The NFL Draft is over.
The envelopes, please.
Best draft, AFC: Baltimore Ravens. Safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum are up-the-middle winners. Baltimore’s six selections in the fourth round began with Daniel Faalele, a right tackle from Minnesota who’s 6-foot-8 and 384 pounds and fits the team’s run-oriented offense. “We just drafted Godzilla !!” said ex-Ravens safety Tony Jefferson, an alum of Chula Vista’s Eastlake High, on social media. There’s a lot of play strength, a favored Ravens trait, in this 11-player class. Explosive edge rusher David Ojabo, coming off an Achilles injury, should help in 2023.
Best draft, NFC: New York Giants. Picking fifth and seventh, rookie General Manager Joe Schoen strengthened the lines with edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and tackle Evan Neal. Both are only 21. Thibodeaux’s blazing pass rush and friendship with Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan bodes well. Neal is comfortable at both tackle spots.
Best sight on Draft Night: Austin Ekeler on the draft stage, five years after the whole NFL whiffed on him. Ekeler, on stage to promote a coming Chargers telecast, has outperformed nearly every running back drafted in 2017. In comparison to those 27, he’s third in games and fourth in scrimmage touchdowns. The Chargers got Ekeler for $ 5,000 in guaranteed money, signing him out of Western State (Colorado) following the 2017 draft.
Best San Diego-reunion pick: Matt Araiza going to Buffalo means two San Diego County prep alums will be punting for AFC East teams. Santa Fe Christian High alum Jake Bailey of the New England Patriots can recommend East-city restaurants to the Rancho Bernardo High and San Diego State alum Araiza. He can also share NFL intricacies with him.
Mystery Man award: Bill Belichick. NFL personnel acknowledged surprise at the Patriots taking Chattanooga guard Cole Strange 29th , saying they figured he’d be available in the third round. Hoodie’s selection of Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe with the final pick of the fourth round came months after QB Mac Jones stared all 18 games as a rookie. Reminder: if the team’s player evaluation is correct, where he’s drafted becomes a lot less important.
Most interesting draft-room food choice: “We had Kobe beef hot dogs that we turned into chili dogs,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who deserves his own food show.
Most germane draft analysis by a current player: “This is my favorite player in the NFL draft,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said of Philadelphia’s second-round pick, former Nebraska center Cam Jurgens. Kelce told Bleacher Report the Eagles solicited his views on Jurgens and other centers in the draft class. In effect, Kelce recommended his replacement. Jurgens will compete for a spot at guard while learning from Kelce, a four-time All-Pro who’s 34 and on a one-year contract.
In addition, Kelce sees the Raiders’ top draftee thriving at the pivot. Former Memphis guard Dylan Parham, chosen late in the third round, “is going to be a really good center,” he said. Kelce likened Parham to Brian Allen of the Super Bowl-winning Rams.
Harsh reality move: The Titans’ third-round selection of quarterback Malik Willis one day after trading star receiver AJ Brown seemed to confirm a belief Ryan Tannehill isn’t a Super Bowl quarterback. Tannehill has given Tennessee many excellent games, but there’s a strong case for heeding his limitations. Five months ago in a playoff game, top-seeded Tennessee had nine sacks of Joe Burrow, only for Tannehill’s three bad interceptions to spell defeat.
Willis can learn behind Tannehill, while getting much-needed game action in a situational role. If Willis inspires confidence, the Titans can trade Tannehill next offseason with a year left on his contract. Willis’ four-year contract, with an average value of $ 1.25 million, could free up tens of millions of dollars for the rest of the roster. But there’s a catch: the Liberty alum, strong-armed and elusive yet uneven as a passer, will have to outperform his draft slot (86th) and earn a starting job.
Surprise the experts award: NFL Network had no scouting reports or video of the 239th selection, former Yale safety Rodney Thomas, when the seventh-round pick was announced. Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Thomas wasn’t among the 450 players he studied. “Congratulations to the Colts. They got me, ”Jeremiah said.