The first two days of the NFL draft are complete, which means it’s time for teams to find value.
Typical NFL thinking is that first-round picks should start immediately, while second- and third-round selections should at least contribute as rookies.
Day 3 prospects? They’re usually projects, underdogs, roster fillers and long shots. Yet there are still several players selected in Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7 that will see the field in their first years in the league.
As the final rounds get underway Saturday, here are the 10 best available players on the board.
1. Michael Bennett, DE, Ohio State
He understands proper technique and excels at timing the ball off the snap. Bennett was extremely productive for the Buckeyes and showcases savvy in beating offensive linemen. He uses his hands well, but sometimes relies on them too much. Though Bennett appeared to take some plays off, he could blossom into a productive pass rusher if he works in the weight room, and if he can refine his pass rushing repertoire.
2. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
He has the size and arm coaches want in a quarterback. What Petty doesn’t have is experience in a traditional NFL offense. Consider this: the first time Petty stepped into a huddle and called a play was in the Senior Bowl. He’s a project, but if he can take to NFL coaching, Petty has the competitiveness needed to be a quarterback in the NFL.
3. Grady Jarrett, NT, Clemson
If he were a few inches taller and maybe a little heavier, Jarrett (6-1, 304) might have been a consideration for a late first-round grade. But his lack of size is something that his coaches will have to live with. What Jarrett does have is an explosive first step and an understanding of what he needs to do to beat offensive linemen with leverage and effort.
4. Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
You can argue that the value of running backs is decreasing in the NFL. But one thing that’s certain is that the ones that are the most sought after are the ones with versatile skill sets. Ajayi is a player who can be effective running the ball, or catching it out of the backfield. He also performs well in pass protection, but needs to correct a fumble issue at the next level.
5. T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
He has ideal size for the position and possesses the athleticism that had some projecting Clemmings as a possible first-round selection. A foot injury created concern and could be the primary reason to explain his slide. He displays above average explosion and competitiveness, but the former D-lineman is relatively inexperienced at the position and needs to be coached up at the next level.
6. Kwon Alexander, LB, LSU
He’s extremely athletic, understands his role and is known for being good in the locker room. One thing that might scare teams off is his lack of weight (227 pounds), but he was very productive in college. Alexander, at the very least, should be an instant contributor on special teams.
7. Tre’ Jackson, G, Florida State
With plenty of experience in a pro-style offense, he could eventually earn consistent playing time. To do that, he’ll have to spend some time in the weight room to increase his strength. But Jackson is an aggressive player who fits naturally as a guard at the next level and has potential to eventually become an NFL starter.
8. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
He has the physical tools you want in a quarterback. But the big question is whether he can become a consistent passer in the pocket. Another thing he’ll have to do better is executing his progressions, especially when facing pressure. Still, with a very strong arm and plenty of athleticism, Hundley is a project worth exploring.
9. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
If not for a serious knee injury suffered before the Rose Bowl, Ekpre-Olomu definitely would have been off the board by now. Chances are, he starts his rookie season on the PUP list. But Ekpre-Olomu is a natural athlete with above-average instincts at the position. He’s physical and — once healthy — could earn playing time by starting on special teams.
10. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
One thing coaches will love is his versatility given Greene’s ability to play in the slot or outside. He doesn’t have optimal size (5-11, 182), but Greene is athletic enough to contribute right away with crisp routes and moves needed to beat cornerbacks. He’s competitive and has played big college games. Another thing coaches will love: He typically shines when the pressure is on.