After months-and-months of anticipation, and hundreds-upon-hundreds of mock drafts the 2017 NFL Draft has finally come-and-gone. At this point in the offseason, each team has the bulk of their roster building in the rear-view mirror. Players will begin to move again once training camp starts, but for the most part you can envision each team’s week-one roster from its current iteration.
It’s a futile task to try and predict what will happen over the course of a draft weekend. This year was no different. The record-breaking Philadelphia crowd witnessed a flurry of trade activity—a total of 38 trades were completed— besting the previous mark of 34 set in 2008.
The unpredictability didn’t stop there as several teams took a rather bold approach to this years draft. We are going to take a moment and look at some of the boldest moves in this years draft.
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Patriots’ trade draft-capital for proven veterans
To say the Patriots’ re-loaded this offseason would be an understatement. Last year the Patriots’ surrendered a first-round pick as part of the deflategate punishment handed down by the commissioner. This year, with a draft loaded-with-talent, it seemed like the Patriots would add to an already stacked-roster with young, cost-control rookies. Wrong.
The Patriots scoffed at the idea of a deep draft and instead decided to use several draft picks on proven veterans to bolster a team that quite frankly didn’t need it. The Patriots used their first-round pick (32nd overall) on superstar wide-receiver Brandin Cooks; adding to Tom Brady’s already impressive arsenal of weapons.
New England then sent their second-round pick (64th overall) to Carolina in exchange for defensive end Kony Ealy. They flipped a fourth-round pick to Indianapolis in order to pry away Dwayne Allen and a seventh-round pick to replace the departing Martellus Bennett. The trades were made in addition to the normal draft-day wheeling-and-dealing that Patriot fans have come accustom to.
At the end of the day, the Patriots made four-total selections in the draft, the fewest in franchise history and the fewest for a defending champion in the modern era. Out of the all the bold moves listed here, this may be the safest bet to be successful. If the Patriots don’t trade for these players and use those draft picks they are probably still the best team in the AFC, if not the entire league. In 2017, the Patriots decided to pass on potential and invest in the sure-thing.
The Bears “trade-the-house” to move up one-spot to draft Mitch Trubisky
Chicago sent the third-overall pick, along with a third-round pick (67th overall), a fourth-round pick (111th overall), and a 2018 third-rounder to San Francisco in exchange for the second-overall pick.
That seems like a lot to move up just one spot. Reportedly, other teams were interested in that pick, so the Bears pounced. The move was met with mix reaction from fans and media as cover32’s Jacob Infante broke down the immediate reaction on twitter. The trade also comes after the Bears signed quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year deal to presumably be the starter.
So, was trading all those picks in order to move just one spot really worth it for Mitch Trubisky?
The major knock on the former North Carolina quarterback is his lack-of experience with only 13 games under his belt. However, if Bears’ fans thought Mike Glennon was the long-term solution, they would be mistaken. Therefore, drafting a quarterback this year was a prudent move. However, the steps they took to acquire him shows that the Bears management loves Trubisky —despite not understanding what a hard-count is. In three-years time Trubisky could be a pro-bowl quarterback and no one will question if the Bears made the right move. Bears’ general manager Ryan Pace has essentially put his job on the line with this move. A bold attempt to bring the Bears back to relevance.
The Cleveland Browns, Paul DePodesta and the moneyball approach
The Browns’ draft strategy began to take form months before the actually draft. In several failed attempts to rebuild in the last, well forever, the Browns and Chief Strategic Officer Paul DePodesta brought the moneyball approach to the National Football League. DePodesta, formerly general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball, was hired by the Browns with zero football management experience.
In order to rebuild the Browns, DePodesta decided to accumulate as many draft picks as he could and build around players such as Jamie Collins and Joe Haden, the former was acquired from the Patriots in a mid-season trade. Another deal netted the Browns an extra pick when they bailed-out the Texans and took Brock Osweiler’s awful contract and quarterback-play off their hands.
Despite the acquisition of Osweiler, the big question was still whether or not they were acquiring all these picks in order to make a run at Jimmy Garoppolo or Kirk Cousins. As it turns out, they tried to work a deal with the Patriots but clearly had a back-up plan. Thus, the idea of using the bevy of picks they have acquired began to come to fruition.
Finally, draft day arrived.
