The NFL Draft is here! A little bit later than normal *grumble*, but its still a welcome attraction nonetheless. As is always the case, this event has enough drama and storylines to fill its primetime slot Thursday night, as round one will air on ESPN and the NFL Network. I wanna chat about some of those stories.
What did the Extra Two Weeks of Draft Prep Mean?
It means that every team had two more weeks to blow smoke up everyone’s collective asses, and especially the ass of every NFL reporter. Every team is throwing up multiple smokescreens and using reverse psychology in order to jockey everyone else’s draft position and ensure they get the guy they want without having to trade around. It’s exhausting. All 32 teams “quietly” like a guy they probably have no intention of drafting. They can either be completely mum on a guy they love, or they can attempt the double-fake and openly gush about that player, to the point that other teams think it must be a fake.
As I’ll get to shortly, some players have fallen more intensely under the microscope in this extended time-frame, with flaws bubbling to the surface that may not have otherwise. (Maybe.) It’s also allowed other players to rise through some of the mess and become top-ten prospects in league circles.
And honestly, it’s allowed for every network and website to ssstttttrrrrrrreeeeeetttccccchhhh out their coverage of the draft. I’m pretty sure everyone is on Mock Draft 27.6. Use this generator to make one of your own. It’s just as relevant.
Ever since the rookie wage scale came into existence, first round trades have been way easier to pull off. This year there are a crap-ton of trade rumors, starting at the very top of the draft. The Texans and Rams are looking to trade out of the one and two slots. The Lions are being constantly linked to trade rumors that would see them move up to take Sammy Watkins. The Bills want a top receiver as well and are looking into trading upwards. Dallas might move up for Aaron Donald. It always takes two to tango in a trade, but it looks as if there will be plenty of partners to go around tonight. (NFL swingers party anyone?)
Those Effing Quarterbacks
Always the centers of attention, the rookie quarterback drama is back in 2014. But not because they’re all SO talented, but because they each have blemishes that take them out of any scout’s top ten incoming player rankings. But as we all know, teams picking in the top ten of any draft are usually there because they lack a franchise quarterback. (This fact is why Mark Sanchez and Jake Locker went fifth and eighth overall in their respective drafts.) This year there is no shortage of teams requiring a signal-caller. Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota are the the teams picking in the top eight spots that could easily spend a pick on a quarterback. But which ones will be taken when?
Johnny Manziel is clearly the most polarizing figure in this year’s draft. He’s under-sized (like a Russell Wilson, only Manziel is taller), but teams are concerned about his smaller build in regards to his durability. Mock drafts have him all over the place, ranging from the Texans at the top all the way out of the top fifteen. Reports are that the Browns and Raiders will be “definitely” and “definitely not” taking the Texas A&M quarterback with the loud personality. But Mike Mayock’s final mock has Manziel going to the Cowboys at 16, which would easily be the MOST SPLENDIFOROUSLY MAJESTIC STORY IN THE HISTORY OF THE FROZEN TUNDRA OF THE NFL.
Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater has gone from “best in the class” down the board all the way out of the first round, in the eyes of some “experts.” That’s a steep decline, even if he had a shoddy Pro Day workout. There are questions about Bridgewater’s footwork and accuracy under pressure, but some of those are not uncommon concerns for rookies.
Blake Bortles might be the best example of a prototypical quarterback in the 2014 draft. He’s a big body, statuesque in the pocket, and has all the tools teams covet in building up a ten-year starter in the league. He’s rocketed up the draft charts after a great combine showing to where he’s legitimately a top-ten pick.
And then comes the later stages of the first round. Does a less-touted QB sneak back into the first round as teams perhaps trade back up to get their signal-caller of choice? Names like Derek Carr, A.J. McCarron, and Jimmy Garoppolo are worth watching for as we get into the 20’s tonight. Now, I’m not saying these guys deserve to be first round picks, but it’s a quarterback league. They’ll all probably go a half or full round higher than they’re rated.
We Be Droppin’ Theme Songs!
That’s right, for the first time ever, NFL draftees will have chosen their own walk-up music for when their name is called. I can’t wait for this. It’s going to be like a WWE entrance. We just need some pyrotechnics and over-the-top posing. What would your theme song be? I can’t decide personally. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry? “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal? “I Go To Extremes” by Billy Joel? I CAN’T DECIDE DAMMIT. Ugh. Let’s just go with this:
So I just saw this video for the first time on Wednesday. Because someone told me about the SHARKS. But I had actually heard the song before. A dude was burlesque dancing to this song. Don’t ask. I was on a date. With a girl. (But he was pretty effing amazing.) Now that I’ve TOTALLY
distracted derailed confused myself my audience, let’s keep moving, mkay?
