It was said all along that after the top tier of players in the 2018 NFL draft, the talent leveled out into the second day.
That means in the second and third rounds of the draft teams with good front offices were able to find starters. Plenty did. Here’s how they graded out:
What better way to compliment first round quarterback Josh Rosen than with a playmaking wide receiver? That’s what the Cardinals got in Christian Kirk with the 47th pick in the draft. He’s a star in the slot thanks to his speed and excellent hands. Arizona filled a big need with Kirk, and got good value.
In the third round the Cardinals picked Michigan offensive lineman Mason Cole. He is better on the inside, but he has history playing on the outside. He’s a player with a ton of experience who could be a great depth piece for the Cardinals.
The Falcons got one of the steals of the second round in Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver. He’s at his best when he can come up and press a receiver, and he’s a sure tackler. If the Falcons wanted a player to neutralize NFC South receivers like Mike Evans and Devin Funchess, they got it in Oliver.
In the third round, the Falcons finally filled their big need at defensive tackle with Deadrin Senat. He’s capable of lining up over the nose and will keep multiple blockers off budding star Grady Jarrett. Senat isn’t flashy, but he is necessary.
The Ravens got one of the steals of the third round with left tackle Orlando Brown at No. 83. If the draft happened immediately after the college football season, Brown would have been a top 50 pick. But a bad showing at the NFL Scouting Combine torpedoed his draft stock. But in Brown the Ravens get a player who can start at right tackle and keep the pocket clean.
The Ravens got a good pass catching tight end in Mark Andrews at No. 86 overall. He was my top tight end in the draft. He’s not a great blocker, but working out wide, Andrews can create mismatches thanks to his size and pass catching ability. The only issue is that the Ravens already took Hayden Hurst in the first round.
The Bills made the most of their only Day 2 pick taking Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. If you like Kyle Williams, you’ll like Phillips. He’s a big and strong defensive lineman who had more than 100 tackles while working over the nose last season. Phillips is one of the steals of the draft.
Secondary was arguably Carolina’s biggest need in the draft, and it was addressed with the 55th pick by taking LSU cornerback Donte Jackson. His athleticism and speed can’t be questioned whatsoever. In the NFL, he’ll have to get stronger because more physical receivers can simply bump him off. But if he’s covering smaller guys, Jackson can make plays.
The Panthers got another secondary player in the third round in Rashaan Gaulden. He’s a combo safety and cornerback who at the least gives Carolina a really good depth piece.
The Bears have a good problem after drafting Iowa center James Daniels with the 39th pick. The team has been starting Cody Whitehair at center, and that is Daniels’ most natural position. One of the two will have to move to guard. An interior of Daniels, Whitehair and Kyle Long (if he can stay healthy) will help keep Mitchell Trubisky clean.
The Bears got aggressive by giving up a 2019 second-round pick, and the 105th pick this year to New England to get the No. 51 overall selection. It’s a risky move after not having a third-round pick this year. But it was a requisite one because the Bears were able to take Memphis receiver Anthony Miller. That’s just a great pick. Miller was a wildly productive receiver with enough quickness and speed to excel in the NFL. He’s going to catch a lot of passes for Trubisky, even with the additions of Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel.
Cincinnati moved back eight picks in the second round and got a fringe first-round player in safety Jessie Bates III at No. 54 overall. Bates is a playmaking safety who breaks up a lot of passes. If the Bengals want to run more three-safety sets, Bates gives them the coverage one they needed badly.
The Bengals then had back-to-back picks at Nos. 77 and 78 in the third round. That started with Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard, a player who can play a multitude of positions. They followed it with athletic linebacker Malik Jefferson of Texas. The Bengals got a lot more athletic on defense on the second day, and it was needed.
Following the retirement of all-time great Joe Thomas, the Browns obviously needed to come out of this draft with a left tackle. With the 33rd pick, Cleveland picked up Nevada’s Austin Corbett. He replaced current Browns left guard Joel Bitonio as the left tackle at Nevada. Many thought his best NFL position is at guard as well. But in Cleveland, that’s unlikely with Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler on big-money contracts. If he can’t play tackle, the move is questionable.
The Browns followed that up by taking a running back as expected in Nick Chubb of Georgia. At least the Browns got one of the Chubbs. He should push to become Cleveland’s starter early in his career.
After trading the teams third second-round pick, the Browns were back up at No. 67 and picked Miami defensive end Chad Thomas. That’s sort of a make up for skipping out on Bradley Chubb in the first round. He can play on the outside when Emmanuel Ogbah or Myles Garrett kick inside on third downs.
After the better tight ends were taken off the board by the time Dallas picked at No. 50, the Cowboys got good value in offensive lineman Connor Williams. He was announced as a guard, but he played left tackle at Texas. He could fit either in the NFL, particularly if the Cowboys want to move La’el Collins to guard. It could be a situation where the Cowboys see where they fit best in training camp. Williams was a good, smart value pick.
With the 81st pick, the Cowboys got Dez Bryant lite in Michael Gallup of Colorado State. He plays with a lot of strength and doesn’t mind getting hit in the open field. He could become one of the better value picks of the third round.
Denver got the new version of Demaryius Thomas by taking SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton with the 40th pick in the draft. Sutton is a big, physical wide out and makes some highlight reel catches. In other words, he’s the type of receiver the Broncos were hoping they had when they drafted Cody Latimer in the second round in 2014.
The Broncos got another weapon on offense in the third round with Oregon running back Royce Freeman. He’s a power back who can carry the load for Denver. He’s a better runner on the edge than you’d think. Most thought he’d be a Day 3 pick, though, because he doesn’t make defenders miss. Cornerback Isaac Yiadom is a nice back of the roster dime player, at worst.
The Lions had to come out of this draft with a lead running back, and they got one in Kerryon Johnson of Auburn. They had to move up to get him, though, giving up a mid-fourth rounder to New England. With Johnson and first-round pick Frank Ragnow, the Lions now have a run game. The Lions just added a level of physicality to the offense that just didn’t exist before.
Detroit showed last season by taking Kenny Golladay the franchise doesn’t mind surprising people. They did so in the third round this year with Tracy Walker of Louisiana-Lafayette in the third round. The safety has good ball skills and doesn’t mind coming up against the run.
The Packers got back-to-back cornerbacks to start their draft. After picking Louisville’s Jaire Alexander in the first round, they doubled up on corners with Josh Jackson of Iowa at No. 45. Jackson is at his best in off coverage where he can read a play and break on the ball. He’s got great hands, and knows how to make a play. The issue is that, while Green Bay needed to fix the secondary, they have other big needs. That’s especially true after taking cornerback Kevin King a year ago.
In the third round, the Packers added a versatile and athletic linebacker in Oren Burks. He has to become more disciplined against the run, but his athleticism can’t be coached. Not many people expected Burks to go that high.
The Texans’ first pick wasn’t until the third round, but they still got a starter-level safety in Stanford’s Justin Reid at No. 68. He’s a good all-around player who is effective against the run and pass.
The Texans took a starting-caliber offensive lineman in Martinas Rankin at No. 80. He can play anywhere along the offensive line. When he’s healthy — which he wasn’t for much of last season — Rankin can handle speed rushers on the edge. No. 98 pick Jordan Akins is a player who could become a solid tight end, but there was a handful of better tight ends, including Ian Thomas still available.
After skipping out on Georgia’s Roquan Smith in the first round, the Colts found the perfect Tampa-2 linebacker in Darius Leonard of South Carolina State. He’s an athletic off-ball linebacker with has range. The 36th pick was a little early for Leonard, but he’s a perfect system fit. The Colts followed that up immediately with the 37th pick by taking Auburn right guard Braden Smith. He was won the Jacobs Award last season, which is given to the best blocker in the SEC. Having Smith and first-round pick Quenton Nelson should tell you what the Colts want to do on offense this season.
The draft can be about taking traits and potential, and that’s what the Colts did with the 52nd pick, using it on edge rusher Kemoko Turay of Rutgers. In Indianapolis, he’ll often play with his hand down. The Colts moved back into the second round with the 64th pick to snag Ohio State pass rusher Tyquan Lewis. The Colts needed to get 4-3 ends, and now they have them in Turay and Lewis. The second round was a little early on the latter.
The Colts obviously did work in the second round, but did they get good value?
Leading up to the draft, there was some talk that D.J. Chark would be a first-round pick. Getting him with the 61st pick is a good value for the Jaguars. Chark is a big play speed receiver who can take the top off a defense. The Jaguars needed to get a wide receiver early in this draft, and in Chark they got an explosive athlete.
In the third round, Jacksonville got a potential starter in Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. Coaches in Jacksonville are going to love his fiery attitude. He’s a complete safety who can match tight ends and come up and play the run. If he can be more disciplined as a tackler, he could be this draft’s Landon Collins.
The Chiefs were aggressive to get their first pick of the draft, moving up in the second round to take Ole Miss edge rusher Breeland Speaks. It makes some sense because the Chiefs need another edge rusher. Speaks can play outside and inside, which Kansas City likes. However, this was really early for him. And the Chiefs need to get a cornerback in this draft, and passed on players like Isaiah Oliver of Colorado and Carlton Davis of Auburn.
Kansas City also moved up in the third round to take Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi at No. 75 He’s a powerful run stopper who gets low and has good instincts to find the ball carrier. Nnadi is good, but my preference would have been Stanford’s Harrison Phillips.
One of the NFL’s best defenses got even better in the second round with the pick of Uchenna Nwosu with the 48th pick. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will be able to move Nwosu around, but his best spot is playing off the edge. He’s an instinctive pass rusher who gets his hands up to bat down passes.
In third-round pick Justin Jones, the Chargers got the player on the defensive line they needed. He can play three-technique thanks to his ability to get up the field and create pressure. The Chargers have now gone three straight picks on defense, forsaking pressing some needs.
Finally, at pick No. 89 the Rams made a pick. In Joe Noteboom they got an offensive tackle who has solid athleticism and movement skills. But at TCU he was inconsistent and will need to be coached up heavily. However, there is a ton of potential to work with. He can back up Andrew Whitworth for a year and get taken to class during practices. There was a lot of linebackers when the Rams picked, but they passed on them all for some reason.
It was clear at the start of the draft’s second day that the Dolphins needed to get a tight end. They did so with the ultra-athletic Mike Gesicki with the 42nd pick. Many thought South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert would have been a better pick, but Gesicki is a superior playmaker and athlete.
At No. 73, the Dolphins got an athletic linebacker in Ohio State’s Jerome Baker. He was expected to be the next Ryan Shazier, which was just unfair. But he flashed a lot of ability at times for the Buckeyes. He’s good at coming up and playing the run or dropping back in coverage. He’s not going to offer Miami a lot in the pass rush game, but he’s a quality player.
With a player like Mike Remmers on the roster, the Vikings were able to take whomever they considered the best offensive lineman with the 62nd overall pick. That was Pittsburgh’s Brian O’Neill. He’s an athletic tackle who can get to the edge in a hurry. O’Neill started a lot of games at right tackle for Pittsburgh, so moving back there from the left shouldn’t be a problem.
On the second day of the draft, the Patriots moved all around, making multiple trades. They even added a second-round pick in 2019 from Chicago. That gives the grade a little bit of a bump.
The first time New England picked on Day 2 was at No. 56 after a trade up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There they took Florida cornerback Duke Dawson. After getting rid of Malcolm Butler, it was clear cornerback was a need for New England. Dawson has the combination of athleticism, press skills and competitiveness the Patriots like. Dawson should work in the nickel for New England.
However, it was a little odd that the Patriots had to move up to the 63rd pick to get Dawson. And for me at least, some corners had much higher grades than Dawson coming into the draft.
Tre’Quan Smith gives the Saints a wide receiver with a ton of tools. He’s big and athletic, and good after the catch. However, his hands can be inconsistent. But this is the type of big swing a good team can make and hope it works out. If so, Smith will be able to put up big yards. It’s just a matter of how many targets he’ll even see with Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, Ted Ginn and Brandon Coleman on the roster.
The Giants wasted no time in the second round scooping up UTEP guard Will Hernandez. General manager Dave Gettleman loves his “hog mollies” up front, and he certainly gets one with Hernandez. He’s an immediate starter for the Giants and will open holes for Saquon Barkley. That could go down as being one of the better picks of the whole draft.
With two picks at the top of the third-round, the Giants added talent on defense. Edge Lorenzo Carter at No. 66 is a raw athlete with great movement skills. His production never matched his athleticism because he needs to get stronger. But if he’s developed properly, he can be a star. With the 69th pick, the Giants got North Carolina State defensive tackle B.J. Hill. He can play over the nose and stuff the run, and he can press the pocket. He could make a bigger impact this season than Carter.
After not having a second-round pick due to the trade that netted them Sam Darnold, the Jets had to hit with the 72nd overall pick. They did with Fort Hays State defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd. He’s an aggressive interior lineman who is at his best ripping past offensive linemen and getting into the backfield. Shepherd was dominant against lesser competition. The issue with this pick is that the Jets need talent on offense and passed on some good receivers.
The Raiders took a risk by moving back from the 41st to 57th pick, but they were still able to find a starter in defensive lineman P.J. Hall. The Sam Houston State tackle stays low and gets off the ball with ease. He’s the type of explosive player the Raiders needed to add onto the defensive line. “He’s a more explosive Grady Jarrett,” Daniel Jeremiah said during NFL Network’s broadcast. That’s extremely high praise.
