2018 NFL Round 1 Draft Analysis

  1. Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)

Maybe he is the next Russell Wilson…or the next Johnny Manziel.  On second thought, the comparison between the two is the epitome of laziness for sports writers and analysts.  Sure they both have an attitude and have displayed emotion in a negative light, but Manziel was an overall train wreck off the field and a good athlete on the field.  I feel the desire to defend this pick against all the jersey burning haters out there.  Let me introduce the QBASE projections, which looks at collegiate production (completion percentage, yards per attempt and passing efficiency) relative to the quality of the defenses faced and offensive teammates around them.  QBASE projects NFL success in the first 3-5 years after entering the league.  Here is the breakdown of the top QB options for the Browns:

Sam Darnold

Mean Projection in Years 3-5: 412 DYAR
Bust (< 500 DYAR) 51.9%
Adequate Starter (500-1499 DYAR) 29.0%
Upper Tier (1500-2500 DYAR) 15.1%
Elite (>2500 DYAR) 4.1%

 

Josh Allen

Mean Projection in Years 3-5: -83 DYAR
Bust (< 500 DYAR) 62.7%
Adequate Starter (500-1499 DYAR) 20.7%
Upper Tier (1500-2500 DYAR) 11.5%
Elite (>2500 DYAR) 5.2%

 

Josh Rosen

Mean Projection in Years 3-5: 623 DYAR
Bust (< 500 DYAR) 46.9%
Adequate Starter (500-1499 DYAR) 24.8%
Upper Tier (1500-2500 DYAR) 18.0%
Elite (>2500 DYAR) 10.4%

 

Baker Mayfield

Mean Projection in Years 3-5: 1,480 DYAR
Bust (< 500 DYAR) 29.3%
Adequate Starter (500-1499 DYAR) 21.8%
Upper Tier (1500-2500 DYAR) 20.7%
Elite (>2500 DYAR) 28.2%

Based on this statistical analysis, Mayfield is both the safest option (29.3% chance of busting out) and the greatest potential (28.2% of elite status).  When looking at the decision to draft Mayfield #1, it would make the most logical sense to draft the one player with the least risk and greatest potential of reward.  I’m sure glad that Dorsey didn’t fire all the analytics guys in the front office. Speaking of which, Dorsey is a more traditional evaluator anyway, so maybe the co-existence of stats and football guys can produce a fruitful result…time will tell. GL Hue.

  1. NY Giants: Saquon Barkley (RB, PSU)

I totally understand why Dave Gettleman made this pick.  The Giants are attempting to surround Eli with a competent cast of characters (including Nate Solder) in order to compete prior to his retirement.  At the same time, you usually don’t see GMs draft a RB this early until most of the other pieces are in place to make a run.  You get RBs on the cheap for four years, and if Barkley is HOF caliber, they are going to have to pay him Bell money after five.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft a successor QB in the second day or in the early rounds of 2019 to take advantage of this window.

  1. NY Jets: Sam Darnold (QB, USC)

The Jets were really high on Mayfield.  Although if they bought the smokescreen from the Browns, they might have believed he was the next best option behind Darnold.  Who knows.  Either way, the Jets land their franchise QB.  Good for them.

  1. Cleveland Browns: Denzel Ward (CB, OSU)

I wish the Browns would have traded back with Buffalo and moved back into the top-10 before making this selection.  All that being said, the Colts/Bears/Dolphins or another team may have traded up for him, he is the best CB in the draft after all.  They had a glaring hole at CB after trading McCourty, so everyone expected them to prioritize CB early in the draft.  This may have been a slight reach, but they addressed the need so there’s that.

  1. Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)

Let’s get this out of the way first:  I love Bradley Chubb.  Ok.  All that being said, I don’t like the Broncos selection of Chubb.  Personally, I thought Nelson would have been more valuable given his overall potential and upgrade of the offensive line.  Chubb is a redundancy – they already have Miller and Ray…but I guess they could move on from Ray after this season if they decide to opt out of his fifth year option.

  1. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)

Love this pick.  Luck upright = winning games.  Chubb would have been nice here, but you play the hand you are dealt.

