The draft is over. Optimism and dread are high among the different fanbases. Some have hope, some are full of despair. Whilst everyone has an idea of how well each team drafted, it will take 3+ years to find out. So, with that in mind, I shall refrain from grading drafts. Instead, I shall delve into my two favourite draft classes and my 2 individual favourite picks (1st round excluding so no Rashawn Slater).
Has this franchise even looked so compelling? Run by the hit-new team of HC Dan Campbell and GM Brad Holmes, Detroit is looking on the up. They dedicated their draft to the on-brand style of players – kneecap biters. This Lions squad is going to be playing with one massive chip on their shoulder, they are going out every game to overpower their opponents and feel good about. This is the type of team that may be down 20 but will still be celebrating that hit that almost broke the ribs of the opponent. The Lions are scary.
Their first pick was Penei Sewell, one of the nastiest tackles in the draft. He will bully defensive lineman. He will dominate in the trenches, exactly where this Detroit team looks to win. He shouldn’t have fallen to 7, but he did. The Bengals loss is the Lions gain. Also, this pick gave us Brad Holmes’ response. Any player should want to go to the team with the GM that gets THAT excited about drafting you. This team is going places, it’s a new Lions team and it started with the pick of Sewell.
The Lions then added to the trenches on Day 2 but from the defensive side of the ball in Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill. Onwuzurike will fit in Detriot immediately if his post-draft interview is anything to go by. McNeill is athletic for 320 pounds and with the 2 of them manning the D-line, likely alongside Trey Flowers in the 3-man front Dan Campbell has announced that will be run, Detroit is not just going to be stopping the run game; but also getting the QB on a regular occurrence.
Next, Holmes targeted players who fell. First in the CB from Syracuse in Ifeatu Melifonwu and then in WR Amon-Ra St Brown from USC. To get these players in the 3rd and 4th round respectively are steals. Melifonwu is a large corner at 6ft 2in and will perfectly complement Okudah who will man the opposite CB spot. Large and physical corners. St Brown (brother to Equanimeous St Brown) is a crisp route runner who gives Goff a reliable target. The offense has a chance at not being totally dire but it’s likely the offense is a project for next year’s draft.
The Lions rounded the draft out with LB Derrick Barnes (Purdue) and RB Jemar Jefferson (Oregon State). Barnes has been announced as the Mike backer for the Lions and he plays HARD. He will hit hard and come with a full head of steam. Jefferson is a productive runner who will find himself in a rotation with Swift in the backfield now Johnson has been cut. This Lions draft is full of bully-players. The Lions are getting ready to bully the rest of the NFL. This draft signals intent – now it’s just the execution.
New York Jets
As with any draft which starts with a QB, the success of the draft is dependent upon their play. Therefore, everything is realistically down to Zach Wilson. However, it wasn’t just Wilson who makes this draft special. Trading up for Alijah Vera-Tucker consolidates an O-Line that may be top-5 by the end of the season. This protects Wilson and will allow him time in the pocket to dissect the complicated NFL defences.
Following this, the Jets grabbed Elijah Moore early round 2. This was a great pick, especially considering many had him as a first round WR. His fall allowed the Jets to improve a receiving core which is now led on the outside by Denzel Mims and on the inside by Moore who can learn tricks of the trade from Jamison Crowder before taking his spot in the team. Wilson truly has this team built around him; it does mean he won’t get the same excuses that Sam Darnold was handed.
Day 3 started with Michael Carter for the Jets. A great player, a running back jitterbug who will likely find himself running lots of zone runs to the left side of the line or outside sweeps. He will have the monster of Mekhi Becton at LT with Vera-Tucker at LG. This means that the Jets have a new QB, an improved O-Line, a new RB and added to an impressive WR core. This offense looks ready to roll and their defence was already top-10.
Their other Day 3 steal was Hamsah Nasirildeen, S from Florida State. Nasirildeen has the versatility to also play down in the box, an off-ball linebacker. Robert Salah is going to enjoy moving this trustworthy tackler all around the Jets defense. Not bad for a day 3 pick. The Jets filled their major needs at the draft this year. If Wilson does pan out at QB, this could be looked back on as an all-time great draft class for the Jets.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Cleveland Browns)
There is no doubt that if it wasn’t for the heart issue of JOK, he would have left the board likely at or just after the Brown’s first pick. Instead, he slid to Round 2, pick 52. JOK is a hybrid. He can play LB, Slot or a box safety. He can cover of plug a hole to stop the run. JOK is likely the most versatile defensive player in the draft and to get him at 52 is ridiculous. The Browns now own a lethal front 7 that includes Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Jordan Elliot and now also JOK.
Tyree Gillespie (S, Las Vegas Raiders)
A starting safety in Round 4 at pick 143 is ridiculous. Gillespie is the most physical safety in the draft and shattered both Jaylen Waddle and DeVonte Smith when he played Alabama. His coverage skills may not be the best but as the Raiders picked up Trevon Moehrig in the second, it’s doubtful that matters. Gillespie will be told to find ball – hit ball, make the offense pay. He can turn the momentum of a game in one play, he will increase the motor of those around him and can become the heart of this rebuilding Raiders defense. The best pick Gruden and Mayock have made in their Raiders tenure so far.