The primary focus for draft fans is on the first round, as that’s where the big names are called. Yet there is value to be had later in the draft every year. The real team building happens in the middle of the draft. When teams hit on picks later in the draft they set themselves up for success as they reap the benefit of getting good production at a dramatically reduced price.
I’ve gone through every pick that was made and have compiled a list of players that have the potential to challenge for starting time in 2017. I’m not using players drafted in the first or second round and I’m trying to find later round picks that were drafted too low or into a great situation for the skills they bring to their team.
This is a projection based on how difficult it will be for these players to find the field and what I think their impact can be once they get there.
Here are 10 players from the AFC that will challenge for starting time this season.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Chris Wormley
The Ravens drafted Wormley, a defensive lineman out of the University of Michigan in the third round with pick No. 74 overall. Wormley played up and down the defensive line while at Michigan showing a versatile set of tools and the ability to be disruptive playing in any gap. He consistently displayed good football instincts and was a very valuable player in college.
Wormley is 6’5”, 298 pounds and he has 34-1/8” long arms, giving him the requisite weight and length to play defensive end in the Ravens 3-4 defense. Wormley will be asked to control two gaps at times and his core power and anchor strength will allow him to plug holes at the line of scrimmage, but he’s also got good short area quickness and he’ll make plays if they allow him to attack up the field.
Wormley will come out of the box already assembled and will compete with Willie Henry, Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi for playing time.
Buffalo Bills linebacker Tanner Vallejo
The Bills selected Vallejo in Round 6 with pick No. 195 overall. Vallejo has outstanding sideline to sideline range and is a player that can excel in pursuit. He displays high football I.Q. to consistently find the football and what makes him intriguing is that he has enough athleticism to get there to make a play.
Vallejo has a slender build at 6’1” and 228 pounds, but the position he plays on defense is more about beating blockers to areas of the field with quickness and instincts and using that athleticism to chase from sideline to sideline. Vallejo projects as a WILL linebacker and playing on the weak-side of the formation. There he’ll be able to run and pursue to track down runners from behind, and he’ll drop into coverage; all strengths of his game.
Currently, Ramon Humber is starting at the weak-side linebacker position for Buffalo but Vallejo is in a good situation here to beat him out in camp or early in the season. I’d argue that Vallejo, while undersized, is in a very good situation to get on the field quickly.
Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi
This might be the easiest projection to make as the Browns are transitioning to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ 4-3 defense and after several years playing in a 3-4 base scheme, there aren’t a lot of interior defenders suited to play inside in a 4-3 on the Cleveland roster. The Browns grabbed Ogunjobi in Round 3 with pick No. 65 overall.
Ogunjobi, a 6’3”, 305-pound tackle out of UNC Charlotte put his skills on display at the Senior Bowl and did not look out of place at all. Ogunjobi plays with outstanding pad level, giving him good leverage to penetrate gaps quickly. He showcases very strong and active hands and does a good job of staying clean which allows him to stay involved in plays instead of being blocked.
He is perfectly suited to play 3-tech in the Browns 4-3 defense which allows him to occupy the gap between the guard and tackle and asks him to use his size and quickness to get up the field. The Browns front four has the makings of a very solid unit with Ogunjobi, nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett.