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
The first round of the NFL Draft is over and like always it never ceased to excite. I anticipated every selection; hoping the team on the clock would take the best player available to build a strong roster, increasing parity in the league. No one likes watching games where one team is obviously bad. Now that it’s over I feel pretty good about seeing some of these selections making a big impact on the NFL in the coming years.
- Cleveland Browns— Myles Garrett, DE
Smart, smart choice by the Browns. I was getting worried earlier in the day with all the rumors surrounding Mitchell Trubisky at #1. With all their needs it makes perfect sense to get a dynamic pass rusher. Good teams are often built up front.
- Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers)— Mitchell Trubisky, QB
The Bears traded their 2017 1st round pick (3), 3rd round pick (67), 4th round pick (111) and the 2018 3rd round pick for this quarterback. This was a shocker to say the least because I believe the 49ers weren’t going to draft Trubisky. That means the Bears gave up a lot of collateral for a guy they could have gotten if they had just stayed in place. Signing Mike Glennon in the offseason gave them enough of a bridge to be able to draft other positions of need. Sadly, they paid a hefty price to reach when they shouldn’t have and probably didn’t have to.
- San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears)— Solomon Thomas, DE
John Lynch and the 49ers played this one well. As I mentioned above they acquired several picks to move back one space to draft the guy they were probably going to draft at #2 anyways. The 49ers are more than one player away and building a strong defensive front is a good start. This is the 3rd year in a row they have drafted for the defensive line with their first pick and hopefully they have solidified that group for the future. After all, it’s one of the reasons their Super Bowl defense was as good as it was just a few short years ago.
- Jacksonville Jaguars— Leonard Fournette, RB
Very solid, safe pick for the Jaguars. With quarterback Blake Bortles failing to develop, the best thing for a team that has built a strong defense is to then build a power running game. Fournette provides that punch they will need to control the clock and keep games closer than they otherwise would be. This may be the pick that moves them out of the top 10 in next year’s draft.
- Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)— Corey Davis, WR
After the Bears took Trubisky off the board the Browns may not have found any reason to make a trade up for a quarterback. With no one else seeming like a trade partner and the #5 pick being a luxury, the Titans took the wide receiver they wanted before he was gone at pick 18. As much as I think they could have used this pick on Jamal Adams or Jonathan Allen to really boost their defense; I can’t be too down on them for getting a guy they targeted while counting on there still being other solid defensive players available later.
- New York Jets— Jamal Adams, S
The Jets are really lucky to that this guy fell to them. They are another one of those teams with a lots of needs coming into the draft. In my mind, with the league becoming so pass friendly it’s good insurance to have a versatile safety who can stay on the field every down and this guy is a foundational type player.
- Los Angeles Chargers— Mike Williams, WR
So, the Titans took Corey Davis early because they could afford too. My only guess is that there were some teams who were hoping receivers would go later and give them an opportunity to still get a good player in round 2. As much as I like these early receivers I didn’t think I would see three of the top ones come off the board so early. Phillip Rivers is getting older and when he had weapons to target last season the Chargers offense was very competitive in games. Getting him some solid weapons can help ease him into retirement with solid production and make the AFC West a 4 team race.
- Carolina Panthers— Christian McCaffrey, RB
As much as they must have wanted Leonard Fournette in their power running game they had to have expected that he wouldn’t be available at #8. I can’t say I agree with picking McCaffrey. I think he is a dynamic player but I also think this is too high for him. I’m just not sure the Panthers are a good fit. He needs to operate in space and works well in the timing passing game. I don’t see those as being strengths of the Panthers offense. Ron Rivera should find ways to use him, but I foresee some growing pains along the way.
- Cincinnati Bengals— John Ross, WR
Ross was the last of the run on the big 3 wide receivers in the top 10. I was surprised he wasn’t the first to go. The NFL loves speed and he has a ton. Injury concerns are probably what made him the 3rd of the top three but if Cincinnati is looking to help A.J. Green, this might be the guy. I would have considered one of the top cornerbacks or Reuben Foster to help their defense. If they really wanted an offensive player, O.J. Howard is still available to provide insurance against an oft injured Tyler Eifert. We saw how dynamic their offense was when they had a tight end to get the ball to in the end zone.
- Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills)— Patrick Mahomes, QB
Well, if the Bears moving up to #2 wasn’t the worst move this certainly was. If Andy Reid is so good with quarterbacks then why couldn’t he get one later and develop him into Alex Smith’s replacement? Why give up a 2017 1st round pick (27), 3rd round pick (91) and a 2018 1st round pick? I don’t get it but good for the Bills. They took advantage of a team that was obviously willing to reach. Mahomes may have talent and develop into a solid player down the road, I just can’t see him being worth what the Chiefs gave up.
