While the Patriots won their fifth straight AFC East title last season and continue to be one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL, the Jets, Dolphins and Bills continued their recent struggles. New England remains the only team in the division to finish above .500 since the Jets went 11-5 in 2010 and, while Miami and New York were knocking on the door at 8-8 last season, Buffalo made the loudest noise on draft day in an attempt to break through.
Buffalo Bills: Sitting with the ninth overall pick and a need for another wide receiver, the Bills sent their selection along with a 2015 first and fourth-rounder to Cleveland for the fourth overall pick, where they selected Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. We graded Watkins as the top receiver in the class, slightly ahead of Mike Evans, and there is no doubt the Bills got a playmaker with elite skills to help E.J. Manuel develop. They were able to move Stevie Johnson for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2015 that could turn into a third-rounder as well, but trading up to select a player at the draft’s deepest position is questionable. Without a first-round pick next year, this move adds pressure to the front office and coaching staff to make the playoffs in 2014.
Buffalo added offensive line help in Round 2, drafting Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandijo. Kouandijo has great size (6-6, 322) but his play dropped off as a junior and an arthritic left knee scared some teams away. With Cordy Glenn locked in on Manuel’s blind side, Kouandijo should compete with Chris Hairston to start at right tackle. The Bills added to their defense in Round 3 with Louisville linebacker Preston Brown. With Brandon Spikes on a one-year contract, Buffalo envisions the run-defending Brown as their 2015 starting middle linebacker. A solid athlete and tackler, Brown fits the same two-down mold as Spikes. Fourth-round pick Ross Cockrell got a fifth-round grade from us and, while he’s currently buried on the depth chart, his ball skills and awareness in zone coverage make him a good sub-package prospect. In the fifth round, the Bills picked up another monster lineman, Baylor guard Cyril Richardson. A mauling run blocker most effective in small spaces, Richardson was considered a Day 2 prospect until his severe lack of movement skills were exposed at the Senior Bowl. He has starting potential in a power running game, which the Bills may be looking to employ to aid Manuel.
Buffalo drafted two players in the seventh round, Florida Atlantic linebacker Randell Johnson and Miami tackle Seantrel Henderson. Three suspensions and inconsistent play on the field along with a failed drug test at the NFL Combine dropped Henderson, a Day 1 or 2 physical talent, all the way to the seventh round. NFL teams and scouts have serious questions about whether the light will ever go on for Henderson, but if it does he has the size and athleticism to be a very good starter. Johnson didn’t make our top 300, but his long arms and 4.6 speed make him an intriguing project as a pass rusher. He’ll need to carve out a special teams role to assure a place on the roster. After the draft, the Bills added undrafted Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler. An average athlete with good instincts and awareness, Ladler was a fifth-round prospect on our board and has the aggressive mindset, range and ball skills to be a solid contributor if he makes the team.
Grade C+ Watkins is a great player but the price to move up may prove to be too high for Buffalo, a team now under immediate pressure to win. They did a nice job adding two prospects with starting potential to their offensive line and while I like Brown, we had him rated as a fifth-rounder. Grabbing Henderson late and Ladler off the wire were shrewd, low-risk moves by the Bills that could pay dividends long-term. Buffalo added talent to their roster, but their grade reflects the added pressure of making the playoffs in 2014 and overpayment for the fourth pick.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins need to find a way to keep Ryan Tannehill off his back this season and drafted Tennessee tackle Ja’Wuan James to do just that. After unsuccessfully trying to trade up to grab Zack Martin or trade down to add additional picks, Miami ended up with a player they coveted even if the value wasn’t there. Rated as a second-rounder on our board, James’ consistency and experience could lead to a Week 1 starting job at right tackle. While not the most fluid pass blocker, James is patient in his sets and will help open holes for a run game that struggled last season.
