First-round report: Winners and losers
Can the Cleveland Browns win anything in the NFL? Is that allowed? This is, after all, a franchise that before Thursday night drafted Tim Couch (1999) and Courtney Brown (2000) the only other times they’ve drafted first overall. Misery is synonymous with NFL in Cleveland, a city that hasn’t had a winning football team since 2007.
But the Browns were winners Thursday, if for no other reason than avoiding the temptation to reach for a quarterback they weren’t comfortable being a franchise starter. Instead, the Browns selected three non-quarterbacks in the first round: Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett first overall, Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers 26th overall and Miami tight end David Njoku 29th overall.
The Browns traded back into the first round to select Njoku with the Packers’ pick, trading the 33rd and 108th overall picks to Green Bay. Garrett and Peppers give perhaps the NFL’s worst defense two ultra-athletic playmakers up front and on the back end. Njoku should provide a big, athletic target for whatever quarterback starts for the Browns. Quarterbacks win games in the NFL, and the Browns will have to find one eventually.
But mistakes are made when teams reach for quarterbacks who turn into busts. The Browns avoided making that error Thursday, instead adding three players who should make their team better. As for value, the New Orleans Saints drafting cornerback Marshon Lattimore 11th overall and Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafting tight end O.J. Howard 19th overall had to be thrilled.
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It happens every year: character issues will burn you in the draft. Thursday’s first round was no exception. Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster was widely regarded as a top-10 talent in this draft, but he almost slipped out of the first round before San Francisco took him 31st overall.
Foster was dismissed from the NFL scouting combine in February after a dust-up with a hospital worker. He also failed a drug test in Indianapolis. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon were potential first-round talents who still will be available Friday at least in part because of off-field reasons.
Most analysts expected red-flag character concerns to affect Thursday’s first round, and it played out over 32 picks.
GOING ALL IN
It cost three draft picks to move up one spot, but the payoff could be worth it for the Chicago Bears. Or it could fail miserably. The Bears swapped their third pick with the 49ers’ second to draft North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. They also sent their third-round pick (No. 67 overall), fourth-round pick (No. 111 overall) and 2018 third-round pick to move up one spot.
Yes, Chicago signed free-agent quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million contract this offseason, but the deal included only $4.5 million in dead cap money for 2018, making it easy to release Glennon after one season. That now appears to be a likely plan, allowing Trubisky to develop for a year.
If Trubisky becomes a franchise quarterback, the Bears’ trade will become one of the signature draft moments in franchise history. If not, it could cost general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox their jobs.
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With the first overall pick Thursday, the Browns drafted pass rusher Garrett. Then, things got offensive. Literally. In the first dozen picks, eight offensive players were drafted. Three teams traded up to draft quarterbacks: Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes (10th, Kansas City) and Deshaun Watson (12th, Houston).
Perhaps most surprising, three receivers were taken in the first nine picks: Corey Davis (fifth, Tennessee), Mike Williams (seventh, L.A. Chargers) and John Ross (ninth, Cincinnati). In what will be remembered as a defensive draft, it was the offense that stole the stage early in the first round.
BY THE NUMBERS
» 6 draft-day trades, including the Packers sending their 29th overall pick to the Browns for the first pick of the second round (No. 33 overall) and a fourth rounder (No. 108 overall).
» 4 players draft from Alabama, the most of any college in the 2017 first round.
» 2 offensive linemen drafted, the first being Utah tackle Garett Bolles to Denver with the 20th overall pick.