2018 NFL Draft Winners and Losers

Over the next two paragraphs, I'll explain why I rated teams where I did. If you don't care about the methodology, by all means skip ahead.

I'm an NFL writer, and I don't follow college football closely enough to make insightful judgments about which players are and are not likely to succeed at the pro level. Instead, for each team, I'm looking at two fundamental goals: [1] Did the team get good value for its picks, and [2] Did those picks fill needs?

I'm looking for teams that addressed their needs without reaching for lesser talent, made profitable trades, and selected highly-rated players long after we thought they'd be off the board. Conversely, even if you got good players, taking someone who probably would have been available a round later — I don't see that as a good pick. Most drafts are close to average, so not every team is listed.

2018 Draft Winners

* Indianapolis Colts — Traded down from 3rd to 6th overall, adding three 2nd-round choices (one in 2019), and still got the player I suspect they wanted all along: Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson, the most highly-rated offensive line prospect in the draft. They added another lineman, Braden Smith, in the early 2nd round. Assuming Andrew Luck begins the season healthy, the Colts are clearly committed to keeping him that way. Sixth-round WR Deon Cain has upside.

They drafted two pass rushers in the 2nd round, which made a ton of sense for a team that finished second-to-last in sacks last season. I would have liked to see a running back earlier, but Nyheim Hines has upside. The Colts got a lot better this weekend. I doubt they're a playoff team in the improving AFC South, but if Luck comes back 100% they should really turn the corner in 2019.

* Washington — I'm normally critical of this team on Draft Weekend, but I love their draft. Alabama DT Da'Ron Payne made a ton of sense 13th overall. He's a good value there, he fills a need, and he'll be playing next to former teammate Jonathan Allen, the team's first round choice in the 2017 Draft. They traded down in the 2nd round and still got Derrius Guice, a 1st-round talent at a position they had to address. Third round selection Geron Christian adds depth to a line that desperately needed it last season. Tim Settle was a nice value in the 5th round.

* Quarterbacks — It's surprising that only two QBs got drafted in the top six picks, but five went in the first round. That's the most since 1999, with Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, and Cade McNown. This is the first time since 1949 that four QBs went in the top 10.

* Green Bay Packers — Two trades in the 1st round. They started with the 14th overall choice, plus 3rd- and 6th-round selections, turning those into the 18th pick (Louisville CB Jaire Alexander), 5th- and 7th-rounders, and the Saints' 1st-round choice in 2019. Obviously that won't pay dividends until next season, but it's a good deal, and I bet Alexander is the player Green Bay wanted at 14th anyway.

Between Alexander and 2nd-round CB Joshua Jackson, the Packers not only replaced Damarious Randall, they've upgraded a secondary that will face Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins twice each. I know some people worry about the football equivalent of the Lavar Ball family, but Equanimeous St. Brown seems like a nice value late in the 6th round.

* Shaquem Griffin — Shaquem Griffin had his left hand amputated due to a rare prenatal condition. He was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, second-team All-American in 2017, and Peach Bowl Defensive MVP in 2018. On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Griffin 141st overall, reuniting him with twin brother Shaquill, who started 11 games for Seattle last season. Griffin was understandably emotional when he got the call from Seahawks GM John Schneider.

* Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Traded back from 7th to 12th and ended up with three 2nd-round picks. They got Vita Vea in the 1st, who could create a devastating tandem with Gerald McCoy. USC running back Ronald Jones made sense 38th overall, and they followed him with two cornerbacks, a clear need for a defense that allowed the most pass yardage in the NFL last season.

* Alabama Crimson Tide — For the second year in a row, they had four players selected in the first round, most of any team. Twelve Alabama players were drafted this year; no other school produced more than seven draft picks.

* Carolina Panthers — Some people believed D.J. Moore was the best wide receiver in this draft, and Carolina took him 24th overall. This team has struggled for years to give Cam Newton weapons in the receiving corps; perhaps Moore will finally be the answer. Their next two picks both addressed last year's biggest weakness, a leaky secondary that allowed a 92.9 passer rating (about the same as Ben Roethlisberger). TE Ian Thomas looks like a good value in the 4th round, and 5th-round pass rusher Marquis Haynes should contribute as a rookie. They had a lot of needs for an 11-5 team — offensive line and running back come to mind — but they drafted at least three players who should compete for starting jobs in Week 1.

* San Francisco 49ers — Their draft was fine, I guess, but they're rated here mostly because of the 2nd-round pick they traded for Jimmy Garoppolo. He alone makes it a successful draft. They had four picks in the first three rounds because of wise trades. Mike McGlinchey, whom they chose 9th overall, was the top-rated offensive tackle in the draft. They traded up for speedy WR Dante Pettis, who should be a nice complement to Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin.

* The Southeastern Conference — Ten 1st-round selections, most of any conference. Ten 2nd-round selections, also the most of any conference. The SEC had 53 players drafted, most of any conference — actually more than the Big 12 and Pac-12 combined.

* Cleveland Browns — Let's start with the veterans they acquired via trade. They got Jarvis Landry, who has 400 receptions in four years, by trading 4th- and 7th-round picks. That's extremely reasonable for a 25-year-old, Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver. They got QB Tyrod Taylor, a legit starter or elite backup, for a third-round pick. This team had a historically bad pass offense last season, and convincingly addressed it with a pair of mid-round draft picks.

A lot of people question whether Baker Mayfield was the best QB in this draft, but obviously the Browns believe he will be special. Denzel Ward was a surprise 4th overall, but he was clearly the top cornerback in the draft. In the 2nd round, they added offensive lineman Austin Corbett and Georgia RB Nick Chubb.

Honestly, I'm not wild about the draft picks. Mayfield seems like a gamble, they passed on Bradley Chubb, Nick Chubb was a little surprising after they signed Carlos Hyde — they still have Duke Johnson, too — and I'm puzzled that they didn't draft a tackle to fill the spot vacated by Joe Thomas. Some potential missed opportunities notwithstanding, they had four picks in the first 35, and I love the veterans they acquired via trade.

* Arizona Cardinals — Paid very reasonably to move up for Josh Rosen 10th overall, then followed that pick with players who can help Rosen succeed: WR Christian Kirk in the 2nd round and Michigan OL Mason Cole, projected as a center, in the 3rd round.

* Running backs — Not a priority position in recent drafts, RB rocketed back in 2018, with six of the top 45 picks, including three 1st-rounders, and of course, Saquon Barkley second overall. The last RB chosen so early was Ronnie Brown in 2005.

* New England Patriots — Essentially added the Rams' 1st-round choice, which they spent on Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, by swapping Brandin Cooks for Cordarrelle Patterson. Their own 1st-round pick went to another Bulldog, RB Sony Michel, a surprisingly high choice for a team dedicated to RBBC.

They also traded a mid-2nd-round pick for an early 4th-rounder and the Bears' 2019 2nd-round selection, a steal. They traded up for CB Duke Dawson, filling a need that was obvious in Super Bowl LII. Of course they drafted Braxton Berrios, the University of Miami's 5'9" white slot receiver and punt returner.

Question Marks

* Denver Broncos — Bradley Chubb was an obvious choice 5th overall: the best player available, plus he fills a need. The rest of their draft was uninspiring, maybe a couple of reaches. I would have liked to see them take a cornerback earlier. They're closer to Winners than Losers.

* Detroit Lions — I love the positions they chose. Detroit desperately needed to upgrade its running game, and appears to have done so in drafting center Frank Ragnow and RB Kerryon Johnson with its first two picks. Everyone seems to agree that OL Tyrell Crosby was a good value in the 5th round. The only reason the Lions are listed here, rather than as Winners, is that each of their first three picks bypassed prospects at the same position who were projected to go higher. Not a lot higher, but a little, each time. If Ragnow and Johnson live up to their draft status, the Lions should be a playoff team.

* Baltimore Ravens — Active traders in this year's draft, which I generally like. But they didn't really grab any ransoms, and I didn't love their trade up for Lamar Jackson, which cost this year's 2nd-rounder and next year's. They stockpiled a bunch of late-round picks, including three 4th-rounders, and they need a couple of those to turn into starters after they traded down so many times.

Jackson was a sensible pick for a team with a clear need at quarterback, and OT Orlando Brown made sense in the 3rd round. They used two early picks on tight ends, and I might have preferred for them to spread things out a bit. They emphasized offense this year, after doing the same with defense last time around.

* Notre Dame Fighting Irish — Two players drafted in the top nine overall, the only team to double up in the top 12, then no one else until the 4th round.

* Los Angeles Chargers — Used their first four picks on defense. Safety Derwin James looks like a steal 17th overall, and Kyzir White could be a good value in the 4th round. I would have liked to see them take a run-blocking offensive lineman, though: Melvin Gordon didn't have a lot of holes to run through last season, and there's no excuse for such a talented player to average under four yards per carry. I thought they might look for a QB this year, but clearly they believe that Philip Rivers has a couple more good seasons left.

* Los Angeles Rams — Spent their first two picks on veteran wide receivers, with last year's trade for Sammy Watkins and this year's for Brandin Cooks. Watkins is already gone, but Cooks should be a nice acquisition. Their first two actual selections went to offensive linemen, and you can never have too many. That made sense for a team with few obvious needs or weaknesses, but I'm not sure what their plan is at linebacker. Alec Ogletree may not have been the right fit for Wade Phillips' defense, but he was a good player and someone needs to fill his spot. They got Micah Kiser in the 5th round, Travin Howard in the 7th, and Tegray Scales as an undrafted free agent, but late selections don't imply a lot of confidence. The linebackers on their roster right now combine for 12 career starts in the NFL.

