It’s been a turbulent first half of the NBA season, with a lot of things not going like most of us thought they would before it began. Let’s take a closer look at a few things that stuck out the most to me over the past few months.
Miami Heat The five guys who have played the most minutes for this team are Josh Richardson, Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Kelly Olynyk. If you had to guess, would you call that a playoff team? Well as of today, they’re one game behind the Cavaliers and 4th place in the East. Only one player (Hassan Whiteside) is averaging 20 points per 36 minutes, and the team is rather being anchored by a wide variety of role players stepping up and working together – Dragic has the highest usage rate at 26.8% – even as they’ve fought through injuries (Dion Waiters). While none of their team numbers are spectacular and they are likely due for some regression, the Heat are a tough, scrappy team to play against and are going to be a difficult matchup by the time the first round of the playoffs comes around.
Indiana Pacers Powered behind a suddenly superstar-level Victor Oladipo (more on him later), the Pacers were expected to flame out after trading away Paul George but have instead found themselves in the thick of the playoff race. The other guy they received in the deal, Domantas Sabonis, upped his production in nearly every statistical category (advanced and traditional), and they’ve also gotten a ton of production out journeymen Lance Stephenson, Darren Collison and Thaddeus Young – not to mention up-and-coming big man Myles Turner, who’s posting career-high usage, block, and assist rates.
Los Angeles Clippers After losing Chris Paul, the Clippers would be considered lucky to be 8th in the West, as they are now; however, after being decimated by injuries, to be there is an outright miracle. Blake Griffin, when healthy, has remained his (debatably) top-15 overall self while Deandre Jordan has continued to live above the rim and rebound at a spectacular 25.5% rate. However, the biggest story here is Lou Williams (see Standouts), right now playing like the best player on a playoff team for the first time in his career.
Orlando Magic What seems to be a young, talented roster with the pieces to grow into a contender has played horribly for months. Since beginning 6-2, the Magic are an embarrassing 7-30. While Aaron Gordon has shown improvement, Nikola Vucevic has a PER over 21 once again after a down year in 2016-17, Elfrid Payton keeps dishing at a 35% assist rate, and Evan Fournier has improved his scoring per game for the fifth straight year, most others have disappointed. Jonathan Simmons’ defensive statistics have plummeted, as he’s posting career lows in Defensive Rating and Defensive Box Plus Minus; Jonathan Isaac has barely played; and Terrence Ross, Mario Hezonja, and Bismack Biyombo have all failed to live up to expectations.
Memphis Grizzlies Once known as a team full of tough, “grizzled” (sorry) veterans who somehow always found a way to win, the Grizzlies’ age and slow pace (last in the league) has finally caught up to them. Tyreke Evans is having his best season since his rookie year, Marc Gasol has continued solid play (though in one of the worst seasons of his career), and several young players have showed promise – Deyonta Davis, Andrew Harrison, Jarell Martin and Dillon Brooks all look like future rotation pieces or potential starters. However, this is a team without an identity: With Gasol’s production dipping, Conley playing over 70 games only once in the past 5 seasons (including this one, in which he’s played 12 so far), and Chandler Parsons remaining injury-prone and unproductive, the Grizzlies have money tied up in the wrong places. It’s time to face a rebuild head-on.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Oladipo has taken a massive leap both on the court, as a number one option for the first time in his career, and in the statistics. Even as his usage has increased to a career high, his 3-point shooting, rebounding, offensive rating, block and steal percentages, points per game, and PER have all followed suit.
Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers A long-tenured NBA veteran who came right out of high school, Williams is having his best season on what’s supposedly the wrong side of 30. Averaging a career high in points, win shares per 48 minutes, assist percentage, 3-point shooting and usage rate, similarly to Oladipo, he’s upping both his usage and his efficiency – and it’s yielding great results.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks He just keeps getting better. It’s absurd. Nearly all of his benchmarks increased for the fourth straight year, with the only tradeoff being that he’s averaging an assist and a half less per game in favor of four more points per game. Offensively, his advanced stats are skyrocketing – which is great for the Bucks, who have the length and athleticism to mask the fact that his defensive metrics are not quite at the elite levels that they were last season. Regardless, he’s proven to be nothing short of a top-5 NBA player and a legitimate MVP candidate.
