This year’s NFL Draft saw a fair volume of trades and a lot of strategy displayed. Some teams, however, clearly came away with a better team than others. Here are our 2016 NFL Draft Winners and Losers.


Jacksonville Jaguars

The perennial doormat Jacksonville Jaguars and their analytics-driven front office put together one of the most impressive draft classes in recent history, turning them into a possible contender. They selected the two front-runners for Defensive Rookie of the Year for crying out loud. With the fifth overall pick, the Jags took Florida State CB/S Jalen Ramsey, arguably the best player in the draft. Ramsey will join free agent signees CB Prince Amukamara and S Tashaun Gipson in the secondary. They got the steal of the draft in the second round, taking UCLA product Myles Jack, who I predicted the Jaguars taking with their first round selection. My fourth highest-rated prospect, Jack dropped due to medical concerns about his torn meniscus, but the dynamic linebacker will likely be ready to contribute Week One. They continued to add pieces to their defense with third rounder OLB Yannick Ngakoue and fourth rounder DT Sheldon Day, both of whom were great values and should contribute from day one. While there are too many new pieces this season, the Jaguars should be set to contend for the Super Bowl in just a few years.

The Rest of the AFC South

Considered one of the weakest divisions in all of football last year, the AFC South may have turned into a gauntlet through this draft. While the Jaguars hit the jackpot in this year, the rest of the division didn’t lag far behind. The Texans continued their offensive overhaul, taking WRs Will Fuller and Braxton Miller in Rounds 1 and 3, C Nick Martin in Round 2, and RB Tyler Ervin in Round 4. A complementary receiver for DeAndre Hopkins was one of the Texans’ biggest needs, so the pressure will be taken off their stud wideout with the addition of speedsters Fuller and Miller. Martin, the younger brother of Cowboys Pro Bowler Zack Martin, was an underrated pick. The Colts addressed their gaping holes on the offensive line by taking the best center in the draft in Ryan Kelly, along with tackles third rounder Le’Raven Clark and fifth rounder Joe Haeg (who protected the blindside of some guy named Carson Wentz). They also got a steal at a position of need in Round 4 by taking Texas NT Hassan Ridgeway. The Titans received a bounty of picks for trading out of the first overall selection, but then used some of those to move back up to the eighth pick. However, they passed on top prospect Laremy Tunsil to take Michigan State’s Jack Conklin. Conklin is a tough, grind-it-out kind of player, but also has the versatility to play guard. The Titans had three picks in Round 2, using them on DE Kevin Dodd, DT Austin Johnson, and RB Derrick Henry. Dodd was one of the best players on the board and fills a need and Johnson will line up next to Jurrell Casey and make an immediate impact.

Anterior Cruciate Ligaments

Knees were a heavy topic of discussion throughout the draft process, as significant players had missed time last season due to injuries to the all-important joint. Most significantly was Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith, who was in the discussion for the first overall pick before tearing his ACL in the last game of the college football season. Smith did not participate in drills at the Combine, and his medical recheck went poorly. This caused teams to drop Smith on their boards from a Round 2 prospect to a late Day 3 one, with some teams apparently taking Smith off their boards entirely. However, Smith was snatched up with the 34th overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, who’ll be a playmaker when he returns in 2017. Another player to suffer a season-ending ACL tear last season in this draft was the hard-hitting safety from West Virginia, Karl Joseph. Joseph was largely viewed as a second round prospect, though he had a late rise that had him going in the late first round in some mock drafts. Still, it was a major shock when the Oakland Raiders selected him with the 14th overall pick. Joseph, when he is at full strength, will be an Earl Thomas-type for the Silver and Black. However, it seemed like the luck only extended to ACLs, as Myles Jack and his torn meniscus couldn’t catch a break.

Social Media Hackers

In all the years I’ve watched the NFL Draft, I’ve never seen anything like this before. Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil, the top-rated player on many teams’ boards, had his official Twitter and Instagram accounts hacked just minutes before the Draft began. A video was posted on Twitter of a person, who closely resembled the behemoth left tackle, smoking a bong while wearing a gas mask. Shortly after, photos were posted on his Instagram of a series of text message conversations with an Ole Miss coach that revealed Tunsil had been receiving improper benefits from the university. NFL teams found out quickly, and Tunsil took a serious tumble down the board, potentially losing millions of dollars. The Ravens, among other teams, took Tunsil off their boards entirely, and his fellow OTs Ronnie Stanley and Jack Conklin were selected well before him. Tunsil’s skid was mercifully ended by the Miami Dolphins at #13, a team that was in the market for a right tackle. He will be able to get playing time fairly early and may still blossom into a star, but whoever the hacker was definitely won this battle.

