Looking back, I can’t help but feel that most of the 2017 NFL Draft went well for the vast majority of teams, to the point that picking the four worst drafts was a challenge because most franchises did at least one or two good things this past weekend.
As I’ve mentioned before in various writings and podcasts, front offices didn’t reach for sub-par talent at quarterback or along the offensive line in a draft that lacked depth at both spots, instead staying true to their board and fortifying the positions where the class offered a little more substance.
But things got wild in the second round for a little bit, and several head-shaking picks caught my eye. Draft selections can be bad for two main reasons:
1) Reaching for a player who doesn’t possess the desirable value or scheme fit for the slot he’s being drafted in
2) Failing to address more important positions or holes on the roster in order to draft players that might be talented, but won’t likely lead to better success for the franchise.
The second round of the 2017 draft represented several selections that fit the above mold, as teams reached for subpar talent and/or poor fits while ignoring more crucial needs for their roster. Here’s five such examples that made me do a double take as thing got underway Friday evening.
1. Demarcus Walker, DL, Denver Broncos
The 185th player on my board, Walker being selected by Denver with the 51st overall pick almost made me fall out of my chair. Sure, I expected the old “heart, leadership, work ethic, intensity” thing to get him over drafted, but by four whole rounds?
Walker works his tail off, but we’re talking about a defensive end that got bodied in the run game by tight ends on tape, and recorded almost historically poor marks at his pro day as well. According to Pro Football Reference, just five defensive ends since 2000 have recorded a worse 3-cone time than 7.91 at the combine, the number that Walker ran at his Florida State pro day.
A 4.71 short shuttle was almost as bad, and that same lack of fluidity, flexibility and change of direction shows up on tape, as Walker was schematically and athletically taken advantage of in space far too often. He can’t make up for it with consistent power and technique at the point of attack either, making him a poor choice as a base 4-3 defensive end on early downs.
You'll hear a lot about Evan Engram can't block, but here he is driving DeMarcus Walker several yards off the ball pic.twitter.com/XU3NBLU8BG
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) December 9, 2016
A lot of Walker’s best work came as an interior pass rusher, which is the only spot I can see him having value in the NFL. That’s a nice option on long and late downs if you’re okay with him being a liability against the smaller probability of a run, but how much value is there in that? How many snaps does that equate to per game?
Walker doesn’t have the length, pad level or power to hold up as a 5 technique in Denver’s base 3-4 looks, so a second round pick is a hefty price to pay for a rotational piece with a lot of limitations.
John Elway hasn’t made many mistakes but he reached for Adam Gotsis in the second last year and did the same for Demarcus Walker this year. For a run defense in desperate need of substantial upgrades, I fear Denver missed the mark again.
2. Ryan Anderson, EDGE, Washington Redskins
Anderson was my 115th player and my 20th ranked edge defender, showing a significant lack of athleticism and explosiveness on tape that bore itself out in testing as well. The Alabama senior struggles to corner and win the edge, consistently getting pushed up the arc or stymied at the top of his rush.
A 7.73 3-cone (pro day) reinforced this idea, and a 28.5 inch vertical (pro day) and 4.78 4o (combine) at 6-2, 253 pounds were absolutely atrocious marks that drove home the idea that Anderson doesn’t have the traits or physical tools to be a top 100-type of pass rusher.
He is a heavy-handed run defender who is assignment sound and sets a strong edge, but Anderson was often beaten to the corner by quicker ball carriers, and labored in space when asked to flip his hips to the sideline and chase.
There are picks like Anderson in every draft, limited edge defenders that get over-drafted because of effort and toughness (see Walker, Demarcus) but ultimately end up making a minimal impact in the NFL.
Washington’s need for a top cornerback or safety (Chidobe Awuzie and Obi Melifonwu still on the board) was ignored here for a guy who will likely be their third or fourth edge defender most of next season. You can never have too many pass rushers but I’m not sure Washington landed one in Anderson.