The Browns Actually Got it Right
That heading is so unlikely that I’m surprised my intuitive spell check did not flag it. Former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is the best quarterback in this year’s draft class, but more importantly, he’s the best quarterback for the Browns. Things will not be easy in Cleveland, but Mayfield is a guy who went from walk-on to starter at two FBS programs, so he can handle. He is a winner, plain and simple and that is what the Browns need more than anything. Mayfield has an excellent arm, makes great reads, and has the ability to create with his legs. He is a tremendous pick for the Browns.
The four premiere positions in the NFL are the quarterback, offensive tackle, edge rusher, and cornerback. The Browns got the best player in the draft at two of those positions. Denzel Ward is an incredible lockdown corner. He played press man the majority of the time at Ohio State but has an incredible burst that will help him transition to playing more zone coverage. The only real knock on the former Buckeye corner has been his height, but his speed will help him make up for that. In the AFC North, where the top receiver is Antonio Brown, he is an excellent candidate to lock him down.
Reaching for Tackles
There really wasn’t a top offensive tackle in this draft. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey ended up being the first off the board when he went ninth to the 49ers. McGlinchey has a huge frame and is an excellent run blocker, but needs some serious work on his pass sets before he should be trusted to protect Jimmy Garoppolo. With the fifteenth pick, the Raiders selected Kolton Miller out of UCLA. Miller has an even more impressive build than McGlinchey but has not shown the ability to put his massive size to work. He struggles with inside pass rush moves and basically beats outside rushers by making them run around him. His pass sets are not very good and he fails to use his hands. In a draft that lacked top-end offensive tackle talent, the NFL reached for body types. Never one to go with the grain, Bill Belichick and the Patriots selected Isaiah Wynn to fill their need at offensive tackle. Wynn is 6’2” and despite excelling as a left tackle at Georgia, was considered by most to be a guard prospect. The Patriots focus on the talent here, rather than the measurables. Only time will tell who made the right decision.
It was a huge surprise to see Rashaad Penny and Terrell Edmunds going in the first round. Penny is a big, fast running back from San Diego State who was extremely productive but was expected to go in the mid-rounds. Penny has a great ability to force missed tackles, which is something the Seahawks haven’t had in a back since Marshawn Lynch and is something that will be needed because the Seahawks’ offensive line is lacking. Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds has some skill but was not even on the radar as a first-round candidate. In fact, he was not even invited to the draft and was only their as a guest of his brother Tremaine Edmunds. He has talent and fills a need for the Steelers, but he seems like someone they could have easily gotten in the second round.
The Saints Lose Their Mojo
Last year the Saints had an incredible draft adding some major contributors to their defense in Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, and Alex Anzalone. The also solidified their offensive line with Ryan Ramczyk and drafted one of the most dynamic young talents in the league in Alvin Kamara. This year they traded up in the first, giving up their 2019 first round pick. The only reason that makes sense for a team with an aging quarterback to do that is to find their next quarterback, but the Saints passed on Lamar Jackson and instead selected Marcus Davenport. The Texas-San Antonio edge defender has a lot of raw athletic ability but is a huge project. The pick is somewhat questionable with Boston College’s Harold Landry still on the board, but giving up that much to get him is extremely hard to understand. The Saints hit on their picks in last year’s draft, but this was a concerning start to the 2018 draft.
The Falcons lost Taylor Gabriel in free agency, so picking up a wide receiver is not a huge surprise, but drafting this receiver in this position certainly is. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is an excellent deep threat to pair with Julio Jones. Ridley’s ability to take the top off of a defense will force teams to play the Falcons with a more balanced defense then they have in the past. This means teams will not be able to focus as much attention in the passing game on Jones. This could be a huge evolutionary step for the Falcons’ offense.
Lamar Jackson Gets Time to Develop
The AFC North could be absolutely terrifying for defenses in a couple of years. Lamar Jackson ends up in a situation where he will have time to develop behind a well-entrenched starter. Jackson has a lot of talent and has had great success in the NFL. He has a huge arm and as well all know he can run a little bit too. Jackson has a number of technical issues that will help his accuracy if he can clean them up. Sitting behind Joe Flacco will give him time to work out these issues and develop into a solid starter. With Mayfield and Jackson both in the AFC North, the Bengals and Steelers better invest in more athletes on defense.