On blind praise for the Pats, problem players in Dallas, the Bears’ empty-closet defense and more after the three-day NFL talent fest
Here are 10 things I think I think from the 2015 draft—plus, why not, 10 more.
1. I think it’s foolish to believe the farce that says draft the best player available, not the best player who fits your need. An overwhelming majority of the time, teams don’t actually follow this mantra—at least not in the early rounds. With a finite amount of roster spots, draft choices and cap space, it’s simply not feasible. This draft was a perfect example. In the second and third rounds, three-fourths of the teams drafted a player who filled one of their two most important needs that we’d identified after Thursday night’s opening round. (Which, by the way, was the least enthralling opening round in recent draft memory). What’s more likely: that the Thursday night draft analysis was prescient (that sound you hear is sarcastic laughter cascading down), or that teams just blow hot air when they say they take the best player available? What teams mean is they take the best player available for them.
2. I think for NFL analysts and fans, grading a team’s draft is a lot like breaking down a team’s preseason. Everyone acknowledges it’s a frivolous act, but many still can’t help but engage in it. I know it’s only the preseason, and we shouldn’t take much away from it, BUT….and then the speaker proceeds to do exactly what he’s just acknowledged is unwise. I Know you can’t accurately grade a draft until at least three years later, BUT…and here comes the draft grade. You won’t see that on this site.
3. I think it’s risky for the Cowboys to replace their suspended veteran who once fell in the draft because of concerns about his mental stability with another player who fell in the draft because of reported concerns about his mental stability.
4. I think I like draft analyst Jon Gruden better than MNF analyst Jon Gruden. Draft analyst Gruden shows his critical side, which is his most entertaining and informative side. The only better Gruden than draft analyst Gruden is TV production meeting Gruden, who has even higher standards and expresses them bluntly and hilariously.
5. I think Carolina’s second-round selection of wide receiver/tight end Devin Funchess—and last year’s first-round selection of Kelvin Benjamin—will only pay full dividends if a true speed receiver is brought in to threaten coverages over the top. (Veteran Ted Ginn isn’t a quality every-down player.) Conceptually, Carolina’s array of plodding receivers (throw Jerricho Cotchery into the mix) is too easy to defend.
6. I think the Bears, changing over to a 3-4 scheme, entered this draft in need of 10—yes, 10—new defensive starters to go with second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller. Most likely, though, Chicago only found one defensive starter: Florida State second-round nosetackle Eddie Goldman.
7. I think by drafting offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) and Jake Fisher (Oregon), the Bengals declared this to be the last season for unreliable former No. 6 overall pick Andre Smith. And stalwart left tackle Andrew Whitworth will eventually slide to guard, where he was sensational down the stretch in 2013. That would likely mean a move to center for current left guard Clint Boling, in which case Cincy’s first two selections could spawn upgrades at four offensive line spots.
8. I think the Browns believe their 32nd-ranked run defense last season was not due only to injuries and players adjusting to a new scheme. Hence the selections of NT Danny Shelton (first round), 250-pound OLB Nate Orchard (second) and DT Xavier Cooper (late third).
9. I think three teams really aided their passing attacks: the Colts (burner wideout Phillip Dorsett in Round 1), Texans (the sizable Jaelen Strong in Round 3) and the Ravens (receiver Breshad Perriman Round 1; tight end Maxx Williams Round 2).
10. I think it’s empty rhetoric when GM John Dorsey says the Chiefs were comfortable drafting problem child cornerback Marcus Peters in the first round because the team has “a unique locker room.” Every team believes it has a unique locker room. And a unique locker room (or “culture”) is usually the first thing a team cites after letting talent trump character in its evaluation process. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that. The NFL first and foremost is about winning, not enriching a community.
11. I think it’s amazing how every year, each head coach and GM seem to get exactly the player they wanted at every spot they picked. Or could that just be more empty post-draft rhetoric?
12. I think Minnesota’s second-round pick, linebacker Erin Kendricks, will not be as good as his brother, Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
13. I think the Patriots’ draft will be blindly praised because that’s the standard protocol for analyzing any Patriots draft. I also think it’s hard to understand how the Patriots could go defense with all four of their Thursday/Friday selections and yet manage to avoid addressing their glaring need at cornerback.
14. I think the Seahawks and Saints should both be happy with how the Jimmy Graham trade worked out. The Saints ultimately filled two of their costliest weak spots – inside linebacker (Stephone Anthony, pick 31) and center (Max Unger) – while the Seahawks turned their 31st pick into a difference-making tight end who is probably better than all but seven or eight players in this draft.
15. I think Giants fans should be thrilled with their team’s draft. First-round guard Ereck Flowers, second-round safety Landon Collins and third-round defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa fill the team’s three biggest areas of need.
16. I think it’s unclear what the Jets intend to get from drafting quarterback Bryce Petty in the fourth round. If they believed Petty could be a starter, they’d have taken him earlier. And they don’t need a backup, since it’s apparent that’s what Geno Smith is to them.
17. I think Eric Rowe, the safety-corner hybrid from Utah, is, conceptually, a great fit for an Eagles defense that’s very versatile and diverse, including in its coverage exchange concepts.
18. I think the Chargers have doubts about Manti Te’o. Why else would they draft an inside linebacker in the second round (Denzel Perryman) one year after giving starter Donald Butler a lucrative long-term contract?
19. I think the Seahawks truly like second-round defensive end Frank Clark, but it’s puzzling that Seattle would basically decide to replace Bruce Irvin (whose fifth-year option will not be picked up) with a character-risk guy.
20. I think this has nothing to do with football, but must be said: Frankie Ballard’s hit country song “Sunshine & Whiskey” is a nice tune tainted by what’s truly the lamest lyric in the history of song lyrics: “I don’t wanna get DWK, driving while kissing, they’ll put you away.”
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