The class of defensive backs was the story I found most intriguing going into this year’s NFL draft. If that calculation pans out, Cleveland will be rewarded with their selection of Ohio State’s Denzel Ward at #4, and Miami got tremendous value at #11 with Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. Another player who fell to far was Florida State corner Derwin James. He went to the Chargers at #17.
But it’s who wasn’t taken that’s most interesting. I simply can’t believe Iowa corner Josh Jackson didn’t get picked. One of the best playmakers in college football last season, Jackson is a lockdown corner with Deion Sanders-like playmaking skills. Jackson was expected to go in the first round, right in line with where Fitzpatrick and James fell. Instead, he’s still on the board. There are a lot of teams that will regret this omission and somebody will get a major bargain tonight.
Other reactions to the first night of the draft…
*The class of quarterbacks was, as usual, the source of the media buzz and the countless mock drafts run by every major media outlet in the country, but I could never get excited about any of them. I’m not high on Baker Mayfield as a pro prospect in any circumstances and now he’s buried in Cleveland. Josh Allen is in a much better situation at Buffalo. Josh Rosen has the most pure polish of any of them and being in Arizona gives him a reasonable chance to succeed. But in all cases, the careers of Mayfield, Allen, Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold, whom will get to in a moment, will be more about the franchise making them rather than vice-versa.
*The best prospect on the board was clearly Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. His shiftiness, lower body strength and ability to catch passes make him perfect for the NFL. He went to the New York Giants with the second pick. Although as good as Barkley is, he’s still a bigger winner in this than the Giants are. Football is more about getting into a decent system, and it’s certainly better off to be with an organization that has a track record of producing good offensive lines than it does to wind up in Cleveland.
*New York’s other team, the Jets, didn’t fare as well. They’re excited today, having traded up to #3 to get Darnold. The USC quarterback was vastly overhyped last year and was a turnover machine. He was the college version of Andrew Luck, where media pundits would briefly acknowledge the turnovers, and then move into a nonstop lovefest. The fate of Jets’ coach Todd Bowles, a fine defensive mind, was sealed with this decision.
*Given the Darnold-Luck comparison I just made, maybe it’s ironic that Indianapolis was the team that traded with the Jets, and the Colts struck gold. They moved down to the 6-slot and got their man, Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson. This is a smart pick by Indy, though we’ll see if their newfound desire to actually protect Luck has come to late in the injured quarterback’s career. Nelson was one of two Notre Dame offensive lineman to go in the top 10, with Mike McGlinchey going to emerging power San Francisco.
*As a Redskins fan, I was pretty happy with the pick of Da’Ron Payne at #13. It’s the second straight year the ‘Skins have taken a defensive tackle from Alabama. Last year’s pick, Jonathan Allen, was hampered by injuries. But as one who lacks any confidence in Washington’s personnel evaluations, I’m perfectly content to just grab the best players from the best programs. It’s a far cry from the Redskin glory years, when GM Bobby Beathard would come up with talent in the most obscure places. But such things should only be attempted by people that know what they’re doing. Beathard did. Bruce Allen has shown no evidence that he does.