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The Rams laid the blueprint. Now everyone is trying it. Los Angeles general manager famously rocked a NSFW t-shirt at the team’s championship parade this year that summed up his feelings on draft picks. Let’s just say he doesn’t regret his aggressive approach to roster building.
As the old saying goes: it’s a copycat league. A whopping eight teams currently do not have a first-round pick in the upcoming 2022 NFL draft. There are a few outliers in the group, as Chicago and San Francisco both parted with their 2022 picks in 2021 to trade up to draft a quarterback. However, the rest, which includes Denver, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Miami and, or course, the LA Rams, all did so in a win-now move in pursuit of a Super Bowl.
For the Rams, we’ve already seen the tact work. They brought in Matthew Stafford and sent Jared Goff packing. Continued aggression saw them acquire Von Miller from the Broncos for a second-round pick. It all paid off in the form of a Lombardi trophy won in February. Even if the Rams are terrible in two years, which is possible with an aging core and fewer draft picks to replace them, it will have been worth it because they won a title.
The important thing to remember when it comes to trying to emulate Los Angeles is that this was already a championship contender. The Rams featured in the Super Bowl three years prior against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That group ultimately came up short, but L.A. was very clearly within reach of a title. They just made the move to put them over the top.
I can’t say the same thing for any of the teams that have attempted to follow in their footsteps this offseason. We obviously saw the Colts fall well short of expectations last year and ultimately ship Carson Wentz to D.C. after just one season. They brought in Matt Ryan, but as I’ve talked about, they have some holes they still need to fill at corner, left tackle and wide receiver.
Then you have the Browns, who mortgaged their future to acquire Deshaun Watson. Cleveland is probably closer than most to competing for a title, but they need another receiver to complement Amari Cooper, possibly a new center and tight end and an edge rusher. It’s also far from a guarantee Watson will be available for much of this upcoming season given that he is facing civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment. The Browns also compete in the same division as the reigning AFC champions and the 2019 MVP in Lamar Jackson. Plus, you can never count out Mike Tomlin and the Steelers.
Miami has fewer clear holes on the roster after spending big in free agency and adding Tyreek Hill via trade. That being said, they have maybe the 10th best quarterback in the conference. We simply have not seen enough from Tua Tagovailoa to believe he is capable of leading the Dolphins to a Super Bowl, or even to stay healthy for a full season. Perhaps he will take the next step in his development with a new, offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel. Still, the Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2016. Not exactly a contender putting in the final piece of the puzzle. While Miami is unquestionably better, it’s hard to say they are even the best team in their own division with Buffalo coming off an impressive year and adding Von Miller.
Then there are the Raiders and Broncos. Many are describing the AFC West as the best division we’ve ever seen in football with Russell Wilson joining the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr. Denver had a good defense last year, but some abysmal quarterback play, which led to a 7-10 record and the end of Vic Fangio’s tenure with the team. Las Vegas snuck into the playoffs after beating the Chargers in Week 18. Rich Bisaccia righted the ship after a season full of controversy and hardship.
There is no question both teams are better, but given the moves made by the Chargers (re-signing Mike Williams, signing J.C. Jackson and trading for Khalil Mack) and the continued presence of Patrick Mahomes, I’m hard pressed to say either Raiders or Broncos are a lock to make the playoffs, much less a true championship contender. All four teams are talented enough to make it, but the likelihood is someone will miss out because of how brutal those divisional games will be.
The all-in approach is one that I can respect. If you think you have a championship window, you should be doing everything possible to maximize it. The problem is, if you fall short after going all in, you wind up staring down a long rebuild without the resources necessary to do so. My prediction, none of the teams that went all in will win the Super Bowl this year. I think we are much more likely to see a team like the Chiefs, Packers or Buccaneers hoist the Lombardi trophy than a team like the Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins or Browns. What the Rams did is much harder to imitate than it might seem.
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Before we get into what was another wild weekend of action, we’ve got to talk about Jon Gruden. The now former Raiders coach resigned Monday night amid the fallout of the emails that surfaced this week. They are full of racist, misogynistic, bigoted language that seriously calls into question Gruden’s character.
I am happy that he will no longer be a coach in the NFL, but I do question why he was not fired. He unquestionably crossed a line, but the fact that his employment status was left up to him is concerning. Gruden apologized profusely, but seemed to be bothered by the fact that he was continually asked about the topic, almost dismissive of the significance of the situation. His apologies felt like he was simply going through the motions, even disingenuous. He just wanted to wipe his hands clean of it and move on, rather than address the damage done by the derogatory comments he made regarding several members of the NFL community.
There is no question that the NFL has a track record for sweeping serious allegations under the rug and often the league chooses to penalize those for drug use way more sternly than racism or even domestic violence. The NFL has certainly come a long way, but there is still a ton of room for improvement. Perhaps we will see future developments as the fallout from this email review continues. One can only hope.
Meanwhile, the NFL season continued to deliver exciting finishes. It helped that seemingly every kicker in the league forgot how to put the ball through the uprights. Let’s review Week 5 and take a look at how the league stacks up.
1. Arizona Cardinals: 5-0(Last Week: 1) Won 17-10 vs. San Francisco For the first time in a while, we have some stability at the top of the rankings. Arizona is proving that it can find multiple ways to win. Sunday was a defensive battle as the Cardinals had their fewest points of the season. However, they contained Trey Lance and did just enough offensively to earn their fifth win of the year. A huge test at Cleveland is up next.
2. Buffalo Bills: 4-1(Last Week: 2) Won 38-20 at Kansas City It’s just one impressive win after another for Buffalo these days. Josh Allen had some big plays, but it was the defense that truly won the day. Holding the Chiefs to 20 points is impressive. Add in four forced turnovers, including a pick-six, and you are talking about a dominant performance. While Kansas City has been struggling this year, this was still a big step for Buffalo. It is hard to find a more complete team in the league at this point.
3. Los Angeles Rams: 4-1(Last Week: 1) Won 26-17 at Seattle It wasn’t always pretty, but Matt Stafford put in a gutsy performance and the ground game got it done. Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel combined for 119 yards and two scores. Defensively, Los Angeles was doing a decent job of containing everyone not named D.K. Metcalf even before Russell Wilson got hurt. There were a couple of scares down the field, but the Rams bounced back with an important win in a really tough place to play.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-1(Last Week: 5) Won 45-17 vs. Miami Goodness Tom Brady looks good. After struggling against the Dolphins towards the end of his time with the Patriots, the 44-year-old aired it out for 411 yards and five touchdowns. Antonio Brown and Mike Evans looked unstoppable for much of the afternoon. On the other side of the ball, the secondary remains a work in progress, but the run defense is the best in the league. The Eagles are up next fresh off a surprising win over the Panthers.
5. Los Angeles Chargers:4-1 (Last Week: 6) Won 47-42 vs. Cleveland What a game! Justin Herbert was nearly flawless as he engineered some second-half heroics. There are certainly some red flags when it comes to the defense, which gave up a ton of yards and points. However, the Chargers made a stand when it mattered most with a fourth-down stop to win the game. The schedule doesn’t get any easier though with a visit to Baltimore on tap.
6. Baltimore Ravens: 4-1(Last Week: 7) Won 31-25 vs. Indianapolis Trailing 25-9 in the fourth quarter, it certainly looked like the Ravens were headed for an underwhelming upset. Instead, Lamar Jackson turned into Superman, leading a pair of scoring drives, complete with two-point conversions to tie the game. Baltimore certainly got some help from a few missed field goals and a missed extra point by Rodrigo Blankenship, but this was a stunning turnaround. If the Ravens can play anything like they did in the fourth quarter on a more consistent basis, they will be in really good shape.
7. Cleveland Browns 3-2(Last Week: 4) Lost 47-42 at Los Angeles As long as games like these continue to happen, questions will be asked about the Browns’ status as a true Super Bowl contender. For the second time this season, Cleveland blew a two-score lead against an AFC West opponent. This time, it blew a 27-13 third-quarter lead, only to rally in the fourth quarter and then surrender two touchdowns in under four minutes. It is hard to blame the offense after a 42-point outing, including 300 yards from Baker Mayfield and no turnovers. Life won’t get much easier as the undefeated Cardinals visit in Week 6.
8. Dallas Cowboys: 4-1(Last Week: 9) Won 44-20 vs. New York Outside of a two-point loss to open the season, the Cowboys are unbeaten and cruising. Dallas opened things up in the second half, but this game was actually very close before Daniel Jones exited the game. Perhaps the Cowboys always would have pulled away, but the Giants were a much worse team without him, Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay. Focusing on the positive though, Ezekiel Elliott went over the century mark and the team as a whole eclipsed 200 yards. That is a winning formula with the defense playing the best we’ve seen in years.
9. Green Bay Packers: 4-1(Last Week: 8) Won 25-22 at Cincinnati On one hand, the Packers picked up their fourth straight win in a tough road test that required overtime. On the other hand, Green Bay tried its hardest to lose this game, but Cincinnati would not oblige. It is clear the secondary is missing Jaire Alexander. The defense came up with a pair of clutch interceptions of Joe Burrow, but Ja’Marr Chase torched the Packers’ defensive backs on a 70-yard touchdown and had another deep score called back due to a penalty. Winning while ironing out the kinks is still a good place to be.
10. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-2 (Last Week: 15) Lost 25-22 vs. Green Bay Lose and move up five spots? Seems counterintuitive, but who do you put above them at this point? Cincinnati should have won this game. They certainly looked like the better team for much of the second half. Joe Burrow did not play his best game though and ultimately, the offense blew several chances to win the game. While all the Bengals do is play close games, they seem to be trending in the right direction.
11. New Orleans Saints:3-2(Last Week: 17) Won 33-22 at Washington Is the Jameis Winston experiment working? On the season, he has nearly 900 yards passing and 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions. However, he has also completed just 60 percent of his passes and continues to be fairly inconsistent. I suppose as long as the Saints win games, they won’t really care how pretty it is. Winston tossed four more touchdowns on Sunday, but went 15-of-30 throwing and New Orleans had the ball for just 23 minutes of game play. Thankfully, the defense forced Taylor Heinickie to play much worse in an important bounce back victory.
12. Kansas City Chiefs: 2-3(Last Week: 11) Lost 38-20 vs. Buffalo Losing is one thing. Losing badly at home and looking overmatched in every phase of the game in another. Patrick Mahomes continues his uneven start to the season. He tossed two more interceptions, matching his season total from 2020. Defensively, Kansas City needs a reset. The Chiefs give up huge plays and tons of points on a weekly basis. With the team unable to run the ball even before Clyde Edwards-Helaire left with an injury, the defense had no chance. Andy Reid has a lot of work to do.
13. Carolina Panthers:3-2(Last Week: 12) Lost 21-18 vs. Philadelphia So that’s why the Jets traded away Sam Darnold. Zach Wilson might have his own struggles, but Darnold imploded on Sunday, tossing three interceptions and only amassing 177 yards through the air. He had some help in the ground game as Chuba Hubbard racked up 101 yards. The defense did its job as well, recovering a fumble and limiting Jalen Hurts. This is a troubling loss for the Panthers, who will really hope they can get Christian McCaffrey back for Week 6.
14. Chicago Bears: 3-2(Last Week: 24) Won 20-9 at Las Vegas While Chicago picked up a solid win, its offense took a significant blow with the loss of David Montgomery. Through four weeks this season, he had the fourth-most carries in the league. How the Bears have found success this season has been by running the ball and trusting its defense to win the game. It remains to be seen if Damien Williams can pick up the slack.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-2 (Last Week: 10) Lost 20-9 vs. Chicago Suddenly, the Raiders are in free fall. After two straight comprehensive defeats, Las Vegas lost its head coach as Jon Gruden resigned on Monday. Now, Rich Bisaccia takes over as head coach with the near impossible task of blocking out all of the off-the-field distractions that will inevitably follow in the coming weeks. Derek Carr has clearly regressed after a hot start and Josh Jacobs continues to be one of the least effective running backs in the league. It will be very interesting to see how the team responds in Denver this upcoming week.
16. San Francisco 49ers:2-3(Last Week: 14) Lost 17-10 at Arizona The Trey Lance era got off to a pretty lackluster start. The rookie quarterback was solid, but the offense only managing 10 points is definitely an indictment on his level of play. Defensively, it was a good sign to see San Francisco hold Arizona to just 17 points. Kyler Murray looked fairly ordinary as the 49ers ensured he could not use his legs to beat them. It was a winning strategy, the offense just needs to play a bit better.
17. Tennessee Titans:3-2(Last Week: 21) Won 37-19 at Jacksonville Tennessee shook off the disappointment of its overtime loss in New York by avoiding another letdown. Kevin Byard got in on the action with a scoop and score to set the tone. Then Derrick Henry pummeled the Jaguars defense to the tune of 130 yards and three touchdowns. There are still some red flags, like James Robinson racking up 149 yards and 8.3 yards per carry. Mike Vrabel’s defense is still a weak spot, one that will need to get sorted out as the year rolls on.
