2014 NFL DRAFT REVIEW

2014 NFL DRAFT REVIEW
I’ve always been interested in the idea of internet value and how that differs from real value from real NFL scouts and GMs, but with the availability of every bit of information on literally every single draft prospect, YouTube cutups of most projected draftees (pretty much every single guy from a FBS school and most FCS guys), the connections of ex-scouts and reporters (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pieces are fantastic), the internet cookie cutter/consensus rankings have pretty much caught up. Guys used to fall through the cracks and get panned because they weren’t ranked in the top 50 of the couple of semi-reputable top 100 lists on the internet, and then prove to be good picks the internet just didn’t know about. Now, that’s usually not the case. The internet value is more accurate and reflective of draft position than it’s ever been. It’s interesting how sharp it’s become over the years.

Long ago, in a time when the Rose Bowl could be the National Championship and Henry Melton was a RB, there were the original internet draftniks over at sites like this one, NFLDraftBlitz, and ConDraft. But how did we do it without the great work of Draft Breakdown and similar cutup/highlight videos of prospects? We tried our darnedest to watch as much football on Saturdays as possible, studied standard stats (especially of small school guys – YOU BROKE MY HEART JEROME MATHIS, JAMAAL BRANCH, AND JASON MURRIETA! Ben Patrick you’re cool because you scored a TD in the Super Bowl), tracked the combine and Senior Bowl, read KFFL.com (which apparently still exists but used to be the best breaking news site), and read each other’s scouting reports. How does a clearly flawed Matt Leinart get consistently mocked in the top 5? I WATCHED USC EVERY SATURDAY – THAT’S HOW! 

That was the (James) Stone Age, and now is a different animal. Instead of standard stats, we have advanced stats, cool metrics, and analytics. Instead of having to tape (yes, like a VHS) games and fast-forward past commercials, we can pop up a YouTube video and see a player’s entire game in less than 15 minutes.

As a result, we’ve caught up. Now, the legwork that only the professional NFL scouts were doing with their fancy EZ angles and DVDs and multi-colored highlighters, can be done by any 14-year-old with an internet connection. Disagreement and debate breeds learning, which is why the differing opinions from now informed and sharper draftniks leads us closer to the truth than ever before simply by listening to all sides of the argument, with historical precedent and every piece of information one click away.

Back when we all just chose to agree with each other, things fell through the cracks. We went with the flow – if a guy had great production like Braylon Edwards – why not? You think I’m going to track his dropped passes? Pffft. His stats proved he was a beast and his highlights were awesome. GREAT hands. 

Whoops.

We didn’t have the ability to gain the same insight about his character (more importantly, love for football) that we do know. Charles Rogers was a beast at MSU and rapped for a cool Madden commercial – what could go wrong?

Whoops.

So kudos to catching up, internet draftnik community. And maybe it’s time the NFL started to pay attention to us. What was the last almost-universally-panned-by-draftnik-selection that went on to prove us wrong? Tyson Alualu? Josh Freeman? Blaine Gabbert? Darrius Heyward-Bey? Shea McClellin? Jonas Mouton? I’m legitimately wondering.

In years past, I tended to side with the NFL decision-makers on these types of controversial picks (well, not Gabbert). I’d think – ‘come on, you people have watched three games of this player, read one article, and heard a bunch of amateurs say he’s a reach because he’s not ranked as high on some amateur consensus list.’ I’m realizing now that I probably gave the NFL guys too much credit. Just because they’re being paid doesn’t make them right.

This all leads me to my point – I used to take pride in going against the grain of what the internet echoes as it relates to the consensus list. This year, I’m going to agree with those computer-screen-quarterbacks a lot more than usual. The goal will always be to find the truth and continue to learn, and I think I was giving too much credit to draft position. Sometimes dumb teams make weird, dumb moves, people instantly recognize it, and things don’t work out. 

Before I continue, here are some of my philosophies that have not changed:

- I do not believe in the word “reach.” There are 32 teams picking between picks. This isn’t a 10-team fantasy draft where you get to choose from the entire NFL so your fall-back option is a known commodity WR or Ben Roethlisberger. If you want your guy in the NFL draft, and you suspect there is any chance he will be gone by the time you pick next – you take him. This applies way more past the top 10, where I do believe “your guy” should be the best player on the board in most circumstances. People also say “well then trade down.” Easier said than done. That’s another annoying thing fans do – they knock moves teams make and offer stupid (or no) alternatives like the Alex Smith situation (either punt the year because why care about keeping your job or trying to win games? or take a bad QB 1st overall) or the Alex Mack situation “YOU OVERPAID FOR A CENTER.” Wow excellent point – the Browns would be much better served to have 60M in cap space next year and no center instead of 40M and a pro bowl center.

- Drafting for need is overrated and the majority of teams don’t do it. In my 10 years of studying drafts, I have never, ever seen a team fill its top 3 perceived “biggest needs” in the first three rounds. Yet fans always wish for this when reviewing mock drafts.

The NFL draft is not about filling perceived needs so your team is better for next year. If that happens, great, but that is a dumb mentality and most teams don’t think that way. The draft is about building for the future. You do this by acquiring building block players regardless of position. You do this by making picks with future free agents and older players in mind, in addition to weak spots on the current roster. You do this by building on strengths, something that the Jets did last year when adding the DROY even though they had “bigger needs than DE” and “already had Wilkerson.”

There are always exceptions. The Colts should not draft a QB if he’s the best player on the board. But if the best player on the board fits the scheme you run, I don’t care if he’s not going to start in your base defense in training camp. The NFL is a week-to-week league, adding competition at any position is good, and injuries are rampant. Unless the BPA on your board is K, P, or a QB and you already have one, you take that player. Most teams do this yet many fans don’t get it. 

I’m already rambling, and forgetting if I actually have a point.

“Get to the grades moron.” Who am I kidding – no one actually said that because no one actually read this far. 

Annual pre-cursor 1: My grades are far more harsh than what you normally read. The vast majority of drafts are loved in Apri- erm, May, and look like jokes with one or two decent players (many times not even on that same team) 4 years later. I won’t even waste words proving that point – just look at any draft grade article from a draft 3+ years ago. Many, many draft picks don’t work out. There will be busts. I will attempt to predict those busts and I won’t be shy about it. Giving all A’s and B’s is what most draft analysts do but the NFL is a rough business and the reality is that most drafts don’t actually materialize into A’s and B’s. I have no ties to the NFL like Kiper, McShay, and Mayock do, so I can make fun of everyone and give bad grades. Yay!

Although I must admit – this is possibly the best draft class I’ve ever evaluated and follows the worst class I’ve ever evaluated. It’s going to be difficult to find picks to knock. However, I highly doubt this is the year that every single player achieves top potential, the entire NFL goes 8-8 and every game finishes 38-35 in overtime. Your team may have drafted some talented stud prospects. But even stud prospects fail.

Annual pre-cursor 2: Predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. I’d guess over 85% of busts fail because they don’t put in the necessary work to succeed. I can read as much as I want about these kids, but there’s no way I can feel confident about predicting which ones will fail because they JaMarcus their own career. But I try it anyway with judging body language, playing demeanor, confidence, and competitiveness. I also try not to predict injuries (sorry about 2012 Skins fans), and many busts struggle with those. And as I alluded to before, I tend to naively trust too many NFL decision-makers so I usually don’t play the “he doesn’t fit the scheme” card. I think I might try that one this year, though. 

So I primarily judge how I think the player’s traits and game translate to the next level – which is completely different from judging college performance/results – this is something lost on many draftniks. I put more emphasis on the combine than I used to for reasons that would bore you, but it’s nowhere near as important as the tape. I will judge fit in terms of who will be in his position group, his coaching staff, organization stability, supporting cast, and opportunity.

And that’s it. On to the grades and predictions. No letter grades anymore, because they’re boring and pointless. Each team gets a newspaper headline. The order of teams is completely random. The hope is that without a meaningful order people can’t find their own team and might stumble on a word or phrase that catches their eye and makes them want to read another team’s review. 

CHARGERS STEAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS WHO ARE VERY GOOD AT FOOTBALL, MYSTERIOUS BOLO TIE FOUND AT SCENE
My 2013 Playoff Sleeper (thanks Succup!) took my favorite player in the entire draft in Jason Verrett (7th best prospect on my board). Verrett does literally every single thing you want from a CB at an extremely high level except be tall. And he played in all alignments and coverages. He can play the valuable slot position. My two favorite Verrett nuggets:

- Against Texas’ Mike Davis, he was beat deep on a 9 (only TD I saw him give up). Later in the game they tested him again on a post, and he made a diving interception on a ball thrown 58 yards in the air. You want a psychopath with irrational confidence (insanely aggressive for how small he is) and a short memory at corner in the NFL.

- 4th-round pick Jalen Saunders ran 5 shallows against him in off-man. He allowed 1 reception for 2 yards and a PBU on those 5 routes – one of the more difficult routes to cover in m2m.

So as long as he stays on the field, I have no doubt Verrett will be a top NFL CB. Attaochu will be a terrific edge rusher and push for 10 sacks by his second year. The Chargers were lucky to make the playoffs without much talent on D, but they got three starters (Carrathers fell because no one values NTs) in this class. They need another WR, but Tevin Reese is worth a shot. A big FA WR next offseason could be the final piece. I predicted Mike McCoy would revive Rivers’ career. Now he goes out and hits big on his first two draft picks. Go Chahjas Go.

FUNNY LIKE A CLOWN? FITZMAGIC-LED TEXANS LAUGH AT 2014 QB CLASS
Clowney cried which means he cares at least a little. If he cares a little, he’ll be great. If he cares more than a little he’ll be the best defensive player in the NFL. I found it funny arguing with people before the draft who thought they should take Bridgewater over Clowney.

XSF over Garoppolo is the decision that haunts me a little bit. One is worth a shot because he plays such a valuable position and the other is just a freaking QB… …

Guards matter, people.

Tom Savage I don’t really care about. Had they taken him at No. 33, it would have been a big story. If he becomes the first inaccurate QB in history to become more accurate in the NFL, then BOB is a genius, HOU/IND becomes in the 2nd best rivalry in the NFL and away we go. The more likely scenario is that he’s Henne 2.0 and they paid very little for potential high-reward investment after adding at least three starters prior to that pick. And for all the hate Savage gets – I’m spending a 4th-round pick on that combination of size, arm talent, and pocket toughness whenever I can.

Also, Jay Prosch. Yessss.

JAGUARS DELAY MOVE TO LA BY DRAFTING ROUNDS 10-13 OF YOUR KEEPER LEAGUE
Hop on the Gus Bus and raise your Bortles everyone! Well, except you Justin. You get water.

I believe the most important job of an NFL head coach is to motivate his players. He should be the face of the program, and you should see his finger prints on everything the team does. The Seahawks are uncomfortably energetic, happy, focused, and annoying, just like their head coach. When you see the logo, you immediately think of that extremely punch-able face and Owen Wilson nose. Quick – picture Mike Mularkey’s face. You can’t. That’s because Mike Mularkey has no presence. NFL players are coddled young millionaire athletes who know they are one play away from a career ending injury. Motivating that type of player and getting him to buy into a program is something few men can do – which is why there is so much head coach turnover each year. That’s why you see so many fired head coaches re-surface as coordinators or assistants shortly after being fired – most have the football knowledge and play-calling chops to coach at the NFL level (maybe not Tony Sporano) – but few have what it takes to motivate players and lead from the top. What separates a great head coach from a great coordinator who’s unfit to be a head coach (think Norv Turner), is presence and uniqueness. Gus Bradley is more than just the jock football player who everyone loves. His positive attitude is infectious. He can relate to the players because he’s young enough, he commands respect because he’s been successful and put in the work, and he’s a smart football man and great communicator. 

