The first round of the draft went largely as expected on Thursday night (aside from Green Bay's stunning trade up for quarterback Jordan Love). We even saw a classic trade back from the Patriots, who are one of seven teams that didn't make a pick on Day 1 and are hoping to make a splash on Friday.
Below is our instant analysis and grades for every pick from Rounds 2 and 3.
33. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Tee Higgins
This speaks to the Bengals’ concerns about incumbent wide receivers John Ross and especially A.J. Green staying healthy. They made this move despite having glaring needs on defense. Higgins, with his 6'4" frame, wide catch radius and perimeter ball-attacking ability, is much more similar to Green, who will be 32 come Week 1 and is coming off a season-long foot injury in 2019 after missing seven games the previous year. One important note: Higgins improved in his last year at Clemson, including as an inside receiver. In Taylor’s play-action heavy offense the receivers often align in tight splits, working the middle of the field.
34. Indianapolis Colts (from Washington): WR Michael Pittman
After a mostly unsuccessful one-year stint with free agent Devin Funchess last season, the Colts are taking another stab at a long-bodied perimeter target. Pittman gives them a nice stylistic complement to explosive movable chess piece T.Y. Hilton, who likely now will play full-time in the slot in three-receiver sets. (Hilton has seen plenty of action here in recent years already; third-year pro Zach Pascal is likely to continue getting opportunities as the other outside receiver.) Philip Rivers has thrown to big targets throughout his career: Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, etc. Pittman is a good stylistic fit.
35. Detroit Lions: RB D'Andre Swift
Try, try again. That’s what the Lions have been doing at running back ever since Barry Sanders’s unexpected retirement 21 years ago. Swift was a highly refined zone runner at Georgia and will operate mainly out of those designs in coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense. He has the lateral agility to create his own space, and his potential explosiveness as a receiver could do wonders for a Lions offense that must regain some aerial balance after becoming heavily skewed toward vertical throws in 2019. With sustaining third-year back Kerryon Johnson aboard, expect Swift to fill an Alvin Kamara type role.
36. New York Giants: S Xavier McKinney
Consider McKinney a catch-all solution for a Giants secondary that was quietly better inside than people realize. Or, potentially better, since they’re counting on last year’s fourth-round free safety, Julian Love, building on his intriguing rookie season and former Browns first-round strong safety Jabrill Peppers performing at a star level. In today’s NFL you need three quality safeties, and it really helps if one of those safeties can play the slot, as that provides answers inside against both three-receiver and two-tight end personnel. McKinney offers diverse value.
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37. New England Patriots (from LA Chargers): S Kyle Dugger
This one is a bit of a head-scratcher for the simple reason that the Patriots entered this draft with four quality safeties already: the recently re-signed Devin McCourty, do-it-all box player Patrick Chung, grossly underrated ex-Charger Adrian Phillips and the lesser-known Terrence Brooks, who performed nicely as Chung’s backup last season. Brooks is signed through 2020, while the other three are under contract through 2021. But few teams have made better use of diverse secondary talent, which is precisely what Dugger brings. He doesn’t fill a need, but there is no question he fits the scheme.
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38. Carolina Panthers: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
It’s looking more and more like first-time NFL defensive coordinator Phil Snow will start his scheme with an aggressive four-down, gap-penetrating front four—a philosophy the Panthers have relied on for years and one that Snow coached under in his last NFL stint as Rod Marinelli’s linebackers instructor in Detroit (2006-08). After snatching behemoth defensive tackle Derrick Brown in Round 1, the Panthers found a classic, imposingly built 4-3 style defensive end who, thanks to the departure of veterans Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin, will likely assume a significant rotational role right away.
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39. Miami Dolphins: OT Robert Hunt
This pick is not overkill after the Dolphins took USC left tackle Austin Jackson in Round 1. They entered this draft with glaring needs at both tackle spots, considering that young veterans Julie’n Davenport and Jesse Davis are both better suited for utility backup roles. Davenport and Davis, stylistically, have traits that could transition well to guard, and so does Hunt, who at 6'5", 323 and with just 33.5-inch arms has a compact build. But given that free agent Ereck Flowers was just signed to a surprisingly expensive contract to play left guard, and Michael Deiter was drafted in the third round last year to play right guard, the plan at this point is likely for Hunt to be a right tackle.
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40. Houston Texans (from Arizona): DT Ross Blacklock
Felling Houston down the stretch last season was a putrid pass rush that, at times when J.J. Watt was out, bordered on downright irrelevant. Some see Blacklock as the best pure pass rushing defensive tackle in this draft. He aligned primarily over the center at TCU, both as a 0-tech (directly over the center) and 1-tech (shaded over the center’s shoulder). But elite athleticism—including much-coveted short-area lateral quickness—suggests he can play 3-tech in the NFL. Blacklock’s game is not built on power, so he himself won’t fill the void left by free agent D.J. Reader’s departure, but his presence allows Reader’s in-house replacement, Brandon Dunn, to focus almost solely on the nose position.
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41. Indianapolis (from Cleveland): RB Jonathan Taylor
NFL Films’s Greg Cosell has described Taylor as an Ezekiel Elliott level of runner. Taylor weighs 225, runs a 4.39 in the 40 and is both efficient and explosive working downhill. He does not offer Elliott’s receiving prowess, but the Colts already have Nyheim Hines to handle their third down duties. Taylor may have just been too much value for the Colts not to pursue early in the second round, but also consider this: Marlon Mack is scheduled for free agency after this season. Colts head coach Frank Reich comes from the Eagles, a franchise that has prioritized having running backs on cheap rookie deals. If Mack departs in 2021, the Colts now have a ready-made starter in Taylor at an affordable rate for the next three years—maybe four, if Taylor performs really well. (And that’s not to say Taylor can’t contribute immediately in 2020.) At that point, the Colts could repeat the cycle all over again, drafting Taylor’s replacement and letting Taylor leave. Because the one blemish on the stud runner: He already has the tread of 926 carries from his time at Wisconsin.
42. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
D.J. Chark is on his way to becoming a No. 1 receiver, and now he may have an equally talented sidekick. Shenault wowed with his straight-line explosiveness and versatility at Colorado. And stylistically, he gives Jacksonville another big-bodied target after this offense has been stuck playing with mostly thinner-framed, finesse-oriented guys. It might take Shenault a year or two, though. One concern is he needs some polish and refinement. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s scheme is sharply built but dependent on smart, precise route running.
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43. Chicago Bears (from Las Vegas): TE Cole Kmet
In part due to injuries, things never fully worked out with intriguing 2018 free agent signing Trey Burton, who was recently released. And 2017 second-rounder Adam Shaheen officially became a bust last season when he too often failed to get on the field ahead of low-pedigreed, workman tight ends like Ben Braunecker and J.P. Holtz. Kmet is as classic a tight end as you’ll see, which allows recently signed veteran Jimmy Graham to play more of a receiving role. And don’t be surprised if the Bears go with more three-tight end sets this season. Creative offensive architect Matt Nagy understands that those packages make a defense slower and more predictable, and with ex-Chief Demetrius Harris already aboard, Kmet now gives this team three tight ends who can align almost anywhere as receivers.