The NFL Draft is over, teams made their selections, and as always, teams love their picks and feel they are "movin' on up." Of course, the second guessing began as soon as a name was mentioned and the picks were then labeled as winners and losers. For some teams, we'll know by the 5th week if they were right or wrong, we'll have a better clue by the end of the season, and we won't know for sure until this piece is buried under the archives of "internet" past.
For the time being, teams think they took the next Antonio Brown in the first round (he was taken in the 6th), the next Clyde Simmons (9th round), or the future Tom Brady (another 6th rounder). The reality is most will end up as the next Jerome McDougal, JaMarcus Russell, Ki-Jana Carter, Brady Quinn, Christian Ponder, or Aaron Maybin.
So far, many teams haven't had problems signing their picks... phew. And upon early reports, rookies are working hard and trying to prove themselves. But soon, the competition will heat up. Guys will see each other as taking food off their table, and the games will start. The pressure will increase, the meetings and tape sessions will be demanding, and the study and preparation will make their heads spin. Then they'll get hit and banged up, the fans will scrutinize every play, highlights will fill the television, and the weather will get colder. Welcome then, to just the start of the grind of playing in the NFL.
15 Bust: Deshaun Watson
He's definitely one of the guys to root for and hope he has a dynamic career. But some guys are just awesome college athletes and the NFL game isn't for them. Quarterbacks like Watson come and go in the NFL. Sure, he went 32-3 as a starter at Clemson, but that's a team stat too. When they beat 'Bama for the National Championship, their defense in the 2nd half was awesome, Williams was unstoppable, and many of Watson's throws were off. He's a decent slant and mid range passer, but he isn't very accurate anywhere on the field. He benefited by his receivers making great catches and piling up yards after the catch. He is mobile enough to turn the corner for long runs, but that doesn't work in the NFL.
Teams take chances on quarterbacks, and though this won't work out for the Texans, he'll go down as maybe the best Tiger quarterback of all time who found a way to break the 'Bama dynasty.
14 14. Star: Reuben Foster
The Alabama linebacker who went 31st to the 49ers may be the steal of the draft. He can play every down, run the field, and knock people into another state. Some issues at the combine forced teams to back off, but that is a mistake. The truth is teams look the other direction all the time. Guys who seem to be "pure as the driven snow" can surprise us overnight with horrendous acts of violence and stupidity (see Ray Rice, Dante Stallworth). Foster is the most skilled and complete linebacker in the draft and NFL teams out guessed themselves.
He won the 2016 Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, is a ferocious hitter, and an explosive athlete. He worked his tail off in practice to cover and tackle backs, which he'll do again in the amped up pace in the NFL.
13 Bust: Malik Hooker
Hooker started ONE year as a safety for Ohio State, and all of a sudden a terrible defense thought taking him with the 15th pick was worth it? There were more polished defenders at every position still on the board. He had 7 interceptions, but 2 came in a 67 point win vs Bowling Green, and only 1 came in a close, rivalry game which was against Michigan. He's not especially physical nor a good tackler, and relies on his athleticism and instincts. So how are those instincts going to work against quarterbacks who audible at the line of scrimmage? How are his lack of tackling skills going to play when backs breaks through the line or a tight end or receiver break into the secondary? Yes, it will be ugly.
12 Star: Jamal Adams
Taken 6th overall by the Jets, he has the type of experience you want when taking a player. Unlike Hooker, Adams is more physical, stronger, and can also play the run. He played three years at LSU, so he knows how to handle his body, read plays, cut off angles, and study teams and players' tendencies. He earned the respect of his teammates, can read the field, is alert to audibles, screens, and can stand up to players coming down the middle. A lot of his "vision" comes from playing special teams which is another asset he brings. Though he can get caught grabbing receivers arms or not following their eyes to find the ball, these are issues all young safeties or corners experience. But as one of LSU's leaders, he puts time into studying tape, practice, and he's mentally further along that most draft picks.
