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Draft Review - First Round Revelations

A delayed retrospective on this year's 1st round draft class
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The NFL draft is in the books and rosters are all but set for the upcoming season. Although the value of April’s yearly event can be overstated, the foundations are consistently laid for competitive teams in this part of the offseason. Effective long-term planning is essential, with a consideration of current needs and cost-value analysis also relevant. Let’s take a look at the key story lines of the draft’s early rounds.

Keim’s Lifeline or a New King

The situation in Arizona looks anything but rosy. A team that has consistently endured the worst offensive line play in the NFL over the past decade continues to search for sudden solutions. Kyler Murray will be their new quarterback, supported by a first-year head coach with minimal NFL experience. It’s not that Murray is a bad quarterback, or Kingsbury unlikely to succeed in the pros, but these things rarely happen in a vacuum. They lack the supporting cast or draft capital to overhaul a roster desperately in need of reinforcements. Excuse me if Andy Isabella, a role player at the University of Miami, isn’t the solution to building a successful air raid offense in the NFL.  

Some have suggested the selection of a quarterback with the first overall pick a year after selecting Josh Rosen is a clear sign of humility from a general manager who now understands his mistake, more likely he represents a lame duck going through the motions. Chip Kelly tried to play king, jury and executioner; his personnel decisions, however, ultimately cost him the civil war.

Raiders Still Rocking the 90s

Some things never change. There may be a new owner, general manager and head coach, but Al Davis’s spirit still permeates the club. The desire for athletic freaks with insane straight-line speed remains prevalent, despite Davis’s departure. Clelin Ferrell epitomises the ethos of athleticism over production. Compared with other edge defender prospects in this class, he represented poor value in the top five. Clemson have had better pass-rushing prospects in previous years.

With their second selection in the first-round, the Raiders opted for another of the draft’s top track stars in Alabama’s Josh Jacobs. He never exceeded 650 yards in any college season. Admittedly, the lack of wear-and-tear might prove beneficial in terms of a long-term investment,      

The need to replace Khalil Mack was obvious, but Ferrell will never have the All-Pro’s violence at the point of attack. Or his ruthless mentality. Or his absurd knack for generating turnovers. Mike Mayock may have been desperate for a top personnel job in the NFL, but it appears Jon Gruden – who must surely hold the power in Oakland considering the curious nature of his contract – has been quickly taken with his new town’s traditions.  

Gettleman’s Gambit

Dave Gettelman’s new plan for the Giants appears to involve reintroducing the triple option into the NFL. The scheme, which is an incredibly conservative ball-protection style of offense, involves a high number of quarterback runs. Daniel Jones is well suited to carrying the ball from the backfield, making the field originally as a short-yardage wildcat quarterback and specialist in converting sneaks. The Giants have history using such players, the infamous Jared Sorensen a tremendous 300lb example.

Perhaps that’s a little harsh and the coaching staff are concocting a Taysom Hill styled package for their new quarterback. That would certainly represent an opportunity for the Giants to continue to pretend, both to themselves and the double Super Bowl winner, that Eli Manning is still capable of leading a team to the playoffs.

Daniel Jones is fundamentally a developmental signal-caller with athletic upside. When the Broncos selected Paxton Lynch 22nd overall, it was a clear reach. Jones’s prospects look just as bleak, doomed to fail behind a malfunctioning offensive line and uninspired head coach. 

Final Thoughts

The draft is designed to give poorer teams a chance to compete in future seasons. The problem is bad teams don’t always make good decisions, and the best franchises appear to come out on top consistently. At the same time, tinkering with staff every offseason can’t make for the smoothest operations. It’s easy to see how some franchises can get into a vicious cycle, and desperation leads to a return to the steady hand (Raiders, Giants) or purchase of shiny new toy (Cardinals). For those teams, early selections aren’t always guarantees.

By John Breitenbach


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