All the picks have been made and players have been drafted. With the 2018 NFL draft in the books we are only getting closer and closer to the beginning of the 2018 NFL season, and the rosters are really starting to shape out. For all of the newly drafted rookies, this marks the beginning of what each hopes to be a long and successful career. Unfortunately, we all know things don't exactly go according to plan for a significant portion of these players. The National Football League is hard to make and stay into, for some it just may be too much to handle. It is a large reason as to why nearly half of the league is comprised of undrafted players. People will tell you it's all about the effort, the commitment, the passion, the discipline, and all of that generic stuff. They are right, but something that we at times feel isn't discussed enough is team fit.
Getting drafted by the right team and at the right time depending on the team's specific situation at a given time is a large component to the success or failure of each and every draft pick in every draft. This gave us an idea. Usually you get articles on which teams got the big win or loss in the draft based on which players they drafted. This is basically the other way around. In this piece we are looking at 16 first round picks from this year's draft and telling you who we feel who was best set up for success or failure based on the team they were drafted by. Here are 16 NFL draftees who will thrive or struggle in their new homes.
16 Winner: Sony Michel (New England Patriots)
What is there to say here really? Of course if you get drafted to the model franchise of the NFL it's a win. Sony Michel was taken with the 29th pick in this year's draft by the two-time defending AFC champion New England Patriots. With the exit of Dion Lewis from the team, it left an opening for another back to to get a chance to shine on one the NFL’s premier franchises. For Michel you couldn't ask for a much better situation. It isn't often you go from one of the best teams in college football to one of the best in big league football.
Usually when drafted by a team in championship contention, there really isn't much room on the roster for rookies, especially when it comes to on field production. However, this year presents a rare opportunity for Michel.
He gets the chance to play alongside the greatest quarterback ever, under the best coach in the league, and for the team who will probably be favored to come out of the AFC on top.
If his play at Georgia is any sign, then the Pats might be headed to a third straight Super Bowl appearance.
15 Loser: Leighton Vander Esch (Dallas Cowboys)
If you were watching the NFL draft live then you know why I have LVE on this list. Leighton Vander Esch was drafted 19th overall by the Dallas and the quietness in the stadium after he was drafted was a little awkward. Not that it surprised me though. All signs pointed towards the Cowboys drafting a wide receiver to replace Dez Bryant, as well as give Dak Prescott a primary option to lean on. The selection of Vander Esch left many if not all Cowboy fans asking themselves: who?
With the Cowboys defense coming off a season where it struggled to stay healthy and consistent all year long coupled with the unmet expectations of a quality receiver being taken by the team in the first round, you better believe that there will be plenty of pressure on Vander Esch to perform well instantly. This is “America's Team” after all.
If he doesn't do well in his first year we can promise you all any Cowboy fans will say is that they should have drafted a receiver instead. WE know fans from every team does that, but these are the Dallas Cowboys we're talking about here. Their in the media every day, and everything that happens with them is plastered everywhere. Trust us, this season is a big one for Vander Esch.
14 Winner: Saquon Barkley (New York Giants)
The Penn State power back was taken 2nd overall by the New York Giants in the draft. As close to a superstar as you can get to being as a college football player, Saquon Barkley’s play has had analysts and pundits billing him as a face of the franchise, 8-10 year superstar in the NFL. With that seemingly being the case, if he can pan out as those people expect him to, he couldn't have found a more fitting home for his career. The New York Giants had been struggling mightily at the running back position pretty much since their last Super Bowl appearance, and a player of Barkley’s ability could uplift the offense in such a way that will make the whole team better and it will show on the field.
With this pick, we believe the Giants will attempt to revert back to the formula that led them championships in years past: a defensive identity, and a run first offense.
For Barkley, he is going somewhere where he will be (barring injury) the unquestioned week 1 starter and will be given an opportunity to lead the Giants back to prominence right off the bat, similarly to what Ezekiel Elliott did for the Cowboys in his first season. He is joining a team with a two-time Super Bowl MVP at QB, one of the premier wide receivers in the game, a talented defensive unit, and a coach who has shown an ability to field a highly competent offense. Not much to complain about if you ask us.
