NFL Draft: Day 2 Winners and Losers

Yesterday we covered the winners and losers from the opening night of the draft. Today we take a look at those whose fortunes improved, or plummeted after rounds two and three.

Winners.

Tennessee Titans Lock up Top-10 Receiver in Second Round.

After up short in day one, taking a system QB who doesn’t fit their system, and—according to some reports at least—passing up on a huge package of picks and players to do so, the Titans looked much hotter to start off day two, selecting wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

Green-Beckham is widely considered a top-10 talent, and it is only off-field concerns which caused him to fall as far as he did. Green-Beckham is probably the most talented receiver in this years draft, and assuming he can stay on the field, adds a much needed outlet for Marcus Mariota to throw to.

To be clear, Green-Beckham is a gamble. As the NFL continues to take a hard line on drug usage, and domestic violence—Green-Beckham has been involved with prior incidents involving both of which—there is always the possibility that he will miss time due to suspensions if he cannot turn a corner. And given that he missed the entire 2014 college football season due to suspensions and transfer, there is no guarantee he is as ready as his peers.

However, assuming that he can turn a corner, get his life in order, and live up to his potential, Green-Beckham could become one of the steals of the draft.

The third round was somewhat of a surprise for many onlookers, taking Jeremiah Poutasi, an offensive lineman out of Utah.  Many commentators suggested that it was too early for the team to take Poutasi, given the other tackles and guards available at the time, but the Titans like his versatility, the fact that he can compete at both guard and tackle, and his rapid improvement from 2013 to 2014. They feel he could push for playing time from year one, and that he is underrated, and will help keep their new franchise QB protected.

Poutasi is a reach, and another one could tarnish their draft overall, but right now, the Green-Beckham pick looks to have rescued their draft, at least for now.

Atlanta Falcons Get Three First Round Talent’s.

One of the winners during day one who we didn’t mention were the Atlanta Falcons. We liked their pick of Vic Beasley on day one, but didn’t feel that it was a real “wow” pick. He was a top-10 talent, who, unsurprisingly, went off the board in the top-10, at number 8, right where most people projected him.

On day two, however, the Falcons really solidified their draft, selecting LSU cornerback Jalen Collins in the second round, and Indiana running back Tevin Coleman in the third, all of whom were potential first round talents.

Tevin Coleman appears to have slid due to nothing more than the fact that he is a running back, and in spite of indications to the contrary, much of the league still undervalue them at the moment. Coleman is compared very favourably to, Darren McFadden, a fourth overall pick when he entered the league in 2008.

Jalen Collins was considered a first round prospect in mocks by a significant number of draft commentators, and was considered by some to be the best overall cornerback available. Few expected him to fall past the Green Bay Packers at number 30. Injury concerns, and off-field issues—he reportedly failed multiple drug tests while at LSU—as well as a lack of overall experience appear to have contributed to his slide, but for the Falcons to get him at 42 represents tremendous value. LSU has produced a number of stand-out players in the secondary in recent years, and NFL coaches love how the university coaches these young men.

All three players have the potential to be week one starters for the Falcons, and by all accounts, the team look set to rebound from a disappointing season in 2015.

Best Player Available Advocates get payoff.

During day one, a number of teams were criticised somewhat, including here, for their staunch adherence to the Best Player Available—or BPA—strategy. Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, who selected D.J. Humphreys, a left tackle, in spite of having bolstered the position last season, and who are hoping that he can slide to the right, and the Baltimore Ravens, who selected Breshad Perriman, a wideout out of Central Florida who has bags of raw talent, but doesn’t seem to have an ideal fit for the Ravens.

However, both teams proved why they so strongly believe in the system on day two.

For the Cardinals, they picked up Mizzou pass rusher Markus Golden—a player whose stock had been surging after a solid pro day—and running back David Johnson, who not only fills a need for the team, but represents great value doing so.

For the Ravens, GM Ozzie Newsome added Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams in the second round and Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis in the third round, both of whom had first round potential, proving why the Ravens have been so successful building through the draft.

