Breaking Down Every NFL Team's Draft Tendencies

Justis Mosqueda@justisfootballFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2018

Breaking Down Every NFL Team's Draft Tendencies

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    For the last four months, you have clicked on every link for 2018 mock drafts that you have stumbled across. You can recite the names of every projected top-100 player. What you haven't heard enough about, though, is the tendencies that general managers and teams have on draft day. 

    To address that issue, we went team-by-team, searching for the themes their GMs have shown in previous drafts to figure out what makes these decision-makers tick. For the most part, we focused on the first four rounds, which are more important than the last three.

    Is the team picking two slots ahead of your franchise more likely to take that wideout or cornerback? Will your team have to trade up to nab the guy you wanted when the draft starts Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas? These are the type of questions we hope to answer.

    Outside of just three general managers (Buffalo's Brandon Beane, Green Bay's Brian Gutekunst and Houston's Brian Gaine), every other decision-maker has at least one season under his belt as the man in charge on draft day. 

    We were able to find interesting trends, such as the team that has made one first-round pick in five seasons or the squad that refuses to draft a 5'10" cornerback. Some franchises like misfits. Others like Power Five pedigrees. Nearly every team has a trait that distinguishes it from the rest of the pack.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Steve Keim has been the general manager of the Arizona Cardinals since 2013. Over the years, he has dug deep into college football to make some of his picks. It is impossible to talk about the Cardinals' style of drafting without mentioning the fact that they have selected players out of Grambling State, Harvard, Southeastern Louisiana, Northern Iowa, Delaware State, Murray State and James Madison under Keim.

    They also drafted Haason Reddick, who played at "Group of Five" program Temple, at No. 13 overall in 2017. graded three non-Division 1 players as at least third-round picks. Arizona could be the landing spot for talents such as Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta, South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert and Fort Hays State defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd.

    Keim has also taken chances on players with questions about their character.

    In the third round in 2013, the Cardinals drafted defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from LSU's football team for multiple violations of its substance-abuse policy. They took defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche at No. 29 overall in 2016 after he was suspended for Ole Miss' 2015 bowl game because of a marijuana possession charge. They also selected receiver Chad Williams, who was arrested for simple possession of marijuana and possession of a firearm, in the third round in 2017.

Atlanta Falcons

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    While general manager Thomas Dimitroff has been the Atlanta Falcons GM since 2008, it is worth noting the influence assistant general manager Scott Pioli has had since his addition in 2014. Embracing athletic front seven players is one of the changes the Falcons have undergone with Pioli, formerly the Kansas City Chiefs GM.

    Drafting guys like defensive end Takkarist McKinley, linebacker Deion Jones, defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman (current free agent) and defensive end-linebacker hybrid Vic Beasley is a reflection of Pioli, who selected the likes of Justin Houston with the Chiefs.

    According to Mock Draftable, McKinley's 4.59-second 40-yard dash ranked in the 95th percentile in his class for his position. Jones was in the 81st (4.59 40). Hageman was in the 68th with a 5.02 40-yard dash (98th in the vertical jump and 93rd in the broad jump). And Beasley was in the 98th (4.53 40).

    It seems Pioli has swayed Dimitroff's style of drafting in the top 100. The team's biggest need is defensive tackle next to Grady Jarrett, another ridiculous athlete. With that in mind, interior linemen like Washington's Vita Vea, Michigan's Maurice Hurst and Florida's Taven Bryan could be in strong consideration at the No. 26 pick.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    General manager Ozzie Newsome has been with the Baltimore Ravens organization for every year of its existence. This will be his last ride, though. In February, owner Steve Bisciotti announced that Newsome's longtime right-hand man, Eric DeCosta, will succeed him in 2019 after years of speculation that DeCosta may take a GM job elsewhere.

    If Ozzie wants to go out in traditional form, expect some early trench picks. With him, the team has selected 13 front seven defenders, six offensive linemen, four pass-catchers, three defensive backs, two quarterbacks and one running back in the first two rounds of the draft.

    That's right—19 of the Ravens' 29 first- and second-round selections (65.5 percent) have either been front seven defenders or offensive linemen. That puts a damper on the dream of anyone hoping that a high 2018 pick will be catching balls opposite of wideout Michael Crabtree, who signed with the team in March.

