By: George Haraktsis
(Round 1, Pick 3) Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming- As I mentioned in my Pre-draft guide Buffalo’s greatest need coming into this draft was quarterback, and they filled that need with their first pick….sorta. After trading up, the Bills selected the gigantic QB from Wyoming, Josh Allen, whose unique athletic ability and cannon arm is accompanied by inaccuracy and inexperience. The Bills were going to get a QB by any means necessary, but with Josh Rosen still on the board and with question marks around Allen’s accuracy still lurking, was giving up all of that draft capital really worth getting him? If you’re going to go up and get a QB you have to make sure he is a franchise guy. I’m not sure Allen is.
(Round 1, Pick 16) LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech- Love the player, hate the pick. Edmunds could turn out to be one of this drafts steals at 16. Many mocks had him going in the top 10 picks due to his athleticism and productivity. He will start day one for the Bills, and will contribute for many years to come, but he was not the right pick. Yes they need help at linebacker, but the Bills’ necessity for offensive linemen far outweighs their need for a LB. And with guys like Frank Ragnow and Isaiah Wynn still on the board, this pick is a head scratcher.
(Round 3, Pick 32) DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford — This is my favorite of all of the Bills’ picks. Harrison Phillips was an absolute monster for Stanford. The man led his team in tackles as a freaking defensive tackle! He could have easily been a first or second rounder if not for his less than ideal size and athleticism. With Kyle Williams’ days in a Bills uniform numbered, Harrison now has a chance to learn under him and become his heir. Great pick.
(Round 4 , Pick 21) CB Taron Johnson, Weber St.- According to NFLDraftScout.com Johnson was projected a seventh round pick, so his fourth round selection seems a little high. Due to his underwhelming speed (4.50 seconds), Johnson projects as a career slot corner who could also carve out a role on special teams. With the Bills so thin at corner Johnson will most likely start at their slot position, but that has a lot more to do with need than skill.
(Round 5 Pick 17) S Siran Neal, Jacksonville St.- In a modern NFL where versatility, size, and athleticism are so highly coveted, it’s understandable why the Bills chose Neal. He has experience playing both corner and safety/linebacker at Jacksonville and has shown he can help in the run game as well. While he has his knocks — hip stiffness and lack of lateral quickness — if he pans out he could turn into one of the more versatile and relied upon defenders in Buffalo’s secondary.
(Round 5 Pick 29 ) OG Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech- Not many players who get recruited as defensive ends end up being selected as guards in the NFL draft, but Wyatt is one of the few. Teller has long arms and good initial quickness, but lacks speed when coming around on pulls. Luckily for him new OC Brian Daboll has been known for a power blocking scheme that does not call for many pulls, which should suit Teller well.
(Round 6, Pick 13) WR Ray-Ray McCloud, Clemson- The Clemson product has quick feet and ability to make defenders miss in the open field, which is a stark contrast from the big-bodied receivers currently on the roster. He could get some time as a WR on underneath routes and screens, but look for him to do the most damage in the return game.
(Round 7, Pick 27) WR Austin Proehl, North Carolina- The son of long-time NFL receiver Ricky Proehl is a quick slot receiver who lacks the production and size team’s usual covet. He is no lock to make the 53-man roster and I don’t expect him to do so.
There’s a lot to dislike about the Bills’ draft. They drafted an inaccurate QB with their first pick when a better prospect like Rosen was still on the board and could have been had for less. Then, they refused to draft anyone to block for Allen until the 5th round, which was especially important because three starting linemen from last year’s team are no longer on the roster. However, there were also things I did like. Phillips will fill in very nicely when Williams is gone and could prove to be a huge steal in the draft. I also like Neal due to his versatility and fit in today’s pass-heavy NFL. In the end, if all of these picks hit except for Allen, this draft will still be considered a failure. Too much is dependent on an uncertain prospect who has way too many red flags for my liking. Not your best work Brandon Beane.
