By Dan Urda (@DanUrda)
We have heard fans talking and journalists writing about it for months. We got caught in a frenzy of excitement, and expected huge things. Everyone had a prediction of what would happen, but was prepared for all kinds of fun twists and turns. And then, it kind of just came and went. It wasn’t particularly exciting, there were no surprises, and while you can’t call it horrible, it would have to be considered a disappointing viewing experience. It just wasn’t very fun. But enough about “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” I am here to write about the NFL draft.
Truth be told, Round 1 did not live up to the hype. There were two minor trades, no completely crazy selections, and most of all, Marcus Mariota went to Tennessee, who intends to keep him and prevent him from having a good career. Being a Philly fan, this was disappointing, but it also stinks for the NFL as a whole. Mariota in Philly with Chip could have been something to watch. Mariota in Tennessee with Ken Wisenhunt trying to make him more of a drop back passer? Not so much.
Like any draft, only time will tell which picks work out and which don’t. It is silly to give grades at this point. Remember, NFL draft “experts” gave the Seahawks famous 2012 draft class anywhere from a C- (Mel Kiper) to an F (Bleacher Report). The Houston Texans were laughed at for choosing Mario Williams over Reggie Bush. And a team once picked Blaine Gabbert in the top five.
Nonetheless, it is standard journalistic protocol to “grade” selections immediately after they are made. So here are five I loved and five I did not love, just in case you are interested in the opinion of a 28 year-old part time blogger over professional NFL talent evaluators.
Five I Loved
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders, Pick 4 – I have to give Oakland credit here for going with the more polished receiver, something Al Davis would probably not have done. The traditional Raiders mindset would have been to select Kevin White, who is much more of a physical freak and combine standout. Instead, they made the right call here and went with the guy with almost as high of a ceiling and not nearly as low of a floor. If Derek Carr takes a step in his second year, it will be because he has his number 1 WR.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins, Pick 14 – The biggest winner of last night could very well be Ryan Tannehill. Believe it or not, he was a top 10 fantasy quarterback last season, and now he will have a stud in Parker, Jarvis Landry in year two along with new acquisitions Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills. Look for them to take a running back in rounds 2 or 3 (could they keep Duke Johnson in Miami?) and enter the season with a very scare offense.
Leonard Williams, New York Jets, pick 6 – Let’s keep it simple; the Jets possibly got the best player in the draft at pick 6 without having to make a trade. That is solid value. I understand Jacksonville’s reasoning for taking Dante Fowler over him, but Williams has superstar potential, and the Jets jumped at this chance despite defensive line not being a need. The Jets can now either Muhammad Wilkerson, potentially for a very high future draft pick, or enter the season with one of the best defensive lines in NFL history. Not a bad predicament.
Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh Steelers, pick 22 – There were rumblings before the draft that Oakland was considering him at 5. While that would have been a reach, just the fact that this was mentioned shows how much value the Steelers got at 22. Dupree likely fell because he played his worst games against the toughest teams, but he was also constantly moved around the field in those games. Early first round value late in the first round is always a good thing.
Malcolm Brown, New England Patriots, Pick 32 – Of course a perfect replacement for Vince Wilfork fell right into the Pat’s lap. Brown is a beast who could have easily gone in the top 15. His versatility is something New England loves, as he can play in the different fronts they have used. You know he’s good if the Patriots actually kept their pick to take him.
Five I Disliked
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans, Pick 2 – Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Mariota. I love Mariota (or Marioto as Roger Goodell would say). But this pick stinks because it robs the NFL of something truly special. As I alluded to earlier, Ken Wisenhunt loves his big, drop-back QB’s, which Mariota is not. While I am sure he will adjust a bit, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and Wisenhunt is a very old dog. The Eagles apparently offered the Titans a Godfather-esque offer of two firsts, this year’s second, next years third, and a handful of players. The Titans have so many needs that this offer probably would have been better for them than taking a quarterback who does not fit their system who has no weapons to work with. I feel like the Titans did not do the trade out of fear; fear that Mariota would thrive with Chip Kelly, and the narrative that Tennessee could have had him but passed. Instead, one of the leagues most dynamic players pretty much has his career stalled before it ever began by going to Tennessee. It’s a shame, really.
Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins, Pick 5 – It’s not that Scherff is not good, it is that Washington probably could have traded down and picked him anywhere up until 9, when the Giants almost surely would have. If they wanted Leonard Williams, they should have stayed put, but they were in prime position to trade down and failed to do so.
Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers, Pick 15 – I am ok with taking a once in a generation running back in round 1. I believe the Rams did that with Todd Gurley. While Gordon is a stud, I don’t at all think he is so much better than the rest of the field that he warranted not only taking in round 1, but trading up to do so. There is a chance that Gordon would have been available for SD’s original pick, but even if he wasn’t there are plenty of solid running backs in rounds 2-5 that they could have taken without giving up assets.
Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers, Pick 25 – It was awkward enough having this pick announced by Thomas Davis, who Thompson was likely drafted to replace, but Thompson is the classic athlete without a real position, and I would not take that kind of gamble in round 1. Thompson has been talked about as a linebacker, safety, and even running back, and while some use the word “versatile” to describe this, I would go with “tweener.” Thompson has elite athleticism, but he is a guy I would take either in the second round, or if I had two first round picks. A luxury pick for a team that can’t afford luxury.
Phillip Dorsett, Indianapolis Colts, Pick 29 – Listen, Phillip Dorsett at 29 is fine in terms of player value. But why take a wide receiver when you are a team that has no offensive problems but gets blown out of the playoffs every year because of your defense? The Colts receiving corps already includes Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, as well as free-agent with some hype Duron Carter. Why do they need Dorsett when there were so many sold value defensive picks on the board? I am a fan of taking BPA (best player available) over need 90% of the time, but this is not one of those times.
There is my “expert” breakdown of the first round. Be sure to save this so you can torment me when Melvin Gordon is being inducted to the Hall of Fame and Amari Cooper becomes the latest to join the group of talented WR’s who go to Oakland to die. Here is hoping that days 2 and 3 have some more trades, some more intriguing picks, and maybe something even crazier than that, like Chip Kelly drafting an Oregon player.