NFL DRAFT NEWS

NFL Draft News: Top Plug & Play picks on each team

Sports Xchange

May 04, 2017 at 10:16 am.

September 2, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) runs with the football past Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Dante Barnett (22) and defensive back Donnie Starks (10) during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

September 2, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) runs with the football past Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Dante Barnett (22) and defensive back Donnie Starks (10) during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Out of this year’s draft, there were a few reaches in The Sports Xchange’s search for the top Plug and Play prospect on each team. Perhaps that is because history tells us it is no sure thing to be a sure thing in the National Football League.

Remember in 2012 when the Washington Redskins traded four picks (first- and second-round choices in 2012 and first-round selections in 2013 and 2014) to move up to No. 2 and take Heisman Trophy-winning Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III? Or do we recall that the Oakland Raiders took strong-armed, can’t-miss LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall in 2007?

Russell was out of football after three forgettable years and RGIII is a free agent after being cut loose recently by the Cleveland Browns. Yeah, the Cleveland Browns.

So nominating Plug and Play prospects who have injuries to overcome — such as Atlanta defensive end Takkarist McKinley (shoulder surgery) and Cincinnati wide receiver John Ross (torn labrum) –can be forgiven, especially after Ross set a Combine record of 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Both were first-round selections, so the teams will certainly try to plug them in, right?

In fact, 20 P&P selections were first-round picks, and even the latest drafted nominee reflected a method in the madness. That was Chicago safety Eddie Jackson (Round 4, 112) out of Alabama. The Bears’ two picks before him were tight end Adam Sheehan (Round 2, No. 45) out of Division II Ashland (although his nickname is Baby Gronk) and Mitchell Trubisky, the North Carolina quarterback Chicago traded up one spot to take at No. 2 overall. And we already discussed the fate of some quarterbacks drafted early, even when targeted with an expensive trade.

So we’ll take the nominations for best Plug and Play picks for what they are worth, our best shot — sort of like the draft itself.

Against that reassuring background, let’s take a look at the player on each team selected by TSX team insiders to have the best chance at being a Plug and Play pick (teams are listed alphabetically with round/overall pick, name, height, weight, school):

ARIZONA

Round 2/36 – Budda Baker, S, 5-10, 192, Washington

The obvious choice here, if for no other reason than the Cardinals lost some real talent at the safety position when starters Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger left via free agency. Baker can step in and play free safety or strong safety and can also pinch-hit at slot corner or even outside corner. He has got the speed, the motor and the passion, which is why they gave up a ton to the Bears to move up and grab him in the second round.

ATLANTA

Round 1/26 – Takkarist McKinley, DE, 6-4, 230, UCLA

Once he recovers from shoulder surgery, he will likely begin as a designated pass rusher on third down and in nickel situations from the right defensive end position. The Falcons needed to get someone to rush the passer opposite Vic Beasley. They like McKinley’s takeoff from the line of scrimmage and his ability to finish at the quarterback.

BALTIMORE

Round 2/47 — Tyus Bowser, OLB, 6-3, 227, Houston

His athleticism and motor makes him a perfect fit for the Ravens’ aggressive defense. Baltimore ranked 24th in the NFL with just 31 sacks last season. As a result, the Ravens’ secondary was under consistent pressure. Baltimore cut ties with veteran linebacker Elvis Dumervil after the season, so Bowser, a second-round selection (No. 47 overall), will have the opportunity to be on the field for passing downs. Fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs will also turn 35 in October and Baltimore has been looking for his heir. Bowser, nicknamed the “Bulldozer,” could fit the bill.

BUFFALO

Round 2/37 — Zay Jones, WR, 6-2, 200, East Carolina

The Bills have a gaping hole at the position now that Robert Woods has departed in free agency, and Jones should be able to jump right into that gap. Jones is an instant candidate to fill the slot receiver role in three-wide sets because he played both positions in college at East Carolina and caught virtually everything thrown his way.

Jones was a player linked to the Bills going back to the Senior Bowl. He had a great week of practice and then played well in the game, and the Bills came away impressed by the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, a feeling that was enhanced when they met with him at the Scouting Combine.

CAROLINA

Round 1/8 — Christian McCaffrey, RB, 5-11, 202, Stanford

Many expected the Panthers to add a more traditional back to split carries with Jonathan Stewart, but McCaffrey is part of a plan to better confuse defenses. He should average about 10 carries a game along with a handful of receptions and punt returns.

CHICAGO

Round 4/112 – Eddie Jackson, S, 6-0, 201, Alabama

As much as any player the Bears chose, Jackson fits here. He may have a slow start at camp after breaking his leg last year. Jackson has a reputation for being able to direct a secondary from the deep spot against dangerous SEC receivers. The Bears haven’t had this ability from a young player in more than a decade. However, they already had signed veteran Quintin Demps to do this. The defensive emphasis has usually been on two-deep safety formations even though they play a 3-4, so Jackson could have a better chance to be on the field along with Demps in passing situations and eventually be a starter.

CINCINNATI

Round 1/9 – John Ross, WR, 5-10, 188, Washington

Once he fully recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum he played with last season at Washington, Ross figures to fit well with the Bengals offense along with A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. Ross not only gives quarterback Andy Dalton a legit deep threat with 4.22 speed, he also could be valuable in the red zone where the Bengals have struggled in recent years. Ross is a smart, adept route runner who can stretch defenses. There are questions about his size, but Bengals coaches say his ability to gain separation and make plays after the catch offset his stature.

CLEVELAND

Round 1/1 — Myles Garrett, DE, 6-5, 262, Texas A&M

Rumors of the Browns possibly taking quarterback Mitchell Trubisky circulated as late as noon on the first day of the draft, but in the end the Browns took Garrett with the first pick. He will be inserted as the starting right defensive end and immediately work against 10-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas in practice. The Browns hope he can start turning the Browns defense, 29th last year in sacks per pass play, into a dominant force. His goal is to break the rookie sack record of 14.5 set by Jevon Kearse of the Tennessee Titans in 1999.

DALLAS

Round 1/28 – Taco Charlton, DE, 6-6, 277, Michigan

Charlton may not be the war daddy in the mold of Derek Barnett or Myles Garrett, but he was the most ready to play 4-3 end on the board when the Cowboys picked. He can play left or right end and can rush from the tackle spot. He will have an immediate role as a pass rusher if not an every-down player.

DENVER

Round 1/20 — Garett Bolles, T, 6-5, 297, Utah

Although parts of his game indicate that he will need some time to develop, the Broncos’ issues at left tackle likely ensure that he will be in the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Bolles must refine his pass-protection technique and learn how to work in a three-point stance, but his quickness, persistence and aggression will serve him well. He is very coachable and should be a quick study — traits which he will need if he is to play right away.

DETROIT

Round 1/21 – Jarrad Davis, LB, 6-1, 238, Florida

A two-year starter at Florida, Davis is in line to take over either the middle or weak-side linebacker spot for the Lions this fall. Davis played primarily in the middle in college, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said he has the instincts and athletic ability to slide outside. Tahir Whitehead had a career-high 132 tackles as the Lions’ starting middle linebacker last season, but he struggled in pass coverage and made few impact plays in the run game.

GREEN BAY

Round 2/33 – Kevin King, CB, 6-3, 200, Washington

“We’ve never had a guy here that’s been a 6-3 corner, so we’re really excited to get to work with him and see what he can do,” director of football operations Eliot Wolf said. The Packers expect King to hit the ground running as they try to make up ground against some of the NFL’s tall receivers. The mismatch created by Atlanta’s Julio Jones in the Falcons’ 44-21 dismantling of the Packers in the NFC Championship in late January underscored just how awful Green Bay’s defense was against the pass last season. General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy responded by revamping the secondary, starting with the release of veteran starter Sam Shields and continuing with the return of Davon House after two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and then the addition of King. The rangy newcomer with exceptional speed should be a starter from Day 1 after the Packers made him the top pick of the second round after they traded out of the first round the previous night.

HOUSTON

Round 3/89 — D’Onta Foreman, RB, 6-0, 233, Texas

Hard-nosed Doak Walker award winner figures into the equation as a backup to Lamar Miller. Downhill runner with power and speed working in his favor. Should complement Miller well as change-of-pace back and provide red-zone push.

INDIANAPOLIS

Round 1/15 – Malik Hooker, S, 6-2, 205, Ohio State

The former Ohio State standout lacks experience after being a one-year starter for the Buckeyes. But he has the complete package in terms of size, speed, quickness and athletic skills. Hooker has already drawn favorable comparisons to former Pro Bowler Ed Reed, although general manager Chris Ballard is willing to pump the brakes a bit whenever that is mentioned. The Colts need playmakers in their secondary and Hooker is going to be given every opportunity to be in the starting lineup as a rookie.

JACKSONVILLE

Round 1/4 — Leonard Fournette, RB, 6-0, 228, Louisiana State

Fournette is the only sure-fire starter among the Jaguars’ six draft picks. Even with NFL veteran runners Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon on the roster, Fournette will likely jump ahead of both. He’s too talented to be sitting on the bench. He has the talent to give instant credibility to the running game that has been among the league’s worst the last five years. He’ll need to work on his pass receiving and blocking, but the rest of his game is solid.

KANSAS CITY

Round 3/86 — Kareem Hunt, RB, 5-11, 216, Toledo

The Chiefs will go into training camp trying to find someone to replace franchise career leading rusher Jamaal Charles. Hunt does not possess the same abilities and physical tools of the departed Charles, who entered the NFL with world-class speed and used it to his advantage during his nine seasons in Kansas City. But the Chiefs’ roster does not have an obvious replacement for Charles; Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West are solid, but unspectacular in production. Hunt is not a game-breaking runner, but he will bring his track record to K.C. of holding on to the football – in four seasons at Toledo, he touched the ball 856 times as a runner and receiver and fumbled just once, and that was in his freshman season. Hunt recovered the ball. How much of the running game load he carries as a rookie will depend on his transition to the NFL, but he should be an immediate contributor to the offense.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Round 1/7 — Mike Williams, WR, 6-4, 218, Clemson

Williams will complement No. 1 wide receiver Keenan Allen, but Williams could quickly become the team’s 1-A receiver. For years, quarterback Philip Rivers made countless completions to physical receivers in the mode of Williams — think Vincent Jackson and then later, Malcom Floyd. Williams will be asked to contribute quickly, his presence forcing defenders to be spread thin due to the presence of Allen.

Williams has come a long way from breaking his neck during Clemson’s 2015 season. “I feel like everything happens for a reason,” said Williams, an All-ACC wide receiver. “I came back to Clemson, got my degree, came out with a national championship. The injury showed me I can’t take anything for granted. The game can be taken away from me at any point.”

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Round 3/69 – Cooper Kupp, WR, 6-2, 205, Eastern Washington

He plays at an advanced level for a third-round pick from a smaller school and should see the field immediately as a slot receiver. It’s easy to envision him as a go-to target for young quarterback Jared Goff. Kupp compensates for his 4.6 40 time with elite level quickness, route running, position awareness and hands.

MIAMI

Round 1/22 – Charles Harris, DE, 6-3, 260, Missouri

Harris is an accomplished pass rusher who uses his speed to get past tackles. He needs to be better against the run according to scouting reports, but Miami isn’t concerned with his ability to play the run. Harris isn’t likely to be an every-down starter. But Miami isn’t concerned with that either. The Dolphins want sacks in passing situations, so he will play early and often.

MINNESOTA

Round 2/41 – Dalvin Cook, RB, 5-10, 210, Florida State

The Vikings signed Latavius Murray as a free agent from Oakland, but gone are the heydays of Adrian Peterson, where one back will get all the carries. Even if the 27-year-old Murray technically starts, the 21-year-old Cook is an explosive three-down back who will be featured prominently in coordinator Pat Shurmur’s running and passing attacks. The on-field knock on Cook is his sloppy pass protection. General manager Rick Spielman said proper coaching will take care of that. Cook also has some ball-security issues that the coaching staff will have to address. But Cook, like all great college running backs, is a ready-made NFL player who will make an impact from Day 1.

NEW ENGLAND

Round 3/83 – Derek Rivers, DE, 6-4, 248, Youngstown State

There is certainly no guarantee that a third-round pick is going to step in and start for the defending Super Bowl champions’ defense that led the NFL in fewest points allowed last fall. But Rivers does fill a major need in terms of depth on the edge as a pass rusher and has the athleticism, get-off and length to entice Matt Patricia into significant playing time as a rookie.

NEW ORLEANS

Round 1/11 — Marshon Lattimore, CB, 6-0, 193, Ohio State

The Saints were in need of a physical cornerback who can hold his own with six games every season against the likes of Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans. Lattimore fit the bill because of his size and ability to play press coverage at Ohio State, which mimics what Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen likes to use.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Round 1/23 – Evan Engram, TE, 6-0, 195, Mississippi State

Engram should be a Day 1 starter, not just because he’s a first-round draft pick, but because his presence figures to take some of the stress away from receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who saw his 100-yard receiving games drop from eight in 2015 to four last year. Defenses finally found the formula for limiting Beckham’s impact, deploying Cover 2 against him that directly contributed to Beckham’s average receiving yards per game falling from 96.6 to 85.4. Besides giving the Giants another big receiver for quarterback Eli Manning, Engram also gives the tight end position something it hasn’t had in a couple of years: yards after the catch ability. Last year, neither Will Tye or Jerell Adams averaged more than 4.5 yards after the catch; Engram averaged 6.9 yards after the catch over the last three seasons.

NEW YORK JETS

Round 1/6 – Jamal Adams, S, 6-1, 211, Louisiana State

The Jets didn’t spend the No. 6 pick on one of their favorite players to watch him sit behind the disappointing Calvin Pryor. Adams will start right away and should emerge as a leader on and off the field for a secondary and a team that was stunningly bad at communication last season.

OAKLAND

Round 1/24 — Gareon Conley, CB, 6-0, 195, Ohio State

Assuming he is cleared of potential legal issues, Conley becomes an instant nickel starter, responsible for covering receivers in the slot. It was an area the Raiders struggled with last year, first with DJ Hayden, who departed in free agency, and then with TJ Carrie. Has enough length to cover the boundaries if necessary if taller corners Sean Smith and David Amerson falter.

PHILADELPHIA

Round 1/14 – Derek Barnett, DE, 6-3, 259, Tennessee

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes to rotate eight players up front and Barnett is expected to be one of those eight. He will likely rotate with Vinny Curry at right end.

Barnett broke the Tennessee sack record in December and received a congratulatory call from Sara White, the widow of the man whose record he broke, Hall of Famer Reggie White. Since his freshman year, Barnett studied White — especially his famous hump move — and told Sara White, “I’m honored, but I am not better than Reggie.”

PITTSBURGH

Round 3/94 – Cameron Sutton, CB, 5-11, 188, Tennessee

Sutton’s man coverage skills and extensive experience as a starter at Tennessee give him a strong chance to play early as the slot corner. William Gay played in the slot last season, but he struggled toward the end of the season, especially in the AFC Championship Game. Senquez Golson will compete for the slot corner job as well, but he has missed the past two seasons due to foot and shoulder injuries. Coty Sensabaugh also was brought in to add depth and will have a shot to compete for playing time. But Sutton’s ability to play man coverage, something the Steelers desired, should give him an edge against the others.

SAN FRANCISCO

Round 1/31 — Reuben Foster, ILB, 6-1, 228, Alabama

It wasn’t long ago that the 49ers employed the best group of linebackers in the NFL, led by NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith, with Chris Borland in reserve. What’s left is Bowman. And now there is Foster, whose addition gives the club as potent a tandem as there is in the league. They just have to find a way to coexist in a 4-3.

SEATTLE

Round 2/35 — Malik McDowell, DT, 6-6, 299, Michigan State

McDowell was Seattle’s top selection with the fifth pick of the second round. While he may not start as a rookie, he will likely be a significant contributor in the Seahawks’ defensive line rotation. McDowell can line up in several spots on the line, but is expected to give Seattle a pass-rush component from their 3-technique tackle spot.

TAMPA BAY

Round 1/19 – O.J. Howard, TE, 6-6, 251, Alabama

Because he can be an in-line blocker, Howard can play on every down. The Bucs will love pairing him with tight end Cameron Brate, who had eight touchdowns last season to lead all players at his position. Head coach Dirk Koetter believes Howard is a throwback tight end who can block and catch. So expect a lot of two-tight end sets with Howard and Brate.

TENNESSEE

Round 1/5 – Corey Davis, WR, 6-3, 209, Western Michigan

Both of the Titans’ first round picks, Davis and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, project as immediate starters. But there will be more expectations for Davis to succeed right away, given that he is a top-five pick and is carrying with him the hope that he might finally solve the Titans’ long-time quest for a true No. 1 receiver.

WASHINGTON

Round 1/17 – Jonathan Allen, DE, 6-3, 286, Alabama

One of the top talents in the draft who excelled on the biggest stage at Alabama. He had 16 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in his final year with the Crimson Tide. Not ideal height for the position, but otherwise can play defensive end and effect the run game and kick inside in nickel packages and collapse the pocket. Many expected Allen to go earlier, but he may have lasted longer than expected because of arthritic shoulders.