Ten intriguing players drafted in later rounds who, for better or worse, could shape the near- and long-term future of the franchises that took them
Is it possible for the three-day NFL draft to feel like a blur? That’s the way it looked to me after all seven rounds and 256 picks.
From Jadeveon Clowney going to No. 1 to the Texans and the Jaguars taking Blake Bortles third overall to sit for a season on Thursday, to Michael Sam being the first openly gay player to be drafted, with seven picks to spare on Saturday, the draft was its usual whirlwind.
While my brain is still functioning (barely), here are the 10 picks that caught my eye for various reasons, with a lean towards the final four rounds that took place on Saturday:
Jets: TE Jace Amaro (second round)
When you have a young quarterback like Geno Smith, it helps to have a good group of short to intermediate receivers because they represent less stressful targets (compared to downfield receivers) and can also be a bailout when things get hairy. The Jets signed running back Chris Johnson, who has terrific hands, and has added a very good receiving tight end in Amaro to go with the underrated Jeff Cumberland. Add in Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley (we’ll wait to see what Stephen Hill, David Nelson and Jacoby Ford do), and the Jets have set up a situation in which they should know very quickly whether Smith has the right stuff—or whether they should hand the keys to Michael Vick.
Patriots: QB Jimmy Garoppolo (second round)
This isn’t about the actual pick—Ryan Mallett is going to be gone within the year so New England needed another quarterback—but more about whom they passed on. Three picks later, at the top of the third round, former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien took Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz for the Texans. He’s not exactly a Rob Gronkowski clone, but at 6-5, 265 pounds, and athletic, he’s of the same ilk. A problem for the Patriots has been the lack of comparable backups to the oft-injured Gronkowski. When he goes out, it causes a lot of scrambling for the offense as it has to rely more on receivers, which takes away some of Tom Brady’s effectiveness. The Patriots had a chance to solidify things a little bit, especially since Gronkowski’s timely return from knee surgery is no sure thing, and they passed. The Patriots obviously think a lot of Garoppolo to pick him there.
Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB (fourth round)
Was on his way to being one of the second-tier of cornerbacks taken in the second round when Colvin suffered a torn right ACL on the second day of Senior Bowl practice. Colvin won’t play this season, but with the proper rehab he should be a starter in 2015. He’s an excellent all-around player. This was a very smart move by GM Dave Caldwell. QB Blake Bortles has a redshirt mate.
49ers: WR Bruce Ellington (fourth round)
Classic Trent Baalke. As if the San Francisco general manager didn’t enter the draft with enough picks (11), he wound up making 12 selections. Baalke moved up and down a few times (four pick trades and a deal for Bills receiver Stevie Johnson on Friday alone). One of those deals was a trade down with the Browns for the 49ers’ third-round pick in exchange for a fourth- and a sixth-round selection. The 49ers chose Ellington, a lightning-quick former basketball star who is still learning the game. His skill set is different from the other Niners receivers, so look for Ellington to be a key contributor in the short passing game at some point.
Cardinals: QB Logan Thomas (fourth round)
While the rest of the NFL moves toward smaller and more mobile quarterbacks (heck, even Bill Belichick drafted a 6-2 passer), Cardinals coach Bruce Arians just keeps plucking sequoias to stand in the pocket and heave balls down the field. That’s not right or wrong, just interesting. I like Thomas, who is 6-6 and 248 pounds, with hands that are nearly 11 inches, a lot. Yes, he’s a raw piece of meat but, boy, he has a dazzling skill set with a big arm and nice touch. If Arians can work his magic, he could really have something here once Carson Palmer is finally done.
Seahawks: WR Kevin Norwood (fourth round)
Got a glimpse of the Alabama product at the Senior Bowl, and he instantly impressed because of his ability to high point the ball against coverage. He a solid all-round receiver who also ran well at the combine (4.48 in the 40). He’s going to surprise and contribute quickly, like most players coached by Nick Saban.
Bengals: QB A.J. McCarron (fifth round)
Liked this pick because Andy Dalton finally has another quarterback on the roster who has the potential to be a starter in this league. Even though I have been critical of Dalton, I don’t think McCarron is ever going to beat him out. But I do think this is going to help Dalton. I think he’s been too coddled by coach Marvin Lewis, and that has contributed to some of Dalton’s struggles. The arrival of McCarron has the potential to give him the little push he needs to get over the top. Dalton knows that fans will be calling for McCarron has soon has he slips up, so he won’t give McCarron an inch. If it goes the other way, the Bengals finally have another quarterback who has played in (and won) a lot of big games.
Bears: QB David Fales (sixth round)
Doesn’t overwhelm you with his physical skills, but Fales is a quick-thinking and -throwing quarterback who is perfect for coach Marc Trestman’s offense. At worst, Fales is a quality NFL backup, which the Bears need immediately. After only two years at San Jose State, he has a lot of room to grow and learn, and he’s in a perfect spot to do that with Trestman.
Panthers: RB Tyler Gaffney (sixth round)
What, the Panthers didn’t have enough running backs with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and Kenjon Barner? GM Dave Gettleman is a very smart man, so I’m sure he had his long-term reasons for making this pick. However, the Panthers have serious needs at both tackle positions. You’re telling me there wasn’t one tackle worthy of a flyer in this spot?
Steelers: CB Shaquille Richardson (fifth round)
Wasn’t as impressed with GM Kevin Colbert’s draft as many pundits were because while many of the players have high ceilings, almost every pick has the potential to bust because they’re not quite (close) scheme fits or are lacking in other areas. I was not a fan of the Richardson pick because the Steelers are desperately in need of cornerback help right now with Ike Taylor quickly declining and William Gay more of a slot corner. Richardson is a project at best, and a big-time reach in this spot. This was not a very deep draft for good corners, and Colbert probably didn’t address the spot soon enough.
Bills: OT Seantrel Henderson (seventh round)
I don’t care if he was a seventh-round pick. And I don’t care that if you drew a picture of a franchise left tackle, this 6-7, 331-pound athlete with sweet feet would be it. Henderson has been nothing but trouble since being one of the top high school recruits in the country. Multiple failed drug tests during college at Miami and then, again, reportedly during the scouting combine. Henderson couldn’t even finish his pro day workout. And on the field, he’s not even good. Henderson didn’t come close to earning the privilege of hearing his name called during the draft. He should have been undrafted. That’s what he earned.