In three years, Blake Bortles will remind you of Gus Bradley. He’ll be the embodiment of his head coach. He’s an underrated runner with real leadership potential and every trait you want in a franchise QB. Situation is important for raw QB prospects. With a hopefully franchise left tackle, a trio of young talents at WR, the white Adrian Peterson at RB, very little pressure in a small market, an experienced veteran to learn from, and a perfect head coach to grow under – Blake Bortles walked into the best situation imaginable for him. They even drafted his college RB! We should have seen it earlier. After the combine, I thought Houston would take Bortles (never listening to McClain again) in part because his best game was at Penn State, but after realizing that it was impossible to pass on Clowney (which was my INITIAL initial instinct – why is the draft in May again?), I pegged him as a guy who could fall to 20. Why? This was SO obvious. This will work out. Bortles will flourish under coach Bradley. He’s big, he can move, he has the arm, he has the smarts, and he loves contact. If Gus Bradley played QB, he’d play it like Blake Bortles. 

When you get a franchise QB, the rest doesn’t matter. I actually don’t love Marqise Lee and knew he would fall to the 2nd. He’s too slender at less than 6-0, doesn’t have great speed, and dropped a ton of passes last year. Too many excuses about the USC situation. Allen Robinson will be a better pro. He’s the best route-runner in this class and has the suddenness/size combo you can’t teach. I like Linder and Colvin, but Telvin Smith is not a starter, Chris Smith is a JAG, and Storm Johnson isn’t special enough to be anything other than a guy who produces because of opportunity – not because his talent demands to be on the field.

COWBOYS SHY AWAY FROM ATTENTION FOR FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, URGE YOU NOT TO READ THIS HEADLINE
Jerruh admitting that Manziel was the top player on their board after the fact is fascinating. First, why would he admit that? Second, why would he pass on him if that was the case? Did they really have a player on their board they knew they wouldn’t take because of the severe cap issues it would create? Why? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t buy for a second that the reason was the circus it would have created. Jerry Jones doesn’t want attention? And the circus stuff is overblown. Tim Tebow was on the Patriots last year. Does anyone even remember that? No, because they didn’t invite ESPN to training camp to show their fake punt plays *coughJetscough*. As long as the Cowboys didn’t create a reality show about the Romo/Manziel QB battle, it would just be noise. But I guess the temptation was too much, considering the Cowboys already did create a reality TV competition to make the team (Holley at your boy, San Fran).

If they really had Manziel at the top of their board – they should have taken him. Romo’s 34 years old coming off surgery. It would have put some pressure on him. And if there’s anything we know about Romo – it’s that he’s terrific in pressure situations.

Back to reality, for the 2nd year in a row Jerry Jones added a stud offensive lineman. Martin’s a fine player and gives them possibly the best bookend tackle duo in the entire NFL if Free moves inside. I’ll even go as far as to say that Dallas has one of the best offensive lines in the league. It’s a long way away from not even being able to snap the ball from the gun. 

Demarcus Lawrence’s tape was impressive. He has strong, quick hands, fights against the run, pursues downfield, and can dip and bend around the edge. The issue with him, and why he fell to the 2nd round, is that he’s not a great (NFL standards) athlete. His 7.46 3-cone and 4.80 40 are just bad for a 251-pound RE. This is the great debate. Do I ignore what I saw on tape and say he has limited upside because of the lack of elite athleticism? Nope. Lawrence will be a quality starter from day one. Good trade-up.

As for the rest, some people will try to sell you Devin Street but I don’t see it. He was erased easily by FSU when it mattered and doesn’t really separate. Getting Mitchell and Dixon that late will earn them high praises from the internet. Dixon won’t be anything but Mitchell might contribute.

CARR TOTALED IN COLLISION WITH MACK TRUCK; DRIVER BLAMES IMAGINARY FAILED PHYSICAL CONDUCTED BY RAIDERS TEAM DOCTOR
Wasn’t it odd that Jon Gruden had so many criticisms of Mack’s game? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pick that high get picked apart that much. It was interesting and he doesn’t flash every single play, but who does? He’ll get blocked at times, but Lavonte David couldn’t disengage from blocks either. Mack in zone coverage is a thing of beauty (he’s like a basketball player with deflections and steals), and he has some pass rushing chops, so the only way they could screw him up is to ask him to play CB. Please don’t ask him to play CB.

Gabe Jackson is this year’s Larry Warford, and will start from day one. Steal in the 3rd. Love his game.

I like Travis Carrie and Dowling late, but this draft will come down to Carr regardless of Mack’s success.

To me, Carr is the anti-Jake Locker. Both have terrific size and a big arm, but Carr has the accuracy, production, and ability to play from the pocket that Locker didn’t have, and lacks what Locker did have – the intangibles, toughness, leadership, and ability to make plays outside the pocket. They should trade for Locker and merge them into one person. 

A lot is made about that USC game, but Carr was clearly hurt. A lot is made about his last name, but Blake Griffin was able to overcome the struggle of being Taylor’s younger brother.

I really love his arm and don’t care about the inflated stats at all. And his deep ball isn’t that bad – it comes out fine and it’s more accurate than Bridgewater’s.

But I can’t predict a star. To me it comes down to a lack of toughness. Carr avoids physical contact at all costs. We know about his issues in the face of pressure (which are a little overblown), throwing off his back foot, and he doesn’t play the game like he has the intangibles to play at the next level. That made more sense in my head. I just don’t project the intangibles. He’ll be good enough to start, and even good enough to win with. But he’s not a true franchise guy capable of turning that whole thing around.

SAINTS ADD TINY SLOT RECEIVER TO BOOST ‘TYRION LANNISTER’ QUARTERBACK’S CONFIDENCE
You know what was overlooked last year? Marques Colston recovering an onside kick down 8 points with 26 seconds left at Seattle in last year’s playoffs. The Saints gave that game away in the beginning (16-yard punt, stupid head-hunting penalty, drops), and rallied back. Seattle didn’t even play that well, especially against the run. The problem was that the Saints were down semi-big before they knew it, and couldn’t run anymore. There was more bad luck in there than a typical playoff loss. That game never felt close, but it probably should have.

The Saints were also victims of the schedule gods. Simply put, if that MNF game is in NO instead of SEA, the Saints might have earned the 1-seed and SEA has to visit them in the postseason.

I sound like a Saints apologist, but the point is that with a single loss in the NFL season, the paradigm shifts so much that we lose track of how good the non final-four (or even non-playoff) teams really are. This Saints roster is LOADED and it just got better.

I went all-in on Tavon Austin and he had a disappointing rookie year on offense. It’s fair to wonder if the situation wasn’t great for him (no respected outside WRs, Jared Cook being Jared Cook, no known run game, enigmatic QB), but the truth is that he may never figure out the nuances of being a slot receiver – there’s a reason you can’t just put any small, quick guy with good hands there to catch 100 passes like Welker.

But if ever there were a player and situation where the dream of a more athletic, better Wes Welker in the slot would come to fruition – it’s Brandin Cooks on Sean Payton’s Saints with Drew Brees at the helm. Cooks has big potential, embodied by arguably the top highlight of all prospects in this class behind The Hit. (INSERT YOUTUBE) He can play on the outside and look for him to get a lot of Sproles’ production. I do have some concerns. He plays at one speed – super fast – and he’ll need to learn how to be more elusive running routes. He’s a fluid, smooth mover, and not as quick-twitch as an ideal slot or RAC guy. He also loves to run backwards, reverse field, and can’t block at all. I don’t care much about his size, but he’s not a perfect prospect. In the end, his hands are special and he’s a pure playmaker. Those ALWAYS translate, even from UMass or Mount Union. 60 catches as a rookie, 70+ the next two years.

SJB will bust. He went about where he should have because of his rare athletic traits but I’d rather take a great football player than great athlete in the 2nd round. I’d save guys like him for the 4th and later. It’s one thing to not be very quick – it’s another to be slow reacting. His hips are tight and he’ll get beat if they try to play him in man.

Sunseri I like. At worst he’s a quality special teamer. They played him in the box but he has the disposition of a free safety and there’s no reason to think he can’t be the third safety in his rookie year – and they like using three safeties. 

JOSH MCCOWN GETS HUGE TARGETS, AIMS TO RESIST PORN FOR AN NFL-RECORD 11th-STRAIGHT SEASONS
Mike Evans plays like Jimmy Graham. They both have that angry demeanor and believe the football is theirs. They’re dismissive towards defensive backs. Annoyed almost. When you mix that swagger with that size you get a monster. Evans was one of the top WR prospects in recent history and would have gone first overall last year. Overlooked because of this strong class. It might take him a year, but he’ll be at worst Vincent Jackson by his third season.

ASJ is a fine football player but it’s all off the field with him. He’s an odd bird. The potential reward is worth the risk in the 2nd.

Charles Sims has me at a crossroads and has me questioning my ability to evaluate RBs. He’s a gifted athlete and probably the most impressive pass-catching back in this class. He’s got all the physical tools you want. However, his flaws are tough to ignore. He’s an awful blocker for someone you want on third downs, his vision is suspect, and he’s very easy to tackle. Last year I scouted two backs who were similar – finesse types or easy to tackle. Both proved me wrong (Knile Davis/Le’Veon Bell) as rookies. I wrote off DeMarco Murray for similar reasons as well. I suppose athletic traits should be valued higher than technique with RBs as opposed to the other positions. The nature of playing RB is probably less nuanced and technique-driven than any other position in football. Noted. Still, it’s tough to pick Sims to be anything more than a rotation back with some nice moments behind the muscle hamster.

I liked Kadeem Edwards and Robert Herron at the Senior Bowl but after some more work on each, they won’t stick.

Great first pick, keeping ASJ in check will define this class.

NFL ALLOWS 49ERS TO CREATE SECOND INJURED RESERVE STRICTLY FOR MEDIOCRE PLAYERS
My arch rivals didn’t add Verrett, Watkins, Evans, or ODB, so I’m content.

Jimmie Ward is a better prospect than Eric Reid was, but he’s just so tiny. He’ll be groomed to take over for Bethea and play the slot as a rookie. Why is that important? Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin are in the division. As long as he’s on the field, he’s a Pro Bowler.

I knew the 49ers were targeting RB despite their fans claiming otherwise. They struggle to run against SEA when other teams have success. They knew they needed to change that rather than continuing to rush for 2 YPC and air it out against possibly the best secondary ever. Hyde is an upgrade over Gore and has uncommon feet for a huge back. He tried to bounce a lot outside at OSU, but he has power. There’s really nothing to see here. When you add a hungry, gifted, quality back with a mobile QB and great offensive line you should see a perennial 1000 yard rusher. He might even beat out Gore this year.

Marcus Martin in the 3rd is up there with one of the top steals of the draft. Tremendous pick and 10 year starter at center.

Borland is a nice player but I don’t see big-time pro potential. He’ll need protection, and he’ll get it in SF, but he’s not close to Kuechly or Zach Thomas. And when Bowman comes back he’ll be a short, slow special teams player. Then I suppose the plan is to replace Willis or Bowman. I’ll take that.

A lot of people like Bruce Ellington and he’s got some nice traits but his hands are inconsistent and he fights the ball at times. I also don’t see him fitting in well with SF’s receiving group. I think they chose who they thought was the best football player available regardless of what they needed at the position in terms of size or a deep threat. But they ended up taking a great athlete who will get lost in the shuffle with the other physical/smallish types.

Brandon Thomas will redshirt and is a great value in the late 3rd. Outstanding move.

Finally, if Aaron Lynch develops into anything I’ll be well beyond Vontaze-level shocked. His strength coach called him out for not having integrity. Not good.

The 49ers added quality football players which is the goal of any draft. But check out the positions: nickel back, RB, C, ILB, and redshirted OL. Tank Carradine and Stevie Johnson could end up as having the most impact this year. It’s not that scary for 2014 from the Seahawks’ perspective – it could have been way worse armed with 12 picks. Depth and positions like RB, C, and NB matter, but will those improvements close the gap created by the discrepancy between quarterbacks? I don’t think so. See you on Thanksgiving.

PATS DRAFT JIMMY G; BRADY ‘FUMING’ ABOUT BETTER LOOKING QUARTERBACK ADDITION
Belichick taking Garoppolo is fascinating. Let’s unpack this.

Is he ready to coach past the Brady era? It’s been widely assumed he’d retire with him. He’s 62 years old and has hinted that he’s not far from walking away on A Football Life: Randy Moss Convinced Me To Dress Up Like a Pirate.

Or is he just passing the torch? Doing right by the organization. Giving Josh McDaniels HIS Tom Brady. This probably makes more sense than him coaching until his 72, right?

Regardless, is it wise to pass on potential immediate help for a franchise so close to a Super Bowl, with Brady’s career winding down and the window possibly closing soon? It’s fair to ask this question.

I believe in this situation, it is. The draft is still about getting value, and there’s literally nothing more valuable than a good QB. Look what Baalke got for Alex freaking Smith. I’m not suggesting they will or should ever trade him, but if Brady is somehow able to stay rolling for longer than expected, having a quality second QB should never be looked at as a waste. 

Or is it simply that Belichick really values having a quality backup THAT much? Why not just sign someone?

But forget those things. The most important part of any of this is evaluating the actual player.

The timing of late 2nd round makes this seem particularly peculiar to the casual observer. How on earth can you sell me that there was a quality QB available in the 60s? Well let’s look back at 2012 when something similar happened. In 2012 Russell Wilson fell for two reasons. First, because of his height. Second, because every single team in the NFL believed they had their franchise QB by the team Cleveland so brilliantly chose Brandon Weeden at 22nd overall. This was the case because there happened to be three top QBs in the 2012 class (Luck, RGIII, Tannehill) and in 2011 teams went bonkers taking horrible QBs all over the place that they didn’t want to throw the towel in on (Ponder, Gabbert, Locker). Had RGIII not declared, it’s very possible Wilson would have gone to the Redskins in the first or second round, or to whichever team wasn’t able to get one of the top QBs – he wouldn’t have been the loser in musical chairs.

Fast forward to this year, and every single team had a QB by the time Minnesota traded up to 32 except for two – the Raiders and Texans. Here’s where I struggle with this theory. Houston at 33 had a chance to take Jimmy G and be done with. Let Carr go to Oakland like everyone predicted and all is right with the world. But instead they passed on him for a guard. Now it’s entirely possible I’m way off and that Houston simply didn’t like Garoppolo at all. But I suspect they saw two QBs left, and two chairs left, and played the odds. We get a ten-year starter OG right here, and the odds are high that we get our QB at 65. Even with the visits, did they REALLY think NE would use a 2nd on a QB? Probably not. And the fact that they might have been talking with NE this whole time about Mallett makes it possible that NE played them (or is still holding them hostage and forcing them to pay more than what they want to for Mallett). 

The point of the above incoherent rambling is that I don’t think Garappolo’s true value as a prospect was necessarily reflected by where he ended up going – I think it was more a result of circumstances and a team (HOU) playing with fire and losing (and if they really wanted Bridgewater they were also screwed by MIN and SEA being perpetual trade bros). In the end, the draft is still a game. You play it or get played.

I don’t know how it’s possible to write so much and not even get to the player – which is really all that matters when evaluating any draft pick. 

Jimmy Garoppolo will be one of three franchise QBs from this class (keep reading!). I saw the lightning quick release, arm, efficient mechanics, quick feet, joke of an offense, special stuff in the snow against Towson, seam on a rope, holding the ball too long, fumbles, good decision-making, and precision. But what sticks out the most in my notes is the last line: “love his skill set, but is he just a nice college QB?” 

Unequivocally, no. 

Everything he does is efficient and consistent. His mechanics, his decision-making, his footwork. He’s got major potential. He’s better than anyone the Pats have had behind Brady. He’s more gifted than Hoyer and more naturally efficient than Mallett. 

Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois will take over for Tom Brady and defeat a 41-year old Peyton Manning in Denver in the AFC Divisional Round in 2017. He’ll go on to lose the AFC Championship to Blake Bortles and the LA Jaguars.

I fully believe that Easely was going to the Seahawks at No. 32 if the Pats didn’t take him. Taking him that high after two ACLs is interesting. The draftniks are definitely way behind in terms of our knowledge of meidcals and weighing injury risks. Clearly the Pats’ research has indicated that this particular player is worth it. He’s tenacious, a penetrating force, and his initial quickness is Aaron Donald-y. His tape and rehabs indicate he loves the game, which is huge for a defensive lineman. He’ll be a top-10 DT in the NFL by his 3rd season.

Jeremy Gallon is a fascinating pro-ready slot prospect who should thrive in that role in New England. If you don’t follow college ball, he seriously posted this stat line in a competitive conference game: 14 rec, 369 yards, 2 TD. Good hands, quick, knows how to find open spots against zone. I predict he’s a very, very productive pro and frequently leads the Pats in catches in future years.

As for the rest, it’s not Rutgers enough for me. They want James White to be Kevin Faulk, I guess Fleming takes over for Vollmer at some point, and the other two large OL point to a shift in philosophy. This team wants to run the ball. They see what’s been successful with SF, SEA, and to some extent BAL, and they don’t want any more shoot-outs with Peyton Manning. Josh McDaniels is concocting a power-based attack for the twilight of Brady’s career, and the big-time RB will come in next year’s draft after Ridley fumbles away his opportunity. 

FALCONS SURIVE DRAFT WEEKEND WITHOUT EMBARASSING RODDY WHITE TWEET
They should have drafted Lewan over Matthews but it doesn’t matter that much. I’m projecting more perennial Pro Bowlers than usual but this is one of the strongest classes I’ve seen. He’ll be a terrific pro.

Devonta Freeman isn’t special and if he played at a different program he’d have been a 6th or 7th round pick at best. Small and slow isn’t the combination you want. FSU kinda reminds me of the old USC – churning out overrated prospects left and right. Ka’Deem Carey would have been a better pick.

I also don’t envision big things for Ra’Shede Hageman. He’s large and gifted but his technique is poor the majority of the time. I’ve heard him described as untrustworthy. This one could go either way but I lean towards bust. 

As for the one pick everyone hated – I had Dez Southward as one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. He can do it all and will be a serviceable rookie FS. He moves well and his pedal is smooth. He can play some man, just needs to become quicker diagnosing plays. He’s got upside to be a well above average starter. I think he’ll get there.

Finally, I know they wanted toughness, but Prince Shembo’s alleged transgressions are tough to welcome anywhere. He’s a good player and will start right away because of how thin they are at OLB, but it’s tough to root for him.

The Falcons still don’t have impressive 3-4 personnel and Weatherspoon will be miscast as Nolan attempts to evolve them. On offense, they’ll start three WRs and I don’t see the running game improving much. Peyton Manning can command a pass-first “11″ base offense, but I think Matt Ryan needs playaction and a power running game to be at his best. They’ll be mediocre next year.

REVOLUTIONARY FOREHEAD MEASURMENTS CHANGE BRONCOS DRAFT STRATEGY
The narrative that Bradley Roby was schooled by Jared Abbrederis is way overblown. Abbrederis gets credit for severely outplaying him but that wasn’t the case. He made two tremendous contested catches, beat Roby on intermediate routes twice, broke one of his tackles, and did the rest of his work against zone coverage in which Roby wasn’t responsible for just him. Roby also had a pick in the game and his team won.

This kid oozes talent and is going to a first-class organization to get everything out of him. But there are on-field concerns as well. He lacks a strong sense of reading reading body language, route combos, and angles, which is why he gets beat more than he should. And most of the time he makes up for it with elite quickness. I can’t predict a bust because he’s just too damn talented. If he keeps his nose clean and stays in the league, he’ll be a quality starter.

Also, apparently he likes to sleep in his car. That’s fine. Just don’t eat lunch in your car alone like Nnamdi did. Teammate bonding in the cafeteria is essential. In the NFL, there’s no better way to build comradery than by playing pranks and making fun of each other while eating. Only good can come out of the lunch time bonding experience. It’s also a great time to plan trips to Vegas with your position group and exchange phone numbers for harmless jokes about your family members and hilarious name-calling. To Incognitio, stealing his own quote: “we miss u bro.” 

Cody Latimer is walking into the perfect situation. I feel like I’m overusing the term “perfect situation” this year. Is every team really smart or am I just in a really good mood? It’s because the draft class is so strong, right? Do you believe in alternate universes? Maybe every player IS getting drafted to the perfect situation because only one reality exists? OK I’ll stop before I accidentally write a 7th season of Lost. You have to admit that a WR’s perfect situation has to be with Peyton Manning at QB coming off of a 55/10 season. 55/10. 55/10. 55… … … 10. lol wat is that i dont even. Bey-Bey was a strong bust candidate but has blossomed into one of the top receivers in the game. Latimer is almost as gifted, so why can’t he do the same? Early in the draft process he was a hidden gem, but he wasn’t hidden for long. Big-time upside and so obviously better than Emmanuel Sanders. I say he surprises by being a contributor this year. This WR class was so stacked and history shows us that a bunch will probably bust. The fit and talent here is too good to predict it with Latimer.

Schofield might have to be a guard but he’s a quality lineman and a good pick. Barrow will start because their linebackers suck. He’ll end up a big-time steal.

I loved this draft class. I used to hate picking chalk in what was once a parity-driven NFL, but these days the cream is rising because the gap between the haves (franchise QBs) and the have-nots (non-franchise QBs) is as wide as it’s ever been. Kurt Warner being found at a grocery store and Jake Delhomme somehow tricking the world into thinking he’s good aren’t happening in today’s NFL with how much it’s grown and improved. This isn’t my final official Super Bowl pick, but I’m leaning towards a rematch of the Orange Wedding/MetLife Massacre. This time the Donkeys make it a game but still fall short in the end.

