This place is looking pretty sparse these days but I thought I’d just go ahead and take it out for a spin with the most classic of all classic sports-blogger link-bait traps in all of link-baitdom. I don’t know how to make those things get traffic, though (witness my own failed and abandoned projects like NFL Blind Items), so if you find this go ahead and tell a friend. Or close it now. It’s here waiting for you either way.
If that doesn’t get you fired up for some football I don’t know what will! Notably, I’m not very successful at firing people up for some football. I’ve probably done a mock draft before but here is my most informed yet and it’s for the draft on Thursday! I’m not going to predict trades, just put players where I think they should go. I can see the Texans trading out of the top spot but guessing who will trade what is a fool’s errand. Most people don’t even guess those things right after they happen.
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina.
Clowney is a bit of a lightning rod for the subset of fans who comment online about football. He’s huge, he’s athletic, he was productive as a sophomore. He was productive as a junior, too, but not in a fantasy sports context. His lack of sacks made a lot of fans get off the Clowney Choo Choo but all the dumb internet scouts and pundits still talk about him like he’s some sort of monster heading towards the mainland NFL. I don’t doubt that NFL scouts have never really questioned him as an NFL talent. I think he’s more Julius Peppers than Bruce Smith but that’s really just playing the odds. Is he a borderline Hall of Famer or an all-time great? That seems like a no lose proposition.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo.
Here’s where mock drafts seem to splinter. Really, it doesn’t take that long. If you listen to ESPN, who has a vested interested in the first pick being suspenseful, then you don’t even make it to #2 before the possibilities open up. The funny thing about all of this is that whoever ends up in the top two spots probably has had their selection figured out for months but the punditeratti hasn’t been able to guess consistently. To me, Mack is on a level with Clowney. He’s a physical freak with great instincts who played at his best on the rare occasions when he had a big stage. Buffalo football is a terrible program that fell ass backwards into a guy that reminds me of Ed Reed for his impact on teammates and opponents. I see him referred to as a pass rusher but I’d be surprised if he isn’t closer to Junior Seau than he is to LT.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn.
People want Johnny Manziel and Sammy Watkins here. They’re exciting. Even if they fail in the league, it’s exciting to pick a skill guy early on. Unless that skill guy is Justin Blackmon. But the Jaguars need a lot of help all over and I think both Watkins and Manziel are more shaky as prospects than a lot of write-ups I’ve read. I won’t pretend I know enough about OL to say why Robinson is the bigger name right now than Jake Matthews so know that I’m just plugging in “Top offensive lineman in the draft” here.
4. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.
This seems a little too early for a #2 WR, which is what Watkins would be in Cleveland. Like I said, I don’t love Manziel as a prospect. People say the height doesn’t matter because of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees but finding two extreme outliers in relatively close proximity is by no means proof. Manziel has big hands and good field vision but he’s going to get knocked around a lot. He’s a shorter, less athletic, weaker-armed version of Mike Vick. Are you still enamored? I’m not. The Browns are blowing a lot of smoke right now about how great Brian Hoyer is. I want to put somebody else in this slot but it just seems like fate that Manziel will come in and save the Browns for a few weeks before he starts turning the ball over prodigiously in between long stints on the inactive list.
5. Oakland Raiders – Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA.
Barr is another boom or bust guy. “Everybody” has him sliding down into the teens right now, probably because of bad technique. Al Davis casts a long shadow on this organization and he always will. Barr is athletic and projectable. What more could you want in a Raider? I think he’ll be good right away and I just can’t bring myself to put one of the QBs in this spot, no matter how badly the Raiders need one and no matter how much I believe Bridgewater will be a franchise savior.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, OL, Texas A&M.
Atlanta has to lead the league in rumors about trading for the #1 pick. If they don’t do that, and they end up here with Mack, and Clowney, and even Barr already gone, they should just be prudent and address the terrible OL. Matthews dad, uncle, and cousin were/are all good NFL players so he will clearly be a star. No question. Puzzle solved. Seriously, though, he’ll be good. I’m sure of it.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson.
Tell me this isn’t a great place to be a less than stellar NFL WR for a few years? Watkins reminds me of Peter Warrick just way too much for me to like him as an NFL prospect. Maybe that’s just me being contrarian but a future of Sammy Watkins leading the Bucs with 48 rece, 586 yds, and 3 td for a 4-11-1 team seems like it’s already happened.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.
This is a good test for the NFL. Carr has a fantastic arm but he doesn’t really look like the kind of guy who can react quickly or handle pressure. If he goes this high it will be a win for the old guard of QB scouting. The other popular option here is Blake Bortles. Bortles gets the funniest write-ups because they all say how great he is while also saying he has no technique. Which doesn’t seem like a great thing for a QB prospect. I don’t know how the Vikings are leaning except for that weird word explosion from their coach a few weeks back about how much he hates Johnny Manziel. I took from that the Vikings are drafting a QB but wouldn’t take Manziel even if he’s available.
9. Buffalo Bills – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M.
Three Aggies in the top 10. Weird. Evans is probably the most over-rated of all of them. He’s not particularly fast for the NFL and his routes are mechanical. He’s got good hands and he can outjump any DB in the league. He sort of reminds me of Joe Jurevicious. That’s not horrible but it isn’t exciting, either.
10. Detroit Lions – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina.
This would be an awesome pick, to my mind. Ebron reminds me of all the good things Jeremy Shockey was capable of. He’s not as tough as Shockey but that’s probably for the best. Being on the field is worth more than having a couple of highlights where you outmuscled some guy to gain an extra yard while causing permanent knee damage. Ebron could be the next star TE in the league and what a weird thing it is for that to be a huge compliment.
11. Tennessee Titans – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State.
This is another one of those things where I’m plugging in the guy that is rated the highest by the most people. The Titans need cornerbacks badly and Gilbert is a cornerback. He’s pretty big, he’s very fast, he’s athletic. I’ve been searching for a defensive back to get excited about for this year and I think he’s the best.
12. New York Giants – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan.
This might bug Sparty a little but it could be a pretty good value. Remember when all of those linemen went early in last year’s draft and none of them were great right away? That happens sometimes. Lewan might not be great right away but he’ll surely be dirty right away.
13. St. Louis Rams – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame.
The Rams might take a tackle at #2. Martin was a star at Senior Bowl week and he won’t remind the Rams of the last shitty OL they got from UVA. If I were the Rams I’d take a QB here because they’ve got Bradford but a lot of people will say that they shouldn’t take a QB here because they’ve got Bradford. There are only 2 days left for the Rams to sort this quandary out.
14. Chicago Bears – HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama.
Haha! Joke’s on you, Bears fans. I really hate this pick. I think this guy will be a terrible NFL player. So am I following the online punditry into a black hole? Probably. You know why Bears fans cling so strongly to the ’85 team, aside from that team being the best ever? There is almost nothing memorable about the Bears since then. Last year Matt Forte passed Neal Anderson as the Bears leading rusher post-Walter Payton and that is exactly as boring as it sounds. I don’t have insight into why this is the pick, I just saw that safety is the Bears top positional need and it lead me here.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State.
Here is one of the few picks that I love. This is a perfect place for Dennard. He’s not the fastest CB out there but he’s got so much technique and he isn’t a plodder, at least. He’s fast enough to be good. Will it cost him from time to time? Yes. Will the Steelers be able to live with a few instances of burned toast in exchange for a potential Pro Bowl-level talent? Yes. Dennard has hands of stone, IIRC, but knocking passes down usually helps the defense.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh.
Here’s where I start to think I’ve screwed up badly. Is this kid really going to fall to Dallas? If he does, Cowboys fans should be ecstatic. I know I said Zack Martin was the star of the Senior Bowl but Aaron Donald was the really real star of that week. He knocked the hell out of some big time OL prospects and may or may not have made Seantrel Henderson cry. Donald is really strong and is going to be a star right away.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State.
Is this a weird pick? I don’t have NFL Insider and I don’t know how highly rated he is there but I see Richburg rated as a first rounder in the places I look. I could see roller coaster audio coming from the ESPN panel if the Ravens make this pick. There are other OL left that might rate higher but, on the off chance that you watched Colorado State play last year, you’ve seen this guy create massive lanes for his runners which is something the Ravens need more than anybody.
18. New York Jets – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville.
Everybody has the Jets taking a WR here but I think their fans will get a chance to boo something else. Pryor is rated higher than HaHa in some places so he might not be here. There are a bunch of WRs in this draft who are seemingly interchangeable parts. I’m going to give the Jets the benefit of the doubt here and take somebody at a position of need where there is not as much depth.
19. Miami Dolphins – Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech.
I was really tempted to put Carlos Hyde here. I’m still considering it. That would be such a Dolphins move. Especially if he sat on the bench all season. Kyle Fuller is a good corner who wouldn’t come close to addressing the Dolphins most pressing needs, though, so I’ll be a little more realistic. All I know for sure is that the Dolphins will do something very wrong.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia.
Virginia steadily pumps out OL, it seems. But they aren’t ever very good. Shouldn’t a team that produces highly draftable linemen have a consistently good offense? I digress. NFL teams take tons of OL because they need tons of OL and nobody really knows which one is better than the other.
21. Green Bay Packers – Tim Jernigan, DT, Florida State.
I like Jernigan. He needs better conditioning in the NFL but if you get 20-30 good plays out of a DT every week, that’s worth a first round pick. Every once in a while he did things last year that made me just a little bit giddy. Like he looked like Warren Sapp for very brief stretches. It’s worth noting that Warren Sapp looked like that all the time in college but Jernigan isn’t on that level. He’s just a good DT with a lot of upside. Also, like Sapp, he was sucking wind like crazy in his last college game.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU.
I can’t get a really good handle on what professional neg-burns is all about just yet. Does Beckham really fit in there? He could help ease the pain of the DeSean Jackson loss but he’s not really a similar type of player from what I’ve ever seen. He could give the Eagles a nice deep threat.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State.
The Chiefs are another team that gets WR mocked their way a lot. There are too many WRs to take a chance on when you’ve got other needs. The Chiefs had some massive secondary problems late last year and they need to stock up back there. Roby looked great to me when I watched him and you’re not going to look bad in the modern NFL with a ton of defensive backs.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Ra’Sheed Hageman, DT, Minnesota.
This is one of those guys I’ll just take other people’s word on. Did I watch the Screaming Eagles last year? Not that I recall. The Bengals are supposed to be looking for corners and DE but I think the first round talent at those positions is getting close to dry. Hageman supposedly can fit any scheme. I know nothing of him, expect nothing of him, sounds like a HOFer to me.
25. San Diego Chargers – Marcus Smith, LB, Louisville.
There are other, bigger names out there at LB but that’s never really been San Diego’s concern. I think Smith is the best pass rusher left in the draft and he’s got better size than the other outside defenders left at this spot.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State.
Now this is a fine spot for a #2 wideout with potential. Cooks can burn and he’s got pretty good hands. I didn’t think he was the best player on the field very often but he seems like a perfect Alvin Harper to Josh Gordon’s Michael Irvin.
27. New Orleans Saints – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State.
I feel like this team and this player need each other. Put Benjamin here and give him a little time to develop, voila! You get a Pro Bowl WR. He’s huge, has some speed, has some bad moments. He could be a star or he could retire next year.
28. Carolina Panthers – Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA.
I just won’t put a WR here. I feel it in my bones and I know I’m wrong about it but I just refuse to put a WR. I gave the Panthers ASJ in the Commenter Draft at TBL and that was a horrible pick. This might be, too, but I got as far as typing “Marqise Lee, WR, USC” and couldn’t type the first word. Yes, they need a WR or 3 badly. They also need OL desperately and I’m just giving them the best guy left, regardless of position on the line. There will be WRs later in this draft. Davante Adams or Paul Richardson would look great catching passes from Cam.
29. New England Patriots – David Yankey, OL, Stanford.
Ha ha, I gave the best interior OL away already and the only 1st round TE was long gone. ASJ has the kind of personality flags the Patriots might steer clear from in their future TEs. Yankey doesn’t have a strict position and I don’t expect much good from Stanford kids in the NFL right now but my faith in the Patriots drafting isn’t all that strong. They find players, sure, but they aren’t always the best at drafting them.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU.
Verrett is a really good DB but he’s really short. I don’t know how well that works for the 49ers but he can force his way onto the field for them, I’m sure of it.
31. Denver Broncos – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State.
I think of Hyde as a perfect fit for the old Shanahan Broncos but here we are. He’s big, he’s pretty quick, but he can’t catch for shit. That might not be a problem if he can pick up pass protection. I don’t know if the Broncos would ever consider him here but I like the idea of him playing here.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana.
The Seahawks have drafted some duds at WR but they still need them. This pick makes more sense to me than Joe Bitonio or C.J. Mosley or whoever else is left. Also, leaving Marqise Lee dangling here because it seems like Carroll doesn’t like to go with the USC guy when there’s somebody else with a similar grade.
So there you have it. Comeback Friday and grade my picks!
* “Way Too Early! Mock Draft” is a trademark of USAT The Big Lead and is used here without consent of the trademark owner. Any connection between this blog post and that blog is strictly coincidental. Any attempts to plagiarize this post will result in a legally acceptable tea bagging for all involved parties, just as it happens everywhere each weekend.