The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft was a whirlwind experience, with twists and turns, ups and downs, and winners and losers. Some teams nailed the process, others doomed themselves to mire in mediocrity. Franchises are made in these moments, for good or ill. Here are the winners and losers from an exciting round one.
Cleveland Browns – 1st Overall – Baker Mayfield
The Sooners quarterback was my second ranked quarterback, but rankings don’t matter if you find the right fit and personality for your team at the most critical position in the league. Mayfield plays with a boulder on his shoulder after having been shoved aside for lesser players throughout his college career (looking directly at you, Davis Webb).
Baker Bucephalus Mayfield!! pic.twitter.com/CQfuxPHg4n— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 12, 2017
The addition of wide receiver Jarvis Landry should have been paid more attention to regarding how the Browns wanted to build schematically. He’s never been a deep threat, but Landry works extremely well in the underneath areas and is a solid piece in a west coast offense. This suits Baker’s skill set, whose processing speed and decision-making fit the WCO well.
The Browns have desperately needed a top-flight quarterback that will break the shackles of their abysmal past and force a culture change. They got one in the crotch-grabbing Heisman Trophy Award winner.
Los Angeles Chargers – 17th Overall – Derwin James
Throughout the pre-draft process, I targeted FSU safety Derwin James as a prospect that may fall on Day 1. Throughout the pre-draft process, I linked the Chargers as a team that would either trade up for James or let him fall into their lap. Getting a top tier player that fills an area of need without having to trade up is the definition of a good day.
James brings the Chargers defense a chess piece that they can move anywhere depending on the situation. For the Seminoles, he lined up at outside corner, nickel, deep safety, overhang defender, and multiple linebacker spots. He’s one of the better blitzing defensive backs in the draft and has the potential be an above average contributor in the run and pass game. When you can add a playmaker like James to a defense that already has juice rushing the passer, it’s a slam dunk pick.
Green Bay Packers - 18th Overall – Jaire Alexander
The Packers could’ve stayed at 14th overall to select Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander and it would’ve still been a winner. My top cornerback in the class, the Packers were able to nab him while moving back and picking up a 2019 1st round pick from the New Orleans Saints (who need to re-evaluate their life).
Louisville CB Jaire Alexander - Ball skills aren't just interceptions & PBUs folks - pic.twitter.com/cFCRaCr5uv— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 9, 2018
The selection not only adds a ball-hawking, chirpy presence to a team that ranked 26th DVOA in pass defense, but also signifies a shift in how the team has drafted in the past. Under former general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers strict physical thresholds would never allow them to draft a cornerback under 5’10 ½”. New general manager Brian Gutekunst has bucked this trend, targeting talent before measurables, while securing an extra 1st round pick next year.
Tennessee Titans – 22nd Overall – Rashaan Evans
The Titans had a need at edge and linebacker entering the draft. With pass rushers Bradley Chubb and Marcus Davenport off the board, the initial thought when the Titans traded up from the 25th overall spot was sliding Boston College edge Harold Landry. It’s since been reported that Landry was flagged medically and the Titans went in a different direction.
If you have a need at linebacker and edge, Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans couldn’t make anymore sense. An upgrade over the departed Avery Williamson, Evans does everything at a higher level while also bringing the ability to be an effective rusher off the edge in passing situations. New head coach Mike Vrabel will turn Evans into an impact player that the Titans need in the middle of their defense.
New Orleans Saints – 14th Overall – Marcus Davenport
If you can take a raw prospect that got body-bagged by Day 3 offensive linemen in Senior Bowl practices and then also use a 2019 1st round pick in the process, you have to do it right? Well, that’s what the Saints did when they moved up for UTSA edge Marcus Davenport.
One day Davenport may be the droid the Saints are looking for, but it’s optimistic to think it’s going to be this year. With the window closing on Drew Brees as a top-rank quarterback, this feels like a “win now” move on a “win later” prospect.
Oakland Raiders – 15th Overall – Kolton Miller
The need was there, the reach was there, and new head coach Jon Gruden has taken his first false step in his triumphant return to the NFL. He’s not the only one false stepping however, as UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller has a fatal flaw in his kick-slide that has the potential to get David Carr obliterated. There’s no question that Miller tested like an elite athlete, but when you literally can’t get out of your stance, what does it matter?
UCLA OT Kolton Miller tested like an elite athlete, but the footwork tells a different story. As @VeteranScout noted before, post-foot false steps forward consistently, forcing him to retreat. pic.twitter.com/w987P47J0n— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 25, 2018
It’s of note that Tom Cable was brought on by Gruden to be the Raiders offensive line coach, which is further evidence that Miller will never reach his upside. Cable is in the elite tier of Jeff Fisher when it comes to getting jobs while being mind-blowingly incompetent. Miller will be fine as a run blocker, but he can’t handle speed or power or speed-to-power as a pass protector.
Seattle Seahawks – 27th Overall – Rashaad Penny
The Seahawks haven’t used their original 1st round selection since 2011 and with no picks in Day 2, the trade itself made sense. They picked up a 3rd and 6th round pick from the Packers to move back from the 27th overall while also sending the Packers a 7th round pick. So far so good for a team that suddenly has multiple holes. That was the end of the good news.
With multiple, quality offensive linemen on the board and four spots to upgrade along their offensive line, the Seahawks instead selected a middle-of-the-pack running back that also happens to be the worst pass protector in the class in San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny. Simply put, there isn’t a way to frame this selection that will ever make sense to me.
New York Giants – 2nd Overall – Saquon Barkley
What are the chances that the Giants passed on multiple 2nd round picks from the New York Jets? What are the chances that the Giants passed on multiple 1st round picks from the Buffalo Bills? I would argue they are very high. You add in the several quarterbacks available, including one they reportedly loved in Sam Darnold, and it makes taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley even more perplexing.
Make no mistake, Barkley graded as an elite talent when I finalized his evaluation. However, you have a quarterback that is closer to 40 than 30 years old, who hasn’t been better than average in what seems like forever and has only brought the Giants to the playoffs once in the past five years. With several holes on the roster, new general manager Dave Gettleman should have hit the reset button.
Following the career arcs of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen will be fascinating in juxtaposition to the Giants fate as a franchise after this blunder.
Buffalo Bulls – 7th Overall – Josh Allen
Putting the bevy of picks the Bills ultimately had to trade to get within striking distance for a quarterback aside, this is a risky pick regardless. If you thought the excuses for Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen were out of control before, just wait until he debuts for a team with zero help in the passing game and significant questions along the offensive line. Then factor in LeSean McCoy hitting 30 years old this summer and you have a recipe for disaster unless the Bills can find a way to bring in reinforcements.
First throw on the game for Josh Allen. Needed to step up sooner. Nearly an INT.— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) December 22, 2017
(Great play by CMU DE Ostman too) pic.twitter.com/yMmFH7rGLT
All signs point to the scattershot quarterback failing, so if he comes out of these new few years alive, it will be a major accomplishment. Still, it’s not a surprise to see a team that benched Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman value Allen so highly.
Pittsburgh Steelers – 28th Overall – Terrell Edmunds
With Stanford’s Justin Reid, Alabama’s Ronnie Harrison, and Wake Forest’s Jesse Bates on the board, along with several other safeties I had ranked higher than Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers pulled off a real head-scratcher. The Steelers have needed to get better man coverage defenders on their back-end, something Edmunds can’t do at this point his development. Tom Brady loves the pick. You should hate it if you’re a Steelers fan.