Successful NFL drafts are a combination of great planning, along with some great luck.
The 2016 draft was a little different from most. It might not have been great at the top, but there was a lot of depth. There were so many good defensive tackles that studs could be taken in Round 3. Some teams had draftable grades on between 160 and 200 prospects.
My top 2016 draft classes might not align with Mel Kiper Jr.'s draft grades or Todd McShay's favorite picks, but they feature teams combining great strategy with a little bit of luck. These teams all added players in positions of need -- and had talented prospects fall to them.
Here are my five favorite classes:
For many years, the Jaguars were singing the blues at the draft. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, whom they traded up for in 2011, was a bust. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon, whom they traded up for in 2012, can't get on the field because of suspension. Left tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, is on his way out after the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option.
Things are trending upward under general manager Dave Caldwell, however. Jacksonville got a break this year. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey fell to them at the No. 5 spot. Linebacker Myles Jack fell to them in the second round. Both are considered top-five talents.
The reason I bring up the blues is that blue is the color teams associate with potentially elite players -- blue chips. If Jack's knee ends up being OK, the Jaguars could have drafted two blue-chip players in the first two rounds. Throw in the return of last season's first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. -- he missed all of 2015 after tearing his ACL shortly after being drafted -- and the Jaguars could have three new blue-chip rookies on their defense in 2016, plus the free-agent additions of defensive lineman Malik Jackson and free safety Tashaun Gipson. Jacksonville is trending up, and that defense should be much improved.
The Bucs filled their two biggest needs with their first picks, taking cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in the first round and pass-rusher Noah Spence in the second. They signed cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Robert Ayers in the offseason, but the Bucs needed young talent in both positions. Now the two veterans can help groom Hargreaves and Spence.
The extra beauty for the Bucs was getting an extra fourth-round choice in moving down two spots to take Hargreaves at No. 11. They used that fourth-round pick to move into the second round to take kicker Roberto Aguayo. Trading up to take a kicker in the second round might seem questionable, but Aguayo is supremely talented and gives the Bucs an immediate upgrade. I thought GM Jason Licht had a great draft.
In 2013, the Seahawks assembled one of the best rosters in recent history. Though not to the same degree, some of that roster building filtered into this draft. Seattle's first three rounds were exceptional. The team got the right tackle it wanted in Germain Ifedi, and then got the bonus of adding a third-round choice from Denver after moving down from No. 26 to No. 31. The Seahawks used that extra pick to take tight end Nick Vannett, who can help both as a blocker and a pass-catcher. They also got the developmental guard they wanted in Rees Odhiambo.
What put Seattle's class over the top? Picking defensive tackles Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson, who should both factor into the Hawks' defensive line rotation. You also have to love the options they added at running back. With Thomas Rawls not 100 percent after suffering a gruesome broken ankle in December, the Seahawks picked up C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks to give them choices in case Rawls misses time. As it was in 2013, Seattle is starting to load up at key positions.
In 2012, the Bengals lost two of their top three receivers. They didn't take a receiver in the first round that year and came away with Mohamed Sanu (third round) and Marvin Jones (fifth round). The same thing happened this year. Sanu and Jones both departed in free agency, but Cincinnati again didn't panic. When three receivers went before its pick in the first round, the Bengals didn't reach. Instead they added Tyler Boyd in the second round and Cody Core in the sixth, hoping to duplicate their success from 2012. They still have tight end Tyler Eifert and top wideout A.J. Green, and the Bengals now have two more talented pass-catchers.
I liked the pick of cornerback William Jackson III at No. 24, plus they lucked out by getting nose tackle Andrew Billings, who many thought would go in the first 40 picks, in the fourth round. The Bengals don't get enough credit for the great job they have done in the draft recently.
I liked the way the Lions attacked the offensive line in the draft. They had a strong O-line two years ago, but play fell off dramatically last season. Taking offensive tackle Taylor Decker in the first round was a no-brainer. He's a natural at left tackle. And it's not out of the question that the Lions could have hit on two interior offensive linemen in Graham Glasgow (third round) and Joe Dahl (fifth round).
What put this draft over the top for me is defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson dropping to them in the second round. Those four big bodies make the Lions bigger and tougher along the line of scrimmage.