18. Minnesota Vikings: 2-3(Last Week: 18) Won 19-17 vs. Detroit Minnesota came very close to blowing this game. Greg Joseph’s walk-off field goal secured the win, but against a winless team like the Lions, that is not a win to be proud of. For the second straight week, Kirk Cousins and company struggled. Some of that can be attributed to missing Dalvin Cook, but this team has enough playmakers otherwise to account for that. This team has a few close losses on the year against quality teams, but you would like to see them be a bit more convincing against the NFC North basement dweller.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers:2-3(Last Week: 23) Won 27-19 vs. Denver Suddenly, things do not seem as bleak in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger played well against a solid Broncos defense. The biggest talking point though has to be the Steelers finally managing to run the ball. Najee Harris led the way with his first 100-yard game in the pros as Pittsburgh finished with 147 yards on the ground. Establishing the run has to be a priority going forward, especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster potentially out for the season.
20. Denver Broncos: 3-2(Last Week: 16) Lost 27-19 at Pittsburgh It is certainly looking like the Broncos were the beneficiary of a very weak schedule to open the season. After a second straight loss in which the defense didn’t not look as strong nor the offense as potent, it is fair to turn the heat back up on Vic Fangio. Denver moved the ball well, but could not turn drives into touchdowns, settling for two field goals in the first half. Teddy Bridgewater tossed a game-ending interception in the end zone on fourth and goal, so this was certainly a close game. Unfortunately, close doesn’t count for anything in the NFL.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-3 (Last Week: 25) Won 21-18 at Carolina Philly’s offense looked lifeless through nearly 45 minutes of this game. Jalen Hurts did not look sharp throwing the ball, managing just 5.4 yards per attempt on top of an interception. Thankfully, the defense and special teams stepped up to bail the offense out. Three interceptions of Sam Darnold and a critical blocked punt sparked two late touchdown runs from Hurts to pick up a seemingly improbable win. The Eagles will need to be sharper heading into a short week with the Buccaneers on the docket.
22. Seattle Seahawks:2-3(Last Week: 13) Lost 26-17 vs. Los Angeles It is time to panic in Seattle. Dropping below .500 in a home divisional loss and losing Russell Wilson for at least a month is about as worst-case scenario as you can get. Geno Smith showed some ability to bridge the gap, but with the Steelers, Saints, Packers and Cardinals coming up in four of the Seahawks’ next five games, it is hard to see a path to the playoffs without Wilson. None of this even covers the concerns for the secondary in Seattle. Robert Woods was open on seemingly every play and Jamaal Adams misplayed a floating pass to DeSean Jackson. Week 6 will be very telling for what to expect next.
23. New England Patriots: 2-3(Last Week: 19) Won 25-22 at Houston Goodness this was ugly. New England scored 16 unanswered points to top Houston. Bill Belichick, notorious for flustering rookie quarterbacks, could not slow down Davis Mills for much of the game. The former Stanford quarterback threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. The biggest issue for this Patriots team is the inability to score touchdowns. Mac Jones has been solid, but the Pats rank 26th in points per game. They showed some grit to complete the comeback, but the Texans lost 40-0 a week ago. This performance left a lot to be desired.
24. Indianapolis Colts:1-4(Last Week: 22) Lost 31-25 at Baltimore I still don’t know how the Colts lost this game. Leading 22-3 in the closing minutes of the third quarter, it seemed like Indianapolis was well on its way to a much-needed road victory to shake off a lackluster start to the season. Instead, the Colts choked, capped off by a pair of missed field goals and a missed extra point by Rodrigo Blankenship. While it is easy to blame the kicker, Indy’s usually stout defense surrendered over 500 yards and 22 unanswered points. That is inexcusable. Frank Reich has some soul searching to do.
25. Washington:2-3(Last Week: 20) Won 34-30 at Atlanta Seriously, what happened? Two teams in the NFL are giving up at least 31 points per game so far this season. Washington and Kansas City. That is 10.4 more points per game than Ron Rivera’s side allowed a year ago. After adding William Jackson III and Jamin Davis, it seemed like Washington was set to be even better. Instead, the pass rush is nonexistent and the number of turnovers has dropped precipitously. It didn’t help that Taylor Henickie had a game to forget as well, but this defense is the biggest issue.
26. Atlanta Falcons: 2-3 (Last Week:28) Won 27-20 vs. New York The score looks closer than this game truly was. Despite missing Calvin Ridley, the Falcons offense was clicking. Matt Ryan reached 300 yards for the second time this season and tossed a pair of touchdowns. Atlanta’s defense was phenomenal in the first half as well, holding New York to just three points. The Jets closed the gap to 20-17 in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons closed it out with a late touchdown. Arthur Smith now gets a bye week to figure out how to beat a team that doesn’t play in New York.
27. New York Giants: 1-4(Last Week: 27) Lost 44-20 at Dallas Let’s not be too hard on the Giants. Before Daniel Jones got hurt, New York was level with Dallas. With Jones, Saquon Barkley, Andrew Thomas, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and more all missing in the second half, everything fell apart. A pair of interceptions from Mike Glennon and some poor run defense ended any hopes of the Giants staying competitive. If possible, a tougher test awaits with the Rams on tap.
28. Miami Dolphins:1-4(Last Week: 26) Lost 45-17 at Tampa Bay Sure, not having Tua Tagovailoa certainly hurts Miami’s top-end potential, but what gives defense? Brian Flores had one of the best units in the league firing on all cylinders in 2020. This year, the Dolphins rank 30th in yards and points allowed per game. Getting your quarterback isn’t going to fix all of that. The pass rush is lacking and the secondary looks overmatched. Tom Brady put up numbers he has never hit in his illustrious career on Sunday. Flores needs to rejuvenate this group as soon as possible.
29. Houston Texans: 1-4 (Last Week: 30) Lost 25-22 vs. New England While the result is incredibly disappointing, especially considering that the Texans collapsed in the second half, this was a huge improvement from Week 4. Davis Mills showed signs that he could be the quarterback of the future in Houston, which would be a massive development for this team. The Texans were never supposed to be good this year, so finding some players to fill key roles in the future while remaining competitive is a perfectly fine outcome. Hopefully, David Culley takes some notes on this loss to avoid blowing a big lead in the future.
