This week’s Random Thoughts focuses more on players to watch in the later rounds, but first let’s start with two big name players...
- I am usually against taking a running back in the first round and this year is no different. Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook are good players, but I tend to believe the real value for the position lies in the mid- and late-rounds. The “first round RB” selection seemed to lose some steam over recent years but has ramped back up after Ezekiel Elliott’s massive rookie season. The line is a little more blurry for Christian McCaffrey, who should be able to play RB and WR, but even then I would be hesitant.
- I’ve found a couple of mid/late round cornerbacks that I really like. The first is Corn Elder, out of Miami. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks were pumping him up last week. Elder’s grades land usually in the 4th-5th rounds. Let’s start with the positives: he has speed to stick with receivers, mirrors their routes well, and demonstrates strong instincts and intellect on the field. As for the negatives, the main knock on him is his height (5’10”). He can get out-matched physically as well. This is going to eliminate him from some draft boards. Even with these negatives, the simple fact is he’s still a very good corner and worth the 4th (or 5th) round price tag.
- The other corner of note is Houston’s Howard Wilson. His style is very different compared to Elder’s. Wilson is a big corner (6’1”) who uses his size well, especially when isolated on ‘jump balls.’ He is at his best when giving the receiver a cushion because he reads quarterbacks well and is a willing, solid tackler. Playing this soft man coverage allows him to keep the receiver in front of him and he can close quickly on the play. His ball skills are on full display when jumping routes. He had two interceptions in his game against Cincinnati by pouncing in front of the receiver. Because he so often is ready to explode forward and make a play, he can get caught flat-footed and get beat deep. Wilson will also likely be a fourth or fifth round pick.
- Keep an eye on Texas A & M receiver Josh Reynolds. He was extremely productive in college, increasing his yardage totals every year (842, 907 and 1039). He also snagged 30 touchdowns over those three seasons. Reynolds is a tall, lean receiver that can hit on deep routes. He’s a long stride runner, so I found that his deep speed was good while his acceleration in short distances was lacking. He can be thrown off going up against physical defenders, too. In many ways, he reminds of former Titan Justin Hunter. I know that sounds like a big criticism but I loved Hunter as a prospect (had him as the second-best receiver in the class, behind DeAndre Hopkins). There’s a lot to like about Reynold’s game and given the physical traits and production, I think he’s well worth a fifth round selection.
- The more I look at this tight end class, the more likely I feel that the Titans wait until the third round or later to grab one. My bet would be on Jake Butt in the second round if they manage to add a selection in that round. If they stick and pick in the first, then I think someone like George Kittle becomes very likely in the third or fourth round. He’s an ideal blocking tight end, sliding into the H-back role as well. He isn’t going to be someone that catches a lot of passes (or even manage to get open for a ton of them). My hunch is Mike Mularkey would like the formation versatility that Kittle would allow, particularly in the big sets.