards took advantage when Rosen started to fall in the draft. They didn’t have the draft capital to move into the Top 5, so they needed a break and got it. Rosen will be their QB of the future and can learn behind Sam Bradford (until he gets hurt anyway). Unfortunately, he won’t have much to throw to. Sure, Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, but this could be his last season in the NFL before he retires.
14. Marcus Davenport, DE, New Orleans Saints: This may have been the biggest head-scratcher of the first round. The Saints gave up this years’ first-round pick and along with next year’s and their fifth-round pick this season to trade up and take a raw pass rusher in Davenport. New Orleans should be going for gold in the few seasons that Drew Brees has left and giving up this kind of capital for a player who may not pay off until 2019, if ever, seems awfully silly. This one can go belly up overall for the Saints.
15. Kolton Miller, OT, Oakland Raiders: Once again this pick has nothing to do with the player, but more the question of why the Raiders would take him. Sure, he could’ve been the best player on their board, but the Raiders seemed to have taken a luxury pick here. They didn’t need OL help but could’ve used help at just about any defensive position. From the perspective of what was needed, this is a belly up selection.
17. Derwin James, S, San Diego Chargers: If you’re looking for the next great defense, the Chargers may be it. James will join studs like Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward, and Denzel Perryman. This defense is stacked and should be a force to be reckoned with for the immediate future.
19. Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Dallas Cowboys: Sometimes Jerry Jones just can’t help himself. The Cowboys are devoid of speed on offense and have next to nothing at WR but instead of taking whoever was the top WR on their board (D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley), they took a LB who was a walk-on to his college program, only had one good year and may have a neck problem. The first round is generally not the time you want to take high upside, low floor players. Jerry went belly up in the first round.
25. Hayden Hurst, TE, Baltimore Ravens: A big target over the middle is often the best friend for a QB. Hurst will give the Ravens offense something they have been missing since the retirement of Dennis Pitta. If the Ravens weren’t going to go WR with this pick, then TE was the next best thing. This is actually a good value selection.
26. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons: If Ridley turns out to be the real deal, can pick up the offense quickly and gain the trust of QB Matt Ryan, the Falcons offense could be close to unstoppable. Defenses won’t be able to pay as much attention to Ridley with Julio Jones on the opposite side and Devonta Freeman toting the rock. Scoring shouldn’t be a problem for Atlanta this season. This has been hailed as a fine value pick and I agree.
27. Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Maybe there wasn’t offensive lineman ranked high enough to take here, but then they shouldn’t have traded back. It doesn’t matter how good the RB is if there aren’t any holes to run through. Seattle still hasn’t seemed to figure out that they need to spend top resources on the OL to have continued offensive success in the NFL. Penny could be sitting belly up without ample blocking.
28. Terrell Edmunds, S, Pittsburgh Steelers: There are quite a few out there who have doubts about Edmunds being worthy of a first-round pick, but a bigger question might be where the Steelers plan to play him? They already have Sean Davis and Morgan Burnett. They may have been better served taking a lineman or linebacker here. Not a fan of this pick, it ultimately goes belly up.
29. Taven Bryan, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars: Perhaps if Ridley would’ve been available he would’ve been the pick. With the loss of Allen Robinson, you would’ve thought the Jags would’ve tried to get help for QB Blake Bortles with either a WR or TE, but no, they went with a position that they are already loaded at. Belly up.
31. Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots: Trying to figure out who the RB will be in NE was just getting a little easier with Dion Lewis no longer on the team, but then Bill Belichick throws us all a curveball and takes Michel. Even if you like Michel, which is questionable, ending up in NE may be the worst thing for him as he will have to battle for touches with Rex Burkhead, James While, Mike Gillislee, and Jeremy Hill. Belly up.
32. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens: We were waiting for Baltimore to take Jackson with the 16th overall pick, but they traded back. Then with the 22nd overall pick, but they traded back again. Kudos to them for getting what could be their QB of the future by moving back into the first-round. Sure, he is likely to sit this season behind Joe Flacco, but with Flacco not due any guaranteed money after this season, it should be Jackson’s team in 2019. You have to like the savvy moving down to get their guy at a value.