30. Detroit Lions: 0-5 (Last Week: 31) Lost 19-17 at Minnesota Detroit is two last-second field goals away from being 2-3 with wins over the Ravens and Vikings. The Lions were fairly mediocre offensively, but this defense continues to impress. Kirk Cousins never looked totally comfortable and they forced two turnovers. Dan Campbell has won over this locker room and has Detroit playing his brand of football. It isn’t always pretty, but it often makes up for the difference in talent. The schedule doesn’t offer up any obvious opportunities for a win, but I think a win will come soon enough for this team.
31. New York Jets: 1-4 (Last Week: 29) Lost 27-20 at Atlanta Didn’t the Jets fire Adam Gase? You wouldn’t have known it watching New York’s offense in the first half in London? The offense ran just eight plays in the first 20 minutes of the game. They then had a 16-play drive that ended in a field goal. The defense didn’t do too much to help the cause either outside of forcing a fumble to set up said field goal. Serious questions have to be asked about Mike LaFleur after a fifth straight abysmal start.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-5 (Last Week: 32) Lost 37-19 vs. Tennessee Same old Jaguars. A win was always a tough ask, but an 18-point blowout against a team that just got beat by the Jets is not a great look. The team ran the ball well and Trevor Lawrence had some moments, but the defense looked helpless to stop Derrick Henry and failed to force a turnover. Jacksonville has a league low one forced turnover this season and a league-worse -10 turnover differential. Urban Meyer is out of the news with Jon Gruden taking center stage, but the pressure is still on.
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It’s almost time for football! Training camp is getting underway and the NFL rumor mill is in full effect. Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and even Chandler Jones could be on the move.
There will be plenty of time to get into all of the potential scenarios for the big names looking for a change of scenery. I wanted to take a look at where every coach in the NFL stands though as we approach the preseason. Every year, we see about seven or eight head coaching openings in the league. Those openings don’t happen without a coach losing his job. Here is an early look at which coaches could be sweating it out at the end of the season. My plan is to update this list at the midway point and again after the regular season.
New York Jets – Robert Saleh Heat Index: 🔥 A rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. It’s the first time the Jets have ever had both heading into the same season in franchise history. That takes the pressure off everyone here. While seeing a massive turnaround from a 2-14 season would be great, it is not expected. As long as Saleh can show signs that he is putting the pieces in place for future success, that’s all that matters. Besides, after dealing with Adam Gase for two years, Saleh will be a breath of fresh air.
New England Patriots – Bill Belichick Heat Index: 🔥🔥 Could the Patriots really fire Bill Belichick? It feels unlikely. At this point, I think it is more likely Belichick retires or leaves on his own accord than being fired. Still, after a very rocky 2020 season, the Patriots spent a ton of money in the offseason to retool their roster. They also spent a first round pick on Mac Jones. If New England takes a step backward though and the offense flops again, maybe the team could think about making a change. Again, it feels incredibly unlikely, but the expectations are certainly higher for the Patriots in 2021.
Buffalo Bills – Sean McDermott Heat Index: 🔥🔥 The Bills are entering a clear championship window in the final two years of Josh Allen’s rookie deal. Allen took a massive step in 2020 and put together an MVP-caliber campaign. If he can come close to replicating that performance, Buffalo will be very capable of winning its first Super Bowl in franchise history. In order to get to that point, Sean McDermott needs to get the defense back to its 2019 form. With higher expectations comes increased pressure. It would take a truly miserable season for McDermott to lose his job, but he has to deliver.
Miami Dolphins – Brian Flores Heat Index: 🔥 Honestly, if the Dolphins went 0-17 and Tua Tagovailoa lost his starting job to Jacoby Brissett, I think Brian Flores might still keep his job. He is a ton setter and a great culture builder. Let’s be clear, I don’t expect the above scenario to come true. Miami came up one game short of reaching the playoffs in an incredibly competitive AFC. Even if Tagovailoa falters again, I think Flores would get a chance to pick another quarterback and continue building the framework of this team.
Indianapolis Colts – Frank Reich Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥 Which direction are the Colts headed? The team has a championship-caliber roster in a lot of areas. Their front seven is incredible. The secondary should be even better in 2021. The offensive line is definitely among the top five units in the league. They lack a true No. 1 receiver at this point, but they have depth at the skill positions. It now all falls on Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. Indianapolis acquired Wentz this offseason for a decent amount of draft capital, reuniting him with his offensive coordinator from his early days in Philadelphia. If the Colts struggle in what looks to be a fairly weak AFC South and miss the postseason, there could be some significant turnover in Indy.
Houston Texans – David Culley Heat Index: 🔥 If there was ever a team that could be accused of tanking in the NFL, it has to be the Houston Texans. After releasing franchise icon J.J. Watt amid a massive quarterback controversy on the heels of a 4-12 season, it seems like the Texans are entering a long rebuild. With limited draft capital in recent years, this roster has a massive talent deficit compared to the rest of the league. The roster building is confusing as well, as the team continues to target veteran running backs. Deshaun Watson was likely not going to play this season before his pending legal situation unfolded. Now it seems certain he will not see the field in 2021. All of this is to say, there is absolutely no pressure on David Culley to succeed this season.
Tennessee Titans – Mike Vrabel Heat Index: 🔥🔥 Mike Vrabel has the Titans playing at an extremely high level. They are tough, determined and disciplined, which is usually a product of good coaching. After making a splashy move to land Julio Jones, the pressure is on for Tennessee to make a deep postseason run. With Arthur Smith heading to Atlanta, it is going to be interesting to see if the Titans can maintain their offensive success. A major step backward could see Vrabel come under scrutiny. I think his job is safe, but stranger things have happened.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Urban Meyer Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥 It is very bizarre to say a first-year head coach is on the hot seat, but Urban Meyer is unlike most rookie coaches. Meyer comes with a ton of clout from his days at Ohio State and Florida. He also just drafted arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. The heat here mostly stems from Meyer’s checked history with team culture. The league fined the Jaguars $200,000 for OTA violations and slapped Meyer with a $100,000 fine of his own. The fines stemmed from breaking the non-contact rules of OTAs. This comes on the heels of Meyer hiring former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Doyle resigned one day after his hire following a chorus of former Hawkeyes saying he discriminated against them. The Jaguars have a chance to build something special around Trevor Lawrence. There have already been red flags. Jacksonville needs to be sure it has the best possible system in place for Lawrence to succeed.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥 With Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh seemingly at its end, could the Steelers opt for a fresh start and move on from Mike Tomlin as well? It certainly feels possible. Despite winning the AFC North and reaching the playoffs, Pittsburgh struggled mightily down the stretch, including a dismal playoff loss against the rival Browns. With no clear succession plan in place and a roster coming up against the cap, the Steelers could look to rebuild with a new coach and a new quarterback.
Baltimore Ravens– John Harbaugh Heat Index: 🔥🔥 A few years ago ago, it felt very possible the Ravens were set to move on from John Harbaugh. Baltimore missed the playoffs from 2015-2017. Joe Flacco was struggling. The defense was far from its championship-winning dominance in 2012. Lamar Jackson likely saved Harbaugh’s job. Baltimore is now among the top title contenders heading into 2021. Harbaugh feels very safe, but there is always a scenario where he could not be back. There have been concerns around the Ravens offense being too one dimensional with Jackson at the helm. Finally winning a playoff game took the edge off, but if Baltimore somehow misses the postseason in 2021, the heat will be turned up on Harbaugh.
Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski Heat Index: 🔥 After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1994, Kevin Stefanski is among the safest coaches in the league. His run-heavy approach was incredibly successful, utilizing the two-headed attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to great effect. Stefanski also put Baker Mayfield’s career back on the right path. Now, there are still questions that persist around Mayfield, but after investing heavily in the defense, he might not need to do much for the Browns to be successful again.
Cincinnati Bengals – Zac Taylor Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥🔥 Through two years on the job, Zac Taylor owns an ugly 6-25-1 record as a head coach. Some of that is a product of joining a team in the midst of a rebuild, but this is the year to start seeing some progress. Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future in Cincinnati. Coming off a gruesome knee injury, expectations will be tamped down some for Burrow, but another double-digit loss season could cost Taylor his job. The team needs to take advantage of Burrow being on his rookie contract and can’t afford to waste another year of his development and that salary cap window waiting to see if Taylor can put together a winning formula.
Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid Heat Index: 🔥 Unsurprisingly, the pressure seems to be fairly low on Andy Reid. He delivered the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since 1970 in 2019. He led the team back to the big game in 2020 despite having an offensive line decimated by injuries. It cost the Chiefs a chance at repeating, but Kansas City is expected to be among the top contenders to lift the Lombardi in 2021. As long as Reid and Patrick Mahomes are still clicking, the Chiefs are going to be among the best teams in the league.
Denver Broncos – Vic Fangio Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 Maybe this is a bit warmer than Vic Fangio truly deserves, but the Broncos are heading into a pivotal season. The team put a lot of faith in Drew Lock by passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones on draft night. Courtland Sutton is back after missing 2020 due to injury. So is Von Miller. Winning the division is an incredibly tall task at this point with the Chiefs leading the way, but it feels like the Broncos need to be in the playoff conversation for Fangio to keep his job. Another five-win season with suspect quarterback play and a subpar defense is going to trigger a rebuild.
Los Angeles Chargers – Brandon Staley Heat Index: 🔥 Brandon Staley walks into a fantastic situation. He has a talented defense with a number of proven playmakers. He inherits one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in the league in Justin Herbert. Los Angeles is also stocked with some reliable playmakers on offense with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. The Chargers are simply looking to take a step in the right direction this year. Anthony Lynn was a good coach, but struggled with time management and maintaining leads. If Staley can show an ability to at least be average in those two areas, he will be a major improvement and the Chargers will be at least a league average team.
Las Vegas Raiders – Jon Gruden Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 At what point are the Raiders going to put it all together? Heading into his fourth year of his second stint with the franchise, Jon Gruden has yet to post a winning record or reach the postseason. Las Vegas had its moments in 2020, but on the whole it was a disappointing campaign. If the Raiders don’t show signs of progress, expect a rebuild to follow. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have had ample opportunity to shape this team how they want it to. Now it is time for the results to follow.
New York Giants– Joe Judge Heat Index: 🔥🔥 Only entering his second year, Joe Judge might be a victim of circumstance more than anything else if he were to lose his job after this season. New York had a rocky 2020 campaign, finishing 6-10 and struggling to figure out its direction offensively. The Giants are in for a much better season in 2021. Saquon Barkley should be healthy at some point early in the year. Dave Gettleman invested draft capital at wide receiver and edge rusher, two positions of need. However, if Daniel Jones struggles and New York suffers through another 6-10 season, Gettleman will almost definitely be gone and the Giants will be looking to find a new franchise quarterback. If there is already that much turnover, Judge could be gone as well.
Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Sirianni Heat Index: 🔥🔥 It is incredibly rare that coaches are fired after just one season. However, it has also happened twice in the past three years. Steve Wilks only got a single season in Arizona and was fired after 2018. Cleveland canned Freddie Kitchen after a disappointing 2019 campaign. It’s not out of the question for the 2021 season either. I already touched on Meyer. Nick Sirianni is not facing as much pressure as his Jacksonville counterpart, but Philadelphia has never been known for being patient. Sirianni inherits a team with more questions than answers at a number of key positions, namely quarterback. If Jalen Hurts flames out and Sirianni shows no signs of building a positive culture, I could see a scenario where ownership decides to clean house.
Dallas Cowboys– Mike McCarthy Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 Speaking of coaches lasting one year with a team, there was some buzz that Mike McCarthy could be done after a single season in Dallas. Even before Dak Prescott went down for the season, the Cowboys looked outmatched. It got much worse after that. McCarthy did enough to somehow earn a second year, but now the pressure is on. Dallas needs to win the NFC East for McCarthy to keep his job. It is an incredibly weak division and the Cowboys have the most talented roster, at least on paper. McCarthy might even need to win a playoff game to truly secure his place in 2022.
Washington Football Team – Ron Rivera Heat Index: 🔥🔥 Ron Rivera seems to have endeared himself well to the fans and to the locker room in D.C. After scraping together a playoff appearance despite a losing record, Washington still has not addressed the quarterback position long term. If it takes a step back in 2021, I don’t think that will be enough to force Rivera out. It would take a truly terrible season to see him lose his job. However, there will be those who feel like Washington’s defense gives them a good chance to repeat as division champions. Expectations lead to increased pressure. Given what we’ve seen in recent years, nothing is out of the question.
Atlanta Falcons – Arthur Smith Heat Index: 🔥 After impressing as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Arthur Smith has earned the chance to lead a team of his own. The Falcons are coming off a tough season full of late-game collapses and bad injury luck. Atlanta is caught in limbo as well. They have some veteran players that would make you believe they want to contend, mainly Matt Ryan. The front office gave Ryan a vote of confidence, or realized they could not afford to move him, when it passed on Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Instead, they grabbed an elite pass-catcher in Kyle Pitts for Ryan to work with. That feels like a move towards contending in the short term. Then, the Falcons traded Julio Jones to Smith’s former team. Like I said, the team is in limbo. I think that bodes well for Smith’s job security while Atlanta attempts to figure out its direction moving forward.
