One of the frustrating aspects of being a fan of the NFL Draft is that popular analysis is fixated on the draft’s first round. The first round is significant, for obvious reasons, but prospects drafted in rounds two through seven make up the bulk of a team’s draft class and, ultimately, determine if that class was wise or a complete bust. In the hopes of shedding a bit of necessary light on some those lower-round prospects, I wanted to talk about those players who can fill similar niches to some of the more hyped prospects.
Draft WR Gary Jennings in the fifth, not Emanuel Hall in the third
Both players fulfilled the same roles on their team: the designated deep threat. Hall has Jennings beat in terms of pure speed, but Jennings isn’t a slouch having run a 4.42 at the combine. Hall also struggled to stay healthy in the physical SEC, and players with nagging injuries tend to stay that way in the NFL. Jennings proved to be the more productive, physical and, most of all, healthier option in college.
Draft RB Ryquell Armstead in the fifth, not Damien Harris in the third
Both players are stylistically indistinguishable. They’re built like boulders, with the decisiveness to make a single cut and barrel up the field, treating defenders like so many bugs in front of their windshield. But as far as I can see, it’s only because Harris comes from the illustrious Alabama and Armstead hails from lowly Temple that the former is considered to be head-and-shoulders superior to the latter. Harris will get drafted earlier, but assuming they get drafted by teams that don’t ask them to move laterally very often, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Armstead carve out a role for himself that matches his colleague.
Draft DE Sutton Smith in the sixth, not Chase Winovich in the third
Both defensive ends played like their hair was on fire as edge rushers in college, but Smith offers the better versatility of the two. Smith has a future as a SAM-type linebacker on early downs and a situational rusher on passing downs or even as a middle linebacker. It’s questionable if Winovich can handle a full-time edge roll himself at 6’3”, 250 pounds. But it’s unclear if he has the lateral agility to play any other spot.
Draft DT Jerry Tillery in the second, not Christian Wilkins in the first
No one can take Christian Wilkins’s pedigree and production against top competition away from him. But NFL teams want upside when they draft a player in the first two rounds and Wilkins’s upside is as a decent starter. Tillery, on the other, has the former Clemson Tiger beat in every discernible athletic category. The tape also shows a player with reliable go-to moves against guards and centers. Expect Tillery to out-produce Wilkins when it comes to pass rushing.