Draft Report: D-e-f-e-n-s-e!

by Ben Burns

You often hear that "defense wins championships" but when was the last time you can remember the first five picks in the NFL Draft all going on the defensive side of the ball? That's what happened last night. We have to all the way back to 1991 to find the last time that the top five picks were all defensive players. Let's take a closer look at some of this year's top stories.

#1 OVERALL
The Jaguars got things started by selecting Travon Walker with the first overall pick. While he wasn't orignally expected to go this high, the 272 pound defensive end from Georgia has excellent athleticism and he moved up on the draft boards late.  Recall that the Jags elected to go with QB Trevor Lawrence with the #1 overall pick last year.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP FIVE
The Lions got Aidan Hutchinson with the #2 pick. The defensive lineman from Michigan had previously been projected #1. He led the Big Ten in sacks. Houston's #3 pick was used to secure the first defensive back selected in the draft; Derek Stingley Jr. While he had six interceptions in his freshman season, the LSU cornerback only played three games last year. The Jets had a strong draft and it began with getting Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner with the fourth overall pick. The AAC Defensive Player Of The Year in 2021, Gardner didn't allow a receiving TD in his three years of college. Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon, the fifth straight defensive player chosen, bolsters the Giants' pass rushing skills.

TOP QB
The Steelers needed a QB and they grabbed the first one in the Draft with the #21 pick overall. Local product Kenny Pickett had 49 starts for Pittsburgh. He holds all kinds of Pittsburgh (and ACC) records and is expected to be ready to challenge for the starting job sooner, rather than later. Mike Tomlin commented: "We circled the globe -- or at least the United States -- here the last several months, man, just exploring and researching. And it's funny, we ended up with a guy from next door." Pickett, for his part, added: "I'm pretty familiar with the area code. I had a pretty good idea of who it was. I was speechless. It's a lifelong dream, 23 years of hard work to get to this point. That all came in a phone call. It was probably one of the best feelings of my life. I'm so excited to get started and get to work with the guys who are next door to me my whole career in Pittsburgh."

BIG DEAL
The Titans and Eagles pulled off the big trade of the night. Philadelphia picked up receiver A.J. Brown in exchange for the #18 overall pick.

SURPRISE
We've learned not to question Belichick. He's certainly earned the benefit of the doubt. Still, many were surprised to see the Patriots pick Cole Strange with their first pick. The guard out of Chattanooga may well turn out to be a decent player. However, most felt he could have been picked up later on. Sean McVay laughed out loud at the selection.

REMEMBERING 1991
The first six picks of the 1991 Draft were all on the defensive side of the ball. The first overall pick was Russel Maryland, who went to Dallas. While some had very solid careers, arguably, none of those six ended up being a "superstar." Seven of the first nine picks were defensive players and the other two were offensive tackles. 

Time will tell how this year's draft picks turn out. All I know, is that I'm already itching for some football. 



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