Column: NFL Draft Review: Ravens and Giants appear to be the big winners
The NFL Draft is over.
Best Draft, AFC: Baltimore Ravens. Safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum are the middle winners. Baltimore’s six fourth-round selections started with Daniel Faalele, a Minnesota right tackle who is 6-foot-8, 384 pounds and matches the team’s running-oriented offense. There’s a lot of toughness, a favorite Ravens trait, in this 11-man class. Explosive rusher David Ojabo, who just suffered an Achilles injury, is expected to help in 2023.
Best Draft, NFC: New York Giants. In fifth and seventh, rookie general manager Joe Schoen reinforced the lines with point carrier Kayvon Thibodeaux and tackle Evan Neal. Both are only 21 years old. Thibodeaux’s dazzling passing rush and his friendship with Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan bode well. Neal is comfortable at both tackle points.
Best view on Draft Night: Austin Ekeler in the draft, five years after the entire NFL sniffed him. Ekeler, on stage to promote an upcoming Chargers TV show, has outscored nearly every running back drafted in 2017. On 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) after the 2017 draft.
San Diego Reunion’s Best Pick: Matt Araiza going to Buffalo means two former San Diego County prep will play for AFC East teams. Santa Fe Christian High alum Jake Bailey of the New England Patriots can recommend east-end restaurants at Rancho Bernardo High and San Diego State alum Araiza. He can also share with him the intricacies of the NFL.
Mystery Man Award: Bill Belichick. NFL staff admitted surprise at Patriots taking Chattanooga guard Cole Strange 29and , saying they thought he would be available in the third round. Hoodie’s selection of Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe with the final fourth-round pick came months after QB Mac Jones watched all 18 games as a rookie. Reminder: If the team player’s rating is correct, where they are drafted becomes much 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 cooking show.
Most relevant draft analysis by a current player“He’s 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 that the Eagles sought his opinion on Jurgens and other centers in the draft class. Indeed, Kelce recommended his replacement. Jurgens will compete for a spot at guard while learning from Kelce, a four-time All-Pro who is 34 years old and on a one-year contract.
Additionally, Kelce sees the Raiders’ top rookie thriving at center. Former Memphis guard Dylan Parham, chosen late in the third round, “is going to be a really good center,” he said. Kelce compared Parham to Brian Allen of the Super Bowl-winning Rams.
Displacement from harsh reality: The Titans’ third-round selection of quarterback Malik Willis a day after they traded star receiver AJ Brown appeared to confirm a belief that Ryan Tannehill isn’t a Super Bowl quarterback. Tannehill has given Tennessee many great games, but there are good reasons to consider its limitations. Five months ago in a playoff game, top-seeded Tennessee had nine sacks from Joe Burrow, only for Tannehill’s three poor interceptions to claim the loss.
Willis can learn from behind Tannehill, while still getting much-needed game action in a situational role. If Willis inspires confidence, the Titans can trade Tannehill next offseason with one year remaining on his contract. Willis’ four-year contract, averaging $1.25 million, could free up tens of millions of dollars for the rest of the roster. But there is a catch: the former Liberty, muscular and elusive but unequal as a passer, will have to surpass his draft position (86th) and win a starting position.
Surprise expert price: NFL Network had no scouting report or video of the 239th pick, former Yale safety Rodney Thomas, when the seventh-round pick was announced. Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Thomas was not among the 450 players he studied. “Congratulations to the Colts. They got me,” Jeremiah said.