The NFL draft is in the books, and there’s more analysis out there than you could possibly read.
So naturally, here’s another article about the draft to read. You’ve seen the draft grades, the “winners and losers” columns, and the “what comes next” articles. We’ll stay out of the first round because we know what those players can do—today we’ll be looking at players not drafted in the first round that can contribute immediately to their respective teams.
Ronald Jones III, RB, Buccaneers
With Doug Martin out of the picture, Jones seems to be the obvious choice to become the feature back. He improved production each year he was in college and should take some of the pressure off the struggling Jameis Winston. He can contribute in the running and passing games and has the explosiveness to be a big-play threat. Executives were worried about his workload in college, but the great players welcome more touches. Tampa Bay got a good one here.
Josh Jackson, CB, Packers
Five years down the road, we could very well see another Packer Super Bowl victory as a result of this draft—the Packers addressed almost every need this year (I still think they need a pass rusher, but next year’s class is loaded—and thanks to Gutekunst, they have two first-round picks to work with), and Josh Jackson was an absolute steal in the second round. A first-round talent, Jackson is a tall, ball-hawking corner—he didn’t run the fastest 40-time at the combine, but he has the football IQ to potentially start for the Packers immediately.
Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals
The Cardinals are building for life after Larry Fitzgerald, and there’s no better mentor for Kirk than the 11-time Pro Bowler. Kirk is a dynamic slot receiver that can make plays underneath but also has the ability to break away for the big play. When he’s not being used on the offensive end, he’ll be a key contributor in the return game. It’s not known who will be under center in Arizona yet, but whoever it is will have a great target in Christian Kirk.
Sam Hubbard, DE, Bengals
This was a player I really wanted the Packers to target—the Bengals are known for their hard-nose defense, and Hubbard should have no problem fitting right in. The edge rusher from Ohio State has the work ethic and frame to thrive in the NFL, but his athleticism has been called into question. Don’t listen to the doubters, Hubbard took the starting spot after Joey Bosa left for the draft and hasn’t looked back since. Hubbard should be utilized immediately in packages for new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens
It likely won’t be Lamar Jackson from the get-go in Baltimore, but that doesn’t mean Andrews can’t have immediate contributions with Joe Flacco. The Ravens are so starved at tight end, in fact, that they drafted two in the first three rounds (Hayden Hurst was the Raven’s first of their two first-round picks). Andrews is not known as a blocking tight end, but that is something that can be developed. What can’t be taught is his big frame and playmaking ability across the middle of the field. This tight end combo has a bright future in Baltimore.
Will Hernandez, G, Giants
How do you follow up drafting the best running back prospect of the last 10 years? You give him big boys to block for him up front. A four-year starter at UTEP, Hernandez is a leader on the field who is balanced in pass protection and run blocking. He should be able to step in immediately for the Giants, who, with the addition of Nate Solder in free agency, are looking at an offensive line that’s not half bad.
Arden Key, DE, Raiders
The curious case of Arden Key—the end out of LSU had the potential to be a top-ten pick, but off-the-field issues caused him to fall to the third round. But he couldn’t have fallen to a better team in the Raiders—the defensive-minded Jon Gruden will find a place for Key in no time, and he will have the privilege of studying under one of the best pass rushers in the game in Khalil Mack.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts
With Andrew Luck (hopefully) returning to the lineup this upcoming season, the Colts made some good moves last weekend to improve the offense. One piece I really like is Hines—with the departure of Frank Gore to Miami, Luck needs someone he can rely on in the backfield. Hines is not a classic pound-it-inside guy, but he has elite speed—he ran the fastest running back 40-time at the combine at 4.38—and can contribute immediately in the receiving game.