Clint Capela, Houston Rockets While much less noticeable than Giannis’ improvement, Capela has actually shown similar year over year growth. His rookie year, he had a -7.8 BPM and -0.1 VORP; this year, 3.5 and 1.4, respectively. His rebounding rate is also at a career high, along with his assist rate, field goal percentage, and offensive rating (an absurd 127, tied with Steven Adams for second in the league).
James Harden, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Karl-Anthony Towns, and DeMar Derozan Yup, these guys are all still amazing and have, for the most part, improved their games even further. Shocker.
Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, and Nikola Mirotic While these guys didn’t have the expectations mounted upon them that the previous group did, they’ve all impressed by either adding facets to their game or quietly putting up notable stats and leading their teams.
Data courtesy of ESPN, Basketball Reference, and NBA.com. Thanks for reading!
New York, a city that has long prided itself on its sports teams, can no longer do so; after years upon years of success across a multitude of sports, we have slowly slipped into the dreaded phase of rebuilding. Don’t believe me? Just look at recent playoff history: the Giants, Jets, Knicks, and Mets have shockingly only made the playoffs a combined three times since 2013, while the Yankees and Rangers have had much less success in recent years than they are accustomed to. I hate to break it to you, New York, but we are in a full-fledged phase of rebuilding. Although New York is no Cleveland, this overhaul in every New York team’s roster certainly is a harbinger of changing times.
Where better to look for change than at the New York Giants, who are recently New York’s most abysmal team. Sitting at 2-9, the Giants are among the worst teams in football and can’t even lose right, as they have picked up wins against the Chiefs and Broncos. With an onslaught of criticism, Coach Ben McAdoo decided to bench Eli Manning this past week, ending his NFL-record streak of 210 consecutive games started and certainly signaling a sign of change in New York. Manning, once the face of the franchise, has been replaced by dynamic playmakers Odell Beckham Jr., who has tallied at least 1300 yards and ten touchdowns in every year that he has been healthy, and Evan Engram, who has 470 yards and five touchdowns through 11 games. We have seen a very similar theme with the New York Yankees, who were also at one time, one of the best teams in the league, but have slipped in recent years. The days of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are long gone and have been replaced by the likes of superstar Aaron Judge, who finished second in the majors with 52 home runs last year, as well as his sidekicks, Greg Bird and Clint Frazier, and newly acquired superstar Giancarlo Stanton.
With direction but maybe less hope than the Yankees, the Rangers and Knicks haven’t been quite as successful in years’ past, but have a solid foundation and plan for the future. After a disastrous misallocation of resources and contract money during their run a couple of years back, the Rangers have traded Derek Stepan, Derek Brassard, and Carl Hagelin, and have let Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman walk over the past year and a half. These skilled players were once the backbone of the team, but have been replaced with rising young stars in Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad, and Jimmy Vesey, who can take the franchise back to where it once was. The Knicks followed a similar model, as over the past two seasons, they have done a complete franchise overhaul by drafting one of the best players in the NBA in Kristaps Porzingis and by trading Carmelo Anthony, once the face of the franchise, for Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott.
While the Giants, Yankees, Rangers, and Knicks at least have some direction concerning the future success of their franchises, the Jets and Mets, on the other hand, do not. After purging their team of any source of talent during this past off-season, the Jets have been surprisingly competitive this season, but have done little to ensure future success. Aside from breakout rookie Jamal Adams and emerging receiver Robby Anderson, the Jets have little to look forward to in the future. The Mets have followed a very similar path, as their once “killer” rotation has been marred by a plethora of injuries as well as poor performance.
