By Phillip Brida
The NFL Draft is easily one of the most hyped events of the year in the world of sports. Following the conclusion of the Super Bowl in early February, draft related speculation, mocks, analysis, and general reporting dominates the NFL headlines for more than two months. Each team evaluates prospects with methodology specific to current needs, coaching philosophies, and other metrics, making each and every pick of the draft heavily speculative but nonetheless exciting. The early rounds of the NFL draft truly can change the course of a franchise, while the laters rounds are all about getting the most value out of a pick and taking a chance on finding the “diamond in the rough”. All in all, it truly is a must-watch event for any fan of football or the drama of sports in general.
This year’s draft featured as much change at the top of the draft (order wise) as any draft in recent history. Originally featuring the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns selecting first and second, respectively, we saw blockbuster trades in the weeks prior rearrange the order such that the newly minted LA Rams and Philadelphia Eagles found themselves at the forefront of the 2016 NFL Draft. As such, it became heavily apparent that quarterback prospects Jared Goff (Cal) and Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) were to go 1-2, which left the “real” start of the draft at the hand of the San Diego Chargers at number three. From there, surprise, disappointment, and utter shock unfolded. But first, let’s hit on the story of the night- the fall of Laremy Tunsil.
The Shocking Fall of Tunsil
Social media can be a man’s best friend but also one’s worst enemy. In the case of Laremy Tunsil, it likely cost him tens of millions of dollars. Tunsil, an offensive tackle out of Ole Miss, was regarded as a potential number one overall pick from a talent standpoint, but carried some off the field baggage that concerned many teams. An hour before the draft, a video depicting Tunsil smoking (assumedly marijuana) was posted on his Twitter account in what immediately was perceived as a hack of his profile. If you haven’t seen it already, feel free to check it out here. From here, the free-fall ensued.
With Goff and Wentz essentially locks for the first two picks, many thought Tunsil would fall to the Chargers at three or at worst at five with the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, team after team passed on Tunsil, seeing two offensive linemen actually chosen ahead of him. Finally, the Miami Dolphins took the “troubled” OL with the thirteenth pick. There is obviously some inherent risk with this pick for Miami, though many (myself included) believe this to be the steal of the draft so far. Tunsil is an absolute gamechanger on the offensive line, fitting the bill physically at 6’5″ and 310 lbs to go along with two All-American selections in three years at Ole Miss. If he can keep out of trouble off of the field, Laremy Tunsil will dominate the Dolphin’s offensive line on the field for years to come.
Dallas’s Commitment to RB’s
After San Diego made a bit of a surprising decision in selecting Ohio State’s Joey Bosa at #3 overall, the Dallas Cowboys found themselves on the clock at four without clarity. Bosa was believed to be a very good fit for the Cowboy’s, a team that was a liability on defense all season long in 2015, as a defensive end entering the league as less of a project and more of a polished product. Jalen Ramsey remained available as a top-notch athlete and defensive back out of Florida State, which to many analysts and fans seemed to be the next best option for Dallas after Bosa. Instead, the Cowboys did what most teams refuse to do– take a running back in the first round and at number FOUR.
Ezekiel Elliott, widely believed to be the best RB in this year’s draft, heard his name called instead of Ramsey. Dallas will see incumbent starter Darren McFadden and backup Lance Dunbar return this season and even brought in former Redskin’s starter and Pro Bowler Alfred Morris on a two-year deal. Did the Cowboys really need to add a fourth RB with their first pick? Consensus varies so far, but Dallas has a great offensive line to develop Elliott behind, leaving a great deal of potential for him to succeed. They certainly have a LOT of work to do on the defensive end, but opponents will certainly have a difficult time preparing for such a talented backfield next season.
Broncos Trade Up, Select…Lynch?
The Denver Broncos are in a unique position entering the 2016 season. Rarely does a Super Bowl winning team see as much change, personnel wise, as the Broncos have this offseason. Most notable of these changes lies in the retirement of eventual hall of famer, Peyton Manning. Losing your starting quarterback certainly hurts, but losing backup Brock Osweiller added insult to injury and left an immense void at the most important position in all of football. Unable to find a solution through free agency (disregarding average joe Mark Sanchez), most experts believed that the Broncos would be in the market for a QB in the draft.
Sure enough, the Broncos traded up from the back end of the first round to number 26, swapping picks with the Seahawks and selecting Memphis QB Paxton Lynch. Paxton Lynch was a name, prior to the release of mock drafts and combine information, that most fans of the college football circuit weren’t familiar with. A very successful QB in college, Lynch’s primary problem lied in his locale, being at Memphis. Definitely take the opportunity, if you can, to read up on his draft profile.
Having a potential mentor in John Elway within the organization, Lynch has as much support as any quarterback could going into a situation as a rookie. Not to mention, the defense proved to be historically good this past season and he will have weapons at his disposal in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The real question is, will Lynch get the chance to start week 1, let alone this season? If the Broncos feel that Lynch is truly their quarterback of the future, getting him on to the field sooner rather than later will be an obvious priority.
- For the first time in 9 years, no player from the SEC was selected in the top-5. The first SEC affiliated player drafted this year was Leonard Floyd out of Georgia at #9 to the Chicago Bears. In the end, the SEC still led all conferences with 8 sections in the first round, though many more fell significantly further than expected.
- Unlike the SEC as a whole, Ohio State ran away with the first round from the perspective of a single school. Three Buckeyes were taken in the first ten picks (Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apple) and overall saw five taken in the first twenty. Withstanding the 31 players drafted last night, Urban Meyer was probably celebrating more than anyone else.
- To no surprise, Ezekiel Elliott was the only RB taken in the first round. Popular sentiment around the league dictates this trend, favoring value for RB’s in later round rather than early. Likewise, no wide receiver heard their name called until Corey Coleman (Baylor) was drafted fifteenth by the Cleveland Browns. Three more receivers were drafted before the end of the night, but seeing only 5 skill position players taken in the first is traditionally very uncommon.
- Two of the draft’s most talented linebackers, Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith, went undrafted after day one. It’s important to consider the significant knee injuries that both suffered this past year, but based on talent alone were listed as the second and third best prospects on Bleacher Report’s 2016 Big Board. Most believed that both would land somewhere in the later end of the round, but both remain on the board going into day two. Both are pro-bowl caliber players but have a lot of work ahead of them in rehabbing to get back on the field. Of course, the typical question of their effectiveness post injury is still in play. Injuries really are a terrible reality of the game of football.
If you want to check out the results of the first round, which I highly recommend, click here. Rounds two and three will begin tonight at 7 PM on ESPN. Talent is still aplenty on the board, so be sure to watch!