- New Orleans Saints— Marshon Lattimore, CB
I was really surprised to not see a cornerback taken in the top 10. Lattimore comes with injury concerns but should be a solid contributor from day one. That should be good news for the Saints who need to do everything they can to fix their defense. Being one of the worst pass defenses in 2016; it’s certainly exciting for them to get a top outside pass defender.
- Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns through Philadelphia Eagles)— Deshaun Watson, QB
All three of the draft trades so far have been for quarterbacks. This is the only one that makes sense. Watson was the only quarterback worthy of a 1st round pick (I was thinking late first round), but because of the other guys going earlier this almost had to be done. The Texans gave up their 2017 1st round pick (25) and their 2018 1st round pick to get a player who really could be their quarterback of the future. I believe Watson will be if the Texans don’t ruin him.
- Arizona Cardinals— Haason Reddick, LB
This is one of my choices for really good picks. Defense was a weakness for the Cardinals last year and getting a solid linebacker can always go a long way toward fixing that. Reddick brings a well rounded game and the ability to be all over the field. They already have a strong secondary and they added to the defensive line in the offseason. Linebacker help might be what they need to forget about their underachieving 2016 season.
- Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)— Derek Barnett, DE
I’m surprised the Eagles didn’t take a cornerback here but you can never go wrong with a pass rusher. Barnett is a steady player on the line with good ability in the run game to compliment his pass rush ability. This is the kind of best available pick that I like to see teams make. He should be able to take the pressure off other defensive players and be a help to a young offense and head coach.
- Indianapolis Colts— Malik Hooker, S
The other top safety came off the board much later than he should have. Like I stated above, in a pass happy league a good safety is a huge asset. Hooker is a ball hawk, and as bad as the Colts defense was in 2016; having someone who can get to the ball on 3rd down should do a lot to put Andrew Luck’s back on the field.
- Baltimore Ravens— Marlon Humphrey, CB
A team that picks the best available player can’t go wrong. I still think Jonathan Allen is the best available at this point, but that’s neither here nor there. Humphrey is a great addition to a secondary that already has Eric Weddle and Jimmy Smith and this is about where he should be drafted. Something tell me the Ravens will have a bounce back year because they went back to what they’re known for: top tier defense.
- Washington Redskins— Jonathan Allen, DT
What a steal! The Redskins got a guy up front that could really bolster their defense. They need a lot more up front, but Allen’s ability to control the middle of the line can be a game changer like Suh was in Detroit for a number of years. If they can add depth and talent to their overall roster, Allen could be the one that gives them a defense just good enough to be in the late season mix.
- Tennessee Titans— Adoree’ Jackson, CB
Like I said earlier, there would be good enough defensive players later that picking a wide receiver at #5 would not hurt them. Jackson is a solid pick at #18. The Titans have an average defense, and a cornerback won’t put them over the top. However; solid pieces in the draft add talent for the future and the Titans are well on their way to playoff berths for the next few years. Jackson has the ability to make plays and should be a solid playmaker long term.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers— O.J. Howard, TE
We know the focus the Buccaneers put on their offseason; weapons for Jameis Winston. Their offense now has Mike Adams, DeSean Jackson, Doug Martin, and O.J. Howard. That’s a pretty good group of people to get the ball to. I can see the offense in Tampa Bay getting them some quality wins and maybe a number of exciting shootouts later in the season.
- Denver Broncos— Garett Bolles, OT
I think the only surprise here is that it was Bolles and not Ryan Ramczyk. The Broncos needed offensive line help and they were picking right where the top offensive line players fit. This is a great example of best player and need meeting. The Broncos still have to find more help but if they found a solid tackle in the 1st round the quarterbacks may get a little bit of a boost.
- Detroit Lions— Jarrad Davis, LB
Davis is the kind of linebacker who can cover tight ends up the seam and still be a thumper in the middle. The Lions have lost some players on defense over the last two years and this is a guy who can help cover up some of that loss. He is a solid pick at this spot and should give a boost to the middle of their defense. With the additions the Lions gave to their offense, it makes sense to grab a top defender here.
- Miami Dolphins— Charles Harris, OLB
This is a solid pass rush pick to pair with Cameron Wake. Having Suh in the middle should plug up that part of the field and getting two solid edge rushers can hide a lot of back end deficiencies. Good pick for a team that still needs a few players to get over the hump.
- New York Giants— Evan Engram, TE
I’m not saying this is a bad pick, but in this part of the draft best available can be fluid. The Giants have made a concerted effort to get Eli Manning the best weapons in the league. Dropping Victor Cruz and adding Brandon Marshall was a step in the right direction. Drafting Engram was just another move to make them a top offense and make their division an offensive dogfight.