While things might not be looking pretty now, the future is certainly looking up for New York. Staying patient isn’t a strength of most New Yorkers, but once the rebuilding process comes to fruition, the payoff will be well worth the wait.
Thanks for reading! Data courtesy of ESPN, Baseball Reference, Basketball Reference, Hockey Reference, and Football Reference.
Let’s take a look at the top prospects in this year’s NBA draft. These rankings will examine the best 50 players in my eyes, based on the tape along with the numbers. However, translating college and overseas stats to an NBA equivalent has long been a fruitless task; while I’ve considered the production these players have put up, much of these rankings will also be based on upside, floors, and projections with admittedly little quantitative data to back them up. In his last year at college, Kawhi Leonard put up 15.5 ppg on 29.1% 3-point shooting. This season, along with being arguably the best defensive player in basketball, he averaged 25.5 ppg on 38.1% 3-point scoring. Isaiah Thomas was the last pick in the draft and stands only 5’9”, yet this year he was an All-NBA Second Teamer. Morale of the story? Anything can happen with these players, regardless of what is thought of them in the pre-draft process. With that being said though if I were a GM drafting for my team, this is how I would set up my Top 50.
Note: This is not where I think these players will actually be drafted, but is instead my own personal ranking of them. For example, some people believe De’Aaron Fox might have a shot at being as high as the second pick this year; meanwhile, he is nowhere near that mark on my board.
Listed after each Top 25 player’s description is a comparison to a current or former player. If I couldn’t find just one that worked for a prospect, I listed two that the player could potentially turn into a blend of. The comparisons should be used more as a comparison of play-styles than actual ability. For example, I’ve compared Zach Collins to Kevin Garnett – that does not mean I believe Collins will approach Garnett’s success in the league, but rather that they play a similar game (good shooting for bigs, solid interior games, and great shot blocking skills).
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Fultz is considered the top overall prospect by nearly every draft analyst, and the tape and numbers both back that up. Fultz is a smooth point guard who makes the game look natural in a similar way that Ben Simmons did last year, and he averaged nearly a 23-6-6 to go with an elite 27.9 PER. He showed he can help his future team out in nearly every way, playing strong defense, handling the ball, driving the basket, and pulling up from 3. Throw in his superb measurements (6’4” with a wingspan about 6’10”) and he’s one of the best point prospects in recent memory. The one knock against him is that his team performed poorly during the season; but similarly to Simmons, it’s foolish to hold that against a guy this good.
NBA Comp: James Harden/D’Angelo Russell
Lonzo Ball, UCLA,
While every headline these days seems to be about Lonzo’s father, LaVar, his son really can ball (sorry, I’ll stop now). Lonzo is devastatingly quick offensively and he possesses an amazing blend of speed, height (6’6”), and vision (7.6 APG). He’s got a bit of a funky jump shot that could turn some people off – especially with the new emphasis in the NBA on pull-up jumpers off of a screen – but the results he’s shown are strong (41% from deep last year). If he can add some strength in the future and become a stronger finisher, he has the potential to be a very good player for a long time.
NBA Comp: Jason Kidd/Goran Dragic
Josh Jackson, Kansas
Jackson possesses possibly the most potential as a two-way player in this draft class. He averaged roughly 16-7.5-3 offensively with a 24.1 PER, but he’s known more for all-around having a very strong basketball IQ along with incredible athleticism. That combined with his aggressiveness and versatility on the defensive end should allow him to be a premier defender in the league, giving him a very high floor. Offensively, he has a decent jumper to go with good driving and finishing skills. Overall, off-the-court issues aside, Jackson is a pretty good bet to be a strong player in the years to come.
NBA Comp: Andrew Wiggins/In-his-prime Andre Iguodala
Jayson Tatum, Duke
Tatum has shown a serious scoring acumen, and while his numbers are solid but not spectacular (17-7-2), he’s shown the ability to create and score off the dribble as well as anyone in this class. Other than his shot creation, he lacks another tool that identifies him as a star, but he doesn’t have any other glaring weaknesses, as he’s a pretty good distributor, rebounder, and defender with above-average (but not spectacular) athletic abilities. His shot from deep also shows the potential to improve as he gets older. In short, he’s another high-floor prospect who should thrive in the NBA.
NBA Comp: Jabari Parker
Jonathan Isaac, Florida St.
Isaac is the rawest prospect in the top 5, but his skills have the potential to be devastating in the league. He might have the most upside in this entire class. Isaac stands 6’11” with a 7’1” wingspan, but plays with the skill-set of a guard. His ball-handling is elite for someone his size, and his jump shot has the potential to improve from an already good place (35% from deep). He’s fluid on the court, and he could be a matchup nightmare as he puts on some strength and grows into his body – too fast and skilled for 4s and 5s to cover (even in the modern NBA) and too big for 3s. While he may never meet his full offensive potential as a constant mismatch, he should at least make a great living as someone able to rebound (nearly 8 per game in college) and guard 3 positions effectively.
NBA Comp: Giannis Antetokounmpo/Brandon Ingram
Dennis Smith, NC State
Smith has been a little lost in the circus of incredible point guard prospects this year, but he still possesses all the incredible potential that he had coming out of high school. Similarly to Fultz, his team did not perform at a high level this year, so he was criticized due to being the man supposed to lead them far. However, it’s hard to argue that he didn’t do his part, as he averaged about an 18-4.5-6 with a 23.1 PER. He showed that he can hit with a passable 36% 3-point shooting percentage, and his form shows great potential. And of course, he might also be the most explosive athlete in the draft.
NBA Comp: Russell Westbrook/Baron Davis
Frank Ntilikina, France
Similarly to Smith, Ntilikina has been flying under the radar in such a stacked class. While his numbers might not be elite, as he is playing in a reserve role on an overseas team, Ntilikina has a lot of raw talent. First of all, he has the best size for the position in this draft class, standing 6’5” with an insane 7’0” wingspan – which might (no hard data on this) be the longest by any point guard in the NBA. He’s an incredibly steady ball handler and a great passer on the offensive end, and his length gives him a very high defensive potential. To go along with that, he’s got a nice shot form and managed to shoot 43% from 3 last season (given a small sample size). He might not “wow” with athleticism like a Dennis Smith, but Ntilikina has all the tools to be a very good point guard in the modern NBA given some time to adjust to the strength of the players.
NBA Comp: Dante Exum
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Everyone else is a much bigger fan of him than I am, as I don’t really see what would make him a better prospect than Smith or Ntilikina. That being said, he’s extremely quick and has great potential as a ball handling, attacking, and defending guard. His measurables are pretty good, as he’s a 6’3” point guard with a 6’6” wingspan. However, he’s not the passer that Ntilikina is he and doesn’t have quite the same explosiveness as Smith (though he is very, very fast). He also has a jumper that is a work in progress, to say the least. He could very well end up being as good or better than the two guys ranked ahead of him, but I don’t see him as nearly the complete prospect that players like Fultz and Ball are.
NBA Comp: Derrick Rose
Malik Monk, Kentucky
I’m a big fan of Monk’s combo of superb athleticism and spectacular shooting. He can create his own shot, and offensively, there are few in this class that can put the ball in the basket better. However, he’s 6’3” and there are serious doubts about him being able to handle being an NBA point guard because his ball handling and passing aren’t spectacular. He should be fine as a 2-guard, but he’ll be undersized.
NBA Comp: Eric Gordon
Harry Giles, Duke
Giles didn’t put up great numbers at Duke or bear much of a resemblance to the high school superstar he once was, but he has the talent of a top-3 pick. The only things holding him back here are concerns about his knees. But he’s tall, has a massive wingspan, is relentless on the boards, and has even shown flashes of an outside jumper. He could either be a bust because of medical reasons once he hits the league or be one of the biggest steals of the draft.
