All “Day 2″ Team, 2008-2012
Taking the best of the NFL's second- and third-round picks, Pete Damilatis assembles a lineup that could rival one of first-round players.
All “Day 2″ Team, 2008-2012
Continuing our series of assembling the best rosters from each portion of the past five NFL drafts, we move to our All “Day 2″ Team built from players selected in Rounds 2 and 3.
You’d think this talent pool would struggle to compete with the more hyped and talented players that you find in our All-First Round Team, but this lineup stacks up fairly well by comparison.
You be the judge:
Quarterback: Russell Wilson (No. 75 overall, 2012)
Best Season: +47.7 overall (2012)
Much like the rest of the offseason, this debate comes down to an arms race between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. Examine our Signature Stats, and you won’t see much separating Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. They’re neck-and-neck in PFF QB Rating, Accuracy Percentage, and even the amount of time they spend in the pocket. Kaepernick has an edge in deep passing and throwing under pressure, while Wilson has been better using play action. Kaepernick is a bit more dangerous as a runner, but he’s also more careless, with eight fumbles to Wilson’s three. Wilson gets the nod here because he has nearly double the starts, but this argument seems destined to switch back and forth over the upcoming seasons.
Honorable Mentions: Colin Kaepernick (No. 36 overall, 2011)
Running Back: Jamaal Charles (No. 73 overall, 2008)
Best Season: +19.1 (2010)
With the running back position devalued in today’s NFL, only the most surefire prospects are considered first-round worthy. That leaves some very talented ballcarriers still on the board in the second and third rounds, which is where we find the star-studded quartet of Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, and LeSean McCoy. As versatile threats in both the running and passing game, these four regularly jostle among the top of our halfback rankings. In a true exercise of splitting hairs, Charles earns the top spot because he has the highest ceiling. He had the best grade of any NFL running back in 2010, and his 5.8 yards per attempt and 2.7 yards after contact per attempt over the past three seasons leads this group.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Forte (No. 44 overall, 2008), Ray Rice (No. 55 overall, 2008), LeSean McCoy (No. 53 overall, 2009)
Wide Receiver: Jordy Nelson (No. 36 overall, 2008), Mike Wallace (No. 84 overall, 2009), and Torrey Smith (No. 58 overall, 2011)
Best Seasons: Nelson (+17.6, 2011); Wallace (+10.3, 2011); Smith (+8.6, 2012)
In a pass-heavy league where prototypical No.1 receivers rarely make it out of the first round, this group still offers plenty of production. The Green Bay Packers may not have been willing to part with Greg Jennings if not for Jordy Nelson’s chemistry with their quarterback. Aaron Rodgers has a 147.1 passer rating in the past two seasons when targeting Nelson. Despite a down year in 2012, Mike Wallace had more yards on deep passes than any other receiver over the previous two seasons. Torrey Smith, meanwhile, has staked his own claim as a premier deep threat. His 12 touchdowns on deep passes since 2011 leads the league.
Honorable Mentions: DeSean Jackson (No. 49 overall, 2008), Eric Decker (No. 87 overall 2010), Randall Cobb (No. 64 overall, 2011)
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (No. 42 overall, 2010)
Best Season: +40.4 (2011)
It pays to wait on tight ends. While this position was barren on our All-First Round Team, the second and third rounds have given us some of the best young tight ends in the league. Jimmy Graham’s 1,310 receiving yards in 2011 were the second-most ever by a tight end in a season. Kyle Rudolph led the Minnesota Vikings with 81 targets and nine touchdowns last season. Martellus Bennett’s year with the New York Giants proved that he can be one of the best all-around tight ends in the league. And rookie Dwayne Allen’s excellent blocking gave him the second-highest grade of any tight end in 2012.
But when it comes to tight ends in the NFL, there’s Rob Gronkowski, and then there’s everybody else. Despite missing time with injuries, “Gronk’s” +74.7 grade over the past three seasons is by far the best of any tight end. He’s absolutely devastating as a run blocker, and his 38 receiving touchdowns since 2010 are the most of any player at any position. He has a lot of seasons left to play, but when all is said and done, Gronkowski may go down as one of the best second-round picks in NFL history.
Honorable Mentions: Martellus Bennett (No. 61 overall, 2008), Jimmy Graham (No. 95 overall, 2010), Kyle Rudolph (No. 43 overall, 2011), Dwayne Allen (No. 64, 2012)
Tackle: Sebastian Vollmer (No. 58 overall, 2009) and Phil Loadholt (No. 54 overall, 2009)
Best Seasons: Vollmer (+31.3, 2009); Loadholt (+17.3, 2012)
The second round of the 2009 draft was a sweet spot for offensive tackles, as Phil Loadholt, Sebastian Vollmer, and Will Beatty were all taken within seven picks of each other. As Adrian Peterson threatened the single-season rushing record this past season, Loadholt provided his typically stellar run blocking — he has the highest grade in that category of any right tackle since 2011. The New England Patriots wisely re-signed Vollmer to their right tackle spot this offseason, but he’s played just as effectively on the blindside in his career. He amazingly has only 11 negatively-graded games in his four-year career.
Honorable Mentions: Will Beatty (No. 60 overall, 2009), Jared Veldheer (No. 69 overall, 2010)
Guard: Andy Levitre (No. 51 overall, 2009) and Jon Asamoah (No. 68 overall, 2010)
Best Seasons: Levitre (+19.2, 2011); Asamoah (+15.0, 2012)
This relatively tame group is headlined by the versatile Andy Levitre, who in his four years with the Buffalo Bills took snaps at left tackle and center in addition to his usual left guard spot. He’s particularly reliable in pass protection, where his 98.5 Pass Blocking Efficiency was the best mark of any starting guard in 2012. With a nod to Louis Vasquez for his consistently positive marks, we’ll take Jon Asamoah as our right guard. He’s graded as a Top 10 player at that position since the Kansas City Chiefs gave him a starting role in 2011.
Honorable Mentions: Louis Vasquez (No. 78 overall, 2009)
Center: Max Unger (No. 49 overall, 2009)
Best Season: +27.1 (2012)
Our third-ranked center of 2012, Max Unger would hold up well against most of his peers. However, in this shallow pool, he’s a man among boys. His only remote competition for this spot was J.D. Walton, who earned a -31.9 grade in his last full season. It almost makes me understand how Jeff Saturday was voted to the Pro Bowl. No, wait, that still doesn’t make any sense.
Honorable Mentions: None
Edge Defender: Carlos Dunlap (No. 54 overall, 2010) and Justin Houston (No. 70 overall, 2011)
Best Season: Dunlap (+25.5, 2011); Houston (+16.0, 2012)
As with wide receivers, the evolution of the NFL has made elite pass-rushing prospects a premium in the first round. And yet teams still have still found production from those that fall further in the draft, though most candidates here have their caveats. Cliff Avril’s production has fallen far from his 2010 career-year. Paul Kruger was stuck in backup duty before his 2012 breakout. Michael Johnson’s +12.0 grade this past season was heavily inflated by a +8.8 performance in Week 3. And LaMarr Houston, though excellent as a run-defender, hasn’t brought much as a pass rusher.
For these two spots, we’ll go with two young pass rushers who have already staked them claim near the top of our rankings. Though only in the league for two seasons, Justin Houston has given the Chiefs a powerful pass-rushing complement to Tamba Hali. After generating just five quarterback pressures in his first 11 games, Houston has tallied 61 in his past 21 contests. The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t given Carlos Dunlap a full-time starting role yet, but his top-notch production makes you wonder why not. His 13.1 Pass Rushing Productivity in 2011 was fifth-highest of all 4-3 defensive ends with over 100 pass rushers, and his +16.8 grade in 2012 was ninth-best at his position.
