Every year immediately following the NFL Draft, I do the same thing: I watch and take notes on nearly 40 hours’ worth of post-draft press conferences. It’s a brutal mind-numbing slog, but it’s also quite possibly the most important and most valuable thing I do every offseason.
NFL GMs and head coaches lie all the time, fearful of giving away any important pieces of intel to the enemy, but the NFL Draft is something different. Teams have poured so much time and energy into this event. And most importantly, for a brief shining moment, they’re happy. They’re happy they got their guy and they’re excited to brag about him. And so, for once, they’ll tell us honestly why they liked a player, what they think about him, and how they envision him fitting into their scheme, and sometimes they’ll tell us even more than that.
Again, this is massively time-consuming, but not for you. I condensed all of the most important fantasy-relevant information here for your reading pleasure. Here’s Day 2, plus the most important takeaways from Day 3.
You can find Round 1 here.
Jets, Round 2: WR Elijah Moore (No. 34 overall)
Congratulations to the Jets on getting my guy, WR Elijah Moore.
And it seems as though the Jets are just as high on Moore as I am. When calling Moore to tell him he was going to be their pick, GM Joe Douglas said, “We were sweating this thing out, man. When we made the trade last night, we never thought this was going to happen.” HC Robert Saleh was beside himself, screaming at Moore, “LET’S GO MAN! I’m telling you, we’ve been excited about this. We thought we lost you when we moved up.”
When later asked to describe how OC Mike LaFleur felt, Saleh told reporters, “You should have seen him. The excitement. ‘Holy cow, he’s slipping.’”
Douglas opened up his Day 2 press conference by saying: "We really didn't think Elijah had any chance to make it to us today." A reporter asked Douglas if he felt it was tempting to trade back at that pick, and he answered resolutely, “We really didn’t think Elijah had any chance to make it to us. To get a player of his caliber… [He] was a top-25 player on our board. This was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”
When asked what this pick means for slot WR Jamison Crowder, Douglas gave the sort of evasive non-answer you’d expect from a quality NFL GM. But I think it’s unlikely Crowder is with the Jets in Week 1. Cutting him would cost the team only $1M while saving them $10.4M.
What should we expect from Moore in Year 1? Saleh told reporters, “When he's on the field you have to be able to expect everything. He can be in the backfield, he can get those jet sweeps, he can win 1 on 1s in the slot, he can play the X, take the top off the coverage. He's dynamic in the sense that you can do a lot of different things with him. You can call him a gadget guy if you want, you can call him just a true slot, he can play X. There's a lot of things that he can do. But to get a guy like him at 34 is just incredible to us.”
New York’s front office was clearly very excited to be able to land Moore on Day 2, but the reaction of the night belongs to Tennessee WR A.J. Brown. In a tender moment caught on camera, Brown could not stop crying, nor heaping hefty praise on his former teammate. You can watch that video here, but here it is transcribed (paraphrased):
Broncos, Round 2: RB Javonte Williams (No. 35 overall, via trade up)
GM George Paton and HC Vic Fangio didn’t give us much to go off of in their press conference, but I’m a big fan of reading between the lines. And in the notion that actions speak louder than words. I’ll hit on that in a bit, but here’s what was said in the press conference.
Paton told reporters, “We just think he is a special back. A three-down back, really good on first and second down. He can pass protect, and he can catch the ball in the backfield… He is going to help us—him and [RBs] Melvin [Gordon] and [Mike] Boone. I feel like you need two or three backs in this league to have success, and he is going to bring that to the table.”
Note: For dynasty players, I do think it’s noteworthy Paton made no mention of RB Royce Freeman.
When asked how Williams would complement Gordon, Paton replied, "I think they’re different backs so I think they will complement each other well. All three of them are different, and they all bring something different to the table. I think it’s a really good mix, I like having multiple backs and I think we’ve accomplished that.”
This all seems sort of underwhelming for Williams’ immediate potential in Denver. But I also think Paton and Fangio, and especially OC Pat Shurmur, liked Williams a lot more than they led on. And, more importantly, felt a bell cow RB (rather than just another back to their committee) was a priority for the offense.
