Winners and Losers After Day 2 of the NFL Draft
Day 2 is in the books of the NFL Draft after the completion of rounds two and three last night. This is the second part of this series so if you missed part one make sure to catch up here. I am going to be honest, lots of teams had relatively good drafts last night so there were not many real obvious losers last night but I have highlighted some teams that failed to maximize the value of their selections.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
Yesterday I highlighted how the Jaguars were able to get the best non-QB in the draft in FSU CB/S Jalen Ramsey and how that would help bolster their defense. I also discussed the unfortunate slide of UCLA LB Myles Jack who slid due to a knee injury all the way out of the first round. I had Jack slated to the Jaguars in the first round at 5th overall even with the knee but Jacksonville were able to snag him at 36th after trading up with Baltimore. That’s right, the Jaguars were able to add two of the top three defensive players in this draft to their defense, that alone makes them winners in my book even if Jack’s longevity is a question mark at this point in time. In the third round Jacksonville also added Maryland DE Yannick Ngakoue to give them some depth on the defensive line. With the free agent additions Jacksonville signed this offseason as well as adding Ramsey and Jack plus the return of last year’s first rounder Dante Fowler Jr., the Jaguars defense should be in line for a big step forward.
Loser: Tennessee Titans
This may defer from what others will say about the day for the Titans, but I was largely unimpressed with what they did last night. Yesterday I praised Tennessee for moving down and racking up plenty of extra picks in the draft, however additional picks do you no good if you do not use them wisely (See: the Cleveland Browns 2015 draft). The Titans have a clear need to upgrade their secondary and to add a wide receiver for young QB Marcus Mariota. With their first pick of the day the Titans selected defensive end Kevin Dodd out of Clemson. This was not a bad pick by any means but Tennessee reportedly want to move him to linebacker in their 3–4 system and I am not entirely convinced how that will work out. At 43rd the Titans again addressed their defensive line by selecting Penn State DT Austin Johnson. Johnson excels in stopping the run but this definitely felt like a reach to me as Alabama’s Jarran Reed was still on the board at the time. Two picks later Tennessee selected Heisman Trophy winner (given annually to the top player in college football) RB Derrick Henry. Henry is a supremely talented player but their are questions about his workload after having nearly 400 touches last year at Alabama and his running style translating to the NFL. The other problem with this pick is Tennessee added RB DeMarco Murray in the offseason to an already crowded backfield so this seems like a luxury pick that Tennessee did not need to make at this time with guys like S Vonn Bell and WR Tyler Boyd still on the board. The Titans did finally address their secondary when they took S Kevin Byard from Middle Tennessee State at the top of the third round. While it is too early to write off any of these players as busts the problem is reaching for guys and passing on good players in definite areas of need.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
Speaking of teams trading down to acquire picks, that is exactly what Baltimore did, trading down multiple times and still getting the guys they wanted. Baltimore added two defensive ends to give them some depth along the defensive line. The first was Kamalei Correa from Boise State who can get after the quarterback but still needs work in the run game. The other was BYU’s Bronson Kaufusi who is strong in both the run game and truly excels as a pass rusher. These were two good additions but the truly impressive thing is that Baltimore will have FIVE (yes, five) fourth round picks tomorrow where they can further fill the holes on their roster. Ozzie Newsome (the GM of the Ravens) proves once again that there is value in trading back and that he is one of the best drafting GMs in the league. But as with the Titans, it’s about what you actually do with the picks but I have full faith in Newsome to continue to work his draft magic.
Loser: New York Jets
The reason the Jets make this list has to do with their second round selection of Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg. This was a truly puzzling selection as Connor Cook (we’ll get to him later) was still on the board and this did very little to help their current QB situation. Hackenberg was widely considered to be a third to fifth rounder in this draft due to his inconsistent play at Penn State. The Jets already have Geno Smith and Bryce Petty at QB and while neither inspires much confidence, Hackenberg just adds another person to the mix. It is widely known that the Jets also want to bring back last year’s starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and there is no way the Jets will carry FOUR QBs into the season so someone will have to go and Smith or Petty seem the odd man out right now. There were plenty of options for the Jets at this spot in the draft but instead they reached for a QB that may or may not pan out. The Jets did select Georgia LB Jordan Jenkins in the third round to go with first round pick Darron Lee so they somewhat redeemed themselves but the Hackenberg pick was bad enough to make them losers.
Winner: Chicago Bears
I was torn between going with Dallas or Chicago here but I ultimately opted for the Bears since they were another team that took advantage of moving down. Despite not racking up as many assets as the Baltimore Ravens, the Bears will finish Day 2 with two great additions in two areas of need. In the second round the Chicago Bears were able to select Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair at 72nd overall. Whitehair was my top interior lineman and getting him in the mid-second round is a huge steal for any team. The Bears did especially well since they traded down twice in exchange for three 4th round picks (two this year and one in 2017) and still got their guy. Adding picks and getting the top player at a position of need is impressive and gets a standing ovation from draft nerds like myself. Chicago’s other selection was Florida DT Jonathan Bullard who is a big run stopper, which the Bears desperately lacked last season. Per Pro Football Focus, Bullard graded out with the best run stopping grade in the entire nation last year. Getting him in the third round to bolster that front seven is another great move by the Bears front office to get great value from their picks.
