The craziness of the first-ever Zoom-based NFL Draft is now over, and hopefully we have all seen the last of NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell’s basement. Having gone considerably smoother than many feared, the organisers should be pretty chuffed with the process they put together – it was a good show even with social distancing.
Despite the change of setting for the players and teams, the usual mixture of reaches for players who probably could have been drafted later, and steals for players who should have been drafted earlier, were still in firm effect. For some of us, it was another year of players old enough to let me know that my chances of making the league are probably gone. A big congratulations to all of the players selected and just in case you missed anything, here is my top steal from each day of the draft:
Day 1, Round 1: CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
Coming out of Oklahoma University, Lamb was ranked as the highest-rated receiver on many people’s mock draft boards, with some having him as high as the sixth-best overall prospect. Like a young DeAndre Hopkins, Lamb may not have the blazing speed of a Henry Ruggs, who the Las Vegas Raiders drafted just six picks before, but he does have a ridiculous catch range with his long arms and big hands, which has made him a sensationally effective target to all three of his Heisman Finalist Quarterbacks in college. Collecting over 60 catches and 1100 yards in his last two years at Oklahoma, Lamb has the ability to come in and affect games from day one.
For Dallas, there was little to no chance they had expected Lamb to fall all the way to them at pick 17, with Chief operations officer Stephen Jones even admitting himself that “every mock draft we did, we had him long gone." There was a need on defence for the Cowboys, but when a player this good starts to fall, you just can't pass him up, and now when you pair Lamb with star receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on the outside, the Dallas offence looks very scary indeed. A fantastic talent vs need decision once more from owner Jerry Jones and his front office crew.
Day 2, Round 2, 3: Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears
Understandably, Utah State’s Quarterback Jordon Love will probably take most of the school's limelight with his first-round selection, but outside of that, you should be talking about Jaylon Johnson. I love the speed and anger he plays the game with, the way he gets physical with receivers and especially when he is up in their face on the line of scrimmage in press coverage. Originally considered a late first-round pick, to pick up Johnson on the second day and towards the end of the second round, at 50, is exceptional value for a player who notched a team-leading four interceptions against the top receivers in the PAC-12 division. Not only taking on some of the better college opposition, Johnson did so with a torn shoulder that he developed before the season even kicked off.
For the Bears, with their hellacious pass rush up-front, this pick made total sense whether Johnson was a big steal or not. Lining up on the opposite side of the field to fellow Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, these two have perfectly complimenting play styles to combat any offensive weapons, with Fuller’s less physical, off-man technique. The city of Chicago will also be sure to fall in love with Johnson's hard-nosed attitude. Playing with extreme physicality, this could be a necessary upgrade in both skill and tone of play for a franchise who struggled last season.
Day 3, Round 4, 5, 6, 7: Amik Robertson, Las Vegas Raiders
If you were to go anywhere near my twitter (cough, cough, @alexlewis226) you will almost certainly see me ranting and raving about the Raiders fourth-round selection, Amik Robertson. The Louisiana Tech prospect has fantastic coverage skills, which means he is able to stick with the routes of just about any receiver, and when the ball is thrown up for a 1-on-1 battle, Robertson is probably coming up with the pick. This combination of elite ball skills and impressive coverage is only intensified by his willingness to make big tackles and strong hits in open space; something that some modern corners are not as proficient at. A good blend of physicality, speed and toughness in his 5”9 frame means he will likely move to the inside receivers, the slot where he can comfortably match the quick tempo of routes. With his high agility and instincts, this is a player with technique well above his draft position.
For the Raiders, the pick makes so much sense. Drafting a player with such clear ability at his position and worrying about his size later is a good move from Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and the rest of the top decision-makers. Not only does Robertson’s style fit perfectly with the tough culture that the regime are trying to instil back into the black and silver, but he can fill a position of real need for the team who also took Ohio States, Damon Arnetta in the first round, as they address their shortage at the third level of the defence.
Article written exclusively for golear.co.uk by Alex Lewis