The Offensive Stars shined brightly as rookies but the defensive playmakers taken in this past draft have earned All-Pro Honors or helped lead their teams to the playoffs. From Derwin James slipping to No. 17 becoming an All-Pro. Darius Leonard turning the Colts defense around and into the playoffs. Von Miller has found a bash brother in Bradley Chubb with 12 sacks, just missing the rookie Sack record. The Cowboys score big on Leighton Vander Esch to team up with Jaylen Smith in the middle of that defense, creating a most likely exit for Sean Lee. Smith and Vander Esch are similar to Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis in Carolina. Bottom line, these are some of the best Safeties and Linebackers in the league already. The learning curve seems to be getting shorter and shorter in the modern game. Rookies making immediate impacts like this used to be few and far between. Let’s kick it off with the secondary and No. 4 overall pick from Ohio State, Safety Denzel Ward.
The Browns Continue Youth Movement With Addition of Denzel Ward, Pro-Bow Safety Denzel Ward.
Two top 10 picks and the Browns nailed it on Baker and Ward. Baker set records while Denzel Ward made the pro-bowl in his first year as well as helped the Browns win 7 games. Seven games may not seem like a lot, but if you know the NFL, you’ll know the Browns recent records speak for themselves. Including zero wins in over 600 calendar days. The former Ohio State Safety had 3 interceptions to go with 2 fumble recoveries. He is always near the football, if he isn’t getting the interception he is getting his hand on it causing disruption. GM John Dorsey killed it with his 2 top 10 picks in last years draft. Finally, the Browns don’t have to own the No. 1 in 2019.
The Chargers Receive A Gift at No. 17…
Most NFL scouts were blown away when Standout Safety Derwin James was still on the board midway through the 1st round. He was a sure shot to land in the top 10 after two breakout seasons at Florida State. James is a physical freak standing at 6’2, 215 pounds for a Safety. He’s fast enough to stay with receivers, big enough to muscle Tight Ends, and quick and explosive enough to sack the quarterback. He’s a hybrid safety that can play Linebacker if needed, just watch the Chargers playoff win in Baltimore.
Vonn Miller Gets His Young Wingman…
Mock drafts last year had Bradley Chubb off the board with the No. 4 pick. The NC State product nearly broke Javon Kearse’s rookie sack record, recording 12 sacks. Kearse’s record of 14.5 still stands. Von Miller had the greatest seasons playing alongside Demarcus Ware, so for the Broncos to take Chubb top 5, that shows they are committed to keeping Miller happy. Also opening the door for former 1st round pick Shane Rey to leave. Miller had 14.5 sacks to go alongside Chubbs 12. This duo is going to wreak havoc for many years to come.
The Colts Won the Draft…
The Colts didn’t have much of a defense to match the offense, until last year’s draft. They stole Darius Leonard with the 36th overall pick. Leonard only led the NFL in tackles and helped get the Colts to the playoffs in Frank Reich’s 1st season as Head Coach. He also recorded 7 sacks, 2 interceptions, 4 Forced Fumbles, and took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Leonard wasn’t even a pro-bowler, he is still not getting respect. Leonard is a vocal leader of the Colts defense and he is just getting started, a pro-bowl snub in his rookie year certainly would add to his motivation this offseason to improve on his first year.
The other team that hit a home run in the first round was the Cowboys, which worked perfectly given the injury history of Sean Lee. The LB from Boise State turned heads quickly with his 140 tackles, which was 3rd in the NFL. So rookie LBs were 1st and 3rd in the NFL in tackles. However, unlike Darius Leonard, Vander Esch was a Pro-Bowler. Put him next to Jaylen Smith and this defense would be scary in the middle. Similar to Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis a few years back when the Panthers made their Super Bowl run.
With the 2019 draft approaching, it would be a far stretch to imagine another draft like this last one. We need to see 3 All-Pros next season to surpass what just happened this year with Derwin James and Quentin Nelson earning the honor. As well as 6 rookies to make the pro-bowl. We’ll see what Nick Bosa or Kyler Murray can get done next year.