Most of the AFC South did rather well, as three out of four teams got at least a B. One team in particular received the first grade in the A range given out during this series. This division also had a very clear loser.
23rd pick (23rd overall) – OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State
This is easily one of the worst selections in the first round of the draft. Howard was at best a top 50 prospect. I personally like him, and find his upside intriguing, but this isn’t the way to extract value from this slot. Howard could have easily been had lower down the board. Should Howard blossom into a quality left tackle it should come as no surprise. But the process here is awful.
This was a clear panic move. Philadelphia traded directly in front of Houston in order to snipe Andre Dillard. As a result, Houston scrambled, seemingly unprepared, to fill the most glaring need on its roster. Everything about the prior sentence is the worst possible way to approach a draft selection.
The Texans should have traded down. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt that there wasn’t an offer to move off this spot, they could have just taken the best player available. Houston had two second round picks entering the draft, and could have regrouped between days one and two after watching the rest of the first round play out and formulated a plan of attack for the second round.
At least they reached at one of the four premium positions.
22nd pick (54th overall) – CB Lonnie Johnson Jr., Kentucky
It’s starting to seem like Houston was wholly unprepared for this draft. This is another major reach at a position of need. Johnson could have been taken later in the draft had the Texans been inclined to move down. Additionally, Johnson coming off the board before David Long, Justin Layne, Julian Love, and Amani Oruwariye is insanity, and that’s before factoring in all of those corners lasted almost at least a full round more than Johnson.
23rd pick (55th overall) – OT Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
Finally a sensible pick. There was a clear top 8 in terms of OT prospects in this class, and Sharping was the last of them. He fits the range and it is a prudent strategy to double down at a position. The Texans fielded one of the worst offensive lines in league history in 2018, so they need all the help they can get.
22nd pick (86th overall) – TE Kahale Warring, San Diego State
Another pick, another reach, although this isn’t as egregious as the two former instances. Warring is an uber athlete for his size.
23rd pick (161st overall) – Edge Charles Omenihu, Texas
Omenihu is an explosive athlete that showed some pass rush prowess at Texas. He has great size and length for the position and could end up being a major steal this late in the draft.
22nd pick (195th overall) – CB Xavier Crawford, Central Michigan
Crawford is a very interesting prospect. He showed well in coverage in 2018 and tested well at the combine. Crawford ran a 4.48 40 with a 1.56 10-yard split, to go along with a 37.5″ vertical.
6th pick (220th overall) – RB Cullen Gillaspia, Texas A&M
This is bad overall. The first two selections were massive reaches to fill needs, including a major panic move in the first round. Doubling down on offensive tackles was wise, but they followed up their first solid pick with another reach. In total, Houston reached three times in each of the first three rounds. Woof.
The Texans did walk away from both the fifth and sixth rounds with intriguing late round guys, but that isn’t nearly enough to salvage this grade.
2nd pick (34th overall) – CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple
The final outstanding pick from the Sam Darnold trade is settled. Ya-Sin was the first corner taken over Greedy Williams where doing so was a surprise. However, it’s not that this corner class lacked talent, its that the prospects are scheme dependent. While Greedy may have fallen for off-field reasons that haven’t been publicly disclosed, he was the best press-man corner in this draft.
Ya-Sin, on the over hand, cam jam at the line of scrimmage but then excels more in zone than man. Thus, Ya-Sin is a perfect fit for the Colts defense. With their initial pick, Indianapolis got a talent prospect at one of the four premium positions that perfectly fits their scheme. Their draft is off to a good start.
17th pick (49th overall) – Edge Ben Banogu, TCU
The Colts finally picked at 49 after two different trades. First, Indianapolis moved out of the first round in a deal with Washington. That transaction saw Washington send the 46th pick and their 2020 second rounder to Indianapolis for the 26th pick. Given the state of Washington’s roster, their 2020 second rounder is a good bet to be a top 40 pick. If it is the 40th pick exactly, the Colts will end up profiting 7.4 points worth of draft capital according to the Chase Stuart draft chart. The 72nd pick is worth 7.4 points.
That trade alone is an outstanding move. I tweeted at the time that Chris Ballard just gets it. He continues to trade down and acquire value draft assets for future years. In a draft where players ~25-45 were rather interchangeable, Ballard absolutely made the right move.
Yet, the Colts followed that up with another small move. Indianapolis moved back three spots from 46 to 49, in order to allow Cleveland to move up and take Greedy Williams. For their troubles, the Colts received the 144th pick of the draft. This created another profit of 2.6 points worth of draft capital, the equivalent of the 152nd pick.
