The NFL Draft has come and gone and many teams have really strengthened their rosters. This list not only includes teams, but also people and groups that benefited from the draft.
1. Jalen Hurts & the Philadelphia Eagles
We could have easily just listed the Eagles here. They got a top-ten prospect in this draft in Jordan Davis and a top-ranked linebacker in Nakobe Dean. Both players are out of Georgia. They also got a long-term replacement for Jason Kelce in Nebraska’s Cam Jurgens, a situational pass-rusher and likely special teams fixture in Kansas’ Kyron Johnson and a crafty pass-catching number two tight end in SMU’s Grant Calcaterra.
That would be a pretty good haul already, but then you add in the trade for Titans receiver A.J. Brown. When available, Brown is easily a top-ten player in his position in the league.
While giving up picks 18 and 101 are certainly worth it for a talent like that, there are some questions about moving up two spots to grab a nose-tackle by giving up three picks between 124 and 162. Davis is a special player who allows them to play all the two-high shell coverages under Jonathan Gannon and if that’s the player they needed, they couldn't sit there and hope the Ravens wouldn’t snatch him up.
While the defensive additions are big, depending on the health status of Dean, the biggest beneficiary from the moves they made this draft is Jalen Hurts. They gave him a top-flight wide receiver and now Devonta Smith will be better as well, being able to play off the ball. Maybe even more importantly, they passed on drafting a quarterback on several occasions.
2. The University of Georgia
Georgia produced the number one overall pick, five first-rounders and an NFL draft-record of 15 total prospects selected. Just from a reputation and player-development perspective, that’s awesome. They did lose a lot of great players who could help them make a run at another national title next season, particularly on defense.
They arguably still have two of the top three or four players on that defensive line in-house, their starting quarterback and several other talented pieces. Jermaine Johnson, who decided to transfer after a couple of years with the Bulldogs, was the last one selected among that group in round one, despite having the best production.
Most had Johnson as a top-ten overall prospect, which shows that the NFL clearly understands what role individual players have in a defense. A defense that didn’t lend itself to their pass-rushers having high production, with how they funnel everything to their linebackers.
High school recruits and players on the transfer portal saw where those Georgia guys got selected and understood that they can boost their draft stock if they join Kirby Smart’s program. Even if it means they’re more a piece of the puzzle rather than having crazy production.
Those 15 names did also include six offensive players and even a punter. The Bulldogs have clearly established themselves as one of the top two programs in the best conference we have in college football. They may not yet have the consistency of Alabama yet, but they’ve had one of the top-four recruiting classes in each of the last six years and there’s no end in sight.
3. Baltimore Ravens
If you look at the history of Baltimore’s success in the NFL Draft, it’s not based on luck, but rather their patience and understanding of the board.
The crazy part is that the first pick they made, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, was in line with where not many had him on their board, rather than most people having him in their top-five overall.
If Georgia D-tackle Jordan Davis had been available at pick 14, if the Eagles didn’t decide to jump them, they may have taken him. But when he wasn’t there anymore, they didn’t panic.
They fleeced the Cardinals, trading wide receiver Marquise Brown for the 23rd pick. This is a couple of spots higher than where they originally selected him and that’s after three years of his services, without having to pay him big money. Of course, they acquired another fourth-rounder from Buffalo in exchange for moving back two spots and still got the top center in Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, who will replace a Pro Bowl-level player in Bradley Bozeman.
On day two, they decided to take a game at 45th overall with the highly talented edge defender David Ojabo, who was often mocked to them at spot 14, but fell due to tearing his Achilles at the Michigan pro day. Then they found a replacement for nose-tackle Brandon Williams in the third round with UConn’s Travis Jones, who is easily one of the strongest and freakiest athletes of his size in this draft.
You can even forgive them for taking a punter in the fourth round, who was reportedly one of the top names at the position, because the rest of day three consisted of a potential Orlando Brown Jr. clone in Minnesota’s mountain of a man in Daniel Faalele, a couple of very talented corners, two talented tight-ends and ma running back in Missouri’s Tyler Badie, who gives that group a dynamic element.
4. Adam Stenavich (Packers O-line coach)
This is an interesting one, as the Packers ended up with three picks in the top 34 of the NFL Draft. They packaged their two second-rounders for freaky North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson and picked two Georgia players for their defensive front-seven in the first round.
