The best thing about the NFL Draft is deciding who’s winning and who’s losing before we’ve had a chance to see any of the players at work with their new teams. There’s nothing more indicative of the American spirit than the thirst for instant draftification. Let’s get to it.
Winner: the Giants
They got UTEP left guard Will Hernandez at No. 34 overall, Georgia edge defender Lorenzo Carter at No. 66, and NC State defensive end B.J. Hill at 69.
Hernandez is an absolute unit of an offensive lineman, the kind of guard who will pancake linebacker after linebacker and pave lanes for years in front of No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. Carter is one of the draft’s best athletes, a guy who runs a 4.50 40-yard dash while weighing 250 pounds. I’m not sure if he’s a defensive end or an outside linebacker, or even a box safety in some sub packages. But he’ll make his mark somewhere, and he’s the kind of athlete defenses need as spread offenses take hold more and more.
Loser: the Browns
They got it exactly right when they took Baker Mayfield No. 1 on Thursday. They might turn out to be right about Nevada offensive lineman Austin Corbett at No. 33 and Nick Chubb at No. 35. But Corbett isn’t as highly regarded as his mid-major O-line peer Hernandez, and it’s easy to be skeptical about linemen who didn’t face much top competition in college. Chubb is a great athlete, but he has lots of carries and an injury history to his name already. The Browns already had serviceable running backs in Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde. Not that Hyde is a reason not to draft someone, but is Chubb worth taking there when you have Johnson?
Winner: the NFL Combine as an evaluative tool
Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown was a surefire first-round pick before he showed up at the combine and put on maybe the worst show of all time. Brown tumbled all the way to No. 83 and the Ravens, the same team his dad, Zeus, played for once upon a time. Brown was the seventh tackle taken, a few months after he had a chance to be the first. He might wind up being great value, but teams clearly bought into fears based off the combine.
Loser: the Chiefs
Chiefs GM Brett Veach? More like Chiefs GM Brett Reach.
Winner: Andrew Luck
Football’s least healthy star quarterback plays for the team that gave up more sacks (56) than anyone last year. The Colts started to address that when they took bulldozing Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson at No. 6 overall on Thursday. They continued to address it when they added weight-room legend and Auburn guard Braden Smith to their line on Friday. The Colts have made it less likely that Luck loses an entire shoulder or something.
Loser: Russell Wilson
Take everything you just read about Luck, and imagine it not happening. The Seahawks have a terrible offensive line, and they still haven’t drafted anyone who plays offensive line.
Winner: the Broncos
They copped a first-round talent at No. 40 in SMU receiver Courtland Sutton. He’ll do well with Case Keenum and whoever succeeds Keenum as Denver’s quarterback. Third-round running back Royce Freeman, from Oregon, isn’t exceptional, but he could be a contributor.
Loser: the Rams
General manager Les Snead has built a great roster, and it might turn out to have been a smart idea to move almost all of his early-round draft picks for other assets. But drafting players is good and fun, and the Rams only had one pick in the first two days. They got Joseph Noteboom, a TCU offensive tackle, late in the third round. He could be great! But the Rams must feel like the kid at recess who ate a huge lunch and can’t play kickball with everyone else because of a stomach ache.
Loser: Derrius Guice
The LSU running back is a great talent and could’ve been a first-round pick. Instead he got dragged in the press over alleged off-field issues, fell to Washington with the 59th pick, and has to play for one of professional sports’ most dysfunctional franchises.
News broke earlier in the day Friday that Jason Witten, the Cowboys’ stalwart tight end for a decade and a half, is probably retiring to join the Monday Night Football booth. The Super Bowl Eagles proceeded to trade to one pick in front of their rival Cowboys, draft a tight end whose name is literally Dallas Goedert, at a draft held in Dallas, and announce it by sending their former kicker to scream at a bunch of Cowboys fans before a national TV audience.
A parade of draft pick announcers used their time on the stage to take shots at the Cowboys and their fans. None of this is actually that big a deal, and the Cowboys might not have even intended to pick Goedert. But it’s still funny, and we celebrate fun stuff.
Winner: the Steelers
No team in the league is better at drafting receivers. They got Oklahoma State’s James Washington at No. 60, and it’s pretty much a slam dunk that he’ll produce in this offense. They found a potential Ben Roethlisberger successor in Washington’s college QB, Mason Rudolph, at No. 76. I have no idea if Rudolph will work out, but it’s great that he’ll play for the same team as the guy he’s been destroying college football teams with for years.
Winner: the Bengals
The Bengals’ defense gets miles better with Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates (No. 54), Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard (No. 77), and Texas edge defender Malik Jefferson (No. 78). Jefferson is the least certain of the three to work out, but all of them are capable of helping immediately, and all of them have room to grow.
Loser: the Bills
The Bills picked Josh Allen seventh overall. “But this happened on Thursday, not Friday!” you might say. True, but I counter that it makes Bills losers every day.
Winner: the Piesman Trophy
That’s SB Nation’s trophy that goes annually to a lineman who does something cool with the ball in his hands. Our 2016 winner, Pitt left tackle Brian O’Neill, went to the Vikings at No. 62. Get ready for the NFL’s most dangerous playmaking offensive lineman.
We’re so proud.