In the aggregate, Indianapolis added 10 points worth of draft capital with these two transactions. Put another way, Chris Ballard added the ~47th pick out of thin air to his arsenal. Chris Ballard just gets it.
The select itself here is a little less of a home run. Banogu has his stans across the draft community, but most had him pegged to go lower than the middle of the second. In theory, the Colts could have moved down again and still gotten their guy. Worst case scenario, Banogu figures to have likely been available at 59.
Yet this is another pattern of Ballard’s. He doesn’t much care about the consensus. Last year he took Darius Leonard too high relative to expectations. Hitting on a reach has proven to lead to superstitious learning, feeding into a general manager’s overconfidence in his draft abilities. If there is one weakness on Ballard’s draft resume, it is this.
However, when reaching, I do cede some cover if it happens at one of the four premium positions. Banogu has a lot of tools to work with, including natural bend. If Ballard hits on this pick he has an edge rush locked into an absurdly cheap contract for four years.
The surplus draft capital acquired in the series of maneuvers leading up to this selection helps counter balance some of the value given up in order to reach on Banogu as well.
27th pick (59th overall) – WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State
Parris Campbell is one prospect where I never understood the hype. He’s not a refined receiver, and the overwhelming majority of his receptions came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. In comparison to some receivers Indianapolis bypassed for this selection (Metcalf, Isabella, Johnson), I’m not much of a fan here.
25th pick (89th overall) – LB Bobby Okereke, Stanford
Okereke is an exceptional athlete yet a reach here in the third. At best this is only a round too high. Okereke projects as a situational player rather than a starter, as he simply isn’t very good at this stage of his career. Chris Ballard appears to have a type, and that type is highly athletic individuals.
7th pick (109th overall) – S Khari Willis, Michigan State
Willis is a good run support safety that improved his coverage abilities in 2018. Paired with the center field type Malik Hooker, Willis is a good compliment to Hooker’s skillset.
6th pick (144th overall) – S Marvell Tell III, USC
Ballard doubles down at safety, so he must have viewed it as an area of weakness. Tell is a crazy athlete that may be viewed as a press corner. Tell posted a 42″ vertical, 136″ broad jump, 6.64 3-cone and 4.01 20-yard shuttle at the combine. He fits the range and is the type of high upside flyer that should go in this round.
26th (164th overall) – LB E.J. Speed, Tarleton State
26th (199th overall) – Edge Gerri Green, Mississippi State
Green is a reach here as he didn’t have a draftable grade. However, Green has good athleticism and plays a premium position, a running theme for Mr. Ballard.
26th pick (240th overall) – OT Jackson Barton, Utah
32nd pick (246th overall) – C Javon Patterson, Ole Miss
Chris Ballard started off with a great trade before landing a perfect corner for his defense. After another minor trade down the Colts reached on an edge rusher with excellent bend. The rest of the draft was a mix of reaches and fair values, mostly targeting elite athletes
7th pick (7th overall) – Edge Josh Allen, Kentucky
There’s a reasonable argument that the Jets should have taken Allen over Williams. This is one of the biggest steals of the first round, despite it being only the 7th pick. Allen is a supreme athlete that was highly productive in 2018. He also showed well in his limited opportunities when dropping into coverage.
There really isn’t much else to say here. The Raiders, Buccaneers, and Giants all lost their minds prior to the Jaguars being on the clock. The irony of the Giants handing Tom Coughlin Josh Allen escapes words.
3rd pick (35th overall) – OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida
In a minor deal with the Raiders, Jacksonville moved up three spots to secure Taylor. The trade saw the Jaguars send Oakland the 38th and 109th picks in exchange for the 35th, 140th, and 235th picks. The trade was rather even, as Oakland only profited 1 point worth of draft capital, the equivalent of the 197th pick.
Taylor was commonly projected to be chosen by Jacksonville in the first round. It appears he fell due to medical questions, but the value at the top of round two is outstanding. Disregarding the medical concerns, Taylor is a top 15 player in this draft. He also addresses one of Jacksonville’s biggest needs.
5th pick (69th overall) – TE Josh Oliver, San Diego State
After two incredible values to start the draft, the Jaguars reached here to fill a need. In a bad tight end class Jacksonville must have identified Oliver as someone they really liked, and wanted to make sure they got him. They likely could have moved down and still gotten Oliver, but instead chose to lock him up.
Still, Oliver is a top five tight end in this draft. He is a great athlete, and one of the best deep threat and slot weapons at the position. Oliver ran a 4.63 40 with a 1.60 10-yard dash, to go along with a 34″ vertical, and a 117″ broad jump. He also lead the tight end class in both deep yards and slot yards.
