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Saturday, April 27, 2013
Second-day winners, losers

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Good things come to the patient ones.

On Thursday, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith kept getting texts from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers telling him to hang in there. Rodgers empathized with Smith because he went through a similar experience of waiting for his name to be called at the 2005 draft.

Smith was naturally troubled. He sat in Radio City Music Hall waiting to be drafted and ultimately left before the completion of the first round. As he explained it, he wasn't angry about being bypassed. Once the draft reached the 30th pick, he decided to leave to spend time with his mother, who was also in New York, on her birthday.

The New York Jets bailed out Smith early in the second round by making him the 39th pick in the draft. Stories surfaced early Friday that Smith wasn't going to return for Day 2 of the draft.

But Smith returned to Radio City, and now he has a new home in the New York area. As for football, we'll see how he does.

Here are the three winners from the second day of the draft:

Lacy Eddie
Alabama's Eddie Lacy was the icing on the cake of a big day for the Packers.

1. The Green Bay Packers: Before the second round started, the Packers had a historic day. Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history. Rodgers is now the face of the franchise and is signed with the Packers for seven years. Couple that with the recent five-year, $66 million deal signed by linebacker Clay Matthews, and the Packers have locked up their two top stars. As a celebration, the Packers finally grabbed a running back for Rodgers. In the second round, the Packers selected Alabama halfback Eddie Lacy with the 61st pick. Because of a pair of Friday trades, the Packers can load up on young players in Saturday's final four rounds, but getting Lacy was important. The Packers tend to shy away from emphasizing the run. For the past couple seasons, the Packers have gotten to the end of the schedule with undrafted backs or fill-ins off the street. Lacy slipped into the second round because of injuries. When he's healthy, though, he can be the tough runner the Packers need to return to the Super Bowl.

2. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson: Peterson has been a rising star at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals. He's one of the most physically gifted corners in the game. Plus, he's one of the most explosive and exciting returners. On Friday, the Cardinals gave him two former LSU teammates: linebacker Kevin Minter and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. He tweeted that this was one of best days of his life. Mathieu, known as "Honey Badger," can help Peterson as a free safety or possible third cornerback, along with giving him some breaks on returns. Plus, they are close friends, and Peterson can serve as a mentor to Mathieu. The Cardinals, who drafted guard Jonathan Cooper on Thursday, have had a solid draft so far. But for Peterson, it's now all in the family.

3. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: A little more than a week before the draft, things looked bleak for Big Ben. Mike Wallace, his best deep threat, had departed in free agency. Dependable tight end Heath Miller has been recovering from a knee reconstruction and might not be ready for the start of the regular season. The final straw came when the New England Patriots signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a one-year, $2.5 million restricted offer sheet. The Steelers were thinking of letting Sanders go and getting a third-round choice as compensation. But they decided to match the offer, and things got even better for Roethlisberger on Friday night. It started when the Steelers reached an agreement to sign former Cardinals halfback LaRod Stephens-Howling to a one-year contact. It got better in the second round when Pittsburgh drafted Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell to be the replacement for Rashard Mendenhall. The bonus came in the third round when the Steelers drafted wide receiver Markus Wheaton of Oregon State. It's difficult to forecast whether Wheaton will become the speed threat Roethlisberger lost with Wallace's departure, but he has a chance. He's fast enough and will be under contract for four years.

Here are Day 2's losers:

1. Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow: Sad to say it, but they know they are on borrowed time with the Jets now that Smith has been drafted. The only reason Tebow is on the roster is because the Jets can't find any trade value for him, and they would owe the Broncos $1.5 million if they got rid of him, due to a provision of the trade that brought him from Denver to New York. With Smith on the roster, the only thing keeping Sanchez in a Jets uniform is his contract. Trading him is impossible. No one is going to pick up his guaranteed $8.25 million base salary. If the Jets release Sanchez under the June 1 cap casualty provision, they would take a $12.35 million cap charge this season and a $4.8 million hit next season. At this stage, though, the team has to consider letting him go. Though he might be the best quarterback on the team at the moment, teammates and fans realize he's only here because of the contract. Because the team is rebuilding. This might be time to just cut ties and move on, even if the cap is tight. The Jets restructured the contract of D'Brickashaw Ferguson, freeing up some room. They might have to restructure another contract or two, but the Smith selection only moved Sanchez closer to the exit.

Matt Barkley
Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley remains available after three rounds of the 2013 draft.

2. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman: Freeman accepted the decision of Bucs management to let him play out the final year of his contract in 2013. He knows he hasn't played his best the past two seasons. He also knows he's playing for a head coach who didn't draft him. But the third round of the draft had to be a shock when the Bucs drafted his potential replacement: North Carolina State's Mike Glennon. Glennon is 6-foot-7 and has a strong arm. He could be a perfect play-action quarterback for Tampa Bay's running offense. Glennon can use this season to become more consistent. Freeman will be the starter, but he knows he could be elsewhere next season if he stumbles.

3. Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley: What a freefall. Barkley was considered a top-10 draft choice in 2012 if he would have left school after his junior year. Trojans coach Lane Kiffin talked him into staying to pursue a national championship. The experience has left his career as damaged as his right shoulder, which suffered a third-degree separation last season. Barkley not only slipped out of the first round, but he was bypassed in Rounds 2 and 3. Teams without good quarterbacks didn't want him. You can probably guess what will happen to him during Day 3. As a possible fourth- or fifth-rounder, he'll probably be drafted by a winning team with an elite quarterback because he's such a bargain. You could see Pete Carroll taking him to eventually back up Russell Wilson, who is a budding star. Instead of entering the NFL as a star, Barkley could become the next Ryan Mallett, a talented thrower whose only hope of playing for the Patriots is if Tom Brady gets hurt. Sure, it had to hurt Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Tyler Bray to be ignored for three rounds, too. But for Barkley, it's a disaster.