The NFL Draft Aftermath

Micah Partee, Co-Editor

The rookie contracts are signed, the merchandise is manufactured, and we as NFL Fans can finally rest after all the prospects have finally made their way onto their new teams. The period of speculation and predictions are over.

Arizona Cardinals

While the Cardinals did not pick in the top 15, I believed this team was truly one impressive draft selection away from being a serious contender come playoff time.

I predicted Caleb Farley being the selection for the Cardinals, but ultimately, they decided to address another position on the defense with Zaven Collins, a top linebacker out of Tulsa.

Collins is an explosive and versatile player, whom you can perfectly compare to the Cardinals last year selection in Isaiah Simmons. Sure, critics touted Simmons as the best defender in last year’s draft next to Chase, but it seems Simmons is not capable of reaching that hype.

This addition in another positionless defender might ease the growing pains of NFL offenses for Simmons and the rest of the Cardinals’ defense.

While it seems the Cardinals could have gone a couple different ways with the sixteenth pick, Collins was still a sufficient option.

Atlanta Falcons

As I expected, the Falcons pushed aside their future quarterback problem and went with the safest and easiest pick available, the best player in the whole draft, Kyle Pitts.

Many analysts believe Pitts to be not just the best prospect in the entire draft, but a once-in-a-generation type of player. Players like this have routinely wreaked havoc on organizations that have passed on them in past drafts.

With a player like Pitts, you’d rather have him cause this type of wreckage with your team’s logo on his helmet instead of against them.

Matt Ryan still has a good two or three years left in him. While Trey Lance offers a ton of potential, very good quarterbacks are found in every draft.

A tight end who runs a 4.45 40-yard dash, at 6”6, 240lbs, and can also line up at wide receiver, will probably never be found in another draft ever again. At least, opposing defenses will hope.

Carolina Panthers

This pick was completely unexpected, as I did not see one draft prediction anywhere predicting that the Panthers would go cornerback in the first round.

The Panthers selected CB Jaycee Horn from South Carolina with their eighth pick in the first round. The player I was hoping the Chargers took at 13.

While the Panthers probably could have traded back and still drafted Horn, when you like a player you like a player. And Carolina really liked Horn.

After the Darnold trade, what would be expected from the Panthers would be to build a solid infrastructure for the young QB to operate with. While Horn may not be a weapon for Darnold on offense, Horn is a certifiable force on the defensive side of the ball.

So, in a way, that is the best possible weapon for Darnold, as Horn will stop the opposing team’s offense in such an efficient manner, that the former third overall pick in Darnold will have all the time he needs to perfect his craft.

At first glance, this selection seems quite unorthodox, because while Horn was touted as either the best or second best cornerback in the whole draft, the Panthers only chose defenders in last year’s draft. This included two additional cornerbacks and two additional safeties.

But Horn is not just another defender, and he is that much better than the defensive backs coach Matt Rhule and his Panthers selected last year already out of college.

While a solid lineman or prolific receiver sounds like a great pairing with a new quarterback in Darnold, this Panthers defense is starting to look really scary and quite formidable. This Horn pick might have been the final step in helping the Panthers be a serious contender.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals pick in Ja’Marr Chase completely changed the trajectory of this year’s draft.

This was a huge turning point in the draft that sent the probable second choices for many teams to organizations that would have prefered different players, as well as determining multiple trade backs to occur due to teams not being satisfied with the situation they were in.

Penei Sewell out of Oregon seemed like the no-brainer selection, as the Bengals star QB in Joe Burrow was mangled countless times over the course of his impressive rookie season.

Sewell only allowed a single sack in 678 plays at Oregon. Jonah Williams, the Bengals starting tackle for the duration of the last season, allowed three.

Even with such a seamless match between the Bengals and Sewell, the Bengals front office ultimately decided to go the receiver route with Chase, Burrow’s buddy from college, and it dictated the later picks by causing a domino-like effect of random draft selections.

While it may seem like a bad decision on Cincinnati’s part, the Bengals whiffed on the best offensive lineman, but got the best offensive weapon.

Chase, who was Burrow’s favorite target at LSU, won multiple awards and had an amazing stat line for his entire college career, it seems as if the NFL world has crucified the Bengals for passing up on Sewell. Burrow spoke to the Bengals higher ups himself to request his friend in Chase to be a part of their future plans, and considering they had other picks to build this line for Burrow, this decision really was not that bad.

Last year, the Bengals selected Tee Higgins out of Clemson, after taking Burrow at number one. Sure, Higgins was an alright weapon to pair with the former Heisman Quarterback in Burrow, but do not get it twisted, Higgins is not Chase.

Chase and Burrow were one of the best dynamic duo’s in college football history. They put together an undefeated season, and actually beat Higgins’ Clemson Tigers to win the National Championship. This was no mistake, because while Higgins and Trevor Lawrence were also Tigers, Burrow and Chase together make those two look like Cubs.

Chase was the right selection at five for the Bengals, and if the organization really invests in an o-line, these two former LSU Tigers will turn this league upside down.