NBA Comp: Amar’e Stoudemire
Zach Collins, Gonzaga
Collins seems to be a perfect fit for the modern NBA, as he’s a 7-footer that can move well, block shots, and shoot the 3 all at high levels. After not playing much his freshman year at Gonzaga, some worry that he’ll struggle when faced up against NBA bigs; but when he was on the biggest stage in March, Collins shined. He might face some difficulties at first but in the long term, he’s a solid play.
NBA Comp: Kevin Garnett
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
After Collins, the talent takes a bit of a drop-off, but Markkanen remains an extremely useful player. While he doesn’t do much else but shoot, there is certainly a place in the league for 7-footers that can knock down 3s at a 42% clip and rebound at a serviceable level.
NBA Comp: Ryan Anderson
OG Anunoby, Indiana
Anunoby, similarly to Giles, would potentially be much higher on this list if not for injury concerns, as OG tore his ACL earlier this year and could potentially miss a good chunk of his rookie season. However, few other prospects have the defensive potential that he does given his massive 7’2” wingspan, strong lateral quickness, and great energy. If he can knock down the 3 with more consistency, he has the potential to be a premier 3-and-D player.
NBA Comp: Jae Crowder
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Mitchell is a point guard with an interesting blend of skills, as his 6’10” wingspan and good lateral quickness suggest that he’ll be able to handle pro guards well defensively while his huge improvement in his outside shot (and scoring ability) after his freshman year begs the question of how much more he can improve. If he can improve his ability to distribute, he can be a very solid starting-caliber point guard for years to come.
NBA Comp: Avery Bradley
TJ Leaf, UCLA
Leaf does a little bit of everything – he can score, shoot from outside, rebound, and pass at extremely high levels for a 6’10” forward. However, his defense might be a concern as he needs to either add on a little more strength to better contend against NBA bigs or improve his lateral quickness to defend out on the perimeter.
NBA Comp: Kevin Love
Terrance Ferguson, Australia
Ferguson has made a name for himself as a very good shooter who can jump out of the gym. His ball-handling still isn’t great, and there’s a bit of an element of mystery around how he compares to his 19-year-old counterparts after skipping out on college, but guys that can shoot from deep and possess athleticism can usually find a place for themselves in the league.
NBA Comp: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Jarrett Allen, Texas
Allen is a long, bouncy center with a great deal of defensive potential as a rim protector. However, his game is extremely raw, and he has yet to prove that he has an offensive presence when facing the basket. Around the rim, though, he has incredible upside due to his length and athleticism, which both give him the ability to score on dunks and with his back to the basket.
NBA Comp: DeAndre Jordan
John Collins, Wake Forest
Collins is mainly known as an athletic scorer that gets most of his points around the basket, something that doesn’t quite fit in today’s NBA if other skills are lacking. However, he’s shown that he can hit to some degree from midrange, and he is still young enough that there is plenty of time to develop a more consistent jumper. It’s also hard to argue with his production, as he led the country in PER last year starring at Wake Forest.
NBA Comp: Ed Davis/Cody Zeller
Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
Bam is a big, strong prospect who does little but rebound hard and use his strength and athleticism around the rim to slam down. While he offers little else beyond his effort and hustle, what he does do he does very well.
NBA Comp: Dwight Howard
DJ Wilson, Michigan
Wilson is extremely long and athletic, with the ability to block shots and move laterally on defense, rebound using his huge wingspan, and shoot from inside and out on offense. If he can establish more of a killer instinct around the rim, he has a massive upside.
NBA Comp: Kristaps Porzingis
Justin Jackson, UNC
Jackson is a long, athletic, small forward who is surprisingly quick around the perimeter and showed off a much-improved shot from deep this year. His rebounding, defense, and distributing all leave something to be desired, but he could be able to carve out a role as an offensive specialist.
NBA Comp: Jamal Crawford
Justin Patton, Creighton
Patton had a very efficient freshman season, where he showed serious potential as an athletic big who can stretch the floor and dive to the rim on offense and protect the rim on defense. However, he needs to add strength if he wants to be able to hang with NBA bigs.