    Defensively, Baltimore is loaded at the line of scrimmage. With recent mid-round picks still working their way off the bench, like pass-rushers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser and defensive linemen Chris Wormley and Carl Davis, it is much more likely that the team focuses on the offensive line at the top of the draft.

    Keep an eye on the likes of Texas' Connor Williams, Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey and Georgia's Isaiah Wynn, who all can contribute as either tackles or guards with Ronnie Stanley, Marshal Yanda and James Hurst already established.        

Buffalo Bills

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    It is hard to make any claim about the Bills' draft trends under their current administration. Beane, formerly the assistant general manager of the Carolina Panthers, didn't join head coach Sean McDermott in Buffalo until after the 2017 draft.

    McDermott was the Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator from 2011 to 2016. If McDermott did have pull on draft day, which would make more sense than outgoing GM Doug Whaley, then tentatively expect the Bills to be idealistic.

    The team's top-100 picks last year were cornerback Tre'Davious White (No. 27), receiver Zay Jones (37) and tackle Dion Dawkins (63). That trio fits nicely in the NFL's current athletic molds.

    White was no lower than the 47th percentile for cornerbacks in height, weight, 40-yard-dash time and three-cone time, according to MockDraftable. Jones was no lower than the 50th percentile for receivers in those categories. Dawkins was in the 59th percentile for weight, the 82nd percentile for 40-yard-dash time and the 96th percentile for his three-cone time among offensive linemen.

    In Year 1 with McDermott, the Bills avoided below-average athletes with their top picks. If there is anything to learn after a single draft, it may be that.

Carolina Panthers

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    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. After running the Carolina Panthers from 2002-12 and serving on an interim basis in 2017, Marty Hurney is once again officially the general manager. The NFL is different than in 2002, as passing games have adapted to rule changes, but there is still a sizable sample of Hurney's tendencies.

    His Panthers teams selected a running back or wide receiver within the first four rounds of every draft, except in 2003 (tight end) and 2011 (quarterback Cam Newton). The Carolina signal-caller has lacked significant skill talent around him for the last few seasons.

    Unfortunately, Hurney has slightly favored running backs in the first two rounds. In such a pass-heavy league, that's less than ideal. Only four of 32 NFL running games, according to Pro Football Reference, added any value to their teams last season.

    For the most part, running hurts offenses, and the NFL continuously votes on the free-agent market—no matter if backs are 24 years old or 32—that every offensive line spot is more valuable than a backfield position, even within the scope of running game contributors.

    Of the nine skill players Hurney has selected in the first two rounds of the draft, five of them (Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, Eric Shelton and Christian McCaffrey) were running backs.

    The receivers he did draft overall—Dwayne Jarrett, Keary Colbert, Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, Joe Adams, Ryne Robinson, Kealoha Pilares, Drew Carter, David Gettis, Walter Young and Curtis Samuel—weren't exactly Pro Bowlers. (Samuel, chosen in 2017, only had 115 receiving yards over nine games last season.)

    Only two of them (Colbert and LaFell) eclipsed 1,000 career yards in Carolina. To put that in perspective, 15 pass-catchers eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2017 alone. Hopefully, a wideout like Maryland's D.J. Moore, SMU's Courtland Sutton or Memphis' Anthony Miller, who should all be in play on the first two days of the draft, could break Hurney's rough stretch of receiver selections.

Chicago Bears

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Ryan Pace's style of drafting, much like the Chicago Bears, lacks an identity.

    Here are the positions the team has selected in the first four rounds since Pace took over in 2015. 

    2017: quarterback, tight end, safety, running back.

    2016: outside linebacker, guard, defensive tackle, inside linebacker, safety cornerback.

    2015: wide receiver, defensive tackle, center, running back.

    The Bears are all over the place.

    Prior to the 2017 draft, Pace typically stayed away from non-Power Five programs. Twelve of Chicago's 15 picks came from Power Five programs in his first two years as GM. Last year, though, the team selected players out of Ashland, North Carolina A&T and Kutztown with three of their five selections.

