The first round of the NFL draft was exciting to put it lightly as we witnessed a flurry of trades, unexpected selections, and draft night plummets. Round two commences at 7pm tonight out of Chicago. Let’s examine the winners and losers of last night before breaking down some around the league thoughts on the prospects each team should target tonight.
Round 1: Winners and Losers
Winner: Miami Dolphins picking up Laremy Tunsil.
- This is an absolute steal for Miami. Tunsil was projected to be one of the top five picks of the draft and had been labeled the best offensive tackle prospect in ten years before his twitter account was hacked on draft night, posting a video of him smoking marijuana from a gasmask bong (you really can’t make this stuff up). While they are gambling that Tunsil can keep his head straight off the field, getting him at the #13 spot is a coup d’etat over the rest of the draft in terms of sheer talent .The ‘Phins desperately needed help at offensive line, and they got it in the form of a huge steal of an immensely gifted player. The only question that remains is who will make the shift inside to guard? Miami already has two solid tackles in Ju’Wuan James and Branden Albert: the issue on the offensive line is the guard position. One of these three players will need to shift inside to solidify the line (which has the potential to actually be quite good). Tunsil is the best candidate to play the guard spot as it’ll allow him to adjust more easily to the size and speed of the NFL while shoring up the pass protection. He does need to improve his run blocking to pull off the temporary switch, however.
Winner: Buffalo Bills take Shaw Lawson
- Lawson is the perfect fit for Buffalo. With the release of Mario Williams, the Rex Ryan desperately needed a new pass rushing toy to play with (one who could fit the 3-4 better than his predecessor). Lawson is a solid pass rusher on most teams but a great pass rusher on the Bills. He is a flawless fit for this system as he can play the rush linebacker spot or put his hand in the dirt as the coaches see fit. He’s a violent pass rusher with an unmatched motor. He’ll do great things in this defense.
Loser: Washington *Racist Name* takes Josh Doctson
- I’ve been an enormous fan of second year Washington GM, Scott McCloughan, for some time now, but I highly question this decision. The strength of Washington has always been their skill position players. They’re utterly loaded with Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and co.! Why are you taking a wide receiver in the first round when the problem of this football team is the defense, not an already explosive offense? Better yet, why are you reaching for a second round caliber receiver in the first round?! While I like Doctson as a prospect and he can do some nice things up in D.C…. This is a wasted opportunity to bolster a lousy defense particularly considering the wealth of excellent defensive tackles on the board on the heels of losing Terrance Knighton in free agency.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys select Ezekiel Elliot
- I applaud this pick. Not only is Elliot one of the best running backs to come out of the draft in years as detailed in my earlier scouting article, but he’ll get a chance to run behind the best offensive line in football. This is a perfect example of putting a young, talented player in a position to succeed. He has players around him in Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris to share the load and compete with while standing behind an unbelievable group of blockers. He’s going to be an absolute star, and Dallas is going to win games because of him. The recipe for success with their offense given their personnel is to pound the rock and throw off play action. They’ll be able to limit Romo’s reps as his back becomes increasingly concerning as he enters his late thirties by running the football like in 2014 while instilling a hard nosed offensive philosophy that will wear defenses down before hitting them with Dez Bryant and the big play. Fantastic pick here.
Loser: Pittsburgh Steelers pick up Artie Burns
- I love Artie Burns as a prospect… But in the second or third round. This is a huge reach for a player that requires quite a bit of development to even begin to be starting corner in the league. Artie has the size, speed, and ball skills every defensive coordinator wants to see, but his grabby play style and tendency to get overaggressive will cause some early struggles. I like the idea of the Steelers picking Burns, but they could’ve bolstered a different part of their defense and still have gotten Burns in the second or third round.
Winner: Jacksonville sweeps up Jalen Ramsey
- Gus Bradley is going to have the time of his life toying around with Ramsey in his defense. He improves a weak Jacksonville secondary while giving versatility, athleticism, and instincts to the type of defense that puts those qualities on display. He has a chance to be an Earl Thomas type player for Jacksonville. They got a steal when he slipped down the #4 spot.
Loser: Eli Apple to the Big Apple
- Similarly to Burns, I like Apple. He can be a top corner in the league with the right coaching… But he’s just not worth a top ten pick. Drafts are all about value, and New York could’ve easily traded back deep into the first round and still snagged Apple. Most didn’t even grade him as a Day 1 pick. Apple is a good pick but not at where they picked him.
Winner: Cleveland and their gazillion trades and Corey Coleman
- I really am shocked at how competent this new look Cleveland organization has appeared so far in the draft. By trading down again they’ve acquired more picks to add to their treasure trove in order to improve their awful roster across the board. Trading down is always the best policy, but particularly when you’re rebuilding and in need of an infusion of talent at every position. Not only have they stockpiled picks, but they also escape with Corey Coleman. While they reached a bit for him, he adds a speed and explosiveness this offense hasn’t seen in decades. They needed a game breaker like him. Phenomenal first round for Cleveland.
Winner: John Elway strikes again with Paxton Lynch
- I am not high on Paxton Lynch. I think he’s horrifically overrated by the vast majority of the league and not worthy of a first round pick… But this is a dream come true for the Broncos. They are the perfect situation for Lynch and he is the perfect player for their situation. Kubiak’s offense demands big quarterbacks with even bigger arms who can move their feet and climb the pocket. Lynch is the posterboy of those characteristics. Meanwhile, he’ll be put on a team with the best defense in football, one of the best collection of wideouts in football with Emmanuel Sanders and DeMaryius Thomas, and a loaded stable of running backs led by CJ Anderson. This is a win-win for both sides. The Broncos got a quarterback who can lead them deep in the playoffs with the right coaching while Lynch landed in the best place for him to succeed.
NFL Draft Day Two Matchmaker: Who Each Team Should Target
Dallas Cowboys: Christian Hackenberg
- While it will be tempting for the ‘Boys to go defense here, they should snag Hackenberg. They very much need a quarterback of the future in the post-Romo era (which given his increasing rate of injury could come sooner than some think), and also could use an emergency back up quarterback given their struggles in that area last year. Hackenberg needs a few years on the bench anyway to develop his mechanics and football IQ further, and Romo and Garrett can train him to become the next great Dallas quarterback. In the meantime, Dallas has a stellar backup to the oft injured Romo. This is a match made in heaven. Make it happen, Jerry Jones.
Miami Dolphins: Myles Jack, Mackensie Alexander, or Reggie Ragland
- Miami needs to go defense in the second round. Ideally, they’ll be able to pick up Alexander to be the future of the cornerback group, but odds are he won’t be available when they pick. Myles Jack is intriguing. He was a top ten pick before his serious knee issues were uncovered by draft evaluators. While he may not be your elite middle linebacker for a decade, he could be your elite middle linebacker for 3-4 years. He could be worth a flyer in the top of round two given his talent. Reggie Ragland also could be a great selection here to bolster a putrid Miami run defense while adding toughness and physicality to the middle.
Cleveland Browns: Connor Cook
- Cook reminds me greatly of Andy Dalton, and he could be perfect for Hue Jackson. While his accuracy and progressions need work, he has a rocket of an arm, a pro-style background, great mobility, and outstanding pocket presence. He has everything Jackson is looking for in a developmental signal caller. He could easily come in to challenge RGIII right away while earning the job down the road.
The draft has been a wild and fun one so far, and it promises to continue to be so tonight. Stay tuned for more news and analysis.