Winners and Losers of the Draft in the AFC
Who fared the best in the draft? Who will regret this draft? ISH breaks down the AFC and takes a closer look at some of the key decisions made by these 10 teams.
1) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were looking for difference makers and that’s what they got. Right from the start they draft OLB Ryan Shazier, who may be small for his position but replaces it with extreme athleticism. He is not going to have the pass rush that past Steelers’ outside linebackers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, had but he will make the right plays anywhere on the field. He is a guy that will never have to leave the field and will be a difference maker on it the entire time he is out there. In the 2nd round the Steelers found their pass rusher in Stephen Tuitt out of Notre Dame. Tuitt, who was plagued by a herniated disk last season, could become potentially the next best defensive end out of this draft, beside Clowney. He was an absolute force on the line for the Irish in their national championship run back in 2013 and the Steelers truly believe that he has overcome his injury and can play at an elite level in the NFL. As for on the offensive side of the ball they drafted Dri Archer out of Kent State. Archer posted the 2nd fastest combine time ever and could turn into a very good receiving back for the Steelers. He lacks ideal size for the position but it is a good thing that the Steelers were not drafting him for his size. He can turn into a Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead type player for this organization. Then to top it all off they got Martavius Bryant in the 4th round. Bryant I feel like has the potential to be a very good receiver in the NFL but was constantly overshadowed by DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins in his time at Clemson. He could turn out to be one of the steals of the draft for the Steelers. Overall a very good draft by the Steelers but coming out of it all, cornerback is still a major area of concern. Unless they feel like their 5th round pick out of Arizona, Shaquille Richardson, can make a big difference right away, then they still have a lot of work to do at that position.
2) Houston Texans
When you have the top pick in the draft you are immediately expected to have one of the best drafts in the league, and that is what Houston did… except it was a lot more than just the first pick. Lining up Jadeveon Clowney across from JJ Watt will turn into the most deadly pass rush in the league, and could potentially be one of the better pass rushes in history. After drafting the best player in the draft they went on to help anchor their offensive line with the addition of Xavier Su’a-Filo out of UCLA. Su’a-Filo was the first pick in the 2nd round, despite much speculation of the Texans getting a quarterback with that pick. The quarterback would come in round four with the fall of Tom Savage. The Texans nabbed Savage late, this is a guy that could potentially start for them but doesn’t necessarily have to from the start. One of the biggest steals, yes I do mean biggest, was the pick of Louis Nix III in the 3rd round. This was a guy that would have been a top 5 pick in last years draft, but became a little out of shape this past year at Notre Dame. If he can be whipped back into shape then the Texans have a Vince Wilfork type player to go on the defensive line next to Watt and Clowney. The Texans could be a force to be reckoned with once again.
3) Oakland Raiders
When was the last time the draft worked out for the Raiders? Don’t ask me I haven’t been alive that long, but this could be the draft to change that. They got an outstanding outside linebacker with the 5th overall pick in Khalil Mack out of Buffalo. Most of the time the 5th overall pick isn’t considered a “steal” when it comes to draft terms, but Mack has the potential to be the best player out of this draft. In the 2nd they grabbed a guy who could potentially be their quarterback of the future in Derek Carr, even if he doesn’t have to start right away. Derek shattered his brother’s records at Fresno State, and I believe he is better than the former number 1 overall pick, David Carr. But the Raiders don’t stop after the 2nd round. In the third they drafted OG, Gabe Jackson, a player who could be the best offensive guard in the draft. There was some speculation that Jackson could have been a first round pick but due to a lacking need at the guard position the Raiders were lucky enough to grab him in the 3rd. But for those who enjoyed the Raiders’ old ways don’t worry. They drafted Keith McGill, a player that was arrested for DUI and stolen property in 2012. They also drafted Shelby Harris, who was dismissed from Illinois State due to conduct that was detrimental to the team… there’s the Raiders we know!
4) Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville would be number one on this list if we were grading purely offensive improvement from the draft. They got Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, which is a great pick for them. I was hoping for their sake they would get a quarterback with that pick simply because you can’t keep on living life with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne as your quarterback. The issue next was who was he going to be throwing to? The Jags quickly answered that question as they had the steal of the draft in Marquis Lee and then in the third round drafted Allen Robinson. Lee should have gone at least in the first round, and would have gone top 10 in last year’s draft. Allen Robinson is a guy who will be good to contribute off the bench and be a fourth string guy for the Jaguars going forward. They were also lacking quite a bit at running back so picking up Storm Johnson late was a good move. Johnson and Bortles played together last season at UCF and are playing together again this year, just down the road in Jacksonville. I would like to see Johnson get some quality minutes off the bench for the Jags and potentially even move up to the starting job by the end of the year, that is if Toby Gerhart doesn’t work out.
