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LAS VEGAS — They weren’t keeping score during the draft Thursday night, but we definitely saw some winners and losers by the end of the first round.
And here they are:
New York Jets: They came away with three legitimate first-round picks, and more than the selection of quarterback Zach Wilson last year, this year’s additions of cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive end Jermaine Johnson could signal a turn in this team’s direction.
“I know those guys well enough because we’ve been here through this process with each other, that they’re going to come in and work their butts off,” Johnson said. “They’re going to give the Jets everything they have, like myself. The Jets selections, we’ve got the right mindset, we’re going to handle business.”
Philadelphia Eagles: All is forgiven, Howie Roseman. He swung and missed on multiple receiver picks over the years, but he landed A.J. Brown, who is only 24 years old, in a trade that brings a proven playmaker to the Philly offense. The move was so seismic, it overshadowed the drafting of Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis who is the best run-stopper in the draft.
Detroit Lions: To sum up the evening, they got the draft’s most accomplished pass rusher in Aidan Hutchinson (14 sacks last season) and the draft’s best deep threat receiver in Jameson Williams.
When it was all said and done, Hutchinson, who attended Michigan and went to high school 30 minutes from Ford Field, said he’d be flying to the Motor City Friday and then driving home afterward — a hometown hero made good.
Baltimore Ravens: They came into the evening with one selection (No. 14) and departed with the draft’s best safety in Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton and the draft’s best center in Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum — both of whom project as starters next season.
Buffalo Bills: When they traded up from No. 25 to No. 23, the Bills had one player remaining on their board with a first-round grade. Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam was that player. And they picked him. The move adds a good player in a position of need.
Los Angeles Chargers: As general manager Tom Telesco said, “Guards are people, too.” And Zion Johnson is projected to be a very, very good one for years to come. Is this sexy? No. But will it go beyond protecting quarterback Justin Herbert to also help facilitate all this teams many playmakers? Absolutely.
Miami Dolphins: Tyreek Hill. That is all.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes had receiver Garrett Wilson go to the New York Jets with the 10th pick, Chris Olave go to the New Orleans Saints with the 11th overall pick, and Jameson Williams go to the Detroit Lions with the 12th overall pick. And, yes, we know Williams played at Alabama last year — after transferring from Ohio State where he played two seasons.
Tennessee Titans: They had perhaps the worst night of any team because they totally forgot what they are. The Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC last season. But rather than go out and bolster weaknesses to go further in 2022, they seem to be running in place at best. The A.J. Brown trade to Philadelphia sends the wrong message to the entire locker room. The message it sends is if you get drafted here, develop here, and play well here, you are not necessarily going to be rewarded here.
The Titans didn’t want to pay Brown, a Pro Bowl player who wanted a contract extension, a penny over $20 million per season. But they’re paying underperforming quarterback Ryan Tannehill $29 million, when his biggest asset is handing off to Derrick Henry and he’s been a mess in the playoffs the majority of his time in Tennessee.
Here’s the other problem: The argument that Tennessee replaced Brown with an equally talented and less expensive playmaker in Treylon Burks ignores the fact Burks hasn’t played an NFL down, and even if he does turn into a fine player, that’s going to take time. And the Titans’ window for winning is now, not in a year or two when, best case, Burks is reaching the level Brown had already achieved.
And don’t get me started on trading out of the No. 26 pick.
Arizona Cardinals: They traded away the 23rd pick of the draft to Baltimore for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who was a 1,000-yard receiver last year, but in three seasons has found it difficult to establish himself as a consistent deep threat and is still learning to get off man-press coverage because of his 5-foot-9 size.
If the Cardinals had kept that pick, they could easily have improved the pass rush with, say, Jermaine Johnson or George Karlaftis, who ended up with the Jets and the Chiefs, respectively.
And why is this bad? Because the Cardinals could pick up a wide receiver like Brown at some point in the draft but won’t find a pass rusher like Johnson or Karlaftis to team with J.J. Watt, who isn’t exactly the most durable player anymore.
New England Patriots: This is a slow, plodding team that needs more speed at receiver and has question marks at cornerback. But after trading back from 21 to 29 (and picking up a third- and fourth-rounder, which is good), they selected Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange.
And the perspective on this pick is the Los Angeles Rams, without a pick until the third round (No. 104 overall), were in the middle of a press conference when the Pats picked Strange.
“How about that,” Rams coach Sean McVay said laughing, “and we wasted our time watching him thinking he’d be at 104 maybe.”
Picking Strange in the first round fills the void the Patriots created when they traded Shaq Mason to the Buccaneers — for a fifth-round pick.
Dallas Cowboys: They picked Tulsa’s Tyler Smith and then owner Jerry Jones made the point they had the offensive lineman graded ahead of Boston College’s Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green, who were picked in the teens.
Hard to believe because Smith collected 12 penalties in 12 games last season, which were the third most in the FBS. And if he doesn’t clean that up, he’ll probably feel at home because Dallas had the most penalized offensive line in the NFL last season.
Aaron Rodgers: Even if he turns out to be a great player, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt will never make up for the loss of wide receiver Davante Adams. And neither will linebacker Quay Walker. The Packers have a 38-year-old quarterback who needs weapons on the outside but worked this draft as if they’re planning on the defense carrying Jordan Love for the years to come.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero