The Draft ended on Sunday, and now teams are scurrying to acquire more free agents before the start of the season. The Draft is one of my favorite sporting events we have in America, as it brings an emotional spectacle for young athletes to fulfill their dreams. This year’s Draft was different, as we witnessed everyone participating in their homes, which brought a unique twist. As it turns out, Kliff Kingsburry, Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals, lives in the sickest bachelor’s pad in the state. We also got to see the evil genius, Bill Belichick’s humble home where his dog conducted most of the draft for him.
But I’m not here to recap the Draft (that would just be brutal for both of us), but instead, I’m going to focus on who I think were the top 3 winners of the Draft. We see it every year. Some team’s enter the Draft with a game plan and they see it through, while others seem like they have no idea what they’re doing. Now, I want you to keep in mind, just because I deem these teams as winners of the Draft, that doesn’t guarantee they’re going to the Super Bowl next year. This is strictly from an “on paper” view point, as there is no way of knowing how good (or bad) these draft selections are until we see them play a year or two. With that being said, the 3 teams that stood out to me were the Baltimore Ravens, the Denver Broncos, and the Carolina Panthers.
The Baltimore Ravens finished the 2019 season with the best record at 14-2. They had the highest scoring offense, a fierce defense, and the electric MVP Quarterback, Lamar Jackson. After the season ended, the Ravens went and stole Calais Campbell away from the Jaguars for just a 5th round pick, and they also signed Derek Wolfe. Both players look to add toughness and strength to an already stout defense. Additionally, the Ravens did a great job in keeping a majority of their players that helped them with their success in 2019, which brings a sense of familiarity to an already elite club. So before the Draft even started, the Baltimore Ravens had set themselves up for another playoff run.
Once the Draft began, the Ravens had the 28th overall pick in the Draft, and most of their selections were later in each round. So the Ravens had to make the best with what they had, and holy shit… They hit the nail on the head. They made 10 total picks through the seven round draft, and each guy they chose added depth to an already strong roster. HC John Harbaugh and GM Eric DeCosta did a fantastic job of mixing it up on both offense and defense throughout the draft, as they took 5 guys on offense, and 5 guys on defense, then probably celebrated by ordering some 5 Guys Burgers and Fries.
Their first four picks stood out to me the most. First, they selected Patrick Queen, who I thought was one of the top Inside Linebackers in the draft. He’s constantly reminded how undersized he is, and he consistently proves those people wrong with the way he plays. Also factor in that ILB was a positional need for the Ravens, so Queen could be that guy they needed on defense to give them that extra push. In the second round, Baltimore took JK Dobbins, one of the top Running Back prospects in the Draft. He comes into a team that was second in the league in rushing yards last year between Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram. With Dobbins, the Ravens can call any style of plays they want, as opposing defenses will have a VERY difficult time figuring out which one will run the ball. In the third round, they took Justin Madubuike, who in my opinion, was in the top three Defensive Tackles in the Draft… and they took him in the third round! He now has the privilege to rotate in behind Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell his rookie year, which should help him develop faster than anticipated. Lastly, the Baltimore Ravens snagged a Wide Receiver in the deep WR class that was available. They took Devin Duvernay, who brings some serious speed to an already speedy offense. He’s going to be a nice target for Lamar Jackson next season as Duvernay could earn a spot opposite Hollywood Brown.
As the Ravens had already looked like a Super Bowl caliber team BEFORE the Draft, they sure as hell increased their chances afterwards. Considering how unstoppable this Baltimore team seemed to be (until the playoffs), this new rookie class could be what gives them that extra boost they need to make a Super Bowl appearance next year. Watch out for the high flying Ravens next season. That team is coming at everyone like Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Birds.
Last year, the Denver Broncos had quite the roller coaster of a season. Their offense seemed mediocre at best, which didn’t do the defense any favors. In 2019, the Broncos had a below average Offensive line, an aging Joe Flacco under Center, and one of the worst WR groups in the league. Eventually, they subbed Drew Lock in for Flacco, where Lock helped lead the Broncos to win 4 of their last 5 games.
Clearly, John Elway had some holes to fill this offseason on both sides of the ball. Before the Draft even started, he addressed the O-line immediately, signing OL Graham Glasgow, a player that should be a step up from Ron Leary who played RG last year. Elway also signed Melvin Gordon after holding out last year in LA. Gordon still has the ability to take over a game, and gives the Broncos a much needed boost in the run game. Their offense now has a nice 1-2 punch in Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay as their main RBs. Defensively, the Broncos made two brilliant trades without giving up too much. Star Cornerback, Chris Harris Jr. entered Free Agency, so in response, Denver traded for star Cornerback AJ Bouye from Houston, only giving up a 4th round selection. Additionally, Denver lost Derek Wolfe in FA too. Elway found his replacement after trading just a 7th round pick for Titans Pro-Bowler Jurrell Casey. They still have superstar Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Justin Simmons returning, as well as a good chunk of players from last years strong defense.
