Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
Last week, we took a look at how free agency might change the plans of the various teams heading into late April. However, changed plans affect more than just the teams. Changed plans also affect the prospects themselves, as some positions will be more highly coveted based on the free agency results, while others will likely slip due to the lack of need-talent intersection. This week, we’ll take a look at how the free agency process could lead to rises and falls for different position groups through no fault of their own.
Losers - Quarterbacks (Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, and Daniel Jones)
Jacksonville signing Nick Foles to that large deal, in my opinion, takes them out of the running for a quarterback at the top of the draft. There is still a chance that the Cardinals and/or Raiders take a quarterback, but the teams in the top ten may now all be willing to pass on a quarterback. It's likely that one or two still go in the top ten, maybe via trade, but the team that potentially needed a quarterback more than anyone in the top ten has signed their quarterback of the -- at least -- near future. Having fewer teams that need a quarterback will never help the stock of the quarterback class as a whole. Instead, it will push everyone just a bit lower than they would have otherwise gone.
Winners - Offensive Linemen (Jawaan Taylor, Jonah Williams, Garrett Bradbury, and Chris Lindstrom)
The Raiders may have found their bookend to Kolton Miller in Trenton Brown, and the Broncos may have fixed their tackle woes with Ja'Waun James. Other than that, many teams in the top half of the draft filled holes outside of the offensive line, and many teams in the top half of the draft need offensive linemen. While projections previously had as many as three of the top four offensive linemen falling to the back half of the first round, there's a chance that all four could be taken in the first half of the first round now that the free agency dust has settled.
Losers - Safeties (Nasir Adderley, Deionte Thompson, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Taylor Rapp)
It was obvious to everyone outside of John Lynch that the free agent market at safety was plentiful. The way the board met the needs in the second half of the first round, a lot of teams needed safeties, and this group of safeties all fell somewhere in that range. Now, it seems that only Seattle and Pittsburgh are in such a need for a safety that they would consider taking one over other needs that the teams have. There's a legitimate chance that all of the safeties are pushed to the second round, but it is almost a certainty that two or more will fall out of the first round.
Winners - Tight Ends (T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, and Irv Smith Jr.)
The free agency market was horrendous if you needed a tight end. While teams could fill their various holes with free agency players, anyone that needed a tight end before free agency still needs one after free agency, but they also need fewer other things. A team like Detroit who filled a lot of needs in free agency now might be inclined to take a stab at a tight end with the 8th pick. Or Denver at number 10. Or Green Bay at no. 12. If Fant and Hockenson both get taken in the top twelve, that could lead to Irv Smith Jr. working his way into the back end of the first round, pushing everyone else up in their stead.
Losers - Linebackers (Devin White and Devin Bush)
There were a few landing spots in the top ten where someone could conceivably take a linebacker, such as the Jets at 3 or Tampa Bay at 5. However, both of these teams spent on a linebacker in free agency, so the hopes of the Devins sneaking into the top ten are dwindling. Detroit and Denver both need linebackers, but it's very possible that no linebackers are taken in the top ten.
Winners - Second Tier Wide Receivers (Deebo Samuel, Hakeem Butler, N’Keal Harry, A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown, Kelvin Harmon, and Emmanuel Hall)
Some teams in the top ten that needed wide receivers, such as the Raiders, Jets, and Lions, were able to get receiver help in free agency and the trade market. Meanwhile, other teams in the latter portion of the first round, such as the Giants, Steelers, Redskins, Panthers, and Ravens, now find themselves in need of receivers after they sent their best receiver packing. With the increased need for receivers between picks 15 and 32, there's a much better chance that one or more of these non-DK Metcalf receivers will get to call themselves “first round picks” come April.
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