May 02, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
Some thoughts on the 2016 NFL Draft
I have been involved in some way with the NFL Draft since 1981. That said, the 2016 NFL Draft was one of the strangest drafts I have ever witnessed. A month ago no one would have thought that quarterbacks would go first and second. Up until the Tennessee Titans traded away the number one pick to the Los Angeles Rams on April 14th, Laremy Tunsil the big tackle from Ole Miss was looked at as the likely first pick in the draft. The following week the Philadelphia Eagles traded up from the number 8 slot for the second overall pick. Those two trades assured us that for the second consecutive year quarterbacks would be selected with the first two picks and Tunsil was basically out of luck. Now the question was “when will Tunsil get selected”? At first, many thought that San Diego with a need on the offensive line would be the team to select him. Then a few days before the draft, word got out that if San Diego did draft a tackle, it would be Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley. With it pretty much a certainty that both Dallas and Jacksonville would pass on drafting a tackle that meant the earliest Tunsil could go was the sixth pick to Baltimore. Now, fast forward to the night of the Draft. About 15 minutes before the start of the Draft, someone hacked Tunsil’s twitter account and posted a video of Tunsil with a gas mask and a bong smoking marijuana. In all the years I have been involved with the draft, I have never seen anything like this. A damaging social media post cost a player at least $7 million dollars! Granted it was Tunsil in the video, but it was also obvious that the video was made a few years earlier as Tunsil looked much younger. Still, NFL clubs had to immediately make a decision and for many it was “pass” and Tunsil kept dropping. The Miami Dolphins finally took a chance at number 13 and made Tunsil their first round selection. Getting one of the premier members of this class at 13 is a steal though the pick does come with some risk. This was the first time that social media had an influence on where a player got drafted. Something tells me it won’t be the last! Jacksonville Jaguars The Jaguars are in a must win situation in 2016 and in order to do that, the defense has to show improvement. Part of that improvement will come with last year’s first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. stepping on the field. Fowler suffered a knee injury before training camp even started and missed the season. His presence will give the Jags a gifted edge pass rusher. In free agency, Jacksonville added former Denver Bronco Malik Jackson who will give the Jags another top pass rusher. In the draft, Jacksonville concentrated on defense as well with their first pick being Florida corner Jalen Ramsey. In the second round they chose UCLA linebacker Myles Jack who until it was revealed that he had an arthritic knee condition was thought to be a top three selection. In the third and fourth round, the Jaguars selected edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue from Maryland and explosive 3-technique Sheldon Day from Notre Dame. In the sixth round Jacksonville selected Montana edge rusher Tyrone Holmes who ran in the mid 4.6’s on his pro day. The common denominator for the Jacksonville draft was speed and athleticism. With the players they acquired, the defense became much faster. This could turn out to be a great draft for Jacksonville. Tennessee Titans When a club has a rookie General Manager running his first draft there are always questions as to how good their draft will be. In the case of new General Manager Jon Robinson, he scores an A for what he achieved. The first thing Robinson did was trade the first pick in the draft to the Los Angeles Rams for a number of picks both this year and in 2017. The he made the most of those picks. Loaded with enough ammunition to move around in the draft, Robinson traded up from the 15 slot to number 8 in order to draft Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin. That took care of the offensive tackle need the Titans had. In the second round, Robinson had three picks and made the most of them. With the first two he selected Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd who can play the 5 or outside linebacker. Next he took big Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson who can play on the nose or defensive end. He closed out the round by selecting Alabama running back Derrick Henry who could be the second coming of former Titan great Eddie George. You could argue that both Dodd and Henry were first round caliber talents. After the second round, Robinson loaded up with players to add depth to a roster that needed turnover. Many will argue that Middle Tennessee safety Kevin Byard selected in the third round will compete for a starting spot and even win it. Tennessee is well on their way to staying out of the AFC South basement. Dallas Cowboys Leading up to the Draft, there was a lot of speculation as to where Notre Dame Linebacker Jaylon Smith would be drafted. As you all know, Smith suffered a severe knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Smith tore his ACL and LCL ligaments as well as suffer nerve damage. While the ligament injuries are healing nicely, there is still nerve dame that is causing a drop foot condition. At the Scouting Combine medical re-checks in mid – April it was said that the nerve dame had not shown much noticeable improvement since the Scouting Combine ended in late February. Because of this, it became almost impossible to predict when Smith would be drafted. Most if not all the NFL teams are in agreement that there is no way Smith will be able to play this season. Being that there is nerve damage there is also no telling as to when if ever Smith will be able to resume playing football. Some analysts felt Smith would be drafted in the third round, while others felt he would not get selected until Day 3 of the Draft. The advantage that the Dallas Cowboys had in the matter concerning Smith is their Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Dan Cooper performed the surgery. No one knows Smith’s knee and prognosis better than Dr. Cooper. With that knowledge in hand, the Cowboys selected Smith in the second round knowing full well that he probably won’t be able to pay in 2016. While a question mark remains as to when/if Smith is able to play, if the Cowboys get a player even close to the Jaylon Smith we saw the last three years at Notre Dame, they got the steal of the Draft.