The NFL draft isn't bad news for all veterans. After Gregg Rosenthal highlighted 18 veterans hurt by the incoming rookie class, let's turn our attention to the players, coaches and fans who stand to benefit from the infusion of talent.
Surviving the draft scare
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles: For all of the pre-draft hullabaloo about giving up the farm for Marcus Mariota, Bradford remains under center in Chip Kelly's quarterback-friendly offense. Now he has the benefit of first-round receiver Nelson Agholor to replace the departed Jeremy Maclin.
Geno Smith, New York Jets: There was speculation that the Jets could attempt to trade up for Mariota or Jameis Winston. Instead, they drafted deep threat Devin Smith in the second round and waited until the fourth round to take a flier on Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. Fourth-round quarterbacks have started a grand total of six playoff games over the past decade, according to a study done by Football Outsiders.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins:RGIII has been a sack-taking machine the past two years, in no small part because the right tackle position has been a swinging gate. First-round pick Brandon Scherff should be a Day 1 starter, solidifying a major weak spot. With Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy as his only competition, Griffin remains the favorite to open the season as the starter.
Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns: Although the Browns were connected to Mariota and Bradford in the April rumor mill, the draft came and went without an upgrade on Johnny Manziel. That leaves McCown as the heavy favorite for the starting job. McCown is going from one of the NFL's weakest offensive lines in Tampa to one of the strongest in Cleveland, bolstered by the first-round selection of Cameron Erving.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders' offense was sorely lacking a big-play element last year, with a speed-challenged wide-receiver corps as the primary culprit. Enter first-round pick Amari Cooper, billed as an NFL-ready wideout with the potential to emerge as Carr's go-to target. Even better, the third-round brought Clive Walford, a tight end capable of stretching the field.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: Flacco watched deep threat Torrey Smith, sure-handed tight end Owen Daniels and enigmatic power back Bernard Pierce walk out the door in free agency. General manager Ozzie Newsome found replacements in the draft, picking up wideout Breshad Perriman in the first round, tight end Maxx Williams in the second and downhill runner Javorius Allen in the fourth. The chips fell into place for Flacco and Newsome, as need aligned with the draft board.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: It was just two years ago that Cutler oversaw one of the highest-scoring attacks in franchise history. With talented and charismatic first-round wideout Kevin White replacing Brandon Marshall, Cutler has a fair chance to turn his stalled career around and reach those heights again. It doesn't hurt that the Bears picked up center Hroniss Grasu and potential third-down back Jeremy Langford in the middle rounds.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Dave Gettleman understands his quarterback's tendency to overshoot his receivers. The result is an overhauled receiver corps, built around skyscrapers Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5, 241 pounds), Greg Olsen (6-foot-5, 253 pounds) and now second-round wide receiver Devin Funchess measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds. Concerns about the offensive line are overblown, as Carolina's was one of the NFL's most reliable units down the stretch. The question isn't if Gettleman locks up Newton via a long-term contract, but when that commitment is made.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins entered the offseason with the understanding that it was time to move on from malcontent Mike Wallace and the overpaid, underproductive duo of Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson at wide receiver. They rebuilt on the fly, adding first-round pick DeVante Parker to the veteran trio of Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings acquired prior to the draft.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: Two years ago, Eli was done in by a subpar wide receiver corps and a crumbling offensive line. Now he has an unstoppableOdell Beckham, a recovering Victor Cruz and wild card Rueben Randle at wide receiver. The blocking should be much improved with first-round pick Ereck Flowers at tackle, allowing 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh to upgrade the interior with a move to guard.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: A league-worst pass blocking unit when Palmer first arrived in the desert now features solid veteran Jared Veldheer, Pro Bowl free-agent acquisition Mike Iupati, 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper and 2015 first-round pick D.J. Humphries. Palmer is 13-2 in his last 15 starts with an impressive 64.5 completion rate, 27:12 TD-to-INT ratio and a 96.1 passer rating.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Speedy kick returner Phillip Dorsett was one of the more polarizing first-round picks, but he certainly adds a dynamic element for package plays on offense. Who has a more stocked cupboard than Luck, with a Colts offense that features Dorsett, deep threat T.Y. Hilton, chain mover Andre Johnson, big-play threat Donte Moncrief, savvy tailback Frank Gore, and a pair of talented tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener?
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals: All of the Adrian Peterson-to-Arizona speculation amounted to nothing, leaving Ellington to continue in his same lead-back role from a year ago.
Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, Cleveland Browns: General manager Ray Farmer is following the Seahawks' blueprint, failing to draft an early-round wide receiver for the second consecutive season. Unfortunately, Farmer doesn't have Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham or a historically great defense to compensate for Bowe and Hartline as the top weapons in the passing game.
Josh Hill, New Orleans Saints: After trading Graham to Seattle, coach Sean Peyton cited Hill's impressive vertical leap, broad jump and three-cone drill time -- all of which were comparable to the top tight ends in the 2014 NFL Draft. Peyton then skipped over the position last week, leaving Hill with a clear path to a breakout campaign as Graham's replacement.
Making life easier on defense
Rod Marinelli, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys bypassed the backfield, adding freakishly athletic cornerback Byron Jones and edge rusher Randy Gregory -- believed by many to be a top 10 draft talent -- in the first two rounds. That's not a bad haul after picking up former Pro Bowler Greg Hardy in free agency and welcoming linebacker Sean Lee back from injury.
Rob Ryan, New Orleans Saints: After signing cornerback Brandon Browner and trading for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, the Saints used early-round draft picks on inside linebacker Stephone Anthony, pass rusher Hau'oli Kikaha and cornerback P.J. Williams.
Keith Butler, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have seemingly spent the past half-decade trying to get younger on defense. They drafted a first-round linebacker for the third consecutive season, adding much-needed cornerbacks in the second and fourth rounds. It's time to turn all of that potential into promise.
Return to relevance
Titans fans:Welcome back to the NFL, Nashville. We missed you the last two seasons. Let's hope Marcus Mariota emerges as the face of an exciting, young team over the next couple of years.
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