* New York Jets — Getting Sam Darnold 3rd overall looks like a steal until you remember what it cost the Jets to get that draft position: the 6th, 37th, and 49th overall picks, plus next year's 2nd-rounder.

With Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater on the roster, Darnold shouldn't be rushed into action, which is good, because there's no real support for any of those passers right now. Who's going to block for those guys? Who are they going to throw to? The Jets have a long-standing QB need, and I'm sure their fans are excited to see that addressed with a promising talent, but there are still a ton of holes on this roster. The trade up to number three could have turned out a lot worse, but it still cost a lot of high picks for a team that could have used them.

* New York Giants — Saquon Barkley was the most highly-rated prospect in this draft, so it's tough to fault them for choosing him. But the Giants had a need at QB, and this was a QB-rich draft. Their commitment to Eli Manning seems bull-headed and counter-productive. GM Dave Gettleman "did not even entertain nor seek any trade offers" for the second pick, which is arrogant and foolish. Maybe they thought they could get Lamar Jackson at the top of the 2nd round? Kyle Lauletta probably is not the future of the franchise.

2018 Draft Losers

* Buffalo Bills — Paid a fortune to move up for Josh Allen, giving up two 2nd-round picks to move up five spots. ESPN's Bill Barnwell, assessing the trade, observed, "They didn't get a discount by any means. In sending a pair of second-round picks to move up only five spots, they set a massive valuation on their quarterback of the future. By the Stuart chart, the Bills valued Allen as being worth more than the No. 1 overall pick, while the Johnson chart pegged Allen as somewhere between the third and fourth overall pick in a typical draft."

There are folks who believe Allen was the best QB in this draft, a truly special player. If they're right, the Bills drafted a great talent 7th overall. But there are also a lot of fans skeptical about Allen, and he has to be really good to justify the price paid to acquire him.

There are no such questions about Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds. Buffalo paid very reasonably to move up from 22 to 16 and select a top-10 talent who dropped. But who is going to block for Allen? The Bills ranked 29th in yardage last season, and their best offensive lineman, Richie Incognito, retired. Who's Allen going to throw to? Maybe the Bills really believe in Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones, but this team ranked 31st in passing offense last season, and you don't fix that just by drafting a QB, especially when your offensive line has gotten worse.

The Bills entered this offseason with six picks in the first three rounds, two each. Trading up turned those six picks in three: Allen, Edmunds, and Stanford DT Harrison Phillips. Allen and Edmunds need to be really good to justify the needs Buffalo neglected in this draft.

* The Big 12 — Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield went 1st overall. Their next player drafted was Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams, 50th overall. The SEC had 15 players off the board before the Big 12 had two. The ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 all had seven players drafted when the Big 12 still had one. Conference USA, the Mountain West, and the American Athletic Conference had multiple players taken before the Big 12. Alabama and Georgia each had four players drafted before the entire Big 12 Conference had two.

* Seattle Seahawks — Rashaad Penny was a surprising choice with more highly-rated RBs still on the board, but not a huge reach. The larger problem is that they continue to ignore their offensive line, a draft strategy that at this point seems intentional. Free agent addition D.J. Fluker is not sufficient to correct their glaringly obvious need to upgrade both run-blocking and pass protection. Rasheem Green was a nice value in the 3rd round, but they need him to produce right away. Local product Will Dissly was a reach in the 4th round, and I wish they had chosen a wide receiver at some point. They really miss the 2nd-round choice they spent to acquire Sheldon Richardson last season. Richardson is already gone, having signed with Minnesota last month.

* New Orleans Saints — Continue to mortgage the future. Last year, they traded away this year's 2nd-round pick to move up and take Alvin Kamara. That was a great pick, obviously, but it left them short-handed in this draft. They must have really liked Marcus Davenport, though, because they traded next year's 1st-round selection to move up from the end of the first round to the middle so they could take him. Davenport needs to be as good as Kamara to justify two 1st-round picks.

They went WR and OL in the 3rd and 4th rounds, which made sense, but I wish they'd be able to address those positions a round earlier.

* Philadelphia Eagles — Only one selection in the first 124. They traded out of the 1st round, adding a 2nd-round pick next year and still getting TE Dallas Goedert. But they had no 2nd-round choice because of the Sam Bradford trade two years ago, and no 3rd-round choice because of last year's deal for Ronald Darby.

Even if you count Bradford and Darby as part of this year's draft, which is reaching, the best thing they did was get that extra pick from Baltimore next year.

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