Teams putting on best face after draft

By Jeff Linville - [email protected]

There’s nothing like weddings and the NFL Draft to make people smile, spout praise and dream big about a future that everyone knows isn’t as rosy as they are making out.

Folks have to settle for the best they can get, then talk themselves into liking the pick, while the ones who are chosen pretend like it’s where they wanted to be all along.

Let’s look at the top draft grades from just a couple of years ago.

ESPN’s talking heads favored Atlanta and Houston for their great picks.

Atlanta’s certainly have panned out well with Vic Beasley emerging as one of the top young pass rushers in the league, Jalen Collins is a fine defensive back, and Tevin Coleman provides a nice 1-2 punch with Devonta Freeman. And fifth-round pick Grady Jarrett looks like a solid nose tackle.

Houston hit a home run with middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney: 129 tackles and five sacks last season.

However, the team picked two wide receivers, defensive end, outside linebacker and running back who have had minimal impact.

Jaelen Strong and Keith Memphery had just 24 catches combined at wide receiver. Linebacker Reshard Cliett has been cut by four teams in two years. DE Christian Covington has just 34 tackles and three sacks in two full seasons. Running back Kenny Hilliard is on the practice squad.

Top pick Kevin Johnson is still a mystery at cornerback. He missed 10 games last season and only has one interception in 22 games played so far.

Honestly, I didn’t single out the Texans because they had a particularly bad draft. Lots of teams had bad drafts. I used the Texans because they were given an A grade by ESPN.

Now that this year’s draft is over, there are teams with huge question marks trying to convince themselves they did great.

Look at the Texans this year. They gave up Brock Osweiler, a sixth-round pick this year and a second-round pick next year for only a fourth-round pick from Cleveland.

Still needing a quarterback, Houston then gave Cleveland its first-round picks for this year and next year in order to draft DeShaun Watson. Now the Texans have no pick for either the first or second round in the next draft.

Kansas City traded up from 27th to 10th to pick Patrick Mahomes, a gunslinger in every sense of the word. On his best days he could be like Brett Favre: throwing strikes from all kinds of angles to every corner of the field. On his worst days he could be like, well, Brett Favre on a bad day: forcing balls into tight windows and getting picked off.

Will he have more good days or bad days? No one knows right now.

Pittsburgh is smiling after drafting a quarterback to be the heir apparent behind Big Ben. Of course, Joshua Dobbs slid all the way to the bottom of the fourth round for a reason, so that has to be taken into consideration.

In a year where several teams are desperate for quarterback help, it’s no surprise that 10 were drafted. But as always, that desperation leads teams to pick players higher than they are worth.

At the end of the college seasons (in their respective years) no one gave Jake Locker, Christian Ponder or Blake Bortles first-round grades. But as the draft approached, teams who were desperate started drawing more interest to these guys.

Locker was picked eighth overall in 2011 and started several games without convincing anyone he was the answer. Ponder came four picks after Locker and like Locker he got several starts, but couldn’t lock down the starting job in Minnesota. Neither player had his fifth-year option exercised by the team and were gone in four years.

Bortles rose all the way to third, struggled in his first year, then had a very nice sophomore season in 2015. However, he regressed in 2016, throwing 12 fewer TDs despite 19 more pass attempts. At least the Jaguars are picking up his fifth-year option, which is way better than Locker and Ponder.

An interesting note from this draft is that a quarterback who many thought wouldn’t be drafted until the sixth or seventh round went ahead of some more prominent names.

C.J. Beathard, grandson of former Chargers GM Bobby Beathard, was rated lower than Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans, who went undrafted. Yet, the 49ers picked him near the end of the third round.

That put him ahead of Dobbs and Nathan Peterman, two names mentioned often during the NFL combine. That was also higher than Miami’s Brad Kaaya or Jim Kelly’s nephew, Chad Kelly.

In two or three years, we’ll see just how far off these draftees are from their expectations.

By Jeff Linville

[email protected]

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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