State of Play: 32 Thoughts from Round 1

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  1. The Cleveland Browns made the right decision staying with Myles Garrett and not taking Mitchell Trubisky. In the end, I believe the Trubisky hype was all media-driven and that the Browns were locked in the entire time, which is what I maintained throughout the process. Cleveland allowing teams to come up around them for Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, and then trading back to #25 shows they weren’t hell-bent on taking one of these quarterbacks, so any talk of a QB at #1 was always antithetical to the Browns’ processes.
  2. I love what John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers did at #2. Allow Chicago to trade one spot up and taking them for an extra third-round pick (#67), fourth-round pick (#111), and a 2018 third-round pick. The 49ers acquired the top available player on their board and three extra picks by allowing the Bears to bet against themselves. As it turned out, there was never a real QB market and the Bears could have stayed at #3. The Niners grabbing Solomon Thomas, who will play the Michael Bennett role in their system, was a turning-point pick for the franchise and the quality of it was enhanced by the picks they received.
  3. Transversely, the Bears bet against themselves for Trubisky and way overpaid for him. I’ve been open in my belief that general manager Ryan Pace was targeting a QB at #3 (though I thought it was Watson) so the fact Chicago is going all-in on trying to find their franchise quarterback isn’t surprising – what is surprising is they would give up so much when they didn’t have to. It felt like a big reach, like the Jaguars taking Blake Bortles #3 overall in 2014. It felt like the Bears out-thought themselves. In the end, if Trubisky is a top 12 player at his position one day this move will likely be worth it, but it was a big reach for me.
  4. I thought the Jaguars has cooled on Leonard Fournette this past week, and that they were turning their attention to Watson, Jonathan Allen, or Cam Robinson, but it turned out to be just the calm before the storm. Jacksonville took Fournette and now have to feature their offense around him to make it work. Stylistically, Jacksonville is going to have to use Fournette like the Vikings did in Adrian Peterson’s prime – which could be worth it if he’s near Peterson’s level, which I’m not sold on at all. This felt like a reach and a stubborn move from the Jaguars. Maybe they got pigeonholed into the pick and had to take someone there, but it puts a lot of pressure on Fournette, the entire offense, and the current regime. I don’t think this was a good value pick or a pick that addressed the biggest needs.
  5. Tennessee stayed at #5 and took my WR1, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, to be the alpha receiver Marcus Mariota needs. Buzz had cooled on Davis because of his lingering recovery from an ankle injury, but in the last week it was reported he was running routes and making catches at full speed. Jon Robinson got ahead of the wide receiver run and took his guy, which has to be applauded. Davis is easily the best receiver in this class for me – my #4 overall player. My comp for Davis has been Allen Robinson, while several of my peers have said he has more spring in his jump and that he’s A.J. Green. Either way, Tennessee’s offense is looking playoff quality.
  6. The New York Jets did the right thing by not forcing a quarterback and selecting LSU’s Jamal Adams. The better move would have been to trade down, but adding quality position players was the top priority and Adams fits what Todd Bowles wants to do on defense. The Jets needed a cornerstone player and got one in the LSU safety.
  7. I had heard the Chargers coveted Solomon Thomas and were very high on Mike Williams, but weren’t opposed to a trade down if it were there. With Thomas gone, either a trade never blossomed or they just decided to stay put and take their top-rated wideout. The Chargers have nice options in the passing game, but lack a true #1, which Williams has the potential to become.
  8. Christian McCaffrey to the Panthers seems to be the philosophical change they need on offense, getting faster all around and giving Cam Newton his most dynamic weapon during his time in Carolina. McCaffrey’s going to open up big play potential in the run, pass, and return game and a secondary contribution will be defenses paying closer attention to him and freeing up Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess on the outside.
  9. Cincinnati passed on upgrading defense or taking O.J. Howard to go with the speedster John Ross. I like the idea, because you can’t teach 4.22 speed and Ross’s short-area quickness, but size and injury concerns are worth questioning and I felt they could have received better value with a trade back. This move upgrades the Bengals offense and makes it that much harder for defenses to key on A.J. Green or Tyler Eifert.
  10. Kansas City made the gutsiest move of the night, trading a 2018 1st rounder to move up for Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, my QB1 and only one in this class I would classify as someone with true franchise quarterback ability, is worth the hefty price for Kansas City as they lock down the future of their organization a year or two earlier than they had to. I felt this was exceptionally savvy because, despite the urge to “wait until next year’s QB class”, the Chiefs went with someone now that they know instead of having to be stuck searching for Alex Smith’s replacement at an inconvenient time. Both general manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid have ties to Green Bay, and eventually Mahomes will allow Reid to run Brett Favre-esque plays within the West Coast system. The potential for 2019 and beyond is almost unlimited if Mahomes learns the necessary traits under Reid – undoubtedly one of the best in football. For this trade to be worth it, Patrick Mahomes has to one day end up as one of the top half best quarterbacks in football, but I see him as that kind of talent, and I applaud the move by the organization.
  11. One of the best picks of the night was New Orleans not reaching on a defensive end and taking the best cornerback in the class, Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore is my #2 player in this class and in a tier with only Jalen Ramsey and Marcus Peters in the four drafts I’ve scouted. The Saints have about a two-year window with Drew Brees, so upgrading the defense with a potential shutdown corner like Lattimore is going to go a long way in putting them back in playoff contention.
  12. The Houston Texans went all-in on the future of their franchise by trading a 2018 1st round pick to the Cleveland Browns for the right to draft Deshaun Watson. This offseason, in total, the Texans traded 2018’s 1st and 2nd round picks and Brock Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns and in turn ended up with Watson. This is a bold move by Houston, but it’s one that they have to believe firmly makes them a Super Bowl contender as they were a game away from it last season with Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler at quarterback. While I commend the ambition, and have stated several times that Watson’s ideal fit is with Houston, giving up this much for him is a big reach to me. I’m in the minority with my opinion of Watson. I gave him a 2nd round grade and believe he’s more of a Teddy Bridgewater or Kerry Collins type of player – someone you can win with but not the type you win because of. I’m rooting to be wrong on this because Watson is one of the more likeable and infectious personalities in recent memory. He’s a franchise guy in the locker room and off the field. I understand completely why the Texans went up to get him.
  13. Arizona let Mahomes get away from them and could live to regret that. In the present though, they grabbed the “safest” linebacker in this class, one who can stack off the line of scrimmage or be an edge rusher in their 3-4 system. Haason Reddick embodies what the draft process is supposed to be about, having earned more money this draft cycle than any other prospect. I love the selection and the way Bruce Arians talked about using him last night in his interview. They’re going to let play everywhere and impact a defense that needs to get the spark back from 2015.
  14. I really thought the Eagles reached on Derek Barnett at #14. He fits their system, and does have the college production and high-motor teams love, but he was a very average tester at his pro day, especially for his size. Barnett would have to be an outlier to be worth this level of investment for Philadelphia. They could have gotten someone of his quality in round 2 and addressed another need at this spot.
  15. GM Chris Ballard made one of the best selections of the night when Ohio State’s Malik Hooker fell to them at #15. Hooker is the best free safety in this class and gives the Colts an identity at safety that they’ve lacked since the days of Bob Sanders.
  16. The Ravens opted for cornerback over pass rusher or offensive tackle and selected Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey, a great athlete and physical CB lacks ideal technique, but with Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson behind him at safety, that deficiency won’t be such a liability initially. This pick makes a lot of sense in both the short- and long-term for them.
  17. Jonathan Allen’s size, testing, and shoulder issues caused him to fall and, schematically, he wound up in a great spot in Washington. His technique and work ethic will never be in question, the questions are if he has the size and necessary athleticism to succeed as a high-end trench player, and if his shoulder issues don’t worsen and allow him to be as quality as he’s capable of being. I’m lower than the consensus on Allen, and thought he would be a better value in Round 2, but he’s right there with Watson in terms of being a player you root for, and I hope he’s excellent in the nation’s capital.
  18. For as good as Tennessee’s first pick was, I thought taking Adoree’ Jackson was a huge reach, especially with the players still on the board. Jackson’s appeal on special teams is enticing, and he has the talent to be a really nice cornerback, but the Titans could have gotten better value for him in the 30s, and I had higher ranked defensive backs available. I also wholly disagreed with passing over Howard sitting there for the taking. This is a boom/bust pick for the Titans.
  19. Tampa Bay hit a home run. I was told at the Senior Bowl in January that Howard was their top target at #19 but they never expected the NFL to allow him to get to that point. He did and they jumped at it. Howard rounds out one of the most promising offenses in football, being added to Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and Jameis Winston. Howard, my #3 overall player, was an easy decision here. Huge credit to GM Jason Licht for not shying away from being bold and taking his guy.
  20. I thought Garett Bolles, my #1 tackle, was in-play as early as #7 to Los Angeles, and it was cut and dry when the Broncos went on the clock that he should be the pick. Denver can’t afford to enter 2017 with the tackle currently on their roster, and despite Bolles’s age, his athleticism to wall off some of the best pass rushers in the NFL out in the AFC West was too much to turn down.
