NFL draft winners, losers: Patriots prosper, Cowboys confound on Day 2
On Friday, offensive linemen and cornerbacks were in high demand, and there was even a mini-run on quarterbacks, with three signal-callers being taken in the span of four picks. With the first three rounds complete, a few teams and players stood out as clear beneficiaries of the evening's action, while several others were left in questionable spots.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from Day 2 of the 2021 NFL draft:
New England Patriots: Bill Belichick's recent record on Day 2 has been spotty at best, but this is the kind of haul the coach needed to accelerate his team's return to form. Keeping the Nick Saban pipeline running after taking Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the No. 15 overall pick, the Patriots used their second-round selection on another Crimson Tide product in defensive tackle Christian Barmore, a first-round talent and perhaps the best player available entering Friday. New England further bolstered its pass rush by adding Oklahoma's Ronnie Perkins toward the end of the third round.
Both players require more polish and consistency in their approach, but Belichick seems like just the person to help them realize their potential. The moves represented a significant step in the defense's reloading.
Zach Wilson: New York Jets GM Joe Douglas has evidently learned from his missteps with Sam Darnold, as he's now investing heavily in providing the BYU quarterback and No. 2 pick ample support. Following his move to trade up for USC offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in Round 1, Douglas used the lone remaining piece of his Friday arsenal to equip Wilson with a shifty and surehanded target in Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore. The state of the secondary could leave Wilson playing catch-up frequently as a rookie, but the offensive pieces are starting to come together nicely.
Los Angeles Chargers: Premier players at positions of need now have twice fallen into GM Tom Telesco's lap in this draft. One day after resolving their longstanding left tackle issue by securing Northwestern's Rashawn Slater, the Bolts solidified their secondary with Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. with the No. 47 pick. Beyond his size, Samuel has almost everything else needed to be a longtime starter at the next level. Georgia tight end Tre' McKitty was a reach in the third round, however.
Rondale Moore: At just 5-7 and 181 pounds, Moore faced an unclear pro outlook as he awaited to see whether the organization that selected him would be openminded enough to use him in a fashion befitting his talents. The Purdue wide receiver – the Arizona Cardinals' choice with the No. 49 pick – landed in perhaps the optimal spot, however, as coach Kliff Kingsbury has shown himself willing to overlook size for game-breaking talent. Moore certainly fits that bill, and Kyler Murray should be able to find ways to get him the ball in space, which will allow his explosiveness to shine through.
Dave Gettleman: It's never too late for one to change their ways, as the typically rigid 70-year-old GM of the New York Giants now has traded back twice in the draft. His Saturday haul was particularly impressive, as second-round pass rusher Azeez Ojulari of Georgia and third-round cornerback Aaron Robinson should be able to boost the defense in both the short and long term.
Cleveland Browns: No one would have batted an eye if the Browns had used their first-round pick on Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Instead, Cleveland added Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II and returned for the multi-talented defender in the middle of the second round. Owusu-Koramoah's explosiveness and range in coverage should be put to good use in defensive coordinator Joe Woods' scheme. Third-round wide receiver Anthony Schwartz is unpolished, but he has a solid claim as the fastest player in this year's draft.
Patrick Mahomes: The Kansas City Chiefs have no intention of letting their star quarterback get harassed again after injuries along the offensive line helped allow the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' pass rush victimize him in Super Bowl 55. Following its trade for offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., the team added another former Oklahoma standout in center Creed Humphrey. The decision was met with immediate approval from the signal-caller himself.
Kyle Trask: The Florida quarterback might be facing an uphill battle to establish himself as a reliable starter in the NFL, but he finds himself in a promising place for his development after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him the final pick of the second round. Tom Brady and Bruce Arians are ideal tutors for the young passer, and Trask won't face any pressure to step into action for some time.
Miami Dolphins: After the Denver Broncos leapfrogged his team to select North Carolina running back Javonte Williams early in the second round, GM Chris Grier later on Friday warned against reaching for a need. That patience has paid off, as the Day 2 additions of safety Jevon Holland and tight end Hunter Long add to an impressive haul that began with first-round wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and pass rusher Jaelan Phillips. A running back would help round out the class, but Miami is in good shape.
