GB, ATL help Love, Ridder; Can DET take next step?
Chris Simms joins Michael Smith to analyze how the Falcons and Packers helped respective quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Jordan Love through the draft, debate whether the Lions can take the next step, and more.
MICHAEL SMITH: All right, my main man, Chris Simms, is here with me now to close the book on the 2023 NFL-- well, not really closed it because it's really just-- they haven't even written their book yet.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, that's right. It's just opening up.
MICHAEL SMITH: Yeah, we're wrapping up the coverage. But one team that I think for sure is going to be-- because I'm a sucker for alliteration, fascinating, fun to watch, and frustrating AF to defend is the Falcons. First team-- I believe they're the first team in NFL history to go tight end, wide receiver, running back in the top 10 in back to back to back drafts.
And so Arthur Smith's got a lot of toys to play with, Chris. But there's questions about the triggerman. There's questions about Desmond Ridder. So I'd love for you to take me back to your evaluations of him last year, coming out of Cincinnati, coming into the 2022 NFL draft, what you saw out of him in limited action as a rookie, and what you expect of him moving forward with this supporting cast.
They not only took Bijan, they took Bergeron with their second pick at the top of the second round. So he's got a lot of help. Doesn't seem to have to do much. So what is your read on Ridder?
CHRIS SIMMS: No, I think you said a lot of right things. And first off with Atlanta, let's hit on that. I mean, hey, what they did, I'm with you. They deserve, I think, a little more love in the draft.
To me, their first two picks there, I don't know if two picks really change a team more than that. I know the Houston Texans quarterback and Will Anderson, Jr., but you're talking about results that are going to relate to the field right now. Man, I mean, that offensive line was already one of the best in football. You said it. It's Pitts and Drake London, and now you're going to have one of the guys that's one of the best running backs in football, and the O-line's going to get better.
They kind of double down on one of the strengths of their team in the draft and just said, no, we're going to make it stronger, which I kind of like. I do think a little bit, there's some value to that. Some teams, they try to spread the wealth everywhere, and I go, well, you don't have one unit on your team that's worth a damn now. So they have something tangible that's going to make you change the way you have to play them.
They, in free agency, kicked butt this year too, Michael. So they're one of the teams, in my opinion, kind of winning the offseason. Ridder, getting back to him. First off, that's why I loved their draft. It takes pressure off of him. He doesn't have to come in and go 35 for 42 and 300 yards every game.
MICHAEL SMITH: Doesn't have to be Matt Ryan.
CHRIS SIMMS: He's going to be able to run the ball. Right. RPOs, read options, some quarterback designed runs here and there. You know? Bootleg, play action to Pitts, Drake London.
They're going to play what we saw, I think, from the Tennessee Titans like a few years ago, when they went to the AFC Championship game. They're going to ride that run game and have an efficient quarterback behind that. Ridder coming out, Michael, liked him, right, but had some questions.
First off, I'll say this. The man, probably my favorite guy I was around out of all those quarterbacks in that draft class. I can see why people latched on to the human being, has a natural feel for the game, knows how to play the position. But there are some things with his throwing that has to continue to improve.
It improved last year. He definitely had a little bit of a tighter motion. He was a more consistent-- with accuracy. That was the big thing coming out of Cincinnati, where you go-- you'd watch a game, and you'd go, hey, there's some good players and some good throws, but then you'd watch six, seven throws. You go, damn, you're too good to miss that or do that, right there.
So I did see a step in the right direction. We'll see if that continues here throughout the spring and into preseason.
MICHAEL SMITH: Yeah, I-- initially when the mock draft had Bijan Robinson going to the Falcons at eight, I was like, you already got a 1,000-yard rookie running back that you hit on the fifth round in Allgeier. He's cheap. What's the point of waiting on running backs? See, I'm one of those wait on running backs kind of guy, but the more I think about it, the more I really love it. But I'll come back to that in a second.
