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8 things we learned from going to the 2018 NFL draft

Everything really is bigger in Texas and NFL fans really don’t like Roger Goodell.

This was the biggest draft yet.
This was the biggest draft yet.

1. It’s true what they say about Texas

THEY SAY EVERYTHING is bigger in Texas. The 2018 NFL draft made sure that the state lived up to its bold claim.

In the house that Jerry built, the Dallas Cowboys owner, GM and all-round shot caller was always going to put on a show and make a statement with the eyes of the football world, firmly on 1 Cowboys Drive, Dallas Texas.

This was the biggest draft ever held with up to 20,000 tickets made available for each of the three days.

A huge number compared to previous years in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, but still dwarfed by the mind-boggling 275,000 applications the NFL received for it’s ticket lottery for fans to catch a glimpse of the future of their franchise inside the enormous AT&T Stadium just outside Dallas.

2. It takes a village to make a draft

30922026_10156230435167429_1405525532_o You can meet all sorts at an NFL event.

The action was not limited to inside the stadium however, the NFL Draft Experience provided a village for fans to take part in combine drills, meet NFL legends, buy swag and generally immerse themselves in the NFL brand.

It’s a smart business model by the NFL and something they adopt for other major events like the Pro Bowl: give the fans something for free and they will repay you in kind.

Like the Pro Bowl which has also moved in recent years, you see every football jersey under the sun at the Draft: all 32 NFL teams, throwback jerseys from defunct franchises, college uniforms, high school kids rocking their number in the baking Dallas heat, the variety is incredible at these events and is a testament to how popular and widespread the game really is.

3. Roger Goodell is really unpopular

NFL: APR 26 2018 NFL Draft They were saying 'Goooooo-dell' Source: Rich Graessle

This was the most difficult to predict first round to a draft in recent memory, with NFL analysts, writers and fans alike, unable to come up with a slam dunk number one pick.

With several QBs pegged to come off the board early, each came with their own red flags both on a performance and a personal level resulting in wildly varying mock draft boards.

In the end it was quarterback Baker Mayfield from the University of Oklahoma who would hear his name called first by Commissioner Roger Goodell who was greeted by thunderous boos despite being surrounded by a so-called boo-shield of Dallas Cowboys legends.

4. NFL fans don’t pay much attention to the odds

Selected by the Cleveland Browns, the pick was greeted with some shock inside the draft arena. However, in the days leading up to the draft, Vegas had declared Mayfield as favourite to go first.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has been a love him or hate him player throughout his college career with the Sooners, with his on-the-field talent viewed by many as the best in the draft. His maturity and decision making off it, however, is very questionable.

5. The Giants believe Eli won’t fall off a cliff

The New York Giants would select running back Saquon Barkley from Penn State with the second overall pick, a not so subtle nod to their QB Eli Manning whom new GM David Gettleman and Head Coach Pat Shurmur appear to believe that their signal caller still has some gas left in the tank by taking the generational running back Barkley.

6. Chaos comes quickly

NFL: APR 26 2018 NFL Draft The Jets could hardly have expected Sam Darnold to fall into their laps. Source: Rich Graessle/PA Images

The New York Jets had already given up the farm in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts to jump up the number three spot and as expected, pulled the trigger on a QB — Sam Darnold from USC.

Then, things got a bit weird; with the spanners thrown firmly in the works of mock drafts across the country when the Browns selected cornerback Denzel Ward from Ohio State fourth overall.

The draft process is a very delicate house of cards, if a pick comes in deemed not in the “natural order” of things, strange things begin to happen with many teams adopting a “best player available” philosophy rather than addressing positions of need, if a stud player happens to fall their way.

The Denver Broncos provided a good example by picking North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb at five; forming a formidable tandem with perennial pro bowler Von Miller — RIP to AFC West Offensive Linemen.

7. A quarterback will always be a popular pick, no matter their talent

With several QB needy teams in the hunt for their next franchise leader, the action heated up, with phones ringing at many of the team’s draft tables to the left of us off the main stage.

The Buffalo Bills surprised nobody to trade up for a QB, selecting Josh Allen from Wyoming with the seventh pick and the Arizona Cardinals, took the sliding Josh Rosen from UCLA in a trade with the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders at 10.

When the dust settled and the carnage had subsided, five QBs had been taken in the first round, the most since 1999 when the Baltimore Ravens got one of the biggest cheers of the night, by trading back into the first round to select 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar “Action” Jackson from Louisville 32nd overall.

With starting QB Joe Flacco deemed a potential salary cap casualty in 2019 and patience waning, it was a strong possibility the Ravens would draft his replacement, and some fantastic business by outgoing GM Ozzie Newsome ensured they got their man for terrific value at pick 32.

8. Not everyone was happy

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The night would finish shortly after 10pm Dallas time, with the stadium emptying rapidly by disgruntled Cowboys fans, peeved at the selection of LB Leighton Vander Esch by Jerry Jones at 19.

In total, 17 offensive players were taken in the first round, 15 defensive players and with the exception of special teams, all individual positions were addressed by selections in round one.

The fans spilled into the enormous parking lots around AT&T Stadium discussing and debating their team’s successes and shortcomings in equal bound. Many Browns fans who I had encountered arriving in Dallas, had their fears confirmed when Cleveland took Mayfield first overall.

The natural comparisons were made between their new franchise QB and former first round bust Johnny Manziel whom the Browns drafted in 2014. Some of these comparisons are unfair, but some are warranted and time will tell if Mayfield can right the wrongs of nightmares past.

It’s a tough life as a Cleveland Browns fan when you can have two picks in the top-five and still leave the draft arena with questions about the future of your franchise.

Gary Sommerville is a former Dublin Rebels wide receiver now based in Boston and the host of the Paddy Pigskin podcast

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About the author:

Gary Sommerville

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