The Return of Sports: NBA Announces Target Date, Gov. Baker Permits Resumption of Sports Practices

The MLB is nowhere near an agreement for a return to play, as both owners and players try to minimize financial losses, and I’ll be reporting on that situation eventually. But in today’s column, I wanted to talk about the NBA’s updated plans for return and governor Charlie Baker’s update on Boston sports. Despite so many unknowns, coronavirus numbers have continued to decline, allowing people to begin thinking about returning closer to normal, and a return of major sports leagues would absolutely bring us closer. With multiple pieces of very good news in the sports world today, I have plenty to talk about in this column.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Permits Sports Practices to Resume

Boston sports facilities will be allowed to reopen on June 6, according to Governor Charlie Baker. This opens the door for sports to return in the city of Boston, and with major sports leagues trying to coordinate returns, that is very good news. Sports will not come back until there are enough cities permitting their return. Boston joins the list. As a result, the Celtics will be opening the Red Auerbach Center, their own practice facility. Hopefully, this also opens the door for the TD Garden to be considered as a central hub for NHL games, since the Bruins are the #1 team in the Eastern Conference and would benefit from some form of home field advantage, even without fans in the stadium.

Adam Silver Announces Intention for 7/31 NBA Return

Adam Silver announced today that he is hoping for a July 31 return for the NBA. He had already said he was targeting late July/early August, but it’s good to hear a definitive date. It would be nice if they could start a little bit earlier, but it gives the league time to work towards gameplay, starting with small group training, then moving into formal training camp, and then finally playing games, just like the NHL. Below is what we know and how I think this plan will play out.

What We Know (The Facts)

  • The league will resume in one central hub: Orlando, Florida
  • Games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World
  • The league may also consider using the Orlando Magic stadium or the UCF stadium for games
  • For when the league does return, there are four potential formats being discussed:
    • A 16 team format
    • A 20 team format
    • A 22 team format
    • A 30 team format
  • The league is unsure whether the regular season will be continued or whether the league will skip to some sort of playoff

As you can see, not much has been decided yet, but at this point we know the league has picked a location, has a proposed return date, and is working to decide on a format.

What the Logistics of a Return could Look Like

The NHL has already established a format for the postseason, and I went ahead and speculated what the timeline could look like. The NBA already has somewhat of a timeline, but below I have proposed a playoff format that I think will fairly decide an NBA champion and written how the logistics of it could work out:

20-Team Playoff Bracket Proposal

I think a fair conclusion to the season would be a 20 team playoff based on overall NBA standings. If you look at the NBA standings right now, there is a clear divide in the Eastern Conference standings. But there are several Western Conference teams close to the top 8 that deserve their fair chance this season. The NBA has already been contemplating seeding based on overall standings (regardless of conference), and since games will be played in one city, I don’t see a problem with that, especially because it can give additional Western Conference teams a fair chance in an expanded playoff bracket. The NHL decided to expand their postseason, and I see the NBA doing the same.

Here’s what the timeline could potentially look like:

  • Early-Mid June: NBA practice facilities reopen
  • Late June: NBA Draft Lottery with 10 teams missing playoffs
  • Friday, July 10: All 20 playoff teams report to Orlando for formal training camp
  • Friday, July 31 – Sunday, August 9: Best of 5 play-in series
  • Monday, August 10 – Sunday, August 23 – Round of 16
  • Monday, August 24 – Sunday, September 6 – Quarterfinals
  • Monday, September 7 – Sunday, September 20 – Semifinals
  • Monday, September 21 – Sunday, October 4 – NBA Finals
  • Thursday, October 8 – 2020 NBA Draft
  • Monday, October 12 – NBA Free Agency Begins
  • Early November – NBA Preseason
  • Early December – 66 Game NBA Season Begins
    • 4 Games vs. Each Division Team (Total of 16)
    • 2 Games vs. Each Other Team (Total of 50)

The NBA is targeting a later start to the 2020-21 season in order to make way for a satisfying ending to the 2019-20 season. The 2020-21 season would look similar to the 2011-12 season after the last NBA lockout.

In the play-in round and the later rounds, all games could be played during prime time, as games would be played every other day and there are enough courts in Orlando for two games at once. In the Round of 16, games could take place both at 7PM and at 9PM, with 4 games across 2 courts each day. They would only need two channels airing games. ABC/ESPN could handle some games, while TNT handles others.

