The NFL Draft isn’t quite what it used to be. It’s not better (unless you’re a lower draft pick), it’s not worse (unless you’re a first or second rounder), but the value of draft picks (especially First Rounders) is different than ever before. Hitting on draft picks isn’t the must that it once was, even if it is a salary cap saver if you do. I’ve read some interesting articles on draft value, this one has some great stuff on the percentages of valuable players from certain rounds but when I’m looking at the draft I’m not looking at the percent chance of getting a good player in some random slot. Good teams draft well, bad teams struggle – if that’s in the 1st 2nd or 7th round, it doesn’t really matter. What I’m talking about when I say the draft just isn’t what it used to be, is the salary impact of a good player, or of a miss (Ryan Leaf, and most recently Jason Smith, here’s looking at you, kids).
I’m arguing that the top draft slots are more valuable now than they’ve ever been, and that the first round is a spot where you can take more chances than you used to be able to before the new CBA. Here’s a breakdown of why rookie salaries under the new CBA are so much smaller. In short, it says that the teams have salary cap rules imposed for rookies and that the lump sum in which the NFL is allowed to spend on rookies now includes signing bonuses (where it didn’t before). This benefits veterans in a way because soon teams will have to spend a certain percentage of the salary cap, meaning vets will pick up the change rookies are loosing. This also protects teams at the top of the draft when they make mistakes (ahem, Jamarcus Russell). Still, the young pups are taking a big hit. How big?
Look at these salary differences from 2009-2012 (the CBA took effect in 2011 for the first time):
1st: Matthew Stafford – 6yrs $72 Million, 42 Million guaranteed
2nd: Jason Smith – 6yrs $61.7 Million, 33 Million guaranteed
3rd: Tyson Jackson – 5yrs $57 Million, 31 Million guaranteed
30th: Kenny Britt – 5yrs $12.25 Million, 6.5 Million guaranteed
62nd: Sean Smith – 4yrs $3.1 Million, 1.36 Million guaranteed
140th: Johnny Knox – 4yrs $1.95 Million
1st: Sam Bradford – 6yrs $86 Million, 50 Million guaranteed
2nd: Ndamakong Suh – 5yrs $68 Million, 40 Million guaranteed
3rd: Gerald McCoy – 5yrs $63 Million, 35 Million guaranteed
30th: Jahvid Best – 5yrs $12.7 Million, 7.1 Million guaranteed
62nd: Brandon Spikes – 4yrs $3.2 Million, 1.4 Million guaranteed
140th: Ed Wong – 4yrs $1.99 Million
1st: Cam Newton – 4yrs $22 Million, all guaranteed
2nd: Von Miller – 4yrs $21 Million
3rd: Marcell Dareus – 4yrs $20.4 Million
30th: Muhammed Wilkerson – 4yrs $7.4 Million
62nd: Daniel Thomas – 4yrs $3.23 Million
141th: D.J. Williams – 3yrs $1.395 Million
1st: Andrew Luck – 4yrs $22.1 Million, all guaranteed
2nd: Robert Griffin III – 4yrs $21.12 Million
3rd: Trent Richardson – 4yrs $20.4 Million
30th: A.J. Jenkins – 4yrs $6.95 Million
62nd: Casey Hayward – 4yrs $3.3 Million
139th: Robert Blanton – 4yrs $2.3 Million
So what do these numbers mean? Aside from the fact that teams pay about a third the total salary for high draft picks than they did a couple years ago, the draft slots at the top of the draft have gone up significantly (in my book). There’s no question that higher draft picks succeed more often – check the first link, I didn’t do the research, but someone did! But that high success rate used to come with a very big cost – now it’s not a big deal. I know that many football fans would rather have Luck, Newton, and RGIII running their teams than Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford, but lets take the success of the players out of the equation.
When 2011 came around and the draft went down everybody was talking about this “huge risk” that the Panthers were taking by selecting Cam Newton. But looking at how the draft works now, there wasn’t much risk at all, not when you’re considering the reward if that pick hit (and it did, even if you note Cam’s struggles last year and his inability to win football games thus far, it’s still a success). If they missed, it’s not like they were bought in for 40 million guaranteed and nearly 80 million bucks.
The most important thing that I’m getting at here is that the draft has completely changed near the top. Those picks are more valuable than ever, and the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons figured that out before anyone else. The Falcons gave up a little more value than the old draft value chart suggested they should, and many said they gave up too much to get Julio Jones. But did they? No. They grabbed a top pick and went for homerun with Jones, but the financial consequences weren’t there if they missed, not at the rate a pick like that used to be, anyway. The Redskins traded “draft value” in terms of picks and future picks to move up to #2 to select Robert Griffin III. Homerun. That being said, they’re only paying him 21 million over 4 years, so that #2 has to be worth a lot more than it was when it was 68 million over 6 years just two drafts ago.
NFL teams should take note when it comes to trading early draft picks – they aren’t the black money hole they once were, and picks later in the draft are about they same as they always were, making their value differential much less than the top of the draft.
Some teams are looking at the new salary cap restrictions and trying to build with multiple picks in the draft, trading earlier picks for later ones as the Patriots have done throughout the years. But the first round is different now, and soon 1st round picks will go from gold to platinum, more pricy than ever before. Some teams have figured that out – soon nobody will check with the old “pick value chart” when making a trade into the Top 10.
Great players, great possibility, much lower risk. What’s not to like? This year I don’t see a quarterback going in the Top 5. That used to be a must as at least it made sense to pay a quarterback those big bucks. Now guys like Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, and Chance Warmack, top rated guys at positions which teams would never have wanted to pay 60 million bucks, might just see their names picked early, maybe even the Top 5, because their contracts aren’t eyesores for their positions like they used to be (Suh for 68 million, for example, a good player but a defensive tackle for 68 mill? Yikes).
1st Round Draft Analysis: 2011 NFL Draft Observations
Cam Newton: Hey, there can be plenty of naysayers out there gashing this guy and his personality woes, but don’t get it twisted – this guy isn’t JaMarcus Russell. He’s big, he’s black, and he has a cannon for an arm – but please, he is a completely different guy. First and foremost, Newton is one of the most competitive cats on the field at all times. Right there he completely separates himself from Russell. 2nd of all, Newton works his tail off to be great at this game. Why? Because of his competitive streak. 3rd, you question his character, but how about the way he stepped up and played the game of football when everyone was blasting him? All the allegations and questions – he just went out there and killed it. Football-wise, there’s some questions – there’s some growing time that needs to happen before he can be great at the next level – but he’s an elite athlete, has a solid throwing motion, decent touch, and the right competitive nature to succeed in the NFL. Solid pick by the Panthers.
Julio Jones: Good player, definitely, but Julio can’t be worth 2 first round picks, a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th. That’s what the Falcons traded to get a guy who won’t be as good as the guy they have. Sure, he’s an improvement at the #2 receiver spot over Michael Jenkins, but the Falcons have some options. In the slot they had Harry Douglas, who will be better a full season recovered from his knee injury. They have an aging but still reliable Tony Gonzalez. And Jenkins was decent. They need lots of help defensively, however, and I don’t know how they get there now with their draft getting donated to the Browns. Unless, of course, they get a couple heroes in free agency. We’ll see, but even for a guy that I liked a lot coming in, the treasure chest they handed over was too much.
Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder: One name doesn’t fit. Ponder was a huge reach, but I guess that’s what happens when quarterbacks start flying off the board. If you think you need one, you take the plunge. Of the three guys listed, it’s quite possible that Ponder is the most likely to be ready to start this coming season – so there’s something working on the Vikings’ side. Still, huge reach right there. A lot of people are calling Locker’s pick a reach as well, and while I’ve never been crazy about Jake’s quarterback play, I think the 8th overall selection for a guy of his makeup is completely justified. I watch him play the position and I’m not crazy about his feet, the way he always looks uncomfortable in the pocket, and his lack of accuracy – however, he has a cannon, he’s a super competitive kid with a drive for success. He’s always cared more about his teammates than himself, that’s been obvious – and he’s always been a leader, a big time leader. At #8, maybe a quarterback like that is more of a steal than a reach. Gabbert has all the tools as well. I know less about him than I know about Jake, but it’s obvious he’s a Top 10 guy. There’s nothing wrong with Blaine’s game – and a guy without holes is a nice pick at #10.
Steals: I’m not going to write a ton, but here’s a quick little taste…
Patrick Peterson: was the best secondary player in the draft and many had him rated as the best overall player. The Cardinals sucked everywhere last season, and it took a lot for them to skip over a couple QBs they weren’t crazy about to pick the best player on the board.
Nick Fairley: as far as I’m concerned, was the best defensive player in college football last season. I watched Auburn play to see this Newton guy, and it was Fairley impressing me the most. If the Lions find a way to get both he and Suh on the field, there will be no pockets for opposing passers. They are both forces against the run and pass. #13, steal.
Robert Quinn: dropped spots because a long time ago he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that is checked up on a ton, and has no immediate health risks. I have a couple moles that probably have more risk than Quinn’s situation. At #14 the Rams got a disruptive force – steal.
Prince Amukamara: has 5 sisters all with weird names like his – for example, Princess – and why not? That’s about where the questions stop with him. He didn’t have great technique, and doesn’t have perfect ball skills, but he lays hat, is real fast, and takes great angles. At #19? You bet!
Jimmy Smith: was said to have character concerns, like Talib – but stop it, they aren’t the same. Baltimore is the perfect place for him to go, Ray will have him straightened out in no time. Best cover guy in the draft at 26, please.
Cameron Jordan: is a perfect fit for the Saints who need a big bad man on the outside. They’ll be able to move him around and do some big things with him. Getting a guy with his size and versatility is a tough task late in Round 1, having him be a solid character guy makes it a great pick.
Muhammad Wilkerson: might be just as good as Cam Jordan, and he was picked 31st overall. The guy is a cat, flat out, he’ll be starting from Day 1 and giving the Jets something they didn’t have much of last season – good production from their DE spot.
Reaches: I don’t think these guys are bad, in fact, I really like most of them, I just think they were reaches in Round 1 because of the value of the draft…
Von Miller: will probably be a very good player, but an OLB at #2, I just don’t know about that. I think Dareus and Fairley and Peterson will all do more for their teams. Miller reminds me a lot of Aaron Curry, and while I think Curry is a solid player, a guy that will be much better this coming season, I don’t think he was worth his draft spot, either.
Julio Jones: Even without giving up 1st round picks, a 2nd, a 3rd, their unborn children, 6th overall was a little high for Julio in my opinion. It’s very possible that it could have been Cleveland’s reach if Atlanta didn’t trade up to get him, but it’s a reach nonetheless. Good player? Yessir! Great blocker, team guy, tough for a receiver – definitely – but there’s just some things you don’t do – draft WRs that aren’t amazing in the Top 10 (A.J. Green is the exception), draft RBs that aren’t Adrian Peterson in the Top 10, and trust Al Davis with a sharp pencil.
Aldon Smith: Love Harbaugh, hope I’m wrong and that Aldon proves his worth right off the bat, but this is a reach for a very unproven DE prospect. 7th overall? Yikes. Maybe the new coach is trying to get a project guy to help their cause for next season – I mean, in hopes of getting Andrew Luck.
Christian Ponder: But at least Jim didn’t pick Christian Ponder. Text message to my buddy after the Ponder pick: “christian ponder… haha. if the hawks had traded up to 12 to make that pick. i’d be boycotting everything blue and florescent green.” Pretty much. (PS- Home team here in the NW is the Seattle Sea-Chickens)
Mike Pouncey: Center, 15th overall, bad, bad, bad. I know Pouncey can play guard, and I know the Dolphins needed help inside more than just about anything else, and I also am pretty sure that Pouncey is going to be good – but he isn’t as good as his brother, and he climbed up to 15 because he’s got a twin brother that beat some ace last season. Reach.
James Carpenter: I actually like Carpenter a lot – and if they couldn’t trade back at all, I kind of get the pick, but he wasn’t on anybody’s 1st round list (well, except mine, see pick #31) and I think he was a reach for the Hawks. He will be a good player and help right off the bat as a starter for a team with no consistency on the offensive line, so it was a solid pick – just a reachy pick when Da’Quan Bowers, Brandon Harris, Gabe Carimi, and Jimmy Smith were on the board.
Jonathan Baldwin: Baldwin could be good. If you draft a receiver in the first round, you better be damn sure that he’s going to be good. I’m not sure. Reach.
Perfect: These guys were perfect fits, perfect value, and they all got perfect on the wonderlic (or so I lie)…
Marcell Dareus: This guy is a beast, and the Bills needed him more than anything. If he had been gone, I think they would have ended up doing something stupid – so not only was he a perfect value, a perfect fit, and one of the best players –but he saved the Bills from themselves – they’ve needed a guy to do that for a long time!
A.J. Green: You never pick a WR in the Top 10 unless he’s a guy like A.J. Green – write that down, it’s a draft day rule. Falcons, I said WRITE THAT DOWN! A.J. will be a star and he instantly makes the Bengals’ passing attack better.
Tyron Smith: The Cowboys got the best offensive lineman in the draft at Pick #9, and that would usually be a steal except this kid is still just 20 and may need some time. They have time, he’s a perfect pick.
Ryan Kerrigan: How bad did the Redskins need a consistent performer on the defensive line that would line up at safety or kicker if you asked him to? This kid is the anti-Haynesworth and he’s going to be good for a long time. Perfect pick value and situation at #16.
Nate Solder: Some people thought this was a reach, but the Patriots know offensive linemen as well as the Giants do, and the Giants were crushed when the Pats grabbed Solder two picks ahead of them. Talk about in the nick of time.
Anthony Castonzo: Maybe the most ready OT in the draft to help Peyton Manning stay clean. Safe and perfect.
Final Mock Draft
Here goes the last mock draft of the season. This is what I expect to go down on draft day, Thursday, with the first round turning out some big time surprises. We’ve done a few mock drafts here at LL.com, most recently a team mock that had 4 different guys playing GM for a day. But this one is different, this takes into account all the hoopla involved in the pre-draft process. I’m talking about rumors and needs and “what I hear” and all that good stuff. This one will be the most accurate of any mock we’ve put out. This is always a great time, a bunch of poor kids get rich! Enjoy the draft.
1. Carolina Panthers select Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
I don’t know how you pass on Gabbert’s all around safety and upside, but Newton might very well have the highest ceiling in the draft. Is that always worth the #1 pick? I don’t think so, but I get it.
2. Denver Broncos select Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Dareus is a beast in the middle, and the Broncos just flat out haven’t had anything close to that since, well, a long time. This team struggles against the run, Dareus will help them sure that area up. If you want safety, MD is the guy.
3. Buffalo Bills select Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
This youngster has a ton of upside as an all around player, and is a great fit for a team that really struggles defensively. Miller will help out against the pass, with his ability to put pressure on the quarterback, and he just plays football with a contagious effort level. I think an OLB is a tough pick at #3 overall, but he’s a game changer.
4. The Cincinnati Bengals select Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
You just don’t get a guy with no holes in his game, anymore. I’m sure Blaine doesn’t have the upside of Cam Newton or the immediate impact of Marcell Dareus, but shoot, he’s a possible franchise quarterback that is fast, big, has a strong arm, has some smarts, and a solid personality. I like Fairley a lot, but it looks like he’s got too many questions. I love A.J. Green –but I get going for a QB here. This “surprise” pick changes the rest of the draft going forward.
5. Arizona Cardinals select Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, Carolina
Arizona gets lucky by not being forced to go Gabbert with #5, I like Gabbert, but the team will get better faster if they get help in the trenches. Before Quinn was kicked off the football team for extra benefits, he was a Top 5 pick in the making – a stud DE that was a force, a big bad man that could play as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 OLB, similar to Terrell Suggs. Well, there’s no NCAA sanctions in the NFL, and Quinn is still that guy. Da’Quan Bowers’ knee questions certainly upped Quinn’s stock, but like I said, he’s always had the talent.
6. Cleveland Browns select A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Mike Holmgren isn’t above taking a wide receiver early, especially when he’s quite possibly the best offensive player in the draft and still on the board at #6. The Browns have some young WRs coming into their own, but they don’t have a guy like A.J. Green. While the Browns certainly don’t have an air-it-out attack, Green can help improve that area with his elite hands and ability to get open.
7. San Francisco 49ers select Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The 49ers get lucky. This is the kind of guy their defense needs, a defense that is already tough in a bunch of areas, but Peterson just ups the entire group. He may be a Top 3 player from this class.
8. Tennessee Titans select Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
A lot of people have questions about Fairley’s personality, and he may be more difficult than your average bear, but he’s still a stud. Fairley is exactly what the Titans are missing since Haynesworth ran off to Washington DC – except I think there are less questions about Fairley’s personality than Big Al’s – Big Al is wild.
9. Dallas Cowboys select Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Dallas should get as much help in the trenches as possible. Amukamara is an option here, to help an ever-struggling secondary – but I think Romo’s health is of more importance, and Smith will assist in that category while improving the run game to boot.
10. Washington Redskins select Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
I’m not so sure that Splinter Shanahan will be enamored with the idea of going WR in the Top 10, but Jones really adds a lot to a small WR crew in Washington. Julio was supposed to be gone already, but A.J. Green’s small slip has JJ still available. DE or DT still an option here, JJ Watt or Cory Liuget possibly?
11. The Houston Texans select Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Jordan is all the hype right now, and he seems like a great fit opposite Mario Williams. Jordan does a lot of things well, and it’s not surprising that the more people look at him, the more they like what he brings to the table.