    Pace does seem to be comfortable with early draft picks. He's made selections at the second (via a trade up from No. 3), seventh and ninth overall slots. With that in mind, it's possible the Bears, who have the eighth overall pick in 2018, are less likely to drop back via a trade than some other teams with top-10 selections.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Mike Brown is the owner and general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals, but it is widely known that director of player personnel Duke Tobin has a significant influence on the draft. And the pair have been cornerback-heavy—in a way, ahead of their time—since 2006.

    The Bengals have drafted five cornerbacks—William Jackson, Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph—in the first round since then. During this stretch, the team also signed 2005 first-round cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones (current free agent), who made the 2015 Pro Bowl with the team.

    Cincinnati clearly likes to be three or four cornerbacks deep, though it lets its players at the position walk fairly often. When a team values cornerback play but doesn't want to pay a bundle, it has to draft them almost before it needs them to start games.

    While Jackson has two more seasons on his rookie contract plus a potential fifth-year option, Dennard is in a contract season, and the team could save nearly $7 million in cap space by releasing Kirkpatrick next year. It could move on from who would be its two most expensive cornerbacks in 2019.

    The Bengals' emphasis on cornerback play is unique but clear. For that reason, they could nab a defensive back early in the draft.

Cleveland Browns

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    General manager John Dorsey was best known as Kansas City's GM from 2013-16 before coming to the Cleveland Browns in 2017. In KC, Dorsey was willing to take a risk on talented players with questions about their character or motivation.

    In 2015, he used a first-round pick on cornerback Marcus Peters, who was dismissed from the University of Washington following run-ins with the coaching staff. He made Pro Bowls in the first two seasons of his NFL career. 

    In Week 13 last season, Peters briefly left the game, thinking he was ejected after throwing a penalty flag in the stands. The Chiefs suspended him for Week 14's contest against the Oakland Raiders, and this offseason, they traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 second-rounder.

    Dorsey also drafted Tyreek Hill, who was dismissed from Oklahoma State after he was arrested for assaulting his then-pregnant girlfriend. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation in August 2015.

    2016 second-rounder Chris Jones had questions from a motivational standpoint. His scouting reports frequently asked why he wasn't on the field for many of Mississippi State's defensive snaps and why he seemingly took off so many plays. In terms of pure talent, though, he was rare.

    Dorsey may have overpaid his veteran defenders in Kansas City, but his brand in the draft was raw talent over everything.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Over the last four drafts, the Dallas Cowboys have spent at least two of their first three picks on defensive players. They've spent nine of those 12 selections on defenders: Demarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton, Maliek Collins, Jaylon Smith and defensive backs Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.

    For the most part, the only young, significant defenders for the Cowboys have come from these picks.

    While the team has to address the receiver position, outside of that, Dallas needs the most help on the defensive end of the ball. With offensive pieces like quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and offensive linemen Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin returning, it's hard to claim that the offense needs a boost in talent anywhere but wideout. Look for owner-general manager Jerry Jones to sign off on a couple more impact defenders on Days 1 and 2.

Denver Broncos

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Since John Elway was named the director of player personnel in 2011 (officially became GM in 2013), we have seen him spend plenty of high draft picks on prospects from mid-major competition.

    In the first three rounds alone, Elway's Broncos have drafted players from Memphis (Paxton Lynch), Cincinnati (Derek Wolfe), Colorado State (Ty Sambrailo), San Diego State (Ronnie Hillman), Louisiana Tech (Carlos Henderson), South Florida (Kayvon Webster) and even the FCS' Lamar (Brendan Langley).

    Elway and his staff are clearly comfortable selecting players from Group of Five conferences. On Day 3 of the draft, they have chosen picks from Western Kentucky, Nevada, Boise State, Miami (Ohio), Tulane, Portland State and Coastal Carolina.

    In regard to Denver's top needs, there are names to highlight. Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen comes from the Mountain West Conference, where four of Elway's draft picks have hailed from. UTEP guard Will Hernandez and Nevada guard Austin Corbett are also mid-major prospects at positions of need. Hernandez's college coach, Sean Kugler, joined the Broncos as their offensive line coach in January.

