The SEC had a record-setting first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, and the league – along with the ACC – performed well on Friday’s Day 2.
The Bengals, fresh off taking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall, opened the second round with Clemson receiver Tee Higgins. The big-bodied pass catcher worked out with Burrow in California prior to the draft.
“This is a great pickup,” Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said on ESPN’s broadcast. “These two (Higgins and Burrow) will be able to grow together for a long time.”
Two picks later, the Lions chose Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. He’ll take handoffs from Bulldogs great Matthew Stafford and share a backfield with former Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. Swift was the second running back taken after Kansas City selected LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the end of round 1.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Friday afternoon: “One personnel director calls this ‘the deepest second round in the last 25 years.’ He believes there are 20 players available tonight that could have been first-round picks; there usually are 7-10. ‘There will be as many starters in this round that there are in the first round.’”
Alabama safety Xavier McKinney, a Roswell native, went to the Giants with the 36th pick. Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah praised the pick, calling McKinney a first-round talent and adding the Giants benefited from McKinney being unable to clean up his 40 time (4.63) at a pro day.
“He’s the total package,” ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said. “The Giants nailed this pick.”
The rest of the second round:
> Cleveland took LSU safety Grant Delpit at 44. Delpit was considered an early first rounder entering the year.
"We viewed him as a big, versatile playmaker,'' Browns GM Andrew Berry said. “We like his coverage ability. He can cover tight ends, he can play the post, the big nickel, and both safety positions.''
> The Falcons selected Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson with their second round pick. Davidson adds more power to Atlanta’s defensive line.
> Tennessee pass rusher Darrell Taylor went to Seattle with the 48th pick. He had 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss for the Volunteers last season.
“This young man understands how to rush,” ESPN’s Booger McFarland said recently. “How to set up one move and go to the next move. Whether it’s speed or power, whether it’s long arms, whether it’s his ability to counter one move with the next one, I love how he comes off the corner.”
> Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs was popularly linked to the Cowboys with their first-round selection, but Dallas managed to snag Diggs with its second choice. He bolsters a secondary that lost Byron Jones in free agency.
> The Los Angeles Rams replaced the jettisoned Todd Gurley with Florida State running back Cam Akers at No. 52 overall. Akers can be a factor in the pass game, suiting him well in the Rams’ offense.
"I could walk down the street here outside my house and I promise you I could find a very similar offensive line to the one he ran behind at Florida State and this kid didn't complain he just put his head down and ran hard," Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said last week. "I think if he was in a little better situation we would be talking about him even higher than he is."
> Former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, who played his final season at Oklahoma, went to the Eagles. Philadelphia is set at quarterback with Carson Wentz but will try to develop the raw passer as a backup.
Hurts was the 2016 SEC offensive player of the year. He played three seasons at Alabama but departed for Oklahoma after spending a season as Tua Tagovailoa’s backup.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley unlocked Hurts with the Sooners. A Heisman contender, the dual threat threw 32 touchdowns against eight picks while completing nearly 70 percent of his throws. He added 1,298 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
> Miami took Crimson Tide defensive lineman Raekwon Davis with the 56th choice. He’s the second Alabama player drafted by the Dolphisn, joining Tagovailoa.
“Rugged and powerful with elite physical traits, Davis has the ability to impose his will on opponents and dominate at the point of attack,” said NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. “He plays long and strong with rare leverage for a taller player and holds positioning against double teams for linebackers to flow freely.”
> The Rams went back to Florida for their next second rounder, taking Gators receiver Van Jefferson. He was the 12th wide receiver selected. Jeremiah compared Jefferson to new teammate Cooper Kupp in L.A.
> LSU’s claim to DBU grew another notch stronger at the 61st pick. Tennessee took cornerback Kristian Fulton, who slipped much further than expected.
> Boston College’s power back A.J. Dillon went to Green Bay at pick 62. Dillon was extremely productive in college, rushing for 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns on 845 carries.
“Decent vision, good burst, good body lean and effective stiff arm,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said. “A.J. Dillon is going to be tough for a linebacker to deal with at that second level.”
> Kansas City took Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay Jr. with the 63rd pick. Gay is an uber talent who fell due to off-field issues (that Jeremiah described as “overblown”). He started only six of his 32 games but exhibited enough physical ability to put him in day 2 consideration.
