Top 100 prospects already scooped up but Saturday still stocked with NFL difference-makers

The top 100 prospects are off the board but plenty of playmakers remain for teams to pick through Saturday in the NFL draft ‘s final four rounds.

Defense became the focus Friday after a record-setting 23 offensive players were selected in the first round, including the first 14 picks, an unprecedented wait for the first defender to come off the board.

The Atlanta Falcons, who provided the biggest shocker in years by taking quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8 after signing free agent QB Kirk Cousins for $180 million, kicked off the shift by moving up to take Clemson defensive lineman Ruke Orhorhoro with the third pick of the second round.

The Washington Commanders then took Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton and a total of 20 defensive players went in a round that had seven trades as teams were wheeling and dealing to get their guy.

Rice wide receiver Luke McCaffrey, one of several sons of former NFL stars who were selected in Rounds 1-3, was the final pick Friday night, going to Washington with the fifth compensatory pick and 100th overall selection so far.

Heading into the lightning rounds Saturday, 54 offensive players and 46 defensive players have been drafted.

There could be more wheeling and dealing at the start of the fourth round Saturday as teams jockey to select some of the best players who were considered top-100 talent.

Those include former Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who had a dozen catches of at least 20 yards this season, just one fewer than Georgia’s Brock Bowers, the 13th overall selection in Round 1.

Two other offensive players sure to go quickly are record-setting wide receiver Troy Franklin of Oregon and running back Jaylen Wright of Tennessee, who averaged better than 6 yards a carry over his college career. Franklin set school records last year with 1,383 yards receiving, 14 touchdown receptions and eight 100-yard performances.

Then there’s a trio of cornerbacks available who will tempt teams to move up: D.J. James of Auburn, Kris Abrams-Draine of Missouri and Khyree Jackson of Oregon.

James broke up 18 passes over the last two seasons for the Tigers, Abrams-Draine is a converted wide receiver who had seven interceptions in college and Jackson had three interceptions for the Ducks last year.

Another defender to watch for is Colorado State outside linebacker Mohamed Kamara, the Mountain West Conference’s defensive player of the year last season, who racked up 30 1/2 career sacks to go with 45 1/2 tackles for loss.



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