12. Minnesota Vikings select Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Vikings could really use help on the offensive line, as evidenced by Brett Favre being used as a piñata by opposing defenses last season – but they also need a QB of the future, and the current regime doesn’t think they have one on the roster. Locker has great upside, works his A off, and is a strong leader. It’s a reach, but not as much as many think. If they hold off on QB, they could go in a number of different directions, J.J. Watt, Prince Amukamara, Anthony Castonzo (to name a few).
13. Detroit Lions select Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Prince not only has a great name, but the guy has all the speed and shut down ability you need to grab a corner this high. The Lions defense is really improving, but they can’t take that next step without a stud CB – they just happen to luck out and get one here.
14. The St. Louis Rams select Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Liuget fits that DL mold that Spagnola was a big part of during his time in New York. The Rams could use Corey’s ability to disrupt the run and pass with his speed and strength. I think Liuget is a can’t miss option on the DL.
15. The Miami Dolphins select Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
I think this is high for a center/guard player, even if his upside is grand. I know his brother is a stud, but remember, his brother is better. Still, I watched the Dolphins’ offensive line really struggle in the middle last season, and Pouncey will guarantee an improvement in that area – so it makes some sense.
16. The Jacksonville Jaguars select J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
I liked the Jaguars grabbing Ryan Kerrigan here, but think that Watt is just a little more impressive as a prospect. He’s still on the board in this scenario, so I think he’s gone, as Jacksonville gets a very solid and safe player in the middle of Round 1.
17. The New England Patriots select Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
I know that a lot of boards have Castonzo going here, and I certainly see the value in that from a Patriots’ perspective – but this team really missed Richard Seymour, and I think Wilkerson is going to be a stud DE in the 3-4 scheme – I also think the Patriots are really smart – those two thins add up to Wilkerson going here.
18. The San Diego Chargers select Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Castonzo has starting LT upside, and right off the bat he could be plugged into the RT job in San Diego. This team has gone to the pass a ton over the last couple years, but bookends that can pass block and run block could help even things out in SD.
19. The New York Giants select Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Carimi is a mauler, and the Giants need to improve their run-game. Some think the best way to do that is to go grab Ingram, but anybody in the know highlights the need of new blood on the offensive line. Jacobs and Bradshaw are decent enough, and there’s plenty of RB options to be won later in the draft – right here, it’s OL or bust for the Giants.
20. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
One could argue that they are just getting rid of the last troubled CB they picked in Round 1. I’m going to go ahead and argue that Jimmy Smith doesn’t have those same concerns, and that he’s quite possibly the best cover guy in the draft. The Bucs need me to be right.
21. The Kansas City Chiefs select Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
I don’t know how I missed this guy in my first couple mocks. I’ve hit up some film on him, because I heard a lot about his climb into the 1st round. He looks like the real deal to me. I know that Arizona had a stud defense this season, and he’s a big reason why. Tamba Hali is a solid pass rushing force for the Chiefs, but Reed coming form the other side could mean great things for the Chiefs D.
22. The Indianapolis Colts select Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Colts protect Manning here. Seems like a good move for a smart front office. If they were wild and crazy, they could think about picking up Aldon Smith and grooming him behind two greats – but the league’s getting tougher, and if they want to compete they need to protect their #1 guy, and improve the run-game.
23. The Philadelphia Eagles select Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
I love the Eagles to trade back here, but if they don’t, it’s because they find a value pick too good to pass up, or maybe they like Akeem Ayers enough to grab him this high? Tough call with the Eagles, per usual, but Sherrod helps them in a huge need area, and I think he’s the last top-tier OT option in this draft.
24. The New Orleans Saints select Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Does this clear up the running back position? I think so. I just don’t really get it. I love Ingram, really, I do – I think he’ll be a stud – but the Saints have proven that they can get a lot of production out of a number of RB options, why go RB with a valuable 1st round pick? Maybe the rumors are for the birds, I don’t know – if they don’t take Ingram, Ryan Kerrigan is a great value pick here, and Aldon Smith is another huge upside, value option.
25. The Seattle Seahawks select Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
I think the Hawks would love Sherrod or Solder to be here so they can improve the other side of that porous offensive line – but that’s just not the case in this mock, and that leaves them thinking… Jake Locker is already gone, so the home town boy options is out the window. I know DE isn’t a huge need for this team, but I still think Ryan Kerrigan is a great value pick this late – if he does indeed slip down the draft. But, with Paul Allen’s money, and a great place to risk it, why not grab Da’Quan Bowers? The kid is a stud, and if his knees do stay healthy for the next 5 years, what an absolute steal for a team looking for gamebreakers.
26. The Baltimore Ravens select Aldon Smith, OLB/DE, Missouri
I’m not sure what they’ll do with him, he’s obviously not big and bad enough to be a 3-4 DE, and they aren’t in need of an OLB in their 3-4, but this is a team getting older, and Smith is a steal here – he could learn from some greats. If they think Ryan Kerrigan can play DE in the 3-4, they’ll grab his motor here. Adrian Clayborn is an option, too. Maybe Brandon Harris or Ras-I Dowling to fill their biggest need? It gets tougher this late.
27. The Atlanta Falcons select Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Falcons are looking for a DE to help them put pressure on the passer and be stout on the edge against the run. Kerrigan is going to be a starter, and while he might not project as a Pro-Bowler, the safety in this pick has to be reassuring, the fact that they might get a sure thing this late in a huge position of need will be too good to pass up.
28. The New England Patriots select Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
I’ll be stunned if the Patriots don’t trade one of their first round picks. But there are no trades in my mock, so the Pats fill one of their biggest needs with Akeem Ayers, the playmaker from UCLA. He has the versatility the Patriots want from their players, and is decent value here.
29. The Chicago Bears select Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
The bottom line here is that Chicago has to upgrade their offense line in Round 1. There’s no OT guy worth their top pick, but I don’t think that will keep them improving their biggest hole. Watkins is a beast, and I think a surefire upgrade is the right decision.
30. The New York Jets select Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
I think Clayborn is a great fit both in value and position of need. It’s tough to find good 5-technique players anywhere in the draft, and if they can do that with pick #30, that’s a great option. Clayborn is the type of guy that will fit perfect on a team that goes all out all the time.
31. The Pittsburgh Steelers select James Carpenter, OG, Alabama
The Crimson Tide had one of the best rushing attacks in the land, and that’s partly due to what Carpenter did on a weekly basis. James might not be the best run or pass blocker in the draft, but he’s well rounded in both areas. The Steelers really need help on the offensive line, and I think Carpenter will sure up the middle.
32. The Green Bay Packers select Will Rackley, OG, Lehigh
It doesn’t look like any of the Packers’ dream scenarios fall here. Brooks Reed, Cameron Heyward, or even Akeem Ayers are all gone, and that leaves them picking the best available guy to help them defend their Super Bowl. They could always use help on the offensive line, and Will Rackley could be their guy as an OG that could solidify their offensive line right away. If Clayborn or Ayers fall this far, they become the targets.
A Real Mock Draft – For Better (OR WORSE) Team LL.Com Makes the Pick!
Alright, so I had this idea about a mock draft that I thought would be twice as good as your late mock that all but copies the super-NFL writers that have all the inside information and basically know the picks heading into draft. This one is different. This isn’t a “what will happen” mock draft, this is more of a fantasy rookie draft. The fantasy? Team LuckyLester.com gets a random number, 1, 2, 3, or 4 (it would have been 5, but Red Red Ryan was “too busy” – scoff!). They pick for the team at that number all the way down the draft. Josh (JA) picked #1 out of the hat, I (LL) got #2, Papa Weimer (PW) got #3, and Nate Kuhns (NK) got last, #4, but at least he doesn’t have to pay his guys as much…
So Josh has picks #1, #5, #9, and so on. I pick #2, #6, and on and on. Papa #3, #7… Nate #4, #8….
It makes sense, I’m sure of it.
For this mock, we get to be the team owners, the GMs, the coaches, whoever decides the guy we’ll pick in Round 1. You’ll notice that I make all the best decisions… (as the editor, I get to write that without getting it deleted)
I have the initials down at the end of the write up, letting you know each guy who made the pick for each team, so you know who to write in (email@example.com) and trash. I’ll be posting good trash talking, arguments, agreements, etc – so write in!
Josh is on the clock….
