By Will Brinson
The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and we had some action, buddy. There were seven trades in the first round and plenty of surprising picks, even if most of the players who were ultimately selected weren’t a surprise. Baker Mayfield to the Browns kickstarted things off, which should tell you all you need to know about how wild the first round was.
Below we’re going to pick some winners and losers from the first round. Spoiler: these might not be right in five years. And if I’m being honest, I don’t know how I feel about the Cleveland Browns and their moves. I like Baker Mayfield — love him even — first overall, but I don’t care for the decision to pass on Bradley Chubb in favor of Denzel Ward. That’s a bold move that is going to come back and haunt the Browns, even if they are able to land a pass rusher early in Round 2 (Harold Landry).
It created an interesting situation, though, because it pushed a few quarterbacks down the board and it allowed some teams to trade up and get a quarterback or for some other teams to land high-quality defensive players.
Let’s get to the list. If you love or hate these choices feel free to hit me on Twitter @WillBrinson. And if you want more winners and losers, check out the Pick Six Podcast — we’re recapping the draft every single day this week/weekend and will have a freshly-baked episode up ready for Friday morning breaking down all the action.
Not sure what trade chart Steve Keim showed to Jon Gruden when he called him up about a deal for swapping No. 15 for No. 10, but the Cards GM got a good deal on moving up to grab the last remaining quarterback of the “Big Four” when he landed Josh Rosen out of UCLA. Now technically, the Raiders didn’t get ripped off: the No. 10 pick is worth 1,300 points on the old trade value chart and Gruden and Oakland got 1,275 points in return. However, this was a situation where there was just one of the top quarterbacks on the board and they didn’t crank up the cost. The Cardinals were in a bit of desperation to land a young signal caller after missing out on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson last year, and Rosen could be a stud. He’s considered the most “pro ready” of all the quarterbacks in this draft class, he has just has the downside of being a millennial and having battled concussions. Rosen has at least one pretty impressive quarterback in his corner.
Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson
It’s a bit of a dagger for Joe Flacco to see the Ravens move up to take another quarterback, but the former Super Bowl champion is 33 years old. He’s not a spring chicken and he’s battled injuries the last few years. And Jackson is a perfect fit for the Ravens — they can keep playing Flacco now but prepare for the future with Jackson (while also possibly still rostering Robert Griffin III in case they don’t want to play Jackson if something happens to Flacco). Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg worked with Michael Vick in Philadelphia — he knows how to handle a mobile quarterback with a snap/pop deep-ball arm. It’s not lazy to compare Vick and Jackson; it’s the only comparison you can make when you see Jackson play. And Jackson is more developed as a passer and more productive as a runner so far in his career too. The Ravens also scooped up Hayden Hurst as a weapon in the passing game, and the South Carolina tight end should help the running game, as well, with his ability to get down to the nitty gritty. Baltimore didn’t overhaul its offense or anything, but in Ozzie Newsome’s final draft as GM they set themselves up for a potentially bright future with Jackson.
Newsome isn’t wrong — the Ravens were busy. They moved down in a deal with the Bills to acquire No. 22, No. 65 and No. 154, then moved down with the Titans to get No. 125 and No. 215. Then they moved back up with the Eagles, giving up No. 125 and a 2019 second-round pick in order to get No. 32 (to take Jackson) and No. 132. That’s pretty solid work to get an impact tight end and a potential superstar franchise quarterback at a relative low cost.
Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James is an absolute steal at No. 17. I don’t know how else to put it. The Chargers are a potentially loaded defense next year: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram rushing the passer is filthy, Casey Hayward/Jason Verrett are a nasty cornerback combination and throwing James in the mix will do wonders for both the run and pass defense. Gus Bradley’s unit has a legitimate shot to be a top-five defensive unit next year.
Los Angeles Rams
They didn’t even pick in the first round, but the Rams gave up their first-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for Brandin Cooks. Had they been on the clock in the first round, they would have had their choice of any receiver in the draft. The Panthers would pop the cork with D.J. Moore and, all respect to D.J. Moore, but at this point Carolina would love if he ends up being Brandin Cooks. The draft is just fickle. Same deal with Calvin Ridley to the Falcons. You just don’t know, and receivers often don’t produce early in their careers. So that’s a nice win for the Rams to get value in a receiver there, even if they have to pay him pretty soon.
Are you kidding me? The Broncos got to hang out at No. 5 overall and landed the best player in the draft? That’s how this works in a quarterback-heavy draft, but Denver was gifted when Bradley Chubb fell to the fifth-overall pick courtesy of the Browns selecting Denzel Ward with the No. 4 pick. This is not an indictment of Ward, who was the consensus top cornerback on the board and could be a very good player. But passing on a player like Chubb when he falls in your lap with a second top-five pick is a mistake, and it’s one the Broncos took advantage of by snagging Chubb to pair him with Von Miller and Shane Ray. Denver has a SICK pass rush now, critical in a division with Philip Rivers, Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr on the other rosters.