Honorable Mentions: Cliff Avril (No. 92 overall, 2008), Paul Kruger (No. 57 overall, 2009), Michael Johnson (No. 70 overall, 2009), LaMarr Houston (No. 44 overall, 2010)
Interior Defender: Calais Campbell (No. 50 overall, 2008) and Jurrell Casey (No. 77 overall, 2011)
Best Season: Campbell (+33.8, 2012); Casey (+15.8, 2012)
Calais Campbell has finished as a Top 10-graded 3-4 defensive end in every season since he took a starting role in 2009. Always an effective pass rusher, he also tallied 34 run stops last season, tied for third-most at his position. Kendall Langford was similarly effective as a 3-4 DE for the Miami Dolphins, but he has not adapted well to a move to defensive tackle with the St. Louis Rams. Instead, we’ll give this second spot to Jurrell Casey, whose 59 run stops over his two NFL seasons lead all defensive tackles.
Honorable Mentions: Kendall Langford (No. 66 overall, 2008)
Linebacker: NaVorro Bowman (No. 91 overall, 2010), Daryl Washington (No. 47 overall, 2010), and Sean Lee (No. 55 overall, 2010)
Best Season: Bowman (+25.3, 2011); Washington (+12.8, 2012); Lee (+12.1, 2012)
It seems that 2010 was a vintage year for second- and third-round linebackers. With a nod to Brandon Spikes’ stout run defense, the top three players here are pretty clear. Navorro Bowman’s grade in the 2011 season, his first as a starter, led all inside linebackers. A starter from his first NFL game, Daryl Washington has proven to be one of the best all-around linebackers in the league. And despite playing in only six games in 2012, Sean Lee’s +12.1 grade was the sixth-highest at his position.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Spikes (No. 62 overall, 2010)
Cornerback: Brandon Flowers (No. 35 overall, 2008) and Lardarius Webb (No. 88 overall, 2009)
Best Season: Flowers (+21.1, 2010); Webb (+21.9, 2011)
The cornerback position here isn’t a notably deep one, but it is strong at the top. This past season was the first that Brandon Flowers wasn’t one of our Top 5-graded cornerbacks, and even then he was still Top 10 and allowed just a 65.6 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks. In Lardarius Webb’s first season as a starter in 2011, the 42.0 passer rating he surrendered (including the playoffs) was the lowest in the league. Casey Hayward deserves mention here as well, as his lock-down coverage this past season earned him our Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Honorable Mentions: Casey Hayward (No. 62 overall, 2012)
Safety: Jairus Byrd (No. 42 overall, 2009) and T.J. Ward (No. 38 overall, 2010)
Best Season: Byrd (+23.8, 2012); Ward (+14.9, 2012)
The last line of our defense starts with the best cover safety in the NFL today. This past season, Jairus Byrd grabbed five interceptions while allowing zero touchdowns and a 56.9 QB rating on throws into his coverage. He’s steadily improved in each of his four NFL seasons and was absolutely worth the franchise tag the Buffalo Bills used on him this offseason. The second spot here came down to three strong safeties with solid track records, but spotty injury histories. While William Moore and Louis Delmas have been effective when they’ve been able to stay on the field, we went with T.J. Ward, who had the best 2012 season of the three and was tied for fourth at his position with 22 run stops.
Honorable Mentions: Louis Delmas (No. 33 overall, 2009), William Moore (No. 55 overall , 2009)
Punter: Bryan Anger (No. 70 overall, 2012)
Best Season: +22.5 (2012)
Bryan Anger earns this selection by default, as he was the only kicking specialist taken in the first three rounds of the past five drafts. He finished tied for our eighth-highest punting grade in his rookie season, although many will say that no grade is high enough to justify taking a punter in the third round, particularly when your team has as many holes as the Jacksonville Jaguars do.
Honorable Mention: None.
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