Second-round pick Jarvis Landry was extremely productive at LSU, but watched teammate Odell Beckham Jr. go in the first round despite lesser numbers. While Landry’s size (5-11, 205) and speed (4.55) are far from spectacular, his route-running ability allows him to gain separation while he shows sticky hands and the awareness to work back to his quarterback and find open spaces in zone coverage. He should beat out Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews for the third receiver role. Third-round pick Billy Turner is a developmental prospect from North Dakota State who could settle in at right tackle or guard. Athletic with a nasty attitude, Turner has a starter’s skill set if he takes well to NFL coaching and improves his technique. Just a season after spending second and third-round picks at cornerback, the Dolphins took Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens in the fourth round. An Illinois transfer with good size (6-0, 199), Aikens shows good awareness but is not effective in downfield coverage. We had a seventh-round grade on him. Miami added tight end Arthur Lynch and Jordan Tripp in the fifth round, both representing good value at those slots. Lynch is a balanced in-line tight end who will likely max out as a second tight end, while Tripp is another small-school prospect out of Montana. Like Turner, he brings a nasty attitude to the field and plays hard until the whistle despite average speed (4.63) for his 234-pound frame.
Sixth-round pick Matt Hazel from Coastal Carolina is a possession receiver who sinks his hips well out of his routes and shows solid hands. Despite 4.47 speed, he doesn’t stretch the field and will likely fill a depth role. Seventh-round pick Terrence Fede is a nice upside stash for Miami as a 6-4, 278-pound defensive end with 4.78 speed. Fede dominated small-school competition at Marist and shows good instincts while playing with attitude. The Dolphins made a nice splash in free agency after the draft, added multiple prospects with draftable grades. Center Tyler Larsen projects as a solid backup and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson has Day 2 upside at a no-risk cost. Derrell Johnson is a strong-side linebacker who stacks well and is a solid tackler against the run. Running back Damien Williams has good size, patience and receiving ability and could compete for a roster spot, while Alabama’s Deion Belue is a solid zone prospect who can provide secondary depth.
Grade C+ While Miami ended up with a lot of players with draftable grades on our board, none of them ranked in our top 50, an indictment on their first-round pick. James can be a good player, but there’s a reason they were looking to trade down once Martin and the other top tackles came off the board. After last year’s Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito fiasco, the Dolphins drafted players who work hard and bring the right attitude on the field. There was also a noticeable small-school theme to Miami’s draft and while that landed them upside players like Turner and Fede, it’s possible that the Dolphins could look back on this draft in a few seasons and see minimal impact to their roster.
New York Jets: Armed with 12 draft picks, the Jets were in position to add much needed talent and depth through the draft. First-round pick Calvin Pryor was the 18th-ranked player on our board and the Jets drafted him with the 18th overall pick. A perfect fit for Rex Ryan’s defense, the aggressive, hard-hitting Pryor immediately becomes the team’s most talented safety and shows the range and ball skills to be effective in coverage, despite inefficiencies in pursuit and against play action. Second-round pick Jace Amaro fills a big hole at tight end for New York and gives Geno Smith an additional weapon on offense. At 6-5, 265 with 4.69 speed, Amaro is a great athlete with solid hands who can attack the seam and create separation on intermediate routes.
Third-round pick Dexter McDougle was a head scratcher to many, and he wasn’t ranked in our top 300 prospects. Coming off a shoulder injury that depressed his stock, McDougle could fill a nickel role if he returns to full health but was a significant reach who would have been available later. Drafting Jalen Saunders in the fourth round surprised as well with Jeremy Kerley being a reliable slot receiver, but Kerley is in the final year of his contract and the Jets’ offseason additions may push him out the door in favor of a slot playmaker like Saunders, who has 4.44 speed and also returns punts. Another fourth-round receiver, UCLA’s Shaq Evans, has good size (6-1, 213) and strong hands with ability after the catch and should compete for targets in training camp. With their third pick in the fourth round, the Jets drafted athletic Furman guard Dakota Dozier. Dozier needs to improve his base strength but has good feet, moves well, plays nasty and could eventually become a starter at a position of weakness.