13 Loser: Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)
The latest Heisman Trophy winner wasn't expected to even be a first round pick by many going into his final season at Oklahoma. Fast forward from last fall all the way to a few weeks ago, and he not only was a first rounder, he was the first overall pick in the entire draft. Unfortunately, I am not liking Baker’s chances to thrive. Why? He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. Here's my thing: I, as well most you I presume, have little faith in the Cleveland Browns organization. The situation they find themselves in at the moment would not be great for any rookie QB, but it especially is not good for someone with Mayfield’s current reputation.
To simplify, the Browns were not and still aren't a stable enough organization to take on a player like Baker Mayfield.
All the potential turmoil that may come next season could result in Mayfield getting the brunt of the criticism and thus begin to pressure the unstable Browns to move into another direction too soon, scapegoating Baker and possibly ending his career before it even really began. Tyrod Taylor could struggle, the 1-31 head coach could panic and throw in Mayfield too soon, another poor season will get Jackson fired, then a new coach comes in and Mayfield is already on his last chance in 2019 while leaning a new system. By then, just about everyone will confirm that he's already a bust because of the reputation he had coming into the league and a bad first season. That sound fair to you?
12 Winner: Bradley Chubb (Denver Broncos)
From the very beginning of the draft process it had been clear to just about everyone that Bradley Chubb was the premier defensive player in this year’s draft class. The only question was about where he would end up and we feel pretty confident in saying that he went to the best possible team he could have landed on in the Denver Broncos. Denver may currently be dealing with an inept head coach and an anemic offense, but by drafting Chubb they have likely prolonged the dominance of their defensive unit moving forward with the defensive line anchored by Chubb and Von Miller. It will be extremely difficult to run the ball on them and immobile quarterbacks may have a big issue on their hands as well if they can't get rid of the ball quickly.
For Chubb, he gets to play with parts of what was an all-time great defensive unit just years ago and grow into one of the best in the game as his career progresses.
If the Broncos offense can improve sooner rather than later he may be part of a championship team very early into his career.
11 Loser: Denzel Ward (Cleveland Browns)
Denzel Ward was the 4th overall pick in this year's NFL draft. The former Ohio State Buckeye had his stock rise as his final season of college progressed and eventually led to him being the first defensive player taken off the board on draft night. Ward shows lots of potential as a future upper tier defender and will get the opportunity to start right away in the NFL. While this probably means that he gets to get abused by Antonio Brown and A.J. Green a combined four-times this year, it will help him in his development in the long run. So why is he listed as a loser here? Simple, Cleveland.
Good as we see Ward becoming as he grows in the NFL, he is still joining the most dysfunctional franchise in the league since the team came back to the league. Even with him panning out, he along with last year's top overall pick Myles Garrett will be given the near-impossible task of basically carrying a developing defense that is in need of more talent for years to come.
With all the notorious struggles the Browns have had with building a stable offensive core, it will put even more of a load on Ward's shoulders. It wouldn't be the first time Cleveland wasted a good cornerback. Just ask Joe Haden.
10 Winner: Roquan Smith (Chicago Bears)
While we will admit that most didn't know much about Roquan Smith up until the draft, based off of everything we heard there seems to be no reason to believe that he will not be able to fit right into the Bears young defensive core. Smith was taken 8th overall by a Chicago Bears team that has quietly placed themselves in a good position to compete for playoff contention if things swing their way.
This young Bears team, unlike most others, seems to be doing well at putting good, young talent together on both sides of the ball.
The former Georgia Bulldog will be bringing more depth to a Bears defense that had shown flashes last year of future greatness against some playoff teams. With more talent on defense, it can only mean good things for the offense, which also has shown its fair share of promise as well.
It's a win for both parties involved really. Chicago gets another potential key piece to the defense and Smith gets to play for a developing team he can start for right away and help get back to the postseason and compete for championships as soon as next year. Things are really starting to turn up for the Windy City.
9 Loser: Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
Josh Allen was taken with the 7th overall pick in this year's NFL draft, by the Buffalo Bills. Coming out of Wyoming, Allen has been said to have the look and potential of a star quarterback, but will need time to develop to properly integrate himself into the league and be able to perform up to NFL standards.
