I don’t think that you can know how good a team’s draft was until at least three years after the players were picked, and even then the process can be logical and the players don’t work out for injury or various other reasons. Not to mention that as someone who listens to draft podcasts but doesn’t actually watch college games I don’t have strong opinions on individual players.
I would suggest one of the reasons the Bengals have failed to make the playoffs the last three years is that the first four pick from the 2015 draft are not on the roster right now. You are never going to have every pick working out, but the combination of missing on the two offensive tackles selected in the first and second rounds in 2015 and letting Andrew Whitworth go undermined the offence because Andy Dalton is a quarterback who needs a clean pocket to operate and neither of Cedric Ogbuehi or Jake Fisher played well enough at tackle. I don’t generally believe that there are simple solutions to complex questions, but this is pretty clearly the start of the Bengals’ problems on offence. At least two of the last three seasons were also derailed by cluster injuries and that can happen to any team, but getting the depth of roster right is part of being a winning franchise and there are plenty of teams who are competitive nearly every year.
So, whilst I don’t think we can know which teams have drafted well last week, I can take a look at the moves I liked and what I have questions about.
I will start with the three franchises supported by the TWF team, although not my Bengals for once.
I am increasingly impressed by the Miami Dolphins’ approach this offseason and they sealed this by not reaching for a quarterback in the first round and then acquiring Josh Rosen for only a 2019 second round pick and a fifth round selection next year. This gives the Dolphins a top ten quarterback prospect for minimal draft capital, they only have to pay him $6 million dollars for the rest of his contract, and they have the fifth year team option for a first round draft pick. This gives them outstanding value and even if Rosen doesn’t work out they can draft a quarterback next season in a draft that is supposedly a better one for quarterbacks. The simple fact is that there is a clearly identifiable plan in in Miami, and they are sticking to it. That doesn’t mean it will definitely succeed, but they stand more chance of winning big by resetting and rebuilding than they did on the constant treadmill of not quite being good enough that has been the approach for the last few seasons.
As for the Bengals 2019 draft, the pick of tackle Jonah Williams seems very logical given our roster and quarterback. A lot of draft experts liked the player and enough said he was the best tackle in the draft so I’m pretty happy he will start somewhere along the line this year. There were comments about the Steelers trading up to the tenth pick to grab Devin Bush and hurting us in the process, but the Bengals did pick a linebacker in the third round and that would be the kind of move that I would usually associate with the Bengals given their approach to value and where they typically invest their draft capital. The Bengals have generally been really good at drafting for a number of years (the 2015 draft obviously being an exception) and whilst this never resulted in playoff success there were rarely criticisms of the talent ofnthe roster. The 2015 season is still the one that feels like it got away where Andy Dalton was playing as well as any quarterback in the league before he broke his thumb. I’ll be really interested to see they go under the new regime. I also like the trade up to grab quarterback Ryan Finley in the fourth round as whilst I don’t think there is a pressing need to replace Dalton right now and wasn’t expecting the Bengals to aggressively go after one, Finley has time to develop behind Dalton. The new regime looks to be building competition across their entire roster and this includes the quarterbacks’ room. I think it is a good idea to keep a flow of young quarterbacks into the room as you never know who you might found and these can often be traded away towards the end of their contract if they are not challenging your starters. Just look at how many quarterbacks developed behind Tom Brady that the Patriots have later traded away for picks and who have also helped them win games.
The Minnesota Vikings’ offseason has not created a lot of news in the corners of the NFL media I follow, and nor has their draft despite them selecting twelve players. I am not at all surprised that with their first four picks they addressed concerns on offence by picking a centre, guard, tight-end and running back. I will late Dan’s dad take it from here as he’s been following the Vikings’ offseason more closely than I have:
‘While I accept the excitement that the bringing in of new faces has for the fans I will admit to never totally understanding the process. I know that last year’s position determines where a team sits in the pecking order for the draft but allowing teams to trade up and down almost makes a mockery of the event. I’m sure some of you understand it better than I but to me it’s like explaining cricket to a French exchange student, or an American for that matter.
What I do understand are numbers and the comments of the GMs explaining their strategy. For example I understand that there was a record of 40 draft day trades across the league this year and the Vikings GM Rick Spielman was involved in 6 over the 2 days.
