The 2018 NFL draft came and went. With the focus now shifting away from the event itself and more towards the players the New England Patriots selected (or signed as free agents afterwards) and their first impressions in New England, it is time to clean out the old notebook for some leftover thoughts on the league, the team, and the draft in general.
The Patriots obviously didn't like the value at the quarterback position
Prior to the draft, New England was linked to multiple quarterbacks: Louisville's Lamar Jackson was seen as a potential target, as were Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, Richmond's Kyle Lauletta, and Washington State's Luke Falk. And while all four players would have been available for the Patriots at some point shortly before they were drafted, the team apparently did not like the fit or the value at the position until the seventh round when it took LSU's Danny Etling. Maybe curious, but certainly not totally unsurprising considering how the team conducts its business.
2018 will shape the AFC East for years to come...
When Sam Darnold and Josh Allen sign their rookie deals with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, respectively, they will become the longest-signed quarterbacks in the AFC East. And the two first-round picks will have a profound impact on the entire division, potentially even when it comes to the post-Tom Brady era: If one or both of perform well and live up to their draft position, they might help put their teams in a position to at least challenge the Patriots once Brady steps away. If not, the franchises might stay in the NFL's nowhere land for the foreseeable future.
...but not just because of the quarterbacks
Of course, quarterback is the most important position in all of football, which is why Darnold and Allen are the two players to watch from the AFC East's four draft classes. That does not mean, however, that they are the only ones worth keeping an eye on. Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was picked by the Miami Dolphins and new Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, after all, are both projected to tremendously help their teams in 2018 and beyond.
There was a steep drop-off in defensive talent before the Patriots' selection
New England was on the clock at number 23 and one pick earlier, the Tennessee Titans had traded up to select linebacker Rashaan Evans. Of the next 20 selections, only five addressed the defensive side which is evidence that teams felt like there was an apparent drop-off right before the Patriots were about to pick. The team therefore decided to invest in its offense by selecting offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel.
Denver can be considered one of the winners of the draft
When the Broncos won the Super Bowl after the 2015 season, they did so with a ferocious defense built around star linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Denver might just have found its new Ware in the form of fifth overall selection Bradley Chubb. The defensive edge who was seen as the most talented player in the draft by many experts slid all the way to the Broncos because of a run at quarterbacks early on and the Browns deciding to invest in cornerback Denzel Ward at number four. Safe to say, Denver should feel rather good about it.
There were a lot of trades outside of New England
The Patriots made plenty of trades throughout the three day event and as a result have set themselves up well for the 2019 draft. However, New England was far from the only team active on the trade market during the draft - and the first round was a perfect example of this: Of the 32 selections made, only 16 happened in a team's original slot. Of course, not all trades happened on day one itself but rather beforehand but the general point stands that teams are willing to move their first-rounders if they see a chance to get a player they like.
The Saints made the biggest gamble in the draft
That being said, New Orleans must have really felt good about UTSA defensive edge Marcus Davenport: The team traded up from 27 to 14 to put itself in a position to get the standout pass rusher. In the process, the Saints parted ways with their first-round pick this year and next year as well as a 2018 fifth-rounder; a steep price for a non-quarterback no matter how good of a player Davenport might turn out to be.
New England's offensive line will be the position group to watch in camp
The Patriots added two offensive tackles over the course of the draft by picking Isaiah Wynn 23rd overall and trading a third-round pick for the 49ers' Trent Brown and a fifth-rounder. The duo will enter an intriguing competition along New England's offensive line as none of the starting spots appear to be set in stone at the moment: Wynn could play tackle or guard; Brown could challenge Marcus Cannon or fill the vacant left tackle spot; Antonio Garcia might emerge as a playmaker; Joe Thuney could end up playing any of the five spots. All in all, it will be interesting battle to watch over the next few months.