Dallas Cowboys

Ironically enough, the Broncos swiped Patrick Surtain II right from the grasp of the Cowboys, and with no cornerbacks deserving of a good pick, and they are now stuck with the best defender in the draft with Micah Parsons.

Sure, the Cowboys desperately needed secondary help; I mean NFL analysts across the networks referred to the 2020 Cowboys defense as “pathetic”. But, Parsons is no burden or liability by any measure.

The only problem with this pick was the fact that the Cowboys have repeatedly had some of the best linebackers in the league. That is the only decent thing about this defense. And even though Parsons is versatile, he is still a linebacker.

With Parsons, you can blitz him on the edge, have him cover the hook curl, have him locked on the Tight End, and with a faster time than most of the cornerbacks in the draft anyways, you might as well just line him up in the secondary.

I am exaggerating, but Parsons might actually be the best pick the Cowboys could have possibly decided on. With Surtain II, you get a lockdown number one corner who you can just simply throw the ball away from. With Parsons, you get a nightmare for the offense that can simply not be stopped.

The Cowboys won with this selection, and the Broncos lost.

Denver Broncos

This might be the second most wild pick of the night next to the Horn or Sewell pick.

Denver lucked out in free agency and signed one of the top corners in the league with Kyle Fuller, who the Bears ridiculously released. Yes, it is important to have at least two good corners on the field considering most offensive sets provide two receivers that need to be covered. But, to draft another corner in the first round, when you already have a top corner on your roster, is begging for years of regret and anguish.

Drew Locke is the definition of mediocre. He showed short glimpses of stardom against the Chargers a couple years ago, and Broncos fans immediately hailed him as a second round steal. Locke is single-handedly holding back this team, and in my opinion, is the only position the Broncos really needed to address. And they did not.

The Panthers traded Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos in exchange for a sixth round pick this year, possibly to light a fire under Locke and force him to play up to exemplary. Or maybe they plan to start Bridgewater. Either way, this is in no way the solution to Denver’s quarterback problem, which still has yet to be solved since Peyton Manning’s retirement in 2016.

What the Broncos should have done was selected Justin Fields, the second rated Quarterback in the draft, and taken a cornerback in the second round.

This draft class was absolutely saturated with secondary talent. The Broncos did not need a number one corner; they needed someone decent enough to cover offense’s number two receivers. Surtain was not a need, he was a want. Any second or even third round corner could have sufficed. Instead, the Broncos made a nonsensical pick that will only benefit opposing team’s in the end.

The bears took Fields just two picks later, and he will be a star for this team. While Surtain II is a great talent, this pick was just unnecessary.

Detroit Lions

It may not be the expected scenario for the Lions, but when a player like Sewell drops this far, you have no choice but to take him. And the Lions were more than satisfied with that.

The Lions have a plethora of needs to fill for this team–Offensive Line being one of them.

While line is very important, Goff has absolutely no one worthy of catching an NFL football on this entire offense. With the exception of last year’s second round selection in D’andre Swift, of course.

All things considered, this was still a great pick up, as Sewell will be an instant star on the left side of the line for the Lions.

Sewell fits new Head Coach Dan Campbell’s rough and tough style of football to a T. This pick fits just like a glove, and is a great step to bringing a pitiful Lions team some sense of mediocrity.

Jacksonville Jaguars

No surprise with this pick, the Jaguars finally found their franchise quarterback after 26 years in Duvall.

Lawrence will be an instant starter for the team, and after a draft full of players to put around him, he will have almost everything he needs to get started.

With new Head Coach Urban Meyer in charge, after years of much success in the college football scene, it will be a surprise if Meyer does not succeed. But, after all, it has happened many times before, as the transition from the two leagues is a lot more difficult than it seems.

It is very unlikely that two certified winners like Lawrence and Meyer will struggle in a game they seem to naturally thrive in, but of course, it is the NFL, and anything is possible.

Despite all the uncertainty surrounding their future in terms of winning, I believe Lawrence will thrive in Jacksonville.

Lawrence has been on top of the football world since his high school days in Georgia, and losing is something quite unfamiliar to the young Quarterback.

With Lawrence at the helm, I truly believe Jaguars fans will also be unfamiliar with losing, that is if they look to the future and not to the past.”

— Micah Partee

Los Angeles Chargers

The decision to draft Rashawn Slater was a homerun hit that will undoubtedly help the Chargers for years to come. As a huge fan who has watched and studied the team since I was a child, I cannot truly remember having a solid offensive line, let alone a pro-bowl caliber left tackle. With the selection of Slater, we finally get that and more.

After a stellar rookie campaign and multiple shattered records, Chargers Quarterback Justin Herbert solidified his spot as one of the top young stars in the league. With the new Head Coach hire in Brandon Staley, what would make the most sense in terms of demonstrating just why he deserves the job, would be to build around the best aspect of his new team in Herbert. With this pick and a great offseason, he did just that.

The Chargers added the best rated center in the league to the last rated o-line. For this, in itself, Staley already receives an A+ in my book. After this blockbuster acquisition, Staley added three more offensive lineman, and then refused to trade up and still got a top two offensive lineman in the draft. Staley is building a great future for a team with massive amounts of untapped potential.