NBA Comp: Myles Turner
Luke Kennard, Duke
Kennard is without question the best shooter in the draft, a skill that NBA teams covet. However, he lacks some other traits that are vital to being a high-level player in the league – such as the athleticism necessary to cover pro guards. Most mock drafts have him going in the lottery, which is much higher than I have him ranked here; however, within the right system to capitalize on his biggest strength, he’ll be able to thrive.
NBA Comp: J.J. Redick
Jonathan Jeanne, France
Jeanne raised his stock heavily at the combine, with impressive measurements of a 7’6” wingspan to go along with his 7’2” height. He needs to add a lot of strength; but with the ability to shoot from deep and block shots, he has a very high upside.
NBA Comp: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
**Note: These rankings were made before Jeanne’s diagnosis of Marfan Syndrome, which puts his basketball career in jeopardy. We wish him all the best.
Ike Anigbogu, UCLA
Anigbogu recorded a ridiculous 7’6” wingspan for his 6’10” height at the draft combine, further supporting the conclusion that he has a ton of upside as an athletic rim protector. He’s one of the youngest players in this draft class and is extremely raw offensively, but he has the potential to grow into a strong defensive presence.
NBA Comp: Rudy Gobert
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Jordan Bell, Oregon
Frank Jackson, Duke
Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma St.
Ivan Rabb, California
Rodions Kurucs, Latvia
Tony Bradley, UNC
Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan
Monte Morris, Iowa St.
Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Semi Ojeleye, SMU
Andzejs Pasecniks, Latvia
Alec Peters, Valparaiso
Damyean Dotson, Houston
Josh Hart, Villanova
Kostja Mushidi, Belgium
Tyler Lydon, Syracuse
Tyler Dorsey, Oregon
Jonah Bolden, Australia
Edmond Sumner, Xavier
Frank Mason, Kansas
Dillon Brooks, Oregon
Derrick White, Colorado
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Other miscellaneous sleepers, in no particular order:
Notable Picks: Marshon Lattimore (CB – #11 Overall), Ryan Ramczyk (OT – #32 Overall), Marcus Williams (S – #42 Overall), Alvin Kamara, (RB – #67 Overall), Alex Anzalone (LB – #76 Overall), Trey Hendrickson (DE – #103 Overall)
Despite having a number of questionable picks in the early rounds in the draft, as they drafted 2 offensive players in the first 3 rounds although they had the worst defense in NFL history just one year ago, the Saints had a very effective draft this year.
At pick #11, the Saints took Marshon Lattimore (a cornerback out of Ohio State) which was a no-brainer, as he is easily the best cover man in the draft. Lattimore was rated as one of the best players in the draft (top 3 to 5 in nearly every big board), which means he is a great value pick at the 11 spot and has the ability to vastly improve the worst coverage defense in football. Marcus Williams (a safety out of Utah), the Saints’ selection at #42, only furthered bolstered the defense by adding an athletic, hard-hitting safety who is capable of playing a “centerfield” type of role for the defense. Williams, a slightly worse version of Malik Hooker, an all-around, ball-hawk safety out of Ohio State, and Lattimore, the best cover man in the draft, both make for great value picks that will surely improve the Saints’ defense.
Although it was quite questionable that the Saints spent 2 out of their first 4 picks on players on the offensive side of the ball, it is quite difficult to argue with either of their selections. Ryan Ramczyk (an offensive tackle out of Wisconsin), the Saints’ 2nd first round selection at pick #32, has a very legitimate chance to be a long-term starter in the NFL and was likely the best lineman in this year’s draft, which makes him a good pick as well. Alvin Kamara (a running back out of Tennessee), the Saints’ 3rd round selection at pick #67), provides the Saints with yet another offensive threat, who will manage to contibute both through the air and on the ground, despite a crowded backfield.