Fifth-round linebacker Jeremiah George has size limitations (5-11, 235), but scrapes well and shows sideline-to-sideline range. He struggles taking on blocks and stopping ballcarriers on initial contact but can be a solid backup, especially with the Jets’ defensive line keeping blockers away from his frame. Sixth-rounders Brandon Dixon, Quincy Enunwa, IK Enemkpali and Tajh Boyd are all role players. Dixon stands 5-11, 203 with 4.42 speed and special teams skills to boot, while Enunwa is another size/speed project who needs to improve his consistency to make it off the practice squad. Enemkpali has potential as a situational pass rusher despite poor measurables, while Boyd is a former top quarterback prospect who was buoyed by a great support cast at Clemson. He’ll battle Matt Simms for the third quarterback spot and could be the Jets’ long-term answer as a backup if he can improve his accuracy and mechanics. Seventh-round pick Trevor Reilly had an early Day 3 grade on our board and is a physical, efficient player who will add depth to the Jets’ linebacking corps, but he’ll be 26 this fall. Undrafted free agent Kerry Hyder was stamped with a late Day 3 grade and has a legitimate chance to make the roster as a backup five-technique and one-gap sub-package rusher, with a great first step and good movement skills despite lacking natural bulk at 290 pounds.
Grade B The Jets added tons of depth to their roster this offseason, which should help John Idzik and Rex Ryan preach competition at almost every position over the summer. Pryor and Amaro should be impact players from Day 1 but after that, the Jets’ draft has some question marks. They got questionable value on some of their mid and late-round picks but considering how many picks they had and the fact that their top six draftees could all play important roles at some point in the next two years, the Jets come out of the draft looking better than their division rivals in terms of both depth and top-end talent.
New England Patriots: While the Patriots continue to win the division, they seem to become more vulnerable every season and haven’t drafted as well as in the past. Fortunately for them, they still have Tom Brady and none of their competitors are ready to take the throne. New England’s first-round pick this season was Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley, an explosive three-technique prospect with two ACL surgeries on his resume. If he can regain his athleticism, Easley combines explosiveness with great hand moves on the inside to provide consistent interior pressure and disrupt opponents’ rhythm. Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was New England’s second-round pick and with Ryan Mallett entering the final year of his contract, Garoppolo has a legitimate chance to be the heir to soon-to-be 37-year-old Tom Brady. Scouts are torn on Garoppolo’s upside and he isn’t a great deep passer, but has a West Coast skill set and one of the best mentors to learn from.
Without a third-round pick, the Patriots had three in the fourth and took Florida State center Bryan Stork, Wisconsin running back James White and Stanford tackle Cameron Fleming. Fleming was overshadowed by his teammates at Stanford but his strength and footwork make him a worthwhile project with starting upside. Stork was an All-American who also saw time at guard, but isn’t dominant in any facet of the game and projects as a versatile backup. White is strong and quick with great vision and strong hands as a receiver. He has a complete skill set without any dominant physical traits, but will be good insurance with both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley playing out the final year of their contracts.
New England had four picks in the final two rounds, adding guard Jon Halapio, defensive end Zach Moore and safety Jemea Thomas in the sixth round. Halapio moves well but needs to improve his strength, even at 323 pounds, to be anything more than a backup. Moore is a developmental prospect who dominated at Concordia-St. Paul and has good upside as a pass rusher. He must improve his strength and hand usage to be more effective against the run, but has nice potential in the sixth round. Thomas is a hard-hitting safety who lacks prototypical size (5-9, 192), which hurts him against tight ends and taller receivers in coverage. He has the mindset to be a core special teamer with the potential to work himself into a dime role down the line. Seventh-round pick Jeremy Gallon is just 5-7, 185 pounds but his 39.5-inch vertical allows him to win battles as a shorter receiver. Quick in and out of his routes, Gallon lacks great long speed but has potential as a solid underneath receiver in the slot as well as on special teams. Undrafted tight end Justin Jones from East Carolina has great size at 6-7, 277 pounds but missed his senior season due to eligibility issues. If he makes the roster, his size and athleticism could make him a threat in the red zone.
Grade C New England has made some head-scratching picks in recent drafts, and 2014 was no different. While Easley has the potential to outplay his draft position, he’s also a risky player who has had both knees reconstructed, despite filling a serious need at defensive tackle. Garoppolo has starter potential but if Brady is still going strong in 2017, which is certainly a big if, the Patriots won’t know if Garoppolo is ready when his contract is set to expire. Fleming was a solid pick on Day 3 and White could contribute in the backfield, but this draft class is lacking in immediate impact unless Easley is 100 percent recovered. The Patriots will need to continue to ride Brady and their inept division rivals to stay atop the AFC East.
The NFC South is shaping up to be a competitive division. Tampa Bay has work to do but seems headed in the right direction while the talent level in Atlanta and New Orleans was better than the results on the field in 2013. Carolina is developing a dominant defense and needs to add a few pieces on offense. Yet despite this the division owned two selections in the top eight.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons worked the days before the draft attempting to move up to the top spot in the hopes of selecting Jadeveon Clowney. When that never materialized they did the next best thing; stood pat and chose Jake Matthews with the sixth pick. While Greg Robinson was all the rage at the offensive tackle position Matthews is more polished, more NFL ready and much lower risk compared to the Auburn sophomore. In the second frame the team filled a need on the defensive line with Ra’Shede Hageman. At the top of his game Hageman dominates opponents and can be a destructive force. The issue for Hageman is he disappears for stretches. Dezmen Southward was a bit of a surprise in round three. From a size/speed point of view Southward grades as a first rounder but his game is unpolished and the senior struggles making plays with his back to the ball. There’s no denying he comes with a huge upside. Devonta Freeman has size/speed limitations but the fourth rounder is just a good football player who’ll do well as a rotational back. I’m in the minority but I like the selection of Prince Shembo in round four. On the field he’s a terrific defender who forces the action but also plays disciplined football. He’s a terrific fit in a 3-4 and Shembo has starting potential. Ricardo Allen has the underlying ability to make an NFL roster and start down the road but he’s a prospect who must play to a high level every snap. After watching him in 2011, I thought Marquis Spruill was a star in the making but his game never took off. He’s been spotty on the college field but should find a home as a back-up linebacker/special teams player on the Falcons roster. As I wrote in the weeks leading to the draft Yawin Smallwood had a small tear in his hamstring which pushed him deep into the draft. He’s tough, instinctive and has starting potential in the right system. Tyler Starr was a disruptive force on the small school level and plays tough, disciplined football. He’ll be a natural fit in the Falcons new defensive alignment.
Grade B+ From start to finish I like the Falcons draft day collection. In Matthews they have an immediate starter that can play both tackle spots. The defensive players selected represent value, versatility and the ability to fit the 3-4 alignment Atlanta plans to implement this season.
Carolina Panthers: Entering the draft there was a consensus Carolina would stay on offense in round one as the discussion centered around receiver and the offensive line. To the surprise of many they grabbed Kelvin Benjamin at the end of the first frame. Considering some of the other receivers available at the pick Benjamin was a slight reach. He’s a massive receiver with limited quickness who’ll struggle to separate from NFL defenders. At 6-feet/5-inches and 240lbs, one can only guess if Benjamin will ultimately grow into a tight end. Carolina came away with a steal late in round two when they selected Kony Ealy. There are a variety of opinions on Ealy in the scouting community but I firmly believe he’ll be a productive starter and this was a great pick. The morning of the draft’s second day I had posted that Trai Turner would be selected earlier than many expected and the Panthers drafted him before the third round closed out. Turner has a great amount of upside but will need a lot of work before he’s NFL ready. Tre Boston was a slight reach in round four as he has scheme limitations. Fifth round pick Bene Benwikere is a terrific football player with speed limitations. I would expect to see Benwikere line up in dime packages this fall. Tyler Gaffney was a solid value in round six and offers options for an aging Deangelo Williams. Receiver Corey Brown was signed as a UDFA and has a real opportunity to make the roster. Also signed after the draft was Denicos Allen, a Ron Rivera type of linebacker who could add depth and be an ace on special teams. Ohio State guard Andrew Norwell and Texas cornerback Carrington Byndum are two additional UDFA’s to keep an eye on while running back Darrin Reaves is practice squad worthy.
Grade C+: I was never very big on Kelvin Benjamin and feel his transition to the NFL could be rocky. The middle round picks were slight reaches. Kony Ealy elevates the grade for the Panthers.
New Orleans Saints: Most thought the Saints would look defense in round one but when Brandin Cooks started to slide the team traded up to grab him. Cooks should be a natural fit for New Orleans; a speedy skill player in a good weather division that will help his team at receiver, running reverses or as a return specialist. Selecting Stanley Jean-Baptiste in round two is high risk/reward. The Nebraska senior comes with great size/speed numbers but an unpolished game and spotty film. Khairi Fortt was a mild surprise in round four but in the end this could be a steal. Fortt is a good fit on the inside of the Saints 3-4 alignment and a speedy linebacker who stands out in pursuit. I don’t understand the selection of Vinnie Sunseri in round five. The Saints look set at safety and while you want competition in camp, I struggle to see how Sunseri, a one dimensional downhill defender coming off a serious knee injury, was worth a fifth round selection. Conversely the teams other fifth round selection, linebacker Ronald Powell, could be a bargain. Powell, who primarily played defensive end at Florida, is athletic, explosive and a fine pass rusher who can also play in space. Powell comes with a long injury history but if he shows durability he could surprise this season. Though I was higher on Tavon Rooks than most I didn’t think he would be a draft pick. He’s an underrated athlete I suspect will get consideration at guard. The Saints signed a number of quality players after the draft. Center Matt Armstrong will have a real opportunity to win the back-up job, Tim Flanders projects well as a third down back and Kasim Edebali has the smarts, toughness and determination to make the squad at outside linebacker/special teams. Brandon Coleman is the guy to watch. In many ways his college career parallels Saints pro-bowl wide out Marques Colston; a king sized, game controlling receiver with deceptive speed whose career was disrupted by a knee injury. If Coleman can return from his injury, which occurred just over a year ago, this could be a genius signing.
Grade: C+ While the Saints picks look good on paper I see a lot of bust factor. Can Jean-Baptiste play at a consistently high level? Will Fortt pan out? Can Sunseri return from injury? After Brandin Cooks I see a lot of value in the UDFA’s the team signed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The rumors were rampant prior to the draft that Tampa Bay would be the team in the top ten to select quarterback Johnny Manziel. Didn’t happen. Instead the Bucs made the smart choice and tabbed receiver Mike Evans, who should quickly break into the starting line-up and help whomever is underneath center this season. I can’t be as kind with their second round choice, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. While there’s a lot to like about his game, there’s also much to be concerned about. If they wanted a tight end Jace Amaro was just as highly rated and came with significantly less downside. Charles Sims was ridiculously underrated and the Bucs could pair him with starter Doug Martin for a terrific 1-2 punch. Sims has the size, speed and versatility to produce at the next level. The team took a pair of offensive linemen in round five; Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile. I see Edwards as a prospect who needs a lot of work and may not make it. Conversely I started praising Pamphile prior to the 2013 college season and found it mind-boggling the way he fell under the radar in the scouting community. He has the athleticism and skill to line up at left tackle and may also get consideration at guard. Robert Herron was great value in round seven. He brings speed and game breaking ability to the Bucs wide receiver unit besides being a tough, dependable underneath pass catcher. Looking at Tampa’s depth chart I’d be surprised if Herron doesn’t make the final roster. The team did a terrific job signing UDFA’s who can make the roster and help on both sides of the ball. Solomon Patton is a smaller version of Robert Herron and deserved to be drafted. If Matt Patchan stays healthy he has the ability to be a third/swing tackle. Chaz Sutton looked like a middle round pick in 2012, played like a street free agent in 2013 then impressed scouts during pro-day. He’s very much a Lovie Smith type of defensive end but must up his game.