As Denver entered the 2020 NFL Draft, they still had a few slots to fill. They still needed some WR help, O-line depth, and another CB to play on the opposite of Bouye. By the end of the draft, it was as clear as day light that John Elway and Broncos are going all in on Drew Lock, as they secured Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler with their 1st two picks. In a matter of 48 hours, the Broncos went from having a weak WR group to a very promising core. Drew Lock now has Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Noah Fant to throw the ball to. He also has Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay to carry the ball, which will help take pressure of the 2nd year QB. I know Jeudy and Hamler are excited to be drafted, but Drew Lock HAS to be on cloud nine right now, as Elway basically just gave him the keys to a brand new Ferrari. But Denver didn’t stop there, as the Broncos had two 3rd round picks. First they took advantage of the deep CB class by selecting Michael Ojemudia, then followed that up by taking Center Lloyd Cushenberry. Ojemudia and Cushenberry will have opportunities to earn starting spots as both guys have incredible potential (Cushenberry was in my top 3 Centers of the Draft).
Before the start of the 2020 season, Elway addressed every need the team had a year ago. The WR group looks dangerous, the O-line is improved, the defense maintained stability, and they’re starting Drew Lock week one. Denver has a lot going for them, but it will be tough, as they have the reigning Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs playing in their division. The Raiders also made some nice acquisitions, and the Chargers aren’t too far behind either in their re-build. Having said that, I don’t know if the Broncos have enough to win the division, but they definitely have the talent to make the playoffs.
Boy has Carolina had it rough the past few years now. First, Cam Newton receives a shoulder injury in 2018 and the Panthers staff didn’t give him the necessary time to let it heal. This led to Newton’s poor start in 2019, which ended early due to a completely separate injury in his ankle. By week 12, long time Head Coach Ron Rivera was fired, leaving the franchise in a dark and confused state. The day after the Super Bowl, the Panthers cut their star Tight End Greg Olsen, and after hiring their new Head Coach, Matt Rhule, the franchise decided to part ways with Cam Newton as well. Newton struck social media, pleading he never wanted to leave the team, even though the Panthers claimed both parties agreed mutually. This led to Greg Olsen voicing his similar experience, as well as Panther’s great, WR Steve Smith. Soon, a few more players started chirping away at the unprofessionalism of the team, which put daunting eyes on the franchise as a whole.
During this catastrophe, the Panther’s traded their Pro-Bowl Guard, Trai Turner to the Los Angeles Chargers for long time OT Russell Okung. The trade was a head scratcher, as Trai Turner is easily one of the best Guards in the league, and Okung is nearing the end of his career. The long tenured OT suffered from blood clots in his lungs during the 2019 offseason, which led to him only playing 6 games. After all of this, it’s no wonder Panther fans have been quiet the past couple years.
But there’s hope. A glimmer of light shining through the darkness, giving Panther’s fans something to be happy about. GM Marty Hurney and HC Matt Rhule put on a show during the NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers are in a rebuild and the front office did exactly what an organization should do when in this position; build the defense first. Carolina had seven total picks, and took a defensive player with every single one. They hit home runs especially with their first 4 selections. They took DT Derrick Brown in the first round, who is one of the top players overall in the draft. The guy is a game changer and should help the Panthers improve their rush defense. They also took Yetur Gross-Matos to rush the QB on the edge. Carolina put their main attention on the defensive line, which it’s commonly known that football is a game won in the trenches. They also upgraded their secondary by taking Safety Jeremy Chinn and Cornerback Troy Pride Jr. Both guys will have a chance to earn some serious playing time. Chinn has massive potential and could be the next big thing in the NFL, while Pride Jr. will add much needed depth to the Panther’s pass coverage.
As Carolina makes their way into the next NFL season, it’s going to be difficult for the team to thrive in a tough NFC South division. The Saints are completely loaded, and the new look Buccaneers are an early favorite to win the NFC Conference. Like I mentioned, the Panther’s are in a rebuilding process with multiple new players on the team and luckily have a franchise Running Back they can build around. Panther’s are probably not going to make the playoffs next year, but if their defense focused draft picks work into their full potential, Carolina could find themselves back in the playoff race sooner rather than later.
Dallas Cowboys: Stole WR CeeDee Lamb to pair him up with Amari Cooper, took CB Trevon Diggs to replace Byron Jones, and selected arguabley the best Center in the Draft Tyler Biadasz. The offense is stacked, the defense looks better, they’re in a weak NFC East division, and they have a new HC. Let’s see if Dallas can finally put it together this year.
Tennessee Titans: Filled all needs through the draft. Isaiah Wilson will compete for the starting RT spot, they drafted Kristian Fulton who many had as the CB3 in the Draft, and found a solid RB2 in Darrynton Evans to help make the offense more explosive. Right now the team is rumored to possibly sign Jadeveon Clowney and/or Damon “Snacks” Harrison. They have 10-11 returning starters on offense, and new acquisitions for the defense to put them over the edge. There were limited changes to the coaching staff made as well, which means the Titans are re-loading up for another possible deep playoff run.