OVERVIEW: In the first round of the NFL draft, teams often overlook need to take the best athlete on the board. However, when you get to the second round and the generally accepted top players are gone, teams often take the best player available to meet needs that haven’t been addressed in free agency. While they won’t reach for players just to satisfy a need, when you see the picks in the second round, they historically match up with a team’s primary weakness more often than first-rounders and teams like the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams get welcomed to the party.
1. Cleveland Browns – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC. The Browns landed their young quarterback in the first round. Now they add a downfield receiving threat to help replace Terrelle Pryor in the passing game as they start to cash in their harvest of draft picks that are coming this year and in 2018.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky. With all the free agent signings the new front office has made, offensive line has been left largely untouched despite being a need. Lamp is a first-round talent whom the Niners will happily grab up.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Tim Williams, OLB/DE, Alabama. The Jaguars continue to improve a defense that struggled in 2016 by adding a versatile player capable of playing linebacker or with a hand in the dirt at defensive end. With additions at all three levels of the defense, the Jags can hit the ground running.
4. Chicago Bears – Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple. The Bears are strong in the middle of their O-line, but neither Charles Leno nor Bobby Massie is dominant and there is little to no depth behind them. Dawkins is best suited for the right side, but adds to the competition that is likely coming in training camp.
5. Los Angeles Rams – Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State. This may be a hard sell because the Rams already have a versatile player who can be used as a receiver, rusher and return man in Tavon Austin, but they need playmakers and Samuel fits that description in giving Jared Goff the help he needs.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Dan Feeney, G, Indiana. This was a position of need that was obvious during the season and made even more necessary when the team cut D.J. Fluker last month. Feeney is a durable, four-year starter who matches talent and need.
7. New York Jets – Teez Tabor, CB, Florida. Viewed as a first-round pick until a sub-par performance at the Combine, Tabor’s stock has taken a hit, but the film doesn’t lie. He was a top corner in the SEC and made life miserable for the top receivers in the conference. As the Jets rebuild a struggling, aging secondary, Tabor is nice piece in that puzzle.
8. Carolina Panthers – Budda Baker, S, Washington. The Panthers secondary needs an overhaul because their struggles last year were as much the result of poor defensive back play as it was struggles on offense. Baker adds a young talent to compete opposite Kurt Coleman and help rebuild an area of need.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan. The Bengals lost veteran Andrew Whitworth to free agency and their only signing was former Bengal and Viking Andre Smith – a right tackle with diminishing skills. Moton will have a learning curve, but can compete immediately for a starting spot.
10. New Orleans Saints – Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina. The inexplicable trade of Brandin Cooks has created an opening. He’s an intermediate target who caught 400 passes in college, had a great week at the Senior Bowl and could quickly become a favorite target of Drew Brees.
11. Philadelphia Eagles – Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn. The Eagles lost DT Bennie Logan in free agency and didn’t replace him. Adams is a strong run stuffer who plays over his size as a two-down defensive tackle. He can provide an immediate upgrade to the interior D-line alongside Fletcher Cox.
12. Buffalo Bills – Obi Melifonwi, S, UConn. The Bills cut starters Corey Graham and Aaron Williams and haven’t adequately replaced them. Depth is needed and, whether he starts immediately or not, Melifonwi will work his way into that rotational mix in a hurry.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech. The Cardinals have gotten by for a decade with other teams’ veteran quarterbacks – Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer. With Palmer likely playing his last season, having a backup plan for the future is a must and Mahomes could be the long-term answer.
14. Indianapolis Colts – T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin. Having his brother in the same division may boost his stock, but Watt is a versatile player who holds up in coverage and can create havoc off the edge. He’s an overachiever, but one the Colts could get a lot of use out of early.
15. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma. Many teams won’t have him this high and he might stay on the board much longer than this projection, but he needs to go to an organization that can police its players. If not for off-field issues, Mixon would have been a first-round pick. Ozzie Newsome knows what he’s doing and Baltimore is the ideal landing spot for a kid in need of redemption and a second chance.
