As usual, day one this year’s NFL Draft had many twists to it, and practically destroyed every mock draft. Some players fell right into teams’ laps, making them winners of round one. However, on the flip side, those players are only available if a team before them reaches for a player; those teams are the losers of the draft. Who are these winners and losers? Let’s discuss.
Winner: Washington Redskins
There’s no better way to symbolize how shocking round one of the draft was than the fact that the Redskins “won” the draft. This front office has struggled to put this team in any sort of direction, ultimately going for the flashing player or a player from the University of Alabama. Leading up into the draft, there were even rumors that owner Dan Snyder had taken control of the draft, hoping to engineer a trade up for Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Yet, in the end, Washington got their franchise quarterback in Haskins at pick #15, which was tremendous value. The Redskins are actually a solid fit for Haskins; he doesn’t have the pressure to play right away since they have a veteran stopgap under center in Case Keenum. There’s no guarantee the 21-year-old will pan out, but at this point of the draft, the risk diminished significantly. Washington wasn’t done; they traded up to the 26th overall pick for their 2019 and 2020 second round picks, and selected edge rusher Montez Sweat. This is another situation where although the player isn’t a can’t-miss prospect, it’s worth taking a flyer on the upside at this point of the draft. Sweat has some off the field concerns, and a heart concern that seems to have been addressed, and he lacks polish. Still, he ran a 4.41 40 yard dash and has incredible length. There’s a chance that both of these picks don’t pan out, and the praising of the team’s selections was premature. However, there’s an even greater chance that they do pan out, and if they do, this could be a franchise changing draft for the team.
Loser: New York Giants
The Giants didn’t seem to have a direction in free agency, and they continue to have no direction, as evidenced by the draft. Yes, the team landed who they hope is their franchise quarterback, but it was the wrong one at the wrong time. With Haskins, edge rusher Josh Allen, and defensive tackle Ed Oliver all available, the team selected quarterback Daniel Jones out of Duke. Jones’ upside is limited, and his accuracy is way too inconsistent for him to make an impact. To sum it up, he’s a project with a low floor, who the old school Dave Gettleman likely fell in love with due to his “character” and the similarities he shares with Eli Manning. The problem is, that the team didn’t need a prospect with the upside of Manning or Andy Dalton. Rather, they needed a higher ceiling prospect with Haskins or even Drew Lock, both of whom could be franchise changing selections if they pan out. Since Jones is a game manager, he needs a talented supporting cast for him to succeed, yet since the team reached for him at #6 and didn’t wait for him at pick #17, they missed the chance to select a new face of their defense in Oliver or Allen. It gets worse; the team selected defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence despite having two solid interior defensive linemen in PJ Hall and Dalvin Tomlinson and the fact that nose tackle is not worth a first-round investment. With tackle Andre Dillard and better defensive prospects on the board, this pick was almost as much of a reach as the Jones pick. The team then traded back into the first round for their second-round pick, fourth-round pick, and sixth-round pick, which was smart. However, the team still managed to get the pick wrong by taking Deandre Baker, despite better corners in Greedy Williams and Byron Murphy being available. If anyone has a clue on what Gettleman is doing, the entire football world would like to know, because there is no way to justify this performance.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
The Bills knew who they wanted all along, and according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.Com, the team even thought about trading up for him. That player was defensive tackle Ed Oliver, whom the team selected with the ninth overall selection. Oliver has the ceiling of Aaron Donald and has drawn comparisons to Grady Jarrett as well; he is a rare commodity as an explosive interior rusher. Buffalo’s defense is solid, but the team lacked an interior pass rusher. The team had already addressed the team’s offensive needs in free agency, allowing them to go with the best player available. In this case, it was the player they had coveted from the start, who is the young defensive superstar that the team needed. This could be the type of pick that leads to the Bills surprising people and making a legitimate playoff push next season. Plus, with several players still available on both sides of the ball, the Bills can either build the offense around quarterback Josh Allen or continue to get younger on the defensive side of the ball. The team is set up perfectly following flawless execution of their first-round selection.
