Why teams made the picks they did in Rounds 2 and 3
San Diego Chargers
Hunter Henry, TE Arkansas (35th overall)
Max Tuerk, C, USC (66th overall)
Pretty straightforward here: with Ladarius Green now a Steeler and Antonio Gates almost a senior citizen, the Chargers needed to restock at tight end. They took the first one off the board at this position. In the third round, the Chargers again addressed an obvious need, this time at center. If Max Tuerk can keep his weight up (he struggled with that at USC), he’ll push the up-and-down Chris Watt for a starting job.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (36th overall)
Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Maryland (69th overall)
Paul Posluszny, you’ve been a heady, tough everydown player for five years here, quietly getting the job done snap after snap. Now, meet your eventual replacement, Myles Jack. In 2017, Posluszny will be 32 and the Jaguars can cut him for a $4.3 million cap savings. In 2018, he’ll be a free agent. Jack could spend the bulk of this season learning the ropes as a second stringer. Or, as a first-stringer in the base 4-3 but a non-contributor in nickel. If that’s the case, it will be because of Jack’s learning curve, or because of Posluszny’s awareness and physical aptitude in space. But make no mistake: Jack was so highly touted because he’s dynamic in pass coverage. That’s just as important as run defense for a linebacker. And with the long-striding, explosive Telvin Smith (the game’s most underrated ’backer), Jacksonville might soon have the most athletic nickel linebacking tandem in football.
New York Giants
Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma (40th overall)
Darian Thompson, S, Boise State (71st overall)
Shepard was the higher pick, but Thompson could prove to be more important. The Giants need a ball-hawking safety the way Laremy Tunsil needs a new Twitter password. Landon Collins, last year’s second-rounder, is a bona fide linebacker. So is backup Cooper Taylor. The only concern is if Thompson misses tackles like he did occasionally at Boise State. As for Shepard, who appears to be Victor Cruz Take II (if Victor Cruz Take I can’t bounce back healthy), two questions arise: Can he run quick in-breaking patterns, and can he run quick short-out routes from the slot? That comprises about 70 percent of New York’s passing game.
Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State (56th overall)
Jonathan Bullard, DT, Florida (72nd overall)
In one offseason, the Bears have upgraded both guard spots. That is, if Whitehair can beat out gritty veteran Matt Slauson on the left side. On the right side will be rising Pro Bowler Kyle Long, who is moving back inside after Bobby Massie’s arrival. Whitehair was considered a “technician” at Kansas State. That figures to help his transition to the pros. But with interior offensive and defensive linemen, the transition to the NFL can be mercurial. Some guys struggle against the markedly more athletic big men that they face. In fact, the Bears learned this just last season with third-round rookie center Hroniss Grasu. In this draft the Bears went interior line on the other side of the ball, too, taking Bullard, who figures to be a pass rushing specialist in nickel. With Georgia’s Leonard Floyd arriving in the first round, Bullard could very well be taking snaps next to Pernell McPhee inside. McPhee is a base package edge player but he was a good third down interior gap penetrator in Baltimore.
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor (38th overall)
Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama (73rd overall)
Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers (86th overall)
The Dolphins needed at least one corner, and probably as many as three or even four. In Howard they have a long-armed presser, not unlike what new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph had as Cincinnati’s secondary coach in Dre’ Kirkpatrick. Drake is the more interesting selection. Some scouts liked him more than Derrick Henry, which makes perfect sense. Henry is a plodder who lost yardage on a fourth of his carries. In other words, he’s dependent on his blocking. Drake, at least stylistically, is not. He’s a third down type weapon who can create. That’s perfect for complementing the more bruising Jay Ajayi.
Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois (44th overall)
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State (75th overall)
When you already have Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and, eventually, Aldon Smith, taking a 251-pound pure edge rusher like Calhoun represents a classic luxury pick. Ward is a different case. He’s listed as a defensive end, but at 297 pounds, expect him to see more snaps inside. The Raiders have a lot of big bodies here—Justin Ellis, Dan Williams and Stacy McGee—who can battle on early downs. The hope is Ward can amplify their nickel sub-packages.
Isaac Seumalo, G/C, Oregon State (79th overall)
Center Jason Kelce is coming off a poor season, but not nearly poor enough to override his outstanding body of work from previous years. He’ll remain the starter and Seumalo will compete with Allen Barbre at the guard spot opposite free agent acquisition Brandon Brooks.
Deion Jones, LB, LSU (52nd overall)
Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford (81st overall)
GM Thomas Dimitroff has a long track record. He and head coach Dan Quinn deserve the benefit of the doubt. That said, it’s shocking the Falcons did not find a pass rusher in the first three rounds. They had the league’s most anemic four-man rush last season—a major problem in Quinn’s 4-3, man/zone hybrid scheme. At least the players Atlanta did get make sense. After tabbing a much-needed safety in Round 1, they found a coverage-oriented linebacker to amplify their nickel package in Round 2. Quinn strongly believes in collective defensive speed; Jones helps there. Hooper fills the hole that has existed at tight end since Tony Gonzalez retired. He’ll be expected to help Atlanta’s red zone offense.
T.J. Green, DB, Clemson (57th overall)
Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech (82nd overall)
Like he did in the first round, GM Ryan Grigson found more security for Andrew Luck in the third round. Clark will compete at right tackle, which could make Jack Mewhort move to guard from last season permanent. However it shakes out, the Colts are fixing their problems. A round before Clark, Grigson tabbed T.J. Green, a converted wide receiver at Clemson who skyrocketed up draft charts after running a 4.34 forty. Some have concerns about Green’s route recognition (one example: his blown Cover 3 assignment in the national championship, which resulted in a touchdown). That must be cleaned up, but easing Green’s transition is the fact that Indy’s scheme calls for so much matchup-man coverage concepts on the perimeter. Green might compete right away. The Colts lost underrated veteran Greg Toler in the offseason and replaced him with Patrick Robinson, who is just a guy.
Su’a Cravens, LB/S, USC (53rd overall)
Kendall Fuller, CB Virginia Tech (84th overall)
Cravens is another hybrid sub-package player—something Washington loves. Two of their safeties, DeAngelo Hall and Kyshoen Jarrett, can also play cornerback. Their new safety can also play linebacker. That’s a lot of flexibility up the middle of a defense. Cravens will have a chance to compete immediately. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry last season ran perhaps the league’s most basic zone coverage scheme. His goal was to simplify so his guys could play fast. That eases a rookie’s transition to the pro field. The question is whether it will ease things enough for Kendall Fuller to also get playing time. The younger brother of Chicago’s Kyle Fuller has a steeper depth chart to climb at corner. Josh Norman will obviously start. Bashaud Breeland has shown more positive signs than negative, and 2015 undrafted rookie Quinton Dunbar was a very pleasant surprise in the second half of last season. Factor in Chris Culliver’s return and Greg Toler’s signing and, well, actually, the selection of Fuller gets kind of hard to understand. Especially when you consider that all of these corners save for Toler have multiple years left on their contracts.
Green Bay Packers
Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana (48th overall)
Kyler Fackrell, OLB, Utah State (88th overall)
When people like yours truly claimed the Packers entered this draft with no major needs, what we really meant was “no immediate needs.” Five of the Packers’ contributing seven offensive linemen are in the final years of their contracts. (Only right tackle Bryan Bulaga and center Corey Linsley are locked up.) This explains why Ted Thompson made the rare maneuver of trading up, jumping nine spots to get Spriggs. He’s touted for his athleticism, which could come in handy when Aaron Rodgers extends plays. In the next round, Thompson found a potential heir apparent for Julius Peppers at outside linebacker.
Sean Davis, S, Maryland (58th overall)
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State (89th overall)
The Steelers don’t typically draft defensive backs in the early rounds. Privately, their coaches might even admit that. The complexity of their matchup zone scheme demands a veteran’s football IQ, plus it doesn’t take first-round type raw talent to execute. But here we are with the Steelers having selected Artie Burns in Round 1 and now corner-turned-safety Sean Davis in Round 2. So what’s going on? It’s highly unlikely that the Steelers will be getting away from their long-held scheme. Second-year defensive coordinator Keith Butler has been with the organization since 2003. Yes, Butler played a little more Cover 2 last year, often as disguised looks out of his pressure packages. But that doesn’t signify a sea change. More likely, the Steelers are drafting for two years out. Davis is said to be very raw. Perhaps he sits behind Shamarko Thomas, a fourth-rounder in 2013 who himself sat for much of his first three seasons. Even Burns might learn from the pine in Year One, given that the Steelers drafted a pair of developmental corners in 2015: second-rounder Senquez Golson and fourth-rounder Doran Grant. And don’t forget, starters Willie Gay and Ross Cockrell are back.
Los Angeles Rams
Brandon Williams, CB, Texas A&M (92nd overall)
Trades left the Cardinals with just one selection on Friday. They used it on a position of need. Desperate need, in fact. With Jerraud Powers gone, Justin Bethel was slated to start at the corner spot opposite Patrick Peterson. Which means opposing offenses would know exactly where to throw the ball. But now don’t be surprised if Williams starts instead. The Cardinals have a respected cornerbacks coach (former Chiefs badass Kevin Ross) and a man-match zone scheme that, while complex for linebackers and safeties, can be pretty straightforward for DB’s on the outside.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (46th overall)
Graham Glasgow, C, Michigan (95th overall)
Anyone who watched even five minutes of Lions film last season could see they needed help in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Apparently, new GM Bob Quinn agrees. After selecting road-grating tackle Taylor Decker in Round 1, Quinn tabbed a meaty defensive tackle, A’Shawn Robinson in Round 2. Robinson looks like he’s been a full-grown man for 10 years, but he’s only been able to drink legally for about six weeks. Whether that means he’ll be strictly a developmental prospect this season remains to be seen. The guess here: He’ll play at least a niche role, if for no other reason than the Lions lack options at his position. The only sure thing they have at D-tackle is 32-year-old Haloti Ngata, who, incidentally, has one of the league’s most respected football minds. Robinson has a great opportunity to learn. Late in the third round, Quinn again stuck with his mantra of getting tougher in the trenches by drafting Glasgow, who will push disappointing third-year center Travis Swanson.
San Francisco 49ers
Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State (68th overall)
The Niners’ young cornerbacks are, at best, good but not great. Adding a Janoris Jenkins-style ball-jumper to the mix will help this unit. How much Redmond plays could hinge on new coordinator Jim O’Neil’s scheme. If O’Neil runs what he ran under Mike Pettine in Cleveland, then the outside corners will be asked to play press-man while defenders inside pass off and match-up to receivers based on how deep their routes carry. O’Neil doesn’t have a Joe Haden here, but if he rolls the dice with man coverage anyway, Redmond will have to prove he can play bump-and-run.
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, (32nd overall)
Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State (65th overall)
Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn (76th overall)
Cody Kessler, QB, USC (93rd overall)
Some have compared Ogbah and his explosive first step to Minnesota’s Everson Griffen. If he becomes that sort of player, then he’s absolutely worth the first pick of the second round. As for Nassib, well, have we ever seen two brothers make the NFL at such wildly different positions? Ryan Nassib was a 223-pound fourth-round quarterback in 2013. Carl is a 277-pound defensive end. Huh? The only other time we’ve seen something like this was the Babineaux brothers: Jordan Babineaux was a 210-pound defensive back; older brother Jonathan, a 300-pound defensive tackle. With their other third-round picks, the Browns found a cheaper replacement for departed free agent right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and drafted a quarterback who this time isn’t a selfish, stupid, totally flawed human being.
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame (34th overall)
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska (67th overall)
The story of the night came on the second pick. Instead of taking a risk on Myles Jack, the Cowboys took the same risk only more extreme on Jaylon Smith. The extreme goes both ways. Smith’s prospects for a successful career appear bleaker than Jack’s, but his upside is greater – and that’s saying something. This is the type of risk that only occurs when the GM also happens to be the owner. And, unlike last year’s slew of risks (the Greg Hardy acquisition, the Randy Gregory selection, the post-draft La’el Collins signing), this is a risk we can all feel good about. And for Smith, it’s almost the very best scenario that could have played-out after his knee injury. By falling to the second round, he still collected his $900,000 insurance policy. By going on pick two, he’ll get the second most lucrative contract of the Friday and Saturday selections. Let’s hope his career pans out. We want to see great players fulfill their potential, particularly if they’ll be playing alongside someone like Sean Lee.
Kansas City Chiefs
Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State (37th overall)
KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame (74th overall)
Jones has just now completed his victory lap around Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre. If his motor on the field is half as active as it was on stage Friday night, he’ll more than fill the vacancy created by Mike DeVito’s departure. Some have speculated that the Chiefs could view Jones as a long-term replacement for Dontari Poe, who is in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. It’s hard to imagine the league’s most athletic nose tackle not being re-signed. Whether Jones plays end or nose tackle, he can fit Kansas City’s scheme. So can the third-rounder Russell. He was a corner in college whom many evaluated as a safety. The Chiefs, like the 49ers, Cardinals, Packers and Jets, are a Cover 3-match defense. That means they play man-to-man outside and zone inside. If any inside receivers run routes deeper than the linebacker level, safeties must be prepared to pick them up in man coverage. That’s why the Chiefs like safety/corner hybrid guys like Ron Parker and Jamell Fleming. Russell will compete here.
Adam Gotsis, DT, Georgia Tech (63rd overall)
Justin Simmons, S, Boston College (98th overall)
Gotsis is considered a gritty run-stopping type, which in theory fits Denver’s first-and second-down scheme. Simmons provides depth at a safety position that’s okay in the second string but not great. The Broncos recently re-signed Shiloh Keo. His team-friendly price of $600,000 could make him hard to beat out. Might this late-third-round pick find himself on the practice squad in Year One?
