NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Michigan

Most Surprising Moves Made in the Second and Third Rounds

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Michigan

The first two days of the 2014 NFL Draft are in the books, and only one more remains.

But the good news is, the later the draft round, the less predictable it becomes as we see the wild discrepancy between each team’s Big Board and the pundits’ mock drafts.

While some of the draft’s more heralded prospects still occupied the green room at Radio City Music Hall on Day 2, other players who thought they’d have to wait until Day Three or later got calls from NFL teams.

Some teams, meanwhile, just left us scratching our heads. Day Two of the 2014 NFL draft was full of surprises. Here are seven of them.

Louis Nix III Fell to No. 83

Somehow, the Notre Dame nose tackle fell from a projected first or early-second round pick to the third round.

The 6’2″, 331-pounder is a classic behemoth who can gobble up blockers in the middle of a 3-4 defense and free up linebackers and defensive ends to make plays. Nix’s November knee surgery, which caused him to miss five games, must have scared teams away. And with the NFL becoming more and more of a video-game passing league, nose tackles aren’t every-down players. However, Nix wasn’t expected to drop into the bottom half of the third round.

The Houston Texas thought he was close enough to them at the beginning of the fourth round, and traded the first pick of Day Three, No. 101, to the Philadelphia Eagles so they could swoop in and end Nix’s free-fall at 83.

Tom Savage Remains Undrafted

During the four months leading up the draft, it seemed every quarterback got his 15 minutes of fame. There was plenty of hype surrounding each and every one of them.

Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage had his. He went from a virtual unknown to being mentioned in the first-round conversation.

On Day Two, he plummeted back to earth and is still waiting for his phone to ring. Savage’s itinerant collegiate career began at Rutgers in 2009, where he threw for more than 2,000 yards. Then after an injury-shortened 2010 season, he transferred twice. First he went to Arizona and then to Pittsburgh, sitting out the 2011 and 2012 seasons in the process. Savage finally was back in the saddle in 2013, throwing for 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Despite that, he falls on the wrong side of the divide between early and late-round quarterbacks in the draft.

Browns Didn’t Take a Receiver

Who needs Draft Day when there’s real-life draft drama unfolding in Cleveland?

A day after Johnny Manziel jerseys began flying off the racks, a wet blanket fell upon the Dawg Pound with the news of Josh Gordon’s impending year-long suspension for violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

While this was revealed to the general public Friday, the Browns knew for two weeks that this could be coming, according to Mary Kay Cabot.

So even though they knew they could be without last year’s NFL leader in receiving yards (1,646) in 2014, the Browns used none of their three Day 2 picks on a wide receiver. Instead, they took Nevada guard Joel Bitonio at No. 35, Iowa outside linebacker Christian Kirksey at No. 71 and Towson running back Terrence West at No. 94 after trading back into the third round.

Then on top of all that, Nate Burleson, a receiver the Browns signed as a free agent, recently broke his arm during minicamp according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com. The use of the word “recently” in that report suggests this also is something the Browns were aware of before the draft began.

Cowboys and Redskins Struck a Deal

This was surprising on so many levels. It’s not unprecedented for division rivals to make deals later in the draft, but this was a high-stakes trade early in the second round.

The Washington Redskins had no first-round picks after a 3-13 season, then they went and gave their first pick of the draft to a team they have to play twice a year. The Dallas Cowboys acquired the No. 34 pick, the second one in the second round, from the Redskins for the No. 47 pick and a third-round pick (No. 78). The Cowboys used the pick to take Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who rang up a combined 20 sacks, 34 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles in 2012 and 2013.

It was a good pick for the Cowboys, but they don’t get second-guess immunity in this deal. They need more than one player to restock the league’s most generous defense in terms of yardage, and this trade left them with no more picks in Day Two. They have eight picks on Day Three, but six of them are seventh-rounders. Good luck with that.

 

Running Backs Finally Heard Their Names Called

It’s not surprising that no running backs were taken in the first round. The same thing happened last year.

This year, however, 21 more picks went by on Day Two without a running back being chosen. The drought ended when the Tennessee Titans selected Bishop Sankey (Washington) at No. 54. It’s the latest the first running back has come off the board since the Los Angeles Rams took Joe Auer of Georgia Tech with the first pick of the fifth round, 57th overall, in 1963, according to Pro Football Reference.

In an increasingly aerial league, running backs are like video stores in the Netflix era. However, after Sankey was drafted, what followed wasn’t surprising as much as it was amusing. Running backs suddenly flew off the board. Sankey was the first of three taken in a four-pick span, and seven were chosen within 46 spots to close out Day 2. It was almost like no one wanted to be the first to draft a running back, until the team needing to replace Chris Johnson finally relented.

Eight running backs were drafted on the day. It was only a matter of time.

Panthers Drafted Kony Ealy, Not A Defensive Back

The Carolina Panthers addressed their depleted receiving corps by taking Kelvin Benjamin in the first round.

On Day Two, they needed to focus their attention to their secondary, where Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell left in free agency.

Instead, the Panthers drafted inconsistent pass-rushing defensive end Kony Ealy of Missouri at No. 60 even though defensive ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson combined for 26 sacks for the Panthers in 2013. Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines and his 38 career pass breakups were still available.

Steelers Drafted Dri Archer

Apparently the ghost of Al Davis is haunting Heinz Field, because the Pittsburgh Steelers were seduced by speed in the third round.

They chose Dri Archer, easily the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.26-second 40-yard dash. The problem is, the Kent State product is 5’8″, 173 pounds, and no one knows if he’s a running back or wide receiver. He’s been listed as both.

What the Steelers needed with the No. 97 pick was a cornerback. Ike Taylor turned 34 on Monday. The Steelers defense yielded 11 plays of 50 or more yards last season, most in the NFL. Pittsburgh did a good job reinforcing the front seven with Ryan Shazier in the first round and Stephon Tuitt in the second round.

But instead of shoring up the defensive backfield with their third pick, the Steelers took a kickoff returner who maybe can help out as a third-down back. They could have acquired that on Day Three.


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