NFL Draft 2017: Round 2-3 Grades for Every NFL Pick
Day 2 of the NFL draft is the new Day 1 of the NFL draft.
Dalvin Cook. DeShone Kizer. Forrest Lamp. Quincy Wilson. Zach Cunningham. Malik McDowell. These prospects would be drafted in the first round of a typical draft. But this is no typical draft; it's the deepest one in recent memory. So they are joined by draftnik darlings like Taywan Taylor, Alvin Kamara, Budda Baker and Tarell Basham; collegiate heroes like D'Onta Foreman and Teez Tabor; quarterback prospects like Davis Webb and others in the most compelling second day of the draft ever.
These are the official Bleacher Report pick-by-pick grades for Rounds 2 and 3. Check them out to find out which teams improved a little and which teams improved a lot.
No. 33 Green Bay Packers: Kevin King, Cornerback, Washington
Strengths: Height, jam-press coverage.
Weaknesses: Tackling, short-area quickness, injury history.
There are a lot of players like King in this year’s draft class:
- Extra-tall cornerbacks;
- Who were part of secondaries chock-full of NFL prospects;
- Who lack the physicality to play safety;
- But don’t possess the lateral quickness to be shutdown cornerbacks;
- Yet tested well at the combine in shuttle-and-cone drills, so maybe they are quicker than they looked on tape.
King falls in this category, as do Quincy Wilson, Ahkello Witherspoon and some others. It’s hard to tell what you are getting with them. Matchup nickel defenders? The next generation of shutdown cornerbacks? Fringe special teamers who were college system products?
The fate of players like King and the others may come down to what happens the first time they try to bring a tight end to the ground in training camp.
King played some slot and safety at Washington. That versatility will help him get on the field. He’s a special athlete, but special athletes just aren’t that special in this year’s cornerback draft.
The Packers allowed 153 points during a four-game losing streak last season which coincided with a rash of injuries in the secondary. It was covered by much of the media as an Aaron Rodgers slump, because "Famous Quarterback Suddenly Stinks" is a buzzier headline than "Several Cornerbacks Injured." The Packers know they need depth and upgrades in the secondary, even though the unit got healthy and rebounded later in the season.
I have several cornerbacks rated higher than King. But overall, this is a sound selection.
No. 34 Jacksonville Jaguars: Cam Robinson, Tackle, Alabama
Strengths: Size, drive-blocking, athletic potential.
Weaknesses: Balance, technique, quickness in pass protection.
Robinson scares the heck out of me as a prospect. He’s one of those massive SEC tackles (particularly Alabama/Auburn tackles) who look great when pile-driving straight ahead but sluggish and a little uncoordinated when moving laterally or setting for pass protection. He’s entering an NFL that throws the ball about 65 percent of the time and executes zone rushing plays that require quick, agile blockers when not passing.
Linemen like Robinson usually stick in the league as useful blockers but rarely become anchors at left tackle. Robinson’s upside may be former Tide tackle D.J. Fluker, whose best years have come as a guard for the Chargers. His downside? We’re still trying to figure out if Greg Robinson is going to be anything but a mammoth bust.
The Tom Coughlin Jaguars have a coherent plan: With Robinson and Leonard Fournette, they are going to add a smashmouth dimension to their offense. That should protect Blake Bortles until they figure out what to do with him. The strategy makes some sense, but the usual Jaguars skepticism applies to whether they can pull it off.
No. 35 Seattle Seahawks: Malik McDowell, Defensive Tackle, Michigan State
Strengths: Insane strength/athleticism package.
Weaknesses: Insane playing style.
Some of McDowell’s game film looks like a hallucination. He’ll swim-move past two or three blockers in pursuit of the ball. He’ll win so quickly at the line that it looks like a video game glitch, then run right past the ball-carrier. He’ll wreck everything in his path for a stretch, then disappear and make you wonder if it was all a dream.
McDowell’s work habits have been openly questioned since long before the draft period; at the combine, he blamed his spotty track record in the conditioning department on nagging injuries that he battled through his early career. As for his whirling-dervish technique, coaches just gave up. “Once I started making plays, they really just said ‘go ahead and do you,’” McDowell told me at the combine.
As you might imagine, the Seahawks coaches may not be quite as patient or accommodating, though they have an exceptional track record with defenders like McDowell.
McDowell is like a pitbull trying to get through the fence when the mailman arrives. Sometimes he wants to go over. Sometimes he wants to go under. Sometimes he wants to crash right through. But sometimes he tries to do all three at once and winds up causing himself more harm than others.
The only remotely similar prospect I can think of in recent years was Dominique Easley, but Easley’s inconsistency (in college and the NFL) has had more to do with injuries than wonky technique or iffy habits.
McDowell is delightfully one of a kind. The Seahawks will find creative ways to use him.
But there is a rule when grading Seahawks draft picks: If they avoid drafting an offensive lineman, they can get no higher than a "C." And when they trade down with an obvious line choice like Cam Robinson on the board, well...
No. 36 Arizona Cardinals: Budda Baker, Safety, Washington
Strengths: Play speed, instincts, intensity.
Baker is a fun-to-watch little guided missile of a safety who became a draft crush object in January among folks seeking a “better version of Jabrill Peppers.”
Like Peppers, Baker is more of an in-the-box playmaker who attacks behind the line of scrimmage than a traditional safety. But Baker has better instincts as a defender in space, while Peppers is bigger and possesses more natural athleticism.
Baker’s 5’10”, 195-pound frame makes him tiny for a box safety, but he’s fearless about taking on blockers in the running game. He’ll shine as a nickel safety, though the Cardinals will have to be wary of mismatches against Gronk types.
After selecting Haason Reddick last night, it's clear that the Cardinals are gobbling up "square pegs" who fit perfectly in their multiple defense. They also addressed a big problem: youth in the middle of the defense, where Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea are penciled in as starters. These are good need-fit-talent selections.
No. 37 Buffalo Bills: Zay Jones, Wide Receiver, East Carolina
Strengths: Hands, route running, blocking, upside.
Weaknesses: Mid-Major Receiver Prospect Syndrome.
Let’s examine the predraft Bills wide receiver depth chart:
- Sammy Watkins. Great player. Often injured.
- Andre Holmes. A regular starter for the Raiders until the moment they became a competitive team.
- Corey Brown. AKA “Philly” Brown, aka “that guy who dropped every pass Cam Newton threw at him.”
- Walter Powell. Practice squad knockaround guy. Couldn’t make the Jets roster. The Jets roster.
- Brandon Tate. Decent return man. Former Patriots third-round pick. The Bills probably keep him around so they can get an “I told you so” moment against the Patriots, seven years and two Super Bowls later.
- Dez Lewis. I loved him at the Senior Bowl three years ago. Draft love fades.
This group, in short, is one Watkins foot injury away from being CFL-caliber. So an upgrade was necessary.
Jones caught 158 passes for 1,746 yards for a weak East Carolina team in 2016 and then helped himself with an exceptional offseason. He caught everything thrown to his side of the field in Senior Bowl practices and in the game itself, and then lit up the combine with a 4.45 40 and excellent results in cones and jump drills.
The son of Cowboys linebacker Robert Jones, Zay has been around football so long that he joked at the combine about thinking everyone’s father played the sport when they were kids. (He would ask his friends what position their dads played.) So he’s not exactly a come-from-nowhere prospect.
Jones emerged as one of my favorite players in this class during Senior Bowl week, but let’s temper the swooning draft crush with some rational thinking. Senior receivers rarely perform as well in the NFL as juniors with similar resumes (they are closer to their athletic ceiling), mid-major receivers with pinball statistics for bad programs can easily be overvalued, and guys who made a few one-handed catches in goal-line drills for an all-star game are also very easily overvalued.
OK, that’s enough logic. Jones is absolutely dreamy.
No. 38 Los Angeles Chargers: Forrest Lamp, Guard, Western Kentucky
Strengths: Athleticism, hands-and-punch, rush recognition.
Weaknesses: Not Orlando Pace.
NFL personnel evaluators have been Pace-damaged for over 20 years. Pace was one of the greatest offensive line prospects in human history (pretty good NFL player, too), and when he left college in the same era as Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones, scouts assumed every draft would produce one or two future Hall of Fame left tackles: 6’6”, 325-pounders who moved like salsa dancers and had arms long enough to hug a refrigerator.
When Pace-caliber tackles went back to becoming twice-per-decade commodities, scouts starting knocking every decent tackle prospect as “not having the athleticism to play left tackle.” It’s like saying every quarterback who is not John Elway doesn’t have the arm and athleticism to be an NFL starter.
Lamp has everything it takes to be a pretty good left tackle, very good right tackle or great guard in the right system. He also snapped a lot of footballs during private team workouts and may get a look at center, a position which has been a problem for the Chargers since Nick Hardwick retired. Matt Slauson could move back to guard, his more natural position, if Lamp gets a look at center.
Lamp is a safe bet to start for a decade in the NFL, and he joins Russell Okung as an upgrade to the Chargers offensive line. It’s amazing the kind of player you can select when you aren’t searching for players who just don’t exist.
No. 39 New York Jets: Marcus Maye, Safety, Florida
Strengths: Experience, versatility, pursuit.
Weaknesses: Lacks extra-special traits.
Maye is a very good safety prospect in a draft full of outstanding ones. He’s a capable, experienced all-purpose safety who knows his role in open space. He’ll shoot gaps to root out ball-carriers, clean up the mistakes of others at the ends of plays and handle his coverage assignments.
There’s no one “hook” to his game, and playing for an outstanding secondary (Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor didn’t need a ton of safety support) kept him from having to fly all over the field. But Maye can start in the NFL.
Maye and Jamal Adams are going to be a heck of a 1-2 punch at safety. Now all the Jets need are capable starters at just about every other position on the roster, starting at quarterback. Doubling down at safety just makes no sense for a team in need of a broad-based rebuild. Maybe the Jets should have looked at one of Maye's cornerback teammates instead.
No. 40 Carolina Panthers: Curtis Samuel, Running Back/Receiver, Ohio State
Strengths: Versatility, open-field playmaking.
Weaknesses: Lacks a true position.
We’ve gotten used to the Panthers offense working in its own peculiar way:
- Cam Newton does nearly everything.
- Greg Olsen acts as the big-play threat, possession threat, and top pass protector, sometimes all in the same play.
- Ted Ginn (now gone) either catches or drops 50-yard bombs.
- Mike Tolbert (also gone) gets slower and fatter every year, but the sports media never calls him on it, because that would just be too much hypocrisy even for us.
- Kelvin Benjamin tantalizes us with superstar potential, then falls short.
- Devin Funchess tantalizes us with Kelvin Benjamin potential, then falls short of that.
- People named Philly Brown and Fozzy Whittaker are inexplicably employed for years and years.
- Jonathan Stewart gets fed to the line over and over again like a thick maple branch into a wood chipper.
Even during the Super Bowl run, this was a delicate contraption: cleverly constructed but short on reliable weapons. The most glaring absence in recent years has been a suitable change-up for Stewart, who was at his best when part of a 1-2 punch with DeAngelo Williams long ago.
Christian McCaffrey’s arrival drastically changes the makeup of the Panthers offense, combining Williams dynamism in the backfield with Ginn’s punt return potential and a slot dimension as well. But this unit was overdue for a drastic overhaul, so the more the merrier.
The Buckeyes used Samuel anywhere and everywhere in their offense, from the slot to Wildcat quarterback. He made big plays wherever he lined up, but it was easy to overlook Samuel as just some speedy gimmick player.
Samuel then ran a 4.31 40 at the combine, but it happened immediately after John Ross’ 4.22. I was in the combine interview room and can describe the scene among the media: “OMG, did you see that? Ross ran a 4.22. Here’s the replay. Holy cow. Tweet it. Email your editor. Go tell the guys in the lunch line. OMG OMG OMG. Who ran next? That little slot dude from Ohio State? Whatever. John Freakin’ Ross, people.”
So Samuel was once again overlooked.
Samuel possesses some vision and tackle-breaking capability as a shotgun running back. In the slot, he’s crafty about using subtle moves to beat defenders and drifting into soft spots in zones. He has experience as a player who slides all over the formation, so it’s easy to project him into that type of NFL role. And once he gets into the open field, Samuel has breakaway speed.
I'm not crazy about the Panthers doubling down on slot rusher-receiver types, but I get it. Their offense is going to look very different next year, and opponents are not going to be able to take anything for granted.
No. 41 Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State
Strengths: Quickness, agility, balance, vision, route running and receiving.
Weaknesses: Off-field issues.
Cook is Marshall Faulk on the field and a case of coaching insomnia the moment he leaves the team facility. His rap sheet includes a charge of assault against a woman (he was found not guilty), a criminal mischief charge involving a BB gun and broken car windows and a citation for mistreatment of puppies (he paid a fine).
That leaves us with little to talk about for the rest of this slide. Either Cook’s past is a long list of misunderstandings and immature moments that are long behind him, making him a Rookie of the Year favorite and a perennial Pro Bowler, or he is a risk to get involved in some Greg Hardy-meets-Michael Vick situation that makes us nauseous for weeks. Or perhaps something in between.
This MMQB.com feature by Robert Klemko underscores the perils of assessing a prospect’s character based on the churnings of the three-beer gossip mill at the combine. Cook was likely the victim of a stealth-marketing smear campaign to make him look like a higher-risk individual, particularly from a “football character” standpoint (good employee and good human can be two different things), than he really is.
These guerilla marketing efforts for prospects, pro and con, are real and common. A well-circulated rumor at an Indianapolis cigar bar full of scouts and coaches is worth a dozen glowing puff pieces in the media.
That said, there are enough documented issues surrounding Cook to establish a pattern of behavior that typically does not mix well with money, increased fame and stepping out from the protective umbrella of a college program.
I don’t think Cook is really a risk to end up leading off on CNN. He is a risk to end up like Aldon Smith, however: terror on the field, maybe a great guy in the locker room, but a victim of his own dubious choices after sunset. And that’s based on BB guns, barroom incidents and neglected puppies, not hearsay.
That said, the Vikings running game was utterly miserable last season: 75.3 yards per game, 3.2 yards per attempt (both league lows), just six plays of 20-plus yards. Free-agent arrival Latavius Murray is a pretty good back, but he never quite claimed a featured role for the Raiders, and their offensive line could actually block last year.
Character risks are baked into these grades as best they can be.
No. 42 New Orleans Saints: Marcus Williams, Safety, Utah
Strengths: Height, range, jumping ability and ball skills.
Weaknesses: Bulk, angles.
Williams is a long, lean, rangy cherry picker of a free safety who posted some impressive leaping and agility figures at the combine. He covers a lot of ground in center field, usually anticipates pass patterns well and makes a lot of clean-up tackles.
On the downside, Williams will bite on play-action or option fakes, makes mistakes when crashing the line of scrimmage against the run and needs about 15 more pounds to play in the box regularly.
The range-athleticism-experience package makes him intriguing. I would consider Williams a mild reach here, but some selections are best analyzed in unison. Williams and Marshon Lattimore are going to make opposing quarterbacks pay for every mistake, and quarterbacks will make mistakes when trying to keep pace with Drew Brees. The Saints are acquiring a ball-hawk identity in the secondary, and it suits them.
No. 43 Philadelphia Eagles: Sidney Jones, Cornerback, Washington
Strengths: Size/athleticism package, jam in press coverage, instincts in zone coverage.
Weaknesses: Various minor mechanical issues, one major injury.
Jones IV looked like Marcus Peters II until he suffered a freak foot injury during his pro day. He then became the forgotten man of predraft season. Recent reports put a four- to six-month timetable on his recovery, essentially wiping out his rookie season.
Jones is a big, smart, physical Washington cornerback who lit up the Pro Football Focus charting stats: no touchdowns allowed; just a 47.9 percent completion rate on 48 targets. Nitpickers noted that Jones sometimes loses receivers off the line by going for a knockout jam and getting caught out of position and that he allowed too much to happen in front of him when covering a deep zone. But quarterbacks usually left Jones alone. When you watch a whole Pac-12 game and only see a cornerback targeted three or four times, you are probably watching a pretty great cornerback.
This is a pick that will take two years to evaluate, at minimum, and the Eagles need cornerback help right away. Still, the long-range upside is significant, and the Eagles have proved in the post-Chip Kelly era that they are nothing if not patient.
No. 44 Los Angeles Rams: Gerald Everett, Tight End, South Alabama
In honor of what may be the best tight end draft class ever, Bleacher Report proudly presents this field guide scouting report on Gerald Everett.
Productivity: Ninety catches and 12 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016 combined, earning All-Sun Belt Conference honors each year.
Athleticism: Scouting combine rock star with 22 bench press reps, a 126-inch broad jump and outstanding cone results. Hung around with O.J. Howard and Evan Engram at the Senior Bowl without looking like some scrubby wingman.
But can he block? Everett was a thumper-grinder when he wasn’t one of the focal points of the South Alabama passing game.
Other notes: The Rams finally grew weary of being Jeff Fisher’s stale, predictable, CBS procedural drama last year. They are ready to be a hip, progressive CW Network drama! They swapped out Fisher’s long-faded Mark Harmon -era charm for the peach-fuzziest Millennial they could find: Sean McVay, who looks like he should be canoodling with Betty and Veronica on Riverdale and had just turned 16 when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. McVay brings new passing ideas, a fresh perspective, and Wade Phillips as the wizened sensei character.
It’s all very exciting, except that McVay inherited an absolute mess, right down to the fact that the Fisher regime traded a battalion of draft picks to select Jared Goff, which is really two huge problems rolled into one. The Rams have a real question mark at quarterback and fewer draft picks to work with than a team with their needs should have.
Small-program tight end feels like a MASSIVE luxury for a team as needy as the Rams. Still: Great athleticism, ornery blocking, catch-in-traffic capability and a determined after-the-catch running style. Everett is raw and will face a ramp-up from the low mid-majors, but if you don’t love the upside, then you are incapable of loving upside.
No. 45 Chicago Bears: Adam Shaheen, Tight End, Ashland
In honor of what may be the best tight end draft class ever, Bleacher Report proudly presents this field-guide scouting report on Adam Shaheen.
Productivity: A D-II tight end record setter with 70-803-10 in 2015, followed by 57-867-16 last year despite lots and lots of double coverage.
Athleticism: A 278-pound dude who can move pretty well and put up 24 bench press reps at the combine.
But can he block? Sheheen mauled his share of D-II defenders but was a catch-and-smoosh blocker, not a striker. He’ll have to get quicker-footed and nastier at the NFL level.
Other notes: Shaheen reminds me a little of Garrett Mills, the Tulsa superstar who caught 200 career passes for the Golden Hurricane but became a little-used fish-nor-fowl NFL H-back. Shaheen is much bigger than Mills but has similar traits as a blocker and receiver. Some skills just don’t ramp up.
It probably goes without saying, but I hate the Bears draft so far. No team has done less with more so far over the first two rounds. Maybe Ryan Pace and John Fox should start actually collaborating on these selections.
No. 46 Indianapolis Colts: Quincy Wilson, Cornerback, Florida
Strengths: Size, instincts.
Weaknesses: Lateral quickness, footwork.
Wilson was salty on Twitter after the combine. It seems that he got wind of scouting reports criticizing his “stiff hips” and felt (somewhat justly) that his exceptional results in the short-shuttle drill proved his doubters wrong. “How about them stiff hips?? … LOL” he Tweeted on March 7. Then, “Crickets.” Then, “They hate that I went out there and killed the field drills that's why they're not talking about it lol.” (Note: The tweets were later deleted.)
