The mid and late rounds of the NFL draft are just as critical to a team’s success as the first and second rounds. Every year there are late round grabs that become starters, and even all-pros. Let’s take a look at some day two and three projections that will be perfect fits for the AFC East teams.
Offense: Alaric Jackson – OL, Iowa
Usually it is instilled in an Iowa offensive lineman how to become an effective run blocker, due to the style of play the Hawkeyes exhibit. Jackson certainly possesses the mindset to open holes in the running game, but needs a little polishing in pass protection. Regardless, he has a massive frame to work with and can really play all spots on the line outside of center. Plus, three out of the five starters on the Bills offensive line will be 29 by week one, so a young and talented lineman is a no brainer.
Defense: Robert Rochell – CB, Central Arkansas
Outside of the top three corners for the Bills, there are certainly a few question marks. A tremendous athlete like Rochell would be a perfect mid round snag to learn from elite corner Tre’Davious White. There is a high ceiling with Rochell because he already has that athleticism and the willingness to play physical at the next level. It would be up to the Bills’ defensive staff and strength/conditioning coaches to mold this player into a starting corner.
Offense: Tommy Doyle – OL, Miami (OH)
Since the Dolphins only have two seventh round picks after having one each in rounds one through four, this pick is a late round project. Doyle is a mammoth at 6’8” and nearly 330 lbs, but he is very inexperienced due to making the flip to offensive tackle from defensive line when he got to Oxford. He has all the tools to become an effective seal on the edge but needs time and coaching to perfect his craft.
Defense: Hamilcar Rashed Jr. – OLB, Oregon State
The Dolphins should go with an edge player with their number 18 selection in the first round. The only problem is that with the high rankings of those edge players in the day one range, it will likely be a more natural 4-3 defensive end that they will try to transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Rashed Jr. is already a standup rusher from the edge who could easily be used primarily in pass rush situations to start his career.
New York Jets
Offense: Demetric Felton – RB, UCLA
Felton is a great third down running back who is just as effective catching the ball out of the backfield as he is running it. He can make people miss in space and is extremely decisive when picking his holes. The Jets should get a player like Felton who is great at running option routes to give their new quarterback some easy completions.
Defense: Marco Wilson – CB, Florida
The black cloud that shrouds his costly cleat toss vs. LSU may travel with Wilson his entire career. Regardless he is still a capable corner who can succeed in the right situation. He can run with any wideout but sometimes loses track of the ball. Wilson projects best in zone coverage coming down hill to hit the receiver at the catch point with solid tackling skills.
New England Patriots
Offense: Nico Collins – WR, Michigan
The Patriots are loaded up with mid-round picks and did a fantastic job addressing the tight end position through free agency, but they are still trying to figure out what to do with N’Keal Harry. If the Pats grab Collins then it makes their decision easy on trying to move Harry from New England. Collins is a strong wideout who uses that strength to overpower corners and make tough grabs. He also clocked a 4.42 second 40-yard dash, which solidifies his standing as a mid-round talent.
Defense: Reed Blankenship – Safety, Middle Tennessee State
Blankenship is an absolute tackling machine from the safety spot, having 108 tackles in 2018 and would have been over 100 if not for a shortened season this year. Devin McCourty isn’t getting any younger either and the Pats should be looking for a replacement. Blankenship can be a starter in a defense that allows him to play centerfield, having the speed and IQ to know where the ball is going, and the athleticism to make plays on it.