*» Three head-scratching decisions from this year's draft
» Brooks' take on a team positioned for a big turnaround next season thanks to its first-round pick *
But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's look at five draftees that landed in the perfect place.
A lot of factors go into determining whether draftees go on to successful NFL careers. In the end, it comes down to talent, team fit and their health as they navigate their way through life at the next level. However, on the surface in taking a first glance at the 2018 NFL Draft, here are five players that found an ideal landing spot:
1) Quenton Nelson, OG, Colts (No. 6 overall): The Colts' offensive line woes have been well-documented since Andrew Luck entered the NFL. They've added some quality players over the last few years -- Jack Mewhort and Ryan Kelly -- but they just drafted a legitimate all-pro candidate in Nelson. He was the top offensive lineman in this draft class, by far, and he'll make an immediate impact.
2) Derwin James, S, Chargers (No. 17 overall): I can't think of a better player/scheme fit than this one. I've referred to James as a faster version of Kam Chancellor. I've also compared him to Keanu Neal. Both players have thrived in the Pete Carroll/Gus Bradley/Dan Quinn defensive system. James will plug in right away and deliver impact plays for the Chargers' defense under Bradley.
3) Da'Ron Payne, DT, Redskins (No. 13 overall): The Redskins needed to address their issues against the run. They added a big-time defensive lineman last year, Jonathan Allen, but he was hurt early in the season and their run defense fell apart. They decided to go back to Alabama to grab another stud interior lineman in Payne. These former teammates will reunite to provide the Redskins with one of the best young defensive line duos in the NFL.
4) Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals (No. 47 overall): Kirk was the most impressive prospect I met with leading up to the 2018 draft. Talking to him was like talking to a 10-year NFL veteran. He's mature beyond his years and he has a very specific plan on how to become a top-flight professional receiver. Larry Fitzgerald will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but his career is winding down. Once he decides to retire, Kirk can take over the leadership role for that receiving corps. This is a perfect fit.
5) Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles (No. 49 overall): The Eagles love to employ multiple tight-end looks on the offensive side of the ball. During the offseason, Trey Burton departed for financially greener pastures with the Bears and veteran Brent Celek was released. They added Richard Rogers in free agency, but there was still a need for another tight end. GM Howie Roseman did an excellent job of trading back from No. 32, collecting a second-round pick for next year and then trading up in front of the Dallas Cowboys, who made the 50th pick, to nab Goedert. He has a skill set very similar to former Ravens TE Todd Heap and he will team up with Zach Ertz to form one of the top TE duos in the NFL. -- Daniel Jeremiah
THREE HEAD-SCRATCHING DRAFT DECISIONS
The picks mentioned above made a ton of sense, but there are always selections each year that I don't quite understand at first glance. It doesn't mean they won't work out. However, I question whether the best decision was made in these instances:
1) Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns (No. 1 overall: I like Mayfield. This isn't a knock on him as a player. I just believe the Browns had a better option available at the position. I had higher grades on Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen and felt like there was less risk with those two players. We'll see how it all ends up, but you can be sure all of these first-round signal-callers will be compared to one another for the rest of their careers.
2) Terrell Edmunds, S, Steelers (No. 28 overall): Edmunds is a very fast, physical player and he receives glowing reviews from scouts for his intelligence and character. That being said, I thought his value was more in the mid-second-round range. I had him rated just outside my top 50 players. I had higher grades on Jessie Bates and Ronnie Harrison, both of whom where available when the Steelers selected Edmunds. Sometimes, this just comes down to how a player fits the role the club desires. Clearly, they felt Edmunds was the right guy.
3) Breeland Speaks, OLB/DE, Chiefs (No. 46 overall): Speaks is a versatile and explosive player. However, there are times where he plays way too high and gets moved too easily at the point of attack. He also has some lower-body stiffness that shows up on tape. I had him evaluated as a fourth-round player, but the Chiefs took him in Round 2. He could end up being a strong contributor to their defensive front, but I felt like there were better options still on the board at that time. -- Daniel Jeremiah
SAQUON BARKLEY MAKES GIANTS A CONTENDER
It's uncommon for a team to be one player away from title contention and it's even more of a rare occurrence to find that player in the NFL draft. However, that is the situation the New York Giants find themselves in on the heels of the 2018 draft. After the selection of Penn State RB Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick, the Giants are poised to make a run in the NFC.
The 6-foot, 233-pound running back with 4.4 speed (in the 40-yard dash) and a 41-inch vertical jump was the best prospect in the 2018 class, exhibiting exceptional playmaking ability as an electric combo back with home-run potential whenever he touches the rock as a runner or receiver. Barkley not only gives the Giants their most feared runner since Tiki Barber, but he will quickly rival Odell Beckham, Jr., as their most dangerous offensive weapon.
I know I'm stepping out on a limb when I suggest Barkley could overtake OBJ as the team's top offensive player, but I believe Barkley has Le'Veon Bell-like qualities that could make him nearly impossible to contain in a rebuilt offense that will accentuate his strengths as a player.
The Giants' new and improved offensive line features a trio of new members (second-round pick Will Hernandez and free-agent additions Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh) adept at blowing defenders off the ball. With Barkley built to run between the tackles and on the edges, opponents have to pay extra attention to the Giants' running game, which means more "plus-one" defensive fronts and single-high safety coverage.
While those tactics will help slow down the Giants' potent running game, it will leave OBJ in one-on-one coverage, and that's a scary thought based on the receiver's impressive resume as a record-breaking playmaker. If opponents elect to double-team OBJ, the Giants can hand it to Barkley or target him out of the backfield against an overmatched linebacker. As one of the best pass-catching running backs to enter the league in recent years, Barkley gives Eli Manning an easy outlet to target on the perimeter.
In a quarterback-driven league, a team should make every move with the intent to elevate the play of the QB. The addition of Barkley helps Manning and gives the Giants a chance to creep back into title contention on the strength of a high-powered offense. --Bucky Brooks