Things We Learned From the First Round of the 2016 NFL Draft
The 2016 NFL Draft kicked off on Thursday night in Chicago, as NFL teams began their annual springtime ritual of replenishing their rosters. Here are the most important takeaways from the night:
1. Teams Thought Quarterbacks Were Worth Trading For
Just like 2015, when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went to the Buccaneers and Titans respectively, a pair of quarterbacks were chosen to start the 2016 NFL Draft, too. As expected from respective pre-draft trades with Tennessee and Cleveland, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles each selected signal-callers with the first- and second-overall picks.
The Rams nabbed California QB Jared Goff with the first pick, thanks to their trade with the Titans. Considered the purest passer in this draft class, Goff will be charged with helping restart the Rams franchise on the West Coast. The Eagles then selected Carson Wentz from North Dakota State at No. 2. Wentz’s size (6’5”) and strength made him a darling of the draft scouts. Now, he has to prove he was worth the extra draft picks Philly gave up to get him.
Near the end of the first round, the Super Bowl champion-Denver Broncos traded up with the Seattle Seahawks to select Memphis’ quarterback Paxton Lynch with the No. 26 pick. As you may recall, Denver has a Peyton Maning-size hole in its offense that newcomer Mark Sanchez will never be able to fill. Yes, this is a reach pick, but John Elway doesn’t care because he has a shiny new Lombardi Trophy that he wouldn’t trade for anything or anyone.
2. It Was A Good Night To Be A Buckeye
Five incredibly talented Ohio State Buckeyes neatly dotted the first round draft board: defensive end Joey Bosa (No. 3 — Chargers); running back Ezekiel Elliott (No. 4 — Cowboys); cornerback Eli Apple (No. 10 — Giants); offensive tackle Taylor Decker (No. 16 — Lions) and linebacker Darron Lee (No. 20 — Jets). The impressive roster left Ohio State football just short of the University of Miami’s record of six first-round selections in one draft, set in 2004. It’s almost surprising that receiver Michael Thomas and safety Vonn Bell weren’t chosen. They won’t wait long to hear their names called in Friday’s second round.
3. It Wasn’t A Good Night To Be An Ole Miss Fan
The NFL has become a punchline because of the behavioral issues of some of its players, many of whom were selected in the first round of past drafts. This year, two Ole Miss players whose character was questioned fell deeper into the first round than expected: offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who fell to the Dolphins (No. 13) and Cardinals (No. 29) respectively, despite having top 10-level talent.
Tunsil was considered a top five player, but a video of him smoking out of a gas mask was posted to his Twitter profile just before the draft. Later, text messages allegedly between Tunsil and a Mississippi football official about improper payments were posted to his Instagram account, which the tackle then admitted to during the draft. Oy.
Nkemdiche was charged with marijuana possession after he fell from a hotel window in December. The athletic pass rusher still had a less stressful draft night than Tunsil, but he certainly was punished by the NFL’s character evaluators.
What impact will all of this have on the Ole Miss football program? Nothing good. Forget 'Hotty Toddy': head coach Hugh Freeze probably needed a hot toddy to get to sleep last night.
4. The NFL Is Still A Passing League
In addition to the three quarterbacks selected on Thursday, four wide receivers and seven defensive backs were chosen in the first round — all in the first 26 picks. The emphasis on those positions illustrated that the NFL is still very much a league focused on executing — and preventing — the pass.
Athletic Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey was the first defensive back taken, landing with Jacksonville at No. 5. The Raiders picked West Virginia’s Karl Joseph as the first safety in the draft at No. 14. The Cleveland Browns made Baylor’s Corey Coleman the first receiver taken by grabbing him at No. 15. Throw in the pass rushers and pass protectors chosen, and you'll come to the realization that every team is trying to either start or stop the passing game.
5. Teams Were Worried About Myles Jack’s Knee
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack seemed to be a lock to land in the top five picks. However, new revelations around a knee injury bumped Jack clear out of the first round. Teams were obviously concerned that the talented former Bruin may one day need microfracture surgery to repair his knee. On Thursday, Jack’s ego may have suffered a severe contusion as teams selected less athletic linebackers and defensive ends in front of him. He should go early in the second round, and play with a serious chip on his shoulder for years.