BILLS SELECT SECOND CLEMSON STAR; LIE ABOUT USAGE AGAIN
Trading a 2015 1st for Sammy Watkins was a good move. When the Bills still don’t win enough because they start E.J. Manuel, the same people who somehow think trading up for Julio was a bad move will badmouth the Bills for spending too much on Watkins. It doesn’t matter. Draft picks are overrated in the sense that wayyyyyy more end up not yielding results than people realize. When you have a chance to acquire an elite talent like Jones and Watkins – guys who are about as close to sure things as possible – you do it. Good move. There was some discussion about Watkins perhaps being a bit overrated. I don’t really see it. He’s more raw than people think, sure, but his traits are outrageous. He doesn’t have to be a technician route-runner to make house calls weekly. He’s a RAC demon, with good hands and ideal athleticism. And he’s been productive. I’m sincerely wondering if I’m missing anything. Most elite NFL WRs ARE in fact taller than 6’0″. But ZERO sub-6-0 WRs have the mix of hands, speed, quickness, and power Watkins does. 

Cyrus Kouandijo is PISSED. He was fuming after falling to the 2nd round, and possibly angry that he has to go to Buffalo. His 2012 was way better than his 2013, which is very concerning. And there are the injury issues. Sometimes these sketchy OTs just end up being awesome (Solder, Glenn, Loadholt). Let’s go with starting RT from day one and Anthony Davis-like. 

The Bills clearly wanted beef up front and added Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson also. Henderson has a Burfict opportunity to Vontaze us all and then mail it after he gets that huge second contract. Richardson was in the wrong scheme in Baylor’s uptempo offense and struggled in space and getting to the second level. He’s also got thin legs and doesn’t get out of his stance quick enough. He’ll bust.

Preston Brown is a thumper who will take over for Spikes and I think Ross Cockrell was a bit underrated. He’ll make his share of plays before moving on to another team when his rookie deal expires. 

I see some starters and a game-breaker. Great draft. Sucks that E.J. Manuel is the quarterback.

EXPENSIVE STUDY REVEALS INTERCEPTIONS AREN’T GOOD; CARDINALS PASS ON QUARTERBACKS BECAUSE PALMER ‘PROMISES’ HE ‘KNOWS NOW’
Deone Buccannon won’t bust, but he won’t live up to his draft slot. He’s stiff and misses tackles. He looks the part but I don’t really want him covering anyone. They should have gone with an OL, Attaochu, or Lawrence there. 

Niklas isn’t anything special. I think it’s a stretch to assume he’s even the starting TE you want in today’s game. Even if he reaches his peak blocking potential, his receiving upside is limited because he’s so plodding so you spent a valuable 2nd-round pick on Matt Spaeth? Why? Fiedorowicz is better anyway. Bad pick.

Kareem Martin is your typical UNC underachiever with no special qualities. If he does indeed beef up enough to play 5-technique he’ll be a JAG. If they try to have him stand up, he can’t do it. Don’t like the fit.

The best player from this class will be a WR from Pittsburgh State or Murray State, which isn’t a good thing.

Arizona beat Seattle last year on the road in a game in which Carson Palmer threw 5 interceptions. FIVE. That’s how good their defense was. Unfortunately, they lose the guy who was their best player in Dansby and the underrated Darnell Dockett is a year older. I also don’t see much of a pass rush. Getting Cooper back is like adding another first-round pick (actually it literally is adding another first-round pick you idiot), but I forecast a regression from the improbable 10-win season. The 7-team playoff expansion will come two years too late.

RAMS MAKE HISTORY BY SUPPORTING SAM DESPITE OFFENSIVE YPA
So did the Rams make a mistake in passing on Blake Bortles at 2? John Football at 2 and 13? Ted Bridgewater at 2 and 13? Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2nd round? Clearly they’re all in on Sam Bradford. I like Bradford, and I like they way they’re building the team.

Greg Robinson was the most overrated prospect in the draft. He’ll be the next Robert Gallery, although probably a better guard. His pass protection technique is awful, he leans, he doesn’t get to the second level enough, and he takes a false step out of his stance so much it’s mind-boggling. He’s a lump of clay with incredible physical gifts and he has the ability and temperament to be a dominant run-blocker, but the Rams passed on two day-one blindside protectors for a guard who needs so much coaching before he can even sniff right tackle. I don’t like it one bit. I see the upside I suppose and he’s still very young, and it’s exciting to see a guy toss people around in that run-heavy scheme. I get that they probably don’t work much on pass blocking at Auburn, but he’s developing tendencies that he’s going to need to correct ASAP. Maybe he will, but it’s a longer shot than the people drooling over his highlights (he’s an offensive lineman, not a touchdown-scorer – his highlights aren’t important) want to believe. Larry Allen? Orlando Pace? No.

Aaron Donald is small and my Reverse Planet Theory was created in an effort to protect me from being burned by any more of these lovable penetrating college 3-techniques. But this one is just too damn special. I echo what everyone’s been saying – plug him in next to Brockers and watch him wreak havoc. His get-off is incredible.

Lamarcus Joyner as strictly a college performer, was one of the best players in the nation. However, scouting players isn’t about judging college performance or results, but rather evaluating what you see on tape and projecting players’ traits and game to the next level. He was extremely productive, but he’s a small, slowish, slot corner who relies on instincts and has freedom on that stacked defense to freelance too much. He constantly makes plays, but I don’t think his game translates to the outside at all. He’ll likely make his fair share of plays and continue to be used as a sneaky blitzer, but I think he’ll get beat a lot. And he’s not nearly as good as Matheiu was – he doesn’t have that type of speed or range to be a safety. Nice little player, but there were better receivers with far less question marks on the board to help out Bradford.

The Rams best pick came in the 3rd round. Thanks to an arm injury, Tre Rice fell. I call him Tre Rice because he’s going to be Ray Rice. One of the premiere steals of the draft and a guy who would have gotten more hype in a normal year.

There was nothing particularly ground-breaking or revolutionary after that.





Just kidding. The 7th-round pick everyone’s talking about will shock the world and become a star. He’ll squash the Tape vs. Workouts debate once and for all. You heard it here first:

Demetrius Rhaney and his sub-5.0 40 at 301 pounds will continue to capture the nation’s attention. His first day of training camp – televised. His first preseason game – televised. When he makes the team – breaking news. His first pancake – eaten. If you think you’re sick of hearing about Demetrius “IHOP” Rhaney now, just wait until his rookie-of-the-year campaign.

JIM CALDWELL ADMITS ERIC EBRON DRAFTED HIMSELF, ‘I WENT WITH THE FLOW’
Such a Lions draft. No foresight, just straight talent. Eric Ebron is a borderline special talent but he’s not the type of player the Lions need to bring in. The Lions have been the model of underachieving with massive talent. They lack discipline. So who do they draft in the first round? A me-first diva tight end to further infect a weak locker room. The Lions remind me of the OKC Thunder. Calvin Johnson is Kevin Durant. He’s one of the best players on the planet, yet he always looks like he’s battling his own team or having some sort of inner conflict. On the outside, he might show affection for Stafford (Westbrook), and when things are working it looks fantastic. But there’s always that feeling of an impending blunder. A costly mistake. There isn’t full trust. It’s a subconscious sadness to the whole operation and it permeates throughout the organization. “Matt, you can’t just throw that ball up for grabs right there. Russ, you can’t just hoist up that three right there.” But would Durant or Calvin ever actually say that? No. And that’s the problem. The whole thing isn’t sincere. It affects the psyche of the team. And until the volatile second fiddle takes a graceful Wade-esque step back or matures his game into a level that can work with his counterpart, it’s just not going to work. I’m not sure this basketball analogy landed at all, but I’m allowed one crash-and-burn a year.

Back to Ebron, he’s actually not that bad of a blocker despite the rep. He’s got decent speed, and his hands are just OK. Not worth the 10th overall pick over guys like ODB. Again, he’s just too Lions for the Lions right now.

Jim Caldwell is tasked with trying to calm this group down a little, channel their energy, and maximize the talent on the roster. Jim Caldwell won’t do those things. Instead, he’ll use his timeouts to help opposing offenses.

I’m still not high on the Lions, but I’m high on Kyle Van Noy. Overlooked playmaker. He knifes into the backfield and pursues sideline-to-sideline with length, athleticism, and hustle. He’ll be a better pro than Ansah. Larry Webster, not so much. His measurables are sick, but he doesn’t play to them at all.

OZZIE NEWSOME BORED; DRAFTS POORLY ON PURPOSE
This isn’t my favorite Ravens draft class. I get that Mosley was their BPA and Daryl Smith is probably gone after this year. I get that. But an ILB who isn’t really special on tape at 17th overall? Not worth it. Arthur Brown is just as good. I like Mosley, and I don’t think him becoming a Pro Bowler is out of the question. But a guy like Brandin Cooks learning from Steve Smith or one of the safeties would have been better in my eyes. Well not physically IN my eyes. That would be uncomfortable. 

Timmy Jernigan is another guy I see as just above a JAG. Their defense is multiple and he can be disruptive anywhere, but it’s just bland. He struggled with conditioning and although it won’t matter much in a rotation – is a rotational DL who won’t be dominant really worth a premium pick? Just not into it Ozzie.

I really like Brent Urban but I’m in the process of getting burned by Margus Hunt so I won’t be as bullish. Crockett Gilmore can probably block, so he’ll be what they wanted Ed Dickson to be. Brooks has a lot on his plate as a rookie starter (next to a Gator no less), but I actually think he was the best FSU defender in this class. Related, Lorenzo Taliaferro stole my heart when he dominated Telvin Smith in pass pro drills at the Senior Bowl, but he wasn’t that impressive on tape. He’s kind of a plodder. I think they’ll ask him to lose weight and get faster. There were better backs on the board.

BETRAYED ANDY DALTON FILES DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST BENGALS; TEAM CLAIMS THEY HAVE NOTHING AGAINST GINGERS
I like all of the top 5 CBs and think this was an exceptional CB class at the top. Dennard is a little stiff and handsy, which is why I knew he wasn’t going top-15, but he’s got natural cover ability and the confidence you need to play the position. Feet and hands are terrific in press, and he’s got outstanding balance – imperative for the position. Good player for years, and some real poor-man’s Revis-y upside if everything clicks.

Jeremy Hill I don’t like. He’s a fake tough back who only runs with power when he wants to. He’s huge and can carry the load, but he’s too straight-line and gives inconsistent effort. Not to mention the off-field concerns. There are few athletes in the world with that type of size, speed, and ability to withstand punishment. But I don’t see the fight I want right now. I see Beanie Wells. Doesn’t mean the Cincy coaches can’t get it out of him eventually – but I don’t see how you could take him over Hyde or Mason.

Finally, I like the trade-up for an underrated center in Bodine, but I don’t see anything else to comment on aside from McCarron.

Drafting McCarron makes for a toxic QB situation. It’s just low enough for the Bengals to publicly endorse Dalton, but juuuuuust high enough for him to question their honesty. McCarron rubs everyone the wrong way. He’s a whiner and every interview he does is just cringe-worthy. In one interview he decided to complain about recruits coming into Bama entitled and spoiled. He whined during the draft. Didn’t choose to compete at the Senior Bowl. And he’s not that good. I won’t even go into the details of his shortcomings – just look at it this way: A two-time National Champion QB from Alabama with ideal size and production ISN’T considered a first-round pick. That’s for a reason. And he’s not who you want as a backup either. He probably won’t be supportive – and if he is – it’ll feel disingenuous like pretty much everything he says. After Murray went one pick higher, they should have just waited until next year to address the position.