5) Cleveland Browns
I know a lot of people are probably opposed to me having the Browns here but let me state my reasoning. In Hindsight I realize that the Browns should have drafted Watkins, but they had no clue about the Gordon trouble when they made that decision. And I don’t know why I am the only Justin Gilbert fan, as we heard the obvious opposition about the pick from the crowd on draft night. Pairing Gilbert up with Joe Haden is one deadly secondary combination, and also with them having Tashaun Gipson and now Donte Whitner at safety it could become the next Legion of Boom. They drafted Manziel next, which was one of the more popular picks in the draft. He should become their quarterback of the future and can be their quarterback from day one if they need him to be. Brian Hoyer showed he had some potential before his injury last year, so it is a low risk pick knowing they didn’t need him to start right away. As for the later picks I feel like they did a good job, but they have no excuse for not drafting a receiver. This is the sole reason they are 5 instead of 1. But they added to their already good offensive line with Joel Bitonio in the 2nd round. Bitonio could start immediately if he can make the transition to guard from the tackle position. The Browns added Ben Tate in the offseason but it isn’t like Tate is going to be a guy that can play every single down for them, so in the 3rd round they picked up Terrance West out of Towson. West is a guy that I personally really like and he will have some very productive minutes as the 2nd string there in Cleveland. Hopefully you will watch his highlights posted below. Overall I like the Browns’ draft, although it would have been nice to draft at least a single receiver in one of the 7 rounds.
1) Indianapolis Colts
Aaaaand the worst team in the draft goes to… The Colts!! The Colts were one of 3 teams that did not pick in the first round; this doesn’t mean they have to stay dormant for the rest of the draft, though. Their first pick was in the 2nd round when they drafted Jack Mewhort. Mewhort is a good player but it was still a little early for him to go. Other than Mewhort the Colts did not draft a single guy that looked like he could help much as a rookie. Also just to add to the shame, they traded their first round pick for a running back that didn’t do anything to help their team last year. There were better players on the board at any position when they picked, and did not come out with any guys that looked like future stars, or even starters for that matter. This draft is one to forget for the Colts.
2) Denver Broncos
Denver was a team that I feel like drafted purely on who was the best available at the time of their pick. Their first pick was Bradley Roby who has the potential to be a very good player but is not a guy that will make an impact right away, which is really what they need at corner at the moment. They acquired Aqib Talib in free agency this summer but still require another corner to play across from Talib after the loss of veterans Champ Bailey and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. A different corner, like Lamarcus Joyner out of Florida State, would have been better since he has a better chance of making an impact as a rookie. They then drafted a wide receiver in the 2nd round in Cody Latimer. Latimer is a very talented receiver but I honestly didn’t feel like that was one of the top needs for this team. I would have rather seen them draft a guard to replace a very good lineman in Zane Beadles, who they lost to the Jaguars this offseason. Despite losing a good receiver in Eric Decker, the Broncos still have a very talented receiving core, consisting of Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Julius Thomas. They also traded out of the 4th round which I was opposed against. I felt like they really should have used that pick to add a running back, considering they lost Knowshon Moreno to the Dolphins. Some good running backs, like Heisman runner-up Andre Williams out of Boston College, were still available at this point. Currently Montee Ball is the team’s starting running back, who underachieved last season after a stellar season at Wisconsin. I am sure the staff have a plan in mind but I don’t see where they are coming from currently.
3) Cincinnati Bengals
Even though the Bengals got the steal of the draft in Darqueze Dennard, he really was a diamond in the rough for Cincy. The Bengals after Dennard drafted running back, Jeremy Hill, in the 2nd round, making him the 2nd running back drafted. Despite Hill having much success in college the Bengals have a good running back already and definitely could have used that pick for much better than another running back. Defensive end was a position where they could have drafted players that would have much more impact as rookies for the team. They lost their best defensive lineman in Michael Johnson this offseason, and he needs to be replaced. At the spot where the Hill was picked, Kony Ealy was still available, who could end up being the best defensive end in the draft after Clowney. I would have thought that this scenario would have played out much better for them then draft another running back that would play behind Giovanni Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Overall I think that the Bengals picked for talent instead of need, which is a useful strategy for some teams but I feel like the Bengals don’t have the successful history to be able to pick this way.
4) New England Patriots
The Pats made some good moves and some bad ones in this draft, but there was definitely better moves they should have made. They drafted Dominique Easley with their first pick, which was certainly was addressing the need but there was talent on the board that would have faired better than Easley. Louis Nix III and Ra’Shede Hageman were still on the board at this pick, both of whom I thought were significantly better than Easley. In the 2nd round they picked Jimmy Garoppolo, who they feel could be the eventual successor to Tom Brady, sort of like the Packers did with Rodgers and Favre. This is a smart move by the Pats, but I still think Brady has at least 5 years left starting for the Patriots. He has not shown any signs of slowing down and has not started talking about retirement. Garoppolo is a very good quarterback but I would have rather seen them draft a receiver like Jarvis Landry or Bruce Ellington, or potentially a tight end to help fill in for Rob Gronkowski for when he is injured. Patriots did not have a terrible draft but it is not one to brag about either.
5) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs drafted Dee Ford in the first round but other than that there was nothing else to look forward to for Chiefs fans. They potentially could have made one of the best moves in the draft by drafting Marqis Lee in the first round instead of the pass rushing Dee Ford. Ford was not a bad pick but they really are only adding depth to an already good pass rush. Lee would be added to a struggling receiving core that could certainly use his help right away. They also did not have a second round pick which does not help their shortage at wide receiver and in fact did not pick a receiver with any pick in any of the 7 rounds. Besides Dwayne Bowe, who even has off the field issues, the Chiefs do not have a consistent player at the receiver position on their roster. I would have really thought that this would have registered with the Chiefs but apparently they are totally fine with depriving Alex Smith of a receiving core for another year.
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