What a freaking moment. Good for you, Ryan Shazier.
The Edmunds Family
First Tremaine goes to the Bills and then Terrell goes to the Steelers, making them the first-ever family with a pair of siblings in the first round of the NFL Draft. My brother and I have both, like, uh, been to a Phish show at the same time. It’s probably not the same thing.
New York Giants
I know, I know. Saquon Barkley is the best player in the draft and is going to be a Pro Bowl running back next year and maybe lead the league in rushing. I don’t even disagree. I think he’ll be great. The Giants could win the NFC East next year with Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Barkley all around Eli Manning, especially if the defense bounces back. But this is a short-term play by Dave Gettleman — a running back is not going to give you 10 years of sustained value on average, and the Giants passed on the opportunity to take a quarterback of the future to set up behind Eli, as well as picking up a stud defensive player like Bradley Chubb. Having said all that, credit Gettleman for doing what he always does: he is honest about the draft process and he is true to his board. He told everyone for weeks and weeks that he wasn’t interested in trading down. He wasn’t lying.
Gettleman also said he wanted a Hall of Fame player. He GUSHED over Barkley, saying that the running back was “touched by the hand of God.” He got his man. His man will probably be good. But I can’t get behind the running back early, not in a loaded quarterback class with an aging guy like Manning on the roster.
Rashaad Penny is a very nice running back and an explosive player, but for a team with a ton of holes, particularly on the offensive line, it was surprising to see them draft a running back in the first round. John Schneider and Pete Carroll do not care for your draft board or your mock draft; this is perfectly fine and it’s worked out well for them. (In 2012 everyone ripped the draft that netted them Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, so color me scared of criticizing them.) It’s just hard to see them magically establishing the run without improving the offensive line. Fortunately, it turns out that Penny is really good at breaking tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to be!
The Bills have a vision and it involves upside. I like their move to invest in guys with high ceilings, like Allen and Tremaine Edmunds. They might have struck gold with both of them — Pete Prisco gives the Bills high marks with their selections. However, there’s an opportunity cost here and some potential downside as well. For starters, getting Allen required the Bills to use two second-round picks (No. 53, No. 56) to move up and get their franchise quarterback. If he’s the answer, this is irrelevant, but those picks are going to end up being really valuable with the depth that this draft has. Then the Bills had to package No. 22, No. 65 and No. 154 to move up and get Edmunds. He’s a nice value at No. 16 and he’s only 19 years old so his ceiling doesn’t really exist right now. But, man, that is a LOT of draft capital to outlay on two players. Now Buffalo has just No. 96 left in the third round and then No. 121, No. 154, No. 166 and No. 187 remaining for the draft. That means they’ll come away with a full list of players — two first-round picks equate to a first- and second-round pick — assuming they don’t move much more. But in a deep draft, they sacrificed a lot of picks on a roster that, despite a playoff appearance last year, isn’t totally ready. Add having A.J. McCarron and Allen as their top two quarterbacks, and it’s fair to question how the offense in Buffalo will look this year.
New Orleans Saints
The selection of Marcus Davenport, a fast-rising, postseason prospect who reminds some people of DeMarcus Ware, is perfectly fine. That’s a great addition to a defense that was reinvigorated by last year’s draft. But the price the Saints paid — giving up a 2019 first-round pick — is just too much to move up in the draft and select someone other than a quarterback. Sean Payton’s response to the cost of moving up was … curious.
“My house is on fire but check out that dude’s house, it’s already burnt down.” Compare what they paid for Davenport to what the Packers pulled off — after trading down with the Saints from No. 14 to No. 27 and getting the extra pick next year from New Orleans, the Packers moved back up to No. 18 by giving the Seahawks No. 76 and No. 186 (and getting No. 248). Yes, you read that right: the Packers moved down three spots and picked up a first-rounder, while losing a third-rounder, to do it. That’s great work by Green Bay and a questionable move by the Saints. Again: Davenport might be great, but if the Saints don’t win a Super Bowl this year, it’s going to look disappointing when they don’t have a first-round pick next year.
The Vikings new quarterback didn’t get any love in the first round of the draft, with Minnesota selecting Mike Hughes, the cornerback out of UCF. It’s probably going to end up being a great pick, because whenever Mike Zimmer picks a cornerback in the first round it works out pretty well. But the Vikings have a short window to win with Cousins right now — three years to be exact — and the selection of a cornerback who probably won’t play out of the gate doesn’t exactly help Cousins.