34th pick (98th overall) – LB/S Quincy Williams, Murray State
This is quite possibly the most egregious reach of the entire draft. Williams didn’t have a draftable grade yet here we are at the end of round three.
2nd pick (140th overall) – RB Ryquell Armstead, Temple
This is a good value. Armstead easily could have gone in the fourth, and Jacksonville needed a new running back with T.J. Yeldon leaving town.
5th pick (178th overall) – QB Gardner Minshew, Washington State
21st pick (235th overall) – DT Dontavius Russell, Auburn
The Jaguars had a tremendous start to the draft, walking away with two top 15 players if Taylor’s injury concerns turn out to be insignificant. Josh Allen had no business falling to them at seven. After that, Jacksonville reached twice in the third round, including taking a priority free agent 98th overall. The Jaguars rounded out the draft with three day three picks that included one nice value on a running back.
19th pick (19th overall) – DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
Had Simmons not torn his ACL he would have been a top ten pick. In fact, he may have been the first interior lineman off the board. He was that good at Mississippi State in 2018. Simmons has been outstanding as both a run defender and a pass rusher the past two seasons. He has racked up 53 hurries on only 608 pass rushing snaps the past two years.
The issue is obviously the ACL. The recent history of prospects missing their rookie year due to injury doesn’t have a cheerful ending. 2015 alone gives us the cautionary tales of Dante Fowler, Kevin White, and Breshad Perriman. Josh Doctson played two games his rookie year and logged six targets, while John Ross appeared in three games and saw two targets. Sidney Jones played only one game his rookie season after a torn achilles, and he struggled in coverage in 2018.
This isn’t to say Simmons is doomed. There is hope he plays in 2019. If Simmons hits his potential the Titans are looking at the steal of the draft. This pick is clearly high risk, high reward. It is interesting that Tennessee eschewed selecting someone that would help Marcus Mariota, when the team has an enormous decision to make at the quarterback position in 2020.
19th pick (51st overall) – WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
But hey, it totally worked out. A.J. Brown is the best receiver in this draft, and the Titans got him in the middle of the second round. Brown mostly operated out of the slot during his time at Ole Miss, but showed the ability to move outside following the injury to D.K. Metcalf. Brown is a thick slot receiver as he is well built at 225 pounds and has reliable hands. He is a good compliment to Corey Davis, and should be an impact contributor to this offense.
18th pick (82nd overall) – OG Nate Davis, Charlotte
Nate Davis is a good pass protector that fits the range here. While he played at a small school, his level of play was dominant, and his natural leverage and finishing skills should translate to the NFL. Another investment in getting the best out of Mariota in 2019.
14th pick (116th overall) – S Amani Hooker, Iowa
Another Titans pick, another steal. Hooker was a day two prospect and a worthy second round selection. Hooker was excellent in coverage in 2018, which followed up a very good coverage season in 2017. He has positional versatility, and can be used to cover tight ends as well. He also had a great combine, running a 4.48 40 with a 1.56 10-yard split to go along with a 37″ vertical, 123″ broad jump, and a 6.81 3-cone.
Simply put, Hooker is an athletic chess piece.
30th pick (168th overall) – Edge D’Andre Walker, Georgia
Another pick, another great value. Walker could have gone on day two but at the least should have come off the board in the fourth round. Walker has been a solid contributor to the Bulldogs’ defense each of the past two seasons and should be able to find a way to stick on this roster.
15th pick (188th overall) – LB David Long Jr., West Virginia
Another value as Long could have gone a round or two higher. Long showed well as a pass rusher in 2018 and racked up 8 sacks. Tennessee needed to replenish their pass rushing depth given Brian Orakpo’s retirement and the likelihood that there will not be a reunion with Derrick Morgan. Cameron Wake was brought in to join Harold Landry, but Wake’s deal has a potential out after one season and there is little depth behind the projected starting duo.
The Titans did a fantastic job. They got at least fair value on all of their picks, and in many instances got great value. Having so many talented players fall into your lap certainly helps, but the team didn’t overthink any of it. Leaving day two with a receiver and pass protector for Mariota were great moves.
The only reason why I am tacking on the minus is because of the risk that Jeffery embodies. The Titans swung for the fences with Jeffery, and he is as talented as anyone in this class. I may have looked another direction, especially a trade down. In my mind, given Jeffery’s injury, there isn’t much separating him from Jerry Tillery, so Tennessee could have moved down a couple spots and either still landed Simmons, or ended up with Tillery who will contribute more in 2019.