First of all, Denver traded up for Williams. And I don’t think that would have happened if they didn’t view this as a position of need, or if they actually viewed Williams as just a member of a committee. Denver leapfrogged Miami who was prepared to take Williams with the next pick, per Benjamin Allbright. And, again per Allbright, Denver initially wanted to trade up for Najee Harris had he fallen past Pittsburgh in Round 1. Why try to trade up for Harris, or actually trade up for Williams, if you’re not looking for a bell cow?
This sort of thinking also ties in with Shurmur’s history of favoring a singular bell cow RB over a committee approach.
In 12 career seasons as an NFL head coach or offensive coordinator, Shurmur’s RB1 has averaged 17.6 carries, 4.3 targets, and 99.0 yards from scrimmage per game.On a 16-game pace, those numbers come out to 282 carries, 68 targets, 1,584 yards, and – most importantly – 280.7 weighted opportunity points, which would have ranked second-most in 2020. (And keep in mind, this is just Shurmur’s average, which includes seasons from names like Trent Richardson and Peyton Hillis.)
According to James Palmer, Melvin Gordon was signed by Denver last year to be the team’s bell cow running back. Ian Rapoport later said he was the “bell cow-type running back they’ve been looking for for a number of years…” Adding via humblebrag, “I knew they were looking for a bell cow-type running back, but a lot of people did not.” I was told privately by a Denver beat reporter that although that was initially the case, Gordon played poorly and looked out of shape in the offseason, forcing the team to veer from their plans and revert back to a committee-approach.
So, ultimately, is Williams a committee-back in 2021? I think so, probably. But I also think he has a lot more bell-cow potential than people think. And I think this landing spot was a lot better than ADP will imply. One additional hint might be how Paton called Williams a “three-down back” and praised him as both a pass-blocker and a pass-catcher.
As for why this distinction (between a bell cow RB and a committee RB) is so important, you’ll need to read this: Bell Cow or Bust: The Optimal RB Strategy.
Cardinals, Round 2: WR Rondale Moore (No. 49 overall)
Kliff Kingsbury seemed beside himself with WR Rondale Moore still available at their No. 49 overall pick. Someone offscreen said “That’s your guy!” Kingsbury announced to the room, “He’s a dog. He’s gonna come in and think he’s the man. Be a pro. When the ball’s in his hands, he’s special special.”
When talking to Moore on the phone, GM Steve Keim shared in the excitement. “[We’re] excited about you man. Think you can come out here and contribute right away. Our QB Kyler Murray is a big fan of yours.” Kingsbury added, “The things we’ll be able to do with you in that offense, I cannot wait to get you here.”
When writing this article every year I try to look for hints as to whether or not a team thinks a player can have an immediate impact. Are they going to be fantasy viable in Year 1? Or is this team looking farther down that road, thinking about what this player could eventually become. But there was no hinting from Arizona here. A reporter asked Kingsbury, “Were you hoping to find guys you can plug in as quickly as possible. Do you think Rondale fits that bill?”
Kingsbury answered quickly, and in the affirmative. “Yeah no question. I think that was the mindset going in… Those first two picks need to play, and play early, and play a lot.” Keim re-emphasized that point, “[He’s] explosive enough to play outside, play inside, reverses, screens, all the different things — you want to get the ball in his hands and let him create on the perimeter. So, not only that, you see his return ability… And think he’s a guy who can help us immediately.”
When asked about the state of the receiver room, Kingsbury answered, “I thought we were going to have some great competition before this pick. You got DeAndre [Hopkins]. You got A.J. Green. And then you got some younger guys who are all battling it out. And this guy jumps right into the middle of it in this group.”
Note: WR Larry Fitzgerald remains a free agent. I do think this is an important piece of intel. Kingsbury seems to imply Green is locked in as the team’s WR2, starting opposite Hopkins on the outside. And I also think it’s noteworthy he made no mention of Christian Kirk. If I owned him in any dynasty leagues (which I do not), I’d be looking to sell for whatever I could get.
When asked how Kingsbury might plan to use Moore, he responded, “We’re going to use him in as many ways as we can… Rondale’s able to do a bunch of different things. Whether it’s hand him the ball from the backfield, toss it to him on the sweep, go outside and run a fade route, he does it all. The return game is really impressive as well. So, we’re gonna move him around and make sure he gets his fair share of touches.”