Detroit Lions

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    We are only two years into Bob Quinn's reign as general manager in Detroit, so it's hard to make too much out of six top-100 picks. With that being said, there is a trend.

    In 2016, All-American defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson of Alabama fell to the second round of the draft after a lackluster combine. In 2017, two-time All-SEC cornerback Teez Tabor of Florida fell to the second round of the draft after a poor combine. They both had their names called by Quinn.

    Maybe Quinn is the type of general manager to target players who were thought of as first-round picks if they fall because of athletic testing. If he is, there are two candidates to highlight in this draft class: Oklahoma offensive lineman Orlando Brown and Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. Both fit the better-player-than-athlete model and were named on All-American lists before less-than-stellar weeks in Indianapolis.

Green Bay Packers

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    After more than a decade running the Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson was replaced by Brian Gutekunst, a first-year general manager who was an in-house hire.

    There's no promise that Gutekunst will follow the strict athletic trends Thompson did in Green Bay. If he does, though, it will be apparent in which cornerbacks the Packers target in the draft. Thompson stayed away from cornerbacks 5'10½" or shorter, and Louisville's Jaire Alexander, UCF's Mike Hughes and LSU's Donte Jackson didn't measure taller than that at this year's combine.

    That limits the Packers' early cornerback board to just a few names: Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ohio State's Denzel Ward and Iowa's Josh Jackson. Green Bay is picking in the 14th slot with just the 35-year-old Tramon Williams as an above-average starter on the roster, which could lead to some issues. If the Gutekunst Packers move away from their anti-short cornerback philosophy, the draft board could open up.

Houston Texans

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Brian Gaine has replaced Rick Smith as the general manager of the Houston Texans for at least this year. Smith is the executive vice president after spending 2006 through 2017 as the Texans' general manager.

    Gaine came from Buffalo, where he was the vice president of player personnel in 2017, but he spent 2014 through 2016 in Houston as the director of pro or player personnel under Smith. In those three draft classes, the Texans selected 10 players in the first three rounds.

    Every single one of them came from a Power Five program or Notre Dame. Three were formerly of the Fighting Irish (receiver Will Fuller V, center Nick Martin and defensive lineman Louis Nix). The Texans do not have a draft pick in the first two rounds, but they do own three picks (68th, 80th and 99th) in the third and fourth rounds. Noting if those selections are used on players from Power Five programs will be crucial for projecting Gaine's draft picks moving forward.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has only one draft under his belt, making it hard to draw conclusions. His first three picks were all defenders, which might be a trend or an anomaly. He drafted players out of Ohio State, Florida and Ohio, which might be a trend or an anomaly. He drafted two defensive backs with fairly sizable question marks (Malik Hooker, who had injury concerns, and Quincy Wilson, who had a poor combine), which might be a trend or an anomaly.

    The Colts own one first-round pick and three second-round picks, which should give us more data points to draw from for the next draft cycle.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    While David Caldwell has been the general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars since 2013, it's impossible to miss the influence former Jaguars and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin had on the team in his first year back in Duval County. The franchise poured money into premier positions on the defensive side of the ball and embraced a run-heavy style on offense.

    Still, in terms of the draft alone, the Jaguars followed course under Caldwell. They've always been a bit of a wild card, a team that has drafted players at positions that others have passed on. Running back Leonard Fournette, off-ball linebacker Myles Jack and running back T.J. Yeldon were all picked by Caldwell in the first two rounds, proving that no position is off limits. Even the selection of quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in 2014 was a surprise to most.

    The Jaguars are consistent in the geography of their draft picks. In Caldwell's five years with the team, he has selected 11 players in the first two rounds. Eight have been from programs in Gulf Coast states. That's disproportionally high, even with the influence that the SEC has on the draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    After letting John Dorsey go, the Kansas City Chiefs named Brett Veach, who was with head coach Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles, general manager. With no draft class under his belt, it is hard to determine his plan of action.

    If there is one thing that defines Veach when juxtaposed to Dorsey, it's the lack of commitment to the team's expiring contracts. Dorsey overpaid defensive veterans, which made for salary cap obstacles and kept fading players on the field. On the flip side, Veach has already traded veteran quarterback Alex Smith and three-year starting cornerback Marcus Peters.