It should be noted that the “stiff hips” criticism was: A) honest and accurate, based on tape that shows Wilson often losing a step when turning to run with receivers; and B) considered a very minor flaw by most experts, not a mallet to bang Wilson down into the sixth round or something.
Then again, cornerbacks are supposed to be brash guys who attack their “haters” in extended tweet storms. It’s not like they are elected officials or anything…OK, I’ll stop.
Wilson has the size of a free safety and a knack for reading routes and breaking on the ball that will make him a zone-coverage asset. He turns his head to play the ball in the air better than most collegiate defenders. He’s a No. 1 cornerback.
The Malik Hooker-Wilson 1-2 punch upgrade of the Colts secondary is going to have a noticeable impact on their won-loss column.
No. 47 Baltimore Ravens: Tyus Bowser, Edge-Rusher, Houston
Strengths: Athleticism, versatility, pursuit.
Weaknesses: Technique, run defense.
Bowser played a handful of games for the Houston basketball team over two seasons before committing to football full time. The conversion was a wise move. Bowser was a little-used reserve in hoops, but he became a versatile Leo-type defender who recorded 8.5 sacks in his senior season, then crushed his combine workouts.
Bowser drops into coverage more effectively than the typical edge-rusher, giving him added value as a 3-4 outside linebacker or zone-blitz defender. He also hustles and chases, making plays on wide receiver screens or runs away from him.
As an actual pass-rusher, Bowser is more of a work in progress whose sacks come in bunches: 1.5 against Lamar, three against Tulane. His technique is raw, and he’s not a thudder or bull-rusher.
The Ravens have a history of getting great results out of players like Bowser. But they really need to get serious about their receiving corps soon, because no matter how much they upgrade their defense, you cannot win football games by a score of zero to negative-3.
No. 48 Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon, Running Back, Oklahoma
Strengths: Size-speed-power, tackle breaking.
Weaknesses: Character concerns.
You probably know the Mixon story: punched Amelia Molitor in a restaurant altercation in July 2014, became truly contrite about it as soon as video of the brutal assault became public, got banished from the combine for his past crimes, instead starred at Oklahoma’s pro day (which coincided with International Women’s Day), settled a civil suit with Molitor just last week in a feat of remarkable legal/PR timing, and has benefited from hiding behind the curtain for months while general managers braced the public with “second chances” rhetoric and agents spearheaded a whisper-down-the-lane campaign among sportswriters that Mixon was really, really, really ready to make amends.
So, let’s look forward instead of backward for a moment.
NFL evaluators will tell you that it is easy to determine what a young player did in college but incredibly hard to determine what he will do at the NFL level. That’s truer off the field than on it, and it’s a crucial matter when dealing with men who commit violent crimes. Some understand both consequences and their own weaknesses; they undergo counseling, change habits, learn what sets them off and how to deal with rage in a way that hurts neither themselves nor those around them.
Other men who commit violent crimes become cynical experts in swearing it will never happen again every time it happens.
I have no idea which kind of man Mixon is. None of us know. There’s a convenient callousness to the way everything about his assault was handled—apology right before the bowl game, settlement right before the draft—that makes me worry about the sincerity of his attempt to change.
And of course, the Bengals have a miserable track record when it comes to players with shady histories.
But I hope he is really doing the hard work of learning how to manage his rage and make amends for his past, both because he is a heck of a running back, and because if he does not make the most of the NFL’s second chance, someone will get hurt, and none of us will be able to hide from it.
No. 49 Washington Redskins: Ryan Anderson, Linebacker, Alabama
Strengths: Tackling, power game.
Weaknesses: Pass coverage, athleticism.
Anderson recorded 8.5 sacks for the Tide and entered the Senior Bowl looking like a possible first-round pick. Coaches then had him run linebacker coverage drills, and he covered nobody until a finger injury put him out of the misery of chasing former teammate O.J. Howard and other NFL-caliber tight ends all over southern Alabama.
You know the routine with Alabama defenders: They often get two dozen snaps per game to tee off on the poor opposing quarterback (who is playing from behind from the second quarter on), and some can lean on more versatile teammates to handle the toughest assignments while they gobble up big plays.
Anderson is a thumping hitter, but he is more of a between-the-tackles run-stuffer than an edge-rusher. And between-the-tackles run-stuffers have limited NFL value.
Anderson does fit Washington's system. But do you get the impression that Scot McCloughan took all of his scouting notes with him when he was relieved of duties, and everyone else is just drafting off the Alabama depth chart? That's probably not what's happening. Nah. No way.
No. 50 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Evans, Safety, Texas A&M
Strengths: Quickness/play speed, physicality.
Weaknesses: Control, common sense.
The Buccaneers allowed 16 passing plays of 40-plus yards last season (tied for the worst total in the league) and swapped out their safety tandem in the offseason. Bradley McDougald, a quietly effective all-purpose defender, signed with the Seahawks. Chris Conte, a human charcoal briquet who has excelled for years at watching receivers sprint past him for touchdowns, was re-signed but is expected to back up newcomer J.J. Wilcox.
In short, this is a position that could use a wee upgrade.
Evans is a speedy, fun-to-watch defender who careens into every single open-field play like a puppy looking for a squeak toy and either blows up the ball-carrier or comically matadors out of the left of the frame.
If there was an SEC All-Overrun the Play team, Evans would be the captain. He’s so susceptible to quick cuts in the open field that he is largely responsible for Alvin Kamara’s draft crush status: Evans was like a wrestling jobber who put Kamara over by getting juked over the top rope.
That’s a pretty negative scouting report. If Evans were bigger and played a little more under control, I would love him as a disrupter/enforcer at safety and demon on special teams. As of now, he’s all fly-around enthusiasm and aggression.
Evans strikes me as a guy who gets attention by blowing up some plays in the preseason and then lands on the bench the first time he whiffs instead of making a sure tackle.
Still, there's a need fit here, as well as upside.
No. 51 Denver Broncos: Demarcus Walker, Defensive End, Florida State
Strengths: Technique, strength, run defense
Weaknesses: Burst, consistency/motor.
Don’t let the gaudy 16-sack total in 2016 fool you. Walker is a stout, experienced defender with enough athleticism but none of the twitchy explosion you expect from a guy with 16 sacks. He does the little things well: batting down passes, sacrificing himself on stunts, clogging lanes at the point of attack.
As a pass-rusher, Walker wins with technique and second effort. He has the “bad motor” knock, but he often played 80-plus snaps at 280 pounds in Florida, where even November games can be a little balmy.
So the skill set doesn’t quite match the stat line, and the scouting report may be a little off. And with the Broncos in far more trouble on offense than on defense, he's not exactly a need pick.
But Walker is a big, hard-working defender who succeeded at a major program. Don’t overthink it.
No 52 Cleveland Browns: DeShone Kizer, Quarterback, Notre Dame
Mike Tanier’s Devastatingly Accurate Quarterback Comparison: Young Ben Roethlisberger
DeShone Kizer is not ready to be an NFL starting quarterback. I can say that because I am neither the college coach who earned millions profiting from his free labor, nor some anonymous scout who still uses “diva” as an insult like this is 1997.
I don’t know if Kizer is immature. I do know that his secondary receiver could ride onto the field in a hot tub limousine and shout “I’m open” into a microphone hooked up to Motley Crue’s sound system, and Kizer STILL wouldn’t check down to him.
Kizer may have the best arm in this class, but his mechanics make his velocity and accuracy inconsistent. He ran for 997 yards and 18 touchdowns in two seasons, but he’s more of a bulldozer than a scrambler: If he tries to escape the pocket and attempt Russell Wilson maneuvers, he’s gonna get run down for sacks by ordinary defensive ends.
As for the Young Ben Roethlisberger comp above: Roethlisberger took over a team that was loaded on defense and had a two-headed running game as a rookie in 2004. His second read was to pump-fake to his first read and then run for his life. He went 13-0 as a starter, but it was the most unique situation this side of Dak Prescott. Most young quarterbacks don’t get an opportunity like Roethlisberger received.
That said, Hue Jackson knows his quarterbacks, and the Browns offensive line is secretly pretty decent. And Kizer won't be forced to start right away: Cody Kessler and ... ugh ... Brock Osweiler can absorb some starts.
Throw in the value potential with this selection, and the Browns got a high-upside quarterback as the fourth player in their draft class. That's pretty sweet.
I don't love Kizer as a prospect. But I love the way the Browns went about getting him.
No. 53 Detroit Lions: Teez Tabor, Defensive Back, Florida
Strengths: Instincts/anticipation, coverage skills.
Weaknesses: Slllloooooowwwwwwww 40 times.
Every time Tabor took the field this offseason, his 40 results got slower. He followed a 4.62-second 40 at the combine with an unofficial 4.75-second result at his pro day. Tabor was banned by the international scientific community from running during private team workouts for fear that he would create a temporal anomaly that would stop the Earth from rotating on its axis, plunging one half of the globe into eternal darkness while the other half burned to a cinder.
There was predraft scuttlebutt about Tabor moving to safety, although with sprints that slow he might have to keep moving until he’s a nose tackle. But Tabor plays much, much faster than those sprint numbers. He often handled field-side cornerback responsibilities, with Quincy Wilson covering the receiver on the boundary. Field coverage is usually not an assignment for a slow guy.
Anyway, Tabor is at his best in off coverage, where he can diagnose routes and break on passes in front of him. He’ll excel in those situations whether the Lions see him as a cornerback or safety.
The Lions defense allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 72.7 percent of their passes last season. That’s an absolutely mind-boggling percentage. To put it in perspective, Case Keenum completed 27 of 32 passes against the Lions, with three touchdowns. Brock Osweiler completed 20 of 29 passes. Aaron Rodgers actually had a below-average completion rate against the Lions (66.7 percent), but he threw eight touchdowns, so whatever.
Tabor may never be a Pro Bowler, but he’s not a Galapagos turtle, either. The Lions need defenders like him in the secondary.
No. 54 Miami Dolphins: Raekwon McMillan, Linebacker, Ohio State
Strengths: Experience, burst, coverage potential.
Weaknesses: Power, block shedding.
Despite a Ndamukong Suh-anchored, ludicrously-expensive defensive line, the Dolphins allowed 18 running plays of 20-plus yards last year, second only to the futile 49ers. They added Lawrence Timmons and William Hayes to reinforce the front seven, but Timmons is soon-to-be 31 going on 47, and Hayes won’t help on runs straight up the gut.
McMillan was a three-year starter for the Buckeyes, which is an impressive feat in itself. Unfortunately, the tape shows a quick-footed defender who either gets blocked too easily or tries to take the freeway spur to get around blocks, as well as a coverage linebacker who too often ends up guarding the grass in no-man’s land between the quarterback and an open receiver.
McMillan was a prized recruit out of high school and has the athleticism to be a force if his physicality improves. But if his physicality didn’t improve in three B1G seasons, it may never happen. This pick makes sense from a need perspective, but I'm not crazy about McMillan in the second round.
No. 55 New York Giants: Dalvin Tomlinson, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
Strengths: Power, run defense, intelligence/leadership.
Weaknesses: Quickness, pass-rush potential, playing time.
Tomlinson, as profiled by Bleacher Report’s Greg Couch in January, is not only a hulking Alabama lineman but also a former high school soccer star who plays the trumpet and draws anime characters in his spare time. He turned down an academic scholarship to Harvard but now has two bachelor’s degrees: one in finance and another in financial planning.
Football, trumpet, anime and financial planning? Tomlinson can be his own agent and his own bully.
But seriously folks, you know what you get from an Alabama lineman, even a brainy one who gets One Punch Man references. Tomlinson is stout, powerful and technically sound. He’ll pick up sacks when he has a mismatch, on a stunt or when cleaning up a play, but the name of his game is gap containment. Factor in his high character and work habits, and the Giants will have a no-nonsense dirty work defender for years.
Look for Tomlinson to replace Johnathan Hankins on the Giants' star-studded defensive line and, in time, provide an upgrade.
But the offensive line, Giants. The offensive line.
No. 56 Oakland Raiders: Obi Melifonwu, Safety, UConn
Strengths: Size, athleticism, potential.
Henry William Obiajulu Melifonwu was born in England to Nigerian parents who moved to Massachusetts when he was three years old. He played running back and defensive back in high school, became a four-year starter for the Huskies and won the combine with a 4.40-second 40 and superhero numbers in all the other drills.
Melifonwu looks like nothing special on tape: a big mid-major safety who is too often a split-second late to react and generate splash plays.
You can finish the thought at this point: high upside, risk of becoming a combine rock star who never pans out and so on.
The Raiders continue their upgrade of the secondary. Melifonwu and Gareon Conley each provide some risk in different ways. But the Raiders wouldn't be the Raiders if they weren't taking some risks or rolling the dice on some special athletic specimens.
No. 57 Houston Texans: Zach Cunningham, Linebacker, Vanderbilt
Strengths: Range, instincts, athleticism.
Cunningham looks like Luke Kuechly from the snap of the ball to the moment he closes on a ball-carrier in the open field. Then he looks like a nice young man tapping someone on his shoulder to ask for directions.
Oh, Cunningham’s tackling is not quite Adoree’ Jackson bad. He just likes to try to wrap the runner around the shoulder pads and wrestle him to the ground like a rodeo steer. It won’t work on David Johnson (who will go through Cunningham) or Le’Veon Bell (one quick cut and Cunningham will be tackling his shadow).
The tackling technique can be refined. Everything else is pretty strong, particularly Cunningham’s ability to diagnose plays and to sift through trash on the field. Cunningham does lots of “little” linebacker stuff well: block shedding, protecting his legs from cut blocks, constricting zones in coverage. Tackling is a pretty “big” linebacker thing to be deficient at, but I like Cunningham in the Texans scheme. That star-studded defensive front is going to cause all sorts of messes for opposing offenses. Cunningham will be a smart, rangy mop.
No. 58 Seattle Seahawks: Ethan Pocic, Center, LSU
Strengths: Quickness, versatility, blocking in space.
Weaknesses: Power, drive blocking.
The Seahawks offensive line allowed 42 sacks last season, 46 sacks in 2015 and has been in deep denial about its own terribleness since the day Max Unger was traded.
This year’s big predraft move to shore up the line—signing failed Jaguars tackle prospect Luke Joeckel to play left tackle, or maybe guard—is better than the “big moves” of the past: assuring fans and themselves that everything was fine and giving line coach/tenured professor Tom Cable more ex-tight ends and power forwards to tinker with.
So this is a refreshing selection.
The anchor of a line that helped Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice rush for over 2,200 yards combined last season, Pocic has played everywhere from center to right tackle in his college career.
Pocic has the size to be a mauler and the quickness to be an effective zone blocker and terror on screens and pulling plays. But his size doesn’t always translate into power, and his technique when blocking on the move is inconsistent. In this center class, however, Pocic is a superstar, and he brings a useful combination of college success and athletic tools to the Seahawks.
It’s too late in the game to start giving the Seahawks “A” grades for drafting offensive linemen. They get a maximum of “C” when they draft non-linemen. Think of picks like this one as an overdue term paper: even if it’s a fine effort, points have been taken off for lateness.
No. 59 Kansas City Chiefs: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Defensive End, Villanova
Strengths: Size, athletic potential.
The paradox of drafting a quarterback of the future before you need one is: a) it’s a wise move, because it prevents a quarterback disaster and can keep your franchise afloat for years; yet b) it’s a risky move, because your current quarterback and roster don’t get the upgrades they need to push into Super Bowl contention.
Trading up for that quarterback of the future brings even more risk: It potentially weakens the rest of the roster in several areas while, in the short term, not helping in any area.
That’s why the Patriots keep Jimmy Garoppolo around: There is no need to spend additional picks on the next quarterback of the future while you still have a viable one for another year. It’s also why the Chiefs are now in a precarious position. They are not good enough to be serious Super Bowl contenders. And by trading up for Patrick Mahomes, they made it harder to compete during the short-term window of the Alex Smith-Mahomes transition.
Kpassagnon has arms like bridge suspension cables and hands the size of soccer goals. He’s one catchphrase away from being Groot. I swear I saw everyone rub their eyes in disbelief when he walked on stage during Senior Bowl weigh-ins.
Villanova just stuck Kpassagnon at defensive end in a 3-4 system and let him swat blockers away with his branches. He’s raw, and it showed during Senior Bowl practices, when Kpassagnon got tangled up with blockers instead of defeating them.
Calais Campbell is the obvious upside comp for Kpassagnon, but there is much work to be done. Fortunately, the soft-spoken Kpassagnon has both a high-effort reputation and a nasty physical streak that will keep him on the field as a wave defender while he learns.
So Kpassagnon is yet another "future" pick for the Chiefs. As good as he can be, it's really time to ask Andy Reid what the Chiefs, a second-tier playoff team for years, expect to accomplish in the present.
No. 60 Dallas Cowboys: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Strengths: Instincts, size, athleticism, range and tackling.
Weaknesses: Deep-coverage skills.
The Cowboys ranked 29th in the NFL in preventing short passes, according to Football Outsiders. They were a bend-but-not-break defense that took advantage of playing with the lead and never being on the field too long.
Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon gave the Buffaloes a pair of king-sized starting cornerbacks. Witherspoon is the 6’3” athletic outlier who tackled like he was afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings. Awuzie is shorter (6’0”) but far more physical. He’s also much more effective when reading patterns in front of him and breaking on the ball. So he can help break up his share of those short passes.
In fact, Awuzie looks like a future All-Pro until he loses his receiver in the open field on a double move. He fits best as a zone-coverage defender. Awuzie also has special teams experience and blocked 10 kicks in high school, giving him added value if the Cowboys start him out as a nickel or dime defender.
No. 61 Green Bay Packers: Josh Jones, Safety, North Carolina State
Strengths: Size, speed, experience, versatility.
Weaknesses: Instincts, gamble-and-guess habits.
Jones is a 220-pound safety who ran a 4.41-second combine 40 (with other outstanding drills). He started for a major program from his freshman year forward and lined up everywhere from the box to the slot to free safety for the Wolfpack. For all of this, he received almost no predraft buzz.
OK, this is a great safety class, so standing out from the crowd was more difficult than usual. But Jones’ combine results alone should have made him a draftnik binky. But no. It was “Jabrill Peppers” this and “Obi Melifonwu” that.
Maybe the name was the problem. “Josh Jones” may not be a cursed name like Mike Williams, but it is generic, suggesting that Jones is Defensive Prospect X and not Crazy Athletic Harrison Smith-Like Guy. Jones needs a proper 2017 safety name, the kind that combines a religious figure from history with a spicy food and lots of vowels.
From now on, Jones will be known as either Confucius Habanero or Zarathustra Hotwing.
On second thought, it won’t take long for Jones’ play to make a name for itself.
Packers GM Ted Thompson is stuck in "draft for the secondary" mode right now. It may not accurately reflect what we perceive to be the Packers' needs. But at least he is grabbing some good players.
No. 62 Pittsburgh Steelers: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Wide Receiver, USC
Strengths: Size, possession-receiver skills, route running, toughness/competitiveness.
Weaknesses: Lacks top speed/quickness, nagging injuries.
Smith-Schuster is the Corey Davis/Mike Williams consolation prize. He’s big, will catch the slant or dig-route pass and fight for yardage, and he’s one of the most reliable blocking receivers in the draft class. But Smith-Schuster lacks breakaway speed, release quickness and suddenness when cutting, while all of his plusses (except blocking) are a notch below the Davis-Williams level.