Wide Receivers Drafted from 21 to 23

A run on wideouts occurred in this stretch of the draft, which saw the Texans pick Notre Dame’s Will Fuller 21st, the Redskins select TCU’s Josh Doctson 22nd, and the Vikings take Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell 23rd. All three players wound up on playoff teams that needed wide receivers, and will receive opportunities from the get-go without being too heavily relied on. Fuller will step into the role of deep threat across from possession receiver extraordinaire DeAndre Hopkins. With the Pro Bowler taking double teams on most plays and new quarterback Brock Osweiler’s cannon of an arm, the fastest man at the Combine will have plenty of big play opportunities. Doctson may not have a big impact as a rookie as veterans Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson are still under contract, but they will be free agents after this season. Since the ‘Skins are always in tough salary cap situations, it would be unsurprising if both left. Pair that with the “Sophomore Wide Receiver Effect” and the receiver with the best ball skills in this draft will likely be Kirk Cousins’ go-to wideout. The Vikings got great value with the 23rd pick by taking Treadwell, who was the top receiver on most teams’ boards. The Ole Miss product dropped in the draft due to his 4.63 forty yard dash, but he plays faster than he actually is. Combine that with strong footwork, an ideal frame, and consistent college production in football’s toughest conference, and you get a quality prospect. Treadwell’s play reminds me of Marques Colston and Dez Bryant, a guy that won’t burn corners but is always open. Having speedster Stefon Diggs across from him will take away coverage, and expect Treadwell to be a favorite target of Teddy Bridgewater.


Veteran Quarterbacks

In an offseason where we’ve seen multiple unproven quarterbacks receive enormous contracts, there is quite a bit of discontent. After receiving a whopping 2-year, $36 million contract, many thought Sam Bradford would be the unanimous starter for the Eagles. However, new head coach Doug Pederson brought in longtime Chiefs backup Chase Daniel and gave him a 3-year, $21 million contract with $12 million in guarantees. So it came as a shock when the Eagles wagered the team’s future by trading up to the 2nd overall pick and taking NDSU QB Carson Wentz. Bradford demanded a trade, but nothing materialized over draft weekend, and it appears he is going nowhere. He will likely open the season as the starter, but after he throws one interception the Philly faithful will be calling for the rookie. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was also hurt by the proceedings of the draft, as the Broncos’ selection of Memphis QB Paxton Lynch in the first round ensures they won’t be trading for the embattled gunslinger. Kaepernick, though he will be paid a guaranteed $11.9 million next season, finds himself mired in an ugly quarterback situation in San Francisco. Though Kaepernick’s athletic ability would seemingly endear him to new head coach Chip Kelly, Blaine Gabbert is rumored to be the starter to open the season (Note: It wouldn’t surprise me if sixth-rounder Jeff Driskel started for the 49ers at some point this year. He was the fastest QB in the draft and has definite upside). Finally, the Jets selection of Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg complicates Ryan Fitzpatrick’s situation with Gang Green. The Jets and the former Harvard QB have been far apart in contract talks, despite Fitzpatrick breaking the franchise record for single-season touchdown passes. The selection of Hackenberg, who is a developmental prospect, kills most of Fitzpatrick’s leverage with the team.

Defensive Players from University of Alabama

It is easy to say that the Rolling Tide has been a dynasty in college football during the Nick Saban era. They win games with a grind-it-out, dominate-the-trenches style of football, and their defense has consistently been a force. However, not a single Alabama defender went in the first round of the draft, which has only happened once since 2009 (2015, and Alabama S Landon Collins was the first pick of the second round). This came as a shock to many, as DTs A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, as well as LB Reggie Ragland, were consensus first-round prospects. Robinson was my 12th rated player, Ragland my 18th, and Reed my 23rd. Oddly, unlike the falls of Laremy Tunsil and Myles Jack, there was no obvious rationale behind their drops. A possible reason for the drops could be due to the overall talent level of the Tide’s defense, which could make an average player look like an All-Pro in some situations. Ragland and Robinson both fell to the teams I had selecting them in the first round, with Ragland going 41st to Buffalo and Robinson going to the Lions with the 46th pick. Reed was snatched up by the Seahawks with the 49th pick. While all three wound up in great situations for them to reach their potential, their draft day slides could’ve potentially cost them millions of dollars.