1. The Carolina Panthers select Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Taking Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton will be the temptation here, but both are risky picks that weren’t projected as first rounders before Andrew Luck decided to stay in school and Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett faded down the stretch. Bowers will give the Panthers a pass-rushing monster to pair with Charles Johnson on the other side, wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. The Panthers need to stay ahead in turnover margin (-8 in 2010) for them to be successful, and getting pressure on the quarterback results in those impact plays that a defense feeds off of. I know his “knee concerns” will have him out of this spot, but I think he’ll be a very good player for a very long time. JA
2. The Denver Broncos select Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
I originally had the Broncos drafting Nick Fairley here, and while he came across poorly during the combine, I still think he’s the best defensive tackle in the draft (yes, better than Marcell Dareus) and he should be considered here. I watched the kid cause ruckus on the line all season long, and despite playing on the same team as Cam Newton, he was the best player on the field plenty of big games this season. However, I love me some Patrick Peterson, and think he has the make-up to be one special player on the outside. In a game that is becoming more pass friendly than ever, a player like Peterson can’t be overlooked. LL
3. The Buffalo Bills select Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Like Lucky said, Fairley was the best defensive player in college football last season. He affected games from the DT position similar to the way Suh did last season. Now, I don’t think Fairley is Suh, but he certainly has an amazing skill set for a big man on the line, and Buffalo needs to stop the run and rush the passer, two things that Fairley can do from the time he steps foot on the field. A quarterback might be tempting here, but Fitzpatrick is solid, at least, and this is a team that needs to start finding ways to win. A young project QB isn’t the answer if winning is the goal. They might be able to trade down and get him, but either way, Fairley would help this team more than anybody else on the board. PW
4. The Cincinnati Bengals select A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Green simply put is a beast at 6’4′ and 212 pounds with 4.38 speed, Green has the tools to make an immediate impact. With Ochocinco kicking balls instead of catching them, as well as Owens departure, the Bengals will need to look for an incumbent and Green is their man. I typically like to build inside out with the Top 5 picks, however with this kind of talent on the board, Green is my guy. NK
5. The Arizona Cardinals select Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Another QB-needy team will look to address those needs either later in the draft or via a trade or free agency. As pressing as the need is I remain unconvinced that either Gabbert or Newton will put the Cards over the edge in the NFC West in the coming seasons. Von Miller would be an immediate upgrade to an Arizona defense that relies on the big play rather than being a shutdown unit. Bringing him off the edge in Ken Whisenhunt’s 3-4 scheme would instantly improve a pass rush that struggled to get to the quarterback at times during the 2010 season. I expect the Cards to make a major push for Kevin Kolb, and if they are able to attain his services with a package of 2012 draft picks and nab a top defensive talent like Miller with this pick, they could well be in position to return to the top of the weakest division in football sooner rather than later. JA
6. The Cleveland Browns select Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Dareus is just too good of a find here. With AJ Green already off the board, Von Miller headed to Arizona, Peterson gone early to Denver, Fairley slipping in at 3, the Browns are still lucky to get Dareus here. They won’t be looking for a quarterback at this point – Colt McCoy seems like the guy in Cleveland. I don’t think they’d reach for Julio Jones, and unless the like Robert Quinn more than Big MD, this one is tough to pass on. Dareus has proven to be a beat up front throughout his college career, and has done plenty for himself in the off-season. Many have Dareus plowing past Fairley as the top DT, and getting a game changer in the middle with the 6th pick will be great for the Browns. LL
7. The San Francisco 49ers select, Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
I have to believe that we’re wrong up to this point, and a quarterback has already been taken (I know I’m not wrong, it must me one of the other guys) – but if we aren’t, and teams are actually following our path of sound advice, then the 49ers will get their choice at QB. There’s no Andrew Luck in this class, as new headman Jim Harbaugh certainly recognizes, but I’m willing to bet there’s enough in Gabbert’s upside to woo the Stanford coach into taking a chance. Gabbert has a cannon, he worked out as well as any QB on the board, and he’s looked comfortable under pressure and in the pocket. I think he’s the choice here, even though this QB class scares me a bit. The 49ers could go for Cam Newton instead, but I think they’ll be more smitten with Blaine. Prince Amukamara is another very good player that would probably help this team more than a QB, but that chance of hitting gold might be too much to pass up if their favorite signal caller is still on the board. PW
8. The Tennessee Titans select Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
With the majority of high impact defensive players off the board, including highly targeted Da’Quan Bowers, the Titans will look to address the most important offensive position on the field at QB. Fisher has targeted athletic QB’s in the past, and will look to do so again. The risk here remains high, however with K. Collins going into his 18th season and the debacle surrounding V. Young, Tennessee and Fisher will look for the next signal caller. NK
9. Dallas Cowboys select Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Jerry’s crew should be thrilled to land Amukamara with the 9th pick in the first round. While Patrick Peterson profiles as the better athlete with the slightly higher ceiling, in my opinion Prince is more technically sound and possesses the higher floor. The cornerback position opposite Terence Newman has been a black hole for the Boys for years now and grabbing the heir to the throne both in name and position-wise would make too much sense to ignore. Securing the former Husker would allow the Cowboys to bump Mike Jenkins to the nickel back role or possibly transition Newman to safety as he approaches his age 33 season. JA
10. Washington Redskins select Julio Jones, wr, Alabama
With no true star at receiver, the redskins would have a tough time passing on a possible star in jones. His speed/size combo is very impressive and it’s even better that he’s not a princess like most star college receivers. This guy is as good a blocker as he is a playmaker and he’s big time in both areas. Think Brandon Marshall size and speed with no crazy tendencies. LL
11. The Houston Texans select Robert Quinn, de, Carolina
Robert Quinn would be a nice pick here, the Texans have needed production from the opposite DE spot as teams plan around Mario Williams but this corner is super talented and Houston needs more help in the secondary desperately. Tough choice. I’m going with Quinn here because his pressure will help the secondary as well as against the run. Pressure is a secondaries best friend. PW
12. The Minnesota Vikings select Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The glaring need here shines on the QB position, however with both top QB prospects off the board, Minnesota will look to solidify up front. Smith has the size and athleticism to become an impact player in both the run game as well as the pass. An investment here in Smith will increase the chances of the new QB in Minnesota staying off his back, as well as the Vikings getting back to a more balanced attack. NK
13. The Detroit Lions select Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
In the first real shocker of the draft, I like the Lions to avoid drafting based on need. If Amukamara slips this far I think he becomes the pick, but in this scenario Prince is long gone. Ingram is not a burner, but the presence of second-year man Jahvid Best allows the Lions to pair Ingram’s thump and grinding approach with Best’s big-play ability. The defense in Detroit has taken a major step forward under the guidance of DC Gunther Cunningham (not to mention an influx of talent headed by a boy named Suh). With the recent upgrades at the skill positions, this team is ready to ascend to the next level if QB Matthew Stafford can stay healthy under center. JA
14. The St. Louis Rams select J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
I know Watt has been pegged an ideal 3-4 DE and thus is linked to a lot of teams moving to that style of defense, or looking for an end to plug in. But Watt has a great size to be any kind of defense end in any style of defense. His relentless motor and strength is going to immediately upgrade the Rams pass-rush and run defense. He truly is in the mold of those New York Giant defensive linemen that Steve Spagnuolo has first hand knowledge of. He already has his quarterback, there’s not a receiver worth drafting here, I like him improving that defensive line. LL
15. The Miami Dolphins select Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
Despite being known for the wildcat offense, a run-heavy attack, and possessing two very talented runners last season, the Dolphins really had trouble running the ball. We all know they have one very talented OT in Jake Long, but they could use another and Constanzo is the best on the board. Not many people realized that the Dolphins struggled on the line last season, but it didn’t go unnoticed form my point of view, and something tells me the Dolphins realized it as well. Rarely do you get a chance to pick arguably the best offensive tackle in the draft at pick #15, and with Mark Ingram already off the board, Costanzo’s the next best (maybe first best?) way to get that running game going again. PW
16. The Jacksonville Jaguars select Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The plethora of talent from the DE position holds true with the selection of Kerrigan from the Boilermakers. An athletic smooth mover, Kerrigan, will help specifically with pressure on the quarterback, as well as add versatility to the defensive scheme. If I’m going to miss, I’m going to swing after a guy with a motor like Ryan’s. NK
17. The New England Patriots select Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The Pats will enter this draft looking to improve along the front seven and Jordan will give them a boost on the outside to pair with a healthy Ty Warren. When you factor in space eater Vince Wilfork the Patriots should be very stout against the run. Not a true sack master, Jordan has excellent intangibles and does everything well, a perfect fit for a Bill Belichick coached team and an excellent value in the middle of the first round. JA
18. The San Diego Chargers select Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
Wilkerson is a beast and will go to some team looking for a 3-4 defensive end in this draft. He may not have that big school pedigree, but when you watch him play the game, you certainly see how impressive the young man is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s gone by this pick, but if he’s still on board, the Chargers will pounce at the chance to improve their defensive line at #18. LL
