The draft is over and there were relatively few surprises this year. Players expected to fall due to injury or off field issues generally went earlier than expected, though there were a few notable exceptions.
As expected defensive backs were the most drafted position while offensive linemen were the least. This is also a longer league wide trend as more sophisticated offenses, with more stringent limitations on what defenders are allowed to do legally, are making good defensive backs a necessity,
This year continued the rebirth of running backs with two runners selected in each of the first two rounds. Like other years, however, many teams waited to find potential stars until the later rounds. Wayne Gallman fell to the Giants on Day 3 as did Samaje Perine to Washington. The Packers waited until their 5th selection to fill what was probably their biggest need, before adding two other runners later.
For the first time in recent memory we saw some teams actively wait to fill their quarterback needs. It is entirely possible that the Browns or 49ers had late first or early second round grades on Pat Mahomes, DeShaun Watson, or Mitch Trubisky, like I did. Ultimately if they did, it doesn’t matter because other teams felt the need to acquire their quarterbacks now, and paid handsomely to do so. San Francisco and Buffalo used those teams interest to trade down and acquire more selections in 2018 when they feel the quarterback class will be much better.
The Browns are really committed to analytics, apparently. Cleveland did allow itself to trade up and select David Njoku in the late first round, but by already trading down the Browns found themselves with three extra selections in next year’s first two rounds. Cleveland will also be one of the worst teams in the NFL this year, and so they will certainly pick in the top 3 themselves. The Browns, however, might not be in the market for a quarterback since they selected Deshone Kizer. A few months back many people considered Kizer to be a top ten selection - incorrectly - and figured him to have the highest upside of any quarterback in this draft - correctly. By waiting until the 51st pick for him Cleveland can invest less money while exposing Kizer to less pressure, and allow Hue Jackson to work his magic long term. What a story it would be if Kizer became the Browns starter in 2018 and the team had multiple first round picks throughout the rest of their roster.
Two teams, the Saints and Chargers, committed further to their aging quarterbacks, while the Giants, appear poised to prepare for the future. New Orleans leaves this draft with three likely defensive starters, a swing tackle that protects the entire offensive line from a major injury, and a running back that gives the Saints enough depth at that position to feel like contenders - unless there is an injury to Brees. San Diego added three potential offensive starters in their first three selections - including two guards and the best receiver in the draft. Clearly both organizations realize that protecting their aging leaders is their best route to the SuperBowl. The Giants meanwhile ignored a glaring need for a left tackle to add a few weapons for Eli Manning, and drafted his eventual replacement. Webb probably needs at least a year of further development before he can even be evaluated as a potential replacement. Still if Ereck Flowers doesn’t get much better he might have to play this year.
Two first time General Managers managed to impress this year. John Lynch and the 49ers got most of the headlines by making some splashy deals and generally moving around for three days. They also managed to acquire two of the top 3 players on their boards and another 2 potential starters. Most impressively the 49ers added second and third round selections next year, which will insure that they have the ammunition to move up in order to grab their quarterback, Chris Ballard meanwhile began the unenviable task of rebuilding a defensive roster that was an embarrassment to the profession. Indy went with an unexpected windfall in the first round when a top five talent fell to them at fifteen. They also drafted potential starters at cornerback and inside linebacker, while adding good depth players along the defensive line. They also managed to bring in a nice prospect at guard and a running back that can apprentice under Frank Gore during his last season in the league.
And Another Thing…
One of the knocks on Frank Gore coming out of Miami was that he was injury prone which caused him to plummet into the middle rounds. Over his 12 seasons Gore has missed exactly 12 games. Over the last six seasons he has missed none. Over his last 3 he has averaged 1033 yards per season. Should he manage to beat that by only 4 yards this year, he will pass Curtis Martin for 4th on the all time rushing list. If he is able to do that he will likely remain in the top 5 all time rushers for a decade or more. Quite a feat for a guy that lost his starting job at Miami due to injury. Gore has more rushing yards than both of his college teammates, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee.