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NFL Draft Day 2 Blog

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In some aspects, Day 2 of the NFL Draft is even more intriguing than Day 1’s first round.  Teams have had a chance to sit down and examine everything that happened, and didn’t happen in the first round, re-set their priorities and then target players they may have thought they had no chance to get.

We’re going to look at some of the more interesting picks on Day 2 and what it means.

Rolling The Dice

2nd round, pick #34- Dallas Cowboys- Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame- This is the pick that everyone is talking about because it’s one of the biggest risks in recent draft history.  Cowboys czar Jerry Jones is known as a gambler and he used a premium pick on Smith, a player who might never play a down in the NFL due to his gruesome injury in the Fiesta Bowl.  If he can return to form, Smith is a Top 5 talent, but there are no guarantees that his knee will ever be the same.

2nd round, pick #36- Jacksonville Jaguars- Myles Jack, LB, UCLA- The Jaguars are another boom or bust type of team, as the front office needs to win this year. There are questions about the long-term prognosis of Myles Jack’s knee, but unlike Smith, he will play this season.  Many pegged Jack to the Jaguars in the first round, but they grabbed this unbelievable talent in round two.  If his knee holds up, the Jaguars first two picks (Jalen Ramsey) could make for one of the best drafts in recent history.

“It was just a sigh of relief, words can’t put it into how it exactly felt, but it was a relief,” Jack said. “I definitely wanted to go to the Jaguars; it’s just the ideal place that I really wanted to go.”

“I like the fact that he is a rare athlete,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. “I think that he has real play speed.  He is very versatile. I have seen the guy line up on number one recievers, cover tight ends. I have seen him play running back, fight off offensive guards. He has a rare combination skill set, and we just felt like it was time to pull the trigger. The risk was worth the reward.”

Good Bucs, Bad Bucs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are clearly a needs-based drafting team.

That’s fine, because most teams are.  They grabbed one of the steals of the draft which also fits a major area of need with former Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence, who some had pegged as a Top-15 pick.  His off the field concerns dropped him, but he’s a talented edge rusher who will fit in very well with Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers.

“We think we got – we felt like he was one of the, if not the, best pure pass rusher in the draft, Bucs general manager Jason Licht said of Spence.  “We’ve scouted him all the way back to Ohio State, when he played there and had success there two years ago, three years ago, and then this year at Eastern Kentucky. He’s going to bring what we’ve missed here: an extra rusher, another rusher. We feel like he’s going to eventually make an impact for us there.”

Add in first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves and the Bucs have filled some major holes on their defense.

The Bucs also had a question mark at the kicker position as Connor Barth was highly inconsistent last year.  Many figured they would address the position in the draft or in free agency, but Licht and company doubled-down on getting the best kicker in college football history.

Tampa traded up back into the second round and selected Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo.

“Taking Roberto [Aguayo] – the importance of special teams is paramount,” Licht explained. “When you get a chance to get the best kicker in the history of college football, I didn’t want to risk it. I wanted to take him. I have a lot of confidence in him; I like the way he’s wired. I like the body of work that he’s put out there, obviously. A great kicker can be the difference in several games. I’ve been around some great ones: Adam Vinatieri, [Stephen] Gostkowski. Those guys are invaluable. We obviously took him, we used a pick to go up and get him, so we feel very confident about it. We needed to be bold there and we were.”

They were definitely bold as Aguayo becomes the highest drafted kicker since 2005.  Nothing against Aguayo in particular, but just by selecting him that high the Bucs front office put a target on his….leg.  Among all of the other pressures of being a kicker, he’s now “the second-round kicker.”

Teams can simply not get enough value out of a part-time specialist to select one that early.  He would have to become the best kicker in the history of football to make the pick worth it, and even then it would be debatable.  It’s a lot like when the Jacksonville Jaguars and now former general manager Gene Smith selected punter Bryan Anger in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.  Anger wasn’t a terrible punter, but the pressure from his draft position certainly affected him psychologically and he couldn’t achieve up to his potential.  Somewhat ironically, Anger is now also a member of the Bucs.

Back To Back Heisman’s

The Tennessee Titans love their college legends.  For the second straight season, they added a Heisman Trophy winner through the draft as they selected former Alabama running back Derrick Henry in the second round with the 45th overall pick.

Henry will team up in the backfield with last year’s second-overall pick and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, and the Titans will be playing some “ground and pound” football this season.

What’s curious about the selection is that the team traded with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in the offseason to acquire former NFL rushing champ DeMarco Murray, and with his contract and Henry’s pick, the team has a lot of resources invested into the running back position, with only one football to hand off.

“He’s a good football player, and I think that was evident in winning the Heisman Trophy,’’ Titans general manager Jon Robinson said of Henry. “He is big, he is physical, he is fast, and plays the kind of football we want to play. He is tough, he is accountable and he is going to embody everything we are about as a Titan.”

So how will they be used?

“I think we have a good group of backs,’’ head coach Mike Mularkey said. “Now we have a very competitive position, maybe one of the more competitive positions on the field. There will be a rhyme and reason why we are doing things with both of them at times. … It is a really nice thing to have.”

The former ‘Bama product is actually the latest defending Heisman winning running back selected since 1955.

Character Matters

Character matters more now in the NFL than any other time in the history of the league.

It matters more than anything at the quarterback position where guys have to be a leader of men, and anything short of that simply will not work.

We suggested back in February that Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook has been interviewing poorly and he was disliked by teammates, and he could have a significant fall in the Draft.

One NFC executive told us this about Cook back then.

“I don’t think he gets picked in the first or second round,” he said.  “He’s dropping because he’s a bad interview and there are plenty of other question marks not based on his play on the field.”

It’s now Day 3 of the draft and Cook is still on the board.

What makes it worse for the former Rose Bowl winner is who was selected before him.  We expected Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch to be picked before Cook, but probably not Christian Hackenberg, who was selected with the 51st pick overall (second round) by the New York Jets.

Judging solely by tape, there is no good reason anyone would pick Hackenberg over Cook.  They played against the same competition in the Big Ten and Cook was much better and better in big games.

As much of a surprise that Hackenberg over Cook is, nobody saw the next two quarterbacks selected ahead of the former Michigan State star.  The New England Patriots selected former Florida and N.C. State signal caller Jacoby Brissett with the 91st overall selection (third round) and the Cleveland Browns chose former USC quarterback Cody Kessler two picks later.

Brissett is a raw prospect who is years away from being ready to play, and Kessler is a more polished quarterback, but lacks the arm talent to be a functional starter.  Both players competed in the Senior Bowl in January, which Cook skirted.

“Not playing in the Senior Bowl was a huge mistake (for Cook),” the NFC executive said.  “He could’ve erased a lot of the question marks around him and chose to compete against (Carson) Wentz.  Instead he ducked the competition.”

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.