New Orleans Saints – Sean Payton Heat Index: 🔥🔥 It is the end of an era in the Bayou. Drew Brees’ retirement leaves the Saints with uncertainty at quarterback for the first time in a decade and a half. New Orleans is also in salary cap hell after loading up to contend in the future Hall of Famers’ final few years. Now, the Saints seem set for a step backward. Where does that leave Sean Payton? He has shown he can win games without Brees in recent years with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill stepping in to lead the team when Brees went down with injury. I think the pressure is likely off for Payton in 2021. It is a year for the Saints to retool their roster and identify their new franchise quarterback. If New Orleans tanks, Payton’s seat could get warmer, but I expect him to be back in 2022.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bruce Arians Heat Index: 🔥 The only way Bruce Arians is not the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 is if he decides to retire after the season. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers brought back essentially their entire roster to make a run at a repeat. Even if Tampa suffers from a major Super Bowl hangover and misses the postseason, it would be a rash move to fire Arians. He has the trust of Tom Brady, which goes a really long way in securing his position on one of the best teams in the league.
Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule Heat Index: 🔥 2020 was a rebuilding year for the Panthers. Carolina rebuilt its defense in the 2020 NFL draft, gave Teddy Bridgewater a try at quarterback and lost their best player for most of the season due to injury as Christian McCaffrey played in just three games. Honestly, going 5-11 was a decent feat given how young Carolina’s starters were on both sides of the ball. Matt Rhule has earned the title of one of the best teachers in the game. His coaching skills were showcased during the Senior Bowl this past January. Given that the Panthers made a move to acquire Sam Darnold, I think the expectations will be slightly higher, but I still don’t think Rhule has anything to worry about heading into 2021.
Detroit Lions – Dan Campbell Heat Index: 🔥 If Detroit goes 1-16 in 2021, that might just be mission accomplished for the Lions. Avoiding a winless season and setting the team up to find its quarterback of the future would be a solid start to what will likely be a long rebuild. Dan Campbell likely won’t let any of that happen. He is competitive as hell and I think we could see the Lions win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t simply by putting in a ton of effort. Campbell is going to have his team motivated to play every week. Unless his tough as nails persona rubs players the wrong way in the locker room, I think Campbell will be given a few more years to rebuild this team.
Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥🔥 Drafting Justin Fields likely takes a little bit of heat off Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. However, I don’t think it changes a tremendous amount for how this duo needs to approach the 2021 season. It needs to be clear at the end of the year that Fields is on track to be a franchise quarterback and that Nagy is the right person to help him reach his potential. Nagy was lucky to keep his job following a 2020 season where Chicago’s offense was nothing short of anemic. The combination of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky was tough to watch. David Montgomery having a breakout season made up for some of those deficits, but the Bears need to show major progress offensive. It does not mean they will suddenly become the Chiefs or the Buccaneers, but fewer turnovers and sharper play will go a long way.
Green Bay Packers– Matt LaFleur Heat Index: 🔥🔥 Much of how Matt LaFleur will be judged stems from what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Will management blame him for the fractured relationship with the 2020 MVP? Unlikely, seeing as Rodgers’ issues seem to stem more from how the front office operates. There are two ways to spin LaFleur’s tenure in Green Bay. The Packers have reached back-to-back NFC Championship games and dominated the NFC North. For reference, Seattle was the last NFC team to reach back-to-back conference title games in 2012 and 2013. However, unlike the Seahawks, the Packers have been unable to get over the hump. Could another year where the team comes up short in the postseason raise enough questions about LaFleur’s ability to win the biggest games of the year to cost him his job? That seems bold, but don’t rule it out.
Minnesota Vikings – Mike Zimmer Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥 Mike Zimmer said after the 2020 season that Minnesota’s defense was the worst he ever coached. Enter Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, Dalvin Tomlinson, Chazz Surratt and Patrick Jones II. Now, it falls on Zimmer to get the most out of this new talent. Kirk Cousins is locked in through 2022, but another lackluster season from the Vikings could get the wheels turning on a rebuild. Especially if Aaron Rodgers does not play this season, this is Minnesota’s division to lose. Failing to do so would be a major letdown that would likely cost Zimmer his job.
Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥 An underperforming defense, inconsistent play and a disgruntled star quarterback are a recipe for losing your job as a head coach in the NFL. Pete Carroll has the Seahawks in the mix as a playoff regular, but they have not made it past the division round since their 2014 Super Bowl loss. With Russell Wilson complaining this offseason about his offensive line, it certainly will turn up the scrutiny on Seattle’s performance this season. Another early playoff exit highlighted by a team that can’t quite put it all together could spell the end of Carroll’s tenure.
Arizona Cardinals – Kliff Kingsbury Heat Index: 🔥🔥🔥 Entering his third year in charge of the Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury needs to start producing some results. Arizona came close to reaching the playoffs in 2020, losing the tiebreaker to Chicago for the final spot. However, after starting 5-2, the Cardinals limped to a 3-6 finish. I mean limped literally as well because the team started to struggle right around the time Kyler Murray suffered an ankle injury. Murray still has three years left on his rookie deal, which gives Arizona a fairly lengthy Super Bowl window, but this year feels like an important one to show some progress after signing veterans like J.J. Watt, Malcolm Butler and James Conner to an already talented roster.
Los Angeles Rams – Sean McVay Heat Index: 🔥🔥 While Cam Akers certainly strikes a blow to Los Angeles’ title hopes, it should not drastically change the team’s expectations for 2021. After making the bold move to acquire Matthew Stafford, the Rams are positioning themselves as championship contenders. Taking all of that into account, I still think Sean McVay is entrenched in the organization that he can weather an underwhelming season. Long praised as one of the great offensive minds in the sport, McVay has proven himself to be valuable to this franchise. After all, the team is only three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Not to mention, the Rams upset the Seahawks in Seattle with an injured Jared Goff at quarterback. I think McVay is likely safe, but expectations are high for this Rams team heading into 2021.
San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Shanahan Heat Index: 🔥 After slogging through a ridiculous season of injuries, the 49ers seem poised to bounce back in a big way in 2021. However, the team is also facing a changing of the guard at quarterback after selecting Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in April. I think that actually increases the likelihood Kyle Shanahan keeps his job. He is praised as an offensive guru who has developed several quarterbacks in his coaching career. On top of that, he and general manager John Lynch signed six-year extensions following a Super Bowl appearance. Shanahan will be around for a while in San Francisco.