Speaking of Love, so Jordan Love, instead of his fifth-year option, the Packers sweetened it and signed him to an extension. So a little bit more clarity, a little more commitment, I should say, when it comes to the Packers and Jordan Love. And they were committed.
Their love language, if you will, was receiving gifts for Jordan Love. And we've talked for years-- for a long time, it seems, years about Aaron Rodgers and what he didn't get, even though he just didn't get it in the first round, but he did get support. But in this draft, they were hell bent-- I think it was five pass catchers and a running back.
But they gave him two tight ends and three wide receivers. What is your-- what is your read? What's the book on Jordan Love? Because a lot of people are looking at it like, oh, the Packers is just going to be next in line. You know, Favre, and they develop Rodgers behind Favre, and they develop Love after Rodgers, and he's just going to take the baton and keep this thing going. What's the book on Jordan Love?
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know if I'm quite as confident of the handoff here. And again, with Favre to Rodgers, we had our questions too, but there were things about Rodgers game that I guess I had less questions about than compared to Jordan Love.
MICHAEL SMITH: And he also wasn't great at the beginning.
CHRIS SIMMS: Again, he took a step in the right direction, with what we saw in Jordan Love last year. And I talked about it with Florio a little bit, actually earlier today, and just the fact that, yeah, that game, "Sunday Night Football," best team in the game in the Philadelphia Eagles, down in the second half in Philadelphia.
MICHAEL SMITH: Thrust in action.
CHRIS SIMMS: I mean, he didn't blink. Right. Yeah, tough situation. He didn't blink. So I love that. And he is a guy that has continued to grow in throwing, as far as decision-making and kind of cleaning up the mechanics of his throwing motion to become more consistent too. And you saw that in the Philadelphia Sunday night game.
I think that was a jump spot for the Green Bay organization to kind of go, hey, wait, wait, this guy can do this, right? I mean, we don't expect them to be the MVP, but he can do this. So I loved the draft, right?
I do. I mean, those two tight ends, they're freaky. Again, a slot receiver to go with Doubs and Christian Watson, so now you got guys that can work the middle of the field. You got two weapons on the outside.
MICHAEL SMITH: You know you can run it.
CHRIS SIMMS: Exactly. And they can run it. Exactly. So to me, Green Bay is one of those teams that like I want to kind of like put a asterisks next to and say, watch out for them, because they underperformed last year. They were better than what their record was. There's a bunch of reasons. We can go into that.
But I wouldn't be shocked to see them in the thick of things in the NFC. I'm not going to put them in the class of the Eagles and the 49ers, but man, their roster, it's damn good throughout. There's not a lot of holes. And I do like what they did in the draft.
And I like what they did with Jordan Love, with this little sweetener too, Michael. Right? It covers their ass in case, OK, wait, he does do well, and OK, we got him locked up for another year after that. It covers his ass in, wait, if I fall apart or the year doesn't go great, you still owe me some money the next year too. So it's a win-win for both. I think that's well done by the Packers organization.
MICHAEL SMITH: Reportedly could be up 20-- worth up to 22 and 1/2 million, with 13 and 1/2 million guaranteed, and replacing the fifth-year option. So the team that kept the Packers out of the playoffs last year, the Lions, I want to get into them because-- and it kind of connects to the Falcons conversation we were just having.
So I think you notice about me, Chris. My favorite sporting event of the year, my favorite sporting event period, is the NFL draft, always has been. Therefore, my favorite day is day three, what is now day three. Back in the day, when you and I were kids, it was a day two. It was day one, it was first, second, third. Day two was four through seven, once they went from 12 to seven.
And then now it's day three. So day three is my favorite day because, to me, that's for the real ones. That's for the hardcore guys. That's where the teams really make their money, as you know.
So another reason I love day three is it kind of shuts people up because a lot of people after Thursday night, after round one, they're like, what the hell are they doing. These guys, they have no clue. They start giving grades after one round as if the job is done.