- Oakland Raiders— Gareon Conley, CB
This has to be the riskiest pick of the draft. There is no question the talent is there, it’s the off the field stuff that makes this questionable. But I guess they didn’t want to risk losing a guy they investigated thoroughly and believe will be available at the start of the season. Conley can be what D.J. Hayden wasn’t, a shut down corner and something their defense really needs.
- Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)— Jabrill Peppers, S
To say Peppers is a safety is an understatement. He is a do it all player who will make plays all over the field for a defense that really needs them. I can’t wait to see what he does for a team that won only 1 game last year. That result was due to a lack of talent all around. Peppers ability to play deep and at the line of scrimmage will give a creative defensive coordinator the talent to give opposing offenses a fit. I look forward to seeing what he does on a team devoid of talent like his.
- Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks)— Takkarist McKinley, DE
When your offense is #1 in the league and your young defense made you enough of a contender to get to the Super Bowl; what do you do? You trade up and draft a talented pass rusher with the idea that he will keep you right in the mix the next year. The Falcons gave the Seahawks their 2017 1st round pick (31), 3rd round pick (95), and 7th round pick (249) to move up and get the best available pass rusher. For a team as talented as they are this isn’t a huge move; and if he plays as well as he did in college the Falcons won’t regret it.
- Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)— Tre’Davious White, CB
Losing their top corner in free agency didn’t turn out to be a huge loss for them. This was a deep draft at the position and they were able to move back and get a 1st round graded player at the position. White is a natural cornerback and should fit nicely into sub packages early in the season until he adjusts. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see him show his experience early and win a starting spot on opening day.
- Dallas Cowboys— Taco Charlton, DE
Despite having their secondary depleted in free agency the Cowboys decided once again to go with the best available player. There might have been a few players with a little higher grade, but that difference was negligible when you consider the importance of rushing the passer. This was a weakness of their defense in 2106 and it will go a long way for them having addressed this in the 1st round.
- Cleveland Brown (from Green Bay Packers)— David Njoku, TE
The Browns finally addressed their offense; but not in the way you think. It looks like they are taking this analytics approach seriously. They gave the Packers their 2017 2nd round pick (33) and 4th round pick (108). Adding an athletic tight end to stretch the middle of the field and offer a big red zone target will be a relief to whoever they decide is taking snaps. At the end of the 1st round the Browns appear to be a team using picks wisely to get out of the NFL basement.
- Pittsburgh Steelers— T.J. Watt, OLB
Taking talent where is fits has long been a staple of the Steelers draft strategy. I’m surprised that Watt made it to the 1st round with all the shuffling that went on but he should have an opportunity to compete for a spot from day one. The Steelers have all the pieces they need on offense and getting defensive players might be a draft priority. Watt is a playmaker who could take advantage of a spot on a defense that can ease him into a full time role and I think he will grow into a big time player.
- San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks through Atlanta Falcons)— Reuben Foster, LB
If I was the 49ers I would have made this trade too. They gave the Seahawks their 2017 2nd round pick (34) and 4th round pick (111) to move up and take a player who may fill the role vacated when Patrick Willis who retired two years ago. This was a smart move to get a guy with 1st round talent in the 1st round. I find it so hard to believe that with all the resources teams have, injury rumors dropped a guy with his playmaking ability so far. The 49ers did a good job realizing that if they got back into the 1st round they would be able to give Foster a 5th year option. He was the best player still on the board and getting him where he fits while only giving up what you gained in the Trubisky deal is a no-brainer.
- New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)— Ryan Ramczyk, OT
When you have 2 picks in the 1st round you have a luxury pick. The Saints used the 1st one on defense and now they are giving Brees the top rated tackle in this year’s draft. Despite Bolles going first, most experts think Ramczyk is the better prospect and the Saints pulled the trigger. They still have a lot of needs but if they are going to move past a hall of fame player in the coming years it would help to have the tackle position locked down.
Ok, that’s it. Those are my notes as things were happening. I have only had a few minutes to digest it all but I have to say I love what the Browns did tonight. Three picks in the 1st round and all players who should contribute from day 1. Since this is a Houston sports site I have to say congratulations to the Texans. I have been saying all week I had no idea what they would do, I just wanted them to draft the best available player. Much to my surprise they made a move to get to the pick where the player they wanted fit. And to top that move off, the player there was the best quarterback in this draft. Deshaun Watson should make the competition at that position very exciting when training camp rolls around.
Overall, I found a few teams reaching and making some strange moves. In the end things evened out with a lot of the players who belonged in the 1st round being drafted there, although it almost looked like they wouldn’t be. The NFL draft is never lacking for excitement but I think there were a lot of teams who drafted a player that fit right at their position and should be contributors early. Despite the few head scratchers I would have to say this was a good draft and in a few years we should see a lot of these players getting 5th year options picked up. Tomorrow night is round 2 where there will be a lot of the same thing we saw tonight. When a draft is deep like this one there should be a lot of moves for teams to draft where players fit.