It’s on Andy Dalton this year, now with McCarron creeping in the back of his mind. Not a recipe for success coming off an offseason of probably unfair criticism. I didn’t think he’d be this good, and he’s losing his OC. Might be a rough year for the offense. No more Zimmer on defense either. I’m leaning 7-9.

COLTS TRADE DRAFT PICK FOR FLAMING TURD, FIRE GM AND MAKE LUCK FIRST EVER PLAYER/GM
Moncreif was overrated because of his workout numbers but learning from Reggie Wayne with Andrew Luck throwing him passes is an ideal situation to develop in. 

Newsome’s nothing and Mewhort starts but isn’t special. 

The story of this draft class is the stud RB they traded their first-round pick for. What a terrific move. A proven young talent who will take that offense to a new level in his second year with the team. What do you mean he’s awful? He was the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson! A 2something YPC? Are you sure that’s not his ERA? Well this is awkward.

The Spurs of the NFL didn’t capture anyone’s attention with this class and for good reason. They still have one of the best fumble-recovery-for-TD specialists in the league behind center. When that happened I screamed “NO HE DID NOT!” and someone on the other side of the bar yelled back: “Actually, yes he did!” I was actually wrong, as he did indeed. And he will continue to do. Lucky Colts. 

JETS GM DRUGS REX RYAN AFTER FIRST ROUND, SELECTS SEVEN OFFENSIVE PLAYERS 
Ah, the Jets.

Every year I have a sort-of sixth sense when looking over draft classes. Certain teams’ classes always feel the same (for example Washington starting with a 2nd rounder every year). This Jets class feels very Jets. It’s trying to add a playmaker but it just can’t bring itself to do it. There’s a force pulling it towards defense. 

Calvin Pryor is a chess piece Rex will turn into a Pro Bowler. He’s a blend of those strong safeties you love. He’s not quite Kam Chancellor, he’s not quite Bob Sanders, he’s not quite Troy Polamalu, but he’ll do something that will remind you of each. Highlight hits, one-handed picks, it’s going to be sweet poetry at MetLife with Sons of Anarchy. Nickname is The Louisville Slugger. Excellent.

Jalen Saunders is a good football player. He’ll stay healthy and contribute on special teams and in the slot. Good pick.

I root for the Jets but I didn’t like Jace Amaro much as a prospect beforehand so I’m not going to change my stance now. He’s huge and productive, but when you really break down his game and traits, I’m not sure he translates to the pro game – especially in that mishmosh of an offense. Morningweigh is a great OC, but they have a dancing underachiever and Mr. Glass at RB, a perpetual number 2 WR prone to mistakes as the top WR, not much else, and in steps Amaro (and that’s before we get to the messy QB battle). There’s a lot of pressure on him to be a productive player from day one. The last time he was in a pressure situation he dropped a bunch of passes at the combine. And he’s going to have to get used to a pro offense with QBs with less than stellar accuracy. He doesn’t really run routes. He’s just kind of open in spots. There’s a “feel” aspect to that, sure, but it’s also a result of the Texas Tech offensive scheme. I think Amaro busts. I hope I’m wrong.

The player that intrigues me the most is Quincy Enunwa. Great athlete, great intangibles, great production. What’s the deal here? Oh yeah, his QB was Taylor Martinez. He’ll be better than Shaq Evans.

Tajh Boyd was never seriously considered an NFL QB prospect by any legitimate NFL scouts and anyone who wrote that he was doesn’t know how to scout QBs. He seems like a pretty cool dude though. Huge scandal prediction: he’s caught shaving points in a preseason game and banned from the NFL.

This Geno Smith pick is looking worse and worse every year. If not Manziel in the first, they should have taken Jimmy G in the 2nd over Amaro. Idzik needs to stop reminding me of Sandy Alderson.

OVERLY INTRUSIVE NFL NETWORK CAMERAS REVEAL SHOCKING TATOO OF MARK SANCHEZ ON CHIP KELLY’S ASS
Marcus Smith has the best first step in this class and would have been taken at No. 32 by Seattle if he was on the board. Size, athleticism, production, technique, and he walks into a perfect scheme. Why wasn’t he more hyped up? Probably because he was the third most well-known prospect on his defense. He’s a better player than Barr and will continue to be in the NFL. Great pick.

How stacked was this draft class? Jordan Matthews, the SEC’s all-time leader in receiving, who’s 6-3, 212, and ran an official 4.46 40, wasn’t considered a top-five WR and went 42nd overall. Unreal. But there are legitimate concerns. The first thing that jumps out is that he takes a false step out of EVERY SINGLE RELEASE. This is mind-boggling for a star SEC WR. He’s also thin and not very powerful which could mean trouble against press. His hands aren’t great, he’s easy to tackle, and he really didn’t run many routes down the field. He consistently gets open, especially against zone, and when he’s focused the ball finds him. He can also block. As weird as it sounds – he just seemed to be on another level than his competition. There is legitimate bust potential, but I think he’s better than Justin Hunter and is walking into an ideal offense. I think he becomes an average starting WR, but nothing special.

As for the rest, it’s almost as if they drafted off the consensus internet list. Huff is an interesting player. He’s a pure playmaker and might be more productive than Matthews because he’s more quick-twitch. 

The Eagles will miss DeSean Jackson but if Foles’ play sustains at anywhere near the level of last season, they’ll win the division. I don’t think it will. Chip Kelly is an offensive genius and they have the best offensive line in the league but that offense WILL regress. Foles isn’t going anywhere near 27/2 this year. And the Sproles acquisition looks great on paper but there’s a reason why the team he fits best on let him go. He’s not as explosive as he was two years ago.

EXPERIMENT TO LET FIVE YEAR-OLD HANDLE FREE AGENCY GOES HORRIBLY WRONG, TITANS GM RETURNS FOR STRONG DRAFT
I blasted the Titans for bad free agency moves, but this was a good draft. Taylor Lewan is the best tackle in this class and will be a perennial pro bowler. His technique in pass pro is beautiful and he’s got the athleticism and mean streak to be a top run blocker. They wasted money on Michael Oher and are now paying him to be the 6th man, but I commend them on sticking to their board and taking the best player available. Don’t compound a FA mistake with another mistake. Michael Roos won’t play forever so Lewan will have to start off at RT and eventually settle in as a franchise LT. It’s very easy to laugh at them for not filling a “need”, and I’m not sure having a great line will mean much for next year’s win total, but the player is too good to knock the pick.

Bishop Sankey will be the guy. I heard a Tiki Barber comparison and I like it. The quickness is special – he had the best 3cone and SS at the combine. Sankey is too driven and gifted not to become a productive player, and the only thing that can slow him down is injuries. Last year in my review I told fantasy footballers to draft Gio Bernard. This year, take Sankey. He’s going to make all the CJ2YPC apologists look foolish. “It was the line’s fault! It was the play-caller’s fault!” Watch how much better Sankey does in that same situation this season.

Huff and Williamson are quality football players and contribute to specials right away. I knew Mettenberger was going in the 6th because he’s not very good. He won’t Nick Foles me. Still worth a look so late.

I’m not really sure what Ray Horton is going to be able to do with that defense. DaQuan Jones I guess will play 5-technique, but I’m not sure that’s his best fit. Morgan, Casey, and Ayers are all better fits for a 4-3 than a 3-4. I think those guys are miscast and although I loved their first two picks, it’s a concern that they weren’t able to get any true 3-4 OLBs or DEs. And they lost Verner. I’ve never had any faith in Locker so I predict the Titans, despite big contributions from their rookie RT and RB, pick top 5 in 2015.

WILL HILL WILL-HILLING FORCES GIANTS GM TO SPEND PRECIOUS PREPARATION TIME READING BOB LOBLAW’S LAW BLOG, RESULTING IN BOTCHED DRAFT
ODB should be a star. Eli Manning is a hilarious player for many reasons, but he’s proven over his career to get the most out of his supporting cast. He’s never had a more talented receiver than ODB. I heard rumors that he’s somewhat of a diva and doesn’t love to practice, but he’s a game-breaker and has every trait of a top WR – hands, route-running, speed, RAC abililty. The 5’11″ speedster with diva rumors is usually a good candidate for a bust. Not with ODB. It will take him a year or two, but he’ll overtake Cruz as the best receiver on the team eventually.

Richburg is a starting center for 10 years. The only thing to discuss about him is whether or not that’s worth a 2nd-round pick, especially in a loaded draft class. I say yes. I believe having a reliable above-average performer is valuable at any position, despite the narratives to the contrary. QBs and pass-rushers are most important, but RBs, Cs, and ILBs matter more than people realize. I’d rather have a great center than an average DE.

Andre Williams will be a suped up Andre Brown, and none of the other picks will stick. I root for the Giants, but if Beatty doesn’t regain his form from two years ago, it could be another long year. ODB can’t save that offense in year one. And few people know this but the Giants defense was very, very good last year and actually ranked in the top 10 by most metrics. They’ve got some older players and guys coming off career years. Regression to the mean makes sense for the defense, which might cancel out progression to the mean on offense. I fear the results are mixed again, with a chance the wheels come off and Coughlin walks away.

STEELERS TAKE LARGE NOSE TACKLE WHO ONCE WALKED SEVEN FEET BY HIMSELF
Shazier was the most surprising pick in the first round. I’d probably pick him to bust in any situation other than the linebacker factory. While he produced terrific tackle numbers at OSU, they’re kinda misleading and his athleticism is what got him drafted high over any LB-specific attributes. His instincts and play recognition aren’t as advanced as you want – and I think the Steelers will put him in a position where he doesn’t really have to think but will just run around and make plays. It would be a major concern on any other team in the NFL. He thinks too much, peeks in the backfield too much, and isn’t very instinctive. Amazing athlete who plays his tail off and he’s worth developing, but 15th overall? Against Michigan State in the B1G Title game, he gave up the game-winning TD run by sniffing outside when it wasn’t his responsibility. I try to stay away from narrative scouting or judging college play results, but I struggle with the idea of drafting a player who literally cost his team a National Championship appearance. The other play that sticks out is getting trucked for five yards by Sammy Watkins. This pick will put the “situation” and “fit” angle of these ridiculous draft predictions to the test. If he succeeds, score one for the Steelers coaching staff. I’ll guess he does after some early-career struggles. 

Stephon Tuitt is a perfect fit as a classic Steelers 5-technique. First-round talent who fell because of the strong class. Pittsburgh was wise to scoop him up where they did. The Steelers are clearly trying to replenish a defense that has lost some of its mystique in recent years. Tuitt helps that cause.

Dri Archer in the third was my second-favorite pick in the entire draft. Archer personally disappointed me at the combine with a sluggish 40, but I just can’t ignore the tape. From my notes: “He’s so fast he slows up at the 10 on every long TD.” Also, “blur, don’t blink he’s gone.” I was pleasantly surprised with his toughness as an inside runner, but I concede that he shouldn’t get more than a carry or two a game in between the tackles with his chicken legs and small stature. The only other reservation I have is that his hands aren’t natural and he’s not going to be a 70-catch slot receiver. However, this type of player is an offensive coaches dream and getting that type of speed (and he’s a much better pure football player than DAT) in the 3rd-round is just stealing. I had him in my top-32 and strongly believe had he been healthy for the LSU and Penn State games, he would have made those defenses look silly and upped his stock to the 2nd-round. And besides what you can get on offense, he steps in day one as a top-5 return-man in the NFL. And we all know how much Mike Tomlin emphasizes the third phase of the game. Some say he’s like a 12th man out there on special teams. 

