The main excitement was Thursday, but Rounds 2 and 3 are still where teams look for starters. The decisions made on Friday are always very revealing.
33. Cleveland Browns—G Austin Corbett
With Joe Thomas retired, the Browns apparently don’t want to gamble on long-armed 2016 third-rounder Shon Coleman developing into Baker Mayfield’s blindside guardian. At 6' 4" and 306 pounds, Corbett doesn’t have the ideal size, which is why many figured he might play guard in the NFL. But with Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler already occupying these spots, the Browns clearly believe their newest lineman can play outside.
34. New York Giants—G Will Hernandez
GM Dave Gettleman realized Saquon Barkley alone isn’t enough to rejuvenate this moribund ground game. Hernandez brings an excellent blend of movement skills and body control to a position where the Giants lacked quality starters on both the left and right side. New York’s rushing attack has featured a lot of vanilla inside zone in recent years. With Hernandez, new head coach Pat Shurmur can feature more man-to-man blocking.
35. Cleveland Browns—RB Nick Chubb
Chubb projects as a foundational NFL back… but that’s what free-agent pickup Carlos Hyde already was. And with Duke Johnson, a multidimensional receiving threat behind Hyde, the depth at this position was already stellar. This is a head-scratching use of the No. 35 pick, especially from a team that needs help along the defensive line.
36. Indianapolis Colts—LB Darius Leonard
GM Chris Ballard must really like Leonard because he passed on Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds and Leighton Vander Esch in Round 1. With the overwhelming number of desperate defensive needs in Indianapolis, Ballard wouldn’t do that unless he thought the value in Round 2 was almost comparable. Stylistically, Leonard fits new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’s Tampa 2-based 4-3 zone scheme. (Though to play for Eberflus, a linebacker must be at least decent in man coverage.)
37. Indianapolis Colts—G Braden Smith
Drafting a once-in-a-generation guard like Quenton Nelson in the first round was befuddling given Indianapolis’s endless list of needs on defense. (In terms of three-down players, every position except Malik Hooker’s free-safety spot and Quincy Wilson’s corner spot could use an upgrade.) Taking another guard, despite having Jack Mewhort on the roster? Perplexing beyond comprehension. Either Mewhort or Smith will move to right tackle. Theoretically, Andrew Luck will be better protected than ever, but the best way to protect Luck is to install more quick-strike passes, not hope his new blockers can keep him clean.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—RB Ronald Jones II
Jones has home-run hitting speed, though that can be overrated in pro football. What matters is the ability to create your own space in confined areas, and that stems from vision and agility—traits that Jones showed at USC. The Bucs are a deep dropback passing team, and deeper passes stem from your running game. If Tampa Bay doesn’t feel that Jones can provide a foundational rushing attack, they may address this position again in the later rounds.
39. Chicago Bears—C James Daniels
Quietly, the Bears have built their offensive line over the years. Daniels, like incumbent Bears center Cody Whitehair, can play any of the interior three positions, and the hope is that he’ll start ahead of free-agent pickup Earl Watford, who would be a so-so starter but comforting backup. Mitchell Trubisky has escapability, but his success will ultimately come from timing and rhythm passing, as well as zone play-action. A nimble interior O-line is crucial for that.
40. Denver Broncos—WR Courtland Sutton
Today’s NFL requires at least three quality pass-catchers, and Denver had no options behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos got a sizable WR who can adjust to difficult balls, which is important when playing with Case Keenum, an aggressive but not always precise passer.
41. Tennessee Titans—DE Harold Landry
Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are both in the final years of their contracts, and while they shine for stretches, they disappear for others. Neither is quite the player fans believe. 2016 second-rounder Kevin Dodd has not developed because he fit’s a classic 4-3, not a flexible 3-4 like Tennessee ran under Dick LeBeau and will run in a slightly different way under first-time head coach Mike Vrabel. Finding an edge rusher was necessary. We take this grade down one notch to account for Tennessee having to trade up for it, but overall, this is a very good move.
42. Miami Dolphins—TE MIke Gesicki
Many expected Dallas Goedert to be the next tight end taken, but the Dolphins did extensive homework on both men and determined they wanted the receiving-oriented Gesicki. Head coach Adam Gase loves to flex his tight ends out wide, all alone on the weak side. Having a big jump-ball winner out there can do wonders for this offense.
43. Detroit Lions—RB Kerryon Johnson
The Lions are determined to inject some life and consistency into what’s been a mostly nonexistent ground game. After taking Arkansas center Frank Ragnow in Round 1, they go with a power-running back in Round 2. Matthew Stafford is one of the NFL’s most respected QBs, and with a ground game to balance the offense, he has a chance to now become a line-of-scrimmage-audibling field general that outsiders can finally appreciate.
44. San Francisco 49ers—WR Dante Pettis
How often does a team that lost its first nine games the previous year trade up to make a luxury pick the next year? The Niners didn’t have a glaring need at wide receiver, with possession-master Pierre Garcon, speedster Marquise Goodwin and young slot-specialist Trent Taylor all on the roster. But none of those are players you gameplan around, either. Kyle Shanahan, a masterful schemer, will try to win with a diverse array of receiving weapons.
45. Green Bay Packers—CB Josh Jackson
There’s no doubt that Mike McCarthy and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believe that teams win with one-on-one coverage in the NFL. From there you can create a pass rush through deceptive looks and blitzing. The Packers had just one quality corner on the roster entering this draft (last year’s second-rounder Kevin King). With Jaire Alexander last night, they’ve now added two more. Don’t rejoice completely, though, Packers fans. No pick is a sure thing. Green Bay drafted corners in Rounds 1 and 2 in 2015—Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. If that had worked out, Alexander and Jackson wouldn’t be here.
46. Kansas City Chiefs—DE Breeland Speaks
Can he defend the run? At 283 pounds, Speaks has the size to be a base down player, though probably more from a one-gapping standpoint than two-gapping. Kansas City’s biggest problem has been its inability to stop the run, particularly out of nickel and dime packages, where teams pound the rock against them from three-receiver sets.
47. Arizona Cardinals—WR Christian Kirk
People don’t realize that Arizona has one of the six or seven best defenses in football—the team just needs enough offensive weapons for the defense to not have to hold opponents to single-digit points each week. Josh Rosen is the most ready-now QB in this draft. With the lack of depth behind Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver, Kirk will have to contribute right away.
48. Los Angeles Chargers—LB Uchenna Nwosu
Down the stretch last year, edge-rushing dynamos Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram had to become more conservative pass rushers so that they could give their defensive tackles and linebackers some much-needed extra help against the run. Los Angeles’s pass rush suffered, and the run defense didn’t improve much. Nwosu potentially stabilizes that linebacker situation. It is, however, a little surprising the Chargers would take somewhat of a developmental project here considering that the team is the leading contenders in the AFC West right now.
49. Philadelphia Eagles—TE Dallas Goedert
Head coach Doug Pederson understands that defenses hate offenses that can throw the ball out of two-tight end sets. That’s especially true when that offense has a running game as expansive and effective as Philly’s. With Zach Ertz and Goedert on the field together, No. 3 linebackers will now be forced into coverage. Carson Wentz will be licking his chops.
50. Dallas Cowboys—T Connor Williams
The Cowboys announced Williams as a guard, but considering that 2015 would-be first-rounder La’el Collins flashed there a few years ago and has since struggled at right tackle, don’t be surprised if Williams winds up playing outside. Either way, the Cowboys now have a fifth super-high-pedigreed offensive lineman. If Williams fulfills the first-round potential that many believe he has, this front five, which was already far and away the NFL’s best, has a chance to be impenetrable in pass protection and unstoppable in the ground game. With no immediate major needs on defense (save for maybe pass rusher), the Cowboys could afford to re-invest in an area of strength.
51. Chicago Bears—WR Anthony Miller
This is the tacit declaration that Kevin White is done. He’ll get a chance to compete in 2018, but it’s likely that 2015 first-rounder doesn’t have anything left after three injury-plagued seasons. The Bears, who had no quality wide receivers healthy for much of last season, needed to get a third newcomer after signing Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson and Atlanta’s Taylor Gabriel in free agency. Stylistically, these three wideouts complement each other well.
52. Indianapolis Colts—DE Kemoko Turay
Well, at least it was a defender. Turay is so raw that Mike Mayock even declared that Turay’s best season in college was as a freshman. You can never have too much edge talent in a 4-3 scheme, but from 30,000 feet, the Colts, four picks into this draft, still need to overhaul more about two-thirds of their defense.
53. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB M.J. Stewart
The Bucs needed help at corner, both for right now and for when 35-year-old Brent Grimes washes up (which should have been a few years ago, but Tampa Bay just re-signed him for $10 million this offseason). Spatial awareness is mandatory for playing in what is pro football’s most zone-intensive scheme, and Stewart has that.
54. Cincinnati Bengals—S Jessie Bates III
Backup safety/slot corner Josh Shaw is a free agent next year, and Shawn Williams is better as a sturdy veteran backup than every-down player. So the Bengals needed to find a running mate for George Iloka. Marvin Lewis rarely plays rookie defensive backs, so don’t be surprised if Bates is given a year or two to develop. It’s a DB-friendly scheme, with a lot of two-deep zone coverage concepts.
55. Carolina Panthers—CB Donte Jackson
This defense is likely returning to its simpler 4-3 speedy zone ways under first-time coordinator Eric Washington. In that approach, the Panthers never prioritized cornerbacks, but all of their defensive backs will be free agents by 2020. Other than James Bradberry, none of those DBs are of clear-cut starting quality. Picking Jackson was out of necessity.
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56. New England Patriots—CB Duke Dawson
New England mixed and matched in the slot last season, and the hope is that Dawson can stabilize that spot. For that to happen, he must be proficient in man coverage, and it will be interesting to see if he gets reps on the perimeter. Bill Belichick is known for playing DBs in unusual locations.
57. Oakland Raiders—DT P.J. Hall
Yes, they have glaring needs at linebacker and especially cornerback. But new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther plays a lot of two-deep zone, which protects your ‘backers and corners in coverage. Plus in those looks, Guenther often aligns his “three-technique” defensive tackle on the strong side. That means the three-tech must have the strength and explosiveness to fight through double-teams. Guenther had this in Cincinnati with Geno Atkins. He didn’t inherit anyone on Oakland’s roster who is close to that caliber. The hope is Hall changes that.
58. Atlanta Falcons—CB Isaiah Oliver
GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn must love Oliver’s talent because the Falcons absolutely did not need a cornerback. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford form one of the best starting tandems in football, and Brian Poole is sturdy in the slot. Oliver has the size and makeup speed that Quinn’s system demands. His arrival offsets the loss of repeated screw-up Jalen Collins (out of the league) and maybe, over time, Alford moves inside, where he has thrived before. It’s not a bad pick, but given Atlanta’s paucity of defensive tackles, it’s a questionable one.
59. Washington Redskins—RB Derrius Guice
We don’t know the details about why Guice dropped to Round 2. If it turns out to not be an issue, this pick becomes a huge value. Guice is a dynamic go-to back who can alter an offense’s makeup. Washington needed more consistency and on-the-ground playmaking at this position, especially after acquiring a cautious, point-guard style QB like Alex Smith. On-field, this pick is an A. Off-field, it’s a TBD.
60. Pittsburgh Steelers—WR James Washington
Washington has to be better than Martavis Bryant for this pick to fully pan out. Off the field, that’s easy. On the field, it’s hard. Washington is a vertical receiver, which the Steelers covet opposite Antonio Brown and dynamic possession man JuJu Smith-Schuster. With Darrius Heyward-Bey (another speedster) and Justin Hunter on the roster, Washington doesn’t necessarily have to contribute right away, though as a second-rounder on a Super Bowl-ready team, you hope he can.
61. Jacksonville Jaguars—WR DJ Chark
It’s a little surprising the Jaguars didn’t go O-line or tight end and try to augment their thundering ground game. Perhaps they didn’t love the prospects at those positions. The hope is Chark will bring playmaking prowess to a receiving corps that overachieved late last year, with rookies Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole lading the way.
62. Minnesota Vikings—T Brian O’Neill
There’s a vacancy at right guard after Joe Berger retired, and the Vikings will attempt to fill it either with O’Neill, an athletic but unfinished product with upside, or Mike Remmers, who slid into that spot down the stretch last year. Whoever doesn’t play guard will start at right tackle, if all goes to plan.
63. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Carlton Davis
Taking a second corner in Round 2 looks like the Bucs are sending a message to up-and-down 2016 first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves. Really, it’s just an acknowledgement that teams need three corners in today’s NFL.
64. Indianapolis Colts—DE Tyquan Lewis
If you’ve been reading the analysis on the Colts’ previous picks, you know Lewis will have a chance to play significant snaps right away.
65. Oakland Raiders—T Brandon Parker
Yes, the glaring needs at linebacker and especially corner are STILL there, but … if we didn’t criticize the Kolton Miller pick, we can’t criticize the Brandon Parker pick. The reason is simple: In today's NFL, left tackles and right tackles are of equal importance. A replacement will soon be needed for Donald Penn on the left side, and an upgrade over Vadal Alexander must be found on the right side. What we can surmise is Jon Gruden and his staff don’t love last year’s fourth-round pick David Sharpe.
66. New York Giants—LB Lorenzo Carter
Carter will likely be employed as a sub-package outside front-seven player in new defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s multifaceted scheme. The Giants need someone who can rush with speed off the edge.
67. Cleveland Browns—DE Chad Thomas
D-line was clearly the area most in need of help on Cleveland’s defense, especially in terms of depth. Coordinator Gregg Williams believes you can generate a pass rush via blitzing and disguise, but that doesn’t mean you pass on an edge rusher with upside.
68. Houston Texans—S Justin Reid
There were already two quality safeties aboard with Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Hal, but more teams are playing with three safeties these days. Reid’s presence could lend more flexibility for how Mathieu is deployed. And if Mathieu, who signed a one-year deal, is not retained in 2019, the Texans will have an early jump on replenishing this position.
69. New York Giants—DT B.J. Hill
Dalvin Tomlinson and Damon Harrison are outstanding defensive tackles, but neither is a pure pass rusher. The hope is Hill will lend juice there, allowing Tomlinson and Harrison to rest for an additional six or seven snaps each game.
70. San Francisco 49ers—LB Fred Warner
This might be the 49ers hedging against the uncertain Reuben Foster situation. Warner, because of his value in coverage (where many of a linebacker’s responsibilities lie these days), could be seen as a possible upgrade over ex-Seahawk Malcolm Smith. But Smith was signed just last year; cutting him in 2019 would bring more than $4 million in dead money against the cap.
71. Denver Broncos—RB Royce Freeman
C.J. Anderson was cut for financial reasons, and as much as they love him, the Broncos feel that Devontae Booker, needs to share reps with someone. So they drafted a second runner of similar makeup. Simple as that.
72. New York Jets—DT Nathan Shepherd
Steve McLendon and Xavier Cooper are in contract years, and the Jets had no D-line depth aside from ex-Packer Mike Pennel. Todd Bowles’s scheme requires versatility from D-linemen. Can Shepherd expand his game?
73. Miami Dolphins—LB Jerome Baker
This is the second defender Miami has taken who is known for his blitzing. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke, a Jim Schwartz protégé, has long been a big believer in employing a straight four-man rush. Is a philosophical shift on the horizon?
74. Washington Redskins—T Geron Christian
A finesse offensive tackle for a team that has maybe the league’s best tandem in Trent Williams and Morgan Moses? With both under contract for the foreseeable future, the Redskins appear to have spent a third-round pick on a utility backup, with the understanding that Ty Nsekhe will move to guard. Somewhat of a head-scratcher.
