By Ryan Wilson
(CBS Sports)- After four months of build up, the 2018 NFL Draft is finally in the books; 256 players have been drafted — Baker Mayfield was the first-overall pick and Trey Quinn was Mr. Irrelevant — and while we ultimately won’t know just how good these players will be for another 2-3 seasons, there’s no time like the present to speculate.
With that in mind, here’s our look at each team’s best pick. We’re going to avoid just regurgitating a list of first-rounders because, well, that’s not interesting. Plus, in some instances, teams took the most dynamic player on their board in Round 1 and waited until subsequent rounds to address those needs that could be the difference between a losing season and making the playoffs in 2018.
Just something to keep in mind as you invariably tweet your grave displeasure with our choices. OK, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (10th pick): The Cardinals haven’t had a winning season since 2015, which is also the last time they made the playoffs. With Carson Palmer now retired, finding his the next franchise quarterback was at the top of the offseason to-do list. Yes, the team signed Sam Bradford, but his age and injury history made it clear that he was a short-term solution. Rosen is the cleanest quarterback in the draft and the Cards were more than happy to trade up five spots to grab him.
Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss (126th pick): Yes, it’s going to be fun watching Calvin Ridley line up opposite Julio Jones, and Isaiah Oliver bolsters the secondary, but Smith, a fourth-round pick, is electric, and he could have a bigger offensive impact in 2018 than Ridley. Atlanta also gets points for planning ahead; Tevin Coleman is entering the final year of his contract.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (32nd pick): Wherever you stand in the “Is Joe Flacco elite?” argument, the reality is that the Ravens were going to draft a quarterback and when Jackson was still available at the bottom of the first round, they were happy to get him. There’s no rush to get him on the field in 2018 but he very easily could be the starter heading into the 2019 season. Flacco’s cap hit will be $26.5 million and there’s no way the Ravens are paying him that kind of money.
Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford (96th pick): We didn’t like the Josh Allen pick, especially because the Bills traded up from No. 12 to No. 7 to get a quarterback who completed just over half his passes at Wyoming. But maybe his athleticism and work ethic will win out. But we love Phillips, who joins a defensive line that includes Star Lotulelei and Kyle Williams.
Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana (101st pick): Greg Olsen just signed a two-year extension and he remains Cam Newton’s favorite target. But he’s also 33 years old and missed nine games last season because of an injury. Thomas will give Newton another middle-of-the-field threat in Norv Turner’s offense.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis (51st pick): The Bears had a fantastic draft, starting with Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, the No. 8 pick and following that up with Iowa interior lineman James Daniels. But some draft experts considered Miller one of the best wideouts in the draft and he helps make up for how the Bears botched the Cameron Meredith situation.
Malik Jefferson, OLB, Texas (78th pick): He’s an athletic freak who could be the latest draft find for the Bengals, who have made a habit out of unearthing fantastic defensive talent after the first round (Geno Atkins, George Iloka and Carl Lawson all come to mind).
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St. (4th pick): There were some groans when the Browns took Ward over Bradley Chubb, but Ward is the best cornerback in the draft and joins a secondary that includes 2017 first-rounder Jabrill Peppers. The Browns are also quite happy with their pass rush, which includes 2017 first-overall pick Myles Garrett.
Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado St. (81st pick): Dez Bryant is gone and the Cowboys’ Day 3 trade for Tavon Austin doesn’t magically fix that the gaping hole they have at wide receiver. CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco loved the Gallup pick, especially in the third round. “This kid is a playmaker with good size and has great ball skills. He will push for a starting job right away.”
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State (5th pick): The Browns may have had bigger needs than seeing Myles Garrett and Chubb line up together but the Broncos were more than happy to pair their elite pass rusher, Von Miller, with Chubb. No one should be happier about this pick than new Denver quarterback Case Keenum.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn (43rd pick): The Lions signed LeGarrette Blount this offseason but Johnson has drawn comparisons to Le’Veon Bell, and if he’s 65-70 percent of what Bells gives the Steelers, the Lions will finally have some much-needed balance on offense.
Green Bay Packers
Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa (45th pick): The Packers came into the draft with a plan and it was to bolster a secondary that ranked 26th against the pass last season. They took cornerback Jaire Alexander in the first round and doubled-down in Round 2 with Jackson, who many considered a first-round talent.
Justin Reid, FS, Stanford (68th pick): Some draft experts thought Reid could go late in Round 1 but he lasted until the third round when the Texans used their first pick in the 2018 draft to take him. Houston’s pass defense, which ranked 25th last season, will be substantially better this season with the addition of Reid and Tyrann Mathieu.