Both teams could, and perhaps should, have drafted players at these positions in the first round. All of these players fill a larger need for the teams than those they selected during the first round, but in sticking to their boards, consistently selecting the best players available, rather than reaching for those which plugged a hole, they have found starters later in the draft while also improving other areas of their team.

The strategy works, and both of these teams, among others, proved it on day two.

Losers

Jay Ajayi, British Born Running Back.

Coming into this years draft, Jay Ajayi was generally considered the third or fourth best running back in an unusually strong group, with several analysts suggesting that he had a possibility to break into the first round. That didn’t happen, but Ajayi should have felt fairly confident of hearing his name called on day two.

Unfortunately for Ajayi, that didn’t happen either.

He managed to sum up his disappointment in a single word. “Man……………”

Ajayi watched six other running backs go off the board during the second and third rounds, but his call never came.

There are certainly question marks over Ajayi, not least of which being lingering injury concerns, however, many of the tailbacks selected have similar injury, or off-field concerns. What’s more, his injury is three-and-a-half years old, and his surgically repaired knee has held up just fine during the last few years of his college career where he has been one of the most productive and consistent running backs in the country.

NFL Analyst Mike Mayock even suggested that around half of the scouts he had spoken to about Ajayi had removed him from their board entirely, but added that others were not really concerned, which makes his slide that much more difficult to comprehend. At some point, someone will take a chance on Ajayi, and when they do, they are likely to get one of the steals of the draft, if, as he claims, his knee really is fine. Whatever happens though, it is a huge loss for Ajai, and for British born players in general, who had been making headway in recent seasons.

The New England Patriots Look Lost.

Bill Belichick has a reputation for being an unconventional draft genius, so when it comes to assessing these picks, take that into consideration, but this year, Belichick’s picks look unusually erratic, even by his standards.

In the first round they selected Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Most considered it a slight reach—most had him going off the board early to mid second round—but given where the Patriots were picking, the overall lack of trade activity on day one, and that he filled a position of need for them, it was hard to fault the reach too much.

But then they entered day two, and the wheels really appeared to come off.

In the second round, they selected Stanford safety Jordan Richards, and the selection left most analysts speechless—as in, they literally had nothing to say about him, because he was considered a sixth or seventh round pick, at best, and no-one had actually prepared anything to say about him yet.

Then, in the third round, the world was equally surprised when they selected Geneo Grissom, an edge rusher out of Oklahoma, who was also considered a late-round development type of prospect.

Given Belichick’s history, both of these guys probably stand a better-than-average chance of developing into surprise starters, but the fact remains, the Patriots could have picked both of these players two or three rounds later, and spent these picks on other players. It just seems wasteful to go after these sorts of players this early.

Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley, Second Tier QBs just not getting much love.

We all know the NFL is a passing league, and that, as a result, even average college quarterbacks often get disproportionately high draft grades. Although this is considered a decidedly sub-par QB draft, and there are big question marks over Jameis Wilson and Marcus Mariota, these passers were still taken first and second overall.

So when early mock drafts suggested that Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley both had the potential to come off the boards late on day one, few people batted an eyelid.

However, as the draft progressed, it became clear that NFL scouts are not so ready to overvalue marginal quarterbacks as the media is, and Hundley and Petty both failed to hear their names called on day two. Two quarterback did go off the board during the third round, both of whom are viewed as backups, and projects, not as starters.

Hundley and Petty will hear their names called at some point today—a fourth or fifth round salary represents good value for even a third string QB, but the idea that either of these men are potential NFL starters any time soon simply isn’t close to a fair assessment.

Head Scratchers—You’ll Have to Wait and See How These Pan Out

The Carolina Panthers Keep us Guessing.

The Carolina Panthers made a confusing pick on day one, when they selected Washington’s Shaq Thompson. They were one of our day one losers because the pick didn’t seem to fill an obvious need, and worse, because Thompson does not obviously project to any one position in the NFL. At the time, we said “…the Arizona Cardinals spoiled their party taking [Left Tackle, D.J.] Humphreys one pick before them, forcing the team to panic, and taking a player who is neither the best player available, nor one who addresses a real need.”

