|Bronson Kaufusi has competition in Baltimore following the 2018 NFL Draft (Source: BaltimoreSun.com).|
The most exciting part of the NFL Draft was learning that BYU Cougars linebacker Fred Warner would join the San Francisco 49ers. It was also exciting to see Jonah Trinnaman, Micah Hannemann, Tomasi Laulile, Tejan Koroma, and Tanner Balderee get free agent deals or mini camp invites. Sometimes, the draft can be an ominous event for veteran NFL players. For example, in 2012 when former BYU quarterback John Beck saw his Washington Redskins draft not one, but two quarterbacks in the first four rounds.
The 2017 NFL season was exciting with several BYU players making active rosters and seeing the field on Sundays. Let's take a look at how the draft could impact their roster spots in 2018.
New England Patriots
BYU had two alumni on the roster in New England last season: Kyle Van Noy and Harvey Langi. The Patriots drafted two offensive players in the first round, and then a cornerback in the second round. However, in rounds five and six the Patriots selected linebackers.
Van Noy got a big contract extension and filled a starting role last season, so his spot is pretty secure. Langi, on the other hand, missed most the year after sustaining brutal injuries in a car accident. He is going to have to earn his roster spot, again, which will be that much tougher with two extra bodies at his position.
The Lions recently tagged Ezekiel Ansah as its franchise player. He has had a good run in Detroit the last five seasons. However, health has been a concern with Ansah, which is one reason why the Lions didn't lock him up with a big, fat long-term deal.
Like New England, the Lions went offensive in the first two rounds. In round four, Detroit selected Alabama's defensive end Da'Shawn Hand. The scouting report for Hand isn't glowing. Ansah is still a rare talent, so as long as he can stay healthy, his spot on the roster is safe.
Green Bay Packers
Jamaal Williams had a very impactful rookie season in Green Bay last year. Besides helping the Packers win games, he filled a big hole the Packers had at running back. The satisfaction that Green Bay has with Williams is evident when looking at this draft. The Packers didn't select a single running back.
Williams' roster spot is secure. The biggest threat to his playing time is fellow second-year running back Aaron Jones.
On the other hand, the wide receiver room got a lot more crowded. Practice squad receiver Colby Pearson is going to find it a lot more challenging to stick around in 2018 with fourth round pick J'Mon Moore (Missouri), fifth round pick Marquez Valdez-Scantling (South Florida), and sixth round pick Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame) all demanding reps.
Kansas City Chiefs
Daniel Sorensen had the biggest statistical season of his four-year career in 2017, but the Chiefs defense took a lot of criticism. That included Sorensen.
The Chiefs went all in on defense, literally, this draft. Every draft pick was from the defensive side of the ball. In the fourth round, Kansas City grabbed safety Armani Watts from Texas A&M. He was a four-year starter for the Aggies. The Chiefs have already parted ways with safety Ron Parker, which diminishes the threat of Watts to Sorensen's roster spot. However, playing time could be impacted in 2018.
New Orleans Saints
Taysom Hill generated a buzz in New Orleans last season, despite playing just special teams. The 2018 draft seems to support the notion that Saints head coach Sean Payton believes Hill has a future in this league at quarterback. Even with Drew Brees one-year older, the Saints didn't select a quarterback in the draft.
Sae Tautu is hanging around in New Orleans, as well. He missed 2017 injured, but the Saints have kept him around this off season. Listed as a linebacker on the roster, his chances of making the 2018 active roster weren't hurt by the draft. No linebackers were drafted by the Saints.
Bronson Kaufusi's second year in the NFL wasn't as productive as he or Baltimore had hoped. However, the Ravens don't seem eager to move on from Kaufusi just yet. They did select a defensive end in the draft, but not until the seventh round: Zach Sieler from Ferris State.
It seems unlikely that a late-round pick from a small school would take Kaufusi's roster spot, but let's not forget guys like Jason Taylor from Akron and James Harrison from Kent State who turned into dominant NFL defenders. There is also the business side. If Baltimore feels they are getting the same production out of Sieler as Kaufusi, then they will keep they guy who is the better value, which is Sieler, in this case.
Either way, it behooves Kaufusi to step up his game in 2018.
Practice squad defensive back Rob Daniel is threatened a lot more by this draft. He needs to make the active roster this year, or he is done in the NFL. The Ravens selected cornerback Anthony Averett out of Alabama in the fourth round, and safety DeShon Elliott from Texas in the sixth.
Kai Nacua came on strong at the end of the seasons after making the Browns' active roster as an undrafted free agent. The Browns did not select a safety in the draft. If Nacua isn't back in Cleveland for a second season, it is probably because of that 0-16 record. Any winless team should be looking to upgrade at all positions.
UPDATE: Nacua has been waived by the Cleveland Browns.
Los Angeles Chargers
Michael Davis was, almost exclusively, a special teams player for Los Angeles last season. That, in and of itself, makes him a fringe player for a roster spot again in 2018. However, the Chargers didn't use the draft to upgrade at the cornerback position. That is a positive for Davis as he fights to make it a second season in the league.
Wide receiver Jordan Leslie landed in Denver at the very end of the 2017 season. Despite his spectacular, highlight-reel catch in week 3, the path to roster security isn't getting any easier for Leslie. The Broncos selected a wide receiver in rounds two (Courtland Sutton, SMU) and four (DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State).
John Denney has been the one constant in the Miami Dolphins organization over the last decade-plus. As a long snapper, he has been superb, and he isn't going anywhere, yet. The Dolphins did draft a new placekicker, so there is one small detail of Denney's job that will be different.
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