The first round of the NFL draft often steals the biggest share of the headlines, but some of the most important storylines can be found on Day 2.
This year’s draft class is incredibly deep, and a lot of quality talent found its way out of the first round and into Friday’s 65 selections. There was certainly no shortage of playmakers in the second and third rounds.
We don’t often think about Day 2 players having a major impact on a team, but the right draft pick can make all the difference—regardless of where he was selected. Several Day 2 selections could prove to be the difference between winning and losing in 2013, and we’ll take a look at four of those players in this article.
The New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers should be extremely happy with their Day 2 hauls. The players they selected stand to make a substantial impact this season.
A Changing Tide in New York
Mark Sanchez’s days in New York may be numbered. In one of the most impactful moves of Day 2, Jets general manager John Idzik pulled the trigger on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the 39th pick, giving Jets fans a reason to stop booing and start applauding.
It’s too early to tell what kind of NFL quarterback Smith will be, but there’s no denying New York’s need for a new face under center. By the time Sanchez’s contract expires following this season (if the Jets don’t decide to release him first), Smith will have firm control of the future of the organization.
That Smith fell as far as he did was a surprise, but it wasn’t a shock to see him sporting a Jets hat. Things are changing in New York, and the Jets may again have a reason to be hopeful for next season.
The Buffalo Bills made a surprise selection Thursday evening in selecting Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with the 16th pick, and they gave him another weapon in the second round with the addition of USC wide receiver Robert Woods.
Stevie Johnson has been an incredibly productive receiver in Buffalo, but he’s been the only consistent pass-catcher in that offense. New head coach Doug Marrone got his quarterback, and he made a wise choice in facilitating a pick that would yield a quality receiving weapon for him.
Woods is a physical receiver with good hands and considerable quickness. He isn’t the tallest or fastest receiver in this draft class, but he does everything well. He’ll be an excellent complement to the speedy Johnson and a tremendous target to develop alongside Manuel.
Hit the Deck
The Cincinnati Bengals’ pass rush is already one of the best in the league, and it got even better in the second round with the selection of SMU defensive end Margus Hunt with the 53rd pick, as the team tweeted following the pick:
Cincinnati Bengals @Bengals
With the 53rd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the #Bengals select Margus Hunt, DE, SMU. #nfldraft2013-4-27 00:01:11
The “Eastern Block” is an absolutely freakish athlete with the size, strength and surprising quickness to be an explosive pass-rusher from either the defensive end or defensive tackle position. He’ll need to bulk up if he is to play inside on a consistent basis, but his versatility is a valuable asset, especially in Cincinnati’s 4-3 front.
In a vacuum, this selection doesn’t have a high “wow” factor, but it could potentially change the balance of the AFC North race in the very near future. The AFC’s most physical division is full of talented pass-rushers and some tremendous NFL quarterbacks, and adding Hunt may have put the Bengals ahead of every other team in the former department.
Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins will be returning in 2013 to strike fear into the heart of opposing passers, and Hunt will join the cause with a skill set perfectly suited for the job.
An Offense to Fear
Aaron Rodgers has made the Green Bay Packers offense one of the best in the NFL, but the team still lacks a running back capable of setting the tone and keeping opposing defenses off balance.
At least until Friday.
In a surprising turn of events, Alabama running back Eddie Lacy slid down the draft board and into the Packers’ lap at No. 61. No one expected the bruising back to be available at the bottom of the second round, but Green Bay won’t be complaining.
Lacy has the size, vision and tremendous physicality to add a new element to Green Bay’s offensive attack. There isn’t a team in the league that will have the luxury of playing its safeties too far out of the box to stop Rodgers in the passing game.
The Packers haven’t had a dominant rusher in recent years, but it looks like that won’t be the case in 2013.