Our picks for the best, worst, and most confusing choices in this year’s NFL Draft.
#19 overall – O.J. Howard (TE – Alabama)
Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Tampa Bay had this absolute gem of an athlete fall right into their hands. Some draft pundits listed Howard as a top five talent. He is a capable blocker. But more importantly, he’s a legitimate threat to change the scoreboard. However, he will be most valuable as a third-down target for Jameis Winston, who needs to improve upon working through his progressions. O.J. will be the perfect remedy for that issue and Tampa Bay’s passing attack will now have a huge target in the middle of the field.
#17 overall – Jonathan Allen (DE – Alabama)
Here’s another freak athlete from Nick Saban’s NFL factory who has excellent technique. Allen had some injury issues, which led to him slipping later in the draft. Nonetheless, Allen is both a “high-ceiling” and “high-floor” prospect, meaning he has Pro Bowl potential with very low risk of being a bust.
Some people labeled him as a “tweener.” However, the versatility to play on the inside or outside is quite valuable on a 53-man roster. He’s best suited as a DE on first and second down with the ability to slide inside on passing downs.
BEST VALUE PICKS:
# 41 overall – Dalvin Cook (RB – Florida State)
No one would have blinked if Cook had been drafted in the mid to late first round. No running back was better at forcing missed tackles. And that leads to the reasons why Dalvin Cook was not a “steal.”
Cook’s strengths are unlikely to be showcased and his weaknesses will be exposed on the Vikings roster. Unlike Leonard Fournette, he doesn’t project to drag the pile and make three-yard carries out of apparent one-yard carries. What Cook does best is make tacklers miss in the open field. He’s a 1-on-1 match-up nightmare for defensive coordinators. But he will rarely get that opportunity in Minnesota, which has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Furthermore, Cook isn’t a great pass blocker, which will be exposed behind the Vikings’ O-line.
With that said, Cook could be a superstar in this league if there are decent blockers in front of him.
# 35 overall – Malik McDowell (DT – Michigan State)
The Seahawks landed McDowell in the second round even though he has obvious first-round talent and athleticism. The rich get richer and that’s one reason why he’s not a “steal.” The Seahawks front seven is loaded and their team had needs that weren’t addressed.
His technique is his only weakness, but that can and will be taught. Also, McDowell won’t face the double teams he saw in college. Arguably the scariest defense in the NFL just became even more terrifying with the addition of McDowell.
# 142 overall – Carlos Watkins (DT – Clemson)
Watkins is a versatile lineman who can play on both the inside and outside. He’s best suited as a DT in a 4-3 defense or a DE in a 3-4 defense. He’s a better pass rusher than run defender. He was a very productive and disruptive defender who stood out among a ridiculously talented front seven for Clemson. Watkins will add to an already imposing list of Texans pass rushers, including Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, and J.J. Watt.
#145 overall – Jake Butt (TE – Michigan)
Before tearing his ACL in the Orange Bowl, Jake Butt was projected to be a top five TE prospect. Butt is a capable blocker who has outstanding hands and a wide catch radius. He would have been drafted much earlier if not for the injury. However, there’s no reason to believe he won’t fully recover. Besides, Butt was never a super athlete. He beats defenders with good technique. That led him to winning the Mackey Award last year. Snatching that kind of productivity in the fourth round is a fantastic value pick.
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH:
# 198 overall – D.J. Jones (DT – Ole Miss)
D.J. Jones lacks the measurables that scouts drool over, particularly height (he’s 6’1”). There’s nothing flashy about his play. However, Jones clogs up the middle in the run game and commands double teams.
# 211 overall – Conor McDermott (OT – UCLA)
This is what the Patriots do best. They find the players who fit their system for bargain basement prices. Despite his sixth-round status, McDermott will likely be a solid contributor in this league. He’s a 6’8” former basketball player who is a good pass blocker. He needs to work on his strength and run blocking, but that will come with time. McDermott started for two and half years as the left tackle for the Bruins.
# 242 overall – Elijah Hood (RB – North Carolina)
The Raiders have many running backs on the roster, but Hood is no slouch. At 5’11’’ and 231 pounds, Hood runs through tacklers and has some wiggle on the outside. His running stats declined after a very successful sophomore year with 1463 yards on the ground. However, that had more to do with the impressive passing skills of Mitch Trubisky. Hood is a legit power back with nice hands.
#247 overall – Malachi Dupre (WR – LSU)
Every school in the country recruited Dupree out of high school. However, that potential didn’t result in great production at LSU. That’s not entirely on Dupre. LSU hasn’t had a potent passing attack in years. Dupre has a ton of upside with good size and leaping ability. He’s still a little rough around the edges, but the Packers’ coaching staff and Aaron Rodgers will nip that in the bud.
# 253 overall – Chad Kelly (QB – Ole Miss)
Chad Kelly was taken by the Broncos with the last pick, aka Mr. Irrelevant. He has some well-known maturity issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately for Kelly, those red flags would be less worrisome if he played any position other than quarterback. However, Chad Kelly has undeniable NFL talent. He can make every throw as well as run outside the pocket. Furthermore, the quarterback situation in Denver is begging for more competition.
# 25 overall – Jabrill Peppers (S – Michigan)
The Browns definitely reached with this pick. Peppers certainly would have been available later in the draft. The Browns didn’t have a first round pick to waste on a player who doesn’t project as a three-down player. Peppers’ talents are best utilized as a nickelback. Granted, Peppers is a heck of an athlete. He explodes toward the ball in running situations and racks up a lot of tackles. However, he’s not great in coverage.
# 10 overall – Patrick Mahomes QB – Texas Tech
There’s always been a premium on quarterbacks and, worst case, Mahomes belonged in the second round. He has all the tools, i.e., confidence, size, athletic ability, and a big arm. However, Mahomes seems like a prospect with high potential for boom or bust. And the problem is that he was drafted into a situation that doesn’t match his skill set. Kansas City is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Mahomes’ experience in the pass-happy, air raid offense at Texas Tech doesn’t seem like a good fit for Andy Reid’s methodical West Coast offense. Mahomes has a cannon for an arm, but it seems unlikely that Reid will alter his coaching style to suit this young talent.
THE BEST NON-TRADE:
The 49ers – Not trading the number two overall pick for Kirk Cousins.
All of the talking heads enjoyed debating this juicy rumor. Obviously, the quarterback situation in San Francisco isn’t ideal. However, the 49ers didn’t panic. In fact, they may end up signing Kirk Cousins as a free agent next year.
The 49ers traded the pick to the Bears and moved down one spot. Solomon Thomas was a great pick at number three. He perfectly fits their system and looks like a future Pro Bowler. The 49ers also received another third and fourth round pick in this draft from the Bears. That’s in addition to another third round pick next year.
The 49ers obviously remembered recent history. Kirk Cousins was drafted in the fourth round after the Redskins made one of the worst trades in NFL history. The Redskins moved up four spots to number two to draft Robert Griffin III, giving away a second round pick and two future first round picks.