Final Draft Grade: C-
New York Jets
(Round 1, Pick 3) QB Sam Darnold, USC — When you trade up to the third overall pick, you’re taking a quarterback. The Jets did just that. Most had Darnold pegged as this class’ top QB prospect, so the Jets were thrilled to have him drop to their laps at three. He uses his great arm and accuracy to make all the throws and has a propensity to show up in crunch time and make plays in and out of the pocket. Although Darnold has a knack for turning the ball over, 43 turnovers in 27 games, it should not hinder him too much on the next level. A lot of that can be attributed to his age, as he is 20 years old. If the Jets allow Darnold the appropriate time to grow behind McCown, and coach him through his poor decision making issues, they may have finally landed their franchise quarterback. Bravo, Jets.
(Round 3, Pick 8) Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State- The Jets had only one day two pick after trading up to get Darnold, so they had to make it count. The third round is where you take swings on raw, productive players who have huge upside, and Shepherd is that. This small school prospect has flashed NFL-caliber traits with his plus athleticism, bulk, and positional versatility. He won’t be ready to contribute as a starter right out of the gate but if given time to learn and adjust to the up-tick in competition he could develop into an every down player.
(Round 4 Pick 7) TE Chris Herndon, Miami (Fla.) — If not for the torn MCL Herndon suffered in his last game of the year, he might have snuck into this year’s second round. He is a versatile tight end who makes up for his lack of size with his speed and athleticism. Some sources around the Miami program have stated that they think Herndon is a better overall product than former teammate David Njoku, a first round pick in 2017. Due to his excellent receiving ability Herndon could steal the starting role away from Jordan Leggett and fill the void left by Austin Sefarian-Jenkins.
(Round 6, Pick 5) CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane — A four year starter at Tulane, the former Pelican is a fluid athlete with great instincts and experience. Evaluators were worried about his lack of size (5’10” 182 lbs) and arm length, which caused him to get consistently bodied in college. If used in a slot role where his deficiencies are mitigated, Nickerson could excel.
(Round 6, Pick 6) DL Folorunso Fatukasi, Connecticut- The Jets took their second defensive lineman with Fakutasi. The hulking 300-pound nose tackle does not offer much in the pass rush department, but has the frame to be a stout run stopper for the Jets. This raw prospect adds depth to a depleted unit, and with Steve Mclendon on the last year of his deal, Folorunso could be his replacement.
(Round 6, Pick 30) RB Trenton Cannon, Virginia State- The speedster from DII Virginia state will join a crowded backfield in New York. While the numbers game at the position would make it tough for Cannon get carries, he could contribute on special teams and become an immediate factor for the Jets.
The Jets’ draft is one of my favorite of the year. Yes, they gave up a ton of picks to the Colts to move up and get Darnold, but they’ve now positioned themselves to have a franchise signal caller under center for the next decade. If Darnold pans out, no one will care what the Jets had to give up to go get him. Even without having the luxury of a multitude of picks, I like what the Jets did with the ones they had. They filled a lot of needs across the board by allowing talented players fall to them versus reaching for ones. While they didn’t address the tackle position (which I mentioned was a big need in my Pre-Draft article) I don’t think that will hurt them too badly. Their rebuilding process is not a one year plan. They will have time to let Darnold grow under McCown and fill the needs next year and the year after. For a team whose future looked very bleak at the start of 2017, Maccagnan and company have done a great job of steering the ship in the right direction.
Final Draft Grade: (B+)
(Round 1, Pick 11) S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama- Another case of love the player, hate the pick. After cutting Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins needed a player in the middle of their defense to replace the Pro Bowler. With Vita Vea still on the board, he should have been the pick. Don’t get me wrong, Fitzpatrick could be the most versatile player in this draft and projects to be a Pro Bowler for the Dolphins. In order for Fitzpatrick to succeed, defensive coordinator Matt Burke will need to open up his traditional zone scheme and allow Fitzpatrick to operate as the Swiss Army knife he truly is.
(Round 2 , Pick 10) TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State- The Dolphins had a huge need for a tight end after cutting Julius Thomas and addressed it perfectly with this selection. Gesicki is more of a receiver than your traditional tight end option. He had an insane Combine and uses his athleticism and size to jump over defenders and make catches all over the field. He should fit perfectly into Adam Gase’s system, which loves to split tight ends out wide and create mismatches. Great pick.
(Round 3, Pick 9) OLB Jerome Baker, Ohio State — The speedy Baker pairs perfectly with former teammate and current Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Baker projects to line up as the Will linebacker in the Dolphins defense due to his speed. With his uber-athleticism, Baker can stay step-for-step with tight ends and get after the quarterback. If he can get over the mental errors that created issues in college, he’ll be a day one starter.
(Round 4, Pick 23) TE Durham Smythe, Notre Dame- The thunder to Gesicki’s lightning? Smythe is not known for his pass catching skills, but is a grinder in the running game. Durham did was not targeted much in the passing game at Notre Dame and projects as a traditional blocking tight end. He is the perfect compliment to Gesicki.
(Round 4, Pick 31) RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State- This physically imposing back is one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft. He has the exact makeup of a versatile NFL back, but was inconsistent with his production in college and lacks the vision you’d like to see out of starting backs. Ballage will need some time to adjust to the game and should be viewed as a backup who will benefit from the tutelage of the seasoned Frank Gore.
(Round 6, Pick 35) DB Cornell Armstrong, Southern Miss.- Armstrong is a smaller cornerback who has decent skills and instincts. He can play both inside and outside, but will most likely have to make his mark on special teams if he plans on making the roster. A depth pick at best.
(Round 7, Pick 9) LB Quentin Poling, Ohio — Poling is a fast linebacker that lacks the prototypical size at the position. He gets eaten up in the run game consistently. Just like Armstrong, Poling will need to make an impression on special teams if he plans on sticking around the Dolphins roster.
(Round 7, Pick 11) K Jason Sanders, New Mexico- Not much can be said about a kicker who has made 25/35 career field goals. He will battle it out with whomever the dolphins sign to compete with him. May the best man win.
This was a solid draft for the Miami fish. Although I stated that Vita Vea would have been the better pick in the first round, Fitzpatrick is no slouch. He has the potential to be one of the most feared defenders in this league and a leader on the Dolphins defense for years to come. Versatile defenders like him are becoming more sought after, so I would not be surprised if a few years from now he holds much more value than Vea. The team also landed immediate starters at both tight end and linebacker, both of whom could be considered steals based on where they were drafted. The one knock I have is that the team did not address the line on both sides of the ball. They have good young players along both of the offense and defensive line, but an infusion of developmental youth was needed. You can’t lose Mike Pouncey and Ndamukong Suh and expect everything to be peachy. Overall, the Dolphins look like they’re getting three day one starters, which makes for a good haul in my eyes.
Final Draft Grade: B-
New England Patriots
(Round 1, Pick 23) OT/OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia- Wynn does not have the prototypical size for a tackle, but makes up for it with his technique, awareness, and great football IQ. Wynn is a phenomenal pass blocker who uses his disproportionately long arms to create separation, and he used his run blocking prowess as both a guard and tackle to pave the way for two of college football’s best running backs. He has faced tough competition all of his career and brings a versatility that Belichick covets. Although he is short for a tackle at just under 6’3 he has proven that this will not affect his play and will fill in for Solder admirably.
(Round 1, Pick 31) RB Sony Michel, Georgia- It’s very hard to hate a Bill Belichick pick, so I’ll say I’m indifferent about Michel. He was one of college football players most electric playmakers averaging 8.0 yards per touch, all while splitting carries with Nick Chubb. He can catch the ball, and run inside and outside of the tackles, and is a homerun threat whenever he touches the ball. But, Michel has bone-on-bone knee issues, clear fumbling problems (12 in his career), and the RB position itself is becoming devalued. Yes, he fits the mold of a Patriots back perfectly, but the first round feels too early especially since New England has had later round success with RBs. Feels like a luxury pick.
