PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With 253 selections over three days, and a couple hundred thousand people on hand, the NFL draft seems as complex an operation as exists.
Don’t believe it, at least not for the teams. All the hard work had been done in the previous months. This weekend, the objective was very simple: improve.
Filling holes while building a foundation is essential. Here’s how some teams attempted to do that, along with some that had folks scratching their heads.
CINCINNATI — The Bengals took a familiar route when they took Joe Mixon. The skill level of the Oklahoma running back isn’t questioned. But his off-field issues caused an immediate and nasty backlash in Cincinnati. Not that Bengals owner Mike Brown ever cares, given the history his team has with reclamation projects.
Cincy desperately needed wideouts who can stretch the defense, and it got two in Washington’s John Ross — he of the 4.2 40 at the scouting combine — and Tennessee’s Josh Malone.
CLEVELAND — So much of the attention has been on Cleveland’s recent drafting failures, particularly at quarterback. What the Browns set out to do with a slew of picks was bring in fresh talent that, down the road, can carry them back to respectability.
We won’t know for years if they did so, but with Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett to kick it off, followed by Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers and Miami tight end David Njoku in the opening round alone, that talent base has increased.
Of course, there are questions attached to all three of those, particularly Peppers, who must prove he can be a full-time safety in the pros after moving around for the Wolverines. And second-rounder DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame is as inconsistent a quarterback as you’ll find.
PITTSBURGH — Although they might have reached on J.J. Watt’s younger brother, linebacker T.J. of Wisconsin, and on Southern California receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with their first two picks, the Steelers deserve kudos for what they did in the third round. Their selection of RB James Conner of Pitt, who came back from cancer to play for the Panthers, was inspirational — and wise. No one will bring more to an NFL franchise this year than Conner.