If you thought Day 1 was wild, Day 2 went off the rails! Tampa, Minnesota and Houston all participated in a mini quarterback run. Dave Gettleman traded down, again! The Cowboys and Ravens took players that most draft fans have never even heard of. All in all, it was a lot to digest.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s piece, I will not be grading picks. I think it is premature to judge a team for selecting a player that has not taken an NFL snap yet, much less starting going through rookie OTAs.
That doesn’t mean we can’t react to all that unfolded on Day 2. Here are my biggest surprises from Friday night followed by my best players still on the board.
Houston’s first pick is a quarterback There is a good chance we have already seen Deshaun Watson’s last game in a Texans uniform. Houston all but confirmed that by selecting Davis Mills with the 67th pick in the draft. The front office has refused to enter trade talks regarding Watson. His pending legal situation has scared off all potential suitors anyway. Mills is essentially an unknown in this draft class. He appeared in just 13 games during his college career. Injuries kept him from featuring more for the Cardinal. However, he was a five-star recruit and has some flashes of utter brilliance on his tape. With two veterans ahead of him in Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Finley, the Texans gave themselves a young quarterback to develop. It was a smart move all things considered, but definitely a bit unexpected given that it was their first selection of the draft.
Owusu-Koramoah kept on sliding Clearly, the media was way higher on this guy than the NFL was. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fell all the way to No. 52, where the Browns traded up to select him. At first glance, Cleveland is crushing it. In my book, it landed a pair of first-round players. Just how wrong was everyone in the media? NFL Mock Draft Database had JOK at No. 19 on its consensus big board, which pulls from hundreds of rankings. The consensus draft slot for him was to the Raiders at No. 17. I talked about it in my first-round reaction, I think he is a perfect fit in the modern NFL. He is fast enough to line up all over the formation. Maybe Isaiah Simmons’ inability to make a seamless transition to the pros hurt his stock, but this is truly a mystery to me. Falling out of the first round is one thing. Falling into the middle of the second is another.
Raiders reverse course with second-round steal Trevon Moehrig was viewed by many as the top safety in this class, myself included. He ended up being the third player selected at the position on Friday. What is really interesting about this is that no one would have batted an eye if the Raiders had flipped these two picks. I guess all is well that ends well. I still don’t fully understand the Alex Leatherwood pick at No. 17, but Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden made up for it in a big way by landing Moehrig, a Day 1 starting-caliber player.
Top interior linemen fall Interior linemen were a hot commodity on Day 2. Landon Dickerson got things started, which made a ton of sense for an Eagles team in need of interior line help. What transpired afterward was unexpected. Jackson Carman, who played tackle in college but will likely kick inside for the Bengals, came off the board at 46. It was a bit early for my liking, but it filled a clear position of need. Even more shocking was San Francisco taking Aaron Banks two picks later. I didn’t have him in my top 100 as he was 10th-rated interior lineman. Green Bay piled on by taking Josh Myers at the end of the second. I had him 17th among interior linemen. Meanwhile, my first and second interior linemen, Wyatt Davis and Creed Humphrey respectively, were still on the board. Kansas City ended Humphrey’s fall in what looks like a great fit for their offense. Davis slid all the way to Round 3, landing in Minnesota.
Who needs blocking? For three picks in a row, I felt like we could have seen any number of offensive linemen come off the board. Instead, Pittsburgh selected Pat Freiermuth, Seattle tabbed D’Wayne Eskridge, Los Angeles picked Tutu Atwell. All three of those teams need offensive line help. Creed Humphrey, Jalen Mayfield and Wyatt Davis were all on the board. The Steelers offensive line crumbled down the stretch, leading to an early exit in the playoffs. Russell Wilson told the Seahawks he wanted a better offensive line this offseason. Los Angeles has less of a need, but Andrew Whitworth turns 40 in December and Austin Blythe left in free agency. For Seattle especially, who only has two more picks in the draft, it was definitely questionable to ignore the offensive line. Pittsburgh finally took an offensive lineman in the third round.
What happened to Jabril Cox? Coming into the draft, Cox was a fixture in the second round of mock drafts. He is by far my best player available. After years of feeling like the NFL was trending towards smaller, faster linebackers, it seems like the league is pushing back on that notion, at least a little bit. It’s not like linebackers were not being selected. Seven different off-ball linebackers came off the board between rounds two and three. Perhaps it was because teams did not get a chance to see Cox run at his pro day. I’m pretty much at a loss otherwise to explain why he is still on the board. Now, I just want the Jets to take him at 107.
Who are Brandon Stephens and Nahshon Wright? There are usually a few players in every draft class that I have never heard of. They don’t usually come off the board in the third round. The Cowboys took Nahshon Wright from Oregon State 99th overall stunning pretty much everyone. He is incredibly long, standing 6’4″ with nearly 33-inch arms. NFL Mock Draft Database has his consensus ranking as the 294th prospect in this class. Reminder: there are only 259 picks. Maybe Dallas knows something we don’t, but this feels really early for a player that was likely not going before the sixth round. Baltimore followed it up by taking Brandon Stephens out of SMU. The database had him ranked 424th overall. These two guys came from way off the radar, but in a year when the whole scouting process has been disrupted, this was bound to happen.
Best Players Available
We still have more than half of the draft to go. 105 picks down means that there are still 145 still to go. Heading into Day 3, here are my top remaining prospects:
36. Jabril Cox, LB, LSU 45. Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa 48. Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami 53. Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami 54. Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh 63. Jay Tufele, DL, USC 66. James Hudson III, OT, Cincinnati (Second-round cut off) 72. Trey Smith, G, Tennessee 79. Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina 81. Michael Carter, RB, UNC 83. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State 84. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama 86. Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State 87. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC (Third-round cut off) 92. Tyler Shelvin, DL, LSU 93. Nolan Laufenburg, G, Air Force 94. Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas 97. Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan 99. Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State 100. Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss
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We hyped it up for months. The NFL draft delivered. After the first two picks went off as expected, San Francisco pulled the first surprise of the draft and we were off and running. Three receivers went in the top 10. Four if you count Kyle Pitts. The Raiders ruined everyone’s mock draft, as we have come to expect by now. In short, it was a wild and exciting night.
I will continue to say, it is too early to hand out draft grades. At some point in the near future, I will go back and regrade the 2016 NFL draft. You need about five years to evaluate a draft class, and even then, that might not be enough.