(Round 2, Pick 24) CB Duke Dawson, Florida — The Patriots allowed the second most yards to slot receivers last year with 1,570, according to Pro Football Focus. They cycled players in and out of the role trying to find a solution. Insert Duke Dawson, a smaller, stiff product who has below average ball skills and make up speed. But he more than makes up for that with his quick feet, good instincts, willingness to tackle, and ability to mirror. Dawson has positional versatility, playing inside/outside corner and safety at Florida, something the Patriots covet. With outside corners Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty already on the roster, it looks like the slot is Dawkins’ to take, a perfect spot for him.
(Round 5, Pick 6) LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, Purdue- Bentley is an odd pick for a team that values position versatility so highly to take a player who is does only one job. A four year starter at Purdue, Bentley is a great run stuffer in the mold of current Patriot Elandon Roberts. He can cover running backs out of the backfield, but should not be trusted with much else. He can be successful on early running downs but should not be relied upon in pass coverage. A strange pick in a pass happy league, he translates as a depth pick on the Pats roster.
(Round 6, Pick 4) LB Christian Sam, Arizona State- Now this is the type of linebacker the Patriots are accustomed to drafting. Sam is a freak athlete who has played linebacker, safety, and corner in college. He is equally as good at stopping the run as he is at defending the pass. He’s the versatile linebacker in the mold of Jamie Collins that Bill covets and can play special teams. He does have issues with his football IQ, looking lost on many plays and series last year. If New England can correct those mental lapses, Sam could easily turn into a three-down linebacker in this league.
(Round 6, Pick 36) WR Braxton Berrios, Miami (Fla.)- It seems like the Patriots have a knack for drafting or trading for small slot receivers and turning them into stars. Barrios and New England hope this holds true for him as well. Berrios is small but runs quicks routes and has a knack for getting open. He could be the replacement to Amendola in the long-run, but for now will make his mark on special teams as a returner.
(Round 7, Pick 1) QB Danny Etling, LSU — This LSU product won’t usurp Tom Brady any time soon, but figures to be a solid backup to the GOAT. He played in a pro-style offense in Baton Rouge and hardly ever turned the ball over, with a 16–2 TD:INT ratio. He’s a game manager that won’t win you games, but certainly won’t lose them, something the Patriots love in their backups.
(Round 7, Pick 25) CB Keion Crossen, Western Carolina- The Patriots have had success with small-school cornerbacks before, so Crossen should not be taken lightly. Keion Crossen is fast, as he ran a 4.33 40 at his Pro Day, but was not invited to the Combine. He is a superb athlete, but has not played the level of competition you would want for a starting cornerback. He is a good prospect to take a flyer on late, and could even use some time to develop on the practice squad.
(Round 7, Pick 32) TE Ryan Izzo, Florida State- Izzo is your classic blocking tight end who has a very low ceiling as a patch catcher. He has difficulty separating from defenders but does appear to have sure hands. He’s no lock to make the roster, and if he does he will be nothing more than a blocker.
I really like what the Patriots did in this draft. They managed to address the left tackle position they sorely needed and added depth at positions all across the roster. Wynn is a great pick and will be a contributor along the line immediately, and Dawson fills the slot role where New England struggled mightily last year. The Michel pick is certainly weird, but not awful. He fills the Dion Lewis role, and provides stability at the position for the foreseeable future. The Pats also managed to acquire a good haul of picks for next year’s draft, putting them in position to move up and acquire the QB of the future. For a team that had very few holes coming into this draft, New England managed to plug many of them while positioning themselves well for the future. Another signature Belichickian draft.