Sam Darnold: One day after the Carolina Panthers opted against bringing on a top passer to push Darnold, the team exercised the quarterback's fifth-year option. That was just the start of the day's good news for the signal-caller, as the front office buoyed him with its Day 2 haul of LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (who's already experienced in offensive coordinator Joe Brady's system), BYU offensive tackle Brady Christensen and Notre Dame tight end Tommy Tremble. Not bad for a player who looked like he might have a hard time finding a starting spot before the Panthers pounced on him in a trade.
Trey Sermon: The Ohio State running back and Oklahoma transfer ended his college career on the upswing with a late surge, and his pro outlook is particularly promising after he landed with the San Francisco 49ers in the third round. Kyle Shanahan's scheme should be the perfect fit for Sermon, and the 6-0, 215-pound back should form a fun pair with quarterback Trey Lance, who can also rampage through defenses with his legs.
Aaron Rodgers: Maybe the moves won't placate the disgruntled quarterback, but the Green Bay Packers at least did something to help him out. The team addressed its hole at center by taking Ohio State's Josh Myers in the second round before finally picking up a wide receiver in Clemson's Amari Rodgers in the third.
Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones and Co. made it their mission to load the defense with the kind of playmakers new coordinator Dan Quinn would relish. The returns from four Day 2 picks, however, were mostly uninspiring. Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph could become the ballhawk this secondary has long lacked, but his inexperience and underdeveloped feel for the position make him a risky option for a substantial role early in his career. Neither UCLA's Osa Odighizuwa nor Iowa's Chauncey Golston do much to move the needle along the defensive line, and Oregon State cornerback Nahshon Wright is a massive project.
Carson Wentz: Apparently the Indianapolis Colts aren't as concerned with outsiders about their hole at left tackle. GM Chris Ballard double-dipped on his defensive front by taking Vanderbilt DE Dayo Odeyingbo after grabbing Michigan DE Kwity Paye on Day 1. Maybe there's another move coming, but this should raise serious concerns for a quarterback who took a league-high 50 sacks in 2020 despite playing in only 12 games.
Najee Harris: It sure seemed like the Pittsburgh Steelers' focus would turn to its patchwork front after the team used its top selection Thursday on the Alabama running back. But the organization instead chose Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in Round 2. The Steelers finally turned their attention to the line in the third round with Illinois center/guard Kendrick Green, but the addition feels slightly underwhelming. Given Ben Roethlisberger's diminishing ability and the outlook along the line, Harris could have a rough time as a rookie.
Seattle Seahawks: So much for giving Russell Wilson his highly desired offensive line help. Seattle had other plans with its first selection, grabbing Western Michigan wide receiver D'Wayne Eskridge in the second round. The 5-9, 190-pound target has easy speed, but he's already 24 and more of an open-field threat than a complete receiver.
Los Angeles Rams: Can a 155-pound receiver successfully navigate the NFL? We're about to find out the answer when Louisville wide receiver Tutu Atwell takes the field for Sean McVay. Given the Rams' abundance of pass-catching options with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and DeSean Jackson in the fold, this selection felt like a bit of a luxury for a team that had other matters to address.
Jared Goff: While the Detroit Lions are taking a patient approach to their post-Matthew Stafford rebuild, they're not doing much to give Goff weapons in the passing game. GM Brad Holmes hasn't selected a receiver through the first three rounds, leaving the team with castoffs Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams as the leading options. This will be a run-heavy outfit, but even with second-year back D'Andre Swift's contributions in the passing game, the configuration might be untenable for Goff.
Melvin Gordon: The Broncos running back voiced his discontent earlier this offseason, saying he felt he was "overlooked." With Denver using an early pick on Williams, it seems as though Gordon will face at least another time share in the backfield. Given that he's entering a contract year, he'll need to make the most of whatever opportunities come his way.
Davis Mills: Whereas Trask enters the NFL in perhaps an ideal situation, Mills already finds himself at the center of a mess with the Houston Texans. The Stanford signal-caller likely isn't ready for any substantial role early in his career after making just 11 starts in college, yet Houston can't really commit to any path amid the uncertainty on Deshaun Watson's future. Even if the star quarterback and the franchise make a clean break, this hardly seems like the right atmosphere for a young signal-caller to properly develop.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.