Despite the fact that the 2016 NFL Draft has come to an end I continue to find myself breaking down every teams’ draft class. Every pick and every round and I couldn’t help but formulate my “Favorite Picks” by Round. Which I will now share with you… Feel free to comment and share your favorite picks and compare them to mine. Keep in mind these are not my favorite players necessarily but rather I love the “player & team” fit and the value at which they were selected.
Miami Dolphins – 13th Overall Pick – Laremy Tunsil – Ole Miss
Laremy Tunsil, once the prohibitive favorite to be selected first overall in the 2016 NFL Draft had to endure a precipitous fall in the Green Room as team after team passed on him due to a bit of a checkered history and the now infamous “gas mask” video released to the media and general public just a few minutes before the draft got underway. However, the Miami Dolphins put an end to Tunsil’s slide and in doing so got an uber-talented tackle that can anchor their offensive line for years to come. Tunsil will undoubtedly have a chip on his shoulder and his pass-blocking prowess will be welcomed as the Dolphins have struggled to protect Ryan Tannehill over the past few seasons. Skeptics of the selection do not question Tunsil’s ability but rather the fit in Miami considering that Branden Albert and Jawaun James, the Dolphins’ starting left and right tackles respectively, are under contract. Albert and James have a propensity for getting injured, and while Tunsil wasn’t exactly an iron man in college he is only 21-years-old and is the most talented lineman among the trio. Aside from having oft-injured offensive tackles the interior of the o-line, specifically at the guard position has been problematic for Miami from both a pass protection and run-blocking perspective. The addition of Tunsil and a potential move inside to guard for Juwan James could go a long way in stabilizing Miami’s offensive line. Bottom line, Tunsil should not have been available at No. 13. The Dolphins’ organization did not overthink it. They simply took the best player available and it will go a long way to improving an underwhelming position group immediately.
Notables for “Favorite Pick” in Round 1 – CB Jalen Ramsey Jacksonville Jaguars; DE DeForest Buckner San Francsico 49ers; WR Laquon Treadwell Minnesota Vikings; CB William Jackson III Cincinnati Bengals
New York Giants – 40th Overall Pick – Sterling Shepard – Oklahoma
No one selection spoke to me more than wide receiver Sterling Shepard landing with the New York Giants. Not only my favorite pick in the 2nd round but perhaps my favorite selection in terms of “player & team” in the entire 2016 NFL Draft. Shepard, one of the most decorated receivers in Oklahoma Sooners’ history should slide right into the spot vacated by Rueben Randle opposite Odell Beckham Jr. and feast in Ben McAdoo’s innovative, tempo driven, pass first offense. I’m talking healthy Victor Cruz type production. Interestingly, Cruz and Shepard are similar in stature and skill-set albeit Shepard enters the league with substantially more fanfare (Cruz was a UDFA out of UMass). Sterling has great hands, he’s polished, tough and has underrated explosiveness. Odell will be the focus of the opposing defense on most downs which will allow Shepard to torch man-to-man coverage on a weekly basis with precise route-running and excellent body control. Most of the talking heads assume Ezekiel Elliot of the Cowboys is going to run away and hide with Offensive Rookie of the Year honors behind that offensive line in Dallas but I expect Sterling Shepard to become a favorite of Eli Manning’s in short order and give Elliot a run for his money.
Notables for “Favorite Pick” Round 2 – DE Noah Spence Tampa Bay Buccaneers; ILB Reggie Ragland Buffalo Bills; CB Mackensie Alexander Minnesota Vikings; WR Tyler Boyd Cincinnati Bengals
Chicago Bears – 72nd Overall Pick – Jonathan Bullard – Florida
Everyone is soooo impressed with the haul the Jacksonville Jaguars came away with during the draft and rightfully so. However, I believe the Chicago Bears’ draft class is every bit as good if not better than the Jags’ class. In the third round the Bears continued to put pieces in place as they transition to a 3-4 defense by selecting defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard from the University of Florida. Bullard rivals Jalen Ramsey in terms of versatility lining up all over the field as a 3-technique, 5-technique, over the nose and standing up in a two point stance. Not only does he serve as a utility defender within the front seven but he excels all over the field flashing good pass rush skills, a disruptive and tireless motor and superb run-stopping chops. Pro Football Focus considers Bullard “The Best” pick in the entire draft based on his performance grade and the value he presents as a third round selection. There was some discussion that Bullard would hear his name called at the bottom of the 1st round or very early on Day 2 of the draft but to the elation of the Bears’ he was available in the 3rd round.
