Figuring out who won or lost in an NFL draft takes years, not hours. Finding trends is a whole lot easier.
Some were obvious, such as the love given Ohio State, and the disdain for 2015 bowl teams Tennessee, Duke and North Carolina.
The desire to find quarterbacks lasted from the first two picks through No. 223. The search for running backs was virtually an afterthought for three rounds, with only four going in the first 100.
A look at what NFL teams were thinking and doing in the 253-pick marathon.
BAGGING BUCKEYES: More than one observer has been asking how Ohio State didn’t win the 2015 Big Ten title, let alone another national championship, after having 12 players selected.
The Chargers, Saints and Bills were most enamored of coach Urban Meyer’s team with two selections each. The Giants, Jets, Cowboys, Lions, Texans and Seahawks each took one. Five Buckeyes went in the opening round.
Saints coach Sean Payton is friends with Meyer, which certainly didn’t hurt as New Orleans considered and then took safety Vonn Bell and receiver Michael Thomas in the second round.
“He and I have been friends for a long time,” Payton said. “I think it matters some.”
Meyer, who worked portions of the draft for NFL Network, was beaming every time one of his players was chosen. And the first of those guys, defensive end Joey Bosa, paid tribute to the coach for paving the way to the NFL.
“The day you walk in on campus at Ohio State he expects you to have that goal to one day play at the next level and play in the NFL,” said Bosa, who went to San Diego with the third overall pick. “That’s what he strives to help you do. Him and everybody on that staff, he brings in only the best who want to see you succeed and who really care about you and care about your success.”
WINNING BREEDS WINNING: Rex Ryan could have been speaking for 31 other coaches when he noted how significant success on the college level is in the draft process.
“I think we have a lot of winners in our locker room, there’s no question,” the Bills coach said. “And when you bring these guys in, it only adds to that. They’re used to winning, we expect to win, we want to win desperately, and these guys are coming in and knowing what it takes, albeit in the college level. But it still says something when you’ve got the last two national championship programs and this year’s (Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama). It tells you that, yeah, it’s important. And when you’re a member and playing with the best team in the country, that says something.”
Buffalo’s first four picks were from Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State. The Bills had six Florida State players on the roster entering the 2015 season.
The philosophy of concentrating on winning college programs stems from recruitment. The schools grabbing the most four- and five-star high schoolers are the ones who produce the most and highest draft picks. We’re talking the Ohio States, Alabamas, Clemsons and Florida States of the world.
QB SEARCH: Consider that the top two overall selections were Jared Goff of California and Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. Quarterbacks.
Now consider that last year, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went 1-2. Quarterbacks.
The huge difference is that Winston and Mariota widely were viewed as can’t-miss prospects. Goff and Wentz probably wouldn’t have gone in the top half of the first round in 2015, even though both are solid players with big upsides.
Finding a franchise quarterback has become paramount for NFL clubs, so much so that the Rams and Eagles mortgaged much of their draft stock to get to the top of this grab bag.
“One player can change your team, and for us, we know how important that is, that position, and so investing in that position was a no-brainer,” said Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman.
There is more to the QB story, though.
In all, 15 passers were drafted; such college star quarterbacks as Keenan Reynolds and Braxton Miller will change positions in the pros. Not all were selected with the idea they will be long-term starters.
Just as Dallas learned last season when Tony Romo was healthy for all of two games and the Cowboys fell apart, developing a dependable (or better) second-stringer is a must. It’s fair to say that outside of Goff, Wentz and Paxton Lynch in the first round, none of the QBs chosen this year will be expected to compete, let alone win, a starting spot.
Not in 2016 and maybe not at all.
But if the likes of Connor Cook (Oakland), Cody Kessler (Cleveland) and Christian Hackenberg (Jets) develop into reliable backups, it’s a positive step for those teams.
Despite a totally inconsistent career at Penn State, Hackenberg was the only quarterback to go in Round 2. That stems from his being a five-star recruit and to his measurables, not to his on-field performances in Happy Valley.