Things To Watch For Upcoming Draft
As we approach the NFL Draft this Thursday, we ask ourselves, what should we expect? Really, outside of QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III going 1st and 2nd respectively, nothing. The draft is an open book where a couple teams and prospects could define the draft while trades could frustrate, infuriate or delight different fan bases and cause every mock draft created to this point, worthless. Certainly, there are plenty of surprising things that will transpire in the next week, but for our purposes, let’s focus on the first round. Draft season is upon us and here are some things to consider in the final days…
– Pick 3 is still up in the air. Minnesota has the 3rd pick and has said they are considering OT Matt Kalil, CB Morris Claiborne and WR Justin Blackmon. While I personally feel that this is more of a smokescreen and that they will pick Kalil, if the Vikings go with either of the other two, it would ruin most any mock draft.
– Nobody knows with the Browns at pick 4 either. The Browns could reach for QB Ryan Tannehill or they could take any of the other top picks; RB Trent Richardson, WR Justin Blackmon, or CB Morris Claiborne. Tannehill would be a huge reach, in my opinion, but is possible and would then mean the other three elite prospects are left on the board for following teams to consider. The Browns decision here directly influences the direction that following teams take.
– A lot rides on the Browns pick for Tampa Bay. If Cleveland picks RB Trent Richardson, then many people have linked the Buccaneers with CB Morris Claiborne. If Cleveland surprises and goes a different direction, then Tampa Bay may strongly consider Richardson.
– The Dolphins want a QB. With the 8th pick, the Dolphins may very well take QB Ryan Tannehill. This would not only mean that a top talent (for example, WR Michael Floyd) slides down for another team to consider, but it also influences other teams that are looking for a QB (specifically the Browns). I think this is a little early for Tannehill, so Miami may trade out of this pick.
– Watch Philadelphia. The Eagles have been talked about with trading up for DT Fletcher Cox as he continues to shoot up draft boards. Cox is a talented player who has pass rushing ability and a player of his caliber could go early. Since many have Carolina at pick 9 desperately needing DTs, I wouldn’t be surprised with Philly trading up, potentially with Miami, to grab the talented DT with Miami’s 8th pick.
– What will Cincinnati do? The Bengals have picks 17 and 21 and a wide variety of directions they can take with those picks. They need CB, G, RB, WR and depth everywhere else so the logical option is G David DeCastro if he slides to them at 17 or WR Michael Floyd. I personally see them taking value with the 17th pick, whether it be a position of need or not, and then taking a CB with the 21st if they didn’t do so with their first pick.
– The Browns pick again. Cleveland has the 22nd pick and could look at a QB here, especially if QB Ryan Tannehill is still around. They are also looking at QB Brandon Weeden, but they may take value here if Tannehill is off the board and wait for Weeden in the 2nd round.
– The Patriots trade out of the 1st… again… This is really an expected move by Patriots coach, Bill Belichick. The Patriots traditionally trade out of the first and stockpile picks for the future in such of value. The have the 27th and 31st picks in this year’s draft and one can guess that they won’t be using both of them. They could trade out to a team in search of a quarterback before Cleveland gets on the board with the 5th pick in the 2nd round (37th overall).
– WR Justin Blackmon or WR Michael Floyd? Pretty much everywhere you look, people are asking if Blackmon is elite or if he is even the best WR prospect in this class. Floyd possesses some great ability, but neither of them really blow me away as Calvin Johnson like game changers. Still, both will be good and teams early on will have to decide which they prefer.
– The question mark that is DE Quinton Coples. Coples has long been projected as a top-10 pick due to his incredible athletic ability that could allow him to develop into a Julius Peppers like playmaker as a pass rusher. However, lack luster game tape for someone of his pure ability has lead to a drop on draft boards and he is a likely slide candidate as many also think he could be a bust in the pros. He could go as high as pick 7 to Jacksonville, or could drop to Cincinnati and their 17th pick.
– Have you heard about Tannehill? QB Ryan Tannehill is a bit of big deal and where he goes can be the difference between some teams picking a top-5 talent and a top-15 talent. The QB position is at such a premium that Cleveland and Miami, both in the top-10, are considering Tannehill. Tannehill’s talent doesn’t exactly warrant a top-10 selection, but both teams need a QB. If either takes him that early, teams after them will be getting an opportunity to take players that are top-10 picks. If neither takes him, teams likeKansas City and Philadelphia have been linked with picking Tannehill at picks 11 and 15, respectively.
