All 32 teams held news conferences at the conclusion of last week’s NFL Draft. And wouldn’t you know it, the players were all rated at the top of the board, and the teams got tremendous value at each spot.
But we don’t need the general managers to sugarcoat what they were trying to accomplish. Here is what each team told us with their draft:
■ Arizona: “It’s a passing league.” The Cardinals were 32nd in scoring, 32nd in total yards, and 32nd in passing yards last year. So they ditched Josh Rosen for Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick, then drafted receivers in the second (Andy Isabella), fourth (Hakeem Butler), and sixth (Keesean Johnson) rounds.
■ Atlanta: “We must protect the franchise.” Matt Ryan will be 34 in two weeks. The fans weren’t thrilled with the Falcons drafting Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom at 14 and Washington tackle Kaleb McGary at 31, but the Falcons needed to remake the right side of the offensive line.
■ Baltimore: “Better receivers equal better Lamar Jackson.” The Ravens drafted Marquise Brown at 25 and Miles Boykin late in the third. I’m not sure that drafting receivers will automatically turn Jackson into a better passer, but the Ravens are trying.
■ Buffalo: “We’re rebuilding through the trenches.” The Bills signed two receivers in free agency, so they only took two offensive skill players in the top six rounds. They used the ninth pick on defensive tackle Ed Oliver, and an early second-rounder on guard/tackle Cody Ford.
■ Carolina: “We’re a little worried about Cam Newton.” Why else would they draft quarterback Will Grier at the end of the third round? Newton, who turns 30 next week, missed the last two games of the season, then had shoulder surgery in the offseason. Newton has taken a beating in his eight-year career, and the Panthers must be worried about his long-term durability.
■ Chicago: “We don’t need rookies.” The Bears traded their first-round pick for Khalil Mack, and their second-rounder to the Patriots last year. So they were quiet on draft weekend, taking just five players, and instead will rely on the core of players that won them 12 games last year.
■ Cincinnati: “It’s put up or shut up for Andy Dalton.” Dalton has yet to win a playoff game in eight seasons. The Bengals gave Dalton immediate help with the 11th pick (offensive tackle Jonah Williams). But they also drafted quarterback Ryan Finley in the fourth round, and he could be the eventual replacement.
■ Cleveland: “Our defense needs help.” Even after adding Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon this offseason, the Browns still need better depth on defense. They took cornerback Greedy Williams with their first pick (second round), and went defense with five of seven picks overall.
■ Dallas: “We’re good with last year’s roster.” The Cowboys traded a first-rounder for Amari Cooper last year and brought back Jason Witten, and that’s apparently enough for Jerry Jones. Dallas didn’t pick until the late second round, then went defensive tackle, guard, running back — no one that will make a big impact this year.
■ Denver: “Let’s rebuild the offense . . . again.” This seems to be a yearly project for the Broncos since Peyton Manning retired after 2015. This time they drafted tight end Noah Fant in the first, offensive tackle Dalton Risner in the second, and quarterback Drew Lock in the second.
■ Detroit: “Let’s get Matt Patricia players he wants.” First the Lions signed Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola in free agency. Then they went heavy on defense in the draft. They took tight end T.J. Hockenson in the first round, but their next four picks were all on defense.
■ Green Bay: “Our defense was terrible last year.” They spent $48 million guaranteed in free agency on pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, linebacker Preston Smith, and safety Adrian Amos, then used both first-round picks on defensive players (end Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage).
■ Houston: “Deshaun Watson needs better protection.” He was sacked a league-high 62 times last year. So they drafted offensive tackle Tytus Howard with the 23rd pick, and guard/tackle Max Scharping in the second round.
■ Indianapolis: “The first round is for losers.” The Colts traded out of the first round and instead collected three second-round picks. They came away with cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, pass rusher Ben Banogu, and receiver Parris Campbell. The Colts also used six of their first seven picks on defense.
■ Jacksonville: “Thank you very much.” Pass rusher wasn’t necessarily the Jaguars’ biggest need, but they gladly took Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen when he dropped to the seventh pick. Same with left tackle Jawaan Taylor, considered by some analysts the best tackle in the draft, who fell to the Jaguars in the second round.
