Theme, narrative, storylines ... Every draft carries them, is bloated with them. Call it the muffin top of the great college marketplace.
The 2017 NFL Draft owned a few: namely, the most unpredictable first round in years, the deepest secondary draft maybe ever and the inflated price tag of all things quarterback.
Ryan Pace, stewarding the Bears, paid a bag of picks to move up one measly spot, all to acquire a quarterback. The Chiefs -- a top-tier team already -- gave up a first-round pick to move up and take a QB not expected to play earlier than 2018. The Texans, needier than either, paid more than a buffalo nickel to jump 13 spots and draft Deshaun Watson. Speaking of, Buffalo watched all the overspending before getting a bargain in Nathan Peterman. Ditto the Lions with a Hurricane.
Yet, with all of the quarterback-or-not handwringing in the first round, the first overall pick was not someone who lines up under center. But was Myles Garrett the best Day 1 pick? For that matter, how did his new squad -- the Browns -- fare? What about the other teams that skipped the passer sweepstakes? We can do this all day ... which we did. Below are the best picks, a few worrisome selections and a myriad of observations from three days of Philadelphia drama. Let's start with Thursday and go from there ...
Best Pick, Day 1
O.J. Howard, TE, drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: How Howard -- a prospect nobody expected to be available outside the top 10 -- fell to Tampa Bay is anyone's guess. The Bucs might have missed on the last tight end they drafted (Austin Seferian-Jenkins, picked in the second round in 2014), but at some point, they had to get back up on that horse, er, ship. Throughout the pre-draft process, evaluators talked up Howard as the best all-around tight end prospect to hit the NFL in years. The book on Howard is that Alabama did not take full advantage of his pass-catching abilities. You think that will be the case in Dirk Koetter's offense? Hardly. Howard and Cameron Brate should be a nice TE combo platter. Also worth noting: Given how much Howard was asked to block in Alabama's run-heavy offense, he should also be a nice addition -- an appropriate addition -- to a punchless ground game that averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per carry last year, ranking 28th in the NFL.
Best Pick, Day 2
Forrest Lamp, OG, drafted 38th overall (Round 2) by the Los Angeles Chargers: Since the beginning of time -- well, OK, since maybe 1957 -- drafting a guard, let alone a guard from Western Kentucky, in the first round hasn't been sexy. That said, it was thought Lamp could go that early. For the Chargers to draft him with the sixth pick in the second round was quite a value. Moreover, his pick signaled that general manager Tom Telesco is providing QB Philip Rivers the help he needs in Year 14. Rivers was sacked 36 times last year, with the running game finishing 26th. Lamp represents the rare spot in the universe where BPA meets need.
Best Pick, Day 3
Nathan Peterman, QB, drafted 171st overall (Round 5) by the Buffalo Bills: Peterman played in a pro-style offense at Pittsburgh, which is a boon, given all the passers coming out now who have to deal with an additional learning curve adjusting to the pro game. Peterman can throw the deep ball well, completing 46.2 percent of his vertical throws. Organizational confidence in Tyrod Taylor has been as up-and-down as the quarterback's play, although Taylor deserves another chance to take Buffalo to the postseason. If Taylor falters, this late-round steal could step in as a rookie and start.
Other picks I liked
Leonard Fournette, RB, drafted fourth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars: There was a time -- quite recently, I might add -- when people thought the running back position wasn't worth a top-10 pick. Heck, some GMs still don't seem to even consider RBs in Round 1. Last year's fourth overall pick, Cowboys back Ezekiel Elliott, altered that thinking. For all the pass-happy antics of modern football, look for a return to draft prominence of dynamic running backs, with teams looking to take pressure off their quarterbacks. Turnovers -- and a general step backward -- hampered Jags QB Blake Bortles last season. What better way to help him out than taking a punishing, explosive back like Fournette? With the reworking of the defense over the past two offseasons, a shift in philosophy is taking place in Jacksonville.
