If there’s one thing I think the sport has lacked, it’s an affinity group, a trade organization, a body for those in personnel. I’m not talking about some kind of fan-based organization, but a real society for people in the business akin to the Pro Football Writers of America, the Sports Lawyers Association or the AFCA.
I was discussing this on Wednesday at the Senior Bowl with a longtime friend, Shawn Zobel of Zobel Sports Consulting, and we decided we should do something about it. We’re working on ideas and trying to decide how to approach it. Along the way, we got to talking about what team had the best draft in 2017, and we came up with these five teams. I’ll list them alphabetically and try to state each team’s best case.
Bears: I think there was some thought the Bears might make big changes in their front office around this time of year going into the ’17 season, but you have to hand it to GM Ryan Pace. He had the courage to stand up to the naysayers and draft one-year wonder QB Mitch Trubisky, and based on one season, it looks like a great move. But it wasn’t the only one. The Bears landed two big players in the fourth round in FS Eddie Jackson and OH/KR Tarik Cohen.
Jaguars: The Jags got instant starters out of their first-rounder (OH Leonard Fournette) and second-rounder (OT Cam Robinson), plus promising rotational pieces in the third round (DE D.J. Smoot) and fourth round (WO DeDe Westbrook). Oh, by the way, they went from 3-13 and last in the AFC South to the AFC Championship game this season.
Saints: Marshon Lattimore. Alvin Kamara. We maybe needn’t go on, but we will. The team also drafted starters OT Ryan Ramczyk and FS Marcus Williams, as well as key contributor DE Trey Hendrickson in turning a franchise that had gone 7-9 three straight seasons — with Drew Brees — into one answered prayer away from the NFC Championship Game. You could argue that the ’17 draft even saved the team from having to draft a starting QB in 2018.
Texans: It wouldn’t be a discussion of the draft if it didn’t involve some projection, right? Think about what happens if QB Deshaun Watson doesn’t go down after six starts. If the Texans only had that one pick, after rolling the dice to trade up, you could argue they had the best draft, especially if he continued his brilliance over a complete season. However, the team also hit on IB Zach Cunningham in the second round, as well as OH D’onta Foreman (another injury casualty) and several other picks. Houston’s won-loss record masks a tremendous draft class.
Vikings: If you read this blog regularly, you know that we hold Minnesota’s front office in pretty high regard, and the ’17 draft class was another good one, though, again, it requires projection. Would KC’s Kareem Hunt and Kamara have stolen all the rookie rusher glory if Dalvin Cook, whom the team got in the second round, doesn’t go down in Week 4? And that’s to say nothing of rookie OC Pat Elflein, who stepped right in and helped make the Vikes’ OL a strength throughout the season? They also drafted a starter at weak side LB, Ben Gedeon, in the fourth round.
Shawn and I will be putting these contenders to a vote with our friends in the scouting community as well as in college personnel departments across the land, and we’ll announce the results at the NFL combine in about a month.
In the meantime, who do you like? Who did we leave out? Let us know in the comments, hit me up on Twitter, and/or listen in today as Sirius XM Radio’s Orlando Alzugaray and I give our votes on Mad Dog Radio (channel 82) at 5:30 p.m. ET today. You can also vote in our poll.