The 2018 NFL Draft kicked off last night with all the majesty that has become part of the event. The first draft I watched was in 1997 when it was a two-day event starting early Saturday morning and then finished on Sunday. You watched it on ESPN or listened on the radio, there was no other option. Now it airs in primetime over three nights and is carried by Fox, ESPN and the NFL Network. The draft is on the move as well, this year being hosted in the new stadium in Dallas, Texas.
Going into the night the big talk was about quarterbacks, who would go first and how many would go in the first round. The guess on quantity was five while the order was in dispute, but most folks figured the Cleveland Browns would take one of them with the first pick. And they did. Here are 8 takeaways from night one of the 2018 NFL Draft.
- Josh Allen was expected to be the first fix. He wasn't considered the best player in the draft, but the most NFL ready quarterback and Cleveland needed on. They picked up journeyman Tyrod Taylor to start in 2018, but getting a new QB for the future seemed to be their plan. And while they did go quarterback, it wasn't Allen. The team went with Baker Mayfield, a more raw quarterback who is a bit undersized at 6-foot and has some off-the-field issues. He is most often compared to Johnny Manziel, another Cleveland first round pick that became a bust in the pros. Why Mayfield over Allen or one of the other quarterbacks? The answer may be accuracy. Mayfield complete 69.8% of his passes last year and if you are building a team with the idea of having a strong defense and running game, then the key at quarterback is to not turn the ball over. The strong defense plan seemed to be backed up when the Browns picked again at #4 and took Denzel Ward, a corner back out of Ohio State, a position of need for the team.
- With the number two picks the New York Giants made a statement about their future, and that is the future is still Eli Manning. By taking Saquon Barkley, the G-Men showed they want to win now and not build for the future. The NFL has soured on taking runningbacks early in the draft, but Barkley has game changing talent and could be just the spark the Giants need to get their offense back on track. And by not choosing a quarterback, they're telling Manning and perhaps last years pick Davis Webb that they still believe in them.
- At #3 the New York Jets took Sam Darnold, quarterback out of USC and it came as no surprise to anyone. The team had journeyman Josh McCown coming back and picked up reclamation project Teddy Bridgewater, but they really didn't have a future face of the franchise and they got that with Darnold. The team traded up to this spot, making it obvious they were going to go quarterback and Darnold appeared to be the target.
- With Cleveland taking Ward at #4, the Denver Broncos were stunned to find defensive end Bradley Chubb available at #5. The team loved the DE from North Carolina, but figured he'd be long gone and were likely looking at a quarterback to groom behind newly signed Case Keenum. They couldn't pass on Chubb and the idea of teaming him with Von Miller to create a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This changed how the rest of the quarterbacks were going to play out through the night.
- The first draft night trade came at #7 where the Buffalo Bills moved up to where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were to select quarterback Josh Allen. The team signed A.J. McCarron for next season, but he has been a back-up for four years with very little game experience, meaning that Allen will likely compete for the starting job day one. The Bills moved up to get a player that many thought would be the first off the board.
- There was a move outside of the first round that could be big. The Oakland Raiders traded away a third-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide-receiver Martavis Bryant. The 26-year old receiver asked to be traded having fallen out of favor in the Steel City, but he could be just the piece needed to open up the Raiders' offense after they let Michael Crabtree go. Bryant has 126 career receptions for just under 2,000 yards and 17 interceptions, but he missed all of 2016 after being suspended for violations of the NFL substance abuse policy. If the Raiders can keep him on track, then they got a hell of a deal, and if they can't then they lost a third round pick.
- The head scratching move of the night goes to the New Orleans Saints. They traded next years first round pick and a fifth round pick this year to swap from 27 to 14 with the Green Bay Packers. This wouldn't be surprising if they were going up to get a quarterback of the future or a great value player that had dropped, but they picked defensive end Marcus Davenport from Texas-San Antonio who is considered a project at best. There was no indication that anyone else was planning on taking him that high and it was more than likely he would've been there at 27. The kid could turn out to be the best pass rusher ever and we learn that the team at 15 was going to take him… but for now it's a head-scratcher.
- And finally, we round out the quarterbacks. There were five taken, but just barely. The Arizona Cardinals traded up to 10 to get Josh Rosen, who is saying that there were 9 mistakes made before that and he should've been #1. Most players would rather have gone to the Cardinals over the Browns… just saying. But the real interesting pick was at #32 where the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round to select Lamar Jackson. This tells their current quarterback, Joe Flacco, that he needs to get his stuff together going into the last year of his contract, and by picking Jackson in the first round, the team has a fifth-year option on his contract that wouldn't exist if he was picked in round two.
The 2018 NFL Draft continues tonight at 7 PM EST with rounds 2 and 3.