The NFL Draft is an opportunity for some teams to change the direction of their franchise with one superstar selection. Other teams who don’t need a savior can stay among the upper echelon by simply adding depth to a position that is already a strength. Other teams that are a few pieces away from contending can use the draft to give an entire position group a makeover.
On Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers used their second-round pick on Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson; that came after the Packers used their first-round pick on Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.
For a team that finished 31st in the league last season in Passer Rating allowed, 29th in passing touchdowns allowed and 23rd in passing yards allowed on its way to missing the playoffs, placing an emphasis on improving the secondary was a must. It became even more of a need area when Green Bay traded starting cornerback Damarious Randall to Cleveland as part of the deal for QB DeShone Kizer, and starting safety Morgan Burnett left for the Steelers in free agency.
The Packers did bring back former starting CB Tramon Williams — who had spent the last three seasons in Cleveland and Arizona — as a free agent, but he’s 35 years old. Going into the draft, the Packers needed to get better and younger in the defensive backfield, and they did it in the first two rounds by picking Alexander and Jackson. Both should be penciled in as starters for next season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also made significant moves to address their secondary, using two second-round picks on cornerbacks: North Carolina’s M.J. Stewart and Auburn’s Carlton Davis. The Bucs ranked last in the NFL in passing yards allowed and 27th in Passer Rating allowed.
In his junior season at Iowa, Jackson was a consensus All-American who won the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and the Jack Tatum Award as the nation’s top defensive back. He recorded 48 tackles, 18 pass breakups and eight interceptions, two of which he took back for touchdowns.
After six defensive backs were chosen in the first round, Jackson was the first of seven DBs picked in the second round. At one point in the second round, there were four DBs selected in a row:
45. Green Bay Packers — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
53. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina
The Bucs are making a concerted effort to get tougher and more aggressive on defense. Stewart is a physical corner, but sometimes he gets too physical. The words “flag magnet” were mentioned during NFL Network’s coverage in regards to Stewart.
54. Cincinnati Bengals — Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest
He’s been compared to Earl Thomas. Smart, athletic and always around the ball.
55. Carolina Panthers — Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Going into the combine, he was considered the fastest man in the draft. The former LSU track star predicted he was going to break the combine’s 40-yard dash record set by Bengals WR John Ross last year. But on the big day, Jackson appeared to catch a cramp and “only” recorded a 4.32-second time, which was still good enough to tie for the fastest in this year’s combine with No. 4 overall pick CB Denzel Ward and Tulane CB Parry Nickerson. Jackson later ran 4.31 seconds at LSU’s Pro Day.
56. New England Patriots — Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
Dawson probably isn’t going to be the replacement for Malcolm Butler, but he is projected to start right away as the Pats’ nickel/slot corner.
58. Atlanta Falcons — Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
First-round talent who landed in the Falcons’ lap late in the second round. Oliver is a bigger corner (6-1, 201) who is long and athletic and plays the ball very well in the air.
63. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
Before future Hall of Fame CB Ronde Barber announced this pick for the Bucs, he joked, “I guess I’m not making a comeback.” Davis has basketball-player-long arms and the ideal size to be a tough man-to-man press coverage corner.
68. Houston Texans — Justin Reid, S, Stanford
Interesting that the team owned by barely-hiding-it racist Bob McNair chose the younger brother of free agent safety Eric Reid, who the Texans 100 percent will not sign because he chose to silently protest the national anthem.
82. Detroit Lions — Tracy Walker, S, Louisiana
85. Carolina Panthers — Rashaan Gaulden, CB, Tennessee
93. Jacksonville Jaguars — Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
95. San Francisco 49ers — Tarvarious Moore, S, Southern Miss
99. Denver Broncos — Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College
In recent years, the second day of the NFL Draft is noted for the current and former NFL stars who take the stage to announce the picks. The active and retired defensive backs who appeared on Friday were Ronde Barber (Bucs), Merton Hanks (49ers), Aeneas Williams (Cardinals), Charles Tillman (Bears), Willie Brown (Raiders), Rod Woodson (Steelers), Nate Clements (49ers), Steve Atwater (Broncos), Reshad Jones (Dolphins) and NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent.