The 2018 NFL Draft is officially in the record books. Only history will tell the tale of the winners and losers, but who wants to wait for that, am I right? So, until then, here’s my expert analysis on which teams hit a home run (yes, I’m using a baseball analogy in an article about football) and which teams flopped harder than Gretchen trying to make “fetch” happen.
Denver Broncos – After a disappointing season last year, the Broncos rebounded with one of the strongest drafts in the league, which helped improve their team immediately. The Broncos signed Case Keenum in the off season and wisely resisted the temptation of drafting a QB.
Denver loaded up on defensive talent, but two of their draft picks stand out as big-time playmakers; Bradley Chubb and Courtland Sutton.
You may remember my article on the NFL combine, where I highlighted players to watch. Two of those players I mentioned were Chubb and Sutton.
Chubb was the single best pass rusher in the draft and will create an imposing team with Von Miller for opposing offensive lines.
Sutton, who I believe was arguably the best receiver in the draft, mixes great size with freakish athletic ability. Keenum now potentially has a three-headed monster in Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and Courtland Sutton.
New York Giants – The Giants continue to fall short of the Super Bowl magic they found against the New England Patriots. David Gettleman was hoping to change that with his first draft as the Giants General Manager, and by all accounts it was an overwhelming success.
One major draft question to be answered is if the Giants draft a quarterback. They did, but they waited until the third round to draft Kyle Lauletta. The move seems to indicate that they’re slowly preparing for the future post-Eli, while showing Eli that they’re “all in” on him in the present.
Their standout pick was Saquon Barkley, who many experts believe was the best player in the draft. Barkley is a magical running back and gives Eli one more dynamic player in an offense that already contains Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. After adding Nate Solder in free agency to help protect Eli, you have a potentially dangerous offense.
Cleveland Browns – The Browns have been the biggest disappointment of a franchise in modern NFL history. In the previous 10 seasons, they’ve won a combined 48 games. As a point of reference, in the previous 5 seasons, the New England Patriots have won 63 games.
After a winless season last year, improvement is almost a certainty. The Browns surprisingly decided to go with a Johnny Manziel-like quarterback in Baker Mayfield with the first pick in the NFL draft. Mayfield is only 6’00, but he’s athletic, has a high football IQ and doesn’t appear to have the character issues that Manziel brought to the table. Mayfield is an instant upgrade at quarterback and his chemistry with Josh Gordon, who was recently signed to a one-year deal, will be critical to the offense improving.
Antonio Callaway is sure to draw comparisons to Josh Gordon. He’s a young, talented wide receiver with a lot of off-the-field baggage. The Browns must not be too concerned about him, as they traded with the Patriots to move up nine spots to select him.
If Gordon and Callaway can remain focused, Mayfield could have quite the dual threat to throw to.
Denzel Ward should be a nice addition to Cleveland’s secondary. He isn’t the biggest cornerback, but he has good footwork and solid leaping ability to contest passes. They strangely passed on Bradley Chubb with the 4th pick in the draft, indicating that they feel what they have with Myles Garrett for a pass rush will suffice.
While the Browns have improved based on the draft, fans would be wise to take a very cautious approach, as rebuilding from that level takes time. I wouldn’t anticipate a winning season in their future just yet.
New Orleans Saints – The Saints could very well have a great 2018 season, but it probably won’t be due to the draft. Instead of swinging for the fences and putting on the final touches needed to advance to the next level, they put together a draft that was not nearly as significant as what they did the year prior.
The Saints used two first-round picks to acquire pass rusher Marcus Davenport. That was a big price to pay (they didn’t have a second-round pick due to the Alvin Kamara pick last year) when you consider what the return on investment likely is.
Their fourth-round selection, offensive tackle Rick Leonard, was taken significantly higher than any expert predicted, which was a complete headscratcher.
Buffalo Bills – The Buffalo Bills pulled off the improbable last season, reaching the NFL playoffs for the first time in a long time. Their fans were excited, and rightfully so. Then the NFL draft happened.
With picks 12 and 22, they should’ve had a draft that would make its fans excited. Instead, they traded up from 12 to 7 to take the 5th best QB in the draft, in Josh Allen. With their second-round pick, the Bills selected Tremaine Edmunds, a linebacker with scouting reports that indicate he has poor instincts and is slow to react to plays. He was ranked 91st in tackling efficiency last year – that isn’t a typo. The Bills picked a linebacker in the second round that is barely in the top 100 in tackling efficiency.
Oakland Raiders – The Raiders started the draft with a trade that saw them pick up Martavis Bryant from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bryant comes with a lot of baggage and its telling that Pittsburgh was willing to part ways with him.
The Raiders selected defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, but he was sent home from the combine due to a heart condition. Hurst is a talented player, but his health makes this move a complete roll of the dice.
They used two early picks on two offensive linemen, in a puzzling move. The offensive line has been a strength of the Raiders team in recent years.