With the 2017 NFL Draft in the books, we look at six teams that bettered their fortunes or dampened their futures over seven rounds of selections in Philadelphia this past weekend.
In reality, it was Jameis Winston who won the NFL Draft.
After adding DeSean Jackson in free agency, the Bucs zeroed in on more targets for the third-year quarterback at the draft. That started with the best tight end in the class in O.J. Howard, a true bargain at No. 19.
Penn State receiver Chris Godwin was the next weapon added to Winston's arsenal, a six-foot-one, 205-pound receiver coming off an 11-touchdown junior season for the Nittany Lions. Godwin adds depth and has the potential to replace Jackson once the 30-year-old’s time with the Bucs is up.
And in the fifth round, they got running back Jeremy McNichols, who took the reins at Boise State after Jay Ajayi went to Miami. In 2015 and 2016 combined, McNichols racked up nearly 4,000 yards from scrimmage and 53 touchdowns. Those aren't typos.
By adding three impressive playmakers over the weekend, Tampa may have compiled a draft class capable of helping them make the jump to the post-season.
The off-season has been a bumpy one in Washington, from the persistent Kirk Cousins trade rumours to the odd circumstances surrounding the dismissal of GM Scot McCloughan. The draft, however, was a different story.
Washington may have gotten the steal of Round 1 in Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who was named college football’s best defender in 2016 but fell to No. 17 likely due to concerns about his shoulders.
On Day 2, Washington went back to Alabama. Outside linebacker Ryan Anderson — taken at No. 49 — had 8.5 sacks along with 18.5 tackles for loss in 2016 and “converts speed to power better than any edge rusher in the draft,” or so says NFL draft guru Mike Mayock. In the third round, Washington took UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau, projected by many as a first-round pick before tearing his pec at his pro day.
And lastly, fourth-rounder Samaje Perine, a running back out of Oklahoma who holds the FBS record for most rushing yards in a game (427), should immediately help Washington’s 21st-ranked run game and an offence that struggled mightily in the red zone.
Day 3 continued with six more picks that filled needs for Washington, but the first four made Washington winners.
So firing your general manager and scouting staff a day after the draft isn't a good look, but the wheeling-and-dealing Bills did some good things in Philadelphia.
Instead of reaching on a quarterback (more on that later) at No. 20, Buffalo turned the 10th-overall pick into Kansas City’s 2018 first and a replacement for Stephon Gilmore in Tre’Davious White at No. 27. Sly move, Bills.
In the second round, Buffalo filled a major need at wide receiver, trading up to select Eastern Carolina work-horse Zay Jones. A prospect who rose significantly in the pre-draft process, the six-foot-two, 200-pound receiver caught 158 passes for 1,746 yards last season alone. Those are jaw-dropping numbers.
Buffalo moved up once again in the second round to draft offensive lineman Dion Dawkins, filling a big need at guard.
And on Day 3, the Bills made their move at quarterback, drafting Pitt’s Nathan Peterman in the fifth round (171st overall) — one or two rounds later than expected. Despite concerns about size (he’s six-foot-two) and arm strength, Peterman played four years in a pro-style offence and is looked at by some as having the potential to be the next Dak Prescott.
Whether Peterman has Dak-like success or not, the Bills got good value and didn’t reach for the next franchise quarterback. And value is really the reason Buffalo is on the winners' list; they moved down in the first round, still filled their biggest need at corner, then made a pair of solid second-round picks at positions of need. Add in Peterman, and the early outlook for the Bills’ 2017 draft is solid.
The Bears could have focused their attentions in many places this weekend: The secondary is in dire need of an injection of new talent, while the offensive line and some pass-catching options would also have been a bonus.
Instead, though, the Bears gave up two of their picks in this draft and one in next year’s to move up and draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky less than two months after signing Mike Glennon to a three-year deal worth more than $15 million a season.
This trade would be understandable if Trubisky were a sure-fire quarterback prospect, but the former Tar Heel is far from it, having started just 13 games in his college career and plenty of growing to do until he’s pro-ready.
The move makes even less sense when you think about who the Bears passed up. As mentioned above, Chicago has big needs at safety and cornerback, but GM Ryan Pace passed on the top safety in Jamal Adams (No. 6 to Jets), as well as the top corner in Marshon Lattimore (No. 11 to New Orleans).
Chicago went on to draft tight end prospect Adam Shaheen (No. 45) and Alabama safety Eddie Jackson (No. 112), along with a running back and guard on Day 3, but the success of the Bears’ 2017 draft will be determined solely by the success of Trubisky.
The Texans needed to make a move at quarterback after their reported pursuit of Tony Romo failed. And while Deshaun Watson may turn out to be exactly what Houston is looking for in a franchise quarterback, the search for stability under centre has been costly for GM Rick Smith.
The Texans have now surrendered their first two picks in next year’s draft to the Browns just to sort out the tire fire that is their quarterback situation, trading their 2018 second-round selection to Cleveland along with Brock Osweiler, and then sending next year’s first to Sashi Brown and Co. for the right to select Watson. Losing that kind of draft capital has the potential to seriously hurt the Texans down the road.
And while Houston made a pair of quality selections in linebacker Zach Cunningham and running back D’Onta Foreman on Day 2, like the Bears, everything for this Texans regime depends on their new quarterback.
Arguably no team in the NFL has more work to do on its roster than the Jets. So why, then, did New York spend its first two draft picks on the same position?
The Jets selected safety Jamal Adams sixth-overall, then another safety, Marcus Maye, at 39. The selection of Adams makes sense — he was the best player available and might turn out to be the best of the draft. But the second pick? The Jets have many more glaring needs, and with Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor on the roster, the selection of Maye — who to his credit is both versatile and a good leader — is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Offensive line and linebacker remain needs for the Jets after the draft, and while there weren't any home runs, GM Mike Maccagnan ignored quarterback altogether. That leaves Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the QB depth chart — not exactly a trio of hope.