By Adam Hensley
James Daniels, Josh Jackson, and Josey Jewell all have new NFL homes. Now that the draft is over, here’s a look at how each player fills a void on their respective teams.
James Daniels — Chicago Bears
James Daniels was regarded by many as the best center prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he wasn’t the first snapper to hear his name called in Dallas; two centers went before him, and he waited until the second round for the phone to ring.
Regardless, Daniels is in a very solid situation in Chicago. The Bears’ offensive line isn’t terrible by any means, but there’s room for improvement, meaning Daniels could see playing time from the first day.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago general manager Ryan Pace said Daniels would start out competition at left guard, not center. The Bears are set to keep Cody Whitehair at center, but thanks to Josh Sitton’s departure at left guard, the position opens up for Daniels, a player who Pace said has quite a lot of promise.
“We feel there’s still a lot of upside ahead, as young as he is,” Pace told the Tribune. “You see these offensive linemen kind of get caught in awkward positions. He has the ability to recover and maintain his balance. Some guys awkwardly go down in those moments; he doesn’t do that.”
The Bears’ bread and butter lies in the running game with tailback Jordan Howard emerging as one of the up-and-coming runners in the league. Chicago lived to run the ball to the left of the center last season, and that’s where it had success, with 37 rushing attempts going for 10 or more yards — a league-best.
However, while they led the league in 10-plus rushes to the left, the Bears also led the league in negative rushing yards, netting 37 carries that went backward on that side of the line last season.
But you get the point; Chicago loved to rush to the left, and with Sitton, an NFL veteran, no longer with the team, there’s an immediate role that Daniels can fill, and given his readiness for the next level, it’s likely the former Hawkeye will be one of the Bears’ starting five linemen come Week 1.
Josh Jackson — Green Bay Packers
Jackson’s interception-heavy 2017 campaign sold scouts on his awareness. His 8 interceptions led the country, and if that wasn’t enough, he had his best performance against Iowa’s toughest opponents (3 interceptions against Ohio State, 2 interceptions — both for touchdowns — against Wisconsin).
Jackson comes to a Green Bay defense thirsting for interceptions. The Packers usually fare well, however, in the interception department, despite their inability to cover receivers consistently, but it was a different story last season.
2017 marked a dip in interceptions. Green Bay tallied 11 picks, the lowest total since it had that same number in 2013, and it was the first time in four years the Packers had a total lower than 16.
Enter Jackson, an interception machine. He’s a ballhawk, plain and simple — a cornerback the Packers desperately needed.
Green Bay’s pass defense was atrocious last season. Opposing quarterbacks averaged a 102.0 passer rating, one of three teams in the NFL to allow a rating better than 100.0, landing the Packers second-to-last in the league in that department. They also ranked 30th in yards/pass (7.9), 23rd in total yards (3,789), tied for 29th in touchdowns (30), 27th in passes of 20-plus yards (55), and 32nd in first-down passing percentage (41.1).
Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst said he didn’t see Jackson falling to the second round (he was projected by many as a first-round lock, if not a top-15 selection).
“It wasn’t the plan,” he said in an interview with Peter King of Sports Illustrated. “We got lucky.”
Jackson’s competition at corner includes fellow 2018 draftee Jaire Alexander from Louisville, whom the Packers selected in round one. Jackson and Alexander have two different games passes — Jackson isn’t as fast but is a turnover machine, while Alexander relies on his speed for his plays. There’s a good chance that both players could see considerable playing time early in the upcoming season.
Josey Jewell — Denver Broncos
When you rack up as many tackles as Jewell did in his four seasons at Iowa, you’re bound to have NFL scouts looking for your name at some point during the NFL Draft.
Those four years at Iowa produced 433 tackles, including 211 solo stops, 28 tackles for a loss, and 10 sacks. He also intercepted 4 passes, but stoping the running game and manning the middle of the field in passing situations was Jewell’s forte.
While tackles don’t necessarily measure the strength of an NFL defense, it’s worthy to note that the Broncos ranked 31st in the NFL as far as total tackles go, securing 937 stops last season. On his own, Jewell recorded 132 tackles last season, about 14 percent of what Denver did as a team (with four fewer games to do so. For those who love to speculate, Jewell’s production rate in a 16-game season would jump to 176, 18.7 percent of Denver’s production from 2017).
The Broncos’ vaunted defense took a step back last season. A unit famous for winning Denver a Super Bowl (with quarterback Peyton Manning barely able to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield and on his last NFL life), the Broncos regressed last season. Denver gave up 23.9 points per game, and opposing offenses averaged 290 yards per contest.
Denver needed help all over defensively, and while Jewell might not be able to impact the Broncos right away, he could easily find his home on special teams or in certain situational packages. NFL Draft scout Dane Brugler compared Jewell with Sean Lee, who’s been a staple on the Cowboys’ defense since he entered the league in 2010.