Every year, teams make good and bad decisions in the NFL draft. There are always winners and losers, and 2016’s edition is no different.
The draft normally starts off pretty much on-script, but this year’s draft was extremely volatile at the top. And that reflects in the winners and losers.
These were the best and worst things we saw during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Winner: Gary Clark Jr. As the ESPN NFL Draft lead-in
There’s just something fun about a deep voice and a smooth jazzy beat leading you into the NFL draft. After waiting for this moment for the past year, the moment when it finally begins should always be punctuated by a great opening.
ESPN nailed it with Gary Clark, Jr as their opener, and it got everyone more pumped for the impending selection.
Loser: NFL Draftee fashion
When you see what these draft picks are wearing, some of these guys just make you think, “What the heck are they thinking?!”
Every year is no different; however, this year has been way worse than even 2015 was.
Just take a look at Ezekiel Elliott missing half of a shirt:
Probably started out as a joke, but Ezekiel Elliott is really wearing a crop top dress shirt to the draft pic.twitter.com/P9PJAJFJOg
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 28, 2016
Or the atrocity that are Laremy Tunsil’s shoes:
Tunsil's shoes look like a crayon box pic.twitter.com/pIVYVEoYIZ
— Derrick Eastbrook™ (@The_Eastbrook) April 29, 2016
Thankfully, these guys are going to be making some money… so hopefully they can find a better stylist. OK, now it’s time to get somewhat serious by actually talking about the picks at hand.
Winner: Overdrafted quarterbacks
It’s rare when quarterbacks are truly worth going 1-and-2 the way that Jared Goff from California and Carson Wentz from North Dakota State did. It does fit the mantra of, “If you don’t have a quarterback, GO GET ONE!” However, there were better overall talents available than Goff and Wentz in this year’s draft.
Goff goes to a situation where he’s the hometown guy for the newly-relocating Los Angeles Rams. They needed a franchise quarterback, and Goff is the kind of guy who can help his offensive line and receivers look better because of his ability to keep plays alive and avoid pressure. Goff may not deserve to be selected that high, but he’s got potential to be a taller Drew Brees.
Wentz is the top quarterback in this draft and should remind Phildelphia Eagles fans of state-rival Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers if he reaches his potential. Wentz may not be an ideal pick due to some deficiencies in his game — he has trouble feeling pressure —but he definitely has the tools to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Loser: Laremy Tunsil
Tunsil was originally thought to be the leader for the No. 1 overall pick due to his athleticism and his prowess as a left tackle in the SEC. He dropped to the 13th pick in the draft, however, after an ill-advised video of him presumably smoking weed was posted to his twitter account right before the draft started:
Tweeted off of Laremy Tunsil's account just a few minutes before the draft, then deleted ? pic.twitter.com/zAG52dNClL
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) April 29, 2016
This video was just an atrocity before the biggest event of his life. He already did all the interviews, and he’s about to be offered a dream job. His camp is going with the “I was hacked” defense after the disastrous video posted. However, he shouldn’t have taken the video in the first place. It’s not even about the fact that the video was released. It’s that it was taken in the first place.
This isn't about social media. Maybe don't do silly things on camera?
— Jay Adams (@JayAdamsSocial) April 29, 2016
Regardless of how you feel about marijuana, the only thing that really matters is that it’s illegal according to both the NFL and most states. Players like Tunsil need to stay away from doing dumb things like this. He took quite the tumble because of it, and the Miami Dolphins should benefit as long as he doesn’t get flagged for the drugs while in the NFL.
Laremy Tunsil may fall a lot. Source said his Twitter account was hacked and the video is old. But not denying that's him in video smoking.
— Jason Cole (@JasonCole62) April 29, 2016
This, on top of his rough relationship with his step-father, doesn’t look great for Laremy. We don’t know exactly who posted it, but the video damaged Tunsil’s stock due to poor judgment. He fell because of it. And hopefully, his camp got to the bottom of the issue.
Winner: Ronnie Stanley and the Baltimore Ravens
Because of Laremy Tunsil’s ill-advised video, Ronnie Stanley out of Notre Dame was selected No. 6 overall in the draft by the Ravens. Stanley should start at left tackle for the Ravens long term, especially with Eugene Monroe being injury prone and because of his inconsistent play.
Stanley has the potential to be a top left tackle in the NFL and blind-side protector for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. GM Ozzie Newsome is known for making shocking but very logical picks in the draft, and this one is no different. Baltimore has been brilliant with its picks for a long time, and Stanley should be starting sooner rather than later.
Putting Stanley at left tackle his first year may not be ideal. But Monroe has been disappointing and the Ravens may have no choice. At least, they finally have someone who should be able to play all 16 games for their offense.
Loser: Tennessee Titans
Not only did the Titans trade up on draft day, they traded up for a guy who’s a second-round talent in Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Conklin. Sure, they needed a right tackle for their offense, but trading up for a guy who probably would have been there at 15 just doesn’t make a ton of sense.
Conklin isn’t someone who inspires confidence as a long-term left tackle in the NFL, and his best fit might even be inside at guard where his pass blocking deficiencies can be hidden a little bit more. The Titans just aren’t in the right position to do something stupid like reaching over a full round for Conklin.
Since I can’t just be overly negative about this, I do understand the logic behind the pick and trade of going up and getting the guy you want and trust to protect the franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota. It’s the execution behind taking Conklin that just doesn’t make much sense.
Winner: Ezekiel Elliott
Running backs going in the top 10 have become a no-no to NFL teams because of how easy it is to find talented running backs later on in the draft. However, Ezekiel Elliott from Ohio State just became the biggest beneficiary of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ old school methodology after he was selected fourth overall.
He’s going to run behind arguably the best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL. Dallas’ offensive line features three former first-round picks in right guard Zack Martin, center Travis Frederick and left tackle Tyron Smith and another guy who should have been one in left guard La’El Collins. Add in the savvy veteran right tackle Doug Free and Elliott couldn’t have asked for a better spot to land.
Tony Romo should be ecstatic about his running back situation coming into the 2016 season as well. He’ll have a pair of guys in Elliott and free agent signee Alfred Morris joining Darren McFadden to help take pressure off of him. And most of all, they are all good pass blockers. Dallas may have made a bad pick value wise, but Elliott reaped the benefits.
Loser: New York Giants
How in the world do you take Eli Apple with Myles Jack, Darron Lee and other quality linebackers on the board and available? It’s because you just don’t value linebackers in New York. It’s completely nonsensical that, with a linebacking corps that’s arguably the worst in the NFL, you don’t take the best player in the draft.
The Giants were scared by Jack’s knee situation (read more here) and decided that Lee just isn’t the right guy. By doing that, they continue to add to their cornerback grouping that already has a talented pairing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and free agent signee Janoris Jenkins. The Giants just do stupid stuff in the top 10.
Last year, they decided to take Ereck Flowers, who was also a huge reach. By taking Eli Apple this year, general manager Jerry Reese has shown that he’s an incompetent talent evaluator who will likely be out of a job when they get to pick in the top 10 yet again in 2017. Reese doesn’t understand that top 10 picks need to be players that are actually good, and that will be instant starters.
Winner: Miami Dolphins
After Laremy Tunsil fell right into their laps at No. 13 overall, the Miami Dolphins sprinted to the podium to take the athletic left tackle out of Mississippi. Tunsil should compete his rookie year for playing time with the wily veteran Branden Albert. They have great depth at tackle already with Jermon Bushrod and Jawuan James as well.
With Tunsil at left tackle long-term, the Dolpins should have an ideal fit for their offensive line to help protect Ryan Tannehill. Adding him to the lineup of James at right tackle and Mike Pouncey at center should give the Dolphins three solid long-term starters at key spots. Billy Turner could also shine as a potential starting guard for them.
Miami came into this draft hoping to get a solid player to start for their franchise and came out of it with arguably the best talent in the entire draft. Tannehill should be smiling tonight when he looks at the results of the draft and sees he’s got a new bodyguard.
