We've capped the proverbial red pen for another year's worth of final draft exams. The good news: Some teams did really well. The bad: Others, not so much.
The grades are in for the 2016 NFL draft, and we fully admit how incomplete it is to stamp a judgment on every team's draft a day or two after it's complete.
Talk to us in a year or three. Or better yet, bookmark this page, revisit in in that time and have a good laugh or two. Today's "underachiever" is likely tomorrow's Pro Bowler, and anyone we labeled a "good value" is sure to be out of the league before their 25th birthday.
It's just the nature of the beast. But we do have strong opinions on this stuff, and we've done our homework diligently. Now let's find out how well these teams did.
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The Chicago Bears did not draft a quarterback over the seven rounds of this year's selection meeting, but not long after it ended, they signed a veteran to backup Jay Cutler.
Chicago has signed Brian Hoyer to a one-year deal, general manager Ryan Pace confirmed to reporters on Saturday evening. There was no immediate word on financials.
Hoyer, who spent last year with the Houston Texans, had visited with both the New York Jets and Denver Broncos. But the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round on Thursday night, ending their pursuit of any other quarterbacks (they had also discussed trading for Colin Kaepernick and Sam Bradford), and the Jets took Christian Hackenberg in the second round.
"When he's played, he's been productive," Pace said of Hoyer.
With inexperienced second-year quarterbacks Matt Blanchard and David Fales also on the roster, Hoyer becomes the clear No. 2 in Chicago behind Cutler.
Though Hoyer's postseason start with Houston against the Kansas City Chiefs in January was terrible, he was quite good in the regular season, completing 60.7 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions in nine starts.
The 30-year old was undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009, signing with the New England Patriots, where he spent three seasons; Hoyer has also started games for the Ariziona Cardinals and his hometown Cleveland Browns in addition to the Texans.
Southern Miss cornerback Kalan Reed waited a long time to be selected in the NFL draft. Now he gets a parade.
Reed was Mr. Irrelevant, the 253rd and final pick of the 2016 draft. He went to the Tennessee Titans, who traded for that pick at the end of the seventh round earlier in the draft.
Many draft observers were surprised at Reed's fall to the end of the seventh round. Reed was a bit undersized, at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, but he played well as a senior. He broke up 19 passes, intercepted four and returned two of those for touchdowns. He also ran an impressive 4.38 40-yard dash at his pro day.
The Broncos were so excited to make the final pick of the draft, they had a special "Mr. Irrelevant" jersey made up.
But the defending champions never ended up making the pick because they traded it to Tennessee. Kind of a waste of a jersey, though the folks announcing the pick in Chicago still unfurled it anyway when Reed's name was called.
The Broncos moved out of the last pick of the seventh round in a trade with the Titans, trading it and a fifth-round pick for two sixth-round picks, one of which will be next year. So Mr. Irrelevant changed hands long before he was ever picked.
Every year there is a celebration in Newport Beach, Calif. for Mr. Irrelevant. The celebration includes a parade. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the Mr. Irrelevant festivities.
Last year Mr. Irrelevant was Gerald Christian, a tight end from Louisville. He was picked by the Arizona Cardinals. Christian hurt his knee at the end of preseason and was put on injured reserve.
The Mr. Irrelevant who went on to have the best NFL career is probably kicker Ryan Succop. Succop was the last pick of the 2009 draft, and has hit 82.2 percent of his field-goal attempts. He's currently the Tennessee Titans' kicker. Last year he made 14-of-16 field-goal attempts for the Titans.
Reed probably wanted to be drafted long before pick No. 253. But at least he'll be part of a cool tradition now.
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Rico Gathers was a heck of a player at Baylor. It was in basketball, but that was good enough for the Dallas Cowboys.
In the sixth round of the NFL draft the Cowboys took a power forward who they hope can become a tight end, selecting Gathers. It's an intriguing pick, considering Gathers hasn't played football since middle school.
There are a couple things working in Gathers' favor. First, he's a great athlete. He's 6-foot-8, 275 pounds, and his strength and agility is one reason he was a tremendous rebounder and inside player for Baylor's basketball team. Gathers averaged 8.6 points and 8 rebounds per game in college.
Second, others have paved the way for him. Antonio Gates never played college football, and he's probably going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jimmy Graham played one season of football at Miami and has become an NFL star. Julius Thomas became a red-zone force with the Denver Broncos and signed a huge contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars after just one season of college football. All of them played college basketball.
This year's tight end class isn't great, so why not spend a sixth-round compensatory pick on a great athlete who might end up hitting big? Dallas won't be expecting Gathers to play right away, so they can work with him and teach him football. You can't teach 6-8, 275 pounds with great athletic ability. He's a fun developmental pick.
And if he doesn't work out with the Cowboys, they can call the Dallas Mavericks and see if they could use any rebounding help.
