The longest NFL mock draft ever

Before you continue, be forewarned that this mock draft is 15,852 words. If you read this thing in its entirety, there’s a decent chance you have no life. Enjoy!

Chiefs

1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

The Chiefs were tied for the league lead in turnovers last season, with 37. They threw the 2nd most INTs, with 20. Only the Cardinals threw more, with 21. When Andy Reid took over in Philadelphia way back in 1999, LT Tra Thomas was entering his 2nd year in the NFL. In the Eagles’ heyday under Reid, they didn’t throw interceptions:

Eagles INTs

The 3 bad years of note above are 1999, 2005, and 2008.

  • In 1999, Donovan McNabb was a rookie, and he split time with Doug Pederson.
  • In 2005, McNabb got hurt, and guys like Mike McMahon had to play QB.
  • In 2008, Tra Thomas was clearly a declining player, and it would turn out to be his last year in Philly. He would spend one bad season in Jacksonville before retiring.

In other words, when the Eagles had McNabb and Thomas in place, they averaged just 14 INTs per season, or less than 1 per game, and only 12.3 if you exclude 1999, 2005, and 2008.

The Chiefs traded for Alex Smith, and while some people think the compensation for Smith’s services may have been too high, at the very least Reid is getting a QB who will protect the football. Smith threw 10 INTs, total, the last two seasons combined (26 games). That is outstanding. Of course, he had Pro Bowl LT Joe Staley and easily one of the best offensive lines in the NFL protecting him.

The Chiefs were reportedly in talks to send Brandon Albert to the Dolphins for a 2nd round pick, which should be a clear window into their thoughts on the #1 pick. Luke Joeckel is the best pass blocking OT in this draft. By trading Albert and drafting Joeckel, the Chiefs get a lot younger, cheaper, and hopefully for them, better along the OL. They can also possibly get back into the 2nd round.

Additionally, should the Chiefs trade Albert, here’s a snapshot of the Chiefs projected starting OL heading into 2013, with the ages (by the end of the 2013 season) and draft position of each player:

Chiefs projected starting OL

That would be an average age of 23.8 and an average overall draft position of 48.4. This OL can grow together and form a long-standing continuity that is rare.

The Chiefs had 5 Pro Bowlers last season. They have some nice pieces in place on defense. If they can stop turning the ball over, they could be legitimate contenders in the AFC West. Additionally, the Chiefs only have 3 players who are over 30 years old.

With the Raiders in the process of turning over their entire roster, the Chargers having the oldest team in the NFL as of September 2012, and the Broncos eventually losing Peyton Manning, the Chiefs are in a prime position to rule the AFC West in the next 2-3 years. Joeckel and that young ascening OL can be a major piece to that puzzle.

Jaguars

2. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

Since last season, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher has had a meteoric rise up draft boards. Here’s what I wrote about him at the Senior Bowl:

Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: Fisher’s excellent week at the Senior Bowl began at the Monday morning weigh-ins.  Fisher came in at 6’7 1/4″, 305 pounds. He was lean, cut, and looked more like a super-sized athletic tight end than an OT. If his future NFL team wants him to add some weight, he should be able to do so rather easily without losing much in the way of agility and quickness. During practices, he largely dominated really good players like Texas’ Alex Okafor and LSU’s Lavar Edwards, although Okafor did beat him soundly once to the inside. I suspect Fisher is going to put up very impressive numbers at the Combine.

And indeed he did have a great Combine:
Eric Fisher

His tape is excellent, albeit against competition that was not anywhere near the level of what Luke Joeckel faced playing in the SEC. Fisher was a good pass protector, but where he really stood out was as an outstanding run blocker. Not to mention, he is almost guaranteed to be among the best players in the history of the league, considering his amazing growing arms.

“Fisher to the Jags” is far from a perfect fit. The Jaguars’ best player in 2012 was probably Eugene Monroe, who plays LT, the position you would have slated for Fisher over the long term. In 1996, the Ravens had a good LT in place in Tony Jones. The Ravens were on the clock at pick number 4, and the best player on their board at that pick was Jonathan Ogden. They stayed true to their board and took the best player despite having a good LT in place. Ogden went on to 11 Pro Bowls, 9 All-Pro teams, a Super Bowl victory, and he’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this year.

That situation, however, was a little different. Jones was 30 years old, so it made sense to draft Ogden and put him at a different position (he played LG his rookie season), before moving him out to LT. After just one year, the Ravens traded Jones to the Broncos for a 2nd round pick, and Ogden became the Ravens LT for next decade+. In Jacksonville, Monroe just turned 26, and is entering his prime years. Monroe’s rookie contract expires at the end of the 2013 season, and he’ll be looking to cash in at “premium LT money,” which he’ll get if his career trajectory stays on pace. It is noteworthy that the Jags have “yet to approach Monroe or his agent about an extension and it’s unlikely that will happen during the season.”

Still, the lesson to take away from the Ravens is, “Do you just take the best available player, even if it’s not the greatest fit?” After all, if the Jags were to draft Fisher while also trying to keep Monroe in the fold, they would essentially be drafting “just a right tackle” with the 2nd overall pick.

Former Ravens scout turned TV analyst Daniel Jeremiah recapped how the latest Ravens Super Bowl team was built. Within that piece, he noted the most important things to GM Ozzie Newsome:

1) “How will he fit in our locker room?”
2) “Does he help us beat the Pittsburgh Steelers?”

I can’t answer #1 about Fisher. However, the 2nd question is very relevant. The Jaguars play in the NFC South with the Houston Texans, who employ the best defensive player in the game, JJ Watt. The Texans move him all over the line in their 3-4 defense, trying to get the best possible matchups for him that they can. If you have a significant weakness on your OL, the Texans will find it and let Watt exploit it.

Here is a list of AFC pass rushers who primarily line up on the left side, or are projected to next year, per Ourlads’ depth charts:

  1. JJ Watt (as noted already)
  2. Von Miller
  3. Mario Williams
  4. Terrell Suggs
  5. Justin Houston
  6. Lamarr Woodley
  7. Paul Kruger
  8. Jason Babin (although in fairness, Fisher would only face Jason in practice)
  9. Carlos Dunlap
  10. Rob Ninkovich

Those guys can get after the QB, right? Gotta protect both sides.

If the Jaguars are going to be competitive, they’re going to have to be strong across the board along their entire OL. That is why I wouldn’t get too caught up in the whole “But you’re drafting a RT at 2!” thing. If he’s the best player on your board, just take him.

Fisher would give the Jaguars a pair of outstanding bookends to protect QB Blaine Gabbert, who just so happens to have the reputation of being skittish under pressure.

Raiders

3. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

Over at PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Greg Cosell and Adam Caplan have been breaking down film of the top prospects at each position group, and they do a tremendous job. When they looked at the defensive tackles, Cosell said that he thought Sharrif Floyd might be the best player in this year’s draft:

I love Sharrif Floyd. I knew his story but I didn’t know much about him as a player other than seeing some Saturday afternoon football. So I put the tape in, and I gotta tell you, he was off the charts. He basically played 3-technique, which means he lines up between the tackle and the guard. He was an explosive athlete. He’s what I call a tackle for loss player. He got into the backfield and made plays in the backfield. I think he’s arguably the best player in the draft, not just the best defensive tackle.

Cosell was then asked if he bought the comparison of Floyd to Warren Sapp:

Well the style of play is similar, yes, because he’s a 3-technique, with great penetration ability, and he gets into the backfield. That’s what Warren Sapp did in his prime. So as styles of play, yeah, it’s similar.

The Raiders’ defense was cleaned out this offseason by GM Reggie McKenzie, and some are wondering if his job is safe. Here is what the Raiders’ defense looked like on opening day last season, and what it looks like now:

Raiders depth chart

That kind of turnover is insane, but I happen to admire what McKenzie has done. When people talk about “rebuilding,” this is what that really means. The Raiders have been run horribly over the last decade, and McKenzie’s first order of business was to clean up the cap hell that Al Davis put them in. And he has. Take a look at how much money the Raiders have committed to the 2014 salary cap, in comparison to the rest of the AFC (data acquired via overthecap.com, as of April 15):

Raiders 2014 cap number

For the first time in recent memory, the Raiders will have the flexibility to do whatever they need from a financial standpoint. They are currently almost like an expansion team, which isn’t a terrible thing, frankly.

Step 2 for McKenzie will of course be to find good players in the draft, something that he has not had a reasonable chance to do just yet.

Sharrif Floyd’s fit at #3 overall is obvious. The Raiders lost their top 3 defensive tackles this offseason in Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, and Desmond Bryant. Insert Floyd, and begin to build your defense around him.

Eagles

4. Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

To recap where we are so far, the first three picks went like this:

  1. Chiefs: OT Luke Joeckel
  2. Jaguars: OT Eric Fisher
  3. Raiders: Sharrif Floyd

I believe this is the absolute dream scenario for the Eagles. Last year, the Vikings held the 3rd overall pick. The Browns were drafting at 4th overall, and were apparently spooked that some other team was going to jump ahead of them to take Trent Richardson, so they moved up one spot to ensure they got their guy. The cost: a 4th round pick, a 6th round pick, and a 7th round pick.

Since the Vikings already had Adrian Peterson, there was no way they were going to take Richardson, and they wound up taking Matt Kalil at 4th overall. They essentially got 3 extra picks… for free.

The Eagles could realistically find themselves in a similar situation. The ideal scenario for the Eagles would be if two offensive tackles come off the board within the first three picks, most likely Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher. That could set off a bidding war for that 4th overall pick between OT-desperate teams like the Lions (5), Cardinals (7), Chargers (11), and Dolphins (12) for the services of the last remaining stud LT, in this scenario, Lane Johnson.

If at that point in the draft versatile OLB Dion Jordan is still on the board, the Eagles’ best bet might be to simply move back one spot, still get their guy, and pick up some freebies from the Lions in the process.

There is also the possibility that some team has fallen in love with Geno Smith and could inquire about moving up. There are a cluster of teams who might fit that profile at the back half of the top 10, including the Browns (6), Cardinals (7), Bills (8), and Jets (9).

This draft is universally thought to be “weak at the top,” and many have noted that teams drafting in the top 5 could have difficulty trading back. However, if there’s one team that as good a chance as any, it would be the Eagles, and I believe that they will indeed add some extra picks by moving back slightly out of the 4th spot. However, for the sake of this exercise, we’ll plug in Dion Jordan, who as noted above, may be available in certain scenarios even if the Eagles move back.

While the Eagles’ new coaching staff has been unwilling to put a label on what kind of defense they’re going to run this year, the overwhelming thinking is that it is going to be some sort of 4-3/3-4 hybrid, similar to the one run by the Seahawks. The two OLBs have different jobs, and they are explained here by Sheil Kapadia of Philly Mag.

“One linebacker is lined up across the tight end. This would be your typical outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. You need a player who’s capable of rushing the passer or dropping back into coverage. Chike Okeafor filled this role for the Cardinals in 2008 under new Eagles DC Billy Davis. According to PFF, he rushed the QB about 70 percent of the time and dropped back about 30 percent on passing downs.

And then there’s the pass-rush specialist on the other side. This is the player Davis referred to as the “Predator.” For the Cardinals, that spot was occupied by Bertrand Berry and Travis LaBoy. Per PFF, Berry rushed the passer 94 percent of the time and dropped back just 6 percent. For LaBoy, the exact same percentages applied.”

The Eagles seem to be set at the “Predator” position, which is where Brandon Graham and Trent Cole are likely to line up. The team also added versatile OLB Connor Barwin, who can play either side.

Dion Jordan would fill the role of the first OLB described by Sheil Kapadia perfectly. He’s 6-foot-6, 248, very athletic, and extremely versatile. He can rush the passer, but his real value was that Oregon moved him all over the field and asked him to drop into coverage quite a bit, where he also excelled.

There are a large number of mobile QBs that have flooded the NFC. They would include Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and even some other guys like Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, and Jay Cutler. The more athletic guys you can add to your defense to chase those QBs around, the better off you’ll be.

The Eagles add a “do-everything” player to their front 7, and can continue to build around him and star-in-the-making Fletcher Cox.

Lions

5. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

In 2012, the Lions opened the season with the 2nd oldest starting offensive line in the NFL. Despite that, the Lions OL has stayed remarkably healthy. For two straight years, all five of their aging starters logged at least 1000 snaps, which is remarkable, and perhaps a little lucky.

In March, the Lions lost both of their starting offensive tackles. LT Jeff Backus retired and RT Gosder Cherilus signed with the Colts as a free agent. Riley Reiff was drafted in the first round last year (23rd overall), and if the season began today, he would likely be the starting LT. In that scenario, there would be a gaping hole at RT.

At pick #5, a premium position like OT just makes a lot more sense to me than other perceived “team needs” such as CB, especially in a draft which is thought to be very deep at CB. Johnson played RT at Oklahoma in 2011, then moved to LT in 2012, so the Lions could fit him in wherever they need him in the short term, with the idea to make him the long-term answer at LT.

A few weeks ago, Adam Caplan of Sirius/XM noted that “in his 12 years of going to Senior Bowl practices, he couldn’t recall a more dominant performance from a LT than Lane Johnson’s.”

Johnson stood out to me as well, as he made my list of 10 players that impressed me at the Senior Bowl. More importantly, Johnson played for the South Team at the Senior Bowl, which was coached by the Lions’ staff.

But that was only the beginning of Johnson’s extraordinarily impressive pre-draft process. At the NFL Combine, Johnson shined. The following is a chart of how Johnson performed at the 2013 Combine, and how he compared with all other offensive tackles that participated in various drills at the Combine since 2003:

And here’s a fancier chart on how Johnson compared to just the 2013 class of OTs, via mockdraftable.com:

Lane Johnson perceniles

Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are thought to be more polished linemen currently than Johnson, who was actually a QB in high school and Junior College, although a lot of people feel that Johnson may have the most upside and could ultimately turn out to be the best of the three.

And yes, that would be 3 offensive tackles in the first 5 picks.

Browns

6. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

You know how I know Browns new GM Michael Lombardi doesn’t like current QB Brandon Weeden? Because he said so, when he was a TV guy on NFL Network, via Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

(Lombardi) had called the drafting of the 29-year-old quarterback with the No. 22 overall pick a year ago, a “panicked disaster,” even as he admitted Friday of having no memory of making that statement. Lombardi has said the Browns would have been better served conducting a competition instead of anointing Weeden the starter.

In awkward situations such as this, the next step is to come up with a lie that attempts to let the fans, media, and your QB know that you didn’t really mean it. But at the same time, Lombardi doesn’t want to come off as a media hack who was just throwing out nonsense opinions for the sake of creating TV discussion. Here’s what they came up with:

“I think you do different things in the media,” said Lombardi, who also appeared on a weekly radio spot for the Cleveland sports station 92.3 FM, The FAN, this season. “Certainly, you need to get involved in terms of their personalities here. I don’t know Josh Gordon or Brandon Weeden, in terms of watching them play from the outside, so it’s a different evaluation from a media perspective from inside the house. It’s going to be different that way.

“I think when you do media you certainly have commentary of games, but I think for my part it’s a different set of circumstances. I’m looking more towards as an organization building a team and how it relates to that.”

Sweet. Good job, PR guys. OK, moving past that… The Browns have a talented, and very young team. They have just one player on the roster that will be 30 when the season begins, and that player (Jason Campbell) was only signed a month ago. They also have an inordinate number of rookies who received significant playing time last season. In fact, the Browns’ rookies played 6509 snaps last season, which was by far and away the most in the NFL. The next closest team was the Colts, with 4131, and the league average was 2538:

Who would you want to lead such a young team? A rookie? Or would you want to stick with a 2nd year player in Weeden, who happens to be the 3rd oldest player on the team. There are arguments for both sides. The Browns seem prepared to draft a QB a some point during the draft, and they have held private workouts with Geno Smith, USC’s Matt Barkley, Syracuse’a Ryan Nassib, and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. Why not Smith at 6?

Since 1976 there have been 5 QBs drafted 6th overall: Richard Todd (Jets, 1976), Rich Campbell (Packers, 1981), Kelly Stouffer (Rams, 1987), David Klingler (Bengals, 1992), and Trent Dilfer (Buccaneers, 1994). That group of QB combined for 263 TDs and 340 INTs. Yeesh.

During that same span, two have gone 5th overall: Mark Sanchez (Jets, 2009) and Kerry Collins (Panthers, 1995).

Two went 7th overall: Andre Ware (Lions, 1990) and Byron Leftwich (Jaguars, 2003).

A lot of mediocrity there. That 5th-7th overall range is kind of a weird spot for a QB. If a QB is really that good, he’d go 1st overall, or somewhere close to it depending on the needs of the top 3 or so teams. It’s almost a certainty that there is always going to be a QB-needy team drafting in the top 3 or 4 picks, and for a QB to slip to 5-7, one of those teams drafting at the top of the order either took somebody else, or just passed on taking a QB altogether. That’s kind of how I see Geno Smith. He’s not so good that a team with the 1st overall pick like the Chiefs wanted him, but he’s intriguing enough to be picked highly at around 6.

Obviously, going 6th overall doesn’t mean that player will have similar careers to guys like Mark Sanchez, but I just thought it would interesting to note.

Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner brought in “their GM” and “their head coach.” It stands to reason that the new regime could also be looking to bring in “their quarterback.”

Cardinals

7. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Every year at some point during the football season you’ll hear some writer say, “(Best college team) could probably beat (worst NFL team),” which is complete and utter nonsense. For example, if Alabama played either the Chiefs or Jaguars, they’d lose by 30+. The level of talent between college and the pros even on the worst NFL teams is enormous. With that disclaimer out of the way, if I were given the choice between taking the Cardinals’ OL or Alabama’s OL, I’d take Alabama’s in a heartbeat. I’d probably also take Texas A&M’s OL. That’s just sad that 2 college OLs may be better than Arizona’s.

The Cardinals gave up 58 sacks in the passing game last year (worst in the NFL), and they ran for 3.4 yards per carry in the run game (also worst in the NFL). However, while the Cardinals need help across the entire OL, the biggest problem area was on the edges. With all 3 stud OTs and Geno Smith already gone, the Cardinals could potentially draft one of the stud OGs, Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper. However, I think the better value here would be to add some help in the trenches on the other side of the ball in Star Lotulelei.

The following is a chart of NFL pass:run ratios in 2012. Note the bottom of the chart. 2 of the 3 most run heavy teams in the NFL reside in the NFC West with the Cardinals:

Team Rushing attempts Passing attempts Total plays Pass %
Lions 391 740 1131 65.4
Cowboys 355 658 1013 65
Saints 370 671 1041 64.5
Cardinals 352 608 960 63.3
Jaguars 358 586 944 62.7
Raiders 376 629 1005 62.6
Falcons 378 615 993 61.9
Eagles 413 618 1031 59.9
Titans 378 540 918 58.8
Colts 440 628 1068 58.8
Browns 396 566 962 58.8
Steelers 412 574 986 58.2
Buccaneers 416 566 982 57.6
Rams 410 557 967 57.6
Giants 409 539 948 56.9
Packers 433 558 991 56.3
Chargers 411 528 939 56.2
Ravens 444 560 1004 55.8
Bengals 430 540 970 55.7
Patriots 523 641 1164 55.1
Broncos 481 588 1069 55
Bills 442 511 953 53.6
Dolphins 440 504 944 53.4
Texans 508 554 1062 52.2
Panthers 462 490 952 51.5
Bears 470 485 955 50.8
Jets 494 493 987 49.9
Vikings 486 483 969 49.5
Chiefs 500 475 975 48.7
49ers 492 436 928 47
Redskins 519 442 961 46
Seahawks 536 405 941 43

Defensively, the Cardinals are going to have chase Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson around for the next 10 years. Lotulelei is a phenomenal athlete for his size, who has the quickness to get after the QB in short areas. Lotulelei isn’t exactly Sam Adams in terms of anchoring against double teams, but he’s the kind of quick, disruptive force that is better suited to defend the read option. Players with his combination of power, quickness, and speed are rare.

Darnell Dockett turns 32 in May and could already be in decline. Lotulelei would give the Cards a guy that can play all over the line, making him an extremely valuable chess piece kind of player. The Cardinals could use him as a rotational piece early on, with the idea that he would eventually take over as the starter for Dockett.

OL help will have to wait until Round 2, where guys like Terron Armstead and Kyle Long could still be in play, but under the circumstances Lotulelei is too good to pass up at 7.

Bills

8. Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU

Last offseason, the Bills made a big splash in free agency, snagging DE Mario Williams for $96 million over 6 years, with $50 million guaranteed. They also brought in DE Mark Anderson for 4 years, $19.5 million. These were additions to a DE rotation that already included Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman.

Fast-forward one year:

  • Chris Kelsay: Retired.
  • Shawne Merriman: Retired.
  • Mark Anderson: Missed the final 11 games due to a torn meniscus. Turns 30 in May.
  • Mario Williams: 10.5 sacks, 2 FF. Nice season coming off a serious injury the previous year, but not what you would ideally like from a guy you’re paying like a franchise QB.

When I attended the Senior Bowl this year, I hadn’t yet studied up on Ansah. He was a player with whom I had absolutely no prior opinion. I read a few reviews from guys who follow the draft 365 days of the year that were disappointed in Ansah’s play, and I think that was due in part because they had higher expectations.