But I look at a team like Detroit-- and I'll be honest with you, man. When Detroit picked their first two-- made their first two picks, when they drafted Jahmyr Gibbs, another running back in the top dozen picks, and if you-- let's call him a running back. He's more of a weapon, but his designation is running back.
And then they're taken off-the-ball linebacker at 18 in the top 20. I'm like, damn, this is like a throwback draft. This doesn't feel like a very modern draft on the part of the Detroit Lions. But I love what they did in round two, getting LaPorta from Iowa at tight end, going back to Iowa, getting Branch at defensive back.
I ain't going to call him a safety. Defensive back from Alabama. And then your main man, Hendon Hooker, in the third round. They have Broderick Martin from Western Kentucky also in the third round. But in the second and third round in particular is where Detroit, I thought, really did work.
What'd you think? But I bring up Detroit in particular because there's a lot of people-- it's the first time I've seen negative press about Detroit in a long time. I've seen Fs given to Detroit's grade. I've seen people feel like they were one of the big losers in the draft. Where do you come down on Detroit's draft? Because a lot of people see them as that team ready to take the next step.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, I see them as that team. And I'm more like you. I thought it was a really good draft. I really did. Now listen, I'm going to give the mantle and the trophy to the Philadelphia Eagles for what they did in the draft.
MICHAEL SMITH: For sure.
CHRIS SIMMS: They win OK?
MICHAEL SMITH: It's them and everybody else.
CHRIS SIMMS: Right?
MICHAEL SMITH: Yeah.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, exactly. But you get into the tier two of teams that I think did really good. We hit on Atlanta, right? We're going to hit on the Lions. I'm with you.
One, OK, here's the big thing. Yeah, you're right, there was too much made about round one. And I get that. First off, I'd like to say Jahmyr Gibbs, to me, I had him and Bijan Robinson as tier one, the top two running backs in the draft. I don't think there's that big of a gap between Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs.
MICHAEL SMITH: Am I wrong that there were some teams that had Gibbs above Robinson?
CHRIS SIMMS: I don't think you are because Gibbs has the ability to go 80 to the house. Bijan Robinson is not that. He'll have a lot of 15, and 20, and 25, and all that, but Jahmyr Gibbs is one of the few people in the draft where you went, hey, here's the ball, oh, he can score anywhere. Those were limited in this draft, as you know. It was a lack of superstar draft.
So there's great value in that. And I did not think the gap was that big. So one, I'm going to be one to sit here and tell you like, yeah, OK, 12 is maybe a little high, as far as the value of the draft. But is it really?
Like, if we take in the context of this and go, wait, they're a running team. They got a great offensive line. They feel like they're missing that weapon running back to take their team over the top. So we're going to downgrade them because they got the number one player at the position they felt they needed to address, eight, 10 spots too early?
So we're mad at them? We're going to give them an F because of that? Because they got the player they wanted for the need they needed, and we're going to give them a bad-- to me, that's just draft pundit bullshit, right there, Michael.
MICHAEL SMITH: Yeah. Real talk.
CHRIS SIMMS: I mean, that's what that is, right?
MICHAEL SMITH: Real talk.
CHRIS SIMMS: And then Jack Campbell, I hear you there, too. Right? Yeah, it was too early for me. I had an early second-round grade, somewhere in 35 to 40 range. But again, they got a desperate need for middle linebacker.
I think they're a team that, when they looked at their positions they went, wait, we like these three or four guys at running back. We like these two or three guys at linebacker. And Gibbs and Campbell were top of that list. And they went, wait, they're here right now.
Why risk not having them, and trading back, and then missing the guy we absolutely wanted, that we felt fit the need, fit our locker room, fit our culture, and everything there? And then you're right, we-- a lot of people judged off of round one. And Sam LaPorta, to me, was the second best tight end in the draft behind Dalton Kincaid.