  1. Buffalo Bills (from Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)

The trade to move up for the #7 was a great move by Brandon Beane.  He not only lands the QB of the future but manages to do so without sacrificing two first round picks.  That is probably the best thing I have to say about this move.  I want to give Buffalo the benefit of the doubt here and I truly understand the position they are in.  There is no proven QB talent currently on the roster, which means they were forced to make a move up.  What other options did they have?  Josh Rosen…who may have peaked already?  If I was the GM (which I am not) and I don’t have to answer to season ticket holders for the 5-11 season with AJ McCarron as the face of the franchise, I would have punted until next year.  Assuming that the team took a major step backwards and ended up with a top-5 selection in 2019, they would be blessed with Will Grier (shout out WVU).  I’m not the GM, so I trust that they made the right call.  Josh Allen has all the intangibles you could ask for out of a franchise QB – size, hand size, throwing velocity, size – but the collegiate production just wasn’t there.   I want the Bills’ QB coaches to prove me wrong on this one, because Allen has the physical skills and talent to be the next Ben Roethlisberger.

  1. Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)

Every reputable mock draft I read projected the Bears to take a LB, whether it be Smith of Edmunds.  I personally thought that Edmunds would be in play here, but I still count this as partial credit.  The Bears defense was sleeper good last year, finishing in the top half in DVOA (https://www.footballoutsiders.com/dvoa-ratings/2018/final-2017-dvoa-ratings).  Spoiler alert!  They finished ahead of the Bills, who were touted to be an elite defensive unit.  They also finished in the top 1/3 of the league in sacks, so there’s that.  Basically what I’m saying is that the Bears are on the come, if their 28th overall offensive DVOA ranking can catch up.  The only missing piece in their front seven was a three-down WILL linebacker, which they drafted. WINNING!

  1. San Francisco 49ers: Mike McGlinchey (OT, Notre Dame)

Finally the first completely batshit crazy, out of left field move that was made on draft night.  NOBODY…I repeat NOBODY have the 9ers taking a tackle in the first round.  If you did…I apologize and I’ll buy you a lotto ticket if we can split the winnings.  It’s not the draft position in which he was drafted (note: I had the Raiders selecting him at #10), it was the team fit.  The 9ers currently have LT Joe Staley (straight stud) under contract for two more seasons and RTs Brown and Gillam for the next two and one year, respectively.  Kudos to the 9ers for the long-term strategic thinking:  they play McGlinchey at RT for two seasons and if Staley retires they kick him out to LT.  That plan actually makes perfect sense…assuming that Mike is able to make the transition.  This tackle class was one of the weakest in recent years and McGlinchey is a good talent, but teams should be concerned if he is able to hold up at LT.  Let’s be honest, my distaste for this pick has nothing to do with McGlinchey, but the fact that they have no LBs and Foster is going to jail for domestic abuse if found guilty (or at the very least will be suspended by Goodell and subsequently closely monitored until he is out of the league).  The LB class is just as weak as the tackle class, but one seems to be more of an urgent need than the other…but that’s none of my business.

  1. Arizona Cardinals (from Oakland Raiders): Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)

The Raiders move back because they are pouting that the 9ers took their future pro bowl LT and gift wrap the Cards a franchise QB.  Rosen has been a real interesting case this offseason.  He was in the discussion for the #1 pick a few months ago before rumors came out that he didn’t want to play for the Browns, he peaked physically, and the cherry on top was Jim Mora (his college coach) showered him with praise, including the difficulty of coaching him.  That’s always a good sign after the combine when teams are evaluating talent!  One has to wonder if this wasn’t an inside job by the Cardinals to push him down the draft board, because there is no way in hell they believe Sam Bradford is going to survive half…a game.  Sidebar:  I remember watching Bradford tear his ACL by tripping on the ground in a preaseason game against the Browns.  Good stuff Steve Keim!

