Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books. Here's a look at the early winners and losers, assessments that are certified to hold up to all scrutiny for years to come.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Steelers: While Rudolph surely would have loved to have gone in the first round, the Oklahoma State product might be better off having fallen to Pittsburgh at No. 76 overall. Learning behind Ben Roethlisberger and being surrounded by all the Steelers talent sets up Rudolph to succeed. He could wind up playing sooner than expected, considering Big Ben hasn't played a full season since 2014.
The Steelers also drafted Rudolph's college teammate, wide receiver James Washington, late in the second round. Based on general manager Kevin Colbert's track record, it's only a matter of time before Washington is torching NFL defenses. In a few years, he might be doing it with Rudolph.
Titans/Patriots intrigue: Fresh off signing two former Patriots players this offseason -- cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis -- Titans GM Jon Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel might have taken another player or two from their old buddies during the draft. Robinson traded up to get in front of the Patriots with both of his first two picks: linebacker Rashaan Evans (No. 21 overall) and edge rusher Harold Landry (41), who Robinson said Friday had a grade "in the teens" for the Titans. There's no way to know if New England would have drafted either player, but they both fit big Patriots needs and smelled like Patriots targets. Then again, Titans targets and Patriots targets are becoming hard to tell apart.
Running backs: The running back position is cool again! There was a run on the position near the top of the second round that made JerryWorld feel like a fantasy football draft room. It truly started Thursday night when Seattle picked San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny at No. 27, which kickstarted five backs being taken in a 17-pick span. Combine that streak with Saquon Barkley going No. 2 overall, and the conventional wisdom about not drafting running backs too high is fading away. Three-down running backs in today's NFL can provide just as much value on the right team as a wideout or tight end, and the draft is starting to reflect that.
My favorite pick at the position Friday was USC running back Ronald Jones II landing with Tampa with the No. 38 overall pick. Jones is a home-run hitter, now on an explosive Bucs offense full of players just like him.
Chicago Bears: It's hard not to love what the Bears have done this offseason, and that's continued into the draft. Friday night included the addition of one of the top centers in the draft, James Daniels, and a wide receiver in Anthony Miller who has the skill set to produce right away. Miller's route-running and toughness have drawn comparisons to Sterling Shepard, a player who made an instant impact at the pro level. (The Bears clearly loved Miller, giving up a 2019 second-round pick and a fourth-rounder this year to get the pick from the Patriots.)
General manager Ryan Pace has done an excellent job supplying coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with weapons all offseason, providing a clearer vision for the franchise than was ever apparent during the John Fox era.
Washington Redskins:Redskins radio analyst Chris Cooley said more than a week ago that the team's ideal scenario was to land defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne and running back Derrius Guice. That was exactly what happened, when Guice surprisingly fell to the 59th pick in the draft. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that Guice slid in part because of some poor visits with teams, who believed he was immature and high-maintenance. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero wrote about similar issues last week.
While Thursday and Friday were difficult days for Guice after being in the green room in Dallas on Thursday night, he landed in an ideal scenario. The Redskins have a solid offensive line, a clever play caller in Jay Gruden and no running back on the roster who can compare to Guice's relentless Marshawn Lynch-like running style.
Mike Pettine, defensive coordinator, Packers: The Packers used their second-round pick (No. 45) on Josh Jackson, a physical first-round talent who was the second of two cornerbacks taken by Green Bay (including Jaire Alexander at No. 18 overall) thus far. The Packers have used an exceptional amount of high picks on players in the secondary in recent years, but Pettine's track record says he'll know what to do with them.
Indianapolis Colts:Colts GM Chris Ballard said Friday that he learned last season the Colts needed to get far tougher up front to compete in the AFC South. His draft picks on Friday made that clear. After trading back into Round 2 to acquire the 64th overall pick, Ballard wound up with an astounding four second-round selections. Including the Colts' first-rounder (guard Quenton Nelson at No. 6 overall), Ballard's picks look like a fever dream for lovers of the trenches: guard (Nelson), linebacker (Darius Leonard), guard (Braden Smith), defensive end (Kemoko Turay) and defensive end (Tyquan Lewis).
This draft haul, which started with the Colts' trade down from No. 3 to No. 6 overall, will help shape Ballard's tenure with the Colts. The emphasis on bullies up front should make Andrew Luck smile, along with the team's current starter at running back, Marlon Mack. The Colts could be a logical destination for free-agent back C.J. Anderson after the team passed on selecting a runner Friday.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns: If Hyde was relieved Thursday night that the Browns passed on taking Saquon Barkley with either the first or fourth overall picks, the feeling didn't last long. Cleveland's selection of Georgia running back Nick Chubb at No. 35 was concerning for Hyde even before vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith spoke Friday night.
"He exemplifies what we're trying to build here in Cleveland," Highsmith said, before comparing Chubb to Jamal Lewis.
Hyde signed a three-year contract in free agency, but his stay in Cleveland may wind up lasting about as long as Dwyane Wade's cameo in the city this year.
Players with tough acts to follow: The Browns started the night by selecting tackle Austin Corbett (No. 33), who immediately was tagged as the guy who needs to replace future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. Good luck! In the third round, the Cowboys drafted wide receiver Michael Gallup (No. 81), the team's first pickup at the position since it released Dez Bryant.
You never want to be the guy who replaces the guy. You want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaces the guy. It's science.
Clarity for the Jimmy Garoppolo trade: San Francisco's heist of Garoppolo from the Patriots last season could go down as one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history, a fact that may keep Bill Belichick up at night. Perhaps Belichick knew that the player drafted with the pick acquired in the Jimmy G trade (No. 42 overall) would face unfair comparisons for eternity, so Belichick traded back in the second round to throw everyone off the scent. Then he traded back again. Then he traded up to help ensure no one really remembers who the Patriots wound up selecting in the deal that sent away Tom Brady's would-be successor.
ESPN's Mike Reiss helped break down the final haul, at least for now. The team essentially wound up dealing Garoppolo for the ability to eventually grab cornerback Duke Dawson (taken No. 56 overall), a 2018 fourth-round pick (No. 105) and Chicago's 2019 second-round pick. If nothing else, the Patriots maximized their chances of hitting on another great player by turning the Jimmy G pick into three selections.
"You guys will parse that tomorrow; that's not our job," Caserio said with a smile. "We're just looking at the picks, looking at the numbers and when trades come into play, we'll take it as it comes."
Cowboys fans: Trolling the home fans is my new favorite NFL draft tradition. Steelers and 49ers reps talked up their Super Bowl trophies to the booing Dallas crowd. Packers legend Jerry Kramer made an outstanding Ice Bowl reference that went over the heads of young Cowboys fans. Michael Vick said he never lost to Dallas, which was a beautiful moment even if it wasn't exactly true. But the most entertaining speech came from former Eagles kicker David Akers, who returned serve after Cowboys great Drew Pearson trash-talked Eagles fans last year in Philadelphia.
Akers followed that by announcing the selection of tight end Dallas Goedert, the last premier player left from a position that is suddenly lacking on the Cowboys depth chart after surprising news emerged Friday of Jason Witten's imminent retirement. No one said that hosting the NFL draft was going to be easy.