The Real Winners of the 2017 NFL Draft

Since the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft there have been many articles proclaiming draft winners and losers. Teams that were perceived to have good weekends are being awarded passing grades while others are looking at lower marks from analysts.

No matter how you look at this past draft weekend, two players likely feel they won the weekend thanks to savvy drafting from their teams – Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. The duo of quarterbacks taken at the top of the 2015 NFL Draft have helped elevate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans over the past two season and were rewarded by their teams this year.

The Titans started early, giving Mariota a true number one target when they selected Corey Davis with the 5th overall pick. Davis provides a big (6-3, 209 pounds) outside threat that Mariota has not had yet in his short career. Davis runs great routes and has extremely reliable hands. He fights back to the ball and can pluck the ball out of the air. His skill set gives Mariota an extremely reliable option in the red zone, something that was lacking on the outside in the past two seasons.

Just 14 picks later, the Buccaneers landed one of the steals of the draft and got tremendous help for Winston by landing O.J. Howard with the 19th overall pick. The weapons on the outside are known for the Buccaneers. They also saw Cameron Brate emerge as a solid tight end option, but Howard is a much more complete player and gives teams much more to account for. Howard is a complete tight end – showing great athleticism, pass catching and blocking ability. Howard can line up all over the field, creating mismatches when pairing him with Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson.

Both of these 1st Round picks provide the third-year quarterbacks with legitimate options in the passing game, but neither team was done helping their quarterbacks – both teams spent 3rd Round draft picks to solidify the secondary options for Mariota and Winston.

The Titans utilized a trade up with the New England Patriots to select a favorite of draft analysts – Taywan Taylor. He is a crisp route runner that is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. Taylor uses good speed to get open over the middle, providing an underneath option for Mariota to find. It also allows Sharpe to be a more intermediate threat with Walker, creating layers of options for Mariota.

Twelve picks later, the Buccaneers added a similar piece to their roster with the selection of Chris Goodwin out of Penn State. Goodwin adds to a talented group – complementing the deep-play options of Evans and Jackson well. He is more of an intermediate route runner who will fill the underneath role with fellow draft pick O.J. Howard. Goodwin’s presence and toughness should pair very well with Winston, and open up defenses by drawing the attention of the safety to come forward and open the deep parts of the field.

While the Buccaneers were done adding threats for Winston, the Titans made another pick in the 3rd Round that will benefit Mariota when they took tight end Jonnu Smith with the 100th overall pick. Smith is an underrated prospect with great athleticism and burst and sure hands. Adding him next to Delanie Walker will create a more diverse pass catching group for Mariota by giving him a check-down option or opening up Walker for more opportunities – even after setting his career-high with seven touchdowns in 2016.

 

These additions are extremely beneficial to both young quarterbacks – allowing them to take the next step in their careers. Both quarterbacks are poised to make the playoffs for the first time in their young careers, and these additions ensure that they were the real winners of the 2017 NFL Draft.