We know year after year that we’re going to see plenty of surprises in the NFL Draft. In a league where player valuation varies wildly from team to team, it’s only natural to see many things that break from the agreed-upon consensus. That’s why we have to remember that even though this is an article about the biggest surprises in this year’s draft, it doesn’t necessarily mean these teams were wrong to make these decisions. It just caught me (and probably you) off-guard.
So let’s dive into all the 10 things from all three days that we definitely weren’t expecting, in chronological order.
1. Raiders‘ top secret pick: Clelin Ferrell at No. 4
It was well known how secretive the Raiders were being with their draft board, and when word emerged on Thursday that their first pick would be a surprise, it was easy to connect the dots to them taking a quarterback despite having a solid starter already in tow. And they did in fact surprise — not with the position they chose to focus on, but with the guy they picked.
That’s not to knock Clelin Ferrell, who for whatever reason wasn’t getting some of the buzz of other top edge prospects like Brian Burns and Montez Sweat. That lack of excitement building around Ferrell caused him to slide down many mock drafts, with some even projecting he’d go in the 20s.
Now, that’s not an indictment on him as a prospect; I think he has a higher floor than the guys listed earlier, so it makes sense that the Raiders would want to get the guy with the least bust potential at No. 4. But passing on Josh Allen and Ed Oliver to do so? That could come back to haunt them, but only if Ferrell doesn’t live up to the huge expectations the Raiders have now placed upon him.
2. Giants make Daniel Jones the second QB off the board
I’m not going to go back and make Giants fans relive this pick, but it was certainly shocking that Jones went before Dwayne Haskins, even when indications picked up this week that he was the Giants’ preferred option at the position. And that’s because the Giants also had a pick at No. 17 that people thought would be much fairer value for Jones.
While I get that you don’t want to risk losing the top QB on your board by playing three-dimensional chess with the draft board, the Giants entered Thursday with 12 picks. Twelve! You couldn’t create some type of package to get you back into range of selecting Jones ahead of other potential landing spots? It was well known that the Lions were looking to move off No. 8, and it might not even have taken that far of a jump. Putting together the right package could have given the Giants a higher pick with which to take Jones and freed them up to add a beast of an edge rusher in Josh Allen at No. 6, an interior defender like Ed Oliver or whoever they had as the top offensive lineman in the draft.
3. Falcons focus on linemen, but not on the defensive side
Most people saw a front-four player as the Falcons’ biggest need, and they were indeed connected to Ed Oliver (in a potential trade-up scenario) and Christian Wilkins before the draft began. But after both players were on the clock, they decided to make guard Chris Lindstrom the second offensive lineman off the board. Lindstrom had a late Day 1 grade for many.
Speaking of late Day 1, the Falcons made a move up to get a second pick on Thursday, and all it cost them was the chance to make any picks on Day 2. Sacrificing a whole day meant they would address the D-line with their second pick, right? Not even close, they instead took another offensive lineman at No. 31 in Kaleb McGary, who can step in at right tackle for the team.
I get making offensive line a priority, but when getting those two prospects costs you the chance to help a defense that struggled last year, it’s a curious decision people can easily point to as a misstep if the defense struggles again, even with better health.
4. Texans go off the board in Round 1
Tytus Howard is a small-school prospect from Alabama State that a lot of people liked, so much so that I thought he was a lock to make it into Day 2 of the draft, likely as a third-round selection. Instead, when the Eagles traded up to take Andre Dillard one spot ahead of Houston, the Texans just went to the next tackle on their board and selected Howard at No. 23 overall.
I can’t knock them for prioritizing protection for Deshaun Watson; it’s absolutely essential to make that your focus after he gets sacked 62 times in a season. But with an extra second-round pick in tow, the Texans should have been more than happy to put a couple picks together to go get Dillard before the Eagles could. It doesn’t even have to cost one of those second-rounders; put a three and a six together to hop in and get the best prospect for what you need.
Howard now has to make the leap from Alabama State to the pros and help improve the team’s O-line issues immediately, or Watson might not last far into the season. If he’s not up to the task, then Will Brinson making the Texans one of his losers from the weekend will surely prove wise. You can see his.
Deciding to trade down from No. 10 to No. 20 instead of taking Drew Lock, a player the Broncos have been connected to for months, grades as a small shock. Not taking him when they were back on the clock at No. 20 was a head-scratcher, but I love the prospect they got instead in tight end Noah Fant.
But getting back on the clock at No. 41 and still not taking Lock? The only thing more surprising than that was the Broncos then trading for the following pick and finally taking him off the board at No. 42.
If the Broncos had exited this draft with Lock and Dalton Risner, their selection at No. 41, I would have considered it a win. But to trade back from No. 10, get an extra second-round pick and wind up with Lock, Risner and Fant? Well done, John Elway.