It was a bad pick, to be sure, but it was clearly a move out of panic, and panic causes even the best of us make bad decisions. On day two, the same cannot be said.

The Panthers traded away their second, third and sixth round picks to move up in the second round. Doing so signals intent, it signals a plan.

So who did they move up to select? Kelvin Benjamin, a player already on their roster.

Okay, so it wasn’t actually Benjamin they selected, but it may as well have been. They in fact selected Devin Funchess, a big WR out of Michigan.

Funchess is a solid enough player, and WR is a need for the team, but aside from this, it’s a really difficult pick to make sense of.

Firstly, they may have overpaid for him slightly—there wasn’t really any obvious teams who would have signed him until significantly later in the second round, in spite of an apparent run on WRs—and the bigger issue is why they picked him at all. Finches is a near carbon-copy of Benjamin, and, while it will sometimes produce a match-up nightmare for any team who doesn’t have two big, solid cornerbacks, it provides virtually no flexibility for the team.

It is also very unclear the position which the team intend for him to line up in, given that Benjamin, an early pick last season, already has the obvious routes for a receiver of this type locked up.

There is some indication that Funchess could project as an elite Tight End in the NFL, a position he played during his high school and early college career, however, Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson are already two of the better players at the position in the league. Additionally, trading up to select a tight end prospect that early, when it is not a position of need, represents a real overpayment, when moving up just three or four positions instead would have allowed them to secure Maxx Williams, a true standout at the position.

It is made doubly difficult to digest, however, when you factor in their obvious need of offensive line help and improvements in the secondary, and the OL players and cornerbacks they would have been able to sign after moving up to the position. Spending three picks to select a player who is a carbon copy of one already on your roster is just hard to wrap your head around.

However, Perhaps it will pay off. Kelvin Benjamin was a real revelation for the team last season, and adding another player in his mould may just give opposing teams enough matchup problems that they will be forced to abandon rushing the passer so often, making their O-Line deficiencies seem less significant.

Dallas Cowboys Live up to Their Name.

The Dallas Cowboys have certainly been one of the most interesting teams to watch during this draft, constantly playing the renegade franchise, and making the surprising picks.

Virtually every one of their picks so far have been high-risk, but high-reward sort of players.

In the first round, they selected Byron Jones. Jones is a good enough pick, but really saw his value surge at the combine. This is not, in  and of itself a problem, of course, but always brings with it bust potential. Prior to the combine, Jones was seen as only a second or third round talent, but a record-setting broad jump propelled him into first-round contention.

Unfortunately, broad jump is not really one of those skill sets which translate well into real NFL games, especially not for a cornerback, and his college career to this point leaves a little to be desired, especially after a shoulder injury cut his 2014 season short.

In the second round, the Cowboys potentially got one of the steals of the draft selecting Randy Gregory, a top-10 talent who went into free fall after a failed drug test at the combine, and big questions about his mental health and emotional stability. If Gregory is able to play long-term, he could quickly become one of the NFL’s elite, but equally, if he is unable to move on from his off-field demons, he could be one of the bigger busts of the draft.

And in the third round, it was the turn of OT Chaz Green out of Florida. His issues are different again, but just as real. Green has durability concerns, for sure, but the bigger issue for Green is that he simply doesn’t have an obvious role. He has been a jack-of-all-trades throughout his college career, but as the saying goes, has, thus far, been a master of none. Just about everything about his game has been decidedly average to this point.

He has plenty of raw skill, but his skill is exactly that—raw and unpolished. With a player like that, you simply don’t know what you’re going to get, what they are going to develop into, and that is his biggest problem. He could be an elite star, or a complete bust, just like everyone else they have picked thus far.

Taking a gamble in the draft can be a huge boon to your team, but you have to question if the Cowboys really need to take these risks. They were a 12-4 playoff team last season, and are generally considered only one or two key parts away from being Super Bowl bound. They need incremental growth, not rebuilding, evolution, not revolution.

At all three positions, there were similar players available with much lower risk. Yes, their upside was also lower, but they would have all still been key contributors without quite so high a probability of complete failure.

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