  1. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Bama)

The Dolphins made a surprisingly smart move by stopping the freefall of an amazingly gifted player and freakish athlete.  The Dolphins are adjusting to the modern-style of NFL offenses by drafting a versatile nickel/safety/star Swiss army knife of a player.  It used to be a bad thing being a jack-of-all-trades/master of none type of player, but in the modern-NFL you need players that can cover slot receivers (including TEs).  With all the spread offenses and run-pass-option shenanigans happening, Fitzpatrick is a matchup nightmare.  And he’s from Bama.  ‘Nuff said.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Buffalo Bills): Vita Vea (DL, Washington)

The Bucs land an amazing player that pretty much cements their defensive line as one of the best in the league.  That’s great!  I don’t quibble with Vea’s talent; he could have easily been a top-10 pick.  What doesn’t make sense is why the Bucs prioritized this position over their many other needs.  After passing on Derwin James, they better consider drafting someone that can cover the deep middle of the field in the 2nd or 3rd rounds.

  1. Washington Redskins: Da’Ron Payne (DL, Bama)

Da’Ron Payne is a beast inside; he deserves a ton of praise for the rest of the defensive production at Alabama.  However, the ‘Skins committed the cardinal sin of drafting: don’t settle on a positional need and take whoever is left.  They wanted Vea so badly to stop the bleeding of their terribad run defense that they just took the next available d-tack.  I feel like Bill Belichick should sell his proven methods of draft success (Jordan Belfort style) to all other 31 GMs.  Value is the key of the NFL draft, which is why the Pats always trade back 17 times and still manage to find hidden gems.

  1. New Orleans Saints (from Green Bay): Marcus Davenport (EDGE, UTSA)

I can’t believe the Saints pulled the trigger on a deal for Lamar Jackson, he is going to be a perfect fit for Sean Payton.  They are going to be terrorizing the NFC South for the next decade even after Brees retires.

Wait.

Did I miss something?

Did someone actually trade two first round picks for a non-QB?

  1. Oakland Raiders (from Arizona Cardinals): Kolton Miller (OT, UCLA)

I kinda feel like there is a theme to this years’ draft.  Teams that settle in a positional need and take them NO MATTER WHAT.  Thanks Kevin Costner.  So let me get this straight: Donald Penn is 35 and who knows what the future holds for him and this is a super weak LT class.  That pretty much sums up this pick, which feels like a bit of a reach for a player that has one collegiate season at LT.  That is not to say he won’t be a serviceable player, but you probably could have gotten that in the early second round or via trade or FA.  This is also another bay area team that could use an upgrade at LB and several good options are still available.

  1. Buffalo Bills (from Baltimore Ravens): Tremaine Edmunds (LB, VT)

Love this pick.  Love it. Love it.  Ok I got that out of my system.  The Bills definitely had to take a LB early in this draft; they had bar-none the worst starting LB core in the league.  But, I’m surprised they moved up to 16 instead of staying at 22, given that they already expended capital in securing their QB at #7.  Ironically, the 22nd pick (originally from KC) was spent by the Titans on Rashaan Evans (another LB).  Theoretically they could have gotten a legit prospect for the same position and didn’t have to pay to move up.  Hindsight is 20/20 though.  Edmunds is extremely raw.  Like not even 20 years old raw.  All that being said, he is HUGE (6’7) and was extremely impressive at v-tech.  He should start immediately and if Sean McDermott is as good of a coach that we all think he is – he should develop rather quickly.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James (S, Florida State)

I’m calling it now: this was the biggest mistake of the draft that analysts talk about for the next 3 years.  It wasn’t a mistake for LA, but for the rest of the league letting James fall this far.  James is a true do it all safety: man coverage, zone coverage, blitzing and run stopping.  He truly is a total package that we haven’t seen since Weddle, Reed or Polamalu.  Even better, he fills a massive void on a good defensive team that has never replaced Weddle.

  1. Green Bay Packers (from Seattle): Jaire Alexander (CB, Louisville)

Great move by the Seahawks, who had no picks until #120.  Also a great move by the Packers, whose secondary was looking rather bleak after the Randall trade…and even beforehand.  My only slight criticism of the decision of drafting Alexander over Joshua Jackson is his size.  If teams are concerned about Ward being too short (5’11), Alexander is almost a whole inch shorter.  A WHOLE INCH!  Alexander should be a plug-and-play nickel corner, who is well-worth the 18th pick in the draft.  Although, that still doesn’t address their needs on the outside.  There’s always next round.

