The NFL draft is finally here! So on this page, I’ll have my first reactions as each pick comes in – this is always fun to look back on in a few years to see who I was right and wrong about.
1. Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Walker’s meteoric rise over the last month has culminated in him being the very first in the draft. I know Walker had become the expected pick in the last few days but I still never quite believed it until I heard it from the commissioner. While I don’t necessarily agree with the pick, I get the appeal of Walker – in a class filled with doubles, why not take a home run swing. I’ve come around to Walker as a prospect because his floor is not quite as low as I orginally thought. At worst, he’s a solid run defender with ridiculous athleticism. While still not the choice I would’ve made, I hope he works out (for Baalke’s sake).
2. Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The Lions were on the clock for just over 2 minutes before they handed the card in. Hutchinson is a great fit for the Lions both schematically and culturally and I think while he’s not quite the EDGE’s who have gone before him at 2nd overall (Bosa, Young, etc), he’s a damn good prospect who looks to make a huge day 1 impact in Detroit.
3. Texans – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Stingley is my top overall prospect in the draft and will be an excellent fit in Lovie Smith’s scheme. Stingley was simply the most talented player in college football… as a true freshman – for me, that simply can’t be overstated. I really do think Stingley will grow to be one of the premier corners in the league sooner rather than later. Great pick from Houston.
4. Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
I really never bought the Jets going CB with Thibodeaux, Ikey and Neal still on the board, but Gardner certainly fits the bill of a lockdown Saleh corner (think Richard Sherman). Gardner is a great prospect who’s most impressive quality is his consistency throughout college – it’s hard to imagine Gardner busting. Again, I think I would’ve gone for an EDGE or OT but regardless, it’s hard to complain about Sauce.
5. Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Thibodeaux is my top EDGE prospect in the class and the Giants got a total steal here in my opinion. His first-step is simply rare and hopefully he can bring some quality pass rush play to the Giants who have lacked it for too long. I expect Thibodeaux to be one of the league’s top pass rushers and we’ll look back and wonder how he fell all the way to 5.
6. Panthers – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Good to see the Panthers make the smart choice here. Ekwonu is certainly the most versatile offensive lineman available and will greatly help whoever’s the signal-caller there next year. Ekwonu really shines in the run game and is a great pick especially because of his floor – at worst, he’s an all-pro guard.
7. Giants – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Neal is my top OT prospect in the draft and makes perfect sense here to the Giants. The Giants were clinical with their first two picks and were clearly content with either Neal or Cross when they left them both on the board at 5. Neal makes more sense as the higher-upside player who already has experience playing RT versus Cross who would have to transition there now. Neal is a little risky and has shades of Mekhi Becton, but at 7 in this class, I think this is a great value because his upside is nothing short of all-pro.
8. Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC
I do like London but I don’t think Atlanta should’ve gone WR. London and Pitts is a scary thought but considering Cross, Johnson and even Hamilton were still on the board, I would’ve looked elsewhere. London isn’t my favorite receiver in the class but regardless, I do expect London to make a substantial impact and be a great player at the next level – I’m not really concerned about his ability to seperate.
9. Seahawks – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Seattle had to go OT and Cross was the best one available. I guess I’m just not used to Seattle making logical picks. Cross is probably the best pass blocker and just a smooth athlete – expect him to be a quality starter for a while in Seattle.
10. Jets – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I have to say I’m surprised they passed on Williams but Wilson is still a good all-around receiver. I’m definitely not as high on Wilson as some but he will provide some much needed support to Zach Wilson. Overall, the Jets got two quality prospects but they may regret not getting a trench player with one of their top two picks.
11. TRADE! Saints – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Saints reportedly gave a 3rd and 4th to move up from 16 to get Olave. I don’t mind the trade because I think Olave is a stud. Debatable whether moving up was the right call but Olave is a match made in heaven for the Saints.
12. TRADE! Lions – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Wow. At least as of now, I don’t understand why the Vikings have made this trade – just seems like horrible value. As for the Lions, it sounds crazy to move up this far for a non-QB but for this price?! Absolutely. Williams brings speed no one else in this class does and he seems to be progressing fantastically with his ACL injury. Great move from Brad Holmes… who would’ve thought the Lions come out of Day 1 with Hutchinson and Williams and still have a 2nd.
13. TRADE! Eagles – Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
Great trade here from the Eagles. The Ravens almost certainly would’ve taken him at 14. They simply don’t make guys like this and he makes perfect sense to replace Cox eventually. I’m personally of the belief if you can do one thing but do it really, really well, then you’re a valuable player. Great move and pick from Howie.
14. Ravens – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Hamilton is my 2nd overall prospect in this class so this is a total steal. Not sure where exactly he’ll fit on this defense but he’s easily the best safety prospect I’ve ever scouted and sometimes it’s just about getting those guys in the building.
15. Texans – Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
I mean it’s a bit of a reach but it certainly fits a need well. We know the Texans are big on character so I can see where this comes from. Green is probably the most “plug-and-play” IOL starter in this class.
TRADE: Marquise Brown to Cardinals
Brown and a 3rd for 23rd overall. Interesting move. Cardinals have been looking to move out and this makes sense. Don’t really have any initial feelings but seems solid for both sides.
16. Commanders – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
I love Dotson as much as the next guy, I really do. But he’s kinda Terry 2.0. Not sure if I love this fit but Dotson is a quality player.
17. Chargers – Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
I love Zion. I think Penning is maybe a better fit to replace Storm Norton but regardless I really like the pick.
TRADE: AJ Brown to Eagles
WOW! And a 4 yr/$100M extension with $57M guaranteed. Great move from Howie because clearly he can’t draft WR’s. I wonder what the Titans will do here…
18. Titans – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Burks is my WR1 in this class but surely Penning was a match made in heaven for the Titans and then you get the WR later. Either way, Burks is a great player and I think he’ll have a great career in Tennessee.
19. Saints – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
What a draft from the Saints. I’m pretty surprised Penning fell this far – he’s a risky prospect but worth the reward in my opinion, especially at this price.
20. Steelers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
I’m not a huge Pickett fan but the Steelers are the dream destination for QB’s this year. I still don’t love the pick – in a class where no one stands out, why not bet on the guy with all the upside with Willis? I think Pickett could definitely be a starting quality quarterback in the NFL, but never an elite one.
21. TRADE! Chiefs – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Interesting move here from the Chiefs. The dropoff after McDuffie is significant so I like the trade. I don’t think he’s quite the prospect some do but his tape is CLEAN. He makes sense in KC.
22. Packers – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Over the past few days, Walker has shot up boards and now he’s wound up at 22. The Packers really couldn’t take a WR so LB makes sense. Walker is very raw but simply put, he’s big, strong and young… Gutekunst loves those guys.
23. TRADE! Bills – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
I don’t know why they felt they needed to trade up but I really like the pick. Elam has tools, he just needs to refine them. He’ll be a great complement to White as a physical outside corner.
24. Cowboys – Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
Usually the Cowboys stick pretty strongly to BPA so I’m very surprised to see them pass on Johnson. Smith is a young but raw prospect who hopefully Dallas can develop into a quality starter.
25. Ravens – Tyler Linderbuam, IOL, Iowa
I’m very happy to see Linderbaum go in the 1st because he’s just a stud prospect. Some will say it’s too early for a center but if he fits your scheme, Linderbaum will be a pro-bowl level starter.
26. TRADE! Jets – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
Not sure how Joe Douglas pulled this off. Jermaine Johnson’s huge fall ends here where he could’ve ended up at 4 or 10. Johnson is one of the draft’s most technically sound EDGE’s and while not a home run pick for me, getting a player at a premium position like this at 26 is well worth it.
27. TRADE! Jaguars – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Lloyd is an absolute bowling ball of a player – big, strong and quick. While I question his instincts and decision-making, this is a very solid selection for a rebuilding defense.
28. Packers – Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia
Off-the-field concerns pushed Wyatt down to 28. I like this pick more than the Quay Walker one but I think the Packers are in for a rude awakening if they think they can stay put at 53 and hope a receiver they like falls to them. Wyatt however finds a really nice landing spot in Green Bay which does give me optimism in maximising his uber-athletic and versatile skillset.
29. Patriots – Cole Strange, IOL, UT-Chattanooga
Cole Strange, a Div-2 player who BALLED out at the Senior Bowl and tested incredibly well at the combine has made his way into the 1st round of the NFL draft thanks to Bill Belichick and his affinity for older small school FBS players. All jokes aside, Strange is a great prospect and while 29 is way too early, I hope he can make it worth it as he attempts to replace Shaq Mason.
30. Chiefs – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
I had heard Karlaftis was dropping on boards but was really surprised to see him last this long. Karlaftis as a prospect has really grown on me over the last few months. He’s just a good football player and his production backs it up. I expect him to be a starting-level EDGE in Kansas City.
31. Bengals – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
I was pretty convinced the Bengals were going to trade out of this pick but Dax Hill is a nice choice. Similarly, I’ve heard he’s been dropping down boards recently but his versatility as a safety and probably the best nickel in this class makes him worthy of a first-round selection. Hopefully, he can help bolster this scrappy secondary.
32. Vikings – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Cine, the 5th (!!) defensive Bulldog to come off the board is a very intriguing prospect. On one hand, I can’t tell if he’s been a product of such a good scheme at Georgia surrounded by so much talent that he barely has to worry but with that comes the argument that he never got to show everything he can do. The Vikings clearly agree with the latter point of view and perhaps they will continue to address their defense with their next pick at 34.
Wow, what a draft… and that was only Day 1. So much talent still left on the board. I’m excited to see what these players become in the coming years and inevitably look back on this and see all the busts I thought were slam dunks.