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NFL Draft Day 1 Winners and Losers: Patriots did just fine

Pete Davidson
April 27, 2018 - 9:09 am

Well that was a wild ride. I barely slept last night, with visions of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Sony Michel dancing in my head. The AFC East has a fresh new look this morning.

After a week’s worth of sizing up this year’s draft class, I am back to report on who the big winners and losers were in round one.  (I’ll be back again on Sunday with my take on all seven rounds.)

We had a lot of action Thursday night. In all, there were eight trades and most of them were of the high impact variety. Three of those trades involved teams moving up to take their future franchise quarterbacks. This is on top of the Jets’ pre-draft trade, that ended up netting them QB Sam Darnold.  More on that in a second.

THE WINNERS

Baltimore Ravens - Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina (25th) and Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (32nd)

If this was Ozzie Newsome’s final draft, then he went out like George Costanza - on a high note. Newsome resisted the temptation to take a player at 16 overall. Instead, the Ravens cut a deal with the Bills and moved back to 22.  In the process they added picks at 65 and 154 overall. And Ozzie was far from done. He then proceeded to slide back again, to the 25th slot, in a deal with Tennessee.  He added the 125th overall for that move and still managed to get Hayden Hurst, the top tight end on my board—a NFL-ready player who will help them right away. Newsome, now armed with three extra selections, was still not done.  He moved up from 52 all the way to 32 and was able to land the Ravens’ quarterback of the future in Lamar Jackson.  It only cost him the 125th overall and a 2019 second rounder. That’s good business. The Ravens just pulled off a huge reset without selling the farm. And, they now have Joe Flacco as a potential trade chip.  He’s not a free agent until 2022, so they can groom Jackson for a season and still be in position to get something for Flacco in 2019 or perhaps even 2020. Well played, Ozzie.

Arizona Cardinals - Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (10th)

GM Steve Keim used a third rounder and a fifth rounder to move up five spots and land a legitimate franchise quarterback in Josh Rosen. That’s an absolute no-brainer and a bit of a steal when you look at what teams have paid for similar moves in recent years. The Jets were winners, but Arizona may have landed a similar talent for far less than half the price when you look at the cost of the moves up in recent drafts. That’s a huge deal for a team playing in a division where everybody is ahead of them save for, arguably, Seattle. The Cardinals now have the big -time quarterback they’ve been missing.  If they are going to be in rebuild mode, they have pulled off the toughest part while only giving up small future chips. When you get your franchise quarterback and only give up a few later selections to do it, you give yourself wiggle room. Essentially, they can afford to be wrong at these prices whereas, if either the Jets or Bills are wrong, they set themselves back several seasons. As for the Raiders, they were in a tough spot after the 49ers took OT Mike McGlinchey. They knew it was a bit early to take their next guy so they got what they could and dropped back—still getting the guy they wanted in OT Kolton Miller. I’d say the Raiders broke even. They played the move back right, but didn’t get as much for the drop as I’d like to see.

New York Jets - Sam Darnold, QB, USC (3rd)

They paid dearly—moving three second selections to move up three spots, but in doing so they landed the number one quarterback on my board. It’s a great move by the Jets, who will now be developing a franchise quarterback while the Patriots run out the clock on the Brady era. This could have gone much worse for the Jets. They took a sizable gamble, but they come out of it smelling like roses. Color me surprised. Darnold has a big time long term ceiling and he has the mentality to handle the pressure cooker that is the New York market. I don’t say this very often, but good move, Jets.

Tampa Bay Bucs - Vita Vea, DT, Washington (12th)

The Bucs were sitting at seven overall, hoping that Saquon Barkley or Bradley Chubb would fall to them. No such luck, but the Bucs didn’t get caught flat-footed. They leveraged their situation and did business with the QB-desperate Bills—dropping down from seven to 12 and still getting a high quality defensive lineman in Washington’s Vita Vea. While it wasn’t the type of high-end player they had hoped for, you can do a heck of a lot worse than Vea, who was a clear first round talent. In the process, they added two second round picks—the 36th and 53rd overall selections.  That allows the Bucs to go after a high quality running back if they so choose while still having the assets to fill multiple holes.  This is how you play the draft, folks.  The Bucs are now in position to have a very strong overall draft while still getting some impact talent.

