Buffalo Bills: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Buffalo may or may not have made a great pick in its trade up for Josh Allen, but there is little doubt that the team got a gigantic steal when it landed Edmunds halfway through the first round. Around the NFL, Edmunds was viewed as a transcendent talent with the upside to become a tremendous defender. Edmunds could end up being a defensive franchise player with his ability to defend the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage. The Bills also were desperate for linebacker help, and getting Edmunds was an immediate upgrade for them. The consensus was Edmunds as a top-10 pick and talent for the 2018 NFL Draft, so landing him in the middle of the teens was a steal for Buffalo.
Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Around the league, James was viewed by many teams as the top safety prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. The fast and physical defender landed in the perfect system for him, and he should be an immediate upgrade for the safety-needy Chargers. Multiple team sources from franchises picking in the top 10 had James as their top-rated safety and felt he was among the best defensive prospects at any position. James' instincts combined with his elite speed and physicality could be a dynamic presence in the Chargers' defense behind their potent pass rush and quality pass coverage. Having James fall into their laps at the 17th-overall pick is a steal, and they should have safety as a strength for the next decade.
Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Many teams around the league had Ridley as their top-rated wide receiver for the 2018 NFL Draft. The fast and dynamic Ridley is a deep threat with the speed to take the top off of a defense. He could be a mismatch nightmare on the other side from the field from Julio Jones. Teams will have problems putting both safeties deep over the top and providing adequate run support to defend Devonta Freeman. Atlanta was very lucky that Ridley fell to its pick, and he provides an explosive receiving element that the team needed to support Jones. Ridley was a steal for the Falcons, and it wouldn't be surprising if he helps get the Falcons offense back to their 2016 level this fall.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
It feels odd putting the Giants as a loser considering they got the best player in the 2018 NFL Draft; however, that's the case with them because the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and the Giants are taking a massive chance by passing on potential franchise quarterbacks. While Barkley is a great talent, every year in the NFL Draft there are good running backs available in the early rounds. For example, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt were third-round picks last year. This year, Derrius Guice was a late second-round pick, and there isn't a huge dropoff from Barkley to Guice. The Giants would have been better positioned to compete for a Super Bowl in the next decade by drafting Sam Darnold and not kicking the can down the road.
Around the league, staff at a lot of teams thought the Giants were bluffing about their interest in Barkley. The reason for that was because those evaluators felt one could clearly see that Eli Manning is declining rapidly. The 37-year-old is on borrowed time, and it made more sense to other teams for the Giants to take a quarterback when they had the chance. It can be very difficult to be in position to have a franchise quarterback fall to you, and the Giants passing on that opportunity is very questionable. There are a lot more Super Bowl rings and appearances in the elite quarterbacks over the last 10 years than the top running backs. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan have won a lot for their teams, and only Rivers hasn't been to a Super Bowl. Among the elite running backs in the past decade of Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, David Johnson, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Le'Veon Bell and Marshawn Lynch, only Lynch has been to a Super Bowl during his career. So it is obvious to all that there is a bigger correlation for winning championships with elite quarterbacks than running backs.
As one top team executive told me after the 2018 NFL Draft, "You have the tough job of projecting stupidity, and that definitely was the case with the Giants. They easily could end up wasting the prime years of [Odell] Beckham and Barkley while being stuck in quarterback purgatory winning seven or eight games a year."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vita Vea, RB, Washington
The Buccaneers had the potential for a phenomenal first round by trading down with the Buffalo, and then taking a player like Florida State safety Derwin James, who surprisingly fell to the 12th-overall pick. Tampa Bay ended up going with Vea, and he is definitely an excellent football player. However, there are a lot of flaws with Vea as a fit for the Buccaneers. The 350-pound nose tackle is going to rotate out of the game a fair amount, and spending a top-12 pick on a rotational football player is not good value.
Vea does not project as a pass-rusher in the NFL, so he probably will come out of the game often in the sub-package. In speaking to scouts at other teams who liked Vea, they felt he was more impactful at the line of scrimmage and was not doing as much damage up the field as some of the other first-round tackles like Da'Ron Payne and Taven Bryan. Vea's conditioning and weight are also going to be issues in the Tampa heat. Vea gets in trouble when he wears down and plays too high, and in the Florida heat, that fatigue is going to hit Vea faster. Because of the heat and the nature of his position in the passing-driven NFL, Vea could end up playing half the snaps for the Bucs. Even with adding the pair of second-round picks, Vea doesn't give Tampa Bay good value for its first-round pick when he isn't an every-down player.
Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Similar to Tampa Bay, Seattle traded down, but then ended up not getting good value for its first-round pick. In speaking to sources at a variety of teams, Penny was graded as a mid- to late second-round pick, yet the Seahawks reached on him in the top 30. Other running backs like Sony Michel, Derrius Guice and Nick Chubb were graded higher across the league in the consensus grades. While Guice fell because of character, some teams had dinged Penny for not having a good personal makeup either. They also said that Penny is a slow learner, and some sources didn't like how Penny's legs can go dead on contact. At the end of Round 1, there are numerous fringe first-rounders who get selected, but Penny was a clear second-day talent and was a reach by Seattle late on Thursday night; better consensus running back prospects were available.