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NFL Draft: Day One Thoughts

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Some general impressions of the first round

Central Florida v SMU Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Every year, we all either do mock drafts or read them, and us armchair GM’s think we have a fairly good idea of what NFL teams will do on draft night.

Then the Cleveland Browns went on the clock.

Baker Mayfield is a very polarizing player, but I love his game and his attitude....except when he beat Ohio State in Columbus, haha. I was kind of surprised that Cleveland not only didn’t trade the fourth pick, but selected Denzel Ward. He’s a great CB though, and I think he’ll be a very good player for them. And as much as I love Ward, and don’t think it’s a bad pick, I still would have picked Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb there.

Picking second, the New York Giants took Saquon Barkley, which is a move that was a head scratcher for me. This is not about the player—I think Barkley is a phenomenal running back and will have a successful NFL career. But when Eli Manning is 37 and plays behind an atrocious o-line, I think you need to pull the trigger on a potential franchise QB like Josh Rosen. The reason you’re picking second in the draft is because you’re pretty terrible, and chances are quarterback is either an immediate need, or a just-over-the-horizon need. It’s incredible to me that Eli has gone from career over to once and future king in New York inside of six months. The NFL, man. Whew.

Next up, Buffalo. What are you thinking? You move up five spots, and give up picks 53 and draft Josh Allen? Sorry, but you had a better QB on the roster last year in Tyrod Taylor...who got you to the playoffs in spite of Nathan Peterman...and well, yeah. Good luck with that.

Does anyone like what the Las Vegas Oakland Raiders have done since they named Jon Gruden head coach? They signed old, slow, and generally bad free agents, then traded down to draft...Kolton Miller? Miller is a guy you could have easily picked in the second or even third round. With some of the other names on the board, this was the oddest pick of the top half of the first round.

Well, other than the Saints, who traded up with Green Bay and gave up a first round pick next year to draft Marcus Davenport. Yikes. From one perspective, I get it. It’s an ‘all in’ move to get to another Super Bowl while they still have Drew Brees, and the Saints feel Davenport was the last missing piece to do just that. If it fails, though...Brees will be gone, they have no first round pick next year, and when Brees retires will Sean Payton be far behind? True feast or famine situation in the next season or two for New Orleans. Their situation has a lot of parallels to the Vikings, circa 2008-2010.

Speaking of Green Bay, it’s quite apparent that there is a new sheriff in town. GM John Gutekunst was wheeling and dealing, and in the end the Packers had a really good night. He first traded down from 14 to 27 with the Saints, netting a fifth round pick and the first round pick from the Saints for next year. Vikings fans (and I think I was leading the charge) laughed because Derwin James was there for the taking, and they didn’t take him. I get it, and the jokes were funny, but if a team offers me an extra first round pick, well I would have done that deal, too. Then Gutekunst traded from 27 back up to 18, and all it cost him was an additional fifth and sixth round pick. Then he got a pretty good CB in Jaire Alexander to help the secondary. What looked like an opportunity missed in being able to select James turned in to a series of really good moves.

Chicago, picking eigth, grabbed LB Roquan Smith, and it was the latest move in a low key but really solid off-season for the Bears. He adds to what is already a really good defense, and if Matt Nagy can develop Mitchell Trubisky (and I’m honestly still on the fence about that) the Bears are going to be a pretty good football team in 2018.

Detroit got better on the offensive line by selecting Chanhassen native Frank Ragnow. Ragnow was a guy I really liked for the Vikings, and when him and then Billy Price went off the board back to back, the air sort of went out of my draft sails. I really like Ragnow, and think he’s going to be a great addition to the Lions line. I still don’t think they have a running game to speak of, and Matt Stafford always feels like he’s one hit away from missing 7-8 games. The pounding he takes is going to catch up to him eventually. Still though, a really good pick for Detroit.

I had to sleep on what the Vikings did, because when Mike Hughes was announced I was initially underwhelmed. Most people (read: me) thought they were going to address the one real glaring hole on their roster, offensive line, and specifically guard. And as guys like Price, Ragnow, and Isaiah Wynn came off the board, I felt the Vikings were going to take either Will Hernandez or Connor Williams. Instead, they chose Hughes, a cornerback out of UCF.

The talent at that spot is great value, I don’t think anyone has an isue with that. Hughes is a really good man to man cover guy, compares favorably to the two guys taken ahead of him in Ward and Alexander, and from a scheme point of view I think he’s a great fit. The NFC North has some of the best QB’s in the game, and having a top notch secondary is essential if you’re going to win the division and get to the playoffs. And when you throw in his added value as a kick returner, a spot the Vikes were sorely lacking in last year, you kill two birds with one dive into the TCF US Bank Stadium roof.

So I understand all of that. From that point of view, Hughes is a solid pick, and under Mike Zimmer I’m sure he’ll blossom into a really good CB. He’ll push Mac Alexander for the slot gig right away, and don’t be surprised if he wins the gig. His off the field concerns bother me, as ‘sexual assault allegation’ is never a good thing to have attached to a guy your favorite team drafts, although he was never charged with that crime. I can only assume the Vikings did their due diligence on this, though, and are comfortable with what they found. And Hughes says he has evidence backing up his side of the story, and that the accusation was made up.

I’m obviously not the GM or the coach (and we are all eternally thankful), but I thought both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander made a lot of strides last year. I know Terence Newman hasn’t re-signed, and now I think it’s reasonable to assume the Vikings will not bring him back after the Hughes pick. And that selection tells me one of two things: either the Vikings don’t think as highly of Alexander at this point as I do (or Waynes?), or they’re a lot higher on Danny Isidora, who played sparingly last season.

Or (and this is going to be my working theory heading into tonight) they feel that they can still get one or two solid offensive linemen in the early rounds and reinforce the line with good players. No, they didn’t get Price, Ragnow, or Wynn, but that would have required a trade up in the first round, anywhere from 7-10 spots. That would have been a hefty price to pay to get one of those guys, and in a class that has some pretty good players on the interior line, making that move would have been the wrong call. There’s a lot of talent still available, and as long as the Vikings acquire some of that talent, things will be fine.

There were a lot of bad picks in the first round last night, and Mike Hughes was decidedly not one of them. Cornerback was still a position of need, they just got a guy earlier than many people thought. So at least for now, let’s put the torches and pitchforks back in the shed, and let the draft play itself out.

But we reserve the right to pull them out of the shed at a moment’s notice. Enjoy the rest of the draft, gang, and have a good weekend.