From my perspective, an observer with no expectations at all, I found Ansah to be extremely intriguing. On the first day of practice, the QB was throwing a short pass to the right side, and a DE got way up to bat the pass down. And I mean waaay up. It was a highly athletic play, that not many NFL’ers can make. I didn’t see initially who it was in the crowd, but I kept my eye on him until the mass of bodies broke up. It was Ansah. On Day 2, he beat an OT with an absolutely nasty inside spin move, that again, not many NFL’ers can make with the quickness that Ansah displayed. In the Senior Bowl game itself, he was perhaps the most impressive player on the field.

At the Combine, he absolutely lit it up. Here were his measurables, keeping in mind that he put up these numbers at 6’5, 271:

Ansah measurables

According to a report by the National Football Post’s Dan Pompei, Ansah didn’t even train for the Combine.

Any team that drafts Ansah is going to have to realize that he could be a project, but he may have the highest ceiling of any player in the draft. The Bills clearly showed last offseason that they were placing a high priority on getting after the passer. It didn’t take, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t keep trying.

New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine wants to bring a multiple front defense to Buffalo. Ansah is a guy who, depending on the game situation, could play any of the 4 DL positions in the 4-3, and either DE or OLB spot in the 3-4. That’s the kind of athletic, versatile player who could allow Pettine to show all sorts of creative defensive looks.

Jets

9. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU

One player that my buddy Tommy Lawlor thinks could go as high as 4 to the Eagles, or possibly even as high as 2 to the Jags, is Barkevious Mingo. Tommy likes Mingo a little more than I do and makes the case for him here:

Mingo can cover. He can rush the passer. I think he’s underrated as a run defender. Mingo needs to add some bulk and he must get stronger, but he’s not a finesse player. He will fire into blockers and fight to hold his ground or to push them backward. He uses his hands well and isn’t strictly a “run-around” guy. Some speed rushers are allergic to contact. Not Mingo.

Another point that Tommy makes is that OLB pass rushers are a very thin group this year:

By comparison, pass on Ansah and you could go get a DE in every round. Margus Hunt 2nd. William Gholston 3rd/4th. Joe Kruger 4th/5th. And so on. There are a bunch of interesting guys even beyond them. This is focusing on true DEs. If you mix in the Jonathan Hankins, John Jenkins, and Quinton Dials of the world, the number goes up even more.

There are a slew of good OTs. You can find one in the 2nd, 3rd, and possibly even 4th round.

Lots of Safeties and CBs.

Pass rushing LBs are the thin group. If that is a priority position, go for it early.

The Jets’ outside pass rush has been non-existent the last few years, and it has gotten old. Calvin Pace turns 33 in October and Bryan Thomas remains a free agent. The Jets did bring in Antwan Barnes from San Diego, but that’s not anything close to a guy that’s going to preclude you from drafting a talented player at that position, even if Barnes had 11 sacks in 2011.

The Jets are reportedly “smitten” with Mingo, who would give them a legitimately scary speed rusher who can also cover.

And his name is Barkevious Mingo. I mean… Barkevious Mingo.

Titans

10. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

The following is a chart of how many offensive linemen were taken by each team over the last 5 years, both overall and in the first three rounds:

Team Total picks OL drafted 1st 3 rounds Total OL drafted % of picks on OL
Steelers 42 5 10 23.8
Packers 42 2 9 21.4
49ers 38 3 8 21.1
Broncos 44 4 9 20.5
Bills 45 3 9 20
Colts 40 3 8 20
Eagles 51 1 10 19.6
Saints 26 1 5 19.2
Redskins 43 3 8 18.6
Falcons 38 4 7 18.4
Ravens 39 4 7 17.9
Chargers 34 1 6 17.6
Texans 40 3 7 17.5
Panthers 41 2 7 17.1
Dolphins 41 4 7 17.1
Patriots 48 2 8 16.7
Cardinals 37 0 6 16.2
Chiefs 44 5 7 15.9
Bears 38 2 6 15.8
Vikings 38 2 6 15.8
Jets 27 1 4 14.8
Raiders 34 4 5 14.7
Bengals 48 2 7 14.6
Giants 37 1 5 13.5
Lions 38 2 5 13.2
Cowboys 39 2 5 12.8
Browns 40 3 5 12.5
Seahawks 42 4 5 11.9
Rams 44 3 5 11.4
Jaguars 31 3 3 9.7
Titans 43 0 3 7
Buccaneers 37 1 2 5.4

Over the last 5 years, the Titans had 16 draft picks in the first 3 rounds. They were one of just two teams in the NFL not to have drafted any offensive linemen in the first 3 rounds, and they picked just 3 offensive linemen overall. Only 7% of their draft picks were offensive linemen over that span, second fewest only to the Buccaneers, who employ a GM who basically admitted he can’t evaluate college offensive linemen.

The Titans’ willingness to ignore their OL in the draft was somewhat justifiable, since they found both of their bookends in the 2005 draft (Michael Roos and David Stewart), and both are good players. However, Roos and Stewart are both 30, and G Steve Hutchinson retired. The Titans signed Andy Levitre away from Buffalo to a big contract (6 years, $46.8 million) to replace Hutchinson. Obviously he’ll play one spot. The Titans also signed Chris Spencer (Bears) and Robert Turner (Rams) to low money, 1-year deals. Those two signings should have little affect on whether or not the Titans decide to draft a guard.

Leading up to the Combine, Chance Warmack was being talked about as a possible top 5 pick. Then he ran a 5.49 40, and perhaps lost some of his luster. In the middle of the last decade, Shawn Andrews’ career fizzled due to injuries and possibly a dislike for the game. However, when he was healthy and interested, he was the best OG in the NFL. What did Andrews run in the 40 at the Combine? 5.49, the same as Warmack, and Warmack is not the headcase that Andrews was.

Head coach Mike Munchak is a former 10x All-Pro, 9x Pro Bowl guard who was drafted in the top 10 (8th overall in 1982). My guess is that he won’t care much about Warmack’s disappointing 40, and instead focus on his tremendous game film. Warmack would be outstanding value at 10, and would give the Titans two excellent guards, much like the Saints had with Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks for their Super Bowl run.

Chargers

11. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

Just like the Lions and Cardinals before them, the Chargers have a glaring need at OT. If the season began today, their starting LT would be King Dunlap. The King was a “good enough” pass blocker and is a nice swing tackle for the right team (one that doesn’t run the ball very much), but he’s a major liability in the run game, the screen game, or really anything that requires athleticism or a mean streak.

My favorite King Dunlap play last season was on a little delayed draw to LeSean McCoy. At the snap, Dallas Reynolds and King Dunlap are going to try to get to the second level:

Foles hands to McCoy, who has room around the edge with Dunlap out in front and likely a nervous Brandon Carr, who thinks he’s got a 6’9 behemoth bearing down on him:

When suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, Dunlap just stops:

“Oh, you mean you wanted me to block somebody, LeSean?”

That was King. Unfortunately for the Chargers, there are 3 stud OTs in this year’s draft, and they’ll all be gone by the time the Chargers pick at 11. And so, they “settle” for the best CB prospect in the draft.

Heading into the Combine, a lot of draftniks had concerns about Dee Milliner’s speed. Then he ran a 4.37 40 and put those concerns to bed. Some people see Milliner as a Top 5 kind of pick. The majority see him as the #1 CB. However, I think Milliner has a two major things working against him:

  1. This draft is loaded with CB talent. If you’re drafting near the top five, you have to consider the “combo pick” strategy. When you’re on the board in the 2nd round, is a CB going to be sitting there with a similar grade as Milliner? Is the dropoff from Milliner to one of those corners who can be had in the early 30′s really all that great? For example, here’s a fantastic breakdown of various metrics comparisons between Milliner, Johnthan Banks, and Xavier Rhodes. Are we sure Milliner is head and shoulders better than them? Teams may feel like they’ll be better served taking a premium player at a weaker position early in this draft, then finding a quality corner later. If you draft the corner in the first round, there may be a much larger dropoff from a player at another position, and what’s left at that position when you’re picking again.
  2. If you’re drafting a CB in the Top 5, typically you’d prefer that player to have tremendous ball skills who can create turnovers, and/or be a major threat in the return game. Milliner gives you neither of those two things. Patrick Peterson had an 11 yard punt return average and 2 TDs his senior season. Morris Claiborne had 11 picks his last 2 years at LSU. Those two guys would have me fired up to take very high in the draft. A player like Milliner, with 5 interceptions in 2 years as a starter at Alabama, does not.

The Chargers drafted a pair of CBs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the 2011 draft, and signed free agent Derek Cox to a 4 year deal worth $20 million. While CB isn’t exactly the most pressing need, and despite his play making deficiencies, Milliner is still just too good to pass up at 11. It should also probably be noted that the best team in the Chargers’ division has Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. They’re going to need a lot of guys who can cover.

Dolphins

12. D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston

Miami will be a very interesting team to watch in this draft. By far and away their biggest need is at offensive tackle. There were rumblings that the Dolphins might move struggling 2nd year pro Jonathan Martin over from RT to LT. That thinking was met with extreme skepticism, seeing as Martin had a bad season last year, including moments like this (watch the left tackle):

Then the Dolphins were linked to a trade in which they would acquire Chiefs LT Branden Albert for a 2nd round pick. Whether or not that trade happens, it’s a clear indication that the Dolphins themselves are not sold on Martin at LT. Therefore, drafting a player who is only going to be a RT (or perhaps a guard) in the NFL doesn’t make much sense, which would eliminate a player like Alabama’s DJ Fluker.

So the Dolphins have a few options. If they want to trade up to snap up one of the 3 stud OTs (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, or Lane Johnson) to play LT for them, they have the ammo to do so, with 11 picks, including 5 in the first 82:

Or they can stand pat. The problem with standing pat, however, is that a player may not fall to them that they “love,” as noted by the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero (bold notation is mine):

The truth is some players would be easier to love if Miami wasn’t picking so high. The Dolphins really like Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, who was in town visiting the team Tuesday. They really like defensive tackles Sheldon Richardson and Sylvester Williams, cornerback D.J. Hayden and even Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

So are the Dolphins ready to commit to any of those players at No. 12? No, they all appear possibilities in a trade-down scenario, where the increased value of the picks could bring the Dolphins to loving any of those players, particularly Vaccaro.

But if the club stays at No.12, love will continue to be hard to find.

Vaccaro seems like a strange name to me, not because he isn’t great player (he is), but because the Dolphins already have a good (although unheralded) safety tandem in Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons.