Kinsbury told reporters he plans to use Moore in much of the same way HC Jeff Brohm used Moore at Purdue. That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear, and exactly what we needed to hear. I discussed the importance of this point and Moore’s upside as a PPR cheat code in my Pre-Draft analysis you can find here.
Kingsbury elaborated, ”I have a lot of respect for coach Brohm. Some of the fly sweeps, different things he did in the slot, some of the reverses, the tempo plays where they’re handing it to him in the backfield, those are all part of our offense. And things that I think he’ll pick up quickly. And I think the transition for him will be pretty seamless in this system.”
Note: During the Day 3 press conference Kingsbury discussed the RBs, saying: "You have Chase [Edmonds] who can do stuff in the pass game. And then a big bruising back in James [Conner].” I might be in the minority, but I don’t think Edmonds is going to see some sort of massive uptick in volume this year. I do think Kingsbury prefers him as the team’s scatback, while Conner receives the bulk of the work on early downs. Last season Edmonds averaged 4.8 carries and 4.3 targets per game when Kenyan Drake wasn’t inactive. Drake averaged 15.9 carries and 2.1 targets per game. I’d expect only a slight improvement on those numbers for Edmonds if Conner can stay healthy, but maybe that’s a big “if”.
Steelers, Round 2: TE Pat Freiermuth (No. 55 overall)
Let me tell you, Steelers TE coach Alfredo Roberts is excited the team added Freiermuth. He opened the press conference by saying: "I’m excited. I’ll tell you he’s exciting to me. He’s exciting to me. I’m excited to work with him.”
From a fantasy perspective, typically, you want to hear a coach say something along the lines of, “We like this guy as a ‘F’ tight end. He’s not a ‘Y’ tight end. We don’t think he can block, but we’re not going to let that get in the way of playing time. This kid is such a phenomenal receiver. He’s just like having another WR on the field; we’re going to have him running routes all day.”
That’s not what we heard in this interview, but that’s okay. George Kittle and Rob Gronkowski are ‘Y’ tight ends and were still highly productive from a fantasy perspective. And Roberts likes Freiermuth’s pass-catching upside, saying: "He catches the ball with ease. He does some nice things after the catch. I think he has a lot of potential and upside.”
But Friermuth isn’t just a ‘Y’ tight end. According to Roberts, he offers a lot of versatility to play both positions (GM Kevin Colbert said the same thing), and can also occasionally work out of the backfield and run routes lined up out wide. To quote: “He can do some of the heavy lifting, when we talk about getting in-line, he can also work from the backfield because he bends well and moves well in space, we can flex him out if need be, he can do a number of different things. I just like what he adds now and what he can grow into in the future.”
But, ultimately, the Steelers probably do see him as more of an in-line TE, especially in 2-TE sets when TE Eric Ebron is on the field. But, he does offer more pass-catching potential than a traditional in-line TE. At least that was my takeaway, when Roberts told reporters: “He has some position flexibility. He’s going to be a kind of throwback TE. Because he can play the position. He can do some multiple things. You can flex him out. And his positional flexibility is going to give us a chance to do a lot of different things in a lot of different sets with the guys that are already here.”
Seahawks, Round 2: WR D’Wayne Eskridge (No. 56 overall)
Eskridge is a small-school WR who averaged 128.0 YPG last season after four lackluster seasons with the Western Michigan Broncos. At age 24.1, it was a very late breakout, but he spent some time at CB before his final year, which might have delayed his development. He’s a decent athlete (69.7 SPORQ) listed at 5’8.5” and 190 pounds with 4.39 speed.
GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll clearly liked Eskridge, and there was a lot they said about him. But not a lot that got me (personally) excited.
They think he can be an immediate contributor on special teams, praising him as a kickoff returner and a gunner. They like that he was capable of playing CB for Western Michigan when they were undermanned at the position. They like his versatility on offense. “We can hand him the football, we can flip it to him, we can do things with him behind the line of scrimmage. He’s very effective on reverses and stuff like that,” Carroll said.
