By: Rob Bishop
Back again, and before diving into the NFL Draft, a massive trade took place over the weekend, with the San Francisco 49ers landing left tackle Trent Williams for relative pennies on the dollar. The Redskins have been holding out for months on a Williams trade, looking to receive a package built around first round picks in return. Instead, Washington settled for a few mid-round picks in the deal. Williams joins the 49ers and there is zero indication he’ll be anything other than a major difference maker, replacing franchise mainstay Joe Staley, who announced his retirement following the trade.
As for the draft itself, there will be plenty of time to do a deep dive into things, but there were a few clear-cut winners from the three-day festivities. In contention for having the best draft weekend, the Dallas Cowboys have to be ecstatic with their haul. In the first round, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb inexplicably slid to 17th overall, allowing Dallas to swoop in and add him to an already stellar receiving corps. Lamb will join Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in forming one of the NFL’s best triumvirate of receivers.
Dallas also addressed a need for long-term help at cornerback, adding Trevon Diggs, who has shown an ability to shine in single coverage. Late-round picks center Tyler Biadasz and defensive end Bradlee Anae also project to be potential long-term pieces for the franchise. Even if all Dallas did was end Lamb’s slide in the first round, this would have been a great draft for the Cowboys. That Dallas also managed to address other needs while also adding pieces for the future makes this a massive win of a draft for the Cowboys.
Perhaps challenging Dallas’s claim to having had the best draft weekend are the Cleveland Browns. The Browns added three foundational building blocks, landing offensive tackle Jedrick Willis in the first round. Willis will pair with free agent signee Jack Conklin to completely rebuild Cleveland’s offensive line. Considering quarterback Baker Mayfield’s tendency to struggle when sensing pressure, shoring up his blocking will be a boon to his ability to post a year-three rebound.
In the second round, Cleveland added safety Grant Delpit, who slid out of being a definitive first round pick following 2018 to Day 2 of the draft thanks to tackling issues in 2019. The path to stardom for Delpit is obvious. Likewise, defensive tackle Jordan Elliott was arguably a first-round talent, and he slid to Cleveland at pick 88 overall. Cleveland’s run defense was abysmal last season, and Elliott’s addition to the middle of the defensive line will offer a huge upgrade. Alongside free agent signee Andrew Billings, Elliott will shore up the interior of Cleveland’s line.
Arizona also benefited from an unexpected slide, landing linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons in the first round after the Carolina Panthers made the baffling move to pass over the versatile defender. Simmons is a star in the making, and he represents something truly unique given his ability to play all over the defensive alignment. In the third round, the Cardinals continued to impress by selecting offensive tackle Josh Jones, who likely should have come off the draft board two rounds earlier. Jones will likely seize a starting tackle job in Arizona in short order, and though he is a bit raw in his technique, Jones is not a multi-year project like many of the tackles that went far earlier in the draft.
Buffalo’s draft also managed to impress despite the team lacking a first-round pick. Though the Bills waited until selection 54 to make a pick, Buffalo added a first-round talent in edge defender A.J. Epenesa. The best power rusher in the draft, Epenesa projects to be a difference maker for the Bills, and he is poised to be a day-one contributor for the playoff hopeful franchise. Likewise, running back Zack Moss slid to selection 86 due to a slow 40 time at the combine, but the Utah product is an absolute bruiser. Moss is a broken-tackle machine, and he’ll join last year’s 74th overall pick Devin Singletary to form one of the NFL’s sneaky-good backfields.