19. The New York Giants select Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
If you ask the draftniks which offensive lineman has the most upside, 3 out of 4 will tell you that Colorado’s Nate Solder is the guy. I know that Mike Pouncey has great name recognition, and that he may be the more versatile of any 1st round lineman, but I think Solder’s upside at #19 is quite the steal for a team without many holes. The Giants could go a lot of directions with this pick, but I see them improving their offensive line, a position that has gotten old over the years – when you’re not talking about cheese or wine, aged isn’t a good thing. PW
20. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Tampa Bay keeps it in Colorado selecting another Buffalo in Jimmy Smith. Smith has the size speed and athleticism to make it at the next level. Jimmy’s past run in with the law has spawned character issues, and is the main reason why Smith is still on the board at 20. The Bucs will take the risk. NK
21. The Kansas City Chiefs select Gabe Carimi, OT, Boston College
The Chiefs certainly have needs, like any team, but it’s easy to see how much better they are when Matt Cassel gets time. He’s a very accurate passer when he’s not rushed, and Carimi would just add one more piece to an impressive offensive attack that produced the best rushing attack in football, and a solid passing game that saw KC in the playoffs in 2010. JA
22. The Indianapolis Colts select Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Liuget is probably the best player that people know the least about coming into this draft. I’m not sure he’s going to slip this far in the real world, because he’s really good. Not only is he very quick on the line, solid against the run, and able to rush the quarterback, but the DT from Illinois has a great motor. It’s tough to find big talented bodies that give the effort he does. The Colts are usually in the business of going offensive line with this pick, but a little help on the defensive side of the ball could go a long way. Liuget is a Top 15 talent, and thus his value at a spot of need is too good to pass up, here. LL
23. The Philadelphia Eagles select Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
The Eagles could be bummed if the draft goes like it did in our mock. They waited and waited and had 2 great fits left with just 2 teams to pick ahead of them, and whammy, both guys get drafted before it’s their turn on the clock. Carimi could really help an Eagles team that needs to get better on the offensive line (especially OT). Liuget would have been a steal for a team like Philly, looking to get more beasts of burden on the defensive line. As is, both those guys are gone, so I think the Eagles should go get Mike Pouncey. Pouncey is the type of guy that immediately upgrades your offensive line, because he can fit at multiple spots. He’s not a stud OT, but will be a really good player at either center or guard, and building your line with a piece like that is perfect. I do think Jake Locker is an interesting fit here, and the Eagles may consider it. I’ve never been crazy about Locker’s jitters in the pocket or just the way he looks player quarterback, but the Eagles could be without Kolb, and Vick isn’t a tadpole, either, he’s in his 30s and the way he plays, health isn’t a guarantee. The Eagles did well improving Vick’s accuracy, and Locker has the arm and athleticism that Andy Reid seems to love in his quarterbacks. That would be a huge surprise here, but I’m wouldn’t be stunned at all. Still, I think Pouncey’s the pick if I’m on the clock. PW
24. The New Orleans Saints select Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Georgia
The Saints needs are clearly highlighted on the defensive board. The need help on the defensive line, as well as speed in the secondary. With a strong showing at the combine, Houston makes himself a legitimate first round pick. Justin’s hybrid ability to play standing up allows for support on the edge as well as the ability to rush the QB. If Ingram some how slips to this position, even with all of the needs on the defensive side you might see Peyton go for a steady ball carrier, where the Saints will again be chasing points opposed to zeros. NK
25. The Seattle Seahawks select Jake Locker, QB, Washington
I don’t know that this is a match made in heaven but I do know that Carroll recruited Locker hard while at USC then had a front row seat to the QBs athleticism for the next three years. I think there are a lot of areas Locker needs to improve upon, but I also know his toughness, leadership and work ethic are second to none on this class. A year or two to study under Hasselbeck would do his career a world of good, allowing him to grow more comfortable in a pro offense as well as giving him time to hone his accuracy and pocket presence. JA
26. The Baltimore Ravens select Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
One wonders if the Ravens could steal Aldon Smith here, despite him not really having a perfect fit in their defense. He doesn’t have the size to be an End anchor in that 3-4, and I don’t know if he has the athleticism to be even a OLB that rushes the passer more often than not. I just don’t think he fits. I think the Ravens go for Akeem Ayers here, to do the same kind of thing they tried to draft Sergio Kindle to do last year. Everyone hopes Kindle gets healthy again, but a young stud athlete that moves around the field very well – seems like a good move for an aging Ravens defense. Ayers is only falling because of some sub-par numbers at the combine, but he’s really good at football – that should count for something. Corner here might be an option, as I still like Brandon Harris, Ras I Dowling, and Aaron Williams, but I think Ayers potential upside, and his great value, is too much to pass up. LL
27. The Atlanta Falcons select Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
This kid is a stud. He has some issues with his shoulder, a nerve condition, but he’s been tough and solid throughout his career. He’s not a “best of the bunch” pass rusher, run defender, or numbers guy – but he’s an NFL starter right out of the gate because he does everything well. Not okay, but well. He only had 4 sacks in 2010 after tallying 11 in 2009, but he was still one of the best defenders on a great defense in the Big 10. I think Clayborn is a great value pick here, and the Falcons could definitely use some punch at DE. PW
28. The New England Patriots select Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Already selecting a defensive end to man the 3-4 spot with the 17th pick, New England can afford to go elsewhere with this decision. There are still a ton of really talented options on the board, guys that certainly have 1st round ability, but I’m not sure there’s a guy that really fits what the Patriots need desperately, Randy Moss in his prime. Since there’s not a guy like that in draft, and the closest thing to that will get picked in the top 5. I think the Patriots grab talented depth at a key spot, the line. They could go for Derek Sherrod here, a talented OT, maybe even a guard like Danny Watkins – but I think they head over to the defensive side of the ball and pick upside with Aldon Smith. Guy is a freak physically, and while he hasn’t played OLB much, and certainly isn’t refined coming in, the Patriots could really use his tools at that position. Smith is a Top 15 talent and a steal here. NK
29. The Chicago Bears select Derek Sherrod
The Bears need to take the best offensive lineman on the board if indeed there is one of top tier guys. Sherrod is a solid guy that would instantly improve one of the weakest links on a good Bears squad. Aldon Smith might be the pick here, if he’s available, but a very good defense doesn’t have as much need to improve as their sieved of an offensive line. JA
30. The New York Jets select Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
The Jets need a nose tackle to crush up the running game in the middle, and provide a physical force inside that can eat up blockers so the linebackers and pass rushers get a chance to make plays against single coverage. The Jets had a great player on their roster, Kris Jenkins, but the big man just couldn’t stay on the field, and a great player on paper doesn’t mean much during the playoffs. This team is very good, and a couple key players away – a big, bad defensive nose-tackle could be that guy. LL
31. The Pittsburgh Steelers select, Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
The Steelers have a stud defense in the front 7, and they are solid in the secondary – they just need more speed and coverage ability on the corners. Harris has plenty of speed, and he measures out as a great athlete. He has good ball skills and he’ll immediately give the Steelers another body in the secondary, something they desperately need. Help on the offensive line is always an option, and a guard like Danny Watkins would be a good move, but they can get a good guard later and a very solid corner prospect right now. That seems like the best option. PW
32. The Green Bay Packers select Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
How do the rich keep getting richer? Like this. Cameron Heyward has some medical issues, he had Tommy John surgery on his elbow, and somehow that scares off everyone else in the first round except the Super Bowl Champs. It’s not like Heyward is going to be throwing 60 yard bombs or 30 yard outs, not for the Packers – they have Aaron Rodgers to do that type of work, and if he gets hurt, Matt Flynn ain’t bad either. Heyward will be fine holding his own as a 3-4 DE for the Packers, and the rich get richer! NK
Lets face it, the current system is broken. I know the NFL faces a lot of interesting questions and discussions going forward, as it’s in the best interest of both the players and owners to get a deal done before there’s any kind of holdout. There may be huge things on the table that need to get changed, number of games, payment scales, salary caps and minimums, and franchising star players, but nothing needs to be changed more than this stupid draft pick signing situation.
Camps have either just started or are about to start for every single team in the NFL and there are just 3 First Round Draft Picks signed to their respective teams. What a joke. Three… Out of Thirty freaking Two drat picks. Football, more than MLB baseball or NBA basketball, relies heavily on your ability to play within your team schemes. You can still be useful in baseball if you don’t know the signs. You can be a 1 on 1 defender and offensive player for an NBA team even if you don’t know all the plays. In football, you’re useless if you don’t know the schemes, audibles, and intricacies of your team. You know what happens when a running back goes the wrong way on a dive? He gets destroyed, that’s what.
I’m all for young athletes making loads of money. Do I think rookie quarterbacks should make more money than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? No, I do not. But that wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if this stupid system didn’t have players signing contracts well into the start of training camp. It’s dumb – no other sport has this problem, and that’s because of how pathetically obtuse the idea is.
3 out of 32 draft picks have signed in time to start camp with their teams. That’s supposed to be the best 32 players drafted this season, the guys expected to help their new franchises the most. It’s terrible when guys hold out and miss games because of it, and it’s bad when they miss too much training camp to be ready to go in Week 1 – but what makes it even more ridiculous is that it doesn’t need to happen at all. The NFL players union and the Owners need to get their aces together and figure it out – this rookie contract hold-out BS needs to go!