    Dorsey's approach to veterans was to wait until their deals expired and re-sign them to large contracts. Veach seems to be getting ahead of such deals by flipping players to other teams while they still have value. How will this rookie contract-heavy approach manifest itself on draft day? Maybe Veach will target younger players, the 21- and 22-year-olds, instead of those turning 24 between now and the beginning of the season. Maybe he'll turn more veterans into draft picks. With the team's first pick at No. 54, there's certainly room to move up.

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Since Tom Telesco took over the Los Angeles Chargers in 2013, he has built an island of misfit toys. Seemingly every top-100 pick he has made has had one fatal flaw.

    In 2017, he selected Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp and Indiana offensive lineman Dany Feeney. Williams didn't run the 40-yard dash at the combine and clocked just 4.54 seconds at his pro day. Lamp, a 6'4" tackle in college, was projected to move to guard. Feeney missed six weeks with a concussion as a senior.

    In 2016, he selected Ohio State pass-rusher Joey Bosa, Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry and USC center Max Tuerk. Bosa ran a 4.86 40 at the combine. Many criticize drafting tight ends in general because they typically don't make immediate impacts. Tuerk missed his final season with the Trojans with a knee injury and didn't test at the combine or USC's pro day.

    In 2014 and 2015, he selected a 5'10" cornerback (Jason Verrett) and running back (Melvin Gordon) in the first rounds. In 2013, he selected California wide receiver Keenan Allen, whose combine urine test was flagged, with the 76th overall pick.

    The Chargers want football players, with just about every background imaginable, and they're open for business.

Los Angeles Rams

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The thing you can never accuse Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead of is not targeting offensive skill players. In his six drafts with the Rams, the team has picked 14 offensive skill players in the first four rounds.

    Half of those have been wide receivers (Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Pharoh Cooper, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds), and two more were tight ends (Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee). So, the Rams have spent nine picks on pass-catchers over the last six years. The average team has spent about three.

    After acquiring Brandin Cooks and Marcus Peters, the Rams have just two draft picks in the first five rounds. Don't be floored if they keep going to the well, even if they have just a few chances to do so.

Miami Dolphins

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    Rich Barnes/Associated Press

    Do you want chalk? Mike Tannenbaum will give you chalk. In three drafts, he's spent all 10 of his picks in the first four rounds on players from Power Five conferences. In total, he's spent 19 of 22 picks on players from Power Five conferences.

    The three exceptions? They came from a 12-2 Western Kentucky team, a 12-2 Boise State team and a 10-3 Memphis team. From what we have to gather, Tannenbaum isn't exactly digging deep into college football to find gems. If you're not from a major conference or didn't win 10 games in a mid-major conference, you don't exist to him.

    In 2014, the year before Tannenbaum joined the Dolphins as executive vice president of football operations, Miami picked players from North Dakota State, Liberty, Montana, Coastal Carolina and Marist. Work under the assumption that Tannenbaum drafts players from recognizable programs.

    The other note that stands out about Tannenbaum's drafts is that he's only made four picks in the first four rounds once in three years. This season, he owns five picks in the first four rounds. Miami's a sneaky trade-up candidate.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Rick Spielman loves athletic box defenders. They litter his depth chart. At defensive end, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, all third- or fourth-round picks, were amazing athletes coming out of college. The same could be said of off-ball linebackers Anthony Barr (first round), who was a running back and converted to pass-rusher at UCLA, and Eric Kendricks (second round).

    Recent under tackle signee Sheldon Richardson also falls under the "super athlete" umbrella. The type of athletes Spielman targets is clear, but who is staying is a mystery. Robison and Griffen are on the wrong side of 30, and Hunter, Barr and Richardson should sign long-term contracts in the near future as well as wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Something has to give.

    The Minnesota Vikings can get a leg up on future needs with this draft class. There are few positions as valuable as box defender in today's nickel-heavy NFL, which could lead Minnesota to take a shot at one as early as the first round.

    Boston College's Harold Landry and Rutgers' Kemoko Turay are hyper-athletic pass-rushers who could play with their hands in the dirt or as off-ball linebackers, peppering the A-gap from time-to-time. Those are the players Vikings fans should highlight before draft day.

