Initial Reactions to the 2015 NFL Draft

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TNS

The 2015 NFL draft took place in Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre. (PHOTO COURTESY John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By MATTHEW MCCARTHY

For the first time in 50 years, the National Football League (NFL) draft was not held in New York City. In a move to expand the popularity of the draft, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to have the biggest event of the offseason take place in Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre.

In the past, the New York crowd tended to act excessively rowdy, especially when their home teams were selecting. This means that for the first time in 50 years, the commissioner was not met by thunderous boos the instant he announced the picks of the New York Jets and New York Giants. Though in previous years those boos were well-deserved due to the teams choosing subpar players, this year both teams selected players that will likely benefit them for years to come.

With the sixth selection overall in the opening round of the draft, the Jets selected Leonard Williams, a defensive tackle from the University of Southern California. Williams was the second defensive player selected in the draft and will fit perfectly into the Jets’ defense this season. Throughout his college career, he amassed 218 tackles and earned All-American honors twice. Adding Williams’ dynamic combination of speed and strength to an already loaded group of linemen led by Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson instantly makes the Jets’ defense one of the best in the NFL.

Clearly wielding the best defensive line in the league, the Jets will most likely select a linebacker in the later rounds of the draft. Williams will have an immediate impact on the field while still being able to learn behind Wilkerson and Richardson. Adding depth on the defensive side of the ball was a smart move for a team that is looking to compete for a playoff spot next season.

Three selections later, the New York Giants made University of Miami offensive lineman Ereck Flowers their first pick in the opening round of the draft. Flowers anchored one of the best offensive lines in college football last season and should have continued success at the professional level. The Giants desperately needed help on the offensive side of the ball after a disastrous 2014 season that resulted in a 6-10 record and them missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Due to his versatility, Flowers can be an immediate starter at right tackle or either guard position, where he would protect Eli Manning in a division filled with dangerous defenses. While the Giants have many needs on defense, their top priority was to ensure that  Manning does not get sacked as often as he did last season. Flowers was clearly the best offensive lineman available when the Giants were picking and therefore was a quality selection that fulfills a pressing need.

Both New York teams benefited from this year’s draft and look poised to make a run for the Super Bowl this season. Williams and Flowers will be immediate starters that address problem areas for the teams representing the Big Apple. In the next few rounds, both teams will likely select linebackers, but so far, New York football seems to be back on track for the upcoming season.