What did strike me though from looking at the names the Vikes went for is that firstly there were no marquee names, often there is hype around one or more names which cause a stir in their selections. Secondly the balance of positions throughout the team suggests a considered approach looking for general strengthening rather than a quick fix. Indeed ‘quick’ isn’t really the aim, it takes time to bring new blood into any team especially in the NFL when everyone has and works to very specific roles.
This year then, for me the big ticket item is Boise State running back Alexander Mattison. Only a 3rd round pick but Spielman’s patience was rewarded, managing to land N.C. State centre Garrett Bradbury in round one and Alabama tight-end Irv Smith Jr in second were on the list and fortune left them both available in what can become a lottery.
Trying to absorb all the changes it does seem clear that the selections have, as should always be the case, been ones which will ‘fit’ alongside what is already there. To me that is a huge positive. In a season long grind you don’t need ‘show ponies’ when well drilled and safe hands are what’s needed. Mike Zimmer is a builder of teams and scouting will have found the best targets. That said getting them from your wish list and through the draft takes luck and I think this year luck has been on the Vikings side.
Time will tell but for now it’s encouraging!’
I think that’s a pretty full summary but did want to pick up on a thing Dan’s Dad mentioned about augmenting your roster with the draft. Although I think that a team should look to build through the draft rather than relying on free-agency, I do think it is important to go into the draft with no glaring needs on your roster. You can have priorities but where I think teams get into trouble is reaching for a player that solves a problem rather than picking the best player available. It can be dangerous to go after a star free agent but you can still augment your roster carefully so come the draft you get what your players is available and sure, if you have comparably rated players and one is a weaker position you would take that player but it is dangerous to reach, and it looks like the Houston Texans did just that after the Eagles traded up above them to take Andre Dillard. Now, the tackle the Texans took could work out and I really hop Tytus Howard does work for them as I generally want teams to be successful but it does feel like the Texans just went down their list of tackles rather than their overall list.
If balancing your roster and picking best player available is my key concept going into the draft, then I would generally prefer a team to trade down rather than up, although this gets more flexible the deeper into the draft you go. I think the only player you should really move up for in the first round is a franchise quarterback unless there is a player deep in the first round that you think is worth coming back up for to get the fifth year option. That said, I didn’t mind the Pittsburgh Steelers’ moving up to ten to take linebacker Devin Bush as their defence has just not been the same since Ryan Shazier suffered his horrible injury and this should give them a real boost. I also understand why the New Orleans Saints have been so aggressive in trading picks to get the right players as they are trying to maximise their chances of getting Drew Brees another ring before he retires and they have to carry out a longer term reset.
I liked the Colts moving down to acquire more players as their rebuild continues to progress and I get the feeling they could be really competitive next year. I’ve not been a fan of Washington approach to the offseason in recent years but they have to be pretty happy that quarterback Dwayne Haskins fell to them at fifteen. It looks like the Baltimore Ravens didn’t miss a beat in their first post Ozzie Newsome draft and I suspect the AFC North is going to very competitive this season.
The Denver Broncos did well to move down and pick up and extra second round pick yet still get quarterback Drew Lock in the second round. The worry will be that apart from Peyton Manning so far John Elway has failed to find a franchise player at the position he himself was so good at. There’s time for Lock to develop behind Joe Flacco who the Broncos traded for in the off-season, but Elway really needs one of them to work out soon or questions really might be asked by ownership about if Elway can get them another Super Bowl.
However, if there is one team where ownership should be asking questions it is the New York Giants given that a year after refusing to listen to offers and picking Saquon Barkley with the second pick they ignored the order of most draft grading and picked Duke quarterback Daniel Jones. If he works out and plays better than Sam Darnold then David Gettleman can prove his doubters wrong to a degree, but Jones would likely would have been available at pick seventeen, which they got for trading away Odell Beckham and who did they get with the seventeenth pick? A run stuffing defensive tackle to replace the one they traded away during last season which hardly seems to be a good return for one of the most dynamic receivers in the game. As I say Gettleman could prove his doubters wrong but I don’t like the way he’s gone about this and the aim isn’t to pick a quarterback that does better than the one he had last season, it’s to win a Super Bowl and that feels a long way away for the Giants as currently constructed.
Still, the only way to tell for sure is to wait three years and see how things pan out so lets sit back and wait out what is the quietest bit of the NFL year, but it’s the beginning of May so before you know it we’ll be starting training camps and gearing up for the one hundredth NFL season.