Martavis Bryant’s issues are all real – character concerns, body-catches at times, waits for the ball, doesn’t have great balance, ghost in certain games, and horrible blocking. His blocking is so bad it makes you wonder if he listens to his position coach at all. But the H/W/S ratio and talent is special. He’s a rare specimen who can make WOW plays. He probably needs a redshirt, but it’s well worth minimal risk in the 4th round. He oozes potential and is uncommonly sudden for his size. If he works at his craft and stays out of trouble off the field, he’ll be a star. I think the Steelers organization is the right place to get it out of him. Boom or bust? Boom. This isn’t Limas Sweed, Steelers fans. 

Have I picked a WR bust yet? No? Is this going to be the best WR class of all time? It actually has a chance to be up there. And before you understandably accuse me of hyperbole, when we look back in 30 years, wouldn’t it make sense for the best WR class of all time to come at some point in this era of football? The top athletes in the country are playing WR instead of RB, the sport has become historically pass happy at all levels, Mike Evans-types are playing WR/TE rather than defense, and the rule changes/back-shoulder fade/stat-friendly offenses/improved QB play are making the transition to the NFL easier than it was when Reggie Williams and Rashaun Woods broke our hearts. 

Shaq Richardson is a worthwhile talent, Daniel McCullers can’t move (except for one amazing play in pursuit) but he’s gigantic, Wesley Johnson will be an NFL starter somewhere, and Rob Branchflower has a big frame and really cool name. His team won ONE game last year, though, so he’s obviously not a winner. If they Steelers go 1-15 next year, blame him.

The Steelers have been a first-class organization in terms of player development. When you add the type of pure talent they did with this class it’s hard not to get excited. On the flip side, there’s major risk with every pick aside from Tuitt. Shazier (instincts), Archer (durability), Bryant (raw and off-field), McCullers (hilariously immobile). It’s usually a mixed bag with so many high-risk, high-reward picks. 

DOLPHINS DRAFT PICKS ‘DISAPPOINTED’ THEY WON’T BE HAZED AS ROOKIES
Ju’Wuan James is getting panned but the Dolphins wanted to address RT and took the best RT on the board. He’s better than Moses and wouldn’t have been there in the 2nd round. A trade-down would have been better, but I can’t knock it. His demeanor is suspect, he’s not very strong, and I wrote “passive” in my notes, but there are few men on the planet that can move like he can at that size. His feet are tremendous.

Like everyone else, I love Jarvis Landry. He lacks ideal quickness, so I wonder if he’ll be a top slot WR, and doesn’t separate well. That’s about where the negatives end. He’s not a great athlete, but he consistently makes plays superior athletes don’t. He tackles, blocks, loves to hits, has the best hands in this class, attacks the ball, makes plays. Ideal temperament, toughness, confidence, competitiveness. He’s a gamer, you want him on your team, and he’s what I call a “winning player.” Getting him in the 2nd round is a steal. The third best value pick in the entire draft behind Verrett and Archer. Throw his 40 out the window. It doesn’t matter. Getting him in the 2nd round is a crime.

It’s not all great, Miami fans. Don’t think I forgot that your so-called franchise QB’s offense scored a combined 7 points in the final two weeks that cost them the playoffs. This is a huge year for Tannehill. His offensive line sucked, but so did Wilson’s. His backs sucked, but that’s not an excuse. Mike Wallace was a problem child, but Ben was able to make it work. The thing that sticks with me is when he was unable to name the divisions on Hard Knocks. And it’s fair to question if he commands respect from that locker room after what went on. At the very least he was unaware. As a leader, you can’t be unaware. He actually strikes me as somewhat of an air-head.

ANDY REID ADMITS CHIEFS DRAFTED QUARTERBACK TO REPLACE ‘ANNOYING’ SMITH; ‘HE STILL CARRIES AROUND THE BOX SCORE WITH HIM – I SAID ‘ALEX, WE LOST.’
Dee Ford does fill a need. They can’t afford both Hali and Houston with their cap situation and pending Alex Smith extension. Finding a starting 2015 OLB is good practice, despite it not being a hole this year. Ford’s a speed rusher with the traits you want on the edge. He’ll be among the league leaders in sacks in his second season.

Phillip Gaines will prove to be a steal and a starting corner for years. He’s got ideal athleticism, good size, and terrific production. He’s going to excel in zone with his length and is one of those guys who draftniks may have not been keen on in years past. 

Murray is one of my favorite players in the draft, and his ultimate draft slot is telling. Coming off a torn ACL with a slight frame and still going in the 5th-round without a rocket arm tells you all you need to know about his intangibles and work ethic. He’s a smaller Andy Dalton who needs to hit the weight room hard and find out exactly what Dalton did to improve his arm strength when he got to the NFL. At worst he’s an above average backup. I think he starts at some point but his arm strength is an issue that will limit him. And if Jimmy Clausen taught us one thing – it’s that you want a QB with a hot girlfriend.

As for DAT, he just doesn’t strike me as an NFL player. He’s really fast. Not instinctive or tough, hands are suspect, doesn’t do much except run by people when it’s blocked correctly. They should focus on making him into a return man extraordinaire and give him some gadget stuff on top of that. He’s not as good a football player as McCluster was. Still worth a look so late in the draft.

Overall the Chiefs didn’t wow the internet because they didn’t fill a 2014 need. I’d qualify starting 3-4 OLB as a pretty big need, but because it’s a year away, people can’t wrap their heads around it. Great haul for talent considering picking 23rd with no second-round pick.

CAM NEWTON’S SMILE REVEALED AS FAKE, ACCORDING TO SOURCE
Kelvin Benjamin’s personality reminds me of Cam Newton. He’s got that same smile, that same positive vibe. They should be bffs in no time. One of Newton’s weaknesses is his tendency to throw high to receivers, which shouldn’t be as much of a problem with the 6’5″ Benjamin as opposed to the 5’9″ Steve Smith. KB has 35-inch arms and his catching radius is unreal. Unfortunately, he’s got too many bust traits to ignore. He’s a little clumsy, jumps to catch the ball for no reasons sometimes, and isn’t very natural tracking the ball down the field. More damning, he’s just not that quick out of his breaks and struggles with wide open drops. When he showed up at 240 pounds at the combine I was alarmed. He couldn’t get down to 238 or something for OCD’s sake? For all his college production and accolades, the total package isn’t a first-round prospect. He’s an immediate red zone threat and you can’t teach that size, but he doesn’t move well enough for me. From a pure talent standpoint I’d rather have Martavis Bryant in the 3rd than KB in the 1st. Many times a raw guy like this would have to sit, he’d ride the bench while being “developed” and just never play well enough in practice to see the field. That won’t happen here with how sorry the Panthers receivers are, so maybe that immediate pressure on him will force him into putting in the extra work? I think that’s stretching it. If he does prove me wrong and goes on to become a productive starter, he’ll be one of those frustrating players who makes head-scratching costly drops.

Ealy’s not really an edge rusher right now. He does most of his damage with nifty footwork on inside moves and he’ll be a Justin Tuck-y interior pass rusher in the nickel tomorrow. There’s plenty of potential and he can learn a lot from the reliable Charles Johnson. He’s too inconsistent and he needs to use his hands better. He’s not powerful enough yet. I don’t really like him to be an impact pro.

Trai Turner will be an above average starter from his rookie year on. That’s a steal in the 3rd round. Tremendous value pick.

When people talk about the Seahawks approaching “cap hell” after signing all their young players, I always make this point: you don’t get in cap hell unless you sign BAD players (like Mark Sanchez), or give RBs gigantic contracts you can’t get out of. The Panthers are paying incredible money to Stewart and D-Will, and have to start Nate Chandler at LT and Antoine Cason at CB as a result (I refuse to disrespect Jerricho Cotchery, a high-character winner; the Jets letting him go was the first bad move that sparked their downfall). Some might say “this is why you don’t pay RBs.” I’ll say “this is why you don’t pay THREE SEPARATE non-elite RBs.” Just really really bad. And I don’t think this draft class will help much either. Cam will have to wait a few years before his first Super Bowl appearance, which is going to come eventually.

SKINS DRAFT MORE KNEE BRACES THAN FOOTBALL PLAYERS FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR
Trent Murphy is not athletic enough to be an impact pass rusher, so taking him over Attaochu is just bad. He gets hustle sacks, and I think they fell in love with his motor and leadership. That’s fine, but not at the 45th pick.

Morgan Moses is overrated everywhere and I don’t really get it. His footwork is very good, and he appears to understand angles and assignments, but he’s not very powerful or aggressive in the run game and he can get beat. I guess his combination of length, size, quickness, and smarts is appealing to the zone-blocking teams, but I never understood the first-round talk. It’s OK for a third-rounder but he’s not nasty enough for me at RT.

Moses and Murphy don’t do it for me, but I love Spencer Long. Just a strong, fiery power blocker. I want to see if he can pull on power, but he’s a former team captain who will put in the work. Growing up in Nebraska he probably only did three things his entire life: lift weights, play football, and husk corn. He’s about to get paid for being awfully good at the first two.

See a common trend? The Redskins are trying to bring high character football players and leaders into that program. It seems smart on the surface but it hasn’t really worked in the past (Gene Smith, Tim Ruskell). Every team needs some knuckleheads. They should acquire a gang member to restore balance. They already did!? Perfect.

VIKINGS ADD BEST QUARTERBACK IN DRAFT BECAUSE 31 TEAMS FORGET HE’S ON THE BOARD
The internet unsurprisingly LOVES this draft.

I made the mistake of attempting to discuss Teddy Bridgewater’s prospects on the internet without unconditional praise, and was met by a fierce backlash. 

Before Glovegate, I questioned a few things about Bridgewater’s game:
- His deep ball is atrocious.
- He throws all-arm too much and his mechanics aren’t consistent.
- He doesn’t incorporate his lower body into his throws.
- When his mechanics are sound, he’s terrific.

In addition, no matter how much you love him, his slight frame is a concern for NFL decision-makers. You or I don’t have our jobs riding on whether or not he can stay on the field. And it’s NOT just his weight – it’s his thin wrists and ankles. Related, the famous Jon Bostic hit on him is a play draftniks often point to to show his toughness. It is indeed very impressive that he takes that hit and pops right up. He’s undoubtedly a gamer and that play epitomizes that. But that play also shows a beanpole who is so slender/weak that he can be picked up off the ground and LAUNCHED like a rag doll. That play is as scary for NFL evaluators as it is impressive for fans. 

There’s no denying the good. He’s mostly masterful in the short and intermediate game and his command of the offense is extremely impressive. He can work through progressions and read a defense, and he’s timely in his decisions. He’s also adept at improvising. He’s a terrific football player, and unquestionably one of the TOP FIVE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS in the nation. The disconnect is that the draftniks got lost in that idea. Being one of the best college football players and having great statistics in a pro-style offense does not mean your game and traits translate seamlessly to the NFL.

