The highly anticipated 2018 NFL Draft is officially in the books and it most certainly lived up to the hype. The first round was packed with trades and shocking picks and that trend carried throughout round seven.
Now that all the dust has settled, every fan wants to know how their team did in preparing for its’ future. Just like the regular season, not every team can be winners. Based on their draft picks this past weekend, here are my biggest winners and losers of this year’s NFL draft.
Winner – Green Bay Packers
Notable Picks: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville. CB Josh Jackson,Iowa, LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame.
The Packers went into this draft having a big need for corner and ended up with two first-round caliber corner with their first two picks. Green Bay was originally slated to pick 14th in the first round but decided to trade back with the New Orleans Saints and in doing, garnered a future 2019 first round pick. They moved back up from 27th to 18th overall after trading with the Seattle Seahawks and picked one of the top corners of the draft in Jaire Alexander.
Alexander was injured most of his final season at Louisville but he was a dynamic corner during the 2016 season. He plays with a high level of confidence and swagger that reminds me a lot of Tyrann Mathieu, who was also undersized. In the second round, the Packers selected another top corner off the board in Joshua Jackson.
Jackson was a one year wonder at Iowa which may be the reason he slid further than expected, but his ball skills are tremendous and he recorded eight interceptions in his final season with the Hawkeyes. Jackson’s skillset is much more similar to Marcus Peters who has led the league in interceptions since coming into the NFL.
In the third round, Green Bay selected Oren Burks, an athletic linebacker who should compete for a starting job during training camp. The Packers added three receivers during day three of the draft: J’Mon Moore, a big bodied receiver with great speed, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a project receiver out of South Florida and Equanimeous St. Brown, a projected second round prospect who fell to round six that could be one of the bigger steals of the draft.
Green Bay also added the best punter in the draft in J.K. Scott from Alabama and a solid pass blocking offensive tackle from Washington State in Cole Madison, who was first team All-Pac-12 at right tackle last season. The Packers potentially selected eight players who can have an impact and start year one which is why I have them as one of the biggest winners of this year’s draft.
Loser – Dallas Cowboys
Notable Picks: LB Leighton Vander-Esch, Boise State. OT Connor Williams, Texas, RB Bo Scarborough, Alabama. EDGE Dorance Armstrong, Kansas.
Before the draft, the Cowboys decided to part ways with long time receiver Dez Bryant, creating a big need at the receiver position. To make matters worse, after day one of the draft, tight end Jason Witten announced he was retiring which created a big need for the tight end position as well.
With the 19th pick in the first round, Dallas decided to select linebacker Leighton Vander-Esch with every wide receiver still on the board. Linebacker was a position that needed addressing this draft but many thought it would come on day two or three with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith on the roster.
In round two, the Cowboys made a head-scratching decision selecting offensive tackle Connor Williams. While Williams is a very good prospect, Dallas failed to address some of their biggest position needs with their first two picks. It was not until round three where the Cowboys took a receiver in Michael Gallup from Colorado State.
The Cowboys next two selections were solid picks and fit team needs, edge rusher Dorance Armstrong and tight end Dalton Schultz. However, the Cowboys failed to select any safety or cornerback this past weekend, two of their biggest team needs, and passed up on their choice of a premiere receiver in the first round. Failing to address three of their biggest team needs is why I have the Cowboys ranked as loser in this year’s draft.
Winner – Arizona Cardinals
Notable Picks: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA. WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M. C Mason Cole, Michigan.
Not too often do you see a team who only made six picks in the draft considered a winner, but in this rare case, the Arizona Cardinals came out this weekend a winner. The Cardinals and general manager Steve Keim may have pulled of the greatest trade in first round history.
As Josh Rosen kept falling in the first round, Arizona knew they had to move up from their 15th spot to go up and select him. They came to an agreement with the Oakland Raiders who were picking 10th to swap first round picks and send over a third and fifth rounder.
That was it. No other draft picks necessary. The rest is history. The Cardinals selected arguably the best quarterback in this draft class at no.10 and because Rosen slid further than expected, that seemed to ignite a fire in him and a motivated Rosen could be trouble for the rest of the league.
Arizona came away with another steal of the draft in the second round as Christian Kirk fell all the way to 47th overall where the Cardinals selected him. Kirk is a shifty slot receiver who runs crisp routes and is a perfect compliment to an aging Larry Fitzgerald. Kirk was projected to be selected at the end of the first round or the beginning of second but by some miracle he fell to Arizona.
Arizona also selected Mason Cole, a center who can play both guard and tackle positions and Chase Edmonds, a small-bodied scat back who can come in and give breaks to David Johnson on third down passing situations. Those four picks and their lone trade were enough for Arizona to be considered a winner this past weekend of the draft.
Loser – Seattle Seahawks
Notable Picks: RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State. DE Rasheem Green, USC. LB Shaqueem Griffin, UCF.
The Seattle Seahawks have been known to have an unconventional approach when it comes to the draft, but this year their approach looked a little more worse than usual. Whether they want to admit it or not, the Seahawks are going through a small rebuilding process and needed to address the offensive line position in this draft. Well, they failed to do that in the first four rounds and finally selected their one offensive lineman in Jamarco Jones in the fifth round.
In the first round, they shocked everybody and selected running back Rashaad Penny 27th overall with guys like Derrius Guice, Sony Michel and Ronald Jones II still on the board. The Seahawks also had a big need for defensive back and only selected one, Tre Flowers in the fifth round.
One of the few positives from the Seahawks draft was that they selected the one-handed linebacker Shaqueem Griffin, twin brother of Seahawks corner Shaquill Griffin, and reunited the two twins. Other than that, it was a pretty horrible draft. Good luck Russell Wilson.
Winner – New York Giants
Notable Picks: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State. OG Will Hernandez, UTEP. QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond. OLB Jerome Baker, Georgia.
The Giants received a lot of criticism after their round one selection of Saquon Barkley, the top running back in the class, instead of one of the top quarterbacks in the class. Barkley is without a doubt the best player in this draft, but drafting a running back as high as second overall is very uncommon in today’s NFL. Nonetheless, it was a great pick and could be even greater if their fourth round pick Kyle Lauletta pans out to be the guy who replaces Eli Manning in the future.
Lauletta is a small school prospect who put up great numbers at Richmond and won Co-MVP at the Reese’s Senior Bowl game. Instead of rolling the dice on Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, general manager Dave Gettleman is banking on Lauletta will grow from watching Eli Manning a season or two.
The Giants also needed some offensive line help and got one of the better guards in the draft in Will Hernandez in the second round. He and newly signed left tackle Nate Solder should make for a solid duo in the pass and run games.The Giants landed both outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter and defensive tackle B.J. Hill in the third round, both are guys that should compete for a starting job during training camp.
Barkley is viewed as the second coming of Todd Gurley, Hernandez fills a big hole in the offensive line, Lauletta has a very good chance to become Manning’s heir and the two defensive players they added both can contribute year one. It was a very solid draft by the Giants, which is why I have them as one of the winners from this past weekend.