New England Patriots

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    There's something suspect about Bill Belichick owning four draft picks in the first two rounds of the draft, including two first-rounders.

    In the last five seasons combined, he's made a total of two first-round picks. In a draft where many believe the first tier of talent will be off the board before the Patriots' first pick (23rd), New England owns as many first-round picks as it's turned in over the last five seasons.

    Over those five drafts, the team has turned its 15 top-100 picks into two (Malcom Brown and Joe Thuney) current Patriots starters. New England made a franchise-low four picks last season, including none in the first two rounds.

    The Patriots have largely shied away from rookies over the last few years, so why would they change their philosophy this time around?

    Is this an opportunity for Belichick to package a few of his eight picks to move up for a quarterback? After the trades of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, both of whom were top-100 picks and were later moved during their rookie deals, it would make sense.

    Is this an opportunity for Belichick to move rookie deals for veterans, perhaps such as New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., as he coaches through his mid-60s? It isn't out of the question.

    It wouldn't make sense for Belichick to use as many first-round picks in one draft class as he's used in the previous five combined, especially with eight draft picks in his pocket just one year removed from turning in only four cards. He's either changing the game on us again, or he has something up his sleeve.

New Orleans Saints

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Since 2006, New Orleans Saints general manage Mickey Loomis has hit the small-school market harder than just about anyone.

    Over the last 12 drafts, the Loomis-led Saints have used third-round picks on players from Akron, Kent State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Colorado State and Florida Atlantic. In the fourth round, he plucked prospects from Towson, Bloomsburg and Canada's Manitoba. In the fifth round, he grabbed guys from Wingate, SMU, Samford and Tennessee-Chattanooga.

    Over the years, that small-school and mid-major approach has rewarded the Saints with talents like guard Jahri Evans (the top-ranked New Orleans draft pick in approximate value since 2006), wide receiver Marques Colston (second), tackle Jermon Bushrod (fourth) and current starting left tackle Terron Armstead.

    Once the third round comes around, you never know where New Orleans' draft selection will come from. The Saints are better at identifying small-school gems than just about anyone.

New York Giants

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Old-school is the perfect way to describe New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman. His draft history in the first four rounds for the Carolina Panthers from 2013 through 2017 is a reflection of that.

    He spent five of those picks on defenders on the line of scrimmage, four on offensive linemen, three on wide receivers (two with questions about their speed), two on cornerbacks (one of whom ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash) and four on positions (4-3 outside linebacker, running back, tight end and safety) that are generally not valued on the open market.

    Did Gettleman give Kareem Martin, a pass-rusher who had 3.5 sacks over his four years in the NFL, a three-year, $15 million contract this offseason? Indeed. Did he make Nate Solder, an offensive tackle who has never made the Pro Bowl and had retirement rumors swirling, the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman on a per-year basis? Uh-huh.

    Gettleman isn't going to follow what the analytics tell him to do. Last year, he drafted a running back with the eighth overall pick.

    Could he do it again by selecting Penn State's Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick? What's to stop him?

    Right or wrong, he's likely going to build his team with trench play and an emphasis on the run while not valuing top-end athleticism on the perimeter like most in the NFL do.

New York Jets

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Mike Maccagnan-led New York Jets have been risk-takers. 

    Last year, the team spent its two top-40 selections on safeties, a position that's fairly low in terms of relative importance. The first of those two, Jamal Adams, came off the board sixth overall.

    In 2016, the Jets spent a first-round pick Darron Lee, a 232-pound inside linebacker who often played outside of the box as an overhang defender. They also spent a second-round pick on Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who had a career 48-31 touchdown-interception ratio and averaged 6.8 yards per attempt. Two years into his NFL career, Hackenberg has yet a pass in a regular-season game.

    In 2015, the team used a second-round pick on Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith, who failed to record a 1,000-yard season in his four years with the Buckeyes. Through his first three NFL seasons, Smith has recorded 135 receiving yards.

    The one "safe" pick the Jets made high in the draft over the last three years is defensive lineman Leonard Williams, a 2016 Pro Bowler.

    In total, two of Maccagnan's first- or second-round picks have clearly panned out (Williams and Adams), with another (Marcus Maye) still pending. Will his unique style of drafting continue? If you believe the rumors, the team could target 6'1" quarterback Baker Mayfield with the third overall pick, their only pick in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft.

Oakland Raiders

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Between Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano (as a 12-game interim head coach), Jack Del Rio and Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is now working with his fourth head coach. The question now is whether he or Gruden, who just signed a 10-year, $100 million contract, is calling the shots for the Raiders. 

    Throughout McKenzie's reign in Oakland, the team has drafted 13 defenders, five offensive linemen, three quarterbacks and just two other offensive skill players in the first four rounds. For the most part, McKenzie is following what the numbers would tell a general manager to do: Invest high picks on defenders who disrupt the quarterback, pass blockers who protect the quarterback and the quarterback himself.

    That could change under Gruden, as the Raiders have already signed a 32-year-old wide receiver in Jordy Nelson and a 29-year-old running back in Doug Martin this offseason.

    When McKenzie took over the job, Oakland was in cap hell and had few draft picks. The Raiders had to completely build themselves back up, and McKenzie had to find foundational pieces to keep his job.

    With 10 years of job security and the foundation already set, Gruden can now spend some time picking out shiny new toys.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles executive vice president Howie Roseman helped to assemble a team full of underdogs that won the Super Bowl this past season.

    Since taking back over in the post-Chip Kelly era, here are some of the picks Roseman has made in the first four rounds of the draft:

    • Carson Wentz, a first-round quarterback from an FCS school (North Dakota State).
    • Derek Barnett, a first-round pass-rusher who ran a 4.88-second 40-yard dash.
    • Sidney Jones, a second-round cornerback who suffered an Achilles injury during the predraft process.
    • Isaac Seumalo, a third-round offensive lineman who missed a year due to a foot injury in between bouncing around positions in college.
    • Mack Hollins, a fourth-round wide receiver who finished with 309 receiving yards in his senior season and never eclipsed 750 yards of offense during a season in college.
    • Donnel Pumphrey, a fourth-round running back who weighed in at 176 pounds at the combine.

    Roseman is fine being bold with his draft picks. None of those players started during the team's Super Bowl victory, but it's hard to imagine Roseman would abandon ship on his philosophy after being rewarded with a championship.

    Expect him to continue to target prospects with obvious question marks at a discount.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Philosophically, Kevin Colbert's Pittsburgh Steelers have had one of the biggest turnarounds in recent history. Not too long ago, they took anti-athlete pass-rusher Jarvis Jones in the first round. After Jones failed to adapt to the NFL, the team has since embraced athleticism in box defenders.

    Pittsburgh has taken Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Kentucky pass-rusher Bud Dupree, South Carolina State defensive lineman Javon Hargrave and Wisconsin pass-rusher T.J. Watt in the Top 100. Shazier's 40-yard dash ranks in the 99th percentile among off-the-ball linebackers. Dupree's time is in the 96th percentile among pass-rushers. Hargrave's time is in the 87th percentile among interior defensive linemen. Watt's time is in the 82nd percentile among pass-rushers.

    This is clearly backlash from the failure of the Jones pick. In four years in Pittsburgh, he recorded just six sacks combined. The Steelers elected to decline his fifth-year option, ending his rookie deal after the 2016 season. He didn't play a single snap last season and is currently not on a team.

    Jones' failure ushered in a pro-athlete wave on defense for Pittsburgh. Expect the memory of the former Georgia pass-rusher to linger around the team this weekend. Pass-rushers like Boston College's Harold Landry, Florida State's Josh Sweat, Rutgers' Kemoko Turay and Georgia's Lorenzo Carter could be headed to Steel City.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch's first draft had a little bit of everything. First-round pass-rusher Solomon Thomas was a major athlete and a major projection. First-round linebacker Reuben Foster was proven on the field but not off of it.

    Third-round cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon put up massive production for a Colorado defense that was elite in his final season. Third-round quarterback C.J. Beathard had awful passing stats at Iowa even when compared to Day 3 quarterbacks. Fourth-round running back Joe Williams actually quit football at Utah for a stint. Meanwhile, 5'8" fifth-round slot receiver Trent Taylor from Louisiana Tech could be the team's most influential draft pick from the class this season.