New England Patriots - Isaiah Wynn, OT/OG, Georgia (23rd) and Sony Michael, RB, Georgia (31st)

Yes, the Patriots. I know some folks wanted a quarterback, and that includes me. I was hoping they’d take Lamar Jackson, but it’s hard to tell a team that’s still inside a window of Super Bowl contention to play for later. The Patriots added serious blocking talent and they drafted two win-now players from a winning program. Offensive line talent was obviously a must, and if the Patriots can coach up Isaiah Wynn, taken at 23 overall, up to the point where he can be a functional left tackle, it’s a clear victory. As for Sony Michel, taken at 31 overall, they are getting a complete running back with fresh legs. Michel will be an upgrade over Dion Lewis both as a runner and as a blocker. This is now a great backfield with both depth and the kind of diversity the Patriots crave. With two more picks coming up in round two, it’s not yet time to spike the ball, but they added two win now chips and are still in position to add a high-quality quarterback with at least three left on my board. And, if you like Luke Falk, that number climbs to four. Typical Patriots.  No overpayments—just letting talent fall to them.

Dallas Cowboys - Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State (19th)

I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as far as health is concerned. Assuming Vander Esch’s neck is sound, I think this pick works out very well for Dallas. This kid is a big-time player and he’s got an always-on motor.  The easy move here would have been to go receiver to cover up the Dez Bryant loss, but on my board, this guy is a better player than any of the receivers in this class. Again, I’m assuming their doctors were on-board with regards to Vander Esch’s neck injury, which was more rumor than fact, just like Sony Michel’s knee.

THE LOSERS

Buffalo Bills - Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (7th) and Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech (16th)

The Bills, a team with plenty of needs, took a double dip in the pool of risk. I can forgive them for moving up to get a quarterback, but doing it to acquire Josh Allen is a risky proposition. As I mentioned earlier, they gave up two second round picks to switch with the Bucs—putting them in position to take Allen. They weren’t done. They gave up the 65 and 154 overall in a swap of first rounders with the Ravens.  This moved them up from 22 to 16, where they selected LB Tremaine Edmunds out of Virginia. I understand that, by adding a high quality “Mike” linebacker, the Bills filled a big need, but they may have created more of them on the whole by giving away six picks to acquire just two players. Not a great idea for a team in the Patriots division. A patient approach would have made a lot more sense. Instead they went for the splash moves, and I think it costs them in the long run. It’s just an odd play when you consider that the Patriots have a stranglehold on the division in the short term

Cleveland Browns - Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (1st) and Denzel Ward, CB, OSU (4th)

Maybe loser is the wrong way to describe them in that they landed a future star quarterback and more overall talent than anybody else in Round One, but they could have easily gotten more, so I’m grading them on a curve. Baker Mayfield was not only a good pick for the Browns, but it also felt like they dodged a bullet by avoiding Josh Allen, who would feel too much like DeShone Kizer redux for a franchise that has struggled to find a solution at the most important position. Mayfield is a strong personality and a leader. He should become a fixture for a franchise who needs one. Where things went off the rails is at the fourth spot. With franchise passers and Bradley Chubb still on the board, Cleveland opted to stick and draft a cornerback who could easily have fallen to them later on. The Browns could have conceivably added a 2019 first rounder while still getting Denzel Ward. Instead they opted to draft for need with a premium pick. I think it was short-sighted and it takes what could have been an A-plus draft and puts it somewhere in the B range, and to me, that’s a loss.

Seattle Seahawks - Rashaad Penny, RB, SDSU (27th)

I think Seattle will regret overpaying for Rashaad Penny. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine runner, but you are working from one of the deepest running back classes in history and the Seahawks have multiple needs. And, the thing is, unlike the Patriots, they drafted a player who has holes in his game. As exciting as Penny is with the ball in his hands, he’s a poor blocker and a mediocre route runner. The Seahawks have made a bunch of mistakes with their running backs over the last two years. From a value standpoint, I think they just made another.

(Pete Davidson writes about Fantasy Football and the NFL for WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com)