Loser: Oakland Raiders
As far as filling needs, the Raiders did a fair job. They found their new pass rusher in Clelin Ferrell, their new running back in Josh Jacobs, and an impact player in the secondary in Jonathan Abram. However, Ferrell has projected to be a middle of the first-round selection; the team should have pushed harder to trade down if he has the desired target all around. Jacobs is fine value in the back-end of the first round, but it is unclear who else was going to select him; they could have waited until their second-round pick to secure his services. Abram is a fine player, but he’s a box safety and isn’t a fit on a team that already has that type of player in Karl Joseph, and the pick makes even less sense considering better defensive backs in Byron Murphy, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Greedy Williams were still available. This draft should have changed the course of the Raiders, especially given the amount of work it took to acquire two extra first-round picks. Instead, the team massively dropped the ball and wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity, which is a massive blow for a franchise that was looking to finally be on the upswing.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers broke a tradition during the draft; they traded up to land linebacker Devin Bush. For years, the team has sat back and waited for their selection, often missing on prospects that they needed and desired. That looked to be the case early in the draft, as the Bush was the only first-round linebacker left on the board with the Bengals (Pick 11) or Packers (Pick 12) likely to select him. Had it not been for this trade up, there would have been no way for the team to draft Bush, who is a game-changer for this defense. His athleticism, leadership, and versatility are traits Pittsburgh was missing from their linebackers; they previously had one of the slowest, least productive groups in the NFL at the position. The team has been hurting ever since Ryan Shazier suffered a traumatic back injury, and with this selection, they have not only found his replacement but an exact clone of him. Bush is a perfect fit for the Steelers, and by aggressively trading up to select him, they have completely changed the outlook of their team for next season. With Bush, this defense looks strong enough to complement an elite offense; this team definitely looks to be a playoff-caliber team despite all the negative press it has received throughout the offseason.
Loser: Houston Texans
Coming into the draft, practically everyone knew the Texans were in search of an offensive tackle after allowing 62 sacks last season. In fact, practically everyone knew their target was Washington State tackle Andre Dillard, who already looks to be an elite pass protector. Rather than move up a few spots to select their desired target, Houston waited and watched as the Eagles moved up right in front of them to select Dillard. From there, the team clearly panicked, and reached for Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard, who was considered a late second-round prospect. This is the classic example of why a team needs to careful in letting their draft plans be known; the Eagles knew they had to get in front of Houston to take Dillard, and did just that. This is also an illustration of why teams need to have a backup plan; a consensus first-round offensive lineman such as Cody Ford or Jawan Taylor would have made much more sense given that they need immediate impact, rather than a small-school project in Howard. If not for the Giants and Raiders, the Texans would be receiving much more criticism for their performance on day one, because it was an utter failure.
San Francisco 49ers: Took Nick Bosa, the player they needed to select to solidify a defense that looks significantly improved.
Denver Broncos: Traded down, got an elite target in Noah Fant, and still have a chance to acquire a franchise quarterback in Drew Lock with their second-round selection
Philadelphia Eagles: Traded up just from 25 to 22 to select Dillard, giving the team a long-term option at left tackle after Jason Peters retires. The cost? A fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Got the impact defender they needed in linebacker Devin White
Carolina Panthers: Finally addressed their pass rush by selecting Brian Burns, who should develop into a starter and will at least be a rotational pass rusher at the moment.
Green Bay Packers: Missed on the chance to add a dynamic weapon to their offense in Marquise Brown, randomly decided to trade up to take Darnell Savage, and took a risk with Rashan Gary.
Atlanta Falcons: Reached for two offensive linemen in Chris Lindstrom (Pick 14) and Kaleb McGary (Pick 31, Trade Up), ignored critical needs on defense, and left Jawan Taylor and Cody Ford on the board.
Seattle Seahawks: Reached for defensive end LJ Collier at pick #29, and traded back twice with their #21 overall pick for minimal draft compensation in return. At some point, quality needs to be valued as much as quantity.
Miami Dolphins: Could not trade down to secure future draft picks like they planned to do, and reached for a low-ceiling player in defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
Arizona Cardinals: I am completely behind the Kyler Murray pick, but watching other teams secure their franchise quarterbacks as the market for Josh Rosen completely diminished was a tough blow for the team.