75. Kansas City Chiefs—DT Derrick Nnadi
Nnadi is a purer interior defensive lineman, which could give Kansas City the flexibility to play second-rounder Breeland Speaks outside, like Andy Reid has suggested they will.
76. Pittsburgh Steelers—QB Mason Rudolph
If the Steelers really thought Rudolph were a likely replacement for Ben Roethlisberger, they would have drafted him with their late first-round pick—or at least their late second-rounder. Instead, they see Rudolph as a POTENTIAL replacement, meaning they’ve gambled a third-round pick to maybe catch lightning in a bottle. And that might be all this is—a gamble—since last year’s fourth-round selection of Joshua Dobbs, theoretically, took care of the long-term backup QB situation. Then again, Dobbs may have to fight for a roster spot now, considering Landry Jones (in a contract year) gives the Steelers an immediate backup, and Rudolph now gives them four QBs.
77. Cincinnati Bengals—DE Sam Hubbard
Poor Michael Johnson had to announce the very pick that’s here to replace him. The Bengals hit twice on mid-round pass rushers last year, finding Jordan Willis in the third round and what appears to be an absolute gem in Carl Lawson in the fourth. If Hubbard can rush the passer from inside, he could steal snaps from Johnson right away.
78. Cincinnati Bengals—LB Malik Jefferson
Cincinnati, who traded up to draft Jefferson, loves developmental front-seven players—and presumably they see Jefferson as a potential running mate for Vontaze Burfict two or three years from now. It’s worth noting that Preston Brown and Vincent Rey will be free agents after this season.
79. Seattle Seahawks—DE Rasheem Green
The rebuilding of this once-epic defense must involve pass rushers, as the trade of Michael Bennett and likely retirement of Cliff Avril leaves the Seahawks bereft of many. The fact that this role wasn’t addressed until the third round suggests the Seahawks plan on hanging onto Frank Clark, at least on a trial basis in 2019.
80. Houston Texans—T Martinas Rankin
The Texans HAD to find some offensive tackles to protect the franchise quarterback for whom they traded away this year’s first-round pick last spring. Rankin has a chance to play in Week 1.
81. Dallas Cowboys—WR Michael Gallup
Are we looking at a cheaper, younger 2017 Dez Bryant? For Dallas’s sake, let’s hope Gallup is more explosive. This scheme features a lot of spread formations and basic route combinations, and receivers must be able to win one-on-one.
82. Detroit Lions—S Tracy Walker
Tavon Wilson, Glover Quin and Miles Killebrew all hit free agency in 2020. Walker can develop behind them for now, with the understanding that he could contribute in select packages early on. Matt Patricia did a lot with safety-heavy groupings in New England. You get more schematic flexibility that way.
83. Baltimore Ravens—T Orlando Brown
They have 2016 first-rounder Ronnie Stanley on the left side. On the right side, James Hurst was just signed to a four-year deal. Will Hurst move to guard, where he has filled in at times? Will Brown move there? Did the Ravens spend a third-round pick simply on depth (albeit at an important position)?
84. Los Angeles Chargers—DT Justin Jones
Chargers’ Brandon Mebane is in a contract year and could see his stellar career come to a close after this season. Is Jones viewed as the 2.0 version? Even if he’s not, he’ll provide important depth, as backups Damion Square and the underrated Darius Philon have expiring contracts.
85. Carolina Panthers—CB Rashaan Gaulden
Drafting corners in Rounds 2 AND 3? The Panthers needed help at this position, so it makes sense. Maybe the belief in taking front seven players over DBs was more about previous GM Dave Gettleman and less about an organizational creed.
86. Baltimore Ravens—TE Mark Andrews
A guy can’t be a first-round bust if you take him in the third round. Andrews is here because 2015 first-rounder Breshad Perriman won’t be after his rookie deal expires. He'll be the big-bodied red zone target that Perriman (a wide receiver) never developed into.
87. Oakland Raiders—LB Arden Key
The Raiders saw a talented player sitting there and moved. They can reason that instead of finding a corner who won’t get burned, get pass rushers who won’t give your corners a chance to get burned.
88. Green Bay Packers—LB Oren Burks
Coverage linebackers are important in today’s NFL, and the Packers needed one after Joe Thomas signed with Dallas in free agency. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine likes athletic, interchangeable pieces in the middle of the field, because it makes it easier to disguise your looks.
89. Los Angeles Rams—T Joseph Noteboom
Welcome to the party, Rams. You show up late, needing a new starter or two at defensive end, as well as stack linebacker. But instead you add an offensive tackle to a line that stayed intact and played extremely well last season? It’s actually not as crazy as it sounds. Three linemen—Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown and Rodger Saffold—are in contract years, and the other two, Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan, are old. All those young ball-handling weapons you have won’t do any good down the road if their blocking breaks down. Also, congratulations on finding Brandin Cooks with the No. 23 pick.
90. Atlanta Falcons—DT Deadrin Senat
THERE’s the defensive tackle this team needs! Now go out and find two or three more.
91. New Orleans Saints—WR Tre’Quan Smith
Stylistically, Smith is very similar to wideouts Brandon Coleman and Cameron Meredith (recently signed from Chicago). Bigger-bodied receivers who can get downfield are critical in a Saints scheme that often attacks between the painted field numbers. This pick suggests that Coleman won’t be re-signed when his contract expires after the season.
92. Pittsburgh Steelers—T Chukwuma Okorafor
It’s surprising the Steelers haven’t taken a swing or two for a true inside linebacker, which was their only obvious need entering this draft. But that’s not to say this is a bad pick—Okorafor brings depth to offensive tackle, which the Steelers have found valuable in recent years, playing Chris Hubbard as a sixth offensive lineman and using him as a fill-in when Marcus Gilbert has been out.
93. Jacksonville Jaguars—S Ronnie Harrison
Starters Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson are both signed beyond 2020 so this pick is nothing more than a great defense adding depth. Considering that the Jaguars play nickel (two linebackers, two safeties) and never big dime (one linebacker, three safeties), Harrison will have to embrace special teams if he wants to get significant snaps.
94. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—T Alex Cappa
This suggests the JR Sweezy experiment won’t last much longer, as the Bucs take an intriguing developmental guard they hope can one day start opposite Ali Marpet. Some see Cappa as a tackle, which would make this pick REALLY interesting given that 2015 second-round left tackle Donovan Smith is in a contract year.
95. San Francisco 49ers—S Tarvarius Moore
Let’s think about how Eric Reid must feel for a second. Reid, a top-third safety in the NFL, is unemployed, but today he saw a. his former teammate Jaquiski Tartt get a two-year contract extension; b. his younger brother get drafted; and c. his old team take a player at his position. Does this selection of Moore suggest that Jimmie Ward won’t be re-signed after 2018?
96. Buffalo Bills—DT Harrison Phillips
The estimable Kyle Williams is probably playing his last season, and the Bills likely hope Phillips can be the run defender to replace him. To replace Williams’s pass rushing, however, they may have to look elsewhere.
97. Arizona Cardinals—C Mason Cole
A.Q. Shipley is in the final year of his contract, and after drafting Cole, it’s possible the Cardinals have now found their future long-term starting quarterback, wide receiver and center.
98. Houston Texans—TE Jordan Akins
Bill O’Brien and his staff built a splendid, multi-dimensional scheme around Deshaun Watson’s mobility last year, and a flexible tight end can lend valuable dimension to that. How much Akins plays could be determined by how trusted he is as an on-the-move run-blocker.
99. Denver Broncos—CB Isaac Yiadom
It’s hard to know what to make of this one given that Denver invested a third-rounder last year in Brendan Langley. Perhaps GM John Elway believes cornerback is a position that must always have replenished talent and depth.
100. Kansas City Chiefs—LB Dorian O’Daniel
Scouts loved his work on special teams, but you don’t generally draft a guy in the third round strictly on that merit. In their 3-4 style scheme (which is often structured like a 4-2 or a 5-1), do the Chiefs think O’Daniel, who weighs just 223 pounds, can play outside? Or will he transition to a stack linebacker role?
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