  1. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)

I’ve seen a lot of shade thrown at this pick and I actually feel the need to defend Jerry Jones here (gag).  The defense doesn’t even look remotely competent when Sean Lee has been hurt (spoiler alert: it’s a lot (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/L/LeexSe99.htm).  I think Sean Lee is an amazing player, but there less than a 50/50 chance he will be a 16 game starter at this point.  This past season the defense gave up an average of 18 points when Lee played and 32.4 when he was injured.  Jaylon Smith has been solid at the position, but they desperately need another three-down presence if Lee is unable to remain healthy.  Sure, they could have drafted DT, WR or CB, which were also important needs.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Cowboys actually drafted the position with the most top-end talent scarcity at the right time.  Rounds two and three will offer plenty of solid DTs, WRs and CBs that makes this the most logical choice here.

  1. Detroit Lions: Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)

Do you all remember when Travis Frederick was taken #31 in 2013 and everybody went apeshit over the fact that any team would draft a center in the first round?  Well the times have changed, haven’t they?  The Lions absolutely needed to address their offensive line, both in terms of pass protection and run blocking.  There were a bunch of great interior linemen in this draft, which makes it a little surprising that one would go so high.  Especially when one considers the benefits of fixing the defensive line, which has been a major liability for the past few years.  I’m surprised they didn’t take Landry or Bryan here and take a BPA center in the next round.  You gotta admire their dedication, they clearly had a particular player in mind and didn’t want the Bengals to walk away with them.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo): Billy Price (C/G, OSU)

Do you all remember when Travis Frederick was…oh yah.  About that.  The Bengals interior offensive line is a total disaster since they let all their youth walk away in free agency the past two offseasons.  Damn millennials wanting a raise after four years.  Mike Brown showed them who’s boss!  Fast forward two years of Dalton spending most of the game on the ground while AJ Green is wide open 20 yards down the field and they overcorrect here.  Price is a good interior lineman who has the added versatility of playing C or G.  The Bengals definitely have several other needs, but at this point they are plugging holes on the titanic.

  1. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)

I’m not surprised that the Titans upgraded their LB core, but I’m a little surprised by this selection.  I really expected them to address their EDGE rush situation, but there’s always tomorrow for that.  They were in need of someone to cover RBs and TEs to pair with Woodyard.  As much as I want to hate this pick, you can’t bet against Alabama defenders.

  1. New England Patriots (from L.A. Rams): Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)

This is a head scratcher.  Did Mike Vrabel finally crack the code for upstaging Bill Belichick at the draft?  He was fully aware that the Pats were desperate for LB depth and pulled the rug from right under them.  I’m sure that the Pats know what they are doing with this pick, but announcing him as a tackle just feels like a troll job.  Wynn is a guard, he worked out at the combine as a guard, he predominately played guard at Georgia, everyone knows he is a guard…and thanks to the Pats he will enter the hall of fame as a tackle.  In all seriousness, I think that the Pats either got a great starting guard to upgrade Mason and Thuney or Bill has officially lost his mind.

  1. Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore (WR, Maryland)

Steve Smith, with all his swagger, pretty much summed up this pick when he said that the Panthers haven’t had a good receiver since he left until now.  That is some high praise, but I think it might actually be warranted in this case.  Ginn, Benjamin, Smith…I don’t think the Panthers have had a #1 or #2 receiving option since Steve Smith was released.  At least give Cam an option to throw the ball before he decides to plunge into the middle of the defensive line.

  1. Baltimore Ravens (From Tennessee): Hayden Hurst (TE, SC)

Well at least the Ravens traded back before making this boring selection.  This selection checked the box in the category of necessary upgrade, but I don’t think that Hurst is the right player for the Ravens.  First, he will turn 25 before the season begins.  That’s not a big deal for most professions, but you are getting a player already in their physical prime.  Secondly, he is both an average receiver and blocker, which begs all sorts of questions.  I’m sure that Ozzie knows exactly what he is doing with this selection, but the film doesn’t indicate that he does anything exceptionally well.

