The run on running backs is coming, but it won’t be the only position blitzed in the second round.
Not a single safety or tight end went off the board among the top 32 and it took the final pick Thursday for the first running back to be crossed off the 2020 draft list.
The New Orleans Saints made a moderately surprising pick of center Cesar Ruiz 24th, especially given the depth of this center class. At least three more are likely to be drafted in the top 75, including Temple’s Matt Hennessy.
5 predictions for Friday:
1. The SEC love continues.
A record-setting 15 players from the Southeastern Conference were drafted Thursday, starting at No. 1 with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and ending with his backfield mate Clyde Edwards-Helaire. But there’s much more talent where they came from, starting with two more Alabama defensive backs — safety Xavier McKinney and cornerback Trevon Diggs. The position of Nick Saban’s early coaching expertise has produced bountiful pro-ready performers and the Cincinnati Bengals kick off the second round with a need at cornerback and safety. Another SEC safety, LSU’s Grant Delpit, is also a natural fit at No. 33.
2. Indianapolis makes its first pick in the draft at No. 34 Thursday night — the Colts traded the 13th pick for San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner — and general manager Chris Ballard finds a lot to like with the second pick in the second round.
Three players the Colts are sure to be discussing Friday are Wisconsin outside linebacker Zack Baun, Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor and Iowa defensive end A.J. EpenesaA.J. EpenesaA.J. Epenesa. All three Big Ten prospects are high-effort types who can contribute as rookies and came with fringe first-round grades.
The Colts are also one of the team’s in the early part of the second round with a need at wide receiver. Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, Jr. would give Philip Rivers a needed outside target to pair with T.Y. Hilton, who turns 31 in November.
Indianapolis also has the 44th pick.
3. If you didn’t notice when six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady left, a little reminder: Bill Belichick shops the value rack.
The thing is, the New England Patriots are consistently turning up solid players without paying a premium.
New England traded back, giving up the No. 23 pick on Thursday, to grow its stockpile of middle-round picks: 37, 71, 87 and 98 are all on the docket Friday.
Two players we think the Patriots like: Dayton tight end Adam Trautman and Boise State guard/tackle Ezra Cleveland.
New England struggled to get quality reps from tight ends last season and Cleveland has some versatility to work at tackle or guard.
4. General manager Bill O’Brien has the 40th overall pick and given the burn rate of the Houston Texans’ offseason, we expect the dumpster fire to escalate.
A short summation: O’Brien is no Belichick as a coach or personnel honcho.
Here’s a broad recap for context: The Texans traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals and took a bad contract in return without getting a first-round pick. We appreciate the skills of running back David Johnson, but he’s two years removed from his best season while Hopkins enters his physical prime looking for more money.
Similar to the makeup of his former employer in New England, O’Brien doesn’t have a GM overseeing his decisions. The groupthink method is failing.
In a trade of Stefon Diggs not long after, the Minnesota Vikings scored three picks, including a first-rounder, from the Buffalo Bills.
To double down, O’Brien traded a second-round pick for Brandin Cooks. Cooks has done fine in his career, but in bouncing from New Orleans to New England to the Los Angeles Rams also has five documented concussions and a contract worthy of a better player.
A reminder the Texans didn’t have a first-round pick in this draft because O’Brien hooked the moon to get left tackle Laremy Tunsil from the Miami Dolphins last summer.
5. Potential Cam Newton or Jameis Winston landing spots should be more evident by the end of the action Friday night.
Jacob Eason (Washington) is the only passer left among the top tier. He’s huge — 6-foot-6 — and has a cannon for a right arm. But the dropoff from there is a big one.
Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys and Patriots and falls just below Eason.
Teams that don’t grab one of these quarterbacks could be shopping the market which just so happens to house Newton and Winston, two former No. 1 picks with no natural landing spot at the moment.
–By Jeff Reynolds (@ReynoldsJD), Field Level Media