11 Bust: John Ross
It's not that Ross may not be a solid 2nd receiver, but the fit and timing of his pick at 9 is just, well, old school Bengals. They already have Green, LaFell, and Malone. The Bengals obviously fell in love with his speed, his ability to split defenders, and run circles across the field. However, he doesn't run fast, sharp routes, and he can be slowed with contact. His game also tailed off at the end of the season and he was inconsistent. But the larger concerns are that he was man handled by bigger corners and had significant injuries to both knees. He only weighs 185 pounds, and though he could be used as a returner, that's just more impact and hits to his already small frame.
The Bengals were knocked off their perch as a playoff team and have many other needs. It's a risky pick when the player's greatest asset, his quickness and ability to fly, depends on shaky, already damaged knees.
10 Star: Myles Garrett
It's time to get on board because something is happening in Cleveland. The Steelers are aging, the Pats just can't keep beating the odds, and the Browns are building a defense. They didn't panic and trade down or select a QB early and, yes, didn't mess things up. They took the best player in the draft; a DE with speed, reach, power, and intelligence. This isn't a Johnny Manziel A&M player, but the complete opposite. He's not a trouble maker, he's mature, and with Peppers, Njoku, the other picks this year and next year's 3rd, the Browns are back baby! Let's just hope nothing crazy happens, like they move to San Diego and win a Super Bowl while the Cleveland faithful have to wait for the commissioner to get them another expansion team.
9 Bust: Adoree Jackson
The Titans took Jackson with the 18th pick in the first round to be a ______? He is an amazing athlete, one that can do it all on the field, in college. The former Trojan played offense, special teams, and defense. In three years he had 8 touchdowns as a punt and kickoff returner, 6 as a receiver, and 6 interceptions, 5 of which came as a junior. What we have is the guy we all grew up with who was the best athlete we knew. But drafted as a corner back at 5'10" and 186 pounds, how is he going to cover the big, strong wide receivers running his way every Sunday? No way. He will get targeted every time he's on the field.
He also had trouble against smaller receivers who ran great patterns and wasn't a good enough tackler. In the end, he'll be a special teams player who scores some highlight reel touchdowns, and unless those games come in early February, this was a wasted pick.
8 Star: Mike Williams
Even though the Chargers have needs throughout their defense, they had to take the best player on the board. On the road to winning the NCAA Championship, Williams caught 98 balls for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. Think about how amazing that is, and realize he did it against all the defensive backs that went in this draft and the best college football teams. Also, when you watch him, see how many balls he caught that were poorly thrown and how no one could cover or beat him to the ball. He was a one man wrecking crew and simply unstoppable. Some critics say he's a tad slow but I never saw him caught from behind or cut off to the sideline. And if someone does catch him, he's so big and strong he won't be brought down.
7 Bust: Christian McCaffrey
I'm sure he's a great kid, but here's another example of a player that was made for the college game and not the pros. In college and in a mediocre Pac 12, he was the total package that could run, catch, block, and do it with speed and power. But there is no way he's going to be able to run between NFL tackles, out run, or run through NFL line backers. He's not very big, doesn't break tackles, and was used a ton. He had over 600 touches the past 2 seasons and was a 4 down back. I'm actually kind of scared for the kid, because when his 200 pound body gets pounded on it's gonna hurt, a lot.
I think his Stanford education kicks in the first time he catches a pass out of the backfield, turns to make a move up field and gets lit up. Then his light goes on and he retires within three years.
6 Star: Joe Mixon
He comes with a suitcase full on trouble that the Bengals may stand for but the NFL won't. The dynamic running back fell to the 2nd round, 48th overall, after video appeared of him striking a woman and braking several bones. Classy. So what we have is a young man forced with a decision. If he's going to be so terribly violently, he'll be done in two years. But if the Bengals can surround this guy with good people and keep him on the field, they scored a top 5 talent in the 2nd round. He can change gears, burst through the tackles, is quick enough to bounce inside, and has breakaway speed. He is also tough, and can square up or lower the shoulder to drive back line backers and punish the secondary. It's really quite simple. He'll either fly right and have a great career or stay angry, reactionary, and be out of the NFL.
5 Bust: Leonard Fournette
Jacksonville took Fournette with the 4th pick after he had an amazing 1,943 yards and 22 touchdowns in his sophomore season. He carried the ball 300 times that year, which is absolutely insane, and as my "too smart for his own good" cousin says, "that many carries can destroy a back." I looked it up and he's right. After that year, in his Junior season, he missed 5 games to an ankle injury which IS a chronic problem. So what is this old school, North-South back going to do in the NFL behind the Jags poor offensive line? He's going to have more ankle problems and they'll roll more frequently. Fournette does not catch the ball well, is a predictable first, second, or goal line back, and will take a beating.
When he returned after his injury plagued Junior year, vs. Alabama, he ran the ball 17 times for 35 yards and caught one pass for 8. When they played Florida, he had 12 attempts for 40 yards and no catches. Now the NFL awaits, and a long career doesn't look promising.
4 Star: O.J Howard
This pick will benefit from the situation and fit, and Howard could just explode with the Bucs and be Winston's go to target. He is an incredible athlete and has the long arms and speed to be a dominant play maker in the open field and the red zone. He runs great routes, and is fast and strong enough to blow by linebackers, break their tackles, and cause defensive backs to run away. He's also got great hands and will protect the ball. Tight ends have been increasingly utilized and Howard should fit in right away.
Plus, he's one of the few Alabama players that wasn't a trouble maker and wants to learn and grow. In college, he lined up all over the field, showed up in big games, and has a history of taking care of his body. Watch out Gronk, a new sheriff is in town!
3 Bust: Patrick Mahomes
The 10th overall pick has a flat out cannon, Elway like arm we haven't seen in years. But there are a ton of issues in his game he has to work on. His foot work, decision making, risks, and accuracy aren't good. Though some compare him to Favre, who I always felt was overrated, he's more like a poor man's Tony Romo. He doesn't read defenses well and depends on his arm, and unless the Chiefs find three Calvin Johnsons and the Cowboys' offensive line, this is a disaster in the making. He's an example of a guy that scouts get tunnel vision on about one asset. In the NFL, with the way defenses expose players' weaknesses and use schemes, he'll be out of the NFL before you can say Akili Smith.
2 Star: Dalvin Cook
Here's another guy that has a choice to make. Clean up your life and be a star, or don't and fade away. The NFL has got to find away to educate kids like this because they obviously are too young and immature to figure it out on their own. He fell to the 2nd round, the 41st pick by the Vikings, because of his off field issues. But if you watch tape, this kid could rip it up. He can make lateral, last second cuts, and bounce inside or out for good gains. He uses his blockers, has a burst to slip past the D line, and enough moves and hops to blow by line backers. He's got vision, will lower his shoulder, and also save his body by jumping out of bounds. And wait till you see him catch. He can fly with a screen pass, catch mid range passes, and haul in long throws. Look what he did against Florida, Michigan, Clemson, and you'll be in awe.
1 Bust: Gareon Conley
What really sucks about this pick is the Raiders had come so far. They've put together a young, exciting team with chemistry and character. So why, after they seem to be relevant for the first time in 15 years, would they select Conley at #24. He's got a sexual-assault allegation and would have been around later. I have other players on this list who have gotten into trouble, and they were real first round talents who fell. But Conley doesn't have first round talent, has trouble recognizing patterns, got totally exposed in crossing routes, and often took penalties. He is also not good against the run, is easily blocked, and often appears lost and frustrated. So with all this, why did they select him? He had off the charts measurements and exploited teams with lesser talent. Ugh.