Still, there is plenty of room for initial reactions to everything that just went down in Cleveland. Let’s review the biggest surprises from Thursday and take a look at the best players still available.
San Francisco fooled (almost) everyone Shortly after the 49ers traded up to the No. 3 pick, it came out that Kyle Shanahan loved Mac Jones as a prospect. For weeks, speculation ran wild that Jones was going to be the pick. He fit the mold of what Shanahan loved in a quarterback and would give San Francisco a chance to win now with a healthier roster. Jones is pro ready and brought a lot of similar traits to Kirk Cousins, whom Shanahan found success with in Washington. It just made sense. Then, the narrative started to change. Rumors started to circulate that the 49ers were undecided on the pick, weighing Trey Lance and Justin Fields as well. As it turns out, they were not set on Jones. My initial reaction is that John Lynch and the front office got this absolutely right. After a few years of feeling like they were leaking information, we all knew the 49ers liked Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk last year, San Francisco kept a lid on their draft plans for this year.
Philly and Dallas made a trade with … each other? What in the world just happened? Apparently, the Cowboys hate the Giants more than they hate the Eagles. Philadelphia sent a third-round pick to Dallas to jump New York, taking the Heisman trophy winner, DeVonta Smith. The move reunites Smith with his college quarterback back at Alabama in 2017 and part of 2018. Jalen Hurts was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa before Smith was really part of the starting lineup, but there is at least some familiarity there. It is an interesting move by Jerry Jones. I guess he decided that he would rather take the extra third round pick if he was going to play against Smith twice a year regardless. Overall, savvy move by both sides that forced Dave Gettleman to trade down for the first time ever as a general manager.
Why do we even bother mocking picks to the Raiders anymore? Speculation about what Las Vegas could do with the 17th pick was all over the place. I thought Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was a great fit. My co-host on the Draft Season Never Ends podcast James Schiano predicted the Raiders would tab Teven Jenkins. He was closer, but Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden shocked everyone again by taking Alex Leatherwood. I had a late second-round grade on Leatherwood, ranking him 59th overall. ESPN showed a graphic that said its draft prediction algorithm gave the Alabama tackle a 60 percent chance of still being available when Las Vegas picked in the second round at 46. It was another head-scratching move, but this is what Mayock and Gruden do. In 2019, they stunned everyone by selecting Clelin Ferrell fourth overall. Last year, Las Vegas reached to draft Damon Arnette in the first round. This organization clearly has a very different outlook on the scouting process than everyone else in football.
Clemson backfield reunited in Jacksonville Everyone and their fiancée had the Jaguars selecting Trevor Lawrence first overall in their mock drafts. It was a done deal. What we didn’t expect was for Jacksonville to take a running back with its second pick of the first round. Travis Etienne is an electric player in the open field and there was some speculation the team could look to add a complementary running back to support James Robinson. Taking Etienne in round one is a stunner though. As the league as a whole continues to devalue the position, Jacksonville suddenly has two starting-caliber options. Urban Meyer said he was going to take the best player available, but this is puzzling. Especially when you consider that Meyer told reporters that Etienne was going to be used as a third-down back. Excuse me? Very bizarre roster-building strategy indeed. Love the player, just wonder if maybe the Jaguars could have used the pick to fill a more pressing need on a roster with a lot of holes.
Payton Turner sneaks into the first round I did not see this one coming. I had heard some buzz earlier in the day that Payton Turner could be a potential first-round pick, but I chalked that up to draft day noise. Turns out, it was spot on. He had been trending up recently, according to NFL Mock Draft Database. Only The Score had him ranked in the first round from what I can find, with his average ranking topping out at 68 overall. Turner was the second-to-last player to earn a third-round grade from me. He is long and agile though, so I can see the appeal for New Orleans, especially after losing Trey Hendrickson in free agency. Turner is also a really good fit in the Saints’ 4-3 system. However, considering that the team has Cameron Jordan and former first-round pick Marcus Davenport already on the roster, this has to go down as a bit of a surprise given the team’s other needs at corner, linebacker and receiver.
No JOK on Day 1 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was viewed as a lock by many in the media to go in the first round. He was a rangy coverage linebacker who could line up at safety and nickel corner. He is my top-rated player still available heading into Day 2. Did Isaiah Simmons’ struggles as a rookie sour the whole league on Owusu-Koramoah? It seems unlikely, but I am unsure how else to explain why one of the fastest linebackers in this class fell out of the first round. As the NFL has trended more and more toward linebackers who are lighter and quicker, JOK felt like a perfect fit for the modern NFL defense. He could easily go No. 33 overall to the Jaguars, who could use someone with his coverage ability in their defense. Much as I said about Josh Jones last year though, it is unclear when exactly his slide will stop.
Best Players Available
That is what stood out to me from the first night of the NFL draft. There are still 227 more picks to be made though, so the draft is really only getting started. With that in mind, here are my top remaining prospects:
16. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB/S, Notre Dame 24. Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama 27. Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU (first-round cut off) 29. Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas 30. Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma 31. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State 32. Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State 33. Liam Eichenburg, OT, Notre Dame 35. Carlos Basham, DL, Wake Forest 36. Jabril Cox, LB, LSU 38. Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan 42. Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU 43. Javonte Williams, RB, UNC 44. Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia 45. Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa 46. Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia 47. Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas 48. Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami 49. Nico Collins, WR, Michigan 50. Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State 51. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon 52. Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford 53. Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami 54. Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh 55. Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State 56. Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh 57. Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse 58. Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse 60. Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky 61. Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State 62. Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama 63. Jay Tufele, DL, USC 64. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss 65. Peter Werner, LB, Ohio State 66. James Hudson III, OT, Cincinnati (Second-round cut off) 67. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue 68. Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri 69. Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC 70. Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson 71. Richie Grant, S, UCF 72. Trey Smith, G, Tennessee 73. Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma 74. Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State 75. Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington 76. Davis Mills, QB, Stanford 77. Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota 78. Walker Little, OT, Stanford 79. Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina 80. Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa 81. Michael Carter, RB, UNC 82. Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF 83. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State 84. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama 85. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida 86. Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State 87. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC 88. D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan 89. Dyami Brown, WR, UNC 91. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame (Third-round cut off) 92. Tyler Shelvin, DL, LSU 93. Nolan Laufenburg, G, Air Force 94. Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas 95. Monty Rice, LB, Georgia 96. Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater 97. Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan 98. Jackson Carmen, G, Clemson 99. Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State 100. Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss
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