Jamal Adams, S, drafted sixth overall by the New York Jets: Pretty cool that the Jets landed the player considered to be as sure a thing as anyone outside of Myles Garrett at sixth overall. My colleague Daniel Jeremiah was spot-on when he mentioned that it harkens back to when the franchise drafted Leonard Williams in the same slot two drafts ago. That talented defensive lineman was considered among the best bets in the Class of 2015 -- a guy who should've gone much higher than No. 6 -- and he has proceeded to ball in his first two NFL campaigns. Adams' leadership qualities have received rave reviews. Given the QB situation in New York, coach Todd Bowles will need that commanding presence from someone. Sixth overall might sound high for a safety. Not if he immediately helps your football team.
Kevin King, CB, drafted 33rd overall (Round 2) by the Green Bay Packers: While King might seem like an easy choice here, I loved Mike Mayock's instant analysis following the pick, acknowledging the lack of elite football speed while highlighting his press ability and what he can do in single-high coverage. Of course, speed is desirable, but how about dudes who can engage and don't get beat in the red zone? Forget King's tape for a sec ... did you see the Packers' tape against Kirk Cousinslast year, specifically featuring the secondary?
D'Onta Foreman, RB, drafted 89th overall (Round 3) by the Houston Texans: If you didn't catch the NFL Network feature on Foreman, here you go. What is it like for a 21-year-old to come back from losing his child? The mental toughness of Foreman -- something the combine can't measure -- must be off the charts. Despite the tragedy, Foreman managed to win the Doak Walker Award. Hoping he develops into a productive RB2 with Lamar Miller in Houston.
Tedric Thompson, FS, drafted 111th overall (Round 4) by the Seattle Seahawks: Seattle added depth to a strength, but as players age, teams must have guys ready to step up. Not to mention, fourth-round picks like Thompson make their hay playing in packages and special teams. And then ... never underestimate gratitude.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, drafted 124th overall (Round 4) by the Detroit Lions: Coming into the draft, linebacker was clearly a deficiency for the Lions, one that GM Bob Quinn addressed with the selection of Jarrad Davis out of Florida. Ditto Tennessee's Reeves-Maybin, who should also contribute immediately. My colleague Charles Davis gushed about this pick, partially because he too is a Tennessee alum. But C.D. also pointed out that Reeves-Maybin asked to play more special teams for the Vols, and even spoke to his team about the importance of doing it.
Damontae Kazee, CB, drafted 149th overall (Round 5) by the Atlanta Falcons: Remember, the Falcons managed to obtain five starters between last year's draft and UDFA haul: Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Austin Hooper, De'Vondre Campbell and Brian Poole. Kazee could be another unexpected contributor. My buddy and NFL.com draftnik Mark Dulgerian had him as his sneaky corner. So did another of our co-workers, longtime Steeler CB Ike Taylor. The write-up on Kazee< says he will hit you, too.
Brad Kaaya, QB, drafted 215th overall (Round 6) by the Detroit Lions: Putting aside the fact that Kaaya went way lower than his original draft report prognosticated (somewhere late on Day 2 or early on Day 3), kudos to the Lions for deciding not to simply roll Dan Orlovsky out there as Matthew Stafford insurance again.
Ejuan Price, DE, drafted 234th overall (Round 7) by the Los Angeles Rams: Dulgerian's comments to me on the phone about Price were interesting: "He's like only 5-foot-10 but quick. But he's joining another former Pitt Panther who had some size concerns coming into the league ... who plays the leverage game ... which Price will have to, as well." Mark, of course, is referring to Aaron Donald. New Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will get the most out of Price, mostly rushing the passer. He could turn into quite the value buy for the team.
c) There is nothing about the Panthers' selection of Christian McCaffrey (No. 8 overall) not worth loving. He can be a utility infielder or carry a full workload. His presence tacks on a couple more years of effectiveness for Jonathan Stewart. Coupled with the Fournette selection, McCaffrey going in the top 10 signals a shift in thinking. (That includes the idea that white running backs can't succeed at the next level.)
d) Speaking of Fournette, expect Bortles to throw 80 to 100 fewer passes this season.
e)Last year in this space, I opined that the Texans' second-round pick, center Nick Martin, might be under a wee bit of pressure, given that his brother, Cowboys guard Zack, was the first rookie guard named first-team All-Pro since the 1930s. (Unfortunately, Nick missed his entire rookie season due to an ankle injury in training camp.) Well, in a similar vein ... How about the little brother of Nick Martin's teammate, J.J. Watt? Good luck in Pittsburgh, T.J. Watt.
g) The breakdown of the first 107 picks (the first three rounds): 63 defense, 44 offense.
i) Interesting that Myles Garrett was deemed to be the top overall prospect in this draft, went No. 1 and then was barely talked about the rest of the night.
k) Drew Pearson received much props for the manner in which he announced the Cowboys' second-round draft pick.