Carolina Panthers

Ouch. The Super Bowl runners-up badly needed to have a good draft after losing Jared Allen to retirement and surprisingly rescinding the franchise tag on the best corner in the league last season, Josh Norman. Not to mention offensive tackle Mike Remmers, who has been too embarrassed to show his face at the Panthers’ facility after Von Miller made him look like a blocking dummy in the Super Bowl. When it came to their pick, 31st overall, they had the options of DE Kevin Dodd and OT Germain Ifedi, who both would have been steals. Also on the board was CB Mackensie Alexander, who didn’t let up a single touchdown over the past two seasons while at Clemson. But no, GM David Gettleman selected DT Vernon Butler. While I do like Butler a lot and wouldn’t have been surprised if he had gone in the late first round, defensive tackle is one of the Panthers’ biggest strengths. Entrenched in the position are Pro Bowler Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei, both of whom are entering just their fourth year in the league. While the Panthers could be forced to let one of them go a few years down the road, the Panthers have gaping holes right now. The Panthers did go cornerback with their next three picks, selecting Samford’s James Bradberry, West Virginia’s Daryl Worley and Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez. Bradberry, though he has all the tools to develop into a #1 corner, was seen as a reach in the second round, especially with highly-ranked corners like Will Redmond and Kendall Fuller still on the board. They did not address their need at defensive end either, and Charles Johnson only has a couple of serviceable years left.

Connor Cook

This was just weird. Cook was graded as a second round prospect by most teams, and many projected him going in the late first round. He was seen as the best of the second tier of quarterbacks, and there was more talk about a team reaching in the first round (Christian Ponder anyone?) for the Michigan State signal-caller than there was about a slide. While there were some character concerns about the fact that Cook was not named captain for the Spartans despite being a three-year starter as well as accuracy problems, these were well-documented issues. The Oakland Raiders finally took him with the one-hundredth pick, after Cook was passed over by lesser QB prospects Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett and Cody Kessler. Not only did Cook lose out on a first round payout from dropping to the fourth round, but he also wound up in one of the worst situations for a young quarterback to be in. The Raiders have the most promising young quarterback in the league in Derek Carr, who is entering just the third season of his career and has started every game for the Silver and Black since he was drafted. Unless Carr surprisingly goes down or starts taking advice from his older brother, Cook will have to hope for a trade down the line if he hopes to win a starting job as an NFL quarterback.

Alfred Morris and DeMarco Murray

I was disappointed when the Cowboys picked Ezekiel Elliott. Now I think Elliott will be a fantastic player and was a quality selection at #4, but it killed the fantasy value of Alfred Morris. I had Morris pegged as my sleeper for fantasy football this upcoming year, as he was in line to receive the lion’s share of carries behind football’s best O-Line. Last season was also the only season of his career where he didn’t put up at least 1,200 all-purpose yards, so there was plenty of reason to believe he could’ve turned into a high-end RB2. Now Elliott, who is also a pounding, between-the-tackles runner, will take his spot. On top of that, Darren McFadden would remain the #2 back in Dallas, as his outside speed and versatility makes him a better complement for Elliott. Morris’ may get carries once in awhile, but he won’t be touching the ball much. After Murray was traded from Philadelphia to Tennessee after an underwhelming season, the former rushing champ was in line to be the bell cow for a run-focused Titans offense. Murray was just one season removed from putting up a whopping 2,261 total yards in Dallas, and his past season wasn’t as bad as many thought, as he still posted over 1,000 yards from scrimmage as part of a dysfunctional Eagles offense. Unfortunately for him, the Titans selected Heisman-winning RB Derrick Henry in the second round, putting them in a committee backfield. The two will likely split carries almost evenly, as they are both north-south power rushers with decent, but not great, hands or speed. While their individual production may not be great, the Titans rushing attack will be a threat this season, especially after taking lineman Jack Conklin with the eighth overall pick.


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