It's never possible, and always impractical, to grade drafts just as they happen. All we can do is try to estimate what prospects might do in their new NFL homes based on their own attributes and the new schemes they'll be learning. And in the second day of the draft, where the second and third rounds take place, teams will snap up those prospects who drop for whatever reason, and occasionally reach up to take those players they value enough to overpay -- with the alternative being the notion that another team will take them.
So, with that in mind, here are the players we believe were the biggest steals -- and reaches -- of the second day of the 2014 draft.
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, Houston Texans (Second round, 33rd overall pick): Based on his tape, Su'a-Filo probably should have gone somewhere in the 20s in the first round, but the Texans were more than happy to take him with the first pick of the second round. Unquestionably the best guard in this class, Su'a-Filo can also play tackle, and he's as much a technician as he is a mauler.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (Second round, 39th overall pick): Lee was derided by some analysts for his 2013 season, when he struggled through injuries, drops, and lapses in concentration. But he has an underrated way of getting up to full speed very quickly in seam and vertical routes, and he is a dynamic after-the-catch receiver when healthy. He could be Blake Bortles' primary target very, very soon.
Kony Ealy, DE, Carolina Panthers (Second round, 60th overall pick): I wasn't as in love with Ealy's tape as were the people who graded him as a can't miss first-round prospect, but to see him drop to the 60th overall pick was a bit unusual. In the right scheme, Ealy could be a better-than-average pass rusher, and he has the pure strength to stop the run as a strong-side end. In addition, he can slip inside in passing downs, and his versatility makes this pick have outstanding value.
Morgan Moses, OT, Washington Redskins (Third round, 66th overall pick): Moses has had conditioning issues, and he hasn't always played to his potential. But when he's on the ball, Moses has the potential to be a dynamic run blocker, and a developing pass protector as well.
Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams (Third round, 75th overall pick): Yes, the running back is devalued in the NFL these days, but to get the man who broke a bunch of Bo Jackson's records at Auburn with the 75th overall pick could add up to highway robbery when all is said and done. Mason has a skill set that reminds me of Ray Rice at his peak, which fits the Rams' running back rotation very well.
Louis Nix III, DT, Houston Texans (Third round, 83rd overall pick): Nix suffered by far the biggest drop between potential and draft value in the second day -- many had him ranked as a first-round prospect, but reported issues with conditioning and motivation led to his relative plummet. No matter -- in Romeo Crennel's defense, and with the right kind of coaching, Nix can still be a huge factor in the middle of Houston's defense.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, New Orleans Saints (Second round, 58th overall pick): Some believe that Jean-Baptiste will soon become a second-round talent based on his potential, which doesn't always show up on tape -- at least, not yet. He still struggles with angles in coverage, he's susceptible to double moves, and you'd like to see a guy with his size (6-3, 218) play a bit more physically.
Justin Britt, OT, Seattle Seahawks (Second round, 64th overall pick): Though Britt is versatile enough to play every position along the line, his tape as a pure left tackle is worrisome at times -- he gets beaten around the edge, and pushed back frequently. These things could be dealt with in a professional strength program and a move to right tackle or guard, which will likely happen. But a lot of people had a third-day grade on Britt, and the Seahawks will have to prove otherwise.
Christian Kirksey, LB, Cleveland Browns (Third round, 71st overall pick): Kirksey is a slightly undersized 'backer (6-2, 233 pounds) who showed great improvement in 2013 when diagnosing the run and taking the proper angles. Cleveland may soon get its optimal value with this pick, but the general grade given is at least a round lower. Chris Watt, OG, San Diego Chargers (Third round, 89th overall pick): While it's tough to rate a guy at the bottom of the third round as a reach, Watt raises concerns due to his relative lack of athleticism and strength, and his primary value as a phone-booth player. Watt is a high-effort guy, which means that he'll extract the maximum potential out of his talent, but we may be dealing with a low ceiling here.