5 best picks from Day 2 of the NFL draft
With Rounds 2 and 3 in the books, it’s time to highlight the best moves from Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
There was a lot of talent on the board heading into Friday night but two players that stole the early spotlight were fellow injured linebackers Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack, who got drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars respectively. While both players represent great value picks at the top end of the second round, given the injury risk for both players, we’ve decided to highlight five others that stood out as great picks:
1. Jonathan Bullard, DE, Chicago Bears
The Bears plucked good players all night and Bullard is a player we saw as a borderline first-round talent. He led the nation with a +51.5 grade against the run, using great instincts to feel and defeat blocks. He did most of his work on the inside at Florida, but he’s not a classic defensive tackle and he’s versatile enough to play up and down the line of scrimmage. Bullard’s best role is likely on the outside on early downs where he can match up with tight ends and offensive tackles while trying to get the most of him as a pass rusher on the interior in nickel situations. That’s the part of Bullard’s game that needs to improve and likely forced the drop to Round 3, but he has the athleticism and block-destruction skills to develop into a solid pass rusher at the next level.
2. Joe Thuney, T/G, New England Patriots
After grading among the nation’s best guards in 2014, Thuney kicked out to left tackle last season and finished fifth in the nation — fourth in the draft class — at +35.6 overall. He moves well and locks onto blocks in the run game (+24.1, fourth in the class) and he’s only surrendered 14 pressures on 843 snaps in pass protection over the last two years. Thuney is a nice fit for New England as his position versatility will allow him to back up starters Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer at tackle while competing for a starting spot at guard in the meantime. Throw in New England’s love for moving players in and out along the offensive line and Thuney should see the field early on.
3. Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City
The Chiefs’ interior pass rush outside of Dontari Poe has been non-existent in recent memory. That will be changing with the addition of Chris Jones. The Mississippi State defensive tackle was the most dominant interior pass rusher in the country when he wanted to be in 2015. He had the second-highest pass rushing grade against Power-5 competition among interior defenders, trailing only DeForest Buckner who went inside the top 10. He has the height (6-6) and length (34 ½-inch arms) that will fit in perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end in Kansas City’s scheme. Taking the 12th-overall player on our draft board at No. 37 overall is insane value.
4. Cody Whitehair, OG, Chicago Bears
Is he a guard? Is he a tackle? Is he a center? It really doesn’t matter, Whitehair can put on a blocking clinic no matter where you line him up. At Kansas State he was an offensive tackle and finished the season with the highest grade of any tackle in the FBS. What really stands out is Whitehair’s snap-to-snap consistency. His hands and feet are in perfect position play after play after play, and it leads to a lot of searching to find any rep where he is beaten cleanly. His pass and run blocking grades were both among the top five for the draft class at tackle.
5. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Minnesota
It might not have been a “need” per se, but Alexander is one injury or one free agent walking away from being thrust into a starting role. When re-grading the draft, talent always trumps need, and Alexander brings a high-level skill set to the table. The Clemson cornerback had maybe the toughest assignment in 2015 of any cornerback in college football. He was frequently asked to shadow the opposing team’s top receiver and was also asked to play some zone coverages on an island with no underneath support. Even under those less-than-ideal conditions, Alexander yielded only 19 receptions on 57 targets in 14 games. Those are ridiculous numbers for a late second-round selection.