Loser: Oakland Raiders
After having the best defensive player in the draft — UCLA linebacker Myles Jack — fall to them, the Raiders decided to pass on him for Karl Joseph. Jack would have been an ideal fit for the Raiders unbalanced 4-3 defense at middle linebacker.
Instead, they take a strong safety in Joseph who’s a great hitter and is a ballhawk but who was a huge reach in the middle of Round 1.
Joseph on the field is easily the best safety in the NFL draft this season. And there’s no question that he is going to help impact the defense positively for the Raiders long-term from that strong safety role.
The main negative thing about this pick is its value. Joseph could have been had later in the first round, if not in Round 2. That said, if he can show that he’s worth it on the field and can stay healthy, this pick will look much better than it did Thursday night. But he’ll have to be insanely good for the Raiders to make it worth it.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings and LaQuan Treadwell
The Minnesota Vikings were going to take a wide receiver early in the draft regardless of what happened. LaQuan Treadwell played at times this past season at Ole Miss like a top-five selection in the draft.
The Vikings needed a true No. 1 to team with third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, wide receiver Stephon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph in the passing game.
Treadwell has qualities of Anquan Boldin in his game but compares best to Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree. Someone like Treadwell plugged into that Vikings offense should help open up the offense and create plays for chunk yardage down the field. He’ll be an instant starter for the Vikings in 2016.
He does have some health concerns after a gruesome injury to his lower leg in the middle of the 2014 season, but he seems fully healed. Minnesota took the third-best player on the board at the time of his selection and couldn’t have gone with a better fit for offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s scheme.
Loser: Houston Texans
After trading up just one spot, the Texans took a guy who’s not very good at actually playing wide receiver. Notre Dame’s Will Fuller is just a track athlete. They could have gotten Fuller in the second round but decided to take him at 21 after trading up.
The Texans needed a deep threat to team with DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins to take advantage of Brock Osweiler’s arm in the offense. But they just wasted what could have been a great chance at some talent at 21 by taking Fuller. LaQuan Treadwell and Josh Doctson were available, and both of them are insanely better than Fuller.
Fuller just doesn’t have the tools to be an immediate contributor for the Texans and the value was pretty terrible. Houston could have also gone with a few other players that would have helped them on defense, like Myles Jack or even Andrew Billings.
Winner: Denver Broncos and Paxton Lynch
If you don’t have a quarterback, you go and get one. The Denver Broncos did after losing both of their quarterbacks this offseason when Brock Osweiler got signed away by the Houston Texans and Peyton Manning decided to retire after winning Super Bowl 50.
Paxton Lynch was taken and is in an ideal situation for any starting quarterback. He’ll have a solid offensive line to protect him in 2016 and the ideal scheme to play for his talents. He’s got a cannon for an arm and should be an perfect quarterback to help the Broncos offense take it to the next level.
Lynch should love having Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Virgil Green and Cody Latimer. The Broncos won’t be the same caliber team that they were in 2015, but they shouldn’t be too far off of it either. This was a brilliant pick for the world champions after making some questionable picks like Shane Ray and Bradley Roby in past years.
Loser: Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ quarterback situation
Coming into draft day, one would have thought the San Francisco 49ers would have been trying to trade Colin Kaepernick to the highest bidder. Instead, they don’t take a quarterback and stick with Kaepernick staying on the roster. It’s a complete mess out there in the Bay Area, and no one really knows what to do here.
Ideally, Kaepernick would swallow his pride and try and get things worked out with 49ers head coach Chip Kelly. The team’s new leader could draw up the ideal scheme to help out the embattled quarterback. As the 49ers begin a quest for their sixth ring, they need to sort out this mess.
Otherwise, they’ll be stuck with a quarterback who’s unhappy with his situation and a head coach who has no idea what his offense is going to do at the quarterback position. NFL teams can’t go into camp without a legitimate quarterback, and this Kaepernick situation is really hampering the 49ers.