The really intriguing player among that group is DJ Hayden, who up until a couple weeks ago was more of an unknown name. If you are unfamiliar with Hayden’s story, here is a great read from Andrea Kremer on NFL.com. Or if you prefer video…

The short version of it is that Hayden was injured during a practice on a fairly innocuous play and was rushed to a hospital. It was determined that his vena cava, the main blood vessel that brings blood from the lower extremities back to the heart, was nearly completely torn off the back of the heart. For those of you who are not doctors, having a torn vena cava is not ideal for staying alive.

Hayden’s evaluation by NFL teams will be more doctor oriented than scout oriented. On the field, Hayden is awesome. He’s a ball hawk. He anticipates routes and breaks on them. His play recognition is excellent. He’s an outstanding and very willing tackler. He can blitz. He’s always looking for a strip, but not if it will keep him from making a tackle. I hadn’t watched any tape of Hayden until Mike Mayock called him the best CB in the draft, but when I did I was almost embarrassed that I had barely even heard of him. When I had a chance to take a deeper look at him, I found that his tape is excellent.

Brent Grimes signed with Miami this offseason, but it’s only a 1-year deal and Grimes turns 30 in July. On the other side, Richard Marshall is serviceable, but certainly a player you would look to upgrade if given the opportunity.

The Dolphins have shown interest in Hayden, and I think he’s a legitimate option at 12, assuming his medicals check out. Every year there are at least two “Holy crap” picks in the first round. This would be one of those, although maybe it shouldn’t be.

Jets

13. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

Before we get started on the actual pick, since we won’t be mentioning the Bucs otherwise (or maybe more truthfully… because I don’t want to waste all the work I did on them), let’s first take a look at why they traded for Darrelle Revis.

In 2012, seven of the top ten teams in the NFL in yards per pass attempt made the playoffs.  They were the Redskins (1), 49ers (2), Seahawks (T-3), Broncos (5), Packers (6), Falcons (7) and Patriots (T-9).  The 49ers, Falcons, and Patriots all made it at least to the Conference Championship games.

Two of the three top 10 teams in passing yards per attempt that did not qualify for the playoffs were a pair of Buccaneers division rivals, the Panthers (T-3) and the Saints (8).

In other words, if the Buccaneers intend on making a run at the Super Bowl anytime soon, they’re going to have to get through the most pass efficient teams in the NFL. Unfortunately, the strengths of the Bucs’ rivals do not line up very well with the strengths of the Bucs’ defense.  In 2012, first year head coach Greg Schiano was successful in bringing an attitude to the Buccaneers defense in which they were not going to allow opposing offenses to run the ball on them.  The Bucs finished #1 in run defense, surrendering just 82.5 rushing yards per game.  However, they were dead last against the pass.

Here is where the Buccaneers finished in various pass defense metrics:

  • Passing yards per game: 297.4.  Dead last in the NFL.
  • Passing yards per attempt: 7.9.  4th worst in the NFL.
  • Passing TDs allowed: 30. 5th worst in the NFL.
  • Completion percentage allowed: 65.4%. 5th worst in the NFL.
  • Passing 1st downs allowed: 226. 3rd worst in the NFL.
  • Pass completions of 20+ yards allowed: 69. 2nd worst in the NFL.
  • Pass completions of 40+ yards allowed: 11. Tied for 5th worst in the NFL.

Those numbers are awful, of course, but they barely tell the story of just how terrible the Buccaneers pass defense really was in 2012.  The game film paints a much uglier picture. Below are still shots of opposing wide receivers running absolutely wide open through the Buccaneers’ secondary last season. This is about as bad as it gets:

Bucs 2

Bucs 3

Bucs 4

Bucs 5

Bucs 6

Bucs 7

Bucs 8

Bucs 9

Bucs 10

Bucs 11

Bucs 12

Bucs 13

Bucs 14

Bucs 15

Bucs 16

The Buccaneers went from the 32nd ranked rush D in the NFL in 2011 to the #1 ranked unit in 2012.  That was a wildly impressive turnaround, and Schiano should be commended for that.  However, today’s NFL, even with all the read option stuff that began to emerge last year, is still very much a passing league. If you have receivers running that wide open with that much frequency, it’s emblematic of poor scheme design, or players simply not doing their jobs. Many of the above still shots were plays that were run off of play action, and the Bucs were burnt because they were selling out to stop the run.

Shutting down the opponents’ run game is great and all, but if the Buccaneers have any hope of being serious contenders in 2013, their defense is going to have to be more balanced. Revis, if he can return to health, obviously improves the Bucs overnight.

As for the Jets’ pick, their need for a CB becomes rather obvious with Revis headed to Tampa. Perhaps the best press corner in this draft is Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes. A site by the name of Second Round Stats did film/analytic breakdowns of Rhodes, Alabama’s Dee Milliner, and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks. The analytics say that Rhodes is the best of the three.

Rhodes is 6’1 and change, 210. Antonio Cromartie is listed at 6’2, 210. That would give the Jets one of the biggest CB duos in the league, and both players can run. Rhodes becomes the 3rd CB drafted in a row.

Panthers

14. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

The similarities between the Panthers this year and the Eagles last year, at least in terms of a mock draft, are kind of funny:

  • The Panthers finished their 2012 season on a meaningless hot streak, winning their last 4 games, temporarily saving the job of their head coach. The Eagles finished their 2011 season on a meaningless hot streak, winning their last 4 games, temporarily saving the job of their head coach.
  • The Panthers hold the 14th overall pick this year. Before trading up, the Eagles held the 15th overall pick last year (close enough, ha).
  • A very common player thought to be a great fit for the Panthers is an SEC DT, in Sheldon Richardson. A very common player thought to be a great fit for the Eagles last year was an SEC DT, in Fletcher Cox.
  • The Panthers have an aging player (Dwan Edwards) who played most of his career as a 3-4 DE, then became an under tackle in the 4-3. The Eagles had an aging 3-4 DE convert who played under tackle for them in Cullen Jenkins.

Sheldon Richardson’s game is flying around all over the field and making plays. He had 10.5 tackles and 3 FF last season. And look at his tackle totals:

Sheldon Richardson tackles

Those are just insane numbers for a DT. However, despite the impressive numbers, he doesn’t do a very good job anchoring vs the run, as noted here by CatScratchReader.

Richardson’s best position in the NFL, at least in the 4-3, will likely be as an under tackle playing a lot of 3-technique (lining up on the outside shoulder of the guard). That will give him more freedom to make plays instead of using him as a guy who has to face constant double teams.

Dwan Edwards currently mans that spot for the Panthers. He had 6 sacks last season, but only has 5.5 in his 7 previous seasons combined. Edwards turns 32 in May, although he recently signed a 2-year deal worth $3.6 million. I’m not so sure he should be counted on for that kind of production every year just because he did it once… not that he lit the world on fire in the first place.

Richardson should be looked at as an eventual replacement at the 3-tech spot for Edwards, not a guy that you’re going to insert right into the starting lineup as the NT. And that’s fine. Richardson will give the Panthers a rotational interior pass rusher in the short term, and an eventual starter at UT.

Saints

15. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

The Saints’ historically bad defense last season:

  • Dead last in yards, allowing 440.1 yards per game.
  • Dead last in yards per play, 6.5.
  • Dead last in rush yards, 147.6.
  • Dead last in yards per carry, 5.2.
  • 31st in pass yards, 292.6.
  • Dead last in yards per pass attempt, 8.1.

The consensus among draftniks is that the Saints will be drafting a pass rusher or a defensive lineman with the 15th overall pick, and with good reason. There are holes all over the defense, and the front seven is no exception. However, the Saints’ safeties had a horrendous season in 2012 as well, and are in just as much of a need for an upgrade.

The Saints’ safeties, Michael Jenkins and Roman Harper, finished second only to the Titans’ safeties in missed tackles, according to ProFootballFocus:

Saints missed tackles

20 of those missed tackles were by Jenkins, but he’s too young (25) and talented to give up on after one bad season. Harper, on the other hand, is an interesting player. If he’s lingering near the line of scrimmage, you must account for him in pass protection because he’s a weapon as a blitzer. Unfortunately, he can’t cover to save his life, and his ability in the run game is in decline. At this point in his career, Harper would most ideally be used as a role player only, not a guy who was 2nd on the Saints defense last year with 1117 snaps.

Additionally, Harper is making far too much money:

Roman Harper

It was expected that the Saints might ask Harper to take a pay cut or be released, but that has not yet happened. The Saints currently have an estimated $139 million on their 2014 salary cap. There’s almost a 0% chance Harper will see his 2014 salary, and if the Saints were to draft this year’s best safety prospect, they could cut Harper and save $3.6 million against their cap in 2013. It is also noteworthy that Jenkins will be a free agent in 2014.

Vaccaro does everything well. He’s good against the run, he can cover receivers in the slot, and he displays a willingness to do a lot of the little things, like blowing up lead blockers so his teammates can make a play on the ball carrier. Perhaps the most relevant tape on Vaccaro was when Texas played West Virginia, and Vaccaro was asked to match up man-to-man against Tavon Austin, the most explosive WR in the country. That should be an enormous mismatch for a safety, but Vaccaro more than held his own. Note that the big plays Austin makes are when he is not being covered by Vaccaro (Texas-WVU game begins at around the 3:30 mark):

Safeties who can cover in the slot like that who can also tackle and be physical are rare.

Rams

16. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

Last season, Rams slot receiver Danny Amendola had 63 receptions. However, he only had 3 TDs and a yards per catch average of 10.6.

There were 39 players (31 receivers) who had more catches. There was only one WR who had more catches but fewer TDs. That was Miami’s Brian Hartline, who had 74 catches, 1 TD. Additionally, there was only one WR who had more catches but a smaller yards per catch average. That was Tennessee’s Kendall Wright, who averaged 9.8 yards per catch on 64 receptions.

In 2010 (he missed almost all of 2011), Amendola had 85 catches, and again, only 3 TDs. He averaged an extremely low 8.1 yards per catch. How low is 8.1 yards per catch for a WR? Well… in 2010, you would have to go all the way down to some guy named Brandon James to find a WR who averaged fewer yards per catch. James had a grand total of 6 catches on the season:

Amendola

In other words, while Amendola made a decent number of catches, there was absolutely no reason to fear him once he had the ball in his hands.

Since I cover the NFC East, I’ll liken Amendola to a much more valuable player with the Cowboys, Jason Witten.

Witten doesn’t scare me at all anymore. On the one hand, he caught 110 passes last season for 1039 yards. He did so on 150 targets. The Cowboys had 5 players this season with at least 30 targets. Among that group, Witten had the highest completion percentage, with a very high 73.3%.