– Watch the defensive line. DT Fletcher Cox is moving up boards quickly, DT Michael Brockers is slowly sliding down boards, DE Melvin Ingram is widely considered a “safe” pick and that doesn’t even include DE Quinton Coples, DT Dontari Poe or any of the other big, defensive bodies that will go later in the first. My point is, watch the run on game changing defensive lineman because after watching the New York Giants ride their devastating D-Line to the Super Bowl, many teams would like to emulate that success.
– Donatri Poe. The DT is a physical freak who dominated the NFL Scouting Combine. However, NFL analyst, Mike Mayock, recently questioned Poe’s ability to dominate a game in a similar fashion. Poe’s performance at the Combine had him pegged as a top-10 pick, but as we get closer, he could drop to the end of the 1st round, maybe even into the 2nd if teams don’t think his potential is enough to warrant a high selection.
– When do the CBs come off the board? We know that Morris Claiborne is going early but when do CBs Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins get their names called? Gilmore has been a late riser, Kirkpatrick has been a late faller and Jenkins is just as questionable as ever. There are rumors that Jacksonville may take Gilmore at pick 7 or he could slide down to picks 17-23 where he will most certainly be taken. Kirkpatrick is also looking at the that grouping of picks in the mid-late first round. Jenkins is completely up in the air.
– About Janoris Jenkins. He has been arrested twice for marijuana possession, has 4 children with 4 different women and has the talent to be the 2nd CB taken in this draft. So what happens now? Where does he go? He has been mocked to the Bengals at 17 and really anywhere that needs a CB after that (CHI-19, TEN-20, DET-23…etc.), and yet, he could easily drop to the 2nd round or even the 3rd because of the numerous red flags. The only team that I would trust with that headache would be the New England Patriots who may take a chance on him.
– How about another secondary player – S Mark Barron? I’ll keep this short. Ever since some guys named Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu showed up and started taking over games with their ball-hawking abilities and the ability to help with run defense, every team is looking for a guy who can do that. Barron has been linked with nearly every team in the first round. He should go somewhere from 14-17 though.
– What about the other WRs? We already discussed the top two (Blackmon and Floyd), but what about the other WRs who are being talked about as 1st round picks like Stephen Hill and Kendall Wright? Hill is raw, but athletically very gifted. Wright is widely considered a top prospect, but suddenly people are questioning that. While the claim with Wright is probably just smoke and mirrors, it is something to watch as teams like Cincinnati (17), Chicago (19), Houston (26) and San Francisco (30) could be looking at those guys to fill needs.
– Late Risers. DE Chandler Jones from Syracuse has shot up boards recently and could get into the middle of the 1st round, or at least the end of the 1st (New England has been linked with him often). DE Shea McClellin from Boise St. has seen a similar jump as some mock drafts have him pegged at the Green Bay Packers pick at 28. I think that’s a little high, but if a team feels that they have found a gem, they will take him contrary to what mock drafts have them taking.
– Late Fallers. We already mentioned DE Quinton Coples and DT Dontari Poe, but another player that may drop is OLB/DE Courtney Upshaw. The Alabama product was one of the best players on his team and he had a lot of success in the toughest conference in football. Why’s he dropping? He isn’t particularly explosive and isn’t really big enough to play DE. Personally, I think this should be taken with a grain of salt. Upshaw was dominant in the most pro-ready of all the college conferences. Upshaw is projected to fall to the late 1st round and potentially further. A couple teams that may stop the fall are NY Jets (16), Cincinnati (17/21) or New England (27/31).
– The value of RBs. Aside from Trent Richardson, there aren’t any RBs that are definitely making 1st round consideration. As the league gets more pass happy and running backs have increasingly shorter careers due to injury, the value of RBs is falling. RB Doug Martin may be considered in the last picks of the 1st round, but only Richardson is definite.
– Smokes and Mirrors. Scouts and GMs will say things around this time of year, in most cases, to lead other teams astray. They want one team to think they are really liking one player and then they pick the guy they have been eyeing since the season ended. On the other hand, some scouts are merely trying to find something wrong with prospects and some of them are rather interesting. A post on NFL.com brought me upon some of the more intriguing assessments by scouts including this gem by one scout talking about Iowa State tackle Kelechi Osemele: “I just don’t know if football is that important to him. He was raised by women, which bothers me. I mean, how tough can he be? It’s not his fault, but it’s still reality.” Hmmm… yeah… I’m not sure about that…