For this reason, it isn't recommended that Allen should be a week 1 starter this upcoming season. It's a funny thing with the NFL; time isn't exactly something a lot of teams in the league really have. Things move and change in an instant and a team's agenda can change in a snap if a new opportunity presents itself. Believe us, this story for the Bills could be real different come next year if things go sideways.
Allen needs time, but he's going to be backing up A.J. McCarron, who isn't exactly the greatest QB in the league, and Nathan Peterman, who despite throwing six interceptions in the little time he has played in his career, is still on the team. If both play poorly throughout the season, or an injury occurs to either or both, we might see Allen play sooner than he should and things could get ugly fast. You think they won't put him in this year? NFL teams don't draft players that straight up won't play their first season in the first round.
8 Winner: Quinton Nelson (Indianapolis Colts)
Before we get into this entry, do we think the Indianapolis Colts are a well structured franchise? No. However, do we think they are making strides towards making their team viable again? Yes and this pick is one of the reasons why.
Quinton Nelson was revered as the top offensive lineman in this draft class and was projected by many as one of the few “no chance to bust” players in the draft.
For the Colts that's perfect for them. For years the only thing that held them back from being a good team was their putrid O-Line that couldn't open up a hole for the run game, nor buy the QB any time to throw the football if their lives depended on it.
With Nelson now coming along, the Colts should now have less to worry about as it pertains to protecting their franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck. Assuming Luck hasn't fallen off the proverbial cliff and is the same player we saw in his first three seasons, the former Notre Dame lineman will have the chance to be the Jeff Saturday to Andrew Luck's Peyton Manning and lead Indy back to prominence. Here's hoping.
7 Loser: Minkah Fitzpatrick (Miami Dolphins)
A player considered by many as the most talented and versatile defensive player in the draft, Minkah Fitzpatrick has merely two good things going for him with where he was drafted: It's always sunny and the jerseys look nice, that's about it. The former Crimson Tide defensive back was taken 11th overall by the Miami Dolphins, a team that we're convinced has next to no clue as to what exactly they are trying to do with their roster. And we know that they said that they're looking for a “culture change”, but it's hard to see that as the plan when the head coach is still there, the GM is still there, and the majority of the roster remains the same.
All the Dolphins have really done is let their best defensive lineman walk and trade their two best offensive players. On top of this, their quarterback situation as it stands right now is probably the worst in the league. The Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson who could be a bust, but they still have Flacco; the Jets drafted Darnold and by the off chance he can't play yet, they have McCown; even Browns have their QB situation more stabilized than Miami.
Do you know how hard it is to have a worse QB situation than Cleveland?
No one's been able to do that for nearly 20 years. This is what Minkah Fitzpatrick has to deal with until who knows when. He may play well but we can't see the same happening for everyone else.
6 Winner: Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons)
Coming into the draft, Calvin Ridley was looked at as someone who can come in and be your top passing option immediately. A player that would surely uplift any struggling receiving core in the league. Not only does Ridley not have to play for a struggling core, he was drafted to arguably the best one in all of football in Atlanta.
The Falcons are coming off of a steady season. After the loss of their offensive coordinator in the prior offseason, most were unsure on what would become of the Falcons offense. The production of just about everyone had dropped in the new system, but despite that they were still able to make the playoffs as the 6th seed.
Now in year two under the new offense, everyone should be in good shape to perform at a higher level. Already joining a top flight receiving core, Ridley will have the opportunity to learn from one of the elite pass catching duos in the league in Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and be able to slowly grow into one of the better receivers in the game as he goes in the coming years. A winning situation for both sides.
5 Loser: Rashaad Penny (Seattle Seahawks)
Why the team with the worst offensive line in the entire NFL would use their first round pick to draft at the position least likely to produce because of the poor O-Line play is beyond most of us. We feel bad for Rashaad Penny already and he's barely even gotten used to the Seahawks locker room much less even play a game for the Seahawks. You may think we're overreacting, but that is just how bad Seattle’s offensive line is. Russell Wilson has had to scramble and run for extra time to get a pass off so many times that it's basically a trademark move for him at this point.