Ultimately, there was a lot of praise for Eskridge, but not a lot of praise where it counts — at least for fantasy points. Carroll and Schneider clearly like him, but they spent little time talking about what he can bring to the table as a “wide receiver.” Little discussion over his hands or route-running ability. They like his competitiveness and speed, his run-blocking, his physicality (“he’s a dog”), his versatility (“he can play outside and in the slot”), but again, they made little mention of what he brings to the table as a true WR. Well, minus one thing. Eventually Carroll said, “We see him as a deep threat.”
Coming from a small school, there could be a steep learning curve for Eskridge, implying less Year 1 potential than some of the WRs drafted in this range. Carroll echoed this sentiment, “There will be a learning curve for him in our offense. We do a lot more things than they did.”
At the time this pick struck me as a reach, and Seattle’s presser only solidified that fact in mind.
Notes: I’m not any higher on Eskridge now than when I first saw the pick, but I am higher on TE Gerald Everett. Carroll heavily implied he’s going to be the team’s No. 3 receiver. When asked how important it is for the offense to add a reliable “third receiving option”, Carroll said, “ [OC Shane Waldron] has talked… about having three legitimate threats in passing situations so a defense can’t lock you down. It was one of the reasons Gerald was such a big get for us and was such a great acquisition for us in the offseason to help us. We always want to have three guys out there… so they can’t just double guys up and take them out of the offense. We’ll find out how well D’Wayne fits in that regard. We’re counting on him being a factor. Our others guys too. This is going to be… a wide open competition in this camp for guys to show where they fit.”
Rams, Round 2: WR Tutu Atwell (No. 57 overall)
HC Sean McVay clearly likes Atwell a lot. A reporter raised the comparison of WR DeSean Jackson, and McVay thought it was high praise, but fitting. He likes the element both WRs bring to the team, namely the ability to “stretch the top shelf of the coverage” due to their speed and ball-tracking ability. “I think the biggest thing I would say is that we were able to add guys that bring an elite trade in terms of the ability to stretch the top-shelf of the defense. That's not exclusive to the ways that you can utilize these guys, but we do want to become a more explosive offense.”
McVay wasn’t too concerned with Atwell’s diminutive size, saying, basically, that he plays a lot bigger than his size. And though his Pro Day wasn’t necessarily elite, his on field speed based on (presumably) GPS tracking was (according to McVay) among the best in the class.
It was really important for McVay and the team to be able to surround QB Matthew Stafford with a number of playmakers who all bring something unique to the field. He told reporters, “I think what we've got is a great complement, guys that have different skill sets, but really valuable skill sets, almost as if you're looking at it, when you got your five eligibles, it's kind of like a basketball starting lineup to be able to really stretch people horizontally, vertically, and can kind of threaten people in a bunch of different ways. When you have a quarterback that can really activate all those parts of the field with the ability he has as a thrower, that was something that we wanted to be intentional about going in and attacking and Tutu definitely brings that as did (WR) DeSean (Jackson) and those two additions to our already solid group is exciting."
As much as McVay likes Atwell, he doesn’t seem at all in a rush to get him on the field (and maybe the acquisition of DeSean Jackson plays into that). He said, “I think Tutu has a unique opportunity to come in and learn from really some great veterans that have produced at a high level. He’s going to get a chance to come in and compete and add depth to a great group. How big that role is, is up to him. We're looking forward to seeing what he does.”
All in all, I don’t see this as a very exciting landing spot for an even less exciting prospect (my pre-draft WR12). I don’t see much upside in Year 1, barring another injury to DeSean, and I think McVay might want to experiment with something like a WR-by-committee approach with all of these weapons. Obviously, that would make things a mess for fantasy.
Notes: McVay went out of his way to praise WR Van Jefferson multiple times, saying “[A]nd you guys know how much I love (WR) Van Jefferson.” And then later, “I think that the ceiling is very high, and I think the future is so bright for Van Jefferson as well.”
Panthers, Round 2: WR Terrace Marshall Jr. (No. 59 overall)
HC Matt Rhule was very happy to land Marshall, who was the top WR on their board on Day 2. He told reporters, “To me, he's a big outside guy. I think the biggest thing [OC Joe Brady] said is he could play outside and inside which is really paramount in the things that we try to do.”
That’s especially notable given Sam Darnold’s historical predilection for slot WRs. With former slot WR Curtis Samuel now in Washington, who will play in the slot for Carolina in 2021? Is it the yards after catch monster in D.J. Moore (16% slot% in 2020) or the slight (190 pounds) speedster in Robby Anderson (27% slot%)? I’m not sure. I thought I had a good idea, but after speaking to well-connected people I trust, I think Carolina moves all three WRs around enough that there need not be an official designation in terms of a starting slot, X, or Z receiver. This is also sort of what Rhule hinted at in the above quote.
Marshall presumably fell in the draft due to medical concerns but GM Scott Fitterer told reporters he was “confident with where he was at.”
Buccaneers, Round 2: QB Kyle Trask (No. 64 overall)
Tampa Bay must have been very happy to land Trask at the tail end of Round 2, considering they “talked about [drafting him] in Round 1.” Make no mistake, the Buccaneers are in no rush to replace the reigning Super Bowl MVP and GOAT Tom Brady. GM Jason Licht said, “Tom’s going to play as long as Tom wants to play. He’s earned that right.” While later adding, “This is a great place for a QB to come in and be groomed.”
Why Trask over the other QBs who went right after him? HC Bruce Arians said, “We drafted him to throw and he’s accurate as hell. Really excited about him. People always want to compare people. To me he reminds me of Brad Johnson. And he was pretty damn good.”
Arians also told reports he still wanted to re-sign QB Blaine Gabbert, and that’s exactly what they did several days later. Gabbert is likely the backup.
Vikings, Round 3: QB Kellen Mond (No. 66 overall)
Why draft a QB? GM Rick Spielman put it simply. “[We just] followed our board. [Mond was] one of the top players on our board. We wanted to add competition and depth behind Kirk… Our job is to get as many good players as we can.” Spielman sees a lot of potential in Mond, “[There’s] a lot of upside to develop.” But QB Kirk Cousins’ job couldn’t be any safer. Spielman couldn’t contain his laughter when telling reporters, “Kirk’s our starting QB, there’s no competition there.”
That said, per ESPN beat writer Courtney Cronin, the Vikings were prepared to take QB Justin Fields with their No. 14 overall pick before Chicago jumped them and took him at pick No. 11. She wrote, “The Vikings were stunned, and this one really stung. They wanted one of the top quarterbacks, but they weren't desperate enough to give up that kind of draft capital for a player who would be sitting behind Cousins for at least a year.” Cousins has two years and $76M left on his contract.
Texans, Round 3: QB Davis Mills (No. 67 overall)
GM Nick Caserio is a Belichick disciple, so, of course, he gave us nothing of note here. “[I]t's about trying to create competition across the football team, across all positions… That's our philosophy and that's our mindset and we're going to continue to do that. So that was the rationale and the impetus for the pick.”
Chargers, Round 3: WR Josh Palmer (No. 77 overall)
Everything that was missing from D’Wayne Eskridge’s presser was there for WR Josh Palmer.
GM Tom Telesco told reporters: "We love his size and strength. [He’s an] excellent route-runner. He can really separate at the top of the route very well. Strong hands. Very good blocker. He has a lot of NFL traits to him as a wide receiver. Great make-up… He played against really good competition in that conference and he stepped up each week. He really showed the same thing at the Senior Bowl. A lot of things that we saw in the fall, he did the same thing down in Mobile against a pretty good corner. We're happy to add him."
Due to a lackluster statistical profile, Palmer was a massive reach per #AnalyticsTwitter. But he was a #FilmTwitter darling, and a favorite among trusted names such as Greg Cosell, Mike Renner, Danny Kelly, and Jim Nagy. His numbers certainly were underwhelming, but the argument here is the same as the one for Alvin Kamara coming out — Tennessee is a dumpster fire of a collegiate program. (Since 2019, Tennessee's uncatchable target rate of 27.9% ranks sixth-worst in the Power-5, per PFF.) Although my model didn’t love Palmer, I’m a fan, and I think we could see him start immediately for Los Angeles in 3-WR sets (with Keenan Allen in the slot) and eventually replace WR Mike Williams (who is on the last year of his rookie contract) as the team’s WR2.
Telesco did praise Palmer’s versatility, implying he could play both in the slot and out wide. To quot: "I think that he can play outside or inside. He's played more outside, but he has very good quickness. He has quick feet. He can beat press. He can separate from tight coverage. So, I think that he has some versatility there to be inside or outside."