“Kansas City gets a first-round caliber athlete without the first-round caliber production,” Kiper said.
The third round:
> Seattle added to its interior offensive line with LSU guard Damien Lewis. He allowed only five sacks and 13 hurries in 1,089 snaps in Baton Rouge, according to Pro Football Focus.
> Baltimore took Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike with the 71st pick, adding another plus athlete to its defensive line. Madubuike’s tough play style is apt for the Ravens.
> The Buccaneers took Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn at No. 76. Vaughn was the Commodores’ leading rusher the past two seasons and averaged 7.9 yards per carry in his junior campaign.
Vaughn is smooth player who shows burst and quickness. He’ll pair with Ronald Jones to comprise Tampa Bay’s backfield.
> The Jets took Florida edge defender Jabari Zuniga three picks later. Zuniga is an impressive athlete who had 18.5 sacks and 33 tackles for loss in 39 games.
> The Raiders took back-to-back SEC receivers with the 80th and 81st picks: Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden and South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards. Las Vegas also took Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III in the first round (12th overall).
Bowden was a Swiss army knife for Kentucky, even playing quarterback. Edwards, meanwhile, adds size (6-3, 212) to their receiving group. Kiper called Edwards an “underrated” receiver.
> Denver took LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry III, the ninth Tiger selected. He joins receiver Jerry Jeudy (15th overall) as SEC picks headed to Colorado.
“This is a solid center,” said McFarland, an LSU product himself. “He’ll play a long time. Smart, versatile. Can even kick him to guard if you want to. I love this pick for the Denver Broncos.
> The Rams chose Alabama pass rusher Terrell Lewis, who fell due to an injury history. He missed most of two seasons in college, but he’s intrigued with his blend of size and fluidity.
“He could end up being a double-digit sack guy,” Kiper said.
> New England selected Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings with the 87th pick. He was the ninth Crimson Tide player drafted.
> Missouri defensive tackle Jordan Elliott went to the Browns with the 88th pick. He adds young depth to a veteran defensive line.
> Minnesota went with Mississippi State cornerback Cameron Dantzler with the next pick. A lanky defender, many believed Dantzler would go higher.
The Bulldogs have produced an impressive amount of NFL defensive talent recently. Jeffrey Simmons, Jonathan Abram and Montez Sweat were first rounders last season.
> Florida’s Jonathan Greenard was the fourth consecutive SEC player taken when the Texans added him to their defensive line.
A transfer from Louisville, Greenard quickly established himself as a leader for Todd Grantham’s defense. He had 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 11 games last season.
> Arkansas defensive tackle McTelvin Agim went to Denver with the 95th selection. Agim had 14.5 sacks, 31 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles in his 42-game career.
“Agim is a work in progress with only one season as a full-time defensive tackle after playing defensive end previously,” Zierlen said. “He has snap quickness to become a better one-gap penetrator and rush talent to build upon if he can attack with a better plan and more urgency. He's not strong enough to withstand NFL power at the point of attack so development of strength and technique will be critical if he is to become a rotational 4-3 defensive tackle.”
> LSU inside linebacker Jacob Phillips went to the Browns, joining teammate Grant Delpit. Phillips led the SEC with 113 tackles last season. He was the 10th LSU player selected, tying the record for most players from one school in the first three rounds.
> The Raiders finally got their Clemson player in safety Tanner Muse at 100. It was earlier than expected for Muse, who was pegged a sixth round pick by NFL.com.
Muse has ball-hawk skills as a safety-linebacker hybrid. He’s a high I.Q. player - the type general manager Mike Mayock loves.
> New England took Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene with the next choice. He’s a do-it-all player regarded for his smarts. Pro Football Focus said Keene was “criminally underutilized” in the Hokies’ offense.
Interestingly, he was the second tight end taken by the Patriots in the round.
> Baltimore ended the second night with Mississippi State guard Tyre Phillips. He’s 6-foot-5, 331 pounds and showcases plenty of power in his play. He was a tackle for the Bulldogs but will transition to guard for Baltimore.
The Ravens picked him with their compensatory pick for losing former Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.