Losers: Oakland and Atlanta reaching AGAIN
I spent time in my last piece scolding these two teams for reaching for players Karl Joseph and Keanu Neal on Thursday and they went out and did the exact same thing today. Oakland used their first selection of the day on Illinois DE Jihad Ward. Ward is incredibly raw and is a ways away from being NFL-ready hardly justifying using the 44th overall selection on him. The Raiders were able to add DE Shilique Calhoun from Michigan State in the third round which was a good spot to get him. However, the Ward pick and being a repeat reach offender were enough for landing them on this list as losers.
Atlanta on the other hand reached for both of their picks taking LB Deion Jones in the second round and TE Austin Hooper in the third. Jones was a Day 3 guy in my book and maybe a fourth rounder tops, so him going at 52 is a head scratcher. Jones is a speedy “tweener” (stuck between two positions) linebacker/safety which seem to be all the rage this offseason after the success the Arizona Cardinals have had with it. The other disappointing thing about this pick is that the top linebacker/safety in this draft, USC’s Su’a Cravens, was still there at 52 but was snatched up just one pick later by Washington. Like I said yesterday about Joseph in Oakland, I like the fit for Jones on this team I just do not like where he was taken. The draft is all about value and maximizing each pick’s value. For a team like Atlanta with few picks in this draft to begin with, that makes it all the more important. Hooper addressed a big need for the Falcons but again they probably could have waited until a little later to grab Hooper or someone like Jerell Adams from South Carolina.
Winners: Defensive Lineman
After naming the defensive tackles as losers yesterday, they had a big day today as nine of the first eighteen picks were defensive lineman. While I was not crazy about some of them (Dodd, Johnson and Ward) there were teams that got incredible value in their defensive picks (Spence, Robinson, and Reed). Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson, who many had going as high as 16th to Detroit in the first round, was taken by the Lions in the second round to eventually replace the aging Haloti Ngata. Seattle also traded up to 49th pick to take Jarran Reed, the other Alabama DT. Seattle needed a run stuffer to replace Brandon Mebane who left for San Diego this offseason. They did that in getting Reed, and the Seahawks got a first round talent in the second part of the second round at a position of need.
Losers: Andrew Billings and Connor Cook
One defensive lineman whose bad day continued was Baylor’s Andrew Billings who was not selected again last night. Yesterday, I had pointed out that I was surprised Billings had fallen out of the first round but I never thought he would fall out of rounds two and three as well. It is not clear at this time what is causing him to fall but I am sure we will find out in the coming days.
The other prospect who has been in a free fall is Michigan State QB Connor Cook. There was talk that Cook could be a late first rounder Thursday night but when that did not happen many figured he would possibly be the first player taken on Friday and most certainly the next QB taken. That did not happen when QB-needy Cleveland passed and took DE Emmanuel Ogbah at 32 and then the Jets surprised everyone by taking QB Christian Hackenberg at 51st overall. Things got worse for Cook when QB Jacoby Brissett (who I had as a fifth or sixth round guy) was taken by New England at 91st. Then Cleveland took USC QB Cody Kessler two picks later at 93rd overall. The difference between Billings and Cook is we likely know the problem. Cook was not elected captain by his teammates at Michigan State which is odd for a star quarterback. Questions about his personality and leadership ability have continued to swirl all offseason but many assumed teams would look past it. Clearly it was more of an issue than we thought, but personality is very important for a quarterback as they are expected to be an emotional leader on a team and be able to be someone that players can rally around. I can’t see Cook falling much farther as teams like Dallas and Buffalo are in search of a backup quarterback but this was a rather unexpected fall.
Winner and Loser: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa had too odd of a day for me to leave out of this article so here is a recap. We will start with the good which was the selection of Eastern Kentucky edge rusher Noah Spence. During the draft process there are prospects that you just come to fall in love with and Spence was one of those guys for me. He was kicked out of Ohio State for failing multiple drug tests and that is how he eventually ended up at Eastern Kentucky. Spence asked to be drug tested repeatedly and he reportedly sent his last 20 drug tests to every team. Despite him turning things around he still fell out of the first hand to the eager hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa needed an edge rusher and they got one who fits perfectly with them at 39th overall who had top 10 talent. After taking CB Vernon Hargreaves III yesterday to bolster the secondary, Tampa had added two top 15 talent players to their defense and seemed poised for a solid draft.
Then things got weird…at the end of the second round the Buccaneers traded up and selected Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo. You read that right, Tampa selected a KICKER in the second round of the NFL Draft and traded UP to do so, having to give up a fourth round pick in the process. For those unfamiliar with the draft that is completely unheard of, as kickers typically go in rounds six or seven or completely undrafted. To be fair, kicker was a position of concern for the Buccaneers and Aguayo is no scrub (he is the most accurate kicker in college football history) but the second round is too high. Aguayo was pegged as a fifth rounder and maybe a late fourth at best so the Buccaneers to not only take a kicker that early but trade up to do so is dumbfounding. This really hurt what started off as a very strong draft but if Aguayo becomes the next Adam Vinatieri maybe we won’t look back and giggle at this pick like we do with the Jaguars selection of punter Bryan Anger* five picks before Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft.
*Anger, coincidentally enough is currently a Tampa Bay Buccaneer after signing with them in the offseason
The third and final day of the NFL Draft starts Saturday at 12PM EST on NFL Network and ESPN. There will be a third winners and losers tomorrow and team-by-team draft grades in the coming days as well so stay tuned! Follow me on Twitter for everything sports at @Rookie_Rhino