Winner: Cleveland Browns (2016 Record: 1-15)
Notable Picks: Myles Garrett (DE – #1 Overall), Jabrill Peppers (S – #25 Overall), David Njoku (TE – #29 Overall), DeShone Kizer (QB – #52 Overall), Larry Ogunjobi (DT – #65 Overall)
After a number of wise trades that provided the Browns with a plethora of picks in future drafts (which data suggested was smart since more picks are on average more valuable than higher picks), the Browns finally cashed in this year with a very strong draft class.
With the #1 overall pick, the Cleveland Browns took Myles Garrett, a defensive end out of Texas A&M, who was the consensus #1 pick in nearly every mock draft created. Myles Garrett is an athletic beast with game-changing talent on the defensive side of the ball, as he has the ability to single-handedly shut down opposing offenses. Jabrill Peppers, a safety out of Michigan, was the Browns’ 2nd first round pick and is easily one of the most athletic players in the draft, which will allow him to continue his versatile role that he previously played with Michigan. Peppers will be able to handle both the nickle and the safety, which makes him a valuable defensive chess piece for the Browns to play with.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Cleveland Browns reeled in some serious talent by drafting David Njoku with 29th overall pick and DeShone Kizer with the 52nd overall pick. Njoku, a tight end out of Miami, is a very athletic and has a rare combo of size and speed for a tight end. Njoku will be a playmaker for the offense and will give Kizer, as well as receivers, a much greater chance to shine as he will likely attract double coverage. DeShone Kizer at #52 was easily my favorite pick of the draft, as I thought he should have been the first quarterback off of the board (there were 3 taken before him: Trubisky, Mahomes, Watson). Kizer is a huge quarterback with an even bigger arm, which allows him to crank throws down the field and (successfully) challenge safeties with deep, over-the-top throws. Kizer has elite throwing power and above average accuracy, as well as dual-threat capabilities in the red-zone, which will make him a lethal threat in the NFL in a couple of years from now.
Winner: Washington Redskins (2016 Record: 8-7-1)
Notable Picks: Jonathan Allen (DT – #17 Overall), Ryan Anderson (LB – #49 Overall), Fabian Moreau (CB -#81 Overall), Samaje Perine (RB – #114 Overall)
After swinging and missing on a number of supposedly “big-time” prospects over the past couple of years (RG3, David Amerson, Josh Doctson, among more), the Redskins finally seemed to get it right this year, reeling in serious talent over their 4 picks in the draft.
The Redskins went all-in on defense in the early rounds of the draft, picking 3 defensive players with their first 3 picks in the draft. Prior to the draft, it was unimaginable that Jonathan Allen would slip out of the top 7, much less the top 15, but he fell all the way to the Redskins at #17. Allen, a defensive end out of Alabama, is arguably one of the most talented and athletically gifted players in this draft, and was quite possibly the best value pick in the draft. Allen’s presence will help to solidify a porous run defense and improve the pass rush as well. The Redskins went back to drafting Alabama alumns in round 2 as well, picking Ryan Anderson, an ex-Alabama linebacker, with pick #49. Although Anderson has limited upside potential as a pass rusher on the NFL level, he is well rounded and solid across the board.
The Redskins further improved their draft class in Rounds 3 and 4, getting amazing value picks on Fabian Moreau, a cornerback out of UCLA, and Samaje Perine, a running back out of Oklahoma. Both had Round 1 potential up until the ends of the junior seasons (Moreau tore his pectoral and Perine had to split carries with Mixon), and likely still possess that Round 1 talent scouts believed they had just a couple of months ago. Moreau is an aggressive playmaker on the outside, who likely would have been a mid to late 1st round pick had he not hurt himself at UCLA’s pro day. Perine is powerful runner out of the backfield, with capabilities both running and catching the ball. Perine is a lethal threat on 3rd down as a power running back with the ability to cut and break away from defenders with speed and has the ability to be Washington’s starting running back from day 1.