However, among that same group, Witten had the lowest YPA:

He only managed 9.4 yards per catch, which was almost 2 yards less than his career average. He has also only managed 8 TDs over the last 2 years. In today’s NFL, so many teams are finding success making opposing offenses dink and dunk their way down the field. They either capitalize on mistakes by forcing turnovers, or they’re tightening up in the red zone. And so, a player like Witten, who is no longer stretching the field the way he used to or producing in the red zone, is not going to put much fear into many teams.

Amendola serves a similar purpose as a guy like Witten in the passing game, minus the ability to block in the run game.

During free agency, Amendola left to sign with the Patriots. In my opinion, that’s not a loss at all. Insert Tavon Austin. Note the absurd number of yards after the catch he gets in the video below. I hate to let a highlight film serve as my analysis of a player… but, I mean… look at this guy:

I shudder at the thought of him on that St. Louis turf.

The great Josh Norris of Rotoworld cautions against banking on Austin falling this far to the Rams:

Norris - Austin

I happen to agree. If Austin goes somewhere in the Top 10, I won’t be surprised in the slightest. However, I’d be absolutely stunned if he got past the Rams at 16. If indeed Austin is gone by the time the Rams are on the board, the pick could be DeAndre Hopkins:

DeAndre Hopkins 1

DeAndre Hopkins 2

DeAndre Hopkins 3

Steelers

17. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Last season, Lamarr Woodley had a bad season, and he missed time because of an assortment of injuries. Per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Steelers were not happy with Woodley’s conditioning:

The Steelers believe that Woodley needs to approach his offseason workouts with more diligence to avoid the kinds of injuries that have dogged him the past two seasons. He still has great pride in what he does, but must understand that he cannot do it if he’s constantly hurt, and all of his injuries have been in his legs and usually involve muscles. He needs to specifically work on his hamstring issues because those can linger — as they have for him — if not strengthened.

The Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook reported on a player who had a much more scathing take on Woodley and his commitment:

“He was awful,” one teammate said of Woodley’s performance last season.

“He tells us he works out, but we didn’t see it. He wasn’t in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt.”

Ouch. Awful or not, Woodley isn’t going anywhere. He signed a huge contract in 2011, and he’ll almost assuredly be on the team through 2014, since it would cost more to cut him than to keep him:

Lamarr Woodley contract

Meanwhile, the Steelers let James Harrison walk in free agency, and he signed inside the division with the Bengals.

With Harrison gone, Jason Worilds, who the Steelers drafted in the 2nd round in 2010, would be the next man up. Worilds had 5 sacks last season as a reserve, but that’s less impressive than it sounds. I went back to look at the tape and there was nothing impressive about any of his 5 sacks:

  1. Week 1 vs Broncos: Unblocked.
  2. Week 5 vs Eagles: Unblocked.
  3. Week 6 vs Titans: Single blocked by RB Chris Johnson, cleaned up after Brett Keisel got initial pressure.
  4. Week 12 vs Browns: Single blocked by a TE, who Worilds did beat on to the inside.
  5. Week 12 vs. Browns: QB Brandon Weeden had a ton of time, rolled out, and with a lead in the 4th Q, he laid down to keep the clock running instead of throwing it away. Worilds tagged him down.

Worilds also happens to be a free agent after this season.

The Steelers, for the first time in a long time, could use pass rush help on the outside. Jarvis Jones led the nation in sacks in 2012 and was tied for second in 2011:

Jarvis Jones 2012

Jarvis Jones 2011

Unfortunately, significant medical concerns hurt his stock initially, but horrible workout numbers may have done even more damage. Here were Jones’ workout numbers:

Jarvis Jones

Sometimes we make too much of 40 times, but a 4.92 for an OLB who weighs 242 pounds is a huge red flag. Jones is being compared to Terrell Suggs, who also had outstanding production in college and disappointed in the “Underwear Olympics.” Suggs ran a 4.85 at his Pro Day, which made him fall to 10th overall. It should be noted that Suggs had 24 sacks his final year in college, which is just 4 less than Jones had in his last 2 college seasons.

If we were going just on Jones’ tape, he would be a sure-fire no-brainer Top 5 pick. However, even though the tape is really the most important thing, the medicals and the measurables will hurt him, as they should. Still, this is good value for the Steelers at 17. With Harrison gone, Woodley perhaps in need of a wake-up call, and Worilds not having proven anything yet, a pass rusher at OLB makes sense, and the Steelers get the most productive one in the country.

Cowboys

18. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

If you’re a regular reader of my website, you probably know what’s coming here: The Cowboys OL timeline!

2008-2009

With an aging OL in place, the Cowboys had a total of 18 draft picks in 2008 and 2009.  With those 18 picks, they selected one offensive lineman, Robert Brewster.  Brewster is no longer with the team.

2010

In 2010, the Cowboys drafted one offensive lineman, Sam Young, in the 6th round.  Young, like Brewster, is no longer with the team.  They headed into the 2010 season with the oldest offensive line in the NFL.  Leonard Davis celebrated his 32nd birthday just before the start of the season, with Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier celebrating their 32nd birthdays shortly thereafter.  Andre Gurode was 31.  The one player that was still relatively young was the 26 year old Doug Free, who was taking over at LT for the departed Flozell Adams, who was 35.

The Cowboys were the overwhelming favorites to win the NFC East that season, but in what should have been a fairly predictable outcome, the offensive line went into a sharp decline and the the offense sputtered.  It didn’t help that the defense was surprisingly bad.  They finished that season 6-10.

2011

The following offseason, Jerry Jones made the obvious decision to cut bait with Colombo, Davis and Gurode, three players that were playing poorly and making far too much money.  The Cowboys were, in a way, forced into “going young” along their OL.  For the first time in 20+ years as the Cowboys’ GM, Jones spent a first round pick on an offensive lineman, scoring the extremely talented Tyron Smith out of USC.  They would take a couple more offensive linemen in the 4th and 7th rounds, grabbing David Arkin and Bill Nagy, respectively.  They also locked up Free to a long term deal, paying him $32 million over 4 years. It appeared that after years of ignoring the OL, it was finally becoming a priority, albeit way too late.

To begin the season, the Cowboys started two rookies: Nagy at LG, and Tyron Smith at RT. They also plugged in 2nd year player Phil Costa at center.  Kosier was moved from LG over to the right side to be sort of an “offensive tackle whisperer” for Smith.  In one offseason, they went from the oldest offensive line in the league to one of the youngest.

With so many new and unproven players inserted into the lineup, the Cowboys’ offensive line once again sputtered all season, this time even more predictably than in 2010.  Smith had a great rookie year, but the two other new pieces, Costa and Nagy, both had brutal seasons.  Costa’s poor play lasted 16 games, while Nagy’s bad season was cut short in Week 6, when he was lost for the season with a broken ankle.  Kosier’s decline and health issues continued.  Free, meanwhile, was a major disappointment, having a surprisingly bad season.  The Cowboys were learning that turning over a full offensive line in a short amount of time isn’t exactly easy.  They hit with one player, missed with two, and were heading into 2012 once again needing to scramble to find answers.

2012

The Cowboys’ plan of attack for the OL in 2012, as usual, puzzled me.  First, they signed OG Mackenzy Bernadeau, a player that had a couple bad seasons in 2009 and 2010 in Carolina, who then lost his job in 2011. The Cowboys then went out and signed 30 year old Nate Livings, a player that Bengals fans by and large were more than happy to see leave. With Livings and Bernadeau in place, the team felt comfortable cutting Kosier.  On the outside, the Cowboys flip-flopped Smith and Free, with Smith moving from RT to LT, and vice versa. No offensive linemen were drafted.

Heading into 2012, the Cowboys had an almost complete lack of continuity along their OL:

Cowboys OL continuity

Costa was lost for the season early on, Livings played better than expected, Mackenzy Bernadeau did not play well, and Doug Free’s contract now looks like a horrible mistake, as he was bad for the second straight year.

The team still has next to no depth along the OL, and one of the worst C-RG-RT combos in all of football.

Tony Pauline recently reported that teams seem to be split 50/50 on Warmack and Cooper, as far as who they like better. Pauline also noted that if an NFL team wanted Cooper to bulk up a bit, he could do so without losing much of his agility:

The biggest story thus far is the number of teams that have Jonathan Cooper/G/North Carolina ranked higher than Chance Warmack/G/Alabama on their offensive guard board.  He’s much better blocking in motion compared to Warmack and a natural fit for a zone blocking scheme.  Teams have referred to Cooper as “special” and they feel in time he can add weight, which will only improve his run blocking.    I was told Cooper was told to purposely keep his weight down at North Carolina and would have no problem carrying additional bulk.

The Cowboys are moving toward more of a zone blocking approach, so Cooper would fit in well, and would be outstanding value at 18. Personally, I’m surprised myself that he fell this far, but that’s just how it played out. Even Jerry Jones couldn’t pass up this offensive lineman.

Giants

19. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

The book on Giants GM Jerry Reese is that he drafts for value. That may be true, but a historical look at his drafts would say that Reese loves drafting cornerbacks. Here are a list of corners the Giants have drafted in the first 3 rounds since 2005:

  • Jayron Hosley: 3rd round, 2012.
  • Prince Amukamara: 1st round, 2011.
  • Terrell Thomas: 2nd round, 2008.
  • Aaron Ross: 1st round, 2007.
  • Corey Webster: 2nd round, 2005 (Reese was not yet GM for this pick. He was director of player personnel).

The Giants also took a safety (Kenny Phillips) in the 1st round in 2008.

There’s an argument to be made that the Giants could draft another corner high in 2013. Prince Amukamara looks like he may be developing into a good pro and Jayron Hosley could be a nice slot corner in time, but Corey Webster was terrible in 2012 and Terrell Thomas can longer be counted on as a viable player with his long injury history. Meanwhile, Aaron Ross re-signed with the Giants, but only for a veteran minimum deal, which means he’ll be competing just to make the team.

If Dee Milliner somehow slides this far, or if DJ Hayden or Xavier Rhodes are still on the board, they could be targets, as could Desmond Trufant.

However, with DJ Fluker still sitting there, he would simply be too good to pass up. Fluker is one of the most enormous humans I have ever seen in person, and his 36 3/4″ arms are about as long as they come. He’s only going to be a RT in the NFL (or maybe a guard), which hurts his value some.

The 2008 Giants used to get a lead on you, and then just bludgeon you to death with the run game. In those days, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie were at the top of their games. The Giants have always been a right-handed running team, until last year:

Giants run game

The Giants haven’t had good RT play since McKenzie’s decline began. Fluker could come in on Day 1 and significantly upgrade the running game on that right side.