With this format, I think the Bucks and Lakers would still have the best shot at winning it all, but I think the Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, and Heat among other teams would also have a chance.

That’s all for today, but I’ll be updating again soon with the latest news on the MLB negotiations and updates on the NHL and NBA.

2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC South Edition

As I said yesterday, my NFL draft report card series will be continuing in the coming weeks along side my new column, the Return of Sports. Today, I have draft reviews for every AFC South team.

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

Jacksonville Jaguars: B+

The Jaguars had a pretty good draft, filling majority of their positional needs. The early selections of C.J. Henderson and Davon Hamilton fill major needs, as Hamilton replaces Calais Campbell (traded) and Henderson adds depth to a DB corps that needs it. Jake Luton is an interesting addition to the QB room, but I find it interesting that they didn’t even consider top tier QBs in this draft. I think this will definitely be a “prove it” season for Gardner Minshew, because the Jags can tank for Trevor Lawrence if Minshew struggles. I like the K’Lavon Chaisson pick, as it provides insurance if Yannick Ngakoue holds out or leaves Jacksonville. I would have probably drafted a running back as Leonard Fournette insurance too, and I would’ve drafted a safety earlier, but overall the Jaguars did pretty well.

Tennessee Titans: B

The Titans have a pretty balanced roster, so there wasn’t much they needed out of this draft. They got very good value by taking the best player available, Kristian Fulton in Round 2, a smart move considering the Titans don’t have any glaring positional needs to fill. They filled their biggest needs, o-line and d-line, and got some good value along the day. I wasn’t a huge fan of their later round picks, and it’s hard to knock a draft out of the park when it’s unclear what the team needed out of this draft in the first place. But if I were Mike Vrabel, I’d be satisfied with this draft class.

Houston Texans: B-

Bill O’Brien made some pretty questionable moves throughout the off-season, and this draft class was far from perfect. But I do have to give O’Brien some credit for starting the draft off strong with his Day 2 selections. Blacklock and Greenard provide Houston with great value on players that will help fill two of the team’s biggest defensive needs. Even with J.J. Watt leading the way, this Texans defense is depleted, and this draft class helped improve it.

However, instead of following it up by fixing the o-line and drafting a better tight end, the Texans made some questionable choices on Day 3. I understand the Charlie Heck selection, but they want Heck to play guard, and IOL Netane Muti was still on the board. CB John Reid was far from worthy of a 4th rounder, and the Texans are fairly well off at corner. The Coulter pick was also a bit of a reach, though it’s understandable that the team wanted a good mid-range receiver to help play a part in replacing DeAndre Hopkins, something that cannot be done by a single player. These selections were okay, but there were much better options on the board, and QB Deshaun Watson is left without much extra protection headed into the season.

Indianapolis Colts: C+

The Colts made a lot of questionable decisions in this draft. Michael Pittman Jr., the team’s first pick was far from the best WR left on the board, and there were many other players the Colts reached on. I can respect the selection of QB Jacob Eason, but many of these other selections made little sense. The Colts did fill their biggest needs, but they waited on most of their need-filling until Day 3, and it wasn’t like they received amazing value out of their Day 2 selections to make up for this fact. This draft class isn’t outright terrible, but it’s definitely flawed.

That’s all for this portion of my NFL draft report cards. Stay tuned for AFC West draft grades, as well as an update on the Return of Sports in the coming days.

The Return of Sports: My Take on the NHL’s Plan to Return

It’s going to be around another month before we actually see hockey again, but today, the NHL became the first of America’s 4 largest sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) to announce their plan for a return to play. This was really inspiring to hear, especially after reports that the MLB is nowhere near an agreement with its players on a return. It means I can begin to speculate about the NHL playoffs, and there’s now a timeline in place for sports to return.

Before we get into the details, I’d like to talk a little bit about my plans for this website as the country reopens, the online school year winds down, and sports come closer to a return.

I’ll be working on editing down my journal about the first 75 days of quarantine, which I called “Life Without Sports”. In the meantime, I’ll be:

  • Continuing my NFL Draft Report Cards series
  • Starting this new column, The Return of Sports, where I discuss the upcoming return of sports leagues and eventually, my experiences watching sports in this new normal.

