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Eli Manning among vets who benefited most from 2018 NFL Draft

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Blake Bortles' excellent 2018 continued on draft weekend. The Jaguars chose once again not to draft significant quarterback competition for him, and the team prioritized getting Bortles more help by selecting wideout D.J. Chark in the second round. After giving Bortles a new contract this offseason, the organization is more committed than ever to trying to win a Super Bowl around the 26-year-old QB, rather than daydreaming about a world without him.

That's about as good as it gets on draft weekend for a veteran quarterback comfortably outside the top 10 in the league, and it was a pattern that repeated around the NFL.

Below I've taken a look at veterans, like Bortles, who received good news during the draft, and it came for many quarterbacks in the form of improved teammates, more job security or a little of both. Here is a list of other NFL players who benefited from the draft:

Case Keenum, QB, Denver Broncos: John Elway bought Case Keenum stock en masse in March and helped the QB's value appreciate during the draft. Passing on Josh Rosen and Josh Allen for Bradley Chubb at No. 5 overall was a sign that Elway wants the Broncos back in the playoffs immediately. Openly embarrassed about how the 2017 season went, Elway tried to make Keenum's job easier by bolstering one of the most promising pass rushes in football with Chubb. Second-round pick Courtland Sutton offers Keenum a third quality option at wideout and third-round pick Royce Freeman looks like the favorite to start at running back, although Elway is counting on offensive-line improvement to come from within. No matter how many nice things the Broncos say about 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch this offseason, this franchise is going to ride or die with Keenum in 2018.

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: If actions speak louder than words, let's look past Brady's latest passive-aggressive quotes and assess what the organization has done this offseason for its quarterback. The Patriots drafted a versatile offensive lineman (Isaiah Wynn) and a game-breaking talent (Sony Michel) in Round 1. They used draft capital to acquire a proven starting tackle Trent Brown and they didn't draft a quarterback until Round 7. For all the concern about losing Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, Brady's wide receiver group remains deeper than it's been for most of his tenure, with Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell returning from injuries to join a group that includes Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt and more names that will cause people to say, "He's on the Patriots?" in fantasy draft rooms throughout August. Can't wait!

AJ McCarron, QB, Buffalo Bills: Draft weekend could have gone a lot worse for McCarron. After signing a contract worthy of a true backup (two years for $10 million), McCarron knew that the Bills' presumptive quarterback of the future was coming to join him. He wound up with Josh Allen.

All McCarron could hope for before the draft was a legitimate chance to start in September, get the Bills off to a fast start and hold off a rookie for as long as possible. The chances of that happening are greater with Allen in town. The Wyoming product is the most raw of the four quarterbacks taken in the top 10, with a lot of work to do on fundamentals and handling NFL coverages. He could benefit from time on the sideline, which should only help McCarron's chances of boosting his stock league-wide.

Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bucs general manager Jason Licht's Rosemanian obsession with defensive linemen this offseason reached its natural conclusion when the team traded down, then selected the biggest premier lineman on the board in Vita Vea. The depth of the team's line is in stark contrast to the talent surrounding McCoy just a few years ago, with Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, William Gholston, Noah Spence and Mitch Unrein all in the mix.

That group should help to occasionally allow McCoy to see one-on-one matchups and keep him fresher with a defensive-line rotation. Licht also invested two second-round picks on cornerbacks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis, so the secondary should theoretically force opposing quarterbacks to hold the ball longer and allow McCoy and his friends to eat. The Bucs' defense has looked a lot better in theory than reality for a while, but there should be safety in numbers here after Licht added so many players this offseason.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins: Head coach Adam Gase told anyone who would listen that Tannehill was his guy. We should have listened. The Dolphins passed on drafting a quarterback and filled a huge hole at tight end with athletic second-rounder Mike Gesicki and fourth-round pick Durham Smythe. This remains Tannehill's team, for better or worse.

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants: This Big Blue offseason has sometimes resembled an extended apology to Manning for benching him in favor Geno Smith. Through the team's words and actions, the Giants still believe Eli can lead them to a championship and that this year's squad can get right back in the playoffs. Draft weekend should only bolster that belief.

This is not a belief backed up by stats, game film or standings. Manning hasn't been a top-30 quarterback in PFF's rankings over the last two seasons. The Giants have won only 33 games and lost 46 with Manning as their starter over the last five years, but the front office clearly believes they are closer to the 11-5 squad from 2016 than the 3-13 debacle from a year ago. The team not only passed on Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, but did everything possible to make Manning's job easier in 2018.

First-round pick Saquon Barkley and second-round guard Will Hernandez should beef up a dormant running game. The organization smartly ended those Odell Beckham trade rumors and paid left tackle Nate Solder Peyton Manning money to protect Eli. The Giants may have botched their handling of Manning last December, but no one should ever question again their loyalty to the 37-year-old quarterback. They see an Eli Manning that can still compete for championships and they've given him every tool possible to prove them right.

Cam Newton and Matt Ryan, QBs, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons: This wasn't a top-heavy draft class at wide receiver, although perhaps that's a good thing, considering the slow starts from nearly all of the 13 first-round picks at the position since 2015.

Newton and Ryan are grouped together here because they both were handed first-round receiver teammates who won't be asked to be true No. 1 options. Former Panthers great Steve Smith Sr. said on NFL Network he's finally been "replaced" by D.J. Moore, a savvy route runner who should be able to line up everywhere for Carolina. He's the type of receiver Newton hasn't been paired with enough, as the previous regime tried to surround Cam with wideouts that would look more at home on the Jeff Van Gundy-era New York Knicks.

Calvin Ridley is entering a perfect situation in Atlanta. He can share the No. 2 receiver role as a rookie with Mohamed Sanu, a role player in an offense with plenty of other good options. The NFC South isn't going anywhere as a top division because the quarterbacks all have plenty to work with.

Colts running back to be named later: Quenton Nelson was the highest-drafted guard since 1983, with general manager Chris Ballard calling it the easiest pick he's ever made. While Nelson got all the attention, using a second-round pick on Auburn guard Braden Smith also represented a huge investment. Nelson and Smith should supercharge a running game that was too often stagnant and soft a year ago.

The young guards should make life easier for whoever emerges at running back: second-year pro Marlon Mack, fourth-round pick Nyheim Hines or fifth-rounder Jordan Wilkins. Ballard seems to believe that a strong line will make the running back, and not the other way around. Andrew Luck can only hope that Ballard is right.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.
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