Every NFL team is better than they before draft weekend, as each front office did their best to improve through the draft. However, some seemed to be much more prepared than others, as they came away with much better value from their draft selections.
It is important to note that it is impossible to make an accurate assessment of players before they have played a down in the league, and several knee-jerk draft grades have aged poorly over the years. With that said, some picks seemed ill-advised based on where a player got selected and who else was on the board at the time.
It may be another year, but it was the same old story for Green Bay, who perennially ignore the receiver position (much to the chagrin of their fanbase) despite there having a Davante Adams-sized hole in their receiving corps. They instead drafted Georgia linebacker Quay Walker, a late-riser throughout the pre-draft process, with the 22nd pick, their first of two selections in round one.
While he certainly has the athleticism to warrant a first-round selection, he is still an incredibly raw prospect who could take a few years to get his feet underneath him (à la his new teammate DeVondre Campbell). Many graded him similarly to his college teammate Nakobe Dean, who got selected by the Eagles 61 picks later. They finally addressed the receiver position after trading up early in the second round for North Dakota State pass-catcher (and occasional dropper) Christian Watson, but they might regret not making a similar move up the boards for a more polished prospect like Treylon Burks on day one.
The only thing more strange than the Patriots' selection of UT-Chattanooga center Cole Strange with the 29th pick is the spelling of 'Chattanooga.' Even more peculiar was the fact that he became the first player in the school's history (Terrell Owens was also a UTC alum) to be selected in the first round.
Doubting Bill Belichick is generally bad for business, but it is fair to question his decision to draft the small-school lineman when he did, as they could have accumulated more picks by moving down and selecting him in the second round. The soon-to-be 24-year-old (another demerit) displayed a mean streak at the collegiate level, but it would not be surprising if he struggled to adapt to the NFL, considering the steep increase in competition.
The Saints' selection of Tennessee cornerback Alontae Taylor with the 49th pick was one of the worst moves of the second round. Versatility was his main selling point (he can play corner or safety), but he lacks the upside that teams generally covet in their top-50 selections.
Fellow second-round pick Bryan Cook is a more traditional safety prospect (a greater need for New Orleans after losing Marcus Williams in free agency) who would have been a better fit than Taylor. They would have also been better off strengthening their underwhelming receiving corps or targeting a linebacker like Nakobe Dean or Troy Anderson.
The Patriots' second pick was arguably even more questionable than their first, as they traded up four spots to select Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton with the 50th pick. The selection was not only a reach, as the speedster is a raw prospect who was widely regarded as a mid-round target, but the fact that they traded UP to select him made it even more egregious.
The move-up for a pass catcher certainly made sense, as they jumped ahead of receiver-needy teams in the Steelers and Colts (both of whom selected pass-catchers with back-to-back picks), but it would have made more sense to move up for a more polished product. The move will look even worse if one of the three receivers chosen immediately after Thornton (the Chiefs also selected Skyy Moore at New England's original draft slot) become better players than him.
The Texans' selection of Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green with the 15th pick was one of the more head-scratching moves of the first round, as they were in a position to take the best player available due to a lack of talent virtually everywhere on their roster. Green has the potential to be an anchor on Houston's line, but he will have to retool his technique to reach that status in the pros.
The Texans would have probably been able to land him (or the similarly-rated Zion Johnson) if they moved down a few spots, which would have allowed them to add a few more pieces. With that said, the selection of Green was not as egregious as their next one...
John Metchie III
Houston made an even more questionable call when they traded up 24 spots in the second round to select Alabama receiver John Metchie III with the 44th pick. Metchie will naturally get compared to the slew of playmakers the school has churned out over the years, but he is not on their level in terms of athleticism.
Metchie can become a quality slot receiver in the league, but his upside is capped compared to many other receivers in the stacked class, including a few selected after him in George Pickens, Alec Pierce, and Skyy Moore. We can't knock Houston for moving up to grab a playmaker on the perimeter, but it is fair to question whether they selected the right one. On the bright side, if his NFL career does not pan out, he will always have the CFL to fall back on.
This entry is bound to be controversial, as Travon Walker is one of the most physically gifted players in the class and was more than worthy of being a top-10 selection (where he was projected before blowing up the combine). However, his inclusion on the list is more of a vote of confidence in Aidan Hutchinson, who should have been the slam dunk first-overall pick as one of the most dominant players in college football in 2021, than anything else.
The Jags opted to go for the high-upside play in Travon Walker, a late riser throughout the draft process who failed to dominate at the collegiate level. While his upside is immense, the narrative that Hutchinson's is not is foolish, as he has the traits to become one of the league's premier pass rushers and dominated everyone he lined up against this past year.
LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price turned heads when he ran a sub-4.5 40-yard-dash at the combine at 211 lbs. but he was still considered a fourth or fifth round prospect after the event. Nevertheless, San Francisco fell in love with his potential and selected Davis-Price with the 93rd pick. While the selection was a reach on its own, it becomes even worse when you consider the talented (and more proven) running backs still on the board.
He might thrive in Kyle Shanahan's running back-friendly offense, but they would have been better off selecting Dameon Pierce or Isaiah Spiller. It is fair if fantasy football owners have already given up on Trey Sermon, but it would be a bit more suspect if the 49ers' front office already has just one year after selecting him in the third round (only five spots ahead of where Davis-Price got picked).
The Giants' selection of Kentucky receiver Wan'Dale Robinson with the 43rd pick makes more sense if the rumors of a potential trade of 2021 first-rounder Kadarius Toney come to fruition. However, there is no way to defend their decision to select him when they did, as he was the second receiver off the board in the second round despite a slew of better options still being available.
Robinson was a mid-round prospect who had an outside chance of sneaking into the third-round if there were a run on pass catchers in a crowded class, but he obviously wound up going much earlier. He might need to put on some weight if he wants to become a consistent contributor for the G-Men, as his 5-8, 178-pound frame could be an issue against NFL defenses.
Cleveland became the first team to take a specialist when they selected LSU kicker Cade York with the 124th pick in the fourth round. It is acceptable to draft a kicker that early if a team has few needs, but the Browns, who finished with an 8-9 record last season, do not fit that description.
The position is historically difficult to project at the NFL level (looking at you, Roberto Aguayo), and the Browns would have been wise to address other more pressing needs by selecting from the talented pool of players that were still available. Two other specialists (both were punters) got picked later in the round, but one went to Tampa Bay, and Baltimore swiped the other with one of their five fourth-round selections.
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