For many websites, the popular thing to do is grade draft classes in the days after the annual event is completed. In my opinion, that is an exercise in futility because no one really knows. On top of that, it takes at least two — and more than likely three — years before we really know if clubs had a successful draft.
A perfect example of that is in the days following the 2017 draft, when one particular analyst claimed Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace “got himself fired”. That turned out to be one of the most ridiculous statements of the year, as that draft turned out to be one of the best in Bears history. Only two years later, three of the players selected have already played in a Pro Bowl.
Like in many drafts, once we get past the fifth round, several players who get selected were not Combine invitees. These players get drafted because of the work the scouting staffs do during the fall and spring.
Some seem to think that Pro Days aren’t that important. Every team in the NFL goes through the different Pro Day results looking for a few players whose measurables just jump out. This could be a player from a small school, or even a player from a larger school who was not scouted during the fall football season, and because of his workout numbers, clubs get alerted and do more research on them. Many of these types end up getting selected in the later rounds and making clubs. This happens every year.
That all being said, there are three clubs that I felt did a very good job this year and accomplished their goals going into the draft.
Colts GM Chris Ballard went into the draft thinking it was not very strong in the first round but had strength in the second through fifth rounds. One thing he wanted to do was get as many picks as he could in Rounds 2-5. He accomplished that by trading down and actually out of the first round. He also wanted to add depth to the defense and create more competition on that side of the ball, which he also accomplished.
In Rounds 2-5, the Colts selected seven players, including six on defense. The speed and depth of that unit improved dramatically this weekend.
Temple CB Rock Ya-Sin didn’t play D-I football until last season, after spending his first three years at D-II Presbyterian. After 2017, he transferred to Temple, where his playe improved on a weekly basis. He was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl and will probably be a starter as a rookie.
TCU EDGE Ben Banogu is a speedy pass rusher with upside. He still needs to refine his game but can help as a pass rusher right away. He recorded 17 combined sacks over the past two seasons.
Stanford product Bobby Okereke is a speedy inside linebacker with top instincts. He will line up next to reigning Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard to give the Colts one of the fastest inside linebacker combos in the League.
Ballard was looking for a physical strong safety to pair with 2017 first-round pick Malik Hooker — and he found one in Michigan State’s Khari Willis.
Remember what I said about Pro Days? Tarleton State LB E.J. Speed ran 4.58 and timed 6.95 in the 3-cone at his Pro Day. The Colts had nothing on him before that. They then sent in both scouts and coaches and came away impressed with his talent. He’s a developmental prospect but can help out on special teams while he learns.
Second-round wide receiver Parris Campbell of Ohio State is a big play waiting to happen and another weapon for Andrew Luck.
Los Angeles Rams
Rams GM Les Snead always seems to do a great job in the draft. He traded out of Round 1 this year but found value throughout the draft. In the second round, the Rams selected Washington S Taylor Rapp, who was one of the draft's most impressive safeties on tape. Because of a hip injury, Rapp didn’t run at the Combine and then ran poorly at his Pro Day. That dropped his stock, but the Rams relied on what they saw on tape in making the selection. Rapp will be a Day 1 starter.
With RB Todd Gurley having a knee issue, the Rams traded up 24 spots and took Memphis RB Darrell Henderson in the third round. A big play waiting to happen, he is very explosive.
Michigan's David Long may just be the best slot corner in this draft. Not only can he cover, Long is an excellent run defender. Oklahoma OT Bobby Evans, I feel, is underrated. He played most of his career at right tackle but moved to left tackle in 2018, where he was a natural. He will step in for Andrew Whitworth when Whit is ready to retire. Wisconsin OT David Edwards will provide depth at both tackle and guard and become an eventual starter for the Rams.
New York Giants
I hear/read all the criticism of the Giants taking Duke QB Daniel Jones, and it reminds me of the criticism that the Bears took after they selected Mitch Trubisky in 2017. Much like the Bears got the last laugh with Trubisky, the Giants will too with Jones, who is an ideal fit for New York and will most likely sit as a rookie and become the 2020 starter.
Georgia DB Deandre Baker has great tape but had an average Combine. Regardless, he can cover, support the run and play the ball. He will start right away at a position the Giants needed to upgrade.
Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence can run a 5.0-second 40 at 340 pounds and control blockers. He may do for the Giants what Vince Wilfork did for the Patriots: Just be a dominant inside player.
Oshane Ximines isn’t exactly a sleeper, as several general managers made visits to Old Dominion during the 2018 season. He is still raw but has outstanding traits to become a very good edge pass rusher in the league. He plays hard every down.
Notre Dame CB Julian Love is a steal in the fourth round. He can play inside or outside, has great instincts and is one of the better run-support corners in this draft. Wisconsin linebacker Ryan Connelly is tough, instinctive and fast. He shows sideline-to-sideline range on tape and was a very good value in the fifth round.