Predictably, they took Myles Garrett with the first-overall pick and after trading back to the 25th overall-pick, they selected the versatile Jabrill Peppers out of Michigan. Tight end David Njoku joined the group as their third first-round pick of the evening. The Browns continued to stockpile young talent the rest of the way, adding seven more players in the draft. Although it probably wasn’t part of the original plan, the Browns were able to add another quarterback to the mix when they nabbed Deshone Kizer in the second round. They also took a flier on controversial defensive-tackle Caleb Brantley. More on that later.
It can’t get much worse for the Cleveland Browns, who are coming off a one-win season. However, their bold approach to rebuilding netted them a bevy of draft picks, that they used on some very talented players. If those players can play to their potential, all of a sudden, you’re looking at a much-improved Browns team in 2017. With that being said, if they continue to have poor quarterback play then it will all be-for-not because it will be the same ‘ole Browns.
The Chiefs move up 17 spots to draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes
The incoming quarterback draft-class was often met with an underwhelming reaction. However, the run on quarterbacks throughout the weekend said otherwise. The Kansas City Chiefs apparently loved Patrick Mahomes as they sent the 27th overall-pick, the 91st overall-pick, and a 2018 second-round selection to the Buffalo Bills to select Mahomes with the 10th-overall pick.
Alex Smith has been entrenched as the Chiefs’ starter for four-seasons. Over that time he has been an efficient game-manager, for lack-of a better term. He has tossed 76 touchdowns to only 28 interceptions. Smith led the Chiefs to 11 wins in three of the four seasons.
This is the perfect scenario for Mahomes. He gets to study under Alex Smith and Andy Reid until he is ready. There will be no pressure for him to step-in right away. However, it wont be long before he should take the reigns from Smith.
For the team, there is a lot of pressure for this move to work. Mahomes has to be the successor to Smith as they handed over a nice chunk of assets to acquire him. They are banking on Alex Smith being able to handle the idea of his successor being on the bench. Although, Smith has already been prematurely ousted as a team’s quarterback in his career.
Raiders’ draft Gareon Conley, Bengals’ draft Joe Mixon, and Browns’ select Caleb Brantley
After the Ray Rice incident a few years ago, character issues with players—especially when it comes to domestic violence issues— have been put under a microscope. Nowadays, teams try to balance morals with running a football-business. Gareon Conley, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley all came into the draft with huge character concerns. The three of them dealt with various off-the-field issues that affected their draft stock.
Conley has been accused, but not charged, in a sexual assault case. Mixon’s issues date back to an incident a few years ago, but the recent uncovering of video footage has brought it back into the spotlight. Brantley has been under investigation recently for assaulting a woman.
It’s important to note that only Mixon has been found guilty of an offense. But the risk stands none-the-less. Last year, the Dallas Cowboys took a chance on LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins. In the days leading up to the draft, Collins’ name was brought up in a homicide investigation in Louisiana, and then plummeted out of the draft. Collins was eventually exonerated and the Cowboys walked away with a first-round talent as an undrafted free-agent.
There’s no question that all-three of these players are talented. In the case of Conley and Brantley, they could be exonerated like Collins previously. But there is still a publicity issue looming for Oakland and Cleveland respectively if either player is charged. The Bengals hope Mixon stays clean and has a productive career. For now, the teams are gambling on the talent of the player and not their off-the-field issues. A bold move in 2017.
Texans move up to select quarterback Deshaun Watson
The Texans were thrown a life-line when Cleveland decided to take Brock Osweiler, albeit for several draft picks. However, that left a duo of Brandon Weeden and Tom Savage at the top of the depth chart. The Texans clearly needed more.
Although coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans staff like Tom Savage, they decided to make a bold move and jump 13-spots to draft Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. The move came at a price, as they sent Cleveland the 25th overall pick as well as their 2018 first-rounder.
When you combined this move with what it cost to rid themselves of Brock Osweiler, the Texans paid a steep-price. They essentially sent a 2017 first-round pick along with 2018 first-and-second round picks to the Browns to move up to draft Watson. It’s bold enough to admit a mistake as big as signing Brock Osweiler. Its even bolder to double-down and trade more assets in order to draft their next quarterback.
Fortunately for Watson, the Texans have one of the best defenses in the league. On top of that, a strong offensive group built for Watson to succeed from day-one. He could flourish from strong coaching with Bill O’Brien at the helm. Watson’s career could resemble another quarterback who plays his home games in Texas, Dak Prescott.