The former Cowboy is one of the very few first-team All-Decade players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also authored three of the most clutch postseason catches you'll ever see: 1) Hail Mary, 1975 NFC Divisional Round; 2) Leaping catch in between two defenders to beat the Falcons, 1980 Divisional Round; 3) Snagging the ball between two more defenders to beat the Rams, 1973 Divisional Round. Ironically, Pearson went undrafted out of Tulsa. His teammate there was Steve Largent. His high school teammate was Joe Theismann. History is cool.
l) Sad that people didn't know who Packers draft presenter Jim Taylor was, despite him being a Hall of Famer and the only guy to beat Jim Brown for a rushing title.
m) How about the reigning Super Bowl champs trading down, not picking until 83rd overall ... where they take a kid from Youngstown State? Defensive end Derek Rivers could be another of these queen-on-the-chessboard style pieces, a player defensive coordinator Matt Patricia can move around in the Patriots defense. Rivers secured 37.5 sacks in college.
p) Speaking of defensive backs, 28 of the first 100 picks were corners or safeties. That's incredible.
Drafts I liked
Cleveland Browns: You gotta hand it to the Browns. They drafted the best player in the class, acquired another first-round pick for 2018 by trading down and grabbed a gifted player who could start Week 1 (Jabrill Peppers) at No. 25. Then the Browns' brass made a small deal to sneak back into the back end of the first round to snag David Njoku -- who many felt was the second-best TE prospect in this draft -- at No. 29. That was all on Day 1!
Then, on Day 2, Cleveland secured the developmental quarterback everyone was pining for in Round 1. No one expects the Browns to compete in 2017, so DeShone Kizer (Round 2, No. 52 overall) being a bit green will not keep the team in neutral (or reverse). We'll see how that quarterback room plays out (Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan?), but either way, the Browns picked up a bonafide QB prospect with their fourth -- fourth -- draft pick.
Los Angeles Chargers:Philip Rivers is 35 -- old enough to recognize every defense thrown at him, young enough to make all the throws his mind processes for responding to those defenses but barely young enough to have a Super Bowl window left. So what did the Chargers do? Skip taking a quarterback and provide the guy help. They took Mike Williams out of Clemson in the first round, a red-zone target from Day 1. Then they provided Rivers with back-to-back quality interior linemen in Rounds 2 and 3. The fans screaming for defensive help were satiated with Rayshawn Jenkins and Desmond King. NFL.com draftnik Mark Dulgerian opined that Jenkins will be a special teams stud right away.
New England Patriots: Straight talk: Teams often overvalue draft picks. GMs don't want to deal a mid-round pick for a proven performer. Thus, it's easy to overlook the Patriots, as it seemed like they barely drafted anyone and got rid of several of their picks. For their first-round choice, they received Brandin Cooks. Using the past to inform the future, we can say Cooks is a better player now than half of the players taken Thursday night will ever be. Kony Ealywas acquired for a second-round choice (the Pats also got the Panthers' third-rounder in the deal). Ealy is already a moderately productive player in the NFL, and, like Cooks, better than the vast majority of Day 1 and Day 2 picks from the 2014 NFL Draft. Mike Gilleslee essentially represents the Patriots' fifth-round selection. With no LeGarrette Blount, Gilleslee could be New England's thumper. I like the Rivers choice at No. 83 overall (as mentioned above). If third-round prospect Antonio Garcia listens to his position coach Dante Scarnecchia, look out.
Bottom line: The Patriots are built to win now and are the favorites in the AFC. Thus, their draft "class" of traded-for veterans should not be undervalued just because it's not a typical haul.
