NFL

Ten biggest winners and losers from Day 2 of 2017 NFL Draft

Day 2 2017 NFL Draft, Rick Smith
Jesse Reed
Written by Jesse Reed

The first round always gets all the glory, but Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft provided plenty of intrigue and impact players ready to make a huge difference for the teams that landed them.

There were plenty of surprises in Rounds 2 and 3, not all of them particularly great, either. As we saw in Round 1, teams reached for some guys out of need, while other top-level players fell into perfect situations on teams that couldn’t have asked for better luck.

This leads us perfectly into our first winner, which features a team that hasn’t been associated with that word very often in its history.

Winner: Jaguars land top OT in draft, Cam Robinson

Jacksonville isn’t messing around. Blake Bortles has been slinging the rock around like there is no tomorrow his first three years, and it hasn’t gotten the Jags anywhere in the win column. So with their first pick, they landed battering ram Leonard Fournette out of LSU. Great move to create balance, and it protects Bortles from the turnovers that resulted from him having to carry the offense.

Then in Round 2, Tom Coughlin, David Caldwell and Co. traded up one spot (from 35 to 34).

Robinson is a natural fit on the right side if Branden Albert is plugged in on the left side. But he can play both, with ease.

While he’s not the best pure pass-blocking tackle he’s extremely well rounded and downright dominant in the running game. He and Fournette work together like peanut butter and jelly, and the Jaguars suddenly feature an offense that — provided Bortles doesn’t implode — could finally lead to some winning seasons in Jacksonville.

Loser: Jets double down on hard-hitting safeties

The New York Jets aren’t close to competing. In fact, they’re so far away from competing after dumping their top veteran talent on offense this offseason it’s embarrassing.

That being said, what they did with their first pick in Round 1 was one we could get behind. Jamal Adams out of LSU was one of the best overall players in the draft. A hard-hitting safety who can also cover in the mold of Eric Berry, he will make an immediate impact.

That’s all well and good. We applaud that selection. Landing a high-character guy who is a leader is a move nobody can fault.

But what they did on Friday had us shaking our heads, and we weren’t the only ones. The Jets selected another hard-hitting safety in Marcus Maye who is a wonderful young man with a great draft-weekend story.

But under ideal circumstances, he would play the same exact position as Adams — strong safety.

Now, it’s likely the Jets are going to try and trade Calvin Pryor away and let these rookies play together. But let’s be honest, if you were going to draft two safeties, then Malik Hooker should have been the pick at No. 6 as a natural free safety who can cover the deep middle better than anyone in the draft.

Essentially, the Jets now have two safeties who do their best work near the line of scrimmage.

 

Winner: Packers land serious talent to bolster defensive secondary

Josh Jones

If we had to highlight one thing that crippled Green Bay’s playoff run last year it would have to be its defensive secondary. A defense that ranked No. 31 overall in 2016 got absolutely abused when it went up against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Co. in the NFC Championship Game. Then the Packers lost their best defensive back in free agency when safety Micah Hyde bolted to Buffalo.

Needless to say, the Packers desperately needed to upgrade their secondary. And they did — in a major way no less.

Landing Washington’s Kevin King (the last guy left in the green room) with the No. 33 overall pick, Green Bay landed a first-round talent in Round 2. Then, 28 picks later, they landed Hyde’s replacement in N.C. State’s Josh Jones — a guy who might be the second-best pure cover safety in the draft class behind Malik Hooker.

These two players have a chance to step into Green Bay’s starting defense from Week 1 and become impact players.

Loser: Bengals continue to eschew morality for talent 

Listen, Joe Mixon is tremendously talented. We get it. He has the potential to become a superstar.

He also has on his record a Ray Rice-level video tape of him decking a female college student in 2014 — an incident that left Amelia Molitor with a broken jaw and cheekbone. On top of that, he was accused of hitting a female student at his high school, though after lawyers got involved and his draft stock took a hit the father of that girl recanted his statement and said the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

We’ll let you decide for yourself what that’s all about.

Regardless, Mixon is a guy who has — at least once, if not twice — violently lashed out at a woman in a fit of rage.

Now, everyone deserves a second chance. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Mixon hasn’t done anything like that since 2014. But the fact that Cincinnati is the team that gambled on a kid with questionable off-field character just reeks.

This is the same team that continues to support and defend Adam Jones, who is currently facing three misdemeanors and who recently lambasted a reporter for asking a fairly benign question.

It’s also the same team that took a gamble on linebacker Vontaze Burfict, whose dirty play has actually led to a playoff loss for his team.

We all knew Mixon was going to be drafted. We even knew he’d be drafted earlier than he should have, just because the NFL values talent over everything else. It’s the same reason Frank Clark was a second-round pick a few years back.

But for the Bengals to be the team that did it? Forget about it. We just cannot stand behind this move, regardless of what it might mean for the offense. You play with fire, and you will get burned. Cincinnati has already been burned a few times recently, so it should know better.

Winner: Texans add to championship-caliber D, add Zach Cunningham

Zach Cunningham is one of the most underrated players of the 2017 NFL Draft

Vanderbilt product Zach Cunningham could have been drafted in the first round, and nobody would have batted an eyelash. He’s really good.

Yet somehow Cunningham fell into Houston’s lap at No. 57 overall, which was the 25th pick in Round 2. It really highlighted the fact that he was a guy who really deserves more respect that he’s been getting throughout the pre-draft process.

But for Houston, it was one of those deals where you just cannot even believe the good fortune a team had to land such a high-caliber player that fits a need and is an unbelievable value.

Cunningham fits Houston’s defense like a custom-fit Italian shoe.

He is a veritable bolt of lightning who can cover sideline to sideline and make plays behind the line and in space on the back end. However, he isn’t the type of linebacker who’s going to be effective taking on blockers. Thankfully, the Texans have some darn effective defensive linemen up front who’ll keep him clean as he flies to the ball.

While Brian Cushing has been great for years when healthy, the fact is he just can’t stay healthy. He’s currently recovering from a shoulder injury and might just be supplanted by Cunningham this summer. If that happens, the the rookie will be playing next to another young stud, Benardrick McKinney.

After finally landing their franchise passer in Deshaun Watson, the Texans’ championship-caliber defense just got even scarier.

Then, as an added bonus, the Texans landed some thunder to pair with Lamar Miller in former Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman.

Loser: Just when you thought the Saints were getting smart…

We highlighted the Saints Thursday for having a top corner (Marshon Lattimore) land in their lap. Then in the second round they had another tremendous player fall into their hands in safety Marcus Williams out of Utah. Both selections were not only great values but met a dire need.

Surely the Saints were on their way to acing this draft.

Right?

Wrong.

At the top of the third round, the Saints not only took a player that had us scratching out heads (Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara) but traded up — giving up a fair amount of draft capital — to do it.

Now, at this point we’re obligated to point out the fact that the Saints recently hired veteran Adrian Peterson and have Mark Ingram on their roster — a guy who cracked 1,000 yards on the ground last year.

Folks on Reddit, like us, just couldn’t figure out what in the heck the Saints were thinking here, especially since their defense is still in dire need of pass rushers and more defensive backs.

Remember this as well: New Orleans featured the top-ranked offense in the entire league last year in yardage and second-best offense in terms of points scored.

Another running back isn’t going to fix the defensive issues that have relegated the Saints to a 7-9 record the past three years in a row. This was just a mind-boggling selection.

Winner: Chargers beef up the old O-line

Forrest Lamp

It’s clear the San Diego Chargers expect Philip Rivers to be their guy for at least a few more years. Their first three draft picks in 2017 are all the proof we need to confirm this truth, along with the fact that they simply don’t have anyone behind the veteran to win games if he isn’t around.

In Round 1, they landed Clemson receiver Mike Williams. He’ll certainly be a big target downfield, and his ability to go up and get balls on the sideline and end zone fits Rivers’ repertoire to a T.

Then on Friday, San Diego beefed up its offensive line, landing two of the best linemen in the draft.

The first of the two was Forrest Lamp, who is honestly the best overall offensive lineman in the draft. He really should have been selected in Round 1, but some crazy events caused him to fall right into the lap of San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. A tackle at Western Kentucky, Lamp blew away scouts at the combine and has the potential to be a dominant guard in the NFL.

Then in Round 3, the Chargers nabbed Dan Feeney, a four-year starter at Indiana, where he paved the way for huge seasons for the likes of  Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard.

These two guys have a real chance to be starters for the Chargers in their rookie seasons. At the least, they bolster an offensive line that needed the support.

Loser: Seahawks leave us scratching our heads

It’s hard to say any Seattle Seahawks draft should be in the “loser” category. They have proved everyone wrong in the past. But what they did in the second round Friday made zero sense.

They had the second overall pick of the second round. Then they traded it to the Jaguars, who were just one spot below them, and watched as Jacksonville took the best offensive tackle in the draft. Seattle desperately needed an offensive tackle, and it could have taken Cam Robinson, plugged him immediately into the starting lineup and had an instant upgrade.

Instead, John Schneider and Co. did what the tend to do, which is invested into the defensive line by taking a player who fell because he gave questionable effort in college — Malik McDowell. This is a kid who could be a Pro Bowler, but he could bust just as plausibly. More than that, Seattle already has a darn good, deep defensive line.

This is a bold take, but this scribe will be surprised if McDowell does a whole lot for Seattle in the next couple of years, if at all.

Then later in the second round, the Seahawks finally addressed their offensive line taking center Ethan Pocic out of LSU. But if they were going that route, then Ohio State’s Pat Elfein was the logical choice.

These picks are head scratchers. They let the best offensive lineman walk right past their front door, then took a guy who would have been available much later while letting the top center in the draft fall to the Minnesota Vikings.

Winner: Washington hauls in two tremendously talented defenders

After Jonathan Allen fell to Washington in Round 1 at No. 17 overall, it landed another former Alabama star in Ryan Anderson.

“Ryan Anderson is an explosive edge rusher. … He sets a physical edge. He converts speed to power better than any edge rusher in this draft,” Mike Mayock of NFL Network said of Anderson. … “He’s a leverage player. He gets underneath you and knocks your jock on the ground. I like him in the run game. I like his energy in the pass game and he’s an all-day sucker. Really good football player.”

A team that needed help at the linebacker position, Anderson can play inside and out while providing a much-needed boost to the pass rush.

Then in the third round, Washington landed one of the best cover corners in the draft in UCLA product Fabian Moreau, who fell because of an injury in his pro day.

But he’ll be ready for the season, barring any delays in his recovery, and will be a tremendous addition to Washington’s secondary playing with Josh Norman.

We highlighted Washington as one of the teams that would likely bungle the draft due to all the dysfunction within the organization. We were wrong. This has been a very solid draft for Washington, which bolstered its defense in a major way.

Now, if only Kirk Cousins had some receivers…

Loser: Bills reach for Zay Jones, highlighting uninspired second-day effort

If you believe some of the rumors floating out there, new head coach Scott McDermott was running Buffalo’s draft.

Based on the way Buffalo drafted, we believe it. We also believe the reports that surfaced before the draft that general manager Doug Whaley and the entire front office could be already out the door as soon as the draft is over (more on that here).

Early in Round 2 (No. 37 overall) the Bills reached for receiver Zay Jones. Now, it’s worth pointing out that this young man broke the FBS record for career receptions at East Carolina and has hands of gold. However, he’s not an explosive player, and we figured he’d be a third-round player, at best.

Later on in the second round (No. 63 overall) they took a huge reach for offensive guard Dion Dawkins out of Temple. This is a young man who might have tremendous potential, but he’s a converted defensive tackle who is nowhere near ready to step into a starting lineup at the NFL level.

For the sake of Bills fans everywhere, we sure hope we’re wrong about these picks. But in no way did they get us excited. We just don’t see these players helping the Bills get to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Bonus Winner: James Conner picked up by hometown Steelers

This is really a dream come true. James Conner, a kid who grew up in Pennsylvania, went to the University of Pittsburgh and embodies the Steel City attitude, is now a member of the Steelers.

Overcoming cancer, playing at what he said was around 60-percent healthy to start the 2016 season and overcoming many other obstacles in life, Conner now gets to prove he’s good enough to become a star at the NFL level.

Even though he wasn’t 100-percent healthy last year as he recovered his health following cancer, Conner racked up 1,394 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. Remarkably, two of his best games occurred in the second and third games against Penn State and Oklahoma State, when he was at his weakest.

We wish Conner nothing but the best. He’s definitely earned his way to this point. Now it’s time to step it up a notch, and we know he’s up to the task.

About the author

Jesse Reed

Jesse Reed

Managing Editor here at Sportsnaut. Featured on Yardbarker, Foxsports.com and MSN.com, and formerly was a breaking news writer/NFL analyst for Bleacher Report.