Brian Branch, like you said, DB, he could arguably-- he could be one of the best nickels in football. That's what he's going to be. He's amazing at nickel, free safety, whatever you want there. And then they get the quarterback of the future.
Yes, I'm with you all the way, my main man, Michael Smith. I think Detroit did a great job. And I'm never going to fault a team for addressing an issue of their team. And oh, they got the [INAUDIBLE] wanted 10 or 15 spots too early. Like, come on. I don't see it that way.
MICHAEL SMITH: Right. You get the guy you want, and he works out, and not to mention the guys that go ahead of him, that people think are superstars, that don't work out. So it's like, you never know.
CHRIS SIMMS: Exactly. No, that's right.
MICHAEL SMITH: It's all in fun. But you're right, there is a whole lot of bullshit that flies around the NFL draft. And look, I've been a part of it for years, but it's the machine that we all love. So look, but I want to go deeper with you, though, Chris. I want to go deeper.
See, because we've given enough time to like the top-five quarterbacks, and the first-round guys, and this, that, and the other. Bro, I want to nerd out with you because, OK, we know that there was a record number of quarterbacks taken, or at least a record-tying number of quarterbacks taken this year. I believe the number is 14, am I right?
So 14 quarterbacks taken. And I would like to go beyond the Strouds, the Youngs, the Richardsons, the Levises, the Hookers, and I want to talk about Haener in New Orleans, and Bennett in Los Angeles. Not each of them. You know, O'Connell in Vegas, and Tune in Arizona, and DTR in Cleveland. You know, Clifford in Green Bay, Hall in Minnesota, Max Duggan in Los Angeles.
It's like, there's a lot of guys that everybody is looking for that next Brock Purdy. Is there a quarterback who landed in a spot, and his circumstances may not scream, oh, he is next, but landed at a spot where he could either be developed by that coaching staff or be an heir apparent, that somebody could end up finding a diamond in the rough, finding the next Brock Purdy, which is everybody is trying to replicate that blind luck by the 49ers last year?
I don't want to take away from it. It wasn't blind. It wasn't blind luck. But it's like, if they knew he was going to be that good, he wouldn't have been Mr. Irrelevant. They obviously liked him enough to draft him there, but who knew that he'd be that guy? You know?
CHRIS SIMMS: No, exactly. I think, hey, context, it matters in that conversation too. Everybody wants their Brock Purdy, but I want to go, OK, do you have the 49ers football team and Kyle Shanahan to make it all work, too? You know? I mean, he has only the most creative play designer in football behind him. And oh, it's only the second most talented roster in football, right?
So it's not easy to replicate. There's other things that went into that. So is there guys that have that type of potential? Sure. And was Brock Purdy probably misdrafted or underdrafted to a degree? Sure. There's no doubt about that, too.
But you hit on a few. The ones that I like, and if you want to get later down the list. One, I like Jake Haener, that New Orleans drafted in the fourth round.
MICHAEL SMITH: I love him.
CHRIS SIMMS: Love him. Natural at the position. And actually--
MICHAEL SMITH: Tough.
CHRIS SIMMS: --really good at everything, other than he's small and slow. But talking about playing the position, different arm raises, tough as hell. You're right. So I like that.
And he's the kind of guy to where, as a rookie, he's gotten a lot of reps, and played. And if he had to get thrown in there for a game because Derek Carr got hurt, he'd be OK. The other one I like, you brought his name up too, is Clayton Tune.
Right, Clayton tune, similar to what I just said about Haener, except I think there's more physical ability and top-end potential. He's 6' 2". He's 220. He ran a 4.59. He played a ton in Houston. He threw the ball 45, 50 times a game.
So he's had lots of reps, and he's got a feel for the game. He's got a nice, consistent, accurate motion. In fact, I wish he would just let it go a little bit more. But those are two that jump out to me.
