By ZACH GILLELAND
This is one of the best times to be a football fan; the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft came and went Thursday.
What makes the NFL Draft so great? Is it the dreams of future players becoming a reality as they walk across the stage?
Or is it the wheeling and dealing of general managers in hopes of filling out their roster for a possible Super Bowl run?
One thing is for certain: we fans will glue ourselves to the television and scream and holler with any bad choice or when the player meant to be the savior of their franchise gets taken by the team in front of them. We live for it.
Some things were expected—the deafening boos of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell by fans in Philadelphia. But the most unexpected thing had to be the trades that netted three teams their quarterback of the future.
Below, The Flyer breaks down the first round selections by the Salisbury area’s three most popular teams: the Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.
Philadelphia Eagles: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Finishing 7-9 last season, the Eagles made great strides under rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. They paid a price to get him, sending five picks to Cleveland.
Luckily for Philadelphia, drafting Wentz created a surplus at quarterback. That allowed the Eagles to trade Sam Bradford to the Vikings in exchange for Minnesota’s first-round selection.
A crazy scene unfolded as Philly fans in attendance cheered the entire time the Eagles were on the clock. Missing out on the top-three wide receivers in the draft, Philadelphia selected defensive end Derek Barnett out of Tennessee.
A mixed reaction with more boos than cheers, Barnett should help bolster a pass rush that ranked tied for sixteenth in the NFL with 34 sacks. After whiffing on the selection of Marcus Smith of Louisville a few years prior, Barnett provides a compliment to pass rusher Brandon Graham.
The first-team All-SEC selection finished his junior season with 56 tackles and 14 sacks. His 33 sacks over three seasons is first all-time in Volunteer history.
Barnett broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee and fans would like to have another White. But it will be a matter of time before Philly fans get to see their pick suit up in the green and black.
Ravens: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
General Manager Ozzie Newsome goes back to his roots as the Ravens select another Alabama player. Since Newsome took over as GM in 2002, Baltimore has selected six players from his alma mater.
With Jonathan Allen still available, many thought the Ravens would go with the defensive lineman, especially in the wake of the Timmy Jernigan trade. Other options included Allen’s teammates at Alabama such as linebacker Reuben Foster, offensive tackle Cam Robinson and tight end OJ Howard.
But selecting Humphrey helps an obvious need, as the Ravens have a hole across from Jimmy Smith. Wide receiver is another need for the purple and black, but with three of the top receiving prospects selecting in the top-ten, reaching for a pass catcher was not a viable option.
The heart and soul of Baltimore has always been the defense. The Ravens signed safety Tony Jefferson in free agency to help the secondary, and Humphrey should step in and help a pass defense ranked ninth in passing yards allowed.
A part of a stout Alabama defense, the redshirt sophomore finished his 2016 campaign with 36 tackles and two interceptions.
Redskins: DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama
In what could be the steal of the draft, the Redskins bolster their front seven in defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. Allen ranked second on ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s big board but fell to Washington at 17.
In what could be the team’s most glaring need, Washington addresses a run defense that gave up the ninth-most rushing yards in the league at 1916 (119.75 per game). With the offense leading the way for a team that just missed the playoffs last season, the defense needed some help.
Many were interested to see what the Redskins would do in their first draft after firing GM Scott McCloughan. But after obtaining the second-ranked player with the seventeenth overall pick, Washington may have made one of the best selections in the first round.
A reason that Allen may have fallen that late into draft could be questions about the defensive end’s shoulders. Both of his shoulders have mild or moderate arthritis, a condition that could affect his NFL career.
But there is no denying the numbers Allen put up at Alabama. In 2016, the senior produced 69 tackles, 10.5 sacks and gathered honors as a unanimous All-American.
Adding to his accolades, Allen received the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards, given to the nation’s top defensive player, and the Lombardi Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive lineman or linebacker.
There had been rumblings that the Redskins would trade quarterback Kirk Cousins in the draft and try to obtain another signal caller. The Browns, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, tried to make a move for Cousins, but Washington stayed put.
It can be easy to say which team won the draft in April. But fans will find out this season whether their team may have made the right choice.