Just as they always do, the Chicago Bears managed to amaze everyone, with yet another silly move that will hurt the future prospects of the team. Analytics would suggest that the Bears had the worst draft of any team (and it’s not even close), which only adds onto the woes that already exist in Chicago.
In the biggest surprise of the night, the Chicago Bears sent picks #3, #67, #111, and a 3rd Round pick in 2018 to the 49ers to move up one spot in the first round (moved from #3 to #2). With the 2nd overall pick, the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky, a quarterback out of North Carolina, who was not on anyone’s draft radar just one year ago. Although Trubisky is a very skilled player, he has just 13 starts and isn’t a sure-fire NFL starter, which makes him a risky pick at #2. Although he might have been gone by pick #3 (via a trade), Trubisky was nowhere near worth the price, given that the Bears just signed Mike Glennon to a huge contract this off-season.
Adam who??? That was pretty much everyone’s reaction after the Bears pulled their second surprising letdown move of the night by drafting Adam Shaheen, a tight end out of Ashland, with the 45th pick. While Shaheen is actually a solid pass-catching target, he is a terrible blocker, which will take him off of the field in most running situations. Shaheen is simply an average tight end and is nowhere near a deserving 2nd round pick (at earliest Round 3), despite the run on tight ends in the 1st round as well as the Bears’ need for one. The Bears likely could have waited for 30-40 picks and still could have been confident that Shaheen would be on the board, thus making this a foolish pick.
Statistically speaking, the Giants really did nothing wrong this draft, they just happened not to do anything right either, despite a number of chances to capitalize on team weaknesses based on the available players at their spots.
In Round 1, the Giants swung for the fences (and brutally missed) by picking Evan Engram, a tight end out of Ole Miss, with the 23rd pick in the draft amid an unprecedented 1st round run on tight ends. Engram is a versatile tight end, who is actually a legitimate receiving threat, but lacks the ability to block well, which will limit his on-field time. Although Engram isn’t that atrocious of a pick by itself (albeit a bad one), it is absolutely horrendous given who was on the board at the time of the Giants pick and how well they filled their needs. If the Giants wanted to pick a tight end, they should have gone with Njoku, who is a more complete player with much higher potential. If the Giants were wise (which they obviously are not), they would have gone with either a linebacker, as Foster, Cunningham, and McMillan were still on the board, or an offensive lineman, as Ramczyk, Robinson, and Lamp were all on the board as well.
The Giants did much the same in Rounds 2 and 3 where they picked Dalvin Tomlinson, a defensive tackle out of Alabama, with the 55th pick and Davis Webb, a quarterback out of Cal, with the 87th pick. Although the Giants needed a defensive tackle, picking Dalvin Tomlinson in the 2nd round was not the right pick for the team, given his limited potential and lack of actual output on the field. Zach Cunningham, a future superstar linebacker out of Vanderbilt, as well as Alvin Kamara, a versatile running back out of Tennessee would have both been much better picks for the Giants given those two’s talents the Giants’ pressing needs at linebacker and running back. You would think that the Giants would have learned their lesson in Rounds 1 and 2 given their massive blunders, but unfortunately for all Giants fans out there, you would be wrong. The Giants picked Davis Webb with their 3rd Round pick, which is not a terrible pick by itself, as Webb was in contention for the first overall pick at the end of last season’s mock drafts (for the 2017 draft). However, Nathan Peterman, a very talented and developed quarterback out of Pittsburgh, and Brad Kaaya, the consensus #1 pick until a god awful senior season, were both on the board at the time and would have been much better picks.
Admittedly, the Giants did get a steal in Round 4 when the picked Wayne Gallman, a speedy and versatile running back out of Clemson, with the 140th pick in the draft. Gallman has huge potential and, when it’s all over, might be actually be the best running back in this year’s class, which makes this an amazing value pick.
Favorite Picks By Round (1-3):
Round 1: Jamal Adams – S, LSU (Round 1, Pick 6), Malik Hooker – S, OSU (Round 1, Pick 15)