New York Jets
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State (51st overall)
Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia, (83rd overall)
By selecting Hackenberg and still having Geno Smith on the roster, the Jets need only to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick and their quarterbacking room will officially have the richest volume of wild, erratic flamethrowers in NFL history. New York’s third-round pick was less risky. Jenkins played multiple positions in Georgia’s multifaceted system, including the unloved five-technique spot, where double-teams are easily attracted. That versatility kept him hidden at times, but to Todd Bowles, it’s a plus. Bowles is not only multiple in his third down packages, he also employs a variety of different first and second down fronts depending on the opponent. Jenkins amplifies that, though you wonder where his snaps will come from with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams already on the roster.
New England Patriots
Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama (60th overall)
Joe Thuney, G, North Carolina State (78th overall)
Jacoby Brissett, QB, N.C. State (91st overall)
Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska (96th overall)
Jones is the 14th defensive back Bill Belichick has taken in the first three rounds over the last 14 years. What makes Jones different is he appears to have a clear niche: nickel slot. Surprisingly, that’s a position the Patriots haven’t truly filled in recent years. Safety Patrick Chung, who inexplicably discovered a very respectable capacity for man coverage about two years ago, had been holding down the slot duties. Now it could be Jones, who has some playmaking prowess. The Thuney selection was a good one. The Patriots needed help along the interior O-line. Being a three-year starter at North Carolina State, could he earn a first-string job right away? The Brissett choice tells you the Patriots don’t believe the NFLPA can get Tom Brady out of the Deflategate suspension after all. It also tells you the Patriots, like the league’s other 31 teams, believe all the bad things they’ve heard about Connor Cook’s attitude and leadership.
Kevin Dodd, DE/OLB, Clemson (33rd overall)
Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State (43rd overall)
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (45th overall)
Kevin Byard, S, Middle Tennessee State (65th overall)
The Titans announced Dodd as an outside linebacker when making this pick. Many, including yours truly, thought he projected best to a 4-3 base defensive end and a passing down three-technique. But do the Titans envision him taking snaps from Derrick Morgan as a standup edge player? Johnson is a classic 3-4 defensive lineman whom GM John Robinson apparently liked more than Alabama’s Jarran Reed. Scouts have touted Johnson’s power and movement skills. The Henry selection was curious only because the Titans already signed DeMarco Murray. Now they have two “downhill” runners who are heavily dependent on their O-line. Henry couldn’t make people miss in the backfield in college. About a fourth of his carries gained zero or less yards. Good thing Tennessee’s first-round pick was spent on an offensive tackle. Byard, if he can learn Dick LeBeau’s complicated scheme, could play right away. The Titans don’t have great options at safety.
Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama (41st overall)
Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State (80th overall)
It wasn’t at all surprising to see the Bills trade up for Ragland. In Rex Ryan’s scheme, the defensive linemen are told to not worry about gap control and all the little details, just go out and kick the snot out of the offensive lineman in front of you. If you do that and gain penetration, the linebackers can sort it out from there. It’s a good philosophy if you have the players to make it work. A lot of pressure is on the linebacker’s read-and-hunt ability. That’s where Ragland thrived in college. Because Rex can’t stand ranking near the middle in every major defensive statistical category like he did in ’15, the Bills also spent their third pick on this side of the ball. It will be interesting to see when and where Washington, a pass-rushing defensive tackle, plays in this scheme.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson (54th overall)
Alexander is quick, fast and built for the slot. It wouldn’t be surprising to initially see him sit and learn behind sturdy nickel slot man Captain Munnerlyn. Mike Zimmer is one of the best cornerbacking teachers of all-time, and in that teaching process, he prefers to bring guys along slowly. Some have bemoaned Alexander’s lack of ball skills. Don’t overemphasize that. Yes, interceptions are important. But a corner’s job first and foremost, especially a slot corner’s, is to stop plays, not make plays.
New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State (47th overall)
Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State (61st overall)
Thomas is a lanky 6’3” target with ball skills, a large catching radius and a competitive streak. That’s perfect for converting the seam routes that comprise this Saints offense and defined the now-retired Marques Colston’s career. The other Buckeye New Orleans took, Bell, is a safety who, according to Urban Meyer, has the skill set of a cornerback. That’s critical in today’s NFL, and particularly for a defensive coordinator like Dennis Allen, who loves schematic diversity and disguise. With Bell and Kenny Vaccaro both in the mix, the Saints have the flexibility to be a big nickel base defense, meaning two linebackers and three safeties, if they so choose.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh (55th overall)
Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State (87th overall)
The question with Boyd will be: what can he contribute in the slot? Having a flexible inside-outside receiver is crucial in Cincinnati’s scheme. Without one, a lot of their formations and route combinations go out the window. Vigil will have a tough time finding action. A.J. Hawk was recently cut, but figure his base package role will be filled by Karlos Dansby. Or, actually, by Rey Maualuga, since Dansby should play ahead of Maualuga and alongside Vontaze Burfict in the nickel package. The other options at linebacker include reliable veteran Vincent Rey and last year’s third-rounder, Paul Dawson, who now has some experience in Cincy’s Cover 2, double-A-gap scheme.
Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama (49th overall)
C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame (90th overall)
Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State (94th overall)
Rees Odhiambo, G, Boise State (97th overall)
Seahawks GM John Schneider came up under Packers GM Ted Thompson. Thompson almost never trades up in the draft, but on Friday night he made an exception in order to snag offensive tackle Jason Spriggs. That was at Pick 48. At Pick 49, Schneider, the protégé, also traded up, snatching Reed, who had fallen out of the first round. Reed’s plummet was more a commentary on today’s NFL than on him. The overwhelming majority of first-round picks went to passing down players, be it quarterbacks, wide receivers, edge rushers or corners. Reed is an old school run-stopper. He plays low to the ground and with recalcitrant brute strength. Many figured he’d go to a 3-4 team, but the Seahawks saw in him a chance to get their next Brandon Mebane, who played nose-shade (or 1-tech, between the guard and center) in their 4-3. Mebane wasn’t a household name, but put on any Seahawks film from the Pete Carroll era and you’ll see he was invaluable. The rest of Schneider’s picks are pretty self-explanatory: he’s restocking an offense that needed restocking at every position save for wide receiver.
• INSIDE THE FILM ROOM WITH JARRAN REED: The Alabama prospect talks X’s and O’s to help explain how he became one of college football’s best two-gap linemen, and why some other parts of his game are lacking.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky (39th overall)
Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State (59th overall)
Off-field issues aside, Spence is exactly what the Bucs need: a low-to-the-ground pass rusher who plays with natural leverage and speed-to-power technique. Even if he only plays third downs, this brand of player is worth to them an early second-round pick. As for Aguayo, well, we probably know as much about him as GM Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter do: he’s a kicker who almost never misses. Clearly, Licht and Koetter think that’s very important to have.
James Bradberry, CB, Samford (62nd overall)
Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia (77th overall)
Can two rookie corners equal one Josh Norman? Well, actually, yeah – sort of. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way. But the point: Carolina’s scheme puts very little burden on its cornerbacks. Not only is it zone-based and extremely well-constructed when blitzes are called, but with heady, rangy linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, the zone windows that DB’s are asked to defend naturally shrink. Bradberry is said to be a “developmental guy.” In this system, a guy’s development can take place on the field, it doesn’t have to be from the safety of the bench. Worley does not have highly regarded speed. But in this system, with those smaller zone windows and natural help-coverage principles, that’s not the end of the world. This, by the way, explains why GM Dave Gettleman felt he needn’t break the bank for Norman.
Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State (42nd overall)
Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU (70th overall)
Correa was the higher pick, but Kaufusi might have the greater immediate impact. By most appearances, the Ravens are wanting to employ more 4-3 concepts this season. Kaufusi, a natural edge-bender, fits the mold of a 4-3 end. Correa, on the other hand, is more suited for a 3-4. Or at least that’s the book on him. Few defenses, and especially one as well-coached as Baltimore’s, falls into the cookie cutter definitions of 3-4 or 4-3. From snap to snap, and sometimes even within the same snap, teams toggle between 3-4 and 4-3 depending on the formation, situation, etc. The point: we can trust that Baltimore has a plan for both of these guys.
Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame (50th overall)
Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State (85th overall)
Martin, the younger brother of Cowboys Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin, fills a dire need for the Texans (guard or center, which is his natural position) and should start right away. He was responsible for the protection calls at Notre Dame. Given Brock Osweiler’s inexperience, would Bill O’Brien consider giving his rookie center those responsibilities right out of the gate? Braxton Miller is a snazzy name and, because of this, was the only third-round pick to get a live draft interview on NFL Network (the satellite delay made it a painful watch). But that’s not why Houston drafted him. The reason they drafted him was the same reason they drafted Will Fuller on Thursday night: they want to infuse more aerial speed around the productive but somewhat plodding DeAndre Hopkins.
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