The third day of the NFL Draft is a scout’s dream. Day 1 is a who’s who of stars in college and high profile players with the ability to alter franchises immediately and with the greatest impact. Day 2 of the NFL Draft is a lot of tending to glaring holes in the roster (see the 2017 Miami Dolphins’ selections of Raekwon McMillain and Cordrea Tankersley for evidence).
But Day 3? Day 3 is the place where lower profile niche players are targeted with a specific vision in mind. A few higher profile players have found their way on to Day 3 this year, prospects who some in the draft sphere considered viable plug and play starters. Each has a unique case study and set of circumstances which has led them to fall into the “scout’s day”.
TE Jake Butt, Michigan
Butt is here due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his health. Butt is a well rounded player with a better skill set than a number of the six TEs to go in the first three rounds. But a torn ACL (right knee) in the Orange Bowl has put Butt off the table as an option to walk in and contribute for a team. As such, Butt’s slide takes him into the third day of the draft. Butt is reportedly on schedule to participate in training camp but expectations are tempered due to the injury.
WR/TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
Hodges was a Combine darling after testing with super explosion and straight line speed. For a player pushing 260 lbs, Hodges opened many eyes with that upside. Yet Hodges is still on the board because of his film. He’s a true “tweener” and I have a difficult time slotting him comfortably to either Tight End or Wide Receiver. Hodges has played less than twenty snaps as an in line player in his career at Virginia Tech (according to Pro Football Focus) and his reps as a receiver illustrated lethargic breaks and a failure to create space. Hodges has always been more of a long term project and you’re seeing the NFL treat him as such.
DT Jaleel Johnson, Iowa
Johnson is a heavy hitter between the tackles and has some of the more impressive hand usage that you’ll see in the class. Yet I’ve fallen for players like Johnson before (see fellow Iowa DT Carl Davis, who I scored as a second round selection). Johnson is more of a two down player and offers minimal influence on the passing downs. As a result, Johnson is a devalued asset in the early portion and you saw NFL franchises target interior defensive linemen with some more penetration skill. Names like Ogunjobi, Vanderdoes and Nazair Jones don’t have the power at the point of attack that Johnson shows, but they also have more three down ability.
QB Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh
I’m not quite ready to take a “loss” with my assessment of Peterman because I did score him with a late 3rd RD value. But Peterman being passed over for the likes of C.J. Beathard from Iowa is a bit baffling. What does this say about Peterman? That the NFL likely does not subscribe to the upside of his arm abilities. We knew Peterman was a marginal passer with his skills pushing the ball down the field; but apparently the NFL thinks the needed baseline strength is missing.
DE Carl Lawson, Auburn
Lawson’s appearance can be attributed to one thing and one thing only: medicals. Sure, he doesn’t have the length that many teams are searching for in an edge rusher, but he wins with speed and violence as a player. But the medical history with Lawson is extensive and it’s apparent that NFL teams haven’t found the sweet spot to take a risk on him yet.