With the draft now in our rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look at how everybody did. Who should be happy right now and who may be feeling worse now than they did before the draft. Individuals and teams are both eligible to be happy or sad, so let’s break this down. Who were the biggest NFL Draft winners and losers in the NFC?
What a wild draft for Philadelphia. During the first round, they traded for one of the best young wide receivers in the league in AJ Brown and didn’t have to pay as much, because his contract was expiring. They then extended him immediately to lock him down. They also had a great draft around that, including two standout picks in Jordan Davis and hopefully Nakobe Dean. The Dean pick is somewhat risky, due to injury concerns, but he was expected to be a first-round pick before those concerns, so if it pays off, that could end up being the pick of the draft.
I know this is basically the same as the Eagles, but at the end of the day, Jalen Hurts is one of the biggest individual winners in the entire league from this entire draft. The Philadelphia quarterback has the composition of a very dangerous QB, with his ability to run and create plays off-script. This season is his opportunity to show that he is capable of putting in reliable work in the passing game too. Adding AJ Brown is a huge win for Hurts, now it’s time to see if he can prove himself.
New York Giants
Their first-round picks alone land them on this list. They could have clicked the autopick button on days two and three, and I would have put them here. Kayvon Thibodeaux was one of the best edge rushers in the draft and Evan Neal is probably the best offensive lineman in the class too. These guys should be two key building blocks for a team who needed just that, a foundation. Getting both will give their franchise a huge boost in the right direction.
The NFC East
This might be apparent already, due to everything you’ve already read, but the NFC East really won in this draft. We’re talking about a division that has been laughed and pointed at for years, as the weakest division in the NFL. Dallas have been getting propped up by beating up their divisional rivals, and on the whole, it felt like since the Eagles declined from their Super Bowl heroics, this division needed a boost. As I outlined above, that is exactly what happened. The Cowboys will no longer be guaranteed double-digit wins. Philadelphia will be right on their heels from day one, with a very real hope to win the division for the first time since 2019.
In our AFC article, I said Skyy Moore was a big winner, having landed in KC. The NFC equivalent player is Christian Watson, who was drafted early in the second round by the Green Bay Packers. The jokes everyone likes to make about how GB refuses to spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver are still accurate, but for all intents and purposes, this was exactly that. They drafted him with the 34th pick, and now he goes to one of the best places a wide receiver could go for the start of his career. You can question how long Aaron Rodgers will be a Packer for, but in the short-term, he will be the man throwing it to Watson, and that’s a win in my book. He’s no Davante Adams, but if he could earn WR1 duties, he’s in for some serious volume.
Sometimes a landing spot just feels perfect. There are situations like with Watson where you just get a good QB and you’re happy, but this is even more than that. Not only did Rachaad White get drafted at least a round earlier than many expected, he was drafted by a perfect team. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took him 91st overall and pair him up with the GOAT. Tom Brady famously loves throwing to his running backs and getting them the ball in open space for short bursts of yardage, to keep it ticking. White is a very capable receiving back – one of the more comfortable RB’s in this whole class – who is more quick than fast. The only single worry I have is about his pass protection capabilities, but that is something that any teammate of TB12 will work hard to improve.
Yeah, I am aware that the Chicago Bears didn’t have much draft capital, but they didn’t draft an offensive lineman – their biggest team need without any doubt – until the fifth round. They got a really nice addition in the second with Kyler Gordon, but I can’t help but think that Justin Fields (the reason they didn’t have a first-round pick) is going to feel the backlash of this draft for a while. From where I stand, once you invest in the QB you hope to be the face of the franchise, you have to invest in protecting him before anything else.
Kenneth Walker (and Rashaad Penny)
Walker was drafted to the Seattle Seahawks, who already have multiple RBs fighting for snaps, and in an offense that will be taking a step back this season. He goes to the same team as Charles Cross, who is a very good offensive lineman, but on the whole he will have to accept that this isn’t a backfield for him to step into and run things. He will have to earn his place atop the pile and hope that the offense can add a long-term QB solution by the time he has secured the role. Rashaad Penny also gets an honorary mention here, as he was the previous rookie RB who has waited years to be atop the depth chart, and now gets more competition.
This is quite a targeted entry here, but the Commanders specifically seemed to make a mistake – or just unusual move – in their first-round trade back. They had the 11th pick in the draft, and the New York Jets took the second wide receiver of the draft, Garrett Wilson. Although Wilson was widely considered to be one of the top two WR’s, there wasn’t a consensus on a defined WR1, with three in the conversation, and two now gone. Therefore, you’d think, if the Commanders wanted a wideout, they could take one and be happy.
Instead, they traded back to 16th overall and immediately saw the Saints, who traded up, and the Lions take wide receivers back to back, leaving them with Jahan Dotson. Dotson is a solid WR prospect, but to give up the ability to take at the very worst their WR2 for a couple of mid-round picks felt unnecessary. It’s possible there was something else they had planned, but from the outside looking in, it looks like they traded back and took a WR when at least a couple of wideouts were destined to disappear before 16.
Some players are electric in small doses, providing a spark for their team. That describes exactly what the Raiders got from Marcus Mariota. He was a catalyst on short-yardage situations, running the zone read and finding a lot of success on third and fourth downs. However, with Matt Ryan heading to Indianapolis, the Atlanta Falcons bought him in and it looked like he’d finally get a second chance to actually try and establish himself as a proper starter. Then they drafted a new QB. I’m not suggesting that Desmond Ridder is the next superstar QB in the league, but it is very likely that the leash will be shorter for Mariota in Atlanta than he would have had if the Falcons didn’t jump into the quarterback pool.
As you may have recognised by now, being a QB in the NFC was a dangerous game during the draft. Another person with some added pressure that they really didn’t need is Sam Darnold. The Panthers feel like his last hope to establish himself, and so seeing them draft a Quarterback can’t make things any easier. Admittedly, they didn’t exactly have to splash out to bring in Matt Corral, but it’s still competition for a player who was already on thin ice as an NFL starter.