This past weekend saw the modern day spectacle that is the NFL Draft from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Over the last 80 years or so, the NFL Draft has grown out of a small conference meeting room to a nationally televised event that welcomes fans from all teams to attend live. For the first time ever, the draft was held inside an NFL stadium instead of the usual theatre or museum.
Unsurprisingly, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones used the spotlight to try and showcase why his organization is superior to its 31 counterparts despite the below average product we’ve seen on the field for about 20 years or so.
Every Cowboys pick I saw, namely the early rounds, accompanied some sort of unnecessary showing of pride that the NFL world has come to expect from the self-proclaimed “America’s Team.” The “inside looks” on their draft war room were much too long and always seemed to feature Jones at the center of the shot like some sort of sage monarch.
What did we expect? I don’t know, but of course Jones was going to use this event and his stadium as a way to shove the blue star down our throats early and often. After all, it’s Jerry’s world as far as he’s concerned. The rest of us are just living in it.
As for the draft itself, the Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the opening round to replace Anthony Hitchens. While the Cowboys still have Sean Lee and Notre Dame standout Jaylon Smith on their roster as linebackers, the two have an ugly history of injuries and the new selection also adds some much needed depth at the position.
Before the draft, Dallas and longtime highlight reel wide receiver Dez Bryant announced they would part ways. During the draft, future hall-of-famer and a model of consistency for the Cowboys Jason Witten announced his retirement from the NFL. In truth, the two stars have had much more limited roles since Dak Prescott took over for Tony Romo and Ezekiel Elliot became a factor. Still, the most effective receiver on the roster is suddenly offseason acquisition Allen Hurns from Jacksonville. That’s not good news for Prescott, who might continue to reveal his true colors in 2019.
Make no mistake about it, Dallas is a running team with a superstar like Elliot. If he stays healthy and doesn’t mess up off the field, Elliot should be poised for another Pro Bowl campaign with the Cowboys. But don’t expect the offense to amount to much if it remains as one-dimensional as it looks now. The Cowboys tried their best to solve this issue by drafting wide receiver Michael Gallup from Colorado State in the third round and tight end Dalton Schultz from Stanford in the fourth.
While the Cowboys did their best to keep the spotlight on them as always, the Texans were perhaps the least talked about NFL squad from draft weekend. This was because they didn’t have a selection until the third round thanks to last year’s eventual acquisition of Deshaun Watson. Despite this, Houston had three picks in the third and sixth rounds to leave town with eight new players.
With their first pick, the Texans selected safety Justin Reid from Stanford in the third round. Reid will compete with Andre Hal for the remaining safety position beside newly acquired defensive standout Tyrann Mathieu from the Cardinals. Also among the 2018 draft class for the Texans was Mississippi State Tackle Martinas Rankin, Central Florida Tight End Jordan Akins and Texas Tech Wide Receiver Keke Coutee.
Elsewhere in the draft, the Cleveland Browns made a splash with two of the top-four selections in the first round. Most years, it’s pretty obvious who will be taken number one overall. This year, however, it all depended on what quarterback you preferred and Cleveland decided to keep this a secret until it was time to choose. The newest individual responsible for dragging the Browns out of the NFL cellar is none other than Oklahoma Sooner and latest Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. The 6’1 walk-on has transformed into a national celebrity during his time with the Sooners and will now try to do the same with the hapless Browns. Despite his lack of height and the occasional non-football related headline, Cleveland General Manager John Dorsey obviously saw enough in Mayfield to bet his job on him.
While Mayfield wasn’t who I would’ve drafted, it’s impossible to know which of these quarterbacks, if any, will turn out to be worth something at the next level. Cleveland decided to pass up on names like Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, who all went in the top-10.
The biggest fault for Cleveland came at number four. NC State Defensive End Bradley Chubb, who was touted by many as the best player in the draft, was there for the taking for the Browns before they decided to draft Ohio State Cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward should be an effective player by all accounts, but Cleveland’s decision to so blatantly favor need over value was misguided in this case.