6. Browns somehow get a first-round talent
When the Browns traded their first-round pick as part of the package for Odell Beckham, you could forgive us for thinking that they wouldn’t have a chance to land an impact player in this draft. After all, their new first pick was all the way at No. 49, and prospects who many people think are the best in their position don’t make it to the middle of the second round — at least, not at a critically-important position like cornerback.
But when the Patriots made Joejuan Williams the sixth cornerback off the board, the Browns decided not to wait any longer, trading up to No. 46 to get Greedy Williams. I think there are issues with Greedy’s game, and he’s going to have to become a better tackler at the next level. But he’s a guy who also makes a ton of game-changing plays on the field, and he’s going to have some big moments for the Browns this year. I had Byron Murphy as my top corner, but if you told me Greedy would be the sixth corner off the board, there’s no way I would have believed it.
7. D.K. Metcalf almost falls to Round 3
Metcalf was the presumed top receiver in this draft class after blazing a 4.33 40 at his size, but between injury issues and his lack of versatility as a receiver, I’m not surprised to see him slide to Day 2. But forget Greedy Williams being the sixth corner taken; no one, and I mean no one, thought eight receivers would go before Metcalf
Yes, eight. Check the list. Marquise Brown. N’Keal Harry. Deebo Samuel. A.J. Brown. Mecole Hardman. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Parris Campbell. Andy Isabella. If someone shows you a tweet where they said that Mecole Hardman and Andy Isabella would be drafted before D.K. Metcalf, ask them how many thousands of autogenerated wrong predictions they deleted before trying to impress you.
I don’t know that I love the fit in Seattle, especially after news came out that Doug Baldwin may have played his last down in the NFL. I don’t think you can ask Metcalf to be what Baldwin is to that offense at all, especially not in Year 1. Not all receiving roles are created equal. But if Tyler Lockett can become the team’s new Baldwin while Metcalf takes the top off, Russell Wilson should be even happier than you’d normally assume a guy who just signed a $140 million contract would be.
8. Steelers ‘reach’ for receiver but deserve our trust
I correctly pegged the top of Round 3 as where the Steelers would target a receiver, and not just because that was one of the picks they got for Antonio Brown. It just made sense — there were no top-tier standouts in the class, but it was incredibly deep, so much so that even if 8-10 went off the board in Round 2, they should have options there at landing a good receiver.
That came to pass: guys I like who were still on the board at No. 66 include Terry McLaurin and Miles Boykin, both of whom went later in the third round. And don’t forget about Hakeem Butler, who some felt was the best receiver in this class. Did the Steelers take any of those guys?
No, they took Diontae Johnson out of Toledo. Who?
While Johnson was overshadowed by many other receivers in this deep class, there is some Emmanuel Sanders potential here, and with a deep threat like James Washington already among the complementary options behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Johnson can develop at his own pace and then all of a sudden be one of the best receivers in this class in a couple years. Draft, develop, repeat in Pittsburgh.
9. Jaguars spend Round 3 pick on a guy no one heard of
I don’t know anyone who had Quincy Williams, safety out of Murray State, in their top 100 rankings. Or top 200 rankings. Or top whatever rankings, for that matter. He was a virtual unknown when the Jaguars used the 98th overall pick to take him. NFL Network didn’t even have video to show of Williams, and those guys dive deep and try to cover as many contingencies as possible. That should tell you that Williams was going to be a late Day 3 pick at best.
But the Jaguars thought late Day 2 was the right spot for Williams, who just happens to be the brother of No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams (maybe they thought that’s who they were taking?). I can’t knock Quincy Williams as a prospect — he could end up a star for all I know, and the Jaguars have certainly developed virtual unknowns into quality defenders before. I just don’t understand using such a valuable pick to get him.
10. Metcalf not the only receiver stuck waiting
If you think D.K. Metcalf having to wait until the end of the second round was surprising, that wasn’t the only shocking thing involving receivers in this year’s draft. And I’m not even talking about Hakeem Butler falling to the first pick of the fourth round.
What about Kelvin Harmon? Some thought he could be a fringe first-rounder, but I think most had him as a rock-solid Day 2 prospect. Instead, he didn’t even make it in the top 200 picks. Harmon isn’t a top-200 player after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at NC State? The Redskins finally stopped his fall late in the sixth round, making him the 22nd receiver off the board, behind such names as Juwann Winfree, Marcus Green and Daxby McBadhands, and I only made the last of those names up.
But at least Harmon got drafted. Players we thought were sure to hear their names called but didn’t include Emanuel Hall, Stanley Morgan and David Sills, and those are only some of the receivers to make it onto our Chris Trapasso’s top 25 undrafted players list..