In today’s pass-happy NFL, you can never have enough cornerbacks. So the strategy on Day 3 often seems to be: If in doubt, take a corner.
Heading into Saturday’s final four rounds, two of the best players on the board regardless of position are cornerbacks. One is a national championship game hero and the other an All-American.
With only five quarterbacks off the board through three rounds, expect about that many more to go as teams try to find the next Brock Purdy.
And even after a record nine tight ends were selected in rounds 1-3, there are a few more intriguing prospects in a deep class.
Five quarterbacks were selected in the first three rounds, with Kentucky’s Will Levis (second round to the Titans) and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker (third round to the Lions) being selected on Day 2.
Who is next?
Fresno State’s Jake Haener has some Purdy-like characteristics: an undersized playmaker who can be both exciting and exasperating.
BYU’s Jaren Hall has a slender build, but plenty of athleticism. UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson has a similar profile.
Also, still to be drafted are both starting quarterbacks from the College Football Playoff national title game. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett and TCU’s Max Duggan were also both Heisman Trophy finalists.
In the corners
Georgia’s Kelee Ringo is a former five-star recruit who started every game on consecutive national championship teams. He returned an interception for a touchdown to seal the Bulldogs’ 2021 title in the championship game against Alabama. The physical tools (6-foot-2, 207 pounds, 4.36 speed) are there, but his inconsistent technique and ball awareness suggest maybe a move to safety in his future.
At the other end of the spectrum is All-American Clark Phillips III of Utah. At 5-9, 194, Phillips is on the small side and his 4.5 speed is a couple of steps below elite. But he had six interceptions last season and always seems to be in the right position.
Ohio State tackles Dawand Jones, a mountain of a man, at 6-8 and 374 pounds. There are concerns he might not be nimble enough to deal with NFL pass rushers, and his future is almost certainly at right tackle.
Still, that size and power should make him a project worth taking on for some team.
BYU’s Blake Freeland is a more athletic tackle who is also likely not to last long on Day 3.
More tight ends
Eight tight ends were drafted on Day 2, including five in the second round.
Another handful or more could come off the board during Day 3, led by Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle, Clemson’s Davis Allen, Miami’s Will Mallory, Old Dominion’s Zack Kuntz, and Purdue’s Payne Durham.
After seven running backs were selected in the first two days of the draft, expect at least that many on Day 3.
Choosing the best is a matter of preference, but Roschon Johnson of Texas particularly stands out.
Johnson played behind first-rounder Bijan Robinson for three seasons, but put up 2,190 yards rushing, 56 catches for 420 yards, and 26 touchdowns. He runs hard and was one of the leaders of the team at Texas, despite not being a starter.
Other notable backs on the board are the Big Ten’s top two rushers in Illinois’ Chase Brown and Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim, both second-team All-Americans, and Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading rusher, and a third-team All-American.
Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. was a stat stuffer this past season for the Bearcats. Pace was third in the country in tackles for loss (20.5), sixth in total tackles with 136, and 10th in sacks with 10.
Pace is a little short of 6 feet tall, but the All-American should hear his name called Saturday.