Well, the 2019 NFL draft is finally over. We laughed, we cried, we learned that it’s possible to fall in “full-bloom love” after one practice at the Senior Bowl (take that, Bumble). And while it normally takes a few years to fully judge a draft class, it’s fairly easy to see which teams were in a groove this weekend, and which teams pinballed their way through one of the most important phases of the NFL calendar.
We’ve handed out team-by-team draft grades. Up next is our winners and losers from draft weekend…
Bills: Sometimes you play the board, sometimes the board plays you, and sometimes the board drops your way and you don’t have to do much of anything at all. While Ed Oliver wasn’t going to fit in every defense, he fits perfectly in Buffalo. The fact that versatile offensive lineman Cody Ford was available in the second was simply kismet. While drafting a receiver would have placed a cherry on top of the sundae, this is a draft good for both coach and quarterback.
Kyler Murray: There’s a good chance he knew about this, otherwise why make the leap with such assurance? Either way, Murray goes from a Double-A bus to nowhere, to assured 40-man roster, to No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. I don’t think there are many players who would continually challenge the draft industrial complex in two sports like Murray did and still come out ahead.
Broncos: We tend to over-praise when a team’s board aligns with its biggest needs, but I didn’t think there was a way John Elway could have played the first round better. Joe Flacco adores athletic tight ends who can get open in intermediate space, then he gets a quality starter in round two with Dalton Risner and Drew Lock, who has much less pressure than previous Elway draft picks. Something else to consider (and this is in bold so Eagles’ fans don’t hijack my Twitter mentions): I felt very similarly about Howie Roseman's draft this year. The Eagles should also be considered a big winner from this weekend, given their ability to patch up a few holes with talented players who can start right away.
Giants: Dave Gettleman said he knows of two other teams that would have drafted Daniel Jones between pick six and pick 17. And really, if you have a conviction on a quarterback, I have no problem using your highest pick to take him. I was a little more surprised with the Dexter Lawrence pick, and the self-satisfied (but wholly unsatisfying to the general public) rationale that you “win with big people.” Where the Giants made up ground for me was at the cornerback spot. The stretch of picks where they nabbed DeAndre Baker, pass rusher Oshane Ximines and Notre Dame corner Julian Love in succession was solid. Odd to see a draft where a GM nets more production out of essentially a second, third and fourth rounder than two first-round picks.
Washington: Despite the pre-draft insanity, they come away with a solid pocket passer who works well in Jay Gruden’s offense (whether or not Gruden likes him or not) in Dwayne Haskins. Then, a power move to come back up for Montez Sweat, who some viewed as one of the best two pass rushers in the class.
Titans: Thought the draft would fall in a way that would force the Titans to go wide receiver in Round 1. They end up getting the better of Ole Miss’ wideouts in Round 2. While some might argue that Jeffery Simmons doesn’t help the Titans now (and maybe should be off peoples’ draft boards altogether), A.J. Brown and Nate Davis provide two starters in two straight picks.
Chargers: Picking Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley give Anthony Lynn and the Chargers the chance to go into the regular season with the best on-paper defense in football. The Chargers seem like the perfect destination for Tillery, a talent that some may not have understood.
Jaguars: I had the Jaguars taking T.J. Hockenson in my mock draft, but when Josh Allen falls in your lap you can’t say no. A round of applause for GM Dave Caldwell, who has managed to keep this roster mostly together and under the cap, still bring in Nick Foles and set the defense up to possibly be better than they were in 2017. Jawaan Taylor isn’t for everyone, but by many accounts was worthy of a first-round pick. He’s in the right spot to develop.
Panthers: Carolina needed a legitimate backup quarterback with developmental upside. Their offense is too talented to hinge on Cam Newton, an immensely talented player worn down by his playing style, and the onslaught of hits that entails. Before Will Grier in the third, they nabbed a pass rushing talent, a potential starter at tackle in Greg Little. After? A much needed complementary back to Christian McCaffrey in Jordan Scarlett.
Subterfuge: The Cardinals’ subterfuge campaign was so bad that, for a moment, I thought maybe we’d all been fooled and they actually were keeping Josh Rosen. Not only did the Cardinals alienate a player they traded up for in the previous year’s draft, but they misplayed the Rosen trade on the other end, hurrying him to the Dolphins for a second and fifth-round pick. They spent a third and fifth-round pick to move up four spots to get Rosen the year prior.
All the while, a tone-deaf social media campaign vacillated between calling out people who were reporting on their pursuit of Murray and then editing Rosen out of their own hype videos. Welcome to Arizona, Kyler!
Orr: Perpetually disappointed in mock draft performances, area sportswriter pulled Quinnen Williams to the Jets at No. 3 at the last moment, convinced that Gregg Williams instead desired a pass rusher due to the team’s fruitless pursuit of Anthony Barr. From there, a free fall of mediocrity. Five hits in the first round. Thank goodness Jon Gruden took a running back late in the first.
Raiders: I’m not here to hate on Gruden and Mike Mayock for picking Clelin Ferrell with the fourth pick just because many mock drafts had him going later than that. One of the dumbest parts of this yearly exercise is when people get upset at teams for selecting players that weren’t high in other experts’ rankings. If Ferrell fits in their system, good for them. However, I do think there is some necessary cleanup after sending the scouting staff out to work for 200 some-odd nights a year, only to close them out of the process afterward. Maybe this is the preamble to a house cleaning, but anyone coming in should understand the scene.
The AFC East: The Patriots picked 10 players, many of them believed to be quite good. Depending on your schemes, it doesn’t get much better than N’Keal Harry, Joejuan Williams and Chase Winovich back to back to back. What if Bill Belichick isn’t going anywhere soon and sees himself fit to continue this thing for the foreseeable future? It’s drafts like this that will get him there.
Eli Manning: While the Giants are so careful in their tiptoeing around Manning that head coach Pat Shurmur wouldn’t admit that he challenged Manning by saying it was his job to keep Daniel Jones off the field, his days are officially numbered. For years, Manning has watched the Giants select fourth and fifth-round picks with clear deficiencies; smart players capable of never getting in his way. This is a very different kind of pressure.
Americans hoping to learn about a new place: Did you ever notice how painfully generalized an on location shoot is for a special NFL event? Oh, the Super Bowl is in New Orleans? JAZZ, BEIGNETS, BOURBON STREET. Oh, the draft is in New York? YELLOW CABS, PIZZA, HOT DOGS RIGHT ON THE STREET! ANGRY PEOPLE! It’s like the production meeting is full of people who have only heard of the cities they’re about to travel to from airport shot glasses. Even thumbing through the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives directory would put you more culturally in touch with a place. Nashville is more than just spiced chicken and Tim McGraw. Just like Philadelphia is more than just riotous fans, meat and cheese whiz on a bread roll, and Rocky.
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