And you know I'm a big fan of DTR. I mean, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, I thought, in my evaluation, from what I saw on film, was every bit as good or if not better than Will Levis.
Maybe the potential wasn't the same. I get that. But where they are right now, if you needed a guy to go out, and run an offense, and do all that, I'd take DTR. And I think that's a great spot he landed in Cleveland. It's a perfect scheme fit. He'll get to learn from Deshaun Watson and Josh Dobbs. And so those are three that certainly jump out to me that are down the line a little bit.
MICHAEL SMITH: And then you got Tanner McKee in Philadelphia. Like a lot of times, as you know, it's not when you were drafted. It's where you were drafted and into what were you drafted. See Brock Purdy in San Francisco.
Who's going to be-- so there was a couple of running backs that went late, man, that I love too. Chase Brown, fifth round is not that late, but Chase Brown went to Cincinnati. Obviously, Kenny McIntosh went to Seattle, who loaded up on running backs, interestingly.
DeWayne McBride, I get the fumbling issues. I get the lack of receiving work, but I love his running style out of UAB, going to Minnesota, also a crowded running back room. So sticking with that theme of diamonds in the rough, and gems, and steals from day three, it's like, who's-- I've asked you about this year's Brock Purdy. Who is this year's Isaiah Pacheco?
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, yeah, good one, right? And you know, I've heard-- first off, like let's hit on that Seattle thing, right? Seattle drafted two running backs, and everybody thinks it's like some threat to Kenneth Walker. And I want to be like, what? Kenneth Walker is like a freak show.
There ain't nobody that's a threat to Kenneth Walker, unless you're talking about like the best running backs in the game. He's already there. They drafted these guys because they're like, hey, we've got a superstar. We'd like him to last a little while. So let's not kill them here in the first three years. I think that's more about what that's about than anything else.
MICHAEL SMITH: So it's not a committee. It's not an indictment of something that Walker can't do--
CHRIS SIMMS: I don't think so at all. No.
MICHAEL SMITH: --without a desire to spread it around. It's-- gotcha.
CHRIS SIMMS: I think it's trying to be smart and not kill a guy who, yeah, can run 80 yards up the sidelines, but like we saw, can run people over and plays a physical brand, too. And let's try to make him last for five or six--
MICHAEL SMITH: But there's no such thing as a workhorse running back anymore either. And they're few and far between. You know what I mean? It's like the days-- it's all committee now. Everybody-- you need more than one, bottom line. You need more than one.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yes, you definitely do.
MICHAEL SMITH: Everybody uses multiple backs.
CHRIS SIMMS: You definiely do. And with as freaky as defenses are and everything now, yeah, to just go bell cow running back, that's too hard. They're one of the last teams that did it anyways, with Marshawn Lynch, right? They were kind of going that route. I think they like the bell cow thing, but they got to-- they're going to be smart here with a special football player.
I like what you said about Chase Brown, all right? Yeah, Chase Brown was a top-five running back in the draft for me. That was a great pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. Hey, Roschon Johnson, OK, that in Chicago. I'm just going to say, watch out for that.
I mean, again, after those top two, and Gibbs and Bijan Robinson, I thought Roschon Johnson's skill set translated to the NFL maybe better than anybody else outside those two guys, right there. 220, can run you over, got quick feet. So that's one certainly.
I love Sean Tucker, undrafted free agent, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
MICHAEL SMITH: Yes. How'd he go undrafted? How'd he go undrafted?
CHRIS SIMMS: It's all medical, Michael. It's all medical. He just got-- he's got a few nagging problems and been beat up there in Syracuse, so that led to him falling down the line a little bit. I'm missing a few other ones.
Hey, I like the Tennessee Titans and Tyjae Spears, Eric Gray and the Giants in the fifth. Eric Gray is a player to me out of Oklahoma. So like you're talking about, there's some value and some ballers to be had at that position as you get later on in the draft.
