Every year in late April, hope springs eternal for 32 NFL franchises. Each team looks to find the missing pieces to catapult them into the playoffs and beyond.
And while a draft can’t fairly be judged until a few years have passed, some players and teams stand out as true winners, with others as unfortunate losers.
Here’s a look at one team and one player who had a great draft experience, and one team and player who might’ve made costly mistakes.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ roster was barren, but newly-minted general manager John Lynch made significant strides in replenishing the talent.
The 49ers took Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas third overall (after trading down one spot and picking up two 3rd rounders and a 4th rounder), then traded into the first round to nab Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster 31st overall.
Lynch on drafting Thomas and Foster: “We got two of our top three players.”
Foster was a player who slid because of off-the-field concerns, but after extensive research, Lynch felt comfortable drafting him.
ESPN’s Todd McShay further added, “I thought John Lynch killed it. He got two of the top five football players in this year’s draft.”
Davis left college football as the FBS all-time leader in career receiving yards. Despite playing at a small school (Western Michigan), he built himself into the fifth overall pick in the draft.
From The Detroit News:
Davis, 22, strongly considered entering the NFL draft after his junior season, and he was projected to be a third-round pick…That’s no small thing, given third-rounders get hundreds of thousands in guaranteed money, and Davis came from next to no means. Growing up, his parents rarely had cars.
But other things mattered to Davis, such as his degree for starters. He also saw the talent Western Michigan had coming back, and how special the season could be…
“Corey truly had belief in himself,” [Corey’s coach PJ] Fleck said. “I think Corey knew he could eventually become a first-round (pick).”
So, Davis decided to return, and what a decision that was.
Instead of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in guaranteed money Davis could’ve made as a third-round pick last year, he will make approximately $16.7 million guaranteed.
The Bears were the team that traded with the 49ers. They gave up two 3rd round picks and a 4th round pick to move up only one spot in the draft and select quarterback Mitch Trubisky from North Carolina.
The 49ers made it clear they weren’t taking a quarterback at number 2, so the Bears were worried another team could trade up, and they panicked.
The Bears gave up three high-value picks for a player they could’ve very likely gotten at number 3. If Trubisky pans out, it will be moot, but he’s a very raw prospect who will need time to learn how to play in a pro-style offense.
Converse to Corey Davis’s situation, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was a kid who came from money who didn’t need to go pro early, but did so anyway despite having glaring deficiencies in his game.
Kaaya has very poor mobility, which is exacerbated by poor pocket presence. He had chances to win big games in college, but never did.
A trio of scouts had scathing criticisms of Kaaya.
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“He’s OK,” said one scout. “It sets me back when the coaches are excited he’s leavin’…”
“He’s a mystery guy. Extremely talented but it looks like he’s got dead eyes. He’s like Carson Palmer. I see a guy who holds the ball. Against Virginia Tech he got sacked eight times. Their offensive line wasn’t that bad…”
“I get the creeps about that kid. He doesn’t extend a lot of plays and he’s not going to hurt you with creativity.”
Despite being Miami’s all-time leading passer, Kaaya fell all the way to the sixth round, even being selected behind a long snapper.