The draftniks propped him up to being on the same level as Clowney (which was always ridiculous) in part because they were starved for a top QB prospect after being fooled by Geno Smith. This was a perfect chance. Pro-style offense, no leadership/temperament questions, terrific stats. The draftnik train gets bigger and bigger every year, and if someone started following in say, 2011, their perception of QBs would understandably be skewed. 2012 was an aberration, just as 2004 was. 2011 was well above average even with all the busts. Above average starting NFL QBs do not come along very often. I think YOUNG draftniks in particular were seeing what they wanted to see rather than the reality in both Geno Smith and Teddy Bridgewater. And once a guy gets a following and a positive reputation, the non-college fans who just want to learn about the draft make the whole thing snowball out of the control. Teddy Bridgewater was never going first overall and the fact that he went 32nd was because he “fell because of a pro day.” There were always flaws.

Now I’m not comparing him to Geno Smith. Smith was an inferior prospect in almost every way. I’m comparing the perception of each – skewed by 2012, a thirst for top QB prospects, and stats.

To the staunch Bridgewater supporters who just can’t fathom that a guy “fell” to 32 “because of a pro day” and “size concerns when he weighs 211!” – watch the FIU game (a game in which he went 17-of-22, for 212 yards and 4 TDs). Does that look like a top-10 QB to you? Look at the way the ball comes out of his hand. Stats can be misleading.

Fans of Bridgewater couldn’t be happier. He’s landed in possibly the best situation imaginable for a young quarterback. No-nonsense head coach who commands respect of the program? Check. Greatest RB of the generation? Check. Arguably the best OC of the generation? Check. Franchise LT, awesome RT, and solid center? Check. Crafty veteran No. 1 WR? Check. Blossoming electric RAC dynamo with size and speed? Check. Solid receiving TE? Check. This is as good as it gets, but it also means there’s more pressure on him to have initial success than most rookies. If he’s unable to beat out Matt Cassel, his proponents will have some questions to answer because one of his strong points is supposed to be his pro-readiness. There’s no Super 2 date for NFL QBs and Matt Cassel is Matt Cassel. 

Am I going to pick a bust? I was one of very few draftniks critical of TB (again, well before glovegate, which I gave him a pass on), but you don’t have to be a professional scout to recognize that he’s a special football player. I think he’s Alex Smith with way more “it” factor. He’ll make good decisions, extend plays with his legs, throw some picks down the field, and generally struggle with his deep ball. He’ll be good, not great. Fascinated to see if the draftniks are able to yell TOLD YOU SO years from now. All 32 teams passed on him and the frame concerns factored in a lot.

I don’t like Barr’s fit with that defense. Playing SLB and then rushing the passer on third down is a lot to ask for a raw, finesse athlete-playing-LB. He’s dripping with upside, of course, but he needs a shift in mentality to make it work on D in the NFL. He has to learn how to use his hands and get stronger. I just like him way better as a 3-4 rush ‘backer. I suspect Zimmer will aim to be more multiple going forward. At 9th overall, there were better players on the board. It’s odd because Barr fits the Steelers and Shazier fits the Vikings. I’m probably overthinking it – you can never have enough pass rushers and the physical gifts are extraordinary. Still, this smells like a top-10 bust.

I really like the two corners they got late (Exum and James), but Yankey’s nothing special.

And hey, if Bridgewater doesn’t work out, you could always put Jerrick McKinnon at QB and run his college offense. His tape is hysterical.

PACKERS ACQUIRE DIX, AARON RODGERS ‘EXCITED’ 
The Packers could have drafted a corpse and it would have been an upgrade at safety. “LOL Monica Lewinsky” is indeed alive and breathing (and laughing!), and has all the necessary traits of a quality starting safety in the league. LOLML has a beautiful pedal, natural cover ability, can fill the alley and lay a hit, and plays the ball well. LOLML doesn’t have Earl Thomas range and isn’t an exceptional athlete, but he’s already better than half the starting FS’s in the NFL. Good pick.

Davante Adams intrigues me in a situation that made Jarrett Boykin into a productive player. I just don’t think he’s special. He does everything decent but nothing outstanding and his stats were obviously inflated. He’s just good. And sometimes good doesn’t make it in the NFL. I think I’ve picked every single receiver in this draft to boom, so I’ll pick a guy who underwhelmed me a bit to bust. Those sluggos were pretty though. 

After reviewing his injury history (two known concussions) I feared Abbrederis would suffer a Swope-ish slide down the board, but thankfully his hometown team caught him in the 5th round. Something I think helps him – he had a nice rapport with Russell Wilson as the No. 2 option (they had the legendary Nick Toon). He’s obviously not going to ever be the No. 1 option like he was this past year, so it’s important to see he can still be an effective player without volume targets. He’s also improved each year after walking on. This is a kid you just don’t want to bet against. He’s pretty good after the catch (they feed him the ball in RAC situations a lot), he knows how to run routes, and he’s athletic enough. He just needs to get stronger. If he stays on the field, he’ll be better than Adams.

I like Bradford despite the height concerns. He’ll contribute. 

The Pack did what they had to do. Nothing crazy here.

BEARS DEMOTE STARTING SAFETIES TO BUILDING SECRUITY; ALLOW ROBBER TO STEAL 50K AND ESCAPE FACILITY UNTOUCHED
I like Kyle Fuller, but you can’t take him over Verrett. His best game coming against Bama inflated his stock, and he’s got slow eyes and gets beat sometimes but makes up for it in college with great recovery speed. That won’t fly in the NFL. He’s best in trail technique, has quickness, balance, toughness, and size, but I’m not in love with him. I’m in like with him. Good player, but not at 14. I actually think he might be a better FS than corner. Something to remember.

They went Panthers with the two DTs, but Will Sutton needs to drink the same Kool-Aid Vontaze did to get motivated. I don’t see it happening. 

Brock Vereen was a steal. The Bears safeties were so amazing last year that I don’t think Goodell will allow the Bears coaches to play them this year. It was clearly an unfair advantage, so the league will have to step in. This opens up an excellent opportunity for Vereen to start as a rookie. Smart player, great pick.

Ka’Deem Carey doesn’t have the speed you want but he’s one of the toughest runners in this class and can break more tackles than you think. This one puts the combine/tape debate to the test. He’s clearly not a great athlete by NFL standards but I he’s a tremendous RB otherwise. I think he works out and becomes one of the better backs in this class. He’s the Jarvis Landry of RBs.

DRAFT ANALYSTS AFRAID TO CRITICIZE SEAHAWKS DRAFT, PRAISE SELECTIONS OF FAKE PLAYERS
The Champs value speed and take pride in not paying attention to draft analysts or draftniks. They take the guys they want where they want them. I like that, but I hope they aren’t passing on better players just to be different.

I’m an understandably optimistic Seahawks fan, and Paul Richardson’s strengths make for a good fit. He’s a deep threat that complements their other WRs well. They need someone to stretch the field with speed, and Russell Wilson is one of the best deep ball throwers in the NFL. I like him in that role more than if he was drafted by a team that needed an every-down outside X or Z. But I can’t pick a boom or endorse the pick much. Robinson is better, they should have added Martavis Bryant at some point, and Richardson is just tiny, weak (even falls when bumping into coaches on the sidelines), and drops too many passes. I didn’t like him much coming into the draft so I’m not going to change my stance just because my team drafted him.

Justin Britt went “too high” according to most, but I disagree. Clearly Tom Cable wanted him in particular and there was no guarantee he’d have been there by the time they picked in the 4th. I could have lived with a trade-down, but I went back and studied him and there’s a lot to like. He’s got terrific balance, good feet, and flashes some nastiness. He’s an ideal zone-blocking RT who can move. He just needs to get stronger. He’ll beat out Bowie as a rookie and become a quality starting RT right away. Good pick.

As for the rest, they think Cassius Marsh can be a sort of Jared Allen character as an edge rusher. I don’t hate it and the 3-cone is probably more important than the 40 for a DE. Kevin Pierre-Louis is a prefect replacement for Smith/Wright and adds more speed to a scary defense. He’s also a quality special teamer from day one. I think they move Jimmy Staten to OL, Norwood’s a special teamer and Baldwin insurance, and FB Kiero Small is a hilarious round fire hydrant with surprisingly quick feet and receiving ability. He’s going to DOMINATE the flats on playaction.

The funniest thing about this class is that if they had drafted S Dion Bailey and DE Jackson Jeffcoat, people would have liked it more. They added both in UDFA. I like them both. Jeffcoat going undrafted made absolutely no sense and I’m still trying to figure it out. I think I heard a rumor he had some sort of farting problem. I’m not even kidding.

Here’s another angle. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl without much contribution from their first and second round picks from 2013. Christine Michael was a preseason beast and Percy Harvin showed in the Super Bowl why they paid him. Not to mention Russell Wilson’s a year older, the OC returns, and the offensive line has nowhere to go but up. It’s an exciting time for the 12th man.

HOMELESS MAN ADVISES BROWNS OWNER, PEES HIMSELF
Here they are. On top of the world for less than 24 hours and Josh Gordon gets suspended. You can’t make this stuff up. Sigh. 

First, getting a 2015 1st-round pick from a team that starts E.J. Manuel and staying in the top-10 (and then getting their franchise QB later) is just brilliant.

Gilbert’s a terrific prospect. There’s no denying his talent and an overlooked part of his value is that he’s an incredible kick returner. 8th overall is a little high, but they see him as half of a shutdown duo with handsomely paid RCB Joe Haden. My main issue with Gilbert is that he lacks elite balance – an extremely important trait for a CB. Still, his skillset is tantalizing for a DB coach and he’s oozing confidence. He’s more raw than people realize, and he’ll probably struggle a little early on, but I like it. His floor is a more athletic Jimmy Smith/top KR. Jimmy Smith made a game-winning play in the Super Bowl. That must mean… …THE BROWNS ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!

I know they kept passing on WRs, but with the way the board played out they took good prospects they loved. I’m a firm believer in taking BPA and not passing on players to fill needs (especially for a relatively easy position to fill). Bitonio over a WR – fine. Kirksey (who fills another huge need but no one cares about ILB because of fantasy football) over a WR – fine. West over a WR – eh, he’s a RB guys, but they loved him so it’s OK. Desir over a WR – he did fall way too far… wait a second. Watch Pierre Desir play. Watch him move. Look at his ball skills. Now consider that they drafted a slot corner last year and already have their two starting CBs. Did the Browns select Pierre Desir to convert him to WR? Is Santonio Holmes at X, Pierre Desir at Z, and Andrew Hawkins at H a formidable trio? I say YES! 

I’m only half-joking, I think. There’s no way they can replace Gordon with a headcase like Holmes, even though a small contract/tryout makes total sense football-wise. But here’s an idea. The Browns are sick of Gordon’s lack of accountability and constant mistakes. They need a true No. 1 WR with talent, but more importantly, maturity and integrity. I’ve found a perfect trade target. He’s thirsty, talented, and reportedly available for trade. The Browns should replace Gordon with Justin Blackmon. And they should encourage the two to hang out with each other as much as possible while Gordon’s suspended. Foolproof plan.