Notables for “Favorite Pick” in Round 3 – TE Austin Hooper Atlanta Falcons; OT Le’Raven Clark Indianapolis Colts; CB Kendall Fuller Washington Redskins; WR Braxton Miller Houston Texans; DT Javon Hargrave Pittsburgh Steelers
Denver Broncos – 136th Overall Pick – Devontae Booker – Utah
This is a Cinderella, glass-slipper kind of situation. I honestly thought that Booker would land somewhere in the 2nd round but to fall to the fourth and to the Denver Broncos no less, the “player & team” combo may actually be better than that of Sterling Shepard and the New York Giants. When I watch Devontae Booker play visions of Arian Foster with the Houston Texans come to mind. Booker is a complete back, with natural ball-carrier instincts to make defenders miss and finish runs with authority. His slashing running-style and the innate ability to find the cutback lane makes him a fantastic fit for Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme. The same scheme in which Arian Foster became a household name. Despite incumbent C.J. Anderson’s new contract it may not be long before Booker comes out of the stables and sits atop the Broncos’ running back depth chart.
Notables for “Favorite Pick” in Round 4 – DT Sheldon Day Jacksonville Jaguars; WR Pharoh Cooper L.A. Rams; DT Andrew Billings Cincinnati Bengals; ILB Antonio Morrison Indianapolis Colts; RB Kenneth Dixon Baltimore Ravens
San Francisco 49ers – 142nd Overall Pick – Ronald Blair – Appalachian St.
While the masses may not know of Ronald Blair he reached a somewhat legendary status as a 4-year starter for Appalachian St. capping his collegiate career as the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Ronald had excellent production as a down lineman in an odd-man front (213 tackles; 20.5 sacks in career) during his App St. days. Routinely in the opponents’ backfield as evidenced by eye-popping tackle for loss numbers (52 in career) Blair has the tools to become a foundational cog in the rebuild of San Fran’s defense. Players with size, functional strength and playmaking ability to be more than just a space-eater as a 5-technique are rare (J.J. Watt; Calais Campbell); and to land a prospect like Blair on Day 3 could be like striking gold. Now the 49ers can add Blair to a 5-technique rotation that includes 2015 and 2016 1st round selections Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. Considering how specialized the NFL has become and the premium placed on talent that can effect the passer, finding a 3-down player such as Ronald that fits an odd-man front on early downs and can slide inside and offer 3-technique pass rush from the interior is HUGE! HUGE!!!
Notables for “Favorite Pick” in Round 5 – RB DeAndre Washington Oakland Raiders; RB Paul Perkins New York Giants; OG Joe Dahl Detroit Lions; NT D.J. Reader Houston Texans; WR Rashard Higgins Cleveland Browns
Kansas City Chiefs – 178th Overall – D.J. White – Georgia Tech
The “measurable” component has gone too far. What ever happened to placing a priority on drafting good, intelligent football players? White at 5’11 193 (4.49 40-yard-dash) doesn’t possess prototypical size or elite speed but he isn’t a tiny DB nor is he slow. What he does have in spades includes: excellent ball skills, instincts, athleticism and smarts. A 3-year starter, team captain, technically sound and challenges the receiver and makes plays on the ball at the highest point. Perhaps I’m missing something… but I do not understand why D.J. fell to the 6th round. We’re talking a Day 2 talent. The Chiefs found a gem as they attempt to replace CB Sean Smith.
Notables for “Favorite Pick” in Round 6 – TE Jerrell Adams New York Giants; FS DeAndre Houston-Carson Chicago Bears; OG Sebastian Tretola Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns – 250th Overall – Scooby Wright – Arizona
Yet another example of the “measurable” component torpedoing a player’s draft stock despite incredible tape. Scooby Wright has athletic limitations (4.9 40-yard dash). He has schematic limitations. Personally I think he makes his living solely as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He may only be a two-down player that could struggle when asked to defend in space. But when it comes to see ball, hit ball there may not be anyone better in the 2016 NFL Draft class. Ultra productive, competitive and instinctive when Wright can square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage and come downhill good things for your defense are liable to happen. The bottom line is that there aren’t 249 players in this draft class that are better than Scooby Wright and if he can stay healthy I believe he will endear himself to the Cleveland faithful as early as the 2016 regular season.
Notables for “Favorite Pick” in Round 7 – QB Brandon Doughty Miami Dolphins; OG/OT Vadal Alexander Oakland Raiders; WR Charone Peake New York Jets