The Raiders opened the third round by taking North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker. He’s an obviously talented player, but he’s still raw. He and first-round pick Kolton Miller have a long way to go in terms of development. If it pays off great, but the risk is high.
Oakland finished off the third day of the draft by taking LSU edge rusher Arden Key. He’s a specialty player who is going to a be a situational pass rusher for the Raiders. He has some off-field issues, which caused him to fall this far. He’ll also have to get stronger to make it in the NFL. It’s a risk, but a high-upside risk.
With the draft taking place in Dallas, the Eagles managed to screw the Cowboys. Philadelphia moved ahead of the Cowboys in the second round to take South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert. The Eagles needed to get a good tight end in this draft after losing Trey Burton, and Goedert is an effortless playmaker.
No franchise in the NFL utilizes shorter receivers like the Steelers and they got another one in Oklahoma State’s James Washington. At No. 60 overall, the Steelers got a player who can replace Martavis Bryant. Washington loves getting vertical and he tracks the deep ball really well. Steelers fans are going to love his game.
The Steelers made a splash in the third round by taking the sixth quarterback off the board with Mason Rudolph at No. 76. Can he be the successor to Ben Roethlisberger or is he just another Landry Jones? At the least, it was a good value choice. Pittsburgh was back up at No. 92 and took Western Michigan left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor. He could move to the right in the NFL, but he’s a solid player and a replacement for Chris Hubbard.
Slot receiver is an asset in the NFL now, so the 49ers moved up in the second round to get one in Dante Pettis with the 44th pick. Pettis excels on short routes where he can utilize quick movement to get open and make a play after the catch. Pettis can also return punts. But if they wanted to go with a wide receiver, I had a much higher grade on Anthony Miller of Memphis.
At pick No. 70, the 49ers went with BYU linebacker Fred Warner. An experienced and productive starter, Warner can play all over the place. He’s really good in zone coverage where he can utilize his athleticism and length. He could do with getting a little stronger in the NFL. No. 95 pick Tarvarius Moore was a combine snub, so he was under the radar. At the least he gives the 49ers a nice depth player.
The Seahawks finally made a pick on the second day at No. 79 with Rasheem Green. He’s a big, athletic defensive lineman who is just scratching the surface of his potential. He was hurt for a lot of last season, but the Seahawks can turn him into a star. It’s impossible to replace Michael Bennett, but Green has tools.
It was apparent that Tampa Bay needed to get a running back high in this draft, and they did so by taking Ronald Jones II of USC with the 38th pick. Taking him over Derrius Guice of LSU is questionable, but Jones brings a different level of speed and pure playmaking ability. Jones is going to get a large share of carries in Tampa Bay. We’ll see if he can take the beating that comes with it.
With the second pick in the second round, the Buccaneers grabbed North Carolina cornerback M.J. Stewart. It was somewhat odd because some higher rated corners were available. But Stewart gives them some physicality on the outside in pass coverage. Tampa’s third pick of the second round was one of my favorites of the day in cornerback Carlton Davis at No. 63. Davis isn’t going to intercept a lot of passes, but he’s good at covering big receivers on the outside. With Stewart, Davis and last year’s first-round pick in Vernon Hargreaves, the Buccaneers have a young and talented cornerback group.
The Buccaneers finished the day by taking offensive tackle Alex Cappa. He’s a physical presence on the line who made a name for himself at the Senior Bowl.
Tennessee jumped up to the 41st pick in the second round after moving up in the first round to take linebacker Rashaan Evans. Coming into the second day of the draft, the best player available was Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry. From a value standpoint, getting him is a great selection. However, Landry dropped because of his health, so you have to hope that it’s not an issue. If it’s not, the Titans got a steal, and a player they need. The cost of giving up the 57th and 89th pick was pricey.
Derrius Guice was the storyline of the second round of the draft. On pure talent, Guice is a first-round player. He runs with balance, vision and power. He’s also deceptively fast. Basically, he’s a complete back, and to get him at No. 59 overall was a coup. However, Guice reportedly had some bad team interviews. But if he’s clean off the field, Washington has a star back.
With the 74th pick, Washington picked up Geron Christian, one of the draft’s more athletic pass blockers. Christian needs coaching up, and he has to get stronger, but there’s a lot to work with in his game. He may not start straight away for Washington, but he has a lot of upside.