Smith-Schuster should make an ideal complementary receiver who can block in bunch formations, run underneath routes and do all of the dirty work, plus outjump defenders in the back of the end zone now and then. He fits nicely in an offense that will funnel most of its passes to Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. But like most USC receivers of this century, I think he’s a little overrated entering the draft.
No. 63 Buffalo Bills: Dion Dawkins, Guard-Tackle, Temple
Strengths: Size, quick-footedness.
Weaknesses: Technique, some off-field concerns.
Dawkins was charged with assault in 2015 for a fight outside a nightclub. He was placed in Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, a type of probation-and-counseling program for first-time offenders. Such programs are usually not offered to individuals with high likelihood of recidivism. Still, it bears mentioning.
On the field, Dawkins is a dancing mammoth who got by as a left tackle against mid-major competition but is a little too stiff and grabby for the position at the pro level. As a right tackle or guard, however, he has Pro Bowl potential if he polishes his footwork, balance and blitz recognition.
This is a good value/team philosophy selection. The Bills are probably still going to pound the pill frequently, despite the change in coordinators. Dawkins is a versatile lineman who will help maintain the quality of a solid offensive line.
No. 64 Carolina Panthers: Taylor Moton, Tackle, Western Michigan
Strengths: Size, athletic upside.
Moton played guard and tackle at Western Michigan, then had a strong combine. I don't have an early-round grade on him, but the Panthers always need depth on the offensive line, and at least they didn't select another rusher-receiver hybrid.
No. 65 Cleveland Browns: Larry Ogunjobi, Defensive Tackle, Charlotte
Strengths: Power, leverage.
Weaknesses: Quickness, level of competition.
Ogunjobi is a fireplug-shaped phone-booth defender who proved he belonged after credible performances at the Senior Bowl and against better opponents like Louisville. He is not destined for double-digit sacks, but he will out-leverage his defender in short areas, and he hustles enough to stay involved in screens, scrambles and outside runs.
The Browns have the potential to put together a really loaded young defensive front: Ogunjobi and Danny Shelton in the middle, Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib among the edge-rushers. Their defensive identity is really coalescing in this draft. It helps to have 7,000 draft picks.
No. 66 San Francisco 49ers: Ahkello Witherspoon, Cornerback, Colorado
Strengths: Length, speed.
Weaknesses: Technique, tackling so bad he makes Adoree’ Jackson look like Dick Butkus.
The 49ers offense and run defense were so bad that it was easy to overlook the fact that their pass defense allowed 59 plays of 20-plus yards, tied for the second-worst figure in the NFL. Who knew that opponents even needed to throw 59 long passes against the Niners last year?
Witherspoon’s grandfather was blues pioneer Jimmy Witherspoon. Here’s a link to Witherspoon’s chart topping “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” a song which was NOT about his future grandson’s tackling technique.
OK, that’s mean. Witherspoon is a 6’3” cornerback with 4.45 speed and pretty good instincts. He matched up well against the Pac-12 receivers he faced who run mostly screens and nine-routes. But like many extra-tall cornerbacks, it takes him a long time to make sharp cuts, and he often loses his footing.
If the Niners play Witherspoon as a matchup safety against Gronk types, they’ll be in trouble the moment Witherspoon tries to tackle the receiver by diving a few feet in front of his ankles.
Witherspoon is a good value in this round. One of these days the NCAA is going to produce a fast 6’3” cornerback with lateral quickness AND tackling chops. That player will be a No. 1 overall pick. If not our king and emperor.
No. 67 New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara, Running Back, Tennessee
Strengths: Backfield receiving, open-field playmaking.
Weaknesses: Interior rushing, durability.
Kamara was a favorite of Draftnik Nation way back in January, when tape-grinders first took notice of his creativity and tenacity after the catch.
Alas, draftniks love backlash even more than they love scouting jargon, and by March the cool kids dubbed Kamara as an overhyped change-up back who wasn’t even the featured rusher in his college offense.
For those of you who don’t spend February mornings reading Twitter arguments about GIFs of screen passes, first of all: Congratulations on your correct lifestyle choices, and I deeply envy you. Secondly, Kamara is a Brian Westbrook type whose carries will always have to be limited, but who provides so much value as a receiver that he can have a major impact on a committee backfield.
The Saints just signed a fellow named Adrian Peterson to handle the between-the-tackles stuff, and Mark Ingram is still around (as of now). Kamara can play the old Reggie Bush role, and he should play it as well or better than Reggie Bush, at a fraction of the cost.
No. 68 Jacksonville Jaguars: Dawuane Smoot, Defensive End, Illinois
Weaknesses: Moves, power, technique.
Smoot was a high school hurdler who bulked up to become a super-athletic B1G edge-rusher, looked ready to explode after an eight-sack, three-forced-fumble 2015 season and then took a step backward last year.
Smoot has tools but looks like a generic edge-rushing athlete at times: no special moves, minimal running game value. He’s a project. Look for Smoot to be a wave defender, understudy to Calais Campbell and someone to push Dante Fowler. The Jaguars could do better this early in a deep draft.
No. 69 Los Angeles Rams: Cooper Kupp, Wide Receiver, Eastern Washington
Strengths: Hands, quickness, route precision.
Let’s see: Which boilerplate scouting report should we break out for Cooper Kupp?
There’s the ever-popular White Wide Receiver Boilerplate: quicker-than-fast, smart, hard-working, a Wes Welker/Jordy Nelson/Eric Decker type.
There’s also the Small Program Marvel Boilerplate: dominated low-level competition, may not be as dangerous against NFL-caliber cornerbacks.
Don’t forget the Brainy Student Athlete Boilerplate: very intelligent and mature, but may not be the ideal prospect because he is very intelligent and mature in a league full of War Daddies, Battle Puppies, Conflict Hamsters, etc.
There is some degree of truth to all three boilerplates. Kupp caught everything in sight at Senior Bowl week, but while he was able to get initial separation from defenders, they often caught up to him on deeper routes. Kupp is married and majored in economics at Eastern Washington—we even talked a little football analytics during Senior Bowl week—but he turns 24 in June, meaning he may be a maxed-out man who did his best work against FCS college dudes.
Kupp strikes me as a potential No. 2 possession receiver, best suited for a timing-based offense where he can get open in short areas, exploit zone holes and so on.
The Rams are loving their small-school Senior Bowl standouts in this draft. Kupp is a strong selection who should turn into a safety valve as an underneath receiver for Jared Goff.
No. 70 Minnesota Vikings: Pat Elflein, Center, Ohio State
Strengths: Size, power, intangibles.
Last name is pronounced ELF-line, like the subway system in Middle Earth, or how you introduce yourself to the foxy cosplay gal at Ye Olde Ren Faire.
Elflein is a clubhouse leader type who moved from right guard to center last season for the Buckeyes and instantly earned All-America status. He mixes a cerebral approach to positioning and blitz pickup with a brutal finish when he latches on.
Lack of all-around quickness and agility will always give Elflein trouble against top defenders, in blitz pickup and when blocking on the move. But size, strength and work habits will keep him in the starting lineup for a long time.
The Vikings list 34-year-old Joe Berger as their starting center right now. That won't last long.
No. 71 Los Angeles Chargers: Dan Feeney, Guard, Indiana
Strengths: Foot quickness, awareness and experience.
Weaknesses: Raw power, injury history.
Feeney missed four games with a concussion last season, as well as the entire 2013 season with a foot injury. The foot injury is long in the past, but extended concussion recoveries bring obvious concerns.
If he stays healthy, Feeney is a ready-to-play interior lineman who knows his assignment, moves well enough to pass protect and has a touch of ornery in him.
With Freeney joining second-round pick Forrest Lamp, the Chargers have overhauled their interior offensive line. It's good to discover that the Chargers really do have a method to their madness. It's not always easy to spot.
No. 72 Tennessee Titans: Taywan Taylor, Wide Receiver, Western Kentucky
Strengths: Hands, quickness, concentration in traffic.
Weaknesses: Mid-major receiver with no “special” qualities.
Taylor is like that cool indie band that all your friends have been raving about for weeks. Then you finally hear them and think, "They’re OK, but they are just another indie band."
Taylor caught 184 passes for 34 touchdowns in his last two seasons, playing well enough against some of WKU’s tougher competition to earn Official Draft Crush/Sleeper status that he has carried through the offseason cycle. He then had a good-not-great Senior Bowl and combine while similar receivers (Zay Jones, Cooper Kupp) lit up the offseason process.
Taylor played through his senior season at the mid-major level, so there’s a little bit of a man-among-boys feel to what he did against weaker secondaries like Middle Tennessee State and Old Dominion. He put up big numbers against Alabama (9-121-0), but closer inspection showed him catching a deep pass against blown coverage (and fumbling at the end), getting bottled up for much of the game and then catching some stat-padding passes at the end of a blowout.
None of this is meant to slog Taylor, but he projects as more of a third or fourth receiver than he does some diamond in the rough. It’s not like you turn that indie band off when they pop up on Spotify; it’s just that when your buddies start raving, you nod along and keep quiet.
And I like the combination of Taylor with Corey Davis. It will take pressure of Taylor to be anything more than a slot-package player early on. The Titans passing game is much more dynamic than it was on Thursday morning before the draft.
No. 73 Cincinnati Bengals: Jordan Willis, Edge Rusher, Kansas State
Strengths: Athletic potential, strength, technique.
Weaknesses: Quickness and agility.
Willis’ workout results and game film do not match at all. His combine figures—a 4.53 40, blistering cone-drill results—suggest a quick, twitchy edge-rusher who is the first player off the ball and bends and twists through traffic to make plays. The on-tape Willis is practically a Brontosaurus: lumbering and methodical to a fault, though stout and capable of making plays by minding assignments and using hands and leverage to escape blockers.
You know how scouts think: With workout numbers like those, we can teach Willis to be quicker! And since Willis was already a capable and experienced major-conference defender (as opposed to, say, a converted small forward from a directional prairie school or something), maybe they can.
I just worry that Willis’ crazy cone drills are evidence that he learned to master the cone drill, and in the NFL he will be just another plodding linebacker who never provides the pass rush promised on the label. The Bengals are in dire need of a true impact player on the edge to complement Carlos Dunlap. I'm not certain they got one here.
No. 74 Baltimore Ravens: Chris Wormley, Defensive End, Michigan
Strengths: Run defense, quickness-pursuit, character/effort.
Weaknesses: Pass-rushing sizzle.
The more I watched Michigan film trying to figure out the gushing love for Taco Charlton, the more I came to appreciate Chris Wormley.
Wormley is an anchor on runs right at him and a tenacious block-shedder and pursuit defender. He will flash potential as a backfield disruptor at times and is good enough at positioning, disengaging from blocks and working through contact to generate some pass rush. He just lacks all of those dreamy workout numbers and quick-torque moves that get some evaluators all aquiver.
The Ravens just got a left end in the William Hayes mold who will play assignment-perfect football on early downs and end up with a half-dozen effort sacks per year.
But hello? Ravens? Your offense stinks? Are you ever going to get around to doing something about that?
I like Wormley too much to slag the Ravens too hard for ignoring their offense. After all, they have been doing it for about 16 years.
No. 75 Atlanta Falcons: Duke RIley, Linebacker, LSU
Strengths: Athleticism, upside.
Weaknesses: Experience, block shedding.
Riley has a lot in common with Deion Jones, the Bayou Bengals linebacker he replaced who started in the Super Bowl for the Falcons. So give them credit for trying to collect the full set.
Both Jones and Riley are undersized, rangy defenders who operate best in space. Jones quickly accelerated from project to budding superstar last season, which is a heck of a leap to expect from Riley.
My biggest concern with Riley is that he just gets eaten alive by blockers who reach him. He’ll have to be exceptional in coverage to see the field if he can’t take on blocks; as a one-year college starter, I’m not sure he’s there yet.
No. 76 New Orleans Saints: Alex Anzalone, Linebacker, Florida
Weaknesses: Injury history
Jarrad Davis was already drafted. Anzalone is the other Florida linebacker who is always injured, the one who looks like Thor in a football helmet, except Thor never wrenches his shoulder when throwing Mjolnir around.
Anzalone had an excellent Senior Bowl week and combine. When healthy, he has great range and coverage ability. But shoulder ailments wiped out Anzalone’s early career, and a broken arm took him out of action for a chunk of 2016.
This is a decent high-upside selection in this round. The Saints need to take some risks once in a while to finally turn the corner on defense.
No. 77 Carolina Panthers: Daeshon Hall, Edge-Rusher, Texas A&M
Strengths: Agility, upside.
Weaknesses: Power, polish.
Hall was the other slice of bread in the Myles Garrett sandwich. He bulked up a bit in his final season to move from outside linebacker to hand-in-the-dirt defensive end, maintaining his quickness and flexibility in the transition but not setting the world on fire as a run defender or leverage player.
The difference between stand-up rusher and three-point stance defender is more drastic than you may think, and Hall still has room to grow as a defensive end. But the Panthers are stockpiling defensive linemen (think of it as GM Dave Gettleman following his muse): Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson and Mario Addison are all available to soak up snaps while Hall develops.
Look for Hall to make an instant impact as a situational player, however. His ability to change direction on a dime will make him an intriguing blitz-package option early in his career.
No. 78 Baltimore Ravens: Tim Williams, Linebacker, Alabama
Strengths: Pass-rush athleticism and technique.
Weaknesses: Size, versatility.
Football fans, we have achieved PEAK RAVENS.
Ozzie Newsome ...
With multiple picks in the third round ...
Drafts an Alabama player ...
While completely ignoring needs on offense!
Williams is a lean, agile athlete who was used as a 20- to 30-snap pass-rush specialist for the Tide. He demonstrated quickness, tenacity and an array of pass-rush techniques, but he is too small to play defensive end and was rarely used as a run defender or in coverage. It takes a lot of projecting to see much more than a situational rusher.
This isn't funny anymore, Ozzie. Draft an offensive player.
No. 79 New York Jets: ArDarius Stewart, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Strengths: Running after the catch, versatility.
Weaknesses: Hands, regular receiver skills.
At first glance, Stewart looks like a collegiate screens-and-reverses specialist whose skills won’t really translate to the pros. He took in a ton of shovel passes, bubble screens and other “ball in space” plays at Alabama, bulking up his catch total (117 receptions in his last two seasons) with plays that required no route running, jam-breaking or general NFL-style receiving ability. There are enough fumbles, drops and tackles for loss on the game tape to make a scout wonder if he could even fit as a tricky slash player.
Upon closer inspection, Stewart: a) blocks aggressively, meaning that he can work out of the slot effectively on conventional plays; b) frequently gets deep separation and would have made more big plays if Alabama quarterbacks weren’t so scattershot; and c) has such exceptional open-field acceleration that he is worth developing, whether as a more traditional slot weapon or as a Ty Montgomery type.
Stewart is a fine player. I still have no idea how the Jets plan to be competitive in 2017, but Stewart is a fine player.
No. 80 Indianapolis Colts: Tarell Basham, Edge-Rusher, Colts
Strengths: Quickness, arms, technique, motor.
Weaknesses: Polish, mid-major-program concerns.
Basham possesses the Mid-Major Pass Rush Draftnik Darling Starter Kit: 34 ¼-inch arms, a quick first step, a chaotic playing style and an impressive week of Senior Bowl practices.
He also has the Deluxe Bonus Expansion Pack: a nifty swim move and serviceable spin move, enough power to be effective in the running game and a little bit of coverage experience.
Basham still has a few sloppy habits, like taking long strides right past the quarterback or failing to diagnose on misdirection. But I would take him over Taco Charlton any day.
This is a great pick at this point in the draft: an impact pass-rusher for a team that has overspent and overreached (and over-relied on Robert Mathis until his wheels fell off) at the pass-rush positions for years.
No. 81 Washington Redskins: Fabian Moreau, Cornerback, UCLA
Weaknesses: Tackling, injuries.
Moreau is a size/speed-combine-result marvel with decent game film. He generally stays with his receivers, but he gives up too many catches on outs and comeback routes.
A chiseled 6-footer with 4.35 speed would get a fast-pass to the top 50 in most drafts, but this is not most drafts, and a 2015 Lisfranc injury further impacted Moreau’s draft stock.
This was a strong need-value-upside combo pick for a team that lacked the depth to cover second or third receivers last season. Moreau should start in a nickel role but could become Josh Norman's No. 2 cornerback with a little development.
And for all the jokes I have made about Washington's draft strategy, it has added quality athletes at all three levels on defense.
No. 82 Denver Broncos: Carlos Henderson, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech
Strengths: Explosive playmaking ability, versatility.
Weaknesses: Size, route running, mid-major skepticism.
Henderson scored 23 total touchdowns in 2016, putting up glitchy video game numbers against weak competition (12-326-5 as a receiver against UMass) and very good numbers against somewhat better competition (10-129-2 in the Armed Forces Bowl against Navy).
Henderson is a screens-and-kick-returns burner with 4.45 speed who sometimes took handoffs as a shotgun running back. His raw totals are inflated by lots of screen-and-go plays against basketball schools and service academies, and he’s a boom-or-bust return man who gets dragged down while running laterally inside his own 20 a little too often.
But Henderson is quick off the line, has a little route-running savvy and blows up enough returns to stick as a third or fourth receiver and specialist. The Broncos offense really plodded along last year. Adding a "threat-to-score-on-every-touch" player will take a little pressure off both the defense and whoever the heck ends up playing quarterback.
No. 83 New England Patriots: Derek Rivers, Edge-Rusher, Youngstown State
Strengths: Production, workout results, effort.
Rivers recorded 14 sacks against Missouri Valley Conference (good FCS-level) competition and then obliterated the combine with a 4.61 40, 30 bench reps and good jump/agility results.
The tape shows a small-program edge-rusher who sometimes obliterates weak blockers with pure speed or a wicked club move but who also has an inconsistent get-off, stiffness when turning the corner and a limited set of moves.
The Patriots don't draft for need. They rarely have "needs." They draft to foster competition and create a pipeline of talent. Rivers is reportedly a max-effort guy, so while he may enter camp as one of a bunch of guys vying for mix-and-match roles on the defensive edge, he will elevate the depth chart, one way or another.
No. 84 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Penn State
Strengths: Measurables, release, blocking.
Weaknesses: Separation, contested catches.
Godwin was a draftnik darling—a well-built receiver who is quick off the line, runs reliable routes, scored some highlight-reel touchdowns, took over a bowl game and delivered some deadly crackback blocks—before he ran a 4.42 40 at the combine. His profile quickly shot up to the point where he looked like a better version of Allen Robinson: a Penn State possession receiver who was secretly an NFL home run threat.
My problem with Godwin as a potential superstar is that for every contested pass he hauls in, he loses three or four others. He’s neither as agile or as aggressive when the ball arrives as he needs to be, and that 4.42 speed wasn’t visible against better defenders.
Godwin is an off-brand Mike Evans in many ways, and I like him as a fourth or fifth option in an offense that now features Evans, Desean Jackson and O.J. Howard. If he was constantly facing top cornerbacks, Godwin might get tangled up too often to be useful. But as a situational player early in his career, he could catch about 40 passes...but six or seven touchdowns.
No. 85 New England Patriots: Antonio Garcia, Tackle, Troy
Strengths: Quickness, durability, experience.
Weaknesses: Technique, power.
Garcia has an intriguing skill set. He’s a mid-major mauler-brawler type with quick feet and three years of starting experience, but he’s technically raw and can be both outmaneuvered and overpowered by better pass-rushers.
Garcia had a strong Senior Bowl, suggesting that he’s capable of ramping up his game with coaching. He's the kind of lineman the Patriots love: a guy who can slide around between positions if called upon. He could use a redshirt year and probably maxes out career-wise as a functional left tackle, but the Patriots can always afford to look a year or two down the road.
No. 86 Kansas City Chiefs: Kareem Hunt, Running Back, Toledo
Strengths: Size, burst, receiving ability.
Weaknesses: Speed, lack of “special” qualities.
It's time to officially give up figuring out what the Chiefs are up to. With Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West under contract, Tyreek Hill taking a few carries per game and C.J. Spiller poised to occupy a spot on the injured reserve, there don't seem to be many handoffs to go around in Kansas City. Yet here's another running back.
Hunt was one of my favorite players at the Senior Bowl. He demonstrated both receiving chops (a skill that started emerging in his final season at Toledo) and blocking ability to go with acceleration, leg drive and a no-nonsense rushing style. Hunt won’t produce a string of 1,500-yard seasons, but he can play a variety of roles in a committee backfield.
Fine player. Baffling strategy.
No. 87 New York Giants: Davis Webb, Quarterback, Cal
Mike Tanier’s Deadly Accurate Quarterback Comparisons: (Joe Flacco + Nick Foles + Carson Wentz)/Jared Goff.
Webb is an outstanding quarterback when standing perfectly still in a library-calm pocket and blasting 25- to 40-yard mortars toward the sideline or back of the end zone.
This makes him a dangerous substance for many personnel evaluators and coaches, because they all believe they can build offensive lines that will allow the quarterback to check his smartphone for texts from open receivers. Once every other offensive problem is solved, Mr. Strong Armed and Stationary will be Johnny Unitas.
Webb has no quickness when moving around the pocket. His accuracy over the middle is below average, and when things go wrong he’ll just eject flutterballs into traffic. Cal’s offense forgives a lot of sins (see: Goff, Jared), so while Webb sometimes looks like he has a knack for finding open receivers, the system may be doing a lot of work for him.
Webb reminds me most of Foles, another tall, strong-armed Pac-12 quarterback who made zero impression on me at the Senior Bowl despite tools that should have made him look like a rock star.
As a quarterback of the future, taken in a round where expectations are low, behind a starter who won't be pushed out the door all that easily, Webb may be in the best possible position to grow. If anything happens to Eli Manning this year, and Webb is forced to play behind the current offensive line (which still has not been addressed), all the streaking Odell Beckhams and Brandon Marshalls of the world won't help him.
No. 88 Oakland Raiders: Eddie Vanderdoes, Defensive Tackle, UCLA
Strengths: Athletic upside, technique.
Vanderdoes looked poised to be a first-round pick before he tore his ACL at the start of the 2015 season. He was not quite the same player when he returned last year; he was heavier and significantly less explosive. It often takes an extra year to get burst back after an ACL tear, but Vanderdoes still looked sluggish during Senior Bowl week.
When on, Vanderdoes mixes quickness with upper-body technique to beat blockers to position and disengage. The Raiders got a bargain pick if that Vanderdoes returns.
No. 89 Houston Texans: D'Onta Foreman, Running Back, Texas
Strengths: Power, athletic potential.
Weaknesses: Receiving, versatility.
Foreman surprised scouts at Texas’ pro day by showing up at 234 pounds (down 15 pounds from his college playing weight) and blasting an unofficial 4.45-second 40. Those are superhero numbers for a back who rushed for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns (and, um, seven catches) in 2016.
The problem is that backs like Foreman, from Ron Dayne to T.J. Duckett to Andre Williams, have been teasing us with size, workout numbers and college production for decades. Foreman, like the trio just cited, has minimal receiving value and is more of a 1970s battering ram than a quick, decisive, 21st-century NFL running back.
Derrick Henry had similar stats and measurables to Foreman, and Henry had a solid year as a complementary back to DeMarco Murray in the Titans’ older-than-old-school running scheme. Foreman could have similar success given a tailored role, with Lamar Miller handling all of the receiving responsibilities.
Now that the Texans have a real quarterback, it doesn't hurt to diversify their offense a little more.
No. 90 Seattle Seahawks: Shaquill Griffin, Cornerback, Central Florida
Strengths: Size, speed, measurables.
Weaknesses: initial quickness.
Ho-hum. Another 6'0", nearly 200-pound, long-armed, physical cornerback with a 4.38-second combine 40 and measurables to die for. These guys apparently come 30 to a bushel these days.
Mid-major opponents avoided Griffin’s side of the field, but the tape shows a defender with slow initial steps who, despite his speed, can lose receivers in the first five yards. It’s the kind of flaw that loses games against the Patriots, but one the Seahawks have a pretty good track record of correcting.
Griffin's measurables should remind everyone in Seattle of a certain slightly-disgruntled current employee.
No. 91 Los Angeles Rams: John Johnson, Safety, Boston College
Strengths: Tackling, IQ/intangibles.
Boston College often used Johnson as a nickel cornerback, which was a little ambitious. He got by at the ACC level but will be a liability in that role at the NFL level because he lacks both long speed and quickness.
Johnson is a sure break-down-and-wrap tackler in the open field with the diagnostic chops to be a solid center fielder. He will definitely stick on special teams as a rookie, but the Rams may want him to play beside Lamarcus Joyner sooner than later.
No. 92 Dallas Cowboys: Jourdan Lewis, Cornerback, Michigan
Strengths: Quickness, experience, return skills, ball skills.
Weaknesses: Size, clutch-and-grab habits.
Lewis is a classic Cover 2-style cornerback: smooth, quick-footed, smart and competitive. He has the hands and suddenness to turn a pass in front of him into an interception and is a darting, determined return man.
If Lewis were an inch taller and eight pounds heavier and didn’t reach to hug every receiver who threatened to beat him during his transition, he’d be a first-round pick. As-is, he’s a capable starter who is more likely to have a productive career than some of the size/speed marvels in this year’s class.
The Chidobe Awuzie-Lewis 1-2 punch significantly upgrades the Cowboys cornerback corps, giving them two first-round talents who can match up with different kinds of receivers.
No. 93 Green Bay Packers: Montravius Adams, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
Strengths: Size, run defense, upside.
Weaknesses: Consistency, consistency, consistency.
Adams, a 5-star recruit out of high school, per 247Sports, looks like a future All-Pro when everything is clicking. He started developing his pass-rushing technique to go with his run-stopping power last year, turning in dominant performances against Georgia and Alabama.
Even at his worst, Adams is a load to block. But he will get pushed around by double-teams, particularly late in games, and will get caught out of position against the run and neutralized against the pass. The Tigers began limiting him to about a 50-snap pitch count last season and sliding him outside in some custom packages, which may have kept him fresh for his late-season surge.
Adams is considered a high character/intangibles individual who should take care of business in the conditioning program. He may be one of those 300-pounders who gets dogged with a “bad motor” label because his coaches thought a 74-snap workload was a good idea.
The Packers use cloggers like Adams in 30- to 40-snap doses. Chances are, they will get the most from him.
No. 94 Pittsburgh Steelers: Cameron Sutton, Cornerback, Tennessee
Strengths: Quickness, return skills, experience.
Weaknesses: Run support.
Sutton missed half the season with a fractured ankle but performed well in the Music City Bowl and Senior Bowl. He’s a dynamic return man who is quick-footed enough to match up with Patriots-style receivers in the first seven yards, but he got lost in the crowd of big, fast, experienced and super-toolsy cornerbacks this year.
The Steelers ranked dead last in the NFL at stopping opponent’s No. 1 receivers, according to Football Outsiders. And that’s with A.J. Green having one poor start against them and missing the second matchup against them. The 2016 Steelers secondary was young and banged up; Artie Burns and Sean Davis should settle into roles, but even a team that uses Cover 3 concepts as much as the Steelers do can use a traditional man-coverage blanket at cornerback. Sutton may not be that blanket, but he may have been a late first-round talent in most drafts, and he will help the Steelers get the matchups they want in the secondary.
No. 95 Seattle Seahawks: Delano Hill, Safety, Michigan
Strengths: Measurables, tackling.
Weaknesses: Experience, deep pass coverage.
Richard Sherman appears to want out. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are both on the mend from surgery; Thomas has mumbled about retirement. The fourth member of the Seahawks secondary has always just been the fourth member of the secondary.
We’ve reached the Let It Be/Abbey Road era for the Legion of Boom. The golden age suddenly feels long ago. The best the Seahawks can hope for is to get the guys on a rooftop a little longer and try to coax some harmonies from them. Which means it’s time to look to the future, first with Shaquill Griffin a few selections ago, and now with Hill.
Hill is a powerfully built, attacking, hustling safety who is at his best in the box, shooting gaps and covering underneath zones. His deep-coverage technique is to grab his receiver like they are both riding the same motorcycle. Hill ran a 4.47-second combine 40, so there may be untapped upside to his game. And he will get to learn from the best.
Man, this safety class is good. And man, the Seahawks have a lot of third-round picks.
No. 96 Detroit Lions: Kenny Golladay, Wide Receiver, Northern Illinois
Strengths: Size-speed package, productivity.
Weaknesses: Lateral quickness, route running.
Golladay caught 160 passes in two seasons for the Huskies, adding three career rushing touchdowns to 18 receiving touchdowns. He then tested well at the combine. Golladay glides in the open field, has sure hands and tracks deep balls well. I’ve seen knocks on his blocking, but he can draw a bead on a defender and knock him out of the play.
Golladay is the kind of mid-major production machine that fools me five times per draft class. He’s not much of a route-runner, lacks quickness in his cuts, and probably doesn’t snatch the ball in traffic as well as he will need to in tight NFL windows. There are also many more dynamic mid-major playmakers in this class.
Still, the measurables/productivity combo makes him worth a look. Just not necessarily in this round.
No. 97 Miami Dolphins: Cordrea Tankersley, Cornerback, Clemson
Strengths: Size/speed tools, playing the ball in the air, experience.
Weaknesses: Penalties, allows plays in front of him.
According to Football Outsiders, the Dolphins finished fourth in the NFL in stopping opponents’ No. 1 receivers, fourth in stopping No. 2 receivers, and 31st in stopping all other receivers.
If that doesn’t scream “depth issues in the secondary” to you, then you aren't listening. The Dolphins dealt with numerous injuries at cornerback last year, and the healthy starters were not all that spectacular in the first place.
Tankersley is just another experienced major-program starter with size, 4.40 speed and a knack for intercepting passes in bowl games. Ho-hum. Cornerbacks like these are getting to become as common on college campuses as communications majors.
Tankersley has exceptional long speed to catch ball-carriers from behind, is an experienced special teams gunner and makes clean tackles when he allows plays in front of him in zone coverage. He commits pass interference too often, but Tankersley also plays the ball and not the receiver on deep routes, putting him a step ahead of many of his peers.
Note: Tankersley’s childhood nickname is Tootie. He can play on the All-Facts of Life team with Blair Thomas and any player named Joe you wish to nominate. Jason Garrett is the coach, of course.
No. 98 Arizona Cardinals: Chad Williams, Wide Receiver, Grambling State
Strengths: Size, hands.
Weaknesses: Initial quickness.
Williams was a Senior Bowl standout, a big receiver who demonstrated both consistency and strong hands. He was not invited to the combine (he had some minor legal issues on his rap sheet), but teams did not lose track of him.
Williams will be a solid addition to the Cardinals' 3-by-1 wide receiver attack. He can be a big, physical underneath target who can take some pressure off Larry Fitzgerald to do all of the possession receiving while the burners streak deep.
No. 99 Philadelphia Eagles: Rasul Douglas, Cornerback, West Virginia
Strengths: Height, playing the ball in the air.
At 6’2”, Douglas looks like a prime candidate for the Official Richard Sherman Comparison Scouting Report. On tape, however, his lack of foot quickness during his backpedal makes him a better candidate to be a dime defender who matches up against tight ends and big receivers.
What sets Douglas apart from the many big, not-so-quick Sherman wannabes is his ability to close on the ball and break up plays in coverage.
I like the Douglas-Sidney Jones 1-2 punch for the Eagles at a position of need. But there is a chance that neither player will be ready to make much of an impact, even by the middle of the 2017 season. That won't sit well with the ever-impatient Philly fans.
No. 100 Tennessee Titans: Jonnu Smith, Tight End, Florida International
In honor of what may be the best tight end draft class ever, Bleacher Report proudly presents this field-guide scouting report on Jonnu Smith.
Productivity: 178 catches and 18 touchdowns in four seasons, despite missed time for an ankle injury and … um … a scalding.
Athleticism: Scouting combine leaps-and-cones celebrity. Former high school weight lifter. Another tight end who looked like an animated Renaissance statue during Senior Bowl weigh-ins.
But can he block? Smith is lean and wiry but strong and determined.
Other notes: Smith missed several games in 2016 when his pregnant girlfriend scalded him with a pot of boiling water during a Halloween argument over the amount of attention Smith was paying her. According to the girlfriend’s own account of the incident, she began hitting Smith with her hands when he did not react strongly enough to the severe burning she gave him. This is obviously a serious, complicated incident, not something to make light of. But if you are looking for someone with the toughness to play tight end, you can’t go wrong with a guy who doesn’t react strongly enough to third-degree burns.
Right now, the Titans have a playbook full of two tight-end sets and Jace Amaro listed as their second tight end. Jace Amaro does not belong anywhere on a playoff-caliber depth chart. So this is a fine need/fit/upside choice.
No. 101 Denver Broncos: Brendan Langley, Cornerback, Lamar
Langley spent two years at Georgia bouncing between wide receiver at cornerback before transferring to Lamar in search of playing time. The Cardinals also shuffled him around, though by his senior year he settled in at cornerback, recording six interceptions and returning two punts for touchdowns.
Langley impressed at the combine with a 4.43-second 40 and 23 bench press reps, but he looked out of his depth at the Senior Bowl. He’s a toolsy long-range project for a team that should have been addressing needs elsewhere instead of reaching at a position of strength.
No. 102 Seattle Seahawks: Nazair Jones, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina
Strengths: Size, power, run defense.
Weaknesses: Quickness, instincts.
Jones’ college career—and life—were nearly derailed by a condition called complex regional pain syndrome. He woke up one morning after an uneventful high school playoff game and was unable to move his legs. He was unable to walk for months, lost 50 pounds and spent time in a Ronald McDonald House undergoing extensive therapy and rehab once the rare disease was diagnosed.
It's a miracle Jones was able to play at the major-college level at all; he still takes anti-inflammatories and consults specialists to manage the disease. Jones is one of the best interior run-stuffers in the draft, but an interior run-stuffer is all he is. He provides little pass-rush potential and lacks quickness, agility and instincts once he leaves his phone booth between the A-gaps.
Still, the Seahawks get a heck of a two-down and short-yardage defender, as well as an individual who knows it’s a blessing to just be able to step out onto the field.
The Seahawks are great at carving out niches for players like Jones.
But isn't it funny how, with approximately 157 third-round picks, they keep going out of their way to not grab a little more offensive line help?
No. 103 New Orleans Saints: Trey Hendrickson, Edge-Rusher, Florida Atlantic
Strengths: Size, agility.
Weaknesses: Leverage, block shedding.
Hendrickson is a well-built defender with pretty good initial quickness, excellent change-of-direction quickness and a wicked little arm-under move to get inside his blockers. He plays tall and gets neutralized too often, but he had a fine Shrine Game week and has enough potential as an all-purpose end to merit a look.
Hendrickson has sleeper status among some draft analysts. But he's a slight reach here.
No. 104 San Francisco 49ers: C.J. Beathard, Quarterback, Iowa
Mike Tanier’s Deadly Accurate Quarterback Comparisons: Ricky Stanzi, Mike Kafka, every other hanger-on B1G quarterback you can name.
Beathard is the grandson of Bobby Beathard, one of the most influential general managers in NFL history. Bobby Beathard was one of the pioneers of aggressively scouting smaller colleges in search of talent and was a wizard at finding late-round value.
C.J. Beathard’s father is country music songwriter Casey Beathard, who has written No. 1 hits for Kenny Chesney and others. His brother, Tucker, scored a minor country music hit in 2016 with the single “Rock On.” His follow-up single, “Momma and Jesus,” would have distilled all of country music into one song title if he could have worked “Ford F-150” in there somewhere.
If C.J. Beathard’s scouting report were a county single, it would be called, “Just Another Big-10 Quarterback (Livin’ Off My Grandpa’s Name).” He’s not bad: OK arm, good mechanics, sound decision-making in an old-fashioned offense. But he has all the makings of a competent career backup, albeit one who gets extra chances because nepotism is a thing in the NFL.
This was an epic reach. There will be a lot of "Kyle Shanahan knows what he is doing" rationalization for the Beathard selection, but Shanahan hasn't earned all that much benefit of the doubt. This pick smacks of "guru" reasoning by a coach who just wants a passer who can learn the wisdom of his system, as opposed to one who can really execute it.
Niners fans who hate this grade need to ask themselves: What would they think if the Jets had drafted C.J. Beathard?
No. 105 Pittsburgh Steelers: James Conner, Running Back, Pittsburgh
Strengths: Power, blocking, some receiving ability.
Weaknesses: Quickness/moves, health concerns.
Conner is known, respected and admired for overcoming cancer. Now he must try to be known as the NFL-caliber running back who overcame cancer, rather than “just” an inspirational college athlete.
Conner has size, power, short-yardage capability, surprisingly soft hands on downfield passes and some potential as a pass protector, plus gather-up speed in the open field. But niftiness is almost completely absent from his game, and he steers into holes instead of cutting into them.
I love Conner with this pick because he can be a committee power back, package fullback and core special teamer. He should look good spelling Le'Veon Bell for a few series per game. And of course the Steelers are getting a high-commitment individual and hometown hero.
That said, Conner is a bit of a reach in this spot.
No. 106 Seattle Seahawks: Amara Darboh, Wide Receiver, Michigan
Strengths: Size, long speed, possession-receiver skills.
Weaknesses: Quickness, hands/catching technique.
Darboh was born in Sierra Leone in the midst of a civil war. His parents were killed when he was a toddler. He was raised by his aunt and other relatives, moving from Sierra Leone to Gambia and Senegal before reaching the United States by the time he was seven.
Sponsored and supported by a Christian organization in Des Moines, Iowa, Darboh escaped a life of unimaginable horror and violence, got an education that would never have been conceivable in his war-torn home, attended one of the most prestigious universities in the world and will now play in the NFL.
Remember when you could read a story like that and think, “What an inspirational tale about the potential of the American experience” and not, “Uh-oh, politically loaded material about immigration, better not share this on Facebook or else Uncle Carmine will go on a rampage?”
Darboh is one of many big-bodied receivers in this year’s draft with a possession receiver’s skill set (catching in traffic, running shorter routes) who lacks the superior quickness to be a true go-to option. Darboh also body-catches too many passes to be a standout as a third-down chain mover. But he is a good blocker who has the long speed and physicality to be an asset on special teams, so he can stick on the active roster and contribute while coaches work on his hands and try to transform his 4.45-second 40 into better functional quickness.
Fine pick. The usual carping and moaning about the Seahawks needing offensive linemen applies.
No. 107 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kendell Beckwith, Linebacker, LSU
Strengths: In-the-box run defense.
Weaknesses: ACL injury, range.
Beckwith is a big run thumper in the middle with enough value as a gap-shooting blitzer and middle zone defender to stay on the field until 3rd-and-long. Unfortunately, he suffered an ACL tear in the Florida game.
Beckwith was reportedly running at full speed earlier in the month, but he will almost certainly be limited in OTAs and through the start of camp.
This isn’t a bad value pick. Beckwith has a starter's upside, and the Buccaneers have a need for a physical linebacker to play with Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander on early downs.