The NFL Draft was full of twists and turns. For the first time, five quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. It took until pick no. 24 for the first wide receiver to be taken off the board, and the questions surrounding Lamar Jackson were finally put to rest. Here are the best picks from the draft.
1. Cleveland Browns – QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
The day of the draft, rumors swirled that the Browns could be looking to take Mayfield at number one. I didn’t believe this, as draft day is surrounded by rumors, but it proved to be true. Mayfield is arguably the most accurate quarterback in the draft, but comes with a large amount of baggage. He definitely has had his share of off-the field issue and that can not be excused, but he has promised that he will showcase maturity in the NFL. Size is also an issue at 6 feet, but Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, have proved that size doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, Mayfield is a playmaker who can succeed with the receiving weapons the Browns added in free agency. This is a pick with a good amount of risk, but has the potential to be a high reward.
2. New York Giants – RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
The first running back taken in the top two since Reggie Bush in 2006, was picked this high because the Giants feel that he can come in and immediately take pressure off of Eli Manning. His specs are insane as he is 6’0, 233 lbs and runs the 40 yard dash in 4.4 seconds. Barkley is dangerous between the tackles, dangerous as an outside runner and dangerous in the passing game. Barkley should be able to make an immediate impact due to multiple receiving threats in the Giants offense that will keep running lanes open for the rookie. The Giants also need a quarterback of the future and may regret passing on this year’s top crop of passers, but obviously trust that Eli will last a few more years. Overall, expect Barkley to make an Ezekiel Elliott type impact, most likely without the off-field issues.
4.Cleveland Browns – CB Denzel Ward (Ohio State)
Denzel Ward was considered the best cornerback in the draft before last season ended and the Browns need drastic help at the position. Similar to Mayfield, his size (5’11, 183) leaves more to be desired, but he has the potential to play similar to fellow Ohio State alum, Antoine Winfield, or at best, Hall of Fame nominee, Ronde Barber. With a 4.32 40-yard dash, he is one of the most explosive athletes in the draft. He plays the ball well and loves to hit hard on crossing routes. Also, keep in mind that before becoming the starter at Ohio State, he was trusted to basically be the third starter alongside Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore and first round pick Gareon Conley. Yes, the Browns passed on Bradley Chubb, but they were not sinking at defensive end. This is the right pick for a team trying to improve their secondary.
5. Denver Broncos – DE Bradley Chubb (NC State)
I’m sure the Broncos did not expect Chubb to be available to them at the fifth pick but they made the right decision not to let him fall any further. An instant starter, Chubb will fall right into a defense that carried the Broncos to a 2015 Super Bowl Championship. Any quarterback with this team on the schedule will have nightmares as they will have to face the best edge rusher in the draft in a pass rush that also includes Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Shane Ray.
8. Chicago Bears – LB Roquan Smith (Georgia)
Georgia’s first ever winner of the Butkus Award is headed to Chicago to join a team with a huge history at the linebacker position, and he may fit right in. With a 4.51 40-yard dash, Roquan Smith can play sideline-to-sideline and also cover tight ends and running backs in coverage. His instincts keep him around the ball on every play as he finished his three year college career with 252 tackles, with 137 of those coming in 2017. Definitely has the opportunity to play similar to fellow Bulldog, Thomas Davis.
19. Dallas Cowboys – LB Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State)
According to the reactions on Twitter, many Cowboys fans weren’t to excited about this pick. They are wrong. The pick of Vander Esch was a great move by the Cowboys’ front office to continue to improve a defense that has been a thorn for a team that has only two playoff wins in 22 years. At 6’4, 256 lbs, Vander Esch will be one of the biggest guys on the field and one of the quickest for his size with a 4.65 40-yard dash. With the loss of Anthony Hitchens, Vander Esch has the opportunity to become an instant starter in Dallas. If he can get the mental game to match up with his physicality, and Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee fight the injury bug, the Cowboys may have one of the best linebacking corps in the league.
24. Carolina Panthers – WR D.J. Moore (Maryland)
“They have never been able to replace me. Until today.” said former Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith. He is happy about the pick and every other fan of the Cardiac Cats should be too. Carolina had their choice of receivers in the draft and chose to go with the 6 foot, 210 pound D.J. Moore out of Maryland. This is a great fit as the Panthers have been missing speed since the departure of Ted Ginn Jr. and Moore can surely fit that need after running a 4.43 40-yard dash. He also is familiar with the entire route tree, and with some polishing and mentorship, can become a complete route-runner. After playing with eight different quarterbacks, Moore is excellent at tracking off-target balls and still completing the catch, which will come in handy on days that Cam Newton isn’t the most accurate passer. Also, unlike most young receivers, Moore utilizes his hands to catch balls instead of cheating with his body. He will have to improve on his separation from defensive backs at the line of scrimmage, but recently acquired receiver and fellow Maryland Terp Torrey Smith can help him in that department. With D.J. Moore, Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen, Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey all in a Panther’s uniform, Cam Newton finally has weapons.
26. Atlanta Falcons – WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
The Atlanta Falcons led the league in scoring two seasons ago but drastically declined last year. The addition of Calvin Ridley puts the Falcons back into contention to lead the league in scoring once again. Ridley is a precise route runner and can create separation from his cuts and immediate burst, similar to the other Alabama product on the field, Julio Jones. Ridley must improve on his hands as he had 20 dropped passes over three seasons, but with dedication to his craft, this is something that can be fixed. Matt Ryan performs best when he can spread the ball around to different options and that is exactly what will happen with a loaded offense that also includes Mohamed Sanu in the slot, Austin Hooper at tight end and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman working from the backfield. The only thing that keep this from being a better pick is the glaring needs at other positions for the Falcons. Either way, Ridley will help Atlanta improve now.
32. Baltimore Ravens – QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
A first round that started with a Heisman Award winner also finished with a Heisman Award winner. Everyone wondered who would take the chance on the most electric athlete in the draft and the Ravens pulled it off after some amazing draft moves. This may be the best place for Lamar Jackson for one reason only: Marty Mornhinweg. The Ravens offensive coordinator has successful coaching experience with multiple dual-threat quarterbacks including Steve Young, Brett Favre, Jeff Garcia, Donovan Mcnabb and Michael Vick. Yes, Mornhinweg can coach Lamar Jackson to be a better passer; just compare Vick’s passing in Philadelphia versus his passing in Atlanta. The drastic improvements came directly from working with Mornhinweg and the same can happen for the Louisville product. Another great factor for Jackson is that he doesn’t have to immediately become the day one starter. Sitting behind Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco and an experienced dual-threat quarterback in Robert Griffin III is huge for a young passer who definitely has to grow. With these details enhancing his development, Jackson will be a dominant force when his number is called. He is as pure of an athlete as they come and always finds a way in the end zone. Jackson had 119 touchdowns in three collegiate seasons. I believe that says everything we need to know about him.