The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone and, as usual, some teams were draft winners and improved their divisional chances this year while others missed the boat as draft losers.
Well, the 2016 NFL Draft has now come to pass and those that can properly evaluate the winners and losers of the draft could have a leg up when placing NFL Futures on divisional races, as those wagers are prone to more volatility with personnel changes than conference and Super Bowl futures, not to mention the advantages the sharp bettors would have with their NFL picks early in the season before the betting lines start tightening up.
Obviously there were some changes made to the division NFL Futures after the draft, but we are not convinced that all of the adjustments were proper or, in some cases, ample enough. Interestingly, we thought that most AFC teams had a fair draft with most not standing out as clear winners or losers with three exceptions. And as you will see, all three of those teams coincidentally come out of the AFC South!
We have more opinions regarding the NFC – five to be exact – and more variety too with two teams hailing from the NFC South and one team from each of the other divisions. One team not on our list is the Dallas Cowboys, although they may end up the biggest winners of all if the seemingly early selection of Ezekiel Elliott translates to a Super Bowl run. Still, we give Dallas a “fair” grade for its draft as a whole.
So with all of that in mind, here are our choices for winners and losers in the NFL Draft along with their current NFL odds to win their appropriate divisions.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+335 to win AFC South): We feel that the Jaguars had the best draft of any team. Remember that Jacksonville already has a very good offense in place, but it was clear that improvement was needed on the defense for the Jags to take things to the next level. To that end, you may recall that we had Miles Jack penciled in as their first round pick days before the draft, but he went down everyone’s draft boards amidst concerns over his surgical repaired knee. The Jags had a great back-up plan though by taking Jalen Ramsey with the fifth overall pick, perhaps the best player in the draft due to his ability to play any position in the secondary. Then, the Jaguars got the man they probably initially wanted anyway by trading up a few spots to take Jack after he fell to the second round. We could stop right there with Jacksonville essentially getting two first round picks, but they stuck with defense adding three good pass rushers in Yannick Ngakoue, Sheldon Day and Tyrone Holmes. Add in last year’s top pick Dante Fowler returning from his ACL injury and the defense suddenly looks formidable.
Houston Texans (+210 to win AFC South): It is almost a shame for Jacksonville’s sake that the other winner in the draft from the AFC hails from the same division and had less improving to do to become a bona fide conference contender. After previously adding quarterback Brock Osweiler in free agency, the Texans gave him a great new target with first round pick Will Fuller, a deep threat that will mean less double-teaming of the great DeAndre Hopkins on the opposite side. They then upgraded the offensive line in the second round by tabbing Nick Martin, who could (should?) be an immediate starter at center, and then two more offensive weapons in the versatile Braxton Miller and the speedy Tyler Ervin. With these great drafts for both the Texans and Jaguars, we would certainly avoid the Indianapolis Colts on the AFC South Futures even though they are the favorites at only +120.
Tennessee Titans (+1350 to win AFC South): Now we get that the Titans were never serious contenders for this season, but they certainly had a chance to improve themselves with the bushel of draft picks they received from the Los Angeles Rams in return for the first overall draft pick, especially since Tennessee also has one of the easiest schedules in the NFL based on 2015 performance. However, the Titans gave back a few of those draft picks to move up in the first round to select offensive lineman Jack Conklin. This is no knock on Conklin but he is more of a hard working grinder than a true elite athlete, and for a team in rebuilding more like the Titans, why not take the risk in a superior athlete and lineman in Laremy Tunsil, who they had penciled in as the number one overall pick before the trade with the Rams and who was still on the board when they traded up for Conklin due to the now infamous video that surfaced on draft night? Then they took Kevin Dodd in the second round with guys like Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith still on the board. For a team that has five picks in the top 65, Tennessee could have done so much better.
Washington Redskins (+325 to win NFC East): Most considered the Redskins a fluke when they won the NFC East last season, and we admittedly were among those that shared that sentiment. However, it does now appear they set themselves up well in their quest to repeat on draft night. First, it was downright thievery when wide receiver Josh Docston fell to them in the first round, as his selection could mark the end of the Redskins career of Pierre Garcon given his big salary cap hit. Then Washington bolstered the defense with its next three selections with excellent value picks relative to where they were taken in linebacker Su'a Cravens, cornerback Kendall Fuller and defensive tackle Matt Ioannnidis. Then, with a very good draft already in toe, the Redskins went for a home run with running back Keith Marshall, who could very well see significant playing time right away with only Matt Jones and Chris Thompson seemingly ahead of him.
Chicago Bears (+1200 to win NFC North): The Bears at 12/1 to win the NFC North could be the best NFL Future bet of all after their draft! First round pick Leonard Floyd could be the pass rusher they desperately lacked last year, and they also added nice depth to the defensive line in Jonathan Bullard. Another weak spot last year was at the safety position and the Bears drafted not one, not two but three of them in Deon Bush, Deiondre' Hall and DeAndre Houston-Carson. The best part of that is that all three were legitimate selections at the time they were taken with none being considered a reach, and there is a great chance at least one of them will start right away. So the defense figures to be much improved and the offense may have added one of the biggest steals in the draft in running back Jordan Howard, who is fully capable of pushing Jeremy Langford for playing time. And remember that last year’s top pick Kevin White should be back this year after missing his rookie campaign as a nice receiving compliment to Alshon Jeffery.
Carolina Panthers (-175 to win NFC South): As you see, the Panthers are still prohibitive -175 favorites to win the NFC South, but remember they were -220 before the draft and their posted win total of 10½ is a bit low for a defending Super Bowl team. So apparently we are not the only ones not enthralled with their draft selections, as they seemed to panic after letting cornerback Josh Norman walk rather than meeting his salary demands. The draft started out well enough for the Panthers with their solid selection of defensive tackle Vernon Butler in the first round. But the rest of the draft seemed like full blown panic as they selected three cornerbacks in an attempt to replace Norman in James Bradberry (from sub-division Samford), Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez. The difference between what Carolina did and what the Bears did with their safeties though was none of the three selected Carolina corners were near the top of most draftboards when they were taken, so all three were reaches.
Atlanta Falcons (+500 to win NFC South): Perhaps the odds for Carolina would have been affected more if their division mates from Atlanta did not also make some head-scratching selections. First round pick Keanu Neal has ability, but the consensus is that he was a reach with the 17th pick overall with so much talent still on the board. The best pick Atlanta made was probably linebacker Deion Jones in the second round, but then they opted for potential in linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, who is an interesting project with excellent speed but very little else as of now. Sure he can pan out several years down the line, but the Falcons were in position to challenge for the division this year if they had drafted more proven commodities.
San Francisco 49ers (+2250 to win NFC West): Similar to the Titans, the 49ers were not going to do anything this season anyway but they too did not improve themselves as much as they should have for a team that has so many needs. Granted we love the selection of defensive end DeForest Buckner in the first round, as he will make a great bookend with former Oregon teammate Arik Armstead. But then what? They moved up to grab Joshua Garnett, who they may have gotten anyway without moving up, and they later added a player recovering from an ACL injury in Will Redmond and a player with off-field issues in Rashard Robinson.