■ Kansas City: “We’re not sure about Tyreek Hill.” His availability is unknown because of the domestic violence situation with his child. To account for this uncertainty, the Chiefs traded up five spots in the second round to draft Georgia’s Mecole Hardman, another small, speedy receiver.
■ LA Chargers: “We’re not ready to move on from Philip Rivers yet.” The Chargers used five of their seven picks on defense, didn’t trade for Rosen, and only drafted a quarterback in the fifth round (North Dakota State’s Easton Stick).
■ LA Rams: “We don’t need rookies to contribute this year.” Their first pick came at No. 61, and their first few picks were at positions where they already have players (safety, running back, cornerback, offensive tackle).
■ Miami: “We’ll build this from the inside out.” Their first two picks (other than the Rosen trade) were a defensive tackle and a guard, followed by a linebacker, tackle, and fullback. Not sexy, but safe.
■ Minnesota: “We need new special teams players.” Filled immediate needs with a center in the first round (Garrett Bradbury) and tight end in the second (Irv Smith), and used seven picks over the final two rounds to restock their backups and special teams.
■ New England: “We need to get younger.” The Patriots used nine picks in the top five rounds, players that can be expected to contribute in 2019. They took only seven such players in the last two drafts combined.
■ New Orleans: “Who needs the draft?” The Saints only had one pick in the first three rounds, and used it on a center. Then they doubled up on safety with their next two picks, in the fourth and sixth rounds.
■ NY Giants: “We’ll have a new defense this fall.” Quarterback Daniel Jones was the main attraction, but the Giants’ next five picks were all on defense, including tackle Dexter Lawrence and cornerback Deandre Baker in the first round.
■ NY Jets: “We need youth on the defensive line.” The Jets always seemingly use high draft picks on defensive linemen, and this year was no different. They took tackle Quinnen Williams third overall, then took end Jachai Polite with their next pick (third round).
■ Oakland: “We need safe football players.” Their three first-rounders were used on prospects who don’t have injury or off-field issues and can contribute right away: defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs, and safety Johnathan Abram.
■ Philadelphia: “Let’s get Carson Wentz some help.” Only had five picks, and their top three all will help Wentz: offensive tackle Andre Dillard in the first round, and running back Miles Sanders and receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round.
■ Pittsburgh: “We’re not worried about replacing Antonio Brown.” Only used one pick on a receiver, third-rounder Dionte Johnson. Otherwise, they traded up for linebacker Devin Bush and had no second-rounder.
■ Seattle: “We still have to remake our defense (and, oh yeah, Doug Baldwin probably is retiring).” Used three of their first four picks on defense, and also drafted three receivers over the weekend, with Baldwin reportedly unlikely to play again because of injury.
■ San Francisco: “Jimmy Garoppolo needs more receivers.” After taking Nick Bosa with the second pick, the 49ers drafted receiver Deebo Samuel in the second round and receiver Jalen Hurd in the third round.
■ Tampa Bay: “Our defense was a mess last year.” The Buccaneers ranked 31st in points allowed last year, so they used six of their eight draft picks on defense, including their first five.
■ Tennessee: “It’s sink or swim time for Marcus Mariota.” The Titans used their first-round pick on defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who might not play much this year because of a torn ACL. They got Mariota a receiver in the second round, but didn’t load up on offensive playmakers for him.
■ Washington: “We’ll take them, thank you.” The ’Skins reportedly wanted to trade up for Dwayne Haskins, but he fell to 15. Then they traded up and drafted pass rusher Montez Sweat after he fell to 26. And they took injured Stanford running back Bryce Love in the fourth round.
Gettleman bold with Jones pick
A few other thoughts on last weekend’s draft:
■ The criticism that Giants GM Dave Gettleman should have drafted quarterback Daniel Jones at 17 instead of 6 is based on the theoretical projections of draft analysts and not based in reality. The Broncos, Dolphins, and Redskins were all lurking behind the Giants, and who knows if the Patriots or Chargers would have tried to trade up? We’ll see if Jones can play, but I like Gettleman’s boldness. If you like the quarterback, and think he can be the future of your franchise, you don’t mess around with trying to get better value. It’s the most important position in sports, and you take him as soon as you can.