Grade B: Tampa did a good job with all their draft picks and signed a few quality players when the seven rounds was complete. Seferian-Jenkins keeps this from being a B+, not because he was a bad pick rather due to the fact there were better tight ends available.
One team from the AFC South made the playoffs last season while the other three placed in top twelve of the NFL Draft, including Houston who owned the first pick. The division has a lot of ground to make up before its truly competitive and they hope the draft is a stepping stone.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts were left without a pick in round one after trading for running back Trent Richardson last season and needed offensive lineman and a safety entering the draft. They hope they found their right tackle of the future in second round pick Jack Mewhort. The Ohio State senior is a terrific combination of toughness, intellect and fundamentals. He’s not a great athlete but offers starting potential almost immediately. The team’s third round pick, receiver Donte Moncrief is rough around the edges but another who offers starting potential. On paper Moncrief has mouth watering size/speed numbers but his film is spotty. He was good value and comes with a large degree of upside. Fifth round choice Jon Newsome was a reach in my opinion. He’s a good athlete but rarely meets expectations and has rightly been branded an underachiever by scouts. Linebacker Andrew Jackson was worth a roll of the dice in round six and fits well on the inside of the Colts 3-4 alignment. Ulrick John was a surprise pick in the final frame, but has the size and skill to make the teams roster. The Colts signed a number of talented UDFA’s, including several who were stamped as legitimate mid-to-late round picks. Off the field issues and slow forty times pushed Loucheiz Purifoy out of the seven rounds yet he’s a legitimate dime back who should help out as a return specialist. Zach Kerr should find a spot on the roster as the back-up nose tackle while guard Marcus Hall and cornerback Keon Lyn are legitimate back-ups.
Grade: C We stamped second round pick Jack Mewhort as a third rounder and Donte Moncrief as second round talent, so they cancel each other out. The teams second day picks, specifically Newsome in round five, are questionable.
Houston Texas: The Texans held the first pick in the draft and there’s was much intrigue right up until the final minutes. Houston seriously considered Blake Bortles with the initial selection and I’m told they had two cards filled out at their table. One had Bortles name on it while the other listed the team’s eventual selection, Jadeveon Clowney. In the end Clowney was the smart pick and was made in large part based on fear; the team was afraid of passing up such a potentially dominant defender. Xavier Su’a-Filo was our top rated guard and Houston made him the first pick of round two. He’s a solid prospect who should quickly break into the starting line-up this September. C.J. Fiedorowicz is definitely a Bill O’Brien type of tight end and was worth a third round selection. Houston considered taking Louis Nix at the top of round two but later traded up in the third frame to grab the nose tackle as he continued to slide. If Nix plays to his level of ability he’ll be a steal. During the pro-day process I reported coach Bill O’Brien requested quarterback Tom Savage make specific throws at the end of the Pittsburgh Panthers workout. Hence it was no surprise the team drafted him at the end of round four. Despite reports of Savage rising into the draft’s top sixty picks, the late fourth round was his value. Jeff Pagan is a wait and see selection in round six. Injuries and pedestrian play in 2013 suppressed his draft grade but Pagan offers a nice degree of upside. The teams other selections in round six, running back Alfred Blue and fullback Jay Prosch are solid depth players. Seventh round selection Andre Hal was good value and could find a home on the roster as a dime back/special teams player. Final choice Lonnie Ballentine is a size/speed prospect destined for the practice squad. Linebacker Max Bullough and tackle/guard Matt Feiler were terrific post draft signings.
Grade A: Houston left the draft with four potential starters, a developmental quarterback and four late round picks who could make the roster. Add in a pair of top UDFA’s and there’s a lot to like about the start of the Bill O’Brien regime.
