The Biggest Steals from Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft
This has been a bizarre draft.
Despite a number of solid selections early in the second round, the storyline in the second and third rounds was really all about reaches.
Very few picks on the second day of the draft could truly be described as steals, but the following nine selections brought their teams elite value.
When evaluating the selections, I considered a combination of my own personal draft grades and the general consensus on each prospect's value.
What was not considered was the projected slot where players would be drafted. For example, even though Marqise Lee appeared in many first-round mock drafts, he does not appear on this list. Lee was overvalued in the media due to his high-profile college career, but ultimately, he was selected in a fair range, making it difficult to call him a true steal.
It's worth noting that of these nine selections, five were made by the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers, as the loaded NFC West just continues to get stronger.
Lamarcus Joyner, DB, St. Louis Rams
It's difficult to watch Lamarcus Joyner and not think about Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
Like Mathieu, Joyner is undersized but plays with a linebacker's mentality.
Usually players with a 'tweener designation are viewed in a negative light, but in Joyner's case, it's nothing but a positive. He's quick enough to match up with slot receivers but also strong enough to play the run—which he proved during his stellar career at Florida State.
It remains to be seen how the Rams juggle their secondary, but Joyner legitimately has the skill set to line up as an outside corner, nickel corner, or the strong or free safety. That type of versatility is invaluable to a team rebuilding the secondary.
Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have had terrible luck drafting pass-rushers in recent years, but Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu has a chance to buck that trend so long as they're patient with his development.
With Dwight Freeney and Jarrett Johnson ahead of him on the depth chart, Attaochu, who didn't play football until high school, will have an opportunity to slowly grow into a larger role.
Early in his career, the Chargers will likely use him as a situational pass-rusher, an area in which the team struggled mightily in 2013.
Jarrett Johnson has never been an explosive pass-rusher, so it would make sense to see him come off the field in passing situations in favor of Attaochu.
Troy Niklas, TE, Arizona Cardinals
This selection was almost certainly dictated by Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, and it's a perfect fit for his system.
Troy Niklas compares favorably to Steelers tight end Heath Miller, whom Arians coached during his time in Pittsburgh.
Arians' offense has never featured a heavy dose of the tight end in the passing game, but he does require a physical presence on the offensive line and someone capable of producing as a possession receiver.
Niklas, who has some experience as an offensive lineman in his past at Notre Dame, will immediately contribute as an in-line blocker in the Cardinals offense.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
The selection of Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde comes as a surprise because it was the fourth consecutive year in which the 49ers selected a running back within the first four rounds. And while LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter have proved to be nothing more than role players, expectations are high for a healthy Marcus Lattimore in 2014.
Perhaps the 49ers are less than encouraged by the rehab process of Lattimore, but this pick could also be about nothing more than pure value.
Hyde was the top running back on most media draft boards, and he is clearly built to carry the load. Even for a team with minimal need at the position, Hyde offered great value at the 57th pick.
As a rookie, Hyde will likely compete with Lattimore for a backup job. If he wins the job, he'll be the heir to Frank Gore. If he loses, he'll be groomed as trade bait for a few years down the road.
Morgan Moses, OT, Washington Redskins
Virginia's Morgan Moses was a legitimate option for the Redskins at the top of the second round, and they managed to land him a full round later.
While grades on Moses varied greatly, he was viewed as a first-round prospect by some, including ESPN's Scouts Inc. (subscription required).
The Redskins needed to upgrade the protection around Robert Griffin III, and Moses has the tools to step into an immediate starting role.
Tyler Polumbus was surprisingly effective at right tackle last year, so it will be interesting to see how the Redskins work Moses into the lineup. Either Polumbus or Moses likely gets shifted inside to guard, bumping Chris Chester or Shawn Lauvao to a backup role.
Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams
No one would have complained if the Rams left this draft without a running back, but the value of Auburn's Tre Mason in the third round was just too great to pass up.
Mason is an undersized but physical and explosive runner who compares favorably to Buccaneers running back Doug Martin.
Mason and his new running mate Zac Stacy aren't the typical thunder-and-lightening duo, but if we're forcing them into those two defined roles, Mason is definitely the lightning portion of the equation.
With two running backs capable of carrying the load, the Rams now have the luxury of keeping both running backs fresh and healthy throughout the season.
Chris Borland, LB, San Francisco 49ers
With all the hype Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland received leading up to the draft, I was prepared to rip a team for over-drafting a player with limited physical attributes.
But when Borland fell into the lap of the 49ers, it ended up looking like one of the safest selections in the draft.
Borland isn't the type of player that can come in and change the face of a defense, like Patrick Willis or Luke Kuechly. However, he is a smart, instinctive linebacker who can perfect a specific role within a scheme.
Willis and NaVorro Bowman are both locked in to long-term deals, but if either veteran underperforms in the coming years, Borland could potentially make him expendable if the franchise needs to create some cap space.
Phillip Gaines, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
Rice's Phillip Gaines wasn't one of the biggest names in this draft class, but his pure speed and athleticism give him the chance to play immediately at the next level.
Coming from a small school and lacking the size and physical style of play likely played a role in Gaines sliding to the late third round, but he has the fluid athleticism that you simply can't teach.
It's possible that Gaines will never be more than a nickel corner, but in today's NFL that has become an increasingly valuable role.
Gaines is a particularly strong selection for the Chiefs due to the trade rumors surrounding Brandon Flowers. If the Chiefs are still considering a trade involving their top starting corner, the addition of Gaines makes that a significantly easier blow for their secondary to handle.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts
While evaluating Donte Moncrief, I couldn't help but wonder if he would have been more highly regarded had he played college ball at a more successful program.
Moncrief suffered from being one of the only capable skill position players at Ole Miss, and he was hindered by quarterback play that could be described as shaky at best.
Ole Miss used Moncrief on a high percentage of quick-strike routes, effectively turning him into a running back lined up out wide. But his skill set gives him the potential to be so much more as receiver in the NFL.
The Colts have the luxury of developing Moncrief into a more well-rounded receiver while bringing him along slowly behind Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks.
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