Also, just on a side note, if you look at the Top 100 high school prospects lists on Rivals.com over the last 10 years, there are a boatload of current/former Giants and Eagles that appear on these lists. It could be that the Giants and Eagles put more stock than other teams in what players accomplished as far back as high school, or it could just be a complete and total coincidence. Here are some recent/current Giants who were once bigtime high school recruits:

Giants Rivals Top 100

DJ Fluker was the #3 overall high school prospect in 2009.

Bears

20. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

In 2012, Peanut Tillman forced 10 fumbles, which tied him with Osi Umenyiora for the most forced fumbles in one season since it became an official statistic. It is beyond remarkable that he did it as a cornerback in a league where most corners hate contact. Look at the list below of every player in the last 20+ years who have forced at least 8 fumbles. Former teammate Chris Harris aside, they’re all defensive lineman and/or pass rushers who had the benefit of swiping the ball out of unsuspecting QB’s hands:

Peanut

Meanwhile, on the other side, Tim Jennings led the NFL in interceptions:

Jennings

By comparison, Jennings (9) had more interceptions than the Eagles (8), Chiefs (7) and Cowboys (7).

So why draft a corner?

Because Peanut Tillman is 32 and Tim Jennings will be 30 in December. Both are eligible to become free agents after the 2013 season, and the Bears have weak depth at CB.

Desmond Trufant was one of my favorite players to watch at the Senior Bowl this year. He was nonstop chatter, and just exuded confidence. Even when he was beaten, he refused to admit it. There was one play where a receiver juked him pretty badly on an out route, but the QB didn’t get the ball out quickly. That gave Trufant the extra time he needed to recover and get a pass breakup. Clearly he was beaten on the play, and the receiver let him know it, but Desmond just repeatedly yelled “That’s recovery! That’s recovery!”

Trufant has decent size at 6’0, 190, and he ran an impressive 4.38 40 at the Combine. In the short term, he can be the Bears’ nickle back, and depending on the future of Tillman and Jennings in Chicago, Trufant would likely move into a full-time starting role in 2014. Great measurables, outstanding competitor.

Bengals

21. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

Marvin Lewis has been the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals since 2003. In his first 5 years on the job, the Bengals selected two running backs, both within the first two rounds, and both with disastrous results:

Bengals - Irons-Perry

Those are career numbers, by the way. Perry was a bust, while Irons tore his ACL in the preseason of his rookie season and never received a single carry in the NFL. And then of course there was 1995 #1 overall pick Ki-Jana Carter, one of the biggest busts in NFL history. Perhaps that made the Bengals a little gun-shy about drafting a RB high. How gun-shy? Since 2007, the Bengals have not selected a running back higher than the 6th round.

This year could be the one that breaks that trend. Last season, Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 1094 yards and 6 TDs on 278 carries, for an average of 3.9 yards per carry. Without any context, those numbers look “OK.” However, the Law Firm produced far less than he should have behind the Bengals’ stellar run blocking offensive line.

I happened to watch a lot of Bengals games last season since they played all the NFC East teams. I watched their games against non-NFC East opponents to prepare for the NFCE games, and obviously, I watched them when they played the NFC East. In doing so, I came away thoroughly impressed with the right side of the Bengals’ OL, who opened up gaping holes with regularity. Here are some still shots I compiled throughout the course of the season:

Those kinds of gaping holes were common. Green-Ellis is a nice role player. He’s a tough runner, and more often than not he’ll fall forward. However, he doesn’t break many tackles, and his speed/elusiveness is non-existent. Here’s a funny tweet from NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling about Green-Ellis that I remember from last season:

It was actually 48, just in case you were wondering.

Lacy in some ways is actually similar to Green-Ellis. Like the law firm, he’s a tough runner who more often than not will fall forward. However, Lacy is going to break far more tackles and there is no comparison between the two players in terms of elusiveness. Check out Lacy during the National Championship Game (via the great DraftBreakdown.com):

The highlights:

  • (0:10) – Broken tackles, outstanding feet near the LOS, finishes the run with yards after contact.
  • (0:22) – I’ve seen it stated that Lacy lacks burst. He may not have “long speed,” but watch this play and tell me with a straight face that he doesn’t have burst.
  • (1:52) – Just… Wow. Great feet. No wasted motion on three consecutive quick cuts through the Notre Dame defense and into the clear. Lacy’s lateral agility and even more so… his vision… is on full display here.
  • (3:03) – Get off of me! Mean streak.
  • (3:52) – Oh, that nasty spin move.
  • (4:16) – More broken tackles, great feet on subtle cut to the outside that wastes no motion, and then he just runs over a linebacker.
  • (4:43) – 4th and 1. Locate the hole, get low, finish. Simple.
  • (5:23) – Subtle jump cut, then more burst.
  • (Various examples) – Good in pass pro.

Last season, Green-Ellis was given top choice Grade A meat with which to cook. He made cheeseburgers, which are nice, but kind of a waste. Lacy will make delicious filets.

Rams

22. Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International

The Rams have seemingly methodically been building their defense one positional group at a time. First, it was it the defensive line (age and draft position under each player):

Rams DL

That would be 3 Top 14 picks in 5 years.

Then last year, Jeff Fisher and Co. made major investments in fixing the CB position:

Rams DBs

This year, it could be the safeties. Craig Dahl left for the 49ers in free agency this offseason and Quinton Mikell was released in a salary cap move, leaving Rams’ with the following safeties on their roster:

  • Darian Stewart: Undrafted free agent in 2010. Starter in 2011. Under Jeff Fisher, lost starting job to Craig Dahl.
  • Rodney McLeod: Undrafted free agent in 2012. Played 3 defensive snaps last season.
  • Matt Daniels: Undrafted free agent in 2012. 0 career defensive snaps snaps.
  • Quinton Pointer: Undrafted free agent in 2012. Played 6 defensive snaps last season.

This safety class is considered to be extraordinarily deep. There’s a pretty good bet that the Rams draft at least 2 this year, and possibly one in the first round.

Jonathan Cyprien has had a meteoric rise over the last few months after standing out at the Senior Bowl, where he laid several big hits on ball carriers in practice. That meteoric rise was probably just among draftniks, not necessarily NFL teams who probably already knew all about him. Jeff Fisher loves hard-hitting safeties, and has coached his share of them: Gary Fencik, Andre Waters, Wes Hopkins, Bubba McDowell, Blaine Bishop, etc.

Cyprien can be the enforcer in the Rams’ secondary, but that’s not all he brings to the table. He’s also widely regarded as a very athletic player who can run and make plays on balls in the air.

And he has a cool looking visor.

Vikings

23. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

Here’s a fun game. Tell me what each of the Vikings’ Top 3 WRs have in common (graphs via mockdraftable.com):

Jennings

Wright

Simpson

Give up?

They each ran a 4.42 40 at the Combine.

So did Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson:

Patterson

OK, so I’m certainly not suggesting that’s why the Vikings would draft him. Instead, take a look at the numbers for the Vikings’ top 3 WRs in 2012:

Vikings WRs

24 NFL players had more yards than the Vikings’ top 3 WRs combined last year. Obviously, that was due in part to Greg Jennings missing 8 games and playing in a crowded Packers WR corps, but clearly, the Vikings’ wideouts are not a strength.

Cordarrelle Patterson is one of the more interesting players in this draft. As noted above, he ran a 4.42 40, but did so at 6’2, 216. Unlike the other Viking receivers, Patterson has good size. Jennings and Wright are both sub-6’0, and while Simpson has good height at 6’2, he’s skinny at 190.

Patterson is extremely athletic, and he doubles as a returner. The biggest knock on him, however, is that he’s “raw.” My biggest concern would be his lack of production as a WR at Tennessee. In the last 10 years, barring players that had extenuating circumstances (Dez Bryant, Percy Harvin, Matt Jones), there have been 5 WRs drafted in the first round who caught less than 50 passes their last year in college. Demaryius Thomas aside, that list of players isn’t very pretty:

Unproductive WRs

Note that each player in the above list either had great size, freaky Combine measurables, or both. However, they all lacked actual production in college, in terms of catching a lot of passes. Additionally, Thomas’ numbers are forgivable since he played in a run-heavy option offense at Georgia Tech.

Will Cordarrelle Patterson become the next Demaryius Thomas, or will he be another one of those other disappointments? The Vikings are in desperate need of a playmaker in their offense to take some pressure off of Adrian Peterson. Perhaps the Vikes will take another shot at a less productive project with huge upside like they did with Troy Williamson in 2005.

Colts

24. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

Colts GM Ryan Grigson worked in the Eagles’ front office from 2004 to 2011. The Eagles, under Andy Reid and Co, traditionally tried to build up the trenches through the draft, as Reid loved spending 1st round picks on defensive linemen. In his 14 year tenure in Philly, Andy Reid had 12 first round picks. Half of them were spent on defensive linemen:

  • 2000: DT Corey Simon
  • 2003: DE Jerome McDougle
  • 2005: DT Mike Patterson
  • 2006: DT Brodrick Bunkley
  • 2010: DE Brandon Graham
  • 2012: DT Fletcher Cox

That list does not include DT Trevor Laws, who was the Eagles’ first pick of the 2008 draft, but was in the 2nd round. Not only did Andy draft 6 defensive linemen, but he traded up to get three of them (McDougle, Graham, and Cox).

In Grigson’s first draft last year, 7 of his 10 picks were spent on offensive skill position players:

Colts 2012 draft

However, Grigson noted the importance of building up the DL at the Combine:

“Defensive linemen are a hot commodity,” said Grigson. “That’s why they make big dollars and that’s why they go so high in the draft. That’s why they go so high in the first round…”

“Certain positions are unique. There’s only so many 3-technique body types. There’s only so many 5-technique body types out there. We’re still evolving from the 4-3 to the 3-4. We have some really good players that don’t exactly fit that scheme, but we found niches for them. Our coaches have been flexible enough to be able to create spots for them. I still think we’ll hold fast to ‘best player’ because at 24 you don’t ever want to reach. Who’d ever thought the guys would be there at the top of 2 or the type of 3 for that matter? We never dreamed that some of those guys would still be available at the top of two. I think that will be the same case this year at 24.”

Datone Jones was a very impressive player at the Senior Bowl this year. He has the kind of power you like to set the edge as a 5-technique, and he’s a quickness mismatch for most guards as an interior pass rusher. He played a multitude of positions at UCLA, so he’s versatile, and he is widely regarded as a high-character guy.

Grigson re-channels his Eagles roots and goes DL in the 1st, a year after loading up on the offense.

Vikings

25. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

The Vikings traded away talented headache Percy Harvin to the Seahawks this offseason for this very pick. Coincidentally, it is Harvin’s numbers that provide “Exhibit A” of why the Vikings may not be completely sold on Christian Ponder as their QB.

Last season, Christian Ponder threw the ball either behind the line of scrimmage or within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage on a whopping 73.6% of his pass attempts. He only threw the ball more than 20 yards down the field 32 times, or twice per game. The Vikings clearly did not feel comfortable allowing Ponder to take chances down the field, and it’s hard to blame them, considering his numbers when he did throw down the field further than 20 yards:

Ponder

As a result, Percy Harvin had ridiculously inflated “yards after the catch” numbers. Of Harvin’s 677 receiving yards last season, 531 of them were after the catch. More alarming is that it’s not as if Harvin had some kind of impressive yards per catch total. He averaged a mere 10.9 yards per catch, which means that he was catching the bulk of his passes near the line of scrimmage. That’s similar to what you would get out of pass catching RB like Darren Sproles. For a QB, those passes are a small step up from a handoff.

In other words, Ponder has difficulty getting the ball to his wide receivers running traditional patterns, and with Harvin gone, so is his “easy throw crutch.”

The Vikings’ offense is basically going to consist of handing the ball to Adrian Peterson and praying he doesn’t get hurt. I just don’t see how this team can score consistently unless Ponder improves drastically. Is a drastic leap in production out of Ponder realistic? The Vikings will have to decide.

In regards to Manuel himself, I loved the quote from Mike Mayock (h/t to Mike Kaye of Bleeding Green Nation):

“I thought he had a solid Senior Bowl week, and coming out of the combine, I felt like there was a quiet buzz among some of the teams. Not just his workout. More importantly to me, they like the kid, they think he’s smart and in the meeting rooms at night, he passed that test.”

“This week I went and put three more tapes on, so I’ve seen six of his games now. I liked the Clemson tape, I thought he was really athletic and threw the ball well. … You know I don’t like this quarterback class, so if I’m going to make a mistake, I finally decided I’m going to make a mistake with a kid with size, arm talent and athletic ability and I think that’s what Manuel has.”

Here’s what I wrote about Manuel at the Senior Bowl:

E.J. Manuel had a few nice throws. When you talk about “QBs that can make all the throws,” Manuel fits the bill, with the key word being “can.” He throw with zip, with touch, and is occasionally accurate.  Does “occasionally accurate” make sense? I guess what I mean there is that he’ll string together a few passes in a row that are right on the money, which tells me that he really is accurate, only with the occasional throw where you go, “What the hell is he throwing at?”

Drafting well isn’t just about picking players, and those players either playing well or not. The much more underrated aspect of how well teams draft is how well they develop their young players. Manuel has it all: Outstanding size, good speed, strong arm. Can the Vikings (or whomever) get him to be more consistent? If so, his ceiling is huge. That’s what makes Manuel such an intriguing prospect.

Packers

26. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

There’s a perception that the Packers have an overload of talent at the skill positions. Are we so sure of that? I’m certainly not:

  • Jermichael Finley is talented but unreliable, and is set to become a free agent after this season.
  • James Jones is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season as well.
  • Donald Driver retired.
  • Greg Jennings left for the Vikings in free agency.
  • The Packers don’t have a RB that is going to scare anybody.

The only legitimate weapons the Packers have in place that are signed through 2014 are Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.

Meanwhile Jermichael Finley will count $8,750,000 against the Packers’ salary cap this season (via overthecap.com):

Finley contract

If the Packers plan on keeping Finley from testing free agency after the 2013 season, they may have to tag him, which will cost them 120% of his 2013 cap number, or $10,500,000. Unless Finley suddenly turns into Rob Gronkowski, that’s not going to happen. Over the last two seasons, Finley tied for the TE lead in dropped passes:

TE drops

The Packers would be smart to reload at the skill positions now.

Tyler Eifert is the best TE in this deep class. He’s a hair under 6’6, he can jump, he already has much better hands than Finley, and while Eifert himself admits his blocking needs work, his willingness to block is not an issue. The Packers could implement a potent 2-TE set in the short term, with Eifert taking over as the starting TE beginning in 2014.

Texans

27. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

One of the recent trends in the NFL over the last few years has been the NT position getting smaller and faster. In today’s NFL, the passing game is king, and therefore, many teams are placing more value on quicker NTs who can shoot gaps and make plays over run-clogging fatbodies. The emergence of QBs who can run around and make plays should only help continue that trend. The average weight of projected starting 3-4 NTs across the NFL (using Ourlads.com’s depth charts) is “only” 318.7 pounds, and there are 4 projected starters who weigh less than 310:

3-4 NT weights

Take the Redskins, for example. In 2011, the Redskins signed Barry Cofield to a big money deal to play NT in their 3-4. Many people, myself included, questioned his fit in the scheme as an “undersized” player. But Cofield has been outstanding. Here’s an example of what he brings to the table. In the end of the second quarter in a crucial “playoffs on the line” game in Philly, the Eagles set up a screen to the right side and got the ball in the hands of WR Jeremy Maclin.  Here’s Cofield’s positioning at the snap:

Cofield 1

At the snap, the Eagles didn’t block Cofield, allowing him a free run at the QB.  If nobody blocks you, something is usually up, and Cofield didn’t take the bait.  He instead read QB Nick Foles’ eyes:

Cofield 2

Foles delivered the pass to the right, and Cofield was in a good position to be able to hustle over and make a play:

Cofield 3

Here’s the impressive part.  Look at the distance between Cofield and Maclin as Maclin hauls in the pass:

Cofield 5

Maclin has good blocking in front of him, but Cofield is bearing down from behind like a freight train:

Cofield 6

And he buries Maclin before Maclin can get to full speed:

Cofield 7

If you look at the reverse “All 22″ angle and take Cofield out of the picture, the Eagles potentially had a big play set up here, which Cofield ruined:

Cofield 4

These are the kinds of plays defenses want from their NTs, and they’re plays that the traditional 340 lb lane cloggers would have no chance to make.

Texans defense coordinator Wade Phillips was early to the game on this trend. He employed quick but undersized Jay Ratliff as his NT in Dallas, and then undersized Shaun Cody in Houston.

Cody is 30, recently had back surgery, and remains a free agent, so the Texans could be looking for his replacement in the draft.

Sylvester Williams is 6’3, 313, which would make him undersized in the traditional sense, but he does a great job of penetrating and making plays. He played a lot of 3-technique in the Tarheels’ 4-3 alignment, but he also played some nose in 3-DL sets. Williams would fit in nicely as an athletic, penetrating 1-gap NT in Phillips’ 3-4, who also has the versatility to play other spots along the line if need be.

Broncos

28. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

My buddy Tommy Lawlor and I have the best football podcast in the history of the Universe. Waaaaaay back in December, we had already begun taking a look at the top names in the draft that could be of interest to the Eagles. One of the players we discussed was Bjoern Werner. Here was Tommy’s take on Werner 4 months ago:

Here’s an interesting guy, 6’4, 255 pounds, he’s only a Junior, but when you watch him play he’s got a great motor, he plays strong and physical.  He’s a good run defender, he can set the edge, and he has an explosive burst when he wants to really fly off the edge.  Florida State at times will line up in the Wide 9 alignment on certain passing downs and have their ends just explode up the field and crash into the quarterback.  He has the burst to do that.  When they want him to play the run and come off under control and set the edge, he can do that.  He’s a guy that I think can be a top 10 pick.

Florida State has a player named Brandon Jenkins who was a Senior this year.  For the first three years, I kept hearing “Watch Jenkins.”  So you’d turn on Florida State to watch #49 (Jenkins) and I’d end up watching the defensive end on the other side, #95 (Werner).  That was the guy that constantly caught my attention.  At a certain point I went from saying “That guy just hustles and gets lucky,” to “He’s flat out just a great football player.”

The interesting thing about Werner is that he could play in a 3-4 as an OLB because he’s got that big frame at 6’4, 255, and he’s a decent athlete, or he could play DE in a 4-3.  So he’s a guy that could be of interest (regardless of whether the Eagles stick with their 4-3 or switch to a 3-4).  If you wanted him to bulk up to 270 because the new coaching staff wants bigger players, he can do it.  If you look at a guy like Justin Smith who plays now for the Niners, when he came out of Missouri he was 6’3, 260-270 pounds, and he has played as heavy as 285-290. He has also played as low as 265-270.  Some guys can alter their bodies to whatever the coaches want.  Werner has that kind of frame that can adjust to whatever the coaching staff wants, and I think that’s a nice asset to have.

He has 23.5 career sacks, 35 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 16 pass breakups.  That tells you he’s good with his hands, and he bats a lot of passes down.  One of the other things I like about Werner is the fact that he can shed blocks. So often when you watch the college prospects the guys use their speed to get off the edge, or they use quickness or a move, and they’re able to beat offensive tackles because they’re just better athletes. When I watched Aldon Smith a few years ago I knew that he was going to be a good pass rusher because he had violent hands, and he had the ability to shed blocks. With so many young prospects, if they don’t beat you with their initial burst or a spin move or whatever they do, they can’t shed the block.  But Werner can.

Boom. To repeat, best football podcast ever.

Mike Mayock was recently talking about Werner on NFLN, and while I don’t have the exact quote, he said something to the effect of, “Werner could go as high as 5 or as low as 28.” And that’s what makes this draft class so crazy. I have him going on the bottom end of Mayock’s prediction. That would be a lot lower than where he probably should be drafted. From the Broncos’ perspective, if indeed Werner somehow fell to 28, that would take some of the sting out of fax-gate.

On a side note… Who uses a fax machine anymore?

Patriots

29. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

Huh? Quinton Patton in the first round? Yes, sir. I absolutely love this player. Let’s start with the numbers:

Quinton Patton 1 Quinton Patton 2

Those numbers speak for themselves, but what impresses me so much about his high catch total is that he doesn’t drop the ball. As noted above he had 104 catches last season, and per JPSTATS, he had 1 drop:

Quinton Patton

I hadn’t heard much about Quinton Patton before the Senior Bowl this year. I only knew that he had a monster game against Texas A&M, in which he caught 21 passes for 233 yards and 4 TDs, but I knew very little about his game. Here’s what I thought of Patton after watching him for a week down in Mobile:

(Patton) looked like the most polished receiver at the Senior Bowl this week. He ran great routes, adjusted well to poorly thrown balls, and showed good hands. There was one play where Patton caught a ball on a post pattern, ran away from the CB, turned on the after-burners, split the safeties down the middle, and was gone.

As luck would have it, Patton was asked at the Combine about playing for the Patriots:

“I ain’t got to be around coach Belichick to know that you got to shut up and just get it done. You got to be detail oriented. Just shut up and get it done with him.”

OK, so he’s not the most eloquent speaker, but it seems like he gets the whole “do your job” mantra that Bill Belichick loves so much. Note the Pats’ depth chart at WR here. In a word… Ew.

