Pitch and catch: Round 2 of NFL draft starts with receivers
Pitch and catch.
That’s how the second round of the NFL draft began Friday night, and it hardly should be a stunner that receivers Tee Higgins of Clemson and Michael Pittman Jr. of Southern California were the first two picks.
For one, the NFL these days is built on passing offenses. For another, this draft is loaded with outstanding wideouts. Six went in the opening round, and many teams had both Higgins and Pittman rated as top-32 talent.
So the Cincinnati Bengals held firm atop the second round by grabbing Higgins to catch Joe Burrow’s passes. The pair worked out together heading toward the draft.
And Higgins idolizes Bengals star receiver A.J. Green.
“I actually model my game after him,” Higgins said. “Man, it’s crazy. I was just talking about this to my good friend — I could end up with the Bengals and be his teammate one day. Now that this moment is here, it’s surreal.”
In addition to finding what they hope will be their franchise quarterback in LSU’s Burrow with the first overall pick, the Bengals (2-14 last season) added a threat who can make the spectacular reception.
Pittman takes his 6-foot-4, 224-pound frame to Indianapolis. The Colts had no first-rounder, and they quickly gave new quarterback Philip Rivers a target in Pittman, whose father also played in the NFL.
“I think they brought me in to make an impact right now and they have Philip Rivers, who I think is a Hall of Famer,” Pittman said. “I’m happy I get to start with like a Hall of Fame quarterback.”
Two positions barely or not addressed at all in the first round got some attention directly after Higgins and Pittman were selected. Georgia’s D’Andre Swift became the second running back chosen, by Detroit. LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the only RB who went in the opening round, last to Super Bowl champions Kansas City.
Swift is a dynamic playmaker unlike anyone the Lions have had in the backfield in years — maybe since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who retired in 1998.
Safety was ignored on Thursday, but immediately was addressed by the Giants in Round 2 with Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. New York’s secondary has been a sieve.
New England finally surfaced with the 37th overall spot after trading out of the first round. Coach Bill Belichick was nowhere in sight — his dog appeared to be manning his laptop — as the Patriots chose Kyle Dugger, a safety from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. Dugger not only was the first player not in FBS to be selected, but only the second from a non-Power Five conference. Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, who went 26th overall to Green Bay, was the other.
Other teams making their initial selections Friday night saw:
— TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock going to Houston;
— Chicago adding a 10th tight end to its roster in Cole Kmet of Notre Dame;
— Another Irish player, wideout Chase Claypool, a Canadian, to Pittsburgh;
— Florida State’s Cam Akers to the Rams, who had released their standout running back, Todd Gurley last month, with Gurley surfacing in Atlanta;
— Buffalo adding to an already solid defense with Iowa end A.J. Epenesa, one of the Big Ten’s outstanding defenders.
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