    Everything seems a little chaotic without a common thread. When you read Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who was embedded with the 49ers staff during the draft, that fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants style of running a football team comes across. With four top-75 picks, even after trading for franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, we'll see if San Francisco has a more concrete draft strategy this season.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Much like Bill Belichick, Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider has also been allergic to first-round picks recently. He's only turned in one card on the first day of the draft over the last five seasons. Despite taking over the team in 2010, he's only made five first-round picks, with four of them (Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, James Carpenter and Germain Ifedi) being line-of-scrimmage players.

    In total, nine of Schneider's 14 picks in the first two rounds of the draft have featured players along the line, including second-round picks Malik McDowell, Jarran Reed, Ethan Pocic, Frank Clark and Justin Britt. Simply put, he believes in building up the trenches when it's time to make a selection.

    While most people realize the team has built itself around long cornerbacks, few probably knew the team is keen on lighter-than-average receivers. Both Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett hover around the 180-pound range, a very slight frame for an NFL player at any position. This makes Seattle a highlighted landing spot for a player like Texas Tech wide receiver Keke Coutee, a 5'10", 181-pounder who ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the combine and posted 1,429 receiving yards with the Red Raiders in 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Under general manager Jason Licht, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have taken nine offensive players in the Top 100 and just three defensive players in the top 100 since 2014. That is about as big of an offensive-defensive split as there is in the league. (These numbers also don't include kicker Roberto Aguayo.)

    With just two top-100 picks in 2018, one has to wonder if the team finally shifts to a defense-first emphasis in the draft. In a deep running back class, though, the Buccaneers could easily find themselves taking offense early.

    Imagine a scenario where a quarterback rush pushes Penn State running back Saquon Barkley to the seventh overall pick, which Tampa owns. With a running back depth chart of just Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber, as Charles Sims is still a free agent, it would be hard for the Bucs to pass up. In the second round, Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb and Ronald Jones II could be right up their alley as early-impact players.

Tennessee Titans

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    With only two years on the job, there isn't too much that we can make out of Jon Robinson's tenure as the Tennessee Titans general manager. Is it noteworthy that all four of his top-40 draft picks play positions that primarily influence the passing game? Yes. Does the fact that his first four draft picks included three pass-catchers and a defensive back last year make that a stronger trend? Another yes.

    Other than thinking that passing games win you football games, which should be the consensus by now, the main trait of Robinson's Titans over the last two years in the draft has been how small-school-heavy they've been. In just two weekends, he's taken players from Western Michigan, Western Kentucky, Florida International, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Villanova, Middle Tennessee State, Massachusetts, Southern Utah and Southern Miss. Robinson is the anti-Mike Tannenbaum.

    Five of those non-Power Five draft picks, receiver Corey Davis, receiver Taywan Taylor, tight end Jonnu Smith, safety Kevin Byard and cornerback LeShaun Sims, started games for the Titans last season. Robinson digs deep for these prospects coming out of mid-major and FCS conferences. It will be interesting to note if the trend continues under new head coach Mike Vrabel.

    Some mid-round mid-major and small-school prospects to keep an eye on are Tulane pass-rusher Ade Aruna, Delaware defensive lineman Bilal Nichols and UCF off-ball linebacker Shaquem Griffin. Day 3 is when Robinson plucks players out of programs that College GameDay doesn't visit.

Washington Redskins

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    With Scot McCloughan officially out of the picture, the Washington Redskins are Bruce Allen's team. Or at least as much Allen's as owner Dan Snyder will ever allow.

    In Allen's first draft since McCloughan was removed as general manager, the team selected six players from major programs in the first five rounds. The first two players off the board, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and pass-rusher Ryan Anderson, both hailed from powerhouse University of Alabama and had some concerns about their on-paper athleticism.

    According to John Keim of ESPN, the Redskins organization voted as group on picks during the last draft, while Allen had control of trades. So even with "one draft" under his belt, he wasn't calling the shots last April. It's impossible to make anything out of a half-year of Allen's return as the top decision-maker in Washington.


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