■ By the same token, there seems to be an awful lot of spin coming out of Denver about its new quarterback, Drew Lock. He went 42nd overall, the fourth quarterback off the board, but John Elway said after the draft that Lock was his highest-rated quarterback — higher than Kyler Murray, even. The Broncos got good value on Lock, but the fact that they passed on him three times doesn’t make me feel great about his pro prospects. Elway first traded down from the 10th pick, then used the 20th pick on Noah Fant, then the 41st pick on tackle Dalton Risner. Only after trading up again to 42 did Elway take Lock, basically to prevent him from going to Miami.
■ The Raiders were mindful of their upcoming move to Las Vegas when drafting players this year. They were looking for players who could handle the difficult transition next year, as well as players who could avoid the temptations of Vegas.
“We asked 112 kids if they’d be OK on the Vegas strip or was it going to be a problem?” Raiders GM Mike Mayock told USA Today. “All 112 said, ‘No, coach, we’ll be fine.’ We didn’t find one guy that admitted that Vegas would be an issue. So, they all lied to us.”
■ The Chargers were the only team to use all seven of their original draft picks. The other 31 teams made at least one trade. The Patriots drafted 10 players, but only two were in their original slots — receiver N’Keal Harry (1-32) and cornerback Ken Webster (7-252).
Undrafted not a big deal
A record 145 players with remaining college eligibility declared for the draft, and 49 went undrafted. NFL teams and colleges alike will use this data to scare future kids into staying in college for their final year, but declaring for the draft isn’t necessarily the wrong move. Thirty-two of the 145 players already received their degrees. And you can just as easily get hurt and ruin your draft stock in your final year of college football.
Plus, going undrafted doesn’t mean the end of the line. Most, if not all, of those 49 undrafted players will sign free agent contracts and be in NFL training camps. And there are dozens of success stories of undrafted players. Teams like keeping undrafted players — it makes their scouting department look good, and the players are super cheap, making NFL minimum. Potentially making $495,000 in the NFL can be a lot better than playing for free in college.
Two other surprising numbers: 117 players of the nearly 330 who participated in the NFL Combine didn’t get drafted, while 33 non-invitees were drafted. It’s another reminder that even those who know the most about the college players and the draft process don’t know who is going to succeed in the NFL.
In 2015, the Patriots drafted long snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round and needed special permission from the Navy to delay his assignment and allow him to play his rookie year. Now the Vikings have a similar situation. They drafted Air Force long snapper Austin Cutting in the seventh round, and are awaiting word from the academy to see if Cutting can play this year . . . The Giants signed an undrafted rookie quarterback, but it wasn’t coach Pat Shurmur’s son. The Vanderbilt quarterback leaned on his father heavily for advice in the pre-draft process, and while he didn’t get drafted, Kyle Shurmur signed for $75,000 guaranteed with Andy Reid and the Chiefs . . . From NFL Draft guru Gil Brandt: For the first time since 1962, Nebraska did not have a player drafted . . . We reported back in March that the NFL is considering big changes to the Combine — moving it to other cities, stretching the event out over parts of two weeks, and televising the drills in prime time. The city of Indianapolis estimates the Combine brings in about $10 million annually, and is worried about losing the event. “Retaining the NFL Scouting Combine is paramount, as they have met here since 1987 and we only have them booked through next year,” Chris Gahl, senior vice president of Visit Indy, told the Indianapolis Star . . . A little fact check on Tom Brady, who was asked by Jimmy Kimmel this past week why he historically has agreed to be underpaid. “Actually, it’s a salary cap. You can only spend so much and the more that one guy gets is less for others. And for a competitive advantage standpoint, I like to get a lot of good players around me.” This has been true in the past, but not this offseason. Brady currently has the fourth-highest salary cap number in the NFL ($27 million), and the difference between his cap number and salary ($12 million) is the highest in the NFL. Even if Brady gets a new contract this summer and lowers his cap hit, it didn’t help out the Patriots in March and April when they had to sign players . . . Meanwhile, Drew Brees re-signed with the Saints last year for two years and $50 million, and Ben Roethlisberger just signed a new three-year, $85 million deal with the Steelers ($28.33 million average)? Will Brady push for similar money?