Heading into the NFL Draft, there was some understanding of where in the draft former Virginia football players would fall. The locations, however, seemed unpredictable.
As it turns out, the draft order proved difficult to predict as well. In a bit of a surprise, Joe Reed’s name was called before Bryce Hall. The star cornerback slid behind Reed, going in the fifth round likely due to an injury suffered against Miami.
Prior to the leg injury, Hall was considered a first- or second-round talent.
“When we look back on this draft in a decade, we’re all gonna wonder how Bryce Hall slid this far,” Ric Serritella, the creator of NFL Draft Bible and an advance scout for the NFLPA Bowl, said.
The New York Jets were lucky enough to grab Hall in the fifth round, seven picks behind Reed, who went 151st overall. The speedy receiver and kick returner went to the Los Angeles Chargers. After the draft, Jordan Mack signed as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers, while Bryce Perkins signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Los Angeles Rams.
Here’s a closer look at how these players fit with their NFL teams.
Reed joins a Chargers team undergoing a bit of a remodeling. Longtime quarterback Phillip Rivers split from the Chargers and joined the Indianapolis Colts. This leaves Los Angeles with new draft pick Justin Herbert and veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Herbert is the team’s future, but he might start the season on the bench behind Taylor as he adjusts to the NFL game. Whoever takes the quarterback job will have an abundance of offensive weapons. At running back, the Chargers have Austin Ekeler. At wide receiver, they have Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. At tight end, Hunter Henry is an elite receiving threat.
“Sounds like a deadly combination,” Reed said of joining Allen and Williams. “Ready to get there and learn from those two guys.”
The former UVa star fits in as a versatile offensive threat and a return man. He can fill in as a running back if needed, while also playing out of the slot as a receiver. Despite big outside receiving targets, Reed could move outside if needed.
“They should get creative with him and be open-minded to use him however they see fit, but I think that’s the whole appeal is the versatility,” Serritella said.
At returner, Desmond King handled most of the duties a season ago. King, who was drafted 151st overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, is in the final year of his contract with the Chargers.
Los Angeles could elect to use Reed as its returner this season or give him a chance to settle in as a rookie as the backup returner and a slot receiver. If King isn’t brought back next season, Reed could be the return man of the future.
Given Reed’s versatility, there are plenty of ways for Reed to contribute immediately. He’ll likely compete with King for the kickoff and punt return duties, and there’s a decent chance Reed plays as both a running back and receiver on offense.
New York’s No. 1 cornerback entering the 2020 season appears to be Pierre Desir. While Desir is a solid player, he’s not necessarily an ideal No. 1 corner. Outside of Desir, the Jets roll with Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet and not much else.
There’s a noticeable lack of depth at cornerback for the Jets.
“I think this is going to be one of the players, if not the steal of the draft, one of the best bargains of the draft,” Serritella said. “No doubt.”
Hall, who was considered one of the best cornerbacks in the draft before his injury, joins a New York team in desperate need of good cornerback play. While it might take Hall a few months to return to his pre-injury form, Hall provides a legitimate option as a future starting cornerback.
“He was a guy that we were a little bit surprised was there in the fifth round,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said on CBS Sports Network.
If Hall reaches his full potential, he could be the team’s No. 1 corner despite being picked in the fifth round of the draft.
A redshirt year of sorts — where Hall is eased back into game action while developing and learning New York’s defensive system — isn’t completely out of the question. Once Hall returns to his usual self, he’ll have a chance to make a significant impact on New York’s secondary.
“I actually wrote in the draft recap that Bryce Hall could turn out to be the best cornerback that they’ve had since Darrelle Revis,” Serritella said.
Mack signed with Carolina as an undrafted free agent. The Panthers have a few solid linebackers, but they also lack linebacker depth after Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis moved on.
Given the need at the position, Mack will have a shot to compete for a role during training camp. He’ll likely need to make an impact on special teams to earn a chance of making the team’s roster.
“If he sticks with football, I think he’ll every opportunity to kind of stick as a special teamer, but I like his upside,” Serritella said.
Perkins heads to an ideal location as an undrafted free agent. The Rams will start Jared Goff at quarterback, but outside of its starter, Los Angeles lacks depth.
If the Rams don’t add another quarterback, they’ll have John Wolford, Josh Love and Perkins competing for the backup spot. Perkins is unquestionably the best athlete of the group, and given his ability to run and do things traditional quarterbacks can’t, he could stick.
“There’s a need there for a developmental quarterback,” Serritella said. “Sean McVay likes to work with young quarterbacks, and you know, maybe he sees something there.”
Performance in training camp and preseason games will be critical for Perkins. If he uses his athleticism to his advantage and improves his accuracy, he has a legitimate chance of making the Rams’ roster or practice squad.