2016 NFL DRAFT: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
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With the 2016 NFL Draft in the books, you are only a simple Google search away from being totally overwhelmed by draft analysis, report cards, winner and loser articles. The truth is, the grading system used by sites or specific writers is so objective and watered down, that it’s impossible to actually quantify the analysis until 3-5 years after the fact. The best draft class now is likely going to go to the team who wins the Super Bowl in 3-5 years. So I did my own analysis and assigned letter grades and after trades and the swapping of picks, I’ve spent the majority of the last few days scratching my head – so I’m not going to pump out more analysis for you that’s going to give you more questions than answers about the players or teams you are most interested in. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I loved about three teams that had exceptional drafts, and why I think these three teams are going to experience major progression this season.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – Given An Inch But Taking A Myles
You don’t have to scroll too far to identify that pretty much everyone thinks the Jags killed it this year in the draft. There are a couple of things however that make what they did extraordinary, and sheds light on just how well their pick selection went.
First off they had seven picks in seven rounds, so analyzing Jacksonville, is really low hanging fruit in this context… there’s no squandering of useful draft picks, or accumulating a bunch of useless draft picks either.
Secondly, what the Jaguars did in the draft perfectly complimented what they did in free agency it’s almost dumfounding how the pieces fell into place. They understood their young offense was extremely efficient, so built depth my adding Chris Ivory, resigning Mercedes Lewis and adding O-line help. Then they laid the ground work for what they were going to do on draft weekend by signing three savvy defensive veterans including Malik Jackson, Prince Amukamara, and Tashaun Gipson. Which screamed we are now going to stock up on young DEFENSIVE talent.
Stock up they did!! Jalen Ramsey fell in their lap, as not only the best player available, but the best player at his position. This was a no brainer, and the Jags did not consider anyone else. Prior to the draft, Myles Jack was listed as the 3rd best athlete in the draft, and slated to go in the top five on many mock draft boards (which are as equally as fruitless as assigning letter grades). Low and behold concerns about Jack’s knees allowed him to fall all the way to #36, which if JAX can get three years out of him, will be the steal of the century. The Jags went on to draft defensive players on four of their remaining five picks, and so the era of defensive dominance in Jacksonville begins. Yeah – and last years top 5 overall pick Dante Fowler is on schedule to return.
Every team that wants to make waves needs to take a calculated risk, and the Jags did it with Myles Jack. Scouts may be right – his knee may be in fact a ticking time bomb, but after securing Ramsey and committing to beefing up defense, Jack was easily a risk worth taking.
BUFFALO BILLS – From Ragland To Riches
The Bills kept it “one hundred” in this year’s draft building on their surgically implanted identity of being a defensive minded team by way of Head Coach Rex Ryan. Enter Rob Ryan which admittedly could be a disaster, and there will be no shortage of story lines, quotable quotes and drama in Buffalo this season.
Sticking to their defensive guns the Bills picked up DE Shaq Lawson from Clemson a school that is quite dear to both Ryan’s hearts, as both their sons played or will play there. Lawson is a winner, and an athletic beast and will feel like he’s playing at home under Ryan especially with former Clemson Alum Sammy Watkins there as well. This defense was good already and adding a cog like Lawson, whose first name was given to him in recognition of Shaquille O’Neal was a great get. Lawson at #19 overall looks even better after the Bills traded up 8 spots to land LB Reggie Ragland from Alabama in the 2nd round. These two former National Champion opponents will cornerstone the Bills defense for the next 4 years and hopefully beyond, if Ryan can figure out a way to interject a winning formula.
Picks 3-4 carry some legit risk, but as I alluded to earlier, when you get the guys you want early and often, if gives you some currency to pursue some high risk high reward guys. The Bills did just that drafting DT Adolphus Washington from Ohio State in the 3rd round. On the field there’s less of a risk here, but he’s had off the trouble issues and the risk is, that the Bills are betting that all of that non-sense is behind him. Washington much like his Ohio State teammate QB Cardale Jones who was drafted in the 4th round are winners who come to the Bills from pro style offenses. Jones is an intelligent pick up, because of his arm and legs – and there couldn’t have been a better time to get the best QB on the board at the time. Jones should make the roster, and it will be interesting to see if he can challenge for playing time – but the upside is there.
TENNESSEE TITANS – Remembering The Titans Is Easier Than Ever
Naturally the risk for the Titans, was not as much during the draft as it was before the draft, when they made the now extremely shrewd decision to trade away the #1 overall pick to the L.A. Rams who wanted Jared Goff. This is laughable for the Titans, because there was no way they were taking a QB, so that had him looking at pursuing O-line help with their first pick. Knowing they could get O-line help after pick seven, they leveraged their first overall pick for more draft picks. A brilliant move to say the least and one that makes perfect sense given their needs.
The irony here is that they got a rock star in OT Jack Conklin from Michigan State. Conklin will help lead the charge in keeping Marcus Mariota upright and is about as sure a thing as any OL in the draft. Knowing that they had three picks in the 2nd round the Titans opted to go with LB Kevin Dodd who is a bit of a project, but had a great final year at Clemson recording 12 sacks. Dodd gives the Titans some much-needed depth at the position, and they clearly felt as though Dodd was going to jump off the board soon.
The Dodd pick would’ve been troubling if the Titans hadn’t followed that up with two picks (43rd and 45th overall) that they were a bit more conservative on. Continuing to build defensive depth, Tennessee drafted DT Austin Johnson from Penn State, another beastly Big 10 D-linemen, who will be able to get on the rotation in Nashville. This pick is vanilla in nature, but it’s a good quality of vanilla – He wasn’t a reach or a steal, just a solid player with a good pedigree, who should be able to contribute. The same can be said for Alabama RB and Heisman winner Derrick Henry, who clearly was not needed with the addition of DeMarco Murray, but should provide depth for the oft-injured RB in his first year with the Titans. This isn’t going to be Philly all over again for the Murray, but Henry is a clear value pick here that the Titans couldn’t pass up on. He will be a serviceable back even as a rookie.
What the Titans have done over the last two-years, should create some shade for the coaching staff as long as they progress. They have clearly executed a great drafting game plan, and we will all take notice of this plan as early as this year.