Dolphins, Round 3: TE Hunter Long (No. 81 overall)
There was legitimately nothing of note here. Miami had Hunter Long on their team at the Senior Bowl, and HC Brian Flores is well-connected at Boston College. TE Mike Gesicki is on the last year of his rookie deal.
Football Team, Round 3: WR Dyami Brown (No. 82 overall)
Washington’s selection of WR Dyami Brown was heralded by talent evaluators and draft experts as one of the top steals of the draft, but HC Ron Rivera showed little excitement.
He had a hard time finding praise for Brown beyond his contested-catch ability. He said, when asked why they specifically chose Brown with this pick: “I think the biggest thing is catches on contested balls. I think I saw a stat that said it was very good; it was in the high ninety percentile. He’s a guy who seems to come down with enough catches. [Though there were a] couple of concentration drops on some deep balls.” Brown posted a 51% career contest catch rate, which is very high, but not quite on the level of Nico Collins (63%) or Terrace Marshall (61%). And, for what it’s worth, this isn’t a stat I find to be very meaningful. In fact, it can even be viewed as a negative for a WR.
But Rivera also praised his athleticism, his route running ability, how he gets off the line of scrimmage, and his ability to stack defenders. Though this all seemed secondary to his contested catch ability and then speed (4.44). He did call Brown a “guy who can come in and contribute early [in his career].” So, with no locked-in starting WRs beyond Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, Brown certainly could be an immediate contributor for fantasy.
Still, it’s hard to say how much Washington liked Brown specifically, as opposed to them just taking a WR to fill a need. But this next quote from GM Martin Mayhew might be a useful hint: “We felt very strongly about the wide receiver position being deep. We had some opportunities in the second round to look at some wideouts. We didn’t think there were going to be as many offensive linemen and we felt great about Sam Cosmi, so we went that route early. Then fortunately for us, Dyami was there for us in the third round.” Rivera added, “I agree with exactly what Martin said and exactly how it was portrayed because offensive tackle is such a hard position to find, especially guys that play well at the left spot and we had targeted Sam early. But, we also had a couple receivers in that clump and as we got past that going into the third round, some of those receivers we had clumped were still there. As Martin said, we felt really good about Dyami because of his speed.”
Clearly, Dyami Brown was their top WR on their board at this pick, but in my opinion probably not far ahead of a few other WRs within a tier.
Panthers, Round 3: TE Tommy Tremble (No. 83 overall)
There was literally nothing of note here. “Tommy Tremble, an elite athlete” was the only time his name was uttered during Carolina’s Day 2 press conference.
Packers, Round 3: WR Amari Rodgers (No. 85 overall via trade up)
In Round 3, the Packers traded away the No. 135 overall pick (Round 4) to move up seven spots to select WR Amari Rodgers. It was an expensive trade, but the Packers got the guy they wanted. (Well, they really wanted slot WR Kadarius Toney in Round 1, but that didn’t work out.) GM Brian Gutenkust said, “But we were trying pretty significantly to get up to go get Amari. It took us a little while longer than we wanted to. We paid a little bit of a price, but I thought it was important because of the value of the player I wanted."
Gutekunst told reporters, after answering a million questions related to QB Aaron Rodgers’ discontent, “I hope everybody on our team and within our building is excited about adding Amari. I think it was something we wanted to add — we’ve wanted to add for a few years — that guy that can play inside and do some returning. So yeah, I hope everybody’s pleased with it.”
Throughout the pre-draft process, Rodgers was often comp’d to former Packers slot WR Randall Cobb. Gutenkunst does seem to view him as serving in a similar role. "He fills so many holes for us. That's one of the reasons why we traded up for him was because not only as a punt returner and a slot receiver, but as you guys have seen over the past couple years the creativity that [HC] Matt [LaFleur] has within his offense, some of the jet sweeps and screens."
49ers, Round 3: RB Trey Sermon (No. 88 overall via trade up)
The 49ers gave away two Round 4 picks (No. 117 and No. 121) to select RB Trey Sermon in Round 3.