Other drafts I liked:San Francisco 49ers (way to provide for the future, John Lynch), Buffalo Bills (picked up immediate contributors, a future first-round pick and a future QB), New Orleans Saints (Sean Payton continues the philosophical shift to run-game/defense approach), Dallas Cowboys (addressed every major need, especially the secondary, though there are still minor needs at TE and in terms of O-line depth) and Jacksonville Jaguars (acquired a power run game with Leonard Fournette, while getting a first-round-caliber tackle in the second should reduce turnovers).
Drafts that have me worried
Chicago Bears: The Bearsgave up a heckuva lot of draft capital to take Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina at No. 2 overall. To recap: The Bears handed San Francisco a 2017 third-round pick, a fourth-round pick and another third-rounder in 2018 to move up one spot to get their guy. Trubisky might end up being a fantastic quarterback, but as of this writing, he's a quarterback who only started 13 college football games, a quarterback some didn't even consider to be the top player at his position in the draft. Never mind the fact that the Bearsalso spent $18.5 million guaranteed on another young signal-caller. Why not keep the picks, stay in the three-hole and take safety Jamal Adams? That way, you see what you have in recent signee Mike Glennon, select the surest prospect next to Myles Garrett and retain three building blocks for the future.
Second-round pick Adam Shaheen could be a freak of nature, but it is reasonable to wonder how the tight end will adjust from playing at Ashland to competing against NFL corners and safeties. When you factor that in with Trubisky's dearth of experience, the top of Chicago's draft certainly was risky. Fourth-round pick Eddie Jackson suffered a season-ending injury in 2016, but he's considered a playmaker at safety. Hey, maybe all this risk means high reward is around the corner. We'll see.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City fans are probably already fuming, but don't misunderstand me. Saying the Chiefs blew this draft an hour after the event ended would be foolish. The question worth posing is What were the Chiefs trying to accomplish? This is a team everyone thinks is ready to compete now. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, for all his talent, is considered a project. OK, so I'm guessing coach Andy Reid will roll with (a highly motivated) Alex Smith. Bear in mind, though, the Chiefstraded up to take Mahomes, giving up next year's first round pick to do this. Let's say KC goes 11-5 and makes it to the AFC Championship Game with Smith playing well in the process. Then the Chiefs will, as of now, enter 2018 without a first-round-caliber player to fill voids at inside linebacker, in the secondary or at receiver. Running back Kareem Hunt (Round 3, No. 86), by all accounts, can contribute, but where does he fit in for a team ready to win today? I like the Tanoh Kpassagnon choice (Round 2, No. 59 overall). The defensive end might play right away.
On the fence ...
New York Giants: Well, I guess this puts the East Coast bias thing to rest. Truthfully, I don't feel the Giants swung and missed. And we're not going to dive into the cool, refreshing waters of draft grades. But the "on the fence" thought process emanates from a) taking tight end Evan Engram over other first-rounders, especially with Sterling Shepard in the slot and the newly arrived Brandon Marshall's presence in the red zone. Bad pick? No. Were there more glaring needs for a team well-positioned to overtake the Cowboys in the NFC East? Think so. Of course, that selection could have signified BPA over need. Was Engram better than TE David Njoku? If that was the case, was Dalvin Tomlinson the best player available in Round 2? Lastly, addressing the offensive line with a consistently hurt sixth-round pick didn't feel adequate. Counterpoint: Adam Bisnowaty was rated higher than where the Giants took him.
New York Jets: Kudos to GM Mike Maccagnan for not overpaying for a quarterback, much less succumbing to the enormous environmental pressure to fix the position in a draft devoid of sure-fire Andrew Lucks and Matt Ryans. But taking safeties with each of their first two picks? Jamal Adams was a fantastic choice, but this team has needs all over the roster. Going S-S-WR-WR ignored issues on the offensive line, at corner and at linebacker. At least, in terms of using top draft capital, anyway.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Why the Steelers? Like the Patriots and Chiefs, this is a team ready to contend for a Super Bowl now. While not going for the future in the first round like the Chiefs, they did take a sizeable risk in selecting T.J. Watt. The injury history and the fact that Watt is a relative newbie at his position mean it might take considerable time before he overtakes James Harrison as Pittsburgh's premier pass rusher. Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster can become a fantastic player, but in 2017 he will be the fourth or fifth option in Pittsburgh's air raid. Would've rather seen the team get one player out of these two picks who could be more impactful Week 1. Otherwise, nice draft.