There is a reason why every single running back since Marshawn Lynch has played poorly.
Whether it was Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy or whoever, it didn't matter. So for Seattle to then go ahead and draft a running back like that's the actual problem shows an utter lack of awareness of the part of the Seahawks, and believe us it's going to reflect in how Penny plays next season if nothing is changed. He is going to get throttled by defenses all season.
4 Winner: Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals)
Here's what we know with the Cardinals, the offensive line needs work, they have a very talented defense, and aside from David Johnson when healthy and Larry Fitzgerald, the weaponry could be better.
They still have many holes to fill but they have probably already solved the biggest one at quarterback. After both Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer’s retirement, the Cardinals were left without a head coach and starting QB. The Cards hired former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for the head coaching job but were looking shaky at QB after the signing of Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. Bradford is good but struggles with health, and Glennon just isn't very good.
Enter Josh Rosen. In a shocking twist, after being projected by basically everyone having Rosen as the number two QB in the draft, Rosen unexpectedly dropped all the way to tenth and the Cardinals made the jump to draft him.
All the talent on board along with the possible opening as the starting QB with Bradford having just a one-year deal and potentially going down to another injury, Rosen can take the reigns as the starter quickly. Put a solid line in front of him and he’s in position to lead Arizona back to prominence by his second season.
3 Loser: Da’Ron Payne (Washington Redskins)
You know, we almost put Da’Ron Payne on this list as a winner. He will be going to a Washington Redskins team with some impressive talent already on board and we think he has a good chance to grow into the premier player in that defense as he grows and into the league. What changed our mind? I remembered that he was drafted by the Redskins. It's not that they field bad teams or anything like the Browns usually do or something like that. They just never field a good enough team every year. They've been a middle of the pack team for several years now.
They never do anything to usher themselves into the championship conversation.
Look at how they handled the QB situation this offseason. They let Kirk Cousins walk and instead of trading up to draft someone like Josh Rosen who was available at the 10 slot, they traded for Alex Smith, who is only considered better than Cousins because he throws like 4 less interceptions a season compared to Kirk.
We're not saying he won't be good, but we wouldn't expect to be part of a championship team anytime soon if I were Mr.Payne.
2 Winner: Derwin James (Los Angeles Chargers)
The Los Angeles Chargers (still not used to it yet) had a rough year last season. The only reason they missed the playoffs and lost the division to Kansas City is because they had some serious kicker issues, we're talking like almost as bad as Tampa Bay Buccaneers levels of bad kicking.
That notwithstanding, Phillip Rivers played at his usually great level, and the defense emerged as one of the best in the league.
Led by Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, the defensive line and Casey Hayward in the secondary, the Chargers defense just got even better with the addition if Derwin James.
Derwin James was taken with the 17th overall pick in this year's draft by the Chargers. A young stud joining a star studded defense, James could potentially be joining a championship contending team in his very first season if the Chargers can get the place kicking right and the most important players stay healthy. If that happens to be the case then I'd say James might go down as the biggest winner in this draft class. Competing in for the Super Bowl in your first year is an incredibly rare feat to accomplish.
1 Loser: Vita Vea (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
We brought up Tampa Bay in our last entry, so it is only right that we bring up their first round pick from the draft, Vita Vea. Vea was taken 12th overall by the Buccaneers, a solid pickup for a team that was in need of more talent on defense. He should be a key addition that will be effective on the field immediately.
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay still has an awful offensive line and barring any drastic turnaround by that unit in the coming season, this means that Jameis Winston will remain a turnover machine. The run game will remain ineffective and as a result, the majority if not the complete pressure to carry the team to success will be on the defense.
So the good news is that Vita is probably going to get plenty of time on the field in his first season, opening an opportunity to make his mark on the league early. The bad new is that despite that, he's probably not going to win a lot of his games as long as the offense continues to underperform. That isn't even getting into the coaching. Dirk Koetter is staying as the team’s head coach and given everything that happened in his first year at the helm, we don't see year one looking too good for Vea.