Sim­ple ob­jec­tive: im­prove

The ins and outs of how some teams han­dled 2017 NFL draft

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

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.

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.

CINCINNATI - The Browns’ in-state ri­val 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 de­fence, and it got two in Wash­ing­ton’s John Ross — he of the 4.2 40 at the scout­ing com­bine — and Ten­nessee’s Josh Malone.

CAROLINA - To get back to Su­per Bowl con­tention af­ter their 2016 flop, the Panthers had to find a way to take the hefty bur­den off Cam New­ton. With do-ev­ery­thing weapons Chris­tian McCaf­frey of Stan­ford and Cur­tis Sa­muel of Ohio State, then guard Tay­lor Mo­ton of Western Michi­gan, they

prob­a­bly got him some help.

NEW OR­LEANS - For pure col­lege tal­ent, no team bol­stered it­self like the Saints. Sure, they had lots of needs, but con­sider that they added per­haps the best corner­back and of­fen­sive line­man in this crop with Marshon Lat­ti­more of Ohio State and Ryan Ram­czyk of Wis­con­sin. Two of their third-rounders, RB Alvin Ka­mara of Ten­nessee and LB Alex An­za­lone of Florida, also bring ter­rific ath­leti­cism to a club that has had three straight los­ing records with Drew Brees at quar­ter­back.

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.

PHILADEL­PHIA - The city (and the league) were thrilled by the turnout, adding count­less mil­lions of dol­lars to their cof­fers. As for the Ea­gles, they stayed away from any head­line picks and wound up with play­ers who should be very use­ful for a while. Top pick Derek Bar­nett of Ten­nessee might be the best pure pass rusher in this group. Sec­ond pick Sid­ney Jones would have gone in the open­ing round had he not torn his Achilles ten­don at his pro day, so pa­tience is needed with him. Corner­back Ra­sul Dou­glas of West Vir­ginia, wide­out Mark Hollins of North Carolina and NCAA record-set­ting RB Don­nel Pumphrey of San Diego State fit the schemes well.

Oh yeah, for­mer Ea­gles star safety Brian Dawkins did a

pretty fine ren­di­tion of “Fly Ea­gles Fly” on Satur­day.

CHICAGO - As for the head scratch­ers, the Bears take the prize. They so cov­eted North Carolina QB Mitchell Tru­bisky — he of the 13 ca­reer starts, although im­pres­sive ones — that they spent lav­ishly to move up one spot from third to sec­ond over­all for him. That move came in part be­cause GM Ryan Pace felt other teams were des­per­ate to get up to the sec­ond spot. Some say he pan­icked.

San Fran­cisco took in that haul, then got the guy it wanted any­way at No. 3, Stan­ford DE Solomon Thomas.

Chicago also took Adam Shee­han, a 6-foot-6, 278-pound tight end from Di­vi­sion II Ash­land in the sec­ond round. He cer­tainly is a phys­i­cal spec­i­men, but what a chal­lenge mov­ing up in class he faces. The Bears also took two other small col­lege guys in the first five rounds.

AP PHOTO

Cleve­land Browns’ Myles Gar­rett poses for a photo dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the NFL team’s train­ing fa­cil­ity on Fri­day in Berea, Ohio.

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