Are the Corners Any Good?
Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard, and Kyle Fuller are generally at the top of scouts’ 2014 corner lists. But none of them are regarded as “elite” talents or the type of shut-down corner you’d take early in the draft. But there plenty of teams with a need at corner that will pick these dudes in the first round, despite their flaws.
Texans at the Top
The Texans haven’t tipped their hand as to what they’re doing with that first overall pick. A few different reports have stated their intention to trade out of that spot, but if they stood pat, the range of players going first overall is larger than you’d think. Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Greg Robinson, and Johnny Manziel have all been mentioned as candidates for the Texans’ pick. Clowney is regarded as the best pure talent in the draft, but he’s not a perfect positional fit with the Texans, who may be headed towards a 3-4 scheme. Personally, his “motor” issues aren’t a problem for me when it comes to Houston, because J.J. Watt don’t cotton to that kind of crap. Mack’s a perfect outside linebacker and can rush the passer, but there were games where he wasn’t able to dominate despite single blockers in front of him. The Texans obviously have a need at quarterback, but they’re unconvinced (like many of us) that any of these QB’s are worth the first overall pick. Can’t wait to see them pull this pick out of their ass!
Rams, Browns with Enviable Dilemmas
The Rams and Browns have two first round picks each, thanks to well-conceived trades. The Rams finagled three first round picks from Washington in the RG3 trade, the last of which will be completed tonight, as the Rams pick second overall. (That trade still seems great for both teams, RG3 injuries aside.) The Rams pick again at thirteen. So what do they do? They can certainly just take the best player on the board at number two, or they can shoot for need and take receiver Sammy Watkins, who is regarded as the best wide-out in this draft and would help a struggling offense. If that’s the case, then pick thirteen would logically be a offensive lineman, but who will still be on the board? Jake Matthews might not be there, but Taylor Lewan has an outside shot. If Jeff Fisher can come out of this night with the best receiver and the second or third best tackle, then it was a good night.
The Browns’ two first rounders are a tad more spread out. They pick at fourth (their own selection) and again at 26, which is the first round pick they pilfered from Indianapolis in the laughable Trent Richardson trade. (Indy would love to have that pick back and just take Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde.) We all know the Browns have a dearth of starting-caliber quarterbacks, but where do they take one? They’ve been linked to Manziel, Bortles, and Carr at one spot or another. They could reach and take whatever quarterback they wanted at pick four (provided Jacksonville doesn’t take one) or they could take one of the best prospects (Clowney, Mack, Watkins, Robinson) and just use their 26th pick to take a QB out of the second crop.
Receivers Off the Board Early and Often
So Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are the clear-cut top of this extremely deep wide-out class. They’ll be off the board in the first ten picks Thursday night. Will Watkins even be the first receiver taken? Not if crazy Oakland (picking fifth) has their way. They reportedly favor Evans. But they won’t be alone in the first round if teams are hankering for pass-catchers. Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee (whose mother clearly ignored the rules about U’s always following Q’s), and Kelvin Benjamin could have their names called as well by the time the night is over.
Always Use Protection
I was waiting THIS WHOLE POST to use that sub-header. So Auburn’s Greg Robinson is the de facto leader of the tackle class. He’s got the size and all the skill to be a “franchise” left tackle. (I’m already grossed out by how many times I’ve used that term.) And his playing in the SEC doesn’t hurt his stock either. Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) will be off the board second, but he’d easily play right tackle in this new NFL, where RT’s aren’t simply the bruising maulers they were ten years ago. Taylor Lewan (Michigan) could end up being the most talented left tackle in the draft. He put on a show at the combine and is deserving of a top fifteen selection. I’d be surprised if he makes it out of the top ten though. After those top three (four if we’re including Notre Dame’s Zack Martin), there’s a steep drop-off in talent at the tackle position. So similar to last year’s first round, I’m expecting an early run on offensive tackles.
Is that enough words for you? Because I’m probably due to get other work done today. (Not likely, but it’s a thought.) Stay with me tonight on Twitter @MostlyAvgJoe and follow/join in on the snark!