Why Sermon? GM John Lynch praised his speed — specifically, his 10-yard-dash time which ranked second-best in the class. “I think he's a good fit for what we do. It was exciting. Kyle and I started this morning kind of watching the backs and it was fun… and I think the move was prompted by just a growing feeling that Trey was a really good fit for us. And I think we stayed patient, but when we felt like, all right, our luck's about to run out, we made the move and we're happy to be able to do so."
How does he fit into the RB room? HC Kyle Shanahan spoke at length on this subject without really giving a definitive answer. Could he be the starter? He could be. Could he be just another cog in a heavy rotation? He could be. Here’s his answer in full:
“We've never looked for a one back, a two back, a three back, a four back. We always look for guys that we think can play as a starter, whether they are or not. If you look at our third back, the last two years, they've had about 38 or something percent of our carries. Sometimes because of injury, sometimes because of just rotations. Just how it worked out. And I think that's been pretty, it's been by far over anywhere else in the NFL. We have two guys who have played for us that have done really well. Bringing in another guy that we're looking to help us too. We have some young guys who haven't really done it yet, but we'll see. And to be able to add Trey to this group, with this skill set, what we think he can do, you just add them in the mix and you see how it unfolds. But, we've got some good guys we believe in. But we've also, feel like we've gone through about four backs, four years in a row here. Really every year, except our first year. So that's something, with losing two guys in free agency, adding one, that's something that we felt we needed to address at some time in this draft."
Texans, Round 3: WR Nico Collins (No. 89 overall via trade up)
Again, from Belichick disciple GM Nick Caserio there wasn’t much of note here. Why trade up (giving up a 2021 Round 4, a 2021 Round 5, and a 2022 Round 4) for WR Nico Collins? Caserio answered, “[H]e's got good size, he runs well, he's got good hands, so he catches the ball well. He's got good playing strength. So, again, how is that going to translate into our system and into NFL competition? We'll find out.”
Browns, Round 3: WR Anthony Schwartz (No. 91 overall)
Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah praised WR Anthony Schwartz for a number of things, but primarily for his 4.25 speed. That will “help stretch” and “stress” the opposing defense and bring “another dimension” to their offense. Driving the point home, he told us, “He has the potential to be an elite vertical presence. That combination in any room is going to help and obviously he complements [WR Odell Beckham Jr. and WR Jarvis Landry’s] skillsets greatly.” Schwartz is the youngest WR in this class (age: 20.7) so maybe Cleveland is thinking farther down the road, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he supplants Rashard Higgins as the team’s WR3 by mid-season.
Chargers, Round 3: TE Tre’ McKitty (No. 97 overall)
TE Tre’ McKitty has draft capital on his side, though he’s not one to get particularly excited about for fantasy. McKitty barely even qualified for my model, averaging 2.4 receptions per game over the past three seasons. So, when I saw this pick, I assumed it was either an egregious reach or the Chargers viewed him as a high-end blocking TE.
On if the staff evaluated McKitty as more of a blocking tight end, GM Tom Telesco answered: "You hit it right on the head. One of the best things that he does is really block at the line of scrimmage. Very good size, strength and power. Good feet to stay on blocks. He likes to do it, and you can tell. He comes from more of a pro-style offense at Georgia, so he has had to do it. That position is very hard to find in college nowadays; the guys that do it and do it well. A big part of our offense moving forward here is having a tight end that can get on the line of scrimmage and block. It's a huge part of the run game to do that.”
Bonus: Notable Quotes from Day 3
Jets, Round 4: RB Michael Carter (No. 107 overall)
The Jets landed three of the top-25 players on their board with their first three picks and then got another steal with their fourth. GM Joe Douglas told reporters: “ We go through and just watch the third round unfold and we’re just looking at Michael Carter falling and we’re like, ‘Holy cow, he might get to us.’ So, we go to bed last night excited as heck because Michael Carter is sitting there.”
HC Robert Saleh talked highly of Carter, but primarily praised his ability to contribute in the passing game, which is how the majority of draft pundits and talent evaluators saw him pre-Draft (as a high-end scatback with only some rushing upside.) Saleh said, “Michael’s got tremendous vision. He’s got tremendous speed, burst. He’s got the ability to make people miss. He’s good on third down, coming out of the backfield in the pass game, and he’s pretty stout in protection, so for him to be where he was at 107 was a major surprise to all of us, including Joe and his staff. We felt like it was a no-brainer at that point. He’s an incredible talent so we’re excited to have him.”
Titans, Round 4: WR Dez Fitzpatrick (No. 109 overall via trade up)
Here’s everything GM Jon Robinson had to say: “Yeah, we watched a lot on him and we like his size. We like his speed. We like his length. He's got good route running skills. He's got some things he's got to clean up. I love his toughness. I love his tenacity as a blocker. He's good in traffic catching the football. One of the things as we continue to visit with him and talk to the staff there at Louisville about him is how tireless his work ethic was. That's one thing we talked about is get ready to bring your work ethic here to Nashville.”
Lions, Round 4: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (No. 112 overall)
Holmes said: “[H]e was a guy that actually I first got exposure to last fall when I was still with the Rams. Seeing him, it just seemed like he was such an immediate fit of the characteristics that I think equate success to a wide receiver. Coming from the (Los Angeles) Rams, there was a lot of players at that position that are high-floor players, that have high intangibles … He’s instinctive, he’s tough, he’s got grit, he’s savvy.”
St. Brown was primarily viewed as a slot-only WR Pre-Draft, but HC Dan Campbell told reporters, “I think this kid’s got some outside flex to him, too.”
Ravens, Round 4: WR Tylan Wallace (No. 131 overall)
GM Eric DeCosta: “Tylan Wallace, just too good of a player for us not to take him. He’s a very talented receiver who we saw at the Senior Bowl and quite a bit this fall.”
Rams, Round 4: TE Jacob Harris (No. 141 overall)
GM Les Snead: “So, let's take Jacob Harris, major athletic profile. I mean, he's a freak of nature. But what we do know is, and there's no projection, is watching him cover kicks, block. I mean, I think even the pundits had him as the No. 1 special teams player in the draft, right? So, that's not a projection, that's right there on paper. Now, it's up to [HC] Sean [McVay] and [Tight Ends Coach] Wes Phillips as we groom him to be a tight end. And there's some other things that's not necessarily a projection with him. Going vertical and tracking the ball over his head and outrunning people, that's kind of what he did.”
Eagles, Round 5: RB Kenneth Gainwell (No. 150 overall)
VP of Player Personnel Andy Weidl: “Kenneth Gainwell, running back from Memphis. Explosive. He was an opt out guy this year, but in 2019 he rushed for over 1,400 yards, over 600 yards receiving. Contact balance, his hands, he's a guy we really liked. And we're fired up about.”
When asked if he could be seen as a “Nyheim Hines-type of player”, HC Nick Sirianni answered, “Yeah, that’s a good comparison. We like a lot of the things that Kenneth can do. He does have a little bit of the things that you're saying right there -- the ability to go outside and win one-on-one outside against the linebackers, against safeties, to come out of the backfield and be able to do that as well. But then again not always having to do that with him. He's shown that he's been really good in protection aspects of it as well and that every time he's going in it's not [just] a pass play right to him. So, he can protect. He can run the ball. I think that's a good comparison.
“Not to say that we would use him exactly the same way because no two players are exactly alike, but we do see the ability to create those mismatches with the linebackers and the safeties, whether inside or outside, with that player; whether he's in the slot, whether he's in the backfield, whether he's outside. That's a really good comparison. And of course, when you're watching guys that are on your roster or you're watching guys with the draft, you're constantly doing that. You're constantly saying how will I use this guy and how have we used this guy in the past. And so, when you watch a player on our roster or that we're getting ready to work with, those are things that are going through your mind. Okay, who have we thrown this shallow cross to in the pass? Do they have a similar skill set to the player that we're thinking about drafting, or that is currently on our roster? Those things are constantly going through our heads and, yeah, I'm really excited about working with these guys about the roster we have to do the things that we want to do on offense.”
GM Howie Roseman: “We have a cool story about Gainwell, don’t we? I was circling back on him and it was a Sunday night during the NCAA Tournament. I was watching him. It was a game I hadn't seen. There were a couple plays that kind of hit me, and my phone was a little bit away -- and Andy [Weidl] knows this story, I told him the next morning. And I picked up my phone to text Nick, and I had a text from him. He was watching the same game I was. It was his first exposure to him and he was talking about this guy and how he would use him. So, it was pretty cool.”