Darius Leonard, OLB, South Carolina St. (36th pick): Leonard got lost in the mix of a high-profile linebacker class that included Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, Leighton Vander Esch and Rashaan Evans. But Leonard is a sideline-to-sideline playmaker and he’ll fill a huge need in Indy.
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida (29th pick): What do you get a defensive line that was part of the NFL’s best defense a year ago and spent every weekend blowing up the line of scrimmage? One of the draft’s most disruptive talents. Bryan hasn’t scratched the surface on his talents, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the AFC South.
Kansas City Chiefs
Armani Watts, FS, Texas A&M (124th pick): The Chiefs used the draft to restock their defense and Watts, a fourth-rounder, might end up being the best player in Kansas City’s ’18 class. CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco gave the pick an ‘A’ and noted that the only knock against Watts was his lack of size.
Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James, SS, Florida St. (17th pick): This draft was like Christmas for Gus Bradley, the Chargers’ defensive coordinator who landed James in Round 1, and doubled back for USC pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu in Round 2, DT Justin Jones in Round 3 and FS Kyzir White a round after that. James joins a secondary that includes Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett.
Los Angeles Rams
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma (160th pick): The Rams were busiest this offseason during free agency but they made the most of their draft picks too. Their first pick wasn’t until the third round and it wasn’t until two rounds after that they grabbed Okoronkwo, an edge rusher who a lot of people thought could be a Day 1 selection.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn St. (42nd pick): Ryan Tannehill is out of excuses. And in what could be his final season in Miami unless he shows some glimpses of his franchise-quarterback talent, the Dolphins are giving him a playmaking tight end.
Mike Hughes, CB, UCF (30th pick):The rich get richer; the Vikings had the league’s No. 2 defense last season and the fourth-best pass defense. Minnesota’s secondary now includes Hughes, who will join Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo. Lord have mercy.
New England Patriots
Duke Dawson, CB, Florida (56th pick): The Super Bowl reinforced what we had known all season: the Patriots had serious needs in the secondary. We also considered running back Sony Michel here, who replaces Dion Lewis, but any conversation about the offense still begins with Tom Brady.
New Orleans Saints
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA (14th pick): Here’s the thing: It may have made more sense in the long term to trade up for a quarterback — Drew Brees is 39, after all — but if the Saints think they can win the Super Bowl next season (and they can), there’s nothing wrong with moving up for a pass rusher. No one’s complaining if New Orleans wins it all but did it without Lamar Jackson sitting on the bench behind Brees.
New York Giants
Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP (34th pick): Saquon Barkley is awesome. There’s no disputing that. But we also think he was drafted way too high. Hernandez, meanwhile, is a first-round talent and arguably does more for Eli Manning’s health, will likely do it longer and for less money.
New York Jets
Sam Darnold, QB, USC (3rd pick): The Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3 and they desperately needed a quarterback. Some people thought Darnold should have been the top pick and now he’ll have a chance to prove himself in New York, where Christian Hackenberg never had a chance, Josh McCown is 38 years old and Teddy Bridgewater’s health remains a huge issue.
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan (140th pick): A legit top-10 talent who lasted until the fifth round because of medical concerns about his heart. If Hurst is cleared to play he’ll immediately upgrade a Raiders’ defense that struggled last season.
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota St. (49th pick): The Eagles didn’t have many needs, but with Brent Celek and Trey Burton no longer in Philly, Goedert makes a lot of sense here. We also love this pick because of David Akers:
Jaylen Samuels, H-back, NC State (165th pick): Steelers fans were apoplectic when the team took safety Terrell Edmunds in Round 1. Not because Pittsburgh didn’t have a need there but because fans had never heard of him. They’d likely never heard of Samuels either but he’s drawn comparisons to Delanie Walker, which is reason enough to take a flier on him in the fifth round.
San Francisco 49ers
Fred Warner, OLB, BYU (70th pick): We thought the 49ers could go after Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds in the first round but they were able to get Warner, a physical freak in his own right, two rounds later.
Shaquem Griffin, OLB, UCF (141st pick): This might be one of the best picks in the draft. What a great story.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vita Vea, DT, Washington (12th pick): The Buccaneers had the league’s worst defense a season ago and the pass rush was nonexistent. Vea addresses both of those concerns.
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College (41st pick): Another suspect defense gets markedly better. The Titans land an elite pass rusher in Landry and that was a round after they got inside linebacker Rashaan Evans.
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (59th pick): The rumors surrounding Guice’s fall out of the first round are, well, curious. But there’s no question that he’s a fantastic talent who is an upgrade over anyone else in the Redskins’ backfield.