Jacksonville Jaguars: For the seventh consecutive draft the Jaguars made a selection in the top ten and keeping with recent history they surprised a lot of people when they chose quarterback Blake Bortles. Were better players available to Jacksonville with the third pick of the draft? Yes, but truth be told Bortles was widely considered the first pick of the draft just three months ago, so this really should not be a huge shock. In the end the franchise selected the top quarterback in the draft and a player with the potential to lead the team moving forward. Jacksonville picked up a pair of terrific receivers, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, in the second round. If he returns to full health and prior playing form, Lee could be the steal of the draft. Prior to the 2013 season many considered him a top five pick and a better prospect than Sammy Watkins. There are a wide range of opinions on Robinson but the bottom line is he’s a big bodied pass catcher with consistent hands. Brandon Linder was a slight reach in round three but he’s a blue-collar, intelligent blocker who fits what Jacksonville is trying to do. Can’t say I’m a fan of Aaron Colvin in round four. His film is spotty, he struggles making plays with his back to the ball and he’s coming off a serious knee injury sustained late in January at the Senior Bowl. Both selections in round five were good value. Telvin Smith is a ferocious but undersized linebacker who slipped after he foolishly failed his drug test at the combine. Chris Smith is also undersized but a natural pass rusher who can stand up over tackle or come out of a three point stance. We wrote glowingly of Luke Bowanko’s pro-day performance but were still surprised he was drafted. He’ll compete for the starting job for the center starved Jaguars. Storm Johnson was solid value in the final frame. He’s a downhill runner who punishes opponents but a back that must improve his ball security to stick at the next level. The franchise signed a number of high profile UDFA’s who should compete for roster spots including quarterback Stephen Morris, tight end Marcel Jensen, cornerback Rashaad Reynolds and defensive lineman Deandre Coleman.
Grade: B+ I’m not a fan of Colvin in round four and Bowanko in the sixth was a surprise but the players Jacksonville selected in rounds two and five were great value. This draft will ultimately be determined based on the success of Blake Bortles, which is a shame. I heaped praise on Bortles starting in January before it became fashionable and in the end the Jaguars made the right call.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans lost Alterraun Verner in free agency then cut Chris Johnson making cornerback and running back primary needs entering the draft. Add in the fact starting offensive tackle Michael Roos is on the other side of 30 and when Taylor Lewan fell into their laps he was too good to pass up. As far as sheer value, this was tops in the first half of round one as Lewan offers immediate starting potential at either left or right tackle from day one. He’s big, dominant, athletic and should have been a top ten pick. Tennessee came away with another bargain in the second half of round two with Bishop Sankey. The junior does not replace the speed lost when Chris Johnson was cut but brings the dimension of running the ball on the inside or around the perimeter as well as the ability to be a lethal pass catching threat out of the backfield. DaQuan Jones was solid value in the fourth round. The athletic defensive lineman has great physical skill but looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane. If the light goes on Jones can be a force in the NFL. Marqueston Huff, the other fourth round pick, has the versatility to line-up at corner or safety and should be a core special teamer at the next level. Avery Williamson was ridiculously underrated entering the draft. He was a consistent producer at Kentucky then turned in a terrific combine workout and should make the active roster. Zach Mettenberger fell into the sixth round for a variety of reasons including injury, off the field issues, a questionable drug test at the combine plus the fact he needs a lot of work on his game. Despite this the Titans may have found their quarterback of the future in the late rounds if Mettenberger improves his game and matures as a person. The team signed a handful of outstanding players after the draft. Center Gabe Ikard could win the back-up job, former defensive end James Gayle could make the two-deep as a designated pass rusher, Antonio Andrews should add depth at running back, Eric Ward could make the roster as a fifth receiver as could Josh Stewart considering his return skills.
Grade A-: In the end all six of the Titans picks have a real chance of making the roster this fall. Lewan is starting material. Ditto for Sankey as Shonn Greene will inevitably miss games with injuries. The middle three selections are role players that could develop into starters as could Mettenberger if he hones his game.