With the second and third rounds of the NFL draft complete, I breakdown winners and losers, as well as potential steals still available.
Rex Ryan’s calling card has always been his defense. However, last year the Bills were far from dominant on that side of the ball. After taking Shaq Lawson on day one, the Bills traded up to take Reggie Ragland at linebacker. Ragland is a great run defender, smart enough to understand Ryan’s schemes, and packs thunder in his shoulder pads. Then, in the third round the Bills picked up Adolphus Washington, a versatille defensive lineman to give the Bills great value. Now, the Bills have added valuable pieces to their defense and try to add offensive weapons or beef up their offensive line on day three.
Like the Bills, the Jaguars came into this draft needing to improve their defense. With the fifth pick, they debated taking Myles Jack or Jalen Ramsey, but ultimately decided to take Ramsey, the safer option. Imagine how ecstatic they must have been when Jack fell all the way to Jacksonville at the start of the second round. Dr. James Andrews told Adam Schefter he did not think Jack would require microfracture surgery on his knee. If that is true, the Jaguars just got two top five players in this draft without trading up to get either one. Yannick Ngakoue has good upside as a pass rusher as well. He should be able to play in sub packages as a rookie.
The Titans held the first overall pick in this year’s draft, but instead of taking an elite player, the Titans elected to trade back in an attempt to fill multiple holes on the roster. In doing this, the Titans have taken five quality players at positions of need. Jack Conklin may have the highest floor of any player in this draft. Kevin Dodd gave the Titans great value in the second round at a premium position. Austin Johnson fits the bill of a defensive tackle in today’s NFL. He can move around the defensive line and rush the quarterback. Derrick Henry is a load, and pairs with DeMarco Murray to create a scary backfield. Kevin Byard was one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft. A combine snub, Byard has 4.46 speed, with great ball skills and instincts for a safety. Five years from now, we may look back and realize the Titans built the foundation of their franchise with this draft.
New Orleans Saints:
Going into the draft, the Saints needs were pretty simple. Fix the defense, and replace Marques Colston. After taking Sheldon Rankins in round one, the Saints took Michael Thomas in the second round. Thomas is a big bodied, physical receiver. While Thomas may not have great speed, his hands are very good and he runs clean routes. In the third round, the Saints took Vonn Bell, a player who some experts said may creep into the first round. Bell is the best cover safety in the draft, and should help fix that atrocious Saints pass defense.
Despite the numerous off the field issues surrounding Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins rolled the dice on the massive ballerina. In round two, the Dolphins took Xavien Howard, who was a pretty big reach in my book. Mackensie Alexander, a player who has not given up a touchdown since 2014, was available, and Howard was at best a third round corner to me. Although I love the selection of Kenyan Drake in round three, the selection of receiver Leonte Carroo was somewhat baffling. While Carroo is a third round talent, receiver is not a position the Dolphins should be targeting this early in the draft. Devante Parker and Jarvis Landry are both very good players, and the Dolphins could have gone a number of different directions.
San Francisco 49ers:
As the first round was winding down, San Francisco made a deal with Kansas City to move up ten spots. The 49ers agreed to give up a second, fourth, and sixth round selection this year. The pick? Guard Joshua Garnett. A player Mel Kiper had ranked 67th on his board. The 49ers then used their third round pick on Will Redmond, a corner who had very little tape due to injury, and a surprising pick to say the least.
Potential Steals on Day Three
Andrew Billings, Defensive Tackle Baylor
Billings is one of the strongest players in this entire draft. I had him as an early second round grade, as did most other draft analysts. His inability to get after the passer is no doubt affecting his slide. Despite that, Billings should not be available this late in the draft. He will be a steal for whichever team does pick him up.
Connor Cook, Quarterback, Michigan State
Some experts were predicting Connor Cook would jump into the back of the first round. When he was available at the start of day two, it was generally agreed Cook would not last much longer. However, not only is Cook still available, Jacoby Brissett and Cody Kessler were selected before him. Cody Kessler. This could be the kind of draft slide to light a fire under a player, motivating him to achieve his full potential.
Josh Perry, Linebacker, Ohio State
Josh Perry has a similar play style to Reggie Ragland. Perry is a tough, downhill, run stuffing middle linebacker that could really help a team that needs an inside linebacker. Like Ragland, his coverage skills are probably the cause of his slide. Personally, I really like tough linebackers who can lead a defense. He can contribute to a team from day one, which is not something you see all the time from day three picks.
Paul Perkins, Running Back, UCLA
Paul Perkins is one of many talented running backs available on the draft’s final day. However, when I watched the tape of running backs in this class, nobody impressed me more than Perkins. Perkins has great vision, is a good receiver out of the backfield, and is not afraid to block. The thing that sets Perkins apart is his jump cut. Perkins breaks so many ankles it’s like he’s being guarded constantly by Brandon Knight.
Christian Westerman, Guard, Arizona State
Christian Westerman is a strong, athletic guard who accels in the run game. Westerman had 34 bench press reps at the Combine. He moves well, and should be very effective in a zone blocking scheme. I think Westerman will be a starter at guard in the NFL. Westerman is least effective against interior pass rushers, which is why he has fallen to this point. Personally, I think his pass protection issues are a bit overhyped.
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