The NFL Draft results are in, and year in and year out NFL executives put their ineptitudes on display and reach far below a player’s expected draft capital to “get their guy.” Whether they play into the logical fallacy of needing a player at a non-premium position, or get so absorbed with a particular prospect that they land upon an improper evaluation, many organizations record blunderous selections in the opening rounds. Here, I’ll discuss the top-5 reaches in last week’s draft.
5. Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU)
Selected by: Chargers, No. 21 overall
Quentin Johnston possesses a desirable athletic profile, boasts solid college production metrics, and his play-style pops on film. Despite this, it simply didn’t feel right when the Chargers made him the second receiver off the board. The vibes were off because Johnston is not the second best WR in this class, yet he was treated as such.
LA had Jordan Addison playing down the road for two seasons and they had ample opportunity to bring in Zay Flowers. When compared to these two, Johnston lacks in route running and (debatably) playmaking. This isn’t a mind-boggling or laughable reach, but this was not the correct pick for the Chargers. From a fantasy perspective, this is a notable choice as he appears to be a Mike Williams replacement. Despite the talent of Williams, we know how frustrating his role has been to navigate. History, as we know, tends to repeat itself.
4. Jake Moody (K, Michigan)
Selected by: 49ers, No. 99 overall
Drafting a kicker on Day 2? That hasn’t happened since the notorious Roberto Aguayo was selected by Tampa Bay in Round 2 of the 2016 draft. Leave it to the 49ers to reveal their backwards-thinking ideology by spending their second pick of the entire draft on a kicker. Jake Moody sent 52 balls through the uprights over the past two seasons, resulting in an 86.7-percent Field Goal percentage. He’s got enough leg strength to make any kick up to 60 yards, but only recorded a 61-percent Field Goal percentage from at least 40 yards out in his two full seasons.
Former 49ers kicker Robbie Gould was one of the most reliable kickers in the league for over a decade, and San Francisco will certainly miss his steady production. That being said, the back of the third round is not the spot to go after his replacement. If they were truly out on any prospect in a premium position at this pick, they should have tried to trade back or bit the bullet and taken a flier on the Best Player Available. Instead, they draft a kicker they could very well cut at any point between now and the end of his rookie contract.
3. Jack Campbell (LB, Iowa)
Selected by: Lions, 18th overall
Everyone knows you shouldn’t draft a running back in the first round, but what about off-ball linebackers? The Lions opted to draft a non-premium position with the No. 18 pick and selected Jack Campbell out of Iowa. Listen to this kid’s interview and tell me that this pick wasn’t due to his personality. In his post-draft interview, he spoke about the “Mutt Mentality” that he and his defensive teammates abode by. This mutt, however, is more like a pup when it comes to rushing the quarterback, recording only three sacks in fours seasons as a Hawkeye.
There’s no denying that the Butkus Award Winner is talented, a good fit for the Lions defense, and the type of personality you want in a defensive leader. None of that, however, excuses the blatant misuse of assets by the Lions front office. You don’t spend high capital on a linebacker that won’t rush the passer. Plain and simple.
2. Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
Selected by: Falcons, 8th overall
I know it’s Bijan Robinson, and we all want to (rightfully) freak out over how many touches he’s going to be given under Arthur Smith. However, let’s call a spade a spade. Drafting a running back in the first round is the cardinal sin of general managers. Drafting one within the first 10 picks while you have 1000-yard-rusher Tyler Allgeier on a cheap rookie contract is simply asinine. I fully understand how good Bijan Robinson is, but let’s take a look at what’s happening to another game-changing prospect. Saquon Barkley was transition-tagged (which he has yet to sign) and may not get a long-term contract extension from New York. Draft spots of this caliber are meant for franchise players. If and when Atlanta becomes stronger competitors, they’ll have to decide between patching roster holes or securing Robinson’s contract.
The obvious criticism is that Atlanta should have traded back. Given what we now know about the Lions, it seems the Falcons were unable to have their have their cake and eat it too. The Podfather often preaches to GM’s, “Let other teams make mistakes in front of you.” This is a truth, but someone has to make the mistake.
1. Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama)
Selected by: Lions, 12th overall
What’s worse than selection Bijan Robinson at pick No. 8? Drafting Jahmyr Gibbs at pick No. 12. The Lions wasted no time out-clowning the Falcons’ front office. Nobody, and I mean nobody, was taking Gibbs at pick No. 12.
Hell, nobody was taking him at 18 either. Yes, he has other-worldly speed and excels as a pass catcher, but let’s remember the true value of a running back and the opportunity cost that’s associated with avoiding premium positions in the draft. If you really think he’s a game-changing asset, then trade back from 18 or move back up into the first round. This isn’t chess.
Gibbs is a talented back, but not this talented. It’s probably smoke to maintain the relationships with the GMs they worked with, but the real insanity is that the Lions reportedly were okay with staying put and taking Gibbs at pick No. 6. This was not supposed to happen to our forward-thinking, analytically driven Lions. There’s no denying his value as a fantasy asset. However, fantasy points don’t always translate into team success. Time will reveal the true depth of the wound this move leaves on the Motor City.