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In late 2012, Dak Prescott likely wasn't thinking about an NFL future. He was just a Dallas Cowboys fan with some angst and a Twitter account.
Who knew that on Dec. 30, 2012, he wasn't just ripping Tony Romo on Twitter, he was ripping future Cowboys teammate Tony Romo? The Cowboys picked Prescott late in the fourth round on Saturday, presumably to possibly be Romo's successor someday.
Here are the tweets, which Prescott hadn't deleted as of Saturday afternoon but probably will soon:
And the 2016 draft has yet another embarrassing social media issue.
It's really not that big of a deal. Prescott was 19 years old and at that point had 29 career college passes. There's no way he could have known that day, as Romo threw three interceptions in a Week 17 game at Washington with a playoff spot on the line, that he'd work with Romo someday. And it's definitely not as inflammatory as another similar issue, when Larry Nance was drafted by the Lakers in 2015 and people found a tweet in which he called Kobe Bryant a rapist.
Prescott's tweets are pretty funny, really. Hopefully Romo has a sense of humor and has some fun with his new teammate over it.
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— really, in the storied history of service academy football — will get a shot in the NFL.One of the greatest service academy players in many, many years
Navy's Keenan Reynolds, who set an NCAA career record with 88 touchdowns and an FBS record with 4,559 rushing yards, was taken in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. That's not far from Annapolis, where Reynolds became a big-time college football player. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year.
Reynolds' position has been debated, though it seems his best fit might be as a slot receiver.
The transition to the NFL is not as easy for service-academy players as it is for everyone else. Everyone else gets a phone call, puts on a hat and makes football their full-time job. If you graduate from a service academy like Navy, you have a five-year service commitment.
That has been an issue for Army, Navy and Air Force players with NFL dreams through the years. However, last year Navy long snapper Joe Cardona was selected by the New England Patriots and played with them all season. Cardona was allowed to work one day a week at Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., and serve full time in the offseason. The academies take the service commitment seriously, as they should considering taxpayer money is used to put every man and woman in a service academy through that school. But there are ways for players to live their NFL dreams and also serve.
"Newly commissioned ensigns who do not proceed directly to entry-level training are assigned temporary duties while awaiting assignment in the Navy," said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, in an email to the Capital Gazette. "This is done routinely for newly assessed officers."
Reynolds could also have to serve active duty and then do reserve duty for the remainder of his commitment, as others have.
We'll see how Reynolds is allowed to juggle both, though landing with Maryland's NFL team probably can't hurt. But for now the Ravens are taking a shot on an officer and a tremendously talented football player.
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The Minnesota Vikings made history on Saturday.
Moritz Boehringer became the first straight-from-Europe draft pick in NFL history when the Vikings used a sixth-round selection on him.
Boehringer quickly is becoming a folk hero here. His story is incredible. He played — get this — for the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns of the German Football League and put up monster numbers in 2015: 59 receptions, 1,232 yards, 13 TDs.
At his pro day, held at Florida Atlantic, the 6-foot-4, 227-pound Boehringer put on a show — a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, a vertical of 39 inches, a 10-foot-11 broad jump, 17 reps on the bench press, a 4.10-second short shuttle, 11.15-second 60-yard shuttle, and a 6.65-second three-cone. Those are elite testing numbers for any receiver, much less one with his terrific size.
Teams started digging immediately. Who was this guy? Several teams really did work on him, and the Vikings were among them. NFL Network's Mike Mayock took to Boehringer and promoted his cause, and it turned out that the Vikings were listening.
Oh, and it just so happened that a 17-year-old Boehringer watched an Adrian Peterson video and was inspired to give football a try and remained a Vikings fan since. Now he's in the NFL, playing for his favorite team.
You can't make this stuff up. A unicorn indeed.
So how good is the German Football League? One college scouting director who watched Boehriger's tape said "D-III or lower," so that gives you an idea of the competition he has faced. Now he'll go against Xavier Rhodes in camp. It will be a system shock for sure.
But this story is just too good. That same scout also recycled a joke that has made the rounds in NFL circles: that Boehringer is the German Jeff Janis, the Packers receiver who had an incredible playoff game against the Cardinals after seemingly coming from nowhere.
It will be fascinating to see if Boehringer can make it in what would be a unique path to the NFL.
More on 2016 NFL draft
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April 30, 2016
The Dallas Cowboys wanted a quarterback in this year's draft, and after getting beat out for the first two they had targeted, they finally grabbed one at the end of the fourth round, taking Mississippi State's Dak Prescott at No. 135.
While other teams who have a starter in place regularly draft quarterbacks – the New England Patriots drafted Jacoby Brissett on Friday night, two years after taking Jimmy Garroppolo in the second round, and earlier Saturday the Oakland Raiders drafted Connor Cook – Prescott is, remarkably, the first quarterback the Cowboys have drafted since 2009.
