Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
After last night’s excitement I felt like I needed to play a little game to make myself feel superior. I know we’ve all done it before; thought to ourselves: “What if I was the GM of [insert team] during the first round of the draft?” Normally I would dismiss the notion that I could do what they do, but since this forum exists for me to put my thoughts out there I figured; what the hell, let’s do this. There’s a lot to digest in 32 picks so for the sake of time I will only revisit the ones I thought were either really good or really bad. Luckily it all starts at pick #1.
The Cleveland Browns have been on the lips of everyone the past week. With need at quarterback and the #1 and #12 picks there was speculation they would take their top signal caller with the first pick. If I was the GM I would have done exactly what they did; take the pass rusher. This was a weak class for quarterbacks but a strong one for defense. Get the best value at the top, which is what they did with Myles Garrett. However, it’s not what the Bears did. It looked like something right out of the movie “Draft Day.” John Lynch of the 49ers must have called Ryan Pace and threatened to pick Trubisky if he didn’t give him a king’s ransom. If I was the Bears’ GM I would have told him “I’m calling your bluff you pancake eating Mother Brother!”
The Bears had so many needs that those draft picks lost can set them back another 3-5 years, even if young Mitchell develops into a player. If the 49ers had stayed put I think they would have taken Solomon Thomas anyways. As the Bears’ GM my pick at #3 would be Jamal Adams. I believe he will be a star and having him roaming the deep middle of the field can cover up for a lot of other issues on the defense. And speaking of covering up issues, why did Reuben Foster fall so far? The Chargers hit a home run with Joey Bosa in 2016 and it wasn’t the Chargers offense that cost them a number of games last year. Foster would have been a solid addition and if I was the GM, that would have been my pick at #7. Wide receivers are easy to find in later rounds, I can’t see the reason for the reach.
Speaking of reaching, what was John Dorsey thinking in Kansas City? They jumped 17 spots to take Patrick Mahomes who might have been there at 27 anyway. And if the concern was that he might not make it because the Texans liked him, why not wait a little bit longer before making a big move up the board. The Texans were only at #25 and it’s likely the next quarterback taken would have been Deshaun Watson. See where he goes and jump to the next pick for Mahomes. It may not have cost them this year’s 3rd round pick and next year’s 1st rounder. As the GM in Kansas City I would have waited patiently for my guy to fall to #27. If he was not there I would have looked at a guy like Dalvin Cook, Tre’Davious White, or Taco Charlton who were all still on the board there. But hey, they did force another playoff team to give up their 1st round pick too.
I will go on the record and say that I like what the Texans did here. The quarterbacks went earlier than they should have and if you wanted one you had to go get one. Trading 1st round picks and giving the Browns their 1st round pick in 2018 was a steep price, but the Texans needed to move to where Watson fit. It may have been a reach talent wise, but he was there at #12 and might not have lasted too much longer. Hopefully they got their guy for the future and the defense can hold out a little bit longer to keep them competitive. Now they just have to hit on their late round selections.
As GM of the Texans I wouldn’t have made this move though. Regardless of need, talent and value have to be addressed on the draft board and once that’s set you don’t get anxious when other teams start trading up. If another team is drafting your guy higher than you think he should then you can only shake your head and look at who you have next. At pick #25 the Browns took Jabrill Peppers, and all around playmaker. What about Ryan Ramczyk? He would have been my pick and he didn’t come off the board until pick #32. I would have taken my right tackle and still had my first rounder next year.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the only other team I think made a strange pick. John Ross may be a speedster but Rueben Foster, Jonathan Allen, and O.J. Howard were all available. Their defense could use a playmaker in the middle, especially in the AFC North. If I was the GM, my pick would have been O.J. Howard. I know they have Tyler Eifert but he will be a free agent after this season and he is often injured anyways. The Bengals have A.J. Green on the outside and looked pretty strong in the red zone when their tight end was playing well. I would take Howard and let Eifert explore free agency or see if he takes a bargain contract.
I know this is all in good fun, but I’ll bet these suggestions look a lot better in a year or two. 1st round picks should be impact players from day 1 and I wonder how many taken this year will be. I believe in sticking to the best available player mantra with a rare outlier. Even then, I wouldn’t pay a high price for any player. Top talent may go in the top of the draft but I would rather be picking #21 or higher every year than giving away my picks for someone else to beat me with. Watching the Packers is where I learned this philosophy and it seems it’s where the Raiders and Seahawks got it too. The Patriots do it their own way and that works for them. As time goes by it seems the Browns are starting to get the picture as well. Their three picks in this year’s draft so far have all been talented playmakers drafted at the spot that they fit. In addition they picked up another 1st round pick for next year and gave up only a 2nd and 4th rounder this year. They are still a long way away from being good but their train is picking up speed and the front office is laying a lot of track to keep it moving for a long time.
Let me know what you would do if you were a GM faced with these situations. I’d love to hear what you think.