Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Winners and losers of 2018 NFL draft

Pete Davidson
April 29, 2018 - 1:37 pm

On Friday, I threw some praise and some shade, based on team’s round one selections.

Since then, not many teams shifted from good to bad or vice versa, so rather than repeating a lot of that article, I thought I’d add some individual winners and losers to go with the team oriented takes.

For those of you looking for fantasy analysis, there are a few points in here, but look for my post-draft rookie rankings. I’ll have them up in a week or two, in plenty of time for your rookie drafts. Jim Hackett and I will also get into all of the position groups in our upcoming podcasts. Lastly, before my rankings are posted, we’ll be welcoming  Rotoworld’s Evan Silva to the podcast. Evan and I will break down some of the key landing spots for fantasy purposes. I can’t wait to pick Evan’s finely tuned fantasy brain. Don’t miss it. To keep pace with all of WEEI’s fantasy football content, follow me on Twitter.

THE WINNERS

Green Bay Packers

It’s almost as if the Vikings have lit a fire under the Green Bay front office. Perhaps seeing the end of Aaron Rodger’s storied career in the not too distant future, is also a factor. Either way, new GM Brian Gutekunst broke out of Ted Thompson’s conservative shell and made some aggressive moves early. The first was moving back in a deal with the  Saints. They slid back all the way from 14 to 27, but they netted a 2019 first rounder and a fifth in the process. That’s great value, but they weren’t done. Gutekunst then moved back up—landing the player he coveted all along in Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander. In the end, they landed their top target, who fills a big need in their secondary, given the Vikings’ newfound firepower. And they did it while adding a  major chip in the 2019 draft. This is how you win the draft—by being proactive.

Arizona Cardinals

As I said on Friday, they won the quarterback derby by nabbing Josh Rosen and not giving up a 2019 first rounder. Just a 3rd and a 5th? Really? Then they closed it out with a solid overall draft. My favorite value was Christian Kirk, who can now grow with Rosen over time and learn from one of the all-time greats in Larry Fitzgerald. Good value overall and the plan makes sense. With Sam Bradford in place, they will not need to rush Rosen. This is crucial for a team playing in football’s toughest division.

Denver Broncos

I did not see this one coming at all. John Elway has been a mediocre drafter (too be kind) as a GM, and I expected that to continue, but I have to give it up for the guy, he crushed it. Now, he did get a gift when Bradley Chubb fell to him at five overall, but unlike the Browns, he didn’t pass said gift up. Now Denver has an elite pair of pass rushers in a division where that will make an enormous difference. After landing Chubb, Denver added wide receiver Courtland Sutton without reaching. This was crucial given the age of their current starters. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are 31 and 30 years old respectively. Elway wasn’t done. He then added a potential lead back in Royce Freeman at 82 overall—again paying a very fair price. Adding WR DaeSean Hamilton at 113 overall and then TE Troy Fumagalli at 156 was the icing on the proverbial cake. Orange Crush, indeed.

New England Patriots

I’ve already covered why I like the Patriots day one selections, but I have to chime in here because what they did after securing Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel was vintage Belichick Era Patriots. The deal with the 49ers was huge. Moving back from 95 to 143 is not a crushing blow and you get a starting caliber offensive lineman for the move. That’s good business given the state of the Patriots’ offensive line going into the draft. The Patriots then added second and third rounders for next season, and the organizations they dealt with, the Bears and Lions respectively, are both teams that could have losing seasons. When a team that’s won as much as Belichick’s Patriots has decides to stick to  the same strategies and practices that got them there, you have to like it. It may not be exciting, but it’s proven to be effective. If you like winning the offseason, may I suggest rooting for the Jets? Nah, you know better.

Indianapolis Colts

They didn’t pin the needle or knock it out of the park, but they finally got serious about protecting their quarterback—who will hopefully be Andrew Luck. The Colts new GM, Chris Ballard, avoided the mistakes of the past, and apparently input from the owner, while building in the trenches and the front seven. The good news doesn’t end there. I also  love what they did at the skill positions in the later rounds. Getting Nyheim Hines in round four was pure theft, and then he landed Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain with fifth and a sixth rounders respectively. It may not be a sexy draft, but it’s exactly what the Colts needed.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons

I’ve heard some negative takes on Ridley’s fantasy value as a Falcon, and I don’t get it. I think this was a good move in football terms, and I think Ridley will do very well as a Falcon. When I heard his name called, my mind immediately went to all the times I had screamed for the Falcons to throw to Julio Jones. Matt Ryan uses Jones to tilt the field 
but does not force the ball to his star receiver the way say, Matt Stafford used to force the ball to Calvin Johnson. This means that some of the big beneficiaries of Jones’ talents are his fellow Falcons receivers. Ridley is game ready and he’s a legit replacement for Roddy White, who retired after the 2015 season, and whose last big year was 2012. The Falcons will have some balance for the first time in a long while and Ridley will work with a solid veteran passer while drawing mostly number two cornerbacks in coverage. I see immediate impact, and a potential value in dynasty drafts.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Raiders

While his star isn’t shining as bright as it once was, the talent is still there and a course correction is still possible. Bryant steps into a much better situation in Oakland. He’ll have a primary role and only needs to outplay the aging Jordy Nelson to become the second cog in Oakland’s new offense. My guess is that he’ll play regular snaps and  outperform Nelson, who struggled mightily once he was forced to play without Aaron Rodgers in 2017. Bryant gives the Raiders some much needed red zone presence, but the Raiders give Bryant much more. They’ve jump started his career.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins

I’m sure Drake and his agent were high-fiving every time a big time running back went off the board. The scuttlebutt going into the draft was that the Dolphins had to add to their backfield.And, in fairness, they did draft a runner, but adding Arizona’s Kalen Ballage, at 131 overall, is a far cry from adding one of the guys who went near the round one/two turn. Drake is now the unquestioned starter and he’s being backed up by the ancient Frank Gore (turns 35 in May) and Ballage, who is a bit of a project. It was a very good weekend for Drake.

THE LOSERS


Buffalo Bills

As I said on Friday, paying multiple premiums to move up in round one, regardless of how much you love the players, is no way to make up ground on the Patriots. That they paid a premium for a high-risk talent like Josh Allen, raises the stakes even further. And, if you look at all the deals that Belichick made on days two and three, you can really see what I mean. In the words of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the song remains the same. This division may never catch up with Belichick. The Bills certainly won’t—not any time soon.

New Orleans Saints

New Orleans drafted like their war room was somewhere on Bourbon Street. I mean, is there a better answer than “sobriety deprivation” for why a team on win-now footing would deal multiple first round picks and a fifth rounder for good measure, for the right to select a DE, Marcus Davenport, who is considered by most to be a bit of a project? While I liked a few of their remaining picks, this was a bizarre move by a team that was seemingly moving in a positive direction.

New York Giants

The Giants had a solid draft from a talent perspective and I will be happy to change this take down the road but that will only happen if they truly max out Saquon Barkely’s talents. As I have said on the Fantasy Football Podcast several times, only a very special running back is worth using a really high draft pick on. Barkley is that kind of 
talent, but the question remains, will the Giants actually use him that way? If they use him as a traditional running back, then they really wasted a massive opportunity. The jury is out, and I want to see the evidence. Including them amongst the draft’s losers is my way of expressing skepticism.

Dave Gettleman, GM, Giants

His draft wasn’t all bad as I just indicated. In fact, I liked most of the players he took, but Gettleman admitted to committing a cardinal sin when he said that he listened to no inquiries on the second overall pick. It’s understandable to be reluctant to deal a pick because you have a high grade on the player you plan to take. Having said that, you must 
listen to all offers for obvious reasons. It costs you nothing and you might learn something important about an opponent—even if you ultimately reject the overture. More importantly, you never know when you’ll get blown away by an offer you can’t refuse. It’s just straight up dumb to close your ears when you are holding a valuable asset. Moreover, and this is more subjective, but I don’t like the lack of curiosity and worse, the failure to know all pertinent details. Who wants a GM who makes big decisions without having all of the available actionable information? It was a bad look. It’s a good thing he picked some good players. Still, the Giants have the look of a “get off my lawn” front office, and that’s suboptimal in a league that is becoming more and more about technology and information.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns

Going into the draft, Hyde had to be happy if not a little nervous regarding the specter of Saquon Barkley, who was a possibility for the Browns at four overall. Then the Giants took Barkley, and Hyde’s sigh of relief could be heard from coast to coast. Then the Browns, masters of value that they are (sarcasm), decided to use one of their early 
second rounders on runaway train Nick Chubb. Nothing like a team that’s won a single game over the last two seasons overbuilding a strength. Chubb doesn’t cloud Hyde’s future, he eradicates it, because these backs excel at the same things. Additionally, Duke Johnson is there to suck up all of the passing game snaps. It’s was a very rough day two for the former OSU product, who easily has the talent to start in the NFL.

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