NFL draft winners and losers: Jon Gruden's surprising pick makes it harder to justify Khalil Mack trade

Oakland Raiders fans said critics needed to wait until their team made all the draft picks from the Khalil Mack trade to judge the deal.

The Raiders, who are now the Las Vegas Raiders, didn’t make a pick many liked with the final major piece of the controversial trade.

There were few questionable selections in the first half of Round 1 on Thursday night. The first pick that caught everyone by surprise came when the Raiders took Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette at No. 19 overall. That pick came from the Chicago Bears in the Mack deal.

Arnette is a little older (turns 24 in September) and his 4.56-second 40-yard dash is not good for a first-round cornerback. He was the No. 49 prospect on the countdown by Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm, and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said on the draft broadcast that he had Arnette ranked as his eighth cornerback. It might turn out to be a good pick, but it wasn’t great value. He was the Raiders’ second first-round pick, after they took Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III with the 12th pick.

And with that, the Mack trade is mostly wrapped up.

There are a lot of moving pieces due to other trades, but the two major pieces for Las Vegas will end up being running back Josh Jacobs, last year’s first-round pick from Chicago who had a fine rookie season, and Arnette.

There are other picks involved. The Bears have a second-round selection Friday from the Raiders, and the Raiders have a third-round pick from the Bears. The Bears also have a seventh-round pick from the Raiders they’ll use Saturday. The other piece was a sixth-round pick last year, which bounced around a few times, starting with the Raiders trading guard Keleche Osemele and that pick for the Jets’ fifth-round pick. The various moves made after that trade with the Jets helped the Raiders get a promising 2019 draft class. However, it’s hard to include someone like cornerback Trayvon Mullen, a 2019 second-round pick who was part of the whirlwind of deals, in the final math of the Mack trade.

Let’s mostly focus on Jacobs and Arnette, and we’ll figure the other picks (a second and seventh for the Bears, a third and sixth for the Raiders) are mostly a wash.

Jacobs was fantastic and Arnette could play well above his pre-draft rankings, but would anyone trade Mack for those two? Probably not. Jacobs is a very talented back, but he plays a position that is notorious for its short careers and is easily replaceable. Arnette seemed like a reach. He has to play much better than the 49th best player in this draft class to make the pick worth it.

Mack had a tremendous 2018 and while he wasn’t as great in 2019 (8.5 sacks, ranked 14th among edge defenders in Pro Football Focus’ grades) he was still pretty good and at age 29, he’ll be at an elite level for a few more years. He’s still one of the most valuable players in the NFL.

The picks are (mostly) in. The Mack trade can be fairly evaluated. And unless the Raiders’ surprising pick of Arnette turns out to be a genius move by Jon Gruden, it doesn’t look much better than when it happened.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden will be answering questions about the Khalil Mack trade for years. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Raiders coach Jon Gruden will be answering questions about the Khalil Mack trade for years. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Day 1 of the NFL draft:

Winners include ESPN, another good John Elway draft

ESPN: Before the draft began, ESPN host Trey Wingo joked with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that he had no idea how the broadcast would go. He referenced the famous Samuel L Jackson line from Jurassic Park: “Hold onto your butts.”

Nobody knew how it would look. This was a first. And it went very well.

Was it perfect? No. There were a few minor glitches. A few times two analysts started talking at once, though that happens when they're all on set together. Overall, credit everyone involved with the production. It was impressive given the challenge, not just of coordinating 32 teams, all the college prospects and Goodell, but of people behind the scenes working through their own coronavirus concerns.

Wingo handled all the analysts — some from ESPN, others from NFL Network no less — with the efficiency of an all-star point guard spreading the ball around. Goodell provided levity. He would turn to the screen in his basement before picks and get fans online fired up ... except when he just announced the New Orleans Saints’ pick without turning around, which was low-key comedy given the grudge between the Saints and Goodell. The analysts were prepared and provided high-level insight. If you closed your eyes, you might not have known that everyone was working remotely.

At times we take television production for granted, but what ESPN pulled off Thursday night was nothing short of remarkable.

Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins: Many times when a team wants a quarterback at the top of the NFL draft, they have to pay dearly to trade up and get him.

The Dolphins and Chargers came into this draft as two of the three teams with the biggest need at quarterback, along with the New England Patriots. They each got their guy without having to give up anything.

The Dolphins didn’t panic. They stayed at No. 5 and landed Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who they’ve been linked to for more than a year. Then the Chargers, who did nothing to address the quarterback position after cutting ties with Philip Rivers, were able to pick Oregon’s Justin Herbert with the next selection. He’s a good fit because unlike Tagovailoa, there are no questions about his health or ability to start right away and the Chargers have built a roster that is more ready to compete in 2020 than the Dolphins.

It turned out well for both teams, and they didn't have to pay anything extra to get their new QBs.

John Elway: Elway has quietly had a pretty good draft run.

He became a punching bag in the post-Peyton Manning era, but suddenly the Denver Broncos are an interesting team. They still have a solid defense. And the offense is full of good young talent.

Denver drafted Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy with the No. 15 overall pick. Many considered Jeudy to be the best receiver in the draft, a master technician who can be an instant impact player. He’ll go well with 2019 breakout star Courtland Sutton, a great second-round pick in 2018 by Elway. If 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant continues to make strides at tight end, and the running back tandem of Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon produces as it should, the Broncos are going to make strides.

Of course, a lot rides on quarterback Drew Lock’s development. But he looked good late last season as a rookie, and could end up being the rare second-round quarterback pick to hit big. It could be one of Elway’s signature picks if it works out.

Denver is still chasing the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, but the past three drafts have given the Broncos a solid foundation for that chase.

Baker Mayfield: There aren’t going to be many excuses for Mayfield in his third season.

Mayfield struggled last season after a good rookie year. He did not play well, but he also didn’t get much help from the Browns’ coaching or the offensive line. The Browns fired Freddie Kitchens, hiring Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and then went to work on the offensive line.

The Browns signed former Tennessee Titans tackle Jack Conklin, the best lineman available in free agency, and then on Thursday they drafted Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. with the No. 10 overall pick. Wills should step into the starting lineup right away.

Mayfield has good weapons still, and should see big upgrades in coaching and protection. It’s on him to produce in year three.

Josh Rosen (again), Lions (again) among Day 1 losers

Detroit Lions: Before the draft, there was a report that the Lions’ top two decision makers disagreed on the top pick. Coach Matt Patricia wanted Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, and GM Bob Quinn wanted Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah. If that was true, Quinn won out.

Okudah is a very good prospect and fills a big need. It still seems strange the Lions couldn’t move out of the third overall pick, especially with quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa on the board. Moving down a few spots and still getting Okudah while picking up another valuable pick seemed obvious. But it never happened.

The Lions got Okudah, who Patricia will say he wanted all along even if that wasn’t exactly the case. Detroit didn’t get creative and pick up extra picks. They’ll be happy with Okudah, but it seemed they could have done more.

Josh Rosen: Think of the last three NFL drafts for Rosen.

In 2018, he was the 10th pick of the Arizona Cardinals. Though he was miffed to slip a bit, that's still a big deal. The last two drafts have been much worse.

Last year, the Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray to replace him. Rosen was traded to the Dolphins during the draft. Then the Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa on Thursday night. Tagovailoa takes over as the franchise’s top quarterback.

It has been a rough road for Rosen. He hasn’t played well, but wasn’t in great situations in Arizona or Miami. And for the second straight year, Rosen found himself buried on the depth chart during the first round of the draft.

Luck plays into NFL success. You have to find yourself in advantageous situations. Rosen couldn’t have had any worse luck to this point.

Aaron Rodgers: Jordan Love is unlikely to help Rodgers get to another Super Bowl.

The Utah State quarterback could help the Green Bay Packers get there down the road, but the team didn’t make a pick that helps now. Green Bay traded up to take Love, who will presumably take over the job from Rodgers in a few years.

The Packers seemed to be a receiver or two away from a Super Bowl last year. They lost in the NFC championship game and got little out of any receiver not named Davante Adams. And in a draft that had many high-end receivers, the Packers took a quarterback. They didn’t do much to help the position in free agency either, unless you’re a big Devin Funchess fan.

Rodgers, having famously been given the cold shoulder by Brett Favre after he was drafted to replace Favre, will likely say and do the right things. But he has to be upset that the Packers didn’t do more in this draft to help him get him one more ring.

Eagles’ pick at receiver, maybe?: The Eagles passed on D.K. Metcalf for J. J. Arcega-Whiteside last year. They’d take that one back right now. They also have missed on others like Nelson Agholor.

The Eagles might be right about their receiver pick on Thursday, but it will be scrutinized closely.

The Eagles passed on LSU’s Justin Jefferson for TCU’s Jalen Reagor at No. 21 overall. Reagor is a talented receiver, but Jefferson was very productive at LSU and generally considered the fourth-best receiver in the class behind Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb.

The Eagles need Reagor to work out. They are suddenly pretty short at receiver, and Carson Wentz needs more than Zach Ertz to throw to. If Jefferson, who went to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 22, ends up being a star, it could be another regrettable choice.

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