Patton has nice thickness at 200 pounds, but he’s a little shorter than you’d prefer at 6’0. Additionally, at the Combine, Patton ran a 4.48, which isn’t what you would like to see out of a kid from a small program who only goes 6’0, although I would argue that he “plays faster” than his 40 time.

His production is undeniable, and despite emerging from a smaller program, I think Patton’s assimilation into the pros will be a smooth transition. He’ll also have that non-pampered “over-achiever” quality that NFL teams love. Start him from Day 1 and watch him produce

Confession/disclaimer: This is a selfish “pick with the heart” selection. I like Patton more than most. If the Pats are on the clock here and DeAndre Hopkins or Justin Hunter are still on the board, my guess is that they’d prefer them over Patton. I like those other receivers too, but I just like Patton more. I’m choosing my heart/gut over my brains on this one. Apologies. It’s my only one.

Falcons

30. Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State

Florida St. DE Tank Carradine tore his ACL 5 months ago. Late last week, he had his own individual workout for NFL teams. Tank Carradine is a beast:

Tank Carradine 40

Wow. Even without the torn ACL, a 4.75 40 would be an excellent time for a 6’4, 276 lb DE.

Here were the teams who attended Carradine’s workout:

Tank Carradine Falcons

I find it interesting that 8 of those teams are right in the same “end of first round / beginning of second round” range:

  • 21 – Bengals
  • 23/25 – Vikings
  • 24 – Colts
  • 28 – Broncos
  • 29 – Patriots
  • 30 – Falcons
  • 31/34 – 49ers
  • 36 – Lions

Is that an indication of where NFL teams think he’ll land?

The Falcons think they’re close to winning a Super Bowl. That’s why they traded 5 picks for Julio Jones 2 drafts ago, and that’s why they’re rumored to be trading up again this year. And well, they should think they’re close, considering they almost went to the Super Bowl last year.

Had Carradine not been injured, some people think he would be in consideration for a Top 5 overall selection. Carradine’s impressive workout so soon after his devastating injury could put him back in the first round, and I don’t think anybody would be surprised.

However, the Falcons would be an interesting landing spot. If Carradine turns out to be a star player in a couple years it’s a great pick, but in a way it would go against GM Thomas Dimitroff’s aggressive style of drafting players that can contribute in the short term. Will Carradine be ready to play Week 1? Theoretically, if you’re the Falcons and you feel that strongly that you’ll be in the playoffs, maybe you only need Carradine to begin producing near the end of the season, as opposed to other teams who are going to expect their first round picks to contribute from Day 1. It’s only April and the kid is running a 4.75 40. Where’s he going to be in September?

Two offseasons ago, the Falcons swung and missed on DE Ray Edwards. This offseason they cut John Abraham and signed Osi Umenyiora. The Falcons clearly want a better pass rush. A rotation of Carradine, Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann could be a force.

In addition to watching Carradine’s latest workout, the Falcons had him in for a visit. The Falcons’ doctors will ultimately determine if he’s worth the risk, but it appears the Falcons have serious interest.

49ers

31. Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama

Philosophically speaking, the Niners are a difficult team to figure out in terms of picking their groceries. There probably isn’t a more loaded team in the NFL. Last season, their rookies couldn’t get on the field, as they had by far the lowest number of rookie snaps in the NFL:

49ers rookie snap counts

This year, the 49ers have a staggering 14 draft picks. The Niners own picks 31, 34, 61, 74, 93, 128, 131, 157, 164, 180, 227, 237, 246, and 252. What do you do if you’re the Niners?

  1. Do you package a handful of picks to move up for that “splash player” who you think can get you over the hump?
  2. Or do you just draft a lot of players who can begin to form that “next nucleus” to carry your team 5 years from now, while trying to occasionally trade picks this year for additional picks in 2014?

I would lean toward “Option 2,” but that’s just me.

If the Niners do stand pat, they’re going to get a good player anyway, and they land Alabama NT Jesse Williams at 31. Williams ran a freaking 4.91 at 323 pounds at the Combine, so he’s not your typical NT, as he’s athletic enough to play other spots along the line (he played end at Alabama in 2011).

The drawback to drafting a NT in the 1st round is the question of how many snaps you’ll get out of him. For example, last season, the 49ers only put NT Isaac Sopoaga on the field for 395 snaps, per PFF. And further complicating things, if you want to get Williams on the field in non-base defense situations, you’re already loaded at the other DL spots with Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, and Ian Williams.

I see that as somewhat of an awesome problem to have. The Niners’ roster is so loaded that pretty much anybody they draft, aside from a position here or there, is going to find himself in a logjam. In the short term, Williams can focus on being a base defense NT, with his role expanding as the Niners vets age and/or move on.

With another pick right around the corner at 34 and Matt Elam and Eric Reid still on the board, the Niners can grab Williams here, and fill their most glaring need (safety) in 3 picks.

Ravens

32. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

Little-known Ravens ILB Ray Lewis retired this offseason after a very solid, yet under-publicized career in Baltimore. The Ravens also lost talented, up-and-coming ILB Dannell Ellerbe in free agency to the Dolphins. That left them with Jameel McClain, and not much else.

Then the Raiders waived talented yet troubled Rolando McClain, who had a long history of baggage:

  1. In January of 2011, McClain pointed a gun at somebody and fired it next to his head. He was convicted of third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, menacing, and unlawful discharge of a firearm. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail for each offense, totaling 180 days. The charges were eventually dropped when the victim opted to stop pursuing prosecution.
  2. He was suspended for two games in November 2012 for reportedly getting into a verbal argument with head coach Dennis Allen. Details on the nature of the argument are murky, but it was serious enough for Allen to suspend a starter for two games.
  3. In January of 2013, McClain was issued a ticket, which he reportedly signed “F*** Y’all” instead of his name. He was arrested for providing a fake name to police.

The Ravens took a chance and signed McClain, hoping that their Championship locker room could have a positive affect on him. Welp… So much for that. Before McClain even had a chance to get going in Baltimore, he was arrested yet again a few days ago. To be determined if this latest arrest will affect his future with the Ravens.

The McClain signing was never a reason for the Ravens not to draft a LB in the first place, but the fact that they did sign him was a clear indication that they knew they needed help there, if it wasn’t obvious enough.

Arthur Brown is probably the best ILB in this draft class, but the biggest concern is his size. McClain, for example, goes roughly 6’4, 260. That is prototype size for an ILB. Brown goes 6’0, 241, which is not ideal, although it’s not like he’s Brian Rolle at 5’10, 229.

Last year, the Buccaneers took Lavonte David with the 58th overall pick. David is 6’1, 233. The Seahawks drafted Bobby Wagner with the 47th overall pick. Wagner is 6’0, 241, the same exact measurements as Brown. Both players were in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles last season:

Wagner David

I’m willing to trade a little bit of size for production at pick 32.

FINAL.

Round 2 tomorrow! OK, maybe not.

19 Comments

  1. This year’s game features no less than 10 players who could be drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

  2. ichiban says:

    OMG that is incredible work, JimmyK.
    Kudo to you sir.

  3. Jeff says:

    I like the reasoning for each and material behind it, but, as we all know, the people picking these players are humans that come at the draft from all sorts of angles. My only question would be why you didn’t seriously consider trades in this scenario considering they will happen and are seemingly (probably not) predictable?

    Also, surprised you were so high on Vaccaro. (Note: personal opinion and not nearly as much analysis as you) I mean great player but I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve seen a Safety in the NFL lined up against a slot (TE yes, but not a slot). It just seems to me I’d rather have a guy like Reid or Elam who could be more plug and play. Not saying the other guys don’t miss tackles, but when KV is playing deep he takes some crazy angles to the ball carrier…

    Lastly, thanks for the link to the CB evaluations. Rhodes is still a conundrum to me. Watching film just has me going back and forth and only having a 4 game sample to produce those stats give me pause to use them with too much weight. Honestly, straight film and notes, I thought Trufant had the best film to go off of and backed it up with a great combine. Played a lot of different coverage’s and was fairly successful in all of them and has great ball skills (probably better than Milliner)

    Anyways, great read as always. I’m hoping for a Browns trade back if you really need to know the inception for my trading question and analysis of a middle round pick for the Browns is few and far between.

    1. I worked on this over the course of a couple weeks, and a bunch of picks changed during the process. If some event occurred (ie Darrelle Revis trade), I needed to be able to have flexibility in moving some picks around without having all my work destroyed. The Revis trade was slow-developing, so I was ready for it, and it didn’t affect much. But if some sort of event occurred out of nowhere the day before I published this thing, I needed to be able to adjust on the fly. Including trades would have made that so much more complex. Luckily, nothing crazy happened.

  4. tl;dr

    Seriously though, this is excellent. The amount of detail is staggering. Looking forward to rounds 2-7.

  5. mjoedgaard says:

    Im insane for having read the whole thing twice?

    Also your Senior Bowl comment about Manuel reminds me so much about McNabb. McNabb have the freaking record for most completed passes in a row (I dont know if it have been beat yet) and yet sometimes he would just miss an open WR so badly you wonder what the worms have done against him

  6. brisulph says:

    I didn’t read it… just hit the picks and went “okay” or “hmmmmm”. Still, mighty fine stuff.

  7. immynimmy says:

    Wow Jimmy, this is one of the most detailed drafts I’ve seen. Way better than the lame shit the talking heads give with like one sentence to defend why they picked someone. Kudos!

    1. But you are a... says:

      lame shit, talking head.

      DOUCHE!

  8. Ryan says:

    No life, yay!

  9. Nick says:

    Great job Jimmy. I have also been a long time reader, first time commenter. I just had to give you some props for putting in the effort you did into this mock draft. Seriously good work. I love the Dion Jordan pick for the Eagles.

  10. Mcmack77 says:

    Jimmy, I am a long time reader, first time commentator. You have done a really incredible, in depth job here with your mock draft. Seriously, this took a lot of work. Just wanted to let you know your work is appreciated.

    1. Jimmy Kempski says:

      Thanks man, much appreciated.

  11. dA SCOOP says:

    THE G MEN WILL SHOCK & GET TEO(NEW YORK CITY),EAGLES WILL SHOCK & GET MINGO(FASTER MORE TESTED THAN JORDAN),THE COWBOYS WILL SHOCK & GET PATTERSON(DOOLEY) & THE SKINS WILL SHOCK & GET GENO(KIRK TRADED)

    1. Invictus XI says:

      EHRM MEH GAWD!

  12. deg0ey says:

    Dude, you be insane, bro! I’m quite happy, though, because you’ve got the 49ers taking a DT at 31 which means there’s a good chance of Hankins lasting to the Eagles at 35. Just gotta hope Gus doesn’t take him at 33 now.

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