16. Minnesota Vikings – Dorian Johnson, G, Pitt. The Vikings finally make a pick and address an area of significant need. The Vikings addressed tackle in free agency, but, after cutting former starters Mike Harris and Brandon Fusco and not replacing them in free agency, they need to add depth to the roster or their offensive line will continue the struggles that plagued them in 2016 after a 5-0 start. He is a physical hitter who plays to the whistle and looks to finish guys off, something Minnesota could use on its new-look O-line.
17. Washington Redskins – Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn. The Redskins lost both of their starting defensive ends – Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francois – in free agency and need to find replacements because they are desperate to add young talent on the edge to go along with an aging core group.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneeers – Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee. The Bucs couldn’t run the ball at all last season and Doug Martin’s suspension to start the year won’t help any. Kamara is a fast-rising prospect who will be a role player but can add a dynamic component to the running game.
19. Denver Broncos – Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss. The Broncos offense hasn’t had a true difference-maker at tight end since Shannon Sharpe. When John Elway is your G.M. and he sees a big man who can stretch the seam and give a quarterback a downfield weapon, he can’t resist but to jump on him.
20. Cleveland Browns (from Tennessee) – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt. The Browns need help at all three levels of the defense. They got the edge rush help they needed with Myles Garrett in the first round. Now they start the rebuild process at the second level of the defense.
21. Detroit Lions – D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas. Foreman may be a reach here, but the Lions need a big complementary back to go along with speedy, but injury-prone Ameer Abdullah. Foreman’s between-the-tackles pounding style doesn’t fit all offenses, but it can work in Detroit with a thunder-and-lightning tandem.
22. Miami Dolphins – Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State. The Dolphins let Mario Williams and Dion Jordan go, so they need depth at the position, since Cameron Wake is 35 and will eventually need replacing. Willis can be a part-timer in the short term and be groomed to be Wake’s eventual replacement.
23. New York Giants – Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State. The Giants historically have been defined by strong linebacker play, but the level of play has fallen off badly in recent years and an infusion of young talent is needed to try to get back to that level.
24. Oakland Raiders – Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida. The Raiders had a need at defensive tackle last season – they were last in sacks despite having Kahlil Mack because of the lack of a push up the middle from their tackles. They’ve done nothing to address the problem in free agency, so the draft is the best way to help address this problem.
25. Houston Texans – Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy. Left tackle Duane Brown had a bounce-back season last year, but he’s 32. Combine that with right tackle Derek Newton being a question mark after tearing both patellar tendons at midseason, having young depth that can compete for the starting right tackle spot is a must, especially if they end up with Tony Romo.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida. Nobody gets more out of defensive backs than Pete Carroll, but the Seahawks have been losing players to free agency over the last couple years. Wilson is a veteran of the SEC wars and would give Carroll another toy to work with in his defensive backfield.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington. Another year, same old story. Alex Smith needs more weapons in the passing game and, while Kupp’s stock has slipped back a bit since the Combine, he can add a dimension that is currently missing. If Alvin Kamara is available, they jump because Andy Reid loves players with his skill set.
28. Dallas Cowboys – DeMarcus Walker, DL, Florida State. The Cowboys needed more depth up front last season and, while they made a couple replacement moves in free agency, they remain pretty much status quo. Besides, just about every player named DeMarcus ends up playing for Jerry Jones. This one is versatile and can play inside or on the edge, which is a bonus.
29. Green Bay Packers – Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado. The Packers secondary was awful last season and didn’t improve when the team cut Sam Shields and lost valued backup Micah Hyde in free agency. Green Bay has a penchant for developing young players and the demonstrated need at cornerback is clearly there.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama. The only Steelers free agent linebacker that re-signed was ageless veteran James Harrison, who is a part-time player at this stage of his career. After losing Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones in free agency, replacement players are needed and Anderson has the skill set to make an immediate impact.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State. The weakness of the Falcons offense was the interior of the O-line. They replaced retired guard Chris Chester with former Colt Hugh Thornton, but that isn’t enough to cure the problem. Siragusa can compete for an immediate starting job and help rebuild an O-line that struggled badly at times last year in protecting Matt Ryan from taking hits.
32. Carolina Panthers (from New England) – Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida. The Panthers have strong linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, but Keuchly’s style of play lends itself to injury and Davis is 34. If the Panthers want linebacker to remain a strength, they need to infuse young talent and Davis is a value pick at this spot.