The NFL draft, after lasting what felt like a week, is finally over. And it didn’t disappoint as surprising picks and several trades highlighted the proceedings.
It’s always important to remember that the true impact of these draft picks won’t be fully realised for years and that none of these rookies have played a snap in the league yet.
But with that said, here are winners and losers of the draft, along with some miscellaneous takeaways.
It would have taken a significant screw-up for Cleveland to not end up here, considering they had two picks in the first four selections. But they deserve credit for wielding those picks well, too.
You could argue they should have followed that up by taking the consensus best player in the draft, Bradley Chubb, at four, but forgoing a pass rusher in favour of a playmaking cornerback in Denzel Ward is hardly a crime.
Running-back Nick Chubb and wide receiver Antonio Callaway were also promising picks later on as the Browns came out of the draft with a reason for optimism.
John Elway didn’t spring on his quarterback of the future, but you can’t blame him because of what he ended up with instead.
Bradley Chubb fell into the Broncos’ lap at fifth overall, so instead of trading their pick and acquiring more capital, Elway decided to bolster their strength and add the pass rusher to a defence that already includes Von Miller.
That’s the type of luxury you can afford when you bring in a veteran quarterback like Case Keenum, who may not light the world on fire, but is more than a steady hand.
There’s a chance Baltimore ended up with the best quarterback in the draft, and all it took was moving into the 32nd pick.
Lamar Jackson may not be the prototypical quarterback, but if you have eyes and followed his college career, you know he’s an electric playmaker capable of taking over games. Will he have to improve his accuracy and reads to succeed in the NFL? Sure. But the talent is unquestionably already there and he’ll have at least a year to develop behind Joe Flacco.
Ozzie Newsome wasn’t done there though, as he went on to select multiple players who thrived in college, including offensive tackle Orlando Brown, cornerback Anthony Averett and safety Deshone Elliott.
The NFL draft is a crapshoot, which is why packaging picks to trade up – essentially sacrificing multiple chances at landing an impact player in favour of going all-in on one player – is often foolhardy.
To trade up twice in the first round? That’s just asking for regret down the road.
And yet Buffalo felt it necessary to move up to seventh overall to take Josh Allen and then trade up to 16 and nab Tremaine Edmunds.
This criticism of the Bills has less to do with the players they picked – although Allen has his doubters for a reason – and more to do with their process. This is the same team, by the way, that traded the ninth overall pick, along with a first and fourth-rounder in 2015 to move up and select wide receiver Sammy Watkins fourth overall.
The circumstances are different this time around, but still. Have the Bills learned nothing?
Speaking of trading up, the Saints were also guilty of giving in to temptation.
New Orleans surrendered next year’s first-rounder to move from 27 to 14 to snag raw but talented pass rusher Marcus Davenport, which is a good pick in a vacuum, but perhaps not for the price it required.
They then took offensive lineman Rick Leonard in the fourth round, which was a head-scratcher based on where he was ranked by many coming into the draft.
Maybe the Saints know something the rest of us don’t?
Patriots wait on QB
Somewhat surprisingly, New England didn’t take a quarterback until the seventh round, when they selected Danny Etling.
So after rumours ahead of the draft suggested they may move up and take a top quarterback prospect, the Patriots ultimately played it pretty safe at the position. Which is a little disappointing because they could have taken Jackson at 31 overall, instead of fortifying their deep stable of running backs.
But Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick for a reason and it’s probably safe to assume he knows what he’s doing. That’s not to say Etling will become Tom Brady’s successor, but New England is always going to take the measured approach.
Worth a shot
It’s always interesting to see where talented players with red flags – medical, behavioural, legal, etc. – will go.
Highly productive defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who has heart issues, was taken in the fifth round by Oakland; linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who has one hand, was taken in the fifth round by Seattle; and Callaway, who has been in trouble for various reasons, was picked in the fourth round by Cleveland.
All three of those players have the talent to outperform where they were drafted, and if they do, the teams that took them will look smart. And if they don’t work out, a fourth or fifth round pick hardly constitutes much of a risk.
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