Here’s my take on John Football. 
- Insanely difficult to evaluate. Easily the toughest player I’ve ever scouted to project to the next level.
- His staunch supporters are wrong. His question marks are too pronounced and historical precedence does matter.
- His loud detractors are wrong. He’s too special a football player to predict a bust with any conviction. He dominated the SEC.

No one is right. Literally every single thing you read about his transition to the NFL is wrong. There’s no correct prediction at this point in time – even if it ends up being right. It’s just a blind, baseless, guess. We have never seen a pro player remotely resembling this kid. This is why the NFL is the best show on TV. Watching John Football’s career play out will be fascinating. Will he Break Bad? Wake up the Walking Dead that is the Cleveland fan base? Everybody Loves Ray Farmer right now but his job rests squarely on Manziel’s shoulders. Only Mad Men wouldn’t want to watch this. Why’d they make the schedule before the draft? I demand the Browns on National TV every week. 

As I write this, I STILL do not know which way I’ll predict his career to go. You’ve heard both sides of the coin. You’ve heard all the off-field concerns. Personality. Celebrity. Height. Leaving the pocket early. Inconsistent mechanics. LSU x2, Missouri. My biggest question is his durability. He’s going to play his style, and he’s going to be successful as a scrambler and runner. He got a little banged up at times this past season, and he’s small. Height doesn’t matter much – the stats on short QBs are the way they are because the vast majority of short QBs are smaller human beings who don’t have big hands or strong arms. I’ve even heard some questions about his running skills translating to the next level because of a pedestrian 40-time relative to other athletes. OK, first watch the damn film and see what he does to 4.4 guys. Second, check his 3cone and SS. He’s incredibly quick and elusive, and his running success doesn’t come from long speed.

Three points:
1 – I suspect that if they had the internet and draft coverage when Brett Favre was a prospect, the discussion would be very similar.

2 – He’s still very young. He’s got room to grow. And he clearly takes to coaching well. Look how much he improved. Improvement is big. Jake Locker never improved. The most important thing to take away from his pro day was how comfortable and prepared he looked. Almost as if he used the pre-draft process to actually get better. And the results showed. That’s impressive.

3 – I knocked him for missing open receivers and bailing from the pocket too early. It’s a real concern and a bad habit. Nothing overwhelming or uncoachable, but another of many legitimate question marks. However, that tendency ALSO highlights what makes him great. 

It sounds silly and cliche, but confidence and competitiveness are real traits that matter. This is not a game for the meek or weak-willed. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that John Manziel has ample confidence. Some might call him arrogant or an ego-maniac. When I see him ignore wide-open crossers, I see that special confidence. He doesn’t want 7 yards. He wants the big play. And he frequently makes the big play. This can’t be taught. Would you rather have a Captain Checkdown or a Brett Favre? 

I don’t really like player comparisons much, other than to help paint a mental picture, so I’m not really comparing his game to Brett Favre’s. Just that confidence. That gunslinger mentality. It can be maddening, it can lead to turnovers, but when you put a guy with that gift and real talent, and coach him up and harness that arrogance – you get something special.

John Manziel, as long he stays healthy, will continue to be one of the most exciting athletes on the planet. It will be a roller coaster at times (Vick-like), but it will be worth it on entertainment value alone. Will it translate to wins? I can’t predict this one. I’m way more interested in tuning in every Sunday and enjoying the ride.

Thanks for reading…

…just your team’s blurb.

Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU

Strengths: Large frame.  Can withstand punishment for a whole game.  Durable (missed no games due to injury).  Carried the mail in college, can help wear down a defense with sheer girth.  A load to tackle, commands more than one helmet to bring him down on his good runs.  Above average H/W/S combination… Patient inside runner.  Follows lead blocks and takes what he can get.  Finds openings and accelerates to the second level.  Fights for extra yardage when he wants to.  Powerful lower body.  Usually falls forward.  Flashes breakaway speed when he has time to build it up.  Comfortable running on the edge.  … Catches the ball with ease.  Transitions from receiver to ball-carrier well… Shows an understanding of pass protection scheme and finds the correct assignment… Awareness for game situations (staying in bounds with a late lead).

Weaknesses: A fake power back.  Only finishes runs when he wants to.  Fails to gain consistent YAC even with size advantage.  Pad level is too high, partially due to height, but makes him less sturdy against low contact and makes him have to drop his hips and lose quickness when he cuts.  Tackled by smaller defenders.  Unable to convert short-yardage and GL. Loses balance too easily.  Admits to defeat way to early at times, doesn’t keep his legs moving.  Will follow up two strong, tough runs with five weak efforts… Initial decisions and cuts take too long.  Too many false steps in the backfield.  Sloppy to the hole, takes too many short steps and loses time and speed.  Slow eyes make slow feet.  Lacks burst, slows down to make cuts, which makes him easy to square up for tacklers.  Not elusive or shift, a straight-line runner.  Struggles to re-gain balance when contacted early… “Catches” in pass protection.  Doesn’t deliver the blow.  Waits for blitzer to get to him.

Overall Impression: Hill is a fake tough back whose biggest issue is inconsistent effort.  He can look like the best player on the field on some plays and a tired and plodding, straight-line back with no wiggle on others.  Because of his size, athleticism and flashes, he definitely has potential, but he’s going to have to improve his foot speed and balance to make an impact at the next level.

Grade: 6.0 JC

Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

Strengths: Small build with a maxed out frame.  Defined upper and lower body.  Durable (743 career rushes, no major injuries)… Terrific initial quickness, no wasted steps to the hole.  Instinctive inside runner.  Feet and eyes work quickly together… Extremely competitive.  Fights for every inch on every run.  Deceptively powerful.  Consistently breaks arm tackles, weak dives at his ankles don’t affect him at all.  Consistently shows tremendous leg drive to maximize runs.  Drives legs through piles.  Knows how to run his feet.  Uses momentum, legs, and outstanding balance to maximize yardage on each carry.  When he’s on his way to the ground he’s always going forward.  Difficult to bring down.  Drags tacklers, spins for YAC.  Physical style and keeps his pads low through each run… Willing lead blocker despite size (pancaked one DB).  Good technique as a cut blocker on sprint out action… Shows the ability to catch the ball with his hands.  Doesn’t let it get into his body… Extremely tough football player.

Weaknesses:  Lacks a second-gear in the open field.  Steady runner without breakaway ability in the second and third levels.  Lateral quickness is below average for his size.  Rarely gets to the edge, not athletically suited for outside runs at the pro level.  Limited creativity.  Rarely cuts back, and when he does it takes too long… Sloppy and slow route runner.   Slows down to catch the football, losing quickness and allowing defenders to get to him… Likes to leap over the top on the GL, led to a fumble… Amassed crazy statistics in an extremely RB-friendly scheme.  Knew the system well but had easy reads and open creases all the time.

Overall Impression: Carey shows many valuable RB traits including instincts, balance, deceptive power, toughness, and outstanding competitiveness and fight on every carry.  He has the size of a scat-back, but plays like a power back.  His disappointing combine 40-time (4.7) is not that surprising because it confirms the tape.  He simply doesn’t possess ideal speed or quickness for a smaller NFL back.  Carey also is not advanced in the passing game, which limits his value because he’ll need time to develop into a 3rd-down role.  However, he looks like the total package in terms of ideal RB traits and his toughness displayed in finishing runs and competing on every snap (he loves to hit people), makes him a very intriguing pro prospect, even if his playing style and is unconventional for back’s his size.

Grade: 6.3 JOS

James Stone, C, Tennessee

Strengths: Size, leadership, lower body, hand quickness

Weaknesses: Strength, anchor, quickness, flexibility, technique, run blocking, lethargic and slow

Summation: Stone is a Senior center who has NFL size but few NFL skills.  He usually stands straight up out of his stance and bends at the waist.  He has very heavy feet and barely bends his knees.  He plays too high, has stiff hips, and gets very little movement in the run game.  He struggles to consistently get his hands inside, and lets defenders get inside leverage and his hands are too wide outside.  He’s not explosive off the ball, doesn’t win the leverage battle, and can be beaten by a bull rush from a nose tackle in pass protection.  Opponents control him, and his poor play hidden on outside runs and quick passes because he’s the center.  Stone has the right dimensions and a large lower body, but he flashes very little pro potential aside from a big body.

Grade: 5.4 T

Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor

Strengths: Strength, anchor, balance, hand placement, punch, gains movement run blocking

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal quickness, athleticism, slow off the ball, understanding angles, space blocks

Summation: Richardson is a classic road grater offensive guard with ideal size at 6-4, 329.  He played in the 340s but slimmed down for the combine.  He moves slowly but expected for his size with smaller legs and has quicker hands than you’d expect.  He’s better at power blocking than in space, and shows terrific power on down blocks.  When he gets his hands inside, he runs his feet and drives defenders back with a powerful lower body.  He’s slow off the ball and slow-footed in general, but he’s good in a phone booth and can anchor when his hands are placed inside.  At times he stands straight up and shows limited knee bend.  He frequently misses his assignments at the second level and whiffs on blocks in space and overruns defenders.  When he transfers his lower body power to his upper body and strikes defenders with explosive hips, he can be a road grater.  In pass protection, he has good instincts and hands, but needs to come out of his stance quicker because he can be beat by quickness.  Overall, Richardson is an intriguing mid-round prospect because he has ideal size and power, but the key to his development will be whether or not he can consistently be quick enough off the ball.  When he gets his hands inside on a defender, he can be dominant.

Grade: 6.4

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Strengths: Size, athleticism, movement in space, initial quickness, pass protection, ability to mirror, hand quickness/placement, foot speed, balance, flexibility, mean streak, awareness and intelligence

Weaknesses: Inconsistent against bull rush, personal foul penalties, susceptible to inside moves, not a road grater in the run game

Summation: Lewan is a remarkable athletic specimen at 6-7, 309, with 4.87 speed.  He’s slightly narrow hipped and doesn’t have great arm length, but his quickness more than makes up for it.  He’s quick off the ball, and has tremendous pass blocking technique, with a strong inside hand jolt to edge rushers, extremely quick feet, and a phenomenal ability to mirror against all types of moves and counter moves.  He meets pass rushers at proper angles, and if they try to beat him outside, he simply rides them around the pocket to give his QB ample time.  Defenders rarely get their hands inside his pads.  He bends at his knees and has ideal flexibility and uncommon ability in space, getting to the second level on combo blocks, and with screens and pulling.  He stays low out of his stance on runs and passes, and knows how to keep his feet moving when he gets his hands on defenders.  At times he can rest on his ability and be surprised by a quick inside move or bull rush, but his lower body is strong enough to anchor against even the best DL.  He’s not the strongest road grater in the run game and needs to learn how to finish every run to the whistle, but understands angles.  He has terrific initial quickness off the snap, especially on down blocks where he engulfs and out-leverages DL.  He stayed in school and improved technically and got stronger in his Senior year after finishing a strong junior year, capped off by a good performance against Jadeveon Clowney.  He has a nasty streak on the field, which can get him in trouble, and also had two off-field incidents that could point to an anger issue.  On the field, Lewan is a top-flight LT prospect who is best suited for a zone blocking run scheme.  He will immediately step in and be a terrific pass blocker thanks to his hands, feet, and balance.  He could be a franchise LT very early in his career.

Grade: 7.0 C