As summer approaches, I’ll also be getting more active on my fantasy football Instagram account, @bsmfantasyfootball as NFL minicamps are set to begin as early as June 15 and preparation for the fantasy football season begins.

But today, I’ll be focusing on the NHL’s plan to return to play, which was announced by commissioner Gary Bettman on an NBCSN special.

What We Know (The Facts)

  • Bettman said today that the NHL is currently in Phase 1 of its pause, in which all NHL facilities remain closed
  • Phase 2, the reopening of facilities for small group training will officially begin on June 1
  • Phase 3, a formal NHL training camp, will begin no earlier than July 1
  • About 2-3 weeks after the beginning of Phase 3, a 24-team NHL playoff. The NHL regular season is over.
  • How the playoff will work:
    • Games will be played at central hubs, one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference. The cities in the running to be central hubs are:
      • Chicago, IL (Home of the Blackhawks)
      • Columbus, OH (Home of the Blue Jackets)
      • Dallas, TX (Home of the Stars)
      • Edmonton, AB (Home of the Oilers)
      • Las Vegas, NV (Home of the Golden Knights)
      • Los Angeles, CA (Home of the Kings)
      • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (Home of the Wild)
      • Pittsburgh, PA (Home of the Penguins)
      • Toronto, ON (Home of the Maple Leafs)
      • Vancouver, BC (Home of the Canucks)
    • Round Robin: The top four teams in each conference will participate in a Round Robin, with each team playing each of the three other teams from their conference once (regular season overtime rules will apply)
    • Qualifying Round: Teams 5-12 in each conference will be matched up for a best of 5 series to qualify for the Round of 16.
    • Round of 16 and Round of 8: Will be best of 5 of best of 7, the league is unsure whether they will put together a formal playoff bracket or determine match-ups based on seeding like the NFL playoffs
    • Conference Finals: Will be best of 7, played in the two hub cities
    • Stanley Cup Finals: Also best of 7, will likely be in one of the two hub cities

My Thoughts on the Plan

Do I Think the Plan is Fair?

Overall, I think this is a fair plan for the continuation of the NHL season. The bottom 3-4 teams in each conference had little chance at playoff contention, and the round robins and qualifying rounds essentially replace the rest of the regular season with more meaningful games, which will definitely increase viewership. In addition, I like the initiative the NHL and NHLPA took in getting a plan in place. If this planning allows the NHL to be the first of the Big 4 sports to return, that will also increase viewership. Normally, I’m juggling the MLB season, NBA playoffs, and NHL playoffs. I’ll absolutely watch if the NHL is the first Big 4 sport to return.

Though I am a bit disappointed that the Bruins aren’t guaranteed the #1 seed, the regular season resuming wouldn’t guarantee that either. Like Gary Bettman said, there is no plan that will fully satisfy every NHL fan. Overall, the top four teams in each conference have a significant advantage over the other teams, and those were the teams that had the best chance at bringing home the Stanley Cup.

One thing that could make it unfair is the fact that 9 of the 10 potential central hubs would give a singular team the home field advantage (they would not have to travel). If possible, I think it would be good for the NHL to choose Boston, MA (home of the #1 Eastern Conference team, the Bruins) and St. Louis, MO (home of the #1 Western Conference team, the Blues) as hub cities. However, those two cities are not on the list.

The plan is not perfect, but I think it gives us a pretty fair conclusion to the season for all 31 teams. The 7 teams that were eliminated will have a huge advantage in the NHL draft lottery (except for the Sharks, who traded their 1st rounder to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade).

How Might the Logistics and Timeline Work Out?

I’ve always been interested in analytics, and I’ve followed COVID-19 metrics very closely. It appears that most U.S. states are past their peak and entering an overall decline. It will be important to see how the reopening of all 50 states and Phase 2 of the NHL pause impact public health before jumping into Phase 3. But I’m confident that Phase 3 will begin on July 1. Since NHL players will be training throughout June, I think it’s possible that the Round Robin and qualifying rounds could begin after two weeks of Phase 3. If all this is true, the following would be my proposed timeline for the NHL:

  • Wednesday, July 15: Teams report to hub cities (hopefully Boston and St. Louis, but I think the best options from Bettman’s list would be Pittsburgh, PA and Las Vegas, NV)
  • Thursday, July 16 – Saturday, July 25: Round Robin games and Qualifying Round take place
  • Sunday, July 26 – Tuesday, August 4 – 5-game Round of 16 (match-ups determined by formal bracket)
  • Wednesday, August 5 – Friday, August 14 – 5-game Round of 8
  • Saturday, August 15 – Friday, August 28 – 7-game Conference finals
  • Saturday, August 29 – Thursday, September 10 – 7-game Stanley Cup finals (hosted in hub city of team with the better point percentage)
  • Saturday, September 12 – 2020 NHL Draft
  • Monday, September 14 – 2020 NHL Free Agency Begins (Three Weeks to Finalize Rosters)
  • Monday, September 21 – 2020-21 NHL Preseason Begins
  • Monday, October 5 – 2020-21 NHL Regular Season Begins as normal (possibly still no fans)

I think this is a realistic timeline for the NHL to safely play games. I think the NHL should stick to a formal bracket and cut down the the Rounds of 16 and 8 to five games in order to complete the playoffs in time for the 2020-21 season to begin. They’ll have to speed up free agency and cut those rounds to five games in order to do this.

In the qualifying round, I would think teams would play just about every other day, meaning three games are played in each hub city every day. For the East, these games could be at 2PM, 5PM, and 8PM EST, while the West could have games at 2PM, 5PM, and 8PM PST. I think qualifying games should take priority over the Round Robin, so the Round Robin should be the first game each day (further away from prime time).

Once the 16-team bracket is set, it would be down to two games per city per day, in which teams could rotate between the 5PM and 8PM slots.

Once it’s down to 8 teams, every game could be a prime time game.

This could bring in a lot of viewers, especially if the NHL comes back before other sports.

Games could be aired on channels like NBC, NBCSN and the NHL Network and simulcasted onto local stations (like NESN in Boston) for people who don’t have NHL Network or NBCSN in their cable packages.

Who Will Succeed in this Modified Format

Which Teams have the best shot at the Stanley Cup?

I think this format favors the top four teams in each conference heavily. Before the pause, the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Blues, and Stars stood out to me as teams who could contend for a Stanley Cup. Below I’ve ranked the teams who qualify for the Round Robin based on the chance I think they have at winning the Stanley Cup.

SportsReport: Bruins Top Canadiens; Wild Beats Devils | WAMC

1) Boston Bruins: They’ve been dominating all season long, their first line is stacked and they have good depth to add to it.

Tampa Bay Lightning, Storm Renew With Clear Channel/Tampa | Tampa ...

2) Tampa Bay Lightning: If Steven Stamkos is healthy, they’ll have one of the most star-studded rosters in the league and pose a big threat in the Eastern Conference.

dallas stars logo | Dallas Stars Logo | Dallas stars, Dallas stars ...

3) Dallas Stars: The Stars barely made it into the Round Robin, but I could see them making a big playoff run with Tyler Seguin leading the team and a mix of other veteran talent and young talent around him.

St. Louis Blues Jersey Logo - National Hockey League (NHL) - Chris ...

4) St. Louis Blues: The defending Stanley Cup champs beat the Bruins in 2019, but they’ve been without Vladimir Tarasenko all season. Even with Tarasenko back, will things be the same?

NHL logo rankings No. 28: Washington Capitals - TheHockeyNews

5) Washington Capitals: The Caps have been an elite team in this league since Alex Ovechkin reached his prime, but can they repeat the playoff success they had a couple years back?

Vegas Golden Knights - Studio 21 Tattoo

6) Vegas Golden Knights: They don’t quite have the talent they had during their historic Year 1 Stanley Cup run, and they may have lost their momentum after a big run before the pause. But I could still see them winning it all if they can get past St. Louis and Dallas in their conference.

Gonna Fly Now: The Story Behind the Philadelphia Flyers Brand ...

7) Philadelphia Flyers: I think they’ll have a hard time fending off their competition in the Round Robin and that could derail their playoff run, but they still have the talent to win a Cup.

Colorado Avalanche Logo | HISTORY & MEANING & PNG

8) Colorado Avalanche: It says something that they were able to compete with the Blues and Stars in their division, but even with Nathan MacKinnon, I don’t think they have a Stanley Cup run in them.

Who Will Make the Round of 16?

I’ll have full playoff predictions once the details are ironed out, but here’s my prediction of the 8 playoff teams in each conference by seed:

Eastern Conference

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. Philadelphia Flyers
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins
  6. Carolina Hurricanes
  7. Florida Panthers (will upset New York Islanders in qualifier)
  8. Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Vegas Golden Knights (Increase from Round Robin)
  3. Dallas Stars (Increase from Round Robin)
  4. Colorado Avalanche (Decrease from Round Robin)
  5. Edmonton Oilers
  6. Nashville Predators
  7. Vancouver Canucks
  8. Calgary Flames

As you can see, I don’t see many teams being affected by the Round Robin and qualifying round, but it will give teams their fair chance.

That’s all for this first entry of the Return to Sports series. I’ll be back next week with my take on the ongoing MLB negotiations and with any other updates that come about this week.

2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC North

It’s been a little bit since I last posted; I’ve been caught up watching the Survivor finale, catching up on schoolwork, and checking to see when sports are coming back.  But today, I’ll be continuing my draft grade series with the AFC North.  I’m hoping to ramp up posting this week with the continuation of this series, but until online school is over, I can’t guarantee anything.  For now, I’ll be taking a look at this division, which includes some of the best draft classes in the league.

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals: A-

Most teams traded draft picks at some point.  But the Bengals were content with the 1st pick of each round, and I think it made for a pretty good draft class.  Joe Burrow was absolutely the right choice #1 overall.  I also liked some of their late round picks, as they got good value on offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji and linebacker Markus Bailey.  If the Bengals were good last year, they wouldn’t have this much draft capital.  But headed in to this year, I think they’re a better team.  This off-season, they addressed majority of their burning positional needs.  They found their new franchise QB and stocking up on linebackers in this draft.  In addition, they signed some quality defensive players in free agency like DT D.J. Reader and S Vonn Bell.

cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns: A-

After they got steals in CB Greedy Williams (Round 2) and LB Mack Wilson (Round 5) last year, I gave the Browns the league’s highest draft grade.  This year, they had another solid draft and end up with one of the best grades in the league all over again.  They started the draft off by getting some protection for QB Baker Mayfield in Jedrick Wills Jr.  Wills, along with free agent signing Jack Conklin and new IOL Nick Harris, should make for a big improvement in the Browns o-line.  The Browns also got a couple more steals in S Grant Delpit (Round 2) and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (Round 6).  Like the Bengals, they filled majority of their positional needs in this draft, and that should help the team take a significant step forward this year.  I can justify almost all of Cleveland’s draft picks; the only selection I don’t understand is the choice of TE Harrison Bryant, since the Browns already have a TE duo in Austin Hooper (free agent signing) and David Njoku.

Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens: B+

The Ravens didn’t have that many draft needs after a huge 2019 season, but they filled the ones they had.  Patrick Queen, Justin Madubuike, and Malik Harrison will be great additions to an improving Ravens front seven that already added veteran d-linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe this March.  They also gave QB Lamar Jackson some more WR depth behind Marquise Brown in Devin Duvernay and James Proche.  Ben Bredeson will help fill the gap Marshal Yanda left behind.  I didn’t understand the choice of RB J.K. Dobbins, as the Ravens don’t necessarily need him.  But Dobbins was great value and has the potential to replace Mark Ingram as Baltimore’s RB1.  Overall, this draft class was great, but it’s tough to beat out the excellent draft classes Cincinnati and Cleveland put together.  I could see the AFC North becoming one of the league’s stronger divisions in 2020.  The Ravens are the divisional favorites, but they’ll have competition.

pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers: C

This is the one AFC North draft class that I’m not a huge fan of.  The Steelers struggled to fill their needs and reached on multiple occasions.  The Steelers did address the offensive line, but Kevin Dotson was far from the best option to do so.  They also could’ve done more to help the secondary, even though they did draft Antoine Brooks Jr.  Their Day 2 picks were both reaches in my opinion.  WR Chase Claypool received too much hype after the combine, and Alex Highsmith may struggle after weaker competition in college.  Plus, Highsmith is far from a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.  I don’t mind the selections of Brooks and RB Anthony McFarland, who could help fill in if RB James Conner gets hurt and once Conner leaves in free agency.  But Pittsburgh missed on several needs and that could take a toll on their 2020 performance.  Even with QB Ben Roethlisberger returning and the playoff field expanded, I can’t see Pittsburgh making the playoffs, and things will only go downhill from here with several players on expiring contracts.

That’s all for this portion of my draft grades.  I’ll be reviewing the AFC South next, so stay tuned for that post soon.

2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East

The NFL draft is in the books, and most of this off-season’s action has come to a close.  There’s no other sports to watch (besides the KBO, which is suddenly relevant with the MLB postponed but on way too early in the morning for most).  So to fill the gap, I’ll be writing about how each team did in the NFL draft in this eight article series, division by division.  I’ll be writing about each team’s draft performance and how it may affect their regular season performance.  Let’s start this off with the AFC East.

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins: B+

The Dolphins started off the draft strong by taking Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa despite injury concerns.  After that, they may have filled a good number of their needs, addressing the o-line and the secondary as well as acquiring RB Matt Breida from the 49ers.  But they reached a bit for certain players.  The most notable reach was their selection of CB Noah Igbinoghene at #30.  Igbinoghene is a good DB who can play nickel CB for the Dolphins, but Miami had a much bigger need for a safety than a corner, and there were better options at corner like Kristian Fulton and Trevon Diggs.  Overall, this was a good draft for the Dolphins, and the team should see improvement not only in 2020 but in years to come.  But simply put, there was more room for improvement.  The Dolphins could’ve nailed this draft, and they did well, but it wasn’t anything mind blowing.

Brand New: New Logo and Uniforms for New York Jets New York Jets: B+

Let me get this straight: I can’t see the Jets doing well in this division this year. The Bills are looking better than they were last year, the Patriots still have Bill Belichick coaching and will at least be decent, and the Dolphins are gearing up for the Tua Tagovailoa era. That leaves the Jets as the odd team out in this division.

But I have a slightly more hope for the Jets after a strong draft. If he reaches full potential, Mekhi Becton will be a huge help for the o-line. Denzel Mims could easily emerge as Sam Darnold’s new favorite target. Bryce Hall might very well be the biggest steal of the draft, as he fills a huge need at corner and he’s great value for the Jets in Round 5. There weren’t any big misses here, and there were a couple really good picks. I don’t love the fit for Jabari Zuniga, as he’d be better in a 4-3 defense. But other than that, I don’t have many complaints here.

new_england_patriots New England Patriots: B

Last year, Bill Belichick tried his best to get some good value, and he did with DE Chase Winovich in the 3rd and QB Jarrett Stidham in the 4th. This year, Belichick prioritized securing his favorite players in the draft class as he often does. Sometimes, this strategy really pays off. Other times, it doesn’t, so overall this is a boom or bust draft class. But the Pats did a pretty good job filling needs, drafting front seven help and tight end help on Day 2 in the form of Joshua Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Devin Asiasi, and Dalton Keene. I like the Asiasi pick more than most, he has a lot of potential. But I still don’t understand the selection of Kyle Dugger at 37. They could’ve taken Dugger later and the secondary is not a priority. Many have criticized the rest of this draft class too. But considering Belichick’s occasional success with this strategy and considering the fact that the Pats filled their biggest needs, I think they did alright. One thing that did become clear after this draft: Bill Belichick trusts Jarrett Stidham as New England’s future QB, and I think Stidham is capable of being Brady’s successor.

Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills: B-

The Bills started off this draft very strong, getting a first round talent in DE A.J. Epenesa despite trading their first round pick for WR Stefon Diggs. They also found Zack Moss, a running back to pair with Devin Singletary. But I don’t understand their Day 3 draft strategy. The Bills were fine at WR with the trio of Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley, yet they drafted two WRs. They drafted a kicker in Round 6 (Stephen Hauschka is their current kicker). They took QB Jake Fromm when Josh Allen is likely locked in as Buffalo’s QB for years to come. Worst of all, they never addressed the o-line, at least not until they signed Trey Adams as a UDFA. I don’t love this draft class, but overall, the Bills did get a lot better this off-season, and they started off this draft strong, so I had to give them some credit. You could say Stefon Diggs is essentially their first round pick, and Diggs will be a big help for this offense, taking pressure off Brown and Beasley and helping Allen improve as a passer.

That’s all for Part 1 of my draft grades.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 2 of this series, when I’ll review the draft class of every AFC North team.