First and foremost, it was nice to see the red carpet stay locked in the shed for Jimmy Clausen. Yes, he may have shown up to Notre Dame in a super shiny limo, but getting picked 49th by the Carolina Panthers made it all better. If only Oakland would have grabbed him. No, no – I don’t wish that on anybody. Clausen has a chance to succeed in Carolina, and like Tim Tebow, another kid that EVERYBODY seems to hate, I’ll be rooting for him. Yes, I never thought I’d say it, but it is now cool to hate on Tebow and Clausen, and thus I will be looking for reasons to like these guys – and honestly, it hasn’t been that hard to do thus far.
Jimmy’s Irish teammate, Golden Tate, was drafted by Seattle, and I can’t see how their draft could be going any better. I would have loved to see Taylor Mays fall to them at 60 (as they could have just flat out used two new elite safeties, but Tate is a great pick up that late in the 2nd round. After losing Nate Burleson, Tate’s big game, big play skills will go a long way in Seattle.
The Jaguars continued to reach and make head scratching moves. And that is by no means calling the players that they chose, bad – I’m just saying, they are drafting out of value’s line – and that makes them bad at drafting.
The Ravens made out of the second round like gang busters, pulling two guys that easily could have been first round players and a great tight end. If Sergio Kindle’s knees stay healthy, and Terrence Cody stays under 4 bills, then they did a great thing in trading out of the first round. Then they go get Ed Dickson, who, quite honestly, is probably the most consistent sure thing tight end in the draft.
The Raiders grabbed another solid player but have yet to address a need.
The Patriots drafted great value players that are, get ready, great football players. Who would have thought?
I actually think the Redskins did well on Day 2. They didn’t trade away the best defensive tackle in football for a 3rd round pick, and any time a team doesn’t do something they were expected to do that was that dumb, well, it’s a very good thing. I have a feeling they can find some place to put the best DT in the game that will help them win football games. Call me nuts.
Some teams were great in Round 1 while others bombed the test with a big fat “F”. It’s just the first round, and regularly true grades are made by about year 3 after the draft, but I’m a danged sports writer, and I feel it’s a must for me to tell everyone how I feel about the “Prime Time” action that went down in the NFL yesterday. I must say, it was good TV.
St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford – The Rams had to grab Bradford, it only made sense. The kid is going to be good, I’ve thought so for years, and I won’t stop thinking so until he pulls a Ryan Leaf. I’ve said it once, but a home run at quarterback is better than a home run at defensive tackle. A
Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, Jahvid Best- Couldn’t go wrong with their top pick as they plucked one of the most dominant defensive tackle prospects in many-many years. But, I don’t see why the Lions felt the need to trade up to grab Best, but they did, and they got him, and I think he’s worth the pick. Maybe they felt Minnesota would have taken him had they not traded their pick, and with that being the case, this makes a little sense. But you know Indy and New Orleans weren’t going to take Best, and neither were the Rams. But he was the best running back prospect left, and I like the kid a lot. Give them a little credit, they ended up with two first rounders and they didn’t blow either one. A-
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy -Great pick for the Bucs, the guy fits perfectly and he’s a dominant player on every down. A
Washington Redskins: Trent Williams – The Redskins picked a talented offensive lineman, no doubt, and Splinter has done well picking the position in the past. However, questions about his work ethic and love for the game drop Williams a bit in my book. But he’s a good player and fills a great need for the Skins. C+
Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Berry -The Chiefs fought the urge to leave a safety on the board because the position isn’t usually drafted so high. But Berry is the exception, and that makes this an even greater pick because of their willing to ignore the common perception about the position. A+
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Okung, Earl Thomas -The Draft couldn’t have worked out better for Seattle. Well, I guess I would have liked it better had Berry fallen to them at 6 and had Davis fallen to them at 14. But drafting where they were, and considering who they got, this was an awesome draft for Seattle. Okung was my 2nd rated offensive lineman, and the most sure thing at the OT position – and Thomas was the 5th rated defender on my list, and he’s really close to Berry, Suh, McClain, and McCoy. Both were huge needs for Seattle. Perfect first round for Pete Carol. A+
Cleveland Browns – Joe Haden -The Browns drafted Haden, who is a very good and physical corner – a guy many had rated as the best CB in this class. I like Kyle Wilson more, but Haden might fit better in what the Browns do defensively. Still, when I heard that Holmgren might make his decision based on where the two corners played (Haden at Florida compared to Wilson at Boise State), I threw up in my mouth a little bit. That’s just flat stupid. Still, a solid pick for the Browns. B
Oakland Raiders: Rolando McClain -Finally the Raiders just picked a good player. Red-Red Ryan had McClain going to the Raiders in his Mock Draft back in January, and he got it right on the button. McClain is a weird pick for Oakland because he was so successful and productive in college. Tom Jackson had it right when he said, “The Raiders won’t be looking for a middle linebacker in next year’s draft.” McClain wasn’t a huge need pick for Oakland, but I have to give them a good grade for not picking a workout hero that didn’t excel in college. B+
Buffalo Bills: C.J. Spiller -I love C.J. Spiller. But he’s not a great pick for Buffalo. He’s a touchdown maker, and he’s good at everything, but for a team that needs so much, especially on the offensive line, a smallish running back at #9 is not great for them. However, if he turns out to be more Chris Johnson than Reggie Bush, then I’ll admit being wrong. Seems like a great kid, so I hope I’m wrong. C-
Jacksonville Jaguars: Tyson Alualu – “We like to “joke” with Jack Del Rio’s lack of intelligence, and expect him to do something mentally representative of that “joke”” – yeah, this is what I wrote prior to the draft – and while I liked Alualu as a solid defensive tackle prospect, I can’t help but believe they reached 20 picks early for the Cal defensive tackle, and the fact that 3 teams traded down into 11, 12, and 13 means they could have picked up a couple extra picks and still drafted their guy. I think Tyson will be solid, but that doesn’t help their grade. It’s like picking Tony Gonzalez with your first round pick in fantasy football – he’s good, but the pick is dumb. F
San Francisco 49ers: Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati – The 49ers traded up a couple picks to grab a guy I tabbed as the best and most talented offensive tackle prospect in the draft. I don’t think they needed to do so, but maybe they knew the next two teams were trying to trade down, and didn’t want to miss out on their top rated OT. With their second pick they grabbed one of the best all around offensive line prospects in the draft in guard Mike Iupati – and they did so right before Pittsburgh picked. The 49ers got a lot better up front, but more importantly, they might have drafted an identity. This was a very good start for the 49ers, though I don’t think they needed to trade up to get their guy – so I have to drop them a little bit. Having the balls to take two offensive linemen in the first 17 picks moves them up a little bit. A-
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Matthews – The Chargers traded way up and reached a bit for Ryan Matthews. Will he be worth it? Maybe. He’s the only every down running back rated as a first round pick, and they must think they are an every down back away from a Super Bowl. I happen to think they are a good nose tackle and a better secondary away from a Super Bowl, but what do I know? I think Matthews was reached for here, but he is going to be good, and did fill a need. C+
Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Graham – The Eagles never seem to hesitate to trade up and get the guy they want, and I like their style. Brandon Graham was the 10th rated player on my big board, and the 6th rated defensive player. The Eagles got him at 13, and they moved up just in time to assure they got their guy. Seattle might have snagged him, and so could the Giants. They might have given up a lot, but he’s going to be a game changer right off the bat for a defense that has struggled to get after the quarterback in big games. A
New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul - Maybe the Giants like what Pierre-Paul brings to the table a lot more than Osi – but I’m not so sure. I like Pierre-Paul’s athleticism and upside, but I’ve seen Osi do work at defensive end. They are likely to trade him now, and Pierre-Paul’s ability was good value at 15, but I’m not sure the eventual trade will make them better. B-
Tennessee Titans: Derrick Morgan – The Titans needed a consistent player on their defensive line, and you can’t go wrong with Morgan. He’s not a pure pass rusher, and he’s not an all run defense guy – he’s very good at both. He’s an every down player that will help the Titans get after the quarterback and stop the run. He’s got a great motor, and is a good fit. Plus, the value for Morgan at 16 was great. A
Pittsburgh Steelers: Maurkice Pouncey - I think this is a little high to take Pouncey, but the kid can really play. He’s got great feet and understanding, and he did lots of good stuff at Florida. The Steelers really needed help up front, they got it with this guy. B+
Atlanta Falcons: Sean Weatherspoon -This was a bit of a reach, value wise, but ability wise I think it was perfect. I had Weatherspoon rated as the 19th best player in the draft because of his ability to positively effect the offense on every down. Not enough is said about that, and the Falcons have a very good and smart player to help their mediocre defense turn the corner And Sean fills a need for the Falcons. A-
Houston Texans: Kareem Jackson – I liked Kyle Wilson as the top corner, and he ends up getting picked as the 4th corner, behind Jackson, McCourty, and Haden. Kareem is a very physical player that helped the Crimson Tide dominate defensively all year long. His ability to do many things in coverage allowed Alabama to use many defenses, and he’s ready to help a Texans team that desperately needs help in the secondary. B
Cincinnati Bengals: Jermaine Gresham – The Bengals drafted the surest receiver in the draft, he just happens to be a tight end. The way Carson Palmer has regressed a bit means Gresham might be just what he needs. He’s more into throwing safer passes, and Gresham’s advantage over safeties and linebackers should help Palmer feel more comfortable on balls throw that way. B+
Denver Broncos: Demaryius Thomas, Tim Tebow – Oh Denver, you were doing so well with all your trade downs. Honestly, I like Thomas, I just think Dez Bryant is better. Also, I’m starting to like Tim Tebow, but mainly because there are so many haters for a guy that plays the game with all the passion and effort any fan could hope for. I think he has a chance to be a good quarterback at the NFL level, and now I’m rooting for him. I think Denver reached a little bit on both picks, and I would have loved to see them grab Dan Williams and Dez Bryant, but they traded down to get the guys they wanted at a better value than they would hvae been had they drafted them at their original draft slot. Take notes, Jacksonville, write it on your hand, use a sharpie. C+
Arizona Cardinals: Dan Williams – The Cardinals are good at drafting. Dan Williams is only going to make that elite defensive front that much better. Great value pick for the Cardinals, even though they didn’t have a high need at defensive tackle. A
New England Patriots: Devin McCourty – The Patriots traded down to draft who they wanted, and maybe McCourty is better made for their defensive schemes than Kyle Wilson – but I think the Patriots should have drafted Wilson at this spot, or Dez Bryant, or Jared Odrick – even Jahvid Best possibly. Smart teams draft corners that help in Round 1, but I thought there was a lot of value to be had elsewhere. C+
Miami Dolphins: Jared Odrick – The Dolphins traded down a few times and ended up with a great 3-4 defensive end prospect – a kid that has very functional strength on the football field, and a motor to match his ability. This is a perfect player for the Dolphins defense that needed help up front. They made a good choice to pass on a pass-rushing OLB with so many still on the board. A
New York Jets: Kyle Wilson – The Jets just gave themselves the best corner trio in football. Wilson’s ability to man up on receivers will allow the Jets to come up with some crazy blitzes and still be safe in coverage. They have 3 playmaking man corners that will do work for them. They are going to be good. Great value pick, as they didn’t feel like they needed to press for a need. They get an extra bonus for taking my top rated corner back. A
Indianapolis Colts: Jerry Hughes - The Colts are also smart. They happened to get the best pass rusher in the draft to fall into their laps at 31, and they took him. It’s not brain surgery, but they seem to make it look a lot easier than most. A+
New Orleans Saints: Patrick Robinson - The Saints see the value in adding depth and strength at corner. Robinson has the ability to help a Super Bowl caliber team right away at a position where they needed depth and ability. Good move by them. Great value? Probably not, but a good move nonetheless. B+
The NFL Draft is one of the greatest shows in sports, and despite it’s unbelievable length, it’s ridiculous detail and information put into every single pick, every single player interview, and the effort and time spent on studying each player live and on film, it’s amazing how many great players slip through the cracks and how many bad players get drafted in the first round. Now, sometimes things happen and players lose their mojo – and obviously some players turn a corner or figure something out or even get good coaching and become more than anybody expected – but still, there’s only so many more Raider drafts I can handle before I find the supply lines for Al Davis’s battery pack and shut that thing right down!
I have 3 guys I see as Overrated and 7 guys that and Underrated heading into the draft. I expect the former to play lower than their draft number insists, and I expect the latter to play above their selection spot.
OVERRATED: I don’t like writing bad things about kids I don’t know too much about, so let me preface this by saying that, these guys won’t be bad, they’re just a little overrated.
Jimmy Clausen: I guess it depends who you’re talking to, but plenty of people think that this kid will have a solid pro career and that he’s worth and early pick on draft day. Come on. I mean, sure, he pitched for a pro coach and he did so in a pro-style offense (not that spread stuff that doesn’t work in the NFL), but the bottom line is, he spent most of his “great season” playing “flyers’ up” with Golden Tate. Luckily for him, Tate is on my “underrated” list of Clausen wouldn’t even be in the first round discussion.
Joe Haden: I think Haden will be a fine pro, but he’s said to be “far and above” anything the rest of the draft has to offer at corner. That’s just not true. He might be the guy with the best times, and maybe the most “production” in college, but he played corner for one of the fastest and most disruptive defenses in college football. Of course he’s going to look better because of it. He’ll be solid, but Top 10? Not for me.
C.J. Spiller: I’d like to start by saying that I love watching Spiller, I love his game, I think he’ll be a good NFL back and a touchdown maker – but there are plenty of people ranking him as a Top 10 player in the draft, some even rank him in the Top 5. He’s a small-ish back, and though he’s definitely a match-up problem, a guy like Reggie Bush (I like him a little more, even, because he’s a tougher runner) but I don’t think a part time running back is ever worth a Top 10 pick. In fact, I can count the amount of running backs in the NFL that were worth Top 10 picks on a single hand. Spiller should be good, but if the Hawks, or any other team, spend Top 10 money on Spiller, they got bad value for their dollar.
Dez Bryant: How can a potential Top 10 pick be underrated? They talk about Bryant like he’s the anti-Christ, and maybe he turns out to be a bad seed, we won’t know until he gives this “pro athlete” thing a shot. But I think he’s fine, and I think he’s one of the best prospects to come out of the draft at the receiver position, ever. I would put Calvin Johnson ahead of him – but aside form that, over the last 10 years, I don’t think there’s a better body type with more speed and better moves, touchdown making moves, than Dez Bryant. He’s a Top 5 talent without personality questions and he’s a Top 10 talent with them. He’s no Ben Roethlisberger, give him a break.
Kyle Wilson: Because of his elite ball skills, his fluid motion, and his willingness to do all it takes to be a great football player, Kyle Wilson is my top rated cornerback. When I watch him play, I see a player that will lock receivers up and will not be afraid to take chances and make plays.
Jerry Hughes: Jerry Hughes was the most dominant force on the best defense in college football. He may be small, he may not run a 4.4, but he gets to the quarterback right quick – and I know about 32 NFL teams that could use him immediately.
Golden Tate: Jimmy Clausen’s numbers were crazy. His stock has shot up in some circles. Every day, before Jimmy goes to bed, he call’s Charlie Weis, and together they give thanks for the gift of Golden Tate. I haven’t looked at a single time or off season report on this kid – I watched him play – he’ll be a stud at the next level.
Brandon Spikes: Like the guy I’m going to list next, Spikes just changes games. He does everything right, he reads plays very well, and he doesn’t play as slow as his 40-time problems insist. He’s going to be a good pro and some team is going to come out of this draft with a great player picked 20-30 spots after he should have been picked.
Eric Norwood: This kid changed games at South Carolina. That team wasn’t very good, but they were in a lot of games, and he had a lot to do with that. He stepped up against good teams, and he just flat made plays. He’s not a great size, but his speed is above average, and he’s a good football player. There’s something to be said for that last one.
Brandon LaFell: At nearly 6’3″ and 215lbs, LaFell is a physical specimen at the receiver position. He blocks very well is super competitive, and would have dominated if he was in a system where an accurate quarterback could have passed him the ball. As far as I’m concerned, that’s perfect, because LaFell will slip down draft boards and somebody with some smarts will be there to grab him.
The NFL Draft is only a couple days away, and I can’t be more excited. The trades are always exciting, and the fantasy ramifications are nice too, but nothing is better than seeing a bunch of kids get rich because they worked their A’s off and have a bunch of talent. A bunch of kids that have been living off dormitory food and philosophy classes become millionaires, and all the rest become six-figure kids that play a game for their day job. An intense game? Yes, like camping. Here are the top questions heading into the draft.
1. What the hell does the application for the Lions’ “Draft Decision Maker” job look like? Please, somebody try to prove to me that the first questions isn’t, “Do your first and last names start with the letter M?” – Because I’m thinking if you answer “No” to that question, there’s no chance you get it. First you had Matt Millen, then Marty Mornhinweg came in as the head coach to give draft input, and now Martin Mayhew has the GM job and is looking to shed the stigma of M&Ms and their inability to build a respectable team. Can he do it? At least Mitch Mustang knows that if he never becomes a good college quarterback he can run a professional football team in a few years…
2. It’s not always the case that the top quarterback picked becomes the best pro quarterback of the bunch, but I don’t care about that – we here at LuckyLester.com think Bradford is the guy – but who is next? Some have said that this quarterback class is weak, and I think that’s stupid. My question is who will be the next quarterback taken, and who will be the best after Bradford? Claussen? McCoy? Tebow? Pike? Snead? LeFevour? It will be interesting to see.
3. Which team will pull a Jacksonville and trade way up in the draft to reach for a player they probably should have passed on had they stayed put? It happens every year, and with Jack Del Rio helping with draft day decisions for the Jaguars, the answer to this very question could part of the question – if you dig?
4. Which team will pull and “Oakland Raider” and overdraft a 1st rounder by 15 picks? There are some prime candidates this year – Jimmy Claussen, Tim Tebow, Terrence Cody, Dan LeFevour, Bruce Campbell? It’s unfortunate, because it puts a lot of pressure on a kid right out of the gates, everyone laughing at his selection, like he’s some sort of crap burger. But it happens, and we mainly have the Raiders and Jaguars to thank for it.
5. Who will be the first rounder most feverishly booed? There’s lots of hate for quarterbacks, and that’s always a possibility – and you’d have to think the Jets fans will stop booing their defensive picks now that they’ve turned it around – oh I can’t wait to see. My guess, the Raiders trade up and take Jimmy Claussen and suddenly three of my questions are answered immediately.
6. Which of the draft day invites will be left whacking it in the green room all by himself? This is a tough call as only 16 guys have accepted invites. My quick guess would be one of the running backs after C.J. Spiller (like if Jahvid Best or Ryan Matthews) or possibly a defensive lineman like Jared Odrick or Lamarr Houston if they make the trip. Then again, if Tebow or McCoy accept invites, it could be an all-Heisman showdown!
7. Which big name player and/or former pro-bowler will get traded in the next few days for a draft pick everyone scoffs at? This happens all the time, and already has happened a few times over the last couple weeks. Ernie Simms and Tony Scheffler got traded for 5th and 7th round picks while Donovan McNabb was traded for a 2ne. Santonio Holmes, in all his Super Bowl MVP glory and coming off the best statistical season of his career, was gifted away for a 5th rounder. Ah yes, the trades are glorious. But who’s next? Marshawn Lynch? Ronnie Brown? Darren Sproles? Shawn Merriman? Oh I’m so excited!
8. Which NFL talking head will be right about Jimmy Claussen? Kiper loves the kid, even going so far as to rank him at the top of his class for much of the early pre-draft stuff. McShay seemingly loathes him. Which guy will get foot and mouth disease?
9. Sure, the Draft starts Thursday and is in “PRIME TIME” but how long will that last? I mean, prime time is only so short, and at fifteen minutes per pick, and a start over time on draft pick trades, 32 different picks means this thing will finish well out of any time close to prime. It starts at 7:30: four picks an hour, 32 picks – if you guessed 8 hours, you’re on to something. The question is, how long will this thing go? Al Davis will surely have to recharge the battery that runs his heart, that’s all I know.
10. And last, and least, which guy holds out the longest? In one of the stupidest examples of pro sports and bad ideas, the NFL seems to have half their top draft picks sign after training camp starts. It’s some sort of evil domino effect stuck in slow motion and it grosses me out. Which guy thinks he’s worth more than where he got drafted? Which guy doesn’t care where he was drafted, but expects to get paid like a Top pick? Ah, it’s the worst thing about the draft, but it happens every year. Your guess is as good as mine.
The NFL Draft takes place later this week (starting Thursday and ending Saturday). The First Round takes place on Thursday Night, starting at 7:30 PM ET. Rounds 2 and 3 take place on Friday Night, starting at 6 PM ET. And Round 4-7 take place on Saturday Morning starting at 10 AM ET. Below, I’ve listed the 40 players that I think will make the best pros. You should see most of these guys get drafted in the 1st Round. This is my Big Board…
- Sam Bradford: I’ve loved this guy’s game since the first time I saw him throw for Oklahoma. He’s got great size, great speed, amazing touch, and even better intangibles. Many people said this was a weak quarterback class – they are wrong, Bradford will be great.
- Eric Berry: Don’t pay for safeties? Why, every Super Bowl Champ has one.
- Ndamukong Suh: This guy is an unstoppable force in the interior.
- Anthony Davis: If he gets stronger mentally, he’s easily the best OT in the future.
- Rolando McClain: He’s super physical and makes plays all over the field. He gets angles and reads everything.
- Gerald McCoy: McCoy should be a great DT for years, he is solid against the run and gets up field quick on passing downs.
- Earl Thomas: This guy is very close to Berry, closer than people give him credit for. A true center fielder in the secondary.
- Dez Bryant: I’ve never been a fan of paying for receivers, but if you do, it might as well be on an elite talent like Dez.
- Jermaine Gresham: This kid is an elite receiver. He’s big, fast, has a great eye for the ball, and is fluid.
- Brandon Graham: He’s a difference maker against the pass right now. How many teams need that? Great nose for the ball.
- Jason Pierre-Pual: Maybe not immediately, but I’ve watched this kid do amazing things on the football field – he’ll be real good player in a couple years.
- Russell Okung: I think Davis has a brighter future, but Okung might be the safest OT out there.
- C.J. Spiller: The kid is a touchdown maker – however you look at that, it’s pretty important in the NFL.
- Jerry Hughes: This kid can flat out rush the passer, right now. He’s not rated this high, but he’s this good.
- Derrick Morgan: I don’t know if he’s elite at any one thing, but good against run and pass and a great hard working style.
- Kyle Wilson: Everyone has Haden ranked as the highest corner, and the only corner assured a 1st round spot – but I think Wilson’s ball skills an game changing plays make him a Top 20 guy.
- Dan Williams: Williams looks like a very good nose tackle in a league that is always looking for one. He should become an immediate starter in the middle.
- Bryan Bulaga: I love this guy’s game. He’s got great balance, a very underrated key to a good offensive lineman.
- Sean Weatherspoon: I see Weatherspoon being and immediate help to a good defense. He is a true every down linebacker that can get it done from the sideline
- Joe Haden: I don’t rate him as my top corner, but he’s not far behind. Great speed and hips make him a great prospect – but remember, it’s easier to guard guys when your front 7 give opposing QBs no time at all, like Haden’s D-front at Florida.
- Golden Tate: I know he doesn’t have an elite body, or amazing speed, but I watched him single handily make Jimmy Claussen look like an amazing QB while at Notre Dame. This kid can just flat out play the game.
- Sergio Kindle: The kid can really mess stuff up for opposing offenses. He makes wow plays every time he plays.
- Jahvid Best: I find it interesting that he always struggled against good defenses, but then again, his offensive line didn’t show up in those games. His speed, burst, and vision to find cutting angles is elite.
- Trent Williams: It’s always tough for me to go crazy about an OT with questions about his work ethic and love for the game – that is a position that desperately needs both, but on talent alone, Williams has to be listed.
- Taylor Mays: This kid likely comes out and shows everyone why he was supposed to be a Top 10 pick in last years’ draft. Note to everyone: he’s still the same amazing athlete he was two years ago.
- Mike Iupati: I think I like Mike lower because he’s a guard, but he looks like an All-Pro to me, and that’s probably more than at least half the guys in front of him will be able to say.
- Carlos Dunlap: Maybe I’m missing something. Dunlap seems to be falling down drafts, but here’s a guy that stepped up in big games. He might not have elite speed on the edge, but uses his hands well and has the body to disrupt offenses on many levels.
- Brandon Spikes: Knows how to win, great leader, great nose for the big play. Tough for me to pass up.
- Ryan Matthews: Matthews looks like he has all the tools to be a very successful every down back in the NFL – he has great moves and finishes forward as well as any back in the draft. to sideline against the pass and run. Very smart football player.
- Kareem Jackson: Great ball skills, very fluid, plays faster than his times would insist. Sounds like a great football player to me.
- Demaryius Thomas: Every year I like to look at elite receivers that were stuck in questionable passing situations – enter Mr. Thomas, he’ll be a good one.
- Toby Gerhart: Gerhart runs with a passion and physicality unmatched by any player in the draft, and he’s faster than most people think. I see no reason that he doesn’t succeed if given the chance to carry the load.
- Dexter McCluster: Like Spiller, McCluster can change games. He just makes plays. He’s not the fastest guy in the draft, but he’s probably the quickest, and that’s probably more important than straight line speed.
- Jimmy Claussen: He looks like a pretty boy whiner, but he showed some great poise and toughness last year, and I can’t leave him off this list no matter how much I want to.
- Arrelious Benn: Benn is a very physical receiver that does a lot of things well. He has great upside.
- Charles Brown: He lost some of his luster after the Trojans struggled, but he’s still got a bright future.
- Mike Williams: Williams is a huge personality risk, but he’s also one of the most physically gifted offensive players in the draft. I might not take the chance if I was a GM, but I’ll take the chance as a sports writer…
- Eric Norwood: Underrated player, and maybe I just think he’ll be great because of the way he made plays on the collegiate level – but I see a guy that can do it all.
- Maurkice Pouncey: Most great offensive lines have great centers, this guy has a Pro Bowl or six in his future.
- Colt McCoy: He may be small, but he’s accurate, quick, fearless, and one heck of a leader.