Real NFL Draft winners and losers are vets whose futures are impacted
Assigning NFL Draft grades in the aftermath of teams' picks is silly.
That doesn’t mean it’s too early to declare some winners and losers immediately following this year’s NFL Draft, though.
Here’s a look at 15 players and coaches currently in the NFL whose futures were impacted by the selections made over the weekend.
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1 WINNER: Blake Bortles, Jacksonville
After three seasons of excessive turnovers (63) and an 11-34 starting record with Bortles, it wouldn’t have come as a shock if new Jaguars football czar Tom Coughlin sought a different franchise quarterback. Bortles’ standing came into further question when Clemson’s Deshaun Watson took a pre-draft visit to Florida’s First Coast. But rather than Coughlin choosing Watson as his replacement, Bortles was given a boost in the backfield when Jacksonville selected LSU’s Leonard Fournette at No. 4. Now complemented by a bell-cow running back the Jaguars have lacked since Maurice Jones-Drew’s heyday, Bortles has no excuses if improvement isn’t shown in 2017.
2 LOSER: Mike Glennon, Chicago
When signing him as a free agent from Tampa Bay, the Bears made Glennon the proverbial “offer he couldn’t refuse” with a three-year, $45 million contract that includes $18.5 guaranteed for this season. The problem: It will assuredly be Glennon’s only year in the windy city. His days as a starter are already numbered after Chicago chose North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick. The big question now is whether Glennon will help mentor Trubisky knowing it will accelerate his way out of what may be his best chance to prove he can become a quality starting QB, even if it isn’t with the Bears.
3 WINNER: Ameer Abdullah, Detroit
Matt Stafford has never enjoyed the luxury of playing with an elite-level running back during his eight seasons as Lions quarterback. The drought continues after general manager Bob Quinn eschewed the position with all nine of Detroit’s picks. This is great news for Abdullah, who will be leading the committee approach along with Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner in 2017.
4 LOSER: Malcolm Butler, New England
Never say never when it comes to the Patriots trading quality players. Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins were the latest examples in 2016. Butler, though, remains in New England for the foreseeable future after he failed to sign an offer sheet elsewhere as a restricted free agent. A trade also seems unlikely with the most interested pre-draft suitor – New Orleans – instead addressing the position with the 11th overall pick in Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore. Rather than land the lucrative contract extension he was seeking, Butler will likely be playing on a one-year, $3.91 million deal with hopes of becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2018. In the meantime, the hero of Super Bowl 49 must live with the fact that a cornerback the Patriots signed away from AFC East rival Buffalo (Stephon Gilmore) was given a mega-deal in free agency despite doing nothing to contribute to New England’s past two championship teams.
5 WINNER: Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets
Like the Jaguars, the Jets were in position to draft a franchise quarterback hopeful with the No. 6 overall pick. And with their current QB trio consisting of Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Hackenberg, the Jets could sorely use one. But not only did New York instead use the pick on LSU safety Jamal Adams, the Jets opted not to spend any of their nine choices on the position. This further feeds into the belief New York intends to tank this season for either a free-agent QB run next offseason or stronger positioning in a 2018 draft class considered to have more elite-level passing prospects led by Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold. Hackenberg, who never took the field as a 2016 second-round choice, should now at least have the chance to show something this season that would entice the Jets to change that strategy.
6 LOSER: Gary Barnidge, free agent
Veteran players are released every year after replacements are found in the draft. This is exactly what happened to Barnidge, who was whacked the day after Cleveland used a first-round pick on Miami tight end David Njoku. The timing for Barnidge was horrible, as most of the other teams with tight-end deficiencies have already filled the void. Barnidge also loses out on the $2.75 million salary he was slated to earn in 2017 while the Browns saved $2.2 million in salary-cap space. On the bright side, Barnidge is now free to pursue a pro grappling career if so desired. He made a recent guest appearance with running back DeAngelo Williams on Impact Wrestling.
7 WINNER: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Like the Eli Manning-led New York Giants did with Cal’s Davis Webb in Round 3, the Chargers could have targeted an heir apparent for Rivers. By not drafting a quarterback, the 35-year-old Rivers won’t have to look over his shoulder knowing the clock is ticking on his time with the Chargers for at least another season.
8 LOSER: Cardale Jones, Buffalo
Players drafted by one regime sometimes get caught in the wash when a new one arrives. That could very well be the case for Jones, a 2016 fifth-round pick whose skill set as a pocket-passer isn’t an ideal fit for the West Coast-style offensive system being installed by new coordinator Rick Dennison. The Bills also selected another developmental quarterback — Pitt’s Nate Peterman — in Round 5. That move could soon drop Jones to third-string status or off the roster entirely.
9 WINNER: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay
The Bucs must have liked what they saw after Martin returned for offseason workouts last month following a drug suspension and subsequent trip to rehab. Tampa Bay didn’t take a running back until Round 5 in Jeremy McNichols, who, incidentally, comes from the same college (Boise State) as Martin. Even with Martin set to miss the first three games this season, the Bucs appear willing to give him the chance to regain the form that made him the NFL’s second-leading rusher in 2015.
10 LOSER: Matt Jones, Washington
NFL Network reported before the draft that Jones was being shopped to other teams. The chances of a divorce increased even more when the Redskins tapped Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine in Round 4. Jones started seven games last year but has battled injuries and was benched midway through the season after too many fumbles.
11 WINNER: Drew Stanton, Arizona
Despite strong media speculation, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill cautioned in March that Arizona wasn’t locked into drafting an heir apparent to Carson Palmer. Bidwill’s warning became reality when the Cardinals didn’t use any of their seven picks on a quarterback. This increases the chances that Stanton could become Arizona’s starter in 2018 if Palmer is done with the Cardinals after this season.
12 LOSER: Devin Smith, New York Jets
A sad situation with Smith took an even worse turn when the 2015 second-round pick recently re-tore the same ACL he injured at the end of his rookie season. With Smith already declared out for the 2017 campaign, the Jets showed they are ready to move on by grabbing two other wide receivers (Alabama’s ArDarius Stewart and Cal’s Chad Hansen) in Rounds 3 and 4, respectively.
13 WINNER: Rod Marinelli, Dallas
Not all of them will prove elite-level players or even make the 53-man roster, but Marinelli was given more talent to work with after the Cowboys used nine draft picks on defense. The group was highlighted by Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton and cornerbacks Chidobe Aquzie (Colorado) and Jourdan Lewis (Michigan) in Rounds 1, 2 and 3.
14 LOSER: Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh
After the Steelers drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in Round 2, Pittsburgh wide receiver Martavis Bryant said the move was done to replace Coates, not him. Bryant is probably right. According to Sportingcharts.com, no wide receiver with as many targets (49) dropped a higher percentage of passes (10.2) than Coates. Smith-Schuster, though, has his own problems to worry about. ProFootballFocus.com notes that Smith-Schuster flubbed 15.2 percent of his potential catches in three seasons at Southern Cal.
15 LOSER: Zach Mettenberger, Pittsburgh
A 10-game starter for Tennessee in 2014 and 2015, Mettenberger may never take another NFL snap. Claimed off waivers last August from San Diego, Mettenberger didn’t impress enough during an entire season in Pittsburgh to stick on the 2017 roster. He was released Monday after the Steelers invested a fourth-round pick in Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs.