Well, like yesterday’s newspaper, or that random boy band you listened to for a week in the late-90s, the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone just like that.
The marquee attraction for Falcoholics, of course, was the Falcons stunning the audience with the selection of Alabama WR Calvin Ridley, but a lot more happened that Falcons fans will want to key in on.
Let’s pop on our Brotherhood bifocals and peruse what the other 31 teams did (don’t worry, we’ll get back to Ridley soon enough).
The Cleveland Browns, frownie sandwich bag face extraordinaires, decided to plant the flag down on Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield for the team’s first pick. The former Boomer Sooner is a confident, accurate passer, and has a winning streak to him that Cleveland desperately needs...like...super-desperately. The kids need those sandwich bags for sandwiches, not Dawg Pound tears.
They also made a surprising pickup of Ohio State CB Denzel Ward at pick number four. It’s unsure if Mayfield will start over new Cleveland QB Tyrod Taylor, but the Falcons will see one of those guys when they head up to see the Browns in November.
The Giants didn’t get Eli Manning’s successor. Instead, they got the draft’s best overall player, RB Saquon Barkley, who will give the G-Men a terrifying quartet of Barkley, WR Odell Beckham Jr., TE Evan Engram and WR Sterling Shephard for QB Eli Manning and HC Pat Shurmur. The Falcons will see Barkley and the Giants in the ATL for Monday Night Football this October.
The J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS made their trade up count to land USC QB Sam Darnold, while the Broncos got the draft’s best defensive player in NC State DE Bradley Chubb. The Colts will look to make sure QB Andrew Luck doesn’t die with the selection of mauling guard Quenton Nelson, and the Bills popped up the draft board to nab QB Josh Allen, giving the Bucs two extra second-round picks to play with (grrr, Buffalo).
Kyle Shanahan and his 49ers got Matt Ryan’s cousin, Notre Dame T Mike McGlinchey, at nine, and the Cardinals traded up with Oakland to nab UCLA QB Josh Rosen, who is accused of having a personality. Rosen could be the Cards’ signal caller when the team visits Atlanta in December, giving that game an interesting wrinkle. The Dolphins then landed Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick at pick 11, who Atlanta will see this preseason.
We now come to the potion of the article where we must discuss the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They took the most Mike Smith player available in Washington DT Vita Vea. We all know how much Smitty loves his big, run-stuffing defensive tackles, and Vea is the premiere talent for that skillset in this draft. Paired with Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy, he could give Tampa Bay a nasty interior pairing. But, also keep in mind, the Bucs are determined never to live up to their potential on either side of the ball. So, we’ll see how this one goes. Vea’s a good player.
Washington nabbed DT Da’Ron Payne, the rumored top choice for Atlanta, next, so that ended up not being a thing. Sorry if you got your hopes up for that one. The Birds will see what they missed out on in November.
Then! The New Orleans Saints traded up from 27 to nab...someone. Falcon-y hearts began to sink into their shoes that the pick would be for Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, who the team had been linked to in the process. That would have been a nightmarish pick that gave New Orleans a franchise face waiting for Drew Brees to retire.
But, they didn’t do that! Thank goodness! Instead, they got UTSA DE Marcus Davenport to pair with Cam Jordan and Alex Okafor on their defensive line. It’s a good pick for a need on the team, but parting with pick 27 and their 2019 first rounder is a bit pricey, particularly when there were still good pass rushers available when the team was slated to pick, like Boston College’s Harold Landry. But, hey, we are not complaining to see the Saints make a questionable move, even if it is to acquire a good, if raw, player with a high ceiling.
The Raaaiiddaahhhs took T Kolton Miller at 15, the Bills traded up again to get LB Tremaine Edmunds at 16, and the Chargers came away with a steal at 17 with Florida State S Derwin James. It’s better for Atlanta that James didn’t land in Tampa. The Packers, who had given New Orleans pick 14, then traded up to get CB Jaire Alexander, who had been a supposed possibility for Atlanta. They’ll see what Alexander’s got when the Birds head to Lambeau in December.
The Cowboys, this year’s draft hosts, nabbed Boise St. LB Leighton Vander Esch, who the Falcons will see in November, and then came a #CenterRun, with the Lions opting to get C Frank Ragnow, and the Bengals nabbing C Billy Price (of THE Ohio State University...why is the “the” so important to those guys). Price will try to block Grady Jarrett this September. Good luck with that.
Then, the division rival Carolina Panthers saw Maryland WR D.J. Moore, a big, fast receiver, land in their laps at 24. He will give Cam Newton the true WR1 that offense has needed since Steve Smith left, but thankfully, the Falcons have the secondary to match Moore’s speed. We’ll see if he develops into the kind of headache he’s got the potential to be.
The Ravens got South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst at 25 (who Atlanta will see in December), and then came the Dirty Birds.
DT Taven Bryan was right there for the taking, but the team got their guy in Alabama WR Calvin Ridley. With Ridley, Atlanta replaces Taylor Gabriel with arguably a better player at the offset with a higher ceiling that comes at a cheaper cost. The potential is through the roof with Ridley lining up against Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and should help Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense in the scoring department. He had five touchdowns in his last season with the Crimson Tide.
Plus, he goes back with OC Steve Sarkisian, who was an offensive analyst with Bama for the 2016 season, and was Ridley’s OC for one game, the 2017 National Championship. We’ll talk more later about the grander implications of this move for the offense and Sark, but it feels too big to fail at the moment. If there are struggles with this lineup, they’ll know it ain’t the guys in pads and helmets.
The Seattle Seahawks made the reach of the night next with the selection of RB Rashaad Penny out of San Diego State, followed by the Steelers taking the second member of the Edmunds family taken in the first round, safety Terrell, who Atlanta will meet in October. A big night for that family. And, how great was it to see LB Ryan Shazier up and walking? His announcement of the pick was the best moment of the night, by far.
Taven Bryan landed in Jacksonville to help the team navigate big DL contracts in the years ahead. The Falcons will see him in the preseason, so fans will get an early look at what could’ve been (or if it even needed to be off the bat). The Vikings added CB Mike Hughes to their already-potent secondary, and the Patriots made a second selection with Georgia RB Sony Michel. Like they needed another good offensive weapon. Sheesh.
The first round then concluded with the Ravens swapping picks with the Super Bowl-winning Eagles to take QB Lamar Jackson, ensuring the Falcons won’t have to see him twice a year in the Big Easy. Joe Flacco will be the team’s starter in 2018 sans injury or a strong dip in play, but the team could choose to get Jackson involved in the offense in his first year, so don’t be surprised if Atlanta gets a quick look at him late in the season.
So, that’s how the cookie crumbled Thursday night. The Falcons added a new wrinkle into their offense to ensure 2017’s dip was just a radar’s blip. Will Ridley be the x-factor Atlanta needs to get back to elite status on O? Was the Saints’ big trade up worth it? Will Vita Vea be the DT of Smitty’s wildest dreams? Will Cam finally have someone to throw to that’s not named Greg Olsen?
Well, that’ll all be decided this fall. Until then, we’ll wait to see where the remaining picks take us...