Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman rushed like a pool shark. Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell displayed his rugged individualism. And the Green Bay Packers, who played the role of a merry divorce deal after Aaron Rodgers, played with new playmakers.
This year’s NFL draft provided some of the league’s most intriguing decision makers and franchises a chance to truly express themselves. Here are the teams that made clever moves and a few players that fell a bit short.
The Eagles shouldn’t be able to do the things they do.
A team that won 14 games last season and made it to the Super Bowl shouldn’t have a top 10 pick in the next draft. This team shouldn’t have the opportunity to draft both Jalen Carter, possibly the most talented player in his class, and his Georgia defenseman Nolan Smith, who had amazing practice results with the Scouting Combine.
That team later shouldn’t have been able to add four other potential starters: offensive lineman Tyler Steen, a consistent performer for Vanderbilt and Alabama; Illinois safety Sydney Brown, who intercepted six passes for one of the best defenses in the country in 2022; cornerback Kelee Ringo, another member of Georgia’s back-to-back national championship teams; and, through a trade, veteran running back D’Andre Swift (again Georgia), who had eight touchdowns for the Detroit Lions last year.
After all, a team harboring a Super Bowl hangover shouldn’t have been able to tie star quarterback Jalen Hurts to an alleged five-year, $255 million contract extension before the draft. Such a team would normally be strapped to the salary cap, and such contracts should be preceded by months of melodramas.
The Eagles accomplished all of these things thanks to Roseman’s Wolf of Broad Street magic. Among other things, Roseman acquired the ninth overall pick, which the Eagles used for Carter (whose stock had tumbled over his involvement in a fatal car accident) as part of a complex 2021 trade network; put the bulk of Hurt’s compensation into future balloon payments so the Eagles could keep other core veterans; and executed the trades that earned the team the Ringo Pick and Swift as Saturday appetizers.
Other teams may have done more than the Eagles to improve their rosters in this weekend’s NFL draft. However, no team did more to improve their chances of winning the next year’s Super Bowl. Of course, it helps that the Eagles haven’t had much to improve on in recent years thanks to their brilliance at draft weekend.
Revenge on the nerds
One of the fundamental tenets of football analytics is that running backs and linebackers are bad investments in the first round of the draft: These positions have an overabundance of talent, running back careers are short, and linebackers have a limited role in passing -Happy modern NFL
The Lions, coached by Archetypal Tough Guy Campbell, gave the analytics community an atomic wedgie in the first round by drafting both Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs and Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (no relation to Dan). . Gibbs wasn’t even the first running back to be picked — the Atlanta Falcons picked Texas’ Bijan Robinson eighth overall — and Jack Campbell is the kind of 249-pound sledgehammer that’s been on the brink of extinction for years.
The selection of Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta early in round two — tight end is considered another low-limit position — further fueled the fury of analytics nerds.
Tempers cooled when the Lions selected Alabama defenseman Brian Branch, a first-round talent according to many pundits, with the 45th overall pick. The team then selected Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker with the 68th pick. Hooker might have been a first-round pick if he weren’t older than many NFL starters (he turned 25 in January) and if he hadn’t torn an anterior cruciate ligament in November.
Suddenly, the Lions’ effort looked less like the fantasies of a tipsy father-in-law and more like a masterclass in resource management.
A second dictate of football analytics emphasizes that scouting is so inaccurate that acquiring a plethora of extra draft picks is a far better tactic than trading to target a coveted prospect. The Lions received a bunch of picks from the Los Angeles Rams when they traded quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2021, and they acquired an extra second-round pick from the Arizona Cardinals by trading down before picking Gibbs. As a result, they walked away with several potential starters and a possible franchise quarterback on Friday night. They just did it in an unusual order.
Requiem for the Featherweights
The 2023 draft class was littered with dodgy, fast receivers who wouldn’t weigh 180 pounds even after an endless noodle bowl. It turns out that NFL teams were lukewarm about such prospects.
Receiver Jordan Addison of Southern California, who weighed 173 pounds at the Scouting Combine, went into the first round and tied the Minnesota Vikings with the 23rd overall. Other receivers who had good first-round reputations but weighed less than 180 pounds had to wait until the third round: Jalin Hyatt of Tennessee (177 pounds, Giants, ranked 73 overall), Josh Downs of North Carolina (171 pounds, Indianapolis Colts). , 79th overall) and Houston’s Nathaniel Dell (only 165 pounds, Houston Texans, 69th overall).
However, larger but lesser-known receivers like Mississippi’s Jonathan Mingo (220 pounds, Carolina Panthers, 39th overall) and Southern Methodist’s Rashee Rice (204 pounds, Kansas City Chiefs, 55th overall) heard their names sooner than expected.
Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers built up to 182 pounds and joined the Baltimore Ravens in the 22nd overall. When it comes to hitting NFL scouting benchmarks, an extra helping of smothered hash browns can go a long way.
Despite this, NFL teams are now more willing to invest in receivers weighing under 180 pounds than they used to be. Three such prospects were selected in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft, but their fate illustrates the pros and cons of drafting receivers the size of high school football players. The Lions’ Jameson Williams missed most of the season with a collegiate injury and is now facing a game suspension. Washington Commanders’ Jahan Dotson flashed brilliantly but missed five midseason games with a hamstring injury. The Giants’ Wan’Dale Robinson was beginning to establish himself as an elusive catch-and-run threat before suffering an ACL injury.
If Hyatt and Robinson can stay healthy, not only will the Giants have a dynamic, unpredictable offense, but they’ll save a little on grocery bills.
Some teams draft the best athletes available. Others draw from need. The Packers could be the first NFL team to draft out of defiance. After finally selling Rodgers to the Jets earlier in the week, the Packers assembled a draft class that seemed tailor-made to make Rodgers jealous.
The Packers added three pass catchers Friday night: Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave (42nd overall), Michigan State receiver Jayden Reed (50th) and South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft (78th). The Packers picked Musgrave, a 6-foot-6 target of the type Rodgers prefers, a spot ahead of the Jets with one of the picks they acquired in the Rodgers trade.
The Packers were exhausted by the end and they needed to rebuild their offense for new quarterback Jordan Love, so of course they didn’t really choose a trio of versatile playmakers as the football equivalent of wearing a white dress for an ex. spouse’s wedding.
Still, the Jets had a rather quiet weekend — among their favorites were defensive end Will McDonald IV, center Joe Tippmann and offensive tackle Carter Warren making good additions but no headlines — while the Packers happily embraced a future without Rodgers.
After all, living well is the best revenge.