As far as Slater goes, he is as complete a prospect as they come, and he pancaked one of the best defensive players in the NFL-twice. Slater ran a faster 40 than Sewell, by .21 seconds, which is a larger difference than it may seem, while also showing a lot more discipline along with fundamentals that Sewell did not offer.

Slater could very well be the final piece the Chargers need to be a top contender in this league. He will be added to a long list of stars the Chargers have found by way of the draft, and he will be protecting Herbert’s backside for the next ten years.

Miami Dolphins

Like I figured, the Dolphins selected a weapon for their young Quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa.

While I suspected this weapon would be Ja’Marr Chase, who I think was their first choice had he been available at six, the Dolphins chose the next best thing for their situation by snatching up Tagovailoa’s former Alabama teammate in Jaylen Waddle.

Waddle, the 5”10 phenom, is a speed-demon who clocked in at a 4.37 before his injury in 2018. Waddle was believed to be the best wideout on Bama’s entire roster in recent years, before the breakout Heisman winning season his counterpart in Devonta Smith had.

Drawing comparisons from All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill, Waddle has massive amounts of potential, and is a great fit for the Dolphins, who had one 1,000 receiver in the last five years with Devante Parker.

If Tagovailoa can operate at the same level he had during his college tenure, and get the ball to Waddle and Parker, the Dolphins can make a big splash in the AFC East, along with the entire league.

New England Patriots

Well, I called it, sort of. I was certain Bill Belichick would stick to his guns and remain at their 15 spot. But, I did not anticipate Micah Parsons being selected so early, even if he was the best defensive prospect in the whole draft.

With all the offensive talent, making it a record of QB’s selected in early rounds in all NFL Draft history, I figured Parsons would slide, and Jones would have been snacthed up by a team willing to trade up to get him.

Jones is a perfect fit for the system that has shaped Belichick’s legacy in such an impressive and successful way.

Jones has drawn exact comparisons to former Patriots legend and current Super Bowl Champion QB Tom Brady. This pick could not have worked out any better for the Patriots, who’s only glaring need was under center.

Jones was a great value pick at 15 and will help lead Bellichick back on track to solidify his spot as the best coach of all time. Without giving up anything to draft him, the Patriots truly won day one of their draft.

New York Giants

Considering the edge rushing talent in the later rounds, the Giants decision to address their wide receiver position in the first round does not sound so bad.

Despite the already loaded receiving core in East Weatherford, the Giants front office seems to be all in on seeing if Daniel Jones is truly the guy for New York. After trading back and drafting the prolific Kadarius Toney, if Jones fails, it will be on Jones.

This was a good decision in my book, as the Giants got both another great wideout, and one of the best edge rushers in the draft, which they needed desperately.

New York Jets

After trading Sam Darnold, the Jets did, in fact, pursue a new quarterback in Zach Wilson with the number two pick in this year’s draft.

Wilson has yet to play any true NFL caliber defenders, so this pick is a bit of a gamble.

Only time will tell if Wilson will be better for the Jets than Darnold would have been, but I highly doubt this will be the case.

Philadelphia Eagles

Like I predicted, the Eagles took Devonta Smith. Years later, and a couple draft misfires at the wide receiver position, Philly finally got their guy.

Smith will help his former teammate Jalen Hurts get the former Super Bowl Champs back to their winning ways.

If these two can play to the level they both did in college, the Eagles will be a force to be reckoned with. I think this was the perfect match for an Eagles organization that is in disarray.

San Francisco 49ers

I can admit that my prediction in Justin Fields was off, but that was because Fields was truly a top two Quarterback in this draft. Fields and Lance play somewhat similar in their dual-threat styles when under center.

The only reason I believe the 49ers chose Lance over Fields is because Lance is more of a project.

Fields is a certifiable winner, and he has beat the best of the best the college scene had to offer time and time again. As far as college football greatness goes, Fields can be considered as one of the best all-around prospects, due to his consistency, and his impressive measurables, possibly of all time.

So, for a team like the 49ers, who’s only need was really just a star quarterback, the second best star quarterback in the draft seemed like a sure thing.

Fields was not just passed on by the Niners at three, but slid all the way down to the eleventh overall pick with the Bears.

Instead, his counterpart in Lance, who has never played a top college defense, was taken by the same team many believed would pick Fields.

At first glance, this selection was somewhat of a surprise. But when you really consider the current quarterback dilemma in the Niners organization, a superstar like Fields is not really necessary.

Fields has been picked and prodded by analysts since high school. They know what they get with him. While it is obvious what his future offers, and it is very bright, Lance has thrown the ball so little and played such subpar competition his whole college career, that he is still relatively unknown in terms of what he can offer a team.

Lance has massive amounts of potential, and that potential does not need to be tapped yet with the Niners. Jimmy Garoppolo still produces wins for the 49ers, and he can serve as a great mentor for Lance. Fields is a plug and play. Lance is not. That is exactly why the Niners picked him.