MICHAEL SMITH: All right, last nerd-out question before I let you go, man. Just overall, and maybe give some love to some defensive guys. Like, give me your favorite like late-round, diamond in the rough, steal, gem, or even undrafted free agent, to your point. I love the shout out to Sean Tucker.
Maybe even an undrafted guy that caught your eye. But just a dude that's maybe slipped through the cracks, that you're like, yo, this is a guy that's-- he's got a shot. It's a long shot, but he's got a shot.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, so I think one-- all right, I'm going to give love to the Bengals with DJ Turner in the third round. All right? DJ Turner, the corner out of Michigan who ran 4.29. I think man to man he's as good as anybody there is in the draft, as far as just like lockdown island type corner. I thought his cover skills were right up there with Devon Witherspoon, right? So that's just like maybe a mid-round guy that I loved in a big time way. Right?
There's a guy that Chicago-- who I got a man crush on here, that they took later on in the draft. And let me just get to it here. Oh, I'm messing it up here. I think--
MICHAEL SMITH: No, take your time. We good.
CHRIS SIMMS: I think I messed up my guy's name. All right, good. Hold on a second here. It's my Bowling Green guy. And I'm blanking on his name because I got so many damn-- so many damn--
MICHAEL SMITH: Oh, I know who you're talking about--
CHRIS SIMMS: He's the 300-pound outside linebacker.
MICHAEL SMITH: You're talking about Karl Brooks?
CHRIS SIMMS: Karl Brooks, yes. Where the hell did he end up? Where did he end up? Oh, Packers. That's it. I knew I was in the right division.
MICHAEL SMITH: He went to the Packers. Yeah.
CHRIS SIMMS: Right. Karl Brooks. If you want to talk about late-round guy that I go, ooh, maybe in a few years jumps out the scene to go--
MICHAEL SMITH: Pick 179.
CHRIS SIMMS: Right. But you go, where the [BLEEP] guy come from, right? First off, he's like one of those-- Michael, I turned on the film, and I was like, wait, am I reading this right? He's 300 pounds, and he's-- what, he's playing outside linebacker? What? Right?
So that was the first thing that you went, so they think he's athletic enough to play outside linebacker. That says something in itself. And then you watch and you go, whoa. This guy's ability to change direction, and run sideline to sideline, and rush the passer, it's all really, really damn good.
Defensive tackle. He's going to be an issue in there in passing downs. Now, he's got to work on something like anchor and run game, double-team stuff, right? He's athletic. He's always trying to disrupt and do all that. But man, that would be one guy towards the end of the rounds that I would look at to go, watch out for him.
Another one I'll throw out there. If I could go like, who's this year's mid-round receiver that I think can maybe blow up. And I talked about him a little on my podcast. Marvin Mims, Jr., he could be this year's version of Terry McLaurin, right, where we go, damn, how did he end up in the third round, right?
Now, he's got a rocket up his ass. Oh, we docked him because he was on a bad Oklahoma team this year. I don't know. If he had Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray throwing to him, he probably would have been a top-40 pick, but he got on a shit team, so we all dropped him down. That was another one I really liked for Sean Payton and the Broncos.
MICHAEL SMITH: OK. All right. I'm feeling that. Listen, dude, I could literally do this with you all day. I could nerd-out with you all day, man, but I know you got to go. You got to go handle business with "Chris Simms Unbuttoned."
Y'all already subscribing. Y'all already rating it. Y'all already giving it five stars. I know y'all mofos are following my main man Chris Simms. So appreciate you, man. Thanks so much for falling through.
CHRIS SIMMS: You know it.
MICHAEL SMITH: Good to catch up with you. Get some well-deserved rest, OK?
CHRIS SIMMS: You know-- hey, I want some rest, that's for sure. My ass is tired. But thanks for having me on, man. You the man. I always enjoy it, Michael. You the man.
MICHAEL SMITH: All right, bro. Be good. Thank you.