NFL Draft Winners on Day 2: Giants, Browns, Jets, Lions, Panthers
By Rob Rang
Special to FOX Sports
With all due respect to the exceptional athletes selected Thursday in the opening round of the 2021 NFL Draft, many of the players most likely to make an immediate impact as rookies did not hear their names called until Friday’s second and third rounds.
Teams often are willing to gamble on upside with their first pick. Day 2 is often dedicated to filling more pressing needs with players who might not be quite as dynamic in the athleticism department but are frequently even more productive and dependable.
Here are the biggest storylines from Friday, including five future NFL stars selected on Day 2, five NFL teams well on their way to earning A’s on our post-draft report cards and a few more clubs that have some work to do to boost their rosters on Day 3.
FIVE FUTURE NFL STARS SELECTED ON DAY 2
The Broncos would not have traded up so aggressively without the intention of featuring Williams, the most bullish runner in this class. With Denver's speed at receiver and tight end to keep defenders out of the box, Williams has a chance to make an immediate impact in much the same way Josh Jacobs did for the Raiders two years ago.
Like Williams, the explosive Moore landed in the perfect system to take advantage of his unique skill set. Boasting speed and power, Moore should be able to feast in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense with opposing defenses focused elsewhere.
Featured in both my "Diamonds in the Rough" and "Honor Roll" pre-draft pieces, Eskridge is a personal favorite whose combination of elusiveness, speed and versatility should perfectly complement established stars D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett while injecting some juice into Seattle’s special teams.
It isn’t just skill-position players who complement each other well. Although perhaps not an elite athlete, Basham is one of the more polished and consistent rushers in this class. Further, his high-revving motor and technique should rub off on Buffalo’s first pick, Gregory Rousseau, giving the Bills a potentially lethal 1-2 punch of rushers from a class that supposedly lacked sure-fire prospects on the defensive line.
The Packers might not solve all of Aaron Rodgers' issues in Green Bay, but adding a dynamic chess piece in his near-namesake could be a great start. Clemson's Rodgers was second only to Heisman Trophy winner (and No. 10 overall pick) DeVonta Smith in yards after the catch last season.
FIVE TEAMS ACING ROUNDS 1-3
Dave Gettleman has received his share of criticism (including from me) for some of his past picks, but I love what Big Blue accomplished in the first three rounds of the 2021 draft. The Giants made "only" three picks, but no club did more with them. Gettleman broke his tendency, trading down (twice!) while still getting an explosive pass-catcher in Kadarius Toney, a dynamic edge rusher in Azeez Ojulari and one of the better all-around cornerbacks in the draft in Aaron Robinson.
Given that he and his wife, Brittan, welcomed a baby girl (Eden) on Thursday, it is all the more remarkable the work that Browns general manager Andrew Berry did while his club and city hosted the 2021 NFL Draft. The Browns nabbed one of the better cover corners in this draft in the first round in Northwestern’s Greg Newsome and added even more speed to the back end of their defense with flashy Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah in the second frame. I love the talent of both players and their fit in Cleveland even more, as the Browns' run-heavy offense should help the club get out to leads on opponents and be forced to pass their way back into games.
With a reinforced pass rush and the new speed in the back half, Cleveland seems well-prepared to handle comeback attempts from opponents. Speaking of complementary play, the draft’s speediest receiver, Anthony Schwartz, has the vertical game to keep opponents from creeping in the box to try to slow down the Browns’ run game and open more opportunities for Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Give new GM Scott Fitterer credit. After paying nickels on the dollar in the trade to get quarterback Sam Darnold out of New York, Fitterer added one of the better pass-blocking tackles in this draft in BYU’s Brady Christensen and ascending pass-catchers Terrace Marshall Jr. and Tommy Tremble, both of whom flashed despite suffering through inconsistent quarterback play last year. Oh, and don’t forget about their top pick, Jaycee Horn, the best cover corner in this draft.
If giving the Panthers credit for the help they’ve provided Darnold, one must acknowledge the job Joe Douglas is doing in New York to protect the investment made in No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson. The BYU QB's quick trigger and exceptional accuracy in the pocket and on the move should help him become the star the Jets have long been waiting for. The Jets aggressively traded up to secure the rights to the top guard in the class in USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, who should form a potentially solid left side with star sophomore left tackle Mekhi Becton. With one pick Friday, the Jets made it count, nabbing receiver Elijah Moore, who brings enough electricity to light up Broadway.
It is so easy to get caught up in all of the skill-position players, but I loved the Lions' old-school approach to bulking up the line of scrimmage. Detroit’s top pick, Oregon’s Penei Sewell, is the preeminent big man talent in this class and a guy I think has the traits to someday earn the yellow jacket in Canton. That is obviously high praise, but having evaluated Pac-12 linemen for the past 20 years and serving on the Morris Trophy Board, I can tell you Sewell is a special talent. I’m also quite high on the combination of Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike and North Carolina State’s Alim McNeil, who should prove to be quite the disruptive duo. The former is an agile penetrator and the latter a classic run-stuffer.
THREE TEAMS WITH WORK TO DO
Entering the draft with a league-low three picks (including just one of the first 128 selections), Seattle will need to make its selections matter – and likely has no choice but to focus on undrafted free agency to help flesh out the roster.
The Raiders once were described as having a mystique. Their best description might now be mystifying after a bizarre offseason in which the club traded away three starters on the offensive line. I’m actually higher on their top two picks – Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood and TCU safety Trevon Moehrig – than many seem to be, but I have a hard time envisioning this club building upon last year’s 8-8 season with this rookie class so far.
The Texans had only a couple of picks Thursday and Friday, and their first selection of Stanford quarterback Davis Mills might concern Houston fans more than reassure them, as it suggests that the club might be preparing for a future without Deshaun Watson. Fortunately for the Texans, they have plenty of options on Day 3, with an NFL-high seven selections.
One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others.