In theory, getting guys into that who were picked 92nd, 140th and 249th overall is more of a challenge to coach them up ready to go, somewhat to a couple of years ago, when it felt like they were just throwing darts at the board with three sixth-round picks. This trio is a lot different and Stenavich will be the one receiving credit when two of those guys end up starting.
The best of the bunch is Sean Rhyan. He played left tackle at the first-team All-Pac-12 level and can fill in there if needed, but even people there say he’s best suited inside. He should instantly start at left guard and boost their zone run game. He has the ability to take defenders for a ride, while being a very balanced pass-protector who plays within himself.
Next, we have Wake Forest’s Zach Tom, who many thought would go on day two, because he has tremendous tape at left tackle. He has the ability to mirror quality pass-rushers laterally, while looking excellent back at center, where he spent his first two years at East-West Shrine practices.
Finally, they got Rasheed Walker from Penn State. His tape is somewhat up-and-down, but he has high-level athletic traits and power to be a starter in this league, if he continues to work on his technique.
5. New York Jets
The Jets ended up with two top ten prospects in Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner and Florida State edge defender Jermaine Johnson II, along with number three wide receiver Garrett Wilson. You can see that they understood the board and got ahead of the wide receiver run and then traded back up late into the first for Johnson, who was reportedly a consideration for them with both of their top-ten picks.
Looking at the value of that trade, getting pick 101, where they drafted tight end Jeremy Ruckert from Ohio State in exchange for early third- and fifth-round picks, to move up those nine spots is a solid move.
Giving up another fifth-rounder to move up two spots in the second and draft Iowa State running back Breece Hall has been criticized. But most believe the Texans would have taken him in that spot in-between, so this is prime territory for that position.
Also consider how he and last year’s fourth-rounder Michael Carter Jr. complement each other and combined will probably take up less than five million dollars per year. Perhaps they should have traded back with one of their fourth-round picks, since that’s when they made their final selections, but at worst they should get a high-quality swing tackle in Louisiana’s Max Mitchell. He can play both sides at a high level and is a high-energy number three edge rusher, who should see the field on a lot of passing downs.
The first specialist off the board in the NFL Draft was LSU kicker Cade York at 124th overall going to the Browns. Two more punters went in the fourth round. They were Penn State’s Jordan Stout, who went to Baltimore at pick 130 and Georgia’s Jake Camarda, who went to Tampa Bay at 133. It was the first draft since 1993, where we saw four combined kickers and punters come off the board within those first four rounds. However, that’s not where the fun stopped. The Bills selected the “Punt god”, San Diego State’s Matt Araiza with the first pick of the sixth round, who was actually projected to be the first player in that position to be selected and then with one of the final ten picks (255th overall) the Bears took N.C. State’s Trenton Gill.
Interestingly, the player who finished last season second only to Araiza in net average per punt (50.9 yards) and holds the NCAA record for 47.8 yards per punt over five total seasons, Colorado State’s Ryan Stonehouse, did not hear his name called. He has since signed with the Titans and is now trying to unseat a fairly average NFL starter in Brett Kern.
We didn’t see a long snapper get drafted, after we had two last year. That’s why this category isn't called specialist, as it’s all about the punters! Looking at recent draft history, this is the second time in five years we’ve seen four guys get their names called, after there was a drought since 1999.
7. Steve Spagnuolo & the Kansas City Chiefs
For a team with an offensive identity, it’s always fun for the defensive coordinator to receive some toys to play with. Spagnuolo got a bunch of these in the NFL Draft. They had to give up a third- and fourth-round pick to move up those eight spots to 21st overall, but instead of getting a receiver like many expected, they selected the best zone and tackling corners in this draft in Washington’s Trent McDuffie. McDuffie's feel for the game could be used to replace Tyrann Mathieu.
Purdue edge George Karlaftis may not really fit their prototype for the position, but at 30th overall was picked later than projected and gives them a worker-bee for that unit.
Cincinnati safety Bryan Cook at the end of the second round is a great player to watch and gives them versatility to drop down or play two-high. Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal in the early 100’s went later than expected as well, with the crazy athletic testing he put up. He fits how they want to use their linebackers as pressure players in passing situations. Finally, they grabbed cornerbacks Joshua Williams from Fayetteville State, who had tremendous ball-production as a developmental player and Washington State’s Jaylen Watson, who arguably had the best Senior Bowl week at the position.
Other Draft successes:
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