If you believe the main commentators, most of the 32 NFL teams had a decent draft. There were a lot of A grades bandied about, with the Ravens, Cardinals, Cowboys, Vikings and even the Bengals getting praise for their hauls. But which teams raised a few eyebrows, had us wondering what they were thinking or just messed with our minds? Here are five teams that were more conundrum than consensus.
1. What are the Packers trying to tell Aaron Rodgers?
As we approached the draft, the general feeling was that the Packers needed more offensive weapons for Aaron Rodgers to throw to. And, with one of the deepest receiver classes in a long time, it was easy to predict that they’d pick one or two to keep Davante Adams company. But rather than finding Rodgers offensive tools to elevate his game, Green Bay opted for his heir apparent, Utah State QB Jordan Love, instead. I would not have wanted to be the pet cat in the Rodgers household on Thursday evening.
Getting all kinds of heat for this pick (our very own Kieran gave it an ‘F’) asx well as the draft as a whole (‘D’ and ‘loser’ grades were not uncommon), you have to question why they traded up to #26 to pick a high-risk guy with 17 interceptions last year. OK, Rodgers is 36 and on the back nine of his playing career (to mix my sporting metaphors), but there’s still plenty of life in the old dog yet – he’s still contracted for another four years.
They made matters worse by failing to pick a single WR – criminal, given the number of pass-catching options available in the 2020 class. Instead, they opted for a power running back (AJ Dillon) and then reached for a TE (Josiah Deguara).
With roster needs at receiver and offensive tackle, as well as linebacker and defensive line, it seems odd that they wouldn’t want to push on from reaching last season’s NFC championship game. But it seems the Pack have a longer-term vision and may be planning for the post-Rodgers era rather than building around him with a Tee Higgins or a Michael Pittman Jr. They could still have win-now aspirations and may just have wanted a decent backup in case the old boy gets crocked, but you can’t help but feel that Green Bay wasted their picks this time around… and upset their franchise QB to boot.
2. Did the Patriots make a dog’s dinner of the draft?
Bill Belichick doesn’t do templates; he does things his own way, ploughs his own furrow as it were. Being the coaching guru he is, what often seems like an odd pick to the rest of us usually works out OK. But even for him, this year’s draft seemed a little off-script. Maybe we should take more stock from the video feed from Belichick HQ that suggested Bill’s dog Nike was in charge of making the picks.
With Tom Brady, Danny Shelton, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and the once-retired Gronk all leaving town this spring, conventional wisdom would be to fill some of those holes with the Patriots’ 12 picks. But somewhat unconventionally (at least for everyone else bar Belichick), there was a bit of horse-trading, they moved back out of the first round and made their first pick at #37 instead of #23. Small-school safety Kyle Dugger – at least we’ve all heard of Lenior-Rhyne now – was followed by defensive linemen Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings: decent enough picks, but defence was never the issue here.
We were left with a few questions after New England’s business was done. We all expected tight ends to be on the shopping list but were Devin Asiasi (#91) and Dalton Keene (#101) the right selections at the time? Given their limitations last year, they also needed help out wide so, just like the Packers, why didn’t the Pats pick up at least one receiver, especially from this deeper-than-deep class?
They also didn’t take a QB, so we have to assume they trust former fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham to pick up the reins in TB12’s wake. They could have a Gardner Minshew on their hands or he could be more of a Ryan Finley – eek. Apparently, not going after Jalen Hurts, Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm to reduce the risk “wasn’t by design, it just didn’t work out that way”… not words you usually hear Belichick utter. (Then again, he may yet trade for Cam Newton or Andy Dalton and all this conjecture would be pointless.)
Not only did they ignore the quarterback prospects, they did so in favour of a kicker no one had heard of in Justin Rohrwasser. Without one on their roster, a kicker was always a need but was he the best value at #159, especially with Tyler Bass and Rodrigo Blankenship – arguably the two top options – still available? Apparently, his familiarity with playing and training in bad weather was a key selling point but even so, it still seemed a bit odd that the first kicker off the board was ranked about 12th in his position.
3. Did the Eagles get Hurts in case Wentz gets hurt?
I don’t recall any mock drafts pairing the Eagles with Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, but that’s who they used their second-round pick on. Philly have already coughed up a cool $137 million on extending Wentz’s contract so they obviously see him as their QB1 for a fair while yet. So is investing the #53 pick in his understudy a wise move?
Their first pick, WR Jalen Reagor from TCU, gives Wentz a new target to throw to, and they got more speed later in the draft, as well as through a trade for the 49ers’ Marquise Goodwin. But opting to bring in a new backup at quarterback, rather than address corner, safety and linebacker, or give their current QB more playmakers to aim at, was an unexpected move.
GM Howie Roseman obviously believes in his current play-caller but also stated that he wants to make Philadelphia “a quarterback factory”. They do like a strong second choice, be it Nick Foles, Chase Daniels or Josh McCown, and it’s saved the day of late, especially with Wentz twice suffering season-ending injuries. But unless they use the athletic QB in a Taysom Hill-like way, as a Swiss Army knife on special teams, Hurts’ only hope of seeing the field in the short term will be if Wentz fails to suit up for some reason over the next three or four years. That may not happen for some time, if at all, so not waiting till Day 3, when Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason came off the board, seems like a reach with their second pick.
4. Just how many tight ends does Chicago need?
Having passed their first-rounder to the Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack deal, the Chicago Bears didn’t have many picks and only joined the draft at pick #43. Many were expecting them to use their two second-round selections to fill gaps at corner and safety. However reasonable the choice of Utah CB Jaylon Jennings was at #50, many of us were surprised that at #43, Chicago plumped for Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet with their first pick.
Don’t get me wrong: seen in a vacuum, he’s a great pick – Kmet was very much a top TE choice and will give Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles a viable red zone target. However, the Bears had added Jimmy Graham to an already-crowded tight end room during free agency, so the selection of Kmet only muddies the waters further. Unbelievably, his arrival means the Bears now have ten (yes, 10!) of ‘em – maybe someone’s getting TE and TEN confused?
5. Houston, do we have a problem?
One of the lasting images of this year’s remote draft will be Texans Head Coach – and now General Manager – Bill O’Brien losing his cool and storming off when a potential trade with Detroit fell through at the last minute. Not the personification of poise and professionalism maybe, but that frustration only mirrors how Houston fans must feel about O’Brien.
The fact that he has traded away two big stars, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins, without getting a first-round pick for either are black marks against his record. The friction between him and Hopkins, and the arrival of a sub-par David Johnson in his stead, were part of the most puzzling free agency move this off-season. They also gave up a fourth-round pick in that deal, as well as a second-rounder in exchange for the LA Rams’ Brandin Cooks and a first-round spot (plus two top picks in 2021) when acquiring former Miami left tackle Laremy Tunsil. That may yet prove to be as high a price as the $66 million extension they’ve just forked out.
Those shenanigans left them with just five selections this weekend. Having seen DJ Reader leave for Cincinnati in free agency, at least DT Ross Blacklock was a sensible choice with their only selection in the first two rounds. Linebacker Jonathan Grennard in Round 3 was probably a reach, and neither CB John Reid nor WR Isiah Coulter seem to be immediate impact players, given the Texans’ depth at both positions.
Rather than roster-building, O’Brien seems to be slowly doing the opposite, leaving Houston fans increasingly frustrated with his unpredictable choices.