  1. Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley (WR, Bama)

This pick completely floored me.  Yah the Falcons lost a slot receiver this past season in Gabriel, but Ridley is like bringing a nuke to a gunfight.  I thought they’d like to address their gaping hole in the middle of the defensive line, but why not keep the offense interesting.  Julio seems to get injured most games and Sanu is only slightly better than average.  Ridley isn’t going to razzle or dazzle you with either speed (4.43) or possession (8 dropped passes in 2017), but he does possess good quickness and is an intelligent route runner.  Teams already have their hands full with Julio and the running game, so adding Ridley to the mix should only drive Ryan’s cap hit even higher.

  1. Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny (RB, SD State)

This pick is awful.  When are the Seahawks going to realize that throwing running backs into the teeth of the defensive line without running lanes will continue to produce the same results?  Based on this selection, not anytime soon.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrell Edmunds (S, V-Tech)

So let’s set the stage for this selection: The Steelers need to find a replacement for Shazier and there are no good LBs available at this juncture.  What would you do?  If you selected “convert a safety to LB” or “overdraft someone that reminds us of Polamalu”, congratulations!  Edmunds will probably be a solid player, because it’s the Steelers.  But he will not replace Shazier even if the flavor of the month is to convert strong safeties to MLBs (Deone Bucannon, Su’a Cravens, Shaq Thompson).  The thing that all of those teams had in common was the presence of a bone vide MLB to pair with them (Derrick Johnson, London Fletcher, Luke Kuechly).  If they play him at SS, it makes a ton more sense, but they might have reached.  Has any team wasted more first and second round picks on a positional group?  I guess if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)

Talk about piling on and just committing yourself to an identity.  The Jags, once the laughingstock of the NFL, have officially asserted their dominance over the rest of the league.  I really thought they would address their offense by giving Bortles some receiving help at WR or TE.  I guess if you can’t rely on Bortles to win games, you just have to make the other QB look as bad as him.  It still feels like a major redundancy on an already stacked defensive unit.

  1. Minnesota Vikings: Mike Hughes (CB, UCF)

It was either going to be a G or CB.  I completely expected them to go Will Hernandez after he fell way lower than expected.  It’s also strange considering the investment they just made in Cousins.  They might end up regretting this selection unless they maneuver back up in the second round for some offensive linemen.

  1. New England Patriots: Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)

I’m starting to believe that Bill went senile or the Jets have secretly replaced him with a body double.  Michel is a good running back, but his only flaw happens to be Bill’s biggest pet peeve: fumbles.  Michel fumbled at a rate of 1 per 54.6 touches.  That is nearly double the fumble rate of the next RB in this draft class (Chubb).  I get that Belichick likes to take skilled positions in the first round, but this is a bit of a head scratcher.  With the way that he rotates running backs in and out of the lineup, it seems like a waste for an early selection.  I’m legit shocked they didn’t attempt to address their pedestrian pass rush, or defense in general, in the first round.

  1. Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles): Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)

I LOVE YOU OZZIE!  H-O-F, H-O-F.  Oh wait, can a single person be inducted into the HOF twice?  I think that Ozzie actually came back from the future after analyzing the draft in order to pull this maneuver off.  Thankfully he left Grays Sports Almanac in the future so that Eric DeCosta didn’t take over the world.  The Ravens, who have been pretty much the most average team in the league since winning the Super Bowl, went all-in on this selection.  I’ve discussed the Ravens situation ad nauseam in my mock draft.  To recap:  Flacco is an average QB who is making top-end QB money and could be traded/cut after 6-1-2019 for a cap savings of over 10 million dollars.  To all the haters out there, listen: Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen were both productive QBs that were limited by the lack of talent around them.  The difference is that one of them still managed to win the Heisman Trophy.  Next to Derwin James, this selection will be the most discussed/analyzed/criticized selection of the draft for years to come.

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