With another NFL draft now in the history books, phones are ringing off the hooks at sports-talk radio stations everywhere, sports desks at daily newspapers across the country and right here at Pro Football Weekly. Tweets and texts are overloading data lines throughout cyberspace, with everyone asking the same questions: Who are the winners, and who are the losers? And the simple and most honest answer is: Nobody knows!
We take extreme pride here at PFW in the fact that we invented independent draft analysis, and no one has done it as thoroughly, in-depth or accurately as we have for over 40 years now. But once all the experts have done the best they can to tell you how good a kid might or might not be, there is nothing more we can do but let all the intangibles and fate join the facts we’ve previously presented and see these kids prove themselves on the football field. We can tell you who we think got the best or least value out of their picks, based on where players were chosen. But winners and losers? That’s at minimum 20 months down the road. Until we see how these players actually practice and play over at least two full seasons, who stays healthy and who doesn’t, which kids handle all the character questions that have been debated about them ad nauseam and who can’t, and how all the other intangibles play out, there is simply no way to predict how things will play out.
But accepting that this is no indication whatsoever of what kind of players these kids will be in two years, we can have some fun talking about the winners in the value game, which more often than not does tend to prove out who drafts well and who doesn’t.
In Round One, my runaway champ is the Steelers, for being fortunate enough to get David DeCastro at No. 24 in spite of the fact I believe he’ll be the best offensive lineman to come out of this draft and he was the second-highest-rated O-lineman on the board. The Chargers would have to be second with Melvin Ingram, the top-rated pure pass rusher in the draft, who fell to them at No. 18 as the sixth DL-OLB out of seven drafted in a run at the positions between picks 11 and 19.
It will surprise no one that my Round Two winner is Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens, who traded out of the first round to pick up extra second- and fourth-round picks and still got the 18th-rated player overall in the entire draft — Courtney Upshaw — at No. 35. I think you also have to love the Panthers’ work in Round Two as they ignored a lack of need at the position and grabbed OG Amini Silatolu at No. 40 in spite of the fact most teams had a first-round grade on him.
Round Three is a little tougher to call for me, but three picks stick out. I love the Rams’ chutzpah in drafting CB Janoris Jenkins, a first-round talent who had to wait until at least the second round because of the laundry list of character issues that surround him, and hedging their bet with CB Trumaine Johnson in the third was brilliant. Admittedly, Johnson has a few question marks of his own, but none to rival Jenkins’, and I think Johnson is every bit the prospect Stephon Gilmore and Dre Kirkpatrick are. I also loved the value the Texans got with OG Brandon Brooks at No. 76 and that the Titans found in DT Mike Martin at 82.
The two players who jump off the board at me in Round Four are DT Alameda Ta’amu to the Steelers and OLB Kyle Wilber to the Cowboys. I think the Bengals stole CB Shaun Prater at 156 in Round Five, and the Eagles got incredible value in Round Six with Iowa WR Marvin McNutt. The Patriots finding CB Alfonzo Dennard while the Chargers were able to steal C David Molk in the seventh round could prove to be two of the sharpest picks in this draft.
Obviously I think there were some very bad decisions, as well, but really, what’s the point in any of us picking on any of these kids before they’ve even had a chance to try? Let’s just say that all those clubs that left clearly better football players on the board to choose players in areas of need will almost certainly regret it.