It’s over. The dust is settling and the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books. And every year at this time, fans of all 32 teams (okay, maybe not the Browns) are excited about their picks and the future.
And fans of the Buccaneers, the Dolphins and the Jaguars are no different.
So, we at F.F.I. decided to take a quick objective look at what went well, what maybe did not, as well as, three players taken after the first round that stood out in their drafts.
What went well?: They got defensive line help early (Washington’s mammoth DT Vita Vea) and GM Jason Licht “wheeled and dealed” for extra picks in later rounds with a first round trade with Buffalo and a second round pick with New England. That gave the Bucs, three extra young players from rounds 1-3, as it turned out.
What didn’t go well?: Tampa Bay is still reeling defensively from a pass rush that was last in the NFL in 2017. And yes, they signed free agent DE Vinny Curry and traded for the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul. However, this was still an area that they could have used a quality depth draft pick. And players like Harold Landry of BC, Dashwan Hand of Alabama, Arden Key of LSU, and Tyquan Lewis of Ohio State were there in rounds 2-4 and the Buccaneers passed. We’ll see if they regret that later in the season.
Most interesting pick: Justin Watson, WR, Penn. This was a luxury pick in the fifth round, as Tampa Bay is loaded at wide out. The Ivy leaguer Watson is also, a kick returner, which the Buccaneers have been lacking for consistency with for years.
What went well?: The Dolphins picked up some needed help in their secondary with Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick in the opening round. He’s a talented hard-hitting player out of one of the best programs in all of college football (Alabama) and should be able to be a day one impact player.
What didn’t go well?: Despite what they might say publicly, the Fins were clearly trying to get one of the premier quarterbacks in the draft in the top 10 and could not pull off a trade to move up. It’s unlikely that all four of those quarterbacks will end up being good or star players in the NFL, but Miami had a need and did thorough evaluation on all of them. Then, Thursday night couldn’t get a trade done, when Buffalo and Arizona were able to trade in the top 10 and get their QB.
Most interesting draft pick?: Penn State TE Mike Gesicki. As we wrote yesterday, he’s big, he’s athletic and he’s potentially they game-changing Redzone and goal to go target for Adam Gase’s offense. And Miami, also took another young TE in Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe. So, there is now depth at that lacking position.
What went well?:
They picked up Gators defensive tackle Taven Bryan late in the first round to help with their defensive line depth. Bryan in the middle of the line with Marcell Dareus and Malik Jackson has a chance to flourish in his rookie season. Jacksonville also got good value out of safety Ronnie Harrison from Alabama at the end of the third round. He provides depth, and the same with Fitzpatrick for the Dolphins, his college program has well prepared him for the NFL
What didn’t go well?
Getting a quarterback of the future. As we wrote Friday without having to trade up, Jacksonville was staring right at Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, as a play making exciting quarterback of the future. And, they would have had a 5-year time window to evaluate have they drafted him in the first round. The Jags chose not to and have “pushed all of their chips in the middle of the table” for now, on Blake Bortles without a future plan if Bortles isn’t very good in 2018.
Most interesting draft pick?:
Wisconsin LB/Edge rusher Leon Jacobs. He battled an ankle injury at Wisconsin, but has speed and pass rushing skill. And the Jags got him later than most projected (7th round). Can he flourish on an already loaded defense?
Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars rookies take part in “Rookie Premier”
The NFLPA hosted members of the 2018 NFL Draft class in Los Angeles over the course of the last three days, With several Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars represented, there were also state school players there, as well.
First, the 40 rookies attended a seminar, and then all got the opportunity to see their jerseys for the first time together:
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 19, 2018
For the Bucs, rookie running back Ronald Jones out of USC has now settled on #27, Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki donned his #86 and new teammate RB Kalen Ballage, his #33, and for the Jaguars rookie D.J. Chark saw his #17 with everyone else, too.
Of course, the marquee quarterbacks from the top ten of last month’s draft have and will continue to grab most of the attention.
This included the Browns #1 overall pick, Baker Mayfield, the Jets and their new “savior” in Josh Darnold, Josh Allen of the Bills and Josh Rosen of the Cardinals.
The guys took a group photo Saturday morning:
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 19, 2018
Interesting that there were also several state school players who were out in Southern California taking part in the three day event, and also got the same chance to put their new colors on, etc.
One of those is former USF star receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was taken by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round and he was eager to put on social media his first rookie card:
— Marquez V-S (@MVS__11) May 19, 2018
Also in attendance was former Hurricanes now Bengals running back Mark Walton putting on his #32. And former Louisville Heisman quarter back Lamar Jackson, who’s also a former high school star in Boynton Beach, decided to show some dance moves in his video shoot:
I should’ve did the whole thing just gave a little something ? pic.twitter.com/yzRC3MTS52
— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) May 19, 2018
Did Dolphins and Bucs make mistake passing on FSU’s Derwin James?
Granted we are just after the NFL Draft process late last month and no one has played an actual game, but the analysis continues to pour in on players and the teams that drafted them.
One name that keeps coming up under the heading of “steal” in round one is FSU safety Derwin James.
The L.A. Chargers ended up sitting where they were at #17 and got the Noles All American safety to fill a need.
However, as the draft played out, the Dolphins, were not able to grab a quarterback, and decided with the 11th pick to draft Alabama safety/corner Minknah Fitzpatrick.
As we wrote, Fins owner Stephen Ross was apparently against that decision, but was convinced to let his front office make that pick instead of trading down to get more selections.
The Buccaneers could have also taken James after trading down to in deal with the Bills, but Tampa Bay chose Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.
Both clubs have a mix of veteran and young safeties, but you could make the argument that James would be able to step in and make an immediate huge impact in 2018. And, that’s what Pro Football focus discussed Tuesday:
The Chargers landed one of the biggest potential steals of round one when Derwin James fell into their laps. Here's what we thought about that pick and the rest of their draft:https://t.co/8R1P8awyCF pic.twitter.com/0X2nYzvjBP
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 15, 2018
As PFF points out, that 90.6 grade in pass coverage was #1 in their ranking formula for college safeties, and also his overall grade (92.1) on their scale ranked him #2. And as you can see from their info/photo they had James ranked their fifth best player in the entire draft.
You can also see more about what PFF’s analysts think about James’ game translating to the next level and the fit with the Chargers in their video here:
In the Fins case, they went with a player from Nick Saban’s defensive back factory at Alabama. Again, he’s had 10 defensive backs drafted in the first or second round of his Bama tenure. So, you cannot say that was a bad pick, unless Fitzpatrick is terrible/lost (unlikely), and James is tremendous from year one.
In the Bucs case, they drafted a young physical safety in Justin Evans in the second round last year and eventually took another safety, Jordan Whitehead of Pitt, on day three of the draft this year.
So, both teams would tell you that they addressed the need both last year and this year.
Now, will James’ play make them both regret that they had the chance to take him?
We will find out this fall.
Will Mark Walton get significant carries for the Bengals?
When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Mark Walton in the fourth round it wasn’t just for the former Miami Hurricane to not compete for playing time. You have to understand before his ankle injury which cut short his 2017 season, Walton was projected to be as high as a second round pick. Obviously the injury hurt his stock, but he still could play a significant role in his rookie season.
MARK WALTON, Miami (5-9 ½, 202, 4.59, Round 4): Third-year junior declared early even though ankle surgery ended his final season after four games. “He should have stayed in school,” one scout said. “He’s not very good. Just kind of a one-speed guy and gets tackled easily. No elusiveness.” Had a big season in 2016 (1,117). Finished with just 395 carries for 1,995 (5.1) and 26 TDs along with 56 receptions for 624.
That said another scout didn’t hold the same view of Walton at all.
“He’s got a PhD of football,” said another scout. “Poor, hungry and determined.” From Miami. “He’s explosive as heck,” a third scout said. “Just little. Big-play ability. Effective out of the backfield. He can cut and slide at full speed and can outrun the angles.”
Not sure what tape the first scout watched on Walton, it must have been right after he had his first ankle injury last season, where for a few carries he was a little slow. He did end up with over 200 yards on the ground that day. He’s an explosive player once healthy and can find seems and make the long ball runs.
The Bengals have quite a bit a depth now with Walton at running back. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are already there. Plus there’s Brian Hill and Tra Carson. One thing that makes Walton valuable is his special teams abilities.
He’s capable of receiving kickoffs and punts, plus he’s excellent on coverage of both. The fact that he’s also a reliable receiver in the backfield also gives him a nice advantage as far as earning playing time. Considering his diverse value, Mark Walton will be making some kind of impact his rookie season, provided he remains healthy. Not sure what the heck that one scout was talking about.
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