That year, they took the largely forgettable Stephen McGee in the fourth round. You have to go all the way back to 2001 to find the only other quarterback Dallas drafted this millenium, when they took Quincy Carter in the second round.
Prescott is certainly a project, but the Cowboys were a disaster at quarterback after Tony Romo got hurt not once but twice last season. Prescott's draft stock took a hit when he was arrested for suspicion of DUI in March, two days after his pro day.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones told reporters on Thursday night that his team was trying to move back into the first round to get Paxton Lynch, but the Denver Broncos nabbed the Memphis QB first, and on Saturday, the Raiders jumped ahead of Dallas in the fourth round to take Connor Cook.
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Cardale Jones watched eight quarterbacks get selected in the NFL draft before he finally heard his name called.
Ohio State's hero from the 2014 season finally went off the board with the last pick of the fourth round, to the Buffalo Bills with a compensatory pick. Jones was taken 139th overall on Saturday.
Jones' decision to go back to school for one more season has been debated many times, though Jones himself never has seemed too stressed about it.
Jones was in a unique situation after the 2014 season. He started just three games, and they were a win in the Big Ten championship game and two wins in the College Football Playoff. He could have left Ohio State with a national title and a pristine reputation. NFL teams would have had to have made a tough decision based on incomplete data, but practically everything Jones put on film for them was very good. Jones had the arm strength, great size, and good athleticism. ESPN’s Mel Kiper said he thought Jones would have been a second-round pick had he declared last year, though we've seen plenty of quarterbacks slip in the draft once NFL teams start to pick apart their flaws. Ask Matt Barkley. Or Connor Cook.
Jones didn't think he was ready, so he went back to school. He won a battle to be Ohio State's starter, but didn't play great. He was eventually benched for J.T. Barrett.
It's easy to second-guess Jones now, because it's likely he cost himself some money by coming back. But Jones has maintained all along that he has no regrets, and that's understandable. Life is about more than money and NFL draft status, and Jones enjoyed his final year at Ohio State. He says he's comfortable with how it all went down.
“I definitely wouldn’t trade my time and that season for anything in the world,” he told the Columbus Dispatch. “I wish 2015 had gone differently, not just for me but for our team overall. But it’s definitely made not just me but my teammates better, that adversity we had to handle."
The landing spot is interesting. Tyrod Taylor is coming off a good year, but there are some contract issues the Bills will have to work through. And Taylor has played well for only one season. It's possible Taylor will be the Bills' starter for many years to come, but it's no sure thing.
Jones couldn't start right now. A lot of his flaws were exposed the more he played last season. But he has some skills and he'll have time to develop as a quarterback. Perhaps he'll be ready when and if the Bills need him.
Jones likely would have gone higher in the draft had he come out last season. But he doesn't seem to have any concerns about what happened. Now he gets a chance to make his NFL name with the Bills.
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April 30, 2016
The New Orleans Saints traded up in Round 4 for a fascinating but very raw prospect from an unusual location: The University of Manitoba. They took 6-foot-3, 300-pound DT David Onyemata, a very raw prospect but one who could pay off in time, with the 120th pick in the draft.
Yes, that's Canada, folks. The NFL will dip its toes in the northern waters occasionally, and the Saints are more willing to do so than other teams it appears. The last Canadian prospect taken this high in the NFL draft was third-rounder Akiem Hicks by New Orleans in 2012 via Regina. And the only other player drafted from Manitoba? Israel Idonije, who had a nice career in the NFL.
Hicks didn't work out in New Orleans, but he found success with the New England Patriots last season after he was traded there and parlayed that into a big free-agent deal this offseason with the Chicago Bears.
Might Onyemata, who was invited to the East-West Shrine Game, pay off down the road? He only has played football for four years now and is in need of more seasoning and refinement. One CFL scout we spoke with noted Onyemata's incredible wingspan (82 inches) and strong short-area quickness (7.25 three-cone drill). He also bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times and had a great 10-yard split on his 40-yard dash: 1.66 seconds.
But he's raw, too, and the Saints need help now defensively. Still, the promise could be really good down the road.
From the scouting report:
"In my four years evaluating Canadian college players, he was by far the most productive defensive linemen as he dominated nearly every game. ... He was very impressive in the three games I evaluated and three practices [at the East West]. I have no doubt he can be a high-end starting [defensive tackle] in the CFL ... but I think he'll be a starter in time in the NFL. ... I think he is best suited to play [defensive end] in a [3-4 defense] but can be productive in that role or as a [4-3 defensive tackle]."
The Saints are not afraid to gamble, clearly, and Sean Payton and Co. just took another dice roll on a raw talent.
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