Inside the War Room: NFL Draft Review
In this week’s Inside the War Room, John Blair takes a look at some teams that had great drafts, gives his All-Undrafted team, talks about great value picks, and much more.
- While it is impossible to judge a team’s draft without seeing how the players perform in the NFL, it is interesting to see what teams got great value on draft day. One team that stood out in this area is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who added the top two defensive players on Pro Football Spot’s draft board in Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. Look for both of these players to make a significant impact in the NFL, and to be two players the Jaguars can build their defense around. In the third round, the team picked up one of the more underrated defensive ends in the draft in Yannick Ngakoue who recorded 13 sacks last season at Maryland. The team then added a pass rushing defensive tackle in Sheldon Day. Jacksonville also got great value late in the draft with the selections of two of the best small school pass rushers in the draft, Tyrone Holmes and Jonathan Woodard.
- Another team that focused on the defensive side of the ball that had a strong draft was the Buffalo Bills. While I am not high on their first-round pick Shaq Lawson, I thought the team added some key pieces later in the draft. One of these pieces was Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland who was the best middle linebacker in the draft, and should be a starter in Buffalo for years to come. The team then picked up Adolphus Washington in the third round. Washington is an athletic defensive tackle who would have gone higher in the draft if he had not been suspended from the Ohio State football team at the end of the season last year. In the fourth round, the team picked up an interesting developmental quarterback in Cardale Jones who shows the potential to develop into a starting quarterback if he goes about it the correct way. The team also got good value in running back Jonathan Williams who was the highest rated senior running back on my board before he suffered a season ending foot injury. In the sixth round, the Bills got two intriguing developmental prospects in speedy wide receiver Kolby Listenbee and athletic cornerback Kevon Seymour. I would not be the least bit surprised if all of the team’s seven draft picks ended up making the team.
- The Minnesota Vikings may have picked up the steal of the draft when they picked up Mackensie Alexander with the 54th pick. Alexander was rated as the 17th best player on Pro Football Spot’s draft board and is a cornerback that has proven he had the ability to shut down the best wide receivers in college football. The team also got good value in the first round when they picked up the best wide receiver in the draft in Laquon Treadwell with 23rd pick in the draft. While Treadwell may not have the blazing speed of players like Corey Coleman or Will Fuller, he does show the ability to start as a possession receiver in the NFL. In the sixth round, the team picked up an interesting prospect in wide receiver Moritz Boehringer who could develop into a solid player in a couple of years.
- The San Diego Chargers pulled the first surprise of the draft when they took Joey Bosa with the third pick. While I think DeForest Buckner would have made more sense for their 3-4 defense, Bosa did prove during his time at Ohio State that he was one of the best defensive players in the nation. The team did get great value when they selected Bosa’s teammate Joshua Perry in the fourth round. Perry is your traditional run-stuffing linebacker who shows the work ethic and overall character to succeed in the NFL. San Diego also picked up the best punter in the draft in the sixth round with the selection of Drew Kaser.
- One more team’s draft that stood out to me was the Oakland Raiders who picked up one of the best safeties in the draft in Karl Joseph. Joseph shows the ability to be a force vs. the run and has the ability to hold up in coverage. In the third round of the draft, the team picked up Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun who has the ability to be a situational pass rusher in the NFL. The team went back to the Big Ten in the fourth round and picked up Connor Cook who many predicted to go at the end of the first round. While Cook may have some character concerns he does have the tools to develop into a starting quarterback in a couple of years. If Cook does turn into a starting quarterback it would be a great value pick for the Raiders as they would be able to trade him in a couple of years for a high draft pick.
All-UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT TEAM
Once the 2016 NFL Draft concluded, teams moved their focus to signing free agents who could possibly make their roster with a strong training camp. While the majority of free agents don’t make a roster, we did see an impressive 50 players who went undrafted in 2015 make an opening team's roster. This included players such as running back Thomas Rawls who rushed for 830 yards last season, punter Matt Darr who finished 3rd in the NFL in punting average, and offensive guard La’el Collins who started part of the season for the Dallas Cowboys. Listed below are the top players at each position on my board who ended up going undrafted.
- Jake Coker, QB, Alabama, signed with the Arizona Cardinals
- Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois, signed with the Indianapolis Colts
- Dakota Gordon, FB, San Diego State,
- Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa, signed with the Carolina Panthers
- Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois, signed with the Green Bay Packers
- Henry Krieger Coble, TE, Iowa, signed with the Denver Broncos
- Dominique Robertson, OT, West Georgia, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Landon Turner, OG, North Carolina, signed with the New Orleans Saints
- Jack Allen, C, Michigan State, signed with the New Orleans Saints
- Darrell Greene, OG, San Diego State, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles
- Tyler Marz, OT, Wisconsin, signed with the Tennessee Titans
- Drew Ott, DE, Iowa, signed with the Indianapolis Colts
- Lawrence Thomas, DT, Michigan State, signed with the New York Jets
- Darius Latham, DT, Indiana, signed with the Oakland Raiders
- James Cowser, DE, Southern Utah, signed with the Oakland Raiders
- Eric Striker, OLB, Oklahoma, signed with the Buffalo Bills
- Dominique Alexander, MLB, Oklahoma, signed with the Cleveland Browns
- David Perkins, OLB, Illinois State, signed with the Seattle Seahawks
- Michael Jordan, CB, Missouri Western, signed with the Los Angeles Rams
- Okezie Alozie, S, Buffalo
- Jeremy Cash, S, Duke, signed with the Carolina Panthers
- Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars
- Ka'Imi Fairbairn, K, UCLA, signed with the Houston Texans
- Nick O'Toole, P, West Virginia
DRAFT STOCK MARKET
Best Value Picks
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson, 54th pick to the Minnesota Vikings
Alexander may be the steal of the draft as he was rated as the second best cornerback and sixth best player on my board. However, he slid all the way to the 54th pick before the Minnesota Vikings took him. Look for Alexander to be one of the best pure cornerbacks in this year’s draft and if he doesn’t earn a starting job this year he might after the 2016 season when several players in the Vikings secondary become free agents.
Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA, 36th pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars
While I expected Jack to fall in the draft due to concerns about his knee, I would never have guessed that he would have fallen all the way to the 36th pick. The Jaguars have to love the fact that he fell in the draft as he should team with the team’s first-round draft pick Jalen Ramsey to form one of the best group of defensive rookies in the NFL.
Devontae Booker RB Utah 136th pick to the Denver Broncos
Booker is another player who fell in the draft due to concerns about the torn meniscus he suffered last season. When Booker is completely recovered from this injury look for him to get plenty of carries behind C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman next season.
Daniel Lasco, RB, California, 237th pick to the New Orleans Saints
One more player who saw himself slide in the draft due to injury concerns is Lasco who only started in three games last season due to battling hip and ankle injuries. If Lasco can stay healthy like he did during the 2014 season, he could be the best seventh-round selection of the draft.
Christian Westerman, OG, Arizona State, 161st pick to the Cincinnati Bengals
While Westerman might be disappointed he fell farther in the draft than he should have, he should be happy he gets to learn under one of the better offensive line coaches in the NFL in Paul Alexander. Westerman is a player who shows nice mobility and has the strength to play in the NFL. He also offers nice versatility as he can play both guard and center which is where the Bengals will start him off at.
Poor Value Picks
Nick Vigil, MLB, Utah State 87th pick to the Cincinnati Bengals
Vigil was one of the bigger reaches in the draft especially when you consider highly rated inside linebackers, such as Ohio State’s Joshua Perry, were still on the board. In fact, I had Vigil rated as the 11th best inside linebacker in the draft, and he didn’t even make Pro Football Spot’s draft rankings.
Adam Gotsis, DT, Georgia Tech, 63rd pick to the Denver Broncos
This is another pick that makes very little sense to me as Gotsis was rated the 27th best defensive tackle on my board, and was not rated by Pro Football Spot. Gotsis only put up average production as well in college having only recorded six sacks, and 11.5 tackles for loss over his last two season at Georgia Tech. If this were not enough he also missed the end of the season with a knee injury. The Broncos would have been better off by taking a player like Jonathan Bullard or Adolphus Washington with this pick.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama, 73rd pick to the Miami Dolphins
The biggest trait the Dolphins seem to like with the players they are drafting is overall athletic ability. This is evident with the selection of Drake who only rushed for 408 yards last season, and has missed significant time with injuries during his time at Alabama. I would be very surprised if Drake turned out to be anything more than a change of pace back in the NFL.
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor 38th pick to the Miami Dolphins
Howard is another athlete who may have been drafted higher than he should have been based on his college film. Howard had decent production in college recording five picks and 10 pass breakups on his way to being named honorable mention All-Big 12 last season. He also posted some strong testing numbers including a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 38-inch vertical jump at his pro day. With the being said he does need to improve his consistency and his overall technique.
Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State, 43rd pick to the Tennessee Titans
While this pick makes sense for the Titans as he should fit in well in the Titans 3-4 defense, I think the team could have picked up Johnson in the third round. If the team wanted to add a nose tackle with this pick A'Shawn Robinson or Javon Hargrave would have made more sense with the 43rd pick.
One of the more interesting picks on day three was the Chiefs taking Florida wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. The Chiefs need to address their passing game which ranked 30th in the NFL last season and did so with the selection of Robinson. Robinson is a big wide receiver who has the ability to stretch a defense, and if he can keep himself out of trouble he should see significant playing time in 2016.
A sixth-round pick that caught my eye is when the New England Patriots chose linebacker Elandon Roberts out of Houston. The reason I liked this pick so much is due to the intensity Roberts plays with, and due to his overall leadership ability. I fully expect Roberts to make the roster and contribute on special teams next year. He is also the type of player that could earn a starting job down the road.
While the Cowboys did not take a quarterback early in the draft they did get a good value pick with the selection of Dak Prescott in the fourth round. Prescott was the sixth rated quarterback on my board, yet was the eighth quarterback selected behind players such as Cody Kessler and Jacoby Brissett. I would not be the least bit surprised to see Prescott be the eventual replacement to Tony Romo in a two or three years.
The Chicago Bears had a very strong third day of the draft. Some of the team’s top selections were DeAndre Houston-Carson who is was one of the top small school safeties in the draft. The Bears also got great value in the seventh round with the selection of wide receiver Daniel Braverman who should be able to make the team as a slot receiver.
While the Chicago Bears made the most out of their late round picks the same can not be said for the Detroit Lions. The team’s first questionable pick of the day three is when they took Antwione Williams out of Georgia Southern. Williams is an athletic linebacker, but is very raw and at this point in time is more of a project. The team then picked up quarterback Jake Rudock, who lack the overall physical traits to play in the NFL. Detroit then finished the day by picking defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, long snapper Jimmy Landes, and running back Dwayne Washington. I would not be surprised if out of the Lions last five picks, only Landes makes the team, and that would be due to his long snapping ability.
I think the Baltimore Ravens are making a smart move by moving Keenan Reynolds to wide receiver. I like this due to the fact he has the quickness to play in the slot, and should have a good understanding of the passing game having made the switch from quarterback. The biggest question with Reynolds is will he be able to play football next season while he serves his commitment to the Navy.
It is somewhat surprising that Vernon Adams is only getting a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks. While he may lack prototypical size, he has shown to be a consistent passer who can make plays with both his arm and his feet. I would be surprised if he is not signed after his tryout. Another quarterback who is getting a tryout that could make a training camp roster is UMass’s Blake Frohnapfel who will be a given a shot by the Indianapolis Colts.
INTERESTING STATS FROM 2016 DRAFT
- 31% of the players who declared early for the NFL did not get drafted.
- The Ohio State Buckeyes set a new NFL Draft record by having 10 players go in the first three rounds of the draft. In fact, Ohio State produced more players drafted in the first three rounds then the entire Big 12.
- The SEC had the most players drafted with 51 while the Big Ten finished second with 47. The Big 12 and ACC produced the least amount of players drafted from the Power Five with only 26 players being drafted from each conference.
- We saw more players drafted from the FCS then we typically do as 20 players were drafted. This is two more players than the previous average of 18. The top conference in terms of producing draft picks was the Big Sky which had four draft picks.
- One stat that will help high school coaches is that 28 out of the 31 first-round draft picks played more than one sport in high school. This proves yet again that playing multiple sports is better for developing the overall athlete compared to specializing in one sport.