  21. Jarrad Davis is a stylistic match for what the Detroit Lions want to do, and with fear of Oakland looming at #24 they likely thought a trade down would be counterproductive in getting him at better value. Speed, power, and aggressiveness are off the charts for Davis, but he’s not the all-around player Reuben Foster is and it was surprising to see him reached on at this spot.
  22. Miami had one of the biggest reaches of the night based on my rankings when they took Missouri’s Charles Harris. With Forrest Lamp, T.J. Watt, Derek Rivers, Jordan Willis, and David Njoku all still available, the Dolphins went for Harris, who tested extremely poorly at the Combine before slightly correcting his times at the pro day. He is someone who wins at the jump of the snap and with counter moves more than consistent speed to power. Again, like Barnett, he’s fighting history to be worth the value of a 1st round pick long term.
  23. I loved that the New York Giants weren’t afraid to be bold and take Evan Engram at #23. Engram was a fringe-1st rounder for me, and his ability to cut the heart out of defenses in the middle of the field is going to be terrifying for opposing teams, especially since Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall will also be on the field with Engram.
  24. Gareon Conley was in line to go as early as #14 to the Eagles before news broke of the allegations against him. The Raiders and many other teams did their due diligence and believe this cloud over Conley will eventually blow over. At #24 he is exceptional value and will offer Week 1 ability either on the outside or in the slot at cornerback. Oakland gets the most technically proficient corner in this class and a much needed upgrade to their secondary.
  25. Cleveland passed on a quarterback again and went with Michigan all-purpose player Jabrill Peppers. This was a reach for me, as I don’t have Peppers in my top 50, but the appeal of Peppers as a Week 1 contributor on special teams combined with what the Browns believe he will eventually offer as an overhang defender (slot safety) was why they took him at this spot. What makes this reach easier to digest is they picked up a 2018 1st round pick from Houston.
  26. I thought Atlanta really reached on Takkarist McKinley. He would have been a reach had they stayed at #31, and trading up five spots for him makes it a worse value. The Falcons had to have believed Dallas or Pittsburgh were coveting him, but even still, Jordan Willis and Derek Rivers at #31 would’ve been how I addressed the need for edge rusher.
  27. One of the biggest reaches of the night was Buffalo taking Tre’Davious White from LSU. Like the Peppers pick though, this is slightly easier to digest due to Buffalo getting Kansas City’s 1st round pick next season. However, there were a dozen defensive backs I ranked ahead of White, who was off my personal board due to substandard testing. He’ll likely be a nice player, but all of my perceptions are based around value, and Whites was a 3rd round value for me.
  28. Dallas taking Taco Charlton was interesting to me, given more Rod Marinelli-style edge rushers available, but it seems the Cowboys like Charlton’s ability to play across the defensive line and potentially stand up as a big outside linebacker on blitzing downs. #28 was several tiers higher than I had him ranked, and felt that Dallas should’ve addressed their depleted secondary or traded down to make this a better value pick.
  29. David Njoku was another sign of how much the Browns value athleticism. It made sense for Cleveland to move up four spots and give up a fourth- round pick to get their target, considering how many picks they’ve stockpiled. If you look at Cleveland’s roster, it’s apparent that they’re going to put as many pieces in place around the quarterback position before addressing it, and at this point I agree with the philosophy. Njoku isn’t much in-line, but his athleticism and ability in space is rare.
  30. Pittsburgh made one of the better “football” decisions of the first round by selecting Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt. Watt, a player I pegged to go one spot higher to Green Bay, blew up the Combine by testing like an elite player at his position, and when you tie in his production and traits on tape, he wound up #16 overall on my board. Watt’s ability to stack or play on the edge gives the Steelers the option to use him in a variety of ways a la Clay Matthews. Having missed on Jarvis Jones, and with the jury still out on Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh goes back to the well and takes a player of impact with a much higher floor.
  31. John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan, and the 49ers won the night by selecting Reuben Foster near the end of the first round. Lynch admitted that San Francisco had Foster rated #3 on their board and would’ve taken him there had the Bears selected Solomon Thomas. Due to medical concerns and some question marks off the field, they get Foster 28 picks later at incredible value. If Reuben Foster is committed to football and protects his body better by playing less recklessly, he’ll be a Pro Bowl linebacker and the steal of this class. Regardless, the risk was worth it for the 49ers and they have to be applauded for it.
  32. New Orleans rounds out an A+ 1st round by selecting Ryan Ramczyk at #32. Ramczyk allows Andrus Peat to remain inside at guard and he’ll be an excellent long term option for them at right tackle. With all the pass rushing talent still on the board, the Saints went for value and need with Ramczyk.

Follow @Alexander1Great on Twitter. Check out his other work here, such as his first 2017 NFL Mock Draft and his first State of the Draft.

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