Yes, it really has been three months since the Philadelphia Eagles overcame the New England Patriots to win their first Super Bowl championship. For them and the 30 other franchises, though, there has been very little time to rest and recuperate before that big ol’ wheel known as the NFL begins to turn again.
After the madness of free agency, we headed back to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas at the end of April for the biggest NFL Draft to date. As always, many of the 2018 NFL Draft previews were wide of the mark, with trades, shocks, and drop-downs galore. The Chance team followed events all weekend and picked out its five big winners and losers from the event. So, how did your team fare?
NFL Draft 2018 Review: The Winners
Besides a couple of offensive playmakers here and there (Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen), Chicago’s proficiency in the Draft has been questionable at best since Ryan Pace’s appointment as GM in 2015. This time round, though, the Bears used some favorable numbers to draft well in key positions.
While many teams at the top of the first round were salivating over quarterbacks, Chicago picked up arguably the best linebacker available at 8, with Roquan Smith from Georgia. Lining up alongside Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, Smith should have opportunities to make plays from the get-go.
After that, it was all about building a squad around second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, either through adding offensive weapons (WR Anthony Miller at 52) or strengthening the offensive line (C James Daniels at 39, who many expected to go in the first round). The NFC North is gearing up to be extremely competitive in 2018, and the Bears drafted a handful of game-ready talents for new Head Coach Matt Nagy to play with.
2. Tampa Bay
A lot needs to change in Tampa for the Buccaneers to be challenging again, and they went to work in the War Room to address problems on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, running back Ronald Jones, a second-round pick, has the potential to lighten the load on the back of Jameis Winston right away, while Vita Vea out of Washington may have been the best run-stuff option on the table this year. Strengthening the backfield on defense was then on the agenda, picking up a pair of cornerbacks that scouts had an eye on: Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart. The new blood will have to work in harmony with veterans like Brent Grimes and Beau Allen, but if they do, don’t expect the Bucs to as liable to implode as they were in 2017.
With seemingly little to play with in terms of their Draft picks and positions (even giving away their highest pick), the defending Super Bowl champions were sneaky good in the Draft.
The Eagles shifted around to eventually pick up talented tight end Dallas Goedert at 49 – right under the nose of their divisional rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, who were clearly in the market for a top TE. Double tight end setups are a nightmare for defensive coordinators, and if Goedert can quickly offer a threat even close to that of Zach Ertz, the Eagles will have a dual threat opens everything else up. Philly then looked to make up for losing Patrick Robinson in free agency by picking up cornerback Avonte Maddox in the fourth round. They also added depth on the offensive line to ensure Carson Wentz gets a whole year to try and take Philadelphia back to the promise land.
4. New York Giants
Despite struggling in 2017, Eli Manning is still the quarterback of the New York Football Giants… right?
It certainly seems that way, with the Giants’ front office saying as much before the Draft, then ignoring the quarterback chaos in round one and going with a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2018 in running back Saquon Barkley. According to Sports Illustrated, Barkley is “the most intriguing running back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson in 2007”. After that, though, things get a little more interesting.
Big Blue took QB Ryan Lauletta in the fourth round. Stranger things have happened than the 108th pick in the Draft (who should’ve gone earlier, according to some scouts) becoming the franchise quarterback in double-quick time – though he’ll have to compete with a second-rounder from last year in Davis Webb. Guard Will Hernandez also went to the Giants in the second round, perhaps hinting again that the Giants are looking to build a new offense for tomorrow, today. Lorenzo Carter is seen by many as untapped potential at LB, so the Giants’ draft was all about development.
The Cardinals can certainly expect more national headlines after drafting the most polarizing figure in the Draft, Josh Rosen, at 10, who will compete hard in the summer with Sam Bradford for the starting quarterback role. The intrigue surrounding Arizona’s draft goes deeper than that, though.
Their consistently impressive D allowed the Cardinals to lean towards the other side of the ball, specifically looking to complement (and, soon enough, replace) Larry Fitzgerald with second-round WR (and Arizona’s own) Christian Kirk. Versatile offensive lineman Mason Cole was picked up at 97, as the franchise looks to ditch the tag of being an “old” team and looks to bed in some hungry young talent.
NFL Draft 2018 Review: Who Lost Out?
The Bills’ decision to trade up to 12 to 7 might just be the most baffling move of the 2018 NFL Draft. Barely a month after bringing in a quarterback they were gushing over in AJ McCarron from Cincinnati, Buffalo handed over two second-round picks to get Josh Allen: a QB who is talented, of course, but far from guaranteed to be pro-ready by week one. Quarterback controversies are capable of chewing up a locker room, and Buffalo just created their own.
Tremaine Edmunds is a good pick-up at 16, but they once again gave up a pick (a third-round one here) to come up from 22 and get him. The Bills’ roster isn’t exactly young, relying on veterans like Kyle Williams and LeSean McCoy, so going for hopeful quality over guaranteed quantity seemed a strange strategy.
New Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden certainly wasn’t interested in picking safe, conventional options to help ease him into his first season in Oakland. All four of the Raiders’ top four picks come with question marks over their head from experts, whether that be down to size (defensive tackle P.J. Hall), pro-readiness (offensive tackle Brandon Parker), or intangibles (defensive end Arden Key).
The cornerback conundrum was addressed in the fourth round with Nick Nelson, but once again, it’s fair from a safe bet. The Cleveland Browns might look set to be the stars of this year’s Hard Knocks, but can we put in a late request for it to be Oakland instead? New coach, prickly veterans, boisterous rookies… yes please!
The state of limbo Indianapolis appear to be in as they wait for Andrew Luck to be fit again continues to wreak havoc with their entire roster. Yes, the Colts did manage to pick up two touted guards early on in Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, but the obsession with protecting a quarterback that isn’t even around right now means other areas in dire need of help are mostly ignored.
Linebacker Darius Leonard is a good second-round choice, but he won’t be able to solve Indy’s defensive issues by himself. Even if Luck was able to get back to his best any time soon, he’ll be tasked with bailing his leaky defense out most weeks, with very few offensive weapons at his disposal. Here’s hoping the late picks at wide receiver, Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain, turn out to be inspired choices.
4. L.A. Rams
Contractual situations prevented the L.A. Rams from really doubling down on the areas they needed to fix in the Draft. Defensive playmakers were what the eternally likable Sean McVay needed with Alec Ogletree heading to the Giants. However, with multiple offensive linemen nearing the end of either their contract or their career, that took precedent.
A tackle (Joseph Noteboom) and a center (Brian Allen) were the Rams’ first two picks – but even they were miles down the order (89 and 111, respectively) after they moved mountains to get hold of Brandin Cooks and Marcus Peters in trades. McVay’s roster might be ready to go again in a couple of years’ time, but after overachieving in 2017, another deep run in the postseason this year was the target. Lacking the explosiveness on defense, that might be a stretch.
There were many great stories in the 2018 Draft, but none topped the incredible journey of Shaquem Griffin, traded to the Seahawks. Though he lost his left hand at the age of four due to a rare condition, Griffin’s rise to the NFL is no pity parade: this defensive end can play, and will be a steal for Seattle in the fifth round if he shows the form we saw at Central Florida.
Behind him, though, little was done to write the next chapter for the Seahawks as the Legion of Boom begins to fizzle out. Stunningly, Seattle didn’t draft a single cornerback. They took a practice team quarterback and a punter, but no cornerback. Seattle will be hoping that the additions of running back Rashaad Penny and tight end Will Dissly create more opportunities for Russell Wilson to spread the load and get points on the board.
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