How One Strong Draft Can Transform a Team Immediately

David Schwab

Monday, April 23, 2018 4:03 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 23, 2018 4:03 PM UTC

The annual draft is just one of the ways that a NFL team can build its roster. Players are also added through free agency signings as well as the occasional trade. However, the importance of draft should never be understated given the impact it can have on a team’s fortunes with the decisions it makes.

The 2018 NFL Draft is slated to get underway on Thursday night with the opening round of picks from Dallas. Rounds 2 and 3 will take place on Friday night followed by the remainder of the rounds up to seven Saturday.

It seems appropriate that this year’s draft will be held in Dallas after landing in Philadelphia for the 2017 proceedings. These two teams compete as bitter rivals in the NFC East and each of their paths moving forward were deeply impacted with a few of the selections made in the 2016 draft.

The Cowboys’ record dipped to 4-12 in the 2015 regular season to secure the fourth overall pick. To boost its running game in the wake of losing DeMarco Murray the season before as a free agent, Dallas went with former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with that high pick. Later in the draft to build some depth at the quarterback position behind veteran Tony Romo, the Cowboys added Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State in the fourth round.

Elliott was penciled in as a starter from Day 1 and Prescott ascended to that role when Romo went down with a back injury in the preseason. This dynamic duo turned things around on a dime in Big D to lead the team to a 13-3 record that season to secure the NFC East title and the top seed in the playoffs. Prescott went on to garner NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and Elliott was at the top of the list in the league in rushing yards gained with 1,631. The Cowboys suffered a slight reversal of fortunes last season due in part to Elliott’s six-game league suspension, but they still managed to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2009.

Philadelphia’s dramatic turnaround from its 2016 draft took a bit longer to play out, but it was well worth the wait with last season’s run to its first Super Bowl title in franchise history. The Eagles traded up to the second overall pick of that year’s draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. He was slated to watch and learn from veteran quarterback Sam Bradford his rookie year, but that changed right before opening day when Bradford was traded to Minnesota for a first-round pick in the 2017 draft. Philly won seven games that season, but the stage was set for bigger and better things behind Wentz as a legitimate franchise signal caller in the NFL.

Wentz led the Eagles to an 11-2 record before tearing up his left knee last November. Philly then turned to its third-round pick from the 2012 draft to fill the void, and Nick Foles did not let the team down in its Super Bowl run.

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The @Saints are the 1st team since 1967 to have both the Offensive & Defensive Rookie of the Year (1967 Lions: Mel Farr & Lem Barney).

Congratulations @A_kamara6 & @shonrp2!#NFLHonors pic.twitter.com/thLuqSGgBk

— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) February 4, 2018
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The New Orleans Saints posted three-straight 7-9 campaigns heading into last year’s draft. With Drew Brees still putting up big numbers in the passing game, the Saints’ biggest needs where in the running game and on defense. They addressed the secondary in the first round by taking former Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore with the 11th overall pick, while also adding former Utah safety Marcus Williams in the second. Third-round pick Alvin Kamara gave New Orleans depth at running back along with veteran Mark Ingram. Things came together quickly on both sides of the ball and the result was an 11-5 record and a NFC South Division title.

If you are looking for a team that is in excellent position to impact its future immediately with this year’s draft, my pick would the Cleveland Browns. When you lose every single game you played one season, you have nowhere to go but up the next. Add in the fact that the Browns also have the fourth pick in the first round along with the first overall pick of the draft, they can quickly add two impact players to the mix after a productive offseason in free agency.

Cleveland will probably not win Super Bowl LIII at +6600 betting odds on BetOnline’s NFL futures board, but its +1000 odds to win the AFC North could pique a bettor’s interest in search of a high value pick at longer odds. The best bet for this team could be the OVER on its projected win total once those betting odds are released following this week’s draft.

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