We’re far from the territory where sleepers and gems lurking in the murky draft mist are being pursued. No, the value is still high now, and immediately tonight and throughout much of the second round the names called will be prospects who were widely projected as first-round picks, or at the very least given serious consideration for that title.
That’s the most significant takeaway thus far in this here draft experiment. While listening to their podcast throughout the buildup to last night, I heard ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay repeatedly say that there were up to 50 prospects who could be first rounders. That leaves a large chunk of players who have elite potential in this draft class, but with need often prioritized over value, they all took tumbles of varying lengths.
So who will be picked tonight? Ha, I have no idea.
But even if the order eludes us all, I do know the best remaining players. There are oh so many, actually, and narrowing this list to 10 proved rather difficult.
1. Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) – Sorry, this listicle has to start with the obvious. But Smith as the leading name in Round 2 is only obvious now, as last night the notion of him in this place was downright shocking. Now, teams that either need a quarterback, or need strong competition at the position could immediately grab Smith, and the Jaguars – who own the 33rd overall pick (first overall in the second round) — could end his fall quickly. Or they won’t, and they’ll trade the pick, leaving the Smith scrambling to the Eagles (35th overall), Cardinals (38th), and Jets (39th), who are reportedly very interested in Smith’s services. Either way, Smith’s fall should end early. Should.
2. Manti Te’o (MLB, Notre Dame) – I’m contractually obligated to list Te’o here too, though I’ll be brief after writing many words on this matter earlier today. He’ll keep falling for a bit, and people who only know him for reasons entirely removed from football will keep screaming. But the Bears, Giants, and Ravens are still Te’o's likely landing spots, with Baltimore still reportedly “very interested“, and maybe even interested enough that they’ll trade up from their current second-round perch at No. 62.
3. Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse) and Matt Barkley (QB, USC) — We’ll do the ol’ cop out and call it a draw here. At first, Nassib seemed to be ahead of Barkley due to his stronger arm. But now, both passers are tangled with Smith during what should be a quarterback orgy at the top early tonight. Settle down, Matt Leinart. Not that kind of orgy.
4. Tank Carradine (DE, Florida State) — The dude’s nickname is Tank. ‘Nuff said, right? OK, maybe we need a little more here, like the fact that if it’s a brute force edge rusher you desire, Carradine had 11 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss during his final year at Florida State. If the Jags do either pass on Smith or trade down, Jacksonville is quite likely Tank’s future place of employment (hey, no state tax!) after they decided against Dion Jordan at second overall. The Jaguars were woeful when trying to rush the passer this past season, recording only 20 sacks.
5. Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford) — For a time, both Ertz and Tyler Eifert were considered first-round tight ends. Then Eifert created separation, and that ended with him rising to be the only Thursday night pick at the position, going to Cincinnati at No. 21 where he’ll form an imposing duo alongside Jermaine Gresham. Ertz could quickly be targeted tonight by San Francisco, as the 49ers look to re-create their own tight end duo, and replace Delanie Walker.
6. Keenan Allen (WR, CAL) — Allen is only a year removed from recording 1,343 receiving yards during his junior season, and he still logged 737 yards despite missing four games during his final year with the Golden Bears due to a knee injury. That same injury is what slowed Allen during his private workout, leading to his poor 40-yard dash time and subsequent fall. But the real Allen is a fast, vertical threat, and a target for possibly the Bills at either 41st or 46th overall, or the Patriots a little further down in the round with their two picks.
7. Margus Hunt (DE, SMU) — A raw and inconsistent pass rusher who’s shown flashes of brilliance? Yes, that does sound like a late second-round project who needs a bit of grooming and seasoning. Ya hear that, Falcons? (60th overall pick tonight)
8. Jonathan Jenkins (NT, Georgia) – Another appealing prospect for the 49ers with either of their picks (likely later), Jenkins would be the large man up the middle to anchor the 49ers’ 3-4 defense, and replace Isaac Sopoaga.
9. Quinton Patton (WR, Louisiana Tech) — What he may lack in top-end speed, Patton makes up for with his burst and precise route running. He had 2,594 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns over his last two seasons at La. Tech, and although he was primarily used on the outside, he’s easily versatile enough to excel while running more intermediate routes from the slot. The lions are an option with their 36th overall pick, and with depth at the position needed in Detroit due to the uncertainty of Ryan Broyles’ injury.
10. Tyrann Mathieu (CB, LSU) — Oh hey look, another possible future Niner. Yeah, in a former(?) life Mathieu thoroughly enjoyed puffing the magic dragon. But now he’s clean, or so he says. And if his youthful indiscretions weren’t a thing, there’s a very real chance that Mathieu could have been a top 10 pick. Now, there are murmurs that the 49ers could chase him later on tonight. He’d be both an excellent and explosive return man to replace Ted Ginn, and quality insurance against Nnamdi Asomugha’s continued decline.
Narrowly missed a completely arbitrary cutline: Eddie Lacy, Jonathan Cyprien, Terron Armstead, Justin Hunter, D.J. Swearinger, Robert Woods, Jesse Williams, Kevin Minter