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The NFL Draft Goldilocks Test: Every first round pick, from too hot to just right

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It’s the year of the defensive lineman ... if teams don’t panic and draft QBs too high, anyway...

No. 32 pick: The New England Patriots pick N’Keal Harry

Too low, just right, or too high? Eh. Slightly too high, if only because I really, really like AJ Brown. Harry wasn’t as efficient as other top receiver prospects, and his biggest strength (catches well in traffic) and weakness (doesn’t separate as well as others and might have to catch balls in traffic) make it impossible for me to figure him out. But he’s going to the best possible organization you can go to. That probably counts for something.

UCLA v Arizona State
N’Keal Harry
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

No. 31 pick: The Atlanta Falcons select Kaleb McGary

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right, I guess. He’s maybe got a higher ceiling than Jonah Williams (and, yes, probably a lower floor). And if nothing else, no one can say the Falcons haven’t addressed offensive line issues so far this offseason.

Washington v Utah
Kaleb McGary
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

No. 30 pick: The New York Giants pick Deandre Baker

Too low, just right, or too high? Too low! Deandre Baker was the most intimidating cornerback in college football last year. He’s tough, physical, and competitive, and if he doesn’t work out, it’s because he’s too physical and is getting penalized too much.

With only their last two picks, I’d have deemed their first round a success. But they made three picks tonight, and they lit the first one on fire.

Georgia v LSU
Deandre Baker
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

No. 29 pick: The Seattle Seahawks pick L.J. Collier

Too low, just right, or too high? I know I said I’d deem every defensive lineman as “just right” in this draft, but I thought this dude was a third-rounder. (I also thought last year’s first-round pick, Rashaad Penny, was a third-rounder.) Collier is athletic and beefy, but 14.5 sacks in four years for a defensive end? Not really first-round worthy.

Iowa State v TCU
L.J. Collier
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

No. 28 pick: The Los Angeles Chargers select Jerry Tillery

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. The Chargers needed defensive tackle help, and he was a borderline first- or second-round talent. He’s unique in that he’s a really tall tackle (6’7, 305), which would seem to project more as a 3-4 end or, I don’t know, Zion Williamson. Plus, he’s far more disruptive in pass rush (12.5 sacks in the last two years) than in run defense (seven non-sack TFLs). He’s unique and randomly explosive.

Vanderbilt v Notre Dame
Jerry Tillery
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No. 27 pick: The Oakland Raiders pick Johnathan Abram

Too low, just right, or too high? Back-to-back MSU Bulldogs! I didn’t really think he was going to be a first rounder (and I kind of thought Oakland would want to go ahead and nab a QB with one of its three first-round picks), so we’ll say this is a little too high, but Oakland needed safety help. He can be used both near to and far from the line of scrimmage, and if he prevents even one or two big plays this year, he’ll have provided some value.

Auburn v Mississippi State
Johnathan Abram
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

No. 26 pick: Washington selects Montez Sweat

Too low, just right, or too high? In terms of potential, far too low. Washington needed an edge rusher, and Sweat recorded 22 sacks in two seasons at Mississippi State. He’s not nearly as disruptive in run support, and Washington could certainly use some more help there. But in terms of raw talent ... well ... Washington may have just gotten two top-10 talents with the 15th and 26th picks. Well done.

Mississippi State v Kentucky
Montez Sweat
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

No. 25 pick: The Baltimore Ravens pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. He’s small, and he’s had some injuries, but if he’s healthy, he’s exactly what quarterback Lamar Jackson needs. His route tree is expansive, and he’s a weapon both close to and very far from the line of scrimmage. He’s got deep ball speed, but he’s not just a deep ball guy.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma
Hollywood Brown
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 pick: The Oakland Raiders select Josh Jacobs

Too low, just right, or too high? Too high, if only because I think you can get just as much running back value later in the draft. That said, he’s crazy-efficient in both the run and pass game, enough to potentially overcome his lack of explosiveness potential. He was the rare under-the-radar Alabama signee, and he ended up basically the feature back among a pool of blue-chippers late in his junior year. So I get it. I wouldn’t have done it, but I get it.

NFL: NFL Draft
Josh Jacobs
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 pick: The Houston Texans select Tytus Howard

Too low, just right, or too high? OH BABY, YES. This is almost certainly too high — definite boom-or-bust — but if you’re going to take a risk, take a risk on a spectacular small-school athlete. As mentioned on the ESPN broadcast, Howard was a high school quarterback, then walked on at Alabama State as a tight end. Now he’s a first-round tackle.

This strikes me as “Dillard’s gone, but we’re picking a damn tackle no matter what.” That often results in reaches, but this is a reach I can get behind.

No. 22 pick: The Philadelphia Eagles pick Andre Dillard

Too low, just right, or too high? Hmm. I didn’t really think pass protection was a huge issue for the Eagles, at least not as much as pass rushing was. I know about Carson Wentz’s injury history and whatnot, but this doesn’t strike me as a perfect pick. He was another polarizing prospect, seemingly ranked all over the place, but maybe decent value at 22nd?

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State
Andre Dillard
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 pick: The Green Bay Packers select Darnell Savage

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. The Packers were horrid in terms of big-play prevention (24th in marginal efficiency), so it makes sense in general to take a safety. But they’re getting both a safety and potentially strong nickel corner. He’s not big, but I’ve got a thing for Honey Badger types, and I like this pick more than taking Gary at 12.

NCAA Football: Temple at Maryland
Darnell Savage Jr.
Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 pick: The Denver Broncos select Noah Fant

Too low, just right, or too high? I like picking an Iowa tight end at 20th more than I like it at eighth, I’ll say that much. I thought it might be smart for the Broncos to go ahead and draft a QB here (Drew Lock? Will Grier?) since Joe Flacco is not young (and we’ll see if he’s good). But Fant is the red zone target we pretend all tight ends are. He could find a niche pretty quickly.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Indiana
Noah Fant
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 pick: The Tennessee Titans select Jeffery Simmons

Too low, just right, or too high? In terms of talent? Too low. He’s got power, production, and further massive potential.

He’s also got a skeleton in the closet. He’s made the most of his second chance, and he’s tried to prove himself as a high-character guy. Now all he has to do is keep it up, I guess.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi State vs Iowa
Jeffery Simmons
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 pick: The Minnesota Vikings pick Garrett Bradbury

Too low, just right, or too high? I flinch at centers being picked in the top 20, but Bradbury’s really athletic and really good, and the Vikings needed quite a bit of help on the interior offensive line.

Trey Wingo just pointed out that five of the last six picks have been from the ACC. And only two were from Clemson! Impressive considering the wretched season the ACC had.

North Carolina State v South Carolina
Garrett Bradbury (65)
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

No. 17 pick: The New York Giants select Dexter Lawrence

Too low, just right, or too high? I had forgotten he was still on the board. Good sign he was too low, I guess. Granted, run defense was not one of the Giants’ bigger weaknesses, but Lawrence can rush the passer well for his size. The Giants’ first selection was one of the biggest reaches possible. This one was not.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Pittsburgh
Dexter Lawrence
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Then again...

Let’s just move on.

No. 16 pick: The Carolina Panthers pick Brian Burns

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. The Panthers needed help both on the defensive line and in edge rushing. Burns is a speedy edge rusher — he had 24 sacks in three years. Top-20 prospect and a well-addressed need? Success, even if he has plenty to prove in run defense.

NCAA Football: Florida State at North Carolina State
Brian Burns
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 15 pick: Washington selects Dwayne Haskins

Too low, just right, or too high? Like 10 spots too low. Washington got a better QB than its NFC East rival, the Giants, and they got him without having to trade up. What a spectacular moment of good fortune.

Mind you, Haskins has a lot to prove in terms of handling pressure, and his Ohio State receiving corps last year might have been better than what he’s inheriting now. But his ceiling is 4,000x higher than Jones’. And they got him at 15.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State
Dwayne Haskins
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 pick: The Atlanta Falcons select Chris Lindstrom

Too low, just right, or too high? In terms of need, this is great. The Falcons were desperate for better interior line play last year (as evidenced by their free agent signings), and so much of the defense’s struggles were due to injuries that they should improve on that side simply because of that.

It was a bit of an over-draft, though. And they did already sign James Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Lindstrom was generally regarded as a top-20 to 40 pick, and he went at No. 14. So yeah, we’ll say this was too high.

NCAA Football: Howard at Boston College
Chris Lindstrom
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 pick: The Miami Dolphins pick Christian Wilkins

Too low, just right, or too high? Since I’d have picked him instead of Gary or Bush, too low. And not just because of this:

Granted, the Dolphins could have used a quarterback (somehow Dwayne Haskins is still on the damn board and is about to fall right into Washington’s lap), offensive tackle, or edge rusher more than a tackle. But he’s still awesome, and Miami could use some personality.

No. 12 pick: The Green Bay Packers select Rashan Gary

Too low, just right, or too high? Man, I just don’t know. When he makes a good play, it looks like the most natural thing in the world. He was the most all-world of all-world recruits, too. But ... he averaged eight TFLs and 3.5 sacks per year. We all expected more. Maybe he was saving it for the pros, but I’m going to say this is a hair too high.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana
Rashan Gary (3)
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 pick: The Cincinnati Bengals select Jonah Williams

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right.

The Bengals ranked 21st in blitz downs success rate, 19th in blitz downs sack rate, and 19th in third-and-long success rate. They could use help at offensive tackle, and while I’ve seen a wide range of evaluations of Williams, he’s a three-year starter at Alabama, and he’s probably the steadiest tackle in the draft at the very least.

NFL: Combine
Jonah Williams FLYYYYYYYYYYING
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 pick: The Pittsburgh Steelers select Devin Bush

Too low, just right, or too high? I mean, who am I to question the tenacity and perseverance of someone who would wear this in front of tens of thousands of people?

NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to say it’s too high, though, if only because I think the Steelers could have used an end or tackle more than another inside linebacker. They were 29th in blitz downs sack rate, and they were among the worst in the league in the red zone. Bush has a nose for the damn ball, and he probably helps with the latter. But he only had 10 sacks in three years.

No. 9 pick: The Buffalo Bills select Ed Oliver

Too low, just right, or too high? Too low by 2-3 spots, though I’m biased: I’m a college football writer, and Ed Oliver was so much damn fun in college. I get that he’s potentially undersized, but he could play about six different positions, and ... man ... Buffalo’s defense is going to be fun as hell next year.

The Bills were as good on that side of the ball as they were bad on the other, and now they have the best Swiss Army Knife in the draft. Hell yes.

NCAA Football: Houston at East Carolina
Ed Oliver
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 pick: The Detroit Lions select T.J. Hockenson

Too low, just right, or too high? He’s excellent. He really is. He’s also a tight end. And the Lions just signed a good one in Jesse James. And they were already good in passing downs situations.

So yeah, too high.

Seriously, Ed Oliver is still on the board. Montez Sweat is still on the board. Don’t draft a tight end at No. 8.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Minnesota
T.J. Hockenson
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 pick: The Jacksonville Jaguars select Josh Allen

Too low, just right, or too high? Waaaaay too low. An incredible outside linebacker/rush end just fell into Jacksonville’s draft. Take it and run, Jags. Well done.

Allen was a pass rush specialist for three years — 14.5 sacks with only six non-sack tackles for loss. But in 2018, he became the most dominant all-around defensive player in college football. He was 2018’s Ndamukong Suh, in which a player becomes so dominant that his coaches craft a unique defense specifically around him. He got steadily better and more successful. Unlike the guy taken right above him.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State
Josh Allen
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6 pick: The New York Giants select Daniel Jones

Too low, just right, or too high? Too high by about four rounds. Congrats, Dave Gettelman. You just drafted a more athletic Clayton Thorson with the sixth pick in the draft.

Let’s put it this way: The one thing we can say with relative certainty is that you aren’t going to top your college rate stats in the pros. Jones averaged 5.45 adjusted net yards per pass attempt in college. Among this year’s prospects, that was better than only Thorson. Here are the NFL QBs who averaged worse than that in 2018: Case Keenum, Blake Bortles, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen.

So his ceiling is 2018 Blake Bortles. Cool. Cool, cool, cool.

No. 5 pick: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick Devin White

Too low, just right, or too high? Hmm. Devin White is awesome, and Tampa Bay needs all the help it can possibly get in the front seven — the Bucs ranked 32nd in rushing marginal efficiency allowed. But there is an unusually awesome amount of good defensive tackle talent still on the board, and taking a tackle would’ve made a lot of sense. Too high, I guess?

Then again...

Yeah, just right.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - LSU v Central Florida
Devin White
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

No. 4 pick: The Oakland Raiders select Clelin Ferrell

Too low, just right, or too high? WHAT? Oh man, I’m so conflicted right now. He’s a defensive lineman, and he’s awesome, so, sure, just right. But ... FOURTH? Ahead of Kentucky’s Josh Allen??

My guess is that this was a “3-4 pass rusher vs. 4-3 pass rusher” kind of pick here. And to be sure, Ferrell’s a hell of a 4-3 pass rusher (and Oakland certainly needed one). On a line loaded with future pro linemen rotating in and out, Ferrell still stood out with 11.5 sacks in 2018 and 27 over three years.

So I get it. But damn, I really didn’t think Josh Allen was going to fall to fifth (at the earliest).

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson
Clelin Ferrell (99)
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

No. 3 pick: The New York Jets select Quinnen Williams

Too low, just right, or too high? Well, I can’t say he was too low since I said No. 1 and 2 were good, but Williams might be the best overall player in the draft. So it’s just right at worst.

I love that the Jets didn’t overthink this. They need offensive line help, and they need a skill position boost even with the addition of Jamison Crowder. But Quinnen Williams could be really damn good. Get a guy who could be really damn good in the first round and worry about the rest later.

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson
Quinnen Williams
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

No. 2 pick: The San Francisco 49ers pick Nick Bosa

Too low, just right, or too high? Spoiler: I’m going to say that every defensive lineman pick in this round was just right. Just get used to it.

Social media presence aside, Bosa’s awesome. In 30 college games, he recorded 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. He almost immediately lived up to his blue-chip status. Better yet, he fills an obvious need. San Francisco was 24th in blitz downs sack rate. The Niners needed help on both lines, and Bosa should offer nearly immediate help.

Michigan v Ohio State
Nick Bosa
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

No. 1 pick: The Arizona Cardinals select Kyler Murray

Too low, just right, or too high? Just right. He’s got by far the highest ceiling among quarterbacks in the draft, period.

There is no doubting who the most statistically impressive quarterback in college football was last season. Murray somehow managed to trump Mayfield’s un-trumpable stats at OU, joining 2015 Deshaun Watson as the only QBs to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. He did it in one fewer game than Watson, too. [...]

The drawbacks are obvious here. He is tiny by pro quarterback standards, and he does rely on his running speed to bail him out sometimes. Any player is a risk, really, and Murray’s potentially damning traits are more out in the open than most.

He’s also got the highest ceiling of anyone in the damn draft, and it’s not particularly close.

For two straight years, a short-for-the-NFL quarterback has gone No. 1. I call that progress.

(For two straight years, an Oklahoma QB has gone No. 1, and for two straight years, Arizona has picked a QB in the top 10. STREAKS ABOUND!)

Oklahoma v Texas Tech
Kyler Murray
Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Five months ago, we thought we were watching Murray’s final football games before he embarked on a baseball career. Really happy we were wrong.


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