Hitting on Day 3 of the NFL Draft is the most important to future success. The job of an NFL franchise is to find what they do well that fits in your system and maximizes the player production on the field. I’ve comprised a list of 8 day 3 prospects whom I feel could excel on the teams they were drafted by to cash in on their 2nd NFL contract in the order they were drafted.
4th Round: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Defensive Back, Saints
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a versatile defensive back that entered the 2018 season with early-round upside. The 5’11” 210-pound Florida prospect contributed to the defense as a slot corner and deep safety who did sometimes get caught cheating looking into the backfield. The NFL has become a sub-package league where guys like Gardner-Johnson get more playing time because they can fill multiple roles. Last season a guy with a similar skill set in Lamarcus Joyner played for the Rams on the franchise tag.
4th Round: Tony Pollard, Running Back, Cowboys
Tony Pollard blew me away with 2 stats from 2017 that show he can score from anywhere on the field. He averaged 40 yards a kickoff return and 11.6 yards per touch in the Tigers offense. The Cowboys have a franchise back in place but what better way to spell him than a change of pace back or you can even have them on the field together to really stretch a defense. Pollard may start out as a backup or gadget guy on jet sweeps, reverses and screen passes but he’ll be able to build his value. Pollard has the potential to be a year one pro-bowler as a kick returner.
5th Round: Mack Wilson, Linebacker, Browns
Wilson slid more than any other prospect in the 2019 NFL draft. Wilson was scooped up by GM John Dorsey which isn’t uncommon for a GM who takes a chance on players with talent but slide for other reasons. As the 2nd LB taken by the Browns, Dorsey put both veterans Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey on notice as big paydays are coming for some recent high picks. Wilson brings a skill set to fill the gap against the run and plenty of ability in coverage. He can take tight ends in man coverage and possesses zone drop ability. Look for Wilson to get some reps while playing special teams in year one then transition to a regular role in 2020.
5th Round: Blake Cashman, Linebacker, Jets
Cashman arrived on campus as a defensive back where he played his freshman year before moving to linebacker as a sophomore. After gaining experience at LB, Cashman amassed over 100 tackles and 15 tackles for loss as a senior. Cashman went to the combine and put on a show that sent scouts back to re-watch tape. The former Gopher should contribute immediately in sub-packages before becoming a full-time, 3 down linebackers in 2020.
5th Round: Charles Omenihu, Defensive Lineman, Texans
When you do mock projections, you look to find players who fit measurable, scheme fits and testing numbers for that scheme. Romeo Crennel has always done well with long-armed, two-gap potential 5 techniques to play the 3-4 DE. He comes in with 36″ arms, a sub 5-second 40-yard dash and 8th 3 cone amongst his position group. He’s a tremendous scheme fit and will challenge starter D.J Reader, who is in his last year under contract.
5th Round: Joe Jackson, EDGE Rusher, Cowboys
The Cowboys comes into 2019 with a pretty good group of pass rushers along the defensive front but suspensions to various players make depth important. Introducing Joe Jackson, a defensive end who comes in with ideal size, the ability to set the edge against the run and pass-rushing quality. Jackson should earn his keep early as a run-down defender for a team that gave up 273 yards against the Rams. Look for the former Hurricane to show his worth early, carving out a niche while he improves his pass rush move. By year 3 Jackson should be a 3 down DE looking to cash in big time in Dallas or somewhere else.
6th Round: Isaiah Buggs, Defensive Lineman, Steelers
Buggs isn’t really going to wow you with measurable but when you turn on the tape it’s a totally different perspective. The former Alabama defensive lineman found ways to make plays from multiple spots in the backfield vs the run or pass. The 6’3″, 306 LBS lineman looks like the ideal guy to groom as Cam Heyward gets into his 30’s and has some good cap relief in his contract with a cut in the 2020 offseason. You’re looking at a guy who will earn playing time with hard work and become a starting DE in 2020.
7th Round: Jordan Brailford, Defensive Lineman, Redskins
The Oklahoma State product performed well at the Shrine Game, showing the ability to get to the QB and finish. Ryan Kerrigan could be a cap casualty after 2019 giving Brailford a chance to compete with first-round pick Montez Sweat and 2nd-year player Ryan Anderson. Brailford will get his chance to compete and show the non-stop motor that put him on teams radars. Pass rushers are at a premium and even in a platoon situation, Brailford should show his value to either the Redskins or another franchise.