The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books! Looking back on the selection process, check out which teams we think are winners and which are losers. To note, undrafted free agents are not factored into these choices.
After selecting tight end Hayden Hurst with their first pick, whose solid skill set warranted a third-round pick at best, the Ravens were not off to a good start in the 2018 NFL Draft. Nevertheless, Baltimore had the best draft. In his final draft, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome landed Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, as well as three other players on whom we had a first-round grade (Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown, Alabama corner Anthony Averett, and Texas safety DeShon Elliott). Baltimore is set for years to come.
It is something of a miracle for Denver that N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb fell to the fifth pick, but to the Broncos’ great fortune, he did. After selecting the star pass rusher, John Elway earned his paycheck on Day Two and Three of the draft, bringing in top college talent at positions like wide receiver and linebacker. SMU’s Courtland Sutton, a second-round pick of the Broncos, could be a No. 1 wideout in a few years’ time. Running back Royce Freeman, linebacker Josey Jewell, and tight end Troy Fumagalli all project as starters.
Green Bay Packers
It appears the Packers entered this year’s draft with one clear objective: win on the outside. With its first two picks, Green Bay took top-flight corners in Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Iowa’s Josh Jackson. At wide receiver, the Packers came away with three good pass catchers (J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown) whose diverse skill sets make them each capable of winning a roster spot. There is also the Oren Burks pick, which was tremendous in that Burks is the best non-Round-One cover linebacker in the draft.
When it is not clear if you are drafting the best player available or drafting to fill needs, you are winning the draft. That is what the Redskins were able to accomplish this year. Washington snagged a very good defensive lineman in Da’Ron Payne on the first night, then grabbed running back Derrius Guice (whom some had mocked to the Redskins for Round One) in the second round. Other highlights included tackle Geron Christian of Louisville, nose tackle Tim Settle of Virginia Tech (who has the skill set to be a superstar), and defensive back Greg Stroman (also of Virginia Tech, who plugs a hole at cornerback).
The Falcons had a need at interior offensive line going into the draft, and they failed to address it. Instead, Atlanta added another receiver (Calvin Ridley, who fell down our board as we became concerned with his skinny frame and drops) and a corner with its first two picks. Deadrin Senat was a fine pick in the third round, but across the six picks that Atlanta made, it is tough to project any player as a future All-Pro.
Carolina also had an interior offensive line need after losing Andrew Norwell in free agency, and just like Atlanta, the Panthers did not address the need. Wide receiver D.J. Moore was a solid first round pick, but second-round cornerback Donte Jackson was a poor selection. Jackson may be fast, but his game is somewhat one-dimensional; the LSU product is small and gets caught out of position a great deal. Outside of these first two picks, the Panthers got a few players who can make the roster (tight end Ian Thomas and EDGE Marquis Haynes come to mind), but the team failed to add big-time impact players at a time when they may be one or two of those players away from a Super Bowl run.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had the worst draft of all, and it began with a weird decision in the first round to trade up for UTSA EDGE Marcus Davenport. Davenport was barely worth a first-round pick, but New Orleans invested a serious amount of draft capital in landing the pass rusher when a host of better players were on the board. From there, Sean Payton’s squad added a host of middling players who are unlikely to live up to the great 2017 Saints draft class. By default, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the best draft in the NFC South, and that is really not saying much.
Truth be told, knowing how the Seahawks operate, they are probably a “winner” in this year’s draft. Seattle has a knack for “reaching” on players and ending up turning them into productive stars. Still, from our vantage point, the Seahawks struggled to bring in premier talent and routinely passed on better talent to draft questionable offensive skill players like running back Rashaad Penny in the first round, tight end Will Dissly in the fourth, and quarterback Alex McGough in the seventh. The bright spot of this draft was the selection of linebacker Shaquem Griffin from the National Champion Central Florida Knights, and Texas punter Michael Dickson